Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), many of us are spending a lot more time at home. We’re all being called upon to avoid public spaces and practice social distancing to help slow the spread of this infectious disease. While it can be understandably challenging, there are ways you can modify your home and your lifestyle to make the best of this difficult situation.
Here are a few tips for creating comfortable and functional spaces within your home for work, school, and fitness. We also share some of our favorite ways to stay connected as a community, because we’re all in this together … and no one should face these trying times alone.
Begin with the Basics
A basic home emergency preparedness kit is a great addition to any home, even under normal circumstances. It should include items like water, non-perishable food, a flashlight, first aid kit, and other essentials you would need should you temporarily lose access to food, water, or electricity.
Fortunately, authorities don’t anticipate any serious interruptions to utilities or the food supply during this outbreak. However, it may be a good time to start gathering your emergency basics in a designated location, so you’ll be prepared now-—and in the future—should your family ever need them.
Ready to start building an emergency kit for your home? Contact us for a free copy of our Home Emergency Preparation Checklist
Working From Home
Many employees are being asked to work remotely. If you’re transitioning to a home office for the first time, it’s important to create a designated space for work … so it doesn’t creep into your home life, and vice versa. If you live in a small condominium or apartment, this may feel impossible. But try to find a quiet corner where you can set up a desk and comfortable chair. The simple act of separating your home and work spaces can help you focus during work hours and “turn off” at the end of the day.
Of course, if you have children who are home with you all day (given many schools and daycares are now closed), separating your home and work life will be more difficult. Unless you have a partner who can serve as the primary caregiver, you will need to help manage the needs of your children while juggling work and virtual meetings.
If both parents are working from home, try alternating shifts, so you each have a designated time to work and to parent. If that’s not an option, experts recommend creating a schedule for your children, so they know when you’re available to play, and when you need to work.1 A red stop sign on the door can help remind them when you shouldn’t be disturbed. And for young children, blocking off a specific time each day for them to nap or have independent screen time can give you a window to schedule conference calls or work uninterrupted.
Homeschooling Your Children
Many parents with school-aged children will be taking on a new challenge: homeschooling. Similar to a home office, designating a space for learning activities can help your child transition between play and school. If you’re working from home, the homeschooling area would ideally be located near your workspace, so you can offer assistance and answer questions, as needed. If possible, dedicate a desk or table where your child’s work can be spread out—and left out when they break for meals and snacks. Position supplies and materials nearby so they are independently accessible, and place a trash can and recycling bin within reach for easy cleanup. A washable, plastic tablecloth can help transition an academic space into an arts and crafts area.
If the weather is nice, try studying outside! A porch swing is a perfect spot for reading, and gardening in the backyard is a great addition to any science curriculum.
In addition to creating an academic learning environment, find age-appropriate opportunities for your children to help with household chores and meal preparation. Homeschooling advocates emphasize the importance of developing life skills alongside academic ones.2 And with more meals and activities taking place at home, there will be ample opportunity for every family member to pitch in and help.
With gyms closed and team sports canceled, it can be tempting to sit on the sofa and binge Netflix. However, maintaining the physical health and mental wellness of you and your family is crucial right now. Implementing a regular exercise routine at home can help with both.
If you live in a community where you can safely exercise outdoors while maintaining the recommended distance between you and other residents, try to get out as much as possible. If the weather is nice, go for family walks, jogs, or bike rides.
Can’t get outside? Fortunately, you don’t need a home gym or fancy exercise equipment to stay fit. Look for a suitable space in your home, garage, or basement where you can comfortably move—you’ll probably need at least a 6’ x 6’ area for each person. Many cardio and strength training exercises require little (or no) equipment, including jumping jacks, lunges, and pushups.
And if you prefer a guided workout, search for free exercise videos on YouTube—there are even options specifically geared towards kids—or try one of the many fitness apps available.
Socializing From a Distance
Even though we’re all being called upon to practice “social distancing” right now, there are still ways to stay safely connected to our communities and our extended families. Picking up the phone is a great place to start. Make an effort to reach out to neighbors and loved ones who live alone and may be feeling particularly isolated right now.
And while parties and playdates may be prohibited, modern technology offers countless ways to organize networked gatherings with family and friends. Try using group video conferencing tools like Google Hangouts and Zoom to facilitate a virtual happy hour or book club. Host a Netflix Party to watch (and chat about) movies with friends. Or plan a virtual game night and challenge your pals to a round of Psych or Yahtzee.
There are safe ways to connect offline, too. Rediscover the lost art of letter writing. Drop off groceries on an elderly neighbor’s porch. Or organize a neighborhood “chalk walk,” where children use sidewalk chalk to decorate their driveways and then head out for a stroll to view their friends’ artwork.
Of course, there’s one group of people who you can still socialize with freely—those who reside in your home. Family dinners are back, siblings are reconnecting, and many of us have been given the gift of time, with commutes, activities, and obligations eliminated. In fact, some families are finding that this crisis has brought them closer than ever.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
Even with all of the tools and technology available to keep us connected, many of us are still feeling stressed, scared, and isolated. However, you can rest assured that you are not alone. We’re not only here to help you buy and sell real estate. We want to be a resource to our clients and community through good times and bad. If you and your family are in need of assistance, please reach out and let us know how we can help.
We’re in the midst of the longest economic expansion in U.S. history, and economists think there’s still room to grow. A recent survey by the National Association for Business Economics found that experts believe the U.S. economy will remain positive throughout 2020.1
Still, given that recessions are a natural (and necessary) part of a business cycle, we know this period of growth will inevitably end. So you may be wondering … how will an eventual recession impact the real estate market?
Many Americans assume a recession would lead to a decline in housing prices like we saw during the Great Recession of 2008. But the real estate market crash we experienced wasn’t typical. In fact, the last recession wasn’t typical at all. It was the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
ATTOM Data Solutions analyzed real estate prices during the last five recessions and found that, in the majority of cases, home prices actually went up. Only twice (in 1990 and 2008) did prices decline, and in 1990 it was by less than one percent.2
So what can historical precedent—combined with today’s data—tell us about the future of real estate? Here’s where experts predict the housing market is headed in 2020 and beyond.
HOME PRICES WILL KEEP RISING
Economists predict U.S. housing prices will continue to rise, regardless of a recession. In fact, property data firm CoreLogic forecasts a faster rate of growth for home prices in 2020 than we saw in 2019, with the biggest gains at the lower end of the market.3
Arch MI Chief Economist Ralph DeFranco expects entry-level home prices to increase faster than incomes this year, making it even more difficult for many first-time buyers to afford to enter the market.4
“Low interest rates and a shortage of starter homes will continue to push up prices,” predicts DeFranco. “This is especially the case for lower price points, since builders have tended to focus on more expensive, higher-profit houses and less on replenishing low inventories of entry-level homes.”4
“Real estate is on firm ground with little chance of price declines,” said National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. "However, in order for the market to be healthier, more supply is needed to assure home prices as well as rents do not consistently outgrow income gains.”5
What does it mean for you? If you have the ability and desire to buy a home now, don’t let a fear of recession or falling prices hold you in limbo. Economists expect home values, as well as rent prices, to continue rising. So you’ll likely pay more the longer you wait.
INVENTORY CONSTRAINTS WILL CONTINUE
According to Redfin, Americans are staying in their homes longer. In 2019, the average homeowner had resided in their home for 13 years, up from just eight years in 2010. That means there are fewer homes available today for those who want to buy.6
It’s possible that an increase in new construction could offer some relief. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) expects single-family housing starts to total one million this year, the highest level since 2007. And NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun predicts the average price of new construction will decline slightly as builders shift to building smaller, more affordable homes.7
However, these efforts may not be enough to meet current demand. “Despite improvements to new construction and short waves of sellers, next year will once again fail to bring a solution to the inventory shortage,” predicts Realtor.com Senior Economist George Ratiu. “In 2020, we expect inventory to struggle to grow and could instead reach a historic low level.”8
What does it mean for you? If you’re looking to buy a starter home, be prepared to compete for the best listings. Start your search early, and if you’re up against a deadline (like a new baby), build in plenty of time to find the right home. We can help you assess your options, including new construction and up-and-coming developments.
MORTGAGE RATES WILL REMAIN LOW
Mortgage rates have declined more than a full percentage point since November 2018, when they hit a recent peak of 4.94%.9 The Mortgage Bankers Association predicts rates will remain low, at around 3.7%, through mid-2021.10
While it may not seem significant, on a $200,000 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, that lower rate means buyers could save around $145 on their monthly payment and more than $52,000 over the life of their mortgage. Lower mortgage rates make homeownership more accessible and affordable for buyers.
Although economists expect mortgage rates to stay low, they caution against waiting to act. Economic factors, shifts in supply and demand, or unforeseen impacts of the November election could cause rates to rise unexpectedly. “We recommend borrowers with long-term plans of staying in their homes to lock in a low rate now because there’s no telling how long these low rates will last,” warns Preetam Purohit, a capital markets trader at Embrace Home Loans.11
What does it mean for you? If you’re looking to buy a home, act soon to lock in a historically low mortgage rate. It will minimize your monthly payment and could save you a bundle over the long term. And if you plan to stay in your current home for a while, consider whether it makes sense to refinance your mortgage at today’s lower rates.
MILLENNIALS WILL DRIVE THE MARKET
Millennials are expected to account for more than half of all mortgages this year, outnumbering Generation X and Baby Boomers combined. It’s not surprising, considering their age and stage of life. In 2020, the largest cohort of millennials will turn 30, and the oldest millennials will turn 39.8
"Family changes tend to drive home-buying decisions," explains Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale. "Millennials are going to be active in the housing market not just because they're just at the age when they're thinking about becoming first-time home buyers, but they're also in the age range when they're having kids."12
Younger millennials flocked to urban centers that offered easy access to work, shopping, and restaurants. But high prices, lack of square footage, and subpar schools are driving millennials out to the suburbs as they begin to marry and expand their families.
In response, a new model for suburban living has emerged. “Hipsturbias,” or mixed-use communities that bring the live/work/play concept to the suburbs, were recently named one of the top real estate trends for 2020 by the Urban Land Institute.4
What does it mean for you? If you’re a millennial who has been priced out of urban living or is looking for more space for your growing family, a number of suburbs in our area have a lot to offer. We can point you towards the communities that will best meet your needs. And if you’re a homeowner with plans to sell, give us a call. We know how to market your home to millennials … and can help you sell quickly for top dollar by appealing to this leading market segment!
WE’RE HERE TO GUIDE YOU
While national real estate numbers can provide a “big picture” outlook, real estate is local. As local market experts, we can guide you through the ins and outs of our market and the issues most likely to impact sales and home values in your particular neighborhood.
If you’re considering buying or selling a home in 2020, contact us now to schedule a free consultation. We’ll work with you to develop an action plan to meet your real estate goals this year.
START PREPARING TODAY
If you plan to BUY this year:
Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seasoned homeowner, shopping for a new home can feel daunting. In fact, 56% of buyers said that “finding the right property” was the most difficult step in the home buying process.1
Buying a home is a significant commitment of both time and money. And a home purchase has the power to improve both your current quality of life and your future financial security, so the stakes are high.
Follow these five steps—and complete the corresponding worksheet offered below—to assess your priorities, streamline your search, and choose your next home with confidence.
STEP 1: Set Your Goals and Priorities
The first step to finding your ideal home is determining WHY you want to move. Do you need more space? Access to better schools? Less maintenance? Or are you tired of throwing money away on rent when you could be building equity? Pinpointing the reasons why you want to move can help you assess your priorities for your home search.
Don’t forget to think about how your circumstances might change over the next few years. Do you expect to switch jobs? Have more children? Get a pet? A good rule of thumb is to choose a house that will meet your family’s needs for at least the next five to seven years.2 Be sure to set your goals accordingly.
STEP 2: Determine Your Budget
Many financial professionals recommend following the “28/36 Rule” to determine how much you can afford to spend on a home. The rule states that you should spend no more than 28% of your gross monthly income on housing expenses (e.g., mortgage, taxes, insurance) and a maximum of 36% of your gross monthly income on your total debt obligations (i.e., housing expenses PLUS any other debt obligations, like car loans, student loans, credit card debt, etc.).3
Of course, the 28/36 rule only provides a rough guideline. Getting pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage BEFORE you begin shopping for homes will give you a much more accurate idea of how much you can borrow. Add your pre-approved mortgage amount to your downpayment to find out your maximum purchasing potential.
STEP 3: Choose a Location
When it comes to real estate, WHERE you choose to buy is just as important as WHAT you choose to buy.
Do you prefer a rural, urban, or suburban setting? How long of a commute are you willing to make? Which neighborhoods feed into your favorite schools? These decisions will impact your day-to-day life while you live in the home.
Another important factor to consider is how the area is likely to appreciate over time. Choosing the right neighborhood can raise the profit potential of your home when it comes time to sell. Look for communities that are well maintained with high home-ownership rates, low crime rates, and access to good schools, desired retail establishments, and top employers.4
STEP 4: Decide Which Features You Need (and Want) in a Home
Start with the basics, like your ideal number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and square footage. Do you prefer a one-story or two-story layout? Do you want a swimming pool?
Keep in mind, you may not find a home with all of your “wants,” or even all of your “needs” … at least not at a price you can afford. The reality is, most of us have to make a few compromises when it comes to buying a home.
Some buyers will opt for a longer commute to get a larger, newer home in the suburbs. Others will sacrifice hardwood floors or an updated kitchen so that their kids can attend their desired school.
If you’re faced with a tough choice about how or what to compromise in your home search, return to STEP 1. What were your original goals and motivations for moving? Reminding yourself of your true priorities can often provide the clarity that you need.
STEP 5: Meet with a Real Estate Agent
A good real estate agent can remove much of the stress and uncertainty from the home search process. From setting goals to securing a loan to selecting the best neighborhood to meet your needs, we will be there to assist you every step of the way.
And no one has more access to home listings, past sales data, or market statistics than a professional agent. We can set up a customized search that alerts you as soon as a new listing you might like goes live. Better yet, we get notified about many of the hottest homes even BEFORE they hit the market.
You might guess that the VIP service we provide is very expensive. Well, the good news is, we can represent you throughout the entire home buying process at NO COST to you. It’s true; the home seller pays a buyer agent’s fee at closing. So you can benefit from our time, experience, and expertise without paying a dime. It’s no wonder 87% of buyers choose to purchase their home with the help of an agent.1
And although we’ve listed it here as STEP 5, the reality is, it’s never too early (or too late) to contact an agent about buying a home. Whether you plan to buy today, next month, or next year, there are steps you can (and should) be taking to prepare for your purchase.
Call us today to schedule a free consultation!
The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial advice. Consult a financial professional for advice regarding your individual needs.
Technology is changing the way we do almost everything, and real estate transactions are no exception. In fact, a new crop of tech companies wants to revolutionize the way we buy and sell homes.
iBuyer startups like Opendoor, Offerpad, and Properly are rapidly expanding into new territories, and now established players, like Zillow, are starting to get in on the action. Also known as Direct Buyers, these companies use computer algorithms to provide sellers with a quick cash offer to buy their home.
While the actual market share of iBuyers remains small, their big advertising budgets have helped create a noticeable buzz in the industry. This has left many of our clients curious about them and how they work.
In this article, we explain their business model, weigh the pros and cons of working with an iBuyer, and share strategies you can use to protect yourself if you choose to explore this new option to buy or sell your home.
FIRST, HOW DOES THE iBUYER PROCESS WORK?
While each company operates a little differently, the basic premise is the same. A seller (or seller’s agent) completes a brief online form that asks questions about the size, features, and condition of the property. Some also request digital photos of the home.
The iBuyer will use this information to determine whether or not the home fits within their “buy box,” or set of criteria that matches their investment model. They are generally looking for houses they can easily value and “flip.” In most cases, their ideal property is a moderately priced, single-family home located in a neighborhood with many similar houses. The property shouldn’t require any major renovations before listing.1 These qualities make it easier to assess value (lots of comparable sales data) and help to reduce risk and minimize carrying costs.
Once the iBuyer has used their algorithm to determine the amount they are willing to pay, they will email an offer to the seller, usually within a few days. The offer should also disclose the company’s service fee, which is typically between 7% and 12% of the purchase price.2
If the seller accepts, an in-person visit and inspection are scheduled. The iBuyer will ask for a reduction in price to cover any defects they find during the process. Once the sale closes, they will make the necessary updates and repairs and then resell the home on the open market.
WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF SELLING TO AN iBUYER?
Of course, the biggest benefit of selling your home to an iBuyer is convenience. For some homeowners, the stress and disruption of preparing and listing their home can feel overwhelming. And what busy family with kids and pets wouldn’t want to skip the hassle of keeping their house “show ready” for potential buyers? Additionally, many sellers like the predictability of a cash buyer and the flexibility to choose their closing date.
However, this added convenience does come at a cost. An iBuyer is an investor looking to make a profit. So their purchase offer is usually below true market value. When you tack on service fees of up to 12% and deductions for updates and repairs, studies show that sellers who work with iBuyers net a lower amount than those that list the traditional way.3
In fact, a MarketWatch investigation found that transactions involving iBuyers net the seller 11% less than if they would have sold their home with an agent on the open market.2
WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF BUYING FROM AN iBUYER?
Buying a home from an iBuyer is a lot like buying a home from any investor. The pros are that it’s usually clean, neutral, and moderately updated. You’ll often find fresh paint and modern finishes. And because it’s uninhabited (no one is living there), you don’t have to work around a seller’s schedule to see the home.
However, there are some pitfalls to avoid when working with iBuyers. Speed is of the essence, so sometimes the renovations are rushed and the quality can suffer. Also, their investment margins don’t leave much room for negotiating a price reduction or additional repairs. That leaves buyers —who have already invested hundreds of dollars in an inspection—little recourse if any issues are uncovered.4
That’s one of the reasons we always recommend viewing properties with an agent. During your visit, a real estate professional can point out any “red flags” at the home, provide background information about the neighborhood, and help you assess its true market value. That way, you don’t invest time and money in a high-risk or overpriced property. Safety is also a concern. Some companies allow buyers to access their homes via a smartphone app. While it may seem convenient, it provides an easy way for squatters and others to enter the home illegally.5
Luckily, since most iBuyers (and traditional sellers) pay a buyer agent’s commission, you can benefit from the guidance and expertise of a real estate professional … at no cost to you!
HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF IF I CHOOSE TO WORK WITH AN iBUYER?
While it may seem like the “quick and easy” way to go, working with an iBuyer can present some unique challenges. For example, they are notorious for presenting a strong initial purchase offer and then whittling it down with a long list of costly updates and repairs once they complete their inspection.2 And unlike a traditional buyer who is incentivized to make a deal work, iBuyers can easily walk away if you don’t meet their demands.
Just like you wouldn’t go to court without a lawyer, you shouldn’t enter into a real estate transaction without an advocate to represent you. Having a professional agent on your side can be especially important when negotiating with an iBuyer. Remember, they employ sophisticated representatives and a team of lawyers who are focused on maximizing their profits, not yours. You need someone in your corner who has the skills and knowledge to ensure you get a fair deal and who understands the terms of their contracts, so you don’t encounter any unpleasant surprises along the way.
Overall, we think the emergence of new technology that helps to streamline the real estate process is exciting. And if we believe a client can benefit from working with an iBuyer, we present it as an option. But there is—inevitably—a cost to the convenience. After all, most iBuyers eventually list the properties they acquire on the open market, which is still the best place to find a buyer if you want to maximize the sales price of your home.
EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS
Do you want to learn more about iBuyers and other options currently available in our area to buy or sell your home? We can help you determine the best path, given your unique circumstances. Contact me to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation!
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US News & World Report -