Stinking Snow in Cape May   Most of you have been following my blog on my investment property.  Unfortunately, the STINKING SNOW has put that project on hold for a little bit.  The contractors that went out to give me quotes have not been able to write their quotes up.  Their excuses are many, but due to this STINKING SNOW, very understandable.  (No electric being the most common)

   Cape May and West Cape May has been without electric in many areas, some for just a short period and some for several days.  If you did not winterize your property, you probably won’t make that mistake next year.

   In our defense, I have lived here for 28 years, and can only recall one other time that the snow was this deep and remained for this long.  Homestead Real Estate has received many calls from anxious second home owners regarding their homes and the overall conditions here.

   Here is what I can tell you.  The snow is very deep, we received about 15 to 20 inches.  The biggest problem was the wind gusts combined with the snow.  It caused a lot downed power lines and broken branches, which hit even more power lines as they toppled due to snow and wind.  Many people who have gas heat, or forced air need electric to either start the system, or run the fans to blow the heated air through the house.  No electric equalled no heat for many people. 

   The next biggest problem is snow removal.  Shore areas in general are not equipped to plow, salt and shovel this amount of snow.  I have received some calls from homes I have listed for sale asking if I could go in and “check” on their home.  I would be happy to do this, but many of the walks and driveways are not plowed.  I can’t get to the front door, nor if I got there, could I move the 15 inches of snow in front of it to get it open.

   It brings us back to STINKING SNOW!

   Many of our great restaurants in Cape May open for Valentines Day.  Unfortunately, I think this years business will be far below what we normally expect.  The good news is I will be going to the Washington Inn for a wonderful dinner with my husband.  He needs to make up for my birthday, when we were in the dark, playing Srabble by candlelight and he didn’t let me win.

Giving Thanks

As everyone is digging out- or have finished digging out of the snowstorm on Sat. and are now getting ready for the next storm on the horizon. We must reach out and give thanks to all those emergency workers from the fire departments, city works departments, generous people who manned the shelters, state road crews, and the endless on going efforts of the electric company and all who came out in the disastrous conditions and made every effort to keep our towns and families safe. We at HomeStead THANK YOU!Cape May SnowSnow in Cape May, NJLook Closer to see the pole on the wires.

Snow covered street

Sunsets over a Whaling Town

Open House Sitting in Townbank -the winds whipped across the Delaware Bay with 45 mile an hour gusts- cozy and comfortably watching seagulls and white caps- this area has such history- I can picture the whales spouting as the brilliant sun sets – such a unique area and still unknown- did you know that Townbank was here before Cape May? That the owners of proeprty here own their own beach? There is no commercial structures or townhomes, no parking meters. Quaint and quiet with the best sunset views around. Oh yeah bring your dog- they are allowed too!

Customer Service-Does anyone really know what it is?

You hear people talk about “Customer Service” all the time, but what is it really? If you are of the famous Baby Boomer generation you remember. It was the time when people would know your name, return a phone call and be available to help you. Now I don’t mean at all times of the day and night but within a timely manner. You don’t even need to know the answer to the question immediately but at least give the customer the time to discuss what’s on his/her mind. In the “real-time” world we are in today I find it amazing that you cannot even get a response. It is easy to advertise customer service and committment but do you really know what it is?  I believe Good Customer Service will sustain a Good Realtor in any type of economy.

What is Echo Sign?

Well it’s 5:30 on a Friday night and the Contract is ready to be signed. The Buyer and Seller are on the move. The agents are completing their daily tasks and are anxioulsy waiting for paperwork. Fortunately for all  Echo Sign  is available in our office. With Echo Sign I was able to email the Contract for signatures and through the technology of computers, I-pods and blackberrys all parties were able to sign and within minutes eveyone including the agents had a signed contract in their mailbox.  Settlement is next week.

Contractors? How Do You Pick?

   I guess it should be easy for me to find a contractors.  I’m in real estate, so I have had contact with many contractors through home inspections and repairs.  (Good and bad)  I’ve lived here for over 25 years.  Since my home is near I can meet them at the property to get some quotes.  So how do you pick?

   First and foremost, you should rely on someone who has had work done.  They will know if the contractor completed the job in the time promised, in a workman-like way, and was flexible with work order changes.  Sometimes, the cheapest contractor is not the best.  There is a reason why you get what you pay for.

   With the new property, we are planning to add a new kitchen, master bedroom and master bath.  We will almost double the size of the house.  So we started with someone we trust, Paul Burgin of Paul Burgin Builders is our general contractor.  We met Paul at the property and did a walk through and discussed the changes that we thought we would like to make tot he house.  Paul then took a copy of our survey and drew on graph paper a basic plan of what we discussed.  With the basic plan and square footage planned out, we made copies of the survey and layout and have handed them out to several electricians, plumbers, and a heating and cooling company.  Once the quotes come back in, and we decide which professionals to use, they will need to contact Paul to fill out all the permit applications.

   When planning to have major work done, you must go to City Hall and get permits.  When doing a project the size of ours, the entire permit package must be completed.  So the plumber, electrician, heating and cooling permits must all be handed in at the same time with the general contractors information.  Our plans do not require architectural drawings, so we are saving our selves some additional expense there.  Also, when planning our addition, we did not exceed the local zoning requirements for the area.  (These may be found on the City of Cape May website under zoning laws, or the people at City Hall are more than willing to help.)  Since we are abiding by the zoning requirements of the R-1 district, we will not need a variance to build.  Permits do not happen overnight.  The construction official needs time to review the application, and inspect the property.

   In the meantime, we have begun the hopefully magic transformation from ugly duckling to beautiful swan.   Our time frame is tight, because we are looking to get summer rentals booked for June, July and August.

Winter Blues No Better Time to Buy

There is no better time to buy than now! The interest rates are still at a record low, inventory is high and pricing is at an all time low. HomeStead provides a one-of-a-kind quality of personal service that you’ll want to recommend to all your friends. Our Agents know the Cape May County Market. Our agents have consistently maintained the reputation of being service oriented and understanding. They understand that you do not hire just a company, but a person. HomeStead’s clients and customers are very satisfied and seem to make lasting friendships with their agents.

Dagmer Chew, Broker/Owner
The way to work out the winter blues is beat the Spring Market Buying traffic and call a HomeStead Agent today to get the head start on buying your new home. Once the weather breaks prices will be rising again and with more demand in the spring if you buy NOW you are likely to get a better price. Keep in mind that traditionally Spring is the time the flowers bloom and so does the buying. Get in ahead of the competition, other buyers, and beat the winter blues. Call a HomeStead agent today to set up a meeting to discuss your buying strategy.

Finally Ready to Begin

  With the help of the police – Big thanks to Cape May Police Department – the Seller has removed all their personal belongings and we are ready to begin the rehab. 

   Our goals are fairly simple.  We would like to enlarge the property from three bedrooms to four bedrooms and add at least another bathroom and maybe a bath and a half.  This works needs to be completed by April or May so that we can have it on the rental market before June.

   Tonight, the decision makers will be meeting to discuss the financing of the work.  We have met with a builder who has quoted us a price of $100.00 a square foot.  Our plan is to knock that down to $80.00 a square foot if we do a lot of the finishing work ourselves.  That price is probably realistic, since we will be moving the kitchen to the addition, adding bathrooms, central air, insulation, and all new siding.

   Finally, here is the before picture.  I hope by June you will not recognize the after picture.

New Year – Old Headaches

   Sometimes in business, an old adage is  an old adage for a reason.  The one today is “It doesn’t pay to be nice.”  The Seller still does not have all her belongings out of our home, although we went to settlement on December 17, 2009.  Understand this, when you sell a house, you don’t own it anymore.  You don’t get the money and then get to keep your stuff there for a few more days while you make arrangements to pack up and move.  The Buyers made the arrangements to get your money there on time.  The contract calls for the house to be empty and broom swept, yet still my Seller begs for more time.  We did accept $400.00 dollars from the Seller with a signed agreement that everything would be out by December 24, 2009.  That date has come and gone.  The Seller was planning to leave some things in the shed, thinking that we would dispose of them.  This is why real estate agents put money in escrow when some issues are not resolved at the settlement table.  Buyers and Sellers are more motivated to meet deadlines when money is involved in the outcome.

Settlement TODAY !!

   Well, we had settlement today, and with all my expertise in real estate, I have to tell you it did not exactly go smoothly.  Our wire was late, so we went to the bank and took additional money out of savings (since we were paying cash) and by the time we got to the Title Company, the wire had cleared.  No real damage there, just extra funds we have to give back.  The big hold-up was the Seller did not have all of their belongings out of the house.

   This is important if you are selling a house.  YOU DON’T OWN IT ANYMORE!!!  The Seller couldn’t understand why we were being so picky about her coming back and getting more things out of the house later next week.  There are three big reasons why this shouldn’t happen.  First, what if the Seller decides they have taken all the “good” stuff and doesn’t really care now about removing that gold shag sofa-bed that weighs 10,000 pounds.  Now I have to pay someone to remove the sofa-bed and pay to have it hauled to the dump.  Secondly, as a new owner, I don’t want to be responsible for your belongings.  If someone breaks into the house and steals your mothers china, it shouldn’t be my responsibility.  The Seller should have found the time to wrap that china  up and get it out of the house if it meant that much to them.  Finally, I don’t want you making a claim against my insurance if you fall while carrying that sofa-bed or china out of what is now, my house.

   So, after consulting dueling attorneys.  We came up with a “hold harmless” agreement that both parties signed.  Basically it says that the Seller may leave their belongings at the house for a set number of days for an agreed upon amount of money.   If someone moving furniture or belongings gets hurt while removing the furniture from the property, they can not sue the current owner.

   We’ll see if the Seller returns for the items left behind.  In the meantime, we will begin having our construction guy come in the house and give us some quotes on the work that needs to be done.