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Position Yourself For Success

You Don’t Need 20% Down and Seven Other Myths That Are Getting in the Way of Homeownership

Think you need to come up with 20% for a down payment in order to buy a house? It might surprise you to know that the median down payment for first-time buyers last year was just 7%, per the National Association of Realtors®. And there are plenty of loan programs out there that require far less. The 20% myth is just one of the things that’s keeping homeownership out of reach. We’re digging in to seven others.

You need to be well-established in your forever career
There has been a lot of discussion about how millennials are waiting longer and longer to purchase homes. “As a result of their consequent struggle to save, millennials are delaying major life milestones like getting married and buying a home,” said Business Insider.

Nonetheless, there are still millennials jumping into the market because, even know their name isn’t yet on the door, they’re excited to have a home in their name. Having a stable job, a comfortable salary, and the desire to own a home may just be enough.

Sure, you might not be ready to buy the house of your dreams or move to the neighborhood where you can imagine raising kids and, someday, retiring, but that doesn’t mean you’re completely out of the game. A smaller place closer to work or an attached property can, quite literally, get your foot in the homeownership door and allow you to start earning equity.

You have to be completely out of debt
Recent data shows that nearly half of all undergraduates are delaying homeownership because of student loans. “According to a recent Federal Reserve study, a $1,000 increase in student loan debt lowers the homeownership rate by about 1.5%, equivalent to an average delay of about 2.5 months in attaining homeownership,” said Clever Real Estate. “For the average college debt holder with $37,000 in debt, that ends up being about a 7.7-year delay in their path homeownership.”

Regardless of your debt, whether it’s from student loans or credit cards, it may still be possible to qualify for a mortgage and afford the payments, especially because rents are often comparable to mortgage payments. Mortgage underwriters don’t expect homebuyers to be debt-free; In fact, having no debt might actually work against you. They like to see responsible credit use and management.

You need to have a family
Yes, many would-be homebuyers hold off until parenthood is looming, because they’re not ready to move to the suburbs, get married, and have kids. But, a third of today’s new homeowners are unmarried, according to CITYLAB. “The shift is detailed in a new working paper from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, in which researchers crunched demographic data from HUD and from American Housing Surveys taken every other year between 1997 and 2017. Perhaps the most notable departure from 20 years ago is the marital status of new homeowners. According to the paper, the share of married buyers declined from 61 percent in 1997 to just over half by 2017. Meanwhile, 35 percent of first-time homebuyers in 2017 had never been married.”

You need a 30-year conventional loan
There are tons of different loans that can help you purchase your first home, make payments more affordable and/or give you the flexibility you need to make homebuying affordable. FHA loans are among the most well-known and most popular loans for first-time buyers because they require just 3.5% down and have low credit score requirements. Other loans worth looking into depending on your circumstances include: government VA loans for veterans; USDA loans for properties in rural areas; and loans like Fannie Mae’s HomeStyle Renovation loan, which gives buyers bundled funds to purchase and make improvements to their home.

You need to have great credit
If your score isn’t in the 800s, or even the 700s, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be living that apartment life forever. You might be surprised to see the credit score minimums for some loans. “While there is no official minimum credit score for a home loan approval, the minimum FICO credit score for conventional loan approval tends to be around 620,” said Credit.com.

It has to be your primary home
“Some rich urban millennials are choosing to rent in the city and buy a vacation home instead of a primary residence,” said Business Insider. Meanwhile, some other savvy investors are continuing to rent and plunking down money to purchase homes in tourist-friendly locations so they can take advantage of the AirBNB craze. “According to Priceonomics, hosts on Airbnb are earning more than anyone else in the gig economy and are raking in an average of $924 a month,” said Travel & Leisure. “Airbnb hosts make nearly three times as much as other workers…with some hosts making more than $10,000 per month.”

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Because It’s Ugly, and 3 Other Big Reasons Your Home Isn’t Selling

Ever wonder why some homes sell and others don’t? There is no magical fairy dust that can turn a loser of a house into a palace. And, in fact, if there were such a think as magical fairy dust, sprinkling it in your home would make a big mess, and that’s a big no-no if you want to sell.

Getting your home sold is not all that hard if you stick to the basics. But if you’ve got some of the problems below, you may just be sitting on that unsellable home for a while.

Problem No. 1: Because your home is ugly
Yes, your home is ugly. If your Realtor didn’t tell you that, let us go ahead and say what he should have. And just so we’re clear, “ugly” can also stand in for:

• Cluttered
• Outdated
• Dirty
• Messy
• Tacky

Very few people – investors looking for a deal aside – can walk into an untidy mess of a house and see the potential. If you’re not willing to clean it up, clean it out, and maybe make a few overdue updates, you may not get it sold. That goes double for over-personalization that is so in your face buyers can’t see past it.

“Everybody’s taste is different, so less is more when it comes to decor at sale time. Loud patterns and bold colors can be big distractions,” said MSN.

Solution:

You need to de-ugly-fy that house but quick. Pretty places around you are selling. If you have similar plans, similar features, similar lots and they’re selling while you’re sitting, it’s not hard to figure out why.

Take a good long look. If you don’t see anything wrong, bring in a few friends for their opinions. But only the ones who might actually tell you the truth.

Problem No. 2. Because your price is unrealistic
This is the No. 1 most common problem with homes that are not selling, says MSN. “If you’re guilty of having “a ‘what the heck are they thinking?’ price tag,” they say, you can expect to sit on the market for a while.

“Price is usually the overriding factor in any home that doesn’t sell. Whatever its problem, it can usually be rectified by adjusting the price.”

Adds U.S. News: “Without question, the No. 1 reason a home doesn’t sell is price. Sellers have an emotional attachment to their homes and tend not to be objective about the true value.”

Solution:

If it is an emotional attachment that’s getting in the way, take the emotion out of the equation and think of it simply as a business transaction. Many times the issue is a seller owes more than the home is worth or simply wants a higher price. But it’s the market that sets the price. And if it’s telling you your price is too high, it’s probably best to listen.

When all else fails, listen to your agent, who should have provided you with comparables that spell out recent sales and market trends. (Also See: It’s The Price That Sells a Home)

Problem No. 3: Because it’s a ‘project’ house
Maybe you’ve made the decision to sell and you just don’t want to put any money into a house that’s no longer going to be yours. But a house that looks like it’s going to take too much work – or too much money – to fix up is a turnoff.

“If a home looks as if it’s going to cost half as much to repair or renovate as it does to purchase, it’s going to take a long time to move,” said MSN. “Today’s buyer is a lot more reluctant to take on a ‘project,’ especially if there are houses around it that don’t need as much work. Ditto for homes that have strong pet or mold smells.”

The Solution:

“Fix it, or prepare to lop a large amount off the price,” said MSN.

Problem No. 4: Because you’re not cooperating
This is also the No. 1 reason houses end up overpriced. Uncooperative sellers also tend to ignore other advice from their agent, about keeping the home tidy (see No. 1), being available when needed, being open to price reductions, being able to make the house available for open houses, and agreeing to terms when there is a contract discussion.

“No offense, but maybe you aren’t showing your house off enough? If you aren’t using a real estate agent and work away from your home, your time might be limited, of course. But you should try to make your house as accessible and available as possible for a Realtor and a potential homebuyer to easily drop by and take a tour (which means having the place clean, too),” said U.S. News. “Having your home be shown only by appointment or only at designated times will severely cut down on the number of showings you get, and if the house isn’t getting shown, it isn’t going to get sold.”

The Solution:

Get in or get out. Or get in to get out. You have to commit yourself to a process that, quite frankly, can be inconvenient and a hassle in order to get your home sold, especially in more competitive markets. Being agreeable and available, however painful, for this finite amount of time, will pay off in the end.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

How Lenders Set Mortgage Rates

Ever wonder how mortgage lenders set interest rates for their loan programs each and every business day? Wonder why some lenders quote the exact same rate for the exact same program? Maybe why one lender is lower than others? Here’s some insight on how mortgage lenders set their rates each day.

First, note that mortgage lenders set their rates on the same basic set of indices. There are some exceptions, primarily mortgage lenders who issue their own loan programs that intend to keep the loans internally and collect interest on the loan rather than selling the note.

Adjustable rate mortgages and fixed rate mortgages are priced a bit differently. An adjustable rate mortgage, or ARM, is tied to a specific, universally tradeable index, such as the 1-Year Constant Maturity Treasury. Each morning, the “secondary” departments of these mortgage companies look up the current price of an ARM index and then add a margin to it. If, for example, the index came in at 1.75% and the margin was set at 2.00%, the new rate for that specific program would come in at 3.75% and stay there until the next adjustment.

Fixed rate mortgages, at least for most of them, are set in another manner but also use a specific index. Currently, the index used for most fixed rate conforming loans is the Universal Mortgage Backed Security, or UMBS. This is the index lenders use when setting fixed mortgage rates scheduled to be sold to either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Okay, so if most lenders use the same index when setting fixed rates, why are they sometimes different? That can depend upon different factors. Lenders compete for mortgage business in different ways, but they all want to compete based upon a competitive rate. The rate doesn’t always have to be the lowest rate but should be in the ballpark.

Maybe a customer has a long-lasting banking relationship with a bank and also has quite of bit of cash sitting in different checking and savings accounts. That customer might be offered an extremely competitive rate based upon loyalty of the customer as well as the amount of assets the bank holds. The rate in this instance doesn’t have to be the lowest because the borrower is focused more on trust and relationships than the rock-bottom rate.

On the flip side, for mortgage companies that don’t have such an established relationship, rates take on a more serious note. A mortgage company with less media exposure compared to established banks might need to entice a potential borrower with some very competitive mortgage rates. But again, they set their prices on the same set of indices.

Sometimes a mortgage lender has taken an aggressive approach and priced their loans very low and suddenly their pipeline is full. They’re overbooked and overworked. Their marketing campaign is working but now their loan processing times have slowed to a crawl. It’s not unheard of for a mortgage company to raise rates temporarily to turn off the spigot. It happens. Lenders certainly want to make a profit, otherwise the mortgage market would dry up, but they want to be smart about it.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

The Five Biggest Turn-Offs For Homebuyers

A lot of sellers don’t listen to their real estate agents, so we’ll tell you what your agent wants to say, but can’t say to you and this is it – your agent can’t get you the price you want unless your home is in pristine move-in condition.

That means no sticking drawers in the kitchen. No leaning fences. No rust-stained plumbing fixtures. We could go on, but maybe we need to make it clear. If you have even one of following “turn-offs,” your home won’t sell.

Buyers can get instantly turned off. Here are their five biggest turn-offs:

1. Overpricing for the market

2. Smells

3. Clutter

4. Deferred maintenance

5. Dark, dated décor

Overpricing your home
Overpricing your home is like trying to crash the country club without a membership. You’ll be found out and escorted out.

If you ignored your agent’s advice and listed at a higher price than recommended, you’re going to get some negative feedback from buyers. The worst feedback, of course, is silence. That could include no showings and no offers.

The problem with overpricing your home is that the buyers who are qualified to buy your home won’t see it because they’re shopping in a lower price range. The buyers who do it will quickly realize that there are other homes in the same price range that offer more value.

Smells
Smells can come from a number of sources – pets, lack of cleanliness, stale air, water damage, and much more. You may not even notice it, but your real estate agent may have hinted to you that something needs to be done.

There’s not a buyer in the world that will buy a home that smells unless they’re investors looking for a bargain. Even so, they’ll get a forensic inspection to find out the source of the smells. If they find anything like undisclosed water damage, or pet urine under the “new” carpet, then they will either severely discount their offer or walk away.

Clutter
If your tables are full to the edges with photos, figurines, mail, and drinking glasses, buyers’ attention is going to more focused on running the gauntlet of your living room without breaking any Hummels than in considering your home for purchase.

Too much furniture confuses the eye – it makes it really difficult for buyers to see the proportions of rooms. If they can’t see what they need to know, they move on to the next home.

Deferred maintenance
Deferred maintenance is a polite euphemism for letting your home fall apart. Just like people age due to the effects of the sun, wind and gravity, so do structures like your home. Things wear out, break and weather, and it’s your job as a homeowner to keep your home repaired.

Your buyers really want a home that’s been well-maintained. They don’t want to wonder what needs to fixed next or how much it will cost.

Dated décor
The reason people are looking at your home instead of buying brand new is because of cost and location. They want your neighborhood, but that doesn’t mean they want a dated-looking home. Just like they want a home in good repair, they want a home that looks updated, even if it’s from a different era.

Harvest gold and avocado green from the seventies; soft blues and mauves from the eighties, jewel tones from the nineties, and onyx and pewter from the oughts are all colorways that can date your home. Textures like popcorn ceilings, shag or berber carpet, and flocked wallpaper can also date your home.

When you’re behind the times, buyers don’t want to join you. They want to be perceived as savvy and cool.

In conclusion, the market is a brutal mirror. if you’re guilty of not putting money into your home because you believe it’s an investment that others should pay you to profit, you’re in for a rude awakening. You’ll be stuck with an asset that isn’t selling.

Position Realty
Office:480-213-5251

Can You Negotiate a Real Estate Commission?

In a real estate transaction, there are typically three main parties involved. There are the real estate agent, the buyer and the seller. The takeaway for the agent is a commission, but many people experience confusion about things like how much it is and how it’s paid. They also wonder if they can negotiate a commission.

What is a Typical Commission?
Most people think there’s a standard percentage across real estate for commissions. There isn’t a fixed price. There is an average prevailing fee in most states that’s around 6% of the final sales price of a home, however. If an agent sells land, they may get a higher commission of anywhere from 10 to 20% because it takes more time and a larger marketing budget to sell land.

The seller of a property is typically the one who pays a commission. It goes to the listing agent, and then the listing agent gives a portion to the agent representing the buyer. The home buyer doesn’t pay anything.

Most real estate agents only work on commission and don’t earn a base salary.

So what it might look like if you were to sell a $200,000 home is that the listing agent would charge a $12,000 fee. That would be a 6% commission. Then, they would split that with the buyer’s agent, so the agent representing the buyer gets $6,000, and the listing agent gets $6,000.

Then the agent has to share part of that 3% with their brokerage office. Sometimes that amount could be as high as 40% of the 3%.

Agents also pay for a lot out of the fee, including their marketing and insurance costs. Commissions are paid at the time the title transfers for the home.

Can a Seller Negotiate?
Legally, a commission is negotiable. However, sellers have to be careful here. While an agent might be willing to negotiate in certain circumstances—for example, the property is high-end or it may help them break into a great neighborhood, in many cases, they wouldn’t be.

If a real estate agent is too willing to settle for a lower commission for seemingly no reason, you have to think about how their negotiation skills will look later on when they’re working on a deal for you.

The entire goal of hiring a real estate agent is to get the best price for your home, along with the best terms. A real estate agent who quickly agrees to take a lower commission may not achieve those goals. Also, the marketing costs will come from that commission, so in taking a lower fee, will the agent be cutting corners on their efforts to advertise your home?

It’s not unusual for an agent to be unwilling to negotiate their commission simply because they don’t have to. They may be so busy that there’s no reason for them to take a lower commission. They can simply move onto other sellers.

What if the Same Agent is Handling Selling and Buying?
If you’re going to sell your home and then the same agent will help you buy another one, they earn both commissions. It’s possible that you could get a discount in this situation, but again, maybe not. Both transactions are separate from one another, and both require their own work. It doesn’t matter to the agent if the seller and buyer are the same people because the workload would be the same as if they were different people.

What if the same agent represents you and the buyer?

This is a situation known as dual agency, but not all states allow this.

In this case, if it’s legal, an agent could earn the listing and selling fees. You might ask a listing agent if they will lower their commission fees, although again, there’s no obligation on the part of the agent.

While negotiating is possible for real estate commissions, it’s not always the best idea nor will it always result in a discount for you as a seller.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

9 Ways Becoming A Homeowner Can Change Your Life

Homeownership. It shifts so many things. If you’re coming from an apartment, you may experience conveniences like direct-access garages and walls that aren’t shared for the first time. If you’ve been renting a home, you will probably feel a new sense of security and peace of mind once the mortgage is in our name. Not to mention the itch to repaint, re-imagine, and redo at least a few dozen things.

Want to know just how becoming a homeowner can change your life? Read on.

1. Financial Security
“The largest measurable financial benefit to homeownership is price appreciation,” said Investopedia. “Price appreciation helps build home equity.” Added Real Estate ABC: “The principle you pay on the mortgage is like putting money in the bank, in the form of equity.”

2. Peace of mind
If you worry every time your lease comes up for renewal, those days are gladly over. Unless you refinance or take cash out once you have enough equity, your house payment is your house payment.

3. Pride of ownership
The feeling you get when you come home to your place – the place you scrimped and saved for and the place that represents a lifelong dream – well, there’s just no substitute.

4. Stake in your neighborhood
Pride of ownership extends to the homes and area around your house as well. Whether or not you move to a neighborhood with a homeowner’s association, buying a house will undoubtedly make you more invested in what’s going on around you. And that can mean increased property values if neighbors band together for common improvements.

5. Increased interest in HGTV. And DIY channel. And weekends at Home Depot.
Don’t be surprised if you start quoting Drew and Jonathan Scott or using terms like “mitered corners” and “refaced cabinets.” Which is good news, because the changes you make to your home won’t just mean greater enjoyment while you live there, but also potentially greater profit when you go to sell.

“Home ownership means you have free rein in the aesthetics of the home. When renting, you do not have the advantage of changing your environment to please you,” said Real Estate ABC. “You may be able to paint a room, but need to repaint back to the original color scheme when you move. Owning your own home means you can do whatever you please to make your environment both personalized and, in the process, add value to the home.”

6. Your honey do list may increase
But so will your satisfaction.

7. Tax breaks
“The second largest financial benefit of owning a home is tax savings,” said Investopedia. “The biggest of these is the ability to deduct the annual interest paid on a mortgage from income. Private mortgage insurance may also be a write off, on addition to fees paid at closing. If you have paid points, either discount or origination, you can deduct these as well.”

8. Expert knowledge of interest rates, neighborhood home prices, and area sales trends
When you’re in the process of buying and after you close escrow, you’re more likely to be tuned into what’s going on in the market and in your neighborhood. This can help you to make smart decisions about updates, upgrades, and refinancing, and can also make you a trusted resource among your friends who want to buy.

9. More financial responsibility in other parts of your life
With a home to take care of, you may be more clued in to other long-term investments and less wiling to spend frivolously.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

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.

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.

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