Getting ready to buy a house

Here’s a compendium of advice for first-time home buyers from HouseLogic, a website produced by the National Association of REALTORS (NAR). Even if you are a second or third timer, it couldn’t hurt to review these basic principles. Give me a call (845-532-1204) or email me (marty@ask-marty.com) to discuss buying or selling your house this spring! And check out Ask-Marty.com to search for your next home and for other pearls of real-estate wisdom from yours truly!

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this.

Copyright 2018 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Search online, but call a local agent first!

Shop local, get better service

To keep more of your commission dollars in the local economy and to get service from an agent who is truly in touch with your local market, you should call a local real estate agent and a local mortgage agent before you connect with any agent or agency that you encounter online.

Non-local offers everywhere

Whether buying or selling, of course you’re going to search for properties and mortgage rates online. And you’re not going to wait to speak to a local agent before you do so. Online brokerages and mortgage companies know this; and they spend large sums of money trying to reach out to you before you contact someone local. As you search, you’ll be bombarded with advertising from real estate and mortgage agents and agencies. But consider, are those agents and agencies truly local? Online real estate and mortgage brands will advertise to you even if they do not have agents anywhere near your town.

Problems with non-local offers

So, what’s the harm in calling these advertisers to see what they have to offer? Here’s the answer. Once someone has your name, they will offer to put you in touch with their own agents or with agents to whom they are selling leads. Either way, once those agents become your agent, a part of your commission dollars is earmarked for the referring company — which in our region, means far, far away. It’s just one more way that corporations are draining money from local economies — it’s literally part of their business plans and it’s a pervasive aspect of the real estate trade. And you still don’t know if the referring company put you in touch with the best agent for your needs.

Action — call a local real estate and mortgage agent directly

Online searching of homes and mortgages is here to stay, and for the most part, it’s a great benefit to buyers and sellers — and their agents — to have all those listings and rates at our fingertips. Especially if you are buying or selling close to where you live, do consider calling your local agent directly before reaching out to the national brand. If you do call them, and if they offer to put you in touch with a local professional, consider saying “No thanks,” and  call a local pro directly.

Full disclosure

I know referrals work because I do accept them. If someone has given permission to a major lender or broker to refer them to a local agent, I might as well take the referral as see that business go to someone else. But I know that anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of my commission will have to be paid to the referring agency. (I also decline such referrals when I know I can’t help someone, for example someone shopping outside my market area.)

 

Should I list my house in the fall or winter? Update.

A year ago I addressed the question “Should I list my house in the fall or winter?” In that post, I examined closings in January, February, and March* — most of which would have been on properties that received offers in November, January, and Fenruary — and concluded that “it seems certain that there’s enough activity in the fall and winter months to stay open for business!

The same conclusion gets only stronger when you look at closings for these three months over the past 4 years:

  • 289 in 2014
  • 317 in 2015
  • 427 in 2016
  • 467 in 2017

Activity during these months has increased every year! Again, it seems clear to me that those who stay busy during the winter months will profit!

And so, I invite sellers who really want to sell — and buyers who really want to meet them — to reach out to me soon.

*Mid-Hudson MLS, single family detached homes.

Thanks for reading. If you are thinking about selling your home, please contact me. I can tell you what I bring to the table as a listing agent, and help you decide when is the right time to list.

When you are ready to start browsing homes or land in Dutchess, Columbia, and Ulster Counties, I encourage you to do so at my websiteAsk-Marty.com.

Because I am a member of THREE MLSs — Mid-Hudson MLS (Dutchess County), Hudson Valley Catskill Region MLS (Ulster County), and Columbia Greene Northern Dutchess MLS — you can search the entire region on both sides of the Hudson River. You can save properties that interest you and you can set the site to email you notices when new listings match your criteria. The site provides a great way for buyers or sellers to monitor a specific neighborhood or school district or type of property!
Best wishes,

Marty

Inclusive Property Listings™

Inclusive Property Listings™ is one feature of my comprehensive marketing strategy for your property. It’s a tactic designed to encourage buyer prospects to make inquiries about your property and to make your property available to a larger pool of regional buyer-agents.*

Inclusive advertising language

Advertising of Inclusive Property Listings™ states clearly that prospective buyers can contact any agent of their choosing, including the listing agent. That’s the truth of the matter, even when the listing is featured as “Exclusive” — a word that Inclusive Property Listings™ advertising will never use.

Participation in multiple MLSs

Inclusive Property Listings™ are listed in all three contiguous MLSs in our region and in the statewide MLS. Most consumers don’t realize that there is no such thing as “the MLS” that includes all agents. In our region, there are separate MLSs established in Dutchess, Ulster, and Columbia counties; and, thanks mostly to the Internet, prospective buyers in our region may well be handled by a buyer’s agent from a neighboring county. I put Inclusive Property Listings™ on all three MLSs in our region. Multiple MLS participation means in effect that you will have potentially over 2,000 agents able and interested in bringing a buyer to your property!

Targeted online marketing

Listings in MLSs often benefit from online syndication, meaning those listings are distributed to various other real estate websites such as Zillow and Realtor.com. Inclusive Property Listings™ take MLS syndication to the next level by purchasing targeted online advertising, which displays your property on a wide range of Internet websites to people interested in real estate!

* I developed Inclusive Property Listings™ as a distinct alternative to the idea of Exclusive Listings, an idea that I regard as misleading and confusing.

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Thanks for reading. If you are thinking about selling your home, please contact me. I can tell you what I bring to the table as a listing agent, and help you decide when is the right time to list.

When you are ready to start browsing homes or land in Dutchess, Columbia, and Ulster Counties, I encourage you to do so at my websiteAsk-Marty.com.

Because I am a member of THREE MLSs — Mid-Hudson MLS (Dutchess County), Hudson Valley Catskill Region MLS (Ulster County), and Columbia Greene Northern Dutchess MLS — you can search the entire region on both sides of the Hudson River. You can save properties that interest you and you can set the site to email you notices when new listings match your criteria. The site provides a great way for buyers or sellers to monitor a specific neighborhood or school district or type of property!
Best wishes,

Marty

What to do if your neighbor’s house is on the market

I think we all know that the appearance of our neighborhood in general is only as good as the appearance of our individual homes. Besides telling your friends and family that they now have the opportunity to move in next door, use that next-door sale as motivation to spruce your own place up and attract the best possible neighbors. That’s a win-win proposition if I ever saw one!

Check out this interesting little article on neighborhood listings that caught me eye today: Neighbor’s house on market.

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Thanks for reading. If you are thinking about selling your home, please contact me. I can tell you what I bring to the table as a listing agent, and help you decide when is the right time to list.

When you are ready to start browsing homes or land in Dutchess, Columbia, and Ulster Counties, I encourage you to do so at my websiteAsk-Marty.com.

Because I am a member of THREE MLSs — Mid-Hudson MLS (Dutchess County), Hudson Valley Catskill Region MLS (Ulster County), and Columbia Greene Northern Dutchess MLS — you can search the entire region on both sides of the Hudson River. You can save properties that interest you and you can set the site to email you notices when new listings match your criteria. The site provides a great way for buyers or sellers to monitor a specific neighborhood or school district or type of property!
Best wishes,

Marty

Zillow Zestimates in Red Hook, NY

Real estate buyers and sellers often refer to Zillow Zestimates to get a first impression of the value of a property they are considering for sale or purchase. Zillow itself advises that Zestimates should not replace professional appraisals, and that they should be taken only as a starting point to consider a properties value. The problem from my perspective is that first impressions are often very strong. And most consumers do not read the fine print. Instead, the Zestimate takes a privileged space in the deliberations that follow.

These two charts compare the actual sold value of properties to their current Zestimates. The first chart covers sales for one month in the Red Hook Central School District. The second chart covers sales for one year in Linden Acres. Both charts show that the Zestimates are generally much higher than the actual sale price. Occasionally, a Zestimate is too high.

Comparison: Sold price vs. Zestimates – Red Hook Central School District, May/June 2017

The take-away? Expect a Zillow Zestimate to be only an approximation; around Red Hook, probably on the high side. Actual sold prices of comparable properties (Comps) are your best guide to the probable value of a property.

Comparison: Sold price vs. Zestimates – Linden Acres June 2016 – June 2017

Zestimate errors in the School District range from $176,434 to –$9,684, and average $21,690. In Linden Acres, Zestimates were wrong by $73,718 to –$6,935, and averaged $25,475.

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Thanks for reading. If you are thinking about selling your home, please contact me. I can tell you what I bring to the table as a listing agent, and help you decide when is the right time to list.

When you are ready to start browsing homes or land in Dutchess, Columbia, and Ulster Counties, I encourage you to do so at my websiteAsk-Marty.com.

Because I am a member of THREE MLSs — Mid-Hudson MLS (Dutchess County), Hudson Valley Catskill Region MLS (Ulster County), and Columbia Greene Northern Dutchess MLS — you can search the entire region on both sides of the Hudson River. You can save properties that interest you and you can set the site to email you notices when new listings match your criteria. The site provides a great way for buyers or sellers to monitor a specific neighborhood or school district or type of property!
Best wishes,

Marty

Exclusive Listings: A Pop Quiz

These two signs refer to local listings. One is on a website; one is on a yard sign:

What does the term “our exclusive” mean in a real estate context?

  • Only the listing agent can show this house or adequately describe its features.
  • These listings contain some special feature that makes them one-of-a-kind, and are therefore “exclusive.”
  • These listings are not for everybody; they’re only for those smart enough or rich enough to get them.
  • These properties have been listed on the MLS; any participating agent can show them to you and function as your buyer’s agent.

If you think you know the answer — or would like to know the answer, send me an email (marty@ask-marty.com) — or navigate over to this article that I posted a while ago.

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Thanks for reading. If you are thinking about selling your home, please contact me. I can tell you what I bring to the table as a listing agent, and help you decide when is the right time to list.

When you are ready to start browsing homes or land in Dutchess, Columbia, and Ulster Counties, I encourage you to do so at my websiteAsk-Marty.com.

Because I am a member of THREE MLSs — Mid-Hudson MLS (Dutchess County), Hudson Valley Catskill Region MLS (Ulster County), and Columbia Greene Northern Dutchess MLS — you can search the entire region on both sides of the Hudson River. You can save properties that interest you and you can set the site to email you notices when new listings match your criteria. The site provides a great way for buyers or sellers to monitor a specific neighborhood or school district or type of property!
Best wishes,

Marty

Should I list my house in the fall or winter?

Whether to list in the “off-season” is a common question.

House for-sale sign in winter.

House for-sale sign in winter.

Whether to list (or re-list) a house in fall or winter is an important question faced by would-be home sellers. On the one hand, they’ve heard that sales activity slows in comparison with spring and summer. They question the effort to keep the driveway cleared and the house presentable when “almost no one” will be coming around. On the other hand, they’ve heard from their real estate agent that properties do, in fact, sell during the slow seasons, and may even benefit from having less competition and more motivated buyers. I can’t deny that showing a house in fall or winter may require some special effort, but I am one of those who does think it’s worth it to get or keep a house listed in the fall and winter.

The numbers say …. LIST!

To support this choice, I examined February and July residential sales in Dutchess County from 2016 back to 2002, as far back as reported in the Mid-Hudson MLS. The chart below shows the results.

Unquestionably, the market slows down in the fall and winter. Closings in February have run on average about 56 percent number of closings in July. Moreover, the percentage of inventory sold is usually higher in July (average 11 percent) than in February (average 8 percent), though the gap between both months in a single year is usually not very large.

But it’s clear, as well, that substantial activity takes place during the fall and winter. February 2016 closings represented $37,416,548 worth of business. And while this July’s total was much higher, the average and median prices were pretty close:

Total sales Average Price Median Price
February 16 $37,416,548 $287,820 $256,000
July 16 $60,065,193 $303,360 $255,000

I’ll chart dollar amounts back to 2002 at another time, but to me it seems certain that there’s enough activity in the fall and winter months to stay open for business!

feb-julsales

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Thanks for reading. If you are thinking about selling your home, please contact me. I can tell you what I bring to the table as a listing agent, and help you decide when is the right time to list.

When you are ready to start browsing homes or land in Dutchess, Columbia, and Ulster Counties, I encourage you to do so at my websiteAsk-Marty.com.

Because I am a member of THREE MLSs — Mid-Hudson MLS (Dutchess County), Hudson Valley Catskill Region MLS (Ulster County), and Columbia Greene Northern Dutchess MLS — you can search the entire region on both sides of the Hudson River. You can save properties that interest you and you can set the site to email you notices when new listings match your criteria. The site provides a great way for buyers or sellers to monitor a specific neighborhood or school district or type of property!
Best wishes,

Marty

Appointment-Required Real Estate Listings

I have written before that the use of the word “exclusive” in real estate advertising is usually misleading. While driving past yard signs that included sign riders with the phrase “By Appointment” or “Appointment Only,” it struck me that this phrase is also misleading — and for the same reasons. Upon further consideration, I can see the issue is not so very simple, though the potential to mislead is real..

Why add the appointment phrase to a for-sale sign?

New York State tresspass law states “A person is guilty of trespass when he knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in or upon premises.” There are varying levels of violation and penalty, but the bottom line is that unauthorized entry into or onto a property is unlawful entry. Given New York State law then and perhaps to allay seller/owner concerns, a real estate agent may wish to make it clear that although the property is for sale, it is private property, and even potential buyers do not have the right to walk on or in the property without permission. That seems to me to be a legitimate use of a sign or sign rider that indicates that prospective buyers must have an appointment.

Two reasons the appointment phrase on a for-sale sign can be misleading

First, it is misleading to the extent that using the phrase might be seen as an indication that this property listing was somehow different from most others. It’s not, virtually all showings for any for-sale property must be by appointment.

Second, and more importantly, it is misleading because, like all for-sale signs, only the listing broker/agent is identified. I believe that adding the appointment phrase without additional instructions reinforces the idea that prospective buyers must contact the listing agent/broker. That’s a common misperception that’s simply not true, as I have pointed out before.

Best practice

I believe the best practice is to provide as much clarity and detail as possible on the for-sale sign and other advertising. My listing signs have always had words to the effect “for appointment, call any agent” or “call Marty or any agent,” etc. The practice may occasionally cost me a prospective buyer, but it serves us all — buyers, sellers, the public, the profession, and myself — best by virtue of being clear.

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Thanks for reading. When you are ready to start browsing homes or land in Dutchess, Columbia, and Ulster Counties, I encourage you to do so at my websiteAsk-Marty.com. Because I am a member of THREE MLSs — Mid-Hudson MLS (Dutchess County), Hudson Valley Catskill Region MLS (Ulster County), and Columbia Greene Northern Dutchess MLS — you can search the entire region on both sides of the Hudson River. You can save properties that interest you and you can set the site to email you notices when new listings match your criteria. This a great way for buyers or sellers to monitor a specific neighborhood or school district or type of property!
Best wishes,

Marty

Beware Real Estate Advertising Statistics

Almost exactly a year ago, I posted a note that showed how numbers could be manipulated in ways that were truthful but either unhelpful or misleading (or both) when it came to comparing individual real estate agents. Recently, the following advertisement comparing offices in Rhinebeck caught my eye; and I can’t resist discussing it in the same context.

BH_Ad2

The ranking and statistics as reported in the advertisement are correct. According to this advertisement, it’s “Good to Know” that a certain office in Rhinebeck had a larger dollar volume of sales than any other. But does that help a prospective house seller or buyer?

Number of Sold Units More Important than Dollar Value

If I were going to sell my house, I’d be less concerned with which office had the most business in dollars. I get that many dollars indicates a high level of activity. And many sales dollars generates many commission dollars. But does that activity benefit the individual seller? In terms of dollars, I might be more interested in how close sale prices were to listing prices.

More than that, however, I’d want to know which office sold the highest percent of its listings, because actually getting my house sold is my highest priority. And so I divided total number of sales by total number of new listings to derive a percentage. Based on that criteria, the Rhinebeck office ranking for 2015 changes quite a bit*:

Rank Office New
Listings
Sales Percent
1 Paul Hallenbeck RE 132 50 39
2 C21 A. Ferri 33 12 36
2 Berkshire 183 65 36
3 J. Ettenson RE 53 18 34
4 Northern Dutchess 72 24 33
5 H.H. Hill 60 13 22
6 Paula Redmond 59 12 20
6 Staley RE 60 12 20

Based on percent of listings sold, Rhinebeck has a different leader. Tied for second and alone in third, are two offices that didn’t even make the dollars list. A third office is added to this group because it is statistically even for the number 6 ranking.

Success Rate of Individual Agents More Important than Office as a Whole

The office that supports your prospective agent is a valid consideration. But does the sheer number of office sales mean that much? I wonder which office contains the most productive individual agents because those agents — or one of them — will be primarily responsible for my listing. In the following table, I divide total new listings and total sales by the number of agents listed for each office in the MLS roster. Then I divide the resulting number of sales per agent by the number of new listings per agent to obtain a rank by percentage:

Rank Office Agents New Listings
Per Agent
Sales Per Agent Percent
1 Fraleigh & Rakow 3 4 2 50
1 G. DiMauro RE 5 4 2 50
2 Northern Dutchess 14 5 2 40
3 Berkshire 22 8 3 38
3 J. Ettenson 7 8 3 38
4 C21 A. Ferri RE 10 3 1 33
5 Paul Hallenbeck RE 9 26 6 23
6 H.H. Hill 4 15 3 20
6 Paula Redmond 4 15 3 20
6 Staley RE 3 20 4 20

Based on this ranking, we now have two new leaders among the Rhinebeck offices, neither of which appeared in the original advertisement or in my first table. Third and fourth spots still belong to two offices that did not make it into the original advertisement.

Focus Numerical Analyses on Individual Agents

Not only do I believe the numbers that reflect actual sales are more important and useful to prospective property sellers and buyers than sheer dollar amounts, I also believe that numbers pertaining to individual agents are more important than numbers pertaining to offices or brands. But even those numbers should be scrutinized, as I showed in last year’s post on Dutchess County sales numbers. To begin, each office is organized in unique ways and contains unique agents.

Imperative to Go Beyond the Numbers

Knowing that statistics can be massaged and manipulated, how does one choose a real estate agent? There are so many considerations — for now, I suggest that you Google “How to choose a real estate agent?’ As you read through the many pages that will come up, jot down the your concerns and the agent characteristics that matter to you most. Then have a conversation with more than one agent before you decide who to use. When presented with statistics always ask, what do these numbers really mean for me as I am considering this individual to help me buy or sell a property?

*Data sourced from Mid-Hudson MLS, the same source used in the advertisement. All fractions and percentages rounded to nearest whole number. Number of agents on roster comes from MLS at the time of writing.

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Thanks for reading. When you are ready to start browsing homes or land in Dutchess, Columbia, and Ulster Counties, I encourage you to do so at my websiteAsk-Marty.com. Because I am a member of THREE MLSs (Mid-Hudson MLS [Dutchess County], Ulster County MLS, and Columbia Greene Northern Dutchess MLS), you can search the entire region on both sides of the Hudson River. You can save properties that interest you and you can set the site to email you notices when new listings match your criteria. This a great way for buyers or sellers to monitor a specific neighborhood or school district or type of property!
Best wishes,

Marty