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I bought my 2009 Prius at Charles Toyota in March last year. As a REALTOR® a 20K lease always has worked out. My whole life I've been a German engineering fan only owning VW, Audi or BMW. 6 years ago I had a BMW convertible that was pretty tricked out and loved it. After two in a row that made go broke replacing sensors and computer components (the car simply wouldn't run without these prone fail components) I turned to my first lease and bought fully loaded VW Passat. I really loved that car but it too was prone to many failures and even had to have the engine replaced. All under warranty of course, but it certainly didn't make it a great car ownership experience.

As I've been green at heart for way longer than my love of fast and nimble German cars, the unreliability turned me to a Prius. Yes I had to adjust to not coming off the line like a elk in rut, I found myself loving this car and the technology within like no other. I'm 57 and pretty much a hippie still with a long gray ponytail so many say that I fit the part: A hippie, Prius driving, eco-green REALTOR®  who just loves renewable energy and keeping the planet healthy.

Although I bought by Prius from Charles Toyota in Norwich because of my sister's relationship with management there, I've always gone to Lorensen Toyota in Old Saybrook because my River To Shore Group Real Estate group is in the quaint village of Essex at 35 Main Street at the Page Taft GMAC Real Estate office.

Even though I bought my car at another dealership, everyone at Lorensen treated me as though I bought it from them. Suffice it to say that I was surprised when service coordinator Gregg Garafalo offered me a 2010 Prius to drive when my 5 hour service was being done so I didn't have to wait for as I've done for all other short service pit stops.

Gregg Garafalo, a fellow iPhone fan, is always smiling and ready to help.

I wasn't out of the lot with the gen 3 version with this leading edge hybrid when I realized this way beyond what I was driving in the gen 2 that I was more than happy with just a minute ago.

After becoming familiar with all of the new features in this larger, more spacious model, I fell more and more in love with it. It's got more power, more responsive drive train, offers a power mode to jump out on the highway with confidence, and and ECO mode that I used most of the day, and a full EV mode for those rare occasions where I might run out of gas and need a couple of free miles sans gas engine to grab some fuel (believe it or not I ran out of fuel 3 time with my gene 2 and the batteries got me to a petrol station each and every time).

When I brought it back to pick up the car it was beyond service hours and I had to go through the sales room. I walked by the cordial business manage Keith and told him how much I loved the new car and was disappointed that they didn't offer a back up camera that I've come to rely upon on a daily basis. He called over salesperson Della Hamberg and he asked her to answer my question. She quickly and eagerly brought me out to a model that had the optional touch screen navigation system to show me the new layout with the impressive sweeping console that reposition the sci-fi like transmission control that is a kind of fly-by-wire control.

Della Hamberg, Sales Associate Extraordinaire

As I was thanking her for her time and telling her how I look forward to my lease coming due she asked if I'd like her to figure out how I could get one sooner. I explained I didn't want to waste her time, that I've only owned my car for 11 months and at this point was over mileage by 11K and still had 6 weeks to go before the 1 year mark ticked off my mental counter.

Della, a consummate pro with a wonderful and laid back demeanor presented the first set of numbers to me for the fully loaded Package 5 car I told her I built on-line when them came out to see where they'd be priced out and I nearly threw up blood. I thought as much I told her but she didn't give up. She simply asked where did the numbers have to be to make the deal happen. Mind you I was just picking up my car for service and here I was now in a very low key negotiation going back and fort to see how this could be done. Within 45 minutes with a little give and take from both sides I was giving her my credit card to bring down the new white gen 3 Prius I thought I'd be waiting 2+ more years to drive of in.

The members of this dealership from the service coordinator to the sales manager were beyond nice, supremely professional, and just the opposite of the stereotypical dealership experience one expects. Suffice it to say from me that this is the finest automobile purchase experience I've ever had. They made me a deal that was more than fair and was easily justifiable to do. Once it passed muster with my better half I drove of the lot feeling like a little kid on Christmas 3pm the following day…just 21 hours later.

Della and Keith and one other member of the team triple teamed me to give me the most special send off. I drove off the lot with a loaded metallic white genii 3 Prius with gray leather heated seats (a feature not available in the genii 2) and was levitating from all the new features, solid feel, and luxurious appointments. Toyota had more than corrected and improved upon their previous efforts as though they were all my ideas. I can play my iPod without wires using the built-in multi-channel bluetooth connection and listen in style on the rich JBL sound system. That same connection seamlessly hands off to the phone when I make a call or wish to answer one. It's an elegant solution to the clumsy but functional audio in function from before. What's more there is a USB 2.0 plug in the console that allows me to plug in my off the shelf iPhone cable to charge it up.

If you want to know more about this car I guess you'll have to go see Della and experience it for yourself. After you buy it you'll soon be great buds with Gregg and his other pleasant colleagues. The sales Manager José is certainly not like many I've met who sit in this chair so don't be bashful. They won't beat you up and it will be a great experience.

BTW: They tell me that if you tell Mick Marsden sent you they will give me $50 to a local restaurant. So if you do, let's meet for dinner!

Visit: http://lorensentoyota.com/Default.aspx

The Riverside BNI Will Soon Be Chartered

by Mick Marsden

If you happen to drive by Essex Town Hall some Tuesday morning just before 7:30am and notice a huddle of men in women in front of the doors, don't worry, they're not about to stage a protest. These are 25 of the most dedicated business professionals in their respective fields waiting to get out of the cold to begin their weekly Business Network International meeting.

The River to Shore Group joined this new group that is to be chartered 2 February 2010 so that we could meet other business owners in myriad professions whom are committed to growing their businesses as seriously as we are. We are often asked by the many clients we serve "Do you know some who does (fill in this blank) that we can trust, will show up, and do a good job?"

It require's an auditorium and many tables to hold the expanding membership

BNI is the best place for us to meet so many different types of business owners who excel at what they do. Business Network Int'l was started in 1985 with a single purpose: to develop the referral business of the members. From that point, BNI has grown to the vast networking group it has become.

BNI is in 42 countries with over 100,000 members. There are almost 1,500 members in Connecticut in almost 60 Chapters. We allow one person per profession to join each chapter, thus guaranteeing exclusivity to the members in their business category.


Pictured: Jim O'Shea, BNI Area Director speaks it's new chapter members.

Annual membership in BNI costs less than a business suit - it's the most cost-effective way to market yourself in today's highly competitive marketplace. If you value having 30, 40, or more other business people marketing you to others, then BNI is the right place for you!

We have just 25 different types of businesses in this soon to be chartered businesses. We're looking for many more. Are you a photographer, payroll company, cleaning company, real estate appraiser, or handy man or know of one that wants to grow their business and be associated with the excellence that is required to become a member? Then please come as my invited guest any Tuesday at 7:30am at Essex Town Hall Auditorium to see what it's like and what we do. Consider it a standing invitation. There are literally 50+ plus more business types we're looking to recruit. A nearby chapter that is just 2 years old passes 400 referrals per month to it's members. Those who are referred get top notch service from that business. The referrer thanked profusely for turning them on to the source. It's a give and take that can't be topped. I hope to see you Tuesday. 

For more information on BNI visit: BNICT.com

New RESPA Rules Start Jan. 1

by Mary Ellen Podmolik

The government hopes that the revamped Real Estate Settlement and Procedures Act, which takes effect Jan. 1, will make it easier for home buyers to understand what’s going on at closing.

While some industry professionals are enthusiastic, others are dubious that these new regulations will really clear the fog.

"I think the net result is that it will cost consumers more because it will discourage shopping," said Hank Shulroff, senior vice president at Attorneys' Title Guaranty Fund. "The early disclosures are more transparent, but in the end the consumer is going to have less information about what it is they actually purchased, especially as it relates to title services."

Jeri Lynn Fox, president of the Illinois Association of Mortgage Professionals, finds the new procedures more, rather than less, confusing. “Whenever you have confused consumers, isn't that when the opportunity for them to be taken advantage of comes up?" she asks.

Source: Chicago Tribune, Mary Ellen Podmolik (12/18/2009)

Foreclosures Weigh on Home Appraisals

by USA Today

Approximately 25 percent of real estate practitioners say low appraisals have broken up deals, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. While foreclosed properties typically are not included in a comparable sales analysis, they account for about 40 percent of home sales -- more than 50 percent in some markets -- making it difficult for appraisers to value properties not in the foreclosure process. Additionally, new industry rules that require mortgage lenders to order appraisals through in-house staff or appraisal management companies means more appraisers without knowledge of the local market are making valuations. While Zillow.com says non-foreclosures are selling for upwards of 30 percent more than foreclosures, a study of 20 years of home sales in Massachusetts by Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies indicates that dwellings closer than 100 yards to a foreclosure lose about 1 percent in value. Source: USA Today (01/04/10)

Moving In: East Hampton, CT

by Loretta Waldman

Can a couple with West Coast tastes and a sense of history find a house in Connecticut that satisfies both? Absolutely, say Derek and Joyce Hyde, a pair of fortysomething professionals who closed last month on a home in East Hampton that is a rare blend of old and new. 

The core of the 3,200-square-foot colonial was an overgrown shack of a sea captain's house built around 1850 but meticulously restored and added onto by the previous owner in 2007. The newer, 2,200-square-foot portion of the house includes a state-of-the-art kitchen, master suite, great room, mudroom and attached two-car garage. 

"The only parts that are really original are the upstairs guest bedrooms," said Joyce Hyde, executive director of the Glastonbury Wellness Center and Healthtrax, "but even those are updated in this interesting combination of old and new." 

The Hydes were living in Southern California and moved east to find new jobs. Joyce lived most of her life in California, but Derek, a claims manager with The Hartford, was born and raised in East Hampton and has two brothers still living there as well nieces, nephews and many friends from high school and college. 

When their yearlong house hunt began, the couple looked at just about everything, including land, trying to figure out what they wanted, said their agent, Mick Marsden of Page Taft GMAC Real Estate. 

Coming from Orange Country, the couple figured they could afford waterfront. When they realized they could not, they refocused their search on other properties. All told, Marsden said he showed the couple about 48 properties in what seemed like every town in Middlesex and Hartford counties. In the end, they narrowed their choices to two: a house in Glastonbury that needed work but had a gourmet kitchen, pool and nice backyard, and the house in East Hampton, which didn't have a pool but was priced right and was move-in ready. 

"It was hard to pass up, but it would have taken too much work to feel comfortable," Joyce said of the Glastonbury house. "For the same amount of money, we could get a completely done house." 

By the time they made their offer, the house had been on the market for 325 days and the asking price reduced several time. The Hydes paid $530,000, $45,000 less than the lowest list price.

"They got a tremendous deal," said Marsden. "This is one of those cases when it was a buyer's market, and they scored."

— Loretta Waldman, Special to The Courant





EAST HAMPTON FACTS:

• Population (2008): 14,651

• Median single-family home sales price (Jan.-Oct. 2009): $230,000

• Median condo sales price (Jan.-Oct. 2009): $170,000

• Number of single-family home sales (2007): 162

Less than $100,000: 4

$100,000 - $199,999: 19

$200,000 - $299,999: 67

$300,000 - $399,999: 51 

$400,000 or more: 21

• Number of new housing permits in:

2008: 34

2007: 71

2006: 85 

2005: 134

2004: 158

• Housing stock (2007): 5,207 units; 84 percent single-family

• Owner-occupied dwellings: 76 percent

• Housing stock age, pre-1950: 27 percent

SOURCES: Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development; Connecticut Economic Resource Center; The Warren Group

Moving In: Marlborough, CT

by Loretta Waldman

Daughter and Son-in-law and clients moved from Manchester to Marlborough CT. This is the article as printed in the Sunday Hartford Courant on 3 January 2010:

After losing out on what they thought was the perfect house, Zach and Aimee Vetter thought maybe they'd just stay in the Manchester farmhouse they had owned for 10 years. Shortly later, though, someone came along and bought it, so the couple, 35 and 34 respectively, had to find another house, fast. 


Aimee's dad, real estate agent Mick Marsden, had an idea. Instead of looking in Manchester, where finding a prospective property could take two to three weeks, why not check out nearbyMarlborough? To minimize the chance of being outbid again, Marsden, an agent with Page Taft GMAC Real Estate, suggested the couple look only at houses that had been on the market for 180 days or more. 

Soon enough, they found a contender: a 1981 owner-built contemporary with the extra square footage and bathrooms they wanted within their $275,000 price range. The 2,300-square-foot home had been on the market for 221 days, during which the original $299,000 asking price had been reduced to $265,900. The owner, who already had bought a new house, was anxious not to have to pay two mortgages. 

Zach Vetter remembers saying "yeah, sure" when his father-in-law asked if they wanted to make an offer. Though skeptical they would get it, he and Aimee put in a bid. 

"An hour later I got a text message saying, 'You just bought a house,'" Vetter said. 

The couple paid $260,000 and closed on Oct. 30, the same date as the buyer of their house in Manchester. Though it is a little farther from the three restaurants he runs with his family, Zach Vetter said he and Aimee, a hairdresser, are very happy in their new digs.

The house has skylights, a brick vestibule and a fenced-in back yard with a fire pit and hot tub, he said. An upstairs loft doubles as an office for them and a playroom for their son and daughter, 3 and 6. 

Instead of one bathroom, the new house has two and a half, including one in the master bedroom and a Jack and Jill-style full bathroom between the kids' rooms. The kitchen is big and has granite countertops. 

"We just had a party and it fit everybody, which is good," said Zach Vetter. "We could not have done that in the old house." 

— Loretta Waldman, Special to The Courant


Click here to visit story on courant.com


TOWN FACTS:

• Population (2008): 6,185

• Median single-family home sales price (Jan.-Oct. 2009): $273,500

• Median condo sales price (Jan.-Oct. 2009): $239,700

• Number of single-family home sales (2007): 69 

Less than $100,000: 0

$100,000-$199,999: 7

$200,000-$299,999: 25 

$300,000-$399,999: 18 

$400,000 or more: 19

• Number of new housing permits in:

2008: 3

2007: 12

2006: 29 

2005: 33

2004: 33

• Housing stock (2007): 2,303 units; 94 percent single-family

• Owner-occupied dwellings: 88 percent

• Housing stock age, pre-1950: 14 percent

SOURCES: Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development; Connecticut Economic Resource Center; The Warren Group

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