Jason Robie: Blustery buying benefits

Last week, we touched on some of the challenges of selling a home during the winter months. It is important to be wary of too much holiday cheer. It is always a good idea to ensure everything works and all lights are on. And it is also always a good plan to ensure that the walkway to the front door is free of snow, leaves and other debris that can cause a trip or at very least, a chagrin.

But what about the other side of the coin? What about buyers who are interested in home shopping during this time of year? There are certain considerations (and benefits) to being a buyer in the colder months. Let’s explore a few of those today and maybe even prompt you to get in the game!

First and foremost, it will be very obvious to buyers that the inventory has dropped off significantly since mid-summer. In most cities where snow and ice are a factor, home inventory can drop by as much as 30 percent throughout the winter. In some areas where winter activities are abundant, like northern New Hampshire, you won’t see as much of a drop. In fact, some homes even come on the market this time of year because they are so well suited for winter sports. The lack of inventory has plusses and minuses. Both of which will become more apparent as we move along.

One type of home that tends to get more active during winter is the “starter home.” Trulia research reports that listings of less-expensive homes tend to increase by about 10 percent during the first three months of the year. For buyers interested in starter homes, this might be a great time of year to shop. While we see a decrease in other price brackets, this is a great opportunity to perhaps grab a good deal. This would also provide a good opportunity to tackle those remodeling projects that can be done indoors for the winter and then move to the exterior projects this spring. You didn’t have anything scheduled for your next 20 or so weekends did you?

Another advantage of shopping for homes in the winter is the competition has also abated. Open houses that may have seen dozens of buyers (and offers) during the summer will now be occupied by maybe a dozen people total. Not only does that mean you can more easily move around the home and explore, but you can also have more time with the agent and/or the owners to get your questions answered and get more information about the home. This also tends to take the pressure off for making an offer. During the winter months, buyers can much more easily visit a home two or three times without the intense pressure of bidding wars and competing buyers watching their every move.

There is a general assumption that winter sellers tend to be a little more willing to “deal” than in-season sellers. While this is not always the case, it can sometimes work in your favor. If you have seen a home on the market throughout the summer and find it still listed mid-winter, chances are good that the sellers are going to be motivated to sell. That doesn’t mean they will take any low-ball (read: insulting) offer. It does mean you might be able to get a better deal than when it first hit the market.

This is also a good time to review those homes that were in need of renovations that perhaps you passed on this summer. Many times agents will list homes in need of renovations during those winter months since they won’t have as much competition with “move-in ready” homes as they did in the summer. For those of us who are interested in a fixer-upper, this is a perfect time to be on the hunt for such homes and likely a good (but fair) deal. Like the “starter homes” we mentioned above, this is a more active price-bracket this time of year.

One item to be aware of with buying a home in the winter months is the home inspection. Any home inspector with a brain in his head is not going to climb up on the roof in the middle of January. There will certainly be some items that are skipped during the inspection, like the function of the air conditioner and other items only accessible when it is not below freezing. This is not a reason to avoid buying a home, it is just something to be aware of and perhaps include a contingency in the purchase agreement in order to account for those items once they can be inspected.

A final item to keep in mind when it comes to renovations and inspection reports is that the price you offer still needs to be fair for both of you. While the sellers may be very motivated and there is a possibility that you could include some contingencies regarding inspections, it is important to keep the true value of the home in mind when constructing your offer. “No seller is just going to dump a home to a low-ball offer just because there is snow on the ground,” notes Badger Realty agent Susan Solar. “The offer still needs to be fair and equitable for both parties. This is the best way to secure a deal any time of year,” she continued.

Buying a home in winter certainly has its challenges, but you may find the benefits outweigh them in the long run. Be on the lookout for remodeling project-homes, and you just may find a great deal on the perfect home (or ski home!). I would even recommend tire-kickers to peruse the listings available during these colder months. It gives you something to do over your morning coffee and who knows what you may discover?


Black Friday: 2017 Main Street Program ornament celebrates Moffett House

BERLIN — One of the traditions of the holiday season is the Berlin Main Street Program’s annual Christmas Ornament.
Each year, the program selects a historic building or structure to highlight. Past ornament subjects have ranged from the Nansen Ski Jump and the log drives to the Berlin Public Library and city hall.
This year’s model is out, and the subject is the Berlin and Coos County Historical Society’s Moffett House Museum and Genealogy Center on 119 High Street.
The 14-room Victorian house was built in 1890 by Letticia Abbott in what was an affluent neighborhood of paper mill executives. At various times in its history, the house was owned by International Paper Company and Anna Gross, owner of the Berlin Street Railway System. In 1949, Dr. Irving and Mary Moffett purchased the house as both their home and professional offices for Dr. Moffett’s osteopath practice. After the death of her husband, Mary Moffett donated the house to the historical society.
The center now contains a treasure trove of historical items about the city and region, including an exceptional collection of Brown Company memorabilia. The genealogy center houses the largest library of records north of Manchester. Dr. Moffett’s restored medical offices are also there, offering a glimpse into what an osteopath’s office from the post World War II era.
Proceeds from the sale of the ornament support Berlin Main Street activities throughout the year.
The ornament can be purchased at the Hall of Greetings on Main Street, at Northeast Credit Union, and at the Moffett House.

Black Friday: Shop, dine, and play locally this Thanksgiving weekend

By Barbara Tetreault
ANDROSCOGGIN VALLEY – Spend Thanksgiving day with family and friends and then join your loved ones in celebrating the holiday season with a full weekend of activities and shopping right here at home.
Highlighting the festivities is the Christmas Parade of Lights in downtown Berlin on Friday evening, Nov. 24. Sponsored by the Berlin Main Street Program, the parade has heralded the start of the Christmas season for over a quarter of a century. All the floats are required to have lights, making for a spectacular display against the dark night.
Last year the program doubled the prize money for the top winners in an effort to encourage more entries. Main Street Program head Sylvia Poulin said they are seeing new organizations and businesses sign up for the parade.
“We should have a great parade,” she said.
The theme of this year’s parade is “Cartoon Christmas,” and, as usual, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be making an appearance in the parade. The parade kicks off at 7 p.m. at Aubuchon Hardware lot and will go up Main Street to city hall. This year’s sponsor is Service Credit Union.
The Saturday after Thanksgiving has been designated “Small Business Saturday” nationally. Created in 2010 by American Express, the promotion is designed to encourage shoppers to shop at their small, independently-owned retailer or dine at an independently-owned restaurant.
“Small Business Saturday provides people an opportunity to discover and celebrate the variety of small businesses that make their communities thrive,” said Elizabeth Rutledge, executive vice president, global advertising and brand management at American Express. “Beyond visiting their favorite go-to spots, shoppers say Small Business Saturday inspires them to visit places they have not been to before and would not have otherwise tried.”
As part of its “Be Local, Buy Local” campaign, the Berlin Main Street Program reminds shoppers that supporting local small businesses strengthens the local economy because they employ local people and pay property taxes. The businesses are also supporters of various community activities and host events such as Drive in the ‘50s, Jericho Downtown Block Party, and Parade of Lights.
“If we want our stores to stay here, we have to shop at them,” said Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Paula Kinney.
Kinney said local merchants provide customer service that shoppers cannot get online or at big box retailers. She said the Androscoggin Valley is blessed to have a variety of retail merchants and small businesses offering quality goods and services.
Poulin said her program is offering horse wagon rides on Saturday, Nov. 25, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. During that same time, there will be a “Meet and Greet” with Santa and Mrs. Claus at Badger Realty on Main Street. She said many downtown merchants will be offering great promotions on Saturday.
Shoppers can get a boost of energy by taking in Recycled Percussion at the Medallion Opera House in Gorham. The band is bringing its Las Vegas act to Gorham for three shows — 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 25, and 4 p.m. on Sunday. Band member Ryan Veniza is promising some new twists to the show and promised attendees will not go away disappointed.
So forego the travel this Thanksgiving weekend and do your shopping and dining locally and enjoy some quality entertainment.

New pool, amenities building being added to Cranmore's base

CONWAY — The first phase of a new amenities building and pool is going up near the base of the Cranmore Tubing Park.

It is one of several improvements being made for the 2017-18 season, Cranmore Mountain Resort’s 80th.

The new building will be constructed in two phases, including a four-season outdoor pool for Kearsarge Brook Condominium residents and a future tubing park base lodge.

The facility will be located near the Cranmore Fitness Center, once home to the outdoor tennis courts that from 1975-84 hosted the Volvo International Tennis Tournament.

The first phase will include the pool, which will have a viewing area and changing rooms. The projected completion date is in December. 

The facility will be reserved for Kearsarge Brook owners on weekends and vacation periods, with a limited number of midweek membership options available to Cranmore Fitness members.

The second construction phase will include tubing and Mountain Adventure Park ticket windows, an employee room, public restrooms and a private fitness area for Kearsarge Brook residents, all on the first level.

The second level will include a restaurant for the tubing park and a large deck.

That phase is projected to be completed within two to three years, according to Cranmore Marketing Director Becca Deschenes. 

Cranmore will launch extended hours this season and has made snowmaking improvements.

It also has base area updates, with snowmaking now underway, and the resort planning to open with top-to-bottom skiing on Nov. 24, the day after Thanksgiving.

Other projects happening at Cranmore include:

• Kearsarge Brook Condominiums: Construction is now completed, and nine of the 18 units have been sold in Building One at the Cranmore's base.

“We had four closings this week, with furniture being delivered and residents moving in,” said Nubi Duncan, part of the sales team at Badger Realty, the listing agent for the slopeside real estate project.

Added Cranmore General Manager and President Ben Wilcox: "We're very excited. People have started to move in, and more will be able to move in before Christmas, which is all very good."

Nine units in Building One are still available for purchase. Prices start at $395,000. A first-floor, slopeside model unit is open daily.

That model was recently listed for sale, furnished, at $435,000.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is slated for Monday, Nov. 20, according to project sales manager Michelle Jordan of Badger Realty.

• Unloading zone: Cranmore’s unloading zone was renovated this past summer. The newly expanded area includes new paving, drop-off parking, sidewalks, decorative and improved lighting, and new landscaping.

• Expanded hours: Cranmore will offer night skiing until 8 p.m. on Saturday nights, plus daily during holiday periods.

Night skiing will be available from the South Quad and will allow access to the North Slope, South Slope, the Alley, Snow Train and Outta Luck.

Along the expanded ski hours, Zip’s Pub and Grill will extend its hours as well, serving later into the evening.

• Snowmaking: The resort has added 86 high-efficiency snow guns to the mountain inventory, which were developed by Cranmore owners, Brian and Tyler Fairbank. The guns are called the LPX-Y Gen 3, or “Sledgehammer guns.” 

These snow guns will use 90 percent of water-pumping capacity (a typical snow gun would utilize about 50 percent or less). This technology uses 50 percent less air, which means less electricity is used, and two times the amount of snow is made.

This past summer, crews upgraded Cranmore’s on-mountain piping system to improve water capacity, which will also allow for more snowmaking, faster and earlier in the season.

Cranmore has invested nearly $10 million in improvements since the Fairbank Group purchased the resort in 2009.

For more information, go to cranmore.com or call (800)-SUN-N-SKI. To learn more about Kearsage Brook, go to kearsargebrooknh.com or call the sales office at (603) 356-1111.