Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mayor Duffy Wants to Know What I Think!

No I didn't get a phone call! Or a personal letter! But I did get a survey stuck into our storm door.
It's number crunching time at Rochester's City Hall and Mayor Bob Duffy has asked for neighborhood feedback regarding fees, taxes and services.

"What are the most important services to you and your neighborhood?", the survey asks. To me, that's pretty easy. Police protection and fighting crime are utmost important to me. Keeping our streets clear of snow is also a priority and I sure feel better about our city when it is clean and clear of liter.

Next, the survey asks, "What services are nice to have, but you could live without if cuts had to be made?" That's a little more difficult question for me. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I've not been to the library in more than ten year, so that is a service I could life without. But a city without libraries, is almost as bad as cake without ice cream. My husband suggested that trash pickup be changed to every two weeks instead of every week, but I think that would be pretty stinky in the summer.

There are more questions, like "What are the City services that you and your neighbors believe you do not need?" I don't have an answer for that one. I can see what the mayor wants some advice, but hopefully he also surveyed people much smarter than I am.

I wish I had better answers for the mayor. Nonetheless, I'm glad he asked. It sure feels like he cares what I think and if I had some good ideas for him, he'd listen to them. Bob Duffy is one of the many reasons I'm glad I call Rochester home.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Practical Money Skills

There is a lot of talk in the Rochester and national media about the subprime mortgage mess. And it is very real. It has affected my business. I had three deals die this month that would have had no problem closing six or eight months ago.

The good news is that if you've got decent credit and some money for a down payment, there is financing available and the interest rates are very, very good. Paul Pastore, a big time ReMax agent in Arizona put it very clever words. He said, "The "wink, wink" zero-down, no-doc, adjustable, sub-prime loans are gone." But for the rest of us, it's a great time to purchase real estate.

Of course, not everyone has perfect credit, or even decent credit. I found a pretty cool web site for those that are willing to admit they need some help with money skills. Entitled "Practical Money Skills for Life," it has some really great resources, including a podcast center for those that don't like doing a lot of reading, fun games to pound in the message and a selection of calculators that help with budgeting or deciding how much mortgage you can afford. Interestingly, the site is owned and operated by Visa, yes the credit card people, that do tons of commercials that encourage us to go spend, spend spend by swiping our plastic cards. Nevertheless, I think the site is well done and would be interested in hearing what you think.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Carbon Monoxide - Avoid and Prevent!

While inspecting a Wyoming County home recently, I encountered another carbon monoxide concern. This is a good time of year to consider the potential hazards associated with Carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas produced by the combustion of fuels such as natural gas, oil, wood, and propane in devices such as furnaces, water heaters, and stoves. Harmful interior levels of CO can result from incomplete combustion of fuel, improper installation, or blockages, leaks or cracks in the venting systems.

The most recent issue that I found during a home inspection was a blocked hot water tank vent. Issues such as back drafting, disconnected or blocked vents (along with several other sources) can cause elevated CO levels and the results range from flu-like symptoms to death. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, carbon monoxide poisoning claims approximately 480 lives and sends another 15,200 people to hospital emergency rooms for treatment.

Sometimes I am surprised that people are living in a home with significant CO concerns. I wonder how many people suffer form CO poisoning and don't know what's causing it. Someone in a "tight" house might have symptoms with only minimal amounts of CO, while someone in a house with more air leakage might get away with no symptoms. There are many sources and factors related to CO poisoning- so get informed about your particular appliances and have them serviced regularly.

Also, remember that CO detectors usually only last for 5-10 years before replacement is recommended. Different types along with location of the devises need to be considered as well. If you have a CO detector that signals concern, open windows and ventilate your home with fresh air and contact a qualified professional to investigate. If your alarm sounds and you are drowsy or light-headed, leave the house and call 911 from your cell phone or neighbors home and consider a medical checkup for CO poisoning.

If you are suffering from chronic flu-like symptoms, see your doctor and ask him if it could be low-level CO poisoning. We should all be more conscientious of this leading cause of accidental poisoning.

Adam Backus- Pillar To Post

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why do I need an attorney?

One question that many buyers and sellers of real estate commonly ask, especially those from outside the upstate New York area, is “Why do I need an attorney?” In many areas of the country, real estate purchases, sales, and financing are handled by settlement or title companies, who usually are involved in all aspects of the property transfer—on behalf of the seller, the buyer, the lender. In virtually all of upstate New York, each party has the option to obtain their own lawyer to make certain that their interests are adequately protected. This is the case in the greater Monroe County area, whose realtors and attorneys have formed standard real estate practices that are also used in the counties of Livingston, Ontario, and Wyoming, as well as much of the Finger Lakes region, and a number of surrounding areas.

Although an attorney has numerous tasks and responsibilities in any real estate transfer, from a buyer or seller’s perspective, the benefits of hiring a real estate attorney fall in to the following general categories: (1) determining what is necessary to make sure the transfer is completed in a timely manner; and (2) protection of the client’s interests.

“We have to be in the house no later than February,” or “I must have this money before my daughter goes to college,” are very typical and real concerns for our clients. Since the process will differ depending upon the nature of the property being bought, sold, or financed (commercial, residential, agricultural, new-build, etc.), an initial analysis of the client’s goals are crucial to properly arranging a real estate transfer to meet their needs. By analyzing which steps need to be taken prior to closing a purchase or sale, we can advise clients on timing, potential delays, legal impediments or pre-conditions, and any actions that may be taken to make a deal go smoothly.

Of course, nobody wants to buy a “lemon.” Real estate, unlike a car, cannot be returned if it turns out to be rotten. Absent egregious or fraudulent conduct by one of the parties, a real estate transfer is usually final after closing. Even when one of the parties has done something clearly wrong, a long and expensive lawsuit may be the only resort to remedy the problem created. Problems stemming from the physical condition of a home or real property are just a part of the equation, as the legal “condition” of the property can greatly affect your use and enjoyment of the property.

As attorneys, our job is to help you understand the potential pitfalls and risks inherent in every real estate transfer, and help spot the ones that are unique to yours. If you are planning or investigating a potential real estate transfer and have questions, please call us or post a comment, and we will be happy to discuss it with you.

Kruk & Campbell, P.C.
Attorneys at Law
7312 East Main Street
P.O. Box 30-A
Lima, New York 14485
(585) 624-5030

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Opera, Paintings & Quilts, Oh My

Did you know that the Eastman Opera Theatre is performing This is the Rill Speaking this weekend? And the Susan B. Anthony Institute has a juried exhibit featuring art from undergraduates (preview here: ) The gallery is open seven days a week and is free to the general public. Call 275-8318 for details. And the Memorial Art Gallery has several awesome exhibits of quilt art going on this month.

Gosh, did I suddenly become sophisticated and cultured? No, not really. But I did find the University of Rochester online Events Calendar and it is jammed packed with really cool stuff to do each and every day. Check it out. You'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Closets - Clear Away that Clutter!

I recently went on a listing appointment in Irondequoit where the sellers had done all the right things. In the five or so years that they owned the property, they had installed new energy-efficient windows, replaced the old oil fired furnace with an efficient natural gas model plus added central air. The roof was newer, the interior was painted in tasteful colors and the yard was meticulous maintained. They were proud of their home and rightfully so.

Everything was nearly perfect until I started opening closets. It's not that they were horrible, they were just very, very full. And when I got to the basement, there was a room just jambed packed with stuff. You see, this family has a young child and another on the way. And young children require lots of stuff.
When I suggested that to prepare their home for the market, they empty the storage room and clear out their closets, they gave me one of those looks. It's like, what buyer is stupid enough to not know that the closets and basement will be empty at the time of closing? You know the look, right?
Cleaning out closets is all about subtle messages to potential buyers. If you've outgrown the home, as demonstrated by overstuffed closets, then maybe they will too. And they will move on to another home that feels bigger to them.
A well organized closet may even give buyers a sense of security about the maintenance history of your home. I once showed a property where even the attic had been recently vacuumed and the family's collection of used gift bags were organized by color, then size. It's like, wow, these people really take care of their stuff. It's a subtle message but one that could lead to a contract on your home.
The Rochester real estate market is pretty slow right now, but it almost always is in January. For most buyers, there are plenty of options and they can be picky. So if you are considering putting you home on the market, invest the time in clearing out those storage area. Honestly, it's worth it.
Mary Shelsby, ReMax First

Monday, January 14, 2008

Closing Costs Take 2!

Hello again! Hope everyone had a great holiday season. Lets jump right in, and finish this little mini-series on "Closing Costs". Today we will focus on the actual cost of getting a mortgage. As you may recall from "Take 1", this is the area where you want to focus on when shopping for a mortgage. Some of the fees will be the same regardless of where you get your mortgage, and some will vary from lender to lender.

Lets first look at the fees that would remain the same between lenders. Title insurance and mortgage tax are based on the loan amount, and would only change if the borrower were to put more or less money down on the house. The recording fee is the cost to put the mortgage on record at the county clerks office. The recording fee is not one thats dependent on the actual loan amount. Again, when looking at multiple good faith estimates, these three fees should be the same.

The other fees associated with the cost of getting a mortgage, is where we see a lot of variation bewteen lenders. Heres a list of the fees that are specifically from the lender and the average cost of each fee: appraisal fee ($275 for a single family house and $450 for 2-4 unit house), tax related service fee ($80), flood certification fee ($18), Admin fee/underwriting fee/commitment fee ($495), application fee ($200), courier fee ($30), and Bank attorney fee ($450). To give you an idea of the variation, I totaled these fees up from four lenders I work with, and here are the results: $1516, $1571, $1545, and $1539. As you can see, there is some difference between these four, but the difference is minimal.

Well that will just about wrap it up for closing costs for now, but if you have any questions, feel free to call or email me anytime. Also, if theres a specific topic you would like me to cover here in the blog, just let me know and I would be happy to write about it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

State of the Finger Lakes

Most people think we had a wind storm yesterday. Actually, it was me on a whirlwind tour of the Finger Lakes. I had clients yesterday from Costa Rica that love summers on the Finger Lakes and so we looked at property on five of the lakes. So this seems like an excellent time to give a market report.

Conesus Lake continues to offer some of the most reasonable waterfront property. Currently, there are only ten pieces of property on the market. We found everything from an adorable house on a tiny lot with with only 25 feet of frontage for less than $240,000 to a breathtaking lot with 130 feet of waterfront land and a so-so house for $370,000.

Honeoye Lake had the slimmest pickings with only one current listing, a 3 bedroom ranch for $269,000.

I had forgotten just how beautiful the southwestern tip of Canandaigua Lake is! Had I not had a car full of clients, I would probably still be sitting on the side of the road snapping photographs. The thing about Canandaigua Lake is it is easy to drop a cool million on a house with decent frontage. Currently, there are 16 homes listed, with a 5,000 sq foot beauty listed for $3.5 million as the most expensive home in the Eastern Finger Lakes (curious? click here for details ) A less expensive way to own Canandaigua is to purchase property at Bristol Harbor or one of the other communities, but you will be sharing the lake frontage. A 2 bedroom home at Bristol Harbor is currently listed for $179,900.

Next, we visited Kueka Lake, where we learned an important lesson. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. From the photos, I thought we would be looking at an attractive waterfront home. The home was attractive, BUT it was a short hike to the lake and the waterfront was actually across the road. What do you expect for a mere $450,000? Thirty six properties are currently being offered on Kueka, ranging from $73,000 (a 1963 mobile home) to $1,098,000 for a 2005 built contemporary home with 3 bedroom and 4 baths (peek at ) Average time on the market for the current listings is 144 days and average asking price is $515,000.

Our final stop yesterday was Seneca Lake. As we drove along the lake, the sun was low in the horizon and lake was bluer than blue. Simply gorgeous, even this time of the year! This was my first time to show property on this lake and so I'm not as familiar with it. I plan to explore the area more thoroughly this spring. Currently, there are 24 offerings on Seneca, with two listing in excess of $2.5 million. Current time on the market averages 126 days.

Without a doubt, it's early in the year for waterfront property shopping. Traditionally, inventory starts increasing between March and June. If you want to be kept up to date on Finger Lakes real estate offerings, drop me an e-mail or give me a call.
Mary Shelsby, ReMax First

Friday, January 04, 2008

Curl up by the fire



I have noticed that homebuyers often get excited about the presence of a fireplace in their prospective home. I can see their plans to make Christmas memories, they might be thinking of self sufficiency during power outages, or just a romantic evening in the cold winter season.

Fireplaces are warm and cozy, but they are also responsible for about 36% of all residential fires. You can increase memories and reduce trouble by following these tips.

Choose the right wood.

Use well-seasoned firewood that has been dried for six months to a year. Logs that are soft or moist can burn off creosote, a residue that can build up in chimneys and is the leading cause of chimney fires.

Weed out color.

Newspaper and magazine ink contains chemicals that contribute to buildup in chimneys.

Close the screen.

Never let a fire burn without a sturdy screen in front of it to prevent flying sparks from catching on something flammable.
Schedule an inspection.

Fireplaces and wood stoves should be inspected annually by a certified professional for obstructions and creosote buildup.

Not all wood is created equal.

Denser woods, such as oak, birch, and maple may cost more, but burn longer and hotter. Consider ash tree wood as a good option even when not well-seasoned.

Please don’t start a fire prior to a full evaluation by a qualified person.

Have a great season,

Adam Backus- Pillar To Post

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Why Do I Blog???

Something about the first of January brings on soul searching. A time to look and analyze the year that just finished and to make plans, goals and resolutions for the new. And since it's been about a year that I've been blogging, it seems a good time to explore why.

Writing comes natural to me, kind of. I come from a family of journalist. My dad was a sports writer and my uncle recently retired with 47 years as a business writer with the Baltimore Sun. I studied journalism at the Univ of Maryland. I was suppose to grow up and be a journalist. Problem is, I'm not very good at it. Sure, I can put sentences together that make sense but it takes me hours to produce what a pro does in a few minutes. Since journalist must meet deadlines and answer to editors, I decided to get into real estate.

I believe blogging has made me a better real estate agent. When I decide to write about something, I do my best to research the topic and provide accurate information. After all, I believe my largest audience is other real estate agents and they love to let me know when something is not quite correct.

My biggest blogging dilemma is that when business is slow and I have all the time in the world to agonize over every written word, I don't have much to say. After all, it is tough to find inspiration in a phone that never rings. But let me pick up a couple of new listings or buyers, and I get overwhelmed with all the ideas I could write about. I am hoping that my new team approach to blogging, with contributions from a mortgage loan officer, home inspector and real estate attorney will allow for a more consistent flow of information as well as more interesting reading material.
I do plan to continue blogging through 2008 and I hope you will continue to stop by often and occasionally leave a few words of encouragement or suggest a topic you'd like to read about. Best wishes for 2008 and may all your real estate dealings be pleasant and profitable! Enjoy the following clip from a fellow realtor from Virginia who is obviously a lot more clever than I am.