Home Owner Tips

Realtor Case file #57 – why local relationships matter

Whether you are buying, selling, or renting your home, one of the most important decisions you will make is who will represent your interests during the transaction. Those representatives should always be experienced local professionals with strong relationships in the community. I recently closed a transaction that perfectly illustrated just how important those relationships may end up being. Take a look:

Three days before closing on a seller client’s home the buyer’s attorney discovered two title issues which were going to prevent us from closing: an undischarged mortgage and an outstanding right of first refusal from the original developer. Title issues are always trouble but this was particularly troubling because my sellers were using the funds from their sale to purchase another home on the same day – a delay on the sale would cause serious complications for everyone involved. But my clients had done the right thing – they had carefully selected a team of experience professionals with strong connections in their respective professional communities. Here’s what happened:

We were in a rush so the attorney asked me (as the seller’s agent) to work on the right of first refusal while she and the sellers dug in on the mortgage. Because of my local knowledge, I happened to know who the developer was, and that he had retired and sold his business about 15 years ago. I also happened to know who he sold the business to, and have a working relationship with that person. So I called him up and got the contact info for his predecessor. I then spoke with the developer who sent me to his attorney here in Yarmouth. I called the attorney, with whom I have closed dozens of deals and asked for a favor. That afternoon the document was prepared and signed. First problem solved.

But what about the second problem? The mortgage on the home had been paid off for 10 years, but the bank never recorded the discharge. [Editor’s note: this happens ALL THE TIME. Always call your bank to make sure they recorded the discharge after your last payment to avoid this issue yourself]. The mortgage was, sadly, with a large national bank, so my sellers’ tearful trip to the branch was useless. So they regrouped and, on a lark, called their financial advisor. At dinner time on a weeknight. He picked right up. They explained the situation and he said, “You know what, I know someone who works in the mortgage department at that bank’s headquarters. Let me reach out to him.” By noon the next day they had satisfactory documentation of the discharged mortgage in hand, thanks to their finance guy’s local relationship within the bank.

We sent the completed file to the buyer’s attorney, the transaction closed as scheduled on Friday, my clients bought their new house that afternoon, and everyone walked away happy. Disaster averted.

So what was the trick? Local relationships. My clients had carefully selected a team of local experts and it paid off big time. Think about it like this – what if their Realtor hadn’t been local? Would the seller’s attorney have known and trusted him to solve part of the problem, or would she have had to extend the closing date to give her time to do it herself? Would the agent have known immediately who to call to track down the long-since retired out of state developer? Would the developer’s attorney have been willing to do the agent a favor by rushing the file? What if their financial advisor had been a nameless associate at a large firm who they couldn’t reach after hours? Or who didn’t have personal local relationships within the industry? Would they have still closed on time? Maybe. Maybe they would have gotten lucky. But why leave it to chance? Real Estate is a team sport – when you assemble your team, make sure to pick local professionals who have the experience and relationships in their industries to give you the best representation possible.

Four ways to pay off your mortgage early

Every few years it is worth evaluating the costs and benefits of paying off your mortgage early.  We'll discuss four scenarios with a home purchased for $450,000, 20% down and 2.75% interest on a 30 year fixed rate mortgage. For the purposes of this exercise we will be calculating principal and interest payments and not including mortgage insurance or escrow payments for taxes and insurance. To see our math you can refer to the embedded Mortgage Payment Calculator at the end of the blog.  Each scenario has a tab at the bottom so you can switch back and forth for comparisons. Let's proceed.

Standard Payment:

In this scenario you pay your mortgage just as it appears on your bill.  Over the course of 360 months (30 years) your entire mortgage is paid off.

Maximum Principal and Interest (P&I) payment: $1,469.67

Payoff time: 30 years

Total Interest Paid: $169,080.57

Scenario 1: Double your monthly principal payment

In this situation you simply mail your mortgage payment with twice the amount of the principal payment.  In our hypothetical, the first payment would therefore include $644.67 more than the standard $1,469.67, or $2,114.34.  This amount would slowly increase each month as your principal payment increases.

Max P&I Payment:  $2,931.26

Payoff time: 15.1 years

Total Interest Paid: $84,843.26

Scenario 2: Add an extra $500 to each principal payment

Here you simply pay $500 more to pay down your principal each month.  

Max P&I Payment:  $1,969.67

Payoff time: 19.8 years

Total Interest Paid: $107,023.83

Scenario 3: Annual bulk payment of $10,000 to your principal

Imagine that you save up all year and pay down a large chunk of the principal in December, we hypothesize $10k.

Max P&I Payment:  $11,469.67 ($1,469.67 max standard month)

Payoff time: 16.4

Total Interest Paid: $88,772.70

Scenario 4: Double principal and $20k annual payment

This situation may not be feasible for many people, but we included it to illustrate a point.  Here we combined strategy #2 and #3 but increased the annual payment to $20k. Using this strategy the payoff time can be brought down to just over 8 years with only about $46k in total interest

Max P&I Payment:  $22,865.24 ($2,930.77 max standard month)

Payoff time: 8.3

Total Interest Paid: $45,906.64

Synopsis: Which is best for me?

There is no one correct solution here. Each homeowner has a different financial situation, and these may change over time anyway.  Consider simply that paying down your principal results in fewer payments and less interest charged overall, but there is a reason that a standard mortgage is paid over 30 years.

 

As always contact us to discuss what buying or selling looks like in today's market.

 

 

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Surviving and thriving during COVID lock-down: Part 1

We hope this finds you all hale and hearty in these trying times!  We are thankful to still be open for business and meeting the real estate needs of our clients, for a little more detail on how we are managing this please see our previous blog here.  Today we wanted to share the first of a few ideas for how to improve your home to add value (since you may have spare time these days), whether you are thinking of selling this year or in the future.

Quality of Life and Aesthetic Improvements

BeforeWAftere always recommend that you undertake upgrades that will make you enjoy your home more!  If you can afford it, don't wait 20 years to replace a bathroom you hate, improve and enjoy it now while you are living in your home.  Some sellers stress about doing these improvements just before selling and often don't reap monetary benefits as a results (see our blog about recouping investment on upgrades here).  You can even undertake very inexpensive projects that improve the overall look and livability of your home that - while mostly intended for you - also make your home more appealing when selling.  See the after and before photos (before has the mess of wires on the right) of a quick organization of home electronics.  This makes your home more livable for you and, by being tidy and neat, can improve buyers' first impressions.  A visibly clean and orderly home with very few 'punch-list' items implies that the owners are taking care of larger, invisible maintenance items -- this can have significant positive impacts by attracting higher and earlier offers when selling

If you are considering listing your home, please give us a call to put two generations of tradition and three decades of experience in your pocket.  For some more tips for homeowners check out our blogs tagged here.

 

Do this to get a higher offer on your home when selling

Buyers are looking for homes that sparkle.  Some homes for sale on Cape Cod have been recently renovated and benefit from fresh paint, new floors or carpets, and updated appliances in the kitchen, bath or both.  A home with newer updates is definitely more appealing to buyers (but worth it? Please see our thoughts here) and with our simple trick you too can make your home look its best without spending thousands of dollars.

Ready? Vinegar, warm water, elbow grease.  No kidding.  Too often we see homes that are, quite simply, dirty.  Many sellers do a decent job cleaning their homes by sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping floors.  What so many people miss are the walls!  Spend a little time with some diluted white vinegar and wash every surface in your home.  You will be amazed at how much grime can appear on a rag from, what you thought was, a 'clean' flat wall.  Spend a little extra time by beds, furniture, paintings, and anywhere that people touch (light switches, around door knobs etc...).  Haven't you noticed that light discoloration on the wall when you move the bureau?  When your home is empty and that bureau is gone, every potential buyer walking through will notice it as well.  Another great tip: use a 'Magic Eraser' or similar product for larger marks, but be careful, these can change the texture of paint which is very visible in certain light.  

If you are trying to squeeze every ounce of potential value out of your homes consider this inexpensive way to make it more appealing to buyers.  When someone walks in and can see everything that is wonderful about your home without the distraction of dirty walls, you give yourself a great shot at a higher sale price!

If you are considering listing your home, please give us a call to put two generations of tradition and three decades of experience in your pocket.  And to see a few houses that don't need this treatment take a look at some of our listings here.  Or for some more tips for homeowners check out our blogs tagged here.

Winter Home Preparation 2020

It's that time of year again, winter.  After a fairly temperate holiday season, it is easy to get a little lackadaisical about preparing your home for the fury of winter.  For this edition we checked in with Ned, who heads up our home watch services, about some winter hazards and how to get your home ready.  The point he stresses more than any other is the benefit of having a neighbor or qualified and insured business keeping an eye on your home.

Freezing

Winter on Cape Cod is not kidding around.  At the time of writing it is the beginning of 2020 and approximately 40 degrees outside.  But ol' Jack Frost knows better than anyone how to lull homeowners into a false sense of security.  Ned's tip? Turn off your water and drain your pipes.  Ned is fanatical about this and will even shut off his water in the summer if he leaves for a few days.  Here is his explanation.

"With your water off at the main line, a freezing incident (or broken pipe) is never as catastrophic.  All that can happen is the amount of water sitting in the pipes leaks out of the break, but no more!  If you leave your water on and a pipe breaks on Friday, by Sunday this could be gallons of water pouring onto your wood floors and destroying your drywall.  With a well winterized home including drained pipes, a shut-off main, antifreeze in strategic locations, and human eyes walking through habitable spaces, you greatly reduce the possibility of damage as well as the amount of damage that does happen.  The horror story is a former sales client had, over several months, tens of thousands of gallons leak out of a broken pipe before anyone noticed.  Please have your house checked."

Pests

Cold outside is cold for everything, including animals that like to be warm and fed.  If you winterize your home we recommend removing all food items, even those in plastic packages and bags.  Mice will eat through bags of rice or popcorn and make a mess in your pantry.  Also chimneys are a consideration if you don't need them for venting a furnace since raccoons, opossums and plenty of other animals can make homes in them over the winter leading to messy cleanup come spring.  

Storm Damage

As always Nor'Easters are a very real threat to property here on Cape Cod.  With hurricane force winds battering trees and roofs, these storms can drop branches or entire trees on your home.  We recommend some simple things to get ready for any storm here, and particularly where landscaping is concerned.  The main idea, remove large trees and limbs from the area immediately surrounding your house.  Old pitch pines are particularly susceptible to breaking off near the top and dropping heavy and damaging tops on houses, so pay close attention to these when assessing your landscaping.

 

Be prepared this winter and add the peace of mind of having a person walk through and around your home by contacting Chatelain Real Estate today.  With our house watch service you don't need to wait until April to discover a problem that has been ongoing since January.

5 things to do before you list your home

The Cape Cod real estate market has heated back up this fall as many second home owners list their homes after the beach season.  Here is our list of 5 things to do before you list your home.

Fix Those Long Overdue Punch-list Items

 We always come back to this because it can't be emphasized enough.  Little repairs go a long way.  Replace sprung window sashes, plane doors that are sticking, fix locks that don't quite work correctly (here is a lock mid-adjustment in a settling home).  There is a reason why you haven't done these things yourself (that reminds me, I need to fix that sticking door!) so imagine how nice it would be as a buyer to walk into a potential home with minimal punch-list items!  These small repairs can often payback in dividends and ease of negotiation further down the road.

Have your Septic Inspected and Serviced

It has to happen to convey a property so getting it done up front is a big help.  Also buyers are keen on hearing the words "Title V in hand" when walking in to see your home. Besides, it is best to be prepared and address an issue with the septic prior to being a hitch during negotiations.

Have Your Chimney Cleaned and Gas Fireplaces Serviced

We could tell you horror stories about sellers waiting until the final walk-through to light a pilot or test a gas insert.  Needless to say it all end with more anxiety and cost for the seller than needed.  Even if you never use a wood-fire chimney you should get it inspected (and cleaned if needed) to reassure potential buyers of the status of this potentially costly feature.

Get a Pest Inspection

Just because you have never seen anything yourself doesn't mean that a home inspector won't find evidence of termites, mice or other pests.  By having an inspection done before listing property the savvy seller will be able to address any problems before they become a negotiating hangup further down the road.

Service the Heating and Air Conditioning Systems

Too often we overlook little problems in these systems in our own homes, but buyers are enticed when major components like heating and cooling just work, full stop.  An older system with a recent inspection can reassure a buyer enough to make an offer and demonstrates that other parts of the home are likely in good order too.

So what are you waiting for?  Go and get your home ready to sell, or, do these things anyway and rest easy in the knowledge that your home is in excellent working order and you'll be able to enjoy it for many years to come.  If you are thinking of selling contact us today for a conversation about how your home may perform in today's market and for help finding excellent local vendors who can help you with these five items.

 

Storm Preparation on Cape Cod

With the 2019 hurricane season in full swing and the memory of the bizarre July Tornadoes still fresh in our minds, preparing for a storm should be a concern before winter hits.  Late summer and fall hurricanes do pose serious concerns for the Cape, winter Nor'easters are often just as damaging with the additional possibility of freezing temperatures.  To make sure you and your house are prepared to weather any storm here are some specific recommendations to consider.  

Landscaping

  Trees are a major threat to structures, cars, and people in storms.  In particular Cape Cod has a lot of pitch pines that tend to snap off large limbs or drop entire tops in large wind events.  If you have them, make sure they are far away from your house so that, if they do fall, they won't land on anything important (see right.  This was the 'Freaky Friday' storm in December 2005.  Luckily no one was hurt but the driver had only returned home ten minutes before).  Obviously it is important to take a good look at any tree that is close to a structure, not just pines.  Additionally limbs that overhang the roof cause more lichen to grow, shortening its life, and leaves and needles clog up gutters adding to drainage issues in heavy rains and ice issues in the winter.

Make a prep bag

  We are big fans of self reliance.  To that end preparing for the worst is a good way to make the best of a bad situation.  Have a grab bag ready in case you lose power for several days.  Here is the FEMA website with good instructions too. Crank flashlights and radios are great since they don't need batteries, also make sure you have some way to eat.  Your gas may work in a storm but your electric sparker won't so don't forget matches.  Also have enough canned food in the pantry for a few days in case cooking isn't an option.  Also if you don't want to live rugged at home without power, your bag should include what you need at a shelter, bedding, toiletries, medications and some personal items (games and books!) will make smart additions to a prep bag.  During major storms emergency services are already stretched to the max so make sure to get to a shelter before travel gets dangerous or you become an emergency yourself.  In winter this becomes a serious decision since power loss often means loss of heat as well.  If you have a working fireplace or wood stove stock up on plenty of good dry wood.  And get out all those ugly old wool sweaters and down comforters!  

Prepare your house

If you are planning on being out of town or leaving your home for a shelter, turn off the water.  This is true even in the summer but especially in the winter.  We can't stress this enough.  With no heat in your house there is nothing keeping your pipes from freezing and turning your house into a skating rink.  Even if your pipes do burst, with the water off, there is a limited amount of damage that can be done.  Boarding up windows is a good idea for people who leave for long periods of time.  We see it less and less these days since windows are more durable, but it won't hurt.  If you aren't boarding up and high winds are expected, consider taping your windows or drape sheets against the inside to reduce broken glass damage.  Mind you, those sheets will blow away if a window breaks but they'll also help keep the glass contained.  Here is a fun anecdote.  Off the coast of Maine, where many small private islands exist with seasonal cottages, many people intentionally leave their door unlocked.  Why you may ask?  This not-so-secret secret is well known among the fishing and maritime community as a means of survival.  Homeowners leave food and blankets on the kitchen table in case a stranded fisherman (or a wrecked one) needs some help.  Our favorite part of this story, no one betrays this trust and loots - ever.  The lesson here is don't forget to help your neighbors.

We hope you found these tips helpful.  If you need recommendations for good local landscapers or tree professionals please contact us

 

Cape Cod Market Update August 2019

July Review:

   Compared to this time last year, July saw only slight variation in four of the six metrics we investigate for this blog (pictured at right).  Days on market was up significantly compared to this time last year; however it was down compared to June.  Additionally the number of new listings was down nearly 15% compared to last year and lost about 9% compared to June this year.  With all of this in mind we are seeing a normal decline in market activity due to the seasonality of our area.  Nationally, mortgage interest rates are exceptionally low yet affordability continues to be a serious concern.

 

 

Recent Market Summary

  May June   July  
    Closed Sales   441  361   341  
   Inventory    2,032  2,067   2,044  
   Median Sales Price   $427K     $450K     $435K  
   Avg Days on Market   101  106   101  
   Avg % of Original Price   95%  95%   94%  

 

Check out these two blogs for more valuable insight into real estate on Cape Cod

 

   Our Take: Are sharks really taking a bite out of the Cod Cod Summer Rental Market?

    Owning a Septic System on Cape Cod

      

Owning a Septic System on Cape Cod, Ins and Outs

Owning a septic system can be a new experience for many homeowners.  Here are the ins and outs of owning a septic system on Cape Cod including helpful information and links.

What is a Septic System

Put simply it is an engineered system that, along with your modern plumbing, safely removes waste water from the home.  In their simplest form these systems include a tank which captures solids and a leaching field (called a drainfield in this diagram by the EPA) wherein the liquid waste is distributed over a large area and allowed to percolate back into the ground, thereby removing pathogens.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Septic Systems on Cape Cod

Living on Cape Cod so close to the water is wonderful but, from your septic system's perspective, can come with a few downsides.  If you live in an area close to groundwater you may have or need an 'above grade' septic system (what the EPA shows here as a 'mound' system).  These are visible throughout the Cape in low-lying areas and resemble hills, mounds or, short concrete retaining walls.  Believe it or not what you are seeing is often not the tank that holds solids (which is water tight) but the leaching field that has been raised a minimum distance from the aquifer.  In these systems an electric pump is used to pump water uphill so it can be drained through the sand filter in the leaching field.

 

Maintenance

Luckily modern septic systems are low maintenance.  Once every three years (for average use and if you don't have a garbage disposal) your system should be pumped out.  This recommendation can change though as seasonal home use can affect the helpful bacteria that breakdown much of the solid material in your tank.  In this case more or less frequent pumping may be required.  Always choose a licensed septic pumper, a list of which can be found at many municipal health departments. For more information on caring for your septic system here is a useful article from the MA DEP and another from the EPA.

 

 

For more expert advice regarding homeownership and real estate on Cape Cod, contact us.  Also check out our listings here.

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Cape Cod Market Update May 2019

April Review:

We are glad to see inventory building up in 2019.  With approximately 5.8 months of inventory of single-family homes the market is reaching sustainability (particularly favoring neither buyers nor sellers).  It is also worth noting that the year-over-year comparisons of month's supply has been up since July 2018 which could indicate that we have passed the minimum supply level in this market cycle.  However ever increasing median sales prices led to a 2% drop in affordability in April (down to 85), a point of growing concern for the long-term health of the Cape Cod real estate market.  While single-family homes continue to be below 100 on the affordability index the condominium market has essentially been increasing its affordability since October 2018.  Condominium affordability is at 144 on the index, which means Barnstable County's median household income is 144% of what is necessary to qualify for the median priced condominium.

Recent Market Summary

  Feb Mar Apr
    Closed Sales   201   291   331 
   Inventory    1,693   1,837   1,982 
   Median Sales Price   $408K     $421.5K    $425K 
   Avg Days on Market   130   120   120 
    Avg % of Original Price   91%   93%   94% 

 

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