Real Estate Blog

Did you know April is Fair Housing month?

Did you know April is Fair Housing month? What exactly does that mean, you may ask? The Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968 to prohibit discrimination upon race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination when they are renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, seeking housing assistance, or engaging in other housing-related activities. In 1988 the Fair Housing Act was amended to add two protected classes of disability and familial status. Each April, REALTORS® commemorate Fair Housing month to reaffirm their continuing commitment to fair and equitable treatment for all.

The National Association of REALTORS® opposes discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and national origin. This policy is embodied in NAR’s Code of Ethics. NAR’s Fair Housing Action Plan abbreviated ‘ACT,’ emphasizes (A)ccountability, (C)ulture Change, and (T)raining to ensure America’s 1.4 million REALTORS® are doing everything possible to protect housing rights in America. 

I feel this is an important topic to discuss. Many people are coming together during this pandemic to help each other. Fair Housing should not just apply to real estate, but to all the things we do and situations we encounter. I have seen so many people doing good things this week. Just today, someone paid for my coffee. Pass on the kindness to others. Whether it be in the news, on social media or in person. It is refreshing! I am looking for the good in all things. Treat everyone equally.

How is all of this affecting our local real estate market? It is no surprise sellers who don’t have to sell right now are rethinking listing their home. Inventory is low. Buyers are ready to buy! Many times, we can’t even show the property without it already having multiple offers. To put this in perspective, there are 317 active single-family listings on the market in our area. The average of days on the market are 79 with an average list price of $385,000.

When you find a REALTOR® to work with, understand they can guide you through the process from the beginning to end. They can show you any listings, even if they are not listed with their company. If you are buying, get pre-approved so you are ready to make that offer. Contact your REALTOR® as soon as you see a new listing. If priced right, it won’t last.

If you are selling, prepare your property for the market. See your property as a buyer. What needs fixed or painted? Look at your curb appeal. Would you want to come inside if the lawn is a mess and trees aren’t trimmed? You can sell much quicker if your property is ready for public viewing.

Regardless as to what position you are in, remember to treat others with respect and kindness. Have a wonderful Easter holiday! Remember to do good things!

Are you in the market to buy your first home?

Are you in the market to buy your first home? Do you know where to begin? If not, maybe I can offer you some guidance. You will need to know your budget, get pre-approved, hire a REALTOR® and find a home. Sound easy? It can be if you have the right people working for you. Let us look at the process.

You should get pre-approved with a local lender, in your community, to see how much you can afford. It can be frustrating to look at homes out of your price range. Most lenders can pre-approve you over the phone. You will need to provide some financial documents and your work history, but all of this can be uploaded and emailed. Simple so far?

Next, find a REALTOR®. Ask your friends and family for recommendations. Interview them. Check out their social media and websites. Your REALTOR® is working for you so make sure you have a good relationship and strong communication. You are halfway through the process now.

The fun part? House hunting. I know many of you watch HGTV and those shows are entertaining. Let me tell you something, house hunting is nothing like “as seen on TV”. During the busy market, you are lucky to get to see the house before it has multiple offers, over asking price. So back to the pre-approval? Be prepared. If you see a house, contact your REALTOR® immediately to see if you can view the home.

Time to make an offer! Hopefully, YOU are not in a multiple offer situation and the seller accepts! Make sure your REALTOR® explains the ins and outs of the contract, so you understand the process. There are inspection deadlines that you do not want to miss, or you will not be able to ask for repairs from the seller. Again, ask around and hire a qualified inspector that meets your needs.

Do not forget to keep your bank in the loop. They need a copy of the purchase agreement so they can order the appraisal. The appraisal can be a long process, especially during a busy market season. Try to get all documents requested to your lender as soon as possible.

There are a few takeaways from all of this. Listen to your lender and your REALTOR®. Do not contact the listing agent or seller directly. This can cause you to lose the home and will most likely make someone mad. You will need a Real Estate attorney to do your title search and closing. Ask for recommendations.

Now that all inspections are done and the home appraised, you wait for a clear to close. Don’t make any large purchases like a new car or new furniture until after your closing. The bank may pull your credit one more time and this can affect the loan process. Call the utility companies, find a moving company and schedule to have your mail forwarded to your new home. Best of luck and congratulations on your new purchase!

Have a fantastic week and remember to do good things!

Is being a REALTOR® a hard job?

Is being a REALTOR® a hard job? It can be extremely rewarding and demanding at the same time. Real estate agents can be successful and have a lot of freedom. That does not mean it is an easy career or that everyone succeeds. It takes hard work, dedication, and perseverance to become a successful real estate agent. You must take classes, pass a state test, and find a broker to sponsor you. Once you get your license, the training begins. You will learn to sell houses, know the ins and outs of listing and purchase agreements and always work in the best interest of your buyers and sellers. If you can make it through the licensing process and the first few months, real estate can be a great career.

Being successful and making a sustainable income as a real estate agent is hard work and, in most cases, it requires a substantial commitment of time and effort. REALTORS® do not work from 9 to 5. In this market, of multiple offers and showings, many of us are working 7 days a week and many long hours. You must be ready to show at a moment’s notice.

One of the hardest things about being in real estate, for newer agents, is the financial aspect. It is financially challenging because most people are used to salaried positions. They are accustomed to getting a paycheck every two weeks after putting in a certain amount of work. The REALTOR® is the last one to get paid. If the transaction falls through, we do not get a commission. You must develop a strict budget to be prepared for such instances.

We often wear multiple “hats”. We are advertisers, counselors, cleaners, jugglers and more. We must figure out marketing budgets, methods, branding, and generating leads all while trying to pay the bills. When working with multiple buyers and sellers, it can sometimes be overwhelming, so you need to be organized. As a REALTOR®, it is important to keep track of your transactions and communicate often with your buyers and sellers.

Because we are constantly growing our business, we feel the need to work all the time. There is always more work that could be completed. This creates a compulsion to work as hard as possible and a feeling of ‘slacking off’ when trying to relax. We work on our vacations, during family dinners and events often taking away from quality time with our loved ones.

What are the benefits of becoming a REALTOR®? We meet some awesome people from all over the state and country. We get to help people buy and sell homes to fulfill their dreams of homeownership. Everyone has a different story. Whether they are first time homebuyers, relocating to a warmer client or downsizing due to becoming an empty nester, the REALTOR® is there to help! So, if you are ready for a career change, check out the West Virginia Real Estate Commission for more information.

The market in North Central West Virginia is hot! Find your REALTOR® and make your move today! Have a great week of sunshine and remember to do good things!

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

From the time we started kindergarten, we were taught to be kind to others and to be honest. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” was a common theme in my home. I have adopted that as my motto. In a world where we can be anything, be kind.

Did you know that REALTORS® are also told to be kind and trustworthy and they are held to a Standard of Practice called the Code of Ethics? The first code was approved in 1913 at the Annual Convention in Canada. There are 17 articles written into the Code of Ethics. The 17 Articles of the Code establish standards of conduct which the REALTOR® must satisfy. These Articles govern the REALTORS® conduct in everyday business dealings with clients, customers, and other REALTORS®. Failure to observe these standards can result in disciplinary action.

Professionalism in Real Estate practice is taught so the REALTOR® is aware of their ethical obligations, to ensure a smooth transaction. We are trained to uphold the Code of Ethics in our everyday business dealings. Our duties to work with other REALTORS®, represent our buyers and sellers in their best interest and be ethical, always, is the foundation for our business.

Our duties are to the clients and customers, the public and other REALTORS®. The clients and customers should always be represented to the best of their interest. It is our obligation to submit all offers, disclose what we know and to never mislead or misrepresent in the transaction. It is the duty of the REALTOR® to preserve confidential information provided by their clients in any agency relationship. This is our duty to the client and customer.

Article 10 of the Code of Ethics states that REALTORS®, in their real estate employment practices, shall not discriminate against any person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. REALTORS® should be honest and truthful in their real estate communications of advertising, marketing and other representations. The REALTOR® must make clear to the public their Broker information when advertising. This is our duty to the public.

REALTORS® shall not knowingly or recklessly make false or misleading statements about other real estate professionals, their businesses, or their business practices. This is stated in Article 15 of the Code of Ethics. We are taught not to contact the other parties in the transaction, to work diligently to ensure the transaction runs smoothly and to treat each other with respect. This is our duty to other REALTORS®.

So, what is the takeaway from all of this? It is simple. Be kind, be honest, be ethical and respect those around you. Spring is here! The birds are singing, and the flowers are blooming! I hope you remembered to set your clocks ahead one hour! Have a great week and remember to do good things!

How important is internet connection when buying a home?

How important is internet connection when buying a home? With so many people working from home and children in virtual school, it seems to be especially important. We all need broadband at home. Although it is often available everywhere except the most inaccessible rural areas, speeds can vary enormously from place to place, and even street to street. For some, slow broadband connection would deter them from buying a house.

A good internet connection is now an essential part of modern life. Many of us are largely concerned with broadband speed in our area. It’s not hard to see why! It was recently revealed that the number of subscriptions to streaming services like Netflix last year overtook traditional pay TV services and that fewer young people are watching live TV. Fast connection is important for another reason. Many of us are working from home more and need good broadband for video conferencing, downloading work documents and handling bulky email attachments.

So how does this affect the home buying process? Recent studies show that half of buyers would reject a house that didn’t feature their desired broadband speed, while a third would try and negotiate a lower house price. The best way to test the broadband speed in a home is to ask the homeowner. Most people will know the quality of their internet access and be more than happy to share their information.

Smartphones have become a standard tool for most people. When presenting a home to a potential customer, REALTORS® must now consider an extra home presentation factor: signal strength. There are some factors that could affect the signal strength in a home. Lead paint is known to cause electromagnetic interference that will affect signal strength. If you suspect lead paint may be causing an issue, I suggest hiring a professional to remove it.

If you notice a decrease in cellular signal strength when you enter a home, the materials used in the construction of the home may be the culprits. Older homes tend to have more of an issue with affecting cellular signals. Metal bolts, pipes, tools, and bars can contribute to a loss in cellular signal. While there is not much we can do about the construction of an older home maybe suggest a signal booster to the buyer.

Check out the electronics being used in a home. Items such as microwaves, cordless phones, baby monitors, and Bluetooth devices can affect signal strength and could possibly deter a customer. Many of these devices operate on a similar wave frequency and can interfere with signal strength and Wi-Fi networks. These are just a few items that may interfere with signal strength.

Spring is on the horizon and homes are flying off the market! Now is a great time to buy and sell. Contact your local REALTOR® today! Have a great week and remember to do good things!

Can your REALTOR® represent you in a FSBO transaction?

 For sale by owner, often abbreviated as FSBO, is when a homeowner lists their home without the assistance of a professional real estate agent. When selling on your own, you are responsible for the process from start to finish, including pricing, staging, listing, negotiating, drawing up paperwork, and closing.

Why sell FSBO? Most sellers decide to go it alone to avoid paying the standard 6% commission fee to the real estate agents involved in the sale. While most FSBO sellers are trying to keep more of their profit in their pocket, it is important to note that a local real estate agent likely has more expertise in pricing strategy, so it is possible that the net profit you earn from a FSBO could end up being lower than if you had listed with an agent.

Can your REALTOR® represent you in a FSBO transaction? The answer is yes. If your REALTOR® has been showing you houses and you stumble upon a home that is not listed, do not ditch your REALTOR®. Many private sellers are willing to co-operate with Buyers’ Agents. They know the paperwork will be handled correctly and that the buyers have been properly qualified to make the purchase. If the private seller is unwilling to pay a commission, you will need to pay your Buyers’ Agent. But you can do so with the assurance that he/she is working for you and that the deal will be constructed with your best interests as the foundation.

So how does this work? Your agent approaches the owner and asks for permission to show the property, represent you and get paid by the owner. Your agent should already know this! The seller and the agent will come to an agreement as per commission and if you are ready to make an offer, the agent will process everything as if it was a listed property. Just because the property is not listed, does not mean you cannot get financing, do inspections and have your REALTOR® represent you until closing.

So why would you have your REALTOR® represent you? There are several reasons. They understand fair market value and pricing strategy. They will guide you to make sure you don’t pay too much. They will do all the paperwork, contact the attorney and inspectors. Your REALTOR® will discuss your inspections with you and help you make a list of items that need repaired. They will keep you updated throughout the entire process.

However, if you have the knowledge and expertise in buying real estate you may not need a REALTOR®. You would need to know market value and how to negotiate price. You would need to have a purchase agreement that would protect you. You would need to know which title attorney to hire and which inspector is good. You would need to know if you should do a radon or mold inspection. You would need to do all of this and your day job and make sure you are protected in the process. If this is too much for you, don’t ditch your REALTOR®.

Spring is right around the corner! Let’s have a great week and remember to do good things!

How many “hats” can one person wear?

How many “hats” can one person wear? If you are a REALTOR®, there are many!  We are negotiators, stagers, photographers, protectors, professional jugglers, hand holders, problem solvers and many more! The real estate transaction can be very emotional and extremely stressful. Our job, as your REALTOR®, is to make the process smooth and successful!

From the beginning we are your negotiators, looking out for your best interest. Our job is to get you the best and highest price for your property all the while keeping everything on track. Once we have helped to generate a purchase offer, we will need to be able to help both sides come together in agreement. It may be necessary to anticipate aspects of the potential transaction that could lead to later friction and possible re-negotiations.

When your REALTOR® is ready to list your property, he or she may assist in staging. A good agent can tactfully explain why it is not a good idea to have 20 family photos on the mantle. Or that all the toys strewn about need to be put away to show how much space there actually is in a room. Even subtle changes in paint color and décor can make a huge difference.

Next it is time to take some pictures! With new age technology and cool cell phone cameras, your agent may be taking the photographs themselves, unless they hire a professional. If the professional is the one doing the task, the REALTOR® is always on hand, like a director in a movie, making sure they are capturing the best angle.

During showings, your REALTOR® may be a protector. For instance, if the seller lives out of town, they may rely on the agent to hire someone to cut the grass and remove the snow. Agents sometimes take these tasks on themselves. I personally cleared a sidewalk today with just my snow boots (no shovel on hand).

When you think of a professional juggler you may envision someone tossing balls in the air. As a REALTOR®, this is often how we handle our day-to-day business transactions. Lots of moving parts require skilled handling. Dealing with buyers, sellers, agents, mortgage lenders and inspectors – the list goes on. Keeping everyone on the same page always calls for a highly skilled professional.

Buying or selling can be tedious but if you hire a REALTOR® to guide you and hold your hand until closing, it can be less stressful. Whether representing the seller or the buyer, a seasoned agent will have experienced a wide variety of surprises, challenges, problems, emotions and personal issues, family disagreements, last-minute situations or emergencies. These experiences allow them to conquer any issues that may come your way.

So, the next time you talk with your REALTOR®, consider what “hat” they are wearing as they are looking out for your best interest! Have a great week (maybe less snow) and remember to do good things!

Does our weather drive sales in the real estate market?

Does our weather drive sales in the real estate market? We tend to think so. Wouldn’t you rather look at property when it’s warm and sunny outside? Or have pictures of your home taken in the spring versus the winter? I know I would. However, when it is time to buy or sell, do not let the weather stop you.

So, you have decided to list your property for sale. Great! You may ask yourself, what comes next? Your agent will have you sign the listing documents, they will take photos and place a sign in the yard. They will also market your property through social media, print, and the MLS (Multiple Listing Service).

Hopefully, you are getting a lot of showings, some good feedback and an offer. Let’s discuss what to do when that offer is presented to you. First your agent will call, email or text you that you are getting an offer on your property. They will then discuss all the terms of the contract including the price, date of closing and whether the buyer will be completing inspections.

This is the time for you to consider all the options presented to you. If you are lucky, you will get close to your asking price and a quick closing. That doesn’t always happen though, and your agent can help you with the negotiations. Most often they will provide you with comparable sales for your property and help you get the best price.

Once accepted, it will be time for inspections. The buyer will hire the home inspector and the buyer’s agent will contact your agent to keep everyone updated on who the inspectors are and when they expect to come to your home. The home inspection can take almost half a day. The inspector may ask the buyer to come toward the end of the inspection to go over his or her findings. The home inspectors should be certified and some also offer radon and mold inspections.

The next step is for the buyer to report the repair requests to the seller via their agents. They may ask for the seller to complete the repairs prior to closing, offer a reduced sales price or give money toward closing costs. All these things will be negotiated over a few days and once terms are accepted the process can move forward.

The appraisal can take a bit longer. The buyer’s bank will order the appraisal and using a third party, the request will be picked up by an appraiser. Your agent will be notified by the appraiser of the date they want to inspect your property.  

Hopefully all the above inspections are good, and your home appraises for the sales price. If that is the case, then the bank will send everything to underwriting and get you a “clear to close”. REALTORS® love to hear those words! Now it’s time to pack and hopefully you are moving to your perfect home!

Happy Valentine’s Day! Remember to do good things!

Are you wondering if you should stop renting and buy a house?

Your friends are buying homes. And you are wondering if you should stop renting and buy a house too. Your dog wants a yard, your kids want a playground, and you wouldn’t mind a garage and an office. There is only one problem: You aren’t sure you can afford it.

Hold up! Deciding whether to rent or buy always comes down to what you can afford. Are you financially ready to buy a house? Or is renting still the smarter option? Let’s compare renting vs. buying and determine which is best for you.

So where should you begin? Start with a budget by tracking your spending, reducing unnecessary purchases, and create a plan with a timeline. Are you out of debt? We are talking no student loans or consumer debt. Have you set aside monies in case of an emergency? Experts recommend three to six months of savings in case you lose your job.

The next step? You need to contact a local mortgage lender. They can prepare a pre-approval for you which will give you a better understanding of what you can afford. While a down payment of 20% is not necessary in today’s market, it can keep you from paying PMI (private mortgage insurance). Your lender will make sure the payment isn’t a huge percentage of your income and therefore allowing you to pay utilities, taxes, insurance and other fees associated with your mortgage.

 The advantages of owning your own home include building equity and tax benefits. With each payment you are one step closer to home ownership. You also have the freedom to renovate your house. From the interior to the exterior, it’s a blank slate. Some disadvantages include an increase in expenses like home maintenance. You are responsible for all the plumbing, electrical and HVAC. Make sure you set aside savings for these potential repairs.

Maybe you aren’t ready to buy just yet and that is fine. Renting a place with a lower payment allows you to save money and pay off some debt. If your job requires you to move around a lot, then renting makes sense for you until you settle down. Renting takes away the worry of maintenance. If the furnace stops working, your landlord is responsible for the repair not you. However, most owners will not allow their tenants to make changes to the unit, for example painting, to best fit your taste.

Buying a home is a long-term commitment and you should think through your decision and weigh all options. Deciding whether to buy a house is not an easy choice. That is why it is smart to partner with a pro who can help you navigate your options. Shop local. Find a mortgage lender in the area in which you are going to purchase and interview several REALTORS® before choosing one that best fits your needs.

Whether you buy or rent, do it because it makes financial sense for you and not what your friends and family are doing. Stay warm. We have six more weeks of this white stuff. Remember to do good things!

Technology has rapidly evolved how we do real estate.

More than 70% of today’s buyers search for homes online; technology has rapidly evolved how we do real estate. During this pandemic, I think the use of technology has really come to the forefront in the real estate industry, and it should be used as an opportunity to improve the process and provide the best client experience possible. Whether you are looking to buy, sell, or rent a home, pulling up listings to browse on your phone or tablet is the norm these days. Technology continues to play an impactful role in how both consumers and industry professionals are approaching the market. Technology offers a user-friendly experience when showing homes.

 Going beyond photos, new software allows buyers and sellers to take a 3-D virtual tour of a residential or commercial property, making it feel as if you were walking through the space without having to view it in person. The buyer can see the property in real time and even measure the room to see if their furniture will fit. REALTORS® can conduct the virtual tour via Zoom or Facetime call.

Technology also offers access to websites. Websites make it easy for anyone to view inventory and see what is available. Along with photos and detailed descriptions of the properties, you can find tax and purchase history, school ratings, and other neighborhood information. These sites have apps as well; easily accessible forms of technology that keep you informed without having to do a thing.         

Transaction management is much simpler using mobile technology. With electronic document signing apps and automated emails, we have significantly cut down the time spent on this portion of the sale. The agent-buyer interactions have changed over time as well. Data is easily accessible, making clients more knowledgeable on the topic. Technology allows clients to significantly narrow their searches by choosing the criteria that fits their buying needs.

Technology has been a wonderful addition to the real estate industry, but it has not and will not replace the real estate agent. Agents are highly trained and educated and can provide insight to buyers and sellers about their local markets and communities; you cannot get that personal information from technology. Working with a REALTOR® gives you the confidence that someone is representing your best interests in the transaction.

Technology is a part of everyday life, but it will never surpass the quality of one-on-one assistance you receive when working with a REALTOR®. We have REALTORS® in North Central West Virginia that have the same tools that technology offers in the process of searching for a new home. If you are in the market, and are looking for an experienced REALTOR®, please check out our website: www.morgantownrealtors.com.

Have a great week and remember to do good things.