Housing in Lewiston May Be Headed for a Transformation

Of the things Americans take for granted, one of the least questioned is the future availability of familiar housing circumstances: housing that’s ‘like where I grew up.’ For urban dwellers, that might be an apartment or condominium; for others, a single-family home—a house with a yard, or perhaps a farm or ranch house. It may be time to re-examine that whole idea.

Over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in multi-generational living arrangements. We read and hear a lot about the housing situation that sees many young adults now living with their parents—but that’s not the whole story. Seniors are increasingly likely to live with their children. The latest census housing data confirms that 9% of seniors now live in a household headed by their children. If you are planning to sell your home this summer, it’s worth thinking how multi-generational living is affecting housing here in Lewiston.

In the past, multi-generational living was the rule rather than the exception. In 1900, 57% of Americans aged 65 years or older lived with other family members. Following World War II, increased education, better access to loans and the GI bill meant that more young adults could buy homes. At the same time, older adults benefited from social security and medical care which let them live longer independently. By 1990, only 17% of people aged 65 years or older lived with their families.

The recession of 2008 created a job crunch that produced the “boomerang kid” phenomenon: many young adults took longer to leave their parents’ home to seek housing on their own. Too, the growth in the aging proportion of the population has meant that many older Americans are living with their adult children. A third contributor is the increase in the number of ethnic minorities with cultural biases for more than one generation to share housing.

It’s not surprising if the result of these trends is to influence Lewiston housing preferences. According to the American Institute of Architects’ Home Design Trends Survey, there has been a traceable rise in demand for “in-law” suites over the past year. There has also been an increase in demand for homes with a master bedroom and full bath on the ground floor—the layout most popular when older parents will be accommodated. Other features such as ramps, home elevators and non-slip floors are also gaining popularity. Den, attics and basements are all also increasingly being converted into bedrooms and living areas for younger adults and older parents.

Developers are also responding to the same trend by introducing housing best described as “multi-generational-friendly”. In 2011, national builder Lennar introduced their “Next Gen” house plan: a layout that has the capacity to become two houses in one. The attached house has its own entrance, bedroom, kitchen and living space. A connecting interior door can convert the house into one big home—but when closed, the two residences are separate. Apparently, the idea has been a notable success: Lennar now offers 50 different Next Gen floor plans in 120 communities across the country.

The return to multi-generational living seems likely to have a significant impact on the types of Lewiston housing that will be developed in coming decades. Lewiston houses with in-law and young adult-friendly features (such as additional rooms and bathrooms) are likely to grow in demand. Especially if you’re thinking of remodeling your home, don’t hesitate to contact us before you start. We can offer relevant feedback about how your remodel is likely to affect your sales price now—and throughout coming years.

Lewiston Seller Financing Agreements Can Make Deals Happen!

When home prices in Lewiston are on the rise, one side effect is that first-time homebuyers may run into a financing obstacle. Although the stricter lending standards of the past few years have been easing somewhat, it still can be difficult for some folks (younger buyers, especially) to purchase the Lewiston home they have in their sights.

In that situation, an alternative to a traditional bank mortgage is seller financing. Many prospective buyers know little about the details that make up a seller financing agreement, and how it can–or cannot—help them secure a home.

What Seller Financing Is…

It’s as simple as the words themselves. When part or all of the purchase price of a property is carried by the current owner rather than a bank, it is considered to be “seller” or “owner” financed. Buyer and seller reach agreement on the loan details, including the monthly repayments, term of the loan, and interest rate. The security for the loan is the property itself—a fact which is documented on public records for the safety of both parties.

The Benefits of Seller Financing…

For the buyer, the principal benefit of seller financing is avoiding the requirements that are the hallmarks of traditional bank loans. Motivated sellers, who may be anticipating having trouble selling their home in a timely manner, be willing to advance a loan to buyers who do not traditionally qualify for a loan. Another benefit for the seller is having an investment which returns a fixed rate of return—one that is secured by the property. In the case that the buyer defaults on the loan the seller can foreclose on the property. With seller financing of a Lewiston property, the buyer will often compensate for a lower-than-bank-required credit score by agreeing to pay an above-market interest rate (another inducement for the seller).

Financing Part of the Purchase Price…

In some cases, the buyer may be able to secure a traditional loan for only part of the full purchase price. In that case, the buyer can ask the owner if they would be willing to finance the missing piece. Again, the buyer may sometimes offer an interest rate that is above current market rates as an inducement. It’s often possible for the buyer to plan on refinancing the ‘missing piece’ at a later time when the credit picture has improved, hoping to lower the combined interest rate.

But, then…

These advantages are so clear, you might expect that Lewiston seller financing arrangements would be very common. There are several reasons why that’s not true. First, owner financing can only be offered by sellers who own their property outright. Second, should a buyer fail to live up to his or her side of the agreement, foreclosing on the property can be a lengthy and expensive process—during which it’s likely that no money will be paid by the buyer in default.

In Lewiston, seller financing can be a deal-saving alternative for buyers who may not meet lending standards set by banks, but who can nonetheless afford to service a mortgage. Not all sellers will consider owner financing—but for those who are willing to support the added risk, it can meaningfully expand the pool of prospective buyers. Seller financing is just one of many possible strategies. If you are thinking of buying or selling in Lewiston, give us a call as soon as possible to take advantage of this summer’s market opportunities!

Lewiston Interest Rates Dodge Anticipated Escalation

Lewiston homeowners who had been bracing themselves for sharp rises in mortgage interest rates must now be scratching their heads. As the online Mortgage News Daily put it last week, “…rates have been extraordinarily sideways, and right in line with the lowest levels in 11 months.”

Since historical averages are still significantly higher, it’s no wonder that most observers still believe the greater likelihood is for rate increases. But recent Fed happenings show a crack in their avowed determination to let that happen by tapering off purchases of mortgage-backed securities. The hemming and hawing is notable. It’s all pretty much up in the air.

In any case, one thing I can guarantee is that Lewiston mortgage holders will benefit if they take advantage of savings opportunities when they present themselves. Among current possibilities—

1. Refinance Your Mortgage

Lewiston, NY mortgage holders who haven’t already refinanced should at least consider doing so. Refinancing means taking advantage of the still historically low Lewiston interest rates—often the most meaningful step in reducing your monthly mortgage payments. Before deciding to refinance, make sure that the mortgage costs involved will be less than the resulting savings. If you agree with the prevailing wisdom that it’s unlikely we will see a significant drop in interest rates in the near future, today’s levels still look inviting.

2. Cancel Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

According to the National Association of Realtors®, mortgage down payments have fallen over the past decade. Their figures show that the average mortgage down payment in 2013 was 10% – compared with 16% just ten years earlier. Homeowners who put down less than a 20% deposit are typically required to take out Private Mortgage Insurance. But once the Loan-to-value (LTV) ratio falls below 80%, homeowners can ask for the PMI insurance to be removed—and they should, because the lender isn’t responsible for keeping track of that for them. If you are close to the 20% threshold, it may be worthwhile to make a one-time payment that will reduce the principal below 80%.

3. Extend the Length of the Mortgage

Many homeowners have made significant reductions in their principal by opting for shorter-term mortgages. But should rising Lewiston interest rates make a property you are trying to buy unaffordable, extending the length of the mortgage can reduce monthly payments to a more comfortable level. Although over the long term this will end up costing significantly more in interest, moving from a 15-year mortgage to a 30-year can sometimes be the right move—especially when the property at stake represents one of the terrific values currently out there.

While interest rates in Lewiston may rise or fall or, as we’ve seen lately, hold surprisingly steady, sudden leaps or plummets are unlikely…and with a little preparation, unpleasant future surprises in interest rates are avoidable. Thinking of buying a home in Lewiston, NY this summer? Call us today to start laying the groundwork!

Ways to Disprove One Common Lewiston Home Value Myth

Especially when it comes to major decisions like buying or selling your home, human nature seems to tilt toward delaying action until it’s the end result is absolutely certain. After all, nobody wants to make a life-changing move that turns out to be anything short of fantastic!

So even when you’ve outgrown your current home…or found yourself in a daily long-distance commute because work has moved…or any number of other reasons why you know you should be looking for a new house…it can be difficult to commit to such a looming decision. Adding to that is one of the most common assumptions many Lewiston homeowners believe: that they have to spend a boatload of money to increase their home value.

The truth is: it ain’t so! You can strategically update your Lewiston house before you put it on the market without cratering your bank account.

Items that only seem to require costly fixes:

· Make it Spacious

Adding space to a room increases any Lewiston home value. Tearing out walls isn’t necessary when there are so many other ways to achieve the same thing. Simple options include removing built-in shelves, enlarging windows, or (the simplest) just removing “stuff” that’s hogging perceived space.

· Go Green

More and more, you can improve your Lewiston home value by installing modest “green” upgrades. Today’s buyers may not necessarily be eco-focused—they may simply have a good sense of the increasing cost of water and power. “Going green” as a way to add home value to your area property can be no more costly than switching to low-flow toilets, adding a wifi thermostat with “smart” technology, or putting in a low cost drip watering system.

· Window Update

Have a room that comes across as outdated…or just plain ‘blah’? Consider how much extra home value a new window treatment might add. It could be as simple as installing a stylish valence over a window or two.

· Change the Doors

Remember your first apartment with its flimsy, hollow doors? A quality door can make a disproportionate difference to a property’s perceived home value. Changing out your front or back doors for more a more weighty or modern selection can be well worth the expense.

· Paint

Paint is the number one way to alter the look of a room inexpensively. Instead of painting the entire room one color, another option is to make a “statement wall” in its own neutral color that compliments a painting’s or picture frame’s palate.

These are just a few suggestions that can increase the value of your home in Lewiston without a straining the family finances. Even in an older home, many times it’s the little touches that can make the greatest difference.

Looking for specific suggestions to improve the value of your Lewiston home before listing it for sale? Call us today for an in-home market evaluation!

Real Estate: America’s New Favorite Long-Term Investment

For Lewiston real estate investors (BTW, that includes homeowners and soon-to-be homeowners of all stripes), there’s some long wished-for news: the solid reputation of real estate as an investment is back! After years of falling off, the latest Gallup poll on the economy and personal finance finds that Americans are now convinced that their best long term investment is in the housing market. Real estate won out against all other alternatives: bonds, gold, stocks, mutual funds and CDs.

For the past few years, gold had been investment #1—but see-sawing gold price movements have whiplashed public sentiment. Just as takes place everywhere in the nation, whenever Lewiston’s real estate market improves, so does its reception by potential buyers who view their home as a savings vehicle as well as a place to hang their hat. As Gallup Economy’s headline put it, Americans Sold on Real Estate as Best Long-Term Investment.

Public sentiment by itself is, of course, not reason enough to change long-term investment strategies. But when any investment class is on the rise in public’s estimation, the effect is to create competition among buyers—and further price improvement often follows. It can make a difference when it comes to Lewiston real estate.

One possibility for those selling real estate in Lewiston this summer might be to consider capitalizing on the investment trend by including a marketing approach: one that targets investors. You can have your agent or a local property manager provide a rental evaluation for the property, along with approximate leasing fees and property management fees. Having such an evaluation at the ready lets investment-minded prospects evaluate the potential cash flow and return. It’s even possible to post the information on your sales website, and to display it along with other marketing materials at showings and open houses.

In many neighborhoods, Lewiston real estate prices have a lot further to go to near their previous high water marks; if you look at neighborhoods individually, you can find some plum opportunities to make a sound investment. If you are thinking of buying or selling in Lewiston this summer, contact us to discuss your ideas—and how you will make the most of America’s new Number One investment opportunity!

Summertime Open House in Lewiston: the Timing is Perfect!

Estimates so far indicate that summer 2014 is likely to be a better than usual season for Lewiston home sales. The past winter threw a wet blanket over all kinds of business activity, creating a perfect scenario for a sales bounce back—and that’s exactly what is beginning to show up in the stats. As Bloomberg News reported last week, sales of homes “climbed in April for the first time in three months…the biggest in six months…”

If you will be taking advantage of the uptick by listing your property for this summer’s market, having an open house in Lewiston NY is a prime way to attract prospective buyers. With a little focus and energy, getting your home in shape can be easier than you might imagine.

The checklist is short:

Landscaping

The place to begin is with the landscaping—it frames the picture that’s the first thing buyers see when they pull up during the warm months. If you don’t have summer flowers planted, that’s okay—improvise! Purchase a few hanging baskets and potted plants. Place them along pathways, the entrance, and other places that could use a little bit of color. Hose the exterior, but if the years have been too tough, you may need a refresher coat of paint or trim. Perk up the lawn with an easy-to-apply lawn food spray; edge where needed; then mow and admire!

Get a Fresh Outlook

Give your windows a good cleaning (outside first)—it’s surprising the amount of sparkle that simple job can add to your Lewiston open house. Air the house thoroughly as you do a deep clean where it’s needed: usually a shampoo of carpets and rugs will accomplish the lion’s share of the work. Add some summer color to your rooms with fresh throw pillows, and as your open house draws near, see where a few well-placed floral arrangements would add bright color to draw the eye.

Last Checks

Before the day of your open house, there are a few more quick checks to be made. Walk around the house. Are the air conditioner units clean? Are the gutters and rain spouts in good shape? Outdoor spaces are great selling points to make your home more attractive to buyers, and a summertime Lewiston open house creates the perfect opportunity to show them off. There are always a few little things you’ve been meaning to attend to…now is the time!

Looking for more open house tips? Call us today if you’re thinking of listing your Lewiston home for sale. We can discuss a marketing plan to get your home S-O-L-D this summer!

Lewiston Home Sellers May Benefit from New U.S. Mortgage Rules

U.S. Backs Off Tight Mortgage Rules” screamed the top headline on the front page of The Wall Street Journal last week. For Lewiston mortgage shoppers, it could scarcely have been better news. Probably.

‘Probably’ because any change is not yet a done deal, but it’s hard to see what will derail the likely full reverse of the federal establishment’s years-long tight home loan policy. Why is this suddenly in the cards? The full answer is complicated, but here is a quick (admittedly over-simplified) summary of what’s been happening to Lewiston mortgage applicants—and what probably lies ahead.

The ongoing real estate recovery has been less of a boon to banks (including Lewiston’s mortgage originators) than to other participants because of tightened lending guidelines. Since the economic meltdown had been triggered by the crash of too many ‘easy money’ mortgages that had been repackaged and sold to Wall Street investors, regulators created mortgage guidelines that were much stricter.

Although borrowers found it harder to qualify for mortgages, at the same time, the Federal Reserve held interest rates at such bargain-basement levels real estate sales hummed. But first-time borrowers found it hard to qualify.

But lately, observers of the national scene have been worrying. Over the past months, the gradual cooling of real estate activity may have been welcome in the sense that the torrid rate of activity had slowed from an unsustainable pace—but some economists began to fret. Even though there was still some growth, now there wasn’t enough—and that could stall the recovery for the whole economy.

Washington has decided to listen to the worrywarts: hence last week’s WSJ headline story. It reported on the first speech delivered by Mel Watt, the new boss of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage giants whose policies largely guide what happens when you apply for a Lewiston mortgage.

Among a number of other rules, there had been in place a basic guideline calling for minimum 20% down payments (and punishing repercussions for banks who didn’t agree). But one result came as a surprise to regulators: lenders were newly fearful of requirements that might penalize them for even reasonable loans that went bad, so they became even tougher than the guidelines! Real estate loans began to dry up. It had been hoped that private lenders would take the place of Fannie and Freddie, allowing the government to gradually back out of its leading role. But the lenders sat on their wallets.

Of his decision to lighten up on credit barriers, Mr. Watt explained that he hoped “that lenders will start operating more inside the credit box that Fannie and Freddie” provide. In other words, that mortgage originators will add to the easing effect by hewing to the guidelines instead of exceeding them. If so, we can expect an influx of long-frustrated first-time homebuyers.

If you have been thinking of offering your own Lewiston, NY home for sale anytime soon, that should be a most encouraging development!

Renting Your Lewiston Home is a Matter of Checking Off the To-Do’s

The sunny attitude that encourages entrepreneurs to look at a box of lemons and think ‘lemonade!’ is widely admired, and it does seem to be a viewpoint that successful people cultivate. For anyone who is determined to sell their Lewiston property—but only at a price the market is not yet willing to pay—well, the turn-lemons-into-lemonade situation is entirely apt. After all, smart investors are buying up and renting properties like yours quite deliberately because they realize that a Lewiston rental home is not just an asset that can appreciate over time, but one that can also produce income at the same time.

Whatever your own reason for renting, when you put a rental home in Lewiston on the market, experienced landlords tend to prepare in the same general areas:

1. Repairs and Safety

Often using a rental safety checklist, a good first focus is on heating, plumbing, and other safety issues. Especially if you have been a longtime resident of the property, remember that some operational issues that you may have grown accustomed to ignoring need to be brought up to snuff. Repairs made now will save you time and money in the long run, and will safeguard against increased damage (and worse issues down the line). Be sure fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in place, and double-check that all windows, doors, and locks are in good working order.

2. Make it Pretty!

Of course, clean the house thoroughly, including closets, fixtures, and appliances. Replace dirty carpets, polish wood floors, and remove debris and trash from the entire property (if a one-time rubbish bin rental is called for, bite the bullet!). Where needed, give each room a fresh coat of paint in neutral colors; and outside, tidy up the grass and landscaping.

3. Documentation

Plan to inspect and document your Lewiston rental home before tenants move in; then once again immediately after they move out. It’s imperative; will serve as documentation of damage caused by the tenant if that warrants withholding the security deposit for repairs. Photos, a checklist—even a quick iPhone video—can do the job.

4. Landlord Insurance

AKA rental property insurance, landlord insurance is not the same as renters insurance, which covers the tenant’s property. A good landlord insurance policy protects you; it should cover everything from major damage inflicted by tenants to legal action they might bring.

5. Know Your Leasing Criteria

Before you prepare a rental application, it’s a good idea to pin down the leasing criteria to help determine who will be qualified to become your tenant. Some common ones:

No prior evictions…Good credit…No foreclosures or bankruptcies…

No criminal convictions…No pets…No smoking…References…

But whatever your choices, do remember to follow the Fair Housing Act guidelines.

 

6. Assemble the Docs

There are basic lease agreements and other documents available online, or you can have an experienced lawyer prepare (or just review) them. Other rental home forms you might need include credit check authorization forms, move-in checklists, and any other notices you wish to post to tenants. They’re all available online.

Sound like too much work? If so, a property management company can handle some or all of it for you—we’ll be happy to provide you with good references. And if you’ve set your sights on purchasing a Lewiston rental home as an investment, summer is near: that means now is a great time to start!

Selling A Lewiston Home In Summer Can Need Special Staging

As the days grow longer and the thermometer rises, everyone wants to start spending more time outdoors—to make full use of our yards and patios. But what if your Lewiston home is going to be on the market this summer? Does it mean you have to stop enjoying yourself, stop entertaining guests, just because you want to keep the place in showable condition?

The answer is, of course, of course not. Using the outdoor spaces of your home means striking a balance between living your life and ensuring everything is in top condition when buyers come calling. It’s actually a staging opportunity, because most of your prospective buyers will be favorably impressed if your outdoor staging areas make it easy to picture themselves enjoying our beautiful Lewiston summer weather.

Staging your home’s landscaping thus takes added importance during summertime, beginning with overall curb appeal. Any time of year, potential buyers are often swayed by that first impression: as they approach the house, the impact will be one they’d like their own future visitors to have. Staging an inviting front yard appearance does wonders for your selling prospects.

Make sure your lawn is trimmed and the yard edged. During springtime and fall, a 2”-3” grass length is recommended, but as the hotter summer months approach, longer grass will help shade the soil and keep roots comfy. Minimize brown spots and thin patches by giving the blades an extra half inch.

Staging walkways and driveways means keeping cemented areas free of volunteer growing things. Having weeds, clover, or anything sprouting between stones or pavement is not only unsightly, it brings to mind the work required for upkeep (a turnoff to prospects). Although chemical herbicides are popular, an eco-conscious (and penny-conscious) alternative is plain old kitchen vinegar.

The most important staging advice for the outside of the house is that it give the impression that a fresh coat of paint won’t be needed for quite a while. Cleaning it can be enough, or if not, new paint may be needed. You can opt for professional painting, but if your home is sided, or if you’ve recently (within the past five years) had your home painted, pay attention to details like windows and other smaller touchups you can easily do yourself.

If staging the back (and possibly front) yards is likely to be a really important part of marketing your Lewiston home, give some attention to outdoor furniture. It’s expensive stuff, so if it’s going to really be a key selling point for the property, it might be worth the effort to really make the space shine. If you don’t have any outdoor furniture (and don’t plan to need any in your new house), consider hiring a stager just to handle the exterior spaces. Less expensive than a full home staging, exterior staging can make a huge difference in the overall appeal of your Lewiston home during the outdoor months.

Once you’ve revitalized of your home’s outdoor areas, keeping it in top showing condition need consist of little more than the regular weekly yard work and cleanup, a relaxing prospect for enjoying your property throughout the good weather months. And do give us a call—We’re standing by to take care of the rest!

Could Lewiston Property Sales Actually be Made in Bitcoins?

Would you be willing to sell your Lewiston property to a buyer who is offering virtual currency?

In recent news, there has been an influx of people who are putting their homes up for sale in Bitcoins. It may be actually worthwhile to consider the upsides, because doing so opens up your Lewiston property to a vast new market (not to mention potentially garnering the attention of your local media and scads more traditional buyers who are in their audience).

You may have read last December’s reports about the man who tried to sell his ranch-style home in New York for $799,000 worth of Bitcoins. Another seller, a 22-year-old Canadian man, put up his advertisement in March. He had the distinction of being the first one in his town to advertise a home in exchange for the popular digital currency.

Now in case you’ve been putting off trying to figure out what Bitcoin actually is, perhaps we can save you some trouble. It’s an open source and decentralized peer-to-peer payment system that allows its users to buy and sell in virtual cash.

In case that sounds like gobbledygook, in the simplest terms, it’s a system where you don’t need to have real, government-minted cash to close a transaction—all you need is an online “bank account” with enough Bitcoin to pay for its dollar equivalent. Bitcoin’s primary attraction is to those who feel queasy about the stability of traditional currency, especially those who fear inflation. Their fears are quelled by Bitcoin’s creators, who guarantee that only a certain amount of Bitcoin will ever be allowed to circulate. Apparently, many people believe them.

Bitcoin might be new (introduced in 2009), but it is gaining more and more popularity. Even businesses like Overstock.com, Virgin Atlantic, the Sacramento Kings, TigerDirect, Atomic Mall, Clearly Canadian, and Zynga now accept bitcoins. As more credible parties accept them, the more credible the phenomenon becomes.

How could it help you sell your Lewiston property? Many people who are using the services of online advertisers are technologically savvy, and usually aware of how Bitcoin is fast becoming a popular payment system for online transactions. Compared with credit cards which generally charge 2 to 3% in transaction fees, Bitcoin fees are much lower—practically negligible. Because it currently resides in such a small market niche, that target audience is especially attentive to Bitcoin-traded products. There is also the likelihood that at least some traditional buyers who stumble across such a unique offering will find themselves intrigued enough to investigate your property further. You may even make the news. Talk about free advertising!

Whether or not you’re a Bitcoin believer—if you’re ready to sell your property in Lewiston this summer and want state-of-the-art marketing input—you’ve come to the right place. Call us today to discuss a marketing plan that, Bitcoin or not, is designed to bring in the buyers!