Monday, December 16, 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...

The holidays are fast approaching, and you are undoubtedly crazy busy with tree trimming, gift shopping, wrapping, sending Christmas cards, baking goodies, attending office parties, etc.  Making lists, checking them twice... you know, the annual to-do items for the festively inclined.

If you were house hunting before Thanksgiving, chances are you've put that on the back burner until after the New Year.  However, motivated sellers have high hopes of selling before year's end, so if you're looking for a good deal, now could be the perfect time to ramp up your search and make an offer.

While tensions can run high during "the most wonderful time of the year," people can also be more generous and giving.  This could mean a more successful negotiation than if you waited until spring, when the market will be flooded with hundreds of other buyers coming out of hibernation.  Less competition now means better opportunities for you to get the house you want, at a price you want to pay, with new appliances or repairs included.

Winter in Arlington, VT

For first-time home buyers, the prospect of buying during the holidays can seem overwhelming.  But it doesn't have to be.  Here's a great article from The Motley Fool that gives a straightforward overview of the process: "Never Bought A House? Want to? Read This First".

The agents at Maple Leaf Realty understand that all buyers have lots of questions, because even if you've bought and sold before, it may have been a long time ago, or in another state.  We want to be your trusted guides from start to finish, so we created our own "Home Buyer Survival Kit."
When you hire me as your Realtor, I will gladly give you a printed copy, or send it via email if you prefer.  It explains all the in's and out's in more detail, specifically as it applies to Vermont and local procedures.  Buying a home is a big decision, but with a great agent by your side, it's as easy as 1-2-3!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fear & Financing

The process of applying for a mortgage intimidates most people, especially first-time home buyers.  Whether you're renting a tiny apartment or a big house, or still living with your parents, people who haven't been through the process have no idea what to expect, which causes fear of the unknown.  Oftentimes they assume they won't qualify to a buy a house, so they continue to rent instead of investing in their own future, which is fear of rejection and disappointment.  Others have kept such poor records of their finances that the thought of getting organized is just too overwhelming, which leads to more procrastination.  
Regardless of the reasons for your anxiety, it may help to know that it's fairly universal.  Ask anyone else that's gone through it recently and you'll hear similar stories over and over.  The mortgage application process really isn't that scary or even difficult if you know what to expect. 

I think the very first step to reducing application anxiety is to find a lender that you like.  There is no one-size-fits-all; every buyer has a unique personality, so what matters to you may not matter to someone else.  Recommendations from friends and family are great, but just because you trust them doesn't mean their needs are the same as yours.  Think about your preferred communication style, for example.  Do you want someone that can chit-chat for hours, or do you want to keep the dialogue to necessary information only?   Are you someone that feels more comfortable talking about private matters in person, over the phone, or via email?  How quickly does this lender typically take to respond to questions?   You should pick a lender that will work well with your style and expectations for customer service.

The second step is to gather up the documents that the lender is going to need to process your application.  Doing this ahead of time can save on numerous hiccups down the road.  However, no matter how much documentation you provide up front, still expect the lender to request more from you once you're under contract to purchase a particular home.  To streamline the process as much as possible, though, you should plan on producing the following documents: your driver's license, bank account statements, W-2's and tax returns for the past 2-3 years, and pay stubs for all sources of income (including child support, pension, disability, etc).

The last and most important step is to summon all your courage and just do itYou'll never know whether you qualify if you don't apply. 

Buying a home is like a marathon, not a sprint.  The process may test your endurance and commitment.  Consider asking friends and family to be your cheerleaders and sounding boards, providing support and encouragement along the way.  It's a big decision, but remember that you are in charge every step of the way.  
Hiring a Buyer's Agent to guide you through the process is a great idea, too.  More to come in a future blog about that topic. 

Monday, November 4, 2013


Real estate is an especially unpredictable business.  Some days you think you know what will happen, but then it often doesn't work out the way you expected, so most days are anyone's guess.  The essential function of this business is to bring people together to accomplish their housing goals.  It's a puzzle, really.  Matching buyers with the right house, and finding sellers the right buyer at the right price.

I love a good puzzle.  Not crossword puzzles; they're too hard.  But the kind where you fit the variably shaped pieces together.  (I googled it and learned that they're called jigsaw puzzles, which is also ironic because my boyfriend is a builder... but, I digress).  I'm not a fan of the ones with like 1000 pieces that take forever, but more basic ones with anywhere from 10-250 pieces.  Many of them look like they'll fit together, but they don't, so you have to keep trying to find where it goes.  Each time I place a new piece I feel an internal relief and sense of satisfaction.  It probably has a lot to do with my undiagnosed OCD tendencies and craving for organization.  Hmm, never really thought of it this way, but makes sense.

As a child, I remember getting a Nintendo Gameboy for Christmas one year, and being mesmerized while playing Tetris.  This game took the puzzle to a whole new interactive level, where I could move and turn the pieces to make them work.  Sometimes I didn't have a good place to put a piece, but inevitably, I had to find a way to make it work, or else the game was over.

Working with buyers is a lot like playing Tetris.  You would think it's easy enough to match Buyer A with House D.  Or Seller B with Buyer G.  You show a prospective buyer enough homes for sale, and they're bound to find the perfect one for them.  Or show your listing to enough buyers, and one of them will buy it.  In theory, this is true, but it doesn't always work out that way.

Sometimes what they're looking for isn't available right now, or not in the town where they're looking, or in their price range.  They could choose to change some of their puzzle pieces in order to find the right fit, but buyers are reluctant to do this, hoping that the right one will come along if they just look hard enough.  Several times I've experienced cases of it just not being the right time, no matter how many adjustments and compromises are made.

When something is too difficult, I believe the universe is trying to tell us something, so rather than force a bad fit (whether it's a house, job, relationship, etc) it's better to take a step back and wait.  Let things settle naturally in their place.  When the time is right, it will all work out.

This spiritual approach helps me find acceptance for the unpredictable things that happen constantly in this business.

People are anything but simple.  We are complicated creatures.  Thoughts, moods and behaviors can change from one moment to the next.  What you thought was a "done deal" or a "sure thing" can turn out to be anything but straightforward or finished.  Having the right attitude is everything when it comes to buying, selling, and brokering.

Luckily for me (and the people I work with), I enjoy a good puzzle and have the patience and determination to keep working at it until it's solved.  Who would have thought that puzzles had anything to do with real estate?

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Autumn in Vermont

Vermont Rte 7, exit 3 / Arlington

This is what I get to see everyday on my drive home from work.  Yes, I know how lucky I am.

Of course, it's not always this beautiful.  In Winter, the trees are bare and the mountains are a shade of gray brown that makes even me wish for snow.  Anyone that knows me understands how crazy a statement that is.  People that aren't from here often assume that all Vermonters like to ski.  My skiing days were over back in 5th grade when I went down a double black diamond trail (by accident).  Scared out of my mind.  Needless to say, snow is not my favorite, but at least it looks pretty.

Splash of fall colors

Right after a heavy snowfall, I love to gaze outside, admiring the heavenly dust and the way it covers everything in bright white powder.  The trees ache with the weight of the snow on their limbs.  It never ceases to amaze me how powerful Mother Nature can be and all the beautiful things she creates.

Growing up I was never fond of Fall.  I remember it always seemed cold and rainy, giving you that damp feeling that chills you to the bone, even though it's 45 degrees outside.  This year Fall has been much warmer, so maybe I'm literally a fair-weather fan.

Intersection Vermont Routes 7A & 313

Autumn is a season I have only come to appreciate as an adult.  Maybe I took it for granted as a child, or maybe I was preoccupied with more important matters, such as who to invite for a sleepover.  Having traveled to a few other places in America, I now realize that what we experience with the changing colors of the leaves is rare.  Most places do not get to see such wonderous transformation right before their eyes.  Hence why Vermont becomes saturated with tourists during foliage season, and especially on the Columbus Day holiday, which just so happens to be this weekend.  

Of course, the transformation is so beautiful precisely because of the cold temperatures we feel at night, which allows the leaves to photosynthesize.  Science was not my best subject, so the technical explanation stops there.  If you're really curious to understand how and why it all works, Google it and let me know what you find out.

My point is that we wouldn't get to experience the brilliant colors of Fall if it wasn't for the impending Winter.   It's the yin & yang of nature.  I guess I'm okay with that.

Arlington Community House | Arlington, VT

Over the past few days, I took these photos in my adopted hometown of Arlington, Vermont.  As I drive past these places every day I am thankful for the gifts I have, and am blessed to be alive to witness such beautiful things.

In your daily travels, I encourage you to take a few moments each day to "stop and smell the roses."
Or, in the case of Autumn, breathe in the fresh cool air, take a walk through the fallen leaves and hear the rustling and crunching under
your feet.  

It awakens my senses every time I do it.

St. James Episcopal Church | Arlington, VT

What's more important than feeling alive?  Than recognizing that some awesome power - whatever it is -  created Earth and all things?  Call it meditation, gratitude, awareness... whatever works for you.  It's the best 5 minutes of my day.

No matter where you live, try it.  What is beautiful about your town?  Is there a special place that you go to feel zen?  Feel free to share in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!
Arlington Rec Park | Arlington, VT

Saturday, October 5, 2013

First Things First

Fall Foliage | Bennington, VT
This is my very first blog post.  Ever.

I was inspired by the ePRO Certification course I took yesterday.  One of the best things they taught was to stop thinking about what to do - and just do it!  (Sorry Nike, I couldn't think of any other way to say it!).  As a Virgo, it's very easy for me to fall into the trap of "analysis paralysis."  So here I am - breaking the habit of overthinking and just getting started.  Welcome to my blog! 

For me, one of the hardest things about being a relatively new real estate professional has been deciding whether I want to generalize (be everything to everyone) or specialize (focus on a particular segment of the market).  In southern Vermont, there's a wide variety of residential properties for sale: single family homes, multi-family buildings, condos, vacation homes, vacant land (to build a home or just enjoy for recreation), horse farms, etc.  Since getting my real estate license in April 2011, I can honestly say that I have listed or sold at least one property in each of these categories.  They've all been good learning experiences, although some more enjoyable than others.  With a bit of experience under my belt, I feel like I'm finally ready to make some educated conclusions about the kind of properties I prefer to market and sell.  Although I may not turn down business in any of these categories, I definitely have found that my passion is Single Family Homes.

So what about buyers, you ask?  I've worked a lot with people thinking of moving here for work, retirement, or to be closer to family.  Many of them never end up buying a home because, for whatever reason, they decided not to move here.  It's tough to put that much time and effort into showing not just homes for sale, but everything the area has to offer, including shopping, restaurants, schools, parks, etc.  (Relevant side note: At Siena, I joined the Ambassadors Club to give tours to prospective students.  Who knew I was training for my future career?).  As much as I enjoy giving guided tours, the reality is that it's time consuming (several hours of planning, plus the actual time spent together in the car can be several hours or even 2-3 days) and expensive (i.e. gas, lunch).  I don't get paid by the hour.  I only get paid when I sell a house.  Don't get me wrong... I love what I do, so it's all good, but there comes a point where practicality (and Dr. Phil) begs the question: "How's that working for you?"

Local Buyers -- whether they're natives like me, or relocated here some time ago -- already know the cultures of different towns in the area, and narrow down their search more quickly.  They know generally where they want to live and need someone to help find the right home.  As an indecisive person myself, I understand wanting to see all possible options, so I have no problem showing every available house in a buyer's price range, but when we're searching all over the county, it's a bit overwhelming because it feels like the search will never end.

And then there's First-Time Home Buyers.  They are my favorite.  They are usually younger, more plugged-in to technology, and often do their own research for a few weeks or months before contacting a professional.  Unfortunately some of them have had experiences with other agents that didn't impress them, and that's where I'm happy to step in and give them what they want.  Being one of the youngest Realtors in town is a competitive advantage, because I'm more relate-able and tech-savvy.  As a Millennial, I have a short attention span and expect immediate response, or I simply move on to the next person that can help me right now.  Is that a desirable trait?  Hmm, maybe not.  But that's the reality.  So when someone reaches out to me for help, I get it.  They don't want a call back tomorrow; they want an email tonight, or at least a text acknowledging that I got their message and will take care of it.  My boss says "There's no such thing as a real estate emergency," which is mostly true, but my generation has high expectations, and I pride myself on doing whatever it takes to get the job done, and done right the first time.  Young buyers have a lot of questions and feel anxious about the whole process, and I thoroughly enjoy walking them through it step-by-step. 

So, in a nutshell, that's an introduction to who I am and who I like to work with.  I've decided that I want to be the local "go-to" real estate expert for my generation.  That's specific enough, right?

My goal is to contribute to this blog once a month.  If you have ideas, comments, or questions about this blog, real estate, or anything else, feel free to post them here, email me directly at or find me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
Maple Leaf Realty  (802) 447-3210

Credits: I want to thank my brother, +Nate Prouty, for providing technical assistance and moral support to create this blog, and my boss, +Troy Richardson, for being a great teacher and mentor.  I wouldn't have been able to do this without you!