Category Archives: Selling your Home

Ten Reasons to List Your Old Forge Property in the Winter

If you are considering selling a property in the Old Forge area in the near future you may not want to wait until Spring or Summer.  Here are ten reasons this may be the perfect time to list your home, camp or lot.

  • According to Google, more real estate searches happen in January than in any other month of the year. In fact, house hunting searches increase, on average, 39% from December to January!
  • Most Sellers list in the late spring, if you list now, when inventory is low, you will have less competition.
  • We have a list of qualified Buyers that we met this past summer patiently waiting for the right property to come on the market!
  • Some properties show better in the quiet season without the distraction of loud neighbors or boat traffic.
  • Buyers that shop in the fall and winter tend to be more serious Buyers, they aren’t here on vacation – they are here to buy!
  • Looking for something new?  If you sell now you’ll have the opportunity to buy in the spring, when inventory is high, without having the sale of your current property as a contingency in your offer.
  • Some properties have better views once the leaves have dropped.
  • If you are planning on buying a replacement property and your property sells in the near future you may still be able to take advantage of the amazing interest rates being offered right now.
  • If your property is a summer home, showings this time of year won’t impact your lifestyle.
  • We have a lot of winter tourists that visit the area and fall in love!  One of these Buyer could very well be the right buyer for your property!

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.

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 a 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 a 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 I know will 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.

A Few Things to Consider When Hiring a Realtor to List Your Property

“How will you market my property?”  Running a few classified ads in the local paper and listing it on the company website shouldn’t be the only answers.  The majority of buyers in the Adirondacks are second home buyers and your agent really needs to have an idea of how to reach an audience from outside the area.  With so many websites out there, you really can’t afford to be on just one.  To get a good idea of how much marketing an agent is doing you may want to consider Googling the address of one of their current listings, if the property doesn’t come up at least 10 times the agent
isn’t doing nearly enough.

There is a difference between a Realtor and a Real Estate agent, only Realtors can advertise on Realtor.com and the local Multiple Listing Service.  Your property should be listed on the Realtor.com as it is the most well known real estate website in the country, ninety-six percent of Buyers visit Realtor.com.  Your property should also be on the Multiple Listings Services which is essentially a shared database between Realtors.  Your agent should be willing to share their commission with an agent that brings a Buyer; part of this process is providing other agents with the information necessary to discuss your property with the Buyers they are working with.

 “How many years have you been in the business?” Just because someone’s been in the business for a long time doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re good at it. You don’t want an agent that’s just been skimming by for the past 15 years.   Has this agent been working full-time or just pulling together the occasional deal for family and friends?  It is in your best interest not to overlook the agent who is just starting out – they can be more excited and motivated, and more willing to give you personal attention.  The question that should be in the back of your mind is “What is the agents level of commitment?” Feel free to ask the following questions: “How often do you do floor time?”  “When are you usually in the office?”  You may also get a better idea of the agent’s commitment level by considering how he or she has behaved thus far; did he or she respond to your initial inquiry in a timely fashion?  Did they provide you with a cell or home phone?

Does this Agent have another career?  Being a successful Realtor is not a part time job, this is a CAREER that often requires working nights and weekends.  Successful Adirondack Real Estate agents can easily put in an average of 60 hours a week between the months of May and September.  We have a very short selling season and you need someone who recognizes the need have your marketing materials available to the public ASAP.  An agent that has other obligations during the busy season might have a hard time pulling this off.

Look at the agent’s current inventory; does your home fit in the mix?  An agent that currently markets homes in your price range and area will be the best fit; they will be more likely to add your home to the list when going out with a Buyer.  When your agent receives a call about something in their inventory of course they should make every effort to satisfy the possible buyers question regarding that property.  A motivated agent will then ask the possible buyer “what type of property are you looking for and what is your desired price range?”  This is when the agent should pitch YOUR property as well.  Most of the buyers we work with in this market are from outside the area and they will be much more likely to make the trip if there are several appealing properties to see.

How much is my home worth? Agents should be able to provide a market analysis and recommend a selling point for your house before you make a decision.  If two agents say $500,000 and the third says $580,000, it’s possible this high number is an exaggeration to attract your business. This maneuver is called “buying a listing”.  The high asking price will likely scare away potential buyers.  We have a short selling season, timing is crucial.  In the end, a house will only sell for what it is worth and your time will have been wasted.  Also ask the agents what repairs, if any, they think need to be made in order for the home to sell in your desired time-frame.  If an agent can not be honest with you about the less-desirable aspects of your home; are they really being honest regarding your pricing strategy?

It may sound like a lot of factors to mull over but careful consideration in this process will be well worth your while.  Please feel free to call me at anytime if you would like to hear about the benefits of listing your property with Timm Associates.  I would be happy to prepare a comparative market analysis on your home or camp.

Does My Vacation Home Qualify for a 1031 Exchange?

It depends.

If you are not familiar with what a 1031 Exchange is here is a brief explanation: 1031 Exchanges allow property owners to defer capital gains taxes on the exchange of “like-kind” properties.  The term “like-kind” means two properties that have the same use (for example investment properties can only exchanged for investment properties not personal residences).  Capital Gains taxes are taxes that you must pay on the income you have earned on the sale of property (above and beyond the amount you invested in the property to begin with). The property that you will be purchasing needs to identified within 45 days of the sale of the original property.  Between the time of the sale and the purchase the funds must be held by a qualified intermediary, not in your personal bank account.  Within 180 days of the initial sale, the transaction must be fully completed.  Time limits are calculated in calendar days not business days.

Back in the day, a property owner could sell one property and buy another property using the proceeds from the sale provided that the properties were like-kind (Investment property for Investment Property, Residence for a Residence).  The property owner would not be taxed on the gains from the sale of the original property.  The rules have changed regarding residences.  These days, when you sell your primary residence, you can make up to $250,000 in profit if you’re single or $500,000 if you’re married, and not owe capital gains taxes.  To be eligible for the full exclusion, a taxpayer must have owned the home (and lived in it as a principal residence) for at least two of the five years prior to the sale.  This raises the question – what happens when I sell my vacation home?

A property that has been held for “investment purposes” can be exchanged for another property being held for “investment purposes”.   Here in the Adirondacks, it is rather common for the owners of vacation homes to end up renting out their camps more often then they use them.  The IRS has been kind enough to create a safe harbor for property owners like this.  If the owner uses the properties for personal purposes for 14 days a year or less (or less than 10%of the days that it is rented in a 365-day period) the IRS considers the home a rental property, not a personal-use residence, and the house may be eligible for like-kind exchange.  If you rent out the original property for 2 years before and the new property for 2 years after the exchange (and claim the income) both properties are “investment properties”.

Not willing to rent?  Do you use your property more then allowed by this rule?  Remember, you will only be taxed on the difference between the adjusted basis and the sale price of your home.  The adjusted basis is what you originally paid for the property, including debt, closing and settlement costs, plus any qualifying home improvements you’ve made.  I hope that you have kept receipts for your home improvements because they might just be your ticket out of paying Capital Gains Tax.  Those major improvements add up quickly!  The next question you should ask yourself is “Do I really need to make a profit on the sale of this property for it to have been worth while?”  You’ve used it, and hopefully enjoyed using it.  You may find that the current market value of the home does not exceed what you paid for it, a 1031 exchange may not be necessary.

Still have questions?  You may find this link interesting.  1031info

Never Trust a Zestimate.

If you spend much time on-line looking at properties you have probably stumbled across a real estate website called Zillow.  There are abundant real estate websites out there, the three biggest are Realtor.com, Trulia and Zillow.   All three sites have their merits.  I’m partial to Trulia myself as I find the site to be user friendly.  There are a few companies in the area that do not have listings onthe Adirondack MLS or Realtor.com which makes these collaborative websites a bit of a life saver.

I am often amazed by how well informed my Buyers and Sellers are as a result of the internet.  I appreciate working with well informed clients but it makes me a little sad when someone mentions a property’s “Zestimate” (Zillow’s opinion of the property’s value).   I understand that Zestimates aren’t meant to be misleading and in some markets they are even in the ball park of being accurate.  Unfortunately, the Zestimates for Adirondack Park properties can be downright comical.  It is not uncommon to find a custom waterfront home directly across the street from a seasonal hunting camp here.  Obviously the two properties can not be compared.  Zillow doesn’t understand the difference and averages the sales prices together creating a messy mathematical algorithm that is truly worthless.  Over the years I have read quite a bit of criticism of Zestimates on Realtor Forums and I was relieved to hear that Zillow has finally “Manned Up” and released their Zestimate Accuracy Data.  For Herkimer County, Zillow has a 16% median of error and over 59% of their Zestimates are 20+% higher or lower than the actual market value.  For Oneida County, Zillow has a 14.3% median of error and over 58% of their Zestimates are 20+% off the correct market value.  (Click this link to see the results for yourself).  

If you are interested in finding property data your best sources online are the Town of Webb Assessor’s Real Property Database or the Town of Forestport Assessor’s Real Property Database.  Please keep in mind that there is usually a healthy gap between the assessed property value and the true market value of a property.  Often the data used to arrive at the assessed value can be several years old.