sellers

Pioneer Valley Moving Into Seller's Market

An article recently published by Mass Live announced that the Pioneer Valley is moving into a “seller’s market”.  This means that the real estate market is currently favoring sellers, rather than buyers. The lack of homes for sale puts pressure on buyers to move quickly in their purchasing actions, or else risk losing out on getting the house they wanted.

According to the article, sales of single-family homes in June 2017 are fewer than in June 2016, while the median sales price rose. Also, the average number of days a home is on the market for June 2017 has decreased compared to June 2016. Specifically in Franklin County, sales are down 1.3 percent with 75 sales in June 2016 and 74 sales in June 2017 and the median price rose 16.3 percent from $224,000 to $260,500.

So what does all this mean for you? In a seller’s market, desirable houses sell quickly. If you are pursuing a new home, act in a timely manner. On the other hand, if you have been thinking of putting your home on the market, now is a good time to do so. However, sellers sometimes get overexcited in a seller’s market and might ask too high of a price. This leads to their house sitting on the market for too long. Make sure to maintain reason when listing your home.

For more advice on how to act in a seller’s market of if you are thinking of buying or selling, get in touch with Wanda Mooney at (413) 768-9848 or wanda@wandamooney.com.

To read the full article on masslive.com click here.

Selling? Be Ready for a Home Inspection

 

You now have a buyer for your home and they have scheduled a home inspection.   

This article provides insight as to what you can expect and how to prepare your home for a thorough inspection.

 

Selling Your House - Better Be Prepared for a Home Inspection

You’ve got a contract on your home for sale—congratulations! But before you pop the cork on the champagne, you’ve got to go through an ordeal that could make or break that sweet deal: a home inspection.

The home inspection is a contingency written into most offers, meaning that if the buyers aren’t happy with the result, they can cancel the sale without losing their earnest money deposit, or reopen negotiations and ask for a price reduction.

So it’s important to prepare yourself and your home for this important step of the process. How? Hey, we’re glad you asked! Let’s start at the beginning.

Will there always be a home inspection?

If your buyers are planning to tear down your home and build their own dream house, you might feel a pang of regret, but at least you won’t need to worry about the quality and condition of your property. These buyers are trying to get the lowest price possible and, if they think a clean contract without an inspection contingency will make them an attractive buyer in a competitive market, they’ll often forgo an inspection contingency.  

But most buyers who are planning to live in your home want to know what they’re getting into. They want to know which systems work, and which don’t. They want to know how much money they’ll need to plow into the purchase, and which items you, dear seller, are willing to fix or replace to seal the deal.

The results of home inspections can give buyers peace of mind, or a tool they can use to bargain down the price. In the worst case, people with buyer’s remorse will use results of a home inspection to back out of the deal without penalty.

Sound scary? Don’t fret just yet. That first home inspection will let you know everything that’s wrong with your home. Armed with that information, you can fix problems before the next buyer shows up, adjust the price to reflect necessary repairs, or simply have a ready response when the issue comes up again.

Inspectors will look at everything

A home inspection is no quick once-over. Inspectors have a 1,600-item checklist, according to the National Association of Home Inspectors. Yep, you read that right—1,600. 

“If we can get to it, we’ll inspect it,” says Frank Lesh, executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors.

Here are just some of the areas of the home your inspector is checking, and what a home inspector is looking for:

  • Grounds: Standing water, faulty grading, sick or dying trees and shrubs, crumbling paths and walls
  • Structure: Foundation integrity, rotting or out-of-plumb window and door frames
  • Roof: Defects in shingles, flashing, and fascia; loose and hanging gutters; defects in chimneys and skylights
  • Exterior: Cracks or rot; dents or bowing in vinyl; blistering or flaking paint; adequate clearing between siding and earth
  • Window, doors, trim: Rotting frames, peeling caulk, damaged glass
  • Interior rooms: Water-stained ceilings, adequate insulation, and sufficient heating vents
  • Kitchen: Proper venting, no leaks under the sink, and cabinet doors and drawers operate properly
  • Bathrooms: Toilets flush properly, showers spray, and tubs are securely fastened
  • Plumbing: Drains flow properly; water has proper temperature and pressure
  • Electrical: Proper electrical panels and working light switches and outlets

How can you prepare?

The home inspection isn’t a test that you need to study for. But there are some things you can do before a home inspection to make the process go more smoothly.

  • Clean and de-clutter your home: Yes, inspectors will look way beyond the superficial sparkle of a clean home. But you want to make sure they have easy access to attics, basements, and electrical panels—and aren’t tripping over your kids’ toys while trying to do their job. Think of it as an early start to your packing.
  • Get your paperwork together: You should create a file with documentation of all maintenance and repairs you’ve done on your home. If you’ve had an insurance claim on your house, keep those papers together, too, so you can prove that you took care of the problem.
  • Provide complete access to your home: Make sure you unlock gates and doors to a shed or garage that doesn’t have lockbox access.

You could consider getting a pre-inspection to eliminate any surprises; some sellers choose to hire their own inspector to give the house a once-over and point out any problems, so they can fix them before the buyer’s home inspector arrives on the scene.

But be careful with this tactic.

“It’s not a good idea,” says Bill Golden, an Atlanta-area real estate agent. “If you have five different inspectors inspect the home, you’ll get five different lists of items they’re concerned about. Just because your inspector didn’t have a problem with something doesn’t mean the buyer’s inspector won’t.”

More important, if your inspector points out a problem, you’re obligated to disclose it to buyers.

“This could be a potential turn-off to buyers,” Golden says.

Do yourself a favor, and leave

Unless you’re a glutton for punishment, give the inspector your cellphone number, grab your car keys, and go to a movie or out to lunch when the home inspector shows up. Your anxiety will only make everyone uncomfortable, which isn’t a productive atmosphere during an inspection.

“Inspectors and buyers are not at all comfortable with the seller being present during an inspection,” Golden says. “They need to be able to freely inspect and discuss any and everything they come across. You may think you are being helpful by being present, but you are not; you are impeding the process.”

“A home inspector’s job is to point out each and every deficiency and safety violation they see,” Golden says. “Arguing with the buyers about an inspector’s findings is not helpful.”

“It may be agreeing to fix an item, it may mean giving them some money toward a repair, or it may simply be providing documentation,” Golden says.

An experienced real estate agent knows how to interpret inspection reports, which issues are vital to address, and which are red herrings designed to reopen price negotiations.

Lisa Kaplan Gordon is an award-winning freelancer who's written about real estate and home improvement for realtor.com, Yahoo, AOL, and many others.

 

15 Years vs. 30 Year Mortgage - What's the Best Option?

If you are planning on buying a home or refinancing and would like to know the difference between a 15 vs. 30 year mortgage, this article explains the benefits of both. You do save an enormous amount of money if you can afford larger payments and pay off your home in 15 years or you can go 30 years and make extra principle payments. You can calculate the mortgage payments at www.BankRate.com or ask your lender to show you the difference. Feel free to give me a call at 413-337-8344 or send me an email at wanda@wandamooney.com if you have any guidance. 

15 or 30 years: What’s the difference?

At first glance, the difference between a 15-year and 30-year mortgage seems obvious: The former stretches your home loan payments over 15 years, the latter over 30. But you already knew that.

But here’s something you might not know: Since a longer loan life means you can make smaller payments, a recent survey found that 86% of home loan applicants opt for a 30-year mortgage.

Here’s how the numbers play out: If you purchase a $300,000 home with a 20% down payment, a 30-year (fixed-rate) loan at the going interest rate (currently 3.68%), it will cost you $1,102 per month for 30 years. Get that same loan for 15 years, you’ll be rewarded with a slightly lower interest rate (currently 2.69%), but you’ll have to cough up $1,622—$502 more per month.

Bottom line? If you can’t afford large monthly payments or are worried about not being able to in the future due to job loss, sporadic income, health issues, or whatever other curveballs might come your way, it’s understandable that you’d opt for a 30-year mortgage rather than 15. The peace of mind alone could be priceless.

Benefits of a 15-year mortgage

What many homeowners forget to factor in is that a 15-year mortgage may cost more now, but it will save you major cash in interest payments down the road.

“A 15-year loan will save you a ton of money,” says Casey Fleming, author of “The Loan Guide: How to Get the Best Possible Mortgage.”

You might be surprised by just how much, so let’s continue with the above example: For a $300,000 home purchased with a 20% down payment, a 30-year mortgage at today’s average interest rate (3.68%) will end up costing you a total of $456,708—that’s in interest and principal—by the time those 30 years are up. By contrast, a 15-year loan at today’s average interest rate (2.69%) will ultimately cost you only $351,933.

In other words, a 15-year mortgage will ultimately save you $104,775 in interest payments—serious money, which might add up to a very good reason to tighten your belt and give it a try. You can run your own numbers with realtor.com®’s mortgage calculator to figure out which approach is right for you.

How to save money on a 30-year mortgage

If you can’t afford making the higher payments on a 15-year mortgage but like the idea of saving on interest, there are other ways to make that happen, even if you have a 30-year loan.

For one, most lenders don’t prohibit borrowers from paying off a loan early, so there’s no reason you can’t pay off a 30-year loan in just 15 years (or 20, or 25, or whatever you can manage). So if you do find yourself with extra money one month due to a bonus or tax refund, consider putting it toward paying off your mortgage early. You’ll save a huge chunk in interest without sacrificing the sense of security that comes with knowing you can easily afford to make your monthly mortgage payments—and maybe occasionally a little extra.

Article posted on Realtor.com and written by Jamie Wiebe

Understanding Your Heating & Cooling System for Your Home!

This is a great post about understanding your heating and cooling system. You will learn about each type of system, which is extremely helpful when looking at homes or thinking of installing a new one. There is also preventative maintenance tips to help keep your systems running smoothly. If you need a new heating or cooling system or just a cleaning, click here for my list of recommended contractors.

Understanding Your Heating & Cooling Systems

Huddling around the fireplace under blankets because the heating system quit during a cold winter night makes for great stories to tell--later. In reality, the situation is uncomfortable, stressful and could even be dangerous. The same holds true if the air conditioning system does not work during a heat wave.

We want to help you avoid those situations, starting by explaining the most popular heating and cooling systems found in homes. We will give you tips on how to keep them running more efficiently, as well as signals that it's time to replace an aging system. Finally, we'll include a guide to hiring the right heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) contractor to replace the system.

Know the Heating and Cooling Systems

Heating- There are three components to a typical heating system: a heat source, distribution system, and the controls (the thermostat on the wall).

Most homes rely on a furnace, a boiler or a heat pump as the heat source.

Furnaces heat air and then circulate the warm air through a system of ducts. The heat is delivered to the living area through registers that are attached to the ducts. This type of system is called a forced-air system.

Boilers heat water and then circulate either the warm water or steam through pipes. Radiators and baseboard heaters supply the heat to the rooms.

Heat pumps provide both heating and cooling by transferring hot and cold air between the inside and outside of a building. (see A Primer on Heat Pumps below)

Air Conditioning- All air conditioners, as well as all types of refrigeration, work the same way--they take heat from one area and move it to another area.

In a central air conditioning system, a fan draws air through ducts to an evaporator coil that removes heat and moisture from the air. The cool air is then blown back into the room. The original heat is transferred to a refrigerant that flows to an outdoor unit that contains a compressor and a condenser, which releases the heat into the outside air. Window air conditioners work the same way, except that everything is contained in one cabinet.

cooling system home depot

Central air conditioners typically use the same ducts used by a forced-air heating system, but they can also be standalone units that rely on their own system of ductwork. Ductless air conditioners are also available. (see Is a Ductless System Right for You? below)

The Controls: Both heating and cooling systems are controlled by a thermostat that is located somewhere in the living area. A basic thermostat has one temperature setting, but programmable models let you set a variety of temperature settings based on the time of day. This allows you to reduce the need for heating or cooling when you're not home, so you don't waste your money or energy resources heating and cooling empty space. Some models, like the Nest, learn your daily schedule and automatically update the temperature accordingly. Programmable thermostats help you manage your energy usage and could save you money, including through energy rebates offered by utilities. Check with your local provider to see if they offer discounts and rebates to customers using energy-saving HVAC components like programmable thermostats.

Air conditioning compressors release hot air outside your home, while a boiler system circulates heat inside throughout a system of pipes.

heating system home depot

A Primer on Heat Pumps

A heat pump is an electrical device that provides both heating and cooling, producing about one and one-half to three times the energy it consumes. In the cooling mode, heat pumps operate like any air conditioner, pulling warm air out of the house and replacing it with cool air. In the heating mode, they extract heat from the outside air--even below-zero temperatures contain some heat--and transfer it indoors.

The type of heat pump described here is called an air-source heat pump. There are others, including geothermal heat pumps, that use the earth as a heat source. However, let's concentrate on air-source heat pumps as they are the most common.

Until recently, heat pumps were confined to warm-weather states that do not experience prolonged bouts of cold weather, because heat pumps become less efficient as the outdoor temperature drops. However, recent advances in technology that include two-speed compressors and new coil designs make some models suitable for cold-weather climates.

Because heat pumps provide both heating and air conditioning, they are rated in two ways. The seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) measures the efficiency of the cooling system. The higher the number, the more efficient the system. Federal regulations call for SEERs of 13 or 14, depending on where you live, but heat pumps with a much higher rating are available. The seasonal heating performance factor (HSPF) measures the heating efficiency of heat pumps. The minimum is 7.7. Discuss your options with a qualified contractor, but, in general, if cooling is your major concern, look for a unit with a higher SEER. In cold weather areas, look for a high HSPF.

Heat pumps are available in ducted and ductless models.

heat pump winter

A heat pump sits outside of a home in winter.

Is a Ductless System Right for You?

A ductless mini-split system provides cooling--some models can provide heating as well--without the need to install ductwork. Like central air conditioners, they have both an indoor and outdoor component. The cabinet outside that holds the compressor and condenser is connected to the interior unit by a 3-inch diameter pipe that carries the electrical connections and refrigerant lines.

Ductless units are designed to provide heating and cooling to areas that are not serviced by the home's existing HVAC system, such as an attic or any other room that has been converted to living space. They can also provide cooling without the need to install ducts. Basic ductless units can heat and cool one room, but some models can accommodate up to eight different rooms. Each indoor unit has its own thermostat, providing zoned comfort.

Newer models use the latest energy-saving heat pump technology to help keep energy costs down. Because many indoor units are installed at the top of a wall, most models are operated by remotes, some of which are Wi-Fi enabled.

II. The Value of Maintaining Your Unit

In addition to keeping everyone comfortable, the heating and cooling system accounts for almost one-half of a typical household's energy bill, so having it function properly makes economic sense. A major repair or replacement of an HVAC system is a big-ticket item.

If you are looking to buy a home, consider having a heating and cooling contractor inspect the system of the house you are interested in. He or she may be able to spot potential problems that could lead to major headaches once you move in.

Likewise, if you are selling your home and you've kept up the maintenance on your system, brag about it. Show potential buyers your maintenance records. Provide information about the age of the system, especially if it is relatively new. Energy-efficiency ratings go a long way to assure buyers that the system will last.

What the Numbers Mean

Boilers, furnaces and air conditioners are rated by how energy efficient they are. Furnaces and boilers have an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating. It measures how efficient the device is in converting fuel into heat. An AFUE of 90 percent means that all but 10 percent of the fuel is converted to heat. There are minimums for newly manufactured equipment, but some furnaces can achieve AFUE ratings of over 95 percent. Boilers have slightly lower AFUE ratings.

All-electric furnaces can be 95 to 100 percent efficient, but the high cost of electricity--most electricity is generated by burning oil, coal or natural gas--makes this an uneconomical choice. Space heating using electricity is mainly confined to the Southeast, which has lower heating demands than the Northeast and Midwest. Houses that heat with electricity are good candidates for heat pumps.

Cooling equipment is measured by the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). Depending on where you live, SEERs of 13 or 14 are mandatory, but you can find equipment that is much more efficient.

Energy Star is an Environmental Protection Agency program that sets minimums for the energy use of a number of household appliances, including heating and cooling equipment. It is a voluntary program, and manufacturers who meet the requirements can display the Energy Star logo on their products. There are many HVAC products that exceed the Energy Star minimums, but it is a good place to start. You can find a listing of products at energystar.gov.

III. HVAC Maintenance 

You will find that a smooth running and efficient HVAC system is important to the comfort and safety of everyone in the home. But another reason to keep the system maintained consistently is that if you don't, it may break down when you need the system the most (which is also when HVAC contractors are the busiest). So it may be difficult to get someone to fix the problem quickly.

Preventative Maintenance Helps Avoid Breakdowns

It is best to take a two-prong approach to HVAC maintenance:

  1. Things you can do on a regular basis
  2. Work that only a professional HVAC technician should handle

Depending on the type of system you have, a typical professional maintenance call will involve:

  • Tightening electrical connections
  • Checking the condition of all hoses and belts
  • Lubricating all moving parts and making sure the controls work properly
  • Measuring the pressure in the system
  • Checking for leaks where appropriate, including leaks in the venting system.
  • For cooling components, the contractor will also:
  • Clean the evaporator and condenser coils
  • Check the fan components and make sure the refrigerant level in the system is correct
  • For heating systems, technicians also:
  • Check fuel connections
  • Change the required filters
  • Inspect the system's combustion and heat exchangers
  • Ensure the low-water cutoff and pressure relief valves on boilers are working properly

The bottom line? Preventative maintenance by a professional HVAC contractor keeps systems running smoothly.

What You Can Do as a Homeowner

Here are a few maintenance tasks you can perform yourself:

For ongoing maintenance for a system that includes both heating and cooling, you should change the filters on forced-air systems about every three months (although if you live in the chilly Northeast or Midwest, or in the steamy Southeast and sweltering Southwest, you may need to change filters even more frequently when at peak use). If the systems are separate, change the filters every three months during the heating or cooling season. The type of filter to use and directions for changing it can be found in the manual that came with the system. If you don't have one, ask an HVAC contractor for advice or visit the manufacturer's website to see if manuals are available.

Replacing a furnace filter

Replacing a furnace filter

Check around the house to make sure that heating and cooling vents, baseboard heaters and radiators are not blocked by furniture. If they are blocked, the system has to work harder to provide you with the comfort you want, placing a strain on the system. It is also wise to vacuum the face of the vents to remove dust and other debris.

Air conditioning systems often have an outdoor component that houses the compressor and condenser. This part of the system dumps the hot air from your house to the outside as part of the cooling cycle. Keep leaves and other debris off of the top of the unit, and clear a two- to three-foot space around the unit to help it work properly.

IV. Troubleshooting Common HVAC Problems

It is always best to refer major problems to an experienced contractor, but there are some problems that you may be able to fix.

Fix #1: Vent Outside is Spitting Water

There is a vent on the outside of steam radiators that lets air in the radiator escape as steam fills up inside. If the vent is spitting water, it is clogged. Thus, the air cannot escape and the radiator will not warm up. The vent simply unscrews, allowing you to replace it with a new one.

Fix #2: Hot Water Radiator Won't Heat Up

If a hot water radiator will not get warm, you may have to bleed it. Turn the thermostat down to stop the flow of water through the system. Locate the bleed valve on the radiator. Have a bucket and rags ready to avoid water flowing onto the floor. Open the valve using a screwdriver, and let the air bleed out. Once the air stops sputtering, you are finished.

Fix #3: Hot and Cold Spots

While there are a number of possible reasons for hot and cold spots in a home (including an HVAC system that is not sized correctly), many problems can be traced to the ducts in a forced-air system. Here are some things to check:

  • All duct sections should be sealed. Ducts tend to leak where sections are joined together, wasting both energy and the money you pay for that energy. Use a duct sealing mastic or aluminum tape to seal the openings. Don't use what most people think of as duct tape because it will not last. Use only tape made for heating and cooling ducts; it will have Underwriters Laboratories (UL) on the label.
  • Any ducts that run through unconditioned space, such as an unheated attic, basement or crawl space, should be insulated to prevent energy loss. Insulating ducts can save a significant amount in energy costs.
  • If the problem persists, have a contractor check out the system. There could be a restriction of some kind in a duct or the system itself may be poorly designed, which can hinder the flow of air through the ducts.

V. Assuring Indoor Air Quality

As houses have become more energy efficient, concern about the quality of the air inside the home has grown. Tight, weather-sealed houses can trap indoor pollutants, causing discomfort or mild irritations. Believe it or not, the HVAC system can play a significant role in indoor air quality. Humidifiers can be installed in forced-air systems to keep occupants comfortable and prevent wood floors, moulding and furniture from drying out and warping.

Air purifiers can be installed in ducts. These purifiers can eliminate odors and kill bacteria and germs that are either airborne or on surfaces. There are a number of different systems. Some rely on filters to remove harmful pollutants from the air. Others work by changing the composition of the pollutants through an oxidation process. Once the pollutants are destroyed, the oxidizers revert to harmless oxygen or hydrogen.

These systems are increasingly commonplace and can be installed by a qualified heating and cooling contractor.

Apart from allergens, and dust, you should always be vigilant about carbon monoxide. (See below)

carbon monoxide

The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that is produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, such as fuel oil, natural gas and propane. At low doses, it can cause dizziness and headaches; at high doses, it can cause loss of consciousness and even death. The best defense against CO is to keep heating and cooling equipment well-maintained and running efficiently.

If you don't already have them, install CO detectors. The Consumer Products Safety Commission recommends installing one outside the bedrooms in each sleeping area of the house. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for installation and testing the detector. If the detector alarm should sound, move everyone in the house outside to fresh air and call the local fire department or 911.

VI. Repair vs. Replace

If your HVAC system does break down, you will be faced with the decision of whether to repair or replace it. Repairs can be less expensive, but there are a number of reasons to consider replacing the entire unit.

The first is the cost of the repair: If the repair will cost more than 50 percent of the price of a new system, especially if the broken unit is seven years or older, investigate getting a new system.

Here are some other reasons:

1. An Old System. While a properly maintained system can last 15 to 20 years (depending on where you live and how hard it has to work during extreme temperature events), equipment manufactured more than 15 years ago is not as energy efficient as systems available today. With the average household spending almost half of its energy budget on heating and cooling costs, it makes sense to install an energy-efficient system, if possible. High-efficiency furnaces available today can achieve AFUE ratings of above 98 percent. That could mean drastic reductions in heating bills. The Department of Energy estimates that replacing a furnace with an AFUE of 50 percent with one that has an AFUE of 95 percent will save more than 45 percent in energy costs.

2. Frequent Repairs. Even if the repairs are minor, they are a nuisance. And don't forget: HVAC systems tend to break down when you need them the most. If you are faced with a major repair (such as a compressor for an air conditioner or a blower motor for a furnace) and you have had to pay for a similar repair recently, it is time to replace the unit.

3. High Energy Bills. There could be a number of reasons for this, including leaky ducts or a lack of insulation and weather sealing in the house's walls and ceilings. But it could also mean that the current system is not the right size for the house--a common problem when people add a new room or extension onto a house that increases the volume of the insulated air inside. A new, properly sized system would solve that problem.

Purchasing a New System

HVAC systems are part of a house's energy package that includes not only heating and cooling equipment, but everything that affects energy usage, including insulation levels in walls, ceilings and floors, the types of windows and the habits of the people who live in the house. A professional energy audit can pinpoint areas where the house and its systems are wasting energy. That's important information to have if you are replacing an HVAC system, because it will help you and your contractor choose the system that is best for your house.

You can find an energy auditor online or by calling your local utility company. The auditor can identify energy leaks in the house as well as leaks in the ducts.

Selecting a contractor to install a new system will be the most important decision you make.

Here are some tips for selecting a contractor:

  • Get referrals from friends and family. Anyone you are considering working with should be licensed and carry liability and workers' compensation insurance. Ask contractors for references and follow up on them.
  • Gather at least three quotes for the job. It is important that the contractors are all bidding on installing the same equipment. All quotes should be in writing.
  • Don't automatically take the lowest bid. Take into consideration things like experience, references and the way the contractor presents themselves--Did he show up on time?; Did she explain your options?; Does he have experience installing the system you are considering?; Does she offer a warranty on workmanship? Finally, how long has the company been in business? Have they proven they'll be around to warranty their work several years into the future?

Many contractors believe that homeowners are only interested in getting the lowest price, and recommend equipment at the low end of the price scale. But low-cost equipment may not be the most energy efficient, and it may not be the best choice for your home. Always ask about your options. At the very least, insist on an Energy Star product (but, as mentioned, some Energy Star products are more energy efficient than others).

Installing a new HVAC unit is a long-term investment, but replacing old energy guzzlers with high-efficiency equipment can reduce your monthly energy bills and make your house more comfortable in the process. A new heating and cooling system can improve your family's health, reduce your impact on the planet and lower your energy bills.

Homes Sales Report for West County, Franklin County & Pioneer Valley

Now that 2015 has come to a close I can reflect on the real estate market in the hilltowns of West County. Compared to previous years, the real estate values for single-family homes continue to remain relatively steady. The median price in 2014 was $214,750 and $212,500 in 2015. The median price of single-family homes in West County is 13% higher than the Franklin County area and 8% higher than all of Pioneer Valley.

The number of transactions dropped from 94 sales in 2014 to 74 sales in 2015. This is a substantial drop so I researched how many sales occurred in previous years. I discovered in 2012 there were 74 sales and 2013 we had 75 sales. Why the increase in 2014? Interest rates were at an all time low combined with the threat rates would go up created urgency for folks to buy. I also feel it was a time when people started to feel good about investing and our second home market started to regain strength.

One thing about selling country properties is it does take longer on average to sell than other parts of the region. West County's average days on market for 2015 was 184, and in Franklin County, it was 154 days and the entire Pioneer Valley it was 121 days. 

I am noticing an increase in first-time homebuyers looking to purchase their first home and some are relocating here. Living in the village of Shelburne Falls continues to be a desirable move for many. The expansion of Berkshire East Ski Resort will be a positive move, especially for the second home market. I don't foresee any significant changes in 2016 and anticipate the market to remain stable. You can always keep tabs on

Selling this Spring? Tips to Get Your House Ready!

While it still may be chilly outside, the weather isn't the only thing that's about to warm up. The spring selling season is right around the corner, and we've got 7 things you can do now to prepare for selling your home once spring arrives. Now is the time to get ahead start.

1. Give a Thorough Clean

Spring Cleaning Tips

Think spring cleaning territory when deciding what level of clean your home requires for sale. Everything from scrubbing baseboards to dusting fan blades and clearing cobwebs from storage areas should be covered as you scrub-down your home. If the task feels overwhelming, simply go room by room until it's done.

If you have carpet, and it's in reasonably good shape, a thorough cleaning with a professional carpet cleaner will improve the look and the odor in your home. If carpets are worn and threadbare, consider a reasonable replacement, such as a good quality laminate. Cracked tiles should be replaced now, if it's in your budget, for maximum effect.

Image Source: Flickr/Laura D'Alessandro

2. Do a Minor Update

It's no secret that kitchens and bathrooms sell homes. A quick update to a kitchen can make a huge impact simply by cleaning painting or replacing tired hardware and fixtures. If your kitchen lacks a backsplash, this is the perfect time to add one for maximum appeal.

3. Clean the Windows

Even if it's too cold to tackle the job from the outside, you can get half the job done now. Scrub the interior side of all windows and don't forget the window sills, tracks of sliding doors, and the surrounding trim. Buyers will notice the attention to detail once your home is on the market.

4. Paint

Painting Your Homes

Choose the spaces that have the boldest color and tone them down to a neutral palette. The goal should be for buyers to see your home as a blank canvas for their own belongings. Focus on high traffic areas next, and finally, repairing any flaking paint in damp areas such as basements or bathrooms is a must.

Image Source: Flickr/Dean Hochman

5. Pack Early

While you don't need to pack up everything you own, strategically boxing up personal items that will depersonalize your space is a good idea. Family mementos all serve to remind buyers that this is your space, and you want them to picture it as theirs. Storage space is another big item on a buyer's list, so consider packing up any out of season clothing and tucking them away to make closets seem larger.

6. Purpose Every Room

A cozy home reading nook, staged for real estate

Every room should have a clear purpose, so buyers can see how versatile your space is. This may mean removing furniture from a crowded space and moving it somewhere else in your home to create defined living areas. Look for opportunities to create functional spaces like an office area or reading nook, and if you have too much furniture, consider putting it in storage. Less furniture will create an open feeling throughout your home.

Image Source: Flickr/Michael Pardo

7. Go Outside

While it is too early to landscape, paint, or deal with the exterior areas of the home, curb appeal is essential to getting buyers to even walk through the door. Assessing your home now, from the garden spaces to the roof and front entry, will let you make a list of quick and easy items you can tackle as soon as the weather warms up, which will make selling your home a breeze.

Winter Selling Tips

Selling Real Estate in Winter

  1. Clear a Path: Shovel snow and spread sand to provide easy and safe access to your house.
  2. Keep the heat up: You want your home to feel warm and inviting
  3. Lighten up: Make sure blinds are open and lights are on!  You want your house to look bright on those grey winter days. 
  4. Organize: Make sure your closets and winter gear is organized and in place.
  5. Clear Decks and Patios: You want prospective buyers to see your decks and patios.  Make sure they are shoveled and can be accessed.
  6. Seasonal Photos: It is a great idea to have seasonal photos on display so prospective buyers and can see what the yard looks like during the summer.

Winter is a great time to sell your home. Less inventory and the buyers who look are serious. Contact me for more information.

Paint Tips - Preparing your house to sell!

Painting Your House Before Selling

If you are preparing your house to sell and need to paint the interior, below are some tips to help you choose the best color.

  1. Paint your ceiling a light cream color instead of flat white.
  2. Do not use different bright paint colors in each room. Make sure the colors are light and blend well together.
  3. If you prefer to use the same light color throughout, hang pictures with color to assure your home won't look too bland. 

Winter is Coming - Keep Your Home on the Market

I encourage sellers to keep their homes on the market during the winter months. Buyers have more time to look in the winter and can be in their new home just in time to enjoy the spring and summer season. Here are some great tips to make your house more desirable during the cold days of winter. Click here to read about "Why it Pays To List Your House in the Winter".

Don't hesitate to contact me if you are thinking of selling now or anytime in the future. I am happy to talk with you about what is happening in the marketplace and discuss the value of your home.

Mortgage Rates Sink Lower This Week - Great Time to Buy or Refinance

Mortgage Rates Sink Lower This Week

DAILY REAL ESTATE NEWS | FRIDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2015

Averages on fixed-rate mortgages dropped lower this week, continuing to provide a benefit to home buyers and refinancers, Freddie Mac reports.

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages with mortgage rates for the week ending Oct. 22:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.79 percent, with an average 0.6 point, dropping from last week's 3.82 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.92 percent.

  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 2.98 percent, with an average 0.5 point, falling from a 3.03 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.08 percent.

  • 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 2.89 percent, with an average 0.4 point, rising from last week's 2.88 percent average. A year ago, 5-year ARMs averaged 2.91 percent.

  • 1-year ARMs: averaged 2.62 percent, with an average 0.2 point, rising from 2.54 percent last week. Last year at this time, 1-year ARMs averaged 2.41 percent.