RE/MAX Collection Tom Carroll



Broker/Owner RE/MAX Partners
Serving the Andovers Since 1993
RESIDENTIAL REAL ESTATE
GLOBAL RELOCATION

Do Open Houses Work?

This is a common question - do open houses work?  And who really benefits from them?  Like most things in life, there are pros and cons.  Let's take a look at them.

 

The Pros:

Those in favor of open houses, raise your hand!  

- A lot of buyers are waiting in the wings and will want to see your house as soon as it's listed. It can be annoying and nerve-wracking to get a ton of calls to schedule - and reschedule - appointments and keep the house in top shape 24 hours a day. It's not always easy to vacate the premises, especially on short notice, but you don't want to turn down a showing request unless you absolutely must.  It's a better use of your time to make plans to head out for a day or two the first weekend the house is on the market, and let your agent do an open house or two. This will allow a number of people to view the house in a somewhat leisurely fashion, ask your agent questions, and decide if they really are interested in the house.  Often people aren't really interested, but are curious neighbors or "tire kickers" who aren't ready to buy or who just like to go to open houses!  Let these people come in with the group of serious, potential buyers instead of wasting your time and energy on private showings.

- An open house, particularly in a fast moving market like we're experiencing now, can create a sense of scarcity and urgency.  Buyers will see all the other potential buyers crowding into an open house and will feel thta they must make an offer.  It's obvious, isn't it, that if all these other people are looking, it must be a great value?  This is known as the auction effect, and it can be very beneficial to a seller.

- Open houses are a great way to collect a lot of great feedback from a variety of sources.  Feedback from buyers directly is important, as is professional feedback from other agents.  While everyone has their own tastes and opinions, if you hear the same feedback over and over again, you need to take it to heart.  Address those items and issues, as they are likely the very things that will prevent you from getting an offer - or at least prevent a serious offer from coming in. 

- Unique properties can benefit from open houses if their special features can't easily be seen or appreciated in photos and writeups. Sometimes you just have to get up close and personal to fall in love with a house! 

The Cons:

A study by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) found that the success rate of open houses is a mere 2% to 4%. Similar studies in other countries have mirrored these results. 

- Some agents and sellers consider an open house a waste of everyone's time, particularly if you use the NAR findings above. With the easy, instant availability of listing information online many people don't feel the need to rush out to an open house.  They can peruse photos and other information at their leisure, at any time of day or night.  If the photos pique their interest, they'll make an appointment to see the property at a conveninet time.

- Some agents are nervous about their personal safety, no matter what type of neighborhood the property is located in. Stories on the news about Realtors being abducted or assaulted have led to increased concern for safety, and caution should always rule. Sellers are sometimes concerned about the personal belongings, and just don't like the idea of strangers roaming through their house.  Just having that "For Sale" sign outside your home can feel invasive, so if you're not happy with the idea of a group of people coming through your home, let your agent know.

- Many sellers believe that an open house is used by their Realtor as just a way to find new clients.  But while an agent may meet buyers who don't want to purchase your home, it doesn't mean that a buyer who will love your home won't come to the open house. In addition, everyone who does come to the open house knows other people who may be in the market for a house just like yours.

 In the end, talk to your agent, who will be able to give you advice on a total marketing plan - with or without open houses!

 

Is a 55+ Active Adult Community the Right Fit for You?

Is moving to a 55+ community on your radar?  

There are a number of 55+ communities springing up here in the Merrimack Valley, and indeed, around the country.  If you're thinking of downsizing and moving to an Active Adult community, there are a number of things to consider. What is most important to you? Each community is different, some offer a couple amenities, some offer a whole laundry list!  Amond the top reasons people move to an Active Adult community:

1. Fun Social Activities

Most adult communities offer a wide range of activities from book clubs to golf leagues to yoga classes and more. You can go to all of them, some of them or none of them. You don't need to convince your spouse to do things you like but he/she doesn't enjoy. And you don't need to plan activities yourself unless you want to take on the role for the association.  

2. Amenities And Affiliations

Some adult communities are built around amenities like golf courses, tennis courts, fitness centers or marinas. Choose one that features the amenity you most enjoy and you’ll be surrounded by neighbors who share your passion.  That will make finding a golf partner or a bocce lover easy for you!

3. Security

The most secure 55+ communities are gated and have visitors check in with a guard, or require a key or code to get through a gated entry.  Plus, there's almost always someone up and about to keep an eye out for strange goings-on!

4. Maintenance Free Living

Tired of cleaning the gutters, mowing the lawn, shoveling? Most 55+ communities have a homeowners association that takes care of maintenance for you. In such a community, your exterior maintenance is likely included in your monthly fee. With someone else doing those outdoor chores, you have more time for all those activities you love that you haven't been able to enjoy.

5. The Right Home for Today's Living

As we age, our chances of having a disability increase. Adult communities feature floor plans designed to help you age in place. With all those fitness classes, you might not need a single-story floor plan or a doorway wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, but it’s nice to know you won’t have to move if you do need those features as you age.  Single family homes and garden style units feature everything you need on one level.  No need to climb stairs to get to your bedroom or haul down to the basement.

There are some things to consider before choosing your new community:

1. Climate -- If you are considering moving south or southwest for the next chapter of your life, take into consideration the weather. The not-so-good thing about living in the sun-drenched south is it gets hot and humid in the summer. Make sure you and your body are prepared for the summer months. And be prepared for family and friends looking to stay with you in the winter months!

2. Home size -- This might be a good time to downsize and eliminate some clutter or furnishings you don't really need anymore. Along with the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, take into consideration how your utility costs might change, and how property and income taxes will be affected in your new area. Research property and income tax laws to get an understanding of how your new home size will be taxed, along with your retirement benefits. Don't forget to take into account any condo or community service fees.

3. Lifestyle -- Your new lifestyle is on the way. But how does your personality fit into this new life scenario? With age-restricted communities, you can make instant connections with your new neighbors. That can be good, or not-so-good depending on your luck of the draw. For the community itself, scope out the activities list to see what appeals to you. You can't control your neighbors, but you can whittle down your choices based on what the community offers. "Birds of a feather" and all that.

The Final Decision

In the end, it can be hard to let go of the home where you raised your family, or where you've lived for decades and formed strong friendships and community ties.  Whether you decide to downsize or not, it is worth at least considering. You don't have to move to a new city or state to find a nice condo or a smaller home that provides you with simpler living. And you don't have to move far away from family, grandkids and friends to downsize to the perfect community.

 

HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE FOR A CONDO

When you own a condo, your unit belongs to you, but you’re subject to the bylaws of your community association. That means you need to have the proper coverage, as outlined by your condo association.  The association will have a master insurance policy to cover general liability claims for the building and common areas. Your personal policy needs to cover the structural parts of your condo that you solely own, as they won't be covered by the master policy.  This policy is called an H06 policy for condominiums.

Make sure your personal policy also includes liability coverage even though you are covered under the general liability coverage in your condo's master policy. Your own liability coverage will protect you if a guest is hurt inside your unit, or if you or a guest casue damage to the common area or common physical structures.  even if the association has coverage, they can seek redress from you if you are shown to have been negligent.

When you’re reviewing the actual coverage, keep in mind two important considerations. When given the option of replacement coverage or actual cash value coverage, choose the former.  Cash value coverage is cheaper, but actual cash value policies reimburse you for what you paid for the items you lose, minus depreciation. So you may save money in the short run with cash value coverage, but when depreciation is factored in you will most likely wish you had sprung for that actual cash value coverage!

With replacement insurance, you’re reimbursed for what it will cost to replace your possessions at today's market value.  You may also want coverage for loss of use. This reimburses you for the expense of a hotel room or other temporary accommodation if you're temporarily forced out of your home. Loss of use coverage is usually limited to 20 percent of the personal property limits on your policy.

When you purchase individual coverage, keep in mind that premiums, types of coverage, and limits are affected by factors such as:

  • Your geographic region          
  • Your credit score
  • Claims filed by you and anyone who lived in your condo over the past five to seven years

Talk to your insurance agent about what discounts the company offers for things like:

  • Installing smoke detectors
  • Adding a security system and deadbolt locks
  • Bundling your condo and car insurance with same company
  • Maintaining your home as a non-smoking environment
  • Obtaining a wind mitigation certificate for your roof

Raising your deductible can also lower your premium.  Keep in mind, though, that if you choose a higher deductible, you'll pay for smaller claims out-of-pocket. Handling smaller claims yourself is a good practice under any circumstances because too many small claims can raise your rates significantly.

Whatever you do, be sure to speak with at least one insurance agent to compare carriers, costs and coverage!

THINKING OF INVESTING IN A VACATION HOME?

Looking to buy a vacation home? There are many benefits of this type of investment.

 

 

Keep reading to find out how you can reap the rewards that come with a second home. 

Mortgage-Interest Tax Deduction

Whether you rent it out or not, you can deduct the mortgage interest as long as you use the home more than 14 days or more than 10 percent of the number of days the home is rented annually at a fair rental—whichever is longer.

Qualified second homes include houses, condominiums, cooperatives, mobile homes, house trailers, boats or similar properties that have sleeping, cooking and toilet facilities.

Here's an interesting twist on the mortgage interest deduction: if you take out a home equity loan on your first home and use the funds to acquire your second home, the interest on the home equity loan is also deductible. That's three mortgage interest deductions off your tax return!

(Consult IRS Publication 936 for a complete discussion of how mortgage interest for a second home is deductible.)

Purchase Your Future Retirement Home Now, at Today's Prices

Though your second home may be a vacation home now, if you buy right you can convert it into your principal residence later. This way you can lock in the price of the home you'll retire in at today's market prices. 

Vacation Homes Produce Their Own Income

Renting out a second home occasionally or often can help you pay for the property with OPM (other people's money). Check with your tax advisor about how much of the upkeep and management expenses are deductible against your income.  Although you may be able to generate rental income from your vacation home, it may not cover your ownership costs. 

Consider Different Styles of Properties in a Vacation Area

To minimize upkeep and have a more secure environment, a condo may be preferable to a single-family home. If you plan on converting it into a retirement home, consider what type of home you'll want as a full-time residence.

And When You're Reading to Start Searching, You Know Who to Call!

MORTGAGES: CONDITIONAL APPROVAL vs. PRE-QUALIFICATION vs. PRE-APPROVAL vs. APPROVAL

It can be confusing enough to buy a home and apply for a mortgage, but adding in terms like "pre-approval," "pre-qualification" and "conditional approval" may just put you over the edge!

Prior to beginning a home search, you should get in touch with at least one mortgage professional in order to truly determine how much house you can comfortably afford.  The lender will ask you some basic questions, such as information about your income, debts, savings, etc.  The lender will run a credit report and using that and the information you've provided, the lender will give you a general purchase price.  If yoyu're buying a condo, this number will fluctuate depending upon the monthly association fee and what's included - or not included - in it.  This was called a pre-approval until somewhat recently.  Now it is called a pre-qualification.  The pre-qualification will tell you how much you are eligible to borrow. Once you have this in hand, you can start house hunting in earnest. A pre-qualification is provided by a mortgage professional or broker (the person you contact to start the mortgage process) and is based on a review by the loan professional of the information you have provided about your financial situation.

Once you have an accepted offer on a house you will need to provide additional, more detailed financial documents to your lender, along with information about the specific property you are purchasing.  Your lender will order a bank appraisal on the property and will send that and your financials to underwriting.  Mortgage underwriting is a process by which a lender determines if the risk of providing you with a loan falls within allowable parameters. An underwriter conducts a strict review of your documents to make sure your information matches what you originally provided to the loan professional.  As the underwriting process moves forward, there may be some additional conditions that need to be met before the loan is finalized. This will result in a "conditional approval."  The conditions that must be satisfied are listed, and are usually things like:                  

  • Final employment and income verification                                   
  • Most recent pay stub
  • Most recent bank statement
  • Proof of homeowner's insurance
  • Gift letter for any funds being given to you                                                  

This information is required before the loan is completely approved. A conditional approval comes from the mortgage company (not the person you applied through). If the conditions aren’t met, you might not be able to close on the loan.

Buyers with a conditional approval for a home loan are at risk for denial if they fail to meet any of the conditions laid out by the lender.

Here are a few reasons why you might be denied:

  • The underwriter is unable to verify the data you provided
  • The home you are trying to purchase has an unexpected lien.
  • You experienced a decrease in income.
  • You had negative entries on your credit report that weren't previously disclosed or discovered

Once all conditions are met, your loan will be approved and you will be able to close on your new home!

It can seem like an arduous process, but it is being done for your long term financial protection.  And you can take solace in the fact that everyone else who is buying a home is going through the same process!

 

History and Customs of Independence Day

Most of us learned early in school that we celebrate the Fourth of July (officially, Independence Day) to commemorate the Continental Congress and the original thirteen colonies claiming their independence from England. We celebrate the day to remember the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the birth of our nation. The Fourth of July has been a Federal holiday since 1870, but in 1941 it became a paid holiday for Federal employees. These days, most people get the day off with pay, making for an even more enjoyable holiday!

 

While residents have celebrated the holiday since 1776, things really haven’t changed a whole lot. John Adams and others who signed the Declaration envisioned a day filled with “pomp and circumstance” such as fireworks, games, bonfires and other festivities. The first commemorative fireworks were set off on July 4, 1777 in Philadelphia and Boston. Within a few years fireworks were widely available and celebrations included all sorts of pyrotechnic colors and displays, much as we see today.

An interesting note is that John Adams (known as a man of very strong opinions) believed July 2nd should be the date to celebrate, since that is the date the Continental Congress voted for independence. He would later make his protests by turning down invitations to appear at July 4th events. Ironically, he passed away on July 4th (1826).

So while you’re watching the televised fireworks over the National Mall in our nation’s capitol or singing along with the Boston Pops and watching the fireworks on the Esplanade, you’ll be carrying on a tradition as old as our nation!

WHAT'S UP FOR THE WEEKEND?

It's officially summer and there's a lot to do this weekend!  

 

June Picnic Concert, Stevens Coolidge Place in North Andover

Saturday June 24 from 4-7 pm

Enjoy the gardens while listening to live music by the band Cold Chocolate. Food and beverage trucks will be there or bring your own picnic. More info at www.crossroadsmusicseries.org

 

Amesbury Days, throughout Amesbury (Main St, Friend St, Upper Millyard)

Through Friday June 30

So many events! So much fun! Check the website to see times and locations of Art Show & Sale, kids art workshops, Strawberry Festival, Classic Car Show, Brewfest and sooooo much more!  www.amesburydays.org/events

 

Hula Frog, events throughout the Merrimack Valley

Hulafrog compiles a list of fun things to do with your kids.  Some of the events planned for this weekend include Martin's Pond Children's Fishing Derby in North Reading on Saturday from 8-11 am, Drop-in Painting and Kitten Corner Hour in Tewksbury on Friday at 10 am, and Sprinkle Donuts Workshop at TasteBuds Kitchen in North Andover Saturday at 9:00.  

Check the website for the full list at www.hulafrog.com/merrimack-valley-ma

 

Dads and Donuts, Memorial Hall Library in Andover

Saturday June 24 at 10 am

Dads and kids are invited to a special pre-school story time followed by a craft - and donut holes, juice and coffee.  A great way to start the day.

 

Summer at the Stevens (Memorial Library) in North Andover

Saturday June 24 from 10-3

Kids age 4 and up can create a work of art with Rob Surette to be displayed in the Children's Room! More info on this summer children's program can be found at www.stevensmemoriallib.org

 

Farmers Markets! Andover, North Andover, Haverhill 

It's the season for farm-fresh fruits and vegetables.  Come support your local farmers while picking up delicious and healthy food!

Saturday from 10-2 in Andover and 9-1 in Haverhill; Sunday from 10-2 in North Andover

 

St. Peter's Fiesta, Gloucester

Events throughout the weekend at Pavilion Beach and St. Peter's Park

Greasy Pole contest, boat races and blessing of the fleet, music, kids' events and, of course, food! for more info go to www.stpetersfiesta.org

 

Movies, local theaters

Looking to cool off? Check out some of the new family-friendly movies playing locally, including Cars 3, The Mummy  and Captain Underpants (all also playing in 3D), and The Book of Henry.

 

Open Houses, Sunday

Take a peek at some of the newest homes on the market in Andover and North Andover!, including:

51 Enmore St (open 11-1:30), 96 Maple Ave (open Sunday 2-4), 30 Burnham Road and 41 Clark Road in Andover

93 Putnam Road and 49 Equestrian Drive in North Andover.  

For times and additional open houses, check Zillow or andover-topbroker.com

Phone Scams Increasing

FOR AS LONG as there have been telephones, there have been crooks trying to call and steal your money. What is new is the sheer volume of unsolicited calls that Americans endure each year — over 29 billion in 2016 alone by one estimate, including lots of potential rip-offs. No wonder fraud complaints have increased nearly 60 percent since 2010, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Scams are continuing to show up across the country this year.

The voice on the other end of the line claims to be an IRS criminal investigator. Arrest is imminent if you don’t immediately pay thousands of dollars in back taxes. Individuals are instructed to put $500 on multiple iTunes gift cards and give up the 16-digit codes. Don’t be fooled. The IRS would never ask a taxpayer to buy iTunes cards for any reason.

 

Internet scam artists create little boxes that pop up on your computer screen, telling you that you have a virus and need to call for technical support. Don’t believe it. Computer companies never notify customers of a problem through pop-ups, unless it is from virus-protection software that you installed.

 

You get a call from someone posing as a sheriff’s deputy claiming you’ve missed jury duty and owe the county a $1,000 fine. Pay immediately, the caller says, or you will go to jail. Rest assured, no sheriff or court will call you and demand payment like this for missing jury duty. If you get this call, hang up, then call the police and report it.

 

 A con artist calls and tells you that you have won the Australian (or Jamaican) lottery. All you have to do to collect is wire $1,500. Don’t do it. Lotteries never call to give money to people who haven’t even bought a ticket.
 
You get a call from your bank that there is a problem with your account. To straighten it out they need your account number, date of birth and the last four digits of your Social Security number. Hang up. This is a scam to get information to hack your account.
 
Don’t let crooks scare you off from answering a call.

1. Do some research. Google the salesperson and company before you buy. Explore their reputations thoroughly. If you can’t locate solid information, walk away.

2. Don’t react out of fear. No matter how threatening or urgent their script, do not act immediately. Always hang up and give yourself time to think it over and check them out.

3. Trust your instincts. If a caller sounds fishy, hang up. The chances of losing out on a great deal are much less than losing your nest egg. 

IT'S ICE CREAM SEASON!!!

 

Aaaaah, those lazy days of summer when we were kids, waiting impatiently for the ice cream truck to come up the block with it's tinny music blaring from the roof-top speakers.  Now that our tastes are a bit more refined - or perhaps the ice cream truck no longer makes it to you neighborhood - here are some fabulous local places to get ice cream!  

 

One of the newest players is Town Market Andover in Andover.  Inside you'll find everything you need to keep you fueled for the day, including breakfast, lunch and dinner offerings, beer and wine tastings, and of course, Ice cream! 

Another newcomer to the field is Cows Rock in North Andover's Old Center. Cows Rock serves Richardson's ice cream, Richie's Italian Ice, coffee, bakery treats and sandwiches in a quaint brick building next to the common.

Speaking of Richardson's, the kids always enjoy a visit to the "real" Richardson's in Middleton, where the ice cream is made.  The cows can often be seen in the fields, and if you're looking to burn off some of the ice cream calories you can play mini golf, go to the driving range or hit the batting cages.

A couple other places that offer loads of entertainment along with awesome ice cream are Jay Gee's Ice Cream and Fun Center in Methuen where you can play mini-golf, drive the go-karts, use the batting cages or hang out in the arcade.  Kimball Farm in Westford is always a hit, and you may want to plan on spending a few hours there! You may not know where to start with things like bumper boats, zip line, pony rides, pitch and putt, country store and more to keep you busy.  Just be sure to end with an ice cream, it's totally worth the drive!

Looking for some history with your ice cream? Check out Putnam Pantry in Danvers, home of the original ice cream smorgasboard. Enjoy your overflowing sundae in an antique house turned shop, and don't leave without getting some hand-crafted chocolates or other candy made right on site.

Heritage Farm in Lowell offers not only delicious ice cream and treats, but is also well known for it's motorcyle and classic car nights.  The kids (or adults) can enjoy their ice cream while checking out the night's collection of vehicles.

Not to be missed is Benson's Homemade Ice Cream in Boxford, a staple since 1932.  Benson's is famous for making fresh native fruit flavored ice cream and toppings, including strawberry, red raspberry, peach and blueberry.

Finally, Carter's Ice Cream in Bradford is another long time area favorite.  The ice cream is made on site and new flavors are constantly being experimented with, such as pumpkin and salty chocolate caramel crunch.

 

Summer always seems to go by quickly, so get your ice cream before the sad day the stands close down for the season! 

 

WHY IS SUMMER THE PERFECT TIME TO LIST YOUR HOME?

THE TOP 5 REASONS TO LIST NOW

 

 

1.  Inventory Decreases in June & July

The number of new listings typically decreases in the early Summer following the rush to sell in the Spring. As inventory starts to drop, competition increases as buyers have a smaller selection.

 

2.  Price Benchmarks are Established

The Spring market traditionally sets buyers’ price expectations, so by June home prices have trended toward their peak.

 

3.  Days are Longer

Daylight Savings Time offers more time for showings that illuminate your home in natural daylight, creating greater exposure to more buyers.

 

4.  Nature is in Full Bloom

Landscaping thrives in the spring and early summer months, setting the perfect stage to showcase your home.

 

5.  Family Decision Time

Families take time during the Summer for vacations and celebrations.  New statistics show these months have become prime time for family decisions regarding their next move.  Listing your home now capitalizes on these new buyers entering the market who are looking to settle before the Fall.

 

Contact me if you're thinking of selling and I will be sure your home is market ready so you can take advantage of the "hot" summer season!