The benefits and risks of shopping for property online

Today is “Cyber Monday”, a day when millions of people will take to their computers in search of extraordinary shopping deals and discounts.

The Internet has revolutionized commerce as we know it, and real estate is no exception to the trend. These days, it’s easier than ever before to hop online and market your house for sale or lease, or search available property listings for houses to buy or rent.

Sometimes, it’s tempting for people to think that real estate agents are a thing of the past and that they can leverage technology to go it alone in the real estate market. But, despite all of the benefits that technology can offer, there are reasons why representing yourself in real estate can be a bad idea.

If you’re offering property for sale or lease, a licensed real estate agent can offer important benefits. Agents can provide you with expertise on the local market so you make sure you don’t turn buyers away with a price that’s too high – or leave money on the table by under-pricing your listing. Agents also can guide you through potentially thorny issues like lead paint liability and the process of negotiating an offer. Most importantly, agents who are members of the Multiple Listing Service can post your listing online and expose it to thousands of other local agents and their clients.

If you’re in the market to buy or rent, the same benefits apply. Even though you can search Multiple Listing Service listings on countless online sites, your agent might be able to access additional information about those listings that is important to your decision. Agents also can set up private showings for you and help you tour property with a discerning eye. And, agents can be helpful in guiding you through the process of placing an offer, negotiating a price, and doing what you need to do to close.

So, as tempting as it might be to go it alone, we always advise people to work with a licensed real estate agent when they buy, sell or rent property. If you’d like to find out more about some of the benefits we could offer to you by serving as your real estate agent, please feel free to contact us. We’d be delighted to speak with you!

New Smoke Detector Regulations Take Effect on December 1

If you’re thinking about selling your home in the near future, take notice: the state law requiring you to have working smoke detectors in your home at the time of sale is about to change.

Effective December 1, 2016, the Massachusetts State Fire Marshal will require single- and two-family homes built before 1975 to have working smoke detectors that are properly installed, less than ten years old, and that have a sealed, non-replaceable, non-rechargeable battery inside. Among other updated rules, smoke detectors also must be photoelectric (or a combination photoelectric with ionization technology) and must have a hush button feature to silence nuisance alarms.

As always, homeowners selling property need to have a certificate of compliance from the local fire department before they sell their home. And with the new rules, homeowners need to know that older ionization sensor alarms that have a replaceable nine-volt battery – which are commonly sold at many home improvement stores and found inside many homes – won’t be enough to comply with state requirements.

The changes are being instituted in part because of evidence that several recent deadly fires in Massachusetts took place in homes that had smoke detectors that were not operational at the time of the fire.

“Last winter too many people died in homes without working smoke alarms,” said Peter Ostroskey, the State Fire Marshal. “No one thinks fire will happen to them, but a majority of fire deaths occur in homes without working alarms. Alarms that are easier to keep in good working order, should reduce the reasons people disable them.”

The rules themselves are comprehensive, so homeowners should be careful to read the requirements carefully to ensure full compliance. For more information, please click here (and make sure you check for the updated regulations to be posted after Dec. 1.). Also, be sure to check with your local fire department to see if there are more rigorous local rules in place and to find out how far in advance you need to schedule an inspection if you’re selling property.

Make the most out of autumn to get your home ready to sell

According to traditional wisdom, there’s not much that happens in the New England real estate market during the autumn and early winter months. Most real estate agents would probably tell you that fall is a time when the real estate market goes into virtual hibernation, with many potential buyers and sellers shelving their plans to move until spring.

However, that’s not always the best advice. The autumn months can provide lots of solid opportunities for people looking to buy and sell – if you know how to take advantage of them.

If you’re ready to put your home on the market, there’s no particular reason to wait until spring. The relative shortage of homes for sale during the autumn months can make your property stand out if you present it the right way. Plus, the heightened competition for property brought about by the lack of supply can encourage prospective buyers to pay a premium in some cases. Taking advantage of this situation generally means presenting your property to buyers in just the right way, and especially pricing it to sell.

Even if you’re convinced that waiting until spring is the right move strategically, the autumn months still can be beneficial for getting your property ready for sale.

It’s always a good idea to declutter a home as much as possible prior to marketing it for sale, and the cold weather months provide the perfect opportunity to go through your home and weed out anything you no longer need.

If you’re ambitious enough, you can go room by room and briefly empty out all of the contents – even furniture. Restore only what you really need, cleaning and organizing as you go. Consider selling or donating anything usable that’s left over. You’ll probably be amazed at how different your house will look when you’re done – and so will the buyers you invite in later. (Bonus tip – while you’re at it, don’t forget about attics, basements, and garage areas. They all count to buyers!)

As you’re going through and decluttering your home, take a look around at each room for any small maintenance items you can attend to this fall. Buyers are going to spend a lot of money on your house. In order to make your best impression, you want everything to be in top condition. Don’t wait for a home inspector to point out defects and for buyers to ask for money back. Put yourself in their shoes and fix whatever you find in advance. Now’s the time to fix leaky faucets, broken light fixtures, and surface blemishes. You can also repaint or resurface any areas that look like they need a good freshening up. Just be sure to hire a pro if you’re not the handy type, especially for bigger projects. Also, resist the temptation to ‘paper over’ defects that need actual repair.

Finally, fall can be a good time to make sure major systems in your home are working like they should be. For example, if your heating system hasn’t been serviced in a long time, call a technician to stop by and give it a tune up. If you have working fireplaces, consider calling a chimney sweep to get them cleaned before there’s snow up on the roof. And, always remember to make sure you have adequate, working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Buyers like to know that major systems have been properly maintained, so having an up-to-date service record can be handy. Best of all, you’ll benefit from having better working and more efficient systems all winter long, which can save you lots of money and frustration.

Want some more tips on how to prepare your house for a future sale? Give us a call, we’d be happy to speak with you!