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When the Outside Matters More Than Ever: 6 Curb Appeal Tricks To Attract Buyers During Coronavirus

May 11, 2020

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Curb appeal: It’s the make-or-break first impression of your home. It either beckons a second look or turns buyers off entirely. And now, in the age of the coronavirus, curb appeal is more vital than ever—since buyers might not be able to tour your home and are placing more weight on the exterior, or might be limiting in-person tours to only their top choices.

If you’re trying to sell your home during this pandemic—and the facade is a little worse for wear—don’t panic! We consulted with Clint Robertson and Luke Caldwell of HGTV’s “Boise Boys” to steal some tricks for curb appeal that’s so irresistible, buyers will be clamoring to know what’s inside.

1. Keep the yard green and pristine

Photo by Benjamin Silver Design 

The lawn is one of the first things buyers notice, whether they are pulling up to the curb or looking at an online listing. When it’s lush and green, it creates a favorable impression.

“One of the cheapest things you can do to enhance curb appeal is to keep your yard mowed and groomed,” says Robertson, who also partners with Caldwell at Timber and Love Realty. “Hire someone to mow it and keep it tidy, or take the time to keep it pristine.”

You don’t have to have a green thumb to get a lush lawn when you know these lawn care secrets.

2. Mind your driveway and walkway

curb appeal
Hose down the driveway and walkway before showing your home or taking photos.

Timber and Love Realty

You might be inclined to overlook the driveway and front walk—how much can you really do to make concrete look good? But, truth be told, these areas are like the red carpet of curb appeal: They lead buyers to the main event, the inside of your home.

A driveway and front walk with minor cracks and weeds popping up through the expansion joints (the straight lines that divide the driveway and walkway) are an eyesore.

Luckily, it’s an easy fix.

Remove the weeds, and patch the concrete with caulk, Robertson suggests. Hose it down or power-wash it. For extra pizazz, finish a concrete driveway or walkway with a clear, glossy sealer. (You can give faded asphalt driveways a face-lift with asphalt sealer.)

At the very least, hose down the driveway and walkway before photos, or a video or in-person tour, to give it a fresh look.

3. Flaunt your nighttime appeal

Photo by SINGLEPOINT DESIGN BUILD INC.

Prospective buyers might be driving by after dark see what your house looks like at night. Turn on the charm with a warm glow from exterior lighting.

“I like to do a 60-watt clear lightbulb on both sides of the door, but one that has a warmer tone so it doesn’t feel like you have that overly LED blue light,” Caldwell says.

All exterior lighting on the house and garage should match or have the same style for continuity, if possible.

Caldwell’s partial to clear-glass fixtures.

“I love having glass fixtures flanking the door because it’s more welcoming when you see the actual light,” he says. “Just make sure that all exterior lights—including the ones on the garage—have the same type of bulb for a unified glow.”

4. Don’t forget the garage

curb appeal
Match your garage door color to the trim.

Timber and Love Realty

The garage is a key component in curb appeal, too, especially if it’s attached to the house. But how do you spruce up this often dull space?

Caldwell suggests painting the garage door the same color as the trim on the house. Garage doors with a row of windows are pleasing to the eye, too.

“Sometimes garages feel dark and scary,” says Robertson. “The light allows it to make it feel like it’s more part of the home.”

DIY garage window kits are available for most newer garage door models and allow you to remove a row of existing panels and add glass inserts. If you’re adding windows where people can see in, don’t forget to stage inside the garage, too.

5. Replace outdoor accents and give your landscaping some love

Photo by David Morello Garden Enterprises, Inc.

A shabby doormat, dingy house numbers, and a rusty old mailbox are hardly deal breakers, but they do leave a stale impression. If your outdoor accents have seen better days, replace them.

Then make sure your landscaping looks lush for any passersby. Prune overgrown shrubs and trees. Weed flower beds, and spread a layer of fresh mulch.

“It’s like getting a new haircut for your house,” Caldwell says.

Add pretty-looking annuals if your yard is lacking color. Plant a Japanese maple to fill a bare spot and create symmetry.

“It’s low to the ground and doesn’t require much light,” notes Caldwell.

Then wrap up by cleaning the windows and sweeping the cobwebs from the front porch. Tidy up and stage the front porch so buyers can imagine themselves relaxing there on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

6. Give your front door a face-lift

Would a shabby door with peeling paint, rusty hardware, and scuff marks entice a buyer to go inside?

“If you’re going to spend money on one thing to add curb appeal, make it a new door,” says Caldwell.

Front doors with glass inserts evoke a warm and welcoming feeling. If there isn’t room in the budget, rejuvenate your existing door with a fresh coat of paint and hardware.

“A fresh pop of color in red, yellow, or blue can bring life to your house immediately and catches people’s eyes as well,” Caldwell says. “It feels like thoughtful consideration has been put into the home, and ultimately that’s what we’re trying to do—to let the home feel like a home that’s been loved and cared for and thought about. A home that’s been cared for stands out.”

The post When the Outside Matters More Than Ever: 6 Curb Appeal Tricks To Attract Buyers During Coronavirus appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

My House Sold Faster Than Expected—Was It a Blessing or a Curse?

April 22, 2020

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It took two years for my husband and me to come to the decision to sell our home in St. Petersburg, FL. We went back and forth on the idea for a few reasons. A big one? One of our sons had a lot of friends in our neighborhood, and we didn’t want to uproot him.

Even so, the market was hot in our area, and we knew we could make a decent amount of money if we sold our home.

In November, we were ready to sell. We wanted to pay off some debt, build up a savings account, and buy a new car.

Our real estate agent advised us to list right after the holidays. In the meantime, we made a few cosmetic upgrades, added fresh paint, and installed new fixtures.

We listed our home on Jan. 7, and our agent scheduled an open house for the following weekend. During the open house—just five days after listing—we received an offer.

We accepted the offer, but it fell through. No time for dismay! We scheduled showings the following week, and our agent scheduled another open house. Then, 11 days after listing our house, we received another offer, which was right at our asking price.

Everything looked great on paper, and we eagerly accepted the offer. At first, we were thrilled. Our plan worked! And then we took a look at the timeline for closing and freaked out just a bit. If all went well, we’d hand over the keys to our home in 28 to 30 days.

Here’s what I learned from selling a home in rapid fashion.

We needed a new place to stay

For our next move, my husband and I decided we were going to rent a house instead of buying a place right away. There were two main rationales at work.

One, we wanted to pay off more debt and raise our credit scores to obtain the best mortgage rate possible.

Two, we weren’t 100% sure where we wanted to set down roots in St. Petersburg. The city is really spread out, and one of our kids is headed to high school in a year. It made sense for us to wait before we bought again. In hindsight, the wait makes even more sense.

That said, the market here was hot earlier this year—for both home sales and rentals. The majority of the homes in St. Petersburg are older and small, and just about everything is expensive.

This meant few options that suited our needs and were within our budget. The market was moving quick in January so our family of four had to act fast when we found a place we liked.

Inspection and appraisal in a tight timeline

During the inspection and appraisal steps of the home-selling process, the buyer has the right to cancel the contract if either report comes back with red flags.

Our timeline was tight: The buyer’s appraisal was due just eight days before closing. We didn’t want to sign a lease, move, and then have our buyer back out of the deal. So, to be prudent, we decided to wait until both the inspection and appraisal were done.

Paying rent plus a mortgage if the buyer backed out simply wasn’t in the cards. However, waiting to sign a lease until just over a week before the closing date was also a risk. The odds of finding a viable rental and moving in that tight time frame didn’t seem possible—but it’s the path we chose.

I attempted to calm my inner voice, and we plowed forward to find a new place to live. We started looking for a rental well before the appraisal date.

We’d listed our house at a reasonable price, so any discrepancies with the appraisal were a long shot. Though our house needed a little work, the inspection wasn’t likely to yield anything substantial.

All of the pieces came together, but we were prepared to undergo undue levels of stress as we waited for the final steps of the sale process. Especially since we were also planning a move.

Packing under pressure is a whole new level of torture

We both work full time and have two kids—a 3-year-old and a 13-year-old.

My husband and I began to pack the nonessentials once the offer came in. We still needed to purge unnecessary items and pack the rest, which is a trying task when four people have lived in one place for seven years. It’s amazing what you can accumulate.

We spent every spare minute packing up, tossing out, or giving away things. It was its own nightmare in an already stressful situation. Even though we knew it was a temporary inconvenience, the process was overwhelming. Packing is tough, but when the clock is ticking, it’s even tougher.

And just like that, it was over

The one big positive about a short timeline between offer and close? All of the chaos lasted only a short period of time.

Although my husband and I reached peak stress levels, the madness truly lasted for just over a month. By the third week in February, we were settled in our new rental home, and all was said and done with the sale of our first home.

Would I do it again? Yes! If the timing and the money were right, I most certainly would. Except for possibly the packing part.

The post My House Sold Faster Than Expected—Was It a Blessing or a Curse? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

‘I Closed On My Home Sale During the Coronavirus Crisis’

April 21, 2020

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When Doreen Smith listed her house in Castle Rock, CO, in February, the coronavirus was on her radar, but didn’t seem like a serious problem at the time.

“COVID-19 was on my mind because I teach high school social studies, and we’d discuss it when talking about current events,” says Smith. “But I certainly didn’t think that this would be something to have to consider when selling my home.”

When Smith was about to list her home, she asked her real estate agent if she should be worried about selling because it was an election year. Her agent assured her that January 2020 had been a terrific month for home sales. So Smith decided to move ahead and put her house on the market on Feb. 27.

“It was supposed to be a gorgeous, sunny weekend, so we put the ‘For Sale’ sign in my yard on Wednesday to be ready for my home to hit the MLS on Thursday,” Smith recalls. “My agent immediately started getting calls, including one on Wednesday night. I had five showings on Thursday, and I got three offers Friday morning.”

Smith decided to sell to a couple who lived in California.

“When I took their offer, it came with the contingency that they must be able to sell their home in order to buy mine,” Smith says. “I accepted the contingency because their house was already under contract, through inspection, and had a closing date of March 23.”

So Smith planned to move out on that same day, and move in temporarily with her sister in nearby Littleton, CO, while shopping for a condo. (Both of her boys were out of the house, so she was downsizing.)

All went according to schedule at first. However, in the ensuing weeks as news (and cases) of COVID-19 swept the nation, Smith saw much of what she knew about her home closing change.

Here’s how she survived closing a home sale during this pandemic—and what she learned in the process.

Why the coronavirus can delay closings

On March 23—the day of her scheduled closing and move—Smith got a call from her agent telling her there was a potential snag.

“Around 9:10 a.m. I got a text from my real estate agent: ‘Hi! Are you home?’ I texted ‘Yes! Movers are here, hope this is still a go?’ with a nervous emoji. Two seconds later I got a call,” says Smith. “My buyer’s buyer in California had a tax issue with their property and needed some form from the IRS. The IRS said due to the coronavirus, they were delayed in response times, and were not able to get the letter in time for their scheduled Monday closing.”

This snafu led to Smith and her buyer amending their contract to extend the closing by two weeks, and making it official with an electronic signature. So now she was set to close on April 7, but still moving on March 23.

Although Smith’s move went smoothly, more paperwork delays caused her closing to hit another snag, bumping her closing date to April 10. But the paperwork was procured faster than planned, and the closing date moved again, to April 8.

“Apparently my buyers were really frustrated, as they were homeless and all of their stuff was on a moving truck with no house,” says Smith. “At this point I was just trying not to freak out.”

Inside a ‘drive-through’ closing

When closing day finally arrived on April 8, Smith braced for more changes—and they arrived right on schedule. For instance, while most home closings involve all parties gathering to sign paperwork, the coronavirus had upended this tradition, too.

“Because of the crisis, real estate agents were not supposed to attend closings in order to minimize exposure to all parties,” says Smith. Furthermore, “the governor of Colorado had also passed a law saying that virtual closings were acceptable at this time. But my lender, like many, said no way. Lenders were trying to be careful about who they loaned money to.”

So, rather than conduct a virtual closing, Smith ended up doing the next best thing: a “drive-through closing.” She was told to drive to the title company’s parking lot, then call the title agent inside, who popped out of her office building wearing a mask and walked toward Smith’s car.

Smith (who was wearing a bandana mask) cracked her car window to hand her ID to the title agent. After verifying Smith’s ID, the title agent handed Smith a clipboard with the paperwork and a blue pen in a plastic bag.

The title agent told Smith to take her time and sign the highlighted sections of the paperwork. If Smith had any questions, she was urged to call her real estate agent, who was also keeping an eye on her phone in case there were any issues.

“It took me about 10 minutes to sign everything,” Smith says. “Then the title agent came back and reviewed everything while I remained in my car, and while we chatted about how strange this all was. The agent admitted they’d only been doing ‘drive-through’ closings for a week. The reason the title company required someone to show up in person was they wanted the seller’s account information of where they’d wire the money delivered in person—I assume that’s to avoid mistakes for the transfer of such a large amount.”

Despite this strange setting, the money was immediately wired to Smith and her sale was finally finished.

Now settled in at her sister’s home, Smith is going to hold off on looking for a condo for now.

“I asked my real estate agent when we could start hunting; she said maybe June,” says Smith. “But I am getting my mortgage pre-approval paperwork completed this week, so I am ready to buy when we are up and running again.”

The post ‘I Closed On My Home Sale During the Coronavirus Crisis’ appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

‘Why We’re Selling Our Home During the Coronavirus Pandemic’

April 20, 2020

AlexSava/Getty Images

On March 10, my husband and I decided to list our home this spring—smack in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

This was not a decision we took lightly. Derrick and I had been thinking about putting our Chicago condo on the market for a while. Having lived in our two-bed, two-bath home for four years, 2020 was going to be when we’d finally “settle down” somewhere quieter and closer to our families.

Plus, we figured at the time that getting in on the spring buying season would be key.

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

realtor.com

On March 11, we emailed a local real estate agent, Paul Barker of Barker Group, who specialized in our Northside neighborhood and had sent us a marketing flyer last year. We made plans for the three of us to meet at our condo a few days later.

But that week, as things began to really get weird in Chicago—like panic shopping at grocery stores and sports seasons canceling­—we questioned whether we’d need to meet virtually instead. Barker assured us we’d be fine, however.

“I need to do a walk-through, but we will keep our distance, and I won’t have to touch anything,” he told me. “Then, after I’ve researched and put together a plan, we can have a virtual meeting to go over the marketing strategies and pricing.”

We met in our living room, and I had to silently reprimand Derrick for reaching for Barker’s hand as he opened the door. (Barker politely declined.) Social distancing was a new concept at that time, and we were still figuring out the new social norms.

After doing a walk-through, we sat at opposite ends of our sectional in the living room and felt confident we were doing the right thing by listing our condo now. At the time, home buyer traffic online was still at a relatively normal level, Barker assured us, and he’d be able to schedule a photographer in the next few days.

‘I could tell things had changed’

But a week later, we hadn’t heard from him. I followed up and learned he’d like to meet with us over Zoom to discuss our listing. From the minute we connected, I could tell that things had changed—even the tone of his voice was different.

We could still go ahead with the listing, Barker said; however, it was going to be a little more trouble than expected. For instance, only one of his regular photographers was still working; the others were refusing to go into other people’s homes and potentially be exposed to the virus. Showing requests had now dropped to 10% of their normal level.

Things didn’t look good. Once our call with our agent was over, Derrick and I talked through our options.

While we were both nervous at the thought of having strangers tour our home, Barker had assured us they were taking precautions to keep both homeowners and buyers safe during the process. For one, there would be no public open houses. To lower his exposure risk, Barker would not be present for showings, instead allowing the buyer’s agent to tour the home with buyers.

Plus, if we decided to close our home for showings, our agent said, it wouldn’t count against us. This is why: In the past, multiple listing service regulations required a listing to be removed from “active” status if the home couldn’t be showed for an extended period of time. But this has been changed for the time being, during the COVID-19 outbreak. Now, listings without showings can remain active.

In addition, if your listing has the “temporarily no showings” status, the market time will also be frozen. This means it wouldn’t accrue days on market—which can count against sellers because they can make a listing seem stale.

Finally, while showings were down, they were in fact still happening—so there was a chance we could still sell our home during this crazy time, and be able to move out of Chicago in the time frame we’d planned. In the end, we concluded that we really had nothing to lose by going on the market now.

A home seller’s new secret weapon: 3D virtual tours

home selling
Our living room

realtor.com

The good news with moving forward as planned, our real estate agent told us, was that online traffic was actually up from the previous month. But with showing requests down, we’d have to up our game online. How? By adding a 3D virtual tour to our listing. Creating a virtual tour would entail hiring a specialized photographer and equipment—which our agent’s firm would provide.

We were told that a still photographer was available to come March 31 and a 3D photographer on April 1. Both appointments would take an hour or less. So, before each appointment, we loaded our cat, Monty, into his carrier and went for a drive while the photographers did their work.

A couple of days after both appointments, Barker sent us links to view both the photos and the 3D model—and we were thrilled by how they turned out.

3D home
My home in 3D “dollhouse” mode

Matterport

Our listing finally went live on Saturday, April 4, and within two hours of posting, Barker already had a showing request for the very next day. A couple had loved our condo from what they saw on the 3D tour so much that they wanted to see it in person.

“Hoping this could be a one-and-done situation,” Barker added.

We’d been thinking of getting out of Chicago for a while, as the coronavirus pandemic was predicted to peak there soon, so when our agent said he wanted to schedule the showing for the following day at 11 a.m., we figured now was as good a time as any to temporarily relocate. We spent Saturday packing the car and departed Sunday morning, making the 10-hour drive to Alabama to stay with Derrick’s family.

We figured this temporary move would not only be a good opportunity for a change of scenery, it would also help our agent sell our place. He said it would be more appealing to do showings if he could tell potential buyers that we were not home—which would allow buyers faster access to the place while posing less of a health risk.

3D view of office
3D view of our second bedroom, used as an office

Matterport

While we felt very hopeful that morning, the one-and-done situation hasn’t exactly materialized—so far.

Barker said the couple who came for the showing were looking for a condo with two parking spaces (a near impossibility in Chicago; our place has only a single garage space) and decided for the time being it was priced too high for them.

home selling
The kitchen

realtor.com

However, Derrick and I remain optimistic that we’ll be able to sell soon, based on the online traffic we’ve seen. By Barker’s calculations, listings with 3D tours are seeing about 250% more online views right now than listings without.

Overall, it was a pleasant surprise to see how many people are still shopping for homes during the coronavirus outbreak. We guess time will tell whether we’ll be able to sell and move on permanently in the near future, so stay tuned for updates!

If you want more guidance for your own situation, check out our series on “Home Selling in the Age of Coronavirus.”

home selling
Our outdoor space

realtor.com

The post ‘Why We’re Selling Our Home During the Coronavirus Pandemic’ appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

The Home Closing Process Amid Coronavirus: The Seller’s Guide to How Long Will It Take

April 17, 2020

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Selling your home during the coronavirus outbreak is no easy task. So if you’ve managed to find a buyer and accept an offer despite these challenging times, congratulations! You’re almost there. All that’s left is to close the deal.

Yet not surprisingly, COVID-19 has thrown a few wrenches into the home closing, too. That’s why, in the final installment of our series “Home Selling in the Age of Coronavirus,” we’re offering guidance on what home sellers should expect as they close on their home, and how to navigate these hurdles to stay safe and keep the deal on track.

How long will it take to close on a house now?

Not surprisingly, home closings are taking longer now. At the end of March, closing times averaged 60 days from the time an offer is accepted, up from 43 days in February and 26 in January, says Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree. They’re likely to take longer still in April.

Why the holdup? In part, lenders have been swamped with processing refinancing applications due to the historically low mortgage interest rates.

“Generally speaking, most lenders are very busy with refis and enjoying record months in closings,” Kapfidze says. “Record closing months will typically lead to delays in days to close. Underwriting turn times are longer today.”

In addition to a backlog in refi underwriting, social distancing and shelter-in-place orders are delaying and complicating every step of the home closing—including home inspections, appraisals, and walk-throughs.

In some cases, home buyers are adding addendums to contingency timelines to account for these holdups, says Tomer Fridman, luxury and celebrity real estate expert at Compass.

If you’re a home seller who’s eager to close the deal or nervous it could fall through, here’s more on what could hold up the various stages of home closing, and why.

Home inspections

Typically, once a deal is reached, home buyers will send a home inspector to the seller’s home to vet it for any flaws. Typically, home sellers are present during inspections, but if this prospect makes you nervous, you can ask for a “remote home inspection” instead.

“We are offering clients the option of doing a ‘remote inspection,’ where we inspect the house alone and review the findings with buyers and sellers via a videoconference,” says Welmoed Sisson, a home inspector and author of “101 Things You Don’t Want In Your Home.”

Furthermore, “while we’re at the house, we use gloves, wash our hands, and wipe down things we touch with antiseptic cloths,” Sisson adds.

“We’re anticipating the need to do this for six months at a minimum, and probably longer,” he says.

Home appraisals

Traditionally, home appraisals—where an appraiser visits the house to assess its value—are required by lenders for any buyer who needs a mortgage. But to keep home sellers safe, the Federal Housing Finance Authority has instructed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to temporarily allow exterior-only appraisals or desktop appraisals during the COVID-19 crisis.

These appraisals use public records, multiple listing service information, and other data sources to identify details about the property—and don’t require going inside the home. That’s good news for sellers, although the process could end up taking longer as a result.

Walk-throughs

Social distancing is also affecting buyers’ final walk-throughs, with some being done virtually on FaceTime and others not happening at all.

“The majority of buildings in New York City are not allowing anyone other than owners to enter or exit,” says Peggy Zabakolas, real estate broker at Nest Seekers International in Bridgehampton, NY.

Home closings

Last but not least, social distancing may also delay closings, because some title company offices are closed and in-person gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited, says Matthew Myre, CEO and lead agent at Berri Properties in Asheville, NC.

The way around this is, rather than having everyone gather in one room, various parties might sit in separate rooms and shuffle papers between them. Some closings are even taking place outside on sidewalks.

Are remote home closings possible?

States such as Georgia announced that, as of March 31, video closings are temporarily permissible—and more states may follow suit. However, remote or virtual closings are possible only in some places and cases, such as for cash transactions and when lenders allow it, Zabakolas says.

For instance, remote online notarization is allowed in just 23 states, but the National Association of Realtors® recently sent a letter to Congress asking lawmakers to expand it nationally to speed up real estate transactions during the pandemic while limiting in-person contact.

Just keep in mind that most of the delays in selling a home during the COVID-19 outbreak are beyond anyone’s control—and are a good thing in that they’re meant to protect home sellers (and buyers) from unnecessary exposure risks that might come from in-person meetings.

The post The Home Closing Process Amid Coronavirus: The Seller’s Guide to How Long Will It Take appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

The Home Seller’s Guide To Striking the Right Deal Today—Despite the Pandemic

April 17, 2020

The Home Seller’s Guide to Striking the Right Deal Today—Despite the Pandemic

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The coronavirus crisis has thrown a number of wrinkles into the home-selling process. Stock market fluctuations and job layoffs have some buyers rethinking whether to commit to a property purchase. Meanwhile, social distancing efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 has put many in-person open houses and home showings on hold.

All of which would seem to suggest that the strong seller’s market where sellers enjoyed bidding wars and top dollar for their home are over. But is this true?

Not necessarily. Even today, there’s room for sellers to negotiate. In the fourth part of our series “Home Selling in the Age of Coronavirus,” we offer insight into what sellers should know about getting the best deal for their home.

The coronavirus effect on housing supply and demand

For starters, sellers should take heart that buyer interest may not be dwindling as much as they might think.

“While some agents have reported diminished interest from buyers and sellers, there are still buyers and sellers who either want or need to buy or sell now,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist at realtor.com®.

Your own situation will hinge greatly on where you’re selling, and how far along your area is in its COVID-19 contagion cycle. If cases are peaking, that’s way different from an area where cases are dwindling or near nonexistent.

“Real estate is always a local business, and that’s going to be even more true now,” Hale adds. “The impacts of COVID-19 on the housing market are going to hit each area slightly differently, and with different timing.”

So far, nationwide, housing inventory remains low. The number of homes for sale in March fell 15.7% compared with the same time a year ago, according to realtor.com’s March Housing Trends Report. During the week ending March 28, the number of newly listed homes dropped 34% compared with a year earlier.

Ordinarily, fewer homes on the market means less competition for sellers, which is a good thing for people who’ve listed their property.

Should home sellers reduce their price?

Some buyers may look for deals, thinking all sellers are desperate to sell. But if this isn’t you, there’s no reason to cave or whittle down your home’s price. In fact, the median home price increased 3.8% in March, to $320,000, according to realtor.com’s trends report.

“Regardless of the events, there will always be buyers who will write a lowball offer,” says Ressie Krabacher, a residential broker with the Chicago Home Partner team of At Properties.

Meanwhile, a report by the National Association of Realtors® in March found that 72% of agents surveyed have noted no reduction in seller’s prices.

But even if you think you need to take any offer and sell soon—due to job loss or other economic hardship—make sure you explore all your options first.

“Banks have rolled out mortgage forbearance programs, so most sellers are not in immediate danger of losing their home, even if they just lost their job or their income has been significantly cut,” points out Caleb Liu, who flips homes in Southern California with HouseSimplySold.com. “Other sellers have opted to pull their listings and wait for better market conditions, so inventory remains tight.”

Another option if you need to sell quickly is to entertain offers from iBuyers—companies that can buy your home quickly, although typically for a bit less than you’d fetch on the open market. Bottom line is, options abound that could fit for you depending on your circumstances.

“I would advise sellers to step back and figure out their situation and timeline,” Krabacher says. “I would challenge and encourage them to look at the big picture, and we’ll figure out if it makes sense for them to take the offer now or to sit tight.”

How to negotiate an offer on your home today

Now is the time for home sellers to get their priorities in order. How low are you willing to go? What counteroffer strategies make sense based on your individual financial situation and motivations for selling your home? In the current market, you can—and should—get creative.

“Maybe you can negotiate a more extended closing date ideal for buyers to get your price, or agree to a lower price with the condition of a quick closing or that buyers take the place as is rather than make repairs,” Krabacher says.

Another good thing to ask for during such touch-and-go times? A solid earnest money deposit from buyers to show they’re serious.

“I also advise sellers to negotiate on higher earnest money between 3% and 5% of purchase price to ensure the buyer has more skin in the game,” adds Krabacher.

Depending on your individual market and its balance of buyers and sellers, you’ll want to at least be open to all offers on your home, even if they aren’t as high as you’d like.

“As a seller, if buyers in your area have decided to put the brakes on their home searches, you may want to entertain offers that you hadn’t previously considered, especially if you need to sell quickly,” Hale says. “However, it may be that buyers are still shopping in your market, but other sellers have decided to hold off on jumping into the market now. In that case, you may still see strong offers.”

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How To Show Your Home During the Pandemic: The Definitive Seller’s Guide to Virtual Tours and More

April 15, 2020

Halfpoint/Getty Images

For home sellers in the era of the novel coronavirus, showing off your home to potential buyers may seem like an impossible task. As people practice social distancing to help stop the spread of COVID-19, most open houses are on hold, and in-person home showings are limited across the country.

But there are still ways to reach potential buyers and show your home in the best light—through virtual tours.

In the third part of our series, “Home Selling in the Age of the Coronavirus,” we highlight all the ways home sellers can give buyers an in-depth look at their property without actually opening their doors and risking the buyers’ health (or their own).

How virtual tours work

Virtual tours offer home buyers a remote, video-enabled walk-through of a property that will give them the sensation that they’re actually there—or at least darn close.

Real estate agents used virtual tours before COVID-19 as a unique marketing tool. Now, online tours are more important than ever, since they’re often the only easy way for buyers to check out a home without physically entering the property.

Virtual tours are recommended by the National Association of Realtors® as a way to avoid face-to-face contact while marketing homes during the coronavirus crisis.

“With the current shutdown, more and more home sellers are requesting that we offer buyers a virtual tour to help expedite the sale,” says Peggy Zabakolas, a real estate broker at Nest Seekers International in Bridgehampton, NY.

Real estate listing sites like realtor.com are featuring virtual tours on more and more listings. (Look for the virtual tour icon on the bottom of the listing page.)

Types of virtual tours

Virtual tours can be conducted in a variety of different ways, depending on time, technology, and budget.

Probably the least complicated is where sellers or real estate agents use their smartphone camera to record a video as they walk through the home, showing off each room.

A more interactive option is to livestream a one-on-one showing with the buyers. This will give them more control over where you are pointing the camera, via FaceTime or another video streaming app (“Could you take a peek inside that closet/outside that window?”).

Yet another option home sellers might consider is a virtual open house.

With gatherings of more than 10 people prohibited across most of the United States, real estate agents have been forced to cancel open houses. But many are using tools like FaceTime or Zoom to host live virtual open houses so they can show potential buyers around a home.

Buyers often enjoy seeing the “raw footage” that a virtual open house or showing can offer, as opposed to a professionally produced video, says Angela Hornburg, team leader at the Hornburg Real Estate Group in Dallas.

Buyers can also ask questions, which may help them to feel more secure that they can be fully informed about the property—or perhaps even allow them to make an offer on the spot.

3D tours

A more high-tech option for showing a home is setting up a fully fledged 3D tour. This is where a home seller, real estate agent, or a professional photographer uses a special 3D camera to capture images of the home.

These photos are uploaded into a proprietary software program that renders the visuals in three dimensions, creating a tour that can be uploaded onto a real estate listing.

Adding a 3D tour is a little more involved than taking a video on your phone, however—and it can also be pricey.

For example, the 3D visual platform Matterport offers packages ranging from $9.99 to $309 per month. Immoviewer’s prices range from $69 per month to $799 per year. Typically, a listing agent will pay for this as part of the marketing material.

While 3D tours are still rare, some people insist that they’re worth the cost, especially for higher-end properties. Homes can be viewed in several different ways, such as in dollhouse view, which shows how rooms are laid out in the house (see images below).

The dollhouse view provides a sense of the flow of the home.

Matterport/Realtor.com

Virtual tours show viewers a 3D model of a home’s floor plan.

Matterport/Realtor.com

Virtual staging

Traditional staging—where furniture and artwork are arranged in a house to present the space in the best light—is a great selling tool, but it may be difficult to pull off at a time when sellers are reluctant to let outsiders into their house.

There’s a workaround here, too: virtual staging, which provides simulated images of a property laid out with alternative furnishings.

“Virtual staging, like physical home staging, is aimed at enticing home buyers and helping them connect emotionally with a property,” says Ilaria Barion, a luxury home stager, who offers both in-person and virtual staging.

Virtual home staging uses software to reimagine new decor in a property, in order to enhance the appearance of the space.

Unlike on-site staging, virtual staging comes with unlimited options, for example, paring down homes that are filled with furniture and ornament and displaying them with a simplified, cleaner design.

Before: The living room of a New York City home before a virtual staging

Ilaria Barion Design

After: The virtual staging of the same living room highlights its features.

Ilaria Barion Design

Before: Bedroom before virtual staging

Ilaria Barion Design

After: Virtually staging the bedroom offers a more neutral design.

Ilaria Barion Flow

Just as with virtual tours, virtual staging was available before the coronavirus outbreak, but is especially important now. Even small, simple changes can make a big difference.

For instance: Does your property have an accent wall painted in a bright color that might turn off buyers? Virtual staging can wipe that away. Sellers should aim for “a neutral palette, so the new buyer can envision themselves living in it,” Zabakolas says.

Also, adding a few trendy accents can make a lasting impression on buyers.

“Small accents to dress up the home, such as flowers or centerpieces, help in any virtual or in-person tour,” says Tomer Fridman, a luxury and celebrity real estate expert at Compass in Los Angeles.

Staging a home virtually is cheaper than on-site staging, Barion says. Virtual staging costs a few hundred dollars and is usually paid for by agents, unlike traditional staging, which costs thousands. Virtual staging can also be completed in a matter of days.

“Virtual staging allows for many more options that would be cost-prohibitive in real life, like stripping down wallpaper, changing window treatment, adding a pool table, or replacing old furniture and fixtures,” Barion says.

How home sellers can use virtual tours to find the right buyer

Virtual tours and open houses can help buyers get to know a home, but the fact is that some may insist that they see a place in person before they feel confident about making an offer.

Although some areas, like the state of New York, are prohibiting in-person home showings at present, they are still happening in other places.

While it may be off-putting for sellers to allow buyers to enter their home, that may be necessary if they want to get an offer.

Virtual tours and showings nevertheless serve an important purpose: They help buyers get to know a property well enough to become serious contenders for a purchase.

In turn, virtual tours help sellers lower their risk of exposure to the coronavirus, by helping them whittle down the number of buyers who enter their house.

So how else can home sellers know a buyer is serious? Maggie Wellsreal estate agent at Keller Williams Realty Greater Lexington in Kentucky, requires that buyers have a mortgage pre-approval and have taken a look at the virtual tour beforehand.

Agents also make sure to keep hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and shoe coverings available for buyers to use during their in-person tour.

Selling a home during the coronavirus crisis presents many unique challenges. Being adaptable will help sellers to reach buyers and to make sure that the home is sold.

The post How To Show Your Home During the Pandemic: The Definitive Seller’s Guide to Virtual Tours and More appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

How Do You Sell a Home Safely During the COVID-19 Crisis? Here Are the Steps To Take

April 14, 2020

How Do You Sell a Home Safely During the COVID-19 Crisis? Here Are the Steps To Take

AndreyPopov/Getty Images

Selling a home can be a headache. It often takes longer and costs more than you think, and it can be an emotional drain. That’s in normal times. Selling a home during a pandemic will add a slew of new safety concerns to the mix.

But even during the COVID-19 crisis, real estate transactions are moving forward. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently classified real estate as an essential service, although local laws might affect what’s allowed and might ban certain activities like open houses. (Be sure to check what’s OK in your area.) Suffice it to say, many sellers are still listing their homes, and buyers are still buying, too.

Yet selling a home during a pandemic is new for everyone. And we’re here to offer guidance through our series “Home Selling in the Age of Coronavirus.”

This second installment of the series offers insight into how sellers and real estate agents are adapting to the COVID-19 outbreak to make selling a home as safe as possible. Here’s an overview of some of the new processes.

Virtual showings could be the new norm

“Selling a home during a pandemic or uncertain market definitely left some of our sellers unsure on what they want to do,” says Ressie Krabacher, a residential broker with the Chicago Home Partner team of At Properties. “We do have sellers who do need to sell now, and we have implemented safety protocols and plan to take the necessary precautions to protect them.”

For instance? Eye-catching photos and video have long been a must for any home listing, but that’s more important than ever now, since so many people are sheltering in place at home and likely house hunting online. These days, sellers are taking their listings up a notch by offering virtual tours of their homes to drive interest among buyers and provide a more in-depth glimpse of the property.

“Sellers love virtual tours because typically what would be the inconvenience of leaving the residence for 20 to 30 minutes to allow potential buyers access now have the opportunity to allow them access without having to leave,” says Michelle Mumoli, CEO of the Mumoli Group, a residential and commercial sales and leasing firm in Hoboken, NJ.

Doing a virtual tour reduces the number of in-person visits to only those who are truly interested, says Angela Hornburg, team leader at the Hornburg Real Estate Group in Dallas.

“We are using virtual tours to pre-qualify interest to ensure that potential buyers don’t tour a home and say they didn’t like the flooring in person or something small like that,” Hornburg says.

Agents are taking extra precautions for in-person showings

Open houses with large groups of people are mostly canceled for now, but many buyers still want to view a home in person before making an offer. Sellers, however, may worry about having strangers in their homes. So, in places where face-to-face showings are still happening, real estate agents are taking some extra steps to protect homeowners and only allowing them in on a case-by-case basis.

“This is not a time for looky-loos,” says Mumoli, who is limiting in-person showings to buyers with loan pre-approval letters.

Along with a pre-approval, Hornburg says she makes sure the potential buyer has viewed the virtual home tour and the seller’s property disclosure statement before being allowed in.

“We also have delivered ‘showing kits’ to our listings that contain sanitizer, booties, and gloves for people to use during the showing,” Hornburg says.

Before a home showing, she advises sellers to clean and disinfect high-touch areas, like countertops and doorknobs, and to leave lights on and doors, closets, and cabinets open to limit what visitors need to touch. And, put a sign on the front door requesting people viewing the home to take off their shoes.

Also, make hand sanitizer and soap available with signs encouraging hand-washing. Once the showing is over, clean and disinfect thoroughly to lower your exposure risk to whatever the buyers may have brought in with them.

Inspections and appraisals may not need in-person contact

Home sellers usually have to allow the home buyer’s inspectors and appraisers into their homes before the real estate deal can go forward. But, these days, social distancing orders are allowing many inspections and appraisals to be done with minimal contact.

National home inspection company HomeMaster, for instance, now asks sellers to stay secluded in part of the home away from the inspector. Inspectors are also following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, with buyers wearing booties, masks, and gloves, and sellers wiping down everything with disinfectant wipes when the potential buyers leave.

If the lender allows it, appraisals can be done by driving by the home, or viewing photos of the property, so the appraiser never has to set foot in the home. So be sure to ask whether such options are acceptable in your area.

A remote closing may be possible

Remote home closings have been an option for buyers and sellers in some states even before the COVID-19 crisis. But, there’s a push to expand this practice nationwide.

Currently, 23 states have remote online notarization policies, allowing a notary and signer to execute electronic documents while in different physical locations. The National Association of Realtors® recently sent a letter to Congress asking lawmakers to expand the policies nationally to make real estate transactions safer and easier during the pandemic.

The ability to close remotely also depends on the buyer’s lender, and some don’t have the technology to offer a fully virtual closing or work with buyers in states that don’t allow them, says Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree.

“This is definitely a hot topic right now,” he says. “Most lenders are working toward trying to make this happen, lobbying to get laws in place to allow this, and focusing on how they can make mobile closings with notaries more safe.”

If remote closing is possible, title companies prepare the required documents and mail, and then email or upload them to a portal. The title company verifies personal information and identification by video, and the documents are signed electronically.

Another option is using a mobile notary, who travels to a buyer or seller’s home or workplace to complete the closing to limit in-person contact, Hornburg says.

“We’ve had one done this way so far and saw the notary wearing a mask, booties, gloves, and she opened up new pen packs for the sellers to sign with,” she says. “They also sat 6 feet apart.”

Social distancing is also affecting in-person closings. To limit contact, only the parties signing are allowed at the closing these days, says Maggie Wells, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty Greater Lexington in Kentucky. Closings are starting to be delayed because people are limiting in-person contact and working from home.

Selling a home during the pandemic is an adjustment for everyone, but Wells says buyers, sellers, and agents are working together to make transactions run as smoothly as possible.

“I’m not sugarcoating anything or making guarantees to sellers,” she says. “I just let them know everyone is taking every precaution possible.”

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Should I Sell My House Now? The Essential Guide To Selling in the Age of Coronavirus

April 13, 2020

Getty Images; realtor.com

Spring is usually prime home-selling season—but this spring is a whole different ballgame.

With the coronavirus crisis intensifying and the economy in a tailspin, some homeowners may be asking themselves: Should I sell my home during the coronavirus pandemic, or wait?

To be sure, this spring’s home-selling season will be anything but normal. So far, the latest National Association of Realtors® Economic Pulse Flash Survey conducted mid-March—which already feels like a very long time ago—revealed that 48% of real estate agents have noted a dip in buyer interest compared with a year ago.

“The coronavirus is leading to fewer home buyers searching in the marketplace, as well as some listings being delayed,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR.

But this news shouldn’t necessarily serve as a dark omen or an intractable obstacle to all home sellers. To help you navigate this strange new home-selling season, we’re launching a new advice series, “Home Selling in the Age of Coronavirus.”

This first installment tackles whether selling a home today is a good idea. While this will depend a lot on your area and circumstances, we’ll help you figure out where you stand, address any concerns, and (if you still want to move ahead) offer ideas on how to sell your home safely with the right precautions in place. If you’re not sure you want to list your home now, here are a few things to consider first.

Is it safe to sell your home amid the coronavirus outbreak?

For starters: If you need to sell your home for personal reasons—because you are relocating for a job, in need of more/less space, or facing new financial circumstances that require a move—you shouldn’t let the coronavirus stop you.

In late March, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security declared residential real estate sales an “essential service” that will be allowed to continue. That said, check with your real estate agent and local government for what’s allowed in your area, and keep in mind that things could change as this pandemic progresses.

In certain areas, in-person home showings are still happening, although how they are held (and how many people are allowed to attend) has changed. The NAR has released open house guidelines urging real estate agents to limit the number of guests per open house to 10 at a time. They also require potential buyers to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer when they enter the home, and remove their shoes or wear booties over their shoes.

“Sellers incorrectly assume that there will be no showings,” says Adam Kruse, a real estate agent with the Hermann London Group near St. Louis. “We haven’t experienced a significant reduction in showings.”

This is particularly true for certain types of properties. Specifically: If you’ve already moved out and the home you’re selling is vacant, you should have an easy job enticing buyers. Let’s face it, an empty house seems far safer to visit than one where people still live.

Why your home’s listing online matters more than ever

While certain hard-hit areas (such as New York City) have forbidden in-person home showings, this doesn’t mean all is lost, thanks to the increased use of virtual home tours using tools such as Facebook Live, Immoviewer, Matterport, Kleard, and others. While virtual tours and showings are a great way to keep home sellers and buyers safe, this new reality has also raised the bar on how homes should be presented and marketed online.

In other words: A few nice photos of your home may not cut it during this period.

“You only get one chance at a first impression, so you don’t want to be using poorly shot and lit iPhone photos and videos,” says Ressie Krabacher, a residential broker with the Chicago Home Partner team of At Properties.

So make sure the real estate agent you hire is well versed in digital technologies that will be used to show off your home in the best light. (We’ll dive into this topic in more depth in a later installment.)

Coronavirus’ impact on the housing market and buyer behavior

While your local real estate market could dictate whether this spring is still a good time to list your home, housing inventory is low nationwide. According to realtor.com®’s March Housing Trends Report, there were 15.7% fewer homes for sale this March compared with a year ago.

Low inventory spells good news for sellers, since there are fewer homes for buyers to choose from. Plus, prices are up, too, with the national median listing prices 3.8% higher than a year earlier, at $320,000. 

That said, most of the home sales that closed in March were likely agreed to in February or even earlier, points out realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale. April and beyond may be a different story.

“Our inventory and listing data can provide some early insight into how housing markets may be impacted by COVID-19, but the situation and reactions to it are still rapidly evolving,” Hale says. “I expect a slightly higher number of contracts to fall apart, either because mortgage market volatility or, in some cases, job or income loss prevents buyers from getting the mortgage they expected.”

Mortgage interest rates remain low, enticing buyers, but uncertainty in the economy and layoffs have led some potential buyers to hold off on a home purchase.

“That doesn’t mean all transactions are going to stop, but everyone is taking a second look at if buying right now is the best decision,” says Noah Brinker, a real estate investor and owner of Cash Homes NWA in Northwest Arkansas.

While home prices remain fairly steady right now, if economic conditions worsen, more buyers might give up and home prices could drop. So, if your home is ready to list right now, you might want to strike while the iron is still (somewhat) hot.

“With uncertainty at a peak, it seems to me that if the market is going to teeter one way, it would be down at least temporarily,” Kruse says. “So why wait to sell when prices are possibly going to go down?”

Why a home sale might take longer today

If you do land a buyer, be warned that your sale might take longer than usual. On average, it takes 50 days to close on a house, but the pandemic could drag things out even longer.

What’s the holdup? Specifically, buyers are asking for more contingencies on their offers in light of COVID-19, such as longer home inspection windows and extended closing times. Along with closings potentially taking longer, some buyers may face delays in mortgage pre-approval because of changing financial circumstances. Home inspections may be delayed, and it could take longer to get repairs made.

Worried your home might sit on the market? The stigma around stale listings is changing fast, too.

“Sellers also assume that their days on market will be high,” says Kruse. “But we don’t think that people will be as interested in DOM in the upcoming six months.”

In fact, the Real Estate Board of New York recently asked real estate listing sites to suspend the DOM clock on residential listings, and more areas might follow suit.

Sellers face unique and uncertain times, and, as such, patience is essential. In our next installment, we’ll explore the various ways you can sell a house safely. Stay tuned!

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Should You Sell Your Home During a Recession? 5 Crucial Things To Consider

March 17, 2020

Should You Sell Your Home During a Recession? 5 Crucial Things to Consider

Diy13/Getty Images

Every day, it seems that concerns about the coronavirus mount higher—as do fears of an impending recession. Homeowners who have been planning a sale during the typically bustling spring market might be wondering what to do.

We asked the experts what to expect if a recession hits, and what that means for the real estate market. Whether you’re currently trying to sell your home or considering putting your property on the market soon, here are a few factors to keep in mind if a recession actually takes place.

1. What happens to home prices during a recession

This is probably no surprise but it may still hurt to hear: In an economic downturn, homes tend to sell for lower prices, says Roger Ma, a New York–based financial planner and owner of lifelaidout.

“If the market is softer and there’s decreased demand, the price that you may be able to command may be less than what you would have imagined,” he says. “It could be less than what you paid, and the net amount that you receive could be less than the amount that you put into it.”

2. Is the timing right for you?

Since recessions bring fewer buyers and a drop in home prices, if a recession hits and you don’t need to sell, it might be a good idea to wait until the economy improves, says Hadi Atri, owner of Re/Max Executive in Charlotte, NC.

Nonetheless, listing a home during a recession may be a must for some homeowners: They may need to move because of a job transfer or family circumstances, says George Ratiu, senior economist for realtor.com®.

“So, it’s less about trying to time the economy or the market and more about making a personal decision,” Ratiu says.

“Try not to focus on the market timing; focus on your own timing,” Ma adds.

3. Are you buying and selling at the same time?

If you’re buying a new home at the same time you’re selling, the financial gains and losses of a recession may even out.

“Oftentimes, if you’re the seller, you might be realizing lower prices, and that might be painful to you,” Ma says. “But on the flip side, if you’re selling at a lower price and then you’re going to be in the market to buy something, you’re going to get that at a lower price, too.”

If you must sell your home during a recession, Fiona Petrie, executive vice president and managing director of Re/Max Integra, says moving that money to other real estate is the wisest investment.

“If you’re selling to put money into something else [such as the stock market], don’t do it,” she says. “But, if you’re selling in a suppressed market, and you’re moving your money in the same kind of market elsewhere, it is not a bad time to sell. Real estate is tried and true, and I don’t know if there is a better investment out there.”

4. How to price a house during a recession

During a recession, Petrie says, the reason a house might not sell usually has to do with an inflated price.

“Sellers need to be realistic on what the value of their home is, and they need to put a home to the closest projected price as possible,” she says. “If the home is priced properly, it will sell.”

A home value estimator can help you determine the home’s going rate. But consider this number a ballpark starting point; you’ll need a real estate agent to also run an analysis of recent home sales in your area to guide you to the right price.

5. Make the home move-in ready

During or before a recession, cash-strapped buyers will not only be price-sensitive and hungering for a deal, but also reluctant to buy a fixer-upper or any house that needs a lot of work (and the heavy reno budget that goes with it). As such, recession-era home sellers should try very hard to make their house look move-in ready.

Even small repairs, updates, or renovations, like a fresh coat of paint or landscaping, improve the product you’re offering and could drive buyer interest. They also might bring in a higher sales price and help the home sell faster, Ratiu says.

“These renovations could differentiate your house from others on the market,” Ma says. “If you see some disheveled house that just looks old, looks like it needs a lot of work, as a buyer, you’re thinking, why would I waste my time with this when there’s so much other stuff that’s move-in ready?”

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