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

September 24, 2020

home improvements to make before you sell

Feverpitched/Getty Images

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

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

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

1. Upgrade your outdoor space

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

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

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

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

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

2. Create a functional home office or classroom

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

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

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

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

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

3. Add separation of space

Open floor plans are so 2019.

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

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

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

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

4. Add space for a home gym

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

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

5. Give your in-law suite a makeover

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

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

6. Spruce up the laundry room

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

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

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

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

Lessons From Listings Photos: See the Power of Staging in This Pennsylvania Carriage House

September 16, 2020

lessons from listing photos

realtor.com

It doesn’t matter how perfect your home is—if your listing photos don’t stand out, potential buyers won’t come by to take a look. In our series “Lessons From Listing Photos,” we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pictures highlight the home’s best assets.

These days, staging a home—redecorating it with furnishings and decor selected to appeal to buyers—is an important step that nearly every homeowner should think about when it’s time to sell their house.

When potential buyers view a home—whether online or in person—you want them to be able to picture themselves in your space. But it’s hard to do that when your personal stuff is everywhere. That’s where staging comes in. It’s a tool to highlight the strengths of each room and eliminate anything that could give potential buyers pause—be that clutter, personal belongings, or design decisions that just aren’t for everyone.

If you’ve ever doubted the power of staging a home before listing it, this Pennsylvania home will make you see the light.

Built in 1925, it has many great features and tons of character, but it still didn’t sell when it was listed for $810,000 in August 2019. In June 2020, it was relisted with brand-new photos of fully staged interiors. We’re talking streamlined furniture and rugs in clean, neutral colors. No more mismatched wooden furniture! And just two months later it was sold for $820,000, a little more than the initial asking price.

Since home staging costs around $2,000 to $2,400 a month (the furnishings are rented), that seems like money well-spent, especially when you consider the money lost on extra mortgage payments while the home sits on the market.

We went right to our experts to find out why the staging of this house attracted a buyer—and how you can have the same success in your home. Here’s what they had to say.

Living room

The living room in this house had a lot of great features, but the original setup didn’t allow them to stand out.

“When you have a feature wall, such as the stone wall shown here, it’s best to showcase that instead of covering it up with bulky furniture,” says Dawn Gerali, a real estate agent with West USA. “The modern, lighter-colored furniture and minimalist artwork works well to make this a comfortable, inviting space.”

“By simplifying the color of all the furnishings, it is less distracting to the eye,” explains Lisa Vail, designer with Vesta Home. “A potential buyer can easily find themselves stepping into the space and making it their own.

Vail adds that swapping out the furniture is a quick and easy move that gives the perception that the entire house has been updated.

Kitchen

There was nothing really wrong with the original kitchen in this house, but it had a mismatched vibe that made it hard to present a functional, uncluttered space. Yet the magic of staging changed all of that with just a few simple swaps.

“The kitchen island has been staged with bigger stools and place settings, and the shelves have been cleared as well,” says Will Rodgers, a real estate consultant with KW Realty McLean. “This gives the buyer the idea that the kitchen can be a good area for meals, and makes it appear less cluttered.”

Jill Valeri, a home stager and owner of Welcome Home: Interior Design Solutions, says the staged version of the room just feels better to potential buyers.

“The matching stools, place settings, and small vases by the stove create a visually appealing rhythm in the space, while emptying the built-in shelves makes them less distracting,” she says. “The overall effect is that the buyer can now focus on the beautiful marble and vast counter spaces.”

Dining room

Obviously the selling point in this dining room is the gorgeous ceiling beams, but unless the room is staged right, they may look more like a hindrance than anything.

“The ornate furniture in the before photo competes with the wood-beamed ceilings and windows. It detracts from the room’s architectural features,” explains Gerali. “The sleek, modern furniture in the after photo draws attention to the beautiful ceiling and the natural light coming in through the windows.”

Marla Perez, account executive with Vespa Home, agrees.

“Staging this dining room made it feel larger and more grand,” she says. “Changing the orientation of the dining room table elongated the dining room, and adding a neutral rug brightened the space. The updated furniture and upholstered dining chairs created a more formal dining [area] for entertaining.”

Bedroom

Very little has changed in the bedroom of this home, save for the new furniture and decor, but it feels like a totally different space.

“They have elevated this room simply by adding the appropriate-scale bed and neutralizing the color palette,” says Vail. “The original bed was way too high for the room and drew attention to the odd nook it was set in. But now it looks like the nook was built intentionally for the bed.”

Rodgers emphasizes the impact of the cosmetic changes.

“This bedroom feels more airy and natural after the old chests and dressers were replaced with plants, neutral-colored linens, and a serene piece of art over the bed,” he says. “This gives buyers a relaxing feel upon entering the room, which is perfect for a bedroom.”

The post Lessons From Listings Photos: See the Power of Staging in This Pennsylvania Carriage House appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

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

September 11, 2020

home office

Pekic/Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

Be mindful when converting a room into a home office

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

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

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

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

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

And don’t forget to update the closet.

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

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

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

Pick a quiet area

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

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

Transform an unused area into a workspace

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

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

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

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

Flaunt connectivity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Million Dollar Beach House’ Reveals Why Hamptons Real Estate Isn’t as Easy To Sell as You Might Think

September 4, 2020

Million Dollar Beach House

Netflix

Want to bask in the last days of summer by touring beautiful beach houses worth millions of dollars? You can get your fill of sandy eye candy on a new Netflix reality show that just debuted, “Million Dollar Beach House.”

This new series follows real estate agents in some of the most affluent and glamorous beach towns around: an area known as the Hamptons, just a drive (or, for the truly rich, helicopter ride) from New York City. On the show, real estate agents at local brokerage Nest Seekers International spend their days primping posh properties with the hopes that some ultrawealthy buyer will bite.

Yet surprisingly, these multimillion-dollar mansions run up against many of the same problems getting sold as any regular-priced property. As proof, check out this recap of the show’s premiere episode, “Selling Season,” where you can also learn plenty of tips on how to fetch top dollar for your own house, whether it’s on the beach or any old block.

Clutter can obstruct a great view

house
Before: This beach house felt cluttered.

Netflix

Michael Fulfree, an agent at Nest Seekers, has a shot at his first big sale: a $6 million listing with stunning beach views. But there’s just one problem: The homeowner, Patti, keeps the house so cluttered that he knows it’ll distract buyers from what’s outside those windows.

“As soon as people walk into that house, I want their eyes to go straight to the water and that’s all they see,” Fulfree says. “But Patti has Buddhas and tchotchkes everywhere. There’s too much going on in that property.”

house
After: With some small changes, this living room looks much cleaner.

Netflix

So he brings in two interior designers to declutter and transform the space. When the designers are done, the place looks much more streamlined—which makes it all the easier to admire the view.

You have to spend money to make money

staging
Think of the home staging fee as an investment.

Netflix

While home sellers often dream of the money they’ll make when they sell, they often lose sight of the money they should spend to get there.

“People don’t understand how much money gets put into actually selling the property,” Fulfree explains. “I’m willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars. It’s worth it.”

Whether a house needs staging, a new coat of paint, or a repair, Fulfree’s listing serves as a good reminder that sellers should get a listing looking its best before putting it on the market—even if that comes with a hefty price tag.

Sellers should never attend their own open house

owner
Home sellers should never attend their own open house.

Netflix

Fulfree puts in a lot of effort to make his listing’s open house a success: getting the house to look its best, inviting guests, and creating a fun atmosphere to show off the perks of beachside living.

However, when the homeowner walks in, Fulfree is concerned.

“You don’t want the seller there in the presence of buyers,” Fulfree explains. “It’s almost impossible to make deals.”

And to make things worse, Patti complains that she doesn’t like the staging. As Fulfree explains, “Her negativity could really affect potential buyers.”

Take-home lesson for sellers: It’s best to stay away from your house when potential buyers are touring, either individually or during an open house. Seeing the owner can make it hard for potential buyers to picture themselves living there.

Don’t overprice your property

beach house
This beach house is beautiful, but it’s not worth $35 million.

Netflix

Meanwhile, real estate agent Noel Roberts is hoping to land his biggest listing yet: a modern mansion he says could be worth $35 million.

However, fellow agent Peggy Zabakolas says this is a bad estimate.

“Part of your job as a real estate broker is to come up with a number that is realistic,” Zabakolas says.

She is right to be wary of overpricing a property. Overpricing could put the property at risk for sitting on the market for a long time with no buyers in sight.

Plus, a high price will give homeowners unrealistic expectations for the sale, and they’ll end up being disappointed when, eventually, the price has to be dropped.

It’s best to choose a fair price that will help the house sell quickly.

The faster you sell, the better

beach view
Michael Fulfree knows that a view like this should help a home sell quickly.

Netflix

When Fulfree is asked about his timeline for selling his beach house, he says he wants to get the sale done as quickly as possible.

“In real estate, there is no length of time that’s short enough,” he says.

selling
Fulfree talking to buyers about his listing

Netflix

Generally, home sellers will want to find a buyer quickly, too. The longer a home sits on the market, the more the owner will be paying for a mortgage, taxes, HOA fees, and upkeep. The seller may have already moved out by the time a house is on the market, which could mean paying for two homes at once.

So, it’s in everyone’s best interest to sell quickly.

The post ‘Million Dollar Beach House’ Reveals Why Hamptons Real Estate Isn’t as Easy To Sell as You Might Think appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Virtual Staging: The Hot Trend That Can Help Sell Your Home During the Coronavirus Crisis

August 27, 2020

virtual staging

Feverpitched/Getty Images

In this age of social distancing, you might want to limit the number of strangers traipsing through your house. So chances are good you’ve said sayonara to the idea of having a staging company come in to artfully showcase your home for sale.

That means it’s time to get creative in order to prep your property for sale. And guess what? There’s an app for that.

Actually, there’s a wide variety of virtual staging software options available, allowing designers to digitally add gorgeous furnishings and accessories to photos of each room in your house, enhancing its overall appeal.

Some tech platforms can even do virtual renovations like digitally erasing a tired sofa or peeling wallpaper, and revamping rooms with new wall color and different flooring so you can show it off online to potential buyers.

Eager to find out more? Here’s how you can make virtual staging work for you.

Virtual staging is a practical solution during the pandemic

When Ed Gory, a Realtor®, was preparing to list a vacant two-bedroom ranch house in early March, staging companies couldn’t physically work in the house. Gory’s photographer suggested he contact roOomy, a company offering virtual staging services. Digital decor elements are layered into high-resolution photos of the home and rendered into a realistic final image to look like you’ve actually accomplished the transformation.

“I’d never considered virtual staging before, because the finished product I’d seen looked a little cartoonish, but the technology has come a long way,” says Gory, who works at Intero Real Estate in San Carlos, CA.

“Since buyers weren’t able to visit houses, virtual staging provided a means for us to show something more exciting than a picture of a blank room,” Gory says.

It worked so well, in fact, that the house was sold five days later.

This didn’t surprise Lindsay Dillon, roOomy’s vice president of strategic partnerships and marketing. That’s because virtual staging is experiencing a surge in popularity.

“Even before the coronavirus, we were seeing a shift in how the real estate community was approaching digital content,” Dillon says.

Click the arrows and slide from left to right to see a fully staged room from roOomy.

Your home can be styled any way you like

Home stagers usually pull decorative items and furniture from their warehouse to fit your rooms, limited to whatever inventory they have on hand at the time. They also generally just add basic elements—think sofas, dining and bedroom furniture, plus artwork—but they won’t usually change out light fixtures, for example. Virtual staging designers have no limits, because they’re working with a huge digital library of 3-D assets.

“We want to show the space in its best light based on your target buyer,” says Dillon. But “we don’t want to be deceptive, so we won’t add a wall or kitchen island that doesn’t exist.”

Virtual staging can make a vacant home more attractive

Virtual staging is especially useful for sellers who have already moved out, says Lyndsey Garza, owner/broker at Galveston Vacation Real Estate. An empty house is typically much more expensive to stage, and it can be harder to sell.

“For people that don’t have the imagination to see something as an office or a kids’ playroom, virtual staging gives them room to think outside the box,” Garza explains.

Click the arrows and slide from left to right to see a fully staged room from roOomy.

Virtual staging is cost-effective

Sellers can save significantly with virtual staging, because the costs of physically staging a home—removing existing furniture, hauling in a bunch of new things, and then staging the home—really add up.

“Here, a 1,200-square-foot home could cost $2,500, but it’s about a third that price to do virtual staging,” says Gory. “Plus, you have a lot more control over the style, artwork, and even the plants you put out, so you could really dress up a house and give it a great online first impression.”

Garza notes that to minimally stage a four-bedroom, three-bath, 2,500-square-foot home in Galveston or the Houston area for three months, sellers fork over $3,500. A simple virtual staging would cost about $500.

“Very few sellers want to put any more money into their home, and virtual staging saves them money with less traffic through the home,” she says.

You can save valuable time when listing your home

Because virtual staging is done on a computer, it saves a lot of time, Gory says. Usually real estate agents meet with a live stager to assess the house, wait for an estimate, and then wait again for movers to bring over rented furniture—and finally, the photographer takes listing photos.

“That process could easily take a week from start to finish, and it took a lot quicker to stage virtually, because I did everything from my computer,” Gory says.

And consider this: If you’re in the middle of sprucing up your place, you don’t have to wait until your renovations are complete before posting listing photos—virtual staging allows buyers to visualize how great the house will look when you’re done.

Click the arrows and slide from left to right to see a fully staged room from roOomy.

Be transparent about what’s real and what isn’t

The last thing you want is a buyer who feels tricked into going to see a house that looks nothing like the photographs, says Garza.

“The downfall with virtual staging is that sometimes it can appear misleading: Even though the perspectives and measurements are theoretically correct, it’s fictitious—it’s an idea of what the space could be versus the actual space,” she says, adding that it’s important to clearly note on the online property listing that the images have been virtually staged.

Consider a true virtual staging platform

There’s a reason virtual staging hasn’t taken off in the past—it’s tricky to get right. Make sure you have confidence in the technology being used by the company you choose.

“Because we’re able to transform a 2-D image into a 3-D space with our patented technology and add real 3-D furniture to that space, we’re ensuring that what you’re seeing in scale is accurate,” says Dillon. “You’re not trying to fit a king-sized bed in a room that has no business to have one by using photo-editing tools.”

And be sure to carefully vet the companies you and your agent are thinking of hiring.

“Some of them look way too spiffed up and don’t fit the property, and sometimes it looks like you’re playing a video game,” Garza says. “I like to show clients samples, because I want sellers to be happy with what’s online. Then, chances are buyers are going to be happy with it, too.”

The post Virtual Staging: The Hot Trend That Can Help Sell Your Home During the Coronavirus Crisis appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

It Just Makes Cents! 7 DIY Home Improvement Projects That Promise Serious ROI

August 20, 2020

painting kitchen cabinets

photoman/Getty Images

DIY home improvements can be great feel-good projects. You get to learn a new skill, use your hands, and take pride in something you create yourself.

But let’s face it: Your DIY project doesn’t make sense if it won’t make cents. In other words, it needs to pay off when it comes time to sell your home.

“The key to winning the ROI game with home improvement is to take a less-is-more approach,” says Dan DiClerico, home expert at HomeAdvisor.

If your goal is to earn a return on your DIY investment, DiClerico suggests taking on smaller improvements that will have a big impact on buyers.

“Bells and whistles tend not to rank high on ROI,” DiClerico says. “The high-tech home theater might mean hours of fun for you and the family, but it’s probably not going to pay for itself when the time comes to sell.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t outfit your house with the latest technology—if you’re making an improvement that you’ll love and enjoy, go for it. But if you’re looking to roll up your sleeves and tackle a project that will offer serious bang for the buck, try one of these home improvement projects next weekend.

1. Refresh your kitchen cabinets

“If the cabinets are in good shape, adding a fresh coat of paint or stain will dramatically transform the feel of the entire kitchen,” DiClerico says.

Be warned: Even though painting isn’t very difficult, it’s still time-consuming. You’ll need to remove the doors and drawers to ensure a clean finish. “But in terms of skill level, it’s something even novice DIYers can handle,” DiClerico says.

And remember, slow and steady wins the race when it comes to any painting project.

“You could lose some buyers with a sloppy paint job,” says Scott W. Campbell, a real estate agent in Milwaukee. “If you truly want to increase ROI, a good paint job takes time and patience.”

2. Create curb appeal

Making a great first impression on home buyers is one of the quickest ways to boost your home’s value.

“Landscaping and gardening are the biggest ones that also are simple,” says Kendall Bonner, a real estate agent in Lutz, FL. “Curb appeal has a significant impact on buyer’s purchasing decisions.”

Aside from adding tasteful foliage and keeping your lawn manicured, a few strings of café lights can also improve your home’s outdoor space and curb appeal. Don’t forget to paint old fences and prune overgrown plants.

3. Give your front door a makeover

Want to boost your home’s curb appeal but don’t have a green thumb? Spruce up your front door instead. All it takes is a few coats of paint. (The same rules apply: Work slowly and carefully to avoid drips and roller marks.)

“A fresh pop of color at the front door is a great way to enhance your home’s curb appeal for not a lot of money or time,” DiClerico says.

4. Create a backyard deck

“Outdoor living is hugely popular, even more so since the pandemic, since people are looking to expand their home’s usable living space,” DiClerico says.

Creating a new deck is possible to do yourself, but “it’s not for the faint of heart,” he adds, especially if you’re putting in concrete footings for the deck posts. This project is best for intermediate to advanced renovators, and it helps to have a few friends on board to assist.

Keep the design simple—avoid any tricky changes in elevation—and work with pressure-treated lumber instead of hardwoods that are tough to cut and screw into, DiClerico says.

5. Brighten up the basement

You don’t need to spring for a fully finished basement to appeal to prospective buyers.

“Spraying the basement unfinished ceiling with flat black latex paint can make big difference to clean up a look, and spraying the walls,” Campbell says.

To take your project to the next level, you can add carpeting and adjustable lighting. By cleaning up the basement, you can help prospective buyers envision a space that will fit their needs, whether it’s as a rec room, play area, or home gym.

6. Add more storage

“Anytime you add usable living space to the home, you increase its value,” DiClerico says. “That’s true now more so than ever given all the time we’re spending at home.”

Making an addition to your home might not be realistic. But smaller improvements, like adding a pantry in the kitchen, a new storage unit in the garage, or even closet organizers, add valuable storage space to your home and will pay off when you’re ready to sell.

7. Make small repairs and keep up with maintenance

It may not be as satisfying as tackling a big project, but staying on top of your home’s basic maintenance is just as important and promises serious ROI.

“Many of today’s buyers are staying away from fixer-uppers in favor of move-in ready homes that won’t require frequent repairs,” DiClerico says.

Seemingly small problems like a leaky faucet, loose gutter, or missing light fixture can be a red flag.

“When buyers see things like that, they think to themselves, ‘What else is wrong with this house that I can’t see?’” DiClerico says. “Spending a few hundred dollars on these small repairs will let the buyer know that this house has been cared for.”

The post It Just Makes Cents! 7 DIY Home Improvement Projects That Promise Serious ROI appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

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

July 27, 2020

buying and selling a home

John M Lund Photography Inc / Getty Images

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

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

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

Vacate your house if you can

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

realtor.com

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

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

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

Be OK with not saying goodbye

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

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

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

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

Kelsey Ogletree

Expect the unexpected

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

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

Kelsey Ogletree

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

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

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

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

Kelsey Ogletree

Look at the big picture

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

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

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

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

Kelsey Ogletree

Accept that things might not work out perfectly

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

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

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

Kelsey Ogletree

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

6 Reasons Why This Is Actually the Best Time in Years To Sell a House

July 9, 2020

Reasons to sell a house

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Talk about a strange summer. Between the continued threat of the novel coronavirus, a wobbly economy, and layoffs happening left and right, it’s no surprise that many who may have hoped to sell their home this season are wondering whether to put those plans on hold—or they’ve already thrown in the towel.

Such hesitancy is understandable. Yet the irony is that, after closely examining the current housing market conditions, many real estate experts believe this summer could be one of the best times to sell a home in years.

“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 suggest the opposite—that buyers outnumber sellers in the housing market, which means it’s better to be a seller than a buyer.”

So if you’re a home seller who assumed they should write off this summer’s home-selling season as a lost cause, it’s time for a reality check! Here are a few reasons why the market could actually be moving strongly in your favor.

1. Home buyer demand is back with a vengeance

Granted, in the spring, when COVID-19 was spurring many states to enforce quarantine and ban open houses, home selling understandably went dormant for a while. But now that lockdown restrictions are loosening up in some states, home buyers are out with a vengeance—and many of them are eager to make up for lost time.

Indeed, the real estate market is already seeing strong signs of a rebound, according to the National Association of Realtors®‘ Pending Home Sales Index (a forward-looking indicator of home sales based on contract signings). In May, after two months of decline, pending home sales shot up 44.3%—the highest month-over-month jump since 2001, when the index began.

“There’s very significant demand,” says Matthew Gardner, chief economist at Windermere Real Estate. He adds that demand is strongest right now in the suburbs and in smaller, cheaper cities—as buyers look to escape the biggest metros and more companies follow tech titans like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft in allowing employees to work remotely for the foreseeable future.

“If we continue to see an increase in working from home, people can move farther away, where they can get more bang for their buck,” Gardner says.

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Watch: 5 Things to Know About Selling a Home Amid the Pandemic

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2. Home inventory remains low

Yet amid this glut of home buyers, the number of homes for sale to actually meet this pent-up demand is at an all-time low.

“There was insufficient supply last year,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the NAR. “This year during the pandemic, the shortage has intensified.”

According to realtor.com’s market outlook, housing inventory in June was 27% lower than a year earlier.

And some reasons for the shortage of available homes have little to do with the recent coronavirus crisis. The number of homes for sale is at a “generational low,” says Gardner, because people are living in their homes longer than they used to. In fact, NAR data shows that Americans are spending an average of 13 years in their homes before moving.

The lower inventory is also the result of fewer distressed properties on the market, “due to the massive government stimulus support, including mortgage forbearance and generous unemployment benefits,” Yun explains.

3. Home prices are up

With demand for homes up and inventory down, the conditions are perfect for home sellers to get high prices.

“Many sellers can get top dollar in the current market conditions,” says Yun.

According to NAR , single-family home prices increased in most markets during the first quarter of 2020, with the national median single-family home price increasing 7.7%, to $274,600.

This good news may come as a surprise to sellers, since it was expected that the housing market would take a hit and home prices would drop because of the pandemic. That’s quite the contrary.

“Home asking price growth is actually higher now than it was before the pandemic,” Hale explains.

4. Mortgage interest rates are low, too

Another factor pushing home buyers to shop are the historically low mortgage interest rates.

According to Freddie Mac’s July 2 report, average interest rates recently reached a new record low of 3.07% for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. Given this means homes could cost potentially tens of thousands less over the lifetime of the loan, it’s understandable that mortgage purchase applications have jumped since last year.

5. The economy is showing slow signs of recovery

While the pandemic led to record high unemployment rates in March, these levels have recently fallen slightly, which could be a good sign that people are still eager and able to buy a home.

Continuing spikes in COVID-19 infection rates may have a negative impact on employment numbers in some areas going forward, but for now the national trends are heading in the right direction.

“The pandemic sharply curtailed economic production and consumer spending in March, April, and part of May. As a result, joblessness soared,” Hale explains. “But data from May and June suggests that businesses are adding back jobs as consumers get back to spending, and some companies are now scrambling to keep up demand. Some speculated that we’d see a sharp bounce back in activity, and I think it’s fair to say that’s what we’re seeing so far.”

6. Home buyers’ needs have changed

Along with working remotely, people have been spending more time at home in general—and this, in turn, has sparked a fresh deluge of home buyers whose current homes no longer seem as comfortable or roomy as they were pre-COVID-19. That is, if your dining table now doubles as your “office,” you might be tempted to trade in your short commute for another room or two so all can work from home in peace.

“People are looking at their existing home and saying, ‘If I have to work from home, then maybe my house just doesn’t work,’” Gardner says.

“Spending three months locked up at home taught a lot of people that where they live is important,” agrees Jed Kliman, managing broker at Windermere Real Estate in Seattle. “Clients I’ve been working with recently are trading up because they’ve spent more time in their homes and realized it didn’t meet their needs.”

Home offices, more privacy, outdoor spaces, and just more room are becoming more important to homeowners. Kliman says playing up these features and amenities when you sell your home can attract buyers. Home staging and visually appealing listing photos, though always important, are especially crucial in today’s market.

“Staging, professional photos, even video and 3D virtual tours—those are all really important because people start their home search online, and they have to be moved and captivated to go see a house,” Kliman says.

In addition to understanding market conditions, home sellers will want to know that the process from offer to closing may work a little differently today.

For example, social distancing may mean home inspections and repairs take a little longer. Kliman says some of his sellers have been doing their own pre-inspections and making reports available to interested buyers to speed up the process.

The bottom line: “You want to make it as easy as possible for a buyer to make an offer,” he says.

Just be prepared for the unexpected, Hale says.

“The time it takes to sell a home does seem to be shrinking, as states lift restrictions on business and consumers feel more confident and comfortable,” she says. “But depending on how infection rates evolve, this could change. This doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods completely.”

The post 6 Reasons Why This Is Actually the Best Time in Years To Sell a House appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Want an RV as a Home This Summer? The Benefits and Costs of Recreational Vehicles, Revealed

June 8, 2020

RV

Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

If you dream of hitting the open road with a house on wheels, you may be thinking about buying an RV, or recreational vehicle. It’s an especially alluring idea these days.

According to the RV Industry Association, between 9 million and 10 million people in the United States own RVs—1 million live in them full time. And the demand for RVs has substantially increased in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Not only are we hearing from RV dealers across the country that their sales are up compared to last spring, but new research shows that 1 in 4 Americans intends to take some kind of RV-related action in the next 12 months—such as taking an RV trip, buying or renting an RV, even visiting an RV dealership,” says Craig Kirby, president of RVIA.

Plus, he says, 20% of respondents are more interested in RVs as a recreational travel option in the aftermath of COVID-19.

Part of the draw of RVs is that they allow people to vacation with their families without risking exposure to COVID-19 by boarding a plane or entering a hotel.

“We are also hearing that people [now] are more likely to stay close to home on vacations and take road trips,” Kirby says. “An RV trip is the logical extension of that trend. Still able to stay close to home and drive, but also able to bring your bed and food along with you.”

And the good news is that even in light of recent demand, there is plenty of inventory at RV dealerships to meet interest, according to Kirby.

But is RV life as dreamy as it sounds? Well, here are the factors to consider.

How much money can RV living save on vacations?

If wanderlust is fueling your decision, an RV can help cut costs associated with traditional travel. With an RV, you don’t need hotels or plane tickets, and the ability to cook your meals means you’re not bound to expensive restaurant fare.

In fact, studies show that a family of four (two adults and two children) saves between 21% and 64% by vacationing in an RV rather than booking plane tickets and hotels.

And if you want to live in an RV full time, you’ll enjoy additional savings—like an absence of property taxes, lawn care costs, and other homeowner headaches. In addition, the ability to just move on if you don’t like the weather, your neighbors, or the scenery is priceless.

How much does an RV cost?

Like houses, RVs come in a wide range of prices depending on their size and features. According to RVIA, the cost of an RV can range from $6,000 on the low end for folding camping trailers and truck campers to between $60,000 and $500,000 for motor homes. You can also buy previously owned models at a significant savings.

GoRVing.com has a tool that lets you explore various types of RVs and their costs so you can see what you can get for your money.

While it may be tempting to buy the biggest RV you can afford, consider how much space you really need.

“Many newbies buy too much RV in size, drive-ability, park-ability, tow-ability, and maintain-ability,” says Janet Groene, author of the blog SoloWomanRV and book “Living Aboard your RV.” “Remember that you are now maintaining your own plumbing, water and sewer supply, gas supply for your stove and furnace, your own electrical systems, and all the expenses that go with vehicle maintenance.”

Another ongoing cost of full-time RV life? Fuel. RVs typically get between 10 to 20 miles per gallon of gas. How far you’re driving, how big your RV is, and the price of gas are all factors that will affect the amount you spend on gas.

RV insurance and maintenance costs

As with any vehicle, you’ll need insurance on your RV. The average annual cost for full-time RV insurance is $1,500, but that can vary substantially depending on the type and size of your RV. Note, however, that most policies won’t cover the belongings inside your RV, so you may need to take out a separate policy for them.

In general, RV repairs are more expensive than automobile repairs. How much you will spend on repairs depends again on factors such as the age and type of your RV as well as how many miles you put on it.

But even a new RV isn’t immune to problems.

“Just because it’s new doesn’t mean your RV won’t need repairs,” warns Becca Borawski Jenkins, a full-time RVer since spring 2017. “After three years on the road, I haven’t met a single RVer who bought a brand-new RV who didn’t have some sort of mechanical or structural issues arise in those first few months.”

Instead of taking off for lands far away right away, she suggests starting out by taking short trips before you jump into full-time life on the road. That way as issues arise, you can bring it back to the dealer, and many of the issues may be covered by the warranty.

“Buying your RV early and testing it close to home will ultimately save you time, money, and stress,” Borawski Jenkins says.

How much are RV parking fees?

You can’t just park your RV at any old place, and most of the time you’ll want to find an RV park with amenities such as power and water. Prices can range from $35 to $100 a night. Even at the low end, those costs can add up. For example, $35 a night for 365 nights comes to $12,775 annually.

Groene says while it’s less expensive, and sometimes even free, to stay at government campgrounds (e.g., state and national parks and forests), they typically have fewer facilities, and there is usually a limit on how long you can stay.

She also notes that “boondocking,” a term referred to parking for free, is dangerous at best and increasingly illegal.

What are taxes on an RV?

Taxes are included in the rates you pay to stay at commercial campgrounds and RV resorts. You’re also responsible for paying state income tax and sales tax in states that charge them.

Note too that even if you live in an RV full time, you still must have a physical address, which determines the state where you pay income tax and insurance, vote, and exercise many other legal rights and obligations.

Does an RV appreciate over time?

While homes typically appreciate in value over the years, the opposite is often true with RVs. So you have to consider what it means to you to have what is likely your largest asset steadily depreciate over time.

“While a house and land generally continue to appreciate, RVs begin to lose value the moment it’s driven off the lot,” Groene says. “Many people spend far too much on an RV, often one that is far too big and complex for them to drive and maintain. But by the time RV owners are ready to hang up the keys, the nest egg that was their home on wheels is worth little or nothing.”

RV life is full of amazing opportunities and presents many perks financially and otherwise. It’s not, however, without speed bumps (both literal and figurative), and you should carefully consider and weigh your options before making this investment.

The post Want an RV as a Home This Summer? The Benefits and Costs of Recreational Vehicles, Revealed appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

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

June 4, 2020

Selling FAQs During Coronavirus

Melpomenem/Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Siriporn Carrelli/Getty Images

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

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

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

Are houses even selling now?

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

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

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

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

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

Should I sell my house during a recession?

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

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

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

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

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

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

georgeclerk/Getty Images

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

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

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

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

Should I expect to sell for less right now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dem10/Getty Images

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

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

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

Should I stage my house?

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

VHT Studios

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

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

How can I prepare my home for a virtual tour?

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

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

How can I close remotely?

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

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

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

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