Before & After - Nicole and Andy Martyniuk

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Almost one year ago to date, our fearless leader, Nicole, chose to take a leap and move her family out of the city and back to the ‘burbs! As most of you know, whether through your own personal experience or through articles such as our own, the real estate market has been tough for homebuyers. And Nicole’s experience was, unfortunately, no exception… After looking at many houses, losing out in multiple bid wars, and starting to feel pretty hopeless, Nicole and her husband, Andy, finally stumbled across a home in West Irondequoit that piqued their interest.

Now, to the naked eye, the house needed some love. But if you know Nicole, then you know that she’s up for any task thrown her way! After purchasing the property, she and Andy spent the next 2-3 months ripping up carpets, installing brand new ash hardwoods, tearing down and putting up walls, painting the entire interior, updating cabinetry, and renovating the kitchen. All while simultaneously taking care of dreadfully unexpected plumbing and electrical work…

Did I also mention that Nicole and Andy did a lot of this work themselves? The before and after photos speak for themselves. They still have a list of updates that they’d like to continue working through over time (bathrooms, landscaping, etc.), but don’t we all? The most important part is that Nicole, Andy, and their daughter, Esme, finally feel like they’ve made this house a home!

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A Senior Guide to House Hunting in Rochester

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House hunting for your dream home for retirement doesn’t need to be stressful and overwhelming. When you have the right tools, resources and strategy - the process can actually be quite enjoyable and smooth. Here are a few tips to optimize your house hunting journey in Rochester:

1. Plan Your Retirement Housing Budget

Drafting your retirement budget is the first and most important thing you need to do to ensure your house hunting journey is smooth. You don’t want to get invested in a house that you ultimately can’t afford or that will cause you undue stress down the road. Buying and owning a home comes with ongoing costs and expenses - namely a mortgage, property taxes and maintenance.  

You’ll need to take a dive into your finances to map out exactly what you can expect to spend comfortably. Here are some steps you can take to get a clearer picture of your long term finances:

  • Evaluating your eligibility for Medicare or Medicaid for your present or future health expenses

  • Checking in on your 401k or other retirement plans to calculate your expected monthly income after you’ve stopped working

  • Review the property tax situation and other cost of living nuances applicable to Rochester.

According to consumer financial services company SmartAssett, the state of New York is a tax-friendly destination for retirees - especially those who plan to live on a fixed income. Social Security Income is not taxed, while income from public or private pensions is only partially taxed. Additionally, Rochester offers a homestead exemption for eligible older adults. This can produce extra savings. Your real estate agent can help you determine your eligibility for this exemption.

2. Think About “Aging in Place” When Checking Out Homes

Your next home should be one that will make sense for you in the years to come, and to make sure this is possible, you and your real estate agent will need to keep your future needs and potential limitations in mind. For example, your realtor can help filter your choices to only include one-story homes in case the time comes when climbing stairs every night to go to bed is too much for you physically.  Additional amenities like wide hallways, no-step entryways, and shower grab bars can also help ensure your home will remain appropriate for you in the long haul.

3. Consider Other Senior Living Options in Rochester

Living the lifestyle you want in a city you love should be a top priority for retirement, but sometimes, buying and owning a home outright during your Golden Years isn’t the best option. Your needs will undoubtedly change, and you may ultimately require different living arrangements to accommodate these changes.

The idea of managing an entire home could be overwhelming for some retirees. If you feel you fit into this category, you should ask your real estate agent about an active adult living community. These “55-plus” communities offer many amenities - including fitness centers, organized social activities and transportation options. Living in one of these communities typically requires payment of extra fees, so be sure to consider these prior to deciding on any given community.

If, at some point, your health and mobility needs change to the point where you cannot live fully on your own, you can consider moving into an assisted living facility. There are many highly-rated communities in the Rochester area - each offering amenities for or seniors who need help with activities of daily living - which can include bathing, dressing, managing medications and keeping up with general housework.

4. Work with a Reliable Realtor

Perhaps the most important key to a successful house hunting experience is having a trustworthy and experienced realtor. Read our blog here on how to go about choosing the right real estate agent!

Benefits of a Professional Photographer When Listing Your Home

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If you've ever been house hunting, then I'm sure you've seen it. A listing pops up on Zillow or your MLS search and all you can say is, "What were they thinking...?" The photographs look like they were taken on an old Android cell phone. Poor quality, dim lighting, weird angles. There are dishes in the kitchen sink. Clothes scattered across the bedroom floor. Wet, mismatched towels strung up on the bathroom door hooks. The absolute last thing that these photos do is entice you to walk through the home. So, you move on to the next listing.

Unfortunately, the sellers of this property are probably unaware that any of this is happening behind the scenes. Perhaps they chose an inexperienced real estate agent. Maybe they decided to try and sell their home themselves. Either way, their decision to forgo a real estate agent that can produce professional, high quality photographs has actually precluded them from encouraging prospective buyers to walk through their home and potentially write a purchase offer. 

Below, our Listing & Advertising Manager, Dana Epperson, has highlighted some significant differences between regular photos and those taken by a professional photographer with a high quality camera and an eye for staging. While the variances might not jump off the page to you, they can be the difference between a house selling within the first 48 hours and sitting on the market for 120 days...

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The reality is, you don't have much time to capture a potential buyer's interest. Let us maximize your visibility and, ultimately, get your home sold quickly and for top dollar! If you’re thinking of selling in the near future, give us a call today for a free consultation. (585) 218-6275

Why Mortgage Interest Rates Matter by Josh Bartolotta

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Mortgage interest rates move the needle more than you might think…

With the recent down-tick in mortgage interest rates (up to half a percentage point in some instances in the last 2 to 4 weeks), buyers who are even casually looking to purchase a home should strongly consider buying NOW if the right property presents itself. Interest rates haven’t been this low since February 2018, and it has once again become a smart financial decision to take advantage. The Federal Reserve has been a key player, as its response to the economy and any perception of instability (real or not) has helped rates fall more quickly than they otherwise might.

So, what do the dollars and cents look like, you might ask? Let me show you…

Joe and Amy (our fictitious buyers for this example) just bought a house today for $250,000. They’re incredibly excited – the house is perfect for them, and their two kids, Jessie and Donovan! But they became even more excited when they realized how great the timing is. They both have excellent credit scores and really strong debt to income ratios. Thus, they have been pre-qualified for a 30-year conventional loan with a 10% down payment at a fixed interest rate of 3.875%. They’re monthly mortgage payment, including property taxes and insurance, is going to be $1,995/month. And the total payback they will make to the bank over 30 years will be $380,892 ($155,892 of which will be interest). I know, that’s a staggering amount of money in interest, right?! But it’s still better than throwing money away for rent…

  • In this scenario, for every quarter of a percentage point increase in interest rate (just 0.25%), Joe and Amy’s mortgage would be roughly $30 more per month, and their total payback would increase roughly $12,000 over the life of the loan (yep, that increase is all interest the bank is charging).

  • Now, how about if we double those numbers? As previously mentioned, some buyers in the last few days have locked in rates up to half a point (0.5%) LESS than previous quotes given in the past 30 days. While half of one percent is a very small number just about anywhere else, it can translate to a significant amount of money when it comes to a mortgage. In our fictitious scenario above, that 0.5% interest rate increase would mean roughly $60 more per month ($720 more per year) in mortgage payment, and total payback of roughly $24,000 more over the life of the loan.

Are you motivated yet? Call today with any questions or to begin your home search! (585) 545-9004

Real Estate Then & Now...

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It’s April 1992 and I remember driving to my office on East Avenue, pouring myself a cup of coffee and turning on the innovation which had so completely transformed the real estate industry in the preceding five years. The DOS-based IBM computer hummed to life and I began searching for any new listings which would help to fulfill the dreams of the six or seven buyers that I was working with at the time. Several new homes seemed as if they might be of interest to Adam Goldfeder but the one on Mulberry Street was, in my opinion, going to really excite him. The state-of-the-art dot matrix printer clicked and chattered and within a few minutes, I was back in my Nissan Sentra driving over to The Allendale Columbia School where Adam worked as a kindergarten teacher. I dropped off the envelope full of that day’s possibilities and headed home, hoping for a reply. Sure enough, I flipped open my newly purchased Nokia cellular and found Adam on the other end anxious to schedule an appointment. “My god”, I thought, “how did my predecessors conduct any business when everything they transacted took so long to complete?” After all, it was only five years before I started selling that my colleagues were relying on the delivery of the Property Book- a weekly compendium, complete with blurry black and white photos, of all of the houses listed for sale in the area. Fifteen years before that? Agents were relying on index cards!

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Things have obviously changed since George H.W. Bush was president. My client, Adam, now lives in a beautiful house in Brighton, I’ve replaced my flip phone with the latest iPhone and the technology that drives real estate sales has evolved. I no longer have to drive to a client’s workplace to deliver the day’s latest offerings. Instead, buyers have gorgeous photos and 3D tours of new listings quietly delivered to their inbox the moment that a home is available for sale. Sales history, annual tax assessments, liens, aerial views, lot lines- even the proximity of sex offenders- are all instantaneously available for anyone interested.

In his book “Blink”, Malcolm Gladwell spends quite a bit of time discussing the benefits accrued to those individuals who happen to be lucky enough to be born at a certain time or in a particular year. For instance, men born in the year 1950 were less likely to enjoy successful careers than their friends or relatives who were born ten years later. Why? If you happen to be born in 1950, you were turning 18 years of age during the height of the Vietnam War and there was a strong possibility that you would be conscripted and sent off to Southeast Asia. Of those who were fortunate enough to come back, many were scarred for life.

I happen to have been born in 1965 and came of age just as the first computers were replacing Rolodexes and rotary phones on most modern office desks. I was fortunate. I was never recruited into war and, despite the two years during which we battled the Great Recession, I’ve mostly lived during times or prosperity. I’ve also benefited from the rise of technology, enjoyed the benefits of the efficiencies associated with cell phones and the cloud and I’ve harnessed and utilized powerful software to my benefit and that of my clients.

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Prior to 1995, I didn’t know of a single real estate agent who sold more than $12,000,000 or, perhaps, $15,000,000 annually. The speed with which business was conducted was just too slow. Today, it’s increasingly common to see agents or teams of agents selling in excess of that amount every year. Greater efficiencies are the cause. However, these efficiencies have become so readily available to the average consumer that they are currently challenging the industry. There are a lot of homeowners currently wondering why it is that they should engage the services of an agent when they, themselves, have ready access to troves of information. The quick answer, one which we will explore in my next column, has a lot to do with how it is that all of that information is interpreted. A seasoned and experienced agent can and should be able to help their clients interpret data in a manner that will increase, by thousands of additional dollars, the seller’s bottom line. If an agent isn’t capable of performing this level of fiduciary responsibility, then, like the dot matrix printer of yore they, too, will find themselves replaced.