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What Should You Know About Virtual Home Tours?

Starting in March, life as we knew it started shifting for most of us because of the coronavirus pandemic. Non-essential businesses were shuttered, schools were closed, and we started spending a lot more time at home.

The pandemic is still going on, despite most states being in some phase of their reopening plan, and people are doing more things virtually than ever before.

For example, some employers are saying they’ll keep their employees working remotely for the foreseeable future.

A Changing Real Estate Market?
Inevitably, these changes have impacted the real estate market. The market has been surprisingly strong through this, with mortgage rates historically low, but that doesn’t mean buyers and sellers aren’t doing things differently.

The virtual tour is one example. Increasingly homebuyers are going through the entire process online, meaning realtors are showing them homes virtually.

A survey that came out in January, before the pandemic affected America, found that prospective homebuyers preferred to work with agents offering virtual tours. The National Association of Realtors’ 2019 report called “Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends,” found that 48% of buyers between the ages of 39 and 63 said they found virtual tours very useful as they searched for homes.

The following are things buyers, sellers, and real estate agents should know about virtual home tours.

Agents Can Go in the Home to Do the Tour
The term virtual tour is somewhat generalized, and it can refer to a few different scenarios.

In one scenario, there’s a virtual tour that’s prerecorded, and then anyone can look at it on demand.

There are also instances, particularly now, where real estate agents representing buyers will go into the home and then walk them through it live, but still virtually using something like Zoom or FaceTime.

For some buyers, this represents a better option because their agent can help them understand the nuanced details of the home that they wouldn’t have access to otherwise. If you have a real estate agent who’s doing a tour for you, it’s a much more dynamic experience.

You can ask your agent to show you closets, or provide different angles. You can also ask them to look in the backyard or to examine certain components of the house like the foundation.

What are the Pros of Virtual Tours?
Since we’re still dealing with the effects of the pandemic, one of the perks of virtual tours for buyers is that it provides them with inherent social distancing.

Some people who might be planning a move far from their current location may not even have the option to travel right now, so virtual tours are the only way for them to conduct their search.

It’s also convenient, and there’s a lot to be said for that.

When you take a virtual tour, you don’t want to spend time traveling to the property if it’s something you’re not interested in.

Even if you don’t buy your home completely sight unseen, virtual tours can save you time in the overall process.

Virtual tours can help you get a handle on what you like and don’t like as well.

What Are the Cons of Virtual Tours?
There are downsides to virtual tours. First, you don’t get the full sensory experience of a home. It sounds silly, but homes have a “vibe” and you may feel one way or another about a space when you’re there in person. You don’t feel what the ceiling heights are as an example, or what the finishes feel like.

You’re also not getting a feel for the location if you buy a home without seeing it first. You can ask your real estate agent to provide you with information and perhaps even a virtual tour of the neighborhood, but still, it’s not the same as seeing it for yourself.

Tips for Virtual Tours
If you’re a buyer, there are some things to know going into virtual tours.

First, know what to ask your real estate agent if you’re doing a live tour. For example, remember to ask about the fundamentals like the laundry room, the garage, and the storage spaces. Have your agent show you the roof and the foundation, as well as the less glamorous parts of the house like the water heater and the furnace.

If possible, even if you aren’t going to go to the home, but you live relatively close by, try to drive around and see what you think about the neighborhood.

Finally if at all possible think of virtual tours as one part of your home buying process rather than a complete replacement. They can supplement your experience and save you time, but if you have the chance to go into the home it can help you visualize yourself there.

How Buyers Can Navigate a Seller’s Market

Most analysts would say that currently, we are in a seller’s market. The summer of 2020 has been an interesting time. While the coronavirus has negatively impacted much of the economy, real estate has been surging.

Much of this is likely due to the low interest rates, hovering below 3%. There are other factors too, including pent up demand following strict lockdowns during the spring, and for some people, there’s a focus on moving to the suburbs and away from bigger cities.

If you want to buy, there are a lot of factors in your favor right now, but also challenges because it is what you would characterize as a seller’s market.

In June, the median home price nationwide rose to $295,300, which was in part not only because of the factors named above but also because of low inventory.

Also, while we’ve talked a lot about unemployment over the past few months, we have to consider that many people didn’t lose their jobs. In households where people stayed employed, they may feel like they’re financially secure enough to buy a home.

Sellers are finding that they’re getting multiple offers and offers well above ask.

So what can buyers do during this time?

Be Decisive
If you’re going to jump into a seller’s market headfirst, you’re going to have to be decisive. Time is critical in these situations, and sometimes getting the home of your dreams is as simple as being first.

If you want to see a home that goes on the market, don’t wait until the weekend for a showing. Try to get a showing as soon as you can, or if that’s not possible, do a virtual showing.

Along with being decisive and ready for what’s coming, choose a great real estate agent. You don’t want a real estate agent who you’re playing phone tag with during a seller’s market, because you’re losing precious time. You want someone sharp and responsive.

Submit a Clean Offer
During a seller’s market, it’s not a good idea to give an offer with contingencies. This might actually mean the difference between offers for a seller. A seller might be more interested in finishing things up quickly rather than getting a higher price for their home.

If you can give up some of the traditional contingencies, then a seller might think your offer is more appealing because these provide you with chances to back out.

You can still protect yourself, even without contingencies. For example, maybe you get your loan completely underwritten. This means you go through the full loan process before you make an offer.

Let Go of Perfection
The inventory is really limited right now, and demand is high. This makes it even less likely that you’re going to find the perfect home, and that’s okay.

It’s sometimes better to buy a good home and then make it perfect rather than waiting for perfection to hit the market. There’s a very strong chance that even when inventory expands, there still won’t be a perfect home.

Be Disciplined with Your Budget
When bidding wars are possible, and things are competitive among buyers, it’s easy to get carried away. You may get so emotionally attached to a house that you’re willing to go well beyond your budget. Emotions are also heightened when you’re buying a home anyway.

Set a budget, and don’t let yourself go above it, no matter what the other offers may look like.

Sure, offering too much may get you the house, but it’s going to create financial stress for you for years to come.

Offer More Earnest Money
Earnest money is something like a deposit and you provide it alongside your bid. It’s a way to show the seller you’re serious, but if the deal doesn’t go through you can get that money back.

Usually, you’ll see buyers offering around 1%, but during a hot market, think about offering more. It shows that you’re more invested in the deal and less likely to let it slip through your fingers.

If you have the option to pay with cash, that’s almost always going to win you favor. Cash offers take out the element of financing contingencies, and they make for a simpler transaction, which is beneficial for buyers. A cash buyer also tends to be more serious, and when you buy with cash you’re not beholden to the lender through the closing process.

Finally, if you do enter the market and find that it’s not working for you, or maybe you’re nervous about the prospects, consider waiting. It’s easy to get carried away even in a buyer’s market. A seller’s market can be even more likely to lead you to make a poor financial decision.

Of course, it’s tough to time the market, but if you do have some flexibility in when you buy, consider holding off.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Tips For Safer Property Management During COVID-19

Many people are leery of changes, moves or disruptions to their routines during COVID-19 and with good reason. Information may be difficult to distill from regular news sources, so here are seven tips to help you manage a property during this crisis.

Routine Maintenance
There are many routine maintenance activities that must be taken care of regardless of the current pandemic. Garbage must be removed, landscaping tended, and clogged sinks need attention. All the routine jobs that keep your property in good shape can continue to be done with certain precautions.

Create a schedule and let tenants know when someone will be cutting the grass or cleaning public areas of the building. This way contact can be avoided between personnel and tenants. And if someone is moving into the building, it’s important to communicate very clearly during this time.

Showings
Managing a property requires that you show prospective tenants the various spaces that are available to rent.

The safest method is to use digital tools. Use your smartphone to create a virtual walk-through. If a prospective tenant expresses real interest you can text, email or speak to them and find out specific areas they would like to see virtually or take them on an individual tour using FaceTime.

Seriously interested parties can arrange to visit the property in person. Sanitize all touchpoint areas of the home before and after their visit and if you will be there to guide them continue to wear your personal protective equipment (PPE) and ask them to do the same.

Communicate with Tenants
Whether you’re in a COVID-19 hotspot like some luxurious Chicago neighborhoods or a rural area with very few cases, current and new tenants will want to be notified of any changes regarding their homes. If amenities are closed because they could pose a health risk, make sure to get that information to everyone in clear, concise language.

Work out rooms and swimming pools are two areas that potentially involve close contact and potential viral spread. If you would like to make certain amenities available to your tenants, figure out a schedule and a cleaning system that reduces contact between people and sanitize, sanitize, sanitize. Continuous updates, with good and bad news, should be given to residents on a weekly basis.

This assures them that you are mindful of their health. Include links to sites with more information, like the CDC. Send information to tenants using mail, email, texts, and bulletin boards. Let everyone know what additional precautions and procedures are being used to keep everyone healthy.

Protocols for COVID-19 Emergencies
It is a fact that people can carry and spread COVID-19 and never feel ill themselves. Asymptomatic spread is perhaps the most dangerous method of spread because a person does not realize that they are a threat. In the event someone in a building you manage does become ill there are certain legal guidelines you must follow. Though it may seem like a good idea to notify everyone that the person living in unit 2314 has become sick, legally you cannot do this.

Disclosure of such information is a violation of federal privacy laws and can subject you to liability. While there are no mandatory federal guidelines for protocol in this situation, there are guidelines from the CDC, local and state health departments.

There also may be terms suggested in the lease which require a landlord or property manager to notify all remaining tenants of a health threat. Most landlords follow similar guides and protocols, so communication should be very detailed.

Residents should be warned that a co-tenant, employee, or vendor has become infected and has been encouraged to self-isolate. Follow up with reminders to continue to practice precautionary hygiene procedures and limit contact with other people.

Requests from Tenants
Although you may want to limit contact between staff and tenants there are times when an incident requires immediate attention.

Think plumbing. Not only could a plumbing issue be inconvenient for the resident, but this type of issue can also cause serious damage to one or more units.

When something like this occurs make sure to prepare your staff with all necessary PPE to mitigate possible contamination from close contact with a tenant. Assure the tenant that all safety precautions are being taken and if possible, ask the tenant to leave the apartment while the issue is addressed.

Monitor Personnel
It is incumbent upon you to provide a safe work environment for your employees. Taking temperatures before working, asking questions about employees’ contacts and how they are feeling are completely acceptable if your employees are aware of the procedures. Avoiding becoming a virus hot spot is beneficial to you, your employees, and your tenants.

Be Nice
The old saying, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” is always appropriate. Be nice to your employees during these demanding times. You depend on them to keep your buildings running smoothly. Your employees should be your allies in the fight to keep buildings and grounds safe for everyone. Hand out a small bonus periodically. It could be cash or a grocery store gift card — really anything that shows you appreciate the work they do.

With a little kindness and diligent sanitizing, you can easily maintain your properties with safety during COVID-19.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Five Ways to Spot Fake Landlord References

One of the most crucial aspects in tenant screening is that of checking your prospective tenant’s landlord references, so here are 5 ways to spot fake landlord references from Keepe the maintenance company.

Unfortunately, some tenants have been known to make up references or list friends or family members as previous landlords. There are even companies that hire themselves out to pose as landlords.

As a property manager, you are bound to receive landlord references day in and day out. Some are beautifully written testaments to the incredible nature of these individuals looking to rent, while others are simply fake, with bogus testimonials about the tenant.

5 ways to spot fake landlord references

Below, we’ve shared some ways in which you can spot fake references.

No. 1 – Call the references yourself
For starters, on most landlord references, they will provide a phone number.

One of the first things you can do to tell if the reference is a fake is to call the number inquiring about a rental. If it is fake, the number either won’t work or will lead to a completely different person or place.

In rare instances, a fake number does lead to an individual, but they may seem to be either untruthful or not detailed in their answers.

No. 2 – Check up on the reference’s name
Go online and Google the reference’s name and look them up on social-media platforms.

Check to see if this person is tied to the potential tenant through tagged pictures and/or posts. If there is a lot of overlap in the people’s profiles, these individuals may have a personal relationship and not a tenant/landlord relationship.

No. 3- Look at tax records

The tax records for all property owners are in the public domain. All you have to do is look up the records for the address where the applicant claims to have lived.

The name on the tax record should match the name you’ve been given. Double-check that the property hasn’t been sold, but otherwise this is a great way to spot a fake.

No. 4 – Analyze a reference’s answers
It’s best to always fall back on your knowledge as a landlord and analyze the answers that the potentially fake landlord reference has given you.

If their answers are vague and don’t have details then it’s likely that they aren’t a real landlord and are instead a friend or family member of the person who is trying to rent from you.

No. 5 – Ask for advice from the reference
 Landlords tend to have the same frustrations, interests, and problems.

It wouldn’t be at all unusual for you as a property manager to ask for some advice from another landlord while calling for a reference. Ask for their procedure for getting rid of a tenant who doesn’t pay, for instance.

A real landlord will have an actual answer, even if they’re not interested in spending much time on the phone with you. A fake, on the other hand, will likely have nothing specific to say. This can help you further determine whether the person on the other line is a real landlord, or someone just posing as such.

In conclusion
 As a property manager, a significant part of your job involves filling properties with quality, long-term tenants. Including thorough reference verification as part of your tenant screening process, such as the strategies above, can help you avoid costly mistakes and keep you a few steps ahead of the game.

Position Realty
480-213-5251

Seven Legal Details to Know About Evictions During The Coronavirus

On March 13, 2020, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), a public health emergency that has affected all 50 states, and in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a 30-day social distancing guideline for the states to follow. In response, most states have issued further directives to their citizens regarding social distancing, closures of nonessential business, limitations on travel, restrictions on evictions and foreclosures, and cleaning and disinfecting procedures. As these recommendations continue to evolve, landlords, condominium associations and property managers (collectively, Property Owners/Managers) have growing concerns over how the health, safety, security and privacy standards recommended by the CDC will affect the management and operations of their buildings. This article will list practical recommendations for Property Owners/Managers to implement during the COVID-19 event.

1. Understand Your Duty
The general rule of law is that Property Owners/Managers owe a duty to exercise due care for their residents’ safety, with condominium associations having the heightened fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of all of their residents. This duty is generally limited to the lines of ownership of the Property Owner/Manager, i.e., the areas under the Property Owner/Manager’s control. As such, it is important that Property Owners/Managers thoroughly read through their respective controlling documents (i.e., the lease, declaration of condominium or property management agreement) to determine what areas or services are under their control (i.e., elevators, pool, janitorial services, security, stairwells) and what obligations they have to their residents in maintaining these areas. Historically, as long as the Property Owner/Manager exercises due care in maintaining the common areas, courts will not impose further duties (unless the controlling documents state otherwise) on the them. In addition, the controlling documents may detail how additional costs for measures implemented in response to the COVID-19 event (such as cleaning and remediation costs) are shared between the Property Owner/Manager and the tenant.

After reviewing the controlling documents, it is important for Property Owners/Managers to be educated on their local laws and statutes to determine whether there are any additional responsibilities imposed or additional powers granted to them under state law. Most states have a landlord-tenant act, condominium act and/or not-for-profit corporations act that proffers guidance on the rights and obligations of Property Owners/Managers under state law. It is important to note that these statutes do not abrogate, but rather ratify, the common law. In addition, the state statutes can also give broader powers to Property Owners/Managers that are not outlined in their respective controlling documents.

Although the some states statutes were drafted with natural disasters creating property damage in mind, many of the emergency powers granted under the statute can apply to the COVID-19 event, again highlighting the importance of understanding the local laws and statutes of your respective states.

2. Stay Informed
With the ever-changing landscape on the federal, state and local levels, it is vitally important that Property Owners/Managers keep abreast of the directives and orders being issued that may affect day-to-day operations at their properties. Not only are these directives and orders important in helping Property Owners/Managers make informed decisions about next steps during the COVID- 19 crisis, such as whether to close the common areas or limit visitor access, they may also give additional powers to Property Owners/Managers to help protect their residents and their properties during the COVID-19 event.

Staying informed on the Property Owner/Manager level also allows the Property Owner/Manager to make faster decisions, disseminate information to its residents in a timely and effective manner, and ensure that they are complying with local laws. For example, most states impose requirements on Property Owners/Managers to comply with applicable building, housing and health codes.

Lastly, there may be restrictions on Property Owners/Managers related to evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 event. Understanding what those restrictions are and how they apply during and after the COVID-19 event will allow Property Owners/Managers to effectively assess the economic impact to their business and the appropriate measures to take to mitigate those risks. In addition, there may be federal, state and local financial relief efforts that Property Owners/Managers may be able to take advantage of to help soften the financial impact of the COVID-19 event.

3. Be Proactive
During these uncertain times, residents may look to Property Owners/Managers for guidance on how to maintain the property during the COVID-19 event. Informing residents that the Property Owner/Manager is aware of the COVID-19 event and is taking the necessary precautions to stop the potential spread of the virus throughout the building offers reassurance to residents and also prepares them for eventual closures of common areas or other emergency procedures that may need to be implemented. Other ways to be proactive include, but are not limited to:

  • Closing down common areas such as pools, clubhouses, tot lots, workout areas or any areas within the control of the Property Owner/Manager that may attract large gatherings.
  • Postponing community events until the spread of the COVID-19 virus is contained.
  • Communicate changes to building maintenance schedules, such as limiting requests to emergency repairs only or delaying nonemergency building maintenance for a reasonable amount of time.
  • Posting the CDC recommended guidelines and materials to educate tenants, employees and visitors about all suggested and mandated “social distancing” and “shelter in place” measures.
  • Thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting common areas to help stop the community spread of the virus.
  • Preparing an emergency response plan for the property.

Another way Property Owners/Managers can be proactive during the COVID-19 event is by being supportive of their residents. The COVID-19 event has been stressful on numerous parties, and emotions may be at an all-time high within the property. Maintaining an open dialogue with your residents and setting reasonable expectations about procedures and the Property Owner/Manager’s general ability to provide guidance during this time are essential to preserving the relationship between the Property Owner/Manager and tenants. In addition, open dialogue with tenants may allow Property Owners/Managers to be better informed about cases of COVID-19 on the premises.

It is important to remember that each state has privacy laws and regulations that must be adhered to, and protecting the privacy of each resident is paramount. Personal information regarding an infected individual should not be shared with other residents within the building, unless prior written consent is obtained. Property Owners/Managers may, however, provide residents in the building with a general statement that an individual on the premises tested positive for COVID-19 and include information on the procedures the Property Owner/Manager plans to implement to clean and sanitize the common areas of the building.

In all, following these three steps – understanding your duty, staying informed and being proactive – during the COVID-19 event may help Property Owners/Managers best address their concerns regarding managing and operating their properties in a safe manner.

4. Federal eviction moratoriums
A portion of the CARES Act that expired on July 25th, 2020 did require some landlords to observe a 120-day eviction moratorium. In other words, even if a tenant didn’t pay rent for 120 days, they could not be evicted legally if their apartment fell under certain conditions—one of which was if your property had been financed by a federally backed mortgage.

5. Local eviction moratoriums
Arizona, has extended its local eviction ban until October 31st, so regardless of any lapse in federal protection, Arizona tenants cannot legally be evicted, nor can their nonexempt property be seized. Therefore, it is very important to check with your local government to see what eviction protections are still in place.

6. Rent is not forgiven
Eventually, these eviction prohibitions will be lifted, and at that time tenants behind in rent payments will have to figure out how they are going to make payments going forward while at the same time taking steps to pay back rent. COVID-19 eviction prohibitions do not usually wipe out past-due rent balances, although local governments may introduce new regulations covering the handling of past due rent when the evictions bans do expire.

7. There is help available
The Arizona Department of Housing has set up a site with a self-assessment questionnaire. Certain persons can qualify for COVID-19 rental assistance by completing the questions and continuing with the assistance process. Check your state’s resources if you think your tenant might qualify for help.

While the CARES Act does offer some protection against negative credit reporting for certain late payments, late rent payments can affect a tenant’s credit score. Many landlords—especially those with only one or two units—generally do not report late rent to credit bureaus and most follow the typical landlord guide on the majority of issues with tenants.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Preparing Your Home for Sale During the Pandemic

Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the real estate market must go on. Homeowners still need to sell, house-hunters still need to buy, and real estate agents still need to make a living. But the typical home selling process involves frequent contact with strangers—which is not recommended during this time of social distancing.

By now, you’re probably getting pretty good at making adjustments in your everyday life to protect the health and safety of yourself and those around you. Along the same lines, there are steps you can take to show your home to potential buyers without risking your health or hurting your chances of a sale. Here are some tips to prepare your home for sale in the coronavirus era!

Get Help with Staging
According to The Mortgage Reports, staged homes sell an average of 73% faster than non-staged homes. Staging involves eliminating clutter, incorporating decorative elements, and adjusting the layout of your furniture to improve the flow of your home. The overall goal is to make your home appear bigger, brighter, and more inviting to potential buyers. Fortunately, some staging steps are easy to tackle on your own, such as cleaning, decluttering, and depersonalizing. These steps will help buyers picture themselves living in your home instead of feeling like intruders in someone else’s space.

When it comes to décor, however, it’s best to hire a professional. An interior designer can help you stage your home to effectively show off key aesthetic elements as well as the features that make your space functional. You can easily find freelance interior designers on job boards like Upwork. To keep yourself and your designer safe, make sure they have adopted special procedures to conform with CDC recommendations for COVID-19.

Don’t Neglect Your Curb Appeal
Don’t let your home preparations stop at your front door! Even if buyers aren’t visiting your home in person, they will still want to see your home exterior. In fact, a picture of your home exterior will likely serve as the bait that draws potential buyers to your online listing. Don’t neglect your curb appeal!

Tool Review Lab recommends several ways to boost your curb appeal—even if you’re on a tight budget. For example, you could power wash your front porch and siding, install a new mailbox, hang modern house numbers, and do some basic lawn maintenance.

When it comes to your front yard, make sure your lawn is lush, freshly mowed, and free of weeds and dead spots. Consider planting new flowers and remember to weed and mulch the beds to keep everything looking neat. You may even want to hire a professional to give the trees and shrubs around your yard a good trim.

Consider Safer Showing Alternatives
While it’s clear that hosting an open house is off the table, you may also want to limit in-person showings. Offer your buyers no-contact alternatives! Shoot a video walkthrough of your home and upload it to your online listing so buyers can tour your home virtually. You could even schedule live video-chat showings with interested buyers so they can ask questions about your home or request specific shots of rooms or features.

Since buyers will form a first impression of your home based on your listing, make sure it does your home justice. Write a strong listing title, include a detailed and exciting description, and post plenty of high-quality photos. A great real estate agent can help you craft your listing so that it properly showcases your home’s best features. Your real estate agent can also help you navigate virtual showings! Take the time to find a professional who is well-versed in using online tools to connect with buyers.

Selling a home in the age of the coronavirus is bound to be a bit of a challenge. Thankfully, the real estate industry has been quick to adopt virtual alternatives to open houses and buyers are happy to continue their housing hunt online. With some special attention to staging and a solid virtual presence, you’ll have no problem closing a sale during the pandemic!

Homebuyers Are Rethinking Densely Populated Areas!

The coronavirus pandemic and, especially the lockdown that has had people around the world sheltering in place, may have forever changed how we perceive “home” and what we are looking for when it comes to our little place in the world.

“The coronavirus pandemic has many Americans rethinking the kind of lifestyle they want,” said MANSION GLOBAL. “Apartment living in central, densely populated urban areas is losing its appeal as residents are subject to building restrictions and risk coming into contact with people infected by the virus.”

Real estate agents and companies across the country are reporting a heightened interest in buying homes in the suburbs. In many cases, buyers are even accelerating their purchases to get out of the city and into a suburban home now.

“The pandemic has altered how residential property is bought and sold, changes that aren’t likely to disappear any time soon and that could reshape the American dream long after the current crisis has passed,” said USA Today. “A growing number of Americans are considering fleeing cities for the suburbs, to put more distance between themselves and their neighbors.”

USA Today reports that searches for real estate in small towns is up exponentially over major metro areas. Also driving this trend: An increase in work-from-home flexibility. “Remote work will become more prevalent,’’ said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR). “That means there is less need to be close to the job centers. Suburbs and exurbs (areas situated beyond the suburbs and in, or adjacent to, rural areas) will get a greater interest. In addition, a larger single-family home with extra elbow room will be desired, such as dedicated office space and a personal gym.”

A new Harris Poll backs up that assertion. It found that “almost a third of Americans are thinking about moving to less densely populated areas,” said USA Today. “And 43% of city dwellers had recently checked a real estate site for a house or apartment to rent or buy as compared to 26% of those in the suburbs, and 21% of those in rural areas.”

In places like New York City, known for its density and also for being one of the world’s coronavirus hotspots, “There’s a sudden rush on real estate in the suburbs,” Alison Farn-Leigh, a sales agent with Berkshire Hathaway, told CBS Local. “I would describe it as nothing short of a frenzy. I get a lot of, ‘In one to two years, we knew we were going to do this, but now, we have to do it now.’”

Despite waning activity in many places, suburban areas around New York are on fire, and it’s especially prevalent among high-end buyers. “New York’s wealthy are moving their money—and often their families—into surrounding suburbs and exurbs as they look to escape a crowded lifestyle and reduce their risk of contracting coronavirus,” said CNBC.

The numbers are astounding. According to FlatRate.com, “Compared to March 15 through May 10 of last year, requests for moves within New York City dropped 30%,” said CBS Local. “Meanwhile, moves from the city to Connecticut are up 80%, to Long Island up nearly 60%, to New Jersey up nearly 43%, and to Westchester up 33%.”

Real estate advisor Owen Berkowitz of the Berkowitz Marrone Team at Douglas Elliman told CNBC that he “can’t remember the last time we were this busy,” while “Eighteen people are waiting to see a home in Greenwich, Connecticut, that is renting for $65,000 a month,” another broker said.

If you’re considering a move to the suburbs, here are a few things to consider:

The commute— If you’re within close proximity to work now, you’re probably not excited about having to spend an hour or two—or more—in the car every day. Then again, more flexibility might mean living farther away won’t be an issue. If you will be commuting, it’s recommended that you do the drive a few times during rush hour so you can make sure you can endure it on a regular basis.

The yard— If you’re coming from an urban area, especially if you live in apartment or a condo, you might not have any outdoor space at all. And while you may be envisioning a great big yard, many single-family homes today—at least in a moderate price range—are rather short on outdoor space. Still, having a yard of any size will require upkeep. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of landscaping and ongoing maintenance when you’re creating your homebuying budget.

The amenities— The suburbs are loaded with newer construction and master planned communities, many of which have amenities like pools, trails, and clubhouses. Of course, purchasing in one of these communities typically means you’ll be paying Homeowner’s Association (HOA dues) as well as additional fees in some areas. Be sure you know about all the additional costs of specific neighborhoods when house hunting.

The stuff to do— It’s an exaggeration and a generalization to say there’s nothing to do in the suburbs. You might be surprised at how good the local restaurants are and how many entertainment and cultural options are nearby, not to mention abundant recreational opportunities. But if you live in the city and, especially, if you’re in an area where you can currently walk to your favorite café, the theater, and museums and galleries, you might be in for a rude awakening. While some suburban communities are veering toward greater walkability, many will require you to drive to your new favorite spots. While you’re considering suburban areas, you might also want to take a look at the nightlife, if that’s your thing. Eateries and bars might be more likely to close at a “decent hour” instead of staying open until early morning.

Forbearance: Homeowners Need To Tread Lightly

Unemployment numbers keep climbing with the latest figures showing another weekly uptick this time by nearly 3 million. The consequences are many and the real estate and mortgage industries are no stranger. At the same time, the term “forbearance” has entered the stage. If someone is unemployed and they’re looking at how they’re going to make the mortgage payments down the road, the ol’ savings account will take a big hit as homeowners look for ways to satisfy the mortgage company without losing the home. One of these ways to take a mortgage payment pause is with a forbearance agreement. But homeowners need to be fully aware of the impact of such an agreement.

A forbearance is a formal agreement between the lender and the borrower. Borrowers can’t decide to take a mortgage payment holiday on their own. Doing so would start the foreclosure clock ticking. And lenders are loathe to foreclose. It’s the very last thing on their list when trying to work with struggling homeowners. Lenders have employees whose sole job is to provide workout solutions for those having problems making the mortgage payment.

A forbearance agreement can be arranged if the borrowers meet certain standards such as documenting their situation as well as the lender seeing there is light at the end of the financial tunnel. If both can be met, a forbearance may be an option. Such an agreement will allow the borrowers to suspend the monthly mortgage payment for a specific period. Yet with a forbearance, the payments don’t go away, they payments accrue during the forbearance period. If the mortgage payment is $2,500 and the agreed upon period is for six months, that means at the end of six months, not only will payments resume but there’s a $15,000 bill that comes due. That’s the tough part. If someone is having difficulty paying $2,500 where will the $15,000 come from? There are other options such as a Loan Modification that can help and recent changes to agency guidelines may arrange for the past due amounts be added back to the existing mortgage.

Another major consideration with a forbearance agreement is the hit credit reports and credit scores take. On the credit report, late payments will be listed. Late payments on a mortgage does most of the damage to credit scores. Further, if a forbearance agreement is executed, that too will be listed on the credit report. While the borrowers get a breather on making the monthly payment, the credit report will list the forbearance filing. And, at the same time, many lenders who see a forbearance listed on a credit report won’t approve a new loan, be it for a purchase or a refinance for up to a year. Or even longer, it’s entirely up to the lender.

Deciding whether or not to ask for a forbearance agreement should be made alongside your loan officer or financial professional. There are consequences of such a filing that many may not know about. Yes, there is a payment reprieve and foreclosure is avoided, but the filing will negatively impact a credit report. There can be other options available for struggling homeowners. This isn’t something to do on your own volition. There’s a lot more help out there than you might think.

Hot Real Estate Alert: Home Flipping Hits 14-Year High

While the real estate market in general experiences a bit of chaos related to the Coronavirus pandemic and employment challenges, there is one segment of the market that is going strong. Home flipping is boasting its best numbers in 14 years.

The newly released first-quarter 2020 U.S. Home Flipping Report from ATTOM Data Solutions shows that “53,705 single-family homes and condominiums in the United States were flipped in the first quarter. That number represented 7.5 percent of all home sales in the nation during the quarter, up from 6.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019 and from 7.3 percent in the first quarter of last year.” Those are the highest numbers since the second quarter of 2006.

The gross profit for home flips across the country also rose over the same time period, to $62,300. “That was up slightly from $62,000 in the fourth quarter of 2019 and from $60,675 in the first quarter of last year,” they said.

That $62,300 translated to a 36.7 percent return on investment, which is down from 39.5 percent in Q4 2019 and marks the lowest profit margin since the Q3 2011.

“Home flipping has gradually taken up a larger portion of the housing market over the last couple of years,” said Todd Teta, chief product officer at ATTOM Data Solutions. “But profits are down and are lower than they’ve been since the dark days following the Great Recession, which is a sign that investors aren’t keeping up with price increases in the broader market,”

Impact on local markets
Home flips as a percentage of real estate sales “increased from the fourth quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020 in 122 of the 140 metropolitan statistical areas analyzed in the report (87.1 percent),” they said. The largest quarterly increases in home flipping rates came in Boston, MA (up 80.2 percent); Springfield, MA (up 76 percent); Olympia, WA (up 73 percent); York, PA (up 71.4 percent) and Minneapolis, MN (up 69.3 percent).

Interestingly, there were only four metros with a population of 1 million+ that experienced a decrease in annual flipping rates, and three of them were in Texas: San Antonio (-12.9 percent); Austin (-11.8 percent), and Houston (down -0.6 percent). ); Oklahoma City was the fourth city, down 6.1 percent.

If you’re looking to get in on the flipping trend, here are a few key pieces of info to consider:

You don’t need to buy a million-dollar fixer. “Homes flipped in the first quarter of 2020 were sold for a median price of $232,000.”

Your profits will be larger where the home prices are higher. “The highest first-quarter 2020 profits, measured in dollars, were concentrated in the West and Northeast. Among metro areas with enough data to analyze, 13 of the top 15 were in the those regions, led by San Francisco, CA (gross profit of $171,000); San Jose, CA ($165,000); Los Angeles, CA ($145,000); New York, NY ($141,899) and Honolulu, HI ($140,190).”

The lowest profits were generally in southern metro areas, such as “Fort Collins, CO ($14,000 profit); Springfield, MO ($20,203); Daphne, AL ($20,650); Raleigh, NC ($21,250) and Durham, NC ($25,000).”

Don’t think you have to turn the home around and sell it in 30 days. “The average time to flip nationwide is 174 days.”

You don’t need to pay cash upfront for the home. “Nationally, the percentage of flipped homes purchased with financing dipped in the first quarter of 2020 to 40.5 percent, from 44 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019 and 46.4 percent in the first quarter of 2019, to the lowest point since the fourth quarter of 2016. Meanwhile, 59.5 percent of homes flipped in the first quarter of 2020 were bought with all-cash, up from 56 percent in the prior quarter and 53.6 percent a year earlier.”

10 Laws All Landlords Need to Know

Dozens of federal, state, and local laws govern the residential rental industry and the landlord-resident relationship. All of these laws are important. The following calls to your attention ten important laws for you to know and follow when you’re a landlord.

The Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act prohibits you from discriminating against applicants or residents based on any of the seven protected classes:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Sex
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Handicap
  • Family status

The Fair Housing Act establishes only the minimum protections. States and localities may set additional protected classes, such as source of income — whether a person’s income is from a job, alimony, child support, unemployment, welfare, disability payments, and so on.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act
According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you may use credit reports to evaluate rental applications. However, if you deny housing to an applicant based on information contained in the credit report, you must provide the applicant with an adverse action notice that includes the following information:

  • The name, address, and telephone number of the credit-reporting agency (CRA) that supplied the credit report, including a toll-free telephone number for CRAs that maintain files nationwide
  • A statement that the CRA that supplied the report didn’t make the decision to take the adverse action and can’t give the specific reasons for it
  • A notice of the applicant’s right to dispute the accuracy or completeness of any information provided in the credit report, and the applicant’s right to a free report from the CRA upon request within 60 days

The FCRA also comes into play if you want to report the nonpayment of rent to one or more CRAs. If you report a resident for nonpayment of rent and the resident cures the debt, you’re legally obligated to update the resident’s credit report to indicate that the debt has been cured.

The implied warranty of habitability
The implied warranty of habitability requires that landlords provide residents with living space that’s fit for human occupancy. To be habitable, living space must have heat when it’s cold, running water, a sufficient amount of hot water, plumbing and electricity that function properly, and so on. Landlords must also maintain clean and sanitary buildings and grounds — free of debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents, and vermin.

If a rental unit is uninhabitable, residents have the right to withhold rent until the necessary repairs are made or, in more serious situations, terminate the lease.

Although your residents are responsible for repairing anything they or their guests break, you’re required to perform any repairs required to maintain fit and habitable living conditions, and you must complete the repairs in a reasonable period of time.

The mutual covenant of quiet enjoyment
Implied in every lease and rental agreement is the mutual covenant of quiet enjoyment, which grants all residents the right to the undisturbed use and enjoyment of the rental property. This covenant applies to you, as landlord, in two ways:

  • You’re not allowed to enter a resident’s unit whenever you want. You can enter in an emergency that threatens life or property, when you ask and the resident gives you permission, and to perform necessary inspections or repairs or show the unit to prospective renters or buyers (only after giving the resident sufficient notice).
  • You need to reasonably investigate complaints and potentially take action against any resident who’s disturbing his neighbors.

Your state’s security deposit rules
Every state has a security deposit statute that typically specifies the following:

  • How the security deposit is to be held — usually in an interest-bearing account in an in-state bank
  • What the security deposit may be used for — usually to cover unpaid rent, damage beyond ordinary wear and tear, and cleaning to make the unit as clean as it was when the resident moved in and sometimes to repair or replace the landlord’s personal property in the unit if that use is mentioned in the lease
  • When the unused portion of the security deposit must be returned to the resident
  • That the landlord provide an itemized invoice of any money deducted from the security deposit

Disputes over security deposits are common and frequently lead to the resident taking legal action against the landlord. To protect yourself, comply with your state statute, and take the following precautions as good business practices, even if it isn’t required under the applicable statute:

  • Have a separate interest-bearing account for holding security deposits.
  • Complete a move-in/move-out checklist to document the condition of the property at the beginning and end of a resident’s stay.
  • Take photos or video of the property to create a visual record of the property’s condition at the beginning and end of a resident’s stay.
  • Keep receipts for all repairs and cleaning required to prepare the unit for the next resident, even though you’re permitted to charge the resident only for damage beyond ordinary wear and tear, and cleaning to make the unit as clean as it was when the resident moved in.
  • Return the unused portion of the security deposit to the resident as soon as possible as required by state law.
  • Along with the unused portion of the security deposit, include an itemized list of all costs deducted from the security deposit.

The Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act
The Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act, in part, requires that landlords inform residents of the hazards posed by lead-based paint. If your rental property was built prior to 1978 (the year the EPA banned lead paint) you’re required by law to do the following:

  • Disclose all known lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards and any available reports on lead in the property.
  • Give renters the EPA pamphlets “Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home” and “The Lead-Safe Certified Guide to Renovate Right.”
  • Include certain warning language in the lease as well as signed statements from all parties verifying that all requirements were completed.
  • Retain signed acknowledgments for three years, as proof of compliance.
  • Housing that is exempt from this rule include the following:

  • Units that have no bedrooms, such as lofts, efficiencies, and studio apartments
  • Short-term rentals of fewer than 100 days
  • Housing designated for the elderly or the handicapped unless children live or are expected to live there
  • Property that’s been inspected by a certified inspector and found to be free of lead-based paint

State-required disclosures
In addition to the federal lead-based paint disclosure, many states require that landlords disclose one or more of the following:

  • Environmental hazards, including periodic pest control and herbicide treatments, toxic mold, asbestos, radon gas, bedbug infestation, and methamphetamine contamination
  • Recent flooding or location in a flood zone
  • Security deposit policies and procedures
  • Nonrefundable fees, such as a pet fee, where such fees are allowed
  • Smoke detector location and maintenance requirements
  • Nearby military ordinance, such as a US Army base
  • Smoking policy
  • Landlord’s or property manager’s name and contact information
  • Any shared utility arrangement

Your state’s Landlord Tenant Act
Nearly every state has a version of the Landlord Tenant Act, which defines the rights and obligations of the landlord and the tenant (also known as the resident), legal remedies for breach of contract, possible defenses to legal actions, and much more. To find your state’s landlord tenant act, search the web for your state’s name followed by “landlord tenant act” and click one of the links that looks promising. If that doesn’t work, track down your state’s official website, and search that site specifically for something like “landlord tenant” or “residential rental laws.”

Eviction rules and procedures
If you need to evict a resident, turning off electricity, gas, and water to the unit to compel the resident to leave is illegal. You must follow your state’s eviction rules and procedures, which typically require that you perform the following steps:

1) Check your state’s landlord tenant act to find out whether you have legal grounds to evict the resident.

2) Give the resident reasonable notice of your intent to file for eviction, including the reason you intend to do so and, if required by state law, the time the resident has to address the issues.

3) Wait until the morning after the deadline specified in your notice, and then file for an eviction hearing at your county’s courthouse.

4) Assuming you prevail in court, wait until the day after the court’s deadline for the resident to move out, and if the resident hasn’t moved out yet, call the sheriff to evict the resident.

Failure to follow your state’s eviction process could result in your losing your case. The resident may end up living in the property for some time, perhaps without paying rent. In addition, the resident may be able to file a legal claim against you in civil court and force you to pay damages, legal fees, and penalties.

Mitigation of damages
When a resident breaches a lease, for example by moving out three months into a one-year lease, the resident is obligated by the contract to continue to pay rent. However, you can’t just let the unit remain vacant for nine months. You’re legally obligated to take steps to mitigate (lessen) the resident’s losses. In this example, ways to mitigate the damages include:

  • Accepting a replacement the resident recommended to rent the unit for the months remaining on the lease, assuming the recommended replacement qualifies
  • Advertising the unit to find a new resident, screening applicants, showing the unit to qualified applicants, and so on

Gather evidence of your attempts to re-rent the property, such as advertisements, records of applicants you screened, and dates on which you showed the property to qualified applicants.

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