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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®.

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.

The post Selling Your Home in the Age of Coronavirus? Here Are All Your Top Questions, Answered appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Home-Buying FAQ: Your Top Questions About Purchasing Property During the Coronavirus Pandemic

May 6, 2020

designer491/iStock

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown millions of people’s financial plans off the rails, and that certainly includes home buying. If you were hoping to purchase a property soon, you no doubt have a lot of questions—about whether it’s possible to buy or tour a house now, COVID-19’s impact on home prices, and more.

We’re already written a guide to home buying in the age of coronavirus to help you navigate this new reality in real estate, but we know there’s a lot you still want to know. So here are the answers to your most pressing questions about buying a home right now. Whether you’re wondering what’s up with home prices or open houses, read on to learn everything you need to know.

1. Is it possible to buy a house now?

While buying a house today may be more challenging due to health and economic concerns, it is certainly possible. In fact, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has declared that residential and commercial real estate services are an essential service that should be allowed to continue. (State orders, however, may overrule that guidance.)

Furthermore, the real estate industry has quickly adopted new technologies to help home buyers and sellers stay safe for as long as this pandemic lasts.

However, certain aspects of the home-buying process might be restricted or look a bit different these days. For instance, as COVID-19 outbreaks gained momentum, certain hard-hit states (such as New York) banned in-person home viewings. And while home closings typically involve the presence of the buyers, the sellers, their agents, and a notary, some states (such as Florida) loosened restrictions and allowed remote or “curbside” closings, where documents are slipped through car windows to lower the exposure levels of all parties involved.

Aside from federal and local restrictions, a lot will depend on the home sellers’ comfort levels. Some sellers might be fine with your touring their house. But others might not be comfortable letting strangers in their home, even if property tours are allowed in your area.

A local real estate agent will have the best handle on what home buyers can and can’t do in your area, so feel free to consult an agent for the most up-to-date information. Here’s more information to help you answer the question, “Should I buy a house now?

2. Is now a good time to buy a house, financially speaking?

From a financial perspective, there are certainly some advantages to buying a home right now. For one, mortgage interest rates are historically low, which means your monthly housing payments will be lower, too. And putting a property under contract now and locking in a low interest rate gives buyers more control than living in a rental where rents might go up.

Another big consideration on the financial side of the home-buying equation comes down to competition. The coronavirus has dissuaded some home buyers from home shopping for the time being. So buyers who do venture out face less competition, which could put them in a stronger position to negotiate with sellers.

In addition to surveying the housing market and mortgage rates in your area, you should also take a good, hard look at your personal financial situation. You’ll want to gauge whether now is a good time to buy for you. Are your job and income stable, or are you worried about layoffs or the stock market?

If your own financial future is uncertain, you might want to take more of a wait-and-see approach to home buying. Or consider buying a home well under what you can afford just in case the coming months throw you a curveball.

3. How has the coronavirus affected home prices?

The coronavirus has the world economy in turmoil. But so far at least, this does not mean that home prices have plummeted across the board or that buyers can lowball their way to a bargain. Instead, in most real estate markets, home inventory remains very tight.

“I don’t expect the slowdown to be like the last recession where prices fell,” says realtor.com chief economist Danielle Hale. “There are more than enough buyers out there to keep home sales from slowing in any major way.”

Some sellers have pulled their listings as they wait for better market conditions. On the flip side, a home seller who doesn’t have the luxury of time is facing a smaller buyer pool, due to safety concerns and limited physical access to touring homes. So buyers could have the upper hand for a short period when it comes to homeowners who need to sell.

The only way to test a seller’s level of motivation is to make an offer. But play it safe. Buyers should not assume that because of the pandemic they can automatically lowball a seller—this could turn the seller off. You might want to try offering a modest discount below asking price to simply start a dialogue.

Here’s a breakdown of how to negotiate an offer on a home in the age of coronavirus.

4. Is it safe to buy a house now?

While no one can guarantee you won’t catch the coronavirus, the real estate industry has worked to prioritize buyers’ and sellers’ health by eliminating personal interactions almost entirely during the pandemic. Even as different states reopen, you can still do most aspects of the home-buying process remotely, or at a safe social distance, when it comes to your home search that you may not have considered doing in the past.

First, you can find local real estate agents online and interview them virtually. While showings may not be easy to arrange because of shelter-in-place orders or continuing health concerns, most real estate listings now offer virtual tours.

When possible, video chats allow agents to walk through a prospective home while you watch from the safety of your current residence. Virtual tours may not be as good as walking through a home, but they can give you a good idea of whether or not you want to see the house in person when it’s possible. And it’s also a great way to pare your options and skip visiting some homes.

When it comes to the financial aspect of home buying, many lenders had already made the entire mortgage process digital long before anyone heard of social distancing.

Another new term? “Desktop appraising,” which allows the appraiser to stay home and review available data that allows lenders to approve mortgages remotely.

And in many states, drive-through or even video closings are temporarily permissible during the pandemic.

Remember, whether all of the above is available depends on your area, so always consult with your agent each step of the way. And read more on whether or not it’s safe to buy a house now.

5. Are open houses or home showings allowed?

Whether open houses are allowed in your area all comes down to how local authorities enforce their lockdowns. Under many quarantine orders, such as in Los Angeles and New York City during the height of the pandemic, open houses have been completely banned. Other states currently allow open houses as long as capacity allows for social distancing. The National Association of Realtors® offers guidelines on open houses, recommending that they be limited to fewer than 10 people, if they’re hosted at all.

In general, in areas where open houses aren’t allowed, individual home showings with just a buyer and an agent are OK. Keep in mind that even if showings are allowed, agents and home sellers must all be willing to make them happen. Check with your agent and local government for more information, and know that what’s permissible could change as this pandemic progresses.

If you do choose to attend an open house or tour a home, here’s what you can do to stay safe:

  • Don’t touch anything in someone else’s home. Ask that the owners open cabinets and closets prior to a showing.
  • Stay six feet away from your real estate agent at all times. If the home is small, ask your agent to open the front door for you and wait in the kitchen while you tour the house on your own. You can ask questions via cellphone as you look around.
  • Wear protective booties; agents generally provide these even in normal times. Carefully throw them away when you’ve finished touring.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap after you leave the home.

Or instead of attending an open house or private tour, you can conduct a virtual house hunt. You can also drive through a neighborhood and check out the area from the safety of your car. Here’s more on how to stay safe during your house hunt.

6. Should I buy a house sight unseen?

While buying a house sight unseen has long been the only option for people relocating due to a new job or military service, the trend has been on the rise for more and more folks. In fact, according to a realtor.com survey of 1,300 consumers during the week of April 5, 24% (or 1 in 4) said they’d be willing to buy a home without seeing it in person.

Buyers who consider buying a house sight unseen generally have some comfort level with the neighborhood and know the market. And according to realtor.com senior economist George Ratiu, the comfort level of buying a house sight unseen may come down to age.

“Younger cohorts are more inclined to rely on detailed photos, virtual tours, or live video instead of an in-person visit, with 31% indicating they would be willing to buy sight unseen,” says Ratiu.

Even if you’re buying blind, you shouldn’t operate completely in the dark. Here are some features that buyers find most helpful in such a home search.

  • The ability to take a virtual tour of the home
  • Listing and neighborhood information that is accurate and detailed
  • Plentiful, high-quality listing photos that show the property’s interior and exterior
  • An agent or landlord who can walk a buyer through the property via video chat

Check out more advice on how to buy a home sight unseen before you commit to a purchase.

7. Can I buy a house if I’m unemployed?

Generally speaking, if you are recently unemployed you should think twice about buying right now. But there are some ways you can proceed, albeit with caution.

For instance, home buying is possible when you’re between jobs if you have enough money in the bank to make an all-cash offer—due to a previous home sale or inheritance—and can skip the mortgage process entirely.

If you do need a mortgage, you’ll need not only a high credit score and a low debt-to-income ratio, but also a source of funds to prove to lenders you can make your monthly mortgage payments. If you are a dual-income family with a spouse or significant other still working, that person could apply for a mortgage. Many lenders also allow for a monetary gift to home buyers from relatives. Sometimes a sizable gift satisfies lenders’ application requirements even if the borrower is currently unemployed.

Here’s more on how rising unemployment may affect the housing market.

8. How long will it take to close on a house?

Yes, the length of time from an accepted offer to home closing during the height of the pandemic is taking longer. Closing times used to average about 26 days in January, then hit 43 days in February, and shot up to 60 days in March. They’re likely to take longer still in the coming months.

The simple fact is lenders are buried under paperwork as refinancing applications skyrocketed due to the historically low mortgage interest rates.

In addition to lender backlogs, social distancing and shelter-in-place orders have complicated the home closing process. While home inspections and appraisals are possible, everything is just taking longer during the pandemic. Here’s more on the home closing process.

9. Is moving allowed right now?

According to the American Moving & Storage Association, moving has been deemed an essential service by the federal government.

Still, while moving is legal in the big picture, it might not be allowed for your specific circumstances depending on what stage of the pandemic you are in. For instance, during the height of New York City’s epidemic, some apartment buildings decided to ban residents from moving due to safety concerns and shelter-in-place orders.

Check with your local and state governments (and your HOA or condo board, if applicable) before scheduling any move. And if you have to move, read all about how to move safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

10. How can I prepare to buy a house?

You may be interested in buying a home, but simply don’t feel comfortable getting out there and house hunting right now. Luckily there are still things you can do to prepare so you’re ready to spring into action later this summer or whenever you decide you’re ready.

  • Check your credit score: The very first step in preparing to buy a home is to check your credit score. Credit scores are what mortgage lenders look at to determine whether you are creditworthy, and will dictate your interest rate. So do everything to protect your score. Many companies—from credit cards to utilities—are working with consumers who can’t make payments. If you are having trouble making payments, don’t just skip them. Call your lender and work out a plan.
  • Figure out how much home you can afford: The pandemic has roiled markets and caused tremendous economic uncertainty. So you’ll want to carefully consider how much home you can afford and err on the conservative side. Check an online home affordability calculator, which will help you determine your monthly mortgage payment.
  • Secure mortgage pre-approval: Now it’s more important than ever to get pre-approved to show sellers you’re serious when you make an offer. Pre-approval shows how much a lender will loan you, assuring the seller that you’re financially capable of buying a home.
  • Avoid any major changes: A major tenet of preparing to buy a home is to not make any major changes in your life or your finances. But with the coronavirus pandemic, some upheaval—such as getting furloughed—may be out of your control. Yet much of it is not. For instance, do not buy a car or pricey new furniture, or apply for a new credit card. All of those can lower your credit rating, meaning you may not be able to qualify for a home loan.
  • Check online listings: On real estate sites like realtor.com you can see what properties are available in your area in your price range. And take advantage of the virtual tours many agents are offering to house hunt from your couch.

For more information, check out our complete home home-buying guide in the age of coronavirus.

The post Home-Buying FAQ: Your Top Questions About Purchasing Property During the Coronavirus Pandemic appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

10 Secrets No One Tells You That’ll Help Your House Fetch Top Dollar

August 26, 2019

prosado/iStock

Maybe you’ve bought and sold a home before, or maybe this is the first time. Regardless, now you need to get top dollar for it. Yes, you can tidy up, bake some cookies so the house smells nice, and place fresh flowers (research says roses, lavender, and fuchsia most sway buyers) around the house. But these are the typical techniques most sellers deploy. Really want to get the best price possible—or even spark a bidding war?

Here are 10 tips that are seldom mentioned in listing houses that just might put your property over the edge.

1. Make sure your mailbox looks amazing

First impressions matter, which is why you should check out your curb appeal. Is the driveway cracked? Is the mailbox old and leaning? The best sales rest on keeping these details in mind.

“Replace the mailbox—literally the first thing people see,” says Teris Pantazes, CEO and co-founder of SettleRite, a pre-sale home improvement company in Baltimore.

2. Make the right use of your rooms

If you use the dining room for a kid’s playroom, or if the loft is empty because you don’t have a use for it, restage your rooms so they reflect their original purpose. Buyers want to see the space used in a traditional way—with a dining table in the dining room, a desk and chair in the office—to envision themselves living there.

3. Reglaze the bathroom

“The best tip I use to get top dollar for some of our houses is to reglaze an old bathroom that has a terrible color of tile—like pink or green,” says Michael Pinter, a house flipper in Long Island, NY, with LMPK Properties. “We reglaze the bathroom white for a few hundred dollars, and a dated bathroom will look 30 years younger.”

Bathrooms and kitchens sell houses, and any small improvement that makes those rooms more modern makes a huge difference.

4. Get buyers to fall in love

Russell Volk, a real estate agent with Re/Max Elite serving Bucks County, PA, worked with a home-selling couple who decided to hand-write a one-page letter about their life in the house.

“Their story of how they raised their family and what kind of experiences they had in the home was very personal and emotional,” says Volk. The letter was framed on the kitchen counter for potential buyers to read. One buyer who liked the home absolutely loved the sellers’ story—and paid full asking price.

“If sellers can connect with buyers on an emotional level, chances of buyers paying top dollar for the house drastically increase,” says Volk.

5. List under value

“Data shows that if you list a home 10% under market value, you will attract 75% of the buyer pool, versus only 30% if you were to list 10% over market value,” says Melissa Colabella, at Sotheby’s International Realty. “Yet sellers fear that not leaving room to negotiate leaves money on the table, which is not true.”

In fact, buyers are often motivated to bid by seeing other bids on a property, a dynamic that typically pushes bids above market value.

6. Provide insider information

Make sure to include tidbits in the listing that buyers will appreciate and that they can only get from you: the mention of a popular neighborhood coffee shop, the best Mexican restaurant nearby, or the free library box around the corner. No one knows these details better than you, the homeowner.

7. Describe the neighborhood culture

Think of everything interesting you can about your neighborhood—its proximity to a community pool, street basketball games in the cul-de-sac, the number of dog walkers who gather to chat—and mention them in your listing. The smallest detail can attract a buyer with a teenager, a dog, and kids with swimsuits.

8. Don’t forget to list the house extras

The motion-sensitive outdoor lighting, an automatic garage door timer that closes the door before dark, a phone-activated security system, or camera door bell… These bells and whistles may seem banal to you, but they can make sellers feel that everything’s been taken care of for them—and inspire a top-dollar offer.

9. Create a video tour

Most people get great photos and fantastic descriptions. But filming a video tour of the property is inexpensive, can be done by an amateur, and is a novelty that will draw in buyers, says Bryan Stoddard, owner of Homewares Insider, a site exploring all things related to the home.

“If the video is well made, it will showcase exactly the same things that an open house would,” he says.

10. Get a home pre-inspection

Yes, the buyers will want their own home inspection, but getting a pre-inspection so that prospective buyers have a general idea of the property’s condition before making an offer is a win/win, says Antonio Picillo III, a broker at Exceptional Home Team in Fort Wayne, IN.

Home buyers will be impressed you took the time and effort to get your home pre-inspected to make sure everything is tip-top. It shows a level of integrity and commitment that can be hard to find.

The post 10 Secrets No One Tells You That’ll Help Your House Fetch Top Dollar appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

What Is the Average Price per Square Foot for a Home—and Why Does It Matter?

August 24, 2019

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If you’re hoping to buy a house, the very first dollar figure you’ll want to know is the home’s price, of course. But a close second is its cost for each square foot—and the average cost for each square foot for a home in that neighborhood (or the median cost for a square foot of home space, which is actually a better representative of the middle ground of the market than the average). Here’s what you should know about these numbers, and how to use them to your advantage as you shop for a home.

How to calculate the square foot costs for a home

Typically, a home’s cost for a square foot is prominently featured on the listing—both online as well as in those property information sheets you get at an open house. But a home’s price by the square foot doesn’t tell you much on its own. This number is best understood in comparison with similar homes in the surrounding market.

So your next step should be to type in the city, neighborhood, or ZIP code of interest into a site like realtor.com/local. This will give you the median cost a square foot for homes in that area of your city (as well as median asking price, closing price, and number of homes for sale in the local market—all useful info during a house hunt).

What’s the median or average price for each square foot in a home?

It’s important to know the difference between the median price and the average, or mean, price. The average price is simply the arithmetic mean, calculated as the total of all home sales, divided by the number of sales. An average sales price can be skewed by a few higher or lower home values.

The median, however, is the value separating the higher half of a data sample from the lower half. If all of the real estate property  prices were lined up by value, the home sale in the middle would represent the median home value.

According to the latest estimates, the median price for each square foot for a home in the United States is $123. But that can vary widely based on where you live and other factors.

For instance, on the low end, you’ll pay $24 a square foot in Detroit. On the expensive end, in San Francisco, $810. So why such a wide range?

Well, it’s no secret that certain neighborhoods are considered more desirable than others, and fetch a better price as a result.

“The hotter the neighborhood, the higher the price per square foot,” says Anthony Stellini, a Realtor® with RSR, a division of the real estate firm Nourmand & Associates. But odds are you knew that already. What you may not know is how this info can help you get a better deal on a house. More on that next!

How cost per square foot can help you negotiate

When you run your comparison of a home’s cost per square foot with the neighborhood median, you can use that information to help you determine whether a place is a bargain or overpriced.

Let’s say you see a home you love priced at $150 per square foot, but then you find that the median price for a square foot for the neighborhood is $135. This suggests the cost of the home you’re looking at could be too expensive—which spells an opportunity for you to negotiate for a lower purchase price. Just point out to the sellers that homes of similar size in the area cost far less. Or, conversely, if the median price a square foot is $135 but this home is only $120, you may have a bargain in your crosshairs that you should snap right up!

Of course, as a buyer you know there’s more to consider than the cost for each square foot of housing.

A single-family home on 5 acres of real estate will generally be worth more than one with the same square footage, but on a small-size lot. A new home generally costs more. And a large house may cost more overall because of higher labor costs and total construction costs, but the market will only pay so much. A house may actually sell for less than you might expect, based on its size, if it is overbuilt for the area.

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How to Price a Home in a Seller’s Market: Go Low, or Shoot for the Stars?

August 29, 2018

How to price a home in a seller’s market may be a question that’s top of mind if you’re listing your home. Much of the United States right now is a seller’s market—which spells potential for major profits. Lucky you!

However: Some sellers may see this as an opportunity to set the bar high—maybe too high—when it comes to their list price. Others may decide on a lower asking price, in hopes of generating a bidding war.

So which pricing strategy works best in a seller’s market? Every approach has its pros and cons, so here’s how to determine the best one for you.

First, assess the landscape

Before you go about setting your list price, you’ll want to survey your area to see whether you’re truly in a seller’s market, says Seth Lejeune, a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway in Collegeville, PA.

For a quick assessment, you can check out where your city ranks on realtor.com’s Market Hotness Index, which uses the latest housing data to show which cities are heating up for home sellers.

For a deeper look at your market, however, you’ll have to analyze a few key variables:

  • Average days on market (DOM). This measurement shows the median age of real estate listings in your area. “If houses are selling in your neighborhood in less than 10 days, it’s a strong seller’s market,” Lejeune says. You can find what the average DOM is in your city using realtor.com’s Local Market Trends tool.
  • Asking vs. final home price. In seller’s markets, bidding wars can often erupt among buyers, which means that sellers may enjoy a final sales price equal to their asking price, or more. So, if a home is listed at $450,000 and sells for $450,000 or higher, that’s a seller’s market. In a strong seller’s market, the final sales price is typically at least 10% higher than the asking price. You can compare the listing prices vs. the closing prices in various cities across the country at realtor.com/local.
  • Home prices over time. Rising home prices over time are a sure sign of a seller’s market. You can determine whether home prices are rising or falling in your city by looking at your ZIP code’s “market price curve” on BuilderOnline.com.

Pricing strategy No. 1: Listing at market value

To assess your home’s “fair market value”—i.e., what your house is actually worth in today’s market (not just what it’s worth in your head)—you can enter your address in realtor.com/sell to get a ballpark figure for your home’s value.

To hone that number further, check what comparable homes recently sold for in your area. Good agents can help you synthesize this info into an asking price that you can justify and stand by, which is important once the negotiations on a home get rolling.

“If you’re working with a real estate agent who understands the market, you have to trust their comps,” says Lou Nimkoff, president at the Orlando Regional Realtor Association.

Even in a seller’s market, Lejeune generally recommends that sellers list their house at market value. “You have to forget the noise, especially if you’re looking to sell in a reasonable period of time,” he says. “For most sellers, it’s always the best strategy, regardless of the status of the market.”

The bottom line: By listing at market value, you’ll be in a good position to get a full-price offer relatively quickly.

Not in a rush to sell? Keep reading.

Pricing strategy No. 2: Listing high

If you’re not on a tight timetable to sell, you could price your home above market value—typically 5% to 10% more—to see if you can nab a great offer. But that approach has its flaws.

For starters, “The last thing you want to do is price your home too high and then have it just sit on the market,” says Nimkoff. When that happens, your house can become stigmatized in the eyes of home buyers, which can make it even more difficult to sell, Nimkoff says.

You might also have trouble closing the sale if your lender’s appraisal of your home’s price doesn’t come in at that same high number.

“Even if you find a buyer that’s willing to pay you $400,000 for a $300,000 house, a lender may not loan that much money,” Nimkoff says. “So, unless you have an all-cash buyer, it would be next to impossible to close the sale.”

That being said, some people have success selling over asking price by targeting investors with the ability to make cash offers, says Dan Burz, an agent at Douglas Elliman in New York and New Jersey.

The bottom line: By listing above market value, your home might sell at a premium—but there’s a greater risk that it doesn’t sell, especially if you’re unwilling to reduce the price.

Pricing strategy No. 3: List low

One way to get your property more exposure, Nimkoff says, is to set the list price below market value—generally 5% to 10% under—in an effort to attract more buyers and potentially spark a bidding war. “If you price low, you can probably get multiple offers within one to two days,” says Nimkoff.

A bidding war is a good problem to have if you’re a seller, but “the more offers you receive, the more options you have, which can make choosing the best offer challenging,” Nimkoff says.

For some sellers, the most appealing offer is the one with the fewest contingencies; for others, the best offer is the highest bid. It depends on your priorities.

The bottom line: This strategy can backfire if you receive only one offer for asking price or less. That’s less likely to happen in a seller’s market, but it’s always a possibility. There’s also less wiggle room for you to negotiate if you receive a lowball offer.

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