Friday, March 14, 2014

Flood Insurance Affordability Act Passses

Steven Palazzo, R-Miss urging the Senate to vote yes
 The Flood Insurance Affordability Act passed in the Senate by an overwhelming 72-22 margin. NAR had been pushing strongly for this. It is good to see that sometimes when things are this unfair, both sides of the aisle see that, and make sure that tax dollars are going towards something that makes sense. (It is not too often you can say that!) In fact it was republican Rep. Michael Grimm (of "I'll break you in half" fame.) who sponsored the bill. Although most of the nays did come from the right wing side of the aisle.

This bill effectively repealed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 which came along and among other things, changed flood zone maps throughout the country. They also changed the rules for second homes and "repetitive loss" homes, did away with the "grandfathering" of some zones and lessened the potential government subsidies for flood victims. The result was much higher premiums and in some cases homes that insurance companies would not touch, making them un-lendable.

On paper the Biggert-Waters bill made some sense. There was too much convolution, and this was supposed to make things simpler. But in true government form, it didn't. And in some cases it literally forced people out of their homes.

NAR got involved once there came reports that deals were falling through because banks were refusing to lend on homes that could no longer get insurance. There was the typically finger pointing, but FIAA has made it through the Senate. Now all it needs is Obama's stamp, and hopefully it will ease things for folks in the flood zones.

In other National Association of Realtor News, we finally have a new general counsel. Katie Raynolds Johnson was chosen to replace Laurie Janik who retired last year after many years of service.
“I am excited and honored to be offered this opportunity,” said Johnson in a written statement. “I am looking forward to my new leadership role as part of NAR’s stellar legal team, continuing our work on behalf of the association and its Realtor members.”
Johnson was chosen as NAR’s senior vice president and general counsel as part of a comprehensive national search. She was chosen after narrowing down over fifty high level applicants.


What is the pay? Well that is a bit of a secret, but it is safe to say that our dues are bein put to good use.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Cigarette Smoke


A major part of the first impression that buyers get when going into a house for the first time is the odor.  I have smelled all kinds of different aromas when showing houses--from the very good to the downright nauseating. Nothing can make a prospective buyer hurry from a home faster than a bad smell.

The two that I seem to encounter the most are pet smells and cigarettes. Both are fairly unpleasant, depending on the severity, but according to Regina Flores of ServPro, Cigarette smoke smell is much worse to get rid of.

"If the pet smell is your run of the mill shedding dog or cat, and the animal has not repeatedly done its "business" indoors, then simply removing the hair, and replacing the carpets will normally get rid of the animal smell." She says. "Cigarettes on the other hand infiltrates everything. I've seen yellow walls, practically dripping with nicotine. That is a much harder odor to get rid of."

I used to smoke. I smoked all through my twenties. And not that it is an excuse, because it was apparent back in the nineties that it was bad for you--but everyone seemed to smoke back then. At least everyone I knew.  You could smoke in restaurants,  in hotel rooms, hell they had just stopped allowing you to smoke on domestic flights. EVERYTHING used to smell like cigarettes. I never noticed it.

But now I am one of those horrible reformed smokers that hates the smell of it. I glower at any smoker who I deem has ventured too close to my personal space. I applaud every new anti-smoking law, and I look with a bit of pity at those huddled outside still puffing away. Smoking is so twenty years ago.

  And the smell is the first thing I notice when I go into a house. There really are few smells that are as bad as stale cigarettes in a home that has been shut up for awhile.  And according to the experts in odors. Getting rid of the smell can cost you thousands of dollars.

"In real bad cases," says Flores, "Getting rid of carpets and repainting won't do the trick." you have to scrub all the tar off the walls. Then you prime the wall with an alcohol based solvent before repainting. Also the tar will seep through the carpet and into the subfloor, which will need to be treated with a heavy duty solvent as well. And if there is any type of duct work in the house? Many times all the will need to be replaced to bring the odor under control."

Jeff Williams of KW NYC saw an apartments sell for 20% less than its none smoke contaminated duplicate. A bad habit that cost the seller over fifty thousand dollars.


So besides depreciating your health, smoking  can depreciate the value of your home. Just another reason to give up the smokes.  

Monday, September 2, 2013

My Blog Has Moved!

In my unending quest to be looked at favorably in the eyes of Google, I have moved my blog so that it has the same root url as my main site. Click here for the new blog. This site will be shut down in the next few months.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Business is Business


I'm not sure if this blog post is much more than a justification of my actions, or to assuage my guilt, but I think it may also educate possible home buyers and sellers, and maybe just be a good read.
I just finished a deal with an agent who was a fellow agent in the first real estate office I joined. We have since done a few deals over the years, and have remained in contact. She was at my wedding. She is a good, solid agent, and is one of the good ones that is easy to do deals with.

I was the listing agent, and she was the buyer's agent. It was a somewhat unique set of circumstances that I secured this listing. It was a distressed property that we were attempting to short sale. I had attempted to sell this property earlier at a higher price point in which the seller would break even a few years back to no avail. So once they fell behind on payments we decided to attempt a short sale.
Short sales are not only a pain in the neck, they are also very time consuming. I contacted his bank, secured all the necessary documents, waited the obligatory weeks, called loss mitigation, waited on hold, waded through red tape and many customer service reps with varying degrees of customer service training and effort.  (Did you know an independent college study ranked customer service of large companies  across the business spectrum--from banks to insurance companies to online retailers. In all these companies customer satisfaction was 300% greater on Mon. than on Fri. The study also showed that if you use the person's name three times in the conversation you are much more likely to have a positive outcome.) However once again I have veered off topic.

At any rate just when I was thinking I was making progress, I heard the bank sold the bad dept to an investment firm. We were at square one. Luckily this was a much smaller company, and they had paid whatever cents on the dollar, so they were much more willing to short sale the property and worked well with me throughout the process. However it was a lot of work, so when I listed the property I did not do an even commission split like a normally do. I kept a point on the listing (my) side.

I have been at closings tables before and been the recipient of the smaller--buyers agent commission split, so I get it. It does leave a bad taste in your mouth and a feeling of being ill used. After all I did bring the buyer. Isn't that half the work? There are a few companies (and agents) who are notorious for this, and around the realtor water cooler it is considered a bit gauche and in bad taste.
 But in my defense, the commission offered was right in line with the "going rate" so it was not a discount on that end.  And I feel I did do quite a bit more work. The property was a good house at a good price, and I knew it would sell fairly quickly. Dangling good inventory out there for buyer's agents is a good thing right?

I explained all this to the buyer's agent, and I think she gets it. I am just left with a vague guilty feeling, and a need to have it somehow justified. Thanks for the Catholic upbringing Mom.
But like my title says--business is business.
There were 9 single family homes reported sold in the Sullivan County MLS. Click Here for Listings.
31170 finally sold. That was a favorite of mine and had been on the market awhile. It went for 143K which is a good price for that house. It is a cool brick farmhouse on seven acres. The listing says it sold FHA which is a bit surprising, because that house needed some work. (Talk about agents working hard. They must have worked very hard to push that through FHA) Congrats to whoever bought it. I am little bummed that I was not able to sell it.
 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Skiing in Sullivan County


Hunter Mountain
Since Sullivan County really is in the foothills of the Catskills, That is pretty much what you are going to get skiing wise here. Foothills. However we are within not too far driving distance to Belleayre, Hunter and Windham--all pretty major skiing resorts. And as of this week, they are all up a running. Belleayre has over 20 trails open, Windham as all of them open, and so does our closest large skiing mountain, Hunter. the snow tubing chutes are also open, and of course the accommodations as well.
Closer here to our area, we have Elk Mountain, which is just over the border in PA. It is a smaller skill hill in comparison with the larger upstate ones, however they boast a thousand feet vertical, and have over a half dozen trails. It is a little under an hour to Elk. This is the mountain I would most recommend if you own, or are planning to own in Sullivan County. It is big enough to enjoy, and you get some really nice views from the trails. The Mountainside Cafe is a nice spot to rest and get a cup of hot chocolate. There is no hotel on the mountain, but there are quite a few places to stay nearby.

Masthope is also in PA, but a bit closer. It is only a fifteen minute ride from Barryville.  This is a pretty small ski resort, really good for the young ones, or a place to spend a non-challenging day. They too have a nice clubhouse, and their tubing and skiing rates are quite reasonable.

Here in Sullivan County we have Holiday Mountain a 450 foot drop with seven beginner trails. They also have a tubing hill, and ice skating for the kids. They too have a snack/lunch chalet with your agreeable winter skiing grub. Its close, and it's a nice way to spend a winters day.

And then of course there is the Villa Roma with its four trails of 200 plus feet of drop.  Again it is a good place for the kids, but even the beginner skier might want to skip this one.    

There were five single family homes reported sold in the Sullivan County MLS this week. Click Here for listings.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

To Fix or Not to Fix



To fix or not to fix, that is the question. these days a number of home sellers are facing this dilemma. the problem is sellers are already facing lower property values due to the real estate decline, so the last thing they want to do is spend more money enhancing their home, only to sell it.

That’s understandable… but, if you really want to attract serious home buyers, keep your sales contract from falling through, and get the best possible price, you need to swallow hard and fix that house. Now I am not talking about spending thousands and thousands, however the little things need to be repaired. A loose front stair or a rotten windowsill can turn off a buyer before they even give the house a chance.

Studies have shown that within ninety seconds of meeting someone, people already have made a basic assumption about that individual, simply based on that quick interaction--a wrinkled shirt, or unkempt eyebrows, or whatever catches the eye. That becomes the starting point. Now throughout further interactions, obviously those can change. However why start at a disadvantage?

The same premise is true for house hunters. An idea--a premise--is formed within minutes of setting foot on a property. Did you know that an unheated home shown in the winter months is much less likely to sell than one with the heat on? If one feels uncomfortable they are less likely to pull out their checkbooks. It has been proven many times. Buyers buy more on impulse--on feeling than rational thought.

Many buyers will also use your home’s flaws as an excuse to offer you a lower price. They interpret these flaws as a lack pride in your home, or that you lack the money to fix them and are desperate and willing to sell for less.

First, get your home inspected now, instead of waiting to find out what’s wrong with it when you’ve got a potential buyer on the line. This will eliminate unexpected shocks for both you and the buyer and give you a chance to fix problems that might scare someone away. The more things you can fix now, the less overwhelmed your buyer will be, and the less likely he or she will cancel the sale.

Second. Declutter. I cannot stress this enough. People's personal belongings do not sell a house. Buyers need to envision their things in the space. It is difficult to do that when it is crammed with the sellers stuff. A clean home is an inviting home. Does the garage need a fresh coat of paint? How about the stain in the carpet in the hallway? These things may seem little, but they all matter.

And finally Third. Do not be around for the home showings. Now if you want to be there initially, meet the prospective buyers, and then excuse yourself, that is fine. However following the buyer around and explaining things about the home is not a good idea. Studies again have shown that a prospective buyer feels like a guest when he or she is in a home with the owner. You want that person to imagine being the owner, not a house guest. You have hired a real estate agent for a reason. Let him or her show the house.

 
There were 13 properties reported sold in the last seven day on the Sullivan County MLS Click Here for listings.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Flippin' Brother



So I am not even going to address the lack of blog posting. Disgraceful..I know. I do plan on posting sold info every week , so for those of you who have clamored for it, it will make its return. I will post it every Fri.
Once again the reason for my lack of blogging is the fact that I have been very busy. I am set to shatter my previous record for sales in a year, and this Dec. alone will beat what I made in my first two years of being an agent. Some has to do with the fact that the market has turned around, but a lot of it is simply because I have been doing this for longer now. I am better at it.  People know this is what I do, and refer others to me.  My sphere of influence has grown, and with it does my sales volume.  

But as the holidays approach, things slow a bit, and I have been able to catch my breath and try to resuscitate a stale (ish) website and blog.

So "My Flippin' Brother" made its premier on A&E on Saturday. This is a show about a local realtor/designer/house flipper Randy Florke who owns the Rural Connection. It is a real estate office based in Manhattan that sells second homes in Sullivan County. He also flips homes, and even tried a modular "green" line of second homes that I believe was not all that successful.

At any rate, Randy has been successful buying and selling real estate here in Sullivan County. He was one of the first to really start catering to the metro second home buyer pool, and his shabby-chic-farm-house-on-a-dirt-road line of inventory was a hit throughout the boom years. And something others have tried to emulate with varying success.

The show however,  was an unmitigated disaster. The "stars" of  the show are Randy, who unabashedly refers to himself as a cross between Martha Stewart and Bob Villa. His brother Ron, who although he has a pretty good reputation as a solid contractor here in Sullivan County, decided for whatever reason to let the show paint him as a complete imbecile, and Jesse Fescue who plays the tired part of the flamboyantly gay interior designer. Think Albert (Nathan Lane) in the Birdcage--which was a great movie, but I digress--meets Cameron from Modern Family, meets the interior decorator from Beetlejuice. All good roles, however it's been done, and the attempt at this character was about as subtle as a sledgehammer.
Perhaps it would have been less insulting to the veiwers intelligence if it werent being passed of as "reality" television. On the show it said Randy had just purchased the home they were flipping. In reality he has owned it since 2006. At the end the "buyer" (who never really bought it, the house sits empty to this day) wrote a check for 300K for the house. I can assure you that never happend.
I'm not even going to mention the fake water main break three inches below the ground. Pipes freeze unless they are below the frost line.
They made sure to add a fair amount of bickering and arguing. Put all that together with some contrived issues and problems that pop up as a deadline approaches and certain bank default and destitution looms, and you have a pretty bad hour of television. It is a shame, because I think that a real estate show in Sullivan County would have been nice.
 
There were 8 single family homes sold in Sullivan County in the last seven days. Click Here for Listings

 

Monday, July 30, 2012

5 Must Have Apps for Searching




As we shift our online usage to a more mobile platform, companies are scrambling to keep up with the technology. Like the Commodore 64 or MySpace, some will be left behind, however in my opinion the five below will emerge as the leaders of real estate mobile app searches.
1) True to form, Realtor.com is the best, easiest and broadest app out of all of them. Although I have had my issues with NAR, and have voiced them here, when it comes to technology and staying ahead of the curve, I believe they have spent a ton of money to make sure that happens.   I found the navigation to be very intuitive and looking for houses and prices was an enjoyable experience. With features such as checking for nearby houses, prices, realtor search, favorite properties it makes searching a snap. Realtor.com could arguably be just the only app you need for all your real estate searches. All the others are chasing NAR and Realtor.com. It’s a free app so you have no excuses in not checking this app first. I really could have stopped the list at one.

2) Again, I have had my issues with Zillow (don't worry fellow Zillow freedom fighters. I no-followed this link.), however they too have obviously spent a lot of money on their mobile web platform, and it shows. It's mapping section is better than Realtor.com, and it integrates well with the GPS on the Iphone, so you can find a listing that looks interesting and then get directions, and follow your way there. Zillow has proven that they are going nowhere.




3) I put Evernote on this list because it is extremely useful for jotting down notes or taking pictures. One of my favorite features about Evernote is the fact it syncs over the cloud. You can install Evernote on your desktop, iPad or Android tablet so your information can be changed or added anywhere online or offline.
All of your notes and information will stay on there and it won’t take up any space on your device. Even if you are finished looking for houses this app will still be useful as a digital journal. It also features voice notes as well. You will have to create an account first but it is free and that login is the key to your journal. Highly recommended for everybody.



4) House Hunter is another house locator app. One feature that really caught my eye is being able to set the importance of each amenity of the house. For example you could set the importance of your backyard, acreage, waterfront, view, etc. and work your way down the list.

After you complete the score you can add the custom profile and search for houses. It also has a mortgage calculator which comes in handy. This app does cost $3.99 (which dooms it long term.)  so you should use the apps above to see if they meet your needs. There is a “light” version of this app but it makes it barely usable as you can’t create custom profiles and barriers to most of the functionality before telling you to purchase the app.

5) Zip Realty is another free app with a good fast search engine. It has partnered with NAR somehow (I would love to see the numbers they are paying.) and they have over 500,000 MLS listed houses. Locally however they do not have any SCMLS (Sullivan County) listings, only GHVMLS (Greater Hudson Valley) listings. As a side note I have noticed that quite a few web searches, including RE/MAX.COM do not have a feed to SCMLS. This is yet another reason to ensure that your home is listed with an agent who is a member of both.


There were ten single family homes reported sold in the SCMLS in the last ten days. Click Here for Data

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fireworks Cancelled



I just heard that the Narrowsburg Firework display has been cancelled for this year. And I must say I am incredulous. Over caution and political correctness have always been a bit of a sore spot with me, but this is taking it to a whole new level. Apparently last year someone went to the River Reporter with a story of a fledgling bald eagle that was a bit shook up by the merriment. The story does not divulge how shook up the baby eagle was, or how this person even knew this. At any rate, It brought in the big bad federally over financed United States Fish and Wildlife Service.( I am picturing black Humvees). Anyone who disrupts or injures a Bald Eagle will face up to a 200K fine and a year in jail was decreed.

The volunteer fire department who do this show as an act of patriotism and to raise money so they have the correct equipment when they run into a burning building (for free) to save you or your family talked it over and decided it was not worth the risk. The skies over Narrowburg Bay will be silent this 4th. Chalk another one up for bureaucratic overreaction. Families usually come from all over the state for this day in Narrowsburgh which culminates with a pretty fantastic firework show. One that celebrates our freedom. God forbid a baby eagle gets to sleep a bit later. When did common sense stop?

I don't want to make this bigger than it is, however when the government forbids an act like the celebration of our freedom, over the ridiculous ruse that it may agitate some local wildlife, I think it is time to pay attention. Common sense needs to previal, and we as a collective people need to stand up against this sort of (albiet minor) oppression.

There were 21 sold listings reported in the Sullivan County MLS over the last 10 days Click Here for Listings

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sullivan County Real Estate Auction This Month

Well I have probably broken a record for how long it has been between posts, but my life has been as hectic as it can be. I had my second child three months ago, a little girl, who is the sweetest thing in the world, but a hell of a lot of work, my mother who has been ill for some time has taken a turn for the worse and requires a lot of care as we prepare for the inevitable, and we have also bought a house and moved. Whew, even writing it sounds exhausting.

After overseeing and physically doing a major part of the renovation of our new home, we are finally settling in. I have spent most of the last month or so looking like one of those semi-clueless people on the DIY network as I ripped up old carpet, and bad pink tile, and discovered that everything takes longer and costs more than anticipated.  But as I said, things are finally slowing down a bit. On top of all of that I wrote three offers so far this month, and have been out every weekend showing houses. There is no doubt. The market here in Sullivan County has rebounded.

But the remnants of the crash still surrounds us, and nothing makes that more obvious than the yearly Sullivan County Tax Auction. There are a record number of properties on the docket this year. Almost triple the amount there was back in '08. The auction takes place on June 20th and 21st in the auditorium at Sullivan County Community College. However there is an early registration and a chance for you to take a look at some of the auction properties before than. Click Here for all the info on the auction.

There will be some steals and deals to be made. A few of these are some pretty nice spots, and on average they go for around 70% of the original ask. So if you do a bit of homework and have your checkbook and your nerves ready, you could end up walking away with a nice deal.

There were 15 single family homes reported sold from the MLS in the last 10 days. Click here for the details