5  Inconvenient Truths About Finding a Good Real Estate Agent

Finding a good real estate agent may not be as easy as searching Google or Yelp, read on to learn why you can’t believe everything you see on the Internet when it comes to real estate.

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 1.05.40 PM1.     The “Premiere Agent” on Zillow has paid to be in that #1 position. Many agents pay third party search engines to pop up at the top of the list of real estate agents in your area. This truth extends to Realtor.com, Trulia.com and Yelp.com. Many times, your top local real estate experts who provide exceptional service and results stay in business through repeat clients, past client referrals, and general “word-of-mouth” networks. Ask your colleagues, friends and family who they recommend before jumping on the internet to look for an agent.

2.     All “public” websites that provide house searches include “for sale by owner” properties. Many buyers are thrown off guard when they find out that the house listed on Realtor.com and other real estate websites may not necessarily be offered through a real estate agency. Buyer beware as dealing directly with the owner may result in a “lopsided” transaction where the buyer is not aware of traditional real estate practices in their local area and many times is at a disadvantage dealing with the seller.

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 1.34.09 PM3.     Internet sites that promote “We will match you with a Top Agent” usually send your information to several agents that have signed up for that websites services. These agents scramble to be the “first” to contact you and the agents pay a hefty “finder” fee to the service.

4.     Reviews may not tell the whole story about an agent. While it’s interesting to read the 5 star reviews, sometimes when you see a “plethora” of them you may need to ask “Why are there so many reviews for this one agent?” There are no rules or regulations governing the procurement of these reviews from previous customers. Let that sink in.

5.     Sometimes your “marquee agents” burn and churn their clients. Again, the agents that pay to show up on searches may not be the type of agent that you are looking for. Many so-called “top” producing agents are working with multiple agents on their team who are doing most of the work with the buyers and sellers. You may not have access to the “top agent” at all.

 

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Hurricane Season in Vermont?

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P: Mashable

This year, as Texas and Florida recover from Harvey and Irma, respectively, we are reminded how the weather effects the real estate industry. Yes, occasionally there is a rogue hurricane that whips through Vermont and causes flooding havoc like Hurricane Irene in 2011. But, for the most part, Vermont’s weather tends to be best known for cool autumn evenings and long, cold winters.

If you’ve lived in New England you know the saying, “If you don’t like the weather wait a minute and it will change.” Now, more than ever this seems to be the case. On the heels of a few weeks of cool, fall weather early in September many of us removed our window air conditioner units. Now, since the air conditioners are safely tucked away until next season, we are experiencing high humidity and summer-like temperatures that reach 80+ degrees during the day. It’s tough to think about mums and pumpkins when your annuals are still blazing with color.

What does this mean for Vermont real estate? It means that our local market is sensitive to changes in the weather. When it’s hot and humid few people find it appealing to look at houses. When it’s raining and snowing buyers like to look on-line rather than “in person.”

Roberts FallBut, does the real estate market slow down in the fall? How about winter? Years ago, real estate was more of a “seasonal” business, and, in some parts of the country it still is. Real estate market statistics are useless unless you see a “seasonally adjusted” number along with the monthly charts.

On the Weaver Team we have experienced the ups and downs of the years and the seasons, though none of our “trends” seem to hold from one year to the next. On one year we can have a record breaking December and the next year, not so much. A “January thaw” can jump start the next year’s sales. Due to the unpredictable nature of the weather and the market, it seems like real estate is turning into a year-round business, no longer dependent on the infamous “spring market.”

Many of our sellers decide to keep their houses listed and on the market through the holidays and winter months as the competition tends to drop off. We have sold houses right after major Nor’easter storms. You never know when a family will make a decision to make their home here, Home Sweet Vermont.

Specialist or General Practitioner?

19437377_1440448489379498_3950650927319035020_nDo you need to hire a “specialist” or do you need a “general practitioner” when assessing the best real estate agent when you are looking to jump into the real estate market as a buyer or seller?

If you come across a real estate agent that is touting themselves as a “specialist” here’s what you need to ask:

“I see you are a ‘Listing Specialist’ do you ever take buyers out to look at homes?”

“I see you are a ‘Buyer Specialist’ do you ever list homes and meet sellers?”

If the answer is no, then proceed with caution. The only way you can “specialize” in today’s real estate market is to understand the market from the buyer’s and seller’s unique perspectives, rarely do these overlap.

As a “general practitioner” I work with both buyers and sellers. The combination of meeting with sellers for listings and taking buyers on home buying tours invites a unique perspective on the whole marketplace, not just a segment.

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P: msrealtors.org

If you don’t take buyers to see houses, how do you know how houses compare to each other in your local market? Likewise, if you don’t counsel sellers on pre-marketing strategies, how do you know the best way to position their house in the market compared to other houses you have taken buyers to see? The short answer is – you don’t! You don’t know how houses compare in your local market place unless you are “all over” the market in terms of buyers and sellers.

Instead of a “specialist” you need a general real estate practitioner. Much like a family doctor who sees a wide range of maladies, your general real estate practitioner deals with the whole market, buyers and sellers. At the core of a general real estate practitioner, one who deals with buyers and sellers, is a true “specialist.”

 

6 Low-Cost Kitchen Cabinet Upgrades

If your kitchen cabinets look a little shabby, your whole kitchen will look outdated. No need to break the bank and completely replace the cabinets, just give them a simple facelift with one (or all) of our inexpensive kitchen cabinet updates:

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P: fanofugifts.com

Paint – Nothing will create a bigger impact than a fresh coat of paint. This is a project you can take on yourself, but the key is in the prep. Start with a thorough cleaning to remove any grease or dried on gunk. Fill holes and nicks with putty and sand to create a smooth, even surface. Lay cabinet doors flat to paint, and wait until completely dry before painting the other side. Create some visual interest by mixing up colors on upper and lower cabinets, or on cabinets and islands.

Hardware – Installing new hardware is probably the easiest way to dress up tired cabinets, but you need to be careful here as cabinet hardware can get very fancy and expensive. You can find simple, contemporary hardware in packs of 10 or 12 at Lowes or Home Depot.

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P: BHG

Ditch the Doors – Remove outdated cabinet doors and go for the open-shelf concept. They will make any kitchen look larger and you can accessorize the shelves to reflect your personal style.

Molding – Adding crown molding to the top of cabinets will add height and create a more high-end look. This added touch of luxury isn’t as pricey as you may think – three-inch, primed composite crown molding with a dentil design costs as little as $20 for 8 feet.

Glass Inserts – Changing or adding a decorative glass insert will give stock cabinets a custom look. Not all cabinet doors can accommodate a glass insert – check the backs of your doors to see if the center panel can be taken out. Glass inserts typically cost between $7 – $9 per square foot.

Task Lighting – You can easily add lighting under and inside cabinets with battery powered peel-and-stick LED lights. At about $8 each, you can afford to buy several and scatter them around. Under cabinet lighting is not only practical, it will also make the room feel much brighter and bigger as the dark shadows under the cabinets would otherwise visually shrink the space.

 

5 Tips to Make an Easy Move

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P: The Chicago Greenbox

Moving is stressful! Sure you are super excited about your new digs, but getting all of your things from point A to point B can be a pain. Follow our 5 tips for a stress-free move:

Use boxes wisely. Assign a set of boxes to each room, then pack like items together – glassware, linens, decorative items, etc. Make sure to clearly label each box with the room they are going to and what items are in the box – that way there will be zero confusion about where stuff belongs and you won’t need to open every box to find the silverware!

Pack for “a trip.” Pretend you are going on a 2 week vacation and pack a suitcase for each family member. That way, everyone will have what they need to function while things are packed away in boxes just before, during, and after the big move. Don’t forget to include valuables and important documents.

Get the essentials. To avoid several trips to the store on move day, buy everything you need for cleaning and organizing ahead of time. Get multi-purpose cleaner, paper towels,  a broom, shelf liners, furniture pads, etc. It also doesn’t hurt to include paper plates, plastic utensils, cups, and napkins for your first meal before unpacking. Pack everything in one box and keep it in your personal vehicle so you know where it is and can easily access it on move day.

Couple Moving Into New Home And Unpacking Boxes

P: iStock

Set up key areas. Once all of the boxes are in, start by unpacking the rooms you need to use to take good care of yourself. Set up your bed and put on the linens, stock the bathrooms with supplies, and unpack the kitchen.

Schedule breaks. You may just want to power through and get all of the boxes unpacked, but stopping to eat, taking a quick stroll through your new neighborhood, and going to sleep at a reasonable hour will keep you calm and energized.

Follow these tips for a smooth transition that will turn a traditionally stressful event into one of excitement!

Who Finds the House, Anyway?

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P: Realtor.com

When I first meet with buyers they ask, “Why do I need a real estate agent if I find the house?” They also show me the various apps they are using to search – Realtor.com, Zillow, etc. This is a good question, and one that many in the industry ponder. You enter your criteria on these websites, wait all day for your phone to ping, ring, or buzz, and then you contact your agent for a showing. Sounds easy, right?

After about three of these pop up showings, buyers tend to get discouraged. “But it looked so much better in photos,” and “I didn’t know that the neighbor had pit bulls until we drove up to the house,” are just some of the disappointments that befall the buyer.

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P: libn.com

And, to add to more stress and discouragement, some houses that pop up on your phone are not actually available to see as they may already be under contract with another, more fortunate buyer. Or, so the buyers think.

These scenarios occur when a buyer is “chasing the market.” You need to get ahead of the market by working with an experienced, professional real estate agent that knows the local market inside and out.

In fact, the house you are looking for is most likely going to be brought to your attention by your agent.

Since real estate expertise is something accumulated over years of going in and out of houses, townhouses, condos, and neighborhoods on a daily basis, it’s safe to say that an experienced agent will be able to find you a house that meets your needs.

Property MapOnce I know what you are looking for, I can “edit” the list of potential homes and hone in quickly on prime candidates. After we see a few houses together I will be able to figure out what will be ideal. What does that mean to you? It means you can relax. Don’t jump every time Zillow sends a notification. While it may meet your Zillow criteria, it may not meet your other wants and needs.

I only take on a few buyers at a time to give exceptional service and “house finding” expertise. Is the perfect house on the internet? Maybe, but an experienced agent will keep you “ahead” of the market, which is preferable to “chasing” the houses.

5 Ways to Boost Your Curb Appeal

First impressions are everything – you don’t want a potential buyer to pull up to your house and decide to not even enter because they don’t like the look from the outside. It’s easy to enhance your front yard with a few weekend projects. Here are our top 5 ways to boost your curb appeal:

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P: The Decorologist

Paint your front door. Adding a splash of vibrant color to your front door will create a welcoming entry and draw potential buyers in, and will only cost about $30 for a gallon of exterior paint. Check out DIY Network’s 28 Inviting Colors to Paint a Front Door.

Replace your house numbers. Installing new numbers on your house is an easy fix to spruce up your curb appeal. There are tons of options out there – choose metal numbers that match the finish of your exterior lighting fixtures or get a customized plaque that matches the vibe and style of your house.

Update exterior light fixtures. Replacing outdated light fixtures will immediately modernize the look of your entry. Look for fixtures that have the same mounting system as the current ones that you have to save yourself some time.

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P: Lowes

Add potted plants to your front porch. Add a pop of color to your entry with colorful pots filled with flowers, succulents, or ornamental grasses.

Tend to your yard and garden beds. A well-manicured lawn and groomed garden beds tell potential buyers that a home has been well-maintained. Cut your grass regularly and edge your lawn for a professional look. Weed your planting beds and spread mulch to give your landscaping a fresh appearance.

6 Best Bathroom Remodeling Trends for 2017

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P: Agnizer.com

Dreaming of that spa-like bathroom, but not sure if you should drop the money into a remodel? Springing for a new bath is typically a sound investment, often returning more than 100 percent of the cost. So go ahead and design the bathroom of your dreams! To help get the ideas flowing, here are our 6 best bathroom remodeling trends for 2017:

Increase the Size – Most bathroom renovations focus on increasing the room size to give the space an open and light feel. Adding square footage to the bathroom frees up area to install a separate soaking tub and shower, maybe a master closet space, and room to add much desired storage.

Heated Floors – Add a touch of luxury and comfort with some extra-added warmth. Radiant floor heat can make all the difference on a chilly winter morning, and it will warm you from the bottom up. If you can’t afford a new heating system for your floors, install a towel warmer so you can wrap yourself in warmth.

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P: HGTV

Upscale Shower – Start with a beautifully tiled shower and then up the ante to create the ultimate spa experience by installing multiple shower heads and body jets. If you can fully enclose your shower, add steam and a built-in bench to sit and relax as you sweat your cares away.

Cue the Music – Who doesn’t love singing at the top of their lungs in the shower? Wireless speakers are being incorporated into bathroom mirrors, showerheads, and vanities. Put on Pandora’s spa station and take a relaxing soak in the tub, or pump up the jams to get your morning going. Check out Kohler’s Moxie® Showerhead for a super easy way to add a speaker in your shower.

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P: Entirely Eventful Day

Smart Storage – Storage never goes out of style! Take advantage of vertical space and install floor to ceiling cabinetry. If built-in cabinetry is not an option, bring in an interesting piece of furniture like an antique armoire. Open shelving is still a popular trend that works in the bathroom – install floating shelves and neatly arrange extra towels and toiletries.

Go High-Tech – If you love smart home technology, don’t forget the bathroom! You can buy toilets with seat warmers and motion sensors, digital faucets with touchless technology, and soaking tubs with mood-enhancing lighting.

What is the Best Website or App for Finding a House?

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P: Realtor.com

Over the past several years the internet has opened up the “wide world of real estate” to buyers and sellers. Realtor.com and Zillow have been advertising heavily to promote the use of their websites and mobile apps for your home search. If you have been searching for a house for a while, you are probably asking, “Isn’t there anything else?” While each of these consumer sites has its pros and cons, the best source for up-to-date local real estate information continues to be your favorite real estate agent.

It’s happened to most all home buyers. After months of sitting on a couch perusing houses, photos, and prices you will have to email or call a real estate agent to see a house that you think may work. You finally take that next, bold step only to hear, “oh, sorry, that house is no longer available.” Or, “yes, that is a good price, all of the pipes have been stripped out and it needs to be a ‘cash only’ transaction.” Sigh, this is harder than you thought.

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P: Zillow

After several weeks of clicking on the “preferred” agent for an online property and fielding many call backs, you are frustrated. It’s not as easy as it looks on the Realtor.com or Zillow television commercial. First, some of the houses are no longer available for sale. Second, some houses have incorrect information. Third, some houses are ‘for sale by owners’ and what if you want to use a real estate agent? What is missing here? Do you feel like you are chasing the Holy Grail?

At this point in your search it is best to cut your losses, bite the bullet and make a call to find a professional, experienced real estate professional to help with your search. But why, oh why? Can’t you just continue to look on your own unhampered by another human? Yes, you can go it alone but you will continue to be frustrated. Best thing to do is ask your friends, relatives, and/or colleagues for a referral to a local, trusted real estate agent.

dscn2729The benefit to you, the consumer, is that once you have decided to reach out to a professional, you are in good hands. In the real estate world at KW Vermont, Keller Williams Realty, our culture of sharing and helping one another succeed results in a cooperative environment that may result in a quicker, smoother process. Some houses are not yet out in the “wide world of real estate” for various buyer or seller reasons. We work with buyers and sellers every day and network to find houses, sell houses and get our clients “out in front” of the market.

So, stop chasing houses. Get in “front” of the market. Ditch your app for a human.

5 Space-Friendly Ideas for a Home Bar

Love entertaining, but don’t have a dedicated bar area? You can easily create an on-trend home bar by carving out a small space in your kitchen, dining, or living room.

Here are 5 ideas to craft the perfect home bar:

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P: Wayfair

Bar Cart – All the rage these days, bar carts are a stylish and mobile solution for a home bar. Stock the cart with your favorite liquors, mixers, drinking glasses, and anything else you need to entertain. You can store the cart in a corner and roll it out for parties. Try something small and simple like this bar cart from Wayfair.

Bookshelf – Instead of filling all the shelves with books, use a few shelves for your bottles and cocktail glasses. You can dress up the shelves with some nice placemats and fun beverage napkins.

Armoire – Keep your booze and drinkware tidy and out of site by repurposing the top of an armoire into your own mini bar. Arrange your glasses neatly on the top shelf and your bottles on the bottom. Shut the cabinet doors when not in use and you can still use the bottom drawers for storage.

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P: Houzz

Floating Shelves – If you’re lacking extra floor space for a piece of furniture to use as a bar, floating shelves are a great option. Install a couple shelves above a dining buffet or on any blank wall. Display your favorite bottles and drinking glasses. You can also find floating shelves with glass holders, like this one from Houzz.

Dresser – Take a counter height dresser or chest of drawers, clear the top and use it as a home bar. Set your favorite spirits and mixers on one side, and glasses, straws, and cocktail shaker on the other.