Jack's New Hampshire Real Estate Blog

Need a professional tax abatement appraisal?

The filing deadline for tax abatement filings in in less than 3 weeks.  This is most likley the "last call" for tax abatement appraisals.  Here is a review:


Several communities have recently completed re-assessments that have left many people wondering how they can abate (reduce) their taxes.  Even if your city or town has not completed a “re-val” you can question the assessment by a process called tax abatement.  MOST towns actually with work with you if you can provide (often by a professional appraisal) some support for your claim of being over-assessed.  Some towns are not so eager.

One key point to remember is that the value you claim (your opinion) my best lower than the equaluzed assessment.  What does that mean?   I will answer by example.  Lets say your town has an equalization ration of 110%.  That means that the average property in town is assessed at 110 percent of market value.  So long as everyone is over assessed by 10 percent, that is ok, as in theory the tax rate would be reduced by 10 percent.  Lets say your house is truly worth $300,000, but it is assessed for $330,000. Using my 110% example, you would not have a case since your property is assessed at 110 percent of market value which is the town standard.   If after doing this calculation you feel the property is over assessed, here is the process. 



In all New Hampshire communities, all assessments are paid on the market value of the property on April 1st of the tax year.  Therefore, for the 2017 tax bill, the assessment must reflect the “equalized” value of the property as of April 1, 2017.

Since prices/values can decrease and increase over the years, the state allows assessment to be higher or lower than market value provided that they are equitably assessed.  What does this mean?   Let’s say you live in Manchester NH and the average assessment is 110 percent of market value (example only) and your property is 10 percent over assessed.  In this case you are equally assessed (or equally over-assessed) and have no case for abatement.


How do you file an abatement?

Step One:  Obtain a copy of the tax assessment card from your community.  If the full card is not available online, I suggest you go to the town and obtain the full card which has the most detail.


Step Two:  Carefully review the card to accuracy.  Note the assessor’s ratings with regards to condition and quality.


Step Three:  Research comparable sales, enlist the assistance of a realtor friend or hire a professional appraiser.  If hiring an appraiser, select one that has experience in this type of assignment.


Step Four:   Complete the State of New Hampshire Tax Abatement Form.  Here is the link to download the form:       https://www.nh.gov/btla/forms/documents/municipal-abatement.pdf    The abatement MUST be filed no later than March 1st following the tax year (March 31, 2017 for 2016 tax year).


The abatement form summarizes the rules, deadlines and procedure for abatement.  If you need assistance in analyzing your property do not hesitate to call Jack Lavoie, SRA at 603-644-1000 or email at: jacklavoie@comcast.net   For more information, find us on our website at www.AppraiserNH.com

Posted in:Tax Abatement and tagged: Property tax
Posted by Jack Lavoie on February 9th, 2018 4:18 AMLeave a Comment

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Many of you know me as a “real estate appraiser” but what does that mean?  You probably know an appraiser as someone who works for the bank when you are buying, selling or refinancing your home.  That is certainly true, but in my case not the complete story.   For this reason, I thought I would share what I do and highlight what types of assignments I have completed in 2017.

I am an SRA designated appraiser through the Appraisal Institute which is the most prestigious residential designation in the industry.  I hold my Certified General Appraiser license on both New Hampshire and Massachusetts, which is the highest level of licensing.   I do both residential and commercial, as well as providing litigation support and real estate consulting.    Some of the properties I appraised within the last 12 months include;

  • Residential assignments such as single family houses, condominiums & 2-4 unit properties
  • Land/building lots
  • Larger multi-family properties 5 to 24 units
  • Office buildings
  • Special use properties
  • Mixed use buildings
  • Land lease valuation
  • Office condominiums
  • Cell tower, abutter impact appraisals & studies
  • Subdivision analysis
  • High-end $4M+ residential house
  • Various complex assignments. The ones other turn down.
  • Review Appraisals
  • Rental analysis


I completed assignments for many reason including, but no limited to;

  • Bank Financing
  • Commercial lending
  • Divorce settlement/litigation
  • Expert witness
  • Estates settlement
  • Guardianship
  • Pre-listing
  • Cash buyers and investors
  • Abutter disputes
  • Tax Abatements
  • Zoning board hearings
  • Bankruptcy & IRS
  • Pre- and post-foreclosure
  • Insurance (pre & post fire) appraisals
  • Consulting


I certainly appreciate and enjoy working for my lender clients, but wanted to let you know that I do a wide variety of appraisals in both the commercial and residential segments. I provide honest, reliable, defendable appraisal reports for many types of clients and uses.  If you or anyone you know is in need of a professional appraiser in the NH or Mass, don’t hesitate to reach out at (603) 644-1000 or email me at jacklavoie@comcast.net  

Black Friday Real Estate Bargain

Okay, there is technically never a “Black Friday” Sale on real estate since most property is owned individually and not offered as a special.  Black Friday is however, is within the traditional seasonal downturn in real estate.   Using Hillsborough County NH as example (see graph below) , even in an overall increasing market, there are peaks and valleys that are attributed to different seasons.  Whether your house is located in Manchester, NH, Bedford, Merrimack, Nashua or Concord, prices rise in the spring/early summer, stabilize in the late summer/early fall and decline in the late fall/winter.  

So how does this translate to Black Friday?  Well, if you are truly looking for more affordable prices, considered looking at real estate during the busy holiday season.  While others are shopping for TVs, you shop for real estate.   Sellers are often more flexible since they know it may be months before the winter market “heats” up again.



Keep in mind if you are order an appraisal whether it is for a divorce, estate, listing or sales purposes, that results can vary significantly as the appraisal is as of an exact effective date.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call me at (603) 644-1000 or email me directly at: JackLavoie@comcast.net

Happy Black Friday!!

Posted by Jack Lavoie on November 24th, 2017 3:42 AMLeave a Comment

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I received a call from a woman from Bedford NH today.  She and her husband are going through a divorce and she inquired about an appraisal.  The interesting part of this is that she ask if I could do a “neutral” appraisal for both the husband and wife.

I explained that I absolutely could do an appraisal on their Bedford home and that I would name both of them as clients.  I also let her know that I do a lot of appraisal assignments like this and congratulated on working together.  While do I provide expert witness services throughout New  Hampshire, I always tell my divorce appraisal clients that it is always best if they can agree on a value themselves. 

I do have a few guidelines and rules when conducting this type of an appraisal.  They are:

  • Each “side” has equal opportunity to provide me information about the property for which they feel is relevant.
  • Each person shall have equal access to me via phone or email.
  • When emailing about critical parts of the appraisal procedure, I will “CC” all parties involved.
  • I also let them know that I won’t discuss any preliminary values until the results are available to all parties.


Divorce is one of the most stressful times in one’s life.  We can’t fix the marriage, but we can offer professional, reliable and respectful assistance in valuing your real estate. 

Posted by Jack Lavoie on January 27th, 2017 7:58 AMLeave a Comment

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Tax abatements, Obtaining a Divorce Appraisal, "Does recessed lighting add value" and should I wait until spring to sell"?

Home seller:   Should I wait until spring to sell my house"   (note: this person is located in Greater Manchester, NH)

Jack:  If your house is prepared to sell (cleaned, repaired, de-cluttered etc) I would NOT wait to sell.  There is currently a shortage of houses on the market in many sectors.  There are a reasonable amount of buyers out looking. Certainly more buyers will join the market in the spring, but along with many more listings (houses on the market).  Inventory is low, so you many be able to take advantage of a window of opportunity.   (Note: Before listing your house, you want to see what the inventory/competition is for your market as each market is different).

Homeowner going through divorce:   Do we each have to get our own appraisal?

Jack: There is no rule that says anyone needs to get an appraisal, however if you are contesting the value each side certainly ought to get one to protect their interest and make sure they have the most updated information with regards to the market value of the house. I have done many “joint” client appraisals in which the divorcing couple hires me together as an independent appraiser. In an amicable situation, I think that is a great idea. Just beware, that if you don’t like the results, your spouse can submit the appraisal into court as evidence.

Homeowner: Does recessed lighting, crown molding etc add value to a house? How much?.

Jack: While it is very difficult to nail down the precise difference in value attributed to one features (lets say recessed lighting versus traditional), it does go toward the overall quality of the house. It is the goal of the appraiser to compare houses of similar quality, which means your house would be compared to a better grade of house than houses that do not have similar quality features. When evaluation quality, SOME of the characteristics are; exterior ornamentation, interior refinements/detail and quality, ceiling height, quality of finish materials, efficiency of systems (heat, electrical etc) and much more.   While one item by itself may not change the value by itself, it does go to the overall quality of the house.

Property taxpayer: When is the deadline for to appeal my property taxes?

Jack: The deadline for all New Hampshire municipalities is March 1, 2016 for appealing your 2015 taxes. The date is a “hard date” and will not be extended. The municipality has until July 1, 2016 to either grant or deny your request. If they do not act on it, is automatically considered “denied”. Similar to presidential “desk veto”.   If your abatement application is denied, you can appeal it to either the State of New Hampshire Board of Land and Tax Appeals (BTLA) or the New Hampshire Superior Court. The following is a link to the New Hampshire tax abatement form.


If you have any questions on real estate, appraisal or finance questions don’t hesitate to contact me at (603) 644-1000 or email me at: jacklavoie@comcast.net.   Check out my website at www.AppraiserNH.com

Posted by Jack Lavoie on February 15th, 2016 2:20 PMLeave a Comment

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My first “Monday Mail Bag” post. Every week I field many questions from brokers, mortgage professionals, homeowners/buyer, attorneys and other interested parties in real estate. On Mondays I will share some of the questions and answers. Here we go:


Q#1 – Broker: I have buyer considering purchasing a 2-family in Manchester. It is assessed as a 2-family, but does not have a certificate of compliance. The current owner has lived in the property since 1948 and says it is “grandfathered”. Do my buyers need to get a new Certificate of compliance?

Jack: YES!!! In the late 1980s when the Certificate of compliance (COC) program came into effect for rental properties, the city grandfathered 2-4 unit properties that were owner occupied for as long as that owner lived in the building and retained ownership. Any new buyer must obtain a new COC. A buyer will have to do some due diligence as some of the items, emergency exits, electrical, smoke detectors etc. can be expensive.  There may be an issue with the financing since the buyer will being doing the work after closing. It would have been smart for the seller to obtain the COC prior to listing the property to appeal to a broader group of buyers.  (note: Link to Manchester NH housing code: https://www.manchesternh.gov/pcd/Regulations/HousingCodeOrdinance.pdf )


Q#2 – Mortgage Professional: Does FHA allow “Driven Point Wells” for drinking water?

Jack: Yes, they are allowed however they must meet the Private well guidelines set forth in the HUD Handbook 4000.1     The handbook does not specifically address driven point wells therefore they are acceptable providing the local municipality allows them, it is an approved well and meets the current setback and flow guidelines. If the town allows it, and it meets all the other criteria, then HUD will accept it. HUD and the mortgage investor will most likely want to see evidence (by showing comparables) that other properties have this type of well.


Q#3 – Homeowner/Seller:   The IRS has agreed to release a lien on my house I am selling and they have asked for an appraisal. Do I need to get my own or can I use the one the buyers are getting from the mortgage company

Jack: You really should get your own appraisal for several reasons. 1) The IRS has different definition of value called “Fair Market Value” which is different than Fannie Mae’s definition of “Market Value”. 2) The mortgage appraisal does not come with the permission to use for another use such as having the lien released by the IRS. 3) If the IRS questions the appraisal you will want to have YOUR appraiser available to back up his/her appraisal. There is not incentive for the bank appraiser to do so since you are not their client. Getting an IRS lien is a BIG deal. It is worth the money for your own appraisal.


If you have any real estate, appraisal, investing or financing related questions don’t hesitate to call Jack Lavoie, SRA at (603) 644-1000 or email at: appraiser@jacklavoie.com

Posted by Jack Lavoie on February 8th, 2016 1:32 PMLeave a Comment

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February 8th, 2016 1:28 PM

DIVORCE…..We all know someone who is going through a divorce. It may even be yourself. I am not going to give you general divorce advice, but I am going to offer you divorce real estate advice….

Divorce is a terrible thing. It is a polarizing event in which every body takes sides.   Everything “he” does is good…Everything “she” does is bad and vice versa. While I don’t think divorce should be war, it is important that you take the financial part of it seriously and thoroughly. Too often one side gives in too easy because they “just want it over” giving away thousands of dollars in the settlement. Don’t be bullied!

THE HOUSE…. Even if you are in agreement WHO gets the house, you may not be able to agree on how much its worth. How much it’s worth effects the equity and is the basis for one side buying out the other.   I have a few important thoughts regarding the appraisal of the house. In no particular order they are:

  • Even if the value the spouse places on the property seems right, get an appraisal to 1) make sure it’s right and 2) to give you the comfort of knowing its fair. SADLY, I see VERY often one side of the divorce “tricking” the other side into false value.
  • Ask your lawyer what effective date the appraisal should be. Depending on your attorney’s strategy, they may want it effective separation date, date of court filing, date of appraisal inspection (current date) or some other date.
  • When selecting an appraiser hire some with a STRONG background in non-bank appraisal work. Many appraisers only do sales and refinance appraisals and are not experienced in non-lender and Litigation appraisals. YOUR appraiser needs to have a “Bullet-proof” file with support and documentation in his/her file. If the file is not complete the opposition attorney will have a field day. Your appraiser needs to be able to explain, and justify each of the methods and adjustments,
  • The goal is to settle, but hire an appraiser who is willing to testify in court and have the experience in doing so. Choose someone who can stand up to hostile cross examination.
  • Hire someone with vast experience in YOUR area. Real estate is local and local experience really is important and will be crucial if the value of the house is litigated in court.
  • Consider using a professional, designated appraisal from a highly recognized organization such as the “Appraisal Institute”. AI offers an SRA designation for residential and MAI for commercial appraisers.
  • Make sure the appraiser is using the correct forms or format for appraisals. If the appraiser uses the same form they use for the bank they are; a) in violation of standards and b) obviously the wrong person for the job for not knowing this.
  • Don’t price shop. Qualifications, education, experience and knowledge is VERY important. Do you hire the “cheapest lawyer” or do you hire the best attorney to get the job done? Saving $100 on an appraisal and putting tens of thousands of dollars at risk is like stepping over $50 dollar bills to pick up pennies.
  • The appraiser can work for you directly meaning that YOU are the client. In some circumstance when husband and wife are amicable and working together they can order a joint appraisal in which the appraisal is completed for BOTH of them and they are BOTH the client. Be sure to ask your attorney about this option. If you do this, you want to make sure both of you choose THE best appraiser in the area as the appraisal will hold strong weight in front of a judge.
  • When meeting the appraiser, be sure to point out all important aspects of the house specifically items not necessarily obvious during inspection, such as defects, broken items and overall condition. It is even better to provide a list.  You may be hoping for a low appraisal, but may be disappointed if you don’t let the appraiser know that “the septic system has failed” or the “roof leaks” when those items affect value.
  • Before sharing the results with your spouse and his/her attorney, carefully review the appraisal for factual accuracy. If you find an error (ie. appraiser indicated fuel is “gas”, then it is actually “oil”), then inform the appraiser to correct the appraisal BEFORE providing the other side with the report. One little, typographical error can give the opposition to discredit what is otherwise a sold, sound, quality appraisal.
  • Consider the timing of the appraisal is that is an option. Residential real estate values in New Hampshire vary by season. Appraisal results can vary by season and it may be worth a discussion with your attorney.

If you have any questions regarding a divorce or any other appraisal, don’t hesitate to contact me at (603) 644-1000 or at appraisals@jacklavoie.com

Posted by Jack Lavoie on February 8th, 2016 1:28 PMLeave a Comment

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Here are a FEW of the questions I fielded this week:

Homeowner (who is also a broker): We are thinking of adding an enclosed porch, but not sure if we will get a return on our investment. Do you think will get our money back?

Jack: You actually have two questions there. Should you build the porch? And will you get your money back (in increased value or resale)? With regards to the latter, it is quite possible you won't get a dollar for dollar return. As a general rule, when you cure a problem (I.e. Fix something that's broke) you often get more than a dollar for dollar return. When you add features that are beyond what the "typical house" has, it generally costs more than what you will get in increased value.   If you are adding a feature that is expected in the market that nearly all competing houses have, you probably will get full value back. With regards to the enclosed porch, it may only increase the value a 1/3 to 2/3 of the cost of house. So, in answering your second question, the answer is NO (you will NOT get all your $$ back). As to whether or not you will do it, it is a function of how long and how often you will use and home much enjoyment it brings you. As an example, if it costs $18,000 and you only get a $9,000 return, but you enjoy the porch for the next 10 years, than I would say "Who cares" if you don't get your money back in resale, since you have gotten your value back in the way of enjoyment.

Homeowner: I have a 4.375 interest rate. Does it make sense to refinance?

Jack: first of all, I am not a mortgage expert, but I can give you this general advice. Whether or not you refi is a function of your new interest rate, the new loan costs and how long you expect to own the property. This is how you calculate savings and break even. Let's say you are going to save 1/2 percent on your rate and you have a $200,000 mortgage. That means you will save $1,000 (1/2 of 1 percent) on annual interest. If the cost of the loan is $2,000, it would take you 2 years to break even. If you plan on owning the property for more than 2 years it probably makes sense. Many lenders with also do a no closing costs loan in which they will incur the cost themselves and build those costs into the new interest rate, which will be higher than if you paid the cost. So, if you are not sure how long you will own your house, you may pay no closing costs and just lower the rate to just 4 percent (as an example). Nothing to scoff at since even lowering 0.375 percent will save you $750 per year in interest or $63 per month. Not bad for "free money". Lastly, I BEG you to use a LOCAL lender. Don't get tricked into thinking these national online lenders are better.

Posted by Jack Lavoie on February 8th, 2016 1:26 PMLeave a Comment

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If you are looking to buy a home or investment property and are NOT concerned with getting the lowest price possible, then stop reading now…If not, consider reading the following the information and take advantage of the upcoming holiday season.

One of the most ignored aspects and/or characteristics is the “Seasonal” effect on value and supply in real estate. Even in a stable market, prices do not stay level all year. The “life” of the property values is “born” in the spring and “dies” in the winter. In the springtime more buyers compete for properties and put upward pressure on pricing. The demand continues throughout the summer and stabilizes in the late summer and early fall. In the late fall, buyers “settle in” and get ready for the holidays and winters and begin to “sit on the sidelines”, which causes the marker to “die”.

This theory/model is backed my data collected throughout the northeast, New Hampshire and specifically data tracked within my appraisal office. Our office keeps statistics on Manchester single family AND multi-family properties. Additionally, we track Bedford, Nashua, Portsmouth, Concord and Laconia. In ALL sectors, we track sales volumes and prices much lower during the winter months then in the spring and summer months. Doesn’t it make sense that prices are lower in the winter? Anybody selling in the winter months KNOWS that there are only a few buyers to compete for and that their home may sit on the market until spring. As a result, they are more motivated to “take less” now then to carry the property throughout the winter.

 I estimate the difference in the Greater Manchester NH market to be to be nearly 10 percent from the high and lows during the year. What does that mean? It means you can buy a $200K house for the $190K in the dead of winter and it will cost $210K to buy that same $200K house during the best selling months.

The moral of the story… When you are out doing your holiday shopping, consider it the BEST time of the year to purchase your next property. KNOW that you have leverage and incredible buying power since most of the other buyers have hibernated in the winter. Let them sleep during the winter and compete against each other in the spring and summer months… and by the way….pay and Extra $20,000 using our example.
If you have any questions regarding buying, selling, appraising, pricing or any other real estate matter do not hesitate to contact me at
              (603) 644-1000       

Posted in:General
Posted by Jack Lavoie on October 3rd, 2010 2:54 PMLeave a Comment

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Ok… that is only if you were planning on selling this spring or summer…lol I do believe that tomorrow is THE best day of the year to list your property. I base that on some unique circumstances. As you know, the real estate market is somewhat turbulent and has been somewhat sustained by the current Federal 1st time homebuyer grant which expire on 4/30/10. 1st time homebuyers currently makes up more than 60 percent of the purchases and a high amount of those buyers who intend on buying in 2010 will try to buy by the end of April. As a result, May, June, July and August will have less 1st time buyers than normal as many of them will “buy early”. Less buyers on May 1 means less demand and ultimately lower short term prices. Traditionally April is a strong month in real estate and this April should be a whirlwind. While I cannot always predict the future, I will step out on a limb and say that your house will be worth LESS from May to August than in April. If you need to sell by the end of summer than here is your plan of action to maximize you sale

1. Contact your US or your favorite Realtor TOMMOROW

2. Have a professional appraisal and/or market analysis done by Friday

3. List your home with US or your favorite Realtor by Monday

4. Have US or your Realtor BLITZ the market for 30 days to get your highest April offer

5. Have US or your Realtor schedule a broker’s open house on Weds 4/7

6. Have US or your Realtor schedule an open house

7. Have US or your Realtor work their tale off for 30 days to get you the highest price you will ever get in the next several months

If you would like a market analysis for your Greater Manchester and Southern NH home then contact Jack Lavoie or Kim Overby at               603-644-1000         603-644-1000. If you don’t need to sell then you can wait. If you need to sell THIS year then you need to hire US TOMMOROW.

P.S. Dont even think about selling FSBO this month! This is an opportunity that can’t be missed and not the time to roll the dice.

Posted in:General
Posted by Jack Lavoie on March 30th, 2010 9:50 PMLeave a Comment

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I was doing an appraisal today in Bedford NH and the homeowners daughter asked me whether I thought it was a good idea to buy a house now. They want to buy a house in Manchester NH and have heard that the market is declining. Like everyone, they are afraid that if they buy now they might second guess themselves if the same type house sells for a little less next year. Trying to hit the bottom of the market is called “market timing”.

Right now, in Manchester NH and southern New Hampshire homes are selling for about 70 percent of what they peaked at a year ago. At the same time we are experiencing some of the lowest rates EVER and have some of the best programs like FHA and Farmers Home /Rural Housing and incentives like the $8,000 Federal Tax Credit and NH housing Finance Authority (NHHFA) grant money. Another word, the cost of housing (low prices, low rates and many incentives) makes this THE most affordable time to buy in years.

So let’s say you wait until next year to buy that house in Manchester NH… Yes, maybe you time it right, but unfortunately when the rock hits the bottom, the artificially goverment reduced interest rates with again rise. That means that even if you buy at a lower price, it will cost you just as much (if not more) to finance the property due to higher interest rates. When the market returns, interest rates with be higher nationally and will affect your new purchase whether you are buying a condo in Concord NH, an apartment building in Manchester NH or a beach house in Hampton NH.

Having said that, everybody is in a different position and need to make the decision that makes sense for them. If you would like to discuss the market and whether or not buying is right for you, then give me a shout at 603-644-1000 or Email Jack

Posted in:General
Posted by Jack Lavoie on January 19th, 2010 8:27 PMLeave a Comment

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January 12th, 2010 10:52 PM

I met a client at a Manchester NH multi family property today. It was a 3 unit apartment building they bought 3 years ago for over $300,000 and today it is worth around $200,000. She wanted me to appraise the property and provide some advise on a plan of action as the building is causing them great pain. The couple bought it nearly 100 percent financed with a subprime mortgage with a $240K 1st mortgage at 8 percent and a $60K 2nd at 13 percent. They were told that they would be able to refinance the property, but since they are now upside down that is impossible. Declining rents combined with a costly mortgage equals a nearly $1000 per month NEGATIVE cash flow. They are stuck!

Unfortunately the Manchester NH apartment building market has suffered severe declining values and anybody who bought property from 2005 to 2008 (or refinanced to pull out cash) is most likely in touble and stressed. If you fall in this category, here are a few things you might want to do

Apply for a Tax Abatement - Since Manchester NH apartment buildings have declined in value so much, they are nearly ALL over assessed compared to other types of real estate. A successful tax abatement will lower your monthly costs and increase your cash flow (or reduce your negative cash flow). While you can apply yourself, I would recommend hiring a consultant or a professional appraiser for a tax abatement.

Short sale – In my client’s case, they cant sell the property traditionally since they owe $100,000 more than they could ever sell the property for. A short sale is when an owner sells a property to a buyer and the lender agrees to accept the purchase price which is far “short” of the mortgage balance as payment. Lenders do this because they realize it is better to get some of the money now rather than have to foreclose upon the property and take it back. If your finances are stressed and you can show hardship you may have a good chance of getting your short sale approved. I have taught courses on “short sales” and will gladly assist you with any questions you may have.

Fill those vacancies - Forget the high rents of yesterday. Lower your rents and keep your building filled. Your apartment building may show a negative cash flow but it will be a lot less damaging than vacancies.

If you need any assistance with your apartment building whether it is located in Manchester or anywhere in Southern New Hampshire, feel free to contact me.

Posted in:General
Posted by Jack Lavoie on January 12th, 2010 10:52 PMLeave a Comment

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Manchester NH and most of the other towns and cities in New Hampshire have sent out there final tax bills which means the clock starts for tax abatement season. If you are a homeowner and are paying property taxes, you may be eligible for a tax abatement. Your property taxes are based on your property assessment that your town or city assigns you. Most assessor’s do a great job, but there job is very difficult. They must design a computer/statistical model that will accurately appraise thousands of parcels at the same time. Even the best of models will not fit every property, which is why in every town, nearly a 1/3 (33.3%) of the properties are over assessed and a 1/3 are under assessed. It’s the 33% of the over assessed who can get a tax break on my plan (there I go again…lol).

Click for Tax Abatement Assistance

Many people look at their assessment and say to themselves "Oh, I could never sell my house for what it’s assessed for!" …lol That doesn’t mean your house is over assessed. Sounds confusing, but I will explain why.

In every town, it is the assessor’s goal to have assessments equal the true market value of the property. Every five years or so, the town does a complete revaluation of their town to do this. Each year thereafter, the assessment stays the same, but the market value could go up or down which means the assessments are higher or lower than market value. Here is the key...... As long as every property in the town is either over assessed or under assessed the same, then it is fair. You are only entitled to get a tax abatement if you are MORE over assessed than average person in the town. Here is an example.

If the “Assessment ratio” for the town is 120%, which means the average property is assessed at 120% of the actual market value, you will not be able to fight your taxes if your house is assessed at $120,000 and is only worth $100,000. The reason being is that your house is in line with the 120% assessment ratio ($120K is 120% of $100K). If your house is only worth $80,000, you may have an excellent case to get your $120,000 assessment reduced down to $96,000, since $96,000 is 120% of $80,000. If you can prove your home is worth $80,000, your assessor may reduce your assessment in this example to $96,000.

“Margin of Error” Most communities will only reduce your assessment if your “equalized assessment” is more than 10% higher than market value. This is because there is a reasonable “margin for area” due to complexity of assessing an entire community.

The State of New Hampshire Department of Revenue provides the official “Assessment Ratio” for each town in the State on an annual basis. That is one half of the equation. The other half is figuring out what your property is worth in terms of market value.

In abating your taxes, if will be necessary to provide “proof” of your market value estimate, as of April 1st of the tax year being appealed. This can done by hiring a Certified Appraiser like myself to provide a professional opinion of value. The appraisal with be attached to an official abatement form and will need to be filed in a timely fashion.

If you would like to contact me and find out if you are a candidate for a tax abatement, feel free to contact me @ jacklavoie@comcast.net. I do residential and commercial tax abatement appraisals throughout the state of New Hampshire should you need my assistance.

Tax bills will be mailed out soon. When you receive your tax bill, get the process going and you may be one of the 33% who can get an abatement!!


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Posted by Jack Lavoie on November 30th, 2009 7:53 PMLeave a Comment

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February 5th, 2009 10:39 PM

Well, I have been gone for awhile so I thought I’d get your attention…lol Do I think 2009 will be the year of the crash?....Well, It might not “crash”, but it will surely continue to “tumble”. The real estate market, whether local or national is based on the economy and the purchasing power of potential buyers and neither is good right now. I am confident (unfortunately) that prices will be lower at the end of this year than now, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy. Is it the right time to sell? Well, depending on your situation here our my 2009 advise “quick hitters” (an old phase from my basketball coaching days..lol).

Thinking of buying your first home – Make sure you are buying for the right reason. Real estate is a great long term investment. If you know which direction you are going (jobwise, relationship wise etc) and you are committed to live in the house for ATLEAST 5 years, then go ahead and take advantage of low rates and good deals. Be sure you hire the BEST real estate professional to help navigate you through the treacherous real estate waters. If you are not ready to commit to a minimum to 5+ years in the house then take advantage of lower rents and RENT.

Is it a good time to invest? - If the property CASH FLOWS and you can buy a property BELOW market value in terms of today’s value AND you are not investing your nest egg then…..YES!!!! This is a great time to acquire good properties. Do NOT buy based on future appreciation. If you are going to “buy and hold” the property, it MUST cash flow in order to be a safe investment. Make sure you surround yourself with a team of professionals to assist you. Use and investment specialist broker, not your “Realtor – In Law”. Of course, make sure you are committed to a MINIMUM of 5 years.

Should I sell now? - It depends! Hows that for an answer..lol Seriously, I would say this… If you are sure you will be selling your home in the next 3 years, than I believe the safe move is to sell now. I think the market has the potential to go lower than it can higher (over the next 2 years). If you know you are going to sell, then do it now. If you sell now, you most likely can find a property to rent for less money than owning, which might offset any appreciation IF it happens. Now, if you think you will stay in the house for several years, by all means KEEP IT!! House values will eventually return. The home is more than financial…it is your home.

I am Upside Down? – The bad news, the bad economy and the political pressure for banks to work out deals with homeowners gives people who are upside down many options. SHORT SALES (selling the house for less than you owe and having the bank forgive the balance) are happening all the time and the banks are very willing to do so. It is Key you hire someone who has extensive experience with short sales, as it is a delicate procedure. If you have NO equity in your home, this is a great time to dump it via short sale before you get upside worse. If you really upside down, why not do a short sale….get rid of the negative equity….rent for 2 years……then bargain hunt in 2 years.

John McCain (ok ..he lost…lol) called himself the “straight talk express”. Well, I will be real estate’s straight talker. Most of my collegues in the real estate industry project the image that everything will be ok this year. It might, but I want my friends, family and clients to make smart, well informed decisions with regards to their real estate during this volatile time. 2009 might define the next 10 years for people...good or bad

If you would like an objective, evaluation of your situation, email me @ jacklavoie@comcast.net or call me @ 345-7355.

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Posted by Jack Lavoie on February 5th, 2009 10:39 PMLeave a Comment

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December 14th, 2008 12:22 PM

You have heard the news about the mortgage crisis and the tightening of credit on the news; therefore I won’t get into it here. What I will tell you is that there are several options available for people with limited down payments.

FHA – The Federal Housing Administration (or HUD) offers a terrific loan program with competitive rates. They have more relaxed qualifying guidelines than conventional loans and have become the “New subprime” lender of choice. FHA does require a 3% down payment, but it can be a gift from a family member, employer etc. Closing costs can be rolled into the loan. Therefore if you get a gift, it is possible to go “No money down”. On the negative side, all FHA loans have a monthly “Mortgage Insurance premium” (MIP). MIP is FHA’s version of private mortgage insurance (PMI), which makes the effective rate of the loan higher (than if MIP was not required).

U.S.D.A. Rural housing has a true 100% financing program that will also allow you to roll in closing costs and up to $10,000 in repairs, since the loan amount is based on the appraised value and not the sales price. I have completed quite a few appraisals on this type of loan and the loan originators I speak with say that nearly 50% of the loans they write are USDA/Rural housing loans. Now, don’t worry…. This doesn’t mean you have to buy a house out in the sticks!!...lol… In fact rural housing loans are available in nearly all towns in New Hampshire except for the few of the cities such as Manchester, Nashua, Portsmouth etc. That means you can live in a town such as Bedford, NH which is adjacent to Manchester and has 25K residents and still qualify for “rural housing”.

New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority (NHHFA) offers the American Dream Program. This program allows buyers to purchase the property with only 1% down. Like the other programs, the closing costs can be rolled in. The best thing about this loan program is that NHHFA offers a grant, which is applied toward the sales price. Unlike the other loan programs, there are income limits to qualify for the loan. The limits vary based on the number of people in your household and the specific town. Here are a few examples….

4 person household in Goffstown…$61,500 limit

2 person household in Epping……$49,200 limit..

But HOLD ON…. If you buy a property in a “targeted” community, the income limits are WAIVED. If you buy in Manchester, Nashua, Laconia and several other communities there are NO limits on the what you earn to qualify.

These are just a FEW of the many loan programs that are targeted toward people with limited down payment. In a few days I will write how and tell you how people with BRUISED CREDIT can buy a home for themselves.

If you would like information on what loan program fits your situation, please contact me at:  jacklavoie@comcast.net



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Posted by Jack Lavoie on December 14th, 2008 12:22 PMLeave a Comment

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November 28th, 2008 10:23 PM

A Window of Opportunity

I was talking with my fellow “Weight Watcher”, friend and real estate colleague Bill Weidacher the other day as I was sampling some of his famous “Rotissary chicken soup”. Bill mentioned he was going to contact all of his clients and let them know that interest rates have come down and there was a “window of opportunity” to buy or refinance at low, low rates!!! As we were talking I got to thinking… Everybody wants a deal, but most people think in terms of price and rarely terms. Do you realize that by having a mortgage interest rate 1% lower on a $200,000 home, it is equal to buying that home for about $180,000. Here is an example, lets say you are thinking of buying a home for $200,000 and financing the whole amount at today’s low rate of 5.5%. Your principal and interest would be $1,136 per month. Lets say you decide to “wait for the bottom” and you don’t buy, but instead wait a year after interest rates climbed to 6.5%. Do you realize that the $200,000 home will now cost you $1,264/month (P & I). Another way to look at it is that the price would have to drop to $180,000 to have the same payment with the new interest of 6.5% (versus 5.5%). In terms of payment, the lower interest rate is worth about $20,000 in house value. I am not convinced that we are at the bottom of the market yet, but I am sure that interest rates will be higher someday soon. My advice is while interest rates are low and inventory is high, that you consider buying NOW.

I don’t have a down payment?

In this economy who does?...lol Did you know that in the U.S.D.A offers “Rural Housing” loans that allow you finance 100% of the purchase AND closing costs. Don’t let the word “rural” fool you. Any town (Bedford, Goffstown, Auburn etc) in New Hampshire is eligible except for Manchester and Nashua. A good portion (atleast 1/3) of the appraisals I do for home sales is for the U.S.D.A. It is a great program.

So you have heard that it is “a bad time to buy”….and that there is “no money available”……and that you “need a down payment”.. Well, hopefully you now know that those are myths.

I tell my clients that it is ALWAYS a good time to buy real estate if it is for the right reason and the right terms and NEVER a good time to buy if its for the wrong reason and the wrong terms.

Choose a real estate professional that will make sure you are buying for the right reason.


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Posted by Jack Lavoie on November 28th, 2008 10:23 PMLeave a Comment

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We all know that the economy is tough and people are hurting right now. Many people are facing foreclosures, but thanks to an announcement by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, many will be spared this holiday season. Fannie & Freddie announced that they and many of their servicing agents (mortgage companies) will postpone/suspend all foreclosures until January 9th, 2009. Are Freddie and Fannie showing their soft side during the holiday season?...... I doubt it. While they will surely get some good press and good will, their motivation was to put a hold on foreclosures until they unveil new loan modification programs.

As part of the bailout plan, the government is putting strong pressure on them to “work out” the loans with as many homeowners as possible. The programs and policies won’t take effect until January, which is why they are suspending the foreclosures until then.

Having said that, not all mortgages are back by Freddie or Fannie. Therefore, if you are experiencing trouble and facing foreclosure you want to find out if you qualify for your “stay of foreclosre”.

If you are facing foreclosure, I would recommend the following:

First of all, spend the next few days and take a realistic look at your finances and figure out if you can actually afford the house. If you can, and can demonstrate it, you will most likely be able to work out a decent arrangement with your lender. If not, it may be the right time to liquidate the house by either a straight sale, short sale, deed in lieu or at last resort foreclosure/bankruptcy. Believe it or not, there are more options available to homeowners in distress than you might believe. I am always willing to meet with anyone to assess their situation in a confidential, respectful manner and spell out the options.

Speaking of holidays, I want to wish all my friends, family, clients and of course…my subscribers….lol, a wonderful Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is time to value your family and be thankful for what you have. No matter what your situation is, I hope you can set the stress aside for a day and enjoy the ones you love. H-A-P-P-Y ….T-H-A-N-K-S-G-I-V-I-N-G !!!

P.S.  Please share the blog with any of your friends so they are kept abreast of these important real estate and financial issue.



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Posted by Jack Lavoie on November 25th, 2008 7:07 PMLeave a Comment

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November 22nd, 2008 7:35 PM

Eight long but exihilarating days later and I am now a graduate of the Yankee School of Auctioneering. After passing the test, I have now fulfilled my requirements for the Massachesetts auctioneer license and only a December 8th exam away from my NH license. Did you know that it is traditional for an auctioneer to be dubbed “Colonel”? Well, Col. Lavoie sounds good to me!...lol

I want to personally thank Jay Daley from the Yankee School of Auctioneering and Maggie Rose from Classic Benefit Auctions and Classic Auction Service for a great school and education. They are true professionals and full of integrity. I am looking forward to using what I learned to assist my real estate clients. While not for everyone, I believe that a very well promoted auction is the perfect solution for many homeowners, estates, investors, private and public lenders. I plan on using a real estate “shot gun” approach by utilizing both MLS and auction services to market the heck out of my client’ properties. To give my auction business a jumpstart, I am planning on holding a “mock auction” next month to reherse/practice my systems and have some fun with it.  I will keep you posted when I set the date as I will invite all my subscribers to the Mock
Auction and reception (yes....adult refreshments will be served...lol).

I would like to say thank you to all my classmates this week for all I learned from you. I enjoyed your enthusiasm and questions as well as your friendships. I also want to congratulate Mary Scimemi for “Ace-ing” the exam (wink) and my buddy Bob "I'm gonna sell it" Wallace for conducting a very "interesting" benefit auction today.  :)

So how does the “Colonel” get on TV? Well…it is true, I have been asked to co-host Monday 11/24’s “Demetri Live” show on Manchester Cable 23 TV. The show airs live from 9-Noon. “Dee” (Demetri) and I will discuss current events, conduct interviews and in the 3rd hour…talk real estate!  I am looking forward to having lots of fun in my debut on the Manchester Cable station.

One last thing to my Yankee School friends…. The Pines 55, The Oaks 7.  Sorry, but I think we kicked your ##s today!!!...lol



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Posted by Jack Lavoie on November 22nd, 2008 7:35 PMLeave a Comment

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November 13th, 2008 10:35 PM

Yes, that is right… I Jack Lavoie, 20+ year real estate veteran am going back to school….. Auctioneer School that is! Lol

For eight consecutive days (from 8am to 8pm) I will be learning all aspects of the auctioneering business from the Yankee School of Auctioneering. I am a believer in creative marketing and feel that many properties could benefit from an auction. I am looking forward to assisting my clients by offering real estate auction services combined with my appraisal and brokerage services beginning in December.

Picture this scenario…. You are being transferred and need a buyer for your home within 30 days. Wouldn’t it be great if you could have the traditional exposure of Multiple Listing Service combined with quick sale excitement of an auction? When I say auction, I don’t mean exposing your property to a situation where someone can buy it for 10 cents on the dollar. I mean selling the house with a “Reserve”. That means that YOU, the seller, set a minimum sales price. A private auction is not like a bank/foreclosure auctions where the bids are “low balls” since the buyers usually can’t even look at the property, never mind inspect it. With a seller (not a bank) auction, we set a day or weekend when prospective buyers can take a complete look at the home. We stage the house to appeal to a wide range of buyers and even have a pre-auction home inspection. Imagine having an mortgage professional at the pre-auction showings to pre-qualify prospects! Do you think the offers might be higher if the buyer’s can fully “kick the tires” and have access to a professional inspection?........Absolutely!!!!

Investors… your carrying cost will kill you when you are flipping a house. You can’t afford to carry the house for months. Why not rehab the house…..and when it’s finished list the property AND schedule an auction out 14 days. Only 14 days of marketing with save you THOUSANDS of dollars and allow you to move onto your next deal.

Well, the 2nd half of the Patriots game is about to start… so to paraphrase auctioneer speak………I’m going once…..going twice……GONE!!!!!! (until my next blog post…lol)

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Posted by Jack Lavoie on November 13th, 2008 10:35 PMLeave a Comment

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November 9th, 2008 7:03 PM

Everybody knows that the market is tough right now. You’ve heard the news, seen all the “For-Sale” signs and listened to the so called "experts". I believe the slow market will continue into 2009, however houses sell in ANY market. If you are in a market where there are 100 houses per year that sell and sales drop drastically by 20%, it still means that 80 houses will still sell. So how to do you make sure your house is one of the 80 that sells compared to the 500+ that will be on the market…….. CREATIVE MARKETING

During the “Boom” it was possible to sell houses in Manchester, Bedford or any other New Hampshire town with a 3-point marketing plan…….. 1) Enter it into MLS, ) 3) Slap a sign in the ground and 3) Wait for the buyers!!!! Well…not anymore!!

The name of the game is Exposure and Appearance. These are the keys to making sure your house stands out from the other “Would be seller”.


If your house is not in top shape you won’t be able to get top dollar. There are so many homes on the market that buyers do not have to inconvenience themselves with homes that need “sprucing up”. If they do decide to make an offer on a house that needs work, they will discount their offer for MUCH more than the cost of repairs. So please, please, please FIX the items that are broken and make sure each room is freshly painted and flooring is neutral and appealing.

The second part of appearance is STAGING. A good friend of mine Karen Cormier tells her clients “You can sell your house the way you live in it” What she means is that sellers need to de-clutter, de-personal and stage their home to appeal to the widest range of people possible. In my real estate business, I surround myself with the best specialist and Karen is the best house stager I know. Karen is available for you if you seek staging advice


The more buyers you attract the better the chances to sell your house and at a higher price. So how do we attract buyers? We do it by making it very easy for them. According the National Association of REALTORS, 94% of buyers begin their search on the internet. Buyers can view listing on line in the privacy of their own home. I believe if they are “shopping” online, you ought to be able to show them the whole property. We do this by offering a very professional VISUAL TOUR which allows the buyer to view the interior and exterior home in great detail. VISUAL/VIRTUAL Tours used to be an exotic tool for REALTORS, but know it is necessary. Here is a link of an example of a Visual Tour courtesy of another good Realtor Friend of mine Judi Farr.  Click here her for Judy's Visual Tour.

Another creative way is by auction. Reserve Auctions in conjunction with Multiple Listing is becoming increasingly popular and creates great exposure. It is a great benefit for someone who needs a contract on their home within 21 days. Imagine having the power of multiple listing combined with the benefits of an auction. It is the “double shot gun” apprpoach. Interestingly, I have a program that I will unveil in December that will combine the best of both worlds (MLS & Auctions). If you are interesting in obtaining a preview of our auction program, feel free to email me @ jacklavoie@comcast.net. New Hampshire Real Estate Auctions

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Posted by Jack Lavoie on November 9th, 2008 7:03 PMLeave a Comment

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“I Jack Lavoie can cut taxes for 33% of all New Hampshire Citizens.”

Both men have promised “tax cuts” to Americans. I am quite skeptical of this therefore, in the spirit of the election, I am putting my patriotic hat on and am sharing my own tax cut plan.

“Read my Lips!!! ….. (to quote a former president)…. Here is my tax plan!!

If you are a homeowner and are paying property taxes, you may be eligible for a tax abatement. Your property taxes are based on your property assessment that your town or city assigns you. Most assessor’s do a great job, but there job is very difficult. They must design a computer/statistical model that will accurately appraise thousands of parcels at the same time. Even the best of models will not fit every property, which is why in every town, nearly a 1/3 (33.3%) of the properties are over assessed and a 1/3 are under assessed. It’s the 33% of the over assessed who can get a tax break on my plan (there I go again…lol).

Many people look at their assessment and say to themselves "Oh, I could never sell my house for what it’s assessed for!" …lol  That doesn’t mean your house is over assessed. Sounds confusing, but I will explain why.

In every town, it is the assessor’s goal to have assessments equal the true market value of the property. Every five years or so, the town does a complete revaluation of their town to do this. Each year thereafter, the assessment stays the same, but the market value could go up or down which means the assessments are higher or lower than market value. Here is the key...... As long as every property in the town is either over assessed or under assessed the same, then it is fair. You are only entitled to get a tax abatement if you are MORE over assessed than average person in the town. Here is an example.

If the “Assessment ratio” for the town is 120%, which means the average property is assessed at 120% of the actual market value, you will not be able to fight your taxes if your house is assessed at $120,000 and is only worth $100,000. The reason being is that your house is in line with the 120% assessment ratio ($120K is 120% of $100K).  If your house is only worth $80,000, you may have an excellent case to get your $120,000 assessment reduced down to $96,000, since $96,000 is 120% of $80,000.  If you can prove your home is worth $80,000, your assessor may reduce your assessment in this example to $96,000.

The State of New Hampshire Department of Revenue provides the official “Assessment Ratio” for each town in the State on an annual basis. That is one half of the equation. The other half is figuring out what your property is worth in terms of market value.

In abating your taxes, if will be necessary to provide “proof” of your market value estimate, as of April 1st of the tax year being appealed. This can done by hiring a Certified Appraiser like myself to provide a professional opinion of value. The appraisal with be attached to an official abatement form and will need to be filed in a timely fashion. The balance of abatement process does not need to be discussed right now, but the important thing is to know that 33% of you qualify for my plan. Besides...... my quick description of my plan had  10 times more detail/meat than either Obama or McCain's tax plan!...lol

If you would like to contact me and find out if you are a candidate for a tax abatement, feel free to contact me @ jacklavoie@comcast.net. I do residential and commercial tax abatements throughout the state of New Hampshire should you need my assistance.

Tax bills will be mailed out soon. When you receive your tax bill, get the process going and you may be one of the 33% who can get an abatement…….a lot more than the other guy’s plans! J



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Posted by Jack Lavoie on November 3rd, 2008 9:16 PMView Comments (2)

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October 29th, 2008 10:33 PM

When I am out doing appraisals or consulting a homeowner at a listing appointment, I often get asked what kinds of home improvements add value. They will ask me if I think it makes financial sense to add a particular feature to their house. Here are my thoughts on some of the common questions I receive.

First of all, the best way to increase the value your home is to make any needed repairs or fix a problem in your house. For every dollar you spent repairing or fixing a problem, you will receive 3 to 5 dollars in return. Now that’s a return on investment!!!! As an example, lets say your roof is older, and needs replacing. Do you realize that most potential buyers will discount their offer on your home by MORE than the cost of repairs to account for the risk, time and inconvenience associated with having to complete the roof themselves? If a roof will cost $5,000 to replace, a buyer will discount their offer price by $10,000 or more. Therefore, isn’t it common sense that by you “investing” $5,000 in your house, you will get a return of $10,000 on that investment? This is the case for most items that need replacement such as heating system, septic system etc. If your house needs painting and it will cost you $6,000, be happy to know that after painting the house, you will get ALL the money back and more. So the #1 rule is…. Fix what is defective, broken, funky or creates a problem.

After everything is fixed, what kind of features add the most value? A deck, a finished attic, a garage? I will list a some of the items that I feel add the most. Before, I do that, I do want to make this point. If you are going to live in your home for years and are thinking of adding something major (ie. Porch, addition etc) and enjoy it for 10 years, isn’t it safe to say you got “value of out it”. Having said that, here are Jack Lavoie’s “resale value enhancers” (Editorial here. I don’t care about the myths and practices of most appraisers and bank guidelines. I base my opinion on 20 years of experience valuing homes in the Greater Manchester and Southern New Hampshire areas).

Minor Kitchen Makeover - If the cabinets are solid and modern, keep them. If they are solid, but dingy, then paint them. Replace countertops, add a nice big sink and attractive faucets and install new appliances. Tile in the kitchen gives an average kitchen an expensive look

Adding a 3rd Bedroom - If your home has less than three bedrooms, adding a bedroom will add significant value.

Adding a finished basement- Finishing the basement is the most inexpensive way to add living space (hey, the walls, floor and ceiling is already there…lol). Compare that to having to build an addition. Sometimes adding a family room in the basement can really change the functionality of the home.

Adding a 2nd bath - If your house is a 2-story home and has only one bath, then adding a bath will greatly enhance the value. If you have an upscale home, adding a master bath with increase value.

Of course, the actual impact of these or other improvements will vary on each house. If you would like an unbiased opinion or analysis of your proposed improvements, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Last point... Never OVERIMPROVE the property.  That means, don't add features that are excessive the neighborhood.

If you have questions of this topic feel free to contact me @ jacklavoie@comcast.net



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Posted by Jack Lavoie on October 29th, 2008 10:33 PMLeave a Comment

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October 25th, 2008 10:25 PM

Here is the scenario… You decide you want to buy a certain “For Sale By Owner” home and the seller informs you that the house “appraised” for $280K only two months ago. He is asking $280K, but will let you have for it for $270K. You might be thinking…. Hmmmm, such a deal!.. 10K instant equity!! After all, it is a certified appraisal completed by licensed appraiser.  In a perfect world, an honest, credible appraisal by a competent appraiser SHOULD be reliable, unfortunately, it may be not.

The first thing I would recommend is to obtain a copy of that appraisal. If the seller refuses, the appraisal probably does not exist. If the appraisal is produced, the next step is to find out WHO order the appraisal and WHAT was the purpose for the appraisal.

What if the appraisal was “fluffed” up so to show more equity so the owner could refinance?

What if the appraisal was ordered by the seller’s “soon to be divorced spouse” who wanted to prove the house hubby was getting was worth more?

Maybe the appraiser was inexperienced and not familiar with the area?

What if the appraisal was completed by a real estate broker who wanted to make the seller “feel good” about the value of the home in hopes they would “like the agent” and list their home with them?

The point is that, if you do NOT order the appraisal yourself, you don’t know what the motivation or qualifications of the appraiser are. I only trust two types of appraisals… 1) the ones I complete mself and 2) the ones I personally hire someone to complete.

I truly believe that if you want an unbiased appraisal when purchasing a home, you should hire your own independent appraiser. Yesterday, I did an appraisal on a home in the North End of Manchester. I was doing an appraisal for a lender who was going to finance the purchase of a 3-family investment property. The buyer met me at the property and asked me “Do you represent me or him (the seller). I informed with that I represented the bank and not him. Now, the fact that I am honest, competent and will provide an honest appraisal to the bank will indirectly benefit him, but what if I was not? When this nervous guy told me he was nervous because he was putting most of his savings into the building purchase, I decided that I NEEDED to make this point my friends………………… If you are truly concerned (and you should be) about the value or marketability of a home you are buying… Hire you OWN appraiser.  If you would like to discuss the appraisal process, don't hesitate to email me at jacklavoie@comcast.net

P.S.  I may have painted a poor scenario of the appraisal profession.  The truth is, like most professions there are always a few bad apples.  The vast majority of the appraisers I know are honest and try to do a credible job.


Speaking of people trying to do the right thing...........................

It was a “Great Day at Keller Wiliams”

Hats off to my real estate collegues over at the Bedford Keller Williams Realty office. On Thursday they sponsored a terrific fundraising gala over at Fratellos in Manchester. A few hundred real estate professionals, KW clients and everyday folk joined together to raise several thousand dollars for charity. Alan Rice, Bill Weidacher, Mark Mulcahy and the woman who really runs the show, Debi Levine(love ya Deb) did a great job putting together a great evening. There are some great people in this business, and that office has a lot of them. 



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Posted by Jack Lavoie on October 25th, 2008 10:25 PMLeave a Comment

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October 19th, 2008 2:55 PM

With a whole bunch of bank owned properties on the market and the lenders very eager to sell them, I wanted to share a few thoughts and ideas with my friends. First of all, there is a great opportunity to find a nice house at a good price in today’s market. I remember in the last “crash” in the 1980’s, most of the properties were junk properties in bad locations. In this economy, there are nice homes in every location and price range. Yes, they need some work, but after repairs they will be great.

With regards to inspections, I do recommend you do full inspections. Think about it, the home was just foreclosed upon. If the previous owner was in financial trouble, there is a good chance they did not keep up to date on repairs, maintenance, annual service etc. How about that septic tank? How about the heating system? Most lender will not complete any repairs to the property and will only sell the property “as-is”. When buying the property you still have the right to do full home inspections on the property. After an unsatisfactory inspection, you will have the right to back out of the contract or proceed with the sale as-is. If your home inspections reveal something you did not expect, you can still ask for the seller to pay for these costs either in a price reduction or in seller paid closing costs. I have found that once a property is under contract, the lender is much more flexible with the buyer since they do not want to start over. The price you end up paying might be quite a bit less than the one you initially agree to.

Mold, lead paint and other health hazards are money in the bank if you are willing to have the property fixed yourself. Banks HATE the liability and will discount these properties for much less than the cost to fix (editorial here… NOT so smart on the banks behalf) these items. Therefore, I recommend if you find lead or mold you go back to the bank for a STEEP discount. Of course, you will want to have a professional in that area provide you with a quote so you can negotiate from strength and knowledge.

Pre-approvals are necessary and some lenders like Wells Fargo and Countrywide want you to get pre-approved through thirow own company. Not sure about that logic, since they were the ones who wrote the previous "bad loan", but if the ban  requires it, you need to contact one of their local loan originators and get this done. If the lender does not require their own company to provide a pre-approval, then you are welcome to get a pre-approval from a lender of your choice. If you would like a referral for someone, feel free to email me. If you are paying “cash”, you will need to show a bank (or investment account) statement that shows the necessary funds to close. When providing the statement, I recommend crossing out the account number, so the information does not fall into the wrong hands

Another thing that is different with bank owned is their use of “Special Addendums”. Hey, we are talking about banks here…lol, so what would a transaction with a bank be without a little extra paperwork? ….lol   Actually, they have a good reason for doing so. Since different areas of the country have difference real estale customs, the addendums allow the bank to make their sales contracts more uniform throughout the country. While they can be daunting (some are 20 pages), most of the items are common sense. Special attention needs to be paid to the section which outline who pays the closing costs. For example, in New Hampshire, the transfer tax (1.5% of sales price) is split evenly between buyer and seller. Many of the bank’s addendums state that the buyer pays the ENTIRE transfer tax. This means if the sale is for $200,000, this would be an additional $1,500 more in costs the buyer will be responsible for. Not a big deal, so long as you know this upfront and factor it in.  The most important advice is to have a real estate attorney review the addendum with you so that you know what you are signing.

If you are willing to do some of the work (or pay someone to do it) you can end up with a lot of equity. If you are tight on cash, I recommend an FHA 203K rehab loan which will allow you to roll the repairs into the mortgage. This week, I did 3 appraisals on homes that are being bought from the bank. They were in Derry, Manchester and Tilton, New Hampshire. All 3 properties need less than 10K in repairs, but will be worth 40K more than what they will pay for the property once the repairs are done. If you have questions regarding FHA 203K loans just email me.

Good luck and remember, a bank will never be insulted with you offer. To them it is strictly business and not emotional. Given that…..Start low!!!!

Would you like to be added to my bank owned property email list?

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Posted by Jack Lavoie on October 19th, 2008 2:55 PMLeave a Comment

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People always ask me “is the market going up or down”. I usually talk in very general terms as each market is a little different. However, here is a simple way to determine the “direction” of prices. In order to determine whether properties are going up or down and to what degree, sale comparables must be closely analyzed to extract the price appreciation or depreciation. You can hire an appraiser or a very experienced broker, but here is a “short cut” that will help.

I prescribe to the theory that all boats rise in high tide (and lower in low tide). If houses in Bedford NH are decreasing, guess what, condos in Bedford are too. If Lakefront Condos on Lake Winnipesaukee are increasing in value, then so are single family houses. If single family homes in Manchester are going down, then prices of 2-family apartment buildings in Manchester will go down too. Certainly, there are exceptions, but as a general rule, this does hold through. Based on this premise, I like to compare sales of nearly identical properties. So where do I find them? Well, if we were in California with tract housing we could use lots of sales data of similar houses. Since, most houses in New Hampshire have enough differences to make the job tough, I like to use condominiums. What I recommend is choosing condominium projects that have lots of sales and are considered “staple” properties. I might recommend “Ridgewood” in Bedford, “Fox Hollow” and “Northbrook” in Manchester or “Society Hill” in Merrimack. Then I recommend having a broker or appraiser (oh..I wonder who you could get to do this for you?...lol) to email you 2 sets of comps. One from a year ago, and one fairly recent. By comparing the difference (if any) in prices in a few complexes, it will give you a general idea what direction prices have moved to. The other way is to analyze the supply of the condos. From the same broker, find out how many sales there were in the last 12 months and how many are currently listed on the market. Do this for all complexes. Then you will figure out how much “supply” there is. You do this by taking the number of annual sales and dividing it by 12. Then divide that number into the amount of active listings. This will give you the supply. Here is an example:

24 sales in a given complex over the last 12 months

16 currently on the market in that same complex.

24/12 = 2 sales per month. 16 active/2 sales per month = 8 month supply.

Do this for all complexes.

If supply is 3 months or less, it suggests a appreciating market (prices going up)

If supply is 3-6 months, it suggests a stable market and,

If supply is 6+ months, it suggests a depreciating market (prices going down).

Remember, as a quick (but reliable) way to get a sense for the direction of the market use condominiums as your bench mark.

*If you would like a print out of sales and listings just email me @ jacklavoie@comcast.net


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Posted by Jack Lavoie on October 14th, 2008 8:20 PMView Comments (1)

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October 11th, 2008 10:29 PM

Did you know that the last few house finishing touches are the most profitable?  When I taught investing classes and worked with my clients I would view the properties they were fixing up and were amazed that they would do a terrific job on the major items, but  leave the last few details either unfinished or rather blaaaaah.  When selling in home, you need to make your house stand out in this competitive market.

I have a good friend in the business.  Her name is Karen Cormier. She is an accomplished broker and has done an unbelieable job in her brokerage business using her professional staging techniques.  Karen would tell you that staging a house makes an unbelievable difference, not only in the price of the home, but also in the reduced marketing times.  I remember working with Karen and her telling me of a listing in Bedford that she sold.  In that transaction, the house was dreary and each of the other broker who provided CMA's said the house would sell in the Mid $400's.  Karen ended up getting the listing and spent 2 days with the seller "Staging" and doing a "mini-make over".  She ended up listing the property for $529,000 and sold it for $529,000 in 7 Days!!!!.  Staging got the seller's about $70,000 more on the sale.  Isn't it worth the time, effort or money?

The point is that if you want top dollar, you can't have a bargain basement home presentation.  Whether you have a million dollar home in Bedford, a starter home in Manchester or a condo at Hampton Beach you must STAGE!!!!!.

I consider Karen the area's staging expert.  She is someone I utilize when I stage my listings.  If you would like to contact Karen you can reach her at kcormier@kw.com

On a lighter note, I am watching the Red Sox in s slugfest with the Rays as I write this.  Here is to good staging and fast sales on your homes and a Big Papi 3-run homer later tonight!!  :)






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Posted by Jack Lavoie on October 11th, 2008 10:29 PMLeave a Comment

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Conventional wisdon is Noooooooooooooooooo!  But in reality, the answer is a definative YES!!!!

With lots of bank owed properties for sale and the banks refusing to do repairs on their properties, there are many "nice" homes available at good prices that need work.  The "catch 22" is that most banks/mortgages companies do not like to loan on properties that need work.  A great solution is an "FHA 203K" loan that most lenders can offer.  Here is how it works....

FHA will loan against not only the purchase price of the property, but also the necessary repairs.  Therefore, if a home you like needs $20,000 in repairs and you dont have the $20K at your disposal, you can still buy it.  The FHA mortgage will provide you will the funds to fix the property.

In order to get an FHA loan the property must have atleast $5,000 of needed repairs and you must obtain reliable contractor estimates.  You will also need to qualify for the loan income wise.  When you close on your house, the lender will place the repair money essentially in escrow and pay you as work has been completed.  It works great!!!

One great benefit of buying a home in need of repair is that most of the time, the value increased by fixing it EXCEEDS the cost of the repairs.  Therefore, in most cases you will create/recapture instant equity.......and that is a great thing!!! 

If you are considering purchasing an owner-occupied home that needs work and you don't want to exhaust your cash reserves consider and FHA 203K loan.  If you email me at jacklavoie@comcast.net , I can offer several good mortgage companies who can provide you will such loans.



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Posted by Jack Lavoie on October 10th, 2008 11:01 AMLeave a Comment

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October 9th, 2008 8:19 PM

Many people have called me recently and inquired about buying foreclosure properties to "Rehab" (fix up) and sell for profit.  Thoughts of real estate profits dancing through their head.   The truth of the matter is that you CAN make money that way, but there are some important factors one would need to analyze. 

There is an old saying that you make your money when you buy.  This means yo MUST buy it right.  Pay too much for the property up front and you are doomed.  I dont care whether the property you are buying is on the street you live on or Sydney Australia for that matter. Buying it right is essential.  So, Jack...How do you buy it right?

The MOST important step is estimating what the property will be worth and eventually sell for AFTER repair.  Estimate it right and follow my formula and you will make money.  Estimate it wrong and your profit will be in danger.

Step 1 -  Hire an appraiser, broker or another seasoned investor to help you (until you become proficient at it yourself) search out sales and COMPETING listings to see where your house will fit in.  In a slow market, active or competing listings are important as they are your houses competition.  Remember the list prices are just asking prices and each of the homes will most likely sell for less than full price.  This number is the AFTER REPAIRED VALUE or "ARV"

Step 2- After you determine market value figure on selling it a little less than market value as to move the property faster.  The last thing you need is costly carrying costs.  The discounted price (let's say 5-10 % below market) is the ESTIMATED SELLING PRICE.

Step 3 -Hire an contractor to provide you with real estimates for repairs BEFORE you buy the property.  Fix the obvious, but dont forget the finishing touches, such as landscaping, light fixtures, towel racks, driveway sealcoating and interior staging.  In rehabbing, the profit is in the last 5% of the details!  The contractor estimates need to include a 20% Misc cost for over runs.  These estimates plus a 20% buffer are your REPAIR COSTS.

Step 4 - In addition to repairs, you will have acquisition costs (Title search, transfer tax, inspections etc), carrying costs (mortgage payments, utilities, heat, lawn/snow plowing) and selling expenses (real estate commission, transfer tax, etc).  These items will add up to a lot of money. 

Step 5 - Determine your Minimum profit. I would say that given the risk, time and expertise needed to rehab a house, that the profit should be NO LESS than 15% of the after repaired value.  This might be on the low side.  Your actual profit requirement will vary based on the type of property and your investment requirements.  Your profit needs to be factored in BEFORE you make an offer.

Step 6 - What to offer.  Here are two formulas for you.  The "long" one is as follows

Estimated Selling Price minus (Acquisition costs+Carrying costs+Selling costs+Repair Costs+Required profit) = Your MAXIMUM OFFER

The shorter rule of thumb is:

Estimated Selling Price X 70% less repairs = MAXIMUM OFFER.  Within the 70% are all your other costs and profit.  For riskier investments use 60 or 65%.

Remeber, Estimate the Final Selling price carefully and factor in all costs.

Oh one last thing.... Don't get greedy, a profit is a profit..

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't offer my prediction for the Boston Red Sox American League Championship face out against Tampa Bay.

Red Sox in 6.  Series MVP, Duston Pedroia...Take it to the bank!!!






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Posted by Jack Lavoie on October 9th, 2008 8:19 PMLeave a Comment

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October 3rd, 2008 8:21 PM

In the early mid 2000's most of the homes were bought with near 100% financing.  In addition, many home owners pulled cash out via refinancing and equity loans.  In 2005, the New Hampshire market began to slow down and property values declined.  Now, values have decreased so much that nearly half the homes are UPSIDE DOWN, meaning that what they owe on the mortgage is more than what they would net from selling their home.  As a result, some homeowners are stuck!!!   Well, maybe not........... 

One option is a "Short Sale".  Before it was popular, I taught "Short sale" techniques to investors and my fellow real estate agent collegues through seminars.  Short sales used to be just another "tool".  Now, it is a must have skill.  So what is a short sale?  A short sale is when a lender allows a seller to sell the property by reducing the amount of money they will accept as a payoff.  An example would be:

Market Value of house...   $200,000

Loan Balance..................$250,000

Cost to sell......................$15,000

After paying commission and transfer tax and other expenses, the seller would need to write a check for about $65,000 just to be able to walk away from the house.   In a short sale situation, a "short" payoff of $185,000 is negotiated so the home can be sold for $200,000 and expenses are paid.  The bank accepts the $185,000 as full payment and the seller moves on.

So why would the lender do this?....  The answer is it is strictly business!!  The bank knows that if the property goes to foreclosure, they will have to incur even more expenses and carrying costs and will have to take the property back.  If they foreclose and are lucky enough to get another buyer, they will net LESS than the $185,000 after expenses as they will have additional costs.  It is their best interest to accept the payoff rather than taking the property back.

So who qualifies for short sales?  People who have gone through a financial hardship.  Exampes include; divorce, health issues, bankruptcy, family issues, relocation or any unexpected major life issue that arises.

Short sales are effective, but need to handled by a professional who specializes in them.  There are many tricks of the trade that make a huge difference on whether or not it is successful.

My best advice for short sales (besides calling me...lol) is to get an offer in to the bank early.  The bank takes 60-90 before making a decision, so get a buyer's initial offer to the bank as they will not work on the file until there is an offer.  In short sales, any offer is a good offer!! 

If you wold like additional information or assitance on short sales, go ahead and email me.

Remember...You are not "stuck" in your house!







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Posted by Jack Lavoie on October 3rd, 2008 8:21 PMLeave a Comment

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September 30th, 2008 4:17 PM

I am excited to announce my new website and blog.  The purpose my blog is to share my experience and real estate market information with my friends, clients and the public.  The market and overall economy is going though a difficult time right now which is making real estate a volatile endeavor.  Real estate is ALWAYS a good investment if bought right and for the right reasons.  Conversely, real estate is a BAD investment if bought wrong and for the wrong reason.  Be comforted in knowing that my very unique skills and experiences I will share with you, will make purchasing a home or investment property in this market a sound investment.  Check back regularly as I develop my site and update my blog. 

Thanks for reading.  If you have ANY questions on the following matters, give me a shout in the "Ask Jack" section (real estate, appraisal, buying, selling, facing foreclosure, repairing credit, negotiating bank workouts, short sales, real estate investing, property management, rehabbing houses, renting an apartment, mortgage financing, earning extra money, staging your house and much, much more)

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Posted by Jack Lavoie on September 30th, 2008 4:17 PMView Comments (2)

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