A Few Things to Consider When Making Home Improvements

I see a lot of properties, most real estate agents do, and I’m always sadden to see home improvements that I know Buyers will dislike.  I think some Homeowners forget that the modifications they make now, and their methods of doing so, will greatly affect the possibility of a future sale on their home.  One does not have to be real estate savvy to understand that a bright teal bedroom might not be appealing to a buyer, unfortunately, the projects that cause problems can be more subtle than that.

Using inexpensive materials that do not age well.  A good example of this is peal-n-stick or inexpensive laminate flooring.  It may be cute for the first 6 months but are you seriously going to replace it again in a few years when it looks bad?  Not to imply that every homeowners should use top of the line materials, over improving ones property is definitely a concern.  When is comes to materials, consider durability and avoid anything that may be a passing fad.

Building permit?  Who needs a building permit?  The story is usually pretty similar  “I’m pretty handy and my brother in-law knows all sorts of stuff about remodeling… ”  That’s great but don’t forget the Building Permit!  You may trust your own judgment or a friend/family member’s skills but a Buyer may not.  Of course you are going to advertise that your kitchen was recently renovated, have you considered that a Buyer may call the Building Department to verify that all of the electrical changes made where up to code and verified by a building permit?  What happens when the Property Inspector rolls his eyes six times during the inspection?  You’ll wish you took the time to get a building permit then.  It may cost a couple hundred bucks to get a permit but the knowledge that things have been done safely is PRICELESS for a Buyer.  There is a positive return on investment when it comes to getting a permit.  Do it now or regret it later.

“The guy I bought my house from said my lots ends way over that way!”   Of course, there is an expectation that all of the improvements on your property are indeed on your property (or within the setbacks allowed by the municipalities in your region).   While usually an innocent mistake, it is not entirely uncommon for Adirondack properties to have improvements that linger on to their neighbors land.   I’ve noticed that Buyers are starting assume that a survey will be sent to them when they request information on our listings.  Surveys are pretty darn expensive and I HATE telling Sellers to eat the expense, however, these days, you really do need one to sell your home.  Lenders often require an updated survey before closing.   Why not go ahead and get a survey before adding that fence, shed, addition or garage?  You will be happy you have it if you ever decide to sell your home.

Selling Adirondack Real Estate? Having a Lock-box is Key!

Every real estate market has different common practices.  When an agent in Old Forge, Forestport or Inlet shows another agency’s listing we usually pick up a key at the listing agent’s office.  I can’t say that I hate this; it’s nice to take a moment to say Hi and chat for a minute about the property.  It serves a purpose, but it is not the most efficient practice.  It is also a flawed practice.  What happens if a Buyer wants to see your property and the listing office is closed?  What if the key is out with another agent?  What if your property is 45 minutes away from the listing office?  I know when I am with Buyers we drive by nearly everything in their price range.  Sometimes a drive-by leads to a sale, when the key is available.  Having a lock-box is very important, even if the lock-box has a good old fashion combination lock.

If you have ever looked at homes in a larger market, your agent has probably used an electronic key pad or a key fob to pop open a lock-box on every home.  Electronic lock-boxes are a wonderful convenience and a great way to keep track of which agents have entered a property.  We don’t use electronic lock-boxes here.  I’m not sure exactly why, probably because they are very expensive.  Every agent in town would have to join the Board of Realtors (MLS) to gain access to the key system and not every office has joined.

If you are selling a property please make sure your agent is using some form of lock-box, preferably a combination lock-box.  If the lock-box requires a key, Buyer agents will need to be able to get that key with ease.  If not, all of the other problems still apply.  When hiring a listing agent make sure your agent is one that shares his or her cell phone number in marketing information.  This is not a 9-5 job and certainly not the best career for someone that is anti-cell phone.  Your agent needs to be willing to answer the phone outside of business hours just encase a showing needs to be scheduled.

Buyers that look at properties in the Southern Adirondack Real Estate market are rarely local and have a small window of time to visit properties.  An easy to show property will be shown more often which will increase the probability for a sale.  Having a lock-box is key, no pun intended!

Buying Adirondack Real Estate: Who Does Your Agent Represent?

“New York state law requires real estate licensees who are acting as agents of buyers or sellers of property to advise the potential buyers or sellers with whom they work of the nature of their agency relationship and the rights and obligations it creates.”    -NYS Department of State

What does this mean to the Buyers or Sellers of real estate?  If you have looked at residential real estate or listed a property in recent years, your agent probably asked you to sign an agency disclosure form.  All Real Estate Agents licensed in the State of New York are required to disclose their agency relationship and present customers with the disclosure form when assisting with a residential real estate transaction.  In my experience, Buyers usually understand that a Listing Agent represents the Seller.  However, many Buyers do not realize that properties are actually listed with the real estate company, not the Listing Agent.  Therefore, every agent with the same real estate company represents the Seller for every property listed with that company.  The Listing Agent is more or less the Seller’s contact person within the office and is often the party that negotiates on the Seller’s behalf.

Does this mean that a Buyer has fallen in shark infested waters when they find themselves looking at a property with an Agent that represents the Seller?  No.  NY Licensing law dictates the following:

“In dealings with the buyer, a seller’s agent should (a) exercise reasonable skill and care in performance of the agent’s duties;  (b) deal honestly, fairly and in good faith; and (c) disclose all facts known to the agent materially affecting the value or desirability of property, except as otherwise provided by law.”

This means that as an Agent, if I am aware of problem with the property I must inform the Buyer, regardless of whom I represent.  I can not, however, inform the Buyer of circumstances that would cause the Seller to be unusually motivated to accept a lower offer (without the Seller’s consent).  Here are a few examples “The Sellers are in the middle of a nasty divorce, they’d take just about anything to get rid of this house!” or “This house is listed at $299,000 but they told me they would accept $250,000.”  Sharing this information would be to my client’s detriment and would encourage the Buyer to make a lower offer.  Conversely, Buyers should not give a Seller’s Agent reason to believe they would pay more than their current offer.  Buyers should not disclose circumstances that would cause them to be unusually motivated to buy.  If they do, the Seller’s Agent is obligated to share this information with the Seller.

There are many reasons why a Buyer may have a better experience working with the Listing Agent.  Usually the Listing Agent knows quite a bit about the property as they have had the opportunity to discuss it at length with the Seller.  As an agent, I love the opportunity to assist both parties because I believe it makes for a smoother transaction.  Having another party involved complicates communication and may cause the emotions and concerns of either side to be lost in translation.  Knowing the personalities of those involved, I can usually dissuade someone from making an offer or counter-offer that may be ill-received and possibly offensive to their counterpart.  It is critical for a transaction to commence in a pleasant and amicable manner; otherwise the months to follow can be a nightmare for everyone involved.  Since many homes in the Adirondacks are second homes, furnishings and recreational equipment are often part of the negotiations.  It’s much easier to mediate when I have a direct dialog with both sides.  The knowledge that a particular item is of importance to one of the parties allows me to make sure that all parties walk away from the transaction satisfied.  I sincerely believe that Buyers should not be discouraged to work with the Listing Agent on the purchase of real estate.  They just need to have a clear understanding of whom the agent represents.

Why Your Property Should Be Shown After an Offer Has Been Received

When a Buyer and Seller agree to the terms of sale on a property, Sellers and Agents alike usually let out a sigh of relief.  Unfortunately, the signing of a purchase offer is usually a little early for celebration if the offer contains contingencies.  What’s a Contingency?  A contingency gives the Buyer the opportunity to reconsider or withdraw the purchase offer if a certain condition is not satisfied.  Property Inspections, Financing, Surveys, Appraisals, the sale of another property, Adirondack Park Agency approval of a project – these are all common contingencies.  When an offer has been accepted the property is referred to as being “Under Contract” or “Pending”, this status is often followed by “with Contingency”.  Until the contingencies have been removed, the Seller’s agent should continue to arrange showings and encourage back up offers.  This is even more important in the Old Forge real estate market, because our sales may be seasonal in nature.  Financing contingencies are the most common.  Obtaining financing for Adirondack properties may be challenging due to several factors unique to our market.  These may include seasonal property access, non-winterized buildings and difficulty finding comparable recent sales for appraisals.  Buyers will often opt out of looking at a property that is “Under Contract” or “Pending” even when they understand that there are multiple contingencies in place.  It is understandable that a Buyer may regard viewing a property that has received an offer as being an exercise in futility.  This is not necessarily the case.

There have been a few occasions when I have called a Listing Office to schedule a showing and received a response of “No, I’m sorry you can’t show that property because we are receiving (or have received) a purchase offer.”  Procuring multiple offers is always in the best interest of the Seller.  In fact, the Listing Agent should contact parties that have expressed a sincere interest in the property and let them know that it may be their last chance to make an offer.  Unfortunately, not every agent will do this.  At this very moment they should ask themselves “Who do I represent?”  When a Seller’s agent discourages a second or backup offer they are not fulfilling their obligation to the Seller.  The Seller’s best interest should be their top priority!  As a Seller, there is absolutely no harm in asking if other Buyers have been given the opportunity to submit an offer before signing.  Make sure you understand the contingencies and the impact they have on the possible sale.  Keep in mind you will want the contract to clearly define a deadline for when the contingencies will need to be resolved.  It is important to remember that it is not uncommon for the Buyer prospect in the second or third position to ultimately become the property’s new owner.

A Few Tips for Finding YOUR “Perfect” Waterfront Property

Recently, a property listed with Timm Associates went under contract the weekend it came on the market.  It was an updated 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath year-round home located on Fourth Lake, with views to boot.  It had a lot to offer and it was listed for $429,000.  We knew this home would sell to the first Buyer through the door and it did!  Over the past few weeks we’ve received a lot of calls from disappointed would be Buyers wondering how they missed the opportunity to purchase this home.  One frustrated buyer asked “How could this happen when the market is slow!?”.  He was particularly frustrated because he had heard about the property the day we received the listing but was not available to view it in the days following.  While there are segments of the local market that remain slow, waterfront is in rather high demand.  If you are looking for waterfront properties under $500,000 – you are not alone!

Here are a few tips for finding Your “Perfect” Waterfront Property.

  • Be on high alert! When a well priced property comes on the market you need to be the first Buyer to get in the car!
  • Come Armed. Looking at property this weekend?  Do you have a pre-qualification letter that can be submitted with your purchase offer?  A desirable waterfront property may receive more than one offer.  It takes 10-20 minutes to get pre-qualified and it is absolutely a worth-while effort.
  • Carefully consider if your expectations are in line with your price range.
  • Don’t overlook homes that have been on the market for a long-time. These homes are often offered at a reduced price.  Ask your Realtor why other Buyers haven’t been interested in each property and carefully consider how you feel about each perceived defect.  Buyers have different needs; one of these properties may work fine for you.
  • Keep an open mind- It is highly unlikely that every home you view will be finished or decorated to your specifications.  Take a moment to consider what modifications could be made to make the home suit you.  Are these issues mountains or mole hills?
  • Pick the right agent- Does your agent let you know about new listings right away?
  • Prioritize those “Must Haves” and consider dropping a few.

Most Waterfront Buyers are looking for the following:

  • 3+ Bedrooms And More Than One Bathroom
  • A Year-Round Home Instead Of A Summer Camp
  • A Location on First Through Fourth Lake of the Fulton Chain
  • A Terrific View
  • Swim-able Waterfront
  • A Place To Dock A Boat, Often A Boat House
  • Privacy
  • A Garage And/Or Close Proximity To The Snowmobile Trails
  • A Level Front Lawn For The Kids To Play On
  • A Successful Rental History
  • Adirondack Décor

Properties with many of the features listed above can sell very quickly and often for a premium price!  Unfortunately, the supply of waterfront properties in the Adirondacks is rather limited and it can take years to find one that is suitable.  If you find a property that offers 80% of your “Must Haves” you may have just found your “Perfect” Waterfront Property! 

Building a New Boathouse in the Adirondack Park

“I heard you can’t build a new boathouse in the Adirondack Park – is this true?”
This question comes up rather often while showing waterfront properties.  The answer – Yes you can still build a boathouse.  The confusion stems from a 2009 proposed change in the definition of a boathouse used by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA).  Many property owners were concerned that if the APA was successful in re-defining the term it would become nearly impossible to get a boathouse approved.

Traditionally, boathouses have been regulated by the towns that the boathouse is in; the new regulations supersede any local rules on boathouses.  There was speculation that the APA was trying to increase their oversight of the park by simply changing definitions. The APA argued that “Large structures and intensive use at the shoreline causes unnecessary erosion and adverse impacts to critical habitat and aesthetics and raises questions of fair treatment of
neighboring shoreline properties.”  The APA wasn’t trying to block waterfront structures used to cover boats or even these structures with a deck on top.  They were opposed to property owners building huge structures that weren’t really just boathouses.  In a 2002 change to the definition, the APA limited boathouses to a “single story” but the definition did not prohibit large attics (often used by property owners as guest or recreation rooms) and extensive rooftop decks.

On September 21, 2010 the APA once again changed their definition of a“boathouse”.

A Boathouse is defined as covered structure with direct access to a navigable body of water which

(1) is used only for the storage of boats and associated equipment;

(2) does not contain bathroom facilities, sanitary plumbing, or sanitary drains of any kind;

(3) does not contain kitchen facilities of any kind;

(4) does not contain a heating system of any kind;

(5) does not contain beds or sleeping quarters of any kind;

(6) does not exceed a single story in that the roof rafters rest on the top plate of the first floor wall, and all rigid roof surfaces have a minimum pitch of four on twelve, or, alternatively, one flat roof covers the entire structure; (Flat-roofed boathouses continue to be allowed even if the roof is used as a deck and includes safety railings. The deck covers the entire boathouse structure and cannot be constructed above a sloping roof.)

(7) has a footprint of 1200 square feet or less measured at the exterior walls (or in the absence of exterior walls, at the perimeter of the roof), and a height of fifteen feet or less. For the purpose of this definition, the height of a boathouse shall be measured from the surface of the floor serving the boat berths to the highest point of the structure.

Lawful existing boathouse structures may be repaired or replaced within the existing building envelop.  For those who wish to exceed the size parameters or expand a larger existing boathouse, a variance will be required.”  For more information visit http://apa.ny.gov/Documents/Flyers/boathouses.pdf

So what do you do first if you plan on building a new boathouse? The first step is to find out if the APA has jurisdiction over your property by submitting a “Jurisdictional Inquiry Form” including the property tax ID#, a copy of the current recorded deed, a description of the project in question and a sketch.  The form can be found here www.apa.state.ny.us/Forms/jiform.pdf. If you have questions the APA can be reached at 518-891-4050.

Next, contact local zoning and see what they have to say.   Although you will need a building permit, the Town of Webb (Old Forge, Eagle Bay, Big Moose Lake) will allow one boathouse and one dock per dwelling with not more than one dock per 100 feet of frontage; anything more requires Planning Board Approval.  Docks shall not extend further than forty feet or exceed a 6 foot depth of water, whichever comes first.  Docks can not interfere with waterflow, navigation or the access to adjoining lots.  Docks cannot be wider than 8 feet or exceed 300 feet in area.  Docks and Boathouses are subject to a 25′ setback for the sides of the lot.  The Town of Webb Zoning Office can be reached at (315) 369-3001.

Next you need to contact the Army Corps of Engineers and the New York State Department of Environment Conservation, they both have a say in this process.  You will have to fill out the following application http://www.lrb.usace.army.mil/regulatory/jointapp2008instructions.pdf

If you are in Herkimer, Lewis or Oneida County you can reach the Army Corps of Engineer Buffalo Office at (716) 879-4330; if you are in Hamilton or Fulton County call the Upstate NY Field Office (518) 266-6360.  You may also need a Protection of Waters Permit from the DEC.  If you are constructing, reconstructing or repairing a docking facility for five or fewer boats and encompassing within its perimeter an area less than 4,000 square feet your project is likely exempt from requiring the permit, however you need to call 518-402-9167 to be sure.  If you would like additional information please visit this site http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/6550.html

While boathouses are still allowed there are many steps to the process and several organizations to deal with!  I hope that this information has been helpful.

How to Dispute a Property Assessment in the State of New York

If you own property in New York State you may want to take note of an approaching day.  The Fourth Tuesday in May is Property Assessment Grievance Day in New York (some municipalities may choose to schedule it on a different day but it is always in May).  This year Grievance Day in the Towns of Webb, Forestport and Inlet falls on the 27th.  The Town of Webb requests that you have your documents submitted by May 19th this year.  The Town of Inlet would like you to schedule an informal meeting ahead of time.  Please keep in mind that your Assessor does not have any control over how much you pay in Taxes, they only have a say in the value assigned to your property.  Generally, if your full market value assessment reflects roughly the amount for which you could sell your property, then your assessment is relatively fair.

The process of challenging your assessment is the same throughout the state of New York, details can be found on the New York State Department Tax and Finance website (click here).  The same form is used in every municipality.  The form, RP–524, can be found by clicking here.  In addition to RP-524, you will need to have your own estimate of the market value of your property and supporting documentation.  There are four arguments you can use to dispute the assessed value of your property:

  1. UNEQUAL ASSESSMENT (in comparison to other similar properties)
  2. EXCESSIVE ASSESSMENT (The market value assigned to your property is  higher than what you could sell your home for in the current market)
  3. UNLAWFUL ASSESSMENT
  4. MISCLASSIFICATION

I imagine that most property owners that file a grievance do so under the claim of an Excessive Assessment.   If you recently purchased a property or if you are purchasing a property (for the less than the assessed value of the property) your contract is all the supporting documentation you need.  If you currently have your property listed with an agent (for less than your assessed market value) then your listing agreement will serve as the supporting documentation.  If you have recently had your property appraised, your appraisal can also serve as supporting documentation.

In most municipalities you can fax or mail your documents to the assessor.  I strongly advise you to confirm receipt of all of your documents several business days before the 27th.  If you have questions please call your assessor.

Town of Forestport Assessor      Phone 315-392-5547      Fax 315-392-4607

Town Of Webb Assessor            Phone 315-369-6880      Fax 315-369-3021

Town of Inlet Assessor               Phone 315-357-5726      Fax 315-357-3570

Old Forge New York Commercial Building with Beautiful 3 Bedroom Living Space

Live and work in luxury in this beautifully renovated building located at 2942 State Route 28, Old Forge, NY. Nearly every inch of this 2800 SF building has been carefully renovated.  Includes Class A Professional office space that could be used in several different configurations to accommodate one tenant or several.  Approximately 1660 SF of this gorgeous building could be used as a separate 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath apartment or as additional Class A office space with a beautiful kitchen area for entertaining clients. Includes a new boiler, a security system, plenty of off street parking, and a dry basement for storage.

Old Forge NY Home For Sale With Dock On Fourth Lake – 136 Cherokee Road

Looking for an established rental or a great place for group get aways? This furnished, turn-key, open concept home could be perfect! Each of the four large bedrooms has it’s own bathroom and there is plenty of parking for your guests. This off-water year-round home is located minutes from the village of Eagle Bay, close to the trails and it includes a dock on 25 feet of Fourth Lake waterfront. This one is definitely worth a look! 

For more information visit TimmAssociates.com or call 315-369-5434

What is the Difference Between a Manufactured Home and a Modular Home?

It all comes down to the chassis.  If it has a permanent chassis, it’s a Manufactured home not a Modular.  Don’t know exactly what a chassis is?  I don’t either, but I do know you need one to put wheels on a house!  So basically, a manufactured house is a trailer, otherwise known by the terms “Mobile Home”, “Single-Wide” or “Double-wide”.  Since June 15, 1976, manufactured homes have had to meet U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Code and Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards.  The HUD Code requires that manufactured homes display a red certification label on the exterior of each transportable section.  Like Modular Homes, they may be transported in one or more sections.

Modular homes are built in a controlled environment (such as a warehouse) to the same state and national codes as stick-built or site-built homes.  These homes usually arrive at the site partially assembled or as panelized wall systems.  Some will argue that a Modular home could be more structurally sound than a stick built home due to the larger floor joists necessary for travel.  The wall and floor components are often glued for additional strength.  Having a modular home built is usually significantly less expensive than a stick built home.  With the assistance of computer aided design and the ability to view dealer models, consumers can select a custom floor plan and design with ease. 

When purchasing a manufactured or modular home please be aware that these homes may not be eligible for all loan programs.