Real Estate Blog

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.

Determining which improvements are necessary and which are not.

Spending time at home these last several months has given us the opportunity to tackle those home improvement projects. If you are considering listing your property soon, then those projects may not be worth your investment. Everyone wants top price for their property and rightfully so, but you may spend more time and money than necessary. Let’s determine which improvements are necessary and which are not.

Is your kitchen outdated? Do the bathrooms need upgraded? These are parts of the home that buyers want remodeled with newer fixtures and appliances. While that may not be in your budget, there are things you can do to make them more attractive. If you are only able to change a few things, consider new faucets, light fixtures and fresh paint. We always recommend removing personal items including pictures and memorabilia to declutter the home.

We have all heard these four words: declutter, paint, clean, stage. Start by walking through your home, room by room and look at it from a buyer’s perspective. Is there too much furniture in your living room? Less is better. Do you run into the bed when entering the bedroom? Consider placing the bed on a different wall. Maybe you need fresh linens in the bathroom or a new quilt for the bed? These are smaller changes that may fit into your budget and really spruce up your home.

Focus on the area around your front door. The first thing buyers see when they walk up to your house is the entryway, so you need to make sure it gives a positive first impression. Paint that front door, clean off the mailbox, add a new doormat and clear any debris leading to the door. Check your driveway and sidewalks for cracks. Uneven, jagged sidewalks or driveways are an eyesore, a safety risk, and a turn-off for buyers. Buyers looking for a kid-friendly home do not want to deal with tripping hazards.

Neutralize foul odors. Air fresheners, candles, and fresh baked cookies are not what buyers want to smell when they step into a house. To make your house smell clean and new without overpowering buyers’ senses, you can remove pets, shoes, gym bags, and anything that holds onto odors. Lightly spray a lemon-scented air freshener in each room and leave the windows open for at least 30 minutes. On the day of the open house or showing, re-open the windows for 30 minutes to neutralize the smell.

Finally, organize your closets. Let’s face it, serious buyers are going to look everywhere to make sure your home is “the one”. They will be poking into your kitchen drawers, closets, and even under your bed. To avoid embarrassment, organize everything. Fold and hang clothing neatly, leaving extra space to make closets look bigger. Gather medications and hide them in locked boxes. Empty your refrigerator and clean it thoroughly. Remove excess kitchen accessories to enlarge the space. take away refrigerator art, phone chargers, paper towel holders, and small counter-top appliances. There are so many things that go into a home sale, it’s easy to forget home preparation steps that are less obvious, but equally important to sell your home.

Time to spruce up and remember to do good things!

What is the housing forecast for 2021?

What is the housing forecast for 2021? Will sellers still have the upper hand as buyers struggle with affordability? 2021 will be a robust sellers’ market as home prices hit new highs and buyer competition remains strong. Inventory is expected to make a slow but steady comeback, this will give buyers some relief. However, increasing interest rates and prices will make affordability a challenge throughout the year. This is all according to a Realtor.com study released in December.

So, what does this mean for our area? It could be a continuation of last year, with a lack of inventory and a surplus of buyers. This is a sellers’ market. Prices and demand will rise. Mortgage rates are at an all-time low which will keep stimulating demand. With the uncertainty of our economy, sellers remain skeptical about listing their homes. What if there is a quick sale and they have no place to go? Do they rent? Do they leave the area? These are all concerns weighing on their decision.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, they predict that the first quarter of 2021 will see a relatively high number of transactions. Demand is especially high in neighborhoods outside of downtown city cores, as increasing work from home and virtual learning requirements have driven many homeowners to favor space over on-the-doorstep amenities. They also feel there will be a continued shortage of inventory for sale on the market.

What should you do if you are considering buying? Make sure you are in a strong financial position when putting in an offer on a house, rather than just jumping at something you think is a good deal. If you have been considering buying a home, what is important is having your own financial house in order, and that means taking steps to shore up your credit history and save the necessary funds to purchase. If you have your house in order, absolutely, the first quarter is going to be a great time to buy.

It is a good time to spruce up your home, declutter the basement and talk to your local REALTOR® about selling your home. Most REALTORS® will provide you a market analysis of your property at no charge. What can it hurt? Maybe you are considering downsizing or even upsizing, if so, this is a great time to make the move. If you are a first-time home buyer, contact your mortgage lender to see what programs best fit your finances. Maybe the house payment is cheaper than the rent you are paying. You may be surprised at what you can afford.

Hope you all have a wonderful week! Remember to do good things!

Selling your old home and buying a new one at the same time is a balancing act.

Selling your old home and buying a new one at the same time is a balancing act. That said, it can be done.

Buying a new home before you sell your old one is, honestly, the trickier of the two methods. While it is not impossible, it does require a bit more financial finagling. Sometimes, though, you find your dream home early on in your search. If that happens to you, consider some options.

You can make your offer based on the contingency of your home selling. This contingency allows you time to find a buyer for your old house before you move forward with settling on your new home. If you cannot find a buyer in time, you have the option to try to extend the contract or to back out of the deal.

Are you able to afford both properties? Holding two properties at the same time will undoubtedly be a stretch financially. However, if you can afford to do so, it is also the safest option. This option allows you to submit offers on new homes without having to worry about using a home sale contingency or taking out a new loan.

What if you sell before you buy? Selling your old home before you buy a new one is a more financially secure option. This way, you will know exactly how much money you have to spend on a new property. However, this method is not without its inconveniences, as well. For instance, you may have to deal with the stress of moving twice within a short period of time.

What if none of these options work for you and you need to coordinate the closing of both properties on the same day? If you are like most people, you have accumulated many years of stuff in your home and moving out the same day the buyers move in is nearly impossible. Consult with your REALTOR® and ask about pre-occupancy and post-occupancy; these terms define themselves.

Is it possible that the home you are buying is vacant? If so, then you can ask to move in early, this is known as pre-occupancy. This can alleviate the hassle of moving twice. If the seller is agreeing to pre-occupancy, you may have to pay a “rental fee” for the days you occupy. You are also responsible for insurance and utilities for the property. Post occupancy means that you remain in your property for a period until you can move into your new home. You may also end up paying a fee to the new buyer for staying the extended time.  This allows you more time to move and prepare your home for the buyer.

Moving is not the only thing you need to consider when vacating your home. You need to get all utilities switched out of your name, schedule your insurance to be cancelled after you close, and clean your home so it is ready for the new buyer. It can be stressful but that is why we recommend using a REALTOR®. They can guide you from the beginning to the end.

Have a great week and remember to do good things!

What are closing costs in a real estate transaction and who pays for them?

What are closing costs in a real estate transaction and who pays for them? There are many fees associated with buying or selling a home. It is important to consult with your REALTOR® or local real estate attorney before taking the next step.

Closing costs occur when the title of property is transferred from the seller to the buyer. The total dollar amount of closing costs depends on where the property is being sold and the value of the property being transferred. Homebuyers typically pay between 2% to 5% of the purchase price but closing costs may be paid by either the seller or the buyer. A real estate transaction is a somewhat complex process with many players involved and numerous moving parts. Some states require certain inspections beyond the basic inspection you pay directly to a home inspector of your choice. Then there are property and transfer taxes, as well as insurance coverage and various additional fees.

Laws require lenders to provide a loan estimate that reveals the closing costs on the property. Under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), lenders are required by law to provide this estimate, also known as a good faith estimate, within three days of the lender taking a borrower’s loan application. At least three days prior to the closing, the lender should also provide a closing disclosure statement outlining all closing fees.

The lender will charge an application fee. This is a fee charged by the lender to process your mortgage application. The real estate attorney will charge a fee to prepare and review the home purchase agreements and contracts. They will also do a title history search to make sure the property is clear of liens. Lender’s title insurance is an up-front, one-time fee paid to the title company that protects a lender if an ownership dispute or lien arises that it did not find in the title search. The lender will also charge a credit report fee to pull your credit reports from the three main reporting bureaus.

There are many other fees associated with the transaction that the buyer will pay including flood certification, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, inspection and appraisal costs. Consult your lender and ask for upfront costs so you can determine if this transaction is in your best interest.

Another fee is the real estate commission. Buyers do not pay this fee, though; sellers do. Typically, the commission fee is 5% to 6% of the home’s purchase price, and it is split evenly between the seller’s agent and the buyer’s agent. The seller is also responsible for the deed preparation. If applicable they will have a mortgage payoff and any outstanding amounts owed on the property. The seller will pay a real estate transfer tax, sometimes called a deed transfer tax. This is a one-time tax or fee imposed by a state or local jurisdiction upon the transfer of real property.

Before you start your home search, consult with your lender or local attorney so you know the total closing costs upfront. Then contact your REALTOR® and start looking for that perfect home!

Happy 2021 to you all and remember to do good things!

As we reflect on this year of 2020

As we reflect on this year of 2020, I would like to brag about the Morgantown Board of REALTORS® for a moment. We have over 360 members that do great things for the people in our community. Our Community Service and Social Committee along with our general membership donated over $21,000 to local organizations to help those in need. Some of the recipients included Christian Help, Preston Food Bank, Sundale Nursing Home, Monongalia EMS, Pantry Plus, The Bartlett House, Health Right and Scott’s Run Settlement House. We fed first responders and the staff at Sundale Nursing Home in April, utilizing local eateries to help support the community. Many of our members are active with local organizations, serving on boards, delivering food, and giving back to our community. With so many people in need during this pandemic, it is important to support each other as you are able. Shop with small business and eat at the locally owned restaurants.

As we transition into 2021 with hope for a better year for everyone, my goal as the Morgantown Board of REALTORS® President is to support our community as much as possible. We are more than just the salesperson. We are your neighbors, little league coaches, school sponsors, board members serving the same communities in which we live. A REALTOR® is always working so these volunteer activities are done in the background with no expectation of glory. We do these things because we love our children, our schools, our local businesses, and our town.

Over 50 new REALTORS® joined the Morgantown Board of REALTORS® in 2020. With this growth, our goal is for the young agents to continue in the same tradition as each generation of the Morgantown Board of REALTORS® has done in the past by not only serving the board but become active, contributing members of the community.

We recently had the pleasure of presenting two of our local REALTORS® with an award for REALTOR® of the year on a state and local level. Katrina Bonfili is our 2020 Morgantown Board of REALTORS®, REALTOR® of the Year and is the chair of our education committee. She has served the membership on the Strategic Planning and Core Standards committees, was the 2018 Rising Star recipient and a long serving member on the board of the Morgantown Board REALTORS®. Jessica Lipscomb is the 2020 recipient of the West Virginia REALTOR® of the year award. Jessica was the 2016 Morgantown Board of REALTORS® President, the 2020 WVAR state secretary and is now serving a three-year term on the National Association of REALTORS® Commitment to Excellence committee. Both ladies are great contributors to their communities

Reflecting on my articles for 2020, I saw the hope for a wonderful year. None of us could have known what the year would bring but as I write my article on this Christmas Eve, I can only wish for a better 2021 for everyone May you each be happy, healthy, and prosperous in the new year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Remember to ALWAYS do good things

What should we expect in real estate trends for 2021?

As we wind down this crazy year of 2020, what should we expect in real estate trends for 2021? While the pandemic did disrupt home sales in the spring of 2020 which is usually considered the hottest season for real estate, the market quickly made an impressive rebound. Real estate experts have reported that the surge in home sales toward the end of 2020 made up for the spring market losses. Will we see more of the same results in 2021? How will the housing market shake out in our current economic climate? No one has a crystal ball to determine what 2021 will bring. However, we can hope for the best for our economy and community.

Mortgage rates should remain low according to the Federal Reserve which in turn will keep the buyers searching for their next or first home. Sellers however may still be leery of the market and our inventory could remain low in 2021. Low inventory means you need to be on your toes when you go house hunting—the best homes will likely be snatched up fast. In October 2020, more than 7 in 10 sold homes were on the market for less than a month.

So, what can you do? If you can’t find the house you want, be willing to give up some “nice-to-haves” for your “must-haves.” Find the least expensive home in the best neighborhood you can afford and upgrade over time. What if the location where you are planning to buy is too competitive? You might be surprised at the gem you can find in a less popular neighborhood. Working with a real estate agent who really knows the area is the best way to find a home that fits your budget and lifestyle.

Getting preapproved for a mortgage before you go house hunting is a must in any market. But in a market with such a limited home supply, not doing this legwork ahead of time gives a preapproved buyer free reign to swipe the home you want right out of your hands.

What does a low inventory market mean for sellers? It means low selling competition! Since your home will be one of the relatively few listed on the market, you could be in the driver’s seat. So, enjoy possibly picking the best offer and moving at a pace that best suits your timeline.

Home prices are still rising. Buyers should absolutely find out what they can really afford and commit to staying within that budget amount no matter how much pressure you feel watching competitors pluck good homes off the market.

Talk to a local lender, contact your REALTOR®, and start your house hunting today. If you are a seller, prep your home for the spring market and start packing.

Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas! Remember to do good things!

Did you know you can be scammed when it comes to buying or renting real estate?

We have all read the news stories of people stealing packages off porches, scamming the elderly over the phone, and stealing bank cards. But did you know you can be scammed when it comes to buying or renting real estate?

The last thing consumers should worry about is being scammed when they buy or rent a home or refinance a mortgage. Unfortunately, criminals are getting more creative in how they target consumers. This can lead to major financial headaches for their unsuspecting victims.

You get an email, phone call or text from someone claiming to be from the title or escrow company with instructions on where to wire your escrow funds. Scammers

set up fake websites that appear like the title or lending company you are working with, making it seem like the real deal. Before you send money to a third party, go back to the original documents you received from your lender and call the phone numbers or contact your REALTOR® for assistance.

Potential renters can also get scammed. Rental property listing scams typically aim to steal money. They will try to get you to send a check for a security deposit or move-in fee without ever seeing the apartment, and they will keep the money without any intention of renting a unit to you. Be suspicious of anyone that asks for a cash deposit. Do some research on the local county assessors’ site to determine the owner and look for contact information. We have experienced scammers placing a rental ad on Craigslist for a property that is for sale. Just be cautious.

Loan flipping is when a predatory lender persuades a homeowner to refinance their mortgage repeatedly, often borrowing more money each time. These scammers tend to target seniors because its common for them to have a lot of equity in their homes. Elderly homeowners who have cognitive issues should involve a trusted relative or friend in any key financial discussion, especially about tapping home equity.

Some scammers target those in foreclosure, offering relief to capitalize on homeowners’ vulnerability. People have been swindled out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. A scammer will tell you not to talk to your lender, and that is a huge red flag. It is hard to speak to your lender when you are in imminent default or become delinquent because you’re afraid it might speed up losing your home. But you must open the lines of communication with your lender

If I can offer just one piece of advice it would be to be diligent. Question everything. Call someone you trust before making any quick decisions and never give out personal information over the phone unless you trust the caller.

I hope your week is full of peace and happiness. Remember to do good things!

Difference between a REALTOR® and a real estate agent?

Do you know the difference between a REALTOR® and a real estate agent? It can be confusing to the public. There are many different titles associated with real estate. A real estate agent is anyone who earns a real estate license. The license can be as a sales professional, an associate broker, or a broker. State requirements vary, but in all states, you must take a minimum number of classes and pass a test to earn your license.

The term REALTOR® has one, and only one, meaning: REALTOR® is a federally registered collective membership mark which identifies a real estate professional who is member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics. Real estate broker is a person who has taken education beyond the agent level as required by state laws and has passed a broker’s license exam. Brokers can work alone, or they can hire agents to work for them. A real estate salesperson is another name for a real estate agent. A real estate associate broker is someone who has taken additional education classes and earned a broker’s license but chooses to work under the management of a broker.

What does it mean to be a REALTOR®? A REALTOR® is required to have continuing education including Code of Ethics every 3 years. To start your career in real estate in West Virginia, you would be required to take an approved course and state exam. This course can be completed online and is self- paced. There are many resources to help an individual in the process.

What are the benefits of becoming a REALTOR®? You have access to many state and national benefits for education and resources to further your career. If you are a self-motivated individual willing to work long hours including nights, weekends, and holidays then this is the career for you. Do you like helping people? Then this is the career for you.

The West Virginia Association of REALTORS® is the “Voice of Real Estate in West Virginia”. With a membership of over 2,850 REALTORS®, WVAR serves the diverse interest of all who specialize in residential or commercial real estate, including established and new agents, brokers/owners, association executives or board presidents.

On a local level, the Morgantown Board of REALTORS® is a membership group of over 350 real estate agents. The mission is to serve as the public’s liaison for all real estate needs while continuing to support, educate and foster the relationship of its members who serve our communities.

As I write my article on this cool Friday morning, our Morgantown Board of REALTORS® Community Service committee has organized a food delivery drive for us to participate in today. We will be serving 200 families in the Morgantown and surrounding areas.

The holidays are approaching, reach out to those in need if you are able and take care of yourself and your family. Have a wonderful week and remember to do good things!