Fluffy and Benji Live Here Too…

Did you know that in 2006, 73% of all US households owned a dog or cat? We sure do love our four legged companions.

But how do you minimize the impact of your beloved fluffball when you’re trying to sell your home?

First, you want to make sure that you either remove your pets from the home for all showings, or have them crated with a “Do Not Disturb” sign. You never know how your pet will react with strangers in the home, and I’ve seen more than one agent running after an indoor cat that escaped during a showing. Always try to minimize your pet’s presence so the buyer can focus on the home and not your cute Labrador.

Next, get rid of the smelly stuff. This means constantly cleaning litter boxes, removing stains from carpets, and using natural cleansers to remove odors. Nothing is worse than walking into a potpurri-filled home that’s trying to mask pet odor. It immediately raises a concern with the buyer and they wonder what else you’re trying to cover up.

Finally, get rid of the toys. No one wants to look at slimy tennis balls, cat towers, and half-chewed fake mice. Gather up the sources of amusement and put them in a covered basket. You’ll still have easy access to them, but buyers won’t have to look at your pet’s dirty laundry, so to speak.

If you follow these simple steps, you’ll minimize the impact your pets may have on your home sale and keep them in a secure state of mind during this time of transition. Woof!

Hartford Area Heat Map

It’s getting hot in here…well, for some pockets in town. If you’ve never used Trulia’s heat map functionality, check it out. You can search for Average Listing Price (by week) by state, town, or county. Additionally, it provides historical Average and Median Sales Price data and average Price per Square Foot. It’s a great snapshot tool to understand how your neighborhood is trending.

Metro Hartford Growth Projections

Major news outlets periodically publish housing data for US metro areas. This week’s version was reported by CNNMoney and is originally from Fiserv Lending Solutions. It’s a forecast of growth from April 2007 to April 2008 and a couple snapshot statistics. Although I’m not familiar with Fiserv, the forecasts are in line with others that I have seen since the beginning of the year.

There are two interesting points about our area in this report – homes in Greater Hartford are more affordable than in many other areas around the country and local home prices are expected to increase this year.

Some may be surprised to hear that housing in and around Hartford is actually affordable. The Fiserv data shows that median mortgages as a percentage of income are comparable to Springfield, MA and lower here than anywhere else in New England. Most of the places young professionals find desirable and exciting are considerably less affordable based on this statistic. Anecdotal data from friends and former business school classmates confirm the study’s conclusions. Our friends in the NYC, Boston, and Washington DC areas have considerably less buying power.

The other interesting result of the report is that home prices in the Hartford area are expected to appreciate 2.8% over the next year. Although the usual headline is that US housing is in big trouble, the reality is that real estate is a local industry so conditions are different around the country. Some markets are definitely losing value – typically they are the same ones that experienced such strong growth over the past few years. Most of New England is projected to either hold firm or decline slightly. The Cambridge, MA area is the only other region in NE expected to rise in value, though it’s growth forecast is less than half of Hartford’s.

So the Fiserv study shows that housing in Hartford is not only affordable compared to other metro areas, but that prices are going to be rising over the next year. It seems like the market is still in good shape and we should feel comfortable buying and selling.

Investment Property Calculator

After sitting on the sidelines for a few years, I’ve decided that this is the year I’m going to start personally investing in real estate. I’ll be sharing my thoughts and learnings as I go through the process.

This past week, I think I may have found a good condo property. There are a few issues though. It’s a small building and 40% of the units are currently rented. If I buy, the rental-to-owner ratio would go over 50%, potentially causing issues in getting a mortgage. However, I ran the financial analysis and the numbers are the best I’ve seen yet. Positive cash flow and slightly negative net income. The building is OLD, so I’ll need to insure that there aren’t going to be any special assessments soon, and that the HOA fees won’t rise considerably.

While I’ve built my own investment model through Excel (yes, I am a financial geek), here is a good online financial analysis tool that you may find useful…Investment Property Calculator.

Stay tuned for more exciting adventures as I continue on my path to becoming a landlord.

Teaming with Our Sister States?

I’ve written about the lack of affordable of housing in CT before. Add to this a few of my other pet peeves, suburban sprawl (yes, I know it is counter-intuitive for a REALTOR to dislike sprawl) and youth drain, and we’ve got the potential for long term economic hardship not only in CT, but all of New England.

Clearly, on a town by town basis, we can start business development and real estate development projects that encourage working here rather than migrating to the more affordable Southern states and reusing land for better economic use. Blue Back Square in West Hartford center is a good example of redeveloping existing land for increased economic benefit, rather than contributing to sprawl. CT’s Department of Economic and Community Development promotes an aggressive agenda of economic and community development initiatives throughout the state.

But what about our sister New England states? Are they facing the same issues? What can we do to work together to fight “youth brain drain” and the growing housing affordability crisis? Well, as New England Futures sees it, all of New England needs to band together and work on these issues as a region, rather than individual communities and states. No more of the “I, I, I” attitude and more of the “Us, Us, Us” attitude.

This initiative seems like a good idea, however is it too many cooks in the kitchen? And if you take the bureaucracy of one state and add five more states to it, does it just become an unmanageable, ineffective distraction that dilutes our individual efforts?