FAQ - How do I choose a good contractor?

HowToChooseAGoodContractor (1).jpg

In the past couple of weeks, my team and I have encountered a few unhappy sellers. No, not because their house hasn’t sold. In fact, it did sell… within 24 hours… for well-above list price!

No, this particular subset of sellers finds themselves upset upon hearing the results of their buyer’s engineer’s inspection. Suddenly, they realize that the work that their contractor had recommended be done to their furnace is insufficient. Or, unbeknownst to them, their 2-year old roof is leaking water into the attic. Yes, there are certainly ways in which they can attempt to recoup the time and the money that they’ve lost due to this shoddy work. However, wouldn’t it be easier to avoid this by knowing how to choose a good, reliable contractor in the first place? Here are some helpful tips!

1. First and foremost, always go with a referral whenever you can. Choose the plumber that did great work at your sister’s home or gave a competitive quote for your neighbor. Reputation in the contracting business is key. That’s why we send out a Preferred Professionals card every year with a list of our favorite vendors!

IMG_1725 (1).jpg

2. Research, research, research. If recommendations don’t work, do some serious Googling. Do they have a professional website? Do they have a high response rate on their Facebook page? Are there positive customer reviews?

3. Interview. Avoid going with the first HVAC guy that you can find. Get a second opinion/quote if the issue seems a bit more serious or involved.

4. Questions. Don’t just ask questions – ask the right questions. This may require you to brush up on your terminology a bit. For example, if you’re interviewing roofers, you may want to know what a flashing is (materials used to waterproof areas around projections). Or what fascia refers to (the long board that runs along the lower edge of the roof). Trust me, knowledge is power, and this step could potentially save you serious money in the long-run!

photo.jpg

5. Payment. As a general rule, do not pay for a service in full until the work is completed, you’ve inspected it, and you’re satisfied!

If all else fails, give us a call. We know how hard it can be to find a trustworthy contractor and we’re more than glad to steer you in the right direction! Part of our commitment to incredible customer service includes sharing our knowledge and experiences in any way that might be helpful. You can reach us at (585) 461-6375.

April Newsletter

MARKET OVERVIEW

Several years ago, while on safari in Zambia, I had the privilege of seeing a black rhinoceros in the wild backcountry. This was a rare opportunity because, sadly, at the time, there were only 57 black rhinos in existence in the entire nation. Thankfully, these beautiful animals are now protected against poachers by armed guards. Federal law states that anybody looking to do harm to a black rhino is to be shot on the spot, their body left in the wild for hyenas to devour.

photo.jpg

Back here, in the wilds of our local real estate reserves, I’ve come to realize that buyers, upon discovering a great property on the market for sale, are close to experiencing the same euphoria that I felt in the brush of southern Africa. Well-cared for homes in a great neighborhood that are appropriately priced are, like endangered wildlife, an increasingly rare and hard-to-find commodity. The dwindling numbers of this exotic product are staggering. In our six-county region, between 2013 and 2016, the number of houses listed for sale in the month of February, bounced between a low of 5,191 and a high of 5,977. In 2017, that figure dropped to 4,102. In February of this year, the number of properties listed for sale fell to a stunning 2,123. In other words, the inventory of homes available to purchase dropped almost 60% from its previous high! The whimpering and frustration that you’re hearing expressed by buyers in today’s market? Turns out that it’s justified.

Nobody has yet to identify exactly why it is that inventory has dropped so precipitously both here in upstate New York but, also, around the country. There are theories and ideas that will, eventually, be identified as causative. For the moment, it’s probably worth discussing a few of them.

photo.jpg
  • It turns out that, until recently, homeowners would stay in their residence an average of seven years before moving. Today, that number has increased to eleven years. Post-recession, people are simply more careful with their money. As an agent, I was always thrilled to hear that The Smiths were tired of the blue house and wanted to move around the corner to the yellow house. It didn’t make a lot of sense, but I was always glad to indulge their predilections. Homeowners today are behaving more like their grandparents or their great-grandparents who, post-depression, would save peeled potato skins to add to a soup or would wear the same pair of shoes for several months after the first holes appeared in the soles. Such behavior just made better financial sense.
  • Similarly, during times of uncertainty, Americans traditionally refrain from making any large financial moves. They simply sit on the sidelines and go about their daily life waiting for a greater stability to settle in. Today, the President of the United States was elected, in part, because of his rather unorthodox approach to governing. This isn’t meant to be a criticism. It’s simply a statement of fact. Concomitantly, there are concerns about saber-rattling with North Korea, Russian infiltration into our electoral process, domestic unrest arising from the gun debate and race relations. Even the stock market, which has performed remarkably well the past sixteen months, is beginning to show signs of fatigue. Until the national zeitgeist is one defined by a greater steadiness and calm, the real estate market may continue to show malaise.
     
  • During the past ten years, there have been seven or eight occasions in which the start of the spring real estate market began in the month of January. Warmer winters meant that buyers, in particular, began their search for their next home a full six weeks earlier than tradition indicated. Well, this wasn’t one of the years that we enjoyed spring-like temperatures in January. As a result, weather also conspired to forestall the onset of the local real estate season. 

BUYERS VS. SELLERS

photo.jpg

As a result of such unusual conditions, sellers are popping bottles of Dom while reviewing the dozen or so purchase offers that have been submitted by hopeful buyers. One lucky homeowner on Culver Road in the city secured 19 offers within 24 hours of listing his home for sale! I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen an environment that so favored sellers and supported their bottom line profit. 

Buyers, on the other hand, are frustrated and anxious. After all, it’s hard to emerge victorious when competing in a field of all-cash buyers writing offers $20,000 over asking. There are, however, strategies. Strategies which seem to favor our buyers over the crowded field of the huddled masses. At the moment, I won’t bore you with the proprietary details. However, if you’d like to call us…..

For now, I will say that some buyers are starting to rethink their approach. Through the years, you’ve likely heard me mention repeatedly the need for sellers to thoroughly prepare their home and stage it for market. The fact remains that, for every dollar that a homeowner invests in aesthetic enhancements of their house, they’re going to enjoy a $1.50 to $2.00 return. However, not every seller has the financial ability or temporal desire to engage in making repairs and updates to their residence. This is where a more savvy buyer can succeed. Homes in need of upgrades and aesthetic enhancements continue to remain on the market for sale for a longer period of time than those that are in better condition. They also sell for less money. Slowly, ever so slowly, we’re starting to see some buyers behave in a manner that is a bit contrarian to their colleagues. They’re purchasing these diamonds in the rough without having to engage in a bidding war. They’re buying at a bit of a discount and, then, after applying some elbow grease (when was the last time you heard that term used?), they find themselves enjoying Thanksgiving dinner in their very own dining room while their friends are still on the hunt. Stated another way, a small but growing number of ambitious buyers are understanding market conditions and capitalizing on the opportunity. Sure, they might spend a few weekends removing wallpaper and painting out walls but, in their minds, this is nothing other than another cost associated with striving to create a more financially successful future for themselves and their families.

LOOKING AHEAD

Everything in life follows a cycle. There are ups and there are downs, booms, and busts. Although I enjoy the freneticism and the adrenaline rush that comes with a more robust spring market, I’m not particularly worried. There are plenty of pundits, both local and national, who continue to assert that we’re still going to have a successful year albeit one that kicks in several months later than is traditional. That would be fantastic. However, even if they’re wrong I know that, long-term, the real estate market will bounce back. Owning one’s own home is part of the American dream. It’s part of the fabric of what it is that we define as being successful. It also makes great, long-term financial sense. After all, who, in their retirement years wants to be paying rent to their landlord? I’d rather host a mortgage burning party and fly off to Tahiti….

photo.jpg

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS

  • Perhaps as a result of the reduced inventory of properties on the market for sale, my staff is receiving a greater number of calls from friends and clients looking for good contractors. We’re always glad to provide the name and phone number of good, qualified craftsmen. If you have a particular need, feel free to reach out and we’ll try to introduce you to somebody who will do a great job, in a timely manner, while reducing your levels of stress!

  • You may recollect that beginning last year, we added rental property management to the portfolio of services that we provide to our clients. Before offering up this opportunity to a larger number of landlords, we really wanted to be certain that we had become experts at the task and had ironed out all of the wrinkles. Well, thanks to the amazing oversite of Adrian Winter, our rental Property Manager, I can now say that we’re ready to take on more clients! If you need help or assistance in overseeing your apartments, feel free to me a call.

FAQ - Should I Buy or Sell First?

The question of whether one should first buy or sell is analogous to the question of which of two vials of poison one should consume. Okay, maybe not quite so dramatic… However, I would venture to guess that almost 95% of all of our clients come up with the same response. Buy first, sell later. Let me walk you through it…

photo.jpg

On the one hand, if you buy first, there is the possibility that you may end up owning two properties for an extended period of time. And by extension, you may be required to pay two mortgages. Not ideal. The good news is that in the 28 years that I’ve been selling real estate, I can’t actually recollect any instance in which I had a client that had to make mortgage payments on two properties for more than, perhaps, a month. The reality is, by the grace of some god, our clients are able to purchase their new home and transfer title on their existing residence on the same day. In order to accomplish this, there are some strategies that one should consider.

photo.jpg
  • The most obvious strategy is to be sure that, while looking for your new abode, you’re simultaneously working on preparing your existing residence for market. Once you’ve consummated a purchase contract for the new property, you want to be sure that your existing residence is prepared and ready to go on the market the next morning. In doing so, you’re potentially reducing any lag time between closings.

  • The other strategy that you may want to consider employing is one in which you ask the sellers of the property that you’re about to purchase to close two and a half to three months down the road. If it takes two to four weeks for you to sell your existing residence, then you should be able to align both closings on the same day.

You may be thinking, why risk it and purchase a property before selling? Well, the obvious difficulty that comes about as a result of selling first is that, unfortunately, you may be metaphorically shooting yourself in the foot. (Dramatic, again… I know) In other words, selling your home first greatly reduces the amount of time that you might have to find your next dream home – a property that you may end up living in for the next 10 or 20 years. However, if the thought of moving into an apartment/temporary housing and moving all of your belongings twice doesn’t bother you, then perhaps this is the strategy that you should employ. The benefit of selling first is that it helps you to understand exactly how much cash you will have to purchase your next residence. And, if you don’t qualify for a bridge loan, it allows you the opportunity to write a non-contingent offer when you find the property that you’re hoping to call your next home.

photo.jpg

Do you have any questions or concerns about the process of buying or selling real estate that you’ve always wanted to have answered? If so, let us know!

Historical Spotlight - 2364 County Road 23

photo.jpg

New York State boasts nearly one thousand towns and villages; a significant number to be sure, but there used to be a lot more. Many of the tiny rural hamlets found across our region were at one time not so tiny, and while it may seem hard to believe today, some of these quiet backwaters once challenged even our largest local communities for economic and cultural relevance. So what happened? The maturation of the industrial revolution and the shift away from water power played a significant role, but the primary culprit was the automobile. Virtually overnight, distances that once took long hours of preparation and travel could be covered in mere minutes. Motorized transportation made the world a much smaller place, and with that, the clock began ticking on the many closely spaced autonomous townships that dotted America’s maps. Over time, the winners in this game of municipal Darwinism overtook their smaller neighbors, while other more removed places—with their pretty churches, quaint schools, charming general stores, and five room hotels—simply dried up. Houses and buildings were abandoned, and the ravages of time and less-than-artful repurposing claimed many a wonderful example of Federal and Victorian architecture.  

But not all of them. A small number never fell out of use, and some found new life in pursuits that preserved their aesthetic integrity. Today many of these survivors are prominent local landmarks, conveying a sense of permanence and serving as a reminder of a simpler time in our history.

Welcome to the Orleans Schoolhouse, which for 75 years served the children of the once-thriving community of Orleans, Ontario County. Completed in 1883, the building replaced a multi-purpose wooden structure that served as the Town’s school, court, and town hall. If you’ve never heard of Orleans…well, you could be forgiven. Located four miles south of the Village of Clifton Springs, the town dissolved as a municipality before World War II, but in its nineteenth-century heyday it boasted three churches, a large train station, a post office, twelve mills, a boot factory, a blacksmith, a carriage works, a hotel, four general stores, and of course, a school, all serving over 1000 residents. Generations of students attended school there until it closed following the formation of the Phelps-Clifton Springs Central School District (aka Midlakes) in the early 1950’s, making the Orleans School among the very last of the “country schools” still operating at that time. After serving as the headquarters of the Ontario County Civil Air Defense for several years, the property was purchased by the Clifton Springs Fire Department as an auxiliary fire station, and a large two bay garage was added to the structure to house two engines. The building served in this capacity for decades, eventually becoming a community center before being offered for private sale in 2005. It was during that summer that the current owners, Dave and Jenny Marion, found the building listed for sale and fell in love with the property.

 A photo of children in the attending class in the Orleans School, circa 1910

A photo of children in the attending class in the Orleans School, circa 1910

“We were looking for something different, something special where we could carry off a tasteful conversion,” said Dave. “We looked at an old train station, a hotel, even a couple of churches, but nothing seemed promising until we found the schoolhouse.  It had incredible curb appeal, which made it easy to picture it as a home. Plus, the location was perfect; very rural, but just ten minutes to Canandaigua and forty minutes to Downtown Rochester.”   

When they took possession, amazing amounts of original detail remained intact but the property had lapsed into a state of disrepair. “The first year we were here we were practically camping. There were roof issues that needed to be addressed, little practical plumbing, and some very serious water damage that had compromised the foundation of the bell tower,” Dave explained. “We had that resolved within the first twelve months, and from there, it was a game of ‘pick-a-project’ for nearly a decade. Ten years on, the building’s become a very nice home.”

In 2009, they converted the school’s impressive attic space it into bedrooms, a project which took three months. During that time, in order to make room for the contracting team, they moved their entire household into the garage. “It wasn’t convenient, but it was actually sort of fun,” Dave recalled. “It was a fire station at one time, so the garage was large enough to bring everything we needed in with us. By the time we were finished, we had it set up like an enormous studio apartment. It was actually pretty comfortable.” 

 The village of Orleans, circa 1895. The school is seen in the center of the photo, immediately to the right of the white church.

The village of Orleans, circa 1895. The school is seen in the center of the photo, immediately to the right of the white church.

In addition to the building, the 1.1-acre property came complete with some early 20th-century playground equipment and the original bell, which hung in the school’s tower for over a century before being taken down in the 1990s.  Over the years, the current owners have also had the opportunity to meet people who’ve shared many memories of the schoolhouse, including two who had actually attended the school as children in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

“If we hadn’t purchased the building and turned it into our home, it’s hard to say what might have happened to it,” said Dave. “By doing the needed repairs and converting it over time, we not only created a really unique living space, we assured the building’s future and preserved a piece of local history. That’s important to both of us.”

So while the Village of Orleans may be lost to history, the school it built will stand watch over the once bustling little hamlet for another century, not as a place to shape young minds, but as one of the area’s most unique and historic homes.

Interested in more information? Check it out here!

Historical Spotlight - 1496 Clover Street

Are you a Rochester history buff? If so, you may recognize one of our listings located at 1496 Clover Street. This enormous home, referred to historically as the Isaac Moore-A. Emerson Babcock House, was built in 1829 by Isaac Moore and played a small role in American history in the ensuing 40 or so years.

Clover.jpg
Clover4.jpg

Isaac Moore was a well-known Rochesterian, acting as businessman, landowner, political party leader, and Brighton community leader in the 1830’s. The Isaac Moore Brick Company was responsible for manufacturing and supplying large quantities of brick all throughout Rochester during a time of rapid growth and expansion. In 1829, Moore built this 5,500-square foot architectural masterpiece with all of the extraordinary detail, woodwork, and artistry that one would expect from this time period. Some of the home’s best features include six chimneys and accompanying fireplaces and three grand entrances, one of which originally opened to a porch where New York Governor William Seward gave a speech in the 1830’s.

In 1895, the then-new-owner, William Babcock, was attempting to install modern plumbing throughout the property when the basement stairs collapsed. What was revealed was a secret room that is said to have held up to twelve escaping slaves at a time during the pre-Civil War Era. The home’s proximity to the Erie Canal, as well as an arched-brick entrance to a tunnel that connected to a neighboring property, suggest that the Moore-Babcock House was part of the Underground Railroad.

phoot.jpg
Clover2.jpg

Today, the owners have made sure to meticulously respect and preserve the historical integrity of the home, which is now designated a landmark home by the Town of Brighton. While you can still appreciate the secret pre-war tunnel, prospective buyers will also enjoy a newer tear-off roof, exterior and interior paint jobs, an updated kitchen with quartz countertops, rebuilt patios, re-landscaped and manicured gardens, new carpeting and flooring, etc. If you or someone you know is interested in purchasing a piece of Rochester’s history, call us today at (585) 218-6275.