Planning for the Future: Housing Options to Consider

It should come as no surprise that 75% of the senior citizens polled in the latest AARP Preferences survey strongly agreed with the statement, “What I’d like to do is stay in my current residence as long as possible.” After all, home is where the heart is; and the longer you live in a place, the stronger your attachment to it becomes.

But it’s important for those over 50 to assess potential lifestyle modifications that may be necessary down the road well in advance, because many will require significant research and preparation.

Whether you are planning for your own future or that of a loved one, analyzing new housing options before a change becomes necessary will help ensure you have the greatest number of options with the least amount of stress. Here are some considerations to help guide you or your loved one through the process.

Location and size

In planning for the future, communication with all involved parties is key to understanding where you or the senior in your life wants to be. Many seniors want to be close to family and friends.  Proximity or access to basic needs is also a critical consideration, especially for those who no longer drive.

Once an area is chosen, think about how much space is needed. Most seniors choose to downsize to a smaller home, and here are many advantages to this. A smaller home generally means less maintenance, lower mortgage or rental costs, and lower taxes. Less space can also be easier to manage. Single-level homes are a good option for those with decreased mobility and can help reduce the likelihood of falls and injuries. You’ll also want to consider whether a yard is needed, and whether you’d need someone else to maintain it.

Multi-family home

Multi-family homes, such as condominiums, cooperatives and townhomes, are well-suited for senior living, offering many options for budgets, maintenance and amenities. But most people don’t fully understand the differences between them.

Condominiums and cooperatives offer benefits of homeownership, but allow for certain expenses to be shared by all owners. Other benefits include security, shared building insurance and possible onsite amenities. Monthly fees are collected in both condominiums and cooperatives to maintain the property and any amenities, and both have elected boards of representatives who meet regularly to review operating expenses and building issues. Condominium ownership is based only on the unit, with taxes paid by the owner. In cooperatives, owners are shareholders, giving them sole rights and equity of their unit, but property taxes are shared by the building and included in your monthly fees.

Townhomes, on the other hand, allow for ownership of the structure and the land it sits on (front and back yards). Most are designed as row-houses, with one or two common walls. For those who prefer the legal rights of single-family ownership and do not want to pay monthly dues and do not want to pay monthly dues, a townhome may be the best option.

Drawbacks of multi-family homes can include noise from shared walls or floors, homeowner’s associations, monthly fees and CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions).


Renting can be a good way to avoid homeownership costs and maintenance. It may also be a more affordable way to live in a desirable area. Cons of renting can include noise through shared walls, the potential for your rent to increase over time, difficult or unreliable landlords, inattention to maintenance issues, and the possibility that you may need to move if the property is sold. It’s a good idea to talk to one or more current tenants of the rental to find out what their experience has been with the property and the landlord.

Alternative senior living options: independent and assisted

Another solution to consider for yourself or your family member is independent living communities (also called senior apartments, retirement communities, retirement communities, retirement homes and senior housing). Independent living communities provide privacy, independence, and the opportunity to connect with others without the demands of homeownership. They are usually full-service, offering meals, housekeeping, transportation and social activities.

For those who struggle with day-to-day living responsibilities, it may be time to consider assisted living arrangements. Some options include Adult Day Care, Elder Cottage Housing Opportunities (ECHO), Group Home, Special Care Unit (SCU) or Nursing Homes. Your state human resources department can usually provide more information about these options in your community and offer help with referrals, or you can opt for private referral services.

Financial factors

The costs for alternative housing can add up quickly—especially as the need for assistance increases. Medicare, unfortunately, does not pay for housing; but under strict financial restrictions, Medicaid may. To get a better feel for just how much these living arrangements can cost, visit and search the cost of long term care where you live.

If the choice is made not to move, you could consider a reverse mortgage. This allows homeowners over the age of 65 to tap into their home equity in lieu of a monthly payment, with no repayment necessary as long as the property is their principal residence and they meet all the terms of the agreement. Keep in mind, however, that if the owner sells the home, dies, or does not meet the terms of the agreement, they or their family will be required to pay the remaining balance of the loan.

Some states offer assistance with property tax, or special assessments for seniors based on age, disability and household income. Check with your State Department of Revenue to see what options exist in your state and whether you qualify. Long-term care insurance is another option. An LTC policy will help pay for the costs not covered by traditional health insurance or Medicare (which can include assistance with daily-living activities, as well as the care provided in a variety of living/care facilities).


For more help and information

Your Windermere Real Estate agent can help you make the transition when the time is right by assessing the local property market, helping you properly price homes for sale, and finding a new home that best meets the unique needs of you or your loved ones.

Posted July 20 2016, 11:00 AM PDT by Tara Sharp. See the original article here.


Posted on November 29, 2016 at 12:09 PM
Alysha Sherburne | Category: Articles, Buying, Lifestyle, Selling

7 Habits of Highly Effective Home Buyers

 Habit #1 – Be Proactive: Get pre-approved For Your Bank Loan

Mr. Covey’s first point deals with getting into the ongoing practice of being on the front foot, rather than living in a passive and reactive mode; not waiting for it all to happen for you but taking the first step.

If you are looking to buy, the foremost proactive task is to get pre-approval for your mortgage. Approach your bank and find out what is the amount and terms for which you can be approved, based on your current income (and expenses).

This is going to put you in the driver’s seat for the whole process – you will have a good idea of what you can afford, which in turn informs all your house-hunting and decision-making from here on out. Make sure you understand the difference between getting pre-approved and pre-qualified. Being pre-approved vs pre-qualified for a mortgage is not the same. Home sellers will want pre-approval! This will be the first meaningful task in preparing to buy a home.

If you’ve been dreaming about that ideal living space, in being proactive you will have begun your journey toward it!

“If I really want to improve my situation, I can work on the one thing over which I have control – myself.”
― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Habit #2 – Begin With The End In Mind: Determine what you want and what you need

Next, readers of the book are encouraged to envision a clear destination.

Our imagination is a powerful thing, and it’s useful for more than just coming up with ways to spend this week’s Powerball, or making up pranks targeted at friends, colleagues, and loved ones. We can use it to develop a vision of our future for us to work towards.

When it comes to buying a house, you can begin to envision what you want.

Which area would you like to live in? What house style interests you? Garden or no garden?

Moreover, ask yourself what you need: how many bedrooms do you require for your current and future family size? Do you need space for the number of vehicles you own? Space for all your appliances? Maybe there are some specific desires surrounding the type of neighborhood you want?

Build a picture of the desired end towards which you can begin to move.

“Start with the end in mind.”
Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Habit #3 – Put First Things First: Take a reality check

Now that you have identified what your end goal is, and also what your budget will allow, you can begin to put first things first.

For house hunting, this entails getting a realistic idea of what’s out there and available.

Using technology this can be done from the comfort of your own home.

Jump online and you can quickly get an idea of how the market is looking. Some sites even offer virtual guided tours of potential homes.

At this stage, you could even begin to drive through your desired neighborhood on a Sunday open house and begin to see for yourself what’s on the market.

Nothing beats first-hand experience to get a feel for what is realistic!

Using these methods you will build a solid profile of what your ideal spot could look like.

Some buyers become disappointed or frustrated by leaving out this step, having a mentality which says “I want it all right now”, setting the bar for their purchase way too high.

They want their perfect dream home for a low, low price.

Indeed, the overarching theme of Mr. Covey’s book is how we set ourselves up for failure to reach the desired result not primarily because of external forces, but because of our own perceptions.

Taking a reality check at this stage will equip you to engage with the market.

“To change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.”
Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Habit #4 – Think Win-Win: Aim high but be flexible

Most buyers have an idea in their head of “The One Home.”

This “One Home” is the home I’m supposed to encounter that will make me deliriously happy by checking all my requirements and coming in way under my budget.

“It’s out there for me and I just have to find it.”

Your reality check in the previous point will probably already have shown you that “The One Home” is a unicorn.

There’s no such thing!

However, this point right here will help you to see that even if the “One Home” does not exist, it is still possible to be effective in reaching the desired result: a home that will give you the optimum long-term benefit and satisfaction for your investment.

Thinking “Win-Win” is about finding solutions that work for all parties involved – for example, you can get a great house at the right price without fleecing the seller.

To find your “Win-Win” property, as opposed to the unicorn, will require flexibility and negotiation. You may have to compromise on some of your nice-to-haves on the property in order to secure the best possible arrangement.

Win-Win” thinking says, for example: “Ok, I wanted a house that was ready to move into right away, but here is a decent house in a good area which can be turned into a great house with some renovation, and I’ll still come in under budget.”

Or, “Look, I’m spending a fraction more than I had originally planned, but this house checks all the boxes and will give us space into which we can grow.”

Be flexible and find your Win-Win!

“Happiness, like unhappiness, is a proactive choice.”
Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Habit #5 – Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood: Understand the process of buying and selling

What a great fifth habit to have under your belt: Understand, before being understood.

What makes Mr. Covey’s philosophies so good is that they deal with improving one’s character, not just quick fixes that only scratch the surface of the issue!

When it comes to buying a house, what you need to understand is the process of buying and selling.

You don’t have to have a degree, or train to be a real estate agent yourself, but it will help to find all the vital information.

Don’t be scared to ask questions! Understanding what to do before buying a home is vital!

After all, buying a home is one of the biggest investments a person can make!

If you have a question about anything from paperwork to repayments to closing dates to mortgages, just ask!

A good person to ask is your local real estate agents – if they aren’t equipped to answer your question directly, they can put you in touch with the necessary professionals!

According to Mr Covey, when we try to offer advice, or assert our own desires, or bring a solution, without first understanding the problem, we set ourselves up to be ineffective.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Habit #6 – Synergize: Empower yourself with the right real estate team

There are those who have more experience than us in any given area.

Rather than re-invent the wheel for ourselves, we can benefit from the learning and experience of others.

We already saw in the last point some of the advantages of being able to ask a good real estate agent for answers to some of the fundamental questions.

Sure, you could do it yourself!

You might conceivably even save some money by doing it yourself!

However, by and large, when you weigh the benefit in terms of your investment of time, and the avoidance of unexpected hassles, generally speaking, making use of these specialists in their fields can pay for itself, so to speak, by saving you time as well as headaches.

Your small team could involve a competent real estate agent, a qualified conveyancing attorney, a reputable mortgage broker and the best home inspector available.

You could also involve a trusted friend or family member who can look at the prospective property with you and point out pro’s and con’s you may have missed.

In addition, give weight to what your spouse or immediate family has to say – after all, they will be living there too!

“When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.”
Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Habit #7 – Sharpen The Saw: Enjoy learning from the entire experience

Every first-time buyer can relate to the rush of making their first purchase.

When the offer is accepted, a celebratory notification is sent to family and friends, loaded with party emoticons.

When the mortgage is approved, we crack open the champagne!

Going through the process can involve ups and downs, but when you reach your goal it is worth it.

Buying shouldn’t be something to endure but something to enjoy.

And, even when there are those disappointments that might come along the way, you are learning and growing from the entire experience.

You come out on the other side of the process with broader shoulders and more life experience. When things are thought through carefully there is  rarely any home buying disappointment.

So, if you’re ready, jump in!

Be proactive, have the end in mind, stay grounded in reality, think “Win-Win”, increase your understanding, work in team, and be learning and growing.

You will be an effective home buyer!

And of course, be sure to stock up on a bottle of your favorite Champagne!

“To learn and not to do is really not to learn. To know and not to do is really not to know.”
Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Hopefully, you have enjoyed these tips for becoming a more effective home buyer. Put the advice to good use and you will be well on your way to enjoying the fruits of your labor.

Written by Bill Gassett – See the full article at:

Posted on November 21, 2016 at 10:47 AM
Alysha Sherburne | Category: Articles, Buying

How to Finance a Vacation Home That’s Also a Short-Term Rental

This was posted in the Wall Street Journal:


Renting out a second home is one way to pay off the mortgage while leaving time for family fun

Anya Martin

The rise of short-stay rental sites like Airbnb and HomeAway is tempting homeowners to purchase vacation homes that will also generate income.

For some, renting is a way to recoup some costs of a second home purchased primarily for family fun. Others do the math and find it makes sense to rent full time or close to full time.

Rental income can also defray the cost of improvements if the second home is a fixer upper, says Brian Sharples, CEO of HomeAway, which has more than 1.2 million paid listings in 190 countries. Vacation homeowners make an average of $28,000 a year in rental income, according to results of a quarterly survey released in March of 1,253 owners who list on, and

In a separate annual HomeAway survey released in June, 70% of 663 respondents said rental income covered more than half of their mortgage payments. Fifty-four percent said rental income covered 75% or more of their mortgage payments. Owners also used the income to fund their everyday living expenses (23%), upgrade and renovate the property (23%), pay for a child’s education (21%) and save for retirement (11%).

Last year, the average purchase price for a vacation home in the U.S. was $192,000, according to the National Association of Realtors. Of the 920,000 vacation homes sold, 61% were financed with a mortgage. ( News Corp, which owns The Wall Street Journal, also owns, the listing website of the National Association of Realtors.)
Overall, home prices have been rising over the past few years in most vacation hot spots. But buyers also should consider that interest rates are low, says Don Ganguly, CEO of HomeUnion, a California-based residential investment and management firm. “It could be the perfect window to blow cheap money into an area that is doing well and rents are going up,” he adds.

Buying a property solely for rental income has its risks. And how the property is used affects the borrower’s mortgage options. Both conforming and jumbo mortgage rates for a second home usually are equal to or within a quarter of a percentage point of current market rates for a primary residence mortgage, says Norman T. Koenigsberg, president and CEO of East Brunswick, N.J.-based First Choice Loan Services. Lenders typically require a minimum down payment of 10% for conforming loans and 20% for jumbos on second home mortgages, he adds.

Also, the lender will factor in the borrower’s existing home payments as well as the new mortgage payments when calculating the debt-to-income ratio, which reflects the borrower’s monthly debt payments as a percentage of gross monthly income. Lenders prefer a ratio that is 43% or lower, but some will go up to 45% for an otherwise strong applicant, Mr. Koenigsberg says.
However, if an owner plans to rent the home most of the time, a lender will categorize the property as “investment,” making it ineligible for a second-home mortgage, says Dave Gorman, Bank of America sales executive for the Northwest region. Qualification guidelines are tighter for investment-home mortgages, including a higher minimum credit score, higher down payment (25%), and a lower DTI, he says.

On the plus side, projected rental proceeds may be included in income calculations for an investment-home loan, Mr. Gorman says. If a home hasn’t been previously rented or is a new property, the lender will consider comparable rental income for the area, he adds.

Here are a few more considerations:

• Local regulations. Some counties and municipalities consider vacation-home rentals the same as hotel stays and require owners to collect occupancy or lodging taxes from guests. Communities also sometimes limit the number of homes that can be rented on a temporary basis, so vacation-home buyers who intend to rent should check for any local restrictions before purchasing, Mr. Gorman says.

• Budget fully. While borrowers may be able to afford another mortgage payment, they should be comfortable paying for the property taxes, insurance and upkeep of any property they own and finance, Mr. Gorman says. Remember these expenses remain even if there are no renters, he adds.

• Repair and write off. If the vacation home is rented, expenses related to repairs, maintenance, cleaning and utilities may be tax deductible, either fully or prorated based on the time it’s rented. However, costs for improvements must be capitalized and then depreciated. Check with a tax expert for specific rules and restrictions.

Corrections & Amplifications:
Investment-home mortgages may require a higher down payment of 25%. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the down payment could be 75%. (Aug. 3, 2016)

Posted on September 8, 2016 at 9:48 AM
Alysha Sherburne | Category: Buying, Financial, Lifestyle, Vacation Rentals

Homebuyers May Benefit from Stock Meltdown

This was sent to us by Tammy Pollard, Sr. Mortgage Advisor with Paramount Bond & Mortgage Co, LLC

Despite the facts that the Federal Reserve recently raised interest rates, U.S. stocks are tumbling and new worries about the Chinese economy seem to emerge daily, there is still a positive outlook for homebuyers.

All the worries about China that have assaulted the U.S. stock market in early 2016 have done the opposite for bonds. More money pouring into Treasurys has driven mortgage rates to a two-month low. A 30-year mortgage slipped below 4% in mid-January.

The housing market had already been steadily gaining ground even before the latest drop in rates. Actually, it’s been one of the strongest parts of the economy over the past year. Sales of new and previously owned homes are likely to finish 2015 at the highest level since before the Great Recession.

What’s more, the number of permits to build additional homes is on track to reach an eight-year high. Work on new construction is forecast to rise to a 1.19 million annual rate in December from 1.17 million in the prior month. Starts will top the 1 million mark for the second straight year. Just six years ago, builders were producing fewer than 600,000 new homes a year.

Sales of existing homes, meanwhile, are expected to hit a 5.15 million annual rate in December and finish the year about 25% higher compared to the post-recession low. Most economists predict new construction and sales will increase again in 2016, aided by a much improved labor market.

The Fed raised a key short-term rate in December for the first time in nearly a decade, and the central bank is widely expected to push rates even higher in 2016. Yet so far that hasn’t translated into upward pressure on long-term Treasurys or home mortgages. Right now investors are more worried about whether a slowing Chinese economy will hurt the rest of the world.

The higher cost of buying a home could act as another repellent. Prices rose in 2015 to levels last seen shortly before the onset of the Great Recession in late 2007. An expected increase in home construction could make it easier for buyers, though. Permits for new construction in November, for instance, were almost 20% higher compared to the same month in 2014. A greater supply of homes for sale would help hold the line on prices.

Posted on January 22, 2016 at 8:58 AM
Alysha Sherburne | Category: Buying, Financial

2016 Home Sales Will Be Best in a Decade, With Surprising Hot Spots, Predicts


December 2, 2015

Total homes sales next year are expected to reach the highest levels since 2006 on the back of new construction and the existing housing market, reported Wednesday.

The report contains several surprises. Among them, Providence, Rhode Island, ranked as the hottest market for 2016, and millennials are expected to make up the biggest demographic of homebuyers next year.

Sales of existing and new home sales are expected to reach 6 million for the first time since 2006. The pace of growth of existing home sales and prices is expected to slow to 3 percent but remain strong overall. Meanwhile, new home sales are seen increasing 16 percent. anticipates new home starts will increase by 12 percent.

And those new homes are becoming more affordable, Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke said Wednesday.

“What you’ve seen in the last couple of years is that builders have been avoiding that more affordable entry-level price point,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

“We’re already seeing movement. Last week’s report on new home sales showed that the median new home price is finally coming down, and that’s a good sign that builders are positioning communities and product for a more affordable price.”

That is helping to draw in millennials, who are often viewed as absent from the housing market.

Americans ages 24 to 35 accounted for 30 percent of the existing home sales market in 2015, according to National Association of Realtors data cited by Smoke.

“That’s higher than it has been the last couple of years and trending towards normal, which is more around 36, 37 percent,” he said.

Smoke noted that’s top 10 hottest housing markets for 2016 contained other surprises, in addition to top-ranked Providence: St. Louis; New Orleans; and Virginia Beach, Virginia.

While all the areas on the list have strong economies or improving prospects, those four areas are about four years behind other markets in the recovery, and their economic outlook for 2016 is particularly strong, Smoke said.

Posted on December 9, 2015 at 11:50 AM
Alysha Sherburne | Category: Buying, Financial, Housing Market, Selling

How to Survive the 4 Common Mortgage Killers

A lot of detailed documentation is required when applying for a home loan these days. You can expect to show everything from full tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements, to letters of explanation regarding credit, debt, income and assets. However, that leaves quite a bit of room for challenges to pop up. Here are four common roadblocks you may encounter in the mortgage underwriting process, and how you can fix them:

1. Changes in Your Income

Let’s say the underwriter determines – based upon your pay stubs and tax returns – that your income is lower than what the loan originator said it was. An easy way to offset that is a written verification of employment (VOE), which specifies and breaks down your income. This is especially important if you’re an hourly wage earner with fluctuating income – such as varying hours worked, bonuses, or overtime – that has not been consistent for most of the past two years.

2. Your Debt Eats Up Too Much of Your Income

You might encounter a problem if your consumer debts, such as student loans, credit cards and car loans, are just too large for the mortgage amount you’re applying for. If your debt-to-income ratio exceeds 45%, to still qualify, you’ll need to make a change in any of the following ways:
a. Reduce the payment on the mortgage
b. Reduce and/or remove the payments on the consumer loans
c. Re-evaluate the income

3. Paying Off Your Debt… the ‘Wrong’ Way

When you pay off consumer debts to qualify for a mortgage, the account(s) must be closed as well. This can be a problem, as closing credit cards can have a negative impact on your credit score.

An alternative option involves getting an updated credit report that shows that the debts are paid off in full without any payments due. The key is to make absolutely sure each creditor whom you paid off in full specifically reports to each credit bureau a zero balance and a zero payment due.

4. Negative Events on Your Credit Report

Lenders run each borrower through a comprehensive background screening through multiple fraud databases, which would identify any other problems that may arise – such as a short sale or any property you were tied to in the past seven years. If any other unaccounted-for properties pop up, documentation will be required to either show the property is no longer yours, or it was sold, or the carrying cost of that property would be factored into your debt-to-income ratio.

If you are not sure about something financially related to your loan application, just be sure to ask your Paramount mortgage banker. Should any unforeseen roadblocks pop up in your mortgage loan process, call your loan officer right away to explain the situation and get a read on what type of documentation will be needed to satisfy the condition and/or the problem. Our experienced loan professional can guide you through to a successful closing.

Posted on November 27, 2015 at 8:51 AM
Alysha Sherburne | Category: Buying, Financial

Do you welcome a new home with any of these traditions or superstitions?

Written by Anne Reagan for
October 20, 2015

It can be very stressful to find a new home, pack up belongings and coordinate a move to a new location. Despite the stress of a move, many of us take the time to ensure that our new home is ready for our family. Maybe you’ve lit a candle on the first night in a new home or said a prayer or blessing. Whether you call them traditions, rituals or superstitions, let’s take a look at some common, and perhaps not-so-common, ways people welcome themselves into a new home.

Paint Your Porch Haint Blue
If you grew up in the American south you may be familiar with these words. But if you didn’t here’s the scoop: haint blue is the color of paint applied to the ceiling of a front porch. Why? “Haint,” another word for haunt, has its roots steeped in old Gullah traditions (the Gullah were descendants of African slaves and lived in the Lowcountry regions of South Carolina and Georgia). Tradition holds that haint spirits cannot cross water, so painting a home with blue is a symbolic way to keep away bad spirits. Originally, this paint was created by hand mixing pigment with lime to create a paint. Some theorize that the blue color also tricks mosquitos into leaving, as the color looks like the sky. However it was more likely that the lime in the paint actually deterred insects, not the color. It’s not uncommon in the South to see homes painted blue not only on the porch ceiling but around the doors, windows and other details like interior walls and shutters. Is there one particularly color of haint blue? No, it’s more of a range of blues and you can find porches and homes painted with any blue from indigo to sea glass green.

Light A Candle On Your First Night
A candle can be a great housewarming gift. It is believed that lighting a candle helps ward off evil spirits by adding light into the home and symbolically casting out darkness. In many religions it’s common to light a candle when saying a prayer or as part of an offering. A house “warming” can also mean lighting a fire in the fireplace, which was also an old tradition that has it’s roots in medieval life. Fire is a very strong symbolism for strength, purity, and represents good. Similarly, lighting a candle on the first night in a new home can help bless the home and bring light into a dark space.

Bring Bread & Salt
Possibly derived from Russian Jewish origins, bread and salt represent two very important symbols of hospitality. Some believe that the very first items brought inside a home should be a loaf of bread (so that the inhabitants never know hunger) and salt (to always have a life full of flavor). Bread, a staple at nearly every meal, was a sign of hospitality not just in Jewish tradition but in European tradition as well. Salt, once so valuable it was used as currency, is another important sign of hospitality and wealth.

Ring A Bell
For practicing feng shui homeowners, auspicious rituals and traditions like ringing a Tibetan space clearing bell can help clear each room in the new home of stagnant of or dying chi (si chi). Opening up windows, turning on fans, and letting in the sunlight are other ways to welcome in auspicious feng shui chi, which is what you want in your new home.

Tie A Holy Thread
Traditional moving-in and Buddhist housewarming rituals are plenty and are generally thought to bring good luck and blessings upon the home. In Thai culture, an odd number of monks are invited to the house (even numbers of monks are considered bad luck) for a house blessing, or Khuan Ban Mai ceremony. Presenting gifts and special foods are a usual part of the ceremony, as is tying Sai Seen (holy thread or string) around the wrists of the family members and around the home’s statue of Buddha.

Burn Sage
Sage smudging, or the burning of dried sage, is a traditional method of clearing out negative energy in a space. Directing the smoke into the corners of a room can clear energy and add protection from negativity. This practice is thought to be derived from Native American traditions (where Salvia apiana, or white sage, is plentiful). According to some practitioners, it’s important to light the sage, gently blow out the flame, and then let it smoke on its own (do not snuff out the lit sage). Place it in a fire safe bowl or container. Aboriginal traditions also encourage covering up mirrors, windows and turning off electronics when performing a sage smudging ceremony in a space.

Boil Milk & Rice
According to Vasthu Sastra Indian tradition, milk and rice are boiled until it overflows the pot, symbolizing purity and long life. There are many Indian housewarming traditions, including bringing a cow inside the home and placing a garland around its neck. In fact, moving into a new home (either rented or purchased) is considered only second in ceremonial importance to that of a wedding, and many acts are performed to bless the home and ward off evil spirits.

Prepare A Housewarming Meal
In old French speaking countries, the changing of the chimney hook (pendaison de crémaillère) signified the start of the housewarming thank-you meal, served to those who helped build the home. The cooking pot would hang from a hook inside the chimney over the fire, and it was the last piece to be put into place when a home was built.


Thai Housewarming Traditions

Vasthu Sastra Indian Housewarming Traditions

Feng Shui Moving In

Sage Smudging Ceremonies

Posted on October 20, 2015 at 1:16 PM
Alysha Sherburne | Category: Buying, Lifestyle

What You Need to Know about Real Estate Appraisals

Posted in Selling and Buying by Tara Sharp

Appraised value vs. market value

Appraisals are designed to protect buyers, sellers, and lending institutions. They provide a reliable, independent valuation of a tract of land and the structure on it, whether it’s a house or a skyscraper. Below, you will find information about the appraisal process, what goes into them, their benefits and some tips on how to help make an appraisal go smoothly and efficiently.

The appraised value of a property is what the bank thinks it’s worth, and that amount is determined by a professional, third-party appraiser. The appraiser’s valuation is based on a combination of comparative market sales and inspection of the property.

Market value, on the other hand, is what a buyer is willing to pay for a home or what homes of comparable value are selling for. A home’s appraised value and its market value are typically not the same. In fact, sometimes the appraised value is very different. An appraisal provides you with an invaluable reality check.

If you are in the process of setting the price of your home, you can gain some peace-of-mind by consulting an independent appraiser. Show him comparative values for your neighborhood, relevant documents, and give him a tour of your home, just as you would show it to a prospective buyer.

What information goes into an appraisal?

Professional appraisers consult a range of information sources, including multiple listing services, county tax assessor records, county courthouse records, and appraisal data records, in addition to talking to local real estate professionals.

They also conduct an inspection. Typically an appraiser’s inspection focuses on:
•The condition of the property and home, inside and out
•The home’s layout and features
•Home updates
•Overall quality of construction
•Estimate of the home’s square footage (the gross living area “GLA”; garages and unfinished basements are estimated separately)
•Permanent fixtures (for example, in-ground pools, as opposed to above-ground pools)

After considering all such information, the appraiser arrives at three different dollar amounts – one for the value of the land, one for the value of the structure, and one for their combined value. In many cases, the land will be worth more than the structure.

One thing to bear in mind is that an appraisal is not a substitute for a home inspection. An appraiser does a cursory assessment of a house and property. For a more detailed inspection, consult with a home inspector and/or a specialist in the area of concern.

Who pays and how long does it take?

The buyer usually pays for the appraisal unless they have negotiated otherwise. Depending on the lender, the appraisal may be paid in advance or incorporated into the application fee; some are due on delivery and some are billed at closing. Typical costs range from $275-$600, but this can vary from region to region.

An inspection usually takes anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours, depending on the size and complexity of your property. In addition, the appraiser spends time pulling up county records for values of the houses around you. A full report comes to your loan officer, a real estate agent or lender within about a week.

If you are the seller, you won’t get a copy of an appraisal ordered by a buyer. Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, however, the buyer has the right to get a copy of the appraisal, but they must request it. Typically the requested appraisal is provided at closing.

What if the appraisal is too low?

If you appraisal comes in too low it can be a problem. Usually the seller’s and the buyer’s real estate agents respond by looking for recent and pending sales of comparable homes. Sometimes this can influence the appraisal. If the final appraisal is well below what you have agreed to pay, you can renegotiate the contract or cancel it.

Where do you find a qualified appraiser?

Your bank or lending institution will find and hire an appraiser; Federal regulatory guidelines do not allow borrowers to order and provide an appraisal to a bank for lending purposes. If you want an appraisal for your own personal reasons, and not to secure a mortgage or buy a homeowner’s insurance policy, you can do the hiring yourself. You can contact your lending institution and they can recommend qualified appraisers and you can choose one yourself or you can call your localWindermere Real Estate agent and they can make a recommendation for you. Once you have the name of some appraisers you can verify their status on the Federal Appraisal Subcommittee website:

Tips for hassle-free appraisals:
•What can you do to make the appraisal process as smooth and efficient as possible? Make sure you provide your appraiser with the information he or she needs to get the job done. Get out your important documents and start checking off a list that includes the following:
•A brief explanation of why you’re getting an appraisal
•The date you’d like your appraisal to be completed
•A copy of your deed, survey, purchase agreement, or other papers that pertain to the property
•If you have a mortgage, your lender, the year you got your mortgage, the amount, the type of mortgage (FHA, VA, etc.), your interest rate, and any additional financing you have
•A copy of your current real estate tax bill, statement of special assessments, balance owing and on what (for example, sewer, water)
•Tell your appraiser if your property is listed for sale and if so, your asking price and listing agency
•Any personal property that is included
•If you’re selling an income-producing property, a breakdown of income and expenses for the last year or two and a copy of leases
•A copy of the original house plans and specifications
•A list of recent improvements and their costs
•Any other information you feel may be relevant

By doing your homework, compiling the information your appraiser needs, and providing it at the beginning of the process, you can minimize unnecessary phone calls and delays.

Posted on October 19, 2015 at 2:13 PM
Alysha Sherburne | Category: Buying, Selling

Buying a Second Home First


Some New York City renters are skipping the typical first rung on the urban homeownership ladder: Instead of investing in an apartment, they are buying a country house. Disappointed by what their budget will buy in the city, they are still living the American dream of having a place of their own, if only on the weekends, in the Catskills, at the Jersey Shore or in Connecticut.

For less than $350,000 — an amount that barely buys a studio in brownstone Brooklyn these days — they are finding that they can afford homes with three bedrooms or more on several acres of land, sometimes on lakefront property, or with a pool. For those with as much as $2 million to spend, the options range from turn-of-the century mansions to sprawling estates.

Graeme Sibirsky and China Aroh Sibirsky are both artists and educators who live in a three-bedroom apartment they rent in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. With a $600,000 budget, they initially searched for a house of a similar size to buy deeper in Brooklyn, looking as far as Mill Basin, Canarsie and East New York. But within their budget, they found that the places they could afford were smaller than their current apartment. “If we are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, we need to feel we upgraded, not downgraded, our living space,” Mr. Sibirsky said.

Switching gears, they cut their budget in half and began searching for vacation houses upstate, in Sullivan County and Orange County, N.Y., and the Poconos in Pennsylvania. “We wanted to start investing in real estate, so we decided to start with a vacation home that was more affordable, can be rented on Airbnb and would be fun to enjoy ourselves, and with family and friends,” he said.

Searching on their own and with Carol Malek, principal broker at Malek Properties in White Lake, N.Y., the couple has homed in on three houses ranging from $225,000 to $325,000 — a three-bedroom with a pool; a smaller house on a lake; and a five-bedroom that needs renovation. While each has its trade-offs, Mr. Sibirsky said, “overall, you can get a nice vacation-weekend-summer place for a smaller amount of money.”

No one tracks the number of second-home buyers who continue to rent in the city. But real estate agents in weekend destinations throughout the Hudson Valley and other second-home markets within an easy drive of New York City, including Bucks County, Pa., Litchfield County, Conn., and the Jersey Shore, report an uptick in sales from urbanites eager to get into the market while interest rates remain low.

“We’re seeing this now more than ever before because prices are historically high in the city,” said Kathy Braddock, a managing director of the New York City office of William Raveis, which also has offices in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine and Vermont. While there always have been New York City renters looking to buy weekend homes, she noted, demand has been so strong that the company is introducing a new division this month called Raveis Escapes, to cater to New Yorkers shopping for their second home first. “A lot of hard-working young people can’t amass a down payment that’s substantial enough” to purchase something in the city, she said, noting that many co-op boards require sizable liquid assets in addition to hefty down payments and closing costs. “But they still want the benefits of homeownership.”

Gary DiMauro’s real estate agency upstate caters to city dwellers in search of a bucolic escape, with offices in Tivoli, Hudson, Catskill and Rhinebeck. “The city has boom-and-bust periods in which people feel locked out,” he said. This time around, he said, the heated New York City market is sending not only first-time home buyers with tight budgets his way; it is also sending people who can afford multimillion-dollar apartments in the city but are simply discouraged by their options.

One client that he works with “could spend $3 or $4 million for an apartment in the city,” he said. But for what he and his family need, “they would have to spend $6 or $7 million.” Instead, they are renting in the city and looking for a second home upstate in the $2 million range.

“I asked him, ‘Do you have any reservations about buying a second home first instead of making what would traditionally be the typical purchase of your primary residence first and then look to a second home?’ ” Mr. DiMauro said. “He said, ‘If I feel that I find what I want up here, at a price that is fair market value, I’m fine with the math.’ ”

Last year, Chris and Aileen Bruner, who rent a three-bedroom on the Upper West Side but had previously owned homes when they lived in other cities, decided to buy a weekend house in the village of Tuxedo Park, N.Y., a gated community. Less than 40 miles from Midtown in a rural corner of Orange County, it has houses ranging from $550,000 five-bedrooms to multimillion-dollar mansions situated around three lakes, according to Robert Silvay, a salesman at Tuxedo Park Fine Homes.

In Manhattan, said Mr. Bruner, who works in the financial industry, “We can afford the cash outlay to rent a nice apartment but not necessarily the capital and long-term commitment to buy a similar-sized apartment.” The couple bought a $1.75 million lakefront three-bedroom on nearly two and a half acres that came with an electric-powered boat. Now, on weekends and summer breaks, they kayak, swim and play tennis or golf with their 10-year-old son at the local country club. “Buying there has been a great value from a lifestyle perspective,” Mr. Bruner said.

Mr. Silvay of Tuxedo Park Fine Homes said he is seeing a lot more people like the Bruners coming up to shop for weekend homes. “Half of them are renters, which is more than we’ve seen before,” Mr. Silvay said. “Most people are in the market to find a place to take the kids away from their two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan.”

Down at the Jersey Shore, Diane Turton Realtors, with offices up and down the coast, reports a 10 percent increase in New York City buyers this season. “These are folks who are renters in Manhattan and are buying at the Jersey Shore for weekend getaways,” said Perry Beneduce, the firm’s marketing director. “They find it easier to get to than the Hamptons, and more affordable. They want to be able to jump in their cars at a moment’s notice and get to the beach in an hour.”

Part of the reason first-time home buyers are considering second homes is that rising rents have made it difficult for first-time buyers to save enough for the hefty down payments required to buy in New York City. The median sales price in the second quarter was $980,000 in Manhattan and $605,000 in Brooklyn, according to reports from Douglas Elliman. Moreover, too few listings are pushing up the price of starter apartments.

“You have many consumers that really have a drive to purchase their primary residence, but it seems so far away,” said Jonathan J. Miller, the author of Douglas Elliman’s market reports and the president of the appraisal firm Miller Samuel. Even though plenty of urban professionals are making good money, he said, “they’re relegated to their lot in housing life for the moment, because they can’t necessarily compete with more affluent consumers.”

Outside the city, these renters are finding not only that their budgets will go a lot farther, but also that less cash is required upfront, and there is less pressure to rush into a purchase. And though real estate prices in some second-home markets have risen, they are still a relative bargain compared to the city.

“It sounds crazy; you don’t own but you’re already planning a vacation house,” said Adam Friedman, 35, who sells medical devices and has rented in Manhattan for 12 years. “But let’s be honest. What I can afford in the city would be through a co-op, and the requirements are tough. They want more liquidity than I have right now.”

Mr. Friedman decided to begin searching for a weekend home after visiting some friends upstate who had made a similar move. Recently, he has been eyeing property along Connecticut’s southeastern coast. “Eight rooms. Four-bed, two-and-a-half-bath ranch-style, with a one-car garage, for a whopping $309,000,” he said, reading from a listing in Groton, Conn., he had jotted down recently. “Come on. Where’s my checkbook?” For that price in Manhattan, he said, you would be lucky to get two parking spots.

It helps, of course, if your rent is manageable. Though they’ve been together for more than a decade, Stefan Weisman and his partner, Sean Mills, both college professors who teach in Queens, have each held onto their separate rent-stabilized apartments in the city. “It’s totally a New York story,” said Mr. Mills, who has lived in the same Cobble Hill duplex for 22 years that he rents for approximately $2,070 a month. “It’s the kind of thing that you don’t give up without a really good reason,” he said, acknowledging, “you would think that a strong and solid and consistent relationship would be the best reason of all.” Mr. Weisman pays about $1,500 for his two-bedroom in Hell’s Kitchen.

They had all but given up on the idea of formally moving in together when Mr. Mills visited a friend near Woodstock, N.Y., and persuaded Mr. Weisman to start looking for a home to buy upstate. “When we found out interest rates were really low and the Catskills was a good deal, I kind of pushed forth and we went for it,” said Mr. Mills. In February, the couple bought a $188,000 two-bedroom, log-sided cabin on eight wooded acres in Big Indian, N.Y.

Inside the Tuxedo Park house. Credit Preston Schlebusch for The New York Times
There are fruit trees in the front yard and a creek in the back. Nearby are a lake for swimming and boating in the summer, and a ski area for the winter. When they are not there, the couple said, they rent the cabin out on Airbnb, which helps them cover the mortgage. “It was the solution to our stalemate about moving in together,” said Mr. Mills. “He loves Hell’s Kitchen. I love Brooklyn. We both love our house in the Catskills even more.”

First-time home buyers shopping for a weekend getaway need to consider repairs and general upkeep, including keeping the lawn cut during the summer and the driveway cleared when it snows in the winter. “When you rent, or have been in an apartment, for years, there’s that ‘Oh my gosh’ wake-up call,” said Anne Loftus, an executive recruiter based in Manhattan. “ ‘Where’s my super?’ ”

Ms. Loftus and her husband, Michael, an investment professional, both in their early 50s, sold their Upper East Side two-bedroom of 14 years in 2007, downsizing to a one-bedroom rental. Five years ago they bought a four-bedroom with a pool and privet hedges on an acre in Bridgehampton, N.Y., for less than $2 million. Though it wasn’t the first time they owned a home, maintaining a weekend house was an adjustment after years of apartment living. “The first couple of years, if the alarm went off, I’d drive out there,” said Ms. Loftus. But over the years, they’ve developed ties with neighbors who keep an eye on the house for them during the workweek, as well as a list of contractors they can call if something goes awry.

City folk should also be prepared for up-close encounters with country creatures. A few weeks ago, after a meteor shower lit up the sky with trails of light, Mr. Weisman heard a commotion outside the sun porch in the Catskills.

“I turned on the light and it was a big black bear pulling at the bird feeder,” he said. “It was scary. I had not seen a bear in my life. I was literally two or three feet away from it.”

After spotting evidence around the fruit trees in the front yard that the bear had been back, he decided to call the town hall and ask for advice. “The lady basically laughed at me. She said, ‘It’s the Catskills, everybody has bears in their front yard.’

Posted on September 16, 2015 at 11:44 AM
Alysha Sherburne | Category: Buying

Should You Buy or Rent?

Do you dream of owning your own home? Or are you happy to rent a place where a landlord takes care of all your home issues? There are pros and cons of both renting and owning your home. Here are some issues to consider if you are on the fence:

Posted on September 9, 2015 at 2:12 PM
Alysha Sherburne | Category: Buying, Vacation Rentals