The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: home sales

Three Tips For Getting Your Asking Price On Your Home

When it comes time to sell a home, sellers usually want their homes sold quickly and for their asking price. But getting the best price and selling your home quickly usually requires a sound strategy. After all, buyers decide the value of a home and they want to feel like they're getting the most bang for their buck.

So how can you sell your home in a timely and cost-effective way? These tips can help you pull it off.

Time Your Move With the Market

It's estimated that the average homeowner moves every five to seven years on average. When they move, they're looking for the right fit for themselves and their families and they're looking for value.

One thing you need to be aware of when it comes to real estate is that timing can be everything. For example, house prices usually experience their biggest gains in summertime. Why? That's when the weather is at its best and buyers can get outside and look at homes. So if you're sprucing up your home to sell it, make sure to have it ready for summer. That's not to say buyers won't be interested at other times of the year, especially in areas where there's a shortage of housing. But summer is ideal, and if you need help selling, a local realtor can help make sure buyers see your home.

Replace the Necessities

As previously mentioned, when potential buyers are looking at homes they're interested in, they're looking at size and location, yes, but they're also looking for value. Put more plainly, they want to see that everything inside and outside of the house works and functions like it's supposed to.

If you're getting your prized piece of real estate ready for selling, you want to make sure everything is in tip-top shape. You don't necessarily have to fix everything, but curb appeal is a big factor in selling and a little TLC can go a long way toward making your home look more attractive. If the driveway has cracks in it, take steps to have it repaired. If the outside of your home could use some touch-up paint, get to work.

If your home needs a new roof, look into getting it repaired or at least negotiate something with a buyer so that they're not stuck paying the full price on a new roof. A customer survey identified durability as the top factor to be considered, followed by longevity. If a new roof is going on the house, a new owner is going to want something that lasts a long time.

Play Up Desirable Parts Of Your Home

When it comes to real estate, buyers certainly like to see value, but they can also be attracted to things that are new and different. If you've spent time and money on upgrading your home, don't be afraid to show that off. If you've got energy-efficient lights and windows -- a major draw for nearly 50 percent of buyers -- make that a major selling point. Potential buyers may also be interested if you've got a backyard pool, a fenced-in backyard, or a bigger garage than other homes in the area.

A realtor can help accentuate all the really cool features of your home, ensuring that buyers don't miss them when they look around.

With the right features, the right attention to care, and selling your home at the right time, your house can be off the market in no time at all.

What to Know to Buy or Sell a Home During COVID-19

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, families have been changing their schedules and adjusting their plans so that they can safely live in a society in which a handshake can mean passing on a dangerous virus. While many people have had to cancel vacations and delay graduation celebrations, some major events can't be skipped. Moving into a new home is one of those events. Whether you're moving to start a new job or you need to downsize for financial reasons, you may be wondering how anyone is navigating the world of real estate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although buying and selling real estate may not look like it did pre-coronavirus, it is still happening. As states start to reopen, new listings and open houses are picking up again. Let's take a look at what you need to know about buying or selling a home during the age of coronavirus so that you can have a successful move.

Lending Standards are Stricter

One of the most notable changes in the real estate world is that lenders are setting stricter criteria for mortgages during the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that lenders are raising minimum borrower requirements, such as credit scores, down payments, and employment history. These tighter standards are shrinking the pool of eligible applicants for mortgage lending, so both buyers and sellers may need to look at more flexible alternatives.

For buyers who have a credit score around 660 or lower, you may need to search for a lender who will underwrite your mortgage. If you find one who will do that, just be aware that you will probably have to pay a higher interest rate. Buyers in expensive areas could look into an 80/10/10 loan, which allows you to take out a first and second mortgage simultaneously. This takes care of 90% of the home's price, so you would only be responsible for a 10% down payment.

For sellers, you could deepen your buyer pool by offering owner financing. This means that the buyer will pay you, the homeowner, in regular payments until the house is paid off. Often, the seller will keep the property's title in their name until the buyer pays it in full. Typically, the homeowner will add interest and require a down payment, just as a traditional lender does. Unlike a traditional lender, however, you won't be denying a potential buyer just because they have a credit score that's too low. The buyer will sign a promissory note that outlines the conditions of the deal and if they don't uphold the contract, they can default and end up among the 143,105 foreclosure filings that occur in the U.S. in a single quarter. The buyer will then lose all of the money they put into the house, giving buyers an extra incentive to make all of their payments on time and in full.

Buyers Will Rely on Photos and Videos

As open houses are not allowed in many locations and they have certain restrictions in others, buyers are now relying on live video tours and looking through online photo albums to view homes. This makes it important for sellers to ensure that their home looks its absolute best through videos and photos. To do this, they need to know what buyers look for most. For instance, about 90% of Americans prefer to live in homes that are surrounded by grass lawns. Before you post photos and videos of your home, make sure that your landscaping looks lush and well-maintained to entice all of those lawn-loving buyers. You can do more research to discover what buyers in your area prioritize the most and then build your home's online profile in a way that highlights those features.

In place of traditional in-person home showings, real estate agents are now using video conferencing technology such as Zoom and FaceTime. Some are also live streaming showings on platforms like Facebook and Instagram to show a home to groups of interested buyers, much like an open house. If you're among the 11% of sellers who sell their property FSBO (for sale by owner), you can also utilize this technology as long as you have a smartphone or tablet with internet access. As the homeowner, you may even do a better job showing your home virtually than a real estate agent because you know the space and can provide buyers a more in-depth look.

Inspectors Go on Their Own

In a pre-coronavirus world, buyers and real estate agents would be there for the home inspection. This allowed them to see exactly what the home inspector sees and ask any questions they have on the spot. However, in locations where inspectors are still allowed to work, they now have to go through the home on their own and share photos, videos, and reports with buyers.

With this change, buyers need to make sure that they understand every aspect of the inspection. If you're buying a home right now, you likely haven't seen the home in-person either, so you have to rely on the inspector to catch any issues with the home. Be sure to review the materials carefully and to ask the inspector any questions you may have. If you're selling a home and still living in it, talk with the inspector about what precautions they're taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The American Society of Home Inspectors has released a list of recommended precautions their members should take, so it can be helpful for you to have that list on hand when you're having this conversation with the inspector.

While buying or selling a home during the COVID-19 pandemic certainly isn't easy, it is possible. Remember to make the necessary adjustments to adhere to social distancing measures and to be a bit more flexible with things like financing. With the right precautions, you'll be able to successfully navigate the COVID-19 real estate market.

Planning To Sell Your House? Then Declutter — Now!

By Erin E. Arvedlund, The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)

PHILADELPHIA — Tom Sauerman and his wife, Sue, are still active in their Philadelphia neighborhood and continue to be members of its seniors club. He is a former president of the community council.

But after 35 years, they made a deliberate decision to sell their beloved home and move into a continuing-care retirement community not far away.

“We moved two years ago, when I was 77 and my wife was 74, and we were both in good health,” Tom Sauerman recalls.

Their journey offers a road map for those contemplating independent- or assisted-living facilities or retirement homes.

Start by developing a plan and a timetable; allow up to two years to complete the process. When selling a house, engage a real estate agent who knows your neighborhood well, and don’t overvalue the property. And finally, Sauerman advises, “start decluttering — now!”

The couple recognized opposing forces at work. One was the urge to stay put.

“We were in good health, so there was no rush. We could wait on selling the house until the market improved, put off all that downsizing work. Our friends thought we were crazy to leave before needing to go anywhere,” he says.

The other was their desire to go forward in life.

“Do it while you’re in control of everything,” he says. “Don’t wait until you have to depend on your kids to help sell the house, make the move or care for the remaining spouse. The sooner you get out from under house and property care, the sooner you can be free of those expenses and concerns, the sooner you can really enjoy retirement and have the time to do what gives you pleasure.”

Financial advisers are a must when shopping for a retirement-home option.

“When I have a client who’s looking at a retirement facility, I tell them that they should insist on getting the financials from that place,” says Mark Blair, founder of Blair Wealth Management, a registered investment adviser.

“People sometimes buy into communities which are poorly managed or go bankrupt. Make sure to have someone with a finance background analyze the establishment’s financial records and ask: Are they overly leveraged? Does the retirement place have a lot of debt? Or are they in good shape?”

Blair has personally dealt with these questions: A sibling with multiple sclerosis lives in a nursing home locally, at a cost of about $13,000 a month.

“Any institution should provide you audited financials,” he says. “If they won’t provide it, look elsewhere. Why should they hide that from you?”

Costs range from $40,000 to $100,000 a year for an independent living community, depending on how upscale you want it to be, says Blair.

A continuing-care retirement community usually requires a purchase of about $400,000, plus maintenance fees.

Assisted-living facilities average yearly costs of $44,000 to $53,000, Blair estimates.

The Sauermans looked at more than a dozen places before settling on Cathedral Village in Philadelphia.

“The first one we liked, we requested its financial reports and sent them to our banker son. He and a nursing-home specialist in his bank’s commercial loan department reviewed them. The facility was heavily financed and could result in sizable annual increases of the monthly fees,” Sauerman says.

Coping With The Clutter

Decluttering “holds people back from starting to act on their future,” Sauerman says.

After 57 years of marriage, the couple had every closet jammed. “Today, we live in a two-bedroom apartment and have yet to find something that we ‘need’ from our former home,” he says.

They began with a “men’s weekend” with two sons and a grandson to initiate the decluttering while Sue Sauerman visited a friend. Tom chose to attack the worst of it: an attic full of clothes, some of which his wife wore in high school. A local theater’s wardrobe mistress took some; the rest went to Goodwill.

The Sauermans invited their entire family the following Christmas for a final visit to the homestead, flying in everyone from Colorado, South Dakota, Illinois, and New York. The couple put everything in the basement and told the relatives to take their pick.

To their shock, little was claimed. “Our choices of china, pictures, knickknacks, furniture, all that, were as different to them as our parents’ and grandparents’ possessions were to us when we were their age,” he says.

A Long Process

They reviewed everything in three passes over many months. First, they threw out things they didn’t want to take with them and that were of little value. Next, they sorted things of enough value to be sold. Then they faced the reality of that two-bedroom apartment. Valuable items went to an auction house; the piano, to a piano dealer.

“It’s painful to realize that your family members don’t value your treasures as much as you do. It’s unsettling to put them up for sale at a tenth of their original price. … If you try to get what you consider as ‘full value,’ you’ll go crazy,” Sauerman says.

Instead, focus on the pleasure and use that these things provided, he says. “You can’t move forward with all this ‘stuff’ holding you back.”

Photo: Tom and Sue Sauerman moved to a retirement community before they needed to. “We were in good health,” Tom Sauerman said, “so there was no rush. We could wait on selling the house until the market improved.” (Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

U.S. Pending Home Sales Slip In June

Washington (AFP) — U.S. pending home sales slipped in June, the first decline after three months of gains, the National Association of Realtors said Monday.

The NAR’s pending home sales index fell 1.1 percent in June to 102.7.

The decline in the forward-looking indicator, which is based on contract signings, was modestly stronger than analysts’ consensus estimate of 0.8 percent drop.

It followed a 6.0 percent jump in May that pushed the index above 100 — considered an average level of contract activity — for the first time since last November.

“The data will keep open the debate over whether the recovery in housing is getting back on track. We believe it is, but reports are clearly still mixed,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said that the steadying housing market faces a number of challenges holding it back from its full sales potential.

“Activity is notably higher than earlier this year as prices have moderated and inventory levels have improved,” he said in a statement.

“However, supply shortages still exist in parts of the country, wages are flat, and tight credit conditions are deterring a higher number of potential buyers from fully taking advantage of lower interest rates.”

Still, Yun predicted a “slight uptick” in sales during the second half of the year as the supply of houses on the market grows, putting a damper on price increases.

For 2014, he projected existing-home sales, which account for most of the US market, will fall 2.8 percent to 4.95 million, from 5.1 million in 2013.

NAR predicts US existing-home prices will increase by 5-6 percent this year and in 2015.

AFP Photo/Justin Sullivan

Interested in national news? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!

U.S. Existing-Home Sales Leap To Eight-Month High

Washington (AFP) — Sales of existing U.S. homes in June hit the highest level in eight months as home price gains slowed to “more welcoming levels,” the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday.

Sales of existing homes, the majority of the U.S. housing market, climbed 2.6 percent to an annual rate of 5.04 million in June, the highest pace since October 2013, NAR reported.

The May sales rate was revised upward to 4.91 million from 4.89 million.

June sales of single-family homes, townhomes, condos, and co-ops came in slightly stronger than the analyst consensus estimate of 5.0 million units.

“This is the third increase in a row, the highest level since October and, combined with the upward revision to May, is very encouraging,” said Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.

Year-over-year, June sales were 2.3 percent lower, reflecting the housing market’s struggle to recover from a long soft patch due to higher mortgage interest rates, lack of inventory that pushed prices higher, and high unemployment. In May, the rate was down 5.0 percent from a year ago.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said housing fundamentals were moving in the right direction but that new home construction was needed to curb price gains.

“Inventories are at their highest level in over a year and price gains have slowed to much more welcoming levels in many parts of the country. This bodes well for rising home sales in the upcoming months as consumers are provided with more choices,” Yun said.

“On the contrary, new home construction needs to rise by at least 50 percent for a complete return to a balanced market because supply shortages — particularly in the West — are still putting upward pressure on prices.”

Housing inventory rose 2.2 percent in June to 2.30 million homes for sale, a 5.5-month supply at the current sales pace, unchanged from May.

The median price for all housing types climbed to $223,300, up 4.3 percent from a year ago. June marked the 28th month in a row of year-over-year price gains.

AFP Photo / Justin Sullivan

Interested in news on the economy? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!

New-Home Sales Tumble In March; Prices Rise

By Andrew Khouri, Los Angeles Times

New home sales plunged in March, another sign the spring home-buying season has started with a whimper.

Sales of recently built single-family homes fell 14.5 percent from February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 384,000, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Sales dropped 13.3 percent compared with March 2013.

The March data missed expectations, after economists predicted an increase from February as the home-buying season got underway.

Many economists blamed severe weather for weak housing data at the beginning of the year. But there’s more behind the recent slowdown, particularly the increasingly high cost of housing.

Many would-be buyers have struggled to adjust after prices surged and mortgage rates increased last year.

New-home sales rose 12.5 percent from February in the Northeast, the only region to see an increase. Sales dropped 16.7 percent in the West, a major home-building region.

The median price for a new house nationwide was $290,000, up from $257,500 a year earlier.

Photo: Dougtone via Flickr

U.S. Pending Home Sales Fall Again In February

Washington (AFP) — U.S. pending home sales continued to sag in February, declining for the eighth straight month amid higher prices and higher mortgage rates, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday.

The NAR pending home sales index, based on contract signings, fell to 93.9 last month from 94.7 in January.

February’s level was the lowest since October 2011. A year ago, the index stood at 104.9.

A combination of tight supplies, rising prices and, at the same time, rising mortgage loan rates has put a dent in home buying.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said harsh winter weather had been an ingredient as well in the slowdown, and that rising new home construction could spur a rebound in buying as the cold weather ebbs.

“Buyer traffic information from our monthly realtor survey shows a modest turnaround, and some weather delayed transactions should close in the spring,” he said in a statement.

NAR expects 5.0 million sales of existing or used homes this year, slightly less than last year. But it sees a 19 percent rise in new home construction as well, to about 1.1 million units. / Justin Sullivan