Buying a home

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!

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!

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!

What is an appraisal and why do I need one?

What is an appraisal and why do I need one? An appraisal is an opinion of value used for real-estate related financial transactions. Appraisals are required by a state licensed or certified appraiser for most transactions that are being financed by a bank or mortgage company. An appraiser’s report will typically include the type of property inspection, approaches to value required, and any lender-specific requirements.

During the listing process, the REALTOR® uses comparable active and sold properties found in the MLS to figure pricing for your home. This is based on similar properties in proximity to yours. When you receive an offer with an appraisal contingency, the appraiser will do a more in-depth evaluation of your home and find comparable sales.

What if your house doesn’t appraise for the sales price? A low appraisal may seem like a major misfortune when you are selling your house both for you and for your buyer. But low real estate appraisals are more common than you think. A low appraisal does not always mean a canceled deal. It sometimes means you must pivot and renegotiate.

If the appraisal comes in lower than your offer price, it’s either an opportunity for you to renegotiate the sales price with the seller or it’s going to completely derail your home sale, and you’ll have to start over again. Either way, as the buyer, you have some work to do to figure out what this means for your purchase and which avenue to pursue.

What are your options? First consult with your REALTOR® or lender. As the seller, you can request a copy of the report and ask the buyer to challenge the appraisal. This can delay the process and the buyer may not want to proceed. The seller can negotiate the sale price with the buyer, offer seller financing, or cancel the transaction and relist. It is tough to decide between your many options. Lean on your agent’s expertise and advice when discussing each of the below paths you could take.

Make sure you do your research before you place your property on the market. Ask your REALTOR® to guide you through the process and show you the comparable properties they are using to price your home. Be realistic in your pricing. Currently in our Morgantown market, it’s a sellers’ market which means prices could be a bit higher than usual due to the lack of inventory. Fingers crossed that you priced yours right and are currently negotiating multiple offers!

Have a wonderful week! Remember to do good things!

As seen on TV!

As seen on TV! We have all experienced those products, but did you know that the “as seen on TV real estate programs” may not be real? Have you ever been flipping through the channels, only to find yourself glued to the couch in an HGTV binge session? We have all been there, watching entire seasons of shows like “Property Brothers,” “Fixer Upper,” and “Love It or List It,” all in one sitting. When you are in the middle of your real estate-themed TV show marathon, you might start to think everything you see on the screen must be how it works in real-life. However, you may need a reality check.

Buyers do not necessarily look at three homes and then buy one of them. Sometimes it takes much, much longer. There may be buyers who fall in love and buy the first home they see, but according to the National Association of REALTORS®, the average homebuyer tours 10 homes as a part of their search.

On reality TV shows, they are often staged and already sold. In a real-life search, we may be showing “staged” homes, but they are still active on the market. The real estate TV shows cannot show the entire purchase process in 30 minutes, so they tend to choose buyers that are further along in their buying decision. While in real life, the buyer is just pre-approved and ready to look at 10 homes as they start their search.

Some may think if they list their home for sale, it will always sell at the open house. Of course, this would be great! Open houses are important to guarantee the most exposure to buyers in your area, but they are only one piece of the overall marketing of your home. Keep in mind, many homes are sold during regular showing appointments as well. Marketing is important as buyers are looking online as they start their search.

If you think that homeowners decide to sell their homes after a 5-minute conversation, then you may be watching too much HGTV. When in reality, like the buyers portrayed on the shows, many of the sellers have already spent hours deliberating the decision to list their homes and move on with their lives and goals. While the property-themed real estate TV shows are entertaining to watch, it is vital to remember what you are seeing on TV is not an exact portrayal of real-life. It is hard to fit what truly happens into a 30- or 60-minute time slot.

With the introduction to online internet searches years ago, buyers are more educated when it comes to seeing the property. They have already viewed the interior pictures online and with virtual tours. Many times, the pictures may make the home seem larger or smaller than it is. It is important to view the property live with your REALTOR® and not “as seen on TV”.

Hope all the parents survived the first week of school! If you are ready for more space, it is a great time to list your property. Contact your local REALTOR® today!

Until next time, remember to do good things!

Have you ever been in a bidding war?

Have you ever been in a bidding war? No, I am not talking about an auction, just a regular home purchase. With so few houses for sale today and low mortgage rates driving buyer activity, bidding wars are becoming more common. Multiple-offer scenarios are heating up, so it is important to get pre-approved before you start your search. This way, you can put your best foot forward – quickly and efficiently – if you are planning to buy a home this season.

So, what should you do in a hot market to be prepared for a potential multiple offer situation? First, get pre-approved. Buyers who are pre-approved are a step ahead when it is time to make an offer. Having a pre-approval letter indicating you are a qualified buyer shows sellers you are serious. It is often a deciding factor that can tip the scale in your direction if there is more than one offer on a home. It is best to contact a mortgage professional to start your pre-approval process early, so you are in the best position right from the start of your home search.

Next, present your best offer. In a highly competitive market, it is common for sellers to pick a date and time to review all offers on a house at one time. If this is the case, you may not have an opportunity to negotiate back and forth with the sellers. As a matter of fact, the National Association of REALTORS® notes existing-home sales rose 1.4% on a seasonally adjusted annual rate from May to June, with no region showing a sales decline. Not only are properties selling quickly, but they are also getting more offers. On average, REALTORS® reported nearly three offers per sold property. Make sure the offer you are presenting is the best one the sellers receive. A real estate professional can help you make sure your offer is a fair and highly competitive one.

As you can see, the market is gaining steam. For several months houses have sold very quickly. Essentially, you may not have time to sleep on it or shop around when you find a home you love. Chances are, someone else loves it too. If you take your time, it may not be available when you are ready to commit.

The housing market is strong right now, and buyers are scooping up available homes faster than they are coming to market. If you are planning to purchase a home this year, talk to a local real estate professional to learn more about your current area, so you are ready to compete – and win.

Hope everyone has a great week! Remember to laugh and to do good things!

Why do people live where they do?

Why do people live where they do? Some people have more choice than others when determining where to live. According to a national poll, the cost of housing was the most selected reason for why residents chose to live in their neighborhood. Being close to friends and family was second and the size and type of housing available was third. Some people choose their home based on the proximity to their workplace. Whatever the reason, there is a place for everyone. Some of the negative aspects were living too far from family and friends and the availability of public transportation.

Studies also show that the geographic proximity between buyers with elderly parents is small. The trend will continue, social scientists say, as baby boomers need more care in old age, and the growing number of two-income families seek help with childcare. Relocating for a job can be tough on a young family especially if they rely on their parents to assist with childcare or help the parent with their needs.

Some buyers like to live in the mountains, near a water source or in a planned community. Do you want an HOA? Do you want neighbors nearby? Maybe you want a farm with lots of acreage. There is a home for you. These are all things to consider when you start your search. Drive the area if you are not familiar with it. Check school ratings. You want the best schools for your children, don’t you? Are you close to shopping, restaurants and other amenities? Ask your REALTOR® about resale values for that neighborhood. Are you in a flood zone? Near a power plant? If you live in a college town, is the neighborhood full of student rentals?

While most buyers start their search with number of bedrooms and baths, size of home and amount of land, there are many other aspects to consider. Educate yourself. Our REALTOR® website has links and information about the community, school ratings, tourism, public transportation and more. Check out www.morgantownrealtors.com.

If you are new to the area, use a REALTOR®. These men and women know the community. They can help you find that home on the lake or nestled in the mountains. They can tell you about the best shopping and dining or the closest park for your dog. We all have access to the internet. Use it to research the town you will be relocating to and ask your REALTOR® questions about why they live where they do! Rates are still at an all-time low, but inventory is scarce. If you are ready to buy or sell, contact your local REALTOR®.

WVU students are back, and local schools will be starting soon too. Be cautious and assume no one knows where they are going. Drive safely, watch for that bicyclist. Have a great week! Remember to do good things!

It is hard to believe that in just a few short weeks…

It is hard to believe that in just a few short weeks our kids will be heading back to school. Why do our summers go by so fast? This local college town, in which we live, will soon swarm with thousands of students moving into their dorms and apartments. Morgantown residency will almost double in size in just a short time. This is great for our economy supporting local businesses including retail stores, restaurants and hotels.

Parents will ascend into our town for a few days buying groceries and home goods for their kid’s apartments and dorms. We have several local landlords that have been prepping for weeks to get their apartments ready for these students. WVU is working hard to plan activities for the incoming freshman and upper class as well as keeping parents informed about move in and other events.

How does all of this affect our local real estate market? Being that this is a college town, many residents rely on rental income to support their livelihood. Competition is strong, but if you provide the renters with modern spaces that are clean and safe, you can be successful. If you are looking to invest, real estate can be very profitable.

Does it make sense to rent an apartment for four years or to buy an investment property? Some parents would rather spend their monies on a property they can own versus paying someone else’s mortgage. This type of ownership makes up a large portion of our market. What should you do if you decide to buy but live hundreds of miles away? Are you willing to drive into town for maintenance issues during all hours? Or should you hire a property management company to help you along the way? Ask your local REALTOR® for guidance. There are some good companies in town that have managed rentals for years.

What if you aren’t financially able to purchase currently? Is renting all that bad? Of course not. If you find a good landlord and a safe place for your child to live, then you should feel comfortable letting someone else handle maintenance issues. Ask your local REALTOR® for suggestions if you are in the market to rent, as they are familiar with the local landlords.

Whether you choose to rent an apartment or purchase an investment property, both options will require some financial planning. Many property management companies now require credit and background checks for potential renters. If the renter is a student, the parent or guardian may need to sign as a guarantor. If you choose to purchase an investment property, check with your mortgage lender as it may be wise to add your child to the loan to help them build credit.

If you are a townie, be patient over the next two weeks as people coming to our area don’t know our roads. Think of it as being on vacation in another town, it’s very similar to what we experience during move in week.

As I sit here on my vacation at the beach, I am reminded to be kind to others and to do good things!

Should you pay cash for your home or finance it with your local bank?

Should you pay cash for your home or finance it with your local bank? Before making this big decision, review the pros and cons of each type of purchase. Everywhere you turn, you hear how bad it is to carry debt. So naturally, it is logical to think that buying a home with cash or sinking as much cash as possible into your home to avoid the massive debt associated with a mortgage is the smartest choice for your financial health. But there is a lot to consider when contemplating purchasing a home outright versus financing it. We will discuss some of the major differences between using cash or taking out a mortgage to buy a home.

Paying cash for a home means you won’t have to pay interest on a loan. Cash sales are attractive to sellers because they can close quicker. In this competitive market, a seller is likely to take a cash offer over other offers because they don’t have to worry about a buyer backing out due to financing being denied.

On the other hand, obtaining financing also has significant benefits. Even if a buyer can pay cash for a home, it might not make sense to tie up a lot of cash to purchase real estate. Doing so could limit your options if other needs arise down the road. If the home turns out to need major repairs or renovations, it may be tough to obtain a home-equity loan or mortgage, as you don’t know what your credit score will look like in the future, how much the home will then be worth, or other factors that determine approval for financing.

Paying a mortgage can also provide tax benefits for homeowners who itemize deductions versus taking the standard deduction. And while you should not opt for a mortgage just to get a deduction, a reduced tax obligation never hurts.

The best advice when considering whether cash or mortgage makes the most sense is to opt for the choice that gives you the bigger bang for your buck. Also, ask yourself which will provide a greater return on your investment. If you decide to purchase a house with a loan, make sure you can easily afford the principal and interest payments each month. If you decide to go with cash, make sure you will still have enough to cover ongoing costs like property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and other fees each month.

Talk to your tax advisor, meet with your local mortgage lender and let them guide you to make the best decision for your needs.

Our market is crazy! Homes are going under contract in just hours, some with multiple offers. Inventory is still low. So, if you are considering selling your home, contact your local REALTOR® so they can get you the best price, whether it is a cash sale or a financed option.

Have a great week! Remember to do good things!