How do HOA’s work?

When you purchase a home, there’s a good chance you’ll have to pay a homeowners association fee, especially in gated communities, townhouses, condominiums, and other similar planned neighborhoods. The idea is to keep common areas clean and maintained, and there’s usually an HOA board that is responsible for setting the rules and regulations.

Each HOA is different, but most have the same core elements. You’ll typically pay your HOA fees either monthly or annually, and it’s an important factor to consider when you’re weighing your options for a new home. So what is typically included in your HOA fees?

First, the fun stuff Amenities are typically the big perk of living in a community with an HOA. While you lose out on some of the freedom of living without an HOA, you instead get community amenities like a maintained pool, gym, clubhouse, tennis courts, and other amenities. The HOA fees pay for cleaning and maintenance, so-in theory-you’ll always have a clean pool whenever you want to use it.

Protecting the community HOA fees often contribute to insurance for the community amenities, as well as a fund for unexpected repairs to damaged community property-think damage from weather or accidents.

General maintenance Your HOA fees will go toward maintaining the general safety and upkeep of the community. This means things like elevator maintenance for condominiums, snow removal, and trash/recycling services.

Be active in the association There may be a board of directors, but homeowners associations exist for the betterment of the entire community, and every voice matters. HOA meetings-and the amenities they support-provide great opportunities to meet your neighbors and make your community a better place.

Three Ways to Ease Your Fears About Making a Move.

With low inventory in many markets throughout the country, many homeowners are afraid to sell their homes because they’re concerned that they may not be able to find a new one. This can be a real problem, but if you are seeking to sell—whether to upgrade or find a new neighborhood—there are a few ways to combat the low inventory.

Look to buy first In most markets it is a real mistake to put your home up for sale before you start looking for your new property. Identify the geographic area where you are interested in buying. Even if you don’t see anything on Zillow, it doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t find the right home.

Think outside the box Be proactive! Keep in mind that there are probably many people like you who want to make a move but are afraid as well. Have your real estate agent send a letter to the neighborhoods in the geographic areas where you want to live. The letter should be heartfelt and personal while announcing that you are ready to buy a home in that neighborhood. You could find a home to buy that may not even be currently listed or for sale.

Protect yourself legally Each state varies in how the purchase process is conducted. Talk to your real estate professional about adding a clause in the purchase contract for the home you are selling that will enable you to not sell the home if you cannot find a suitable home to buy.

How a Real Estate Agent can help alleviate your stress

Purchasing a home can be a stressful experience, whether you’re a first-time buyer or you’ve been through the process before. But that’s one of the reasons that working with a real estate professional is so worthwhile. With your agent’s guidance, buying a home should be enjoyable, rather than stressful. Here are some of the more unique circumstances where your agent can make your life much easier.

Out-of-town buyers: If you’re looking for vacation homes or moving to a job in a new city, there’s a good chance that viewing homes will be difficult—you could be a long drive or even a plane ride away. With today’s video messaging apps like Skype or Facetime, your agent can walk you through a property virtually. It’s not the same as walking through in person, but it will at least give you an idea about whether a property is worth pursuing further.

When life is just too crazy: If you’re just getting too busy with everything else going on in your life, a good buyer’s agent should be able to recognize the situation and help you take a step back. They can suggest that you take a few weeks off from your home search to recharge, or only focus on properties that exactly fit your wants list.

Inspection issues: You’re dreaming about move-in day, and then some unforeseen issues turn up during inspection. A good agent can work out those issues by negotiating a lower offer—to cover costs of repairs—or by getting the seller to fix the problem.

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Improve or Move?

Unless you built a custom home, you probably have a long list of things you’d like to improve in your current home. Browsing online listings might get you in the mood to upgrade to a new home, or you might be thinking about renovating your current home after binging on HGTV. The answer to renovation vs. relocation depends greatly on what you’re trying to fix.

Thinking about a new kitchen? If you’re dreaming of a chef’s kitchen with new appliances and beautiful cabinets, renovating your own kitchen gives you incredible ROI and is less costly than moving. You’ll increase the value of your own home if you ever decide to sell, and there’s a great sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a custom renovation.

Need more space? If you’re running low on bedrooms, there may not be a lot of options. Converting an existing room to a bedroom doesn’t create any new space. If you’re in a condo, an addition is probably impossible. And additions can be expensive even if it’s a possibility. Moving is usually the best option.

If the neighborhood isn’t ideal You may have seen some potential for your neighborhood when you first moved there, but perhaps it still isn’t welcoming the shops and restaurants you expected. If that’s the case, consider moving. There’s no sense in waiting years for the neighborhood to improve, especially if you can move to a house in the same price range in a more preferred part of the city.

Thinking about buying soon? Make sure your credit is in order.

There’s no more important time to work on your credit score than when you’re about to apply for a mortgage. Improving your credit can save you a ton of money—we’re talking about thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. Here are the actions you can take that will have a notable impact on your score.

Pay down your credit card balances Credit utilization is one of the biggest factors in determining your credit score. Your credit utilization should at least be less than 30 percent of your limit, and it’s even better if you can get it below 15 percent. This rule applies to both individual cards and your overall credit limit.

It may even be worthwhile to use some of the cash funds you were planning to use for a down payment to pay off credit card balances.

Do no harm While you certainly want to improve your score if possible, at the very least you’ll want to keep it steady. Avoid opening new lines of credit if you’re applying for a mortgage in the very near future. This will cause a hard inquiry to show up on your credit report.

Take care of negative items It’s good practice to check your credit report for negative items a few times a year—you can get one free report from each of the three major bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) per year.

If you find any negative items (collections, late payments, etc.), write a letter to the original creditor. Explain the circumstances that led to the negative item, and request that it be removed from your report. It can be surprisingly effective, and removing a negative item will improve your credit score in a hurry. You can find some good templates for a request letter online.

Getting your home ready for the winter season.

Our homes require regular maintenance, both to protect our personal safety and to avoid costly repairs. Here are five of the most important items you should check in your home.

  1. The fire extinguisher: It’s recommended that you keep at least one fire extinguisher on every floor. You should also keep one in the garage and in the basement.
  2. Staircases and banisters: A loose railing or banister could spell disaster. Regularly check your stairs and the accompanying railings to make sure they’re secure.
  3. Smoke detectors: Be diligent about testing your smoke alarms (and carbon monoxide detectors) and replacing batteries. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, smoke detectors should be tested at least once a month, and batteries should be replaced at least twice a year. A good rule of thumb is to change the batteries when you adjust your clocks for daylight savings.
  4. Electrical outlets: Outlets in kitchens and bathrooms should have a “test” button. It’s part of a system that prevents electrocution. Plug in a hair dryer, and push the “test” button—the hair dryer should turn off right away.
  5. Water quality: If you’ve never tested your water for harmful contaminants, you can purchase a kit to test it yourself, or hire a professional.



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LET’S MAKE A PLAN!!”….”I Want To List Your House—But Only If You Really Want To Sell It!…A BOLD, Fresh and  new approach is needed now in this market–So let’s make a Fresh Start with your home!”

This is what I like to say to the seller who is wavering about listing a property with me. I say: “Let’s make a plan” because this is the way to get focused on the real need to sell or NOT to sell for the homeowner. It also lets the owner know that you have a lot of bold, fresh, new ideas to get their home sold and get the the very best price.

This marketplace  is humming again–Southampton, Bridgehampton and East Hampton New York are all having a resurgence! Your market may be seeing the same kind of revival—so now is the time for BOLD, FRESH, NEW IDEAS!


The whole concept of building a “New” reputation and putting yourself out there as the agent with the “Fresh” new ideas is the way to capture the attention of someone who wants to list their home–so why not try to give the image of creative, BOLD and fresh thinking when you make your pitch for a new listing?

If you lay out a plan together you get the benefit of knowing the “ins” and “outs” of what the seller has on his/her mind. You can establish a price at this time and you can make sure the price is what YOU want it at, based upon your research of recently sold properties.  If the plan opens up a conversation of the timing wanted or needed to get the house sold, then you will have the advantage of knowing how to proceed.

If the timing is such the the owner does not really care if they sell the house quickly or not then you can make your agreement reflect that–in fact I recommend that you take a longer time period for the agreement if they are not in a hurry.

A really good plan should include the following:

  1. The Right Price–based upon the sold comps in the area. (Not always what the owner wants to hear!)
  2. Timing– a good plan will include a start date for the listing and a target “sold” date so that the owner knows the facts and how they apply to his/her life. I like to give two target dates; one reflects the optimal time period based on other sales in the area, properly priced homes and staged properties (a Fresh approach!). The other target date for a sale would reflect extra time if the price is not on the mark…and if the suggestions for staging are not followed. This is very informative to the seller–let’s them understand the time-differential between a fresh, new listing and one that is not quite up to the expectations of the buying public.
  3. Strategy–This will let the owner know of just how you plan on getting the house sold. It will include your plans for marketing the property; it will include a detailed advertising plan as well. I use a story format–telling them the story of how I will market their home I use this method and it can be very informative to the seller.
  4. 10 Point Action Plan–This is the summation of all the details, a crucial piece to the whole process of listing a property; it gives a point by point plan of action so that you leave nothing up in the air or in question for the seller….I take each step from the meeting with the owner, to the signing of the agreement and disclosures, to the creating video and fliers, post cards and even a website for the listing. bullet points are necessary here. I have even had the seller tell me that they can understand exactly what the process will be when they hire me. It helps me to keep on track with the things I want to accomplish as well!–..Never had an unhappy seller yet!!!

In this market, where sales are starting to increase and inventories can begin to look old and dated, we all need to take a FRESH Approach in order to peak the interest of buyers and sellers.

A FRESH, NEW approach is needed now–Let us all know if you have any “NEW” ideas for taking listings and marketing them!




As we fast approach the year 2012 the one word that came to my mind was change…after much reflection, I have decided that the word I truly need to focus on is “transformation”.  We have all had to change our mindsets over the course of the last couple of years to meet the continuing changes in our markets as well as our industry.  Some have opted to quit rather than change; some have opted to continue on as usual and wonder why they have no business or why it is more difficult to do the same thing as before.  Then there are those that have decided to transform…and that is what I have opted for.


Our business is a constantly moving target and we need to be able to transform ourselves to ensure that we are not the target.  Homes are still bought and sold each and every day…we can choose to be a part of that or watch the successes of others from the sidelines.  I have had 38 successful years in this business, the basics are still the same, just enhanced by our technology which I embrace…..what are your plans for 2012…quit, business as usual or transformation?