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Shopping for a Condo? Ask These 4 Questions before You Buy

by Cheryl Scott-Daniels

Shopping for a Condo? Ask These 4 Questions before You Buy

Condominium homes have always been, and will likely always be, an efficient and economical route to becoming a first-time homeowner. They can offer the comfort, prestige, and even luxury appointments that apartment living may lack, often at a cost that is not much different than rent. With the current first-time home buyer tax credit and the deadline for the move-up tax credit fast approaching, I advise you move fast on any condo purchase you may be considering.

With my experience as Member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, I am well aware that not all condominiums are the same, however, so make sure you ask the following four questions before you buy:

What will you own? Read the bylaws and be sure you understand what you will be responsible for and what belongs to the condo association. Will you own the boat dock at the back of your unit? Can you elect to build a spa on your patio? Generally, unit owners own and are responsible for the interior of their condos, while costs for outside maintenance including common areas and sewer lines are the association’s responsibility.

Who lives there?
Are the majority of residents owners or renters? Owners generally take more interest in proper maintenance and are more willing than renters to serve on the association board and enforce complex rules and regulations–including the regular collection of homeowner dues.

How effective is the homeowner’s association? Do they have legal counsel, reasonable funds and a capable, caring volunteer board? One way to judge is to check with residents about restrictions, oversight and timeliness of repairs and upgrades. Another is to take a hard look at the grounds and be wary of signs of neglect.

What about special assessments? The association should have the power to special assess for needed, one-time large expenditures. Otherwise, things that need to be done may never get done at all, leaving the complex vulnerable to disrepair and lowered property values.

Don’t miss this great opportunity to become a homeowner or to downsize by buying a condo (remember, the move-up tax credit does not require you to move to a larger or more expensive home). Please
e-mail me for more tips on buying a condo and forward this information to any family and friends who may be in the market as well.

Newly Extended and Expanded Tax Credit

by Cheryl Scott-Daniels

Cheryl Scott-Daniels of ERA Select Homes explains the newly extended and expanded tax credit:

 

Confidence Builder: Make the Most of Newly-Constructed Homes

by Cheryl Scott-Daniels

For the aspiring homeowner, there are always some unknowns to navigate. For home-seekers looking to buy a newly-constructed home, they must also contend with fierce competition, as well as the uncertainties of buying a house, in many cases, that doesn't even exist yet.

Heightened demand has accelerated new construction. Advancing technology has allowed the selection of homes based on virtual tours of the future home's plans. Such options can help the consumer build their house to their every preference, while making it as accommodating in real life as it is promising on paper.

There are ways to minimize such uncertainties and focus on the new home's potential rather than potential problems – and these aren't limited to the structure itself. Many of these common sense preparations are ones in which the services of a real estate sales professional, such as an ERA Select Homes Real Estate professional, can be a major help and a big relief. At the most basic level, such a professional can help you determine whether it's the newly-built or the pre-existing home that best suits your search.

Start from scratch. Your agent can help you decide what design options not only fulfill your needs but best fit your budget and your home's resale value. He or she can also help you to familiarize yourself with the new neighborhood; guide you throughout the construction process; and get you set up with crucial services like moving companies (one of many major tasks a nationally-known business can group in a single program, such as ERA Real Estate's Select Services).

Check into the builder's track record. You can do this by visiting other developments they've constructed and by speaking with the residents. Also, you may want to contact the Better Business Bureau to learn about their reputation and how long they've been in operation.

Know the neighborhood. Visit your local town planning office and look into what will be built nearby in the near future – where there's some construction growth there may be more, and you'll want to decide what kinds you wish to live around.

Understand what's in your contract. Do what you can to protect a favorable mortgage rate from the financial fluctuations that can occur over the course of construction. Get a thorough home inspection. And, obtain the most reliable professionals to help you in these potentially complicated tasks.

Determine if "new is for you." Despite the shiny, new bells and whistles associated with a new home, you might prefer an existing house. Purchasers of existing homes avoid contributing to suburban sprawl, enjoy the stability of established neighborhoods and infrastructures, and don't need to worry about today's fast-paced home construction industry. New home buyers, on the other hand, may be most attracted to the ease of brand-new homes with minimal maintenance concerns and a pre-planned neighborhood structure.

One happy medium an agent might steer you toward is the brand-new home that's already built. While this may be a rarity in a booming market, your real estate professional can help find one for you that can help eliminate surprises. Not to mention, it will likely fast-forward passed the inconvenience of other unfinished homes still in the construction phase around you.

With the right preparation and advice, the new-home route can lead to ready-made happiness rather than built-in headaches.

Tax Credit Boost to the Marketplace

by Cheryl Scott-Daniels

Tax Credit for Buyers

The tax credit extension for both first time buyers and trade up buyers is a real boost to the marketplace.  Buyers and Sellers should both be well prepared and aware of market conditions before making or negotiating offers. Time is valuable and we want our clients to be very capable of maximizing the benefits that are available to them.

This first quarter of 2010 will be driven by the tax incentives which will create stronger competition for inventory and because of the increased activity below $1,000,000, the median selling price is likely to be lowered.  That said, buyers should work with their agent and their loan originator to be completely pre-approved for their mortgage. Pre-approved buyers command more confidence from sellers, especially when there are multiple offers on the table. In this market, many sellers will not consider an offer without a pre-approval from the buyer.

Market Advice for Buyers & Sellers

In most cases an offer is written with standard contingencies including a home inspection and satisfactory appraisal. A seller can have their own inspections done prior to marketing so they have the time to repair or replace items. That will shorten the time from offer to closing or avoid having a buyer get discouraged and walk-away because of what they might perceive as deferred maintenance. A seller can also have an appraiser evaluate their home so they have a good idea of what a bank will approve as a selling price. As a bonus, the seller will have the inspection report and appraisal in their back pocket when it comes time to negotiate a selling price and terms.

My advice to sellers is to review their current market position with their agent.  Take a close look at year-end sales to arrive at a realistic and competitive list price. Sellers need to do what’s necessary to attract serious buyers to get their property sold. Realtors® have seen the competitive inventory and therefore can make good suggestions on how the seller can help make their home stand out above the rest.

Fairfield County Real Estate Market Update

by Cheryl Scott-Daniels

Market Statistics

Although single family home sales in 2009 were slightly slower than sales in 2008, and the median sales price was less, we did see a positive market increase in the last 4 months of the year. I am pleased to report the 2009 year-end statistics which include an increase in sales and a decrease in inventory which leads me to believe the Single Family home market in Fairfield County is stabilizing!!!

There are currently 5973 active single family homes on the Consolidated Multiple Listing System. In 2009 we had 6753 closed sales.  That represents a unit sales decrease of only 4% versus 2008. The result is a 10 ½ month supply of homes currently on the market. The median selling price for single family homes on the Consolidated Multiple Listing System in 2009 was $377,000, which is an over-all decrease of 12% from 2008.

By far, single family home sales among the upper tier have been most affected by economic conditions. We currently have a 3 year supply of single family homes over $2MM on the Consolidated Multiple Listing System and a 4 year supply of homes over $3MM.

There are 813 single family homes with fully executed contracts waiting to close.  The median list price of those homes is $339,000. There are 424 properties with accepted offers.  The median list price of those with accepted offers is $399,000. These are important numbers, which I report each month, because they help us to determine the direction of the market. In this case we can estimate that the median sales price in the first few months of 2010 will be flat or slightly higher than the median sales price of 2009.

I encourage our readers to contact me for market statistics specific to their town and neighborhood as they vary greatly from town to town and even neighborhood to neighborhood. Please contact me if you wish to receive market statistics monthly via email or if you wish to receive a market snap shot specific to your property’s address.

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