Home Sellers - How to Prepare Your Property for Photography
By Bishop
August 31, 2017

Thank you for viewing these instructions. First I would like to remind you to thank your real estate agent for providing you with the added benefit of marketing your house with Internet technology and quality professional photography (if your Realtor is providing that service). The idea here is to make sure your home is “camera ready”! 

Whether or not your photo session is being shot by a professional or being shot with the agent’s cell phone, preparing your home to look its best will help you to catch the eye of more buyers and may help your home to sell at a higher price.  Conversely, poor quality photos of an unkempt home may translate into less buyer interest, fewer showings and could result in a lower sale price. 

To assist you in your preparation for your photo session, we have put together a list of suggestions which will help the photo session process go more smoothly. Upon arrival a photographer will usually begin with interior shots. They then will take shots of outdoor amenities including backyards, pools and outbuildings or workshops. Last will be the front of the property. The sequence will vary according to the photographer’s preference and how well the property has been readied. 

If you would prefer not to have photos taken of a certain room (maybe a small secondary bedroom) due to the storage of boxes and other items, you should let the photographer know upon arrival, otherwise we highly recommend that most rooms be photographed.  

Feel free to place boxes and excess belongings in your garage before the photo session appointment. Unless you have custom cabinets or some other unique feature of the garage, your photographer will probably not take photos of the inside of the garage. So this is a safe place to hide items out of the way during your photo session. Other areas typically not photographed include: closets, hallways, pantries, unfinished basements and inside storage sheds. If you really just have too much “stuff” and will not have sufficient space to hide things, consider rental of a self-storage unit. 

For a property of less than 2000 sq.ft, it will take anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes for an experienced professional to complete your photo shoot. Larger homes will take longer. Someone should be present throughout the appointment to help clear away any last minute items and to answer questions. 

Outside, be sure that cars are out of the driveway before the photographer arrives. Place trash cans inside the garage or place them neatly on the edge of the property. Also, make sure that your lawn has been freshly cut (or driveway and walkways cleared of snow) and your garden has been recently weeded. Anything that can be seen during an actual visit to the property will be seen through the camera lens and potentially shown to thousands over the Internet. If you have any questions about what should and should not be present either inside or outside during your photo session appointment, please ask your real estate agent for their input.  

Kitchens are often the most important room in the house. Be sure to clear all islands and countertops. Remove knickknacks and excess appliances. One or two candles and a wine rack are visually much more appealing than a full display of knickknacks. The more cluttered your kitchen is, the smaller it will look. So be sure to put away as much as possible and show off those gorgeous countertops. Put away toasters, toaster ovens, microwaves, coffeepots, knife blocks, can openers, espresso machines, etc.

One or two of these items are fine, but together can produce a very cluttered look. Be sure to clear the refrigerator of magnets (and the children’s art) and any items you may keep on top. Be sure to empty the waste baskets (and recycle bins) and remove them from view. Sometimes you can move them to a room that has already been photographed. Remove all dishes from the sink area. Hide the dish soap bottle, brushes  and sponges. Shine all of your stainless steel appliances to make them look their best. Even if an appliance will not convey with the property, just by looking good, it will add to the appeal of the kitchen in your photos.

Remember, you need to look at the property through the buyer’s eyes and see what would be appealing to a buyer. Buyers want to imagine themselves living in the house and making it their home. The more that you can do to accommodate this vision, the better your house will show in the resulting photos. Take down as many family pictures as possible and replace with generic, yet appealing, artwork or photos. Anything that is not included in the sale of a home should be put away. This especially includes cash and valuables. For example: if you intend to take a light fixture with you when you move, it would be a good idea to replace it prior to the photos being taken. 

Open window blinds and curtains. Allow natural light to fill the rooms. All lights should be turned on. Replace any burnt out bulbs. All fans, televisions and computer monitors should be turned off. All of these things will help to emphasize the beauty of your house.  

If you have pets, please make sure they are not included in the photos. Also, be sure to put away all pet toys, crates, dishes, scratching posts and beds. If you have hardwood floors or custom tile flooring, remove throw rugs to show off those unique features. Clean up paperwork clutter in office work areas. In bathrooms, be sure to clear off all counters, close toilet lids and open shower curtains to show off the bathroom tile and fixtures. Hide shampoo bottles, wash cloths and soap.  See the difference below?  

Let's show our kitchen fully stocked !

Let's look at a better prepared kitchen...

A nice clean look !

These are suggestions, not requirements, and are provided to you in order to get the best possible results from your photos. Once your photographer has arrived, it is probably too late to move objects out of the way. Your property will be shot ‘as is’.  

After your photo session has been completed and your home has been added to the local MLS system, your house is now being viewed on the Internet. Potential buyers, that do make an appointment to view your house in person, are better qualified as buyers because they have already seen much of your home from the nice photos. Don’t be surprised when your Realtor tells you an offer has been received! 

Thank you for reading this article and best wishes for a spectacular photo shoot!

Why work with a buyer's agent?
By Bishop
August 28, 2017

If you are looking to purchase a house in the Berkshires or nearby, care should be taken so you’re not jumping into something without expert guidance. A good buyer's agent will provide that guidance.

Shopping for a home, whether in Pittsfield, North Adams, Lenox or anywhere in Berkshire County, can be an exciting and often stressful time. Now that you have decided it’s time to “buy my next home” or “buy my first home”, and you’re looking for a house anywhere in the Berkshires or nearby, care should be taken so you’re not jumping into something without expert guidance.

You probably have been looking online, been pre-approved for a mortgage (if not you should do that right now) and maybe have driven by a few homes or stopped at an open house. Now, what should you do next?  It may seem that the easiest thing to do is just call the agent whose name is on the sign, however, that could work against you. The agent selling the property represents the seller exclusively. Of course, they know details about the house, but it is important to for you to understand that the listing agent represents the only seller and has a responsibility to put the seller’s best interests first. In legal terms, the selling agent has a fiduciary duty to the seller. That means they need to get the best price and terms for the seller and not you!  

Think about it.  Could there be value in securing a buyer’s agent?   Most of the time, the cost of having a buyer’s agent is covered by the seller anyway, so why not have an advocate on your side? When looking to buy a home, it is best to hire a buyer’s. That agent will represent YOU, not the SELLER. A buyer’s agent will help you by providing an unbiased representation as to the value of the home and also by bringing knowledge of the local marketplace. A buyer’s agent will provide guidance, pricing analysis, negotiation, and assist you in making an informed decision.

Now, that brings up another question. How do I find the “right” buyer’s agent? One may assume that all agents are the same and provide the same level of service. This is simply not the case! True, any licensee may act as a buyer’s agent, however, you should learn more. The first thing a buyer must research is the agent’s experience and training as a buyer’s representative.  An agent with the ABR designation is a professional certified by the National Association of REALTORS®. He/she has taken advanced education and just as importantly, has a demonstrated track record of successfully closed transactions in which they represented the buyer.  Look for that designation when shopping for a buyer agent.

Bring a trained and experienced buyer’s agent into your property search. By the way… most seller’s agents LOVE buyer’s agents!  They know that a buyer’s agent will qualify, counsel and prepare their buyer before any negotiations begin.  What does this mean for the buyer?  They can proceed with their home search and now have an agent that has taken the time to understand their needs and will work to guide and counsel them through their purchase of the right home (and not one that is exclusively represented by the seller’s agent).

Finding the right house is a challenging task that should not be taken lightly. Hire a trained professional buyer’s agent to be by your side during the process.

2017 Property Tax Rates in Berkshire County
By Bishop
May 8, 2017

2017 Property Tax Rates for All cities and towns in Berkshire County Massachusetts.

2017 Property Tax Rates for All Towns in Berkshire County

In Massachusetts, all towns and cities determine their own tax rate. Tax rates are derived by including all city/town operating expenses plus public education. Here is a link to a PDF containing the 2017 tax rate table. This list is made available courtesy of the Berkshire REALTORS®  and Multiple Listing Service, Inc.

What is the outlook for real estate in the North Adams – Williamstown corridor?
By Bishop
May 8, 2017

We are experiencing investments in the area that are bound to bring a lot of tourist and visitor traffic in; bound to be a catalyst for new jobs creation; and bound to make the area grow  more than we can possibly imagine right now!

Development means more jobs.  Jobs increase the demand for homes. Here are highlights of a few of the bigger development projects in North Adams and neighboring Williamstown:

  • The newly upgraded Clark Art Institute has already had a huge impact on the North County corridor with their recently completed $145 million expansion and brings 200,000 visitors to the area annually.
  • Williams College is planning to spend nearly $300 million on 9 new construction projects in Williamstown (with 10 more on the long-range plan).
  • Mass MoCA is internationally known, and about to open Building 6 later this spring which will make it the largest contemporary art museum in the U.S. At a cost of $65 million, it adds 130,000 square feet of space to the complex.
  • A $20 million model-railroading and architecture museum in Western Gateway Heritage State Park in North Adams is underway. It is expected to bring 200,000 to 300,000 visitors to the area every year.
  • Thomas Krens has selected a designer for the 160,000-square-foot Global Contemporary Art Museum which will be located at the Harriman-West Airport in North Adams and built at an estimated cost between $10 and $15 million.
  • Berkshire Health Systems has invested upward of $10 million in the purchase and upgrade of the former North Adams Regional Hospital.

Even more millions of $$$ are being spent on other renovation projects which involve massive outside investment. This tells us that investors from outside the region see great opportunities in our area and are willing to put significant dollars into it.  Some other projects include:

  • The Redwood Motel project is estimated at $2.5 million and has expanded to include the Blackington Mill. It will contain a resort where the Appalachian Trail, Hoosic River and Mohawk Trail converge.
  • The 342,000 square foot Cariddi Mill is targeted for a multi-million dollar revitalization project (between North Adams and Williamstown). "Greylock Works plans extensive, phased development, including retail, manufacturing, restaurant and hotel operations".
  • Jack & Suzy Wadsworth have poured $$$ into our neighborhoods (The Porches Inn, UNO Community Center and donation of land for a skateboard and bike park near Noel Field).
  • Moresi Associates has completed major renovation of the Mulcare Block on Marshall Street in downtown North Adams.
  • Cumberland Farms has made a huge investment in our area.
  •  Walmart has built a new super center on the Curran Highway. 
  • Owners of Ramunto's Brick Oven Pizza in North Adams did complete new build-out on Main Street.
  • Bright Ideas Brewing is up and running on the MoCA campus.
  • A new dog park opened in North Adams near The Porches Inn and Mass MoCA.
  • The Hoosic River Revival is planning a radical revision of the flood control chute and incorporation of gardens and recreational areas.

I could probably keep going, but I hope you get the idea...  things are really taking off!

This perception from a relative newcomer to North Adams: “I quite agree that the outlook for N.A. is great, despite the negativism that comes from some quarters ... the reality is that we are among that handful of old mill towns in the northeast that are well along in climbing out of the abyss of decades-long economic collapse.  We've a ways to go, for sure ... but much has already come together ... and success does breed success… It will probably take a decade, and the road to get to where we can be will have some twists and turns ... but we're on the right path, for sure. And that will certainly have a huge impact on the real estate market.”.

North Adams had been on a downhill slide for many years, but now we are experiencing investments in the area that are bound to bring a lot of tourist and visitor traffic in; bound to be a catalyst for new jobs creation; and bound to make the area grow  more than we can possibly imagine right now. Tie that into the existing and expanding activities in Williamstown and it’s obvious that the efforts at attracting tourism and business into the corridor are off to a great start. 

So, if you have been “on the fence” about buying a new home or selling your current home in the northern Berkshire County area, but waiting for a better real estate market, we are standing on the doorstep of that market right now!