Can You Cut Costs & Be Safe with a Space Hwater?

As we type this it is a warmer winter day- although the sky is gray and it is a little damp feeling…today is the type of day your mother would tell you to put a sweater on because she is cold.  And that thought is what prompted today’s post- if someone in the house is cold, but not everyone – does it warrant a thermostat increase, a sweater or a space heater for certain rooms? 

The humble space heater gets a bad rap, but when used correctly it can actually represent a good option for taking the edge off the winter chill. download

 

Here are some tips about how to safely use a space heater and when it’s a good choice:

Are you heating a whole house when the family is concentrated in the living room? Turn down the central heat and use a modern space heater rather than heat the empty rooms.

  1. A space heater can be a wise choice when you live in an uninsulated or poorly insulated home.
  2. Avoid unvented combustion space heaters. Instead, look for electric space heaters, preferably with a fan to circulate the hot air.
  3. Never plug a space heater into an extension cord.
  4. Maintain three feet of clear space around the heater in all directions. Be aware of loose rugs, blankets, or other potentially flammable objects nearby. spaceheatersafety
  5. Unplug your space heater when no one is around to keep an eye on it.
  6. Do not use a space heater in a damp room (i.e. bathroom!) unless it is specifically designed for outdoor or bathroom use.
  7. Don’t hide the space heater electrical cord where it might get torn or degraded under foot. Run it where it is visible, but does not create a tripping hazard.
  8. If you’re shopping for a space heater, consider this handy Consumer Reports buying guide: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/space-heaters/buying-guide.htm

 

By the way: Heating and cooling a large home after the kids have moved out can be a waste of your retirement dollars. If you’re thinking it might be time to downsize (or rightsize!) your home, get in touch today:  we are never too busy for you or your referrals!   Barbara & Gregg 973-509-2222

 

 

 

Good and Bad Signs in a Neighborhood

Like most things in real estate, neighborhoods are constantly changing in value. In some cases they can improve rapidly and decline gradually, but more often than not they change slowly, over time.

Ideally, you want to buy property in neighborhoods as they’re appreciating. You certainly don’t want to pay top dollar in a neighborhood which is in decline. So how can you tell which direction things are heading?

Home values over time are one way to tell, but they tend to lag behind the trends. Values reflect what the current situation is… they don’t predict the future.

While you definitely want to observe a neighborhood first-hand at different times of day and night, here are some other indicators of neighborhood value trends:

Positive indicators:

– Homes are receiving multiple offers

– Schools are well-rated and in demand

– Young families and creative types are moving to the neighborhood

– Older couples choose to remain in the neighborhood as they age

– Commercial properties are quickly redeveloped and leased

Negative indicators:

– The number of homes converted into rentals has increased

– Homes remain on the market longer

– Companies are relocating away or shutting down offices

– Commercial spaces are vacant for long stretches

Sometimes you can spot the potential in a bad neighborhood, but it often means you have to put up with the bad neighborhood for a long time before reaping the rewards. It’s a good idea to evaluate neighborhoods with these indicators in mind. Neighborhoods you have traditionally regarded as “good” or “bad” may have (or be under) significant change.

I am more than happy to help you with neighborhood research! Talk to me today to begin your hunt:

Remodeling Without Return: The Home Office

Many home remodeling projects do wonders for the value of the home. Certain upgrades and renovations pay dividends when it comes time to sell, and you often can recoup the money you’ve invested in the upgrade.

There are exceptions, however. And one stands head and shoulders above the rest (or should I say below) when it comes to return on investment:

The home office.

Surprised? It may seem like a home office would be a boon for your home at sale time, especially considering the number of people who telecommute and work online. But the fact of the matter is, a home office seldom recoups more than 45% of the money invested in the remodel.

Why? A couple of main factors.

First, even people who work at home often don’t work at home. When was the last time you walked into a coffee shop and didn’t see a laptop open? Many people still find space outside the home to work.

Second, a full-on home office renovation often takes up a bedroom which new owners might want to be able to convert back into a bedroom. If you’ve spent the time and money having built-in furniture added, media wiring, and other “office like” details installed, it represents a cost to restore or lost-usage for the new owners.

Of course, if you need a home office and want to have the home office of your dreams, it might be worth it to you to put the return on investment aside. But don’t undertake the project thinking it will pay off down the line.

Curious which home remodeling projects pay off at the sale? Let’s talk about what you’re considering: THE NICHOLAS TEAM, Barbara P. Hughes and Gregg Nicholas  RE?MAX Village Square REALTORS  realestate@thenicholasteam.com

Don’t Hesitate to Inspect a Home Yourself- Follow Your Inspector, Ask Questions…

Home inspection professionals are trained to spot problems and evaluate a home’s overall condition. While they have a reputation for being ethical and thorough, they are also still human. Sometimes details escape their attention. Its always a good idea to follow the inspector, take notes, ask questions – its a LOT of information to take in…

House_1

If you’re making a major investment in a home, there’s no reason you have to leave 100% of the inspection up to someone else. There are definitely areas you can review for yourself visually; it is best to hire a professional- make sure they are licensed and ask for references. 

 

Before you sign off on a house, don’t neglect to review these commonly overlooked areas:

 

  1. roof8Roof: Yes, inspectors will consider the roof condition, but they probably won’t be on top of the roof when they do it. This is one area where hiring a roofing contractor to take a look can be a major benefit during negotiations.
  1. Fences: You might not think there’s much to inspect here, but replacing a fence is expensive. What looks sturdy on a sunny day can turn into a giant repair after the first storm of the season. This is especially true of wooden fences.
  1. Drains: Fill up tubs and sinks and see how long it takes them to drain. If they’re slow, you’ll want to know why. It could be something as simple as a clog, but what if it’s more?
  1. masonry_inspection_serviceFireplaces: Home inspectors will often give these the once-over, but they sure aren’t going to light a fire. If you can, make sure these operate as expected. It’s also a good idea to find out when the chimney was last cleaned and who the owner uses to maintain it.
  1. Heating/Cooling: The time of year might impact how thorough an inspector is with the heating and cooling system. After all, who’s likely to really run the A/C in the winter or the heat in the summer? With such a big ticket item, you want to be certain it performs as expected.

Pricing is directly tied to a home’s condition, so don’t overlook the opportunity to protect yourself from repair bills. Problems present you with leverage in negotiations.

Ready to hunt for a home in great shape? Let us help you with your search. There are all kinds of properties available right now: Barbara & Gregg, THE NICHOLAS TEAM   realestate@thenicholasteam.com   973-509-2222 ext.1126

Renovations Buyers Like to See

Not all renovations are created equal. If you’re adding a luxurious new bathroom or a “man cave” for your own purposes, you’re probably not too concerned about your return when the house goes on the market. You’re spending the money for your pleasure and quality of life, not the return.

messy-garage                  eshop-garage

Garage_b4_right            Gorgeous-White-Interior-Gray-Concrete-Floor-Garage-Storage-Ideas

But many homeowners see their home as a financial investment vehicle and understand that it’s quite likely the day will come in 5 to 7 years when they are ready to trade up or move to a new market. With this eye, every renovation is a calculated decision. In this situation, you want to select projects which are likely to provide a good return.

Any renovation which improves the value of your home in the eyes of buyers without breaking your renovation budget is an excellent choice. So how do you know which ones buyers want to see?

According to a National Association of Home Builder’s 2013 report of 4,000 prospective buyers, the following seven features were on buyers’ most wanted list:

  1. Separate laundry room (93% preference)
  2. Exterior lighting (90% preference)
  3. Energy Star-qualified windows (89% preference)
  4. Garage storage space (86% preference)
  5. Eat-in kitchen (85% preference)
  6. Walk-in kitchen pantry (85% preference)
  7. Wireless home security system (50% preference)

kitchen pantry  cute-dog-in-laundry-room  laundry closet  custom_walk_in_pantry_springfield_mo_fs

You can read the estimated costs and reasoning behind these features in the original Kiplinger article here:

http://www.kiplinger.com/slideshow/real-estate/T010-S001-7-features-home-buyers-want-most/index.html

(Keep in mind that the costs may have risen, as the original article ran in 2014.)

The past few months, something we’ve noticed Millenial buyers look for and often ask about is FIOS connectivity as well as strong cell service for the many mobildevices we now all rely on day to day…something you can’t always gaurantee personally, but its good to know the answers and the availability of these “must-haves”.

Are you planning to sell your home after a renovation? I’d be happy to help you. Let’s talk: Barbara & Gregg, THE NICHOLAS TEAM  realestate@thenicholasteam.com  973-509-2222 ext. 1126

You Can Still Find a Home at a Fair Price

If you’ve found yourself paralyzed by this active market, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey of 3,500 buyers, a whopping 58% of potential homebuyers are sitting on the sidelines because they’re afraid the market is too hot. Here’s a breakdown of their top concerns:

shutterstock_82425943_WALLET_MONEY_AND_HOUSE_CONCEPT_0

  1. Affordability: Prices are rising or too high (27%)
  2. There’s too much competition from other buyers (17%)
  3. There aren’t enough homes to choose from (14%)

 

While it’s true we’ve seen a dramatic increase in market activity over the past few years, it’s important to remember that what you want isn’t necessarily what everyone else wants. Where you want to live and the type of home you want to live in isn’t necessarily subject to the “macro trends” in any given market situation.

Your dream home is as unique as you are, and the only way to understand what’s out there is to take the time to share the details of what you’re looking for with a professional who is tuned into the market. What’s more, an agent can help debunk market myths and keep an eye out for properties which fit your specific criteria.

Home-Buying-ChecklistNow is a good time to make a list of criteria for your next home. Begin with your “must haves” and move on to your “nice to haves.” Consider square footage, neighborhood, amenities, and your budget as you put together this list. Reflecting on this information will help you have a productive discussion with a buyer’s agent and also contribute to your understanding of “what’s out there” in your immediate market.

Often our fears turn out to be unfounded. If you’ve been letting your perception of the market stymie you from pursuing your dream, now is a good time to start a discussion with someone who can help you see the whole picture.

Questions? We’re happy to help you answer them! Get in touch today: Barbara & Gregg, THE NICHOLAS TEAM  realestate@thenicholasteam.com   973-509-2222 ext. 1126

 

[Survey source: https://www.redfin.com/research/reports/real-time-market-sentiment]

Crucial Questions for Seller’s Agents

Odds are the day will come when you need to speak to a real estate agent to help you sell your home. When that day comes, you want to be absolutely sure you have the knowledge you need to choose someone who has the background and skills to represent your interests.

First, you’ll want to work with an agent who represents sellers as the majority of their business. You’ll find that many agents have experience on both the buying and selling side of the situation, but it’s optimal to work with an agent who has dedicated the majority of their time working with sellers.

While rapport is important, it is far from the most important factor. Yes, it is ideal to work with someone you like and someone who will communicate well with you, but there is a much more effective way to sort the amateurs and the pros: The numbers.

But which numbers? Here are some direct questions which will help you compare agent experience and performance:

  1. How many continuous years have you been in real estate?
  1. How many homes did you sell last year working as the seller’s agent?
  1. Of the homes you’ve sold in the past year, what was the average number of days the home was on the market from initial listing date until the final, accepted offer?
  1. Looking at your past 12 months of closed sales, what percentage has the final selling price been compared to the initial listing price?
  1. How much will you charge me to sell my home? What sort of marketing efforts does this cover?
  1. Do you have an assistant to help you sell homes? Are you part of a team?
  1. Are you considered by your company’s owner to be one of the top producers in your office?

These questions may seem somewhat blunt, but full-time agents with a career built on selling homes shouldn’t have a problem answering you to the best of their ability. In fact, I’d be happy to answer them if you’re serious about listing. Contact me today: The Nicholas Team, Barbara P. Hughes and Gregg Nicholas  RE/MAX Village Square REALTORS  realestate@thenicholasteam.com 

Ever have a “move in” garage sale?

It’s common sense to have a garage sale before your big move. There’s no reason to pay movers to load boxes of items you can do without. Plus, who needs the clutter in their new home?

But have you ever considered a garage sale after you’ve moved into your new house?

It’s actually a great idea for a number of reasons:

Why did I save this stuff? When you unpack items in you new home, you’re likely to come across a lot of stuff you find you can live without. What seemed essential in the old place just loses its luster in your new space.

But I thought this love seat would fit in here! Despite our best plans, old furniture can turn out to be a poor fit in new spaces. You don’t necessarily have to live with the mistake. Prep it for sale.

Who are these people, anyway? A garage sale will bring out the neighbors. Despite the bargain seeking and good-natured haggling, garage sales are great low-pressure social situations. People are free to browse without the pressure of making conversation. Small talk arises more naturally. People can come and go without obligation.

Who just bought this place, anyway? It’s an opportunity to be a good neighbor. Put out some snacks and drinks. Be easy about your prices and even throw in a few things for free if someone’s buying. Use the event as an ice breaker rather than a profit maker. A lot of first impressions can be made here… why not make good ones?

If you’ve still got stuff to bring to the curb, put the post-move garage sale on your to-do list for the move.

Did you know de-cluttering is also one of the key steps to prepare a home for sale? We have lots of tips if you’re considering listing soon. Please get in touch!  The Nicholas Team, Barbara P. Hughes & Gregg Nicholas  RE/MAX Village Square REALTORS  realestate@thenicholasteam.com

 

Do Homes expire? Understanding Functional Obsolescence

Sometimes a perfectly nice home in fine shape simply won’t sell. Fresh paint, fine curb appeal, a solid neighborhood, priced right… and no offers. Sellers are baffled and irritated. “But I’ve been living in this home ten years! There’s nothing wrong with it!”

Often the culprit is “functional obsolescence.”

Never heard of it? You’re not alone. Investopedia defines it this way: “A reduction in the usefulness or desirability of an object because of an outdated design feature, usually one that cannot be easily changed. The term is commonly used in real estate, but has a wide application.”

Functional obsolescence can creep up on a home owner, as when a built-in technological feature is no longer useful. Some homes in the 1960s and 70s had old solid-state intercom systems for communicating between rooms. What was cutting edge then is a retro eyesore now. Built-in entertainment center kiosks or furniture are also a good example of this, maybe a mauve/pink kitchen was updated inthe 80s?

Home owners can unknowingly introduce functional obsolescence with poor renovation choices. Renovations should always be made with an eye on the possibility that a home will be sold down the line, but occasionally an owner will ignore this. Take, for example, the massive kitchen renovation which takes an unreasonable bite out of the dining or living room. Try to think like a buyer- will a young new family be OK with a smaller dining space for a family meal prepared in a gorgeous kitchen?

Inconveniences an owner has put up with over the years can be classified as functional obsolescence as well. If you have a second floor without bathrooms or a bedroom which must be accessed by walking through another bedroom? That’s a design flaw that can bite you when it’s time to sell. (Creative staging  will be needed when it comes time to sell).

Sometimes it is something out of our control; neighborhoods can introduce a degree of functional obsolescence as well. When an smaller, older home on a large lot is dwarfed by modern homes with more space, the home itself may lose appeal or value in buyers’ eyes.

If you’re thinking of selling or buying, you should be familiar with the idea of functional obsolescence. Either you’ll want to eliminate the problem or you’ll need to realize the problem will be an issue for you should you choose to sell one day.

We can help buyers and sellers see homes with an objective perspective. If you’re curious about where your home fits in this market, contact us today:  realestate@thenicholasteam.com

Market Value vs. Assessed Value

“What’s my home worth?”

This simple question is often answered three different ways. Ask your public tax assessor, and you’ll get one number (usually low). Look up your house on Zillow and you’ll get another number (usually too high). The third answer is market value, and if you’re selling your house, you’ll usually figure out what that number is (for good or bad) in 30 to 90 days.

Many people are confused about assessed value versus market value. Assessed value is a number placed on a property by a public tax assessor for the purposes of taxation. Some percentage of your assessed value is used to determine your annual tax bill. The rules for the assessment vary, but typically the assessed value has more to do with how much money the municipality needs to raise than it does the number you’d arrive at after putting your home on the market.

Assessed values can lag behind true market values in both directions. They can vary widely from home to home in the same neighborhood, especially if a neighbor has appealed an assessment (usually for the purposes of lowering their tax bill). And by the way: assessed values don’t automatically adjust for you when someone else appeals their assessment.

Market value is the price at which a specific house in a particular location in current condition will sell, typically within 30 to 90 days. Your real estate agent will try and predict the market value of your home based on all of these factors. In a hot neighborhood? It can elevate your home’s value. Have significant repairs to do or other condition issues? It can bring that value back down. The number one reason a home doesn’t sell is often related to a disparity between listing price and true market value. (Overbidding occurs when a home is priced below market value.)

Generally, assessed value tends to be below market value. Sometimes a buyer will attempt to negotiate a lower price on a home by citing assessed value, but this only underscores their lack of understanding about assessed value versus market value.

The best way to understand what your home is worth? Contact me today, and I’ll get to work on helping you determine the right price for your house in today’s market: Barbarahughes@remax.net  or follow The Nicholas Team on Twitter @thenicholasteam

What Does It Mean to Sell A House “AS IS “?

Sometimes people inherit a home they simply need to unload and other times they don’t want to make the effort to make repairs or tune up the home’s curb appeal. In today’s world, it can also be a financial concern to finish projects or catch up on some of those deferred maintenance items. sell-my-house-as-is For these home owners looking for a quick sale, they often think selling a home “as is” is the way to go. If you’re like most folks, you might think the “as is” sale means “take it or leave it” and “what you see is what you get.”  

But an “as is” sale isn’t necessarily a cakewalk. It doesn’t mean you’re completely exonerated from taking some responsibility for the home’s condition. While advertising a home “as is” lets buyers know they’re likely to have to do some work, it also broadcasts that the home is probably going to be a relatively good deal, provided they’re willing to take on repairs.

home-disclosureAs is” doesn’t relieve you from disclosing problems with the home.   What you know about, you must disclose by law. Failure to do so could get you into hot water. If you know about a problem but hope it slips by the buyer’s inspector, you’re at risk. The seller’s disclosure provided by most listing agents to their their sellers to fill out; is a great way to list any of the improvements you might have done on the home as well as a chance to give buyers an idea of how old the roof or the heating system might be… these are two questions almost every single buyer asks – they are concerned about the big ticket items needing to be replaced or repaired.

 

And that’s another thing: “As is” homes still go through the inspection process. While your “as is” sale may indicate your unwillingness to make repairs, it doesn’t mean the buyer won’t ask you for compensation based on condition issues. You may not come out of pocket, but it could come right off the top of your listing price, so keep this in mind. What’s more, once these conditions come to light you generally must disclose them to future prospective buyers if the current one bails-in other words, if one buyer walks after an inspection – you must now disclosure all known defects to other prospective buyers.  Keep in mind, safety and environmental issues or hazards are almost never – AS IS. Underground abandoned storage tanks, wood destroying pests, and lead paint are just a few of buyers concerns.

calculaterWith any luck, your “as is” buyer will be a cash buyer, but if not, prepare for the appraisal. Banks don’t want to loan money unless they deem the value of the home is acceptable. If the appraisal comes in low, your buyer may find themselves without the funds necessary to meet your price.

While selling “as is” may seem like a viable alternative to bringing a house up to its full market potential, recognize there are some trade-offs. Go in informed and you’ll find the process much easier to navigate.

Thinking-About-Selling-Your-HouseWhether you’re looking to sell “as is” or not, I’m happy to help you get the best price possible for your home. Let’s talk when you’re ready!

“Life Is Either A Daring Adventure, or Nothing.”- Helen Keller

 

It is in the spirit of Helen Keller’s words, that gives us great pride to announce that as of December 1, 2017,

our RE/MAX Village Square office will be known as

 VILLAGE SQUARE REALTORS.Village Square Logo Final Sm

We still promise to deliver exceptional service, while continuing to meet the needs of our clients and your referrals with the same integrity and professionalism we always have.

Becoming an independent real estate company allows for more professional growth with more freedom to service and market to both buyers and sellers.

We look forward to being your source for all of your real estate needs…

Remember, we are never too busy for you or your referrals!

Our Nicholas Team logo has a bold new look too!!

2017 tnt logo A

 

 

Buying, renting and selling real estate throughout NJ with Barbara & Gregg

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