Mad River Valley Real Estate – 2016 Year In Review

As 2016 approached an end, it seemed like just about everyone I knew was happy to kiss this one good bye. We came off an awful 2015/16 ski season, the after-effects of which were hard on local businesses and outdoor enthusiasts alike. The fall brought lots of sadness to the Mad River Valley, and the ongoing drama of the presidential race did little to calm people’s nerves. From a purely real estate perspective, however, 2016 was a barn-burner, and there seems to be little on the horizon to indicate 2017 will be any different. As the presidential campaign came to a close, the stock market rallied into uncharted territory, with most major indices hitting all time highs, before flattening into an early 2017 slump. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, when the bulls run on Wall Street, good things follow in real estate, and we are riding the coat-tails of the second longest bull market in history. There is a natural tendency for investors to go conservative following a big run, and real estate has returned to top dog status as the best place to put your money in the long run. While median home prices nationally have returned to pre-crash levels, housing starts are half what they were in 2005 and foreclosures are at a 17 year low, easing fears that this is just another growing bubble waiting to pop. Combine this with a national glut in inventory, you have the makings of the perfect place to park your money as the outlook for Wall Street is a little less cheerie for 2017.  Optimism is...

The Year In Review on the Mad River Valley Real Estate Scene

Overall 2015 was a very good year in the Mad River Valley Real Estate Market. Volume was up, prices were up and winter finally appeared at Sugarbush and Mad River Glen, following an extended hiatus. Yet numerous people still approach me and ask “how’s the market” and the expression on their face betrays the unease they clearly feel. I suppose it is natural to be skeptical, considering that the most tumultuous financial disaster in our nation’s history still remains vivid in our memories, and that disaster badly damaged much of the perceived equity many had staked in their homes. We still feel the after-effects, and will continue to feel them for many years to come. It’s difficult to feel entirely whole, even some time on. So I perform a healthy exercise when an imbalance appears between perception and my day-to-day observations in this market. To counter that inevitable skepticism, I went to the numbers and found some reassuring data that should make even the heartiest skeptics feel better. In fact there were 86 residential sales in 2015 which represents a 15% increase in sales volume over fiscal year 2014, which had been the previous high-water mark since the crash. Furthermore, the median home sale price increased from $284,500 in 2014 to $303,325 in 2015 – an increase of nearly 7%. More importantly this is the first time median sales of homes in the Mad River Valley have topped the $300,000 mark since 2008, when the median reached a pinnacle of $325,000. The 86 residential home sales represented the highest volume of sales since 2004, which was arguably at the...

Pre-Sale Building Inspections

I used to think that these were a bad idea. Conventional thinking was that the Buyer would do this anyway, so why spend money to uncover things that another may not care about. Furthermore, any inspections performed provide a checklist of items which must now be disclosed, and once disclosed they must be dealt with. All true, and that’s the point. You can pay for it now or pay for it later. But usually later is while you are under Contract, and then you will pay. In a big way. The real estate market has become competitive like never before. Like. Never. Before. Not the old days when buyers were abundant and sellers could hold out for the best offer and the most favorable terms. Today’s market features higher inventory and picky buyers who have no tolerance for ill informed Sellers and homes in poor condition. Spending time looking at a home unworthy of the asking price, for many buyers, means missing out on the better homes that more discerning Buyers are already making offers on. Competition today means being the best home, at the best price, with the best features (for the money) and the least number of headaches for the buyer. And that means finding out what’s wrong with a home PRIOR to listing it, and then marketing the property in it’s best possible disposition. So where do you start? That’s the easy part: Plan Ahead. Give yourself a couple of months. If you wish to sell in the spring, call the Realtors in February. Get no fewer than 2 opinions about price, and if they are...

High Performance Homes

Sounds exciting, right? Well it is if you value efficiency in your life and believe that there are basic things we can do as human beings to decrease our footprint on this planet (oh yeah, and save money in the process). The vast majority of Americans will make the decision to buy their next car based on two numbers – the price tag and the Mileage Rating. Why should buying a home be any different? So I ask what’s hotter than a high performance car? A High Performance Home, of course. A High Performance Home is exactly what it sounds like. A home that has been built or retrofitted to maximize efficiency and minimize long-term costs. New homes are required to meet certain efficiency standards and those that become certified are registered on resnet.org, and the Home Energy Rating Score (HERS 0-200)  is the equivalent of the MPG sticker on your new car. Existing homes, with the help of a Dept of Energy approved Home Efficiency Audit receive a less complicated Home Energy Score (0-10). Both serve to tell you something about the efficiency of your home as cost of consumption is compared to energy use (or loss). Did you know that those ratings also have minimum thresholds that can qualify your home for an across the board increase in appraised value, when documentation is presented to the appraiser? Yes, it increases the value of your home. And banks are taking notice: there is tangible data from CoreLogic that homeowners living in energy efficient homes are 32% less likely to default on their loans, because they have more money...

6469 W VT Route 17, Buels Gore VT 05487

Rare find for sale in Buels Gore, Vermont – 2 miles to Mad River Glen Ski Area, 4 privately situated acres with a cozy, modern, 4-season camp and engineer designed 3 bedroom septic system already installed. Choose between the Scandia wood stove or direct vent propane for heat. Perfect as a cozy camp, a starter home, a vacation retreat or a place to park your Airstream until the time is right to do more. No matter the use you’re one step closer to home in what just might be the best value in Central Vermont. Now Ski it if You...

“Here’s the bad news…”

When was the last time you heard a Realtor say that? Probably never, because Realtors generally don’t like to give bad news. They like to tell you everything is great. They like to tell you that it’s the perfect house and the perfect price and the perfect location. They like to tell you that an offer is coming in. They like to tell you that the feedback on that showing was great. So why haven’t you had a showing in a month? Why haven’t you had any offers? Why is your house still on the market? Although there are many factors and many different market conditions that can affect the marketing plan for your home, there is probably some bad news that’s being filtered, and as a Seller in the real estate market you are entitled to the bad news alongside the good. So be weary of strangers bearing gifts (and Realtors who only have good news). “I can’t sell it for that” – this is my favorite tidbit of bad news. I don’t like listing properties that are over-priced, so generally I don’t. And even though I rarely say no to a listing, I am usually blunt and honest about its market value, which can turn off a prospective Seller. But before you think that this is a terrible thing, consider that it only gets worse when your Realtor tells you what you want to hear instead of what is actually on their mind. If your Realtor pitches you a high price and you accept their advice, now they have to try and sell it for that.  If...

3 Strategies for Making a “Sweet” Deal in a Competitive Real Estate Market

You found a home you want to buy, and now you are ready to make an offer. Immediately the Seller’s agent informs you that there are multiple buyers interested and that they are expecting multiple offers. It sounds ludicrous after the 5-year market adjustment of the Great Recession, but bidding wars happen in all sorts of markets. In the Mad River Valley real estate market that I call home, they happen practically every day. If your default is to panic, take a step back and breath deeply. The last thing you want to do is over-react to the very ordinary possibility that there are other people interested in the same property you are. There are plenty of innovative ways to “sweeten the deal” without turning a good deal into a bad one. 1. Money talks – If you have cash you should utilize this position to your fullest advantage. Financing contingencies create great uncertainty for Sellers because they control nothing and the outcome is weeks away, by which time the “losers” in a bidding war may well have moved on. If you have the solitary cash offer, you are immediately in first place. Just don’t balance that by making a crappy, low-ball offer. Alternately, if you don’t have the cash, you can still make an attractive offer with the most favorable terms. This is not the time to strategize with your broker about how “low” the seller might go. With multiple buyers interested there is an excellent chance that the property will garner close to full asking price. As long as you can afford the loan and the market supports the...

Tips for first time home buyers in the Mad River Valley (and beyond).

Tips for first time home buyers It’s easy for someone who works in the real estate industry to minimize the stress involved in the home buying process. After all, we do this for a living. We work in a world of legalese; of purchase and sale contracts, building inspections and contingencies. The language and processes are genuinely second nature. And for real estate professionals who work in tourist economies such as the Valley I work in, the purchaser’s can be just as experienced as their professional counterparts, buying and selling real estate on a regular basis, which can make those professionals poorly adapted to working with beginners. But for the homebuyer who is doing this for the first time, the process can be fraught with obstacles big and small, real and imagined. Because in most cases a home is the largest investment a person will ever make, it is not something to be taken lightly – but armed with the proper information, it can be a truly enjoyable and equally edifying process. Be the most informed person in the room – This may sound stupid, but many home buyers start the process without any real understanding of what they’re looking for. They don’t know what mortgages cost, they don’t know how to figure out principal and interest, they don’t know what closing costs are, they don’t know how much cash they need to put down. They just know that they are sick of paying $1200/month in rent when they can be paying towards ownership. But ignorance is not the path to success and educating yourself before starting the process will...

Cash-flow Real Estate Investing

There was a time not too long ago, when the consensus, long-term, safe investment was real estate. And there was really no close second place. Theoretically values always increased, so as long as you kept making the payments, you were going to cash out. Sometimes sooner, sometimes later, but cash out you would, virtually regardless of the property type. Fast-forward a few years and never has there been a greater disparity between that time, which seems so long ago, and the current state of the residential real estate market. While real estate values are actually on the increase for most of the largest demographic indicators, prices are still fluctuating here in vacation-land, and prospective investors are still watching with skepticism. Therefore, said investors bounce between the notion of moving forward and investing in a stabilizing market with great potential, and the risk of repeating the past, where values plummeted and fortunes were lost. Investors are getting better prices, but recent history has taught us that nothing is guaranteed, and despite plenty of strong evidence to the contrary the possibility still lurks that values could begin sliding once again. So there is a propensity to wait. Meanwhile, the Millennials are staying at home longer than any generation has ever before – eschewing independence for the security of their parents basement and eventually moving into a rental property rather than buying. Again, recent history has taught a new generation that the “american dream’ of home-ownership maybe wasn’t such a great dream. Or, to be a bit less cynical, maybe it just wasn’t for EVERYONE. Maybe the new “american dream’ is to...

Why Buy When I Can Rent (hint: so you can retire)

I think that there are, in general, people who are buyers and people who are renters. If you are predisposed to settle down, wish to establish roots in a community and inclined to invest and build equity towards a future, you already have an answer to this question. If you have not already bought, then you are probably just waiting until the right property comes along. If you like to go with the flow and land where the winds blows you, then maybe renting better suits your lifestyle. For me, I knew when I first moved to the Mad River Valley that I was going to stay here for a long time. The holdups were simple things – I was young, had plenty of time to get serious, and wasn’t sure whether I wanted a house, a condo, or a piece of land to park my Airstream on (I don’t own an Airstream, but I really want one). But it was also about money. While real estate in the Waitsfield, Warren and Fayston was relatively affordable, interest rates were outrageous – 9.5% at the time. It was, in fact, FAR cheaper to rent, even if I held no equity in that property. I could rent an apartment for $600/month whose equal would cost me $1200/month to buy. The numbers didn’t work. It was a temporary solution, but lower interest rates stagnant real estate growth and soaring rental rates over the past 5 years have changed that dramatically. Build a Nest Egg If you think of a home as an investment, rather than a place to live, you start to...

Understanding the language of real estate – what did that Realtor just say to me?

Real estate agents (we call them licensees, for reasons that will become clear later on) licensed in the State of Vermont are required to take 24 hours of Continuing Education courses every two years in order to maintain their license. The Vermont Real Estate Commission, which is made up of 3 real estate brokers, 1 salesperson, an attorney and 2 members of the general public, have established that this is a reasonable amount of training to keep Licensees and Brokers up to speed with the ever changing rules and regulations of our industry. The truth is, this is a bare minimum to someone just starting in the business. Like most rookie licensees in the beginning, I had just passed my real estate licensing exam when I started working in the business and I was exempt from any required  course work for two years (this is no longer the case). I did, however, take a Code of Ethics class right away, which the National Association of Realtors requires of its membership upon entering into their fraternity. It was a four hour course that could have been taught in greek for all I understood about the language they were speaking. So it occurred to me that if Realtors speak a different language, it’s possible that the consumers they serve could be as confused as I was, and perhaps it would make sense to provide a bit of translation. So from time to time I will do so, most notably as the questions arise in my day-to-day activities working as a broker in the Mad River Valley real estate industry. What exactly...

Mad River Valley Vermont Real Estate – Time to Refinance

We have been talking about historically low interest rates now for so long that homeowners and homebuyers have actually begun to take it for granted that they will remain historically low. Well, if you follow the news, you already know that the Fed will begin putting an end to that some time in June. If you have decent credit and a job, you might as well make the call to your friendly neighborhood mortgage guy and see what bounty awaits for your mindfulness. When I made that call I found that the savings over the life of my mortgage were over $50,000; thats a lot of cake no matter how you split it up, and it cost me next to nothing. When you work in the Mad River Valley real estate industry as I do, you speak with a great many mortgage brokers. And when you listen to what the good ones have to say, you can learn some very interesting things. You might even save a few bucks in the process. Case in point. I started receiving notices from the bank that owns my mortgage about 6 months ago. They were offering me exceptional,  good-looking, super-terrific opportunities to refi my current mortgage, and lower my monthly nut by increasingly significant numbers . Of course they were. I’m one of their best clients, right? It must be because of my exceptional reputation, my obsessive compulsive tendency to pay early and often, all the referrals I give that tiny local bank in the Citi. I’m not a number, I’m a name, for heavens sake. This is clearly my reward. Needless...
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