Tuesday, December 16, 2008

First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit

Great news for first time home buyers!

Congress has created a temporary federal income tax credit available to first time home buyers as a part of the “Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008”.

The amount of the federal tax credit is for 10% of the cost of the home, up to a maximum credit of $7,500. In essence, this is an interest-free loan that enables consumers to receive a tax credit on a dollar-for-dollar basis on their personal income tax return in the calendar year following the year of closing on their home. They begin paying the tax credit back the year after that and make equal installments during the next 15 years. If the homeowner sells the home at any point during the 15-year payback period, then the remaining amount is recaptured, unless they sell the home at a loss, at which point the balance is forgiven.

Now is the time for a first time home buyer to make their purchase! For more details please visit The National Association of REALTORS(R).

Monday, December 01, 2008

Fairfield County Market Update

Single family homes on the Greater Fairfield County Consolidated multiple listing service, during the first ten months of 2008 continue to sell but lag behind last year’s pace. To date, we have 4,579 closed sales and an active inventory of 5,094 homes. That represents a unit sales decrease of 28% vs. 2007 resulting - in 11 month supply of homes on the market, currently. Inventory is down from a 13 month supply earlier during September of this year. As we move into the first of the year, we expect inventory to begin its normal seasonal increase. Some sellers will begin to list after the holidays with the number increasing as we move into the spring season when our beautiful perennial plants and trees begin to bloom. The median selling price county-wide on the Greater Fairfield County Consolidated mls is $515,000 down 8.8% across the total number of houses sold in all Fairfield County towns, on the Greater Fairfield County MLS. Of course the difference varies by town and by property price range. So it is important that our listeners ask their REALTOR the specifics about the town and price range in which they are interested.

Sales, among the upper price tier has slowed significantly more than other price ranges. Sales over $2MM represent just 5.4% of homes that have sold but 12.3% of homes on the market waiting to sell. Sales over $3MM represent 2.2% of the total homes sold but 6.1% of homes currently listed for sale.

It is also interesting to note that the median list price of the active single family homes is 36.2% higher than the median list price of the homes that are under contract and 34.7% higher than the median list price of those homes which currently have accepted offer. This would seem to indicate that unless there is a sudden change in market performance, the upper end has slowed substantially more than the average and lower price ranges and also that sellers who are realistic about market conditions are being successful at reaching agreement with buyers.

There are 347 properties with fully executed contracts waiting to close. The median price of those homes is 30% lower than the median price of closed homes so far this year vs only 15% lower through 9 months year to date.

There are 220 properties with accepted offers. The median list price of those with accepted offers is $404,499, 27.3% lower than the median selling price for the properties that have closed so far this year.

Interest rates have decreased due to government support of loans and lenders’ insurance against losses. This a great time to purchase a home. Buyers who wait might find slightly lower prices but an increase in interest rates could result in the same payments or higher for a lower priced house.

Sellers should talk to their REALTORS about ways to make their homes stand out above their competition and if they really want to sell they must price realistically! Buyers should be cautious in their selection of lenders. It is critical that they find a reliable lender who will still be in existence, with the funds for their closing.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Fairfield County Market Update

Single family sales on the Greater Fairfield County Consolidated multiple listing service, during the first nine months of 2008 continue to lag behind last year’s pace. To date, we have 4,163 closed sales and an active inventory of 5,252 homes. That represents a unit sales decrease of 29% vs. 2007 resulting -in 11.4 month supply of homes on the market, as we move into the slower selling months. The median selling price county-wide on the Greater Fairfield County Consolidated MLS is $520,000 down 8.8% but that includes a range of prices differing by town with increases in some towns and decreases in others. So it is important that you ask your REALTOR the specifics about the town that interests them.

Buyers are being very cautious. They don’t want to overpay in a declining market. Lenders are also being very cautious. They are instructing their appraisers to take a conservative approach in determining property value.

The top end of homes sold continues to represent a disproportionately low percentage of sold properties. Homes over $2mm represent 5.8% of the total and those over $3MM represent 2.5% of the total.

Among the properties currently on the market, 12% are over $2MM and 5.9% are over $3MM. That is more than double the percentage of homes in those price ranges that have sold this year. It is also interesting to note that the median price of the active single family homes is 20% higher than the median list price of the homes that are under contract which would indicate that unless there is a sudden change in market conditions, sellers will have to reduce prices to get their homes sold.

There are 441 properties with non-contingent contracts waiting to close. The median price of those homes is 15.8% lower than the median of the closed homes so far this year.

There are 239 properties with accepted offers. The median list price of those with accepted offers is $392,000, 24.6% lower than the median selling price for the properties that have closed so far this year. This shows that the sales rate is slowing and that is expected at this time of the year. But it also shows that the median price of those properties that are selling is decreasing. If this pattern continues, those sellers who sell first will get more money.

Interest rates are increasing and although they are expected to continue to fluctuate, the trend over the next year is expected to be upward. Thus, this a great time to purchase a home. Buyers who wait until interest rates rise might as a result get less house for the same monthly payments if they purchase at a higher rate.

Sellers should talk to their REALTORS about ways to make their homes stand out above their competition and if they really want to sell they must price realistically! Buyers should be cautious about working with reliable lenders. Many lenders are currently heavily leveraged and buyers should remain in constant contact with their REALTORS and lenders and close as quickly as possible.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

ERA International Collection

ERA® International Collection: Where to Find Luxury

Where do you find luxury? It is not uncommon to find it reflected in the affluence of a magnificent home. In today's real estate market, finding just the right luxury home in a gracious neighborhood can seem like a challenge. If you are looking for a luxurious home, then it is crucial to choose a sales professional who specializes in the high-end market.
ERA® International Collection home specialists are trained and certified to provide customers the best quality service, project just the right image, and utilize unique marketing, advertising and communication skills essential to the buying and selling of luxury real estate.
High-end buyers are individuals, each looking for a certain home that is suited to his or her own impeccable style and taste. International Collection sales professionals mirror their customers' appreciation of a broad range of architectural tastes, historical styles, and selective home criteria. To make finding these homes less tedious, the International Collection provides customers an exclusive Web site that puts cutting-edge technology at their fingertips, to search for real estate listed in the $1 million scale and above, as well as properties in the top 10 percent of their respective marketplaces.
Consumers can enter the Web site directly by visiting www.ic.ERA.com, or link to it from the home page of www.ERA.com by clicking on the International Collection logo. A photo and description of the property appears, and consumers can click on the listing for additional information. Moreover, most properties on www.ic.ERA.com contain virtual tours of rooms and outside views of the architectural landscape.
Effective communication puts motivated buyers and sellers together to sharpen the search for the most serious prospects. As an ERA® International Collection sales professionals, I have access to a national network of experts who can help locate the kind of distinctive properties desired by those in the luxury market.
You deserve the finest service when buying or selling your home. Consider the benefits of the ERA® International Collection.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Fairfield County Market Update

National reports where we hear and read about double digit housing price declines, do not apply to our local market. Even within Fairfield County, individual towns perform differently. Overall, single family homes within Fairfield County that are listed on the Greater Fairfield County mls show a 7.6% decrease in median selling price during the January/February 2008 period vs the same period during 2007. 642 homes closed during the first two months of this year vs 917 last year, a decrease of 30%. There are 573 under contract without contingencies, just waiting to close and 332 homes with accepted offers and open contingencies. There are 5197 homes actively listed for sale. That represents roughly a 16 month supply of homes.

The upper price tier continues to perform well. 5% of homes sold this year were at $2MM or more vs 4.7% in 2007. The highest sale was $6,750,000 for a home in Darien and the lowest was $11,200 for a mobile home in Danbury. 12% of those homes under contract are listed at $2,000,000 or higher.

To give you an example of the variances between towns, contrary to the county-wide performance, the unit sales in Westport, Weston and Easton were even with last year and the median selling prices in those towns was higher than the same period last year. In Wilton unit sales dropped 16% but median price increased. Unit sales in Fairfield also declined while the median price increased.

Inventory is strong, interest rates are near a 40 year low and some sellers are motivated. This is a great time to buy a house. For owners who are contemplating selling within the next year or so, I suggest staging their homes to get top dollar, making their homes easily accessible to agents for showings and listing as quickly as possible before the inventory builds during late spring. It is also more critical now than ever to hire an experienced and knowledgeable agent to represent them and help them avoid the hurdles that can be encountered in this market.

Please contact me for more information on the housing market and how it directly relates to you, your current home, and your future home.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Using Your Energy Wisely: Alternative Energy in the Home

Energy costs are on everyone's mind, and alternatives are a hot property – though many homebuyers aren't sure how to find and evaluate them. There are a number of technologies to choose from which can help make your next house the home of the future.

Alternative energy gives new meaning to the real estate mantra of – what works in sunny California may be different from what works on the windy plains. But just as there are many styles of homes for buyers' diverse tastes, there are varied options in energy systems ® with more than one sometimes working hand-in-hand for the same house.

Wind power – an ancient energy source now seen in high-tech "windmill farms" with tall propeller-like turbines – has come down in the cost for generating electricity by over 80 percent since 1981. Geothermal energy – home heating powered by underground steam warmed up by the temperature of the earth itself – is a source getting more attention in the American West.

Relocating homeowners can choose to move to areas where wind generation is lowering electricity costs, while geothermal energy has applications for both large-scale power plants and individual homes. There has also been progress in residential settings with fuel cells, power systems that convert natural gas fuel to electricity through a chemical reaction with hydrogen, producing just water as a byproduct.

Perhaps the most familiar and popular source of renewable alternative energy remains the sun itself. Photovoltaic (PV) systems, which convert sunlight to electricity, have shown great energy-bill savings and homeowner satisfaction. These systems, which have been likened to a car that makes its own gas, are now available in the form of roof tiles that can integrate attractively with regular roofing.

Households that use roof tiles have found some 80 percent of their electricity needs supplied by them The homes can remain on the conventional power grid for the rest; at sunnier times when the home produces more energy than it can use, it goes back into the grid and credits the homeowners' account, literally turning back their electric meter. Across the country rebates from utility companies and tax credits from government are available for such setups. It's a way of contributing not only to the global community by using up less nonrenewable energy, but also to your own neighbors by freeing up conventional power.

Solar tiles are growing in popularity with home-development builders, and are seen as paying for themselves in savings and simplicity of maintenance. The savings increase considerably in combination with energy-efficient appliances. For example, in Sylmar, California's Village Green complex, this mix is a standard feature and the average resident has been shown to pay one-tenth in monthly utility bills what other town residents pay.

Your local real estate professional can help advise you on what energy alternatives are most available and may work best in your area. A little shopping around may shed light on options that make yesterday's technological dreams today's homeowner dream-come-true.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Six Reasons to Use a Realtor

Why pay a Realtor® a commission to sell your home? After all, more than 10% of homeowners attempt to handle the sale of a home themselves, a statistic that has held pretty steady over the years regardless of market conditions. Before making a decision about whether to go it alone, it is important to have a realistic idea of what is involved in the biggest financial transaction most of us are likely to make. Why work with a Realtor®? Here are six reasons to consider:

Reason #1 - Realtors® know your market. Realtors® are in a position to know what’s happening in the real estate market, not just in your state and your community, but in your neighborhood. As trained professionals who may have seen hundreds of homes similar to yours and know their features and selling prices, a professional is well qualified to set a price that can bring the maximum number of offers for your home.

Reason #2 - Realtors® sweat the details. Accurate pricing, qualifying potential buyers, positioning advertising for maximum exposure, evaluating potential offers, negotiation and closing the sale are some of the basic skills needed to successfully sell your home. Then there are environmental, government and disclosure requirements that must be followed.

Reason #3 - Realtors® know marketing. Marketing that attracts offers, not just lookers. A coordinated marketing campaign using the right combination of print advertising, direct mail and the Internet ensures your home receives maximum exposure. And an experienced Realtor® can advise you on cost-effective strategies for ensuring your home looks its best to potential buyers.

Reason #4 - Realtors® are pros at bringing buyers and sellers together. A Realtor® may already have a buyer for your home! Successful Realtors® are continually replenishing their rosters of potential buyers, as well as networking with other real estate professionals who may have the perfect buyer for your home.

Reason #5 - Realtors® reduce stress. Are you prepared to show your home in the middle of the day? Every weekend? Realtors® have the time to show your home whenever it is convenient for a potential buyer. It’s their job. And they are available to respond quickly and courteously to inquiries by phone call, email and fax. Think of a Realtor® as your personal home sales assistant.

Reason # 6 - Realtors® are experienced negotiators. Realtors® can help avoid costly errors during the negotiation phase of a transaction. As experienced negotiators, they can help maintain objectivity during what can often be an emotional time for sellers and buyers. And the ability to deal successfully with any issues that crop up often calls for just the right combination of firmness and diplomacy.

Whether you are a seller or a buyer, perhaps the biggest benefit real estate professionals have to offer to you is their experience. They have made assisting buyers and sellers their business, so that you can get on with the business, and pleasure, of realizing your dream!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Making Your (Dog) House a Home: Moving With Less Stress for Your Pets

Anyone who has ever moved knows that there are seemingly a million and one tasks to remember, from selecting a moving company to switching off utilities. All of the adjustments and changes involved in moving to a new home can be even more challenging when you have a pet. But there are ways to prepare to minimize the stress to your furred, feathered and finned friends.
The preparation process can be as crucial a stage as the move itself – familiar settings are disrupted as furniture gets moved and belongings packed away. A cat or dog will wonder who all these strangers are (potential buyers, inspectors, movers, etc.) and what's happening to the pet's familiar "territory" (changed location of litter boxes, favorite sleeping places, etc.) – which is how an animal sees your home.
For that reason, it's actually a good idea to change the "landscape" a little more – on the animal's behalf. Designate a room to remain just for your pet while the move proceeds around them, with their familiar toys, food and water bowls, sandbox (for cats), and so forth. This way they'll have a reassuring (if rearranged) space to spend the moving process in. It will also minimize the chance of escape by anxious animals while people are coming and going from your house more than usual, and reduce the danger of a scared cat hiding itself in the moving boxes with potentially tragic results.
Such precautions help calm your pet for the developments ahead – the move itself is stressful for pets and people alike, though this too can be minimized. If you're flying, check ahead to see which airlines allow pets as "carry-ons." The cargo bay is a possibility, but will isolate and possibly frighten your pet. In either case, anxiety and exposure to the elements will be lessened if you can book a direct flight.
If you drive, make sure you know where to find hotels that allow pets rather than leaving them in the vehicle (never a good idea in terms of safety or exposure to changing temperatures), and, especially with a dog, schedule frequent "rest stops" for both animal and owner. For birds, rodents and fish, "homes away from home" can work well – transport your bird or hamster in its cage, and your fish in a plastic container of water, roomy enough for the number of fish and changed regularly for long trips.
It's always a useful idea to consult a veterinarian for all the fine points, and a qualified real estate professional to help with all the questions a house-move poses; pet-compatible services are one of many matters a real estate sales associate can look into for you. With some advance planning and help from local experts, Fido's longest walk can have a happy destination.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Good Showing: Dressing Your House for Sales Success

As important a landmark as buying a home is in people's lives, you'd be surprised at how much of it can turn on snap decisions. If you're selling a house you'll have to put careful thought into customers' first impressions, because many sales will be made or lost before they reach the front door – or as soon as they walk through it.

First consider "curb appeal" – the feeling customers get from the upkeep of the house and grounds, and how comfortable this makes them imagining themselves as a resident. You want to do everything you can to make them see your house as their house, both outside and in.

A new paint job is an investment that will more than pay for itself, and neat landscaping – trimmed shrubs, new flowers – puts your prospective buyers in just the right frame of mind. Inside, kitchens and bathrooms should be in sparkling condition – these rooms are known to be what makes up many home-seekers' minds. Removal of odors like pet smells and smoke will lessen distractions for customers you want focusing on your home's possibilities, and clearing of clutter is crucial.

The less belongings you have crowding your rooms and closets, the bigger the home will appear, and the easier it will be for potential buyers to envision placing their own possessions there. Put some things in storage if you need to, or hold a garage sale to help cut down on some of the build-up you were going to clear out for moving anyway (just hold it before buyers can see the piles on your lawn or the cars lined up on an otherwise peaceful street). For buyers picturing themselves in your home, it's also good to present the house in as general taste as possible – personal memorabilia, collectibles, and eccentric wall colors and furnishings should go out with the clutter. Repainting rooms in a neutral white also helps convey the sense of spaciousness.

Clean windows, fresh flowers, and other small details with big impact – they're what you want to remember. From major improvements which guarantee a return on your investment, to subtle touches that tip the scales in your favor, the features of a house that we often take for granted can be the ones that determine your homeselling success. According to the National Association of Realtors®, curb appeal alone accounts for half of all home sales.

A little effort now saves you a lengthy process later. First impressions will expedite the sale, and securing the services of a qualified Realtor® will make it all the surer. A real estate professional can guide you in all the above matters and more, from supplying a checklist of presentation tips, to recommending affordable painting contractors from his or her industry connections, to helping you rearrange the furniture. Whatever it takes, we can give you confidence that, for some buyer soon, the showing of your home will be love at first sight.

Friday, January 18, 2008

New Kid on the Block: Moving With Children

Moving is a major change for all members of a family. Adult responsibilities weigh heavily when keeping track of all the tasks needed to make a move go smoothly. If you have children, this may be a difficult time to focus on their problems, too, but it's also one of the most crucial times to keep their concerns in mind.

Sometimes what seems like a major disruption to grownups is viewed as an adventure to the kids. Still, changing homes can also upset feelings of stability (in the case of younger children) and belonging (in the case of teens). These are special concerns for these age groups.

The most important thing a parent can do is maintain normal routines as much as possible – and when it isn't possible, to let the kids know that apprehension about a big life change is normal, too. Try to keep calm about the move yourself, and your children will be more likely to follow your lead. It is advisable to be open about what's happening and how everyone feels about it.
This means keeping your kids in the loop at each stage of the move. They don't have to get a vote, but it helps everyone for them to get increasingly used to the idea of this change. Bring them along when you look at houses, make them familiar with the new area you're moving to, and investigate its attractions (including the athletic or extra-curricular offerings that appeal to your kids). Exploring some of this on the Internet is a good way to relate your relocation to an activity they already enjoy.

Encourage your children to express any worries, and do what you can to reassure them. If you went through similar experiences as a child, you can share how you dealt with it – if it was easy, so much the better, and if it was hard, your children will know they're not the only ones who have ever had to deal with change.

Other neighborhood kids may grow distant when they know a friend is leaving. This is hurtful to your own children, but try and explain that some kids aren't yet mature enough to handle it another way, and that it isn't your kids' or even the others' fault.

Minimizing transitions and heading off family disputes are each essential to a smooth move with children. Try and arrange visits to the new school and meetings with the new teachers before the school year or semester starts. When you have more than one child, make bedroom assignments in the new house as soon as possible to avoid sibling strife (comfort, privacy and age seniority are all issues of kid politics that it is sometimes easy for grownups to forget).

Above all, be open and patient. If you pay the right attention, you will be letting your children know that, move or no move, the most important people in their life aren't going anywhere.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Career Path: Becoming a Realtor

Real estate professionals and customers alike give a good deal of thought to what the Realtor® can do for the homebuyer or seller. A question that may not get asked as often is why Realtors® do what they do. It's worth asking, both for focusing the real estate agent on how to get the most out of his or her profession and do the best for his or her customers, and for the customers themselves, to help them decide which Realtor® most suits their needs. Considering why real estate professionals do what they do may even help customers decide if it's something they might want to do, too.

Recruitment is an important part of any profession. Real estate companies want extensive teams of talented agents, and even when other companies acquire such talents, I welcome the competition to keep me sharp. The answers to why I am a Realtor® can serve to guide aspiring sales associates just starting out.

First, it's about helping people. Having a place to call your own is a reward we all seek and a need we all share, and helping realize homeownership dreams for others is a major source of my job satisfaction. It makes me feel that I've contributed to my community.

Then there's the satisfaction of self-reliance. Though my ERA® real estate company offers friendly cooperation with a first-rate team, each individual member can be as successful as his or her ambition and effort allow. My advancement is up to me, and it's a challenge I'm proud to meet.

Still, it's always encouraging to know you've chosen a winning team, too. Not only is ERA Real Estate a leader in its industry, offering state-of-the-art tools and services to attract customers and earn their loyalty, but the real estate industry itself has stayed strong in tough times. Housing is something that will always be in demand, and I can be the professional people turn to for it.

Of course, there are other reasons to be a Realtor® that are specific to each company, and each individual. I'm comfortable and confident working where I do because of the advantages the global ERA® system makes available. It supplies special resources to expedite home sales and purchases, like the extensive listings on our Web site ERA.com, which is visited by more than six million customers a month. It provides unique assurances, like the ERA® Sellers Security® Plan, which guarantees "We Will Sell Your House, Or ERA Will Buy It!®" It offers one-stop-shopping opportunities for everything a real estate consumer might require – from moving services to rental cars – through the companies enrolled in our ERA® Select Services® program. And it gives me tools to meet the special needs of specific customers, from the growing senior population to the influential Spanish-speaking community.

These are just some of my reasons for being a Realtor®. The feelings of accomplishment and service, be it as a rewarding first career or a challenging new one, could be your reasons too.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Service Is Golden: Real Estate Programs to Put Seniors' Minds at Ease

The mature years can be the best time of life – retirement has come, the kids are grown and you can enjoy the results of your hard work and smart choices with all your loved ones. And now is a good time to be a senior – the U.S. Census Bureau says that the mature population is expected to jump nearly 80 percent by the year 2025, and business is already taking note, with many programs to suit seniors' special needs.

That's only right, since, even with all the rewards of a life well-spent, the golden years can bring unique concerns not previously encountered. The prospects of moving for the first time in years or even decades, selling a beloved family home, maintaining rental properties, and navigating related tax issues are all special considerations that call for special service.

For reasons like these, the real estate industry has established a special organization to address the unique needs of this fast-growing and significant part of the American family: the Senior Advantage Real Estate Council (SAREC). SAREC has in turn established a certification program by which Realtors® of all ages are schooled in the specific interests of senior homebuyers and sellers. The "Seniors Real Estate Specialist" (SRES) designation qualifies professionals to answer the many questions on the minds of mature customers contemplating their retirement moves.
SRES holders can help guide you through the complexities of selecting your next home for maximum quality of life, considering such factors as accessibility of homes (not too many stairs, high cabinets, etc.); availability of public transportation and senior services; comfort-level of climate and terrain; and much more. These Realtors® also have access to referral networks that can help put you in touch with qualified professionals and suitable housing nationwide.
Your local ERA Real Estate office participates in the SRES program. Among the many other advantages provided by our trained professionals is the ERA® Sellers Security® Plan*, which offers the relief of a guaranteed sale of your current home for those who need to move into their new one in a specified time (as can often be the case with commitments to purchase a new house or deadlines to join a retirement community). Unmatched among national real estate brands, the Plan promises that "We Will Sell Your House, Or ERA Will Buy It!®", and it's just part of the array of methods we have to meet your unique needs.

In the senior years or any other time, buying and selling homes is one of life's most important decisions, both financially and emotionally. It shouldn't have to be the most stressful and complex, and there are programs and professionals in place to make sure it's the opposite. With the right Realtor®, you can be the "senior" partner in your own lifetime satisfaction and sales success.