Buying and Selling, a Virus, and You.

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It’s rural here in the Catskills. Really rural. That’s great when there’s a global pandemic. And it’s not great at all.

I’m in Delaware County, New York. We’ve got a lot of open land. And not so many people. I consider it nothing short of heaven, and so do a lot of people who visit here from urban areas. In scary times, it looks even more attractive. And safe.

But there’s a downside.

This county doesn’t have a hospital that can handle ICU cases. We have a screaming shortage of health care professionals. We have a pretty high population of older folks.

That’s all a bit worrisome.

The county government has put out a press release asking our weekenders and visitors to think twice before coming to the country. There’s a concern they’ll bring the virus with them. There’s a concern they’ll be less vigilant once they’re in the country, and there’s a huge concern that they’ll be an added strain on an already critical health care system.

I see both sides. I imagine if you’re in the city and your thinking now’s the time to get out of the city, you don’t want to hear that you should stay home. Particularly if you own a home here.

Then there’s the question of whether you can act on your desire to buy a home somewhere outside the city now. That’s where I enter the picture.

I want you to know how I am trying to walk that tightrope between helping my clients buy and sell properties, and taking stupid risks that might impact me, my clients, and my neighbors.

First, if you’re a buyer and want to see a house, this is the time the video tour is going to absolutely shine. You’ll see enough to know if you want to see more. And use Google Earth to view the neighborhood. Even if you can only do a satellite view, you’ll learn a lot. Weed out the maybe’s from the no-way’s before you ask for an appointment.

I’ll do as much as I can via video and phone. All realtors are trying to limit personal interactions as much as possible.

I’m doing listing appointments virtually. No need for me to haul whatever germs I may have into someone’s home to discuss listing their home. I can talk with them, answer questions, and hopefully convince them I’m going to work my butt off for them without shaking their hands or even walking through the door. My hope is they’ll appreciate that I’m putting their health first.

I’m giving my seller clients the option of showing or not. If they have reasons to be particularly vigilant, whatever they are, I respect that. I hope you do, too.

If we set up a showing, I’m going to ask prospective buyers to be considerate. I’m not showing if they appear sick. I’m not showing if I’m sick. And I’m not showing if sellers seem sick. That may mean a last minute change in plans. That’s just how it is right now.

I’ll be wiping down doorknobs and asking everyone to cover their shoes. It may seem like overkill, but better that than making anyone sick.

Realtors are being asked to limit interactions by lawyers, so I’m not going to closings. I’m limiting my presence at inspections, too, much as I’d like to be there. It’s not worth the risk.

Risk vs. Reward. Think about it. We’ll be here when this is over. There will be a place for you and a buyer for your home. Give it just a little time, let’s get everything under control, and then get in touch.

 

 

Five Tips To Sell Your House This Year

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I’m thinking spring. No matter that today, on a late January morning, we’re having an ice storm. It will melt.

It’s time to get ready for the spring real estate rush.

Upstate New York real estate has always slowed down, at least a little, in the winter months. Sellers want to concentrate on holidays, and they’re not keen on strangers tramping through their homes with their slushy boots.  Buyers back off, too – unless you’ve got a specific reason that you must move and fast, it’s a lot more pleasant to look at houses when the mercury holds steady above forty degrees.

The red hot mid-Hudson Valley is the current exception to that rule. The area with Kingston at its epicenter has always drawn downstate buyers, but that market now resembles a feeding frenzy. Multiple offers are the norm. Buyers find themselves shut out of two or three homes before they finally win the bidding war.

Further to the west, Delaware County and Otsego County have been seeing an increase in activity as well. I sold two large properties just days before Christmas this year. And prices are going up.

So if you’re a potential seller, here are five tips to make the most of the spring market.

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1. Spruce up before you list.  You can add thousands in value and cut your marketing time in half.

Take advantage of the indoor weather to take a critical look at your house. What can you de-clutter? Be ruthless. Box up those beloved dust catchers. They’ll look great in your new house. Where could paint be freshened up? Are the rugs worn or dirty? Either clean them, or, if you have hardwood underneath, pull them up and clean the floors. There are a million how-to videos on home staging online. Watch a couple and try it.

Outside, make sure to optimize your home’s curb appeal as soon as the weather permits. Rake up the winter mess. Touch up outside paint and repair any damage. Power washing can do wonders for any home. Trim overgrown bushes. If you’re not a gardener, place some strategic potted and hanging plants, or plant some annuals.

Not sure what your home needs? Call in a professional. Any realtor worth his or her salt can give you free tips and point you in the right direction. Sellers willing to do what it takes to prepare a home for marketing are a realtor’s dream.

2.  Don’t wait for summer.

Buyers look all year long. They may get more active in March, but they’re already shopping online in January. They want to be in their new home by summer. If they have children, they’re usually hoping to move before a new school year begins. It takes time to find the right place, so they start early. Make sure your home is one they see before the late spring listing rush begins.

3. Hire a realtor.

Yes, I’m a realtor. Of course I’m biased. But I’m a realtor BECAUSE I know how essential this job is to help people buy or sell a home. What can a realtor do for you that you can’t do for yourself?  Everything.

A full time realtor is just that – a professional whose job is selling your home. We have the systems in place, the experience, the knowledge, and the time to do everything necessary to market and sell a home in today’s marketplace.

We know the community, we know what’s selling and not, and why. We have a long contact list of clients, former clients, and other agents. They will help spread the word about your house.

We understand the process of buying and selling homes, we can handle the paperwork, answer your questions, and save you hours of frustration.

We know how to negotiate. And good negotiations are essential for a good sale experience.

You want to sell it yourself? Prepare for hours online inputting data, researching websites to see if they’re worth the money they’ll charge you. You’ll pay for professional photographs or you’ll be investing in a good camera and learning how to use it to attract buyers. You’d better be a good writer, too, because your marketing information is part of what draws buyers to your listing. And if you get defensive when people are critical of your home, you’re going to hate being a For Sale By Owner. Buyers are always critical. It’s how they negotiate.

For a percentage of the sale price, you can have a professional guide you through the process and do all the work. Plus, because you’re the client, you can (and should) be clear about what you expect and be sure you get the service you were promised. If that’s not incentive enough, remember this: your realtor doesn’t make a dime unless it sells. That seems like a deal you shouldn’t refuse. Hire a good realtor.

4. Keep it tidy.

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Your house is for sale. It looks amazing. Your realtor tells you you’ll get 24 hours’ notice before a showing. Nobody tells you the ongoing struggle to keep your house showing-ready once it’s on the market. I’ll be frank – it’s a pain in the neck. But it’s completely worth it.  Live like you’re visiting a cranky relative – keep it neat. And when there’s a showing, get the animals out of the house if you can. Some folks are allergic. Some don’t like cats, dogs, whatever. And even if they’re animal lovers, you’re trying to sell your house, not Fido. Keep the focus on the house.

5. Keep an open mind.

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There’s a fair chance you’ll get an offer that you think is too low. Don’t let it bother you. That’s today’s real estate market. Buyers want a bargain. But if they want your house, and only your house, that first offer is just an opening bid. Here’s where your realtor proves why you were smart to hire one. A good realtor will work to get those buyers to a number that works for everyone. A good realtor will explain to you what benefits an offer might have (a slightly lower cash offer can be much more attractive than a higher offer with a lot of contingencies and some tricky financing) and help you understand where there may be room for movement and where everyone is standing firm. A good realtor has been through this before. A lot. And the voice of experience is a real comfort in the heat of negotiations.

A final word on the entire process of buying and selling a house. Be realistic. It’s exciting, it can be fun, but it’s also stressful. Be ready for that. But use those five tips and you’ll cut down on the stress, and be well on your way to your next chapter.

Good luck!

 

 

 

 

Don’t Sell Until You’re Ready

Preparation is everything. If you want to sell your home and you want top dollar, you have to do some work first.

I have a story to tell you.

What you see below are pictures of a very sweet old farmhouse in Davenport that went on the market in very early spring. It was listed with another agent for a year and it didn’t sell. It didn’t show much, either.

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When I met the owner and toured the house, I saw a ton of potential, but it was buried under stuff. One main room, the one pictured on the right below, was full of furniture but clearly was used for storage. The downstairs bath had no door, just a curtain.

I went through, room by room, and suggested rearranging furniture, removing excess items. He promised he’d do it.

This seller was as good as his word. He rearranged even that extra room to look open, bright and livable. He hung a bathroom door. He spruced up the outside and the pictures we got looked warm and inviting. It’s not fancy, certainly, but it looks about as good as it can look in its current reality. It’s charming.

We got a lot of showings, fast. We got an offer, too. It’s still in negotiation, so we shall see if we get to closing. But I’m not worried. This is a sweet place, a perfect little Catskills homestead with outbuildings and lots of land. It shows well. It’ll sell.

I didn’t train as an interior designer, but I’ve shown and sold enough houses to know what looks good and what photographs well. It’s an added value an experienced Realtor brings to a seller…a lot of us have picked up that skill.

But some places need even a bit more of an expert eye. This place, for example.

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It’s a stunner, no doubt about it. It sets on a hillside, looking a bit like a luxury liner. Designed by a prominent architect for an equally prominent writer, the interior was intended to be reminiscent of a Swedish farmhouse. A really big Swedish farmhouse.

That meant long, long expanses of natural wood wainscotting. A palette of browns and tans.

It was on the market for years. When I got the listing, I knew we needed color. But this one needed my expert – Kate Burnell Interiors and Design. Kate came in and proposed a soft palette of blues and greens in a couple of rooms that softened everything, made it more welcoming and warm.

She also swapped out some blah overhead lighting for something updated and interesting.

It sold.

If you want to sell your home, look at it critically. Look for the flaws. Look for the assets. And ask yourself how to minimize the first and maximize the second. Shortcuts here are shortchanging only you. Call in an expert if you just aren’t sure. But do it.

Remember that buyers walk in a property hoping to fall in love. But they’re not easy. You’ve got to win them over. Wow them and you’ve got a sale.

Do the work. Make your home irresistible.

 

Want to see what’s for sale in the western Catskills and beyond? Come visit my website at upstatecountryrealty.com. Sign up for our monthly newsletter and don’t miss a thing!

 

Susan’s Upstate Caffeine Tour- Stop One

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This is Hoppie’s. It’s in the little town of Oxford, overlooking the village square. It’s a cafe/diner/community gathering spot.

It’s great. Let me explain why:

First, let’s talk about colors.

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Hoppie’s gets colors. They have got the most glorious selection of blue and red and etched glass I’ve seen in a long time. And they augment with some very cool blue light bulbs. So right off the bat, you know these people have a personality.

Next, let’s talk about pies.

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I really like pie. A lot. I don’t eat a ton of it, because I’m always trying to be conscious of what I’m eating (and is that ever tiresome!) but I never fail to delight in a place that has an assortment of pies.  Look at that picture. Hoppie’s does pies.

And then let’s talk about the setting. Oxford, NY.

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This is Chenango County, between Binghamton and Albany, northwest of Delhi, for you Hudson Valley types. It’s not booming. But this town square is something really special, the setting for the Oxford Academy, their town school, is glorious, and there are little parks and boulevards scattered all over town. It has charm.

Yes, reader, I am smitten. If I wasn’t already madly in love with my own town (Franklin) and my childhood crush (Cherry Valley) I’d be wondering why we didn’t live there.

Prices are incredibly good, too. Good news for buyers, even if it’s a bit sad for sellers. But we know where we are, here in central New York. Brooklyn, for the most part, hasn’t found us yet. They’re going to be wild about us when they do.

Now — on to the coffee and the food. Breakfast all day, people. Need I say more? My sweetie ordered a pancake and was warned that it was as big as a plate. “Bring it on,” said he, and proceeded to polish it off along with eggs and home fries.

The coffee comes in a mug that the waitress dubbed “too small”, so she visited frequently for free refills. And we sat at a table by the window and played peek a boo with a toddler who found us pretty intriguing.

Hoppie’s rates a five out of five on the Caffeine Tour rating system I just invented. Hey, it’s my tour, I get to set the system and do the scoring.

Ambience, friendly folks, great setting, great coffee and good food. The stained glass put them over the top. I admit it.