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6 Upgrades That’ll Help Sell Your Home During the Pandemic—and Beyond

September 24, 2020

home improvements to make before you sell

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If you imagined 2020 was the year you would finally list your house for sale, you may have hit the brakes on those plans when the coronavirus pandemic arrived.

But now, we’re more than six months into the COVID-19 era with no clear end in sight. As many people continue working and logging in to school from home, the real estate market is again heating up with buyers eager to upgrade to a new home.

So stop putting it off: Now is the time to step on the gas in preparing your home to sell. We talked with experts to learn which home improvements will hit the right note with buyers during the pandemic (and beyond).

1. Upgrade your outdoor space

Most of us are suffering from an acute case of cabin fever these days. It’s little wonder that outdoor space has become more important than ever to prospective buyers.

“Even pools are becoming more popular in areas where they weren’t before,” says Bill Walker, chief operating officer of Kukun, a web resource for home improvements.

That doesn’t mean you need to splurge on a new in-ground pool; even a minor landscaping refresh can make a big difference and increase curb appeal. Depending on your budget and your neighborhood, you might also consider adding an in-ground fire pit or outdoor kitchen to maximize your outdoor space.

If you live in a cooler climate, extending the usability of your outdoor space will be a big draw for buyers.

“Get a low-cost outdoor heater and area rug to stage the space as an outdoor living room,” says Francie Malina, a real estate agent in New York’s Westchester County.

2. Create a functional home office or classroom

Many workers aren’t heading back to the office until 2021 or even later, which means home office space is at a premium, along with space for kids to log in to their virtual classrooms.

“People need a dedicated space for multiple people to be able to be on calls at the same time,” says Walker, who currently works at home alongside his wife, and his kids attending school virtually. “It definitely creates challenges when we all need to be on calls and need space to work.

Even if you don’t need two home offices or a remote learning station for your own family, consider staging your home to show the possibilities for buyers.

“Staging a guest bedroom as a home office or classroom is a good idea,” Walker says. “The potential buyer can see the room being used in a versatile way and visualize it for themselves.”

Plus, most of us host guests in our guest rooms for less than a month per year, Walker says—and probably even less during the pandemic.

3. Add separation of space

Open floor plans are so 2019.

“Open floor plans are losing a bit of luster,” Malina says. “Homeowners are looking for distinct spaces for family members to work or study.”

If your space isn’t well-segmented, you may want to create separate spaces by adding barn doors or pocket doors—or even room dividers for a quick and easy solution.

Having distinct rooms helps to minimize volume from other people’s activities, and can also create a different feeling in each part of the house.

“As people are spending more time at home, they want room and different environments to not feel stuck inside,” Walker says.

4. Add space for a home gym

Many people are forgoing the gym during the pandemic, preferring to work up a sweat from home to minimize risks of coronavirus transmission. That means people are looking for space to house gym equipment, from yoga mats to treadmills and stationary bikes.

Your home may not have the space for a fully equipped home gym, but you can still carve out a corner where home buyers will be able to picture their future at-home HIIT workouts or yoga flows.

5. Give your in-law suite a makeover

If you have a guest house, this can be an attractive feature for buyers right now—especially those with multigenerational households, or people looking for a potential source of rental income.

“With people bringing elderly family members home, [additional dwelling units] are a good option, especially if there is a kitchen and bathroom,” Walker says. “Even if this space isn’t used for personal reasons, it can be an investment property.”

6. Spruce up the laundry room

Concerns about cleanliness and hygiene have been at an all-time high during the pandemic, which means “laundry rooms are more important than pre-COVID,” Malina says.

People are doing laundry more often after running errands, and many of us have become more diligent about washing our bed linens. Plus, who couldn’t use more room for ironing, folding, and hang-drying clothes?

“Having a dedicated space to do laundry is a wonderful luxury, and buyers often want the space to be beautiful like the rest of their homes,” Malina says.

The post 6 Upgrades That’ll Help Sell Your Home During the Pandemic—and Beyond appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

The Next Room To Boom: How To Promote Your Home Office Space and Draw in Buyers

September 11, 2020

home office

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It’s been six months since many of us were last in the office, tapping away on our ergonomic keyboards and drawing on whiteboards in conference rooms during (gasp!) in-person meetings.

Since then, we’ve been forced to find a new path forward in our homes, to create feasible workspaces where there really are none. And frankly, the kitchen table just isn’t cutting it anymore.

Buyer demand for home office space has accelerated during the pandemic. In a realtor.com® survey conducted this summer, 63% of respondents indicated that they plan to buy a new home in light of their ability to work remotely. And, on average, listings featuring a home office command a 3.4% price premium and sell nine days faster than listings without one, according to realtor.com data.

“Showcasing a dedicated working area can help attract buyers to your property,” says Jennifer Smith, a real estate agent at Southern Dream Homes.

So, sellers, take note: If you have a home office, now’s the time to promote it. Here’s how to set up a space that will bring in the buyers and seal the deal.

Be mindful when converting a room into a home office

If you don’t have an official home office, you might be frantically looking around your house, wondering which room could be converted into a workspace. But before you go all in swapping out guest beds for built-in desks and bookshelves, know this: While buyers are looking for home office space, bedrooms still take priority, according to real estate agent Susan Bozinovic of Century 21 Town & Country. And you could inadvertently turn off buyers if one of your three bedrooms suddenly works only as a home office.

Instead, look for opportunities to create dual-purpose spaces. After all, you’re probably not entertaining many guests during the pandemic (we hope), so now’s a great time to create a combination guest room and office. Remove the bed, and replace it with a sleeper sofa or love seat.

“This will result in less visual clutter while you’re working in the room, but allow it to easily be transformed back to a bedroom for guests,” says Smith.

Choose a free-standing desk to fit the space without overwhelming it. Or consider a wall-mounted desk as an alternative.

“They can be installed in virtually any room of a home and can be easily put away when not in use,” says Smith.

And don’t forget to update the closet.

Maximize your closet space with shelves and containers to store office and bedroom supplies, while also making the space available to store your guests’ belongings,” recommends Smith.

Short on bedrooms? Try carving out space in another area such as the dining room. Keep the dining table, but remove the buffet or remove the leaves in the table and extra chairs to make room for a chair and desk.

“As a seller, you are not erasing the dining room, but signaling to the buyer that the room can be repurposed further to suit an office,” says Bozinovic.

Pick a quiet area

The noisy central hub of any home is hardly conducive to productivity, so setting up a workspace in the kitchen or the TV room isn’t likely to woo buyers. If you currently don’t have a designated home office, consider the location when staging one.

“It’s best to choose a room with adequate space that’s far from the main living spaces and not frequented by family members or guests,” Smith advises.

Transform an unused area into a workspace

Take a look around at the underused areas in your home, and you can probably find a place to carve out a workspace buyers will covet. If you have a finished, walkout basement, you can turn that into a comfy and private workspace. The area underneath the staircase or the dead space at the top of a staircase, or even an alcove, makes a compact office.

If you have no choice but to set up a home office in the main area of the house, present it in the most appealing way possible.

“Separate the work area from the rest of the room with portable dividers such as a curtain, a folding screen, partition wall, or even tall houseplants,” says Smith.

Keep the area tidy, and neatly bundle up computer and extension cords. Illuminate a poorly lit zone with a small desk lamp.

Flaunt connectivity

If you have access to dependable and fast internet, flaunt it. Buyers are looking to make sure there are enough outlets, ways to minimize cords, and locations for wall-mounted routers, Bozinovic says.

Also critically important is the quality of the Wi-Fi. Buyers want dependable and fast internet with ample bandwidth to be productive at home.

Stage your home office as you would the rest of your house

If you already have a dedicated home office, the time-honored advice of staging—beginning with a clean and clutter-free space, void of personal objects—stands true. If needed, invest in fashionable, functional office storage options like wall shelves or a filing cabinet, Smith says.

“For decorating and design, it’s best to keep colors neutral and avoid bright paint or busy patterns on the walls,” she adds.

But the office shouldn’t be too bland. Create ambiance with pops of color in office essentials such as an area rug, houseplants in pretty pots, or fresh flowers. If blinds are the only window covering, consider buying some curtains or drapes to add warmth. Be sure to raise blinds, draw the curtains to the side to allow natural light, and feature a lovely view if you have one.

The desk should be featured prominently in the room, Bozinovic says. After all, it is the main component. Facing the desk to the entrance looks more dramatic, hides background clutter, and enhances the room’s purpose—all while offering a welcoming atmosphere.

The post The Next Room To Boom: How To Promote Your Home Office Space and Draw in Buyers appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

5 Rampant Mortgage Myths You’ll Hear These Days—Completely Debunked

August 14, 2020

Woman looking at financial papers

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These days, things are changing so fast, it’s tough to keep up. That’s especially true in the mortgage industry, where interest rates and the overall home loan landscape are shifting with such head-spinning speed, it’s easy for outdated information to circulate, leading home buyers and homeowners astray.

You may have heard, for instance, that everyone can score a record-low interest rate, or that refinancing is a no-brainer, or that mortgage forbearance means you don’t have to pay back your loan, ever. Sorry, but none of these rumors is true—and falling for them could cost you dearly.

To help home buyers and homeowners separate fact from fiction, we asked experts to highlight some rampant mortgage mistruths out there today. Whether you’re looking to buy or refinance, these are some reality checks you’ll be glad to know.

Myth No. 1: Everyone qualifies for low interest rates

There’s a lot of buzz about record-low mortgage interest rates lately. Most recently, a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped to 2.88% for the week of Aug. 6, according to Freddie Mac.

This is great news for borrowers, but here’s the rub: “Not everyone will qualify for the lowest rates,” explains Danielle Hale, chief economist at realtor.com®.

So who stands to get the best rates? Namely, borrowers with a good credit score, Hale says. Most lenders require a minimum credit score of about 620. Some lenders might require an even higher threshold (more on that later).

Your credit score isn’t the only factor affecting what interest rate you get. It also depends on the size of your down payment, type of home, type of loan, and much more. So, keep your expectations in check, and make sure to shop around to increase the odds you’ll get a good rate.

Myth No. 2: Getting a mortgage today is easy

Many assume today’s low interest rates mean that getting a mortgage will be a breeze. On the contrary, these low rates mean just about everyone is trying to get a mortgage, or refinance the one they have. This glut of applicants, combined with the uncertain economy, means some lenders may actually tighten loan requirements.

In fact, a realtor.com analysis found that 5% to 20% of potential borrowers may struggle to get a mortgage because of these stricter standards. And getting a mortgage could become even tougher if the recession gets worse.

For example, some lenders may also require higher minimum credit scores and larger down payments. In April, JPMorgan Chase began requiring a 700 minimum credit score and 20% down payment.

Jason Lee, executive vice president and director of capital markets at Flagstar Bank, says some lenders aren’t offering the loans that are considered riskier—such as jumbo loans, which exceed the conforming loan limit (for 2020, that max is $510,400).

“There aren’t as many loan products available,” Lee says.

And even if you do manage to get a loan, it may take longer than you’d typically expect.

“Based on low rates and a high volume of refinances, loans are taking longer to complete from application to closing,” says Staci Titsworth, a regional mortgage manager for PNC Bank.

As such, borrowers should ask their lender how long the process will take to close, and make sure they’re aware of the expiration date on the interest rate they’ve locked in—since with rates this low, they could go up.

“Most lenders are locking in the customer’s interest rate so it’s protected from market fluctuations,” Titsworth adds.

Myth No. 3: Everyone should refinance their mortgage

“With mortgage rates hovering near record lows, a refinance can make sense and can help free up monthly cash flow,” Hale says.

Still, not everyone should refinance. Homeowners should make sure to take a good hard look at their situation to see whether it makes sense for them.

For one, it will depend on your current interest rate. If it’s low already, it may not be worth the trouble—particularly since refinancing comes with fees amounting to around 2% to 6% of your loan amount.

Given these upfront costs, refinancing often makes sense only if you plan to remain in your house for a while.

In general, “refinancing is a good idea for homeowners who plan to live in the same home for several years, because they will reap the monthly savings over a longer time period,” Hale explains.

Myth No. 4: You can apply for a mortgage after you’ve found a home

Many people assume that you can find your dream home first, then apply for the mortgage. But that’s backward—now more than ever. Today, your first stop when shopping for a house should be a mortgage lender or broker, who can get you pre-approved for a home loan.

For “a buyer in a competitive market, it’s typically essential to have pre-approval done in order to submit an offer, so getting it done before you even look at homes is a smart move that will enable a buyer to move fast to put an offer in on the right home,” Hale says.

Mortgage pre-approval is all the more essential in the era of the coronavirus pandemic. Why? Because many home sellers, leery of letting just anyone tour their home, want to know a buyer is serious—and has the cash and financing to make a firm offer. As such, some real estate agents and sellers require a pre-approval letter before a potential buyer can view a home in person.

Nonetheless, according to a realtor.com survey conducted in June of over 2,000 active home shoppers who plan to purchase a home in the next 12 months, only 52% obtained a pre-approval letter before beginning their home search, which means nearly half of home buyers are missing this crucial piece of paperwork.

Aside from getting their foot in the door of homes they want to see, home buyers benefit from pre-approval in other ways. Since pre-approval lets you know exactly how much money a lender will loan you, it also helps you target the right homes within your budget.

After all, as Lee points out, “You don’t want to get your heart set on a home only to find out you can’t afford it.”

Myth No. 5: Mortgage forbearance means you don’t have to pay back your loan

The record unemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic means millions of Americans have struggled to pay their mortgages. To get some relief, many have been granted mortgage forbearance.

Nearly 8% of mortgages, or 3.8 million homeowners, were in forbearance as of July 26, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The problem? Many mistakenly assume that mortgage forbearance means you won’t have to pay your loan, period. But forbearance means different things for different homeowners, depending on the terms of the mortgage and what type of arrangement was worked out with the lender.

“Forbearance is not forgiveness,” Lee says. “Rather, it’s a timeout from having to make a mortgage payment where your servicer—the company you send your mortgage payments to—will ensure that negative impacts to your credit report and late fees will not occur. However, because forbearance is not forgiveness, you will need to reach some sort of resolution with your loan servicer about the missed payments.”

The paused payments may be added to the back end of the loan or repaid over time.

“It does not forgive the payments, meaning the borrower still owes the money,” Hale says. “The specifics of when payments need to be made up will vary from borrower to borrower.”

The post 5 Rampant Mortgage Myths You’ll Hear These Days—Completely Debunked appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Is a Pandemic a Good—or Horrible—Time To Buy a Vacation Home?

August 5, 2020

buying a vacation home during pandemic

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With most of us cooped up in our apartments or houses, it may be tempting to pull the trigger and finally purchase the vacation home you’ve always dreamed about.

After all, mortgage rates are hitting record lows, and a change of scenery sounds awfully sweet right about now. If you can swing it, why not?

Reality check: We’re also living through a time of economic uncertainty. You could lose your job or find yourself up against a major financial challenge in the weeks or months to come.

Then, who knows when the economy will recover from the effects of the pandemic? Is this really a good time to take the plunge on a second home?

The answer depends on your individual financial situation and your plans for the future. We talked to experts to help weigh the pros and cons of investing in a vacation property right now.

Con: This could be a risky time to buy…

“Even though real estate is one of the more sound investments you can make, do you have the tolerance for risk that comes with it?” asks Jen Horner, a real estate agent based in Salt Lake City.

If you see yourself being ready to sell off your second home in just a few years, you should probably hold off on buying, and stick to renting in your dream destination.

If you only plan to keep the property for the short term, you’re more likely to expose yourself to risk and market volatility when it comes time to sell; who knows if your home will retain value over the next few years?

Pro: …but with low interest rates, now could be a great time to invest

“For those with the income stability … purchasing a second home may make a lot of sense,” says James Duncan, director of education and engagement at Thrive Mortgage in Georgetown, TX.

“Lower interest rates have boosted purchasing power, and for those who have ‘buy-and-hold’ mentalities, there likely has not been a better time to buy.”

That means if you plan to purchase a property that you’ll keep for years to come, you’ll be in a good position to weather the twists and turns of a volatile economy in the months (and years) ahead.

“Real estate is always a good investment, provided you have the right financial strategy in place,” Duncan says.

Ultimately, if you’re unsure about it, talk over your situation with your agent and your financial planner to decide if now is the right time to buy.

“Very good Realtors® will not only walk you through the financial steps to ensure a good investment, but will also do their due diligence to ensure you’re investing in the right area with growth,” Horner says.

Con: Getting a mortgage has gotten trickier

“In the age of COVID-19, the primary concern for all lenders has been the continuity of income,” Duncan says.

As a result, buyers are jumping through more hoops than ever to prove that they’ll be able to pay a mortgage.

Before the pandemic, lenders would run a few employment verifications before approving a new loan for a home buyer.

These days, some lenders are running checks seven—or even 10—times before approving a loan. If you lose any source of income during the buying process, that could jeopardize your ability to purchase a second home.

Pro: You can offset the cost of your vacation home by renting it out

If you buy a second home in a popular vacation spot, you could tap into a new source of income by listing your place on sites like Airbnb and VRBO.

Just keep in mind that renting your home to vacationers will add extra responsibilities to your plate, including maintaining the property, keeping photos and descriptions up to date, and cleaning between guests.

The possibility of rental income also comes with a major COVID caveat: During the pandemic, travel restrictions and cleaning logistics have made renting more complicated for hosts.

Be sure you understand what you’re getting into before you bank on rental income.

Con: The market where you’re buying might take a while to recover from the pandemic

Do your homework on the area where you want to buy. What kind of travel restrictions are in place? Will you be able to enjoy the natural beauty of the location, even if the restaurants and attractions are closed? Or will social distancing dampen the appeal?

You also need to consider what this means for your property value.

“If the local economy is largely driven by tourism, is it resilient enough to withstand downturns which could then impact property values?” Duncan asks.

Work with your agent and financial planner to evaluate an area’s risk before you decide to buy.

Pro: You don’t have to be a multimillionaire to own a vacation property

If the idea of a vacation home seems out of reach, here’s some good news: It’s more feasible than you think.

“Second-home purchases are not just for high-net worth individuals,” Duncan says. “There are loads of opportunities for prospective borrowers at lower price points as well.”

If you’re willing to expand your search beyond the main drag or to take on a few renovation projects, you’ll have more options, at a lower price point.

That means you might need to look for homes near the water instead of on it, or to search for homes that need a little bit of updating. If you’re flexible and willing to put in a bit of elbow grease, it’s possible to make your vacation home dreams a reality.

The post Is a Pandemic a Good—or Horrible—Time To Buy a Vacation Home? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

5 Coronavirus Real Estate Myths Everyone Thinks Are True—Debunked

July 30, 2020

Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

Every day, our conversations online and off are filled with “did you hear this yet?” news about the coronavirus pandemic. And, alas, not all of what you hear is true—particularly when it comes to real estate.

For instance: Do you assume, as many do, that it’s a terrible time to sell a home since real estate prices are plummeting? On the contrary, the latest data shows that home prices and buyer demand are through the roof. Or have you heard that the coronavirus has forced all city dwellers to flee to the burbs? Some have, but the mass exodus you might envision is by no means the reality.

There’s a potential cost to these misguided beliefs: missing out on some profitable opportunities. For instance, home sellers sitting on the sidelines might be passing up the chance to make tons of money on their sale. Meanwhile, home buyers who wrongly assume they can’t schedule home tours right now might be forfeiting their chance to snag their dream home this summer—at record-low interest rates no less.

To help you separate the truths from the half-truths from the utter falsehoods that might be filling your social media feeds, here are five prevalent myths about real estate during the COVID-19 pandemic—and some much-needed reality checks.

1. It’s a terrible time to sell your home

Many home sellers who may have hoped to put their house on the market this summer have put those plans on hold. In early July, new home listings dropped 14% compared with a year ago, and total home inventory was 32% lower, according to realtor.com®’s Weekly Housing Trends report for July 11.

Fear of coronavirus exposure is probably the main reason people are keeping their homes off the market, but many might also assume that selling a home right now is just a futile endeavor, plagued by few home buyers and low prices.

But on the contrary, the latest statistics suggest that now is one of the best times in years to sell a home for several reasons.

“Given the pandemic and uncertainty it’s caused, the general sentiment [among some owners] is that now is not a good time to sell your home,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist at realtor.com. “Yet so far, the data suggests the opposite—that buyers outnumber sellers in the housing market, which means it’s better to be a seller than a buyer.”

The aforementioned low housing inventory is one reason why those who do list their homes will enjoy a strong seller’s market, characterized by bidding wars that could fetch them a high price.

“Multiple offers could be fairly common over the next few months,” predicts Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors®.

“As long as buyer demand remains strong, I expect the market to remain tipped in favor of sellers,” says Hale.

2. Home prices are plummeting

Data shows just the opposite: Home prices are actually rising.

According to the NAR, the national median price for single-family homes grew 7.7% during the first quarter of 2020, to $274,600.

“We’re seeing home prices grow faster than pre-COVID-19,” Hale says. “In fact, they are on pace with the home price growth we saw this time last year.”

The reason is record-low mortgage rates.

“Record-low mortgage rates boost buying power,” Yun says, “and, when combined with a lack of supply, will result in higher and higher home prices.”

3. Buyers are holding off on home purchases

According to NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index (a forward-looking glimpse at home sales based on contract signings), pending home sales jumped 44.3% in May, the largest month-over-month increase since the index’s inception in 2001.

Record-low interest rates are driving much of the buyer demand, Hale says.

Mortgage interest rates dipped below 3% for the first time in 50 years, to 2.98% as of July 16, according to Freddie Mac.

“Certainly low interest rates help,” says Karl Jacob, CEO of LoanSnap. “You can lock in a rate that you just wouldn’t even have been able to imagine six, seven months ago.”

One caveat: Not all borrowers will qualify for the lowest interest rate, Jacob says. A borrower’s debt-to-income ratio and credit score typically affect the type of loan and interest rates, so someone with large amounts of debt or a low credit score may be offered a higher rate.

And although the market is booming now, it may not remain that way for long depending on what unfolds.

“If [COVID-19] cases worsen and that leads to a broad reversal of reopenings, this could cause longer-term job loss that would put a dent in buyer demand,” says Hale.

4. Homes can’t be viewed in person

As states issued stay-at-home and social distancing mandates to stop the spread of COVID-19, many in-person home showings and open houses were put on hold temporarily in favor of virtual home tours. But by now, most of these restrictions are being lifted across the country so homes can be viewed in person—and real estate agents are taking extra precautions to protect buyers and sellers.

Peggy Zabakolas, a licensed real estate broker with Nest Seekers International, who specializes in Manhattan and Hamptons markets, says she’s been showing homes virtually. If a buyer is interested, she schedules an in-person showing that follows social distancing guidelines, and requires everyone involved to fill out a COVID-19 disclosure form and limitation of liability form. And, she’s sure to have gloves, masks, shoe coverings, and hand sanitizer on hand.

Hale says she’s also heard some real estate agents are requiring potential buyers to have pre-approval letters or review a home inspection report before they can see a home in person.

“These extra steps also weed out the nonserious buyers,” Zabakolas says. “If someone is willing to go through all those steps and then schedule a physical tour, you know they are serious.”

Important to note: With infection rates in some parts of the country rising, some restrictions on home showings may take hold again. Check with your local real estate professionals for current guidelines.

5. Everyone’s fleeing cities for the suburbs

This is probably the most rampant myth of all, and it certainly makes sense from a pure impulse level. Since urban centers like New York City make social distancing far more challenging than in less densely populated areas, why wouldn’t city dwellers flee en masse and try to buy a house in the burbs?

Well, this is only partly true. Yes, listings in the suburbs are drawing more attention these days. In May, the number of views on properties with suburban ZIP codes increased 13%, almost double those in urban areas, according to realtor.com data.

“We have seen home-buying demand recover faster in the suburbs and rural areas than urban areas,” Hale says. “There’s also evidence of home shoppers in cities that were hit early and hard by COVID-19, such as New York and Philadelphia, seeking homes in nearby smaller communities at a higher pace, like the Poconos.”

That doesn’t mean everyone is fleeing to the suburbs, though.

For one, unless you’re extremely wealthy, it’s not that easy to pick up and move. This is particularly true since, while a few companies have announced that their employees can work from home indefinitely, most firms haven’t decided yet whether their employees will one day have to return to the office.

As a result, many of those people surfing suburban real estate listings might not be all that serious about following through. They might fantasize about moving, but when it comes to making an offer on a house and packing up their belongings, many may prefer to stay put and see how the coronavirus pandemic shakes out first.

“This pandemic, although bad, will eventually pass,” points out Jacob. “And when it does, are people really going to stop wanting to be in a city? I just don’t think that’s the case. Even though you can get delivery from Grubhub every night, it doesn’t mean you’re never going to want to go out to a restaurant, and if you have to drive 30 minutes to a restaurant versus being able to walk around the corner, that’s a different lifestyle.”

The post 5 Coronavirus Real Estate Myths Everyone Thinks Are True—Debunked appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

The Insane Juggling Act of Trying To Buy and Sell a House During a Pandemic

July 27, 2020

buying and selling a home

John M Lund Photography Inc / Getty Images

Buying and selling a home simultaneously is a stressful juggling act at any point. So what’s it like to simultaneously buy and sell real estate during the coronavirus pandemic?

In April, my husband and I found out just how arduous this process could get when we decided to put our Chicago condo on the market. Our goal was to move out of state to live closer to family, and we’d hoped to time our property sale and purchase around the same time.

But the novel coronavirus quickly threw a wrench in these plans—and taught us a ton in the process. Here’s what we learned, which we hope will help other buyers and sellers navigate this process as smoothly as possible.

Vacate your house if you can

home selling
Our condo building in Chicago, where we lived for four years

realtor.com

The best thing I can recommend if you’re trying to sell your house right now is to try to stay elsewhere for the time your house is on the market. We decided to vacate our Chicago condo, and move into an apartment above my in-laws’ garage in Alabama.

Although it was a hassle to move out, it was crucial because our real estate agent was then able to schedule showings freely without having to work around our schedules—and there was less fear on both the buyer and seller ends about sanitizing home surfaces.

I believe moving out was key to our selling our home in less than two months. We officially closed the deal on July 8.

Be OK with not saying goodbye

The strangest thing about selling our home during the coronavirus pandemic was abruptly closing a chapter and beginning a new one without having those goodbye moments.

I’d hoped our last hurrah in Chicago would be filled with last meals at our favorite restaurants, going-away parties with our friends, and visiting all of our favorite coffee shops one more time. Instead, we spent our last days in Chicago packing up our place and eating microwave popcorn when we had an empty fridge and weren’t able to dine out.

While we were excited for what lay ahead, I grieved that old life that the coronavirus had caused to abruptly disappear before my eyes.

Selling during coronavirus
My office all cleaned out except for the rug, which the buyers negotiated to include in the sale.

Kelsey Ogletree

Expect the unexpected

After moving in above my in-laws’ garage in Alabama, we hit our new house hunt hard, and started shopping for a home in the area. We assumed we wouldn’t be living with my in-laws for long.

Alabama home
We’re staying in the apartment above the garage of my in-laws’ home in Alabama.

Kelsey Ogletree

At first, our timing seemed phenomenal: A few days after the contract on our condo in Chicago came through, we put in an offer on a home in Alabama.

Originally, we’d planned to close on our Chicago home sale and our Alabama home purchase back to back, a day apart. But our purchase fell through for a variety of reasons, including inspection and loan approval issues.

We were crushed, but realized that closing on both homes within a 24-hour period would have involved an insane amount of stress and paperwork.

House that fell through
The home we’d planned to purchase had a beautiful backyard.

Kelsey Ogletree

Look at the big picture

I struggled emotionally with uprooting my family and moving in with my in-laws. We went from living states away to seeing them nearly ’round the clock. Even though we had our own tiny kitchen above the garage, we ended up eating most meals at their house, and it’s by far the most time we’ve ever spent together.

It was a difficult adjustment for the first month or so, as I mourned our former life as a busy young couple in Chicago. Our nights dining at buzzy restaurants and walking along the riverfront were replaced by family dinners around a kitchen table. I just wasn’t ready for so much togetherness.

However, now nearly five months into this living arrangement, I’ve become more appreciative. I’m embracing this time spent with family. Even if this arrangement continues a few more months, in the scheme of our lives, it will just be a blip on the radar.

Garage apartment
We’ve living and working in the same tight space for now.

Kelsey Ogletree

Accept that things might not work out perfectly

We thought we had it all figured out: selling one home and buying another that we’d move straight into after closing. When that didn’t work out, we struggled with feeling “homeless” and not having a place to actually move our things to.

But we’ve now learned that things happen for the best, and that there’s no reason to stress about finding a new place. Our things are in storage nearby, ready to go when we are. We’re taking our time figuring out the next best move for our family. Meanwhile, we are fortunate to have a place to stay, and a rare opportunity to spend a lot of time with family.

Garage kitchen
I learned to love washing dishes in this tiny apartment kitchen.

Kelsey Ogletree

The post The Insane Juggling Act of Trying To Buy and Sell a House During a Pandemic appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Is Your Mortgage Forbearance Ending Soon? What To Do Next

July 14, 2020

mortgage forbearance

SEAN GLADWELL / Getty Images

Millions of Americans struggling to make their monthly mortgage payments because of COVID-19 have received relief through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

But mortgage forbearance is only temporary, and set to expire soon, leaving many homeowners who are still struggling perplexed on what to do next.

Enacted in March, the CARES Act initially granted a 180-day forbearance, or pause in payments, to homeowners with mortgages backed by the federal government or a government-sponsored enterprise such as Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Furthermore, some private lenders also granted mortgage forbearance of 90 days or more to financially distressed homeowners.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, 8.39% of loans were in forbearance as of June 28, representing an estimated 4.2 million homeowners nationwide.

So what are affected homeowners to do when the forbearance goes away? You have options, so it’s well worth contacting your lender to explore what’s best for you.

“If you know you’re going to be unable to meet the terms of your forbearance agreement at its maturity, you should call your loan servicer immediately and see what options they may be able to offer to you,” says Abel Carrasco, mortgage loan originator at Motto Mortgage Advisors in St. Petersburg, FL.

Exactly what’s available depends on the fine print in the terms of your mortgage forbearance agreement. Here’s an overview of some possible avenues to explore if you still can’t pay your mortgage after the forbearance period ends.

Extend your mortgage forbearance

One simple option is to contact your lender to request an extension.

Homeowners granted forbearance under the CARES Act can request a 180-day extension, giving them a total of 360 days of forbearance, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The key is to contact your lender well before your forbearance expires. If you let it expire without an extension, your lender could impose penalties.

“If you just stop making regular, scheduled payments, you could have a late mortgage payment on your credit,” warns Carrasco. “That could severely impact refinancing or purchasing another property in the immediate future and potentially subject you to foreclosure.”

Keep in mind, though, a forbearance simply delays payments, meaning they’ll still need to be made in the future. It doesn’t mean payments are forgiven.

Refinance to lower your mortgage payment

Mortgage interest rates are at all-time lows, hovering around 3%. So if you can swing it, this may be a great time to refinance your home, says Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree.

Refinancing could come with some hefty fees, however, ranging from 2% to 6% of your loan amount. But it could be worth it.

A lower interest rate will likely lower your monthly payment and save you thousands over the life of your mortgage. Dropping your interest rate from 4.125% to 3% could save more than $40,000 over 30 years, for example, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“Lenders have tightened standards, though, so you will need to show that you are a good candidate for refinancing,” Kapfidze says. You’ll need a good credit score of 620 or higher.

As long as you’ve kept up your end of the forbearance terms, having a mortgage forbearance shouldn’t affect your credit score, or your ability to refinance or qualify for another mortgage.

Ask for a loan modification

Many lenders are offering an assortment of programs to help homeowners under hardship because of the pandemic, says Christopher Sailus, vice president and mortgage product manager at WaFd Bank.

“Lenders quickly recognized the severity of the economic situation due to the pandemic, and put programs into place to defer payments or help reduce them,” he says.

A loan modification is one such option. This enables homeowners at risk of default to change the terms of their original mortgage—such as payment amount, interest rate, or length of the loan—to reduce monthly payments and clear up any delinquencies.

Loan modifications may affect your credit score, but not as much as a foreclosure. Some lenders charge fees for loan modifications, but others, like WaFd, provide them at no cost.

Put your home on the market

It may seem like a strange time to sell your home, with COVID-19 cases growing, unemployment rising, and the economy on shaky ground. But, it’s actually a great time to sell a house.

Pending home sales jumped 44.3% in May, according to the National Association of Realtors®’ Pending Home Sales Index, the largest month-over-month growth since the index began in 2001.

Home inventory remains low, and buyer demand is up with many hoping to jump on the low interest rates. Prices are up, too. The national median home price increased 7.7% in the first quarter of 2020, to $274,600, according to NAR.

So if you can no longer afford your home and have plenty of equity built up, listing your home may be a smart move. (Home equity is the market value of your home minus how much you still owe on your mortgage.)

Consider foreclosure as a last resort

Foreclosure may be the only option for many homeowners, especially if you fall too behind on your mortgage payments and can’t afford to sell or refinance. In May, more than 7% of mortgages were delinquent, a 20% increase from April, according to mortgage data and analytics firm Black Knight.

“When to begin a foreclosure process will vary from lender to lender and client to client,” Sailus says. “Current and future state and federal legislation, statutes, or regulations will impact the process, as will the individual homeowner’s situation and their ability to repay.”

Foreclosures won’t begin until after a forbearance period ends, he adds.

The CARES Act prohibited lenders from foreclosing on mortgages backed by the government or government-sponsored enterprise until at least Aug. 31. Several states, including California and Connecticut, also issued temporary foreclosure moratoriums and stays.

Once these grace periods (and forbearance timelines) end, and homeowners miss payments, they could face foreclosure, Carrasco says. When a loan is flagged as being in foreclosure, the balance is due and legal fees accumulate, requiring homeowners to pay off the loan (usually by selling) and vacating the property.

“Absent participation in an agreed-upon forbearance, deferment, repayment plan, or loan modification, loan servicers historically may begin the foreclosure process after as few as three months of missed mortgage payments,” he explains. “This is unfortunately often the point of no return.”

The post Is Your Mortgage Forbearance Ending Soon? What To Do Next appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

How Unemployment Can Affect Your Plans To Buy a Home—Now and Later

June 19, 2020

unemployment

thianchai sitthikongsak / Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has led to record-high unemployment rates not seen since the Great Depression. And this is particularly worrisome for would-be home buyers.

If you were among the 23.1 million Americans who were laid off or furloughed, you might be worried about your financial future. And if you were hoping to buy a house—either now or in the next few years—you might also wonder how your current jobless status might affect those plans.

While the situation might seem dire, unemployment does not mean that home-buying plans have to be put on hold for long. Here’s how to navigate a period of unemployment so that it doesn’t derail your hopes to buy a home.

Can you buy a home if you’re unemployed?

For starters: If you lose your job while in the midst of home shopping or after you’ve even made an offer, you might have to put the purchase on hold.

The reason: Given your reduced income, the odds of lenders loaning you money for a property purchase are slim, unless your spouse or partner has a sizable income that can carry the mortgage alone.

And even if you’re getting unemployment checks every week, that money is considered temporary income, so it can’t be used to qualify for a mortgage, says Jackie Boies, senior director of housing and bankruptcy services at Money Management International, a nonprofit providing financial education and counseling.

In short, “unemployment could have an effect on your ability to purchase a home in the short term,” Boies says.

But the good news is that once you find a new job, you can likely resume home shopping without trouble, Boies adds. “Unemployment shouldn’t have a long-term effect on being able to buy a home.”

How long after unemployment can you buy a home?

But even once you do find a new job, that doesn’t mean you can easily buy a house just yet. That’s because lenders like to see a steady history of employment before loaning someone money.

“Regular employment must be reestablished as stable, reliable, and dependable,” says Karma Herzfeld, mortgage loan originator at Motto Mortgage Alliance in Little Rock, AR.

So how long is enough? Lenders typically require borrowers to have six months of employment at their current job, and two years of continuous employment. Breaks in employment older than two years shouldn’t affect getting a mortgage.

How unemployment affects your credit score

While unemployment doesn’t jeopardize future home-buying hopes per se, financial experts warn that what can put those plans at risk is how you handle your finances while jobless. Unemployment, after all, can stress your budget in ways that can damage your credit history and credit score.

Lenders check your credit score to assess how well you’ve managed past debts. Scores between 650 and 700 range from fair to good; scores below 650 are considered subpar, which could limit which lenders are willing to loan you money for a house. (You can check your score for free on sites like Credit Karma.)

Credit scores can be damaged in a variety of ways during unemployment. For one, if you get behind on paying bills, this will put some blemishes on your credit history and drag your score down.

Unemployment can also lower your credit score by negatively affecting your debt-to-income ratio, a calculation used by mortgage lenders to compare how much you make against how much you owe.

If you’re unemployed, you may face a double whammy as your income is lower and you’re charging more to your credit cards, thus increasing your debt. Both moves can negatively affect your debt-to-income ratio, which may make lenders leery of loaning you money.

“Any factor that affects income or debt may affect the debt-to-income ratio,” Herzfeld explains.

In sum, hopeful home buyers should be careful not to take on too much debt, even while unemployed. You need to preserve cash as best you can.

“I recommend, if on unemployment, [you] cut back on all discretionary spending and make every effort to keep bills current so that the credit score may not get negatively impacted,” Herzfeld says.

Debt-to-income ratio will likely rebalance once you return to work, as long as you haven’t racked up too much debt during the period of unemployment, Boies says.

How to handle your finances while unemployed

“My recommendation is to always try as best as you can to pay at least the minimum required payment on all monthly debt obligations, otherwise credit may be negatively affected,” Herzfeld says.

Boies suggests reaching out to landlords, credit card companies, utilities, auto lenders, and others to find out what options you have, such as payment plans, deferments, or forbearance. You might also be able to reduce some bills, such as insurance, by reviewing your policy.

“Don’t think that if you can’t pay that bill, you just can’t do anything about it,” Boies says. “You need to reach out to see what options they have available to you.”

How to bounce back from unemployment

If your credit score is negatively affected while you’re unemployed, it’s not the end of the world—but it will take time to repair.

Six months to a year or more of positive credit rebuilding could get you on track to buy a home, Herzfeld says.

“The sooner past-due debts can be remedied, the sooner the score may begin to improve,” she says.

The post How Unemployment Can Affect Your Plans To Buy a Home—Now and Later appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Take Me Outside! 11 Exterior Things You Shouldn’t Miss During a Home Video Tour

June 11, 2020

Outdoor video tour

SDI Productions/Getty Images

In the age of coronavirus, video tours are quickly becoming the go-to alternative to in-person tours. But for prospective buyers, there’s more to the process than asking your smartphone-wielding agent to show you the chef’s kitchen and that walk-in closet one more time. In fact, there’s also a whole other world outside waiting for you to explore—virtually.

Sure, you probably are already fond of the home’s curb appeal. (It’s what attracted you in the first place, right?) But since you can’t be there in person, your agent should show you the exterior—and the yard—from all angles.

According to the experts, these are outdoor places your agent shouldn’t overlook when giving you a virtual home tour.

1. All four corners of the lot

Google Street View can provide photos of the neighborhood. But here’s the thing: Those images might not be current and won’t show changes to the property or features like a new fence.

“It’s a good idea to stand in the corners of the property and pan around, showing all angles—not only to see the lot lines but to provide a better sense of how far the house is from each perspective,” says Jared Wilk, broker with the Shulkin Wilk Group at Compass, in Boston.

2. The neighbors’ houses

Having friendly and helpful neighbors is a wonderful thing—but not if they’re too close for comfort.

“Imagine if you’re entertaining—how close would the neighbors be if they were eating outside at the same time?” asks Dustin Fox, real estate agent at Pearson Smith Realty in Ashburn, VA.

Have your agent show you—and maybe even measure—how close the neighbors are from the house you’re considering.

3. Outdoor components

This can mean a wide variety of outdoor amenities, tools, and other aspects that you see outside—all of which are important to making a smart offer on a home, says Traci Shulkin, a Realtor® with the Shulkin Wilk Group at Compass.

“I show them the sprinklers working, gates, fences, and mechanicals up close,” she says. “And any exterior features that might impact a buyer’s decision to buy—like a nearby cell tower or recycling center or even areas of the property that are showing wear and tear.”

4. Outbuildings

Backyard shed
Garden shed

chuckcollier/Getty Images

Don’t forget to have your agent show you features like the shed, garage, or pool house.

“It is important to walk around the entire structures, because a seller will often clean up just the front or have accumulations of [stuff] simply thrown behind their shed,” says Wilk. “If we don’t take note of this, then the seller may ‘forget about it’ and leave this to be your problem as the new homeowner.”

And don’t forget to scour the hidden areas of the building for any animals that are living or nesting. (Or ask your agent to do so.)

5. The landscaping

Gorgeous landscaping is beautiful, but you might need more than a green thumb to keep it that way.

“If there are a lot of existing trees and flower beds, this will require mulching, weeding, and regular maintenance,” Fox says. “Most buyers don’t factor in the added costs of paying a landscaper to mow and mulch.”

Take note of how close the trees are to the house and if they’re healthy. Large tree roots can permeate pipes, and dying trees can topple over in a storm.

6. Walkways and driveways

Long driveway
Think carefully about a long driveway.

KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images

Just how long is that lovely tree-lined driveway? What’s the condition? And how steep is it? If you live in an area that gets snow, you may think twice about driving up and down in the winter and paying for snow removal.

7. The land

It’ll be a letdown if you’re looking forward to playing croquet in the backyard only to find it drops off to a steep rock bed. That’s why experts suggest buyers make sure to see how the house is set on the lot, especially if it’s below grade.

Does the backyard slope? Is there standing water that could point to drainage issues?

8. The deck

deck
Zoom in on the deck.

chuckcollier/Getty Images

Subtle details of wear and tear are difficult to see on a video, so be sure to have your agent zoom in to inspect for damage and structural integrity.

“Have them shake and grab the railing to see if they’re loose,” Fox suggests. “Is there wood rot? Are the deck boards in need of replacing, or power washing and staining?”

9. All sides of the house

A fresh coat of paint and a new door are just a few curb appeal tricks to attract buyers, but what lies beyond the charming facade?

“The main things we are looking for are exterior deficiencies, such as large cracks in the foundation, rotted trim around the house, an older AC condenser, or an aging roof,” Wilk says. “A buyer wants to know what type of expenses they are going to incur as potential homeowners.”

10. Playground equipment

Backyard swingset
Backyard swingset

stu99/Getty Images

If you have kids, playground equipment in the backyard is a bonus if it comes with the house. If, that is, the stuff is in good shape.

“The broker should really take detailed videos and pictures,” Shulkin says. “Homeowners tend to not take great care of these outdoor structures, and they show a lot of wear and tear from rain, snow, and sun.”

11. The sounds

If possible, you can still request some quiet time during the video tour to listen for noises that might be a deal breaker. Listen for planes overhead, barking dogs, and especially traffic noise.

“This may not be a big deal for you moving into the home,” Fox says. “But it could take thousands off the value when you go to resell it.”

Download our new app to get the noise data at the house you’re interested in buying.

The post Take Me Outside! 11 Exterior Things You Shouldn’t Miss During a Home Video Tour appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Selling Your Home in the Age of Coronavirus? Here Are All Your Top Questions, Answered

June 4, 2020

Selling FAQs During Coronavirus

Melpomenem/Getty Images

With every day of this pandemic feeling like it brings a fresh batch of news, you’d be forgiven for feeling confused about the actual state of things now. While many cities start to reopen—and some continue to experience a high volume of new COVID-19 cases—it’s hard to know how any sector of the economy is doing, especially the real estate market.

Are things getting back to normal? Is now an OK (or even appropriate) time to consider selling a home? Whether you’re curious about the timing of a sale or the nitty-gritty details of how it will all go down, we’ve got you covered.

We’ve gathered advice from the real estate experts to answer your most pressing questions about selling a home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Can I sell my house during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Selling a house should always be based on a number of factors, particularly with regard to your family’s health and financial situation. But to cut to the chase: Yes, you can still sell a home during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly now that states are beginning to reopen.

In most markets, inventories are low and prices are high—which means you can still make a profitable sale.

“Now’s a great time to sell,” says Michelle Sloan, a broker and a Realtor® who’s with Re/Max Time Cincinnati. “With low inventory and high buyer interest, many homes are selling very quickly—within days or hours in some cases. Interest rates are also low, and there’s serious pent-up demand for homes, especially in lower price ranges.”

Is it safe to sell your home during such an outbreak?

Home selling safety during coronavirus
Selling your home during a pandemic means extra precautions.

Siriporn Carrelli/Getty Images

You might be asking yourself if it’s safe to go through the traditional home showing and selling process. Assuming your family members are all in good health, there are several precautions your real estate agent can take to safely show your home to interested buyers.

“We’re allowing showings, but with safety in mind,” Sloan says.

For her team, that means no overlapping showings, no children in the house, masks on, shoes off, and hand sanitizer at the door. She also recommends people leave all of their lights on and doors open (even for closets), since this translates into fewer surfaces being touched.

Are houses even selling now?

Yes! The fact is that people still need to move, pandemic or no pandemic. For instance, in Austin, TX, at least 400 homes “and counting” are closing every single week, reports Regine Nelson with Wealthward Realty.

“Austin is low on inventory; we still have more people moving here than we have housing available,” she says.

Other markets, like Tampa, FL, are seeing a similar trend in sales.

“Houses are definitely selling now,” says Nadia Anac, a Realtor with Reagan Realty. “In my market, I’ve even been in multiple-offer situations.”

The key to these kinds of numbers seems to be in the inventory: Markets with low inventory are seeing houses sold quickly. As always, we’d recommend chatting with a local real estate agent to get the pulse on exactly how your market is performing.

Should I sell my house during a recession?

Since this recession is largely dictated by the pandemic, it’s almost impossible to keep the two separate. But if you do decide to sell during this period of economic downturn, take the time to consider your own financial stability, as well as the conditions of the market you’re moving to.

“If you planned to sell your home due to relocation, a short sale, or moving for larger space, then I would recommend proceeding—but with caution,” says Nelson. “Do you have another home or area in mind? Always be sure to see if what you are seeking is available or will be available when you’re ready to find a property to purchase.”

And while the buyer pool has undoubtedly shrunk in the past few weeks, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“Homes are still selling, but lending requirements have tightened, meaning buyers are more qualified and ready to move forward,” says Karen Parnes, owner of NextHome Your Way.

Will I have competition if I try to sell my house right now?

home selling competition
Even during a pandemic, you can expect some competition from other sellers.

georgeclerk/Getty Images

“You’re likely to have much less competition as a seller right now,” Parnes says, since potential sellers are still wary about putting their homes on the market amid a pandemic. (These conditions are expected to change as summer ramps up; more on that later.)

But Nelson advises her clients to avoid getting caught up in the competition, and focus instead on the things they can control—like competitive pricing, getting their home in a good state, and having a solid marketing strategy.

Another point to remember? Competition happens on both sides of the street.

“Once you sell, you’re way more likely to have competition as a buyer,” says Parnes.

Should I expect to sell for less right now?

Not necessarily. Although the economy’s experiencing a recession, that doesn’t mean prices are going down.

“There are less buyers, but there are also a lot less homes on the market,” says Parnes. “The old rule of supply and demand still holds.”

While some predicted a price drop for 2020, experts now expect the summer home-buying market to be much hotter than expected, as many Americans feel more secure in their jobs and can physically step into the homes they are considering.

While you might not have to drop your price, Anac reminds her clients that they may need to be more patient in pursuing a good sale.

“If your house is priced correctly, and depending on your market, it may just take a little bit longer to sell,” she says.

How can I sell my house without allowing buyers to walk through?

virtual tours
If you’re selling, now’s the time to make the most of virtual tours.

dem10/Getty Images

It may be the safest option, but it’s not the easiest to pull off. Understandably, buyers want to see the home they’re buying in person. And no, telling them they can walk the property without entering won’t help matters much.

“It’s mostly impossible to sell your home with no showings or [prospective buyers] in the home at all,” says Parnes, although she admits “real estate transactions are still happening in states where showings are not allowed and being done completely virtually.”

If you have special health concerns or live with someone who’s considered high-risk, talk with your real estate agent about the possibility of virtual showings. Otherwise, consider just cleaning up thoroughly after would-be buyers leave.

Should I stage my house?

virtual stage kids room after
This room was virtually staged with furniture for adults.

VHT Studios

“Staged homes always sell faster,” says Anac, “but especially in times like these.”

The real question isn’t whether you should stage your house, but how you should stage it. With more tours and showings happening online, you might consider having your home virtually staged rather than actually inviting people into your home to decorate it.

How can I prepare my home for a virtual tour?

A virtual tour can run the gamut from a live walk-through with an agent on FaceTime to a sophisticated 3D rendering from companies such as Matterport. But for the most part you want to prepare for a virtual tour the same way you would for a still-photo shoot—by decluttering it, upping the curb appeal, and making sure nothing is broken or an eyesore.

“Make sure everything is clean, all lights are turned on, fans are off, blinds are open, surfaces are cleared, and everything is put away,” advises Anac.

How can I close remotely?

States are handling remote closings a little differently, so the short answer is to ask your real estate agent. The long answer: The way settlements are being handled varies quite a bit.

“Some, but not all, states have remote settlements,” says Parnes. “Some have approved it temporarily, and those that don’t are typically splitting the buyers and sellers at settlement and having only the essential people involved at the table.”

Looking for more advice on selling your home in the age of COVID-19? We’ve got you covered.

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