I don't think I have to venture too far out on a limb to make this New Year's prediction: Trying to sell your home in 2015 will pretty much be the same as selling in 2014. And that isn't necessarily easy, at least in the Lakes Region of N.H. While other areas of the country and even this State are booming and properties are selling quickly with multiple offers, that is just not the case here. Sorry! While some segments of our market, like vacation properties and entry level properties, are somewhat easier than others, it really is still a buyers' market here especially in the mid-range price residential home market. Now, that's not to say you can't successfully sell your home, you can, just as hundreds of people did in 2014. But just to help you out, here are some tips to help you get it done in 2015.
1. Get a good realtor. If you haven't already worked with an agent in the past and had a great experience with him or her, interview three different agents from different brokerages. See what they, and their company, have to offer in terms of marketing, how well they communicate, and how knowledgeable they are about the market. Ask lots of questions. Find out how dedicated they are to their profession and if they are full or part time. Their availability to you is extremely important, as is effective communication. Ask if they are going to attend every showing on your home, they should, shouldn't they? Do they invest in their own success? Do they have a website to check them out on? Perhaps one of the most important things is to determine how well you think you will get along with them. Personality matters a lot as you are going to be working together for some period of time to sell your home, so make it an enjoyable choice if you can.
2. Get the right price. This is probably the single most important factor in getting your home sold in 2015. Ask each agent that you interview to give you a market analysis and a suggested price range to list your home at. The suggested price range for your home is derived from looking at similar properties that have recently sold. Therefore, the prices recommended should be pretty close although subject to the agent's personal interpretation. If the prices the agents give you vary wildly, ask for further explanation. Never pick an agent based on the fact that he gave you the highest price range to list your home. Your choice of an agent should be based on a number of factors including the marketing program offered.
3. Get the best marketing program. You want a marketing program that casts the widest possible net to find a buyer for your home. You also want one that presents your property in its best possible light with professional grade photography, appropriate and enticing property descriptions, and lots of details. Ask where your property will be marketed, where will it be seen, if video will be part of the program. So part of choosing a realtor to represent you is looking closely and objectively at his marketing plan for your property to ensure it covers all the bases.
There is a term called "ZMOT." ZMOT is an acronym for the Zero Moment of Truth which was coined by Google. ZMOT is the exact moment in time that someone makes a decision to purchase goods or services. In real estate, it could be the moment a buyer decides to go look at a property because he happened upon a home shown in a high quality video on YouTube. It was that compelling to make him pick up the phone or send an email to see the property. Home buyers use many different pathways to home ownership, but by and large the internet is the main vehicle they use to get there. There are also many different components that help a buyer to that ZMOT. Professional grade photography, enticing property descriptions, complete property data, and now even high quality video are a must. The more opportunities a marketing plan has to provide that Zero Moment Of Truth to a buyer the better it is.
4. Get Ready. Your home has to be show ready and at its best to compete in the 2015 real estate market. Ask your agent to help point out what, if anything, needs to be done to make it so. Are there unfinished projects and repairs that need to be done? Your home needs to be clean...no, it must be pristine! De-clutter, organize, and spruce the place up wherever you can. A simple coat of fresh paint makes a world of difference. Simple improvements can make an enormous difference in the way your home shows. Hiring a home staging expert for a minimal cost can provide not only a quicker sale, but higher sales price. So get ready.
5. Be ready to negotiate. More importantly, be willing to negotiate. The chances of you getting full asking price for your property are probably less than winning the Powerball. Buyers want to feel that they got something off the asking price and that they were successful negotiators. Sometimes it doesn't have to be a lot, especially if your home is priced right. Obviously, a lot depends on the offer you get. A low ball offer might tend to alienate you and sour the deal right away, but try and work with every offer. You can never be sure where the final number will end up. Both buyer and seller should remember that the initial offer negotiations are often followed by further negotiations after the home inspections and beyond. So playing nice in the sand box right from the beginning might benefit both parties as things are "needed" further on in the transaction. Negotiation is the art of compromise.
Now, go sell your house!
Pease feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00
There's no denying that Democrats took a drubbing at the polls in 2014. Running cautious campaigns and shying away from Obamacare, Wall Street regulation, the anti-fracking movement, immigration reform and Obama himself — was not a winning strategy.
While the Democrats had a poor showing, populist and progressive ideas surged. Even in red states, pollsters find support for big progressive policy changes (such as living wage laws, Medicare for all, a national infrastructure jobs program, expanded Social Security benefits and free higher education) that would reestablish a vibrant middle-class America. While voters were tossing Democrats aside in this past election, bigger majorities of the same electorate leaped at the chance to say "YES" to an array of unabashedly populist ballot initiatives:
Minimum wage. Even though the crimson-red states of Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota elected GOP Senate candidates, voters rejected the low-wage policies of the Republicans and their corporate backers by approving minimum wage increases. San Francisco voters also raised their wage floor to $15 an hour, and Oakland went up to $12.25. In addition, non-binding referenda calling for raises to $10 or more were approved by 65 percent of the voters in Illinois and by 13 Wisconsin cities and counties, where a whopping 70 to 83 percent of voters OK'd the increases.
Fracking. While ExxonMobil, Halliburton and dozens of huge energy corporations are in a nationwide fracking frenzy — running roughshod over local citizens in the furious rush for fast profits — locals have begun pushing back against the gross pollution, health problems, infrastructure damage and even earthquakes caused by the inherently destructive and intrusive fracking process. Asserting their human and civic rights, local coalitions have, in the last few years, won several referendum fights to ban fracking in their communities.
This year's election saw four more victories added to the list. Bans were passed in Athens, Ohio (78 percent of the vote), California's Mendocino County (67 percent) and San Benito County (57 percent) and even in Denton, Texas (59 percent).
Corporate money. In dozens of communities in five states, people went to the election polls and confirmed what opinion polls consistently report: The overwhelming majority of Americans want corporate money out of our elections. In the midst of the most money-soaked midterm election in global history, multi-partisan majorities said "enough!" They voted for initiatives that said (1) only humans have constitutional rights, (2) money is not speech and (3) "We the People" want to pass a 28th Amendment overturning the Supreme Court's corrosive Citizens United edict.
Ironically, even as the Koch-financed governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, pulled off a re-election victory, 12 local communities (including his home county of Milwaukee) voted between 70 and 80 percent for local initiatives that call for an amendment to overturn the court's terrible decision. Similar majorities were amassed in statewide in Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts and Ohio: As the national director of the Move to Amend Campaign put it: "The leaders of both parties need to realize that their voters are clamoring for this amendment, and we are only going to get louder."
Paid sick leave. Poverty is sickening enough, but millions of people trying to live on poverty-level wages face a truly sickening choice when they fall ill: Stay at home and lose a few days' pay, or go to work sick, possibly spreading the illness to co-workers and customers. This year, there were four big victories for paid sick leave: Massachusetts (59 to 41 percent), Oakland, California (81 to 19 percent), Montclair, New Jersey (74 to 26 percent) and Trenton, New Jersey (86 to 14 percent).
Conservation. Three major conservation initiatives passed this year: Alaskans voted to prohibit future mining projects that would endanger wild salmon habitat; 75 percent of Florida voters approved a measure to dedicate $1 billion a year in real estate taxes to the protection of water in the endangered Everglades and other areas; and New Jerseyans OK'd an initiative that requires $2 billion in corporate tax revenue be spent on land conservation.
Marijuana. This year both Alaskans and Oregonians voted for full legalization, while Washington DC voted to decriminalize marijuana. And the U.S. territory of Guam approved marijuana use for medicinal purposes.
The day after the election, Obama said: To the two-thirds of voters that chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you." Fine. But will he and the other Democratic leaders make the giant leap from "hearing" to doing? Taking bold, populist actions makes working stiffs and average Americans excited about voting. We need more leaders to champion the populist cause.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 2014 09:14
In July of 1870, King Wilhelm sent Foreign Minister Bismarck an account of his meeting with a French envoy who had demanded that the king renounce any Hohenzollern claim to the Spanish throne. Bismarck edited the report to make it appear the Frenchman had insulted the king, and that Wilhelm rudely dismissed him. The Ems Telegram precipitated the Franco-Prussian war Bismarck wanted.
Words matter. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, how much greater impact can a motion picture have? We are finding out.
Egypt has banned "Exodus: Gods and Kings," the $140 million 20th Century Fox biblical epic. Cairo's culture minister Gaber Asfour condemns it as "a Zionist film" containing "historical inaccuracies."
The depiction of enslaved Jews building the pyramids and Moses parting the Red Sea to enable the Jews to flee and drown the Egyptian army is false, says Asfour. Historians date the pyramids to around 2540 B.C., 500 years before Abraham, the father of Judaism.
Paramount's "Noah" was banned in Egypt, Indonesia and Malaysia, for taking liberties with the Quran.
Islamabad is in an uproar over the Showtime series, "Homeland," where Pakistani intelligence services are portrayed as colluding with Islamists trying to kill ex-CIA director Saul Berenson and station chief Carrie Mathison. In the season's final episodes, the U.S. cuts ties to Pakistan and closes the embassy.
The Showtime series "maligns a country that has been a close partner and ally of the U.S.," a Pakistani embassy spokesman told the New York Post, and "is a disservice not only to the security interests of the U.S., but also to the people of the U.S."
The 2014 "Homeland" finale was aired just after 140 Pakistani school kids were massacred in Peshawar by the Taliban.
Islamabad is "a quiet picturesque city with beautiful mountains and lush greenery," said one Pakistani, yet is "portrayed as a grimy hellhole and war zone where shootouts and bombings go off with dead bodies scattered around. Nothing is further from the truth."
Angrier than Egypt or Pakistan is North Korea over Sony's "The Interview." Why would a film company owned by the Japanese, who are not beloved in Korea, think it would be a great fun to make a comedy out of a CIA plot to assassinate North Korea's head of state?
The North Koreans are serious people. They massacred half of the South Korean cabinet in the Rangoon bombing. They have brought down airliners and sunk warships without warning. They have plotted to assassinate South Korea's president.
Their megalomaniac ruler, Kim Jong-Un, just had his uncle-mentor executed, along with his family. Kim has atom bombs and seeks to miniaturize them to put atop missiles able to reach the United States.
He is the most erratic and dangerous ruler on the planet and this assassination-comedy is just the thing to set him off. Says Adam Cathcart, a North Korea expert at Leeds University, "In North Korea it's more or less a fait accompli that the Americans are trying to kill our leader." To sustain its Stalinist dynasty, says the Washington Post, Pyongyang has created a "personality cult that is anything but a laughing matter."
In retaliation for "The Interview," North Korea, says the FBI, hacked into Sony's computers, published confidential emails and threatened retaliation against any who showed the film.
The North has repeatedly denied it hacked into Sony. But it now appears the U.S. has retaliated by disrupting Internet service in North Korea, much to the cheers of the War Party, which wants President Obama to put the Hermit Kingdom back on the list of state sponsors of terror.
North Korea is now using racial slurs to describe Obama.
There is an aspect of reckless immaturity here.
While the Wall Street Journal thinks it would be fun to send DVDs of "The Interview" by balloon into the North, the Washington Post says possession of the film there would be regarded as treasonous, and could bring a death sentence.
No one denies Sony the right to produce a comedy about blowing up Kim Jong Un. Nor was anyone denying theaters or Internet sites the right to show it. What Sony seemed to want was to produce a movie that made the assassination of a dictator appear hilarious, but to be exempt from any consequences.
But we live in a world today where if you produce cartoons of the Prophet with a bomb for a turban, or disparage Islam in videos, books or movies, you can get yourself and others killed.
Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was butchered in Amsterdam by an enraged Muslim for "Submission," a 10-minute film that excoriated Islam's treatment of women.
In this weekend's Washington Post, Joe Califano, a confidant of President Johnson, writes of how the new film "Selma" demeans LBJ's crucial role in enacting the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
To enrich itself, Hollywood is playing games with religious beliefs and historical truths — and making enemies, not all of whom believe in turning the other cheek.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 December 2014 11:43
The state's political establishment has it all wrong when talking about who will take on Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte in 2016. It isn't who the best candidate might be to take on the Republican rising star, it's who will base Democrats pick to do so.
Democratic operatives and establishment types all say they were going with the "operating assumption" that Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan will challenge Ayotte. Certainly this is the matchup that Washington Democrats like Harry Reid are hoping to make happen. If she doesn't run, some Democrats already have their eyes on a different woman to take on Ayotte: U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster.
All this thinking misses a much more obvious option: retiring U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter.
Since 2006, New Hampshire has been the most swing of swing states in the entire country. Nearly every two years since then there has been a violent move from Democrat to Republican. This should have taught us a lesson by now about how New Hampshire politics works lately: What matters most is if a candidate can win a primary, the general election atmosphere cannot be controlled.
There is no better example of this concept that Shea-Porter's three repeat contests with Republican Frank Guinta. The reason voters had the same choices three different times is because neither of these candidates could be defeated in a primary and then they won or lost against each other depending on the political mood of the year.
This is what makes Shea-Porter really interesting as a U.S. Senate candidate in 2016. Should she ever consider it, she definitely has more of a path to victory than Kuster and maybe even Hassan.
Shea-Porter might be the most prominent true progressive ever elected to major office in New Hampshire in a century. She owns the label. She was running for office talking about the "99 percent" five years before it became the rallying cry for Occupy Wall Street protesters.
Her liberal positions matter because in a typical low-turnout Democratic primary for the Senate in 2016 a well-run liberal campaign is the one that will win.
Kuster showed how this played out in 2010 when she ran was the well-funded progressive challenging perceived Democratic front-runner Katrina Swett. In the years since progressives have lost favor with Kuster. One group, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, strongly backed Kuster in 2010 and 2012, only to totally drop her once she starting voting in Congress.
As one top Democratic put it to me: Shea-Porter would beat Kuster 10 to 1 in a Democratic primary for the Senate. Sure, Kuster can raise more money, but Shea-Porter has the Democratic base locked down in the state's 1st Congressional District and would be favored in the more liberal 2nd Congressional District.
In 2012, when Hassan ran for governor the first time, she faced a challenge from the left. Hassan's opponent, former state Sen. Jackie Cilley, lacked fundraising and no one really knew who she was, reasons that she wasn't a perfect candidate. Hassan deserves credit for that win. What few know, however, is that Hassan was flown to Washington and encouraged to take on Shea-Porter in a Democratic Primary. Hassan turned down that idea. In the end, two other Democrats did challenge Shea-Porter, but dropped out before they could even put their name on the ballot.
And unlike Hassan and Kuster, Shea-Porter won't be in office next year and has nothing to lose by running.
Until she takes her name out of contention, watch Shea-Porter.
(James Pindell covers politics for WMUR. You can see his breaking news and analysis at WMUR.com/political scoop and on WMUR-TV.)
Last Updated on Monday, 29 December 2014 11:57
We are six months to the end of the state's fiscal year and all eyes are closely watching the budget. Overall revenues are running ahead of projections, which means the Senate Ways & Means Committee did an excellent job estimating revenues when we built the budget last session. However, with the governor's recent executive orders for agencies to reduce spending, it appears that over-spending has occurred ... some budget experts estimate as much as a $100 million deficit. As chair of the Senate Finance Committee, I've been asking the governor to provide department-by-department reports on General Fund spending since July. Unfortunately, the governor refuses to share it with the public. So we really don't know the extent of New Hampshire's current budget problem.
Various constituencies are nervously watching to see how the deficit will be addressed, and many fear that dedicated funds may be a target. We have approximately 320 of these dedicated accounts that fund specific programs.
There has been some controversy in recent years about the "raiding" of dedicated funds to assist in balancing the state budget. This has been done by transferring those funds or fund surpluses to the general fund for general state expenses.
It is not hard to find examples of this practice. In recent years, the consistent raid of the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program's (LCHIP) dedicated fund caught the attention of Granite Staters. LCHIP is an independent state authority that makes matching grants to N.H. communities and non-profits to protect New Hampshire's natural, cultural and historic resources. Funding for these projects is made possible by small fees charged on four types of documents that are recorded at county registries across the state. The public was told that the money would be used to conserve our state's most at-risk natural and historic resources. But the unfortunate truth is that since the establishment of that fund, more money has been used to balance the budget then went to LCHIP projects.
In the last session, the Republican Senate made a commitment to stop this practice, most notably with LCHIP. We held to the principal that a dedicated fund means just that: funds raised for a specific purpose should be spent on that purpose. In her budget, the governor provided some partial funding of the program, but the Senate fully restored the $8.5 million that were raised through real estate transaction fees. We also went a step further and protected LCHIP from being raided to fund other parts of state government. We did this by stopping the governor's attempt to have the flexibility to raid these funds to cover over-spending in other departments. Because of this action, LCHIP recently awarded nearly 40 grants to communities in New Hampshire, including three in District 2: Bristol (Bristol Town Hall), Haverhill (Pearson Hall), and Sanbornton (Congregational Church Building).
LCHIP is not the only casualty of raids to dedicated funds. Today we are seeing another important dedicated fund about to fall victim to a budgetary raid. Politicians and bureaucrats have turned their sights on more than $9 million raised from New Hampshire ratepayers which is dedicated to increase renewable energy generation in our state.
Similar to LCHIP, the state's General Fund has to date become the largest recipient of Renewable Energy Fund dollars. If the impending raid of $9 million does occur, almost half of all funds raised for renewable energy projects will instead have gone to balance the state's General Fund. This surely was not the intended use of the proceeds when the program was established by a near-unanimous vote of the state Senate.
By continuing to look to the renewable energy funds as a source of general government revenue, lawmakers will dodge the transparent manner in which the state generates the revenue needed to finance public services. Worse, when a decision to raid these funds is made behind closed doors, politicians and bureaucrats are undermining the very investments that they pledge to support — further weakening the state's energy future, and casting doubt in the minds of businesses and voters on the integrity of the state's commitment to renewable energy.
Fortunately, we still have time to reverse the trend of raids on dedicated funds. Contact the governor, your legislators and leaders at the Public Utilities Commission and express your support for transparent budgeting. Remind them that dedicated means dedicated. When the Legislature sets up dedicated funds, and when taxpayers pay fees to support those funds, they deserve to know that their money is going towards its stated purpose.
As we begin to put together the next two year budget for New Hampshire, the Senate will continue to protect the integrity of dedicated funds such as LCHIP and the Renewable Energy Fund.
(Meredith Republican Jeanie Forrester represents District 2 in the New Hampshire Senate.)
Last Updated on Friday, 26 December 2014 08:10