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Here's How You'll Know You've Found the Right Agent

A great real estate agent is like an Oprah for living your best real estate life.

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For every journey, there is a guide. To explore the West, Lewis and Clark had Sacagawea. To navigate his magical powers, Harry Potter had Dumbledore. And to discover our best lives, America has Oprah.

Then there’s the all-too-real journey of buying a home. For that, you have an Oprah of your own: your real estate agent — a licensed professional who’s familiar with local home values and neighborhood perks, understands real estate trends, can write an offer on your behalf, and who negotiates with home sellers so you don’t have to. 

Think of your agent as a therapist/consultant for your home search. A collaborator. A co-conspirator. A mentor. Someone who amps up your confidence and counsels you through big decisions (teamwork makes the dream work, after all). And, someone who wants you to find a house you can be happy in because they’re invested in your happiness. 

If the housing market doesn’t line up with your needs and budget, your agent will go back to the drawing board with you. They interpret raw housing data through the filter of your unique search, then tell you what’s important and why. They help you map the path to your goal, and connect you with trusted experts who can get you into your dream home. (Cue selfie of you drinking wine in your new living room. First like on Instagram? Probably your agent.)

That’s a lot of responsibility. And a lot of pressure. There’s obviously a lot at stake: money and time, of course, but also your happiness. So reach out to an agent sooner in the process rather than later, and you’ll be on the fast track to picking out paint swatches for your new kitchen.

Agents, Brokers, and REALTORS®: What’s the Difference?

“Agent” is a catchall phrase that is used, in casual conversation, to describe the three types of professionals who buy and sell real estate: agents, brokers, and REALTORS®.

No, they’re not really the same. Yes, you should care about what makes them different. Here’s a breakdown:

real estate agent is a licensed professional who helps people buy, sell, rent, or invest in homes. To become an agent, a person must take pre-licensing training from a certified institution (these vary from state to state) and pass their state’s real estate licensing exam. Once they have their license, an agent must affiliate themselves with a real estate brokerage. 

Some agents specialize in representing buyers, some specialize in representing sellers. Some do both. An agent who represents both the buyer and the seller in the same real estate transaction is called a dual agent. By law, a dual agent must disclose dual agency to both parties. (If an agent is seeing other people, you obviously need to know.)

real estate broker is a professional who has additional education beyond the agent level, as required by state law, and who has passed a broker’s exam. In some cases, brokers also have more years of experience than agents. The biggest difference between a broker and an agent is that a broker may work independently. An agent must be overseen by a broker. 

REALTOR® is a broker or agent who belongs to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), the largest trade group in the country. (Full disclosure: NAR publishes HouseLogic.com). A REALTOR® commits to following a strict Code of Ethics intended to protect buyers and sellers; for example, REALTORS® pledge themselves to protect and promote the interests of their client. Agents and brokers who are not NAR members can’t call themselves REALTORS®. There are more than 1 million REALTORS® in the United States. You can use realtor.com®’s Find a REALTOR® tool to connect with one in your area.

In most cases, using an agent, broker, or REALTOR® won’t cost you a penny because the seller typically pays both the listing agent and buyer’s agent’s commissions. However, some buyers’ agents request a representation fee from the buyer. That’s rare.

The Best Agent for You Depends on ... You

Before you seriously partner with anyone, you’ll probably survey family, friends, and trusted acquaintances for at least some input. Finding a real estate agent is no different: A great starting point is to ask your inner circle and neighbors for recommendations. According to recent NAR research, 52% of buyers 36 and younger found their real estate agent through a referral.

Then there’s the internet.

Each of the major property listing websites — realtor.com®, Zillow, Redfin, and Trulia — has an agent-finder tool that lets you search for agents in your area. These property sites also collect reviews and ratings from an agent’s past clients, which gives you insight into an agent’s reputation. Keep in mind, though, that the sites vary in their policies about whether agents can edit or remove reviews. (Like with Yelp, use your own discretion.)

The sites also show an agent’s sales history, so you can see how many homes a person has sold. In general, it’s best to choose an agent who has a large number of sales under his or her belt (a sign they’re committed to real estate work). Perhaps even more important: an agent who has sold homes at the price point and in the neighborhood where you’re looking to buy — a sign they understand the local market.

Whatever you do, don’t rely on online listings alone. Always interview prospective agents — at least three — in person. A meet-and-greet will give you the perspective you need on the agent’s personality and style. Is this someone you’ll like working with? Who has a sense of humor? Who has your back? Who communicates in the ways you want to be communicated with? Best to find out in person.

How to Know If An Agent Is Knowledgeable

Once you’ve gathered all the information, listen to your gut: It won’t steer you wrong about who’s the best agent for you.

But, that said, there are a few qualities you’ll want to look for in any agent (your gut would agree):

  • Local expertise. Does this person know their stuff about neighborhood home value trends, shops and restaurants, schools, commute times, and geographic factors such as floodplains? These things are important, especially if you’re looking for a home in a new city or town. If the agent seems lost or like they’re winging it, keep looking.
  • Responsiveness. You’ll have a lot of questions, and will be asked to produce documents at certain steps during the buying process. Think about how available you want your agent to be, and how quickly you want him or her to respond. One way to figure that out? Contact a prospective agent online or by phone and see how long it takes them to reply. If you don’t hear back within a timeframe that works for you, it’s probably best to move on.
  • Reputation. This is when to consult your inner circle again. The agent-finder tool mentioned above can also help. In addition, you’ll want to verify the agent’s license; search “[state] real estate license lookup” to find a resource for your state. If you want to confirm whether an agent is a REALTOR®, you can call NAR at 1-800-874-6500. 

There are a number of professional designations that indicate an agent has obtained additional education beyond their licensing work. An accredited buyer’s representative (ABR®), for instance, is someone who specializes in working with home buyers and has taken a course on buyer-client relationships. You can search the different types of designations here.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask a Lot of Questions

Congratulations! You now have a list of agents you like based on their stats, and you’re ready to get to know the finalists. Binge a few episodes of "The Bachelor" for pointers — just kidding, don’t do that.

What to really do: Schedule interviews with the top three agents, at least. During each conversation, your goal is to understand the agent’s experience, personality, and working style. 

Here are 13 questions that will help the vetting:

  1. How many years have you been in the business? Having more experience doesn’t guarantee that someone is a great real estate agent, but a lot of the business is learned on the job. 
  2. How many homes have you sold in the last year? Volume isn’t the most important factor when choosing an agent, but you want someone who is active in the industry. Also, the more transactions an agent has under their belt, the more adept the person should be at solving complicated problems that can crop up during a home sale. Remember: Your transaction is unique.
  3. How will you help me determine my needs and priorities? The agent’s first task is to help you identify your list of “musts” and “wants” — the home features that you need, versus the features that you’d like to have but can live without. 
  4. Is your real estate license in good standing? You can also check with your state’s Real Estate Commission to confirm the agent has no disciplinary actions.
  5. How will you stay in touch with me? Your agent’s communication style should align with yours. If you prefer to be contacted via text when new listings crop up, make sure your agent is able to do that. 
  6. What neighborhoods do you specialize in? You want an agent who’s intimately familiar with the neighborhood(s) you’re interested in. Another way of framing this question is to ask, “How many homes have you sold in this neighborhood in the last year?”
  7. What price range do you typically work in? In addition to being a neighborhood expert, your agent should do a large portion of their business with home buyers in your price range. It’s important because challenges and negotiation strategies can vary based on what type of home you’re buying.
  8. How many other clients are you working with? You want someone who can give you quality, {{ start_tip 72 }}one-on-one customer service{{ end_tip }} when you buy your first home. If the agent seems spread thin, it’s probably because they are.
  9. How are you a good agent for first-time buyers? First-time home buyers face specific challenges. Every buyer has a unique transaction. Good agents can explain what you should expect and how they’re going to help you navigate your special circumstances.
  10. How will you find homes that match my criteria? Seasoned real estate agents don’t just use the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) — a regional database of registered property listings — to help home buyers find homes. They also keep track of listings through colleagues, door-knocking, and canvassing neighborhoods to find the right properties for their buyers. They’ll also work their industry connections. 
  11. Have you ever recommended that a buyer not buy a property? Why? An agent should work in your best interest, which means being honest with you about when to pass on a house that will not meet your needs — even if you’re starry-eyed about it. It’s your choice, obvs, but they should empower you to make a sound decision.
  12. Do you have a list of recommended vendors who can help me get a mortgage, inspect a home, and so on? To buy a home, you’re going to need other important players on your team — specifically a mortgage lender, home inspector, settlement/title company, and attorney. An experienced agent has already developed relationships with reputable pros, and should provide you with several references for each; though it’s ultimately your decision to choose who you want to work with.
  13. Can you provide contact information for your three most recent buyers? Past clients can offer valuable insight into an agent’s skills. Don’t just ask an agent for references, or you’ll get three pre-vetted clients who are guaranteed to sing their praises. Instead, ask for phone numbers and email addresses of the agent’s three most recent buyers. Contact those people directly to learn about their experiences. 

Whew, you made it through the interviews. (Are you thirsty? We could use a glass of water.)

By now, there’s likely one agent left standing. Someone you can trust. Someone who listens. Someone who knows more about real estate than you, but who also really cares about finding your house.

Now that you’ve got a partner in buying a home, it won’t be long before you own it

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Here’s How You’ll Know You’ve Found the Right Agent - https://www.houselogic.com/buy/how-to-buy-step-by-step/how-to-find-the-right-realtor/

By: HouseLogic  |  Published: February 27, 2018

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

 

 

 

You'll Be Glad You Did These 4 Tasks When January Comes

Go ahead and get that energy audit. And schedule snow plowing.

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Take a few minutes out of your pool time this month to do these four tasks.

Then you'll have more time to eat popcorn in front of the fire next January.

#1 Call the Snow Plow Now

If you live in snow-prone areas, now's the time to get your name on the snow-plow contractor's schedule. By the time your car's buried in the driveway, their rosters will be full.

#2 Schedule Furnace Service

Get ready for sweater weather — and beat the rush — by scheduling the annual fall service for your furnace now. If you don't already have one, ask about your HVAC company's twice-a-year maintenance plan. Often, you can get discounted rates, not just for the service plan, but for larger repairs, too.

#3 Get a Home Energy Audit

Save money this winter by scheduling a professional energy audit now. Not only will you learn where your home is prone to energy loss, your auditor may recommend inexpensive ways to save money (like caulking around the baseboards). Energy.gov has info on how pro and DIY energy audits work. Find energy auditors through the Resiential Energy Services Network.

#4 Plant Trees

Trees increase home value, so give yours the best start by planting them at the right time. In zones 4-8 (which is most of the United States), that's late summer and early fall. This gives them time to establish roots before next summer's heat and drought. 

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You'll Be Glad You Did These 4 August Tasks When January Comes - https://www.houselogic.com/by-room/yard-patio/prepare-for-winter-with-home-energy-audit/

By Kelley Walters via HouseLogic  |  Published: June 12, 2018

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

 

 

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    What Every Seller Needs to Know About Closing

    Walk-throughs, closing costs, and other items to check off your list before the big finish!

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    Closing time. The end of the road. The last hurrah — and hurrahs are in order.

    If you’re here, then you’ve found a buyer, negotiated home repairs, and are ready to move out -- and on. But before you can make this sale official (and get paid!), you still have a few items to cross off your list.

    Here, we’ve laid out everything you need to know to have a successful settlement.

    Closing Is the Final Step

    Closing, or “settlement,” is when both parties sign the final ownership and insurance paperwork, and the buyer becomes the legal owner of the home.

    Typically, closing day takes place about four to six weeks after you signed a purchase and sale agreement. During this window, the buyer’s purchasing funds are held in escrow until all contingencies, like the home inspection contingency and appraisal contingency, are met.

    Your agent will be able to answer questions and offer support through closing. Here’s what to expect from the process, start to finish.

    Before You Close, You’ll Have a Final Walk-Through

    Most sales contracts give the buyer one last chance to do a walk-through of the home within 24 hours of settlement. This is their chance to check that the property is in good condition, and to make sure the agreed-upon repairs were completed. 

    In most cases, no problems arise at this stage of the transaction. (If something is amiss, your agent can walk you through it.) The final walk-through mostly gives buyers peace of mind knowing that you, the seller, have adhered to the conditions of the sales contract and home inspection-related repairs.

    Related Topic: Sell a Home: Step-by-Step

    Follow These Steps to Prepare for the Final Walk-Through

    To help ensure that the walk-through goes smoothly, take these six steps ahead of time to prepare:

    Step #1: Clean house. Your home should be spotless for the final walk-through. Assuming the buyer is taking ownership on closing day, you should be fully moved out at this point. But moving can be messy. After purging, packing, and moving, you may want to do one more deep cleaning. 

    Step #2: Leave owner’s manuals and warranties. Make the buyer’s life easier by providing all manuals and warranties you have for home appliances. Print physical copies and put these documents in one place for the new owner. If you have receipts from contractors for repairs, leave them with the manuals. 

    Step #3: Provide a vendor list. Give the buyer contact information for home contractors or maintenance companies that you’ve used in the past. These vendors are familiar with your home, and the new owner will appreciate having a list of servicers they can trust will take good care of their new home.

    Step #4: Check for forgotten items. Do one more check throughout the home to make sure you’re not leaving anything behind. One exception: You may want to leave unused or leftover paint cans in the colors currently in use within the home — but confirm with the buyer first.

    Step #5: Turn off water shut-off valves. The last thing you want before closing is a flood. With the buyer’s permission, turn off your house’s main shutoff valve 24 hours before closing.

    Step #6: Lock up. Until settlement is complete, you’re legally responsible for the home — meaning you’d be liable if there’s a break-in before closing. So, the day before settlement make sure to close window coverings and lock the entry doors. If a house looks un-lived in, it’s a welcome sign to burglars. It’s a good idea to leave a porch light on, or to set an interior light to turn on and off with a timer.

    If the final walk-through reveals an issue with the house, don’t panic. The standard protocol is for the buyer’s agent to immediately alert the listing agent that there’s a problem. Then, both parties work together to solve it. Typically, either the closing gets delayed or there's additional negotiation, such as monetary deduction of the sales price. In other words: There are options, and your agent can help you through this.

    Up Next: The “Closing Disclosure”

    Let’s assume the final walk-through is smooth sailing. (Woo-hoo!) What happens next?

    You’ll get info about your closing costs from the title company. 

    Meanwhile, the buyer’s mortgage lender must provide the buyer with a Closing Disclosure, or CD, three business days before settlement. This is a formal statement of the buyer’s final loan terms and closing costs. As the loan borrower, the buyer is entitled to a three-day review period to see if there are any significant discrepancies between their CD and Loan Estimate (LE) — a document buyers receive when they apply for a loan. The LE outlines the approximate fees the buyer would need to pay.

    In most cases, there are no major differences between the CD and LE. However, if certain closing costs differ by 10% or more between the estimate and the disclosure, the buyer’s loan has to go back to the mortgage lender so that cost differences can be reviewed. If that happens, closing is usually delayed until the issue is resolved.

    Expect to See These People at the Closing

    The closing typically takes place at the title company, attorney’s office, or the buyer’s or seller’s agent’s real estate office. (Unless you live in a state that allows for electronic closings -- eClosings -- with remote notaries. In that case, the involved parties can opt to sign documents digitally.)

    The list of legally mandated {{ start_tip 104 }}attendees{{ end_tip }} will depend on your state, but usually you’ll be joined by:

    • Your agent
    • The buyer
    • The buyer's agent
    • A title company representative
    • The loan officer
    • Any real estate attorneys involved with the transaction

    Remember to Budget for Closing Costs

    Closing costs can vary widely by location, but you’ll generally pay closing costs of 5% to 10% of the home’s sales price. So, on a $300,000 home, you can expect to pay anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000 in closing costs. In most cases, these costs are deducted from your proceeds at closing.

    Closing costs for sellers typically include:

    • The commission for the listing agent and buyer’s agent
    • Transfer taxes or recording fees
    • Loan payoff costs
    • Unpaid homeowner association dues
    • Homeowner association dues included up to the settlement date
    • Prorated property taxes
    • Escrow, title, or attorney fees

    Be Sure to Bring These Things to Closing

    At the closing you should have:

    • A government-issued photo ID
    • A copy of the ratified sales contract
    • House keys, garage remotes, mailbox keys, gate keys, and any pool keys
    • A cashier’s check, or proof of wire transfer, if your closing costs are not being deducted from the sales price. (Yes, it’s OK to use a cashier’s check — especially if you don't want to deal with the hassle of a wire transfer, which can take time to clear. With a cashier's check, you're guaranteed the money you need for settlement will be there at closing.)

    Don’t Forget to Dot These I’s and Cross These T’s

    Before you rush off to pick out paint samples for your new place, remember to do these two steps that are often overlooked by sellers:

    Transfer utilities. Don’t want to pay for the new owner’s utility bills? Coordinate with the buyer so that utilities — including not only gas and electric but also water and cable — are transferred to the buyer on {{ start_tip 103 }}closing day.{{ end_tip }}

    Change your address. You obviously want your mail to be sent to your new home. Setting up a forwarding address will also ensure that you can be reached if there are any post-closing matters. You can file a change of address with the U.S. Postal Service here.

    Finally: Celebrate!

    At last, your home is officially sold. Congratulations! Give yourself a pat on the back — and then start settling into your new phase of life.

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    What Every Seller Needs to Know About Closing - https://www.houselogic.com/sell/how-to-sell-step-by-step/home-closing-process/

    By HouseLogic  |  Published: April 12, 2018

    Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

     

    6 Ways to Lose at Negotiating a House Price

    By: Leanne Potts

    Real estate negotiation tips so you can buy your dream home — and not overpay.

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    You've looked at enough houses to fill an entire season of House Hunters and finally picked one to buy. Now you're ready to make an offer.

    Your agent can help guide you through this nail-biting phase of negotiating a house price, but ultimately, you call the shots. Here's how to negotiate like a boss.

    Fail #1: Thinking House Price is All That Matters

    That house with a price point $15k below your budget? It may seem like a deal — until you add on the costs of maintenance and replacing the aging appliances.

    Planning on repainting, remodeling, or landscaping, too? Suddenly the price looks a whole lot higher.

    When developing your offer, calculate in the costs that will go above and beyond a mortgage payment. Then you can negotiate with an eye on the total cost of owning the house, not just the sticker price.

    On the flip side, the price may not be all that matters to the seller, either.

    She may have to start a job on the other side of the country in a month and value a quick closing. Or she may be looking to rent from you for a bit after the sale until her next home is ready. Sometimes being accommodating is negotiation gold.

    Fail #2: Refusing to Back Down on Small Repairs

    Before you draw a line in the negotiation sand over, say, a deck with some rotten boards, ask yourself if it's worth losing the house over a repair that would cost less than a thousand dollars.

    Say the house price is $250,000, which makes that deck repair less than half of one percent of the cost of the house. There's a lot of emotional energy at this point in the process, so give yourself a break rather than dickering over it.

    A house negotiation is not about winning for the sake of winning. It's about getting the house you want at a fair price on good terms.

    Fail #3: Waiving Formalities Because You're So in Love With the House

    Don't be so blinded by house love that you do something silly like skip some of the formalities of home buying, such as the home inspection or the appraisal, in an effort to close the deal.

    Those steps, and others like a termite or septic inspection, are known as contingencies. They're there to protect you from ending up with a six-figure money pit.

    Imagine how quickly the house-honeymoon would end if you found a termite colony or that the identical house across the street sold for much less?

    Besides, if you're taking out a mortgage, your lender won't let you skip an appraisal because they don't want to loan money on a house that isn't worth the loan amount. So even if you want to make it easy for the seller, your lender may stop you.

    There are other ways to sweeten your offer and get that house:

    • Pay some of the seller's closing costs.
    • Offer a fast close.

    If this is your first house, speed is an ace up your sleeve because you can move faster than someone who can't buy a new house until they sell the old one (another type of contingency).

    And remember, while there's a lot of emotion tied up in choosing a house, it's still a business deal.

    Fail #4: Getting Hung Up On a Few Grand

    You offered $198,000. The seller won't budge from $200,000.

    Before you walk away, consider this: Two grand is a lot of money, but in the house-buying world it's not so much. At an interest rate of 4%, with 20% down on a 30-year mortgage, that additional $2,000 will add just $8 a month to your payment.

    If you can swing it -- maybe you can cut a small thing out of your budget each month -- it could be worth it. 

    Fail #5: Folding Because the Inspection Turned Up Issues

    A good home inspection is going to turn up something. Usually several somethings. That's good. It means the inspector is doing their job. It's a rare day when a home passes inspection with no problem at all.

    Plus, many things that turn up on an inspection are easily handled. You can ask the seller to do the repairs or knock some off the price so you can pay for repairs.

    And while some problems may seem scary at first, like a roof leak or plumbing problem, they're almost always fixable and negotiable.

    Fail #6: Offering Less Because the Decor is Hideous

    The faux-Tiffany swag lamp and trippy orange-and-brown wallpaper make your eyes itch. So you're planning on offering less — way less.

    Before you do that, know the market. If it's a seller's market, your offer may be seen as an insult especially if the home's in good shape. And just like that, you've lost your dream home.

    When you're ready to make that offer, look past the little stuff that you can easily change, and focus your negotiations on what matters, like the location and the bones of the house.

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    6 Ways to Lose at Negotiating a House Price -  https://www.houselogic.com/buy/house-negotiating-closing/negotiating-house-price/

    By: Leanne Potts  |  Published: July 12, 2018

    Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

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      "I Need 20% Down" and Other Home-Buying Myths About Mortgages

      By: Kelley Walters

      Tips for shopping around for a mortgage -- even if you think you don't qualify.

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      Think you're not ready to unlock home ownership yet? That the financial hurdles are too high? You may be short-changing yourself. Many of the things renters believe about home-buying are myths.

      Here's the real deal.

      Myth: I Have to Put Down 20%. :(

      Saving 20% of the price of a home in many places isn't just a challenge; it's a roadblock. And it's not a must-do. Roughly 60% of home buyers put down less than 6%. How can you become part of the {{ start_tip 115 }}less-than-20 club{{ end_tip }}?

      • FHA Loans: The Federal Housing Association (FHA) is an old friend to first-time buyers and others who are ready to become homeowners with less than a 20% down payment. If you qualify, you may be able to get a loan with as little as 3.5% down.
      • DownpaymentResource.com and NeighborWorks: Some local and state agencies sponsor down-payment assistance programs that help prospective home buyers in different ways. Follow the links to find out if any are available near you.
      • VA, USDA, and Navy Federal Credit Union loans: Three government-related lenders offer mortgages with as little as zero down. The VA is for veterans and family members; the USDA is for buyers in qualifying locations (typically rural); and Navy Federal Credit Union is for the military, family members, and some government employees.
      • Gift Funds: Sixteen percent of buyers ask friends or relatives to help jump-start their home ownership with a gift. Talk to your lender first, though. There may be limits to the amount of gifted funds they'll accept, and they may require your benefactor to sign some paperwork.

      Related: 6 Ways to Find More Money for Your Down Payment

      Myth: My Low Credit Score Means I Can't Buy a Home

      So, your credit could use a tune-up. That doesn't mean you have to forgo your home-buying dreams. Here are some options for those with a less-than-stellar credit score.

      • FHA loan: With a credit score of 500, you can apply for an FHA loan, but you'll need a 10% down payment to offset the risk. If your score is a tick better (580), you can participate in their down-payment assistance program, requiring only 3.5%.
      • A higher down payment: On the off-chance you have enough cash on hand to put down more than 20%, the higher down payment can help those with lower credit scores be less risky for lenders.
      • A co-signer. Find someone with better credit to co-sign the loan – but understand that if you don't make the payments, the cosigner will be financially responsible (and their credit will also suffer).
      • Check your credit report. Maybe your credit isn't that low after all. Order a copy of your report from all three reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian). If you find inaccurate or old information, ask the agencies to correct it. (You can order a free report from each of the bureaus once a year at annualcreditreport.com.

      Myth: I Can't Afford the Agent's Commission

      Here's one you can immediately mark off your worry list. Typically, the commission is paid from the proceeds of the sale via the seller.

      This is one of many reasons to contract with a buyer's agent. The seller's agent doesn't work for you, and you need a pro in your corner.

      Myth: My Bank Will Give Me the Best Mortgage

      There are a lot of positive things to say about working with your local bank, but assuming they'll give you the best mortgage is a mistake.

      Banks are only one type of home-loan lender. Others include credit unions and mortgage companies. Mortgage rates aren't the same across the board, so contact several institutions to ensure you're getting the best price.

      Or, if you prefer to let the lenders come to you, consider getting a loan through a mortgage broker. Brokers have access to several lenders, and they'll shop their market, getting you a wider selection of loans. But unless you contract with one, brokers aren't obligated to find the best deal for you. So you'll want to shop around for a broker, just as you would for a lender.

      Related: 5 Common Mortgage Mistakes That Are Easy to Avoid

      Myth: I Was Pre-Approved. I Got The Loan!

      Well . . . no. Don't order that couch from West Elm or pack away your tax documents just yet.

      You don't get the loan until:

      (a) The seller accepts your offer

      (b) Your lender approves the loan (which you'll need those tax docs for)

      (c) You sign the loan papers 

      Between (a) and (c), the lender will have the home appraised to ensure its value is in line with the purchase price, check your credit again, and ask you for more documents than you ever knew existed.

      So what does "pre-approved" mean for a loan? It tells sellers you're eligible for a loan and shows them you're a serious, qualified buyer. This gives them confidence in your offer, increasing your chances of (a), (b), and (c) actually happening.

      Myth: The Interest Rate Is What Matters Most

      A low interest rate is important, but it's not the only thing to consider. When shopping around for a loan, check the annual percentage rate (APR). It includes all loan costs, such as origination and processing fees that can vary widely from lender to lender, in addition to the interest rate.

      One loan may have a lower interest rate, but the up-front fees cost more than you'd save in interest. The APR lets you compare apples to apples.

      Before you sign the loan, your lender will give you a loan estimate, a line-by-line estimate of fees. You'll find the APR there. Use that rate to compare the loans you're considering.

      How about that? You may be closer to home ownership than you thought. Happy house hunting!

      ********

      By: Kelley Walters via HouseLogic  |  Published: July 12, 2018

      "I Need 20% Down" and Other Home-Buying Myths About Mortgages - https://www.houselogic.com/finances-taxes/financing/home-buying-myths-mortgages/

      Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

       

       

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        8 Tips for Adding Curb Appeal and Value to Your Home

        By: Pat Curry 

        A good washing, and a bit of color are two low-cost ways.

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        Homes with high curb appeal command higher prices and take less time to sell. 

        But which projects pump up curb appeal most? Here are financially smart ways to boost your home's equity.

        #1 Wash Your House’s Face

        Before you scrape any paint or plant more azaleas, wash the dirt, mildew, and general grunge off the outside of your house. REALTORS® say washing a house can add $10,000 to $15,000 to the sale prices of some houses. 

        A bucket of soapy water and a long-handled, soft-bristled brush can remove the dust and dirt that have splashed onto your wood, vinyl, metal, stucco, brick, and fiber cement siding. Power washers (rental: $75 per day) can reveal the true color of your flagstone walkways.

        Wash your windows inside and out, swipe cobwebs from eaves, and hose down downspouts. Don’t forget your garage door, which was once bright white. If you can’t spray off the dirt, scrub it off with a solution of 1/2 cup trisodium phosphate -- TSP, available at grocery stores, hardware stores, and home improvement centers -- dissolved in 1 gallon of water. 

        You and a friend can make your house sparkle in a few weekends. A professional cleaning crew will cost hundreds -- depending on the size of the house and number of windows -- but will finish in a couple of days.

        #2 Freshen the Paint Job

        The most commonly offered curb appeal advice from real estate pros and appraisers is to give the exterior of your home a good paint job. Buyers will instantly notice it, and appraisers will value it. Of course, painting is an expensive and time-consuming facelift. To paint a 3,000-square-foot home, figure on spending $375 to $600 on paint; $1,500 to $3,000 on labor.

        Your best bet is to match the paint you already have: Scrape off a little and ask your local paint store to match it. Resist the urge to make a statement with color. An appraiser will mark down the value of a house that’s painted a wildly different color from its competition.

        #3 Fix Up the Roof

        The condition of your roof is one of the first things buyers notice and appraisers assess. Missing, curled, or faded shingles add nothing to the look or value of your house. If your neighbors have maintained or replaced their roofs, yours will look especially shabby.

        You can pay for roof repairs now, or pay for them later in a lower appraisal; appraisers will mark down the value by the cost of the repair. According to the "Remodeling Impact Report" from the National Assoication of REALTORS®, the national median cost of a new asphalt shingle roof is about $7,500. And if you install a new one, you'll get that back -- plus a bit more. A  new roof has an ROI of 109%.

        Some tired roofs look a lot better after you remove 25 years of dirt, moss, lichens, and algae. Don’t try cleaning your roof yourself: call a professional with the right tools and technique to clean it without damaging it. A 2,000-square-foot roof will take a day and $400 to $600 to clean professionally.

        #4 Neaten the Yard

        A well-manicured lawn, fresh mulch, and pruned shrubs boost the curb appeal of any home.

        Replace overgrown bushes with leafy plants and colorful annuals. Surround bushes and trees with dark or reddish-brown bark mulch, which gives a rich feel to the yard. Put a crisp edge on garden beds, pull weeds and invasive vines, and plant a few geraniums in pots.

        Green up your grass with lawn food and water. Cover bare spots with seeds and sod, get rid of crab grass, and mow regularly. If you're selling anytime soon, any work you do now will reap benefits in your home's selling price, usually 100% or more according to the "Remodeling Impact Report" from the National Association of REALTORS®.

        #5 Add a Color Splash

        Even a little color attracts and pleases the eye of would-be buyers.

        Plant a tulip border in the fall that will bloom in the spring. Dig a flowerbed by the mailbox and plant some pansies. Place a brightly colored bench or Adirondack chair on the front porch. Get a little daring, and paint the front door red or blue.

        Beautiful colors enhance curb appeal and help your house to sell faster.

        Related: Colorful Plants with Curb Appeal

        #6 Glam Up Your Mailbox

        An upscale mailbox, architectural house numbers, or address plaques can make your house stand out. 

        High-style die cast aluminum mailboxes range from $100 to $350. You can pick up a handsome, hand-painted mailbox for about $50. If you don’t buy new, at least give your old mailbox a facelift with paint and new house numbers. 

        These days, your local home improvement center or hardware stores has an impressive selection of decorative numbers. Architectural address plaques, which you tack to the house or plant in the yard, typically range from $80 to $200. Brass house numbers range from $3 to $11 each, depending on size and style.

        Related: 11 Ways to Create a Welcoming Front Entrance for Under $100

        #7 Add a Fence

        A picket fence with a garden gate to frame the yard is an asset. Not only does it add visual punch to your property, appraisers will give extra value to a fence in good condition, although it has more impact in a family-oriented neighborhood than an upscale retirement community. 

        Expect to pay $2,000 to $3,500 for a professionally installed gated picket fence 3 feet high and 100 feet long.

        If you already have a fence, make sure it’s clean and in good condition. Replace broken gates and tighten loose latches.

        #8 Keep Up With Maintenance

        Nothing looks worse from the curb -- and sets off subconscious alarms -- like hanging gutters, missing bricks from the front steps, or peeling paint. Not only can these deferred maintenance items damage your home, but they can decrease the value of your house by 10%.

        Here are some maintenance chores that will dramatically help the look of your house:

        • Refasten sagging gutters.
        • Repoint bricks that have lost their mortar.
        • Reseal cracked asphalt.
        • Straighten shutters.
        • Replace cracked windows.

        _____________________________________________________

        8 Tips for Adding Curb Appeal and Value to Your Home https://www.houselogic.com/save-money-add-value/add-value-to-your-home/adding-curb-appeal-value-to-home/

        By: Pat Curry via HouseLogic  |  Published: February 18, 2011

        Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

         

         

         

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          Staging Your Home: How to Make Buyers Fall in Love

          With these tips and tricks, your house will be swoon-worthy in no time.

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          All the world’s a stage, said the Bard.

          That includes your house. Which is for sale. And thus needs to look bee-yoo-tee-ful.

          Staging entails hiring experts with a flair for interior design. They reimagine your living space and give your house a makeover (with temporary decor and furnishings) so that it gets “oohs” and “aahs” from the buying masses. 

          Great staging isn’t an insurance policy — there’s no guarantee it will bring in more money when you sell your home — but it’s an important marketing tool. It presents your house in a flattering light and helps you compete at a favorable price. (In that sense, staging is like dressing your house for the price you want, and not the price you have.) 

          Staging also leads to eye-catching listing photos, which are especially valuable given that most homebuyers begin their search by scrolling through listings online.

          So, are you thinking about hiring stagers for your home? Here’s what to consider.

          Staging Really Does Help. Like, a Lot.

          But you don’t have to take our word for it. A recent survey from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® revealed that:

          • 77% of buyers’ agents said staging makes it easier for their buyer to visualize the property as their future home. It’s like helping the buyer dream it so they can achieve it — and so you and your agent can make the sale.
          • 39% of sellers’ agents said staging a home greatly decreases the amount of time a house is on the market. For you, time saved could mean moving into your new house even sooner.
          • 21% of sellers’ agents said staging a home increases its dollar value between 6% and 10%. Simply put, that may lead to more money in your pocket.

          Before You Stage, Budget Accordingly

          Many listings agents offer staging services to clients as part of their services. If you want to use someone you find yourself, you typically will have to pay out of pocket.

          Staging costs vary depending on where you live and how many rooms you’re staging. On average, home sellers pay between $302 and $1,358 for staging, according to HomeAdvisor.com. If your house is empty because you’ve already moved, you might also have additional expenses for renting furniture and other homey decorations to make it look lived-in.

          Many stagers offer consultations for as low as $150, Fixr.com reports. Using the advice you learn during the consultation to try DIY staging may be your best option if you’re on a tight budget. Listen for tips on how to use the furniture and decor you already have to show off your home’s best assets.

          Related Topic: Sell a Home: Step-by-Step

          For the Best Results, Declutter

          Spoiler alert: No buyer wants to walk into a messy house. 

          So, take time to clean and declutter your home. Organize everyday household items into crates and keep them out of sight. Stow away seasonal decorations (that means no Christmas in July). Make time for — or invest in — a whole-house cleaning, including carpet shampooing. Change lightbulbs, finally make those minor repairs, and add a fresh coat of paint to any room that needs it. {{ start_tip 99 }}Clean out closet spaces{{ end_tip }}— because buyers will want to check out the closets.

          Also worth considering? Removing personal items from view, such as copious family photos, artwork, or religious keepsakes. The concern is not that home buyers will be offended by you or your lifestyle. The goal is to neutralize the space and help home buyers imagine themselves living there. (But don’t go overboard. You don’t want rooms to feel sterile, either.)

          Yes, we did just tell you to clean out your closets. So where are you supposed to put all this stuff? If you don’t have a discrete place to tuck things away, consider renting a storage unit. 

          To Find the Right Stager for Your Home, Ask Questions

          If your agent doesn’t offer staging services, he or she can likely recommend local stagers for you to work with. Before you hire a stager, it’s best to interview at least three candidates in person. You’ll want to get a sense of how much they charge — and whether they have good taste.

          To do your due diligence, here are 10 questions to ask prospective stagers: 

          1. On average, how many days were your staged homes on the market last year?Experience is important, but it’s not the only factor to consider when vetting stagers. You want someone who stages homes that sell — ideally within 30 days, because that’s when agents often recommend making a price reduction if your house is still on the market.
          2. What price range do you typically work in? Staging luxury homes is a totally different ball game than staging starter homes. Find someone who specializes in homes near your listing price.
          3. What styles of homes do you usually stage? Staging different types of homes also requires different skill sets (think of a penthouse versus a bungalow, for instance). Look for someone with experience working in homes similar to yours.
          4. What formal training have you received? A number of staging organizations, such as the Real Estate Staging Association (RESA) and the International Association of Home Staging Professionals (IAHSP), offer certification or accreditation. Training from these associations can distinguish professional stagers from beginners.
          5. Do you have insurance? Your home could get damaged when the stager moves furniture in and out. Find someone with business insurance so that you’re protected.
          6. Can I see your portfolio? One of the best ways to judge a stager’s skills is to look at their work. Ask to see photos from the person’s three most recently staged homes.
          7. Do you select the accessories, furniture, and paint for the homes you stage, or do you collaborate with other experts? Some stagers work independently, while others collaborate with other vendors. Make sure you know everyone who will be involved in staging your home, so you don’t have surprise guests rearranging your living room.
          8. What are your rates? Some stagers charge a fee for decorating services, plus a monthly fee for renting furniture, while others charge a flat fee per room for the duration of the listing. Ask about how a stager determines costs before you commit to working with him or her. 
          9. What’s your availability? If you’re on a tight timetable, make sure the stager can get your house ready by the date you want to put your house on the market.
          10. Can you provide contacts for past clients? Get in touch with two or three people who have worked with the stager before. Ask how the stager’s services helped with the sale of their homes, and what they might have done differently.

          Focus On the Rooms That Count the Most

          You don’t have to stage your whole house to make buyers swoon. 

          Staging the rooms where people tend to spend the most time usually makes the biggest impression on buyers. Start with the{{ start_tip 100 }}living room,{{ end_tip }}followed by the master bedroom and the kitchen. 

          Keep in mind that you’re not going for an HGTV-worthy overhaul: Even small touches, like putting fluffy towels in the bathroom or replacing shabby throw pillows in the family room, can make your home that much more attractive.

          Oh, and BTW: Stage Your Yard, Too

          Your house has to look its best — inside and outside. After all, buyers form their first impression when they pull up in front of your home. It’s no surprise, then, that curb appeal — how your home looks from the exterior — can increase your home’s sales value up to 17%, a Texas Tech University study found.

          If you’ve never had your yard professionally landscaped, now may be the time to do it. Landscaped homes have a sales price advantage ranging from 5.5% to 12.7%, according to research by Alex Niemiera, a horticulturist at Virginia Tech. That would mean an extra $16,500 to $38,100 in value on a $300,000 home.

          Professional landscaping, however, can cost a lot. You’re aiming for polish, not a new garden of Versailles. If budget is a concern, start with these DIY improvements:

          • Plant blooming flowers and fresh greenery. Even if it's winter, you can add colorful winter blooms and seasonal touches such as garland or lights.
          • Mow the grass.
          • Reseed bare patches of lawn and add fresh sod, as needed.

          Then move on to these easy upgrades to your home’s exterior:

          • Wash the front windows.
          • Power wash siding and walkways.
          • Repaint or stain porches and stairs, as needed.
          • Make sure house numbers are easy to see, visible, and pretty. 
          • Make sure important outdoor features such as the front door, porch, and sidewalks and paths are well lit. (If not, install new fixtures or lighting.)

          Even basic upgrades — like laying fresh mulch, changing porch lights, or installing a new mailbox — can help a buyer fall in love at first sight. 

          Just wait ’til they come inside and see what else you’ve done with the place.

          ___________________________________________________

          Staging Your Home: How to Make Buyers Fall in Love https://www.houselogic.com/sell/how-to-sell-step-by-step/how-to-stage-a-house/

          By: HouseLogic  |  Published: April 12, 2018

          Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

          Agent Receives the Norm Northrup Award for Exemplary Service

          Local realtor, Helen Bolino was recently recognized for outstanding performance at Northrup Realtors’ annual meeting.

          Bolino, received  the “Norm Northrup” Award” which is presented to the agent who best personifies the strong values, exceptional professionalism and high ethical standards envisioned by the company’s namesake and founder Norman Northrup when he first established the local real estate company in 1952.

          “Norm believed that the key to fostering a successful business was to establish high standards and to create a reputation for excellence. Helen Bolino exemplifies those traits in all of her interactions and every transaction.

          Helen’s reputation for honesty, fairness, dependability and respect for confidentiality has been a huge factor to our company’s continuing success and we are extremely fortunate to be able to work with her” Northrup’s President Richard Tisei stated. 

          Helen is held in high esteem by the real estate community and as a result of her work has developed a widespread and very loyal following. In fact, according to the Multiple Listing Service she has ranked as Lynnfield’s leading real estate agent for 17 straight years.  Her success is a result of her successful negotiating skills, customer satisfaction and exceptional work ethic.

          Please join us in congratulating Helen!

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          What You Need to Know About Researching Home Prices

          When it’s time to sell your house, you may be feeling a little anxious. A chapter of your life is closing. There’s a lot of money on the table. You may be thinking “Is my house priced too high?" "Too low?" "Am I leaving too much money on the table?” These are big questions.

          Luckily, you have a few resources at your disposal to figure out where your house stands among the crowd: a listing agent’s expertise and guidance, plus online property sites to get insight into the market.

          So take a deep breath. Then do your homework. The more you know, the more confident you’ll be when it’s time to make those big decisions. 

          Turn to Local Experts — Because They Really Know Their Stuff

          The good news: Local market info is freely available online, so you, the seller, can get a sense of what your house is worth.

          The bad news: Local market info is freely available online, so most buyers will also have a general idea of what they think your home is worth.

          When pricing your house, a listing agent has your back in a way an online property listing site just can’t. An agent:

          • Has real world experience in your community. 
          • Knows the nuances of your neighborhood’s micro-market. 
          • Can expertly assess how your home compares to similar ones recently sold in your area.
          • Can tour your property to determine, inside and out, where your house fits in the real estate landscape. 

          A website will do none of the above. 

          An agent will, yes, consider online market data to help you set the price of your home. But he or she will also rely on first-hand knowledge about your home’s unique perks (and quirks), as well as about the neighborhood, to better inform your listing price. 

          He or she can also recommend ways to market your house (Instagram-able photos, blog-worthy descriptions, etc.), pro stagers who can set your home up to dazzle buyers, and inspectors and contractors who can make any needed repairs.

          That being said, you’ll want to have your own sense of what your house is worth too. As invaluable as a listing agent is to your selling journey, being the seller means you’re also the final decision maker. 

          So keep your laptop out. We’re going to do a little research.

          Search Online Property Sites — Because They’ll Give IRL Experience Some Context

          Millennials are the largest group of home buyers today, according to a NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ (NAR) report, and they overwhelmingly start their buying journey — where else? — online.

          The internet is there for you as well — to an extent — when you’re ready to sell your home. 

          Online property sites like realtor.com can give you a sense of local real estate trends, including your city’s median listing price, median closing price, and the average price per square foot. As you search, there are a couple important things to do:

          1. Pay attention to houses in your area that are similar to your own in terms of size, attributes, and location. When you work with a listing agent to price your home, these houses will provide the main criteria for setting the amount. 
          2. Take notes about {{ start_tip 101 }}what makes your house different{{ end_tip }} from the pack. As you look at online listings, think carefully about why your house is worth more or less than similar houses in your community. The better you’re able to articulate these nuances to your listing agent, the better prepared the agent will be to list your home at an accurate and competitive price. 

          Having this information can also give you confidence in the price your agent ultimately recommends — you’ll know what’s standard for the market, and how the price determined for your house lines up. If there are discrepancies, talk to your agent about how he or she arrived at their price. Unlike the internet, he or she can give you a complete picture of what your home’s price should be and why. 

          Also, as you search, be aware that not all real estate listing sites are created equal. Realtor.com® aggregates listings from Multiple Listing Services (MLS) around the country, which provides the most up-to-the-minute data about home sales. (By the way, realtor.com® is the official listing site of NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, which operates HouseLogic.com.)  Most of 'for sale' listings at realtor.com®, for example, are refreshed every 15 minutes — so what you see is likely what you get. Another big property listing site (and brokerage), Redfin, also aggregates data from MLSs.

          Trulia and Zillow, on the other hand, collect their listing information from a variety of sources, and may not always be as up to date as the MLS. 

          The takeaway: Seller, beware. Consider your online source. Take what you’ve learned from online listings to your agent to talk about what’s really best for you and your home. 

          Related Topic: Sell a Home: Step-by-Step

          Try Online Price Calculators — With Caveats

          As long as you’re on the internet, you might decide to try an online home price calculator. With these calculators, property sites use sale prices near you (and overall market data) to approximately predict your own home’s value.

          You’ll find an online home price calculator at almost any property site, and they all work a little differently. Realtor.com®’s home estimator tool, for instance, factors in your home’s square footage and recent home sales in your area to calculate an approximate recommended sale price.

          Plug your ZIP code or address into a site to see:

          • Homes for sale in your community, which can give you a sense of the overall market
          • Estimated prices of similar homes in your area, which can provide a general range of home prices in your area
          • Property descriptions and photos of local homes for sale, which can give you a feel for how other homes are being marketed to buyers (and how you can do even better)

          Info like this is good to know — particularly because most buyers will see similar numbers when they to online research, too — but you have to take what online home price calculators tell you with a grain of salt.

          Online price calculators can be useful as a reference, but they have limitations in terms of their scope (they can’t read nuances of the market like a human can), as well as their reliability. Some, including Zillow’s Zestimate tool, which estimates market value, have been challenged by some users for inaccuracy.

          Your listing agent’s knowledge and expertise are more reliable measures for determining your own home’s price — he or she knows the subtleties of your home, neighborhood, and real estate market inside and out. Before you and your agent can confer, don’t get your heart set on a sale price.

          Speaking of: The sale price is one thing. Potential profit is another.

          How much money you’ll pocket after selling your home depends on a number of factors, including the amount of debt you still owe on a current mortgage, property taxes, and your real estate agent’s commission. To get an idea of your potential profit margin, use a net proceeds calculator, like these from United Heritage Credit Union or Oklahoma’s Credit Union. 

          Again: These are only estimates. A lot of variables are at play between the time you set a sale price and the time you close. The home will be appraised and inspected, and those results could affect your out-of-pocket costs or the sale price. And you’ll likely be negotiating the price with buyers. So use a net proceeds calculator with some care.

          OK, you’ve done your research. Now it’s time to find that listing agent who’s right for you.

           

          Visit www.houselogic.com for more articles like this. 

          Copyright 2018 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

           

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            Fairways Edge at Sagamore Project Overview

            Fairways Edge at SagamoreAs a follow up a previous post from February 28, we would like to shed some more light on the Fairways Edge at Sagamore project currently being proposed by Bonvie Homes.  

            The first matter to be addressed is a vote to amend the town zoning laws. Fairways Edge at Sagamore is a proposed 55+ residential community consisting of 154 attached residences built around Sagamore Spring Golf Club. The project would be built under the Lynnfield Elderly Housing bylaw if approved by voters at the April 30th Town Meeting.

            Voters are being asked to rezone 105 acres on the first nine holes of the course from single-family residential into a senior housing zone. The additional 66 acres across the street which comprise the back nine holes, is not a part of this project or proposed rezoning.

            Until the town vote on April 30th, the project is still in proposal stage. That is why we are working hard to educate residents about it and ask for support.

            In an effort to answer specific questions about this project please download this helpful PDF: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Fairways Edge at Sagamore. And look for more information to come on our Facebook page and Twitter.

             

             

             

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