Real Estate Blog

To my family, friends, fellow REALTORS® and members of the community…

To my family, friends, fellow REALTORS® and members of the community, thank you for supporting me these past two years as the Morgantown Board of REALTORS® President. As President, you are tasked to write a weekly article for the Dominion Post. The topic is of your choice but must be at least 500 words. I am honored to have served a two-year presidency, being the first in the history of the Board to have two terms. What that also means is that I wrote 104 articles, approximately 52,000 words and many different topics. I was often surprised and humbled when people would tell me they read and enjoyed my articles. I want to thank each of you for your kind words and support.

In 2020, Covid struck our community, and everything shut down. We were fortunate to be considered essential workers thanks to the West Virginia Association of REALTORS® lobbying for us with the Governor. This allowed us to continue representing our buyers and sellers in all their real estate transactions. We had to figure out how to use Zoom for our meetings and how to adapt to new ways of listing and showing properties. REALTORS® love to meet people. We are very social, love to talk and we all come together to serve our community. This, however, was difficult when Covid shut the world down. For 2020, we learned new ways and when asked for a presidency “redo”, I agreed. 2021 gave us the opportunity to do more, do better and to catch up on the things we couldn’t accomplish in 2020.

I would not be where I am today without so many people in my corner of which I must give thanks. To my Board of Directors, thank you for pivoting with me as we traveled new paths to accomplish our goals to support the Morgantown Board of REALTORS® and our community. I consider each of you a friend and I wish you all the best. To my office, you also dealt with my many phone calls, meetings and events as I fluttered around the community. Thank you for keeping me upright.

To my family, especially my husband, thank you for supporting my craziness as I sat down every Thursday night to draft my articles when they were due Friday morning. Topics were suggested, many which I had already covered, but the input was appreciated. You never doubted my ability to accomplish anything and always went along with my adventures. Love to you!

There is a special person that I have had the honor of emulating for the last 48 years and yes, I just told my age. My mom has been in real estate for over 45 years. She achieved Emeritus status with the National Association of REALTORS® and is an amazing woman. She has taught me to be honest, gracious and hard working. She is my Broker and my friend. Thank you, mom, for pushing me to be my best, always.

I wish my successor, Mr. Brian Haufe, the 2022 Morgantown Board of REALTORS® president the best! Thank you for the redo and for supporting me these past two years!

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and I wish you all a Merry Christmas! Remember to ALWAYS do good things!

Is your Home smart?

Is your Home smart? Remember the cartoon, the Jetsons? We may not have flying cars or jetpacks as our mode of transportation, but modern technology has allowed us to make our homes smart!

Have you ever been looking at a home for sale and the agent tells you that the seller has cameras? This has become increasingly common as technology changes. Consumers are curious about smart home technology, and they’re turning to real estate agents as a vital resource for information. Sellers inquire about staging their homes with smart technology and how it may impact the sale of their property.

This technology is not just for plain old security anymore. You can turn on your lights. You can raise and lower the temperature of your home. You can check the exterior by viewing your cameras to see who is coming and going. You can lock your doors and open your garage. The list is endless.

How does this all impact the sale of your property? For the seller, it can allow them to see the buyer and get live feedback. This can be positive and negative. For the buyer it limits them from really telling their agent how they feel about the property, until they leave. The important take away from all of this, we as REALTORS® need to let all parties know that there are cameras. As a seller, I wouldn’t want to hear negative things about my property from strangers. As a buyer, I would make sure I am careful to keep all emotions inside while viewing the property.

Does this mean we shouldn’t equip our homes with smart technology? Of course not. Technology is cool! It does mean that if we list the property, we need to be prepared for all kinds of feedback. When the REALTOR® calls for that next showing, turn up the heat, dim the lights and turn on the cameras so you can hear the wonderful things the buyer says about your home.

The consumer can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on smart home technology. You just need to make sure its either portable for when you sell or consider the cost when pricing your home. Start small and maybe just get the “clapper” to turn on and off your lights. You remember that commercial, right? And I bet now you are saying it in your head.

Did you know you can set the thermostat to warm up the home before you get out of bed, turn on the coffee pot and get a text when the washer is done? Now, if someone would just fold the laundry and put it away, I would love that technology. Whichever smart system you choose, do your research to make sure it best fits your needs.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Whether you spend it with family or friends, cherish your time together and be thankful for those around you. Have a great week and remember to do good things!

There is a shortage of everything in our country.

There is a shortage of everything in our country. Our economy is suffering because we do not have the tangible items to sell and no one to sell them. This is similar to the real estate industry. We have plenty of REALTORS® and buyers, but we don’t have inventory to sell. How do we fix this? Rumor has it interest rates may rise in 2022 which could slow down the buying process, but we need the sellers to sell. It is not their fault, they are looking for a house too and if we sell theirs, they could be homeless. Seems to be a giant circle of frustration for many.

We are still competing with multiple offers when a house comes on the market. Only one person can win the bid. Buyers are offering over asking price, eliminating inspections and trying for a quick closing. Some are even covering the appraisal gap. A home appraisal is important for you and the lender. Most home buyers don’t want to invest more in a home than it is worth. You would have negative equity right away and it would take much longer to earn positive equity. Lenders require an appraisal to ensure the collateral (the home) is high enough should the borrower default on the loan.

So, what is an appraisal gap? Well, if the home would appraise for less than the sales price, buyers are bringing cash to closing to get the home since the bank will only loan for appraised value. While no one wants to pay more than a home is worth, in a competitive seller’s market, it may be necessary. If you want your bid to outshine the others, an appraisal gap coverage clause may be necessary. The clause states how much of an appraisal gap you are willing to cover. Since there is no guarantee, an appraisal will match the agreed-upon sales price, it is often something sellers look for to know the offer will still stand even if the appraisal comes in a little low. Agree on as much as possible, putting it in writing before signing the contract to prevent stress and unnecessary renegotiations after the appraisal.

It is never pleasant to hear that you have an appraisal gap after signing a sales contract, but it is often a reality in today’s fast-paced real estate market. It is essential to protect yourself going into the contract and to have a plan on how to proceed should the appraisal come in lower. Buyers have many options, but you must choose the one that is most comfortable for you. If you are ready to start your home buying process and would like a professional to help you through every step of the way, contact your local REALTOR®!

If you are considering listing your property, now is the time. You can get top dollar for your home and maybe the buyer will include an appraisal gap. Have a wonderful week and remember to do good things!

If your home is listed for sale, should you decorate it for the holidays?

If your home is listed for sale, should you decorate it for the holidays? The answer is yes. Buyers are still searching for the perfect property and those looking now are quite serious about purchasing. So, keep that house listed and get those decorations ready!

Here are some tips to get buyers in the right spirit of the holidays! Before you decorate, you should stage your house. If your living room is already piled high with clutter, your Santa figurines are only going to add to the sense of overcrowding. Go ahead and box up those extra trinkets. Next, create a cozy vibe. The less-is-more mantra of home staging may tempt you to forgo holiday cheer this year. But a few subtle touches like a bowl of pinecones, an evergreen wreath, or a pot of cider simmering on the stove can create a warm and festive feeling in your home.

Before you start untangling your tinsel, make sure your holiday collection matches your current decor. If your living room is painted a soothing ocean-blue hue, skip the clashing red garland and opt for white snowflakes or a silver glass-ball wreath. If you have an earthy color scheme, accent with rich tones like cranberries, forest greens and gold. Too many trimmings may distract buyers, but the right accessories can draw attention to your home’s best features. Don’t block a beautiful view with stick-on snowflake decals or clutter an elegant fireplace with personalized stockings.

Scale down the Clark Griswold lights this year! We all love that movie, but that much bling may distract the buyer a bit. Step away from the inflatable snowman. One man’s “merry” is another man’s “tacky,” so tone down any garish light displays while your home is on the market. (No, your neighbors didn’t pay me to say that.) Instead, use simple string lighting to play up your home’s architecture or draw attention to the gorgeous fir tree in your front yard.

A tall Christmas tree can help you show off your two-story great room, but make sure the wide base won’t overwhelm the floor space. If your living area is on the small side, save space with a skinny tree. Keep the tree decorating simple. Trim your tree in a cohesive theme with similar ornaments and lights. A few decorations can stir the holiday spirit, but do not feel obliged to hang every ornament. Limit yourself to a few hints of holiday flair but stash the rest in the basement for now. If you start to miss your Santa figurines, just remember that with a little luck, you’ll be celebrating next year’s holidays in a new home. Then you can decorate that place any way you please.

I hope everyone has survived the time change so far. It is a good time to change those smoke detector batteries too! Have a great, albeit chilly, week and remember to do good things!

On most days, the question is, How’s the market?

On most days, the question is, How’s the market? For the last several months, my response has been, its rough. That word can mean many things. Busy? Frustrating? Overwhelming? REALTORS® are busy, buyers are frustrated and overwhelmed. These are great descriptions of the Morgantown market. We have no inventory. When you hear someone say this, don’t misunderstand, there are homes on the market however many don’t last long. We all watch the news, read the articles and search the web but do we know the reasons why the real estate market is so rough right now?

There are several contributing factors. The first being the pandemic. 2020 was a pivotal time for everyone. Most of the population adjusted to working from home. What did we do? We searched the internet for news stories. We read and researched everything. We looked at real estate. We saved money on gas, eating out and shopping. We made plans and started mentally renovating our homes. Buyers did this as well and they were ready to buy. But the sellers weren’t as comfortable to list so this lack of inventory drove up the prices and the bidding wars began.

This isn’t necessarily a new concept in real estate. We have had many seller’s markets before the pandemic. But there has never been a housing market quite like this. While the market has, in fact, begun to cool off just a little, it’s still a highly challenging time to be looking to buy given the severe housing shortage. Builders can’t keep up with the demand. Contractors struggle to get needed supplies which can extend the building process.

In a perfect real estate world, home prices would need to rise at the same pace as people’s wages for regular folks to become homeowners. Yet over the past decade, Americans’ average wages have increased by about 2% to 3% each year, according to the U.S. Labor Department. But home prices have risen at a rate of about 7% each year over the same time. Since COVID-19 upended the world in March 2020, prices have risen 13.5% through August.

There’s just a 2.1-month supply of existing homes for sale, according to the National Association of REALTORS (NAR). That’s a tiny amount, up only slightly from February’s record low of 2.0 months of supply. Such a tight supply creates its own self-perpetuating cycle: Homeowners who had been thinking of selling realize it’s going to be hard to find a home to move to, so they decide not to sell.

 According to experts, the market seems to be shifting again, hinting at a 2022 that might even be considered somewhat normal: steadier production and supply to meet solid demand for homes, but with more typical levels of price appreciation. This forecast of a changing market could change my answer next time to the market is good!

Happy Halloween to everyone! Watch out for our little ghosts and monsters wandering the streets tonight in search of the candy. It’s almost November, remember to do good things!

What is the best way to market your property?

What is the best way to market your property? The answer? There are many ways to get your property noticed. As a seller, the first thing you should do is to prepare your property for the market. Start with the exterior including lawn maintenance and landscaping. Do your gutters need cleaned? Should you power wash? Curb appeal is important as buyers are driving by your home. The interior of the home should be show ready. Paint the trim, walls and doors if necessary. Declutter all rooms and closets. Clean carpets or replace old, dingy flooring.

Now it is time to list. Your REALTOR® will take photos, offer advice for staging, place a sign in the yard and prepare your home to market. With new age technology, they can offer 3D technology, drone footage and professional photography.

Once your home is ready for the MLS, your REALTOR® will put the marketing plan into action. Print and digital advertising are equally important. With print advertising, you will reach the market of those that may not look at online advertising. Print can include flyers posted in public areas, direct mail postcards to potential buyers and the local newspaper.

Digital advertising can consist of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Facebook can reach thousands of viewers by targeting potential buyers. Instagram and Twitter will focus more on the younger, first-time home buyer generation. Both allow creative options for advertising. As a seller, you should share those posts to reach your friends and family. The idea is to spread the word and reach as many viewers or potential buyers as possible. Your REALTOR®’s website will also showcase your home by reaching their viewers. When your REALTOR® places the listing in the MLS, other third-party sites like Zillow, Realtor and Trulia will pick up the listing for their viewers.

Open Houses can be effective if your home is in a neighborhood or community near other homes. This is a way for buyers to preview your home during a convenient time for them. Many times, the REALTOR® will ask a local lender or home inspector to be on site to answer any buyer questions.

Word of mouth advertising can be highly effective. Tell everyone you know that your home is on the market. The sign in the yard is a terrific way for buyers to see that your home is for sale. Some REALTOR®’s will contact their buyers and past clients to inform them of the specifics of your property.

Inventory in our area is exceptionally low. It is a seller’s market. We currently have 133 single family active listings in the MLS. Prices ranging from $39,000 to just under $4 million. Average days on the market is 166. Homes under $250,000 are selling quickly and sometimes with multiple offers. If you are ready to list, contact your local REALTOR®. Buyers are still looking for a new home. Could it be yours?

Have a wonderful week and remember to do good things!

Thinking of relocating after retirement?

Thinking of relocating after retirement? Maybe you are considering moving somewhere for better weather, closer to family or simply looking for a change. All of these are valid reasons to choose a new place to call home, but before you make that move, do considerable research to make sure that your expectations line up with reality.

If you are ready to relocate to an area with warmer weather and to escape the cold winters, check the climate at your potential location. If they have brutally hot summers, you could wind up swapping unbearably freezing Januarys for stifling Julys, which may not be ideal for you.

Other things to consider are cost of living and taxes. Do they have a high sales tax? Are tangible items more expensive? Once a retiree, one of your top priorities should be to keep all expenses to a minimum, and one safe way to achieve just that is to move to a cheaper town or city. It is a well-known secret that some states are just cheaper to live in than others. As a rule of thumb, inland areas are likely to be less expensive than coastal areas as far as house prices and rents are concerned. Also, smaller communities and rural areas tend to be less expensive to live than in big cities.

Without a doubt, one of the biggest advantages of moving after retirement is the chance to move closer to your children and grandchildren. Now that you do not have a job to anchor you down, it makes the perfect sense to relocate closer to your family. Moving closer to your loved ones will give you a new sense of purpose in life because you will have the opportunity to help your own kids and their kids with whatever you can. Also, the family members will be there to give you their support too, whenever you may need it.

 According to recent National Association of REALTORS® data, while many retirees are heading to cities in Southern California and Florida to enjoy their golden years, others are choosing to spend the next phase of their lives in cities on the East Coast and in the Midwest. REALTORS® can be a significant help to seniors looking to find the right place to spend the newfound time they have upon retirement.

There are pros and cons with relocating from the home you have always known. Living for years in one place creates a strong emotional attachment to the home and the neighborhood; a powerful psychological bond that should not be taken lightly when deciding whether to move after retirement. But on the other hand, relocating can be a great adventure and a chance to make new memories and meet new friends. Take your time, weigh all options.

Fall is upon us, and the weather is changing. Get those pumpkins ready and have a wonderful week. Remember to do good things!

This past week I spent a few days in Charleston…

This past week I spent a few days in Charleston, WV for our 102nd Annual West Virginia Association of REALTORS® State Convention. So, what did we do you may ask? First, we had an informative speaker for our continuing education. As REALTORS®, we are required to have seven (7) hours of CE every year. This type of education can be obtained by attending a conference as I did, or some may choose to do it online.  At the convention, there is also a change of State leadership for the upcoming year. These leaders for our Association are REALTORS® but they volunteer their time to make sure we are being well represented within the state.

This is also an opportunity for us to network with other REALTORS® around the state. As a licensed agent in West Virginia, you can sell anywhere in the state however it may not make sense to drive to Martinsburg to show a house when you live in Morgantown. We network to make friends that become our colleagues and we refer business to each other. We also have people in our association that have connections on the state level to help lobby for the causes that affect the real estate industry.

Its not all business at the convention. Did you know that REALTORS® like to fundraise, and we do it well? We raised over $30,000 in one evening for REALTOR® Relief and RPAC. The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) explains that the REALTORS® Relief Foundation (RRF) is a charitable organization dedicated to providing housing-related assistance to victims of disasters. Created as a REALTOR®-driven response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, RRF continues to restore and rebuild communities affected by disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes thanks to the generosity of individual REALTORS®, REALTOR® Associations, and affiliated organizations.

Also, according to NAR, the REALTORS® Political Action Committee (RPAC) was formed in 1969 and its goal is to promote the election of pro-REALTOR® candidates across the United States. The purpose of RPAC is clear: voluntary contributions made by REALTORS® are used to help elect candidates who understand and support their interests.  

The Morgantown Board of REALTORS® also donates their time and efforts to local charities. Many of our members serve on non-profit boards in Morgantown and around the state. The Community Service committee of the Morgantown Board of REALTORS® recently held a cornhole competition and we raised over $2500 for REALTOR® Relief. We do more than list and sell homes. These REALTORS® are doing good things!

The market is slowing down a bit and that is normal for this time of year. We currently have only 140 single family listings in Monongalia County on the market. The buyers are looking but the inventory is still extremely low. Interest rates are also low. If you are considering buying or selling, now is the time. Want a second home? Go for it! Contact your local REALTOR® today to get the process started!

Welcome to October, fall, pumpkins and leaves falling. Go out and remember to do good things!

It would be amazing…

It would be amazing if all you needed to prep your home for fall was to hang a wreath and light a bunch of pumpkin spice candles. While yes, those are a crucial part of getting ready for the change of seasons, but there are more important (and not exactly fun) preparations that come with being a homeowner. The fall season is upon us. How do you prepare your home before winter? Fortunately, in the Morgantown area, we are still experiencing some warm and sunny weather. Take advantage of this weather and do the following to get your home winter ready.

Clean your gutters. With the leaves falling, you need to make sure they are clear of debris so rain and snow can drain properly. Check your windows for drafts. Heat loss through windows is responsible for 25 percent of heating energy use, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. But it does not have to be that way, because weatherstripping is simple and probably the most cost-effective way to keep heating costs down. Drain your outdoor faucets. Drain and disconnect all garden hoses from outside spigots to prevent any water freezing. Not doing this can result in busted pipes.

 Bring in your outdoor furniture. You spent good money to set that outdoor space up, so if you want to get another summer season out of it you should store it in a garage or shed. If you do not have anywhere to store the items, you should cover them with a waterproof furniture cover. Fertilize your lawn. If you want to keep your lawn looking great in the spring and summer, you need to prep it for the fall and winter. Roots are still active when the grass is not growing, so applying fertilizer will prevent winter damage. Doing this will also help your lawn turn green faster in the spring, which is crucial, because who wants to look at a sad lawn come springtime?

There are things you can do on the inside of your home to prep for winter. Change your furnace filters. If your filters are clogged, it is harder to keep your home at the temperature you want it to be, which will increase your heating bills. Clean these filters monthly, not just before the fall. Change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Once a year you should be checking to make sure all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide devices are working.

If you are thinking of listing your home in the Spring, use this cold weather time to make some interior home improvements. Spruce up the paint, redo the floors or replace that old carpet and change out old light fixtures. This is still a good time to list your property for sale. Rates are low, buyers are looking so take that leap and contact your local REALTOR®.

Add some pumpkins, mums and fall decorations to your front porch and get ready for those buyers!

Have a great week! Remember to do good things.

Everyone seems to have some form of a pet these days…

Everyone seems to have some form of a pet these days, whether it be a dog, cat, reptile or rodent. Pet owners love their fur babies, consider them members of the family and ferociously defend them. That is noble and honorable, but it can be expensive if you are trying to sell your house. The question is, what do you do with your pet during showings? This can be a difficult situation especially if you work full time. If you are fortunate enough to have a family member or neighbor available to take them during a showing, that helps. If not, you may need to run home and take them out or crate them during the showing.

According to a study conducted by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) 67 percent of REALTORS® said pet ownership has a “moderate to major” impact when selling a home. How do you keep beloved pets from costing you a small fortune when you sell your house? Do not panic; there are ways to remedy the problem.

Pet owners become “eye blind” and “nose blind” to the evidence their pets leave in and around the house. They don’t notice the scratched walls on the porch or the chewed stair railing. They don’t notice the holes dug in the yard or the bald patches in the flowerbeds. But potential buyers do notice; in fact, many are specifically looking for such things when touring a property. There are steps you can take to minimize the negative impression pets have on potential homebuyers. Most of the steps probably are not ways you want to spend your free time, and you may need to hire a professional for some of them, but they will help you in the selling process.

Clean out the litter boxes, hide the pet pads and scoop the yard. No one wants to see or smell any of that. Look at your floors, do they have pet stains or scratches? Have the carpets professionally cleaned or refinish the floors. Avoid air fresheners because some people are allergic to these. If you are going to deodorize the home on your own, try natural cleaners instead. Ask a friend to “preview” your home and give you an honest opinion of its condition.

Have your home professionally treated for fleas and ticks; if you have pets in the home, you may have these critters in the house. You will want to put this at the top of your list, not just for selling your home but for your pet’s safety, too.

As a REALTOR®, we want to know if there is a pet in the house, so we aren’t surprised during a showing. Even if we know they are there, it sometimes is a shock to open a door and find them in the cage in front of you. I am speaking from experience. You can ask your REALTOR® to give you advance notice before showings to allow time to make necessary arrangements.

The goal is to sell your home and if it has a pet smell, it won’t sell. Have a great week! Remember to do good things!