42 years in business.

Monday, December 28, 2009

To Lease or Own

As seen in Erica's monthly real estate column, "Real Property Realism"
in Connecting Rochester Magazine.

America is built on entrepreneurship, small businesses sprouting out of someone’s basement or garage-low overhead, lower risk. When it comes time to consider moving your growing business to a storefront, you must consider the difference between leasing versus owning a space. There are pros and cons to both alternatives.

If you have an established business, making the move to rent or purchase office space may be a little less stressful. You should be able to put together a budget and figure in the cost of the lease or mortgage payment. The following are some thoughts on purchasing a property. When you own your business space, you are free to make any changes, including making room for another office or rental apartment to help share the overhead. You are in control of your property when it comes to parking, maintenance, and improvements. Also, you have obtained an investment. Most people in small business build personal wealth by buying a piece of property because often times the value of real estate goes up more than the business itself.

However, in order to purchase a property for business purposes you are tying up a significant amount of cash. You will be taking on a debt service that includes insurance and cost of maintenance like plowing, garbage pick-up, etc. Owning a commercial property or purchasing a building/house to use for business may be good for some but not worth the commitment for others. It does depend on what type of business you operate.

Kevin Mulcahy, owner and operator of Mulcahy Landscape and Design currently leases a building to house his trucks and equipment. Ultimately he would prefer to purchase a property but location is what made him decide to lease. “Most of my business is in the Irondequoit area, and there are few options for purchasing property,” he states. “The lease works for me because it keeps me close to my customers.”

One thing to take into consideration for a lease contract is length of the term, usually 2-5 years. The landlord wants to secure space for a certain amount of time. If you need to change the office area and make improvements to suit your business, make sure you consult with the landlord before signing the lease. The owner will often do the work for you and divide the cost by the terms of the lease over the duration of your agreement; this is on top of your lease payment. In other words, an extra cost per month. Small landlords may make you do the improvements on your own dime. When you leave the space, you do not receive back any of the money you invested in someone else’s property.

However, leasing allows you to come up with less cash, and you are not tied to the space for the long term. Usually there is an option to leave after 2 years. There should be a payment schedule set for the length of the lease in advance. An important consideration is whether there is expandable space for your business. Is there a chance you will you outgrow the space? It can be hard to predict how quickly your business will grow if this is a concern. This is why a 2 year lease that has the option to be renewed may be your best bet.

Steve Walther, broker/owner of Walther Realtors moved his real estate business from his home to a converted house in 1986. The house was a former doctor’s office, with the other half used as a rented residence to balance out the costs of owning the property. “I purchased the property due to its highly visible location and the ability to convert the existing dwelling into what suited my needs. “ In 2000, Mr. Walther expanded his real estate office, created another office to rent out and made a smaller apartment on the second floor.

There is a lot to consider when you need to have a storefront for your business. The option you choose, lease or purchase, and where you choose to lease or purchase can play a huge role in your business’ success. Consider all of your options and do not settle on a location. There are many things out of a business owners control such as the economy, but this decision is all yours and may just be the reason why your business flourishes.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Facts About Radon Testing

Usually radon tests are performed on an "as requested" basis by a buyer. Over the years there has been an increased concern of radon levels in the home. Radon testing has become commonplace in the home buying process. However there are often many questions surrounding radon screening tests. The following information is intended to help answer some of the common questions and to address confusion that is frequently expressed.

What is Radon gas?

Radon is a radioactive gas. It is the result of a natural breakdown of uranium in the ground, including soil, rock and even water. This gas seeps into a house because most homes periodically have negative air pressure. In other words, they are sucking in air.

Testing for radon is not a test to determine whether there is or is not radon in the house, but instead it is a test to determine how much radon exists. It is also important to understand that any home is susceptible to a radon problem. This includes homes with or without basements, old homes, new homes, etc. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has indicated that when a person breathes air containing higher concentrations of radon, they have an increased risk of acquiring lung cancer.

At the present time the EPA has recommended efforts to reduce radon levels in a home if testing indicates that the levels are currently at or above 4.0 pico Curies per liter. Some questions have been raised recently about whether the EPA intends to lower the "accepted level", but at the present time 4.0 pico Curies per liter remains the threshold level.

The EPA has also indicated that radon testing should be performed under "closed house" conditions. Specifically, all windows and exterior doors must be closed at least twelve hours prior to the start of the test, and also for the duration of the test. Testing lasts a minimum of forty-eight hours. Normal "in and out" traffic is allowed during that time, but the doors and windows must not be left open. Once again, it is important to understand that EPA establishes these rules in order to ensure accurate testing. All windows must be kept closed during the test, not just those windows in the immediate vicinity of the testing device. This is basically done to simulate how the house normally is (on average) throughout the year.

In regards to the use of air conditioners we would offer that central air conditioning systems can be used during radon testing since they do not allow for the free exchange of air between the exterior and the interior. Some window and wall mounted air conditioning units do not assure conformance with closed house conditions and, as a result, in many cases window-mounted air conditioners should not be used during radon testing.

Where is the test done?

According to the EPA, radon testing should be performed in the lowest livable level of the home. In most cases this means that the basement becomes the test site, assuming that it is a full depth basement. Whether the basement is currently finished living space or not, it is considered a livable level even if the basement does not have an abundance of headroom. Crawl spaces would not meet these criteria. In many old farm houses basements are of minimal depth and, as a result, could not be used as workshop space or "livable space". In these instances the first floor would then be tested.

The radon testing device should be placed in a somewhat central location of the lowest livable level. It should be placed an appreciable distance above the floor (typically at least 20 inches). It should not be placed directly adjacent to an exterior wall, near windows, near venting appliances (furnaces, water heaters, clothes dryers, etc.), in a closet, or next to a drainage crock or sump.

There are various testing devices that can be utilized for radon screening. Charcoal canisters are the simplest type of testing device. They are accurate, but they have their limitations and can be prone to false-positive readings in some situations. They are clearly not tamper-resistant. Most reputable radon testing firms utilize electronic monitors. These monitors take air samples continuously throughout the duration of the test period, measuring the levels of radon in the air during the test. The levels of radon will vary throughout the test, and the final result is the average level during the test. The highly accurate monitors that are utilized by our office also monitor temperature, relative humidity and barometric pressure. In addition, the monitors have a tilt-detecting mechanism. This provides some tamper-resistance.

It is important to understand that the radon levels in a home vary over time. In fact, the levels vary from hour to hour, let alone day to day, week to week or month to month. As a result, the screening tests that are performed are essentially a forty-eight hour "snapshot". A similar test performed at a different time in the same house will usually render a slightly different result, although it would probably be a result in the same range as the first result. There have been times when we have performed tests that have resulted in radon levels just above the 4.0 piCu/l threshold. Sometimes, buyers or sellers will opt for a second test. The second test result might be higher or lower than the first result. This is not because one test is more accurate than the other, but instead because the tests were performed at a different time. One logical approach would be to average the two test results to determine the average level of exposure in the house over the two 48 hour snapshots.

What do you do if your radon level is over 4.0-

Active radon mitigation systems are routinely installed when testing shows radon levels above 4.0 pico Curies per liter. These systems are relatively easy to install, and the cost of operation is minimal. Essentially, most radon mitigation systems provide a means to suck air from beneath the basement or slab floor and exhaust it to the exterior through the use of a simple PVC pipe and an in-line fan.

Radon levels are quite unpredictable, and it is not possible to predict with any appreciable accuracy what the levels of radon might be in one home versus another. One house on a street may have a level of radon higher than 4.0 and the house across the street or next door may have a reading below 4.0.

For more information visit this website:

Any individual or firm performing radon tests must do so in concert with an approved and licensed laboratory and all testing devices must be calibrated and approved for use. You should specifically ask anyone under consideration for radon testing whether their testing equipment and protocol meets these criteria.

This is an example of what a testing device looks like. You can also buy home kits.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Homebuyer Tax Credit Extension

With the extension of the homebuyer tax credit we hope to see the real estate market continue to have steady activity. The new credit was lowered from $8000 to $6500 but homeowners who have lived in their residence for five years are also eligible to the tax credit.

*There must be a written, binding contract to purchase a property in effect on April 30, 2010. The purchaser will have until July 1, 2010 to close.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: I am an existing homeowner. On October 25, 2009 I signed a contract to purchase a property. I have lived in my current home for more than five consecutive years and am within the new income limits. I will close on November 25. Will I qualify for the new credit?

A: YES. The existing homeowner credit goes into effect for purchases after the date of enactment (when the bill is signed). There is no reference to the date of the contract for the new credit. The provision looks solely to the date of purchase, which is generally the date of settlement.

Q: I am an eligible first time buyer. I entered into a contract to purchase on November 1, 2009. Do I have to close before December 1? How does the extension affect me?

A: You do not have to close before December 1. Due to the extension it is as if the November 30 deadline never existed.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Flood of Foreclosures

It is no secret that the number of foreclosures on homes has reached an all time high. However, why have they not reached the Multiple Listing System?
In a normal market a bank will repossess a property a usually process it through a listing agent within 30 days. Today with roughly 400-500,000 properties repossessed over the past year, they are not yet on the market.
Lenders and servicers office explanations as to why it is taking longer to process foreclosed properties that it has in the past:

  1. Many of the properties have title issues that need to be resolved
  2. Many of the properties are in states of extreme disrepair
  3. A number of states have strict redemption-rights periods which prevent the lender from reselling the property.
  4. A few states have extended the length of eviction proceedings
  5. The volume of REO's (foreclosed properties going into the MLS) has slowed down the process; there will be roughly 10 times the number of REO's this year as in the last "normal" year, 2005

There are many agents and buyers waiting for these potential "bargain" properties to come on the market. The banks often price them according to market condition but are also willing to take less than a homeowner to increase their chance of unloading the property and saving as much money as possible.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The New Credit Card Act

I am sure many of you have seen one if not all of the following things occur regarding your credits cards:
1. interest rate
2. unfair fee
3. decrease in credit line

These changes were probably made without any notification and have negatively affected your credit scores. Credit card companies have been in control making the consumer feel ineffective at managing their credit.

To make matters worse it was reported that credit card providers collect around $15 billion in penalty fees each year!

There could be some good news.

The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009
( aka The Credit Card Act)
Signed into law on May 22, 2009. Provides some of the most proactive credit card consumer legislation in 60 years. "The Act" is important and anyone who has a credit card should understand it's basic principles.

There are 2 key provisions:

1. Until August 19, 2009 consumers were only given 15 days notice of their interest rate change. Now, they must alert you 45 days prior to any change. This gives you the chance to call your credit card company and offer an explanation for the whatever situation may have arose. Try and renegotiate your interest rate. If they won't budge, take your business elsewhere.

2. Card holders will now have 21 days instead of 14 to make their payments. This is a huge plus for consumers who are fighting to keep on top of their bills and those who travel a lot.

The most significant portions of the law go into effect on February 22, 2010. Here are some details:

No unfair changes-
Credit card issuers will not be able to change your credit status at anytime, for any reason. If you miss a payment with one creditor, another cannot automatically increase your interest rate or drop your credit limit, which can often affect your credit scores.

Restrictions under 21 years of age-
Consumers under the age of 21 will need a co-signer or a job in order to get a credit card. This will help limit the number of young, college age card holders.

Over-limit Fee Control-
Card holders will no longer be able to exceed their limit without having the card holder's permission to do so. If you have not agreed to allow over-limit exceptions, your card will be declined thus saving your credit score.

Late fees-
If your credit card provider charges late fees, they must clearly disclose them on your monthly statement.

Credit Card Agreements-
Creditors will now be required to have a copy of your credit agreement for you on a website.

As we have seen it is crucial to actively mange and monitor your credit profile to ensure you are fully aware of any changes.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit

The New York State Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit program was enhanced from 2008. This is thanks to the Preservation League of NY. They led a diverse coalition of business and municiple leaders, preservation organizations and environmental groups to help enhance this program. The goal is to stimulate downtown and neighborhood revitalization in municipalities that need meaningful economic development tools.

The following are the changes made:

Rehabilitation of Historic Properties -Commercial:
  • credit percentage increases from 6% to 10% of qualified rehabilitation costs (NYS credit is now 50% of the federal credit rate)
  • Credit cap increases from 100K to $5 million
  • Establishes transferability among business partnerships

Historic Home ownership Rehabilitation:

  • credit cap increases from $25K to $50K per residence
  • Qualifies historic housing census tracts at or below 90% State Median Family Income (SMFI)
  • Establishes credit rebate provision for homeowners earning less than $60,000

Monday, September 28, 2009

More Help for First Time Buyers

In the state of New York first time buyers will receive more financial help. Governor Paterson announced on September 1 that New York will offer a federal income tax credit. The NYS Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) will enable first time buyers to claim a tax credit equal to 20% of their annual mortgage interest costs, potentially saving the average home buyer about $1,500. each year.
MCC can be used to reduce a home buyer's tax burden for every year the mortgage loan remains outstanding. With an MCC, 20% of the amount paid in mortgage interest becomes a tax credit than can be deducted, dollar for dollar, from a homeowner's federal income tax liability.

Sample savings:
$150,000 purchase at 5.25%- principal and interest= $829.50
$829.50 x 360 months = $298,620.00
$298.620 - 150,000 purchase price = $148,620 interest
Tax credit over life of loan equals 20% of interest
20% of $148,620 = $29,724 income tax credit

For more information consult with your mortgage lender or REALTOR.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sign Up, Sign Down

A Realtor's job is easy to sum up- sell a property in the quickest amount of time for the most money possible. One of the reason's Walther REALTORS is remains a strong presence in the very competitive industry of real estate is because we have the basic job a Realtor mastered. There are many other job descriptions of a Realtor that classify one as effective or ineffective. For example, knowledge and expertise help to keep deals together. This is the biggest job of a Realtor. Once the contract is signed there are other negotiations to deal with like the Property Inspection or Well and Septic Test. But a sale is not complete until it closes. A good Realtor will keep tabs on their contracts until it closes because there are many things that can arise during the wait time to close. In this tough economy some buyers get scared of losing their jobs and consider backing out of the deal. However, it is important to inform the buyer of all the positives of buying a home right now- $8000 tax credit to first buyer's, historically low interest rates.

When working with sellers Walther REALTORS is an asset. The consumer knows we are experts, have years of experience, provide the best customer service, and get houses sold. Our listings tend to sell quickly and smoothly so you won't see our FOR SALE signs lingering around for months at a time. Some people think it is a good thing to see tons of signs on properties; they believe it reflects that company is doing a good job. However, the sign should go up and come down in the quickest amount of time possible. As stated before that is what marks the success of a good Realtor.
**But, remember a good Realtor needs the help of the seller in order to be successful. Price and condition are the most important factors in selling a home. The Realtor knows what price point will get the house sold because they have the experience of selling properties. Suggestions to help the property show better should be strongly considered. Buyers are very picky and will pass on a house for what may seem like the littlest reason such as old carpet.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Prepping Your House For Sale On The Cheap

Here are some suggestions for getting your house ready to put on the market at little or no cost.

1. Clean- Do a deep cleaning of your house. Scrub grout and seal natural stone. Scrub flooring. Rub out scratches and nicks on walls and wood floors (Magic Eraser works very well). Wipe down kitchen cabinets, back splash and appliances. Steam clean carpeting.
A clean, fresh smelling home will win you points with buyers every time. Sense of smell is one of the biggest senses to play on. If your house smell musty, stale or like pet odor, often times buyers will not even pay attention to anything else about the house.

2. Lighting- Filling rooms with natural light is crucial. Using bright light bulbs in every room enhances the overall look of the rooms and has a major impact on buyers perception of the home. You don't want rooms to be gloomy and dark.

3. Paint- This is the most inexpensive way to spruce up a room in your house. However, don't spend too much time and effort on painting every room because a potential buyer may not like your color choice and simply re-paint when they move in.
When is it a good idea to paint?
-If a room is full of scuff marks and/or holes
-If the color is very bright and unappealing (like neon or super dark), then choose a very neutral color like beige or light brown
- Do touch ups if you have leftover paint. No need to paint the entire room.

4. Rearrange or remove furniture- Make clear traffic patterns throughout the rooms. Don't make your living room or dining room an obstacle course. Take out large pieces of furniture that make the room seem small.

5. Clean out closets- Cramped and full spaces make them seem smaller than they really are. This goes along with the idea of de-cluttering your home.

6. De-clutter- You want people looking at the architectural aspects of the home and not your stuff. Clear off counter tops and dressers. Show off book shelves and cabinets by limiting the amount of items in them. A little goes a long way.

7. House plants and flowers. They add texture and warmth

8. Make the entry inviting. It is the buyer's first impression. Change out your mailbox. Paint the door if necessary. Place a brand new welcome mat at the door.

9. Replace Some Items
-cabinet handles and pulls can be money well spent. They update the look of the cabinets with out having to replace them. You can even spray paint the old hardware of kitchen cabinets. If they are bright brass, you can can bring them up to date by spraying them a more modern color like pewter or dark bronze.
-Replace worn door knobs and handles
-Sink faucet and fixtures
-Toilet seats and rugs in bathroom

10. Power wash the house and wash windows.

11. Clean up the yard and gardens. Buyers will drive by listings before deciding to make an appointment. Don't let them get turned off and eliminate your home because the outside looks unkempt.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Landscaping Tips

Staging the outside is just as important as the inside. Here are some tips I picked up from REALTOR Magazine

1.Light up the outside

Good lighting allows buyers to see a home and also adds drama. Sellers should use low-voltage lamps to highlight branches of specimen trees, a front door, walk and corners of the house. However, less is better.

2. Use decorative architectural elements.
A new mailbox, planted window boxes. Colors should complement the landscape and home. Be careful not to overdo it.

3. Maintain a perfect lawn.
A perfectly manicured a lush lawn demonstrates tender loving care.

4. Add splashes of color.
Try and incorporate plantings that bloom in different seasons. Having color throughout your lawn and landscape during all seasons will ensure a beautiful looking yard.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Foreclosure Prevention Plan

Along with the stimulus package, President Obama has made up to $200 billion available to boost investor confidence in the mortgage secondary market. He also made available $75 billion in incentives to encourage lenders and borrowers to refinance troubled loans. This is critical because of the destabilizing impact of high foreclosures and disresses sales, according to The National Association of REALTORS.
Plan details include the following:
  • Help for home owners making their payments but at risk of default. Home owners with a conforming loan could be eligible to refinance as long as their mortgage doesn't exceed 105% of the home's current market value
  • Help for home onwers already in default and in need of loan modification. For lenders that voluntarily agree to lower a borrower's payment so that it makes up no more than 38% of the borrower's income, the government would share the cost of lowering the mortgage burden further.
  • Doubled resources to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. To encourage investors to buy the secondary market companies' mortgaged-backed securities, the government promises to back them to up to $400 billion, twice the current amount.

The stimulus package and foreclosure plan are a good beginning to help solve the nation's economic distress. "By helping good people caught in bad mortgages, we are keeping inventory from being added to a market already under stress," commented NAR 2009 president Vick Cox Golder.

Go to the National Association of REALTORS website for more information

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Economic Meltdown

“Economy does not lie in spending money, but in spending money wisely.”
- Thomas Huxley

The $8,000 tax credit to first time buyers seems to be working. This incentive coupled with record low interest rates (below 5% for 30 year mortgage) have made people get out into the marketplace and seriously consider buying a home. Their credit must be in good standing, and their score needs to be at least 680 to receive the benefit of the lower rates. We have seen first time buyers in their 40’s decide to take the plunge. We have also seen multiple offers on houses for sale. These are all good signs that the real estate market is perking up; it does not mean, however that our values are on the rise or that things are completely turning around. It is simply a step in the right direction.

Fortunately for us, Rochester seems to be weathering the storm better than many areas of the country. We are still facing higher unemployment rates, company downsizing and an overall nervousness about our personal economic condition. But, the thread we are hanging by may be a little stronger than others. Being a small business owner for 38 years I have been through 3 recessions. Times have been good and bad throughout my career. Understandably I am an advocate for supporting small– medium businesses. During times of economic crisis small businesses are the benchmark for our economy. Entrepreneurs often see a recession as an opportunity to start a new venture whether it is because they have been forced into retirement, laid off or simply want to try and capitalize on specialized loans and incentives out their to stimulate the economy. Now more than ever we should be paying attention to the small businesses in our community and elsewhere to support Americans earning a living by providing goods and services against the grain of the Big Box stores. Irondequoit has a wonderful Chamber of Commerce that supports the businesses in our community. Visit their new website to find out more information www.totallyirondequoit.com.

During times like this there is a feeling of helplessness and anger. With all that is coming out in the news about individuals taking advantage and stealing from people, it is hard to boil down the information and figure out what to do to change our lives and make it through this tough time. Every magazine on the shelves is talking about cost-cutting solutions. Investors are speaking about how to save your retirements and savings. Overwhelming is probably not even an appropriate word. Americans should be learning how to re-think their spending, living within their means, stop using credit as an alternative for living. When it comes to goods and services however, there are some things we cannot cut out, and this is the time to try and boost our local economy. Or at the very least, boost those Americans making and producing products and services in America– from a storefront or running a small business from their home.
If you have a present to buy, think about visiting a local shop instead of going to Target or Amazon for a quick find. It may take a little more effort, but if we try and buy local or buy from those who are providing a much needed service to our economy, we can rebuild our economy one step at a time. I am always trying to help out my fellow business owners by providing referrals in the hopes that the favor will be returned. I am a patron of our local restaurants and shops.
Check out our local printing companies instead of going on-line for business cards, etc. There is a wonderful toyshop in Fairport that may be one of the last of its kind locally. Also, handmade goods are everywhere. Visit www.etsy.com. You would be amazed at how many talented artists and craftspeople are out there doing what they love, working out of their homes and trying to make a living. Right here in Rochester we have a nationally known Stationary Studio that makes invitations of all kinds, announcements, etc. Visit her at www.bellacartastudio.com. Need a painting job done call J Coatings Painting and Design at 509-1280. They are an established business but have revamped and “set up shop” in Irondequoit. There are business owners that offer excellent framing for affordable prices. If you need something framed, you don’t have to go to one of the big craft stores here in town. Contact Klem’s Framing– maureenklem@msn.com. She runs a shop out of her home in Irondequoit. There is also an abundance of local artists who do fantastic work. You can find them through local art clubs and sales. We are also lucky to have such festivals as Corn Hill and the Clothesline Festival. And, for a little entertainment, there are many resources here in Rochester that are free or inexpensive. Pick up a free copy of City Newspaper for event listings. When buying groceries, take a trip to the public market and the local farmer’s markets. Here in Irondequoit we have several options for fresh produce and vegetables. We are lucky to have these resources right at our fingertips.
We can all make a difference in our economy when thinking twice about how and where we spend our money.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Median Sales in Irondequoit

The median sale price is dropping as well as the number of sales in Irondequoit for 2009. Why is this if Rochester area sales are supposed to be steady?

Upon speculation I can come up with two reasons. The first is that Irondequoit is very affordable and generally attracts many first time buyers. They generally buy a property that costs under $110,000 or even under $100K. The majority of these sales normally happen early in the year while the "move up" sales ($150,000 and greater) tend to happen in the spring and summer.
The second reason for lowered sales prices in Irondequoit is the first stimulus started in the fall; some people took advantage then, and those deals who included many first time buyers closed January-March 2009.

Both of these factors are bringing the median sale price up until now. Watch it go up as we get further into the year, especially if the economy started to level off and people feel more secure about their jobs.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Economic Stimulus- Higher Loan Amount

The stimulus package also includes a raise of the conforming loan limit to that of last year. The higher loan limit will permit more home buyers and homeowners to access lower interest rate loan as Fannie and Freddie will now be able to buy those loan. Jumbo loans (loans in the amount of $500K and up) yield very high interest rates. More people getting the ability to refinance at a lower rate and more people able to lock-in lower interest rate loans for home buying is great news for those in the higher-end of the market.

The high-end market had been stalled and some relief (at least up to the new higher loan limit) is now underway. The higher loan limit is likely to raise home sales on the high-end by 150,000 qualified home buyers in 2009.

*info provide by NAR

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Career in Real Estate

Walther REALTORS is looking for new agents.

Why is now a good time to begin a career in real estate? The market has slowed down but real estate transactions never cease. Life changing events such as relocation, expanding families, death, and the need to downsize continually occur; thus, houses go up for sale and people are in the marketplace looking to buy. The mortgage rates for loans have dropped to historical lows and may continue to drop. The tax credit for first time buyers has motivated new buyers to consider buying a home. For those that have been indecisive about buying a house, now is their opportunity. We have seen it working already. The spring market is opening up and people will be buying and selling.

If you have lost your job and are close to retirement but cannot afford to retire, being a real estate agent is a great alternative to supplement your income. If you would like to work at a second career part time and earn extra cash, real estate is also the perfect alternative. The independent contractor status allows individuals the freedom to make their own hours and build their business according to how much time they want to put in. The flexibility of hours also makes it appealing to many stay at home moms as well.

It is important to understand that building a career in real estate can take time.
Taking advantage of a slower market to build your name and get experience will work to your benefit. When things turn around, you will be ready to go with more knowledge and hopefully a
good client base. We have been in business since 1971. Our expertise and and reputation make us a great company to work with. We provide one on one training and on the job training where new agents "shadow" a more seasoned agent accompanying them to open houses and meetings with clients.

For more information please email us: info@waltherREALTORS. Put "career" in the subject line. We can outline how to become an agent and expenses involved in the investment of building a career in real estate. Consider now to be the time to take advantage of beginning a great career.

If you already have experience as an agent and would like to consider affiliating with us, please call or email us today. 585.266.5941. Ask for Erica Walther.

Monday, March 9, 2009

What is a short sale?

Short sales are becoming a popular way to get out from under the debt of a mortgage without completely ruining your credit. The bank holding your mortgage agrees to receive a payoff amount that is less than what you owe on your mortgage allowing the bank to retrieve some of its investment. It is beneficial to the seller because it prevents them from going into foreclosure and completely ruining their credit. And, the REALTOR and lawyer are able to get paid for their services.

If you know that you owe more than your house is worth (or you even suspect that you will not receive a high enough sale price to cover your expenses), and will not be able to pay your REALTOR, attorney and other closing costs, a short sale should be investigated with your attorney before listing your home with a REALTOR.
Not all short sales are approved. The following is the list of items the bank requires in order to seek short sale approval.

Some of the steps below should be done ahead of time like collecting data regarding pay stubs, tax returns and talking with a lawyer. Other steps happen once a signed contract is received for the property. The bank wants to see that the buyers are credible and the price is competitive with other sales in the area.

A checklist for short sale foreclosure:
  1. Cover letter on law office letterhead
  2. Copy of summons and complaint
  3. Copy of default letter with arrears and legal fees
  4. 2 most recent pay stubs
  5. Hardship letter that is handwritten
  6. 2 most recent bank statements
  7. Most recent tax return
  8. Worksheet with gross monthly expenses
  9. Listing agreement
  10. Contract of sale
  11. Copy of proposed settlement statement/ closing statement (HUD-1)
  12. Appraisal of property
  13. Signed Retainer agreement
  14. Signed authorization
  15. Repair estimates with photos
  16. Comparables
  17. Proof of funds/ pre-qualification letter

For more information on Short Sales, visit the National Association of Realtors website

If you have any further questions or comments, please post a comment below and we will answer in a timely fashion,

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Where Rochester Ranks Nationally

Our market is labeled as stable because Rochester never saw the skyrocketing prices like other places in the country. Forbes Magazine listed Rochester as #15 out of 25 on their list of strongest markets. Buffalo, Syracuse and Albany join Rochester on the same list. There were hundreds of markets analyzed and none of them are expected to see a rise in values. Rochester's median price is expected to lower in 2009 but see an upswing in 2010; this is not expected in the vast majority of U.S. markets. The big cities seeing the largest decrease in median price are Phoenix, Las Vegas and San Francisco.

Tax Credit for First Time Buyers

How the tax credit works:
  • must be a first time home buyer (haven't been a homeowner in the past 3 years)
  • it is a clean refundable credit. If the &8,000 is greater than the tax you paid, then you will get a refund check for the difference. Example: you owe $2,000 in taxes on April of 2010. But, if you bought a houose before the stimulus expiration (Dec. 1, 2009) then you will get a tax refund check for $6,000 from the IRS. Some individuals variations will apply, so consult with a tax expert.

Even if you are not a first time buyer, this tax credit can have a positive affect on the ability to sell your home in a soft market. If you own what is considered a move up home, you too should feel the affects of this stimulus on the sale of your home. If the buyer who want to purchase a more expensive home need to do it subject to the sale of their current property, they may be relying on the tax credit to bring more buyers to look at their home. Hopefully this large tax credit (that does not need to be paid back) will give first time buyers confidence to purchase a home. The lower interest rates also make buying a home more affordable. Buyers have to make sure that their credit is in good standing or it will be nearly impossible to get approved for a mortgage. However, there are many potential buyers out there who have been holding off on purchasing real estate because of fear of losing their jobs. They have good credit and savings; they need a boost of confidence to make the move.

For those that need or want to buy a bigger home and/or more expensive home, this may be your opportunity. The lower interest rates can give you more buying power, and it may be easier to sell your current home if there is an influx of buyers coming into the marketplace.
Something to keep in mind is the deadline of the tax credit. The property must close by December 1, 2009. That seems far away now ,but it will close in fast if buyers don’t begin to get out in the marketplace soon. If there is a long line of contingencies starting with a first time buyer, the time needed to close all of these transactions can be lengthy. It may be a good idea to get your house on the market sooner than later. If it takes you 60 days to get a contract on your home and it is contingent on the sale of another property, it may be another 60-90 days before it closes. That is five months from now.

Use this tax credit to your advantage whether you are a first time buyer or a seller looking to find the buyer. But, the government put a deadline on it for a reason- to boost the economy and restore consumer confidence. Don’t wait until June to put your house up for sale because you just may lose out on the benefits of the tax credit.

Irondequoit's Real Estate Market

I have seen numerous cycles in the real estate market since 1971. Irondequoit is attractive in the down cycle because it is affordable. Irondequoit is good for move up homes and first time buyers. We are a very diverse community ethnically and economically. The schools are excellent,and it is a great place to raise a family.People often ask us why our values don’t increase more and yet our taxes continue to rise. Home values in Irondequoit rose steadily in the booming real estate market in 2002-2004. During today’s down turn, we are still seeing a small rise in value while other suburbs are either stagnant or experiencing negative growth. Our tax rates are high because we have little industry and commercial property in Irondequoit. We are unique in the fact that we are a closed in suburb - surrounded by water (which is an attractive asset to our community). A suburb like Henrietta has lower taxes because of the amount of commercial property in that area. Irondequoit is growing and prospering with many projects in the works including The r\River and the Lake and the Bay in the Seabreeze area. Another factor to point out as we move ahead is that Irondequoit has already renovated most of its schools, while other communities are now trying to find ways to pay for these projects.

Is Bigger Really Better?

We have seen stocks plummet on Wall Street over the past few grueling weeks. Big national banks and financial institutions are going bankrupt or being bought out. However, smaller locally owned banks and credit unions that have been serving the public for 50-100 years are still going strong, lending money and keeping their customers happy. There is a lesson to be learned about smaller businesses in general; in order to have continued success they need to work harder to keep your business. Customer service supersedes everything, and it is the key to longevity. Small to medium businesses build their reputation on performance and word of mouth. Walther Realtors has been in business for 37 years helping people make wise decisions about real estate transactions Anyone can spend a ton of money building their “brand.” However, trends show that the television market is fractured because digital cable offers hundreds of options for people. Surveys done by the National Association of Realtors reflect that the Internet is often times the first place buyers find the home they purchase or they find it through their agent. Print advertising is no longer an effective way to market a home because fewer people are paying attention to that medium to find homes for sale. In economic times like this what really sells homes? Success is attributed to the skill and experience of real estate agents & their office. Deals are harder to make and keep together. Time on market is extended and Walther REALTORS will guarantee the same high level of service throughout the entire listing period.We get paid for performance!
Contact us today for a consultation: 585-266-5941 or email us at info@waltherrealtors.com.

Buying Up in a Down Market

It seems obvious that a first time buyer can take advantage of getting more bang for their buck in this real estate market. But, if you are looking to purchase your second or third home, how can you take advantage of a down market when selling? It is possible.
All prices go down, but not always equally. If you are looking to purchase in the same area then the values are most likely reflecting the same down-turn (or up-turn). The value of real estate tends to decrease or increase in percentages. For example, in today’s market we are seeing a 10% decrease in value of properties. If you want to upgrade your home, you too can take advantage of getting a good deal on a home because of the decrease in overall sale prices. You may receive less money on the sale of your home, but you will receive a bigger savings on your purchase. For example, if your property sells at $100,000-10% less than what it would have sold for at a loss of $10,000, and you purchase a home for $200,000 (a house that potentially would have sold for $220,000 in a different market) what you are gaining more than you are losing on the sale of your house.
When you are a buying and selling, you can take advantage of a “buyer’s market.” Interest rates are lower and sometimes the inventory is greater; therefore, you will have more houses to choose from. However, you must be the best possible buyer in order to receive that “deal” you are seeking. This means being able to go non-contingent. If you are approved for purchasing a home without selling your house first, that is the best way to compete. Or get your house on the market! Be realistic and price it competitively! Get a firm purchase contract, and then put your offer on the new property.

A Cyclical Business

In the real estate market there are two different kinds of cycles where we see a slow down in the market, seasonal and economic. Seasonal cycles happen around the same time every year- July when people are vacationing and December due to the holiday season. These vary depending on the price range of properties. After the first of the year first time buyers start looking because their leases generally end in early Spring and they want to become homeowners. But, contrary to public opinion the mid-winter months are still a good time to put your house up for sale.
The cyclical economic slow-down is based on consumer confidence. As of now people are wary of making any large purchases. And, Rochester is also now facing the tightening of the credit market. Many people who once qualified for a mortgage are finding themselves deadlocked and unable to purchase a property. We have not seen a real estate market similar to this since the early 90’s prior to the first war in Iraq. But, even then the market bounced back fairly quickly. It seems as though this economic slow down in the real estate market may take a longer period of time to work itself out.
If you have to sell there are two key elements to try and maximize your sale price and ability to get a purchase contract: 1. Price according to the market; remember buyers determine the value of a property and 2. It is worth taking the extra time and a few dollars to spruce up your home. Buyers are very picky because they can be. If they don’t like one thing about your home, they can move onto the very large selection of other properties for sale.
At Walther Realtors we have seen the various cycles of real estate over our 37 years of business. We know how to handle buying and selling properties during a fickle real estate market. Call or e-mail today. 585-266-5941 or info@waltherREALTORS.com

Choosing a Real Estate Agent

The public is often misled regarding the best way to choose a REALTOR. Often times they choose their agent based on ads in the paper or internet and much of the time, because they had no prior knowledge of that agent, they end up disappointed. Choosing a REALTOR, like most other professionals, should be based on receiving a referral from someone you trust. This can ensure that you will receive the service and results you hope to find when hiring an agent. Equate this decision to choosing other professionals such as a pediatrician. Would you choose your doctor based on an ad in the paper? When selling your home, most likely your largest investment, you need to be in the hands of a REALTOR who has longetivy for serving their clients with expertise and professionalism. A reputable agent will work hard for their clients because they want to continue receiving referrals, which makes up a large portion of their business. And, they receive many referrals because they have a long history of pleasing their clients and producing positive results. Walther REALTORS has been in business since 1971. We have prospered for 36 years due to our knowledge of the marketplace, honesty and professionalism.

Adding Value to Your Home

Many homeowners wonder what improvements will add value to their home. It is wise to also think about what will be a good return on your investment and not “over improve” your home and price yourself out of the market. Even if you have no plans of moving, life’s unpredictability may find you selling your home unexpectedly. There are certain improvements that will almost always add value to your property, but keep in mind that it is nearly impossible to get a 100% return. While the Rochester area is not experiencing a decrease in property value, the market is stagnant and some areas of Monroe County are not seeing more than a small increase if any at all. Irondequoit was published as a 3% increase in 2006. Even if you purchase a “fixer upper,” be careful of overspending on your home improvements.If you are thinking of adding on to your home, give careful consideration to design. Many homeowners assume that more is better and that any addition that increases floor space will provide a great return on original investment at the time of sale. However, while prospective buyers may welcome additional square footage and amenities, they also pay careful attention to aesthetics. If an addition does not seamlessly blend with the original structure in terms of proportion, style and materials, it may actually be detrimental to a sale. A home addition should harmonize well with the original structure and neighborhood. Before building any addition or starting any remodeling be sure to consider the affect on value. At Walther REALTORS we can discuss possible additions and remodeling before you make a decision. This will help prevent you from wasting time and money on a project that will not increase the home’s value. We also know local architects and engineers whose services may be beneficial to you. If you would like to set up a consultation, give us a call 585.266.5941.It is essential to keep in mind that buyers do not consider new roofs and furnaces as improvements but necessary maintenance. Making these repairs and updates does not normally increase the value of a home dollar for dollar. When mechanicals are outdated and the exterior has peeling paint, etc. it is considered deferred maintenance and buyers expect to pay significantly less.Some of these repairs and improvements will help to get a quicker sale but do not always mean a higher price. They will allow your home to remain competitive against other listings. The “big budget” improvements such as kitchens, baths and additions may allow you to sell your home for top price, but even they are not a guarantee. Keep in mind that a home’s value is determined by many factors including location and current market conditions.Do not forget that minimal expenditures can still improve your chance of selling. This includes removing old wallpaper, touching up chipped paint and scuff marks, cleaning out closets, de-cluttering surfaces, removing extra furniture to make rooms appear larger, deep cleaning, washing windows inside and out, fixing odds and ends that may seem cumbersome to buyers such as missing outlet covers, etc. Changing hardware on cabinets and buying some new inexpensive light fixtures can also greatly improve the appearance of a home.