Lewiston Home for Sale or Not, Spring is Time for Simple Renovation

With spring in the air, you don’t have to have your Lewiston home for sale to catch the spring cleaning bug. Whether or not you’ve been cooped up inside for a longer-than-usual siege of the wintertime blues, as soon as the weather turns the corner, there seems to be a natural urge to open the windows and start freshening your place up.

Spring also brings the traditional hot selling season, and if you’re among those getting ready to list your own home for sale to take advantage of it, you’ll want to add extra attention to the traditional cleanup. Home for sale or not, you can channel some of your annual sprucing-up energy with one of these light renovation ideas. Each can add new zest to your living areas without breaking the bank:

  • If you want to liven up your kitchen or bathroom but don’t want to shell out for the full cost of replacing the cabinets or doors, consider what simply changing the hardware would do. Take a trip to the hardware department, pick out a sample knob or pull, then test what the change would look like. Sometimes this simple transformation adds a surprising degree of sparkle!
  • If your lighting fixtures are looking a bit dated and dingy, one simple fix is to buy new lampshades. Replacing a whole lamp is expensive and often unnecessary—and new shades can make a much more resounding impact, anyway. If you are planning to put your home for sale on the Lewiston market anytime soon, best opt for white or cream. Keeping the look bright yet neutral gives you a proven selling advantage.
  • In any room where years of wear and tear have created smudges that no amount of elbow grease can remove, think about painting with a change of color. It may be a bit more ambitious and costly, but whether you hire pros or do it yourself, the result can make you feel like you’re in a whole new home. As with the lampshade selection, resist the temptation to get overly exuberant and creative: choose neutral color combinations.
  • If new furniture is not yet called for (or beyond this year’s budget), consider calling in the pros for some upholstery cleaning; then adding new accent pillows. If your existing pillows are in good shape, sometimes just a few new pillow covers can freshen up a room’s whole look. Designers sometimes recommend picking just one bright color and keeping with it throughout the house.

You don’t have to be planning to list your home for sale in Lewiston to make 2014’s spring cleaning efforts a self-satisfying success. And if you’re planning to list, we have a host of other preparation tips…and a marketing plan designed to bring top results!

 

Foreclosures in Lewiston Still Available for Careful Buyers

Despite the winter’s chilling effect on all sorts of sales, February saw single family homes, condominiums and townhomes selling nationwide at a full 7% increase over a year earlier. The opposite is true of foreclosures—no surprise, since the health of the market means fewer serious borrower delinquencies, hence fewer foreclosures.

Even so, Lewiston foreclosures are still available, possibly because some of the fiercest competition may be tailing off. Real estate watcher RealtyTrac finds that the institutional investor buying spree appears to be losing steam—which could be very good news for individuals interested in purchasing foreclosures.

Typically, Lewiston foreclosures are listed on an as-is basis — and that means exactly what it says. Whatever is wrong with the property will remain unfixed. Unlike a traditional home sale where you can negotiate with the seller to fix problems or provide credits to counterbalance the expense to have them fixed, when you buy a foreclosed home as-is, that option isn’t available.

When you are up against time pressure to submit an offer, you do have other strategies. One is to hire a qualified home inspector to go over the property, then make your offer contingent on the results of the report. That allows you to know what you are getting into before you commit. If it turns out that the repairs needed are minor, you can choose to go forward with your purchase. If there are too many costly problems, or if there are an overabundance of unknowns, it might be in your best interest to pass. A contingency like this gives you the freedom to weigh your options carefully before you make your decision.

One other issue to keep in mind is the insurability factor. If you believe your offer represents good value even though the property has significant maintenance issues, remember that in most cases you will need to have a home insurance policy in place before you can close. Ask your insurance agent to check the property to determine whether it can be insured. If the first answer is no, you can still check with other companies—but keep in mind that in the world of foreclosures, this can become an insurmountable obstacle.

Buying foreclosures in Lewiston needn’t be overly risky when your approach includes careful evaluation of the target property. Lewiston foreclosures are still out there, and with care and patience, you should be able to find one that is right for you. Interested in discussing further? Contact us today!

 

Google’s Move into ‘Unloved’ Lewiston Homeowner Devices

Right at the start of the year, Google announced a surprising move. It said it was purchasing a home appliance maker most of us had never even heard of…for $3.2 billion in cash! It was a gambit that every Lewiston homeowner should note, because it signals where some very smart money is headed: right where we live!

Remember, Google isn’t just famous for its search engine; it’s also frequently in the news for its forays into any number of futuristic enterprises (those mysterious barges, for instance). The appliance maker that now has Google’s billions in its pocket is called Nest Labs, Inc. Nest makes smart devices that reinvent the traditional ones every Lewiston homeowner has to deal with, like thermostats and smoke detectors. “Unloved but important devices” was how the press announcement put it.

The unique feature of Nest’s products is that they collect “user behavior” data (i.e., homeowner actions) in order to provide a more tailored response. Google CEO Larry Page explained, “They’re already delivering amazing products you can buy right now–thermostats that save energy and smoke/CO alarms that can help keep your family safe.”

The move of Google into the realm of smarter homes is part of a broader trend. In the most recent American Institute of Architects Home Design Trends Survey, there was a dramatic increase in the use of technology solutions in the home. The survey noted an increase in requests for entertainment, security and energy management systems. Energy management systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated as households are given the ability to manage their lighting and temperature over a wireless network. As electronic cars become more prevalent, electronic docking systems in the garage may also become commonplace.

How does this affect the average Buffalo homeowner? As the minimum price of these systems decline, automated homes will eventually become the norm. If today it costs around $2500 to automate your home, it’s all but inevitable that similar features will fall in price (and grow in sophistication). Then, when it comes to buying a Lewiston home or listing your own for sale, the amount of smart automation is bound to become a key selling point—trust Google!

The ability to operate and manage your house from a wireless devices such as your smartphone or laptop is already here…and Nest’s learning technology signals a future where our home and appliances are able to learn from our behavior and predict our needs. Keeping an eye on the future is a good idea for any Lewiston homeowner, especially when you’re thinking of replacing one of those “unloved but important” devices— and most especially when you’re contemplating listing your home anytime soon. If that’s in your future, why not give us a call? As Google is in the habit of demonstrating, it’s never too soon to prepare for the future!

 

Responses Quicken with Quality Listing Photos in Lewiston

In advertising, they call the photo that glamorizes a product its ‘hero shot.’ In the case of a real estate listing in Lewiston, the pictures that accompany the written description can all be hero shots, if enough care is taken.

In one Auburn University study (The Relationship between Property Price, Time-on-Market, and Photo Depictions in a Multiple Listing Service), it was found that adding a single photograph to a listing could lift the final sale price by as much as 3.9%. That’s not surprising, but what is noteworthy is that each additional listing photograph added several hundred dollars to the final selling price. In other words, it’s not just the curbside photo at the top of a Lewiston listing that should be given great care—it’s all of ‘em!

Aside from the usual advice to de-clutter, use light appealingly, etc., there are some less well known tips that can help maximize the eye-appeal of a listing in places like Lewiston:

The Exterior

The exterior photograph is considered by most professional real estate photographers to be by far the most important shot. I’m not sure I agree. Of course, it sets the stage for everything else, and has to be attractive enough to rate a second look, but those second looks of the interior and garden can differentiate the listing from the crowd. A superior exterior can often be achieved by elevating point of view (IOW, shoot from a stepladder)…or sometimes by scheduling the shot in early morning or late afternoon light (to catch the most dramatic light).

Back Against the Wall!

For the majority of your listing interiors, you’ll want wide angle shots which emphasize spaciousness. Most work better when the photograph is taken from a doorway or corner with the widest lens (that’s the one with the lowest focal length number)—as long as it doesn’t overly distort the image.

Funhouse Effect

Always ensure that your camera is completely horizontal. Correct the ‘barrel effect’ on vertical lines to ensure that all of the walls appear straight. When you’re looking through a viewfinder or small digital screen, it’s all too easy to overlook the sides by concentrating on the center of the picture. That’s an amateur mistake (and slanted walls make a room look like a carnival funhouse!)

Flash Extra

Take at least one extra shot using the on-camera flash or strobe. True, often that will result in an unevenly lit alternative that you will discard…but now and then, the on-camera light will boost clarity and color that’s more pleasing than what natural light provides.

Great-looking listing shots in Lewiston make a significant difference in the degree of response a property draws. We always help our clients with the listing photographs—it’s one of many tools to ensure their listing gets the exposure and results it deserves!

Lewiston Apartment Building Appeal Grows with Demo Shift

Lewiston real estate investors come from every kind of background, but all share a common trait: they like to think ahead. For that reason, investors eyeing Lewiston apartment building prospects may want to take a close look at what’s going on with the Millennial generation.

For those of us who are a bit uncertain about which group is considered “Generation Y” and which are “Millennials,” there’s a reason for that. Both terms refer to the same group—everyone born between 1977 and 2000. And whatever you call them, they are a very important demographic. According to some statistics, they are 80,000,000 strong! That makes them a larger demo than Baby Boomers, and 20% larger than those who come next: the Gen X’ers.

PWC (PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLC), the widely-respected financial and business advisers, have come up with some interesting generalizations about Gen Y that could affect the prospects for apartment owners and investors. According to their 2014 Trends Report, members of Generation Y are more likely to live in either a medium-sized or big city than previous generations. Generation Y’ers also plan to stay there for the foreseeable future—40% of Gen Y’ers say they want to be living there in five years. This compared with only 23% of generation X’ers and 14% of Baby Boomers.

Some other profile characteristics fall in line. Generation Y’ers are the least car-friendly of any demographic. Two years ago, CNN reported that there had been a 30% drop in the share of new car purchases by 18 – 34-year-olds. When asked about the community features they thought most important, 82% thought living within walking distance of work and school was highly important; and Gen Y’ers are also more likely than other generations to walk or use public transit.

Generation Y’ers are also significantly more likely to be on the move over the next five years. Approximately 63% fell into that category, compared with to 42% of the overall adult population. A full 38% plan to move into an apartment, duplex, row house or townhouse.

For Lewiston apartment building investors seeking rental income, there is more reason to be interested. According to a study produced by the non-profit Urban Land Institute, the majority of Gen Y’ers do not intend to purchase over the coming decade. That sounds like a reassuring note on the demand side.

Real estate website Trulia had a final piece of the puzzle, this one due to the slowly-building economic recovery. Their 2014 housing predictions report forecasts that apartments will be the first stop for young adults who are finally able to move out of their parents’ home.

All in all, investment housing in Lewiston is already hot this spring and only going to get hotter! This includes purchasing and renting out a home, we are experiencing very low supply and very high demand. Interested in learning more? Call us today!

 

Piggyback Loans in Lewiston Stage a Comeback

It’s another after-effect of the rise in housing prices: piggyback loans in Lewiston, NY and the rest of the Niagara region are making a comeback. According to a recent American Bankers Associations Report, the number of piggyback loans originated across the nation more than doubled within the past year.

 

A piggyback loan involves taking out two mortgages simultaneously, with a home equity loan (aka “second mortgage”) ‘piggybacking’ on a first mortgage. In Lewiston home purchases, piggyback loans typically come into play when the buyer is unable to provide a full 20% deposit. Normally this would necessitate the buyer having to take out private mortgage insurance (PMI), which can be pricey. By going with the piggyback loan alternative, the Loan to Value (LTV) ratio can be reduced to less than 80%, the threshold below which PMI requirements vanish.

 

A standard piggy back loan is structured as a “80-10-10”—meaning that 80% of the purchase price comes from the first mortgage, the next 10% from the second loan, and the final 10%, the deposit.

 

One major downside to piggybacking is cost. The interest rates charged on piggyback loans are significantly higher than those for first mortgages, so it may prove less expensive to pay for PMI for a short period of time. This is more likely in a rising market, since the Loan to Value can shrink below 80% before long. Another problem can crop up when it comes time to refinance. In order to refinance, the second mortgage lender has to agree to remain in a subordinate position. This agreement (known as re-subordination) may, in some cases, be hard to reach. Lastly, homeowners with a piggyback loan are unlikely to be able to take out a third loan should they want to access their home equity. Nowadays, thirds are rarely granted.

 

Between 2000 and 2006, it made a lot of sense to take out a piggyback loan. The interest on piggyback loans was tax-deductible, while mortgage insurance premiums were not. When property prices were rising as sharply as they were between 2000 and 2006, lenders also considered piggyback loans a good bet because the growth provided ample equity ‘cushion.’ But when real estate prices dropped in 2007, piggyback loans fell out of favor. By 2010, the percentage of piggyback loans fell to just 1.7%.

 

Today, with house prices on the rise, lenders are again growing more comfortable granting piggyback loans in this area—but with a bit more caution. Lenders usually ask for a FICO score of at least 700 and a debt-to-income ratio that’s below 43%. Increasingly, they want to see that a borrower has cash reserves in case of unforeseen circumstances.

 

If you are considering a piggyback loan in Lewiston, NY this spring, you will want to run the numbers to see if it’s the solution that makes the most sense. In some circumstances, it can be the best way to get into a home you can afford even though you can’t furnish a full 20% deposit. Call us today to discuss how today’s market meshes with your needs!

Redefining What’s Hot in Lewiston Luxury Listings

Charlie Chaplin always managed to mix a good measure of insight in with the silent movie knee-slappers. It was “The Little Clown” who once said, “The saddest thing I can imagine is to get used to luxury.” One way or another, we Americans have come up with a singularly surefire way to overcome that problem: we just constantly redefine what comprises “luxury”!

Real estate website Trulia proves the point. Each year they count how frequently certain phrases appear in luxury listings—here in Lewiston as well as across the nation. From year to year, their findings provide an interesting measure of what’s hot and what’s not in luxury listings.

 

Buyers Want A Room With A View (and A Marble Bath!)

The words that most commonly appear in luxury listings are marble bath, roof deck and oversize windows. Luxury listings were 78% more likely to contain marble bath than was true the previous year. And windows seemed a focal point in the latest luxury listings: three of the top seven phrases dealt with them in one way or another. Oversized windows were 56% more likely to appear this year, floor to ceiling windows were up 39%, and ceiling windows appeared 37% more frequently.

 There seemed a general drift toward defining luxury characteristics as that which can be seen from outside the home as much as what is found inside. Lewiston sellers might note that, along with great windows, roof decks and terraces were other popular draws in the luxury listings.

 

Luxury Cooking Facilities No Longer As Hot

 At the same time, cooking and kitchen amenities seemed to have faded in importance. BBQ was the amenity that dropped the most—declining by 16%. Other big losers were stainless appliances, custom cabinets, gourmet kitchen and breakfast areas.

 

Yesterday’s Luxury: Today’s Necessity?

A word of caution about all this: when we are deciding the important phrasing for our own Lewiston luxury listings, it’s worth considering that what was yesterday’s “luxury” can quickly become today’s necessity. Just as we wouldn’t think of heated indoor plumbing or refrigerator as a high end amenities, at some point they were. Amenities that were once emphasized may no longer be given prominence because buyers have simply come to take it for granted that they will be included…if they were headlined, the listing might look…well, average. As our conception of luxury redefines itself, we should expect their listing phrases will change, too.

 Whether you agree with Charlie Chaplin or not, luxury in housing is apparently here to stay. If you are interested in exploring—or adding to—the luxury listings in Lewiston, don’t you be silent—give us a call today!

Setting Your Lewiston NY Home’s Price—Why More Can Be Less!

A major home-selling decision arrives right at the start: setting your Lewiston NY home’s price. It’s a step that can be decisive for good or for ill.

But what is the “right” price? We know what it probably isn’t—it’s not the first number that pops into your head, nor is it likely to be The-Price-of-Your-Next-House-Plus-the Cost-of-a-Family-Vacation-in-Tahiti-Plus-the-New-Sportscar-You’ve-Always-Wanted-to-Own. It’s also not a price that will ‘test the market’ (to make sure there hasn’t been an upward spike in demand since the last comparable neighborhood home sold).

Setting a home’s price in the right ballpark can be easier than many people assume. You can get there by a number of different routes, most of them tied to recent neighborhood history:

BUYER APPEAL

Setting a home’s price doesn’t take place in a vacuum: first come the buyers you need to attract. If your Lewiston NY property is priced significantly above the market, your ‘market test’ will tell you that only uninformed prospects—or no prospects—are interested in pursuing your offer. An out-of-whack asking price can also be taken as evidence that the seller (you) aren’t really interested in making a deal happen, which will make professionals less likely to present it to qualified buyers in Lewiston NY.

AIDING THE COMPETITION

By setting your Lewiston NY home’s price significantly above the competition, you do everyone else in the neighborhood a terrific marketing favor. Even prospective buyers who appreciate your home’s innate qualities may be unable to resist what suddenly looks like a real bargain-basement buy just down the street!

APPRAISAL REALITY CHECK.

Even if you do interest a willing buyer, unless he or she belongs to Warren Buffett’s country club, a likely next step will involve a mortgage lender’s appraisal. Setting a Lewiston NY home’s price above any neighborhood comparable can mean an appraisal that comes in below the agreed-upon purchase price. Even if that doesn’t kill the sale through a loan denial, the buyer is likely to be penalized through a higher down payment or interest rate— either of which can play taps for your sale.

IT’S ONLY MONEY

Another (and perhaps the most persuasive) reason to right-price your home is monetary. History shows that overpricing generally yields proceeds that are significantly below those set more aggressively right from the start. It’s human nature: successive price reductions look like desperation—which invites low-ball offers.

If you are actively debating how to make the best of this spring’s Lewiston NY selling season, give us a call or visit our website to start searching now at www.greatlakesrealestate.com. Together we can map out a strategy that works!  

Smaller Lewiston NY Houses Sometimes Make Big Sense

It just might be that a groundswell is spreading throughout the home-buying public. In Lewiston NY, smaller houses that used to be difficult to sell are rising in popularity, and we can guess why.

First, a little history. Back in 1950, what we would consider smaller houses were the rule: the average square footage came in at just 983 (try to imagine the ‘average’ family with 2 kids, 2 adults and Lassie all shoehorned in there!). By 2006, that figure had blown up to 2,248 square feet — and we all know about the bigger “McMansions” — just in time for the financial meltdown. Within the next few years, for the first time ever, the upsizing trend had begun to reverse. Only three years later, average square footage was 2,135.

In terms of size, today’s buyers and sellers are meeting in a much more balanced market. Lewiston NY smaller houses are no longer automatically spurned. In fact, smaller houses are the first choice for a growing number of buyers. Why?

When you really analyze it, a surprising amount of housing space is seldom used. Lifestyle changes dictate that formal dining and living rooms are much less frequently occupied. And it’s a fact that we only use a small percentage of the things that we own, so in actuality, some of many homes’ area amount to extremely high-end storage space. By getting rid of some of that unused stuff, the space it takes up can become unneeded.

The old rule of thumb nationally is that property taxes average about 1% of the value of a home. Smaller houses mean lower tax bills.

Maintenance bills can be substantially lower in smaller Lewiston NY houses. It varies greatly by age and style, but one estimate has it that annual maintenance bills usually run between 1%-3% of total value.

Whether your hire help or handle it yourself, a smaller home can be much faster to clean. This may be less true when clutter is allowed to take over, but for those who are vigilant clutter-clearers, it means freeing more time for doing the things that you love. If you are paying someone else clean your home, it can easily equate to significant savings over the course of a year.

According to the American Psychology Association, money is the largest single contributor to stress. Nearly three-quarters of Americans admit that financial problems are their biggest source of stress. Purchasing a smaller house with an accompanying smaller mortgage can directly translate into a more mellow quality of life.

A smaller Lewiston NY house may not be for everyone, but today’s buyers are considering the advantages with a much more open minds. If you are giving some serious thought to buying or selling a home, let’s talk about the wide range of possibilities on the Lewiston NY market today.

Home Staging for Your Own Lewiston Home Sale

livingroomWith spring already upon us, we stand at the threshold of Lewiston’s first major selling season of 2014. If you are preparing to add your own property to the Lewiston home listings, the International Association of Home Staging Professionals would like to draw your attention to some statistics that bolster their members’ proposition. None is more compelling than this one: non-staged homes remain 79 days longer on market than their professionally-staged neighbors.

Still, since not everyone hires a professional staging company to work their magic, you’d think there would be a few DIY alternatives that would well worth doing. Of course, there are: and some go beyond the most well-known staging rules that are basic to any home sale:

1. De-clutter (then de-clutter again).

 

The stagers’ single most important line item remains this: de-clutter. There is little cost to de-cluttering a home (usually no more than a storage unit’s rental). The professional insight is that once you have done it, go back through the house and do it again! That second round might only involve boxing up a few remaining personal knick-knacks, but it can also suddenly reveal items that clash with a room’s overall color palette.

2. Light(en) it up:

 

Neutral colors are the rule for staging a home, but good light can be equally important. Make sure every room is well-lit, with clean windows, bright light bulbs (some do dim over time), and plenty of lamps or fixtures. If possible, disperse the height of lighting sources by mixing floor and table lamps, windows and overhead fixtures.

3. Find the focal points:

 

The largest item in the room does not always have to be the focal item. If you have an antique chest or a captivating painting, see if you can arrange the room so that it’s the first thing your eye picks up as you enter the room. A strong focal point gives a sense of character to a room. It works to your advantage, since the focal point naturally emphasizes the strongest feature of the room.

These are approaches to home staging that do take some time and effort—but imaginative staging really does make an impact on perceived value, and, as a result, time-on-market. For more Lewiston home selling insights, give us a call anytime to discuss your own real estate plans!  Call 716-754-2550 for our Lewiston office.