Oct. 26, 2021

5 Unsafe Home Design Trends

When it comes to house design, popular trends don't always follow the cautionary phrase "safety first." Home inspectors, who are responsible for examining properties for immediate or potential concerns, agree. Home inspectors are noticing some design approaches that may appear good but aren't always safe as more homeowners renovate fixer-uppers or seek Pinterest for DIY design inspiration.

Below are five housing trends that property inspectors are concerned about because they could pose health and safety risks.

Floating Shelves

Floating shelves in the kitchen are a great way to display your beautiful stoneware, and they can also be used in the living room to create a gallery space for your favorite books and collectibles. While it may appear that adding floating shelves is a simple undertaking, Valentino Gecaj of Valentino Home Inspections in Westchester, New York, claims that many of the DIY projects he's seen lack proper support. Molly bolts or wall anchors are required to secure a floating shelf to, say, plaster or drywall. "Floating shelves are easier to overburden with weight than standard shelves," says Gecaj.

Floating Staircases

Joe Tangradi, director of technical services at HouseMaster, a Neighborly firm, has noticed elegant staircases in both new constructions and restored homes when it comes to steps. However, these ultra-modern floating staircases are frequently beset by safety issues. For one thing, when four or more risers are constructed, he says, a railing is essential, but many new stairs toss caution to the wind and don't have handrails, or have handrails that aren't easily graspable. Risers can also be open as long as the gap between them does not exceed 4 inches. Any larger and there's a risk of young children or dogs slipping and falling to the floor!

Vintage Appliances

Vintage appliances may give your kitchen a touch of whimsy and a splash of color. Not only are replacement components difficult to come by in the event of a breakdown, but some of these appliances are also hazardous. According to Gecaj, they have a far higher risk of igniting electrical fires. Many vintage stoves also lack modern safety measures like anti-tip technology and electrical components that are sealed. Many appliance manufacturers are reproducing retro designs to suit modern standards, so if you like the retro aesthetic, you're in luck.

Nixing Handrails 

Handrails aren't often the most fascinating design element in a room. Nonetheless, they exist for safety reasons and can aid in the prevention of dangerous falls. However, Welmoed Sisson, a home inspector and author of "101 Items You Don't Want in Your Home," has noticed a worrying trend in recent years: homeowners removing graspable handrails from their walls and replacing them with things like rope for a nautical vibe or hockey sticks for a sports motif. Those do-it-yourself handrails would fail a home inspection.

Exposed Brick 

Exposed brick makes a statement with its ability to lend charm and character to any room. However, brick is porous and a poor insulator, according to Gecaj. Not only will your home be less energy efficient as a result of this, but "exposed brickwork can bring in excess moisture and a variety of insects," he adds. If you do decide to move into a home with exposed brick walls, make careful to apply a sealer to help preserve the walls from dirt and moisture (which can lead to mold problems).

Oct. 22, 2021

Looking To Move? It Could Be Time To Build Your Dream Home

While today’s supply of homes for sale is still low, the number of newly built homes is increasing. If you’re ready to sell but have held off because you weren’t sure you’d be able to find a home to move into, newly built homes and those under construction can provide the options you’ve been waiting for.

The latest Census data shows the inventory of new homes is increasing this year (see graph below):

With more new homes coming to the market, this means you’ll have more options to choose from if you’re ready to buy. Of course, if you do consider a newly built home, you’ll want to keep timing in mind. The supply shown in the graph above includes homes at various stages of the construction process – some are near completion while others may be months away.

According to Robert Dietz, Chief Economist and Senior VP for Economics and Housing Policy for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB):

“28% of new home inventory consists of homes that have not started construction, compared to 21% a year ago.”

Buying a home near completion is great if you’re ready to move. Alternatively, a home that has yet to break ground might benefit you if you’re ready to sell and you aren’t on a strict timeline. You’ll have an even greater opportunity to design your future home to suit your needs. No matter what, your trusted real estate advisor can help you find a home that works for you.

If you want to take advantage of today’s sellers’ market, but you’re not sure if you’ll be able to find a home to move into, consider a newly built home. Lean on your trusted real estate advisor to guide you through the sale of your house and discuss your home buying options. Send Patti a message today. 

Oct. 16, 2021

As Home Equity Rises, So Does Your Wealth

Homeownership is still a crucial part of the American dream. For those people who own a home (and those looking to buy one), it’s clear that being a homeowner has considerable benefits both emotionally and financially. In addition to long-term stability, buying a home is one of the best ways to increase your net worth. This boost to your wealth comes in the form of equity.

Equity is the difference between what you owe on the home and its market value based on factors like price appreciation.

The best thing about equity is that it often grows without you even realizing it, especially in a sellers’ market like we’re in now. In today’s real estate market, the combination of low housing supply and high buyer demand is driving home values up. This is giving homeowners a significant equity boost.

According to the latest data from CoreLogic, the number of equity homeowners has continued to grow as home values appreciate. Here are some key takeaways from the Homeowner Equity Insights Report:

  • The average homeowner gained $51,500 in equity over the past year
  • There was a 29.3% increase in national homeowner equity year over year

To give you an idea of what that looks like in your area, the map below shows the average equity gains by state.

What does all of that mean for you?

If you’re already a homeowner, you likely have more equity in your house than you realize. The numbers in the map above reflect year-over-year growth. If you’ve been in your home for longer than a year, you’ll likely have even more equity than that. That equity can take you places. You can use the equity you’ve gained to fuel your next move, achieve other life goals, and more.

On the other hand, if you haven’t purchased a home yet, understanding equity can help you realize why homeownership is a worthwhile goal. Homeowners across the nation gained an average of over $50,000 in equity this year. Don’t miss out on this chance to grow your net worth.

If you want to learn more, talk with a real estate professional. A trusted advisor can help you understand where home prices are today, how they contribute to a homeowner’s net worth, and the impact equity can have when you own a home. Send me an email today

Oct. 11, 2021

Experts Agree: Homeownership Provides a Path to Long-Term Wealth

A recent survey from LendingTree.com found there are multiple reasons why Americans would choose to purchase a home instead of renting. Some of the most popular non-financial reasons given include:

  • The flexibility to make the space your own
  • The pride homeownership offers
  • The sense of stability

In the same survey, 41% of respondents say they’d rather own a home than rent because of the unique way homeownership builds wealth over time.

And experts agree – the home you own is an important tool for building your net worth. Here’s what many of those experts have to say about building long-term financial stability through homeownership.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR):

“Homeowners who purchased a typical single-family existing-home 30 years ago at the median sales price of $103,333 with a 10% down payment loan and who sold the property at the median sales price of $357,700 in 2021 Q2 accumulated housing wealth of $349,258, . . .”

Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, points out that a home is truly a one-of-a-kind asset. It’s the only asset that’s both an investment and a place for you to call your own.

“The major financial advantage of homeownership is the accumulation of equity in the form of house price appreciation. . . . We won’t always have 17% house price appreciation, but we have to take into account the fact that the shelter that you’re owning is an equity-generating or wealth-generating asset.”

Homeowners can leverage the wealth they generate in several ways throughout their life. Tapping into accumulated equity has long been used to pay for the cost of education, to start a business, or to fund various other expenses. The Joint Center of Housing Studies at Harvard points out:

“. . . by paying down mortgage principal each month and participating in the long-term appreciation of home values, a family can build wealth that can be used for retirement or other needs, including helping the next generation.”

With home prices expected to continue to appreciate in the coming years, homebuyers have an opportunity to start the long-term wealth-building process right now. Send me a message today if you’re ready to begin your journey on the path to becoming a homeowner.

 

 

Oct. 6, 2021

Four Tips To Prepare for Your Home Sale This Fall

Even in a hot sellers’ market like today’s in which homes are selling so quickly, it’s still important to make a good first impression on potential buyers. Taking the time up front to prep your house appropriately can bring in the greatest return on your investment.

Here are four simple tips to make sure you maximize the sale of your house this fall.

1. Price It Right

One of the first things buyers will notice is the price of your house. That’s why it’s important to price it right. Your goal in pricing your house is to draw attention from competing buyers and let bidding wars push the final sales price up. Pricing your house too high, to begin with, could put you at a disadvantage by discouraging buyers from making an offer.

Your trusted real estate advisor can help you find the price for your home that reflects the current market value. Lean on your agent to help you with this crucial first step.

2. Keep It Clean

It may sound simple, but keeping your house clean is key to making sure it gets the attention it deserves. As realtor.com says in the Home Selling Checklist:

“When selling your home, it’s important to keep everything tidy for buyers. . . . Remember to take special care with the bathroom, making sure the tile, counters, shower, and floors shine.”

Before each buyer visits, assess your space and determine what needs your attention. Wash the dishes, make the beds, and put away any toys. Doing these simple things can reduce any potential distractions for buyers.

3. Make It Easy To Visit

Giving buyers the opportunity to see your house on their schedule can be a true game-changer. Buyers are less likely to make an offer if it’s difficult to plan a tour or they can’t easily fit it into their schedule. Making your house available as often as possible helps create opportunities for more buyers to fall in love with your house.

Rest assured your trusted real estate advisor will keep your health and safety top of mind when buyers tour your home. Agents use the latest guidance to stay up to date on any protocols and sanitization recommendations.

4. Help Buyers Feel at Home

Finally, it’s important for buyers to see all the possible ways they can make your house their next home. As the realtor.com article puts it:

“The goal is to create a blank canvas on which buyers can project their own visions of living there, and loving it.”

An easy first step to create this blank canvas is removing personal items – pictures, awards, and sentimental belongings – from your space. If you’re unsure what should be packed away and what can stay, consult your trusted real estate advisor. Spending the time on this step can pay off in the long run, as the 2021 Profile of Home Staging from the National Association of Realtors notes:

“Eighteen percent of sellers’ agents said home staging increased the dollar value of a residence between 6% and 10%.”

To make the most of today’s sellers’ market, avoid the temptation to skip over the essential preparation steps. Connect with a trusted real estate advisor today to discuss all the ways you can maximize your home sale. Send me a message today here

Oct. 2, 2021

Don’t Sell Your Home on Your Own – a Real Estate Professional Can Help

If you’re looking to maximize your sale and minimize your effort, you need to work with a real estate professional. In a sellers’ market like today’s, it can be tempting to list your house on your own – known as For Sale By Owner (FSBO). But the truth is, a real estate professional can save you time and money by managing every step of the process, from pricing your home to reviewing documents and handling negotiations.

Before you decide to sell your house on your own, here are five reasons why working with an agent is your best bet to maximize the sale of your home.

1. First impressions are everything – and an agent knows how to make a great one.

Prepping a house for sale requires a significant amount of time and effort, even though it may seem simple at first glance. Doing it right so it stands out takes expertise and an understanding of what buyers are looking for. An agent considers things like:

  • Should you take down any personal art or pictures?
  • How much landscaping should you invest in to boost your house’s curb appeal?
  • What wall colors are most appealing to buyers?

An expert real estate advisor relies on their experience to answer these questions and more so you don’t invest in the wrong things. Your time and money are important – you shouldn’t waste either.

2. Agents have tools to maximize the number of views your home gets.

Put, the more buyers that view your house, the better your return will be. In our current market, homes are receiving 3.8 offers on average per sale, according to recent data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR). While that’s promising for the sale of your home, it’s important to understand your agent’s role in bringing buyers in.

Agents have multiple tools at their disposal – from social media to agency resources – to ensure your home is viewed by more prospective buyers. Leveraging the tools available to your agent and your agent’s expertise may help boost your sale price as well.

3. An agent won’t miss anything in the fine print.

Your agent can also save you time by taking any guesswork out of navigating the required documentation. Today, more disclosures and regulations are mandatory, meaning the number of legal documents you need to juggle is growing.

Because there’s so much to take care of, it can be hard to truly understand all of the requirements and the fine print. That’s where an expert advisor can truly shine. They’ve been through the process before and can be your guide to avoid any costly missteps.

4. Expert advisors know the market and how to price your home.

Another way your agent maximizes the sale of your home is by making sure it’s priced right. Real estate professionals have the experience to compare your house to recently sold homes in your area. They also understand the market at large and can factor in any upgrades you’ve completed to your home. Combining these factors is the key to making sure your home is priced to move quickly – and at a competitive price.

When you FSBO, you’re operating without this expertise. Even with your own research, you may not find the most up-to-date information and could risk setting a price that’s inaccurate or unrealistic. If you price your house too high, you could turn buyers away before they’re even in the front door. This could also cause problems when it’s time for the appraisal.

5. Your agent will be an expert negotiator.

In addition to their experience navigating sales, real estate professionals understand how to negotiate every aspect of a deal. They also know all the parties that will be involved with the sale, including:

  • The buyer, who wants the best deal possible.
  • The buyer’s agent, who will use their expertise to advocate for the buyer.
  • The inspection company, which works for the buyer and will almost always find concerns with the house.
  • The appraiser, who assesses the property’s value to protect the lender.

An agent relies on their experience and training to make the right moves during the negotiation. They’ll know what levers to pull, how to address each individual’s concerns, and when you may want to get a second opinion. Selling your house as an FSBO means you’ll need to be prepared to have these conversations on your own.

Selling a house takes time, effort, and expertise – don’t go at it alone. If you truly want to maximize the sale of your home, work with a trusted real estate professional. Send me a message now.

Sept. 28, 2021

Is Offering Asking Price Enough, If You’re a Buyer?

In today’s real estate market, buyers shouldn’t shop for a home with the expectation they’ll be able to negotiate a lower sales price. In a typical housing market, buyers try to determine how much less than the asking price they can offer and still get the home. From there, the buyer and seller typically negotiate and agree on a revised price somewhere in the middle.

Things Are Different Today

Today’s housing market is anything but normal. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), homes today are:

  • Receiving an average of  3.8 offers
  • Selling in just 17 days

Homes selling quickly and receiving multiple offers highlight how competitive the housing market is right now. This is due, in large part, to the low supply of homes for sale. Low supply and high demand mean homes often sell for more than the asking price. In some cases, they sell for a lot more. Selma Hepp, Deputy Chief Economist at CoreLogic, explains how these stats can impact buyers:

“The imbalance between robust demand and dismal availability of for-sale homes has led to continual bidding over asking prices, which reached record levels in recent months. Now, almost 6 in 10 homes listed are selling over the asking price.”

You May Need To Rethink How You Look at a Home’s Asking Price

What does that mean for you? If you’ve found your dream home, you need to be realistic about today’s housing market and how that impacts the offer you’ll make. Offering below or even at a home’s asking price may not cut it. In today’s market, the highest bidder often wins the home, much like at an auction.

Currently, the asking price is often the floor of the negotiation rather than the ceiling. If you really love a home, it may ultimately sell for more than the sellers are asking. That’s important to keep in mind as you work with your agent to craft an offer.

Understand An Appraisal Gap Can Happen

Because of today’s home price appreciation and the auction-like atmosphere in the selling process, appraisal gaps – the gap between the price of your contract and the appraisal for the house – are more frequent.

According to data from CoreLogic:

“Beginning in January 2020, nationally, 7% of purchase transactions had a contract price above the appraisal, but by May 2021, the frequency had increased to 19% of purchase transactions.”

When this happens, your lender won’t loan you more than the home’s appraised value, and the seller may ask you to make up the difference out of pocket. Buyers in today’s market need to be prepared for this possibility. Know your budget, know what you can afford, and work with a trusted advisor who can offer expert advice along the way.

Bidding wars and today’s auction-like atmosphere mean buyers need to rethink how they look at the asking price of a home. Work with a real estate professional who can advise you on the current market and help determine what the market value is on your dream home. Send Patti a message here.

Sept. 23, 2021

Can Your Home Address What You Need to Effectively Work from Home?

A lot has changed over the past year. For many people, the rise in remote work influenced what they’re looking for in a home and created a greater appetite for a dedicated home office. Some professionals took advantage of the situation and purchased a bigger home. Other people thought working from home would be temporary, so they chose to get creative and make the space they already had work for them. But recent headlines indicate working from home isn’t a fad.

If you’re still longing for a dedicated home office, now may be the time to find the home that addresses your evolving needs. More and more companies are delaying their plans to return to the office – others are deciding to remain fully remote permanently. According to economists from Goldman Sachs in a recent article from CNN:

“Job ads increasingly offer remote work and surveys indicate that both workers and employers expect work from home to remain much more common than before the pandemic.”

Other experts agree. A survey conducted by Upwork of 1,000 hiring managers found that due to the pandemic, companies were planning more remote work now and in the years to come. Upwork elaborates:

“The number of remote workers in the next five years is expected to be nearly double what it was before COVID-19: By 2025, 36.2 million Americans will be remote, an increase of 16.8 million people from pre-pandemic rates.”

How Does This Impact Homeowners?

If you own your home, it’s important to realize that continued remote work may give you opportunities you didn’t realize you had. Since you don’t need to be tied to a specific area for your job, you have more flexibility when it comes to where you can live.

If you’re one of the nearly 23% of workers who will remain 100% remote: 

You have the option to move to a lower cost-of-living area or the location of your dreams. If you search for a home in a more affordable area, you’ll be able to get more homes for your money, freeing up more options for your dedicated office space and additional breathing room.

You could also move to a location where you’ve always wanted to live – somewhere near the beach, the mountains, or simply a market that features the kind of weather and community amenities you’re looking for. Without your job tying you to a specific location, you’re bound to find your ideal spot.

If you’re one of the almost 15% of individuals who will have a partially remote or hybrid schedule:

Relocating within your local area to a home that’s further away from your office could be a great choice. Since you won’t be going in to work every day, a slightly longer commute from a more suburban or rural neighborhood may be a worthy trade-off for a home with more features, space, or comforts.

If ongoing remote work is changing what you need in a home, work with a local real estate professional to find one that delivers on your new wish list. Send me a message here.

Sept. 19, 2021

5 Things You Need to Be Pre-approved for a Mortgage

While looking for a home can be thrilling and enjoyable, serious homebuyers should begin their search at a lender's office rather than at an open house. Most sellers anticipate buyers to have a pre-approval letter and will be more likely to work with those who can demonstrate that they can get financing.

To be pre-approved for a mortgage, potential buyers must provide papers proving their assets and income, strong credit, and employment verification, among other things.

Here are the things you need to get pre-approved for a mortgage.

1. Proof of Income

Buyers generally must produce W-2 wage statements from the past two years, recent pay stubs that show income as well as year-to-date income, proof of any additional income such as alimony or bonuses, and the two most recent years' tax returns.

2. Proof of Assets

The borrower needs bank statements and investment account statements to prove that they have funds for the down payment and closing costs, as well as cash reserves.

The down payment, expressed as a percentage of the selling price, varies by loan type. Many loans come with a requirement that the buyer purchases private mortgage insurance (PMI) or pay a mortgage insurance premium or a funding fee unless they are putting down at least 20% of the purchase price. In addition to the down payment, pre-approval is also based on the buyer's FICO credit score, debt-to-income ratio (DTI), and other factors, depending on the type of loan.

3. Good Credit

Most lenders require a FICO score of 620 or higher to approve a conventional loan, and some even require that score for a Federal Housing Administration loan. Lenders typically reserve the lowest interest rates for customers with a credit score of 760 or higher. FHA guidelines allow approved borrowers with a score of 580 or higher to pay as little as 3.5% down.

Those with lower scores must make a larger down payment. Lenders will often work with borrowers with a low or moderately low credit score and suggest ways to improve their score.

4. Employment Verification

Lenders want to make sure they lend only to borrowers with stable employment. A lender will not only want to see a buyer's pay stubs but also will likely call the employer to verify employment and salary. A lender may want to contact the previous employer if a buyer recently changed jobs.

Self-employed buyers will need to provide significant additional paperwork concerning their business and income. Typically, self-employed borrowers need to produce at least the two most recent years' tax returns with all appropriate schedules.

5. Other Documentation

The lender will need to copy the borrower's driver's license and will need the borrower's Social Security number and signature, allowing the lender to pull a credit report. Be prepared at the pre-approval session and later to provide (as quickly as possible) any additional paperwork requested by the lender.

Consulting a professional at this stage is necessary. Let me know if you need assistance. Send me a message now

Sept. 15, 2021

5 Tips to Make Your Offer Stand Out

In today’s sellers’ market, standing out as a buyer is critical. Multi-offer scenarios and bidding wars are the norm due to the low supply of houses for sale and high buyer demand. If you’re buying this fall, you’ll want every advantage, especially when you’ve found the home of your dreams.

Below are five things to keep in mind when it’s time to make an offer.

1. Know Your Budget

Knowing your budget and what you can afford is critical to your success as a homebuyer. The best way to understand your numbers is to work with a lender so you can get pre-approved for a loan. As Freddie Mac puts it:

“This pre-approval allows you to look for a home with greater confidence and demonstrates to the seller that you are a serious buyer.”

Showing sellers, you’re serious can give you a competitive edge. It enables you to act quickly when you’ve found your perfect home.

2. Be Prepared To Move Fast

Speed and the pace of sales are contributing factors to today’s competitive housing market. According to the latest Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the average home is on the market for just 17 days. As the report notes:

“Eighty-nine percent of homes sold in July 2021 were on the market for less than a month.”

When homes are selling fast, staying on top of the market and moving quickly is key. After you’ve worked with your agent to find the home that suits your needs, they’ll help you put together and submit your best offer as soon as possible.

3. A Real Estate Professional Can Lead You to Victory

No matter what the housing market looks like, rely on a trusted real estate advisor. As Freddie Mac says:

“The success of your homebuying journey largely depends on the company you keep. . . . be sure to select experienced, trusted professionals who will help you make informed decisions and avoid any pitfalls.”

Agents are experts in the local real estate market. They have insight into what’s worked for other buyers in your area and what sellers may be looking for in an offer. It may seem simple, but catering to what a seller may need can help your offer stand out.

4. Craft a Strong, Fair Offer

In the past, offering at or near the asking price was enough to make your offer appealing to sellers. In today’s market, that’s often not the case. According to the latest Realtors Confidence Index from NAR, 50% of offers are above the list price.

In such a competitive market, emotions and prices can run high. Having an agent to help craft a strong, fair offer is critical in these situations. Your agent can help you understand:

  • The market value of the home
  • Recent sales trends in the area
  • Current buyer demand

5. Understand the Seller’s Needs, but Resist Waiving Certain Contingencies

When crafting an offer, you’ll want to keep both your best interest and the interest of the seller in mind. Your trusted real estate advisor will help you consider which levers you could pull, including contract contingencies (conditions you set that the seller must meet for the purchase to be finalized). Of course, there are certain contingencies you don’t want to give up, like the home inspection.

Freddie Mac explains:

“Resist the temptation to waive the inspection contingency, especially in a hot market or if the home is being sold ‘as-is, which means the seller won’t pay for repairs. Without an inspection contingency, you could be stuck with a contract on a house you can’t afford to fix.”

In today’s competitive housing market, it’s more important than ever to make a strong offer on a home. Connect with a local real estate professional to make sure your offer rises to the top. Send me a message here if you need assistance.