Blog :: 2014

2014-2015 Burlington Holiday Events Guide!

Your 2014-2015 Holiday Events Guide!

holiday-main

  • Meet Santa at the Burlington Town Center!  Santa and his helpers have lots of fun activities in store this season. 

  • Giant Menorah Lighting! Come down to the UVM Green Tuesday the 16th to celebrate the first night of Hannukah with music and treats from 5:30-Midnight.

  • The Nutcracker Ballet takes the stage at the Flynn Center Saturday December 20th! Enjoy a Christmas classic and a stroll up the beautifully decorated Church Street after! Get tickets here. 

  • Visit the Vermont Reindeer exhibit at the ECHO Center Saturday the 27th! This event will be magical for the whole family -- kids will love learning about and petting real reindeer. More information here. 

  • The Vermont Symphony Orchestra will perform at their annual Gala hosted by the Burlington Sheraton. Celebrate the season with beautiful music. More information here. 

  • First Night will be back in Burlington to ring in the New Year! Enjoy a day full of music, dance and celebration throughout Burlington. Buy your tickets and see the full calendar of events here. 

 

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Home Buyers Series: How To Avoid Paying Too Much Vol. 4

 

Use your agent to narrow the prospect field.

Buying a home involves making many choices--often overwhelming and confusing decisions, the least of which is where to start. If you're thinking about buying, you've no doubt already begun looking through the pages of home magazines and searching through web sites. It doesn't take long before the rows of tiny house photos blur together. How can you be sure you've seen all the homes that may fit your needs? A good agent brings to the table an in-depth knowledge of the current housing inventory in their area, and continually updates that knowledge by touring homes as they are placed on the market. This is to your advantage. Trying to personally see every available home that might fit your needs would be an overwhelming process. If you are thorough in communicating your needs and what you can realistically afford, then your agent can help you narrow down the list of prospective homes to those that best suit your needs. This will save much time and energy. When the time comes to settle on one home, you can do it with the confidence that you've made a well-informed choice.

Home Buyers Series: How To Avoid Paying Too Much Vol. 3

Location

Location, Location, Location.

You've heard it before--the three most important things in real estate are location, location, location. Virtually no other single factor has a bigger impact on the desirability and resale value of your home to be. No home is an island, and the value of yours is affected by the homes that surround it. Your first consideration is the neighborhood. If you're not familiar with the area or community you're moving into, talk to a real estate rofessional who has experience there and can point you in the right direction. Then visit those neighborhoods at various times of day and observe the homes carefully. Look also for things like traffic congestion, intrusive sounds or annoying smells. You may find the perfect home, but if the neighborhood has problems, your investment won't be worth much when it's time to sell. Also, remember that extremely large homes surrounded by smaller ones tend to appreciate less than a large home among other large homes. Conversely, the smallest home in the neighborhood tends to be "pulled up" by the others.

 

Home Buyers Series: How To Avoid Paying Too Much Vol. 2

 

Shop for a mortgage before you shop for a home.

 

Being pre-approved for a home loan before hitting the market is the smart way to shop for a home. It tells sellers that you're a serious prospect, and you know in advance the maximum mortgage you can afford. Make sure you get a commitment in writing. Many buyers make the mistake of learning what they qualify for without getting a written pre-approval letter from their lender. The good news is that it's easier than ever to qualify for a home loan, and there are many good loans to choose from. Visit our Concierge Page for a list of respected mortgage lenders in our area who would be happy to get you started.

Home Buyers Series: How To Avoid Paying Too Much Vol. 1

Needs V Wants

Know what you're shopping for before you start.

Before you begin shopping for your next home, you should understand that there are two homes out there vying for your interest--the one that meets your needs and the one that fulfills your 'wants'. Ideally, you'd find a home that satisfies both. But, in reality you're going to find yourself confronted with choices. Do you choose the three-bedroom home with room for your family to grow, or the one with the big backyard and deck that's perfect for entertaining? Is having a big kitchen more important to you than a few extra rooms?

When you start shopping, you're going to find homes you fall in love with for different reasons. That's why you should list the features you want before you start shopping. Make a list with two categories--"Needs" and "Wants"--and prioritize the items you come up with. Understanding what you really need as opposed to what you'd like to have will help you keep your priorities straight as you shop around.

Don't let emotions cloud your judgment. Satisfy your needs first. If you find a home that meets your needs and fulfills some of your desires, great! Jump on it. The important thing is to know the difference before you get caught up in the excitement of the hunt.

VA Loans Provide Accessible Financing For Veterans

 

If you are a Veteran, you should know about the special mortgage benefits available to you through the VA Financing Program. Take advantage of this program! It's designed to make purchasing a home as affordable, and accessible as possible.

Here are the four biggest benefits of financing with a VA loan:

1. No Down Payment! This is HUGE, and certainly the defining benefit of the VA program. Instead of having to pony up the usual minimum down payment of 3.5-5% Veterans are given the opportunity to finance the entire cost of their home.

2. No Mortgage Insurance. Conventional borrowers who cannot afford at least a 20% down payment will be required to purchase mortgage insurance which can easily tack a couple hundred dollars onto their monthly mortgage payments. VA loans do not require mortgage insurance as they do not require a down payment. There is an upfront fee, however, that can be completely financed. If you were wounded during service that fee will be waived entirely.

3. Flexible Requirements. The VA program is designed to get Veterans into homes. With that in mind, normal requirements are suspended or made much more achievable. For example, a Veteran will receive full financing even with a credit score 100 points lower than what a normal borrower could get away with. Veterans can even secure financing if they have very recently gone through bankruptcy, foreclosure or a short sale. If you think you're situation puts you in too tough a spot to receive financing - think again! Please visit a lender to find out how they can help.

4. Closing Cost Limits. Unfortunately closing costs can never go away entirely, but the VA puts a cap on what Veterans are allowed to pay. They even make it possible for sellers to pay ALL of the buyers closing costs AND up to 4% of the loan amount in concessions. Keep that in mind when you and your Realtor negotiate the contract!

Thank you for your service. Visit our Concierge Page for a list of lenders we trust and work with regularly to help guide you through the mortgage process.

What Size Home Should You Buy?

 

When you picture your ideal home, what do you see? The trend, traditionally, is a preference toward larger homes, although the 'tiny house' fad is currently having a moment. Homes of all sizes have their pros and cons meaning the final decision must be based on your particular situation.

Here are a few important questions to ask yourself when deciding what size home to buy:

1. What are my long-term needs?

Is this your 'forever home' or a first time purchase? Determining the length of time you plan on spending in the home is the first step. Obviously your needs will be different depending on what stage of life you're in also. For example, will you be adding to your family while you're at this location? Or, have your children recently moved out on their own? These are things to think about when deciding on home size.

Renovations are always an option, but if you have that in mind from the start, it's best to do your research and have a cost estimate in mind. Often times renovations are more time consuming and expensive than you might expect at first.

2. Do I really want to clean a large house?

The reality is...the larger the home, the longer you'll have to spend cleaning and maintaining it. Or, the more money you'll spend for someone else to do it for you. Are you willing to put in the time it takes?

Smaller homes also tend to force their inhabitants to accumulate less things over time, as well. If you're downsizing, you'll have to think about getting rid of some items.

3. Will I be able to furnish a larger home?

Likewise, when you purchase a larger home, you will need more furniture. In addition, when you furnish a larger room, you usually need larger pieces. Most likely this means you will need to purchase new items.

This can be a huge expense, even if you buy second hand. The affordability of new furniture should be considered before hand.

4. Can I afford the maintenance?

The larger the home, the more maintenance you will most likely have.

When the roof needs to be replaced, it will cost more than a smaller one. It will cost more to install new carpeting, tiling and laminate.

In addition, the larger the yard, the more time and expense you incur in cutting the lawn, maintaining trees and landscaping.

The electricity and water bills will be higher for a larger home as well. You can get an idea of what to expect of these from the seller.

5. What do I really prefer?

When you are weighing the pros and cons, you must also factor in your personal preference. Some people prefer a cozy,smaller home, while others enjoy having extra rooms for guests and hobbies.

Ultimately, in the end, you will be living in your home for a long time, and it's important to take your happiness into account.

Condo Living - What Millenials and Boomers Need to Know

 

Condominium living is especially appealing to millenials breaking into home ownership as well as baby boomers ready to downsize. Owning a condo is a great way to build equity and benefit of the tax incentives without all of the maintenance and upkeep associated  with home ownership.

There are some downsides to owning a condo that you should be aware of in advance. Some homeowners association rules may be an unpleasant surprise for many millennials. For boomers, living in a building or being a part of a community and abiding by the restrictions could be a challenge, particularly after owning a single-family home for many years.

Here are some of the common rules that may come as a surprise to millenials and baby boomers alike:

Your hardwood floors will need to be at least partially covered

Living in close proximity to neighbors isn't for everyone. Millennials likely have a recent experience with communal living, either in a dorm room, a rental building or even back in their parents' home. For boomers who have lived under their own roof for many years, this could be a shock to the system. Imagine what it would be like to live in a building full of hardwood floors and little-to-no carpet to absorb the noise of shoes, pets and children.

For this exact reason, almost every multi-story condominium will require owners to partially cover their hard floors. If you're dreaming of hardwood floors, you'll want to check the homeowners association rules before tearing up any carpeting.

You can't use your parking space for storage

This may seem like a no-brainer, but the parking space that comes with your unit may only be used as such. Even for those (especially millenials) who opt out of owning a vehicle, the parking space rule stands. Yes it may be tempting to turn your space into a storage unit, but it will likely not fly with the condo association. Part of the role of an association is to maintain a neat, orderly aesthetic - parking spaces filled with lawn furniture, garage equipment and the like will not qualify.

There will be noise restrictions

Many condo rules specify that between certain hours occupants must not interfere with other owners' quiet enjoyment. This rule is frequently enforced and is likely music to the ears of a boomer concerned with leaving their private, quiet, single-family home for community living. For a millennial who is still within striking distance of their party years and the noise that comes with it, this is a big consideration.

When you're looking at condos, take note of how the building was constructed. Is there concrete between the floors, or is it all wood? Listen for noises coming from other units and think about how that will affect you - and likewise, how your noise will affect your neighbors.

Your pets might not be welcome

Until they're well into the real estate search, few people realize that many condo buildings have pet restrictions. Restrictions regarding the type and number of pets exist in nearly every condo development.

Year after year, buyers have had to forego great apartments simply because of a pet. Knowing this before you get too involved in the real estate process will help soften the blow when you discover that Fido isn't welcome -- a potential shot to the heart of both the boomer and the millennial. If your pets are part of the family, fear not, there are plenty of associations who do allow for them - you just need to read the rule book carefully to avoid compliance issues.

Renting may  not be allowed

Many condo boards have restrictions on the number of rentals allowed in the association. Having too high a percentage of renters makes it harder for new buyers to get a loan, and homeowners believe that owners who are present have more of a vested interest in caring for the building than a tenant, who has much less at stake. Finally, if you've been dreaming of making some extra cash with short-term rentals, you better check the condo's rules and restrictions first, as some will forbid such rentals.

Bottom line: Find out the rule on renting, as well as the current percentage of renters, before you buy.

Know before you go

If you're not ready to give in to some of the restrictions that come with condo ownership, you might want to reconsider. While some homeowners associations are more lenient than others, you should go into a condo purchase with eyes wide open. Rules are made for a reason, and you should expect them to be enforced.

Before making an offer, take the time to thoroughly go through all of the association documents and really think about how they will apply to your lifestyle. It may be hard to turn down a unit you're in love with, but it'll be even harder to deal with the consequences of rule enforcement and tailoring your life to fit.

Make sure your listing reaches Millennial home buyers!

 

Generation Y, also known as Millennials were born between 1980 and 2000 and are largely regarded as a unique, somewhat mysterious group. The wants and needs of Millennials are vastly different from those of their baby boomer parents. Their specialized interests mean that marketing strategies need to be adjusted to attract Millennials to your home, but, also note the  added challenge that Millennials despise being told what to buy through marketing. Your most effective strategy will be to highlight the features of your home and neighborhood without being pitchy or 'traditional.'

Is it starting to sound as though reaching this generation is more trouble than it's worth? Don't be fooled. Although many Millennials are choosing to rent, they have substantial buying power and studies show that they by and large still value home ownership.

If you're looking to sell your home, these are the things you'll need to do to attract Millennial buyers:

Play Up Your Strengths

While Baby Boomers may want a two-car garage, large kitchen and extra storage space, Millennials have their own ideas. This generation is looking for something different than their parents:

  • Open floor plans - a large amount of square footage is not necessarily a selling point with the trend of tiny homes on the rise
  • Single-story homes
  • Energy efficiency - saving the environment (and money) is especially important to this generation
  • Split floor plans
  • Media rooms - Millennials are more 'plugged in' than any other generation. Be sure to highlight any tech-savvy features your home has to offer.
  • Hardwood or tile floors

Marketing these features will help get the attention of this generation.

Sell Your Neighborhood

For many Millennials, the neighborhood they live in matters just as much--or more--than the house they buy, and they're looking to meet a specific need.

This generation is extremely technology driven and are used to receiving information instantly. This translates to the amount of time they are willing to spend getting from point A to point B. Make sure to point out how close your home is to all attractive amenities - especially if your property is located in the heart of town. Extra bonus points if you're within walking or biking distance to recreation, schools and shopping!

Show Off Environmentally-Friendly Features

It is no secret this generation is environmentally-conscious, and they'll be looking for homes that have green features. Make sure to highlight any recent upgrades - especially new windows and energy efficient appliances.

Think Clean and Modern

Modern homes are popular choices for younger buyers, but your house doesn't need to be brand new or designed by a minimalist architect to appeal to this generation. Some simple home staging before your showing or open house could be all you need to bring in an offer. Take the 'less is more' approach and eliminate clutter (this applies to all generations as well!).

Online Advertising is MANDATORY

To find younger home buyers, you'll have to place your ads where they will see them, and that is largely online. Social media is an ideal place to advertise your property in a way that won't seem pushy or aggressive.

 

Fall is a great time to sell!

Sell in fall blog

Putting your home on the market in the "off seasons" of fall and winter is a smart strategy that is often overlooked. The available inventory of homes is less by this time, giving the pool of buyers fewer suitable options. With less competition, it is easier to highlight your home's best features and stand out in the crowd. Furthermore, buyers searching during this time are generally more serious, qualified and feeling a sense of urgency. This combination makes for the absolute perfect selling atmosphere.

Now that you know why fall is a great time to list, let's talk about how to make your home a standout. 

 

Outside

Curb Appeal. If you follow our blog, you know how important this topic is. Whether searching online, or driving through the neighborhood, buyers are hyper-critical - and rightfully so! They are looking for well maintained homes that show that the owners care and have made upkeep a priority. If your home isn't presented well, buyers won't give it a second look, and certainly won't make an appointment to see it from the inside. Before your listing photos are taken, and the entire time your home is on the market, make sure walkways are clear of debris, landscaping is neat, windows are clean and your entryway is welcoming. Any outdoor furniture should be stored away by this time as well. Your Realtor should take pictures on a well lit day to paint your home in the best possible light. Adding a new welcome mat, some seasonal mums and maybe a pumpkin or wreath to your door add a thoughtful touch that buyers will notice and appreciate. 

Lighting. Now that the days are getting shorter, it's important that you leave your exterior lights on during all showing hours - both for safety and for a subliminally welcoming aesthetic. If you can, adding solar lights to walkways is a nice touch and added safety feature.

Inside

Maintenance. Just as with the exterior of your home, the interior needs to be viewer ready at all times. Keep up with the obvious routine housework as well as tending to any maintenance that may need attention. You may not notice that sticky window, or squeaky cellar door, but it will be a red flag in a buyer's mind. Keep drapes and blinds pulled back to let the sunlight in and clear out any clutter to give the appearance of large, open, clean spaces.

Scent. Did you know that scent is the sense most closely linked to memory? When buyers remember your home, make sure they're recalling the pleasant, seasonal smells and not a musky basement or stale dog bed. Strategically place scented oils and plug-in air fresheners throughout your rooms in warm, seasonal scents such as cinnamon, vanilla or pumpkin spice. Not only are these uplifting in the moment, but they tend to bring back happy memories and allow people to reminisce -- exactly the mood you want buyers in when they're viewing your home! 

Create Warmth. Sweater weather isn't just for people -- apply it to your decor too! Make your home look like a cozy place to curl up by strategically adding warm, chunky throw blankets to living room furniture, choosing pillows in seasonal fabrics and colors and using plenty of accent lighting.  If you have a fireplace, arrange furniture around it to make it a focal point. Think of the textures and colors that make you think of a cozy fall day, and apply those to your home. There's no need to break the bank with these updates -- retailers such as Home Goods have a huge selection of lovely options to add flare and comfort even on a budget.

Remember, you're selling the feeling of your home as much as the property itself. Make sure buyers can see themselves living in and enjoying your home by paying attention to the small details and you'll have no trouble selling your home this fall. In fact, you'll find the process is much easier than expected!