For many Sussex County parents of high school seniors, these are hold-your-breath days—the time of year when college acceptance letters begin showing up in Georgetown mailboxes. If all goes well, after settling on a school, next comes tackling the array of decisions that follow. Chief among them: where he or she will live. Many parents tend to take the common course, assuming that a college dorm is automatically the best answer—but a college’s room-and-board plan is actually only one of the possibilities. In fact, it may not be the best financial, social or developmental choice for parent or student. Renting a house can be an intriguing alternative. Here are three of the reasons why some Georgetown parents decide a home rental makes more sense:

1. Cost

Sharing a home rental is often significantly less expensive than renting an apartment—or even a dorm room. Prices vary, but it’s more than possible to end up paying as much as $4,500 per semester for student housing. If your student lives on campus during the summer, fall and spring terms, that would create a $13,500 bill for the year’s housing (the equivalent of paying more than $1,000 in rent per month). Considering that most dorm rooms are tiny, that translates into a much higher cost per square foot than does a shared home rental.

Renting even a one-bedroom home near campus can give your child more space and quiet time to study without interference from fire alarm-pulling pranksters or noisy roommates. Every student is different, and having a place to escape the hustle and bustle of campus life can provide some kids with the extra focus they’ll need for success.

2. Safety

When students live in crowded dorms, many parents worry that they are more likely to catch colds or other communicable diseases. Being packed into a dorm with hundreds of people who may or may not behave responsibly is a dire way to view dorm life, but that is some parents’ view. When their child lives on his or her own or teams with a select group of roommates, some parents breathe easier.

3. Responsibility

With a home rental, any student will learn more about responsible adulthood than when campus authorities assume parental-like responsibility for day-to-day living. Students who are on their own may be wholly or partially enrolled in school cafeteria programs, or may learn to shop for and prepare their own meals. Household and maintenance chores will be theirs to handle, rather than being the province of college employees. In that way, a college home rental can serve almost as a youngster's "starter home." They will graduate from college with a rental history, self-sufficiency skills, and home stewardship experience that will prepare him or her to better care for their own home later in life.

Of course, it’s not universally the best answer to the student housing problem: every institution and child combination are different, and different youngsters respond to independence and responsibility in differing ways. But if you haven’t thought about the possibility, it could be worth looking into. If I can help with a referral to a rental agency—or if you’d like to consider buying—do give me a call!

This March has been such a busy one on the Sussex County real estate calendar that I thought it would be a good idea to double-check everything just to be certain I wasn’t overlooking any important happenings.

It wasn’t just that the first day of spring on the 20th is the traditional start of what’s regularly the busiest time of year for Georgetown real estate activity. This is a reliable phenomenon, further reinforced by the 61 million results you get when you Google “Spring Real Estate Selling Season.” To be accurate, the National Association of Realtors® fudges a little by calling spring and summer the hottest seasons for real estate activity—but it turns out they are pointing to the fact that many sales initiated in spring close during the summer (which is when people prefer to move).

March also has a red-letter day on the 23rd, which is when Freddie Mac, the mortgage reinsurer, is set to kick off their ‘Home Possible’ program. It’s a lowering of their down payment requirements, so mortgage lenders will have more leeway with borrowers. That should provide a further boost for Sussex County real estate activity, which has been laboring for years under tough lending requirements that discouraged some otherwise well-qualified home buyers.   

Then there was also St. Patrick’s Day (although that has a less-than-convincing effect on Sussex County real estate activity). There is March Madness, in which basketball plays havoc with more than just television schedules. You could say that it plays hob with appointment times for many Georgetown home showings, since the last five minutes of most of the games take at least half an hour.

Just in case the calendar has even more events that might affect Sussex County real estate, we thought we’d better check to be certain we haven’t overlooked any upcoming happenings.

We found out we can relax.

True, this March is Optimism Month, which is certainly thematically in tune with the positive spring real estate outlook (speaking of ‘in tune,’ March is also Music in Our Schools Month and Play the Recorder Month).

It’s International Ideas Month, which, for anyone who’s been following the headlines, is certainly arriving in the nick of time. For those who are, internationally speaking, prone to sticking to their old ideas, March is also International Listening Awareness Month. It’s Mirth Month as well as Humorists are Artists Month. It’s also Noodle Month (does this have a connection with Mirth Month?), Peanut Month, and National Nutrition Month.

In addition to minding nutrition, this is a month for safety: it’s National Collision Awareness Month, as well as National Cheerleading Safety Month. It turns out, there are another couple of dozen other Months that are taking place right now, but most have little to do with buying and selling homes.

What seems better connected to Georgetown real estate is the fact that this is also Umbrella Month, although it’s too early to know the precipitation total for the whole month. It hasn’t prevented many showings or open houses, for sure. In any case, if you are thinking of taking advantage of the Spring Selling Season, it’s also a terrific month to give me a call!

People approach the whole idea of owning a second home from a hundred different perspectives simply because a second home can answer so many different purposes. If you are an Sussex County homeowner at the stage in life where making retirement plans is becoming a more immediate imperative, you might want to buy a second home as a vacation destination—but one which is also a tryout for your family’s future center of operations. Those who have spent a good part of their lives in cities sometimes seek a second home in the mountains or at the shore as a restorative refuge. People living in less crowded environs might crave a pied-à-terrefor proximity to a city’s cultural riches. There really can be a hundred different reasons (and that’s not even counting all the financial ones)!

Once you begin to seriously entertain the notion, it becomes evident that deciding on which of many possible directions to pursue will involve weighing the tradeoffs each presents. In addition to an opening a conversation with the Sussex County real estate professional whose advice you’ve come to trust the most, some of the main points you will want to consider—

· If the second home is going to serve even temporarily as a weekend getaway spot, then buying within reasonable driving distance may be more important than you might assume. Keep in mind that the drive (or flight) will grow steadily less interesting as time passes.

· In most instances, a second home will be occupied by members of your family only on a part-time basis. This brings up a number of issues—among them, insurance. Vacant properties present a different profile to insurers than do homes that are occupied most of the time. Hazard insurance tariffs could also differ from what you are used to (especially in flood-prone areas). Investigating insurance coverage and costs early on in your search will help you to avoid surprises.

· You should consult your tax expert for details, but as a general rule, if the home is not rented out as a business proposition, you’ll likely find that you are able to deduct mortgage interest and property taxes on your Federal tax return. Then again, if you are thinking of renting the house out for more than 14 days per year, rental income is taxable. In that case, though, you’ll be able to use deductions for expenses, such as insurance, maintenance, professional fees, and sometimes even depreciation. Each situation will be different—again, your tax professional will have the relevant answers.

· Financing a second home is similar to financing your main residence. You are likely to need a down payment of 10% to as much as 30% in some cases. If you will be drawing on the equity in your current home, it’s only prudent to be able to retain a reasonable amount of reserves for unforeseen emergencies.

Many people buy a second home in anticipation of retirement. If that is the case, think of factoring in the availability of quality medical and support services in your search areas. A remote cabin in the woods may seem appealing now, but as a retirement venue, maybe not so much! Thinking about the long range is never more important than when you are entertaining the purchase of a second home. I’m here to help clarify those issues, as with all your other Sussex County real estate need.

 

Today’s Internet-savvy home seller knows that before potential Sussex County buyers even make their way to a home’s online listing they may already have been exposed to the property’s pictures posted elsewhere. Since first impressions can be decisive, it’s all the more reason to heed something that advertising professionals have always known: the viewer’s eye is automatically drawn directly to any visible flaws.

That’s why, if you want to entice more buyers by posting the most attractive teaser pics of your Sussex County home, you need to think in staging terms. Professional staging is the most foolproof way to create flawless images, of course — but there are also some easy and inexpensive approaches to creating eye-pleasing images of your home.

Get your Stuff Out

The first rule of staging a home in Sussex County is to make it as inviting as possible — and nobody feels at home when they are surrounded by a stranger’s stuff. Remove the blankets piled on the couch, and take down the Spiderman posters from Junior’s room. When a viewer’s eye goes to a personality-defining detail, it usually shapes the whole impression. Making your home a blank canvas will allow prospective buyers to picture their own belongings fitting nicely in place.

Call the Professional Cleaners

You need to get every inch of the home as clean as possible for it to be inviting (and worth the asking price). This means cleaning things you probably haven't even considered before, like the garage door and the sliding window tracks. Hiring a professional crew for even just a day can do wonders to create a ‘like new’ aura.

Adjust Lighting 

One of the things that make staged homes look so warm and welcoming is great lighting. A lot of us have gradually adopted minimal lighting at home — something that can be reversed with a few extra lamps and higher-wattage bulbs. As we approach the end of the winter season in a few weeks, that can make a stark difference.

Staging is just one element that goes into a successful Sussex County home sale. Contact me today to talk about all the other pieces!