Thursday, September 27, 2007

Reassessment in the City of Rochester

We got the letters in the mail several weeks ago announcing a reassessment of all residential and commercial property in the city of Rochester during the next four months. There was a neighborhood meeting last night with good information about the assessment process.

The city announced that on average, property assessments will go up 10 percent in order to have assessed values closer to market value. Of course, that fact caused many groans as most citizens thought that meant property taxes will go up 10 percent. The representative of the city assessor's office did a good job explaining that an increase in assessment doesn't automatically mean an increase in taxes. Tax rates are based on budgets and if the budget stays the same and all assessments increase the same amount, that taxes stay the same.

Of course, not all assessments will change the same amount. If that was the case, there would be no need to do the assessment. In some neighborhoods, properties are selling for less than what they were in years past and so those assessments will go down. The staff appraisers are in the process of studying recent sales in an effort to assign a fair market value and letters will be mailed in December to inform property owners of their new assessed value.

Property owners that disagree with their new assessments can request an informal hearing, which will be held December through February. If the issue is not resolved, the owner can apply for a formal hearing. THE DEADLINE TO APPLY FOR A FORMAL HEARING IS MARCH, 18, 2008 --NO EXCEPTIONS! Final assessments will be announced May 1, 2008.

What can you be doing about this? First and foremost, you need to make sure the city tax records are accurate. The letters mailed to us gave basic information such as lot size, sq footage, number of bathrooms. If you'd don't still have that letter, you can find your tax information on the city web site: . You don't want to pay taxes for an 1800 sq foot house if your house is actually 1675 sq feet! I will include some information at a later date about property values and how to determine if your property is fairly assessed.

Monday, September 24, 2007

First Time Homeowner Assistance

Last week the local real estate board hosted a real estate agent fair. Imagine this! Hundreds of licensed agents all under the same roof at the same time. Generally, I enjoy the fair because it's an opportunity to learn what is new in the market place. This year's event seemed rather bland. Most of the exhibitors were banks and mortgages companies and their message, loud and clear, was we're still in business.

I did pick up some updated information about the Monroe County Homeownership Program. It is a program created by Catholic Charities and includes education and financial assistance for individual and families with limited income. The organization provides credit repair and budgeting counseling as well as a match savings program. For more information, give me a call at 585-756-7457 or an e-mail.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

It's Busy Out There

My goal is to write here three times a week. I'm not doing so well at that. It's tough to be bright and witty when I'm struggling with grief and sorrow. But I'm getting a little better everyday.

I've buried myself into my work. Since I returned home, I've shown at least 25 properties, written 3 offers and received two offers on my listings. Lots of negotiations going on! I think it is a mad rush for Western New Yorkers to get settled before the snow starts flying.

I'll write again soon. I promise!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

I'm back!

My younger sister passed away this week after a long illness. I spent as much time with her as the Wake Forest Baptist Hospital ICU rules would allow. I think it was the most difficult week of my life.

I'm back to work now. It is the greatest distraction of all times.

Monday, September 03, 2007

It's All About Timing

I often tell my clients that the closing date on a purchase contract is much like a baby's due date. Not very many babies come into the world on their due date and not many houses close on the exact date in the contract.

"If you have to pick a perfect moving day, what would it be?" is generally how I start a discussion with a new client. And from there we try to put together a game plan that will accomplish their real estate agenda as close to the target date as possible. There are a lot of variables that come into play and it often gets complicated and unnerving. A current client of mine suggested that I address this topic in my blog and so here goes. Please keep in mind that there are no steadfast rules for real estate timing.

Usually the simplest transaction is a renter purchasing a single family home. Of course the first objective is to find a house. Some buyers will find them the first day out, but more likely buyers can plan on 2 to 3 weeks or more to locate the home of their drams. (And yes, I've have had clients with special needs that have taken more than two years to find exactly what they are looking for!)

The next step is coming to terms with the seller. Usually price is the biggest obstacle as the buyer wants as much money as possible and the seller wants to pay as little as possible. There are, however, other important terms of the contract, including type of financing, timing (does the seller have a place to go?), inspections and personal property included. My experience with negotiating contracts has been that by aiming for a win-win situation, will result in a smoother transaction from start to finish.

Every purchase contract should state a closing date, and as stated above, that date is simply a target that all parties aim for. Usually, financing dictates the targeted closing date, with most FHA and conventional mortgages requiring 45 to 60 days to close. It is not unusual for cash purchases to close in 30 days and SONYMA loans requiring 90 days.

Most contracts require that inspections be completed within a week of the contract being accepted and generally there are three days after the inspection for the buyer to request repairs in writing. If there are major deficiencies in a property, a deal can die here.

Most contracts require that the buyer apply for financing immediately upon acceptance of the contract and has a stated date to provide a mortgage commitment. In most cases, mortgage commitment is presented within three weeks of the contract being accepted.

Once that happens, the attorneys get busy with title work. Sometimes there are title surprises that can cause a delay. Things like fence agreements and mortgages that were not discharged are easy to take care of but take time that was not planned for. Once title issues are cleared up, the bank will issue a clear to close and closing is set.

An interesting twist to real estate timing is when buyers are relocating to the area to take a new job. Most banks will require a paycheck stub before they will issue a clear to close. This creates an interesting dilemma. Usually, you can't start to work until you have a place to live and you can't buy a place to live until you start to work. If you fall into this trap, your realtor may be able to help find temporary housing while you wait for your first check stub.
Another timing challenge is if you have a house to sell. There is no crystal ball to say exactly how long it will take to get an offer on your home and whether or not that buyer has a home to sell or other contingencies.