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New Tax Law

by Cheryl Scott-Daniels

New Tax Law!

Yesterday at 4pm I had a conference call with Senator Christopher Dodd who was in the Senate about to vote on the bill to extend the housing tax credit which has been a critical component of the recently improving housing market.


1.  Federal government will extend the tax credit to first-time buyers,  those who haven’t owned a home in the last 3 years
Credit is $8,000
Not recaptured if the owner resides in the property for 3+ years*
Binding contracts must be finalized by 4/30/10
Closing must occur prior to 6/30/10
Single Income cannot exceed $125,000
Combined Income cannot exceed $225,000
Property must be primary residence, 1-4 family
Maximum purchase price is $800,000 


*unless they are military or foreign service personnel


2.  Tax credit extended to move-up buyers:
Credit is $6,500  
all other rules apply!

Senator Dodd expected the house to vote quickly and President Obama to sign shortly thereafter!

This should continue to boost the housing market!

 

Fairfield County Real Estate Market Update

by Cheryl Scott-Daniels

Fairfield County Real Estate Market Update

The positive increase in market activity we saw in August held true in the month of September.  We experienced a small decrease in the supply of homes active on the market and witnessed a smaller decline in unit sales this year versus the first 9 months of 2008.

There is a healthy, active inventory of 7,556 single family homes on the consolidated multiple listing service. To date, we have had 4,755 closed sales. This represents a unit sales decrease of 15% vs. the first 9 months of 2008. The result is a 14.3 month supply of homes currently on the market. The median selling price county-wide is $376,500, which is an over-all decrease of16% vs. last year. This number is down slightly from August. This is a county-wide number and not the case in every town.  Remembering that all real estate is local, there are definitely differences between towns within Fairfield County. It is very important to talk to your REALTOR® about the towns in which you have specific interest about the advantages of buying or selling at this time.

As has been the case over the past 9 months, sales among the upper price tier are slower than other price ranges. Sales over $2MM represent just 3% of homes that have sold but 9.5% of homes on the market waiting to sell.  Sales over $3MM represent less than 1% of the total homes sold but 5% of homes currently listed for sale.

There are 1000 properties with fully executed contracts waiting to close.  The median price of those homes is $350,000.

There are 565 properties with accepted offers.  The median list price of those with accepted offers is $394,500.

With the healthy inventory of homes on the market, we stress to our sellers the importance of making their home stand out above the competition. This includes staging as well as competitive pricing. Sellers should talk to their REALTOR® about steps they can take to help put their home at the top of the buyer’s list!

Rooms for improvement: The Joys and Challenges of Fixer-Uppers

by Cheryl Scott-Daniels

google map to real pro systemsThe house that needs work – it's not for everyone. But then, the secret of real estate success, for both a professional like me and a potential customer like yourself, is finding the one home that's right for you. And a fixer-upper even offers the opportunity to have your dream house not be found, but made.

It's important to keep in mind the balance of challenges and chances that a fixer-upper presents. For buyers with cost as a concern, a house needing work will definitely be more affordable – though the discount can stem from some major problems, and the price savings go hand-in-hand with later renovation expenses.

Even so, at the initial bargain price some families find a fixer-upper comfortable enough to live in while saving for renovation. This kind of at-home pioneering makes fixer-uppers not the best idea for first-timers. However, experienced homeowners have an edge, being more familiar with renovations in previous houses and knowing what to expect in both inconvenience and rewards.

In any case, the standard rules for all home purchases apply to fixer-uppers – and often more so. Getting a thorough home inspection, for instance, is crucial, to learn all you need to about homes whose history and condition can be unknown (or in some cases undisclosed). But once again remember that turning up problems can also identify economic breaks; since the purchase price for an "as is" home will be lower, so will related costs such as transfer taxes, and property taxes might be too.

If the fixer-upper is just your kind of challenge, then you have the chance to shape your space to just your type of taste – and that of potential future residents. The fix-up can enhance the possibility of appreciating the home's resale value. As with any home, you'll want to think carefully about which improvements will make up their cost, but with a fixer-upper the benefits can be reaped not just from the house but its location – older neighborhoods can be preferred by many buyers to newer housing developments, so getting a like-new home you prepared in a more old-fashioned area can be a strong attraction.

One resource you may want in your fix-up tool kit is the services of a qualified real estate professional. We often have fixer-uppers we'd love to find the right buyer for, and can call you about as soon as they're available. If you're ready for the challenges and rewards, your neighborhood agent may be ready to "fix you up" with your future dream house.

Cheryl Scott-Daniels, Broker/Owner of ERA Select Homes in Westport has earned the prestigious Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE) designation, having completed extensive training in foreclosure avoidance and short sales. This is invaluable expertise to offer at a time when our country is ravaged by “distressed” homes in the foreclosure process.

 

Short sales allow the cash-strapped seller to repay the mortgage at the price that the home sells for, even though it is lower than what is owed on the property. As a CDPE, Scott-Daniels can confidently guide sellers through a short sale process to avoid foreclosure, which can be devastating to homeowners. In fact, on average, CDPEs are able to keep homeowners in their home more than twice as often as losing properties to foreclosure. More and more lenders are willing to consider short sales because they are much less costly than foreclosures.

In Fairfield County, more than 3,400 homes are currently in pre-foreclosure. It is happening in all price ranges. Local experts say that even high-priced homes are not immune.

 

“This CDPE designation is invaluable as I work with sellers and lenders on complicated short sales and foreclosures”, said Scott-Daniels. “It is so rewarding when I am able to help sellers save their homes from foreclosure.”

 

Alex Charfen, founder of the Distressed Property Institute in Boca Raton, Fla., said that REALTORS® such as Cheryl Scott-Daniels with the CDPE designation have valuable training in short sales that can offer the homeowner much better alternatives to foreclosure, which virtually destroys the credit rating. These experts also may better understand market conditions and can help sellers through the emotional experience, he said.

"Obtaining this certification is just another reflection of Cheryl Scott-Daniel’s commitment to providing exceptional service to her clients," said Gene Amsel, Business Consultant, ERA Franchise Systems LLC.  “CDPE training teaches sales associates to be properly prepared, up to speed on the latest trends and have the skills necessary to be successful in this market.”

 

For more information about CDPE designation or to reach Cheryl Scott-Daniels, call at 203-341-0100

 

Empty Nests and Full Houses: Remodeling for Departing Kids and Returning Parents

by Cheryl Scott-Daniels

 

 

google map to real pro systemsThe American family is ever-changing, and its primary space, the home, has always changed with it. The present day is no exception: The largest segment of the American public, the baby boom generation, is entering retirement age in high numbers, and confronting "empty nests" when the kids go off to college or marry and move out permanently, presenting the challenge of what to do with the sudden extra space (since most "boomers" prefer to "age in place" rather than leave their long-time homes).

There is also the perennial family responsibility of caring for older relatives as their health needs require them to move back in with their grown children and in-laws. Extended families (including grandparents raising their grandchildren) have also become more commonplace. Situations like these can pose the challenge not of how to deal with extra space, but how best to add more.

Changes which only affect the inside of a house can be the simpler type, but are not necessarily any easier a decision. However, there are a number of inviting options to consider. Mature baby boomers who are ready to enjoy the fruits of a lifetime of work and have the funds to invest in doing so, are converting the extra space vacated by the kids into everything from "wine cellars" to libraries.

Home offices are popular, and tap into a growing trend. They come in handy for organization and privacy, whether you've got a business or merely need a space to keep your bills and personal files straight.

Hobbies are big with boomers, so a hobby room for sewing and other crafts makes sense. A small home gym, with treadmill, weights and a TV to pass the time, is also a good investment for both fun and health.

On the other hand, many of today's homeowners are opting to add that extra room – or rooms – if they don't already have one, for entertaining guests, housing returning relatives, or setting up a separate but accessible space for an elderly parent or in-law. Before you do this, there are a number of questions to address, including what local zoning ordinances will allow for additions, and how the aesthetics and size of the addition will affect resale value.

There are also family matters to make sure everyone understands. While some younger families move grandma in with them, some older ones sell the house to a son or daughter and move into the addition themselves. In all such situations, it's important to agree beforehand who owns what part of the house, whether rent will be charged, who will pay for any extra utility or property-tax costs, and other sensitive issues that don't have to become divisive ones.

The right real estate professional can give expert guidance. Programs like the SRES ("Seniors Real Estate Specialist") designation available to ERA Real Estate professionals are one guarantee of expertise in senior concerns, and programs like ERA® Select Services are one great way of finding reliable contractors and possible discounts. Consult with your local real estate office, and no matter how your house may change, it will remain a place where everyone feels at home.

Home Buying Process

by Cheryl Scott-Daniels

 

     When buying a home, it’s important to think carefully about your offering price and your offering terms. In some cases, terms and conditions can represent thousands of dollars in additional value for home buyers—or additional costs.Terms may include inspections, requests for specific property repairs, or timing considerations, such as a conditional purchase clause.

Determining a price
Some home buyers mistakenly believe there is a predetermined formula for offers—that offering prices should be X percent lower than the seller’s asking price or the amount they are really willing to pay. In practice, your offer price actually depends more upon the basic laws of supply and demand. If many home buyers are competing for homes, then sellers will likely get full-price offers and sometimes even more. If demand is weak, then offers below the asking price may be in order.


How to make an offer
The process varies by state. In most cases, you complete an offer that your representative presents on your behalf. The owner, in turn, may accept the offer, reject it or make a counter-offer. Because counter-offers are common (any change in terms can be considered a “counter-offer”), it’s important that you remain in close contact with your representative during the negotiation process so that any proposed changes can be quickly reviewed.


Inspections
Inspections are common in residential realty transactions. Structural inspections are particularly important. During these examinations, an inspector evaluates the property for any material physical defects and whether expensive repairs and replacements are likely to be required in the next few years. For a single-family home, these inspections often require two or three hours. You should plan to attend too. This is an important opportunity to examine the property’s mechanics (plumbing, wiring, etc.) and structure, ask the inspector questions and learn far more about the property than is possible with an informal walk-through.


For more information please visit REBAC.net.

No Time Like The First Time

by Cheryl Scott-Daniels

No Time Like The First Time

If you are contemplating the purchase of your first home, congratulations! As you probably know, buying a home is one of the biggest financial commitments you can make. It is also a process filled with emotion, and a touch of anxiety. To help keep you sleeping soundly, here are answers to three big questions that concern many potential first-time homeowners.


Question #1: How do I decide what to look for in a home?

It’s easier than you think. Sit yourself down and list what’s important to you in a home. The purchase of every home involves making tradeoffs, so be sure to prioritize your list.

One element is architectural style. Do you prefer a Colonial, a Cape Cod or a modern look? An important factor to consider is living space. How much room do you need right now, and to meet anticipated needs?

Make a list of features that must be a part of your home. Perhaps that Olympic-size pool and tennis court can be put off for another day, but you may absolutely need an eat-in kitchen NOW! It’s all a matter of your taste and personal style.


Question #2: Where should I begin the search?

That old real estate adage about “location, location, location” aside, choosing where to live is usually determined by your personal circumstances and desires. Do you have a particular community, or even a particular block, in mind?

What is it about the location of your new home that is most important to you? Do you prefer an urban, suburban or rural setting? Consider proximity to work, schools, shopping, entertainment and houses of worship. Once you’ve narrowed your list of potential candidates, the Internet can be an excellent tool for learning what a particular community has to offer.


Question #3: How can I find financing that makes sense for me?

Interest rates are lower than we’ve seen in decades. Still, the last thing you want to do is start out in your first home saddled with an uncomfortable level of debt. Seeking the advice of a professional who can give you the lowdown on financing options that match your qualifications is a big step in the right direction.

Once you’ve narrowed your search, talk to a real estate professional that serves the community you’d like to call home. Cheryl Scott-Daniels Group and ERA Select Homes associates are trained to guide you through your purchase every step of the way. Our Web site, YourFairfieldCountyHomes.com, brings up-to-date listings directly to you. We work closely with lenders who can offer loan programs designed to meet the needs of qualified first-time homebuyers.

The path to finding your first home is sure to be full of twists and turns. Once you’re armed with the answers to the big questions, the search can be fulfilling, and even fun!

 


We all need a helping hand from time to time, but prefer to remain as independent as possible. Accessible features in a home are a way of lending ourselves a hand, and staying in our own house for much longer than we otherwise might.

As more members of the baby boom generation – which comprises the largest segment of America's population – reach retirement age, many of them show a preference for "aging in place" in their own homes rather than moving to traditional elderly communities and facilities. This trend has created more interest than ever in the designing and retrofitting of homes for maximum ease of use. Heightened awareness of the needs of disabled people of all ages, and increased legislative attention to their rights, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), have also helped drive a trend which can benefit all homebuyers.

What has come to be called "Universal Design" is a set of standards for making every house a welcoming home for inhabitants of all ability levels. These include placing light switches and thermostats low enough, and electrical outlets high enough, for anyone to reach; outfitting hallways with railings and showers with grab-bars and stools; replacing doorknobs with levers; offering ramps as well as stairs, and doorways that can accommodate wheelchairs; and minimizing falling risks through secure, low-pile carpeting.

Though there was a time when accessibility was considered an obstacle to resale value and desirability, attitudes – and demographics – have changed, and Universal Design is now considered a resale advantage. This potential extra salability can be achieved through minimal effort and expense. For instance, in many cases a room can be made wheelchair-accessible simply by changing the direction of a swinging door.

The simplicity of such measures – and their popularity with potential homebuyers ® makes it equally desirable to build a new home with these considerations in mind, or to retrofit an existing home with them. No one has to feel they've turned their home into a medical facility – you can avoid this with some smart and simple methods that enhance convenience and are common sense for all homeowners, while maintaining the more intangible comforts of home, like independence and familiar communities.

In addition to the convenience offered by making these types of upgrades to a home, there are government loan programs that can help subsidize accessibility modifications. Talk to a local real estate professional about accessible-home options in any area where you may be interested in buying; he or she can also find out about financing opportunities and other ways to keep your path to satisfying and secure homeownership a clear one.

Save More Than Energy: The Cost-Efficient Home

by Cheryl Scott-Daniels

The energy-efficient home is moving from the horizons of futuristic planners to the agenda of current homeowners.

It's not so much a matter of newer technologies – though alternate energy sources like solar and geothermal are making considerable inroads in the modern home. It's more a matter of improvements on very familiar furnishings and appliances. Put simply, these options save by losing less.

It may be well worth it to give your home an efficiency upgrade. First, you'll want to figure out what needs fixing. To identify problem areas, contact a qualified professional and get an energy audit of your home. Some upgrades are simple and less expensive. For example, one common problem is insulation. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that proper ceiling insulation alone can reduce your heating bill by as much as 20 percent. Other energy draining can be solved by replacing old fixtures with more modern and efficient models. Windows, doors and skylights equipped with sealed double or triple panes also reduce heating and cooling costs, and are features for which utility companies often offer rebates.

The EPA notes that air leakage from gaps in your home's structure – holes for plumbing and wiring, for instance – accounts for 25 to 40 percent of the energy a common home uses for heating and cooling. Similar troubles come from inadequately sealed duct joints and otherwise inefficient, older heating and cooling systems. All can be repaired or replaced.

Even conventional systems such as ventilation can release enough heat from your home to cost a fortune in unnecessary bills. Upgrading these systems can pay for itself – and later pay off as an attractive resale value when possible buyers of your home want to benefit from this form of savings.

And when you're ready to go from finding the problem to fixing it, the government doesn't just supply the bad news – it provides some solutions, as well. The EPA's "Energy Star" rating has appeared on numerous products, identifying efficient appliances and other home furnishings that enable vast savings. Energy Star central air conditioners can save 20 percent on cooling bills.

Studies have shown the resale advantages of homes with lower energy costs. Look for such solutions, and buyers will be more likely to look into your home. Your utility bills, Energy Star fact sheets and other documentation can be attractive proof to present to prospective buyers.

In the short term, you can save on some of these improvements even as they enhance your home's value. In addition to offering expert advice and home-selling solutions, real estate brands such as ERA Real Estate, feature the Select ServicesSM network of national and local vendors with leading household products, often at a discount.

Consult a local ERA Real Estate professional on how to navigate the options and opportunities available for the energy-conscious homeowner. Your investment in the future can have many returns right in the present.

Buying a home is oftentimes a difficult decision to begin with; the only prospect more daunting may be doing it for the first time. But by asking the right questions and considering a few simple but important issues, you can pave the way for some powerful beginner's luck.

Realtors® at ERA Select Homes can navigate the complexities of the homebuying process, and let you concentrate on the rewards of this new experience. We will tell you that there are three major points you should take into account: finding the right financing, investigating the community you're considering, and evaluating your prospective home's qualities.

Before your home-search begins it's helpful to determine what price-range you are comfortable with and get pre-approved for a loan. Many hopeful home-seekers will quit the search before they start, out of worry that they can't afford a down payment or sheer unfamiliarity with the financing process. But today those worries are often unfounded; there is an array of financing options available for aspiring homeowners of almost every income.

Once you've gained confidence in that area, it's important to make sure you're familiar with the location you'd like to live in. Think about what you want in a community and how your chosen one meets these interests, including nearness to the city (or country), reputation of the school system, access to public transportation, and property values. This is another task that ERA  Select Homes, is perfectly equipped to help you with.

You also need to evaluate the soundness of your possible new home. What condition are major components like the furnace, windows and roof in? Is it a house needing only cosmetic improvements which will one day pay for themselves in resale value, or structural repairs that will eat into your future profit? Professionals like an ERA Select Homes sales associates and a qualified home inspector can help you answer such questions with confidence.

Keep in mind that being new to all this does have its advantages – first-time homebuyers usually move on within a few years, so you have a flexibility that homeowners with more experience but also more burdens may not. Becoming a homeowner still poses many questions, but knowing which to ask and obtaining good guidance can help make sure you get it right the first time.

Displaying blog entries 231-240 of 240

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