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Some new homeowners or renters may not be aware of (beyond the media calls for bread and milk) what they should do around the house before and during the storm.  While communicating this to my daughter, I figured it may be helpful for others:

* Snow Removal - Don't let the storm end before starting to tackle more than 3 or 4 inches.  If the storm ends with rain (very common occurrence here in New England) the last thing you want to do is try to shovel 1'-2'+ of wet snow.  Be sure to remove snow from up against all doors since not doing so can often be the cause for leaks when the snow starts to melt.  Special attention needs to be taken to clear the snow from any Heating or Hot Water system vents that are down low on the side of the home.  Not getting those vents clear can be a root cause for the heat or hot water system to shut down.  A few years ago I lost a good friend to a heat attack while he was shoveling snow, so don't over do how hard you physically push yourself.

* Put Water In Tub - This is important for those on wells as that water can then be used to flush your toilets if the power goes out (taking the well power out also).

* Don't Let Your Thermostat Go Into Setback Mode Before or During the Storm - Reason for keeping the heat up is to have the highest inside temperature to start from in the event of a power outage.

* If Power Goes Out - Try to minimize opening your refrigerator or freezer.  It's amazing how quick the food will get warm and freezer items will thaw (being a winter storm, you can always use mother nature's refrigerator).  You'll need to migrate into an emergency mode state of mind and evaluate how long power might be out.  Voice calling uses much more power on your phone instead of texting loved ones.  Remember the tips shared in my blog post about Frozen Pipes:  

* Portable Generators - They need to be used outdoors (to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning) and connected to your home with approved disconnect devices to protect the power company personnel from being electrocuted from your generator's output when they are trying to get your power back on.

* Be A Good Neighbor - Help your neighbors if you can.  Do wellness checks on older relatives or those you know who are not physically capable of snow removal.  Older folks often won't ask for help, but they need it.

Hope this info helps!  Post to your timeline or pass it on to those who can use the info.

Posted in:Home Ownership and tagged: Snowstorm Tips
Posted by Greg Hanner on January 25th, 2015 7:50 PMLeave a Comment

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The calendar change to a new year can be an inspiration for resolutions that are often centered on one’s body and mind.  The start of the New Year can also be a catalyst for a homeowner to embark on pruning their home ownership expenses.  The New Year ushers in the time of tax preparation and organizing, so why not expand those activities to giving your homeownership a quick review?  The following is a list of items that one might want to consider if they are interested in saving some money and if they want to be better prepared for future expenses for home maintenance and repairs.

  1. Confirm Monthly Costs Are Necessary or Still Desired:

    1. PMI – Private Mortgage Insurance is a cost that Owners have when their original mortgage exceeded 80% of the house purchase value. If you’ve had your mortgage for a number of years, you might want to check what your mortgage balance is verses the current home value as PMI may be able to be dropped saving you hundreds of dollars per month. Mortgage terms vary widely so checking with your lender as to how and when the PMI costs can be deleted is best. Some Owners get the PMI dropped via their commissioning an independent appraisal and then providing the appraisal to their lender. Check with your lender first on the process for deleting PMI expenses.

    2. Mortgage – Many homeowners with mortgages having high interest rates have already refinanced and many of those who were “underwater” (home’s value is less than the amount owed on the home) have taken advantage of refinance or modification options to reduce their mortgage costs. You might want to confirm your interest rate is competitive with today’s low rates.

      If you have a HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) loan, you might want to look at when you took out that equity line of credit since they often have initial interest only terms of 10 years. After that time, one has to pay off the line of credit. Refinancing that debt or extending the term via obtaining a new HELOC loan may be desirable and help provide more time for repayment of the debt incurred on your line of credit.

    3. Electric Provider – Most homeowners in CT can select their electricity generation provider. Do you know what you are paying / KW for your electric generation fees? You should since the providers available have generation fees that can vary by close to 100% from the cheapest to the most expensive providers. There are fixed and variable rate plans available. More on selecting an electric supplier can be found here:

    4. Communication & Entertainment – When is the last time you studied what you are spending on TV, Phone, Internet and Streaming Alternatives? Do you use all of them? You might find savings in bundling your services OR by deleting services you don’t use. If you haven’t used a monthly media streaming service for months, then why not cancel your subscription to that service? The new streaming hardware devices like Roku / Chromecast / Amazon / Apple TV all tout thousands of streaming providers however they don’t really do a good job at explaining that many of these services require recurring monthly costs.

      I’ve seen many of my new custom home clients have even gone as far as not wanting a traditional land line for their phone. There are also inexpensive land line phone options which use your broadband connection for their connection! Two of these services are Ooma and Magic Jack. A pretty good review of these and others can be found here:

  2. Maintenance Review:

    Are you putting off maintenance to the point that you are only reacting to items when they become emergency repairs? If your answer to that question is “what maintenance? I just pay my mortgage, taxes and insurance.” then you are probably costing yourself a lot of money for expensive service calls OR you are reducing your home’s resale value when it comes time to sell your home. I wrote a quick post about recurring maintenance items back in April 2013 and you might want to review that post. Here are the most important items that should be checked first to avoid wasting money on emergency repairs:

    Exterior Inspection:  The winter months bring shorter daylight hours so vacation and holiday time gives the perfect opportunity to go outside on a nice day and take a look around your home.  Looking around your home and yard sounds like a remarkably easy task that many folks never make time for, but for those that do, they can often spot future problems before they become emergencies or before they cause structural damage that’s expensive to repair.

    Checklist of what you might want to look at OUTSIDE the home:

    • Roof Condition – Roof shingles last normally 20-30 years. Often, roof plumbing vent flashing “boots” can fail long before the shingles do. If you notice a crack in the rubber plumbing vent pipe flashing, then it will need to be replaced. Making that repair will be much less expensive than repairs needed after water damages the ceiling below.
    • Gutters – Are they clean? Are they secure? Clogged gutters are often root causes for water getting into homes during winter storms that end with rain events. If you notice snow on your roof except down along the gutters, that’s a sign of insulation issues that will often migrate into ice damming problems. If your gutters are tied into underground gutter drain pipes, is the daylight end clear and unobstructed?
    • Siding and Trim – Are there any areas of siding or trim missing or damaged?
    • Ground around the foundation – Has it settled and created low areas against your foundation? Is it properly pitched so that water will run away from your foundation?
    • Driveway – Are cracks sealed? Water entering cracks in paved driveways is increases the ground movement during freezing weather and that movement is a root cause of the need for driveways needing to be replaced.
    • Decks and porches – Are they sealed or painted? Is the framing securely fastened to the building still? Are handrails and steps all still secure and in place?
    • Trees and shrubs – Have the trees grown to the point of overhanging your home? Are tree branches all in good shape? Are bushes all pruned and trimmed so they don’t touch the house?
Checklist of maintenance items you might want to look at INSIDE the home:
  • Heating System – Has your heating system been serviced this year? If you have a forced hot air heating system, has the air filter and humidifier pad been replaced?
  • Heating Source – A while back, I wrote a review on cost differences between Oil and Propane as heating alternatives. Currently, oil costs have dropped considerably, but I believe this price easing in oil will be short lived and oil prices will rise again over the next few years.
  • Wells - Change your sediment filter as needed. Pressure drop is a tell tail sign that your well sediment filter needs to be changed. Water treatment systems often need to be check to be sure that softener salt levels are correct (let them run down to minimum level before refilling). Acid neutralizing media often needs to be replaced once per year. If you have a water treatment system that has an acid neutralizer, not having calcium media present has potential to cause serious damage to your home's water piping due to theaggressivenature that low PH water has.
  • Frozen Pipes – Don’t let the mild winter so far lull you into thinking that Old Man Winter won’t have is way with us at some point in the near future. When that time comes, if you find you have Frozen Pipes in your home, you can learn more about how to deal with Frozen Pipes in my post about them here: 
Home Improvements: If your review of your home uncovers an upcoming major repair being needed, shopping now for that replacement is a wise thing to do. Winter weather slows down exterior construction and those contractors have more time to provide quotes on work that you might desire.  Home improvement contractors are booking their summer work now. If you wait to book your job until when the contractors are really busy, you are not going to get the best pricing for the job.

I hope these tips and ideas help you save money and start your new year off right!  If you have any homeownership questions or problems that you would like to have my thoughts on, don’t hesitate to let me know.

Posted in:Home Ownership
Posted by Greg Hanner on December 27th, 2014 10:55 AMLeave a Comment

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Posted in:General
Posted by Greg Hanner on June 25th, 2014 8:57 AMLeave a Comment

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As we 
enter the winter months, many current or potential home Sellers ponder whether they should take their home listings off the market for the holidays or avoid listing their home then in favor of bringing their homes back to market in the Spring time.  The correct answer really depends on the Seller’s individual situation.  If you as a Seller simply don’t want to move during the winter, then by all means, take your home off the market. 

Frankly, keeping a listing on the market through the holidays has many advantages that are easily overlooked.  Those who already have their home on the market and who have done their homework by getting their home properly staged with decluttering and making it as presentable as possible.  Those Sellers already have their heavy lifting done. No one knows what the future will bring. 

Who knows if the market will be much different in the spring? There are three possibilities: Better, the same, or worse. If it's worse, then you definitely want to try selling now. If it's the same, you might as well try selling now. If next spring is better, then try selling now and if it doesn't sell, then you'll encounter a better market and more chances to sell in the spring. 

If your home has been on the market for a while and has not sold, the holiday and winter season isn’t going to make the prospects of selling worse.  Holidays don’t make homes less appealing to Buyers – often they are MORE appealing since they give the sense of home and warmth being decorated and ready for your holiday celebrations with friends and family.  Your lack of success as a Seller may be pricing not being realistic.  What a home Seller needs to realize is lack of showings is often a reflection of a property being overpriced.  If your home has been listed for a while and you have had a lack of showings, ask your listing agent if other similar properties have sold in your area and at what price.

Some Sellers fear “days on market” and think that they can stack the cards in their favor and fetching a higher price by re-listing in the spring time.  Listings don’t get stale, only bread does.  Don’t kid yourself, any good Buyer’s agent will look at the property history for any home that their Buyers like and they will see your listing history and exactly what your prior listing prices were and when your listing was active or removed.  Buyers don’t buy a home because of low “days on market” count or price history; they buy because a property has availability and appeal to them at the then current asking price that’s affordable to them at the point in time they make an offer to you as a Seller.

If your home is already on the market and you as a Seller have a lot going on with children’s activities, shopping, parties and holiday guests, you may be feeling that removing the added pressure of having your home available in “show time condition” might just push you over the edge.  The emotions and pressure can become overwhelming, that’s a normal thought that enters many Seller’s minds.  Some Sellers have the added pressures of out-of-town guests coming and staying in their homes during the holidays and that adds weight to the scale in favor of pulling the home off the market.  These two thoughts are the primary reasons for taking a home off the market during the holidays and the winter.  It is understandable why you would be tempted to take your home off the market during the holidays and the list of justifications is long.

Before you extrapolate that thought and potential feeling of being overwhelmed to taking the step of removing your home from the market for the holidays, you might want to consider the following advantages that keeping the home on the market might bring to you.  Here are key reasons to that you might want to keep your home listed or to bring your home to market during the holidays and winter months:

  • The obvious but important first advantage (of listing during holidays and winter) is the reality that not doing so is actually a disadvantage. I found this best stated by Top-selling Realtor Jennie Ling.  She says taking your home off the market during the Christmas season is a mistake. As vice president of Virginia Cook REALTORS® in Texas and the number one sales person in her company for almost every one of her more than 35 years in the real estate business, Ling exclaims, "The house sure isn't going to sell off the market! What is the advantage of that? So you're busy. Let your Realtor do the work. You can leave in the morning, go to work, go shopping, and let your Realtor take care of things."

  • Although Buyer activity may appear to slow down, the Buyers who are actively looking during the holidays are that much more serious. The home market is no more affected at Christmas than during other "busy" period. If that were so, the market would shut down throughout the year as families concentrate on spring weddings, June graduations, summer vacations, and autumn back-to-school activities.

  • Only the truly motivated home buyers and sellers are the ones who will be out there over the holiday season. While many Sellers close their doors just before Thanksgiving and don’t open them again until mid January, the folks that are willing to give of their time and perform the due diligence required during this period are really serious about buying or selling.

  • It’s good for you as a Seller if you keep or put your home on the market since there is less competition

  • Buyers have more time to look at homes during holidays, especially during vacations.

  • One thing that you and your agent should try to do is get the best photos of your home.  If you have none before the leaves have fallen, then taking photos of the current conditions is appropriate.  Try to get photos of the outside of your home before the snow falls.  If your home is still available in the spring, you and your agent should up definitely update your photos when the foliage blooms.  I have to laugh when I see a home listing photo with snow covered yard in the spring or summer months.

How do you feel about listing your home during the holidays or winter months?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Posted in:General
Posted by Greg Hanner on November 9th, 2013 11:18 AMLeave a Comment

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That's a question that homeowners and prospective owners both have asked themselves and others many times before.  Buyers tend to have different shopping profiles and knowing what kind of a Buyer you are will help you identify what your weaknesses are and what you might want to do differently so that you can have less stress and a more positive buying experience.

The obvious elephant in the room is rising mortgage interest rates.
 Yes, they have risen a lot over the last 6 months.  Get over that if you missed the lows.  The important thing is that they are still at very cheap rates when one looks at them in terms of the past 30-50 years.  Why you didn't buy 6 months ago when the mortgage rates were cheapest is water over the dam and one needs to focus on what can be done going forward.

Now is a time that you might want to refocus your efforts to buy since the mortgage landscape is about to change for many buyers when 2014 arrives.  Getting a mortgage will be trickier and costlier next year.  This article is a great resource that outlines the changes coming for mortgages starting next year.

If you've been going at your home search on your own without the aid of a professional Buyer's agent who's looking out for your interests, then you've overlooked a resources that (in most cases) has no out-of-pocket costs to you as the Buyer.  It's normal for you as a Buyer to do research on your own and to browse all of the popular home search sites like, Zillow and Trulia - those are great places to start.  Here's info on why you might want to seek the services of a Buyer's agent who is also a REALTOR (not all licensed agents are REALTORS).

Do you find fault with every home you see?  If that's you, it might be time to step back and either adjust your search criteria or even take a break and return to the rental market while your head clears.  It's not uncommon to find that what you can afford and what you desire are two different things.  If what you can afford isn't desirable at this point in time, there's nothing wrong with going to the sidelines and renting until your purchasing power increases or until something new comes to market that you find appealing.  Key here is to forge a relationship with a Buyer's agent you respect and trust and then ask them to keep notifying you of new listings for properties that match your needs.  I've found that in some cases, it may take over a year to find the right property.  I've recently found the perfect home for a client that I've worked with for TWO years so I encourage you to not give up on finding a great home.

Have you missed out on homes you made offers on only to learn that other Buyer's offers were accepted instead of yours?  If your offers are consistently low and below others, you might not realize that in New London and Windham Counties in Southeastern CT, 2nd Quarter of 2013, the average selling to listing price between real warm blooded Buyers and Sellers doing 891 closed single family home deals was done by them agreeing on a sales price that was 94.84% of the listing price.  If your offers are way below that average, perhaps that's a reason why your offers are not being accepted.  Price discovery is something that both Buyers and Sellers go through.  The point here is that home ownership is all about enjoying a home and not chasing the deals that just won't happen.

Hope this info helps.  Questions welcomed.

Posted in:General
Posted by Greg Hanner on September 11th, 2013 4:45 PMLeave a Comment

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