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...

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...

Bidding wars, are they worth it in the Mad River Real Estate Market?

I’ve never had someone walk into my office and say “lets go to war over this property” or “ let’s have a really nasty negotiation and put everyone involved on the defensive”. And the reason you never hear that is that no one really wants negotiations to be hostile. No one wants the person (or people) on the other side of the transaction to be on the defensive. It’s counter-intuitive and irrational. So what is the deal with bidding wars, and why on earth would you want one? To start, every Realtor has an opinion on this subject. There are some who love them and there are some that hate them. Those that love them generally enjoy the fight and feel as though they have performed their job to maximum efficiency. Those that hate them have probably been involved in one that went terribly awry, and the experience left them sitting alone at the table with more questions than answers – generally from their client.  Those that do not have an opinion on bidding wars have never experienced one, plain and simple. To answer the first question, though, you need to answer another, more revealing question: who benefits? A bidding war, by definition, is when two competing offers are presented on the same property, during an overlapping time period, thus allowing the opportunity for a competition between two buyers, resulting in a higher sale price for the property. In theory. So the short answer is that the Seller benefits by getting more money for their property. The Realtor benefits collaterally because his client does well and is generally happy...

8 Ways to screw up your home sale

Anyone who knows me (personally or professionally) will tell you that I have an opinion about most everything. Be that as it may, I try to limit opinions that I put down in writing to the topics I actually know something about. One such topic is the business I make my living in – the real estate industry; in particular the Mad River Valley Real Estate industry. I recently read what I found to be a fairly revealing story by Michael Corbett of Trulia on selling your home in Time Online,  I was struck by the simplicity of the message, and found the subject matter to be topical. Entitled “8 ways to screw up your home sale” the message is pretty clear. These are the mistakes that many home sellers make. And despite the fact that they make these mistakes, those that follow seem to make the same mistake. And when their house doesn’t sell, they find another Realtor, and make the same mistakes again. According to Corbett, the mistakes are: Selling FSBO, Over-pricing your home, taking lousy photos, refusing to make obvious repairs, keeping all your junk and clutter, ignoring the backyard, hiding issues from prospective buyers, and letting your ego interfere in negotiations. First of all, I agree. But I’ll elaborate because this is really important, and it’s one of the reasons the real estate industry is treading water, as it is. FSBO’s Owning real estate is personal. Selling real estate is business. Separate the two and hire someone you trust. Unless you work in the real estate business for a living, you fall into the 1st...

Are you Nuts? (Pricing Your Property & other huge mistakes Sellers might just make)

Last summer I gave a pretty typical number of listing presentations and was passed over a pretty typical number of times along the way for other real estate offices. I listed some, I didn’t list others. This happens. Its part of the business. If I were planning to sell my home (and I didn’t do this for a living) I would certainly want several different opinions about the value of my home. Afterall, I am not selling a used car. Or a coffee maker. There are many things that factor into the value of a home and as a seller you owe it to yourself to listen and make the best decision for you and your family. However, be careful. There is ALWAYS someone willing to make you a pitch, and the best advice I can give a prospective seller is to listen, not talk during a listing presentation. You may just find out what your house is worth rather than find out that the Realtor you are about to hire will list it for just about any price that seems to make you happy. And if you just want someone to list it for the price that makes you happy, you might as well list it for sale on your own, because you have already tainted the two most important aspects of hiring a professional broker to sell your home; The Market Evaluation &  the brokers extensive knowledge in a complicated industry. Despite the complexity of the market, and the vast difference between a median $300,000 home and a $1,000,000 luxury home, there are some standards in the...
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