There is an important distinction to made between two important steps of your mortgage application process: pre-qualification and pre-approval. They are similar in that they both help to inform your financial standing, but there are key differences between the two.
Pre-qualification is the first step in your mortgage application process. It will help you to understand the approximate loan amount you can expect to qualify for. You’ll begin by sharing your financial information—debt, income, assets, etc.—with you bank or lender. After reviewing the information, the bank or lender will give a loan estimate. The process is relatively simple, only taking a few business days to process.
The pre-approval process is more involved than pre-qualification. After submitting a mortgage application, your lender will require all the necessary info to conduct a thorough credit history check and review of your financial health. Getting pre-approved will give you a better idea of how much you can borrow, estimated monthly costs, and what interest rates you can expect on your loans. Mortgage pre-approvals are typically valid for 60 to 90 days.
Benefits of Pre-Approval
The truth is, each home on the market can only go to one buyer. To maximize the chance that your offer is accepted, sellers need to know that your offer is serious. Getting pre-approved shows that you are financially prepared and, in the event that your offer is accepted, there will be no hold ups in obtaining your mortgage. This assurance is what sellers want to know about their potential buyers, especially in a seller’s market.
Not only does pre-approval help to bolster your case as a buyer, but it also Indicates your affordable price range. By knowing your budget, you will be able to hone your home search and start preparing offers, eliminating any potential wasted time looking at houses you can’t afford.
Once your offer is accepted, you’ll be counting down the days to move-in. Unfortunately, the closing process can often drag on, leaving buyers feeling like they’re in post-purchase limbo. Pre-approval will speed up the closing process, since the mortgage approvals have already been taken care of, allowing you to focus on next steps like appraisals and inspections.
When to Get Pre-Approved
Being financially prepared for a home purchase is a solid indicator that you’re ready to go about getting pre-approved, but what does that look like? Buying a house means taking on serious debt, so it’s worth your while to begin forming a long-term strategy for paying off outstanding debt before getting pre-approved. Having adequate savings for a down payment is a sign that you’re ready to make your offer. For any questions about the pre-approval process and to get connected to a mortgage professional, contact your Windermere agent.
Deciding between a house, townhouse, and condominium can be a difficult process. Knowing how their characteristics align with your life and goals as a homeowner will help guide you to the right choice.
What differentiates houses, townhouses, and condominiums?
Detached houses offer the most freedom and privacy of the three housing options. They provide the opportunity to personalize your home as desired, without rules from a governing body like HOA. Houses don’t share walls like townhouses or condos, and typically offer larger outdoor spaces as well.
Situated on their own lots, owning a house leaves the responsibility of maintaining and improving the structure and accompanying land to the homeowner. Between a down payment, closing costs, and other homeowner fees, the upfront costs of owning a house can be significantly higher than a townhouse or a condominium.
A townhouse is typically a narrow, multileveled structure connected to others in a row or block, typically with a small parcel of property in front of or behind the home. Somewhere between a house and condo, townhouses may be the best of both of worlds for some homeowners.
Like a house, townhouse owners are responsible for exterior (roof and siding) maintenance and repair. Most townhouses tend to have a small footprint and modern upgrades, with lower HOA fees than condos due to a lesser focus on shared amenities.
Condominiums are divided, individually owned units of a larger structure. Due to their smaller size and because they come with no land, condos are typically less expensive than a townhouse or a house. However, HOA fees combined with a monthly mortgage payment can increase the cost of condominium living, depending on the amenities offered in a building. Unique to condo ownership, the exterior of the units is considered a common area with ownership shared among the condo owners in the building.
As a condo owner, you are only responsible for the inside of your unit. With this decreased maintenance comes less exclusivity and privacy. Condo owners live in close proximity and typically share amenities like gym and pool access, laundry, and other facilities.
How does your home align with your life?
For homeowners looking at their property as an investment in their financial future, houses are a strong choice. Houses allow homeowners to plan long-term with the knowledge that their home will build equity over time.
If you are planning on putting down roots and starting a family, houses provide the best opportunity to grow into your future and are better suited to handle significant life changes.
For people looking for more space than a condo but are not quite ready to make the jump to a single-family home, townhouses are the perfect fit. They present a great steppingstone for first time home buyers or buyers who simply don’t want the responsibility of taking care of a larger, standalone home and yard.
Townhouses are often located in residential neighborhoods. They are fitting for those looking to graduate from rented dwellings in city centers or metropolitan areas yet maintain greater ownership flexibility than a single-family house.
Condominiums appeal strongly to homeowners looking for a low-maintenance residence, with access to shared amenities amongst a community. Condos are usually found in denser areas closer to downtown centers, shopping, and entertainment.
They are a better fit for buyers seeking metropolitan surroundings than a detached home, which is typically found in a more suburban or rural environment. Given their proximity to city/town centers and mass transit, condos present the opportunity of a shorter commute for those who work in downtown areas.
After all the research, do what feels right. Whether it’s a house, townhouse, or a condo, work with your Windermere agent to find the best option for you and your future.
The pandemic’s influences on home life are far-ranging, prompting buyers to look at home ownership through a new lens. Remote work has created a paradigm shift in the wants and needs of homebuyers. Here’s what the remote worker should keep in mind when looking to buy.
The location, location, location cliché has taken on new meaning for homebuyers who work from home. Because remote work gives us the opportunity to work from anywhere, home searches are expanding. Work commute times typically play a significant role in the home buying process; however, many buyers now have the option to view homes further away from their places of work.
Those who previously dreamed of the quiet life, but didn’t want the commute that came with it, are now able to make a move toward a more suburban environment. If you prefer to be away from the hustle and bustle of a downtown area but don’t want to feel isolated, search for properties in the suburbs with active town centers.
The proper space
When COVID-19 began sending workers home in the early months of 2020, homeowners worldwide discovered their varied level of preparedness for remote work. Some had spacious home offices and were able to make the transition easily. Others had to create makeshift workspaces out of living rooms or bedrooms. What we have learned is that a dedicated workspace is paramount to productive remote work, its importance emphasized by the unknown timeline of a return to working in-person in many parts of the country.
Before you buy:
When searching for homes, understand that a home office situated in an open floor plan is more prone to distraction.
Look for features such as an additional bedroom, finished basement, or bonus room that offer ample space to create your remote work environment.
Having a designated space you can associate solely with work will not only drive your focus but helps to balance your home and work life. It allows you to wrap up the workday, leave your home office, and easily transition back into the goings on of your household.
After you buy:
Light it up: You’ll want plenty of light in your home office to stay fresh throughout the work week. If you are next to a window, let in as much natural light as possible. Add in desk and floor lamps to brighten your space.
Work comfortably: While working at home, it’s easy to sit in one place for hours on end. Shop for comfortable desk chairs that provide proper lumbar support. Explore alternatives to desk chairs like yoga balls and standing desks.
Personalize: Adding personal touches will help to make your home office feel comfortable. Inspirational quotes, your favorite artwork, and pictures of loved ones are all types of décor that will keep you inspired in your remote work.
For all these considerations and more, talk with your Windermere agent about how your remote work is shifting where you’re looking for a home and what you’re looking for when it’s time to move there.
Navigating everything involved with selling your home can seem intimidating. Breaking the process down step by step will keep you organized and ready to work with your agent toward a successful home sale.
1. Choose an agent
A lot goes into choosing the right agent. If you’re unsure where to start, get referrals from trusted friends, family, and neighbors. Although the ultimate goal is the sale, think about your compatibility outside of the transaction. Their ability to connect with you on a human level through the ups and downs of a home sale is just as important as their expertise and knowledge of the market.
2. Set a timeline
Depending on your local housing market conditions, your timeline for selling your home may vary. However, a timeline is valuable in that it will keep you organized throughout the selling process and allows you to adjust if circumstances change. Your agent will work with you to build the ideal timeline.
3. What is your home worth?
The key to selling quickly is correctly pricing your home from the first day it hits the market. In particular, overpricing can lead to serious complications in the selling process. Your agent can provide you with a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) to better determine the best price of your home. CMAs provide information on comparable home sales in your area, both pending and sold, within the past six months.
While an agent will always have the best information, you can also try our automated value estimate tool as a starting point. Our seller page features home values and market information about what buyers are looking for in your area.
4. Repair & upgrade
Now it’s time to get to work on the house! This is the perfect time to tackle any and all outstanding projects or repairs. Create a list separating which repairs can be done yourself and which need professional attention. This is the time to consider a pre-sale home inspection to identify structural and mechanical problems before your home is on the market.
5. Make the best first impression
Making an impactful first impression goes a long way in the minds of buyers, so roll up your sleeves and prepare to check off that to-do-list. Start by cleaning up the garden and lawn, clearing out gutters, and adding color to your flower beds. Apply a fresh coat of paint anywhere you spot peeling or cracked paint. A great way to make an impact is by staging your home, with the goal of making each room feel as spacious and welcoming as possible.
6. Show your home
Your local pandemic-era regulations will dictate the ability for agents to conduct in-person showings and open houses. Discuss virtual home tour options with your agent and other ways to generate maximum buyer interest. For in-person showings, it’s best that you leave the premises so the buyer can freely ask their agent questions and visualize the home as their own.
7. Offers & negotiation
If you are in a seller’s market—defined by low inventory and high buyer competition—it is likely that you will receive offers at – or above – asking price. You can respond to an offer by a) accepting the offer, b) making a counteroffer, or c) rejecting the offer. Counteroffers should always be made in writing and provide a short window of time for the potential buyer to respond. If you are selling in a buyer’s market, you may have to be more open to negotiation. Discuss negotiation strategies with your agent to work toward a satisfying final price.
8. Prepare for closing costs
There are costs throughout the selling process, and as the close date approaches, that remains true. Be sure to budget for your real estate agent’s commission, and other common seller’s costs like title insurance, recording fees, and government transfer tax, among others.
9. Home inspection
Buyer offers are usually contingent upon a professional home inspection. Ask your agent for a home inspection checklist, so you know what the inspector is looking for ahead of time. They typically inspect the home’s foundation, structure, roof, plumbing and electrical systems, floors, windows, doors, and more for signs of damage and weathering.
10. Closing time
Congratulations! Your home is sold, but there are still some final steps before the deal is done. This is the time to ask the buyer to release any contingencies, sign the title, and close escrow before handing over the keys. Consult your real estate agent for any questions about legal documentation and settlement costs.
If you’d like more information about selling your home, an experienced Windermere Real Estate agent is ready to help. Click here to connect.
It is a seemingly simple question. However, discovering the worth of your home is more complicated than it might seem. Sites like Zillow, Redfin, Eppraisal, and others have built-in home valuation tools that make it seem easy, but how accurate are they? And if you get three different answers, which one do you believe? Online valuation tools have become a pivotal part of the home buying and selling process, but they’ve proven to be highly unreliable in certain instances. What these valuation tools have made clear is that real estate agents are as vital to the process of pricing a home as they ever were—and maybe even more so now.
Every online valuation tool has its limitations. Most are readily acknowledged by their providers, such as “Zestimate” from Zillow, which clearly states that it offers a median error rate of 4.5%. That may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind that 4.5% amounts to a difference of about $31,500 for a $700,000 home. For Redfin and Trulia, there are similar variances. When you dig deeper into these valuation tools, it’s no wonder that there are discrepancies. They rely on a range of different sources for information, some more reliable than others.
Redfin’s tool pulls information directly from multiple listing services (MLSs) across the country. Others negotiate limited data sharing deals with those same services, relying on public and homeowners’ records alike. This can lead to gaps in coverage. These tools can serve as helpful pieces of the puzzle when buying or selling a home, but the acknowledged error rate is a reminder of how dangerous a heavy reliance on them can be.
Nothing compares to the level of detail and knowledge a professional real estate agent offers when pricing a home. An algorithm can’t possibly know about the unique characteristics of neither a home nor its neighborhood. Curious about what improvements you can make to get top dollar or how buyer behaviors are shaping the market? They cannot provide an answer there, either. That can only be delivered by a trusted professional whose number one priority is getting you the best price in a time frame that meets your needs.
If you’re curious about your home’s value, Windermere offers a tool that provides a series of evaluations on your property and the surrounding market. And once you’re ready, we’re happy to connect you with a Windermere agentwho can clarify this information and perform a Comparative Market Analysis to get an even more accurate estimate of what your home could fetch in today’s market.
On this week’s episode of “Mondays with Matthew,” Matthew Gardner looks at last week’s real estate and economic news and goes beyond the headlines so that you can not only stay on top of the issues that affect you and your business, but also get more detail than is generally offered by the media.
Life as we know it has changed dramatically in the coronavirus era, affecting work, school, travel, and more. And it’s shed light on the way we live at home, underscoring the fact that there’s nothing more important than safe shelter for our family.
To that end, COVID-19 is influencing what people want to see in home design.
“After the pandemic, our homes are going to reflect the lessons learned during this painful period, such as ways to disinfect ourselves and our possessions,” says Jamie Gold, a wellness design consultant and author of “Wellness by Design.”
In a postvirus world, we won’t soon forget our shelter-at-home memories. Going forward, if there’s even the slightest chance (god forbid) that we’ll need to repeat this awful practice, homeowners may want to prepare by buying or renovating a house with amenities that’ll make it just a bit more bearable.
To help, here are 10 features to look for in a new home—or demand in your current one—once we’ve bid the coronavirus adieu.
Taking off your shoes before entering the house has long been recommended to cut back on grime and germs. But now that a recent study found that the novel coronavirus can cling to shoes’ soles and then get tracked inside, even more people may start removing their shoes right as they enter a house. This could make the presence of mudrooms—including larger, souped-up versions with seating areas and cubbies—more appealing than ever.
You probably weren’t alone if you found your food storage was lacking in the early days of the coronavirus—and the fix will be bigger and better pantries. Room for nonperishables is key so you can cut back on the number of grocery store trips you make.
No room for a dedicated pantry? Sipp anticipates a need for more food storage like shelving and cabinets in other parts of the home, like the garage and basement.
“And larger pantries won’t necessarily live in the kitchen area, but will instead be more of an add-on in the laundry room or entryway,” says Gold. The reason: Deliveries can be made contact-free, away from living areas, and trips into the house will be reduced.
Remember the old-fashioned chest freezer your grandmother had? Look for it again, along with more built-in freezer drawers, in future home design. Panicky pandemic shoppers are snapping up all manner of foods, and the result has been a sold-out stock of freezer units.
The French know a thing or two about healthy bathroom design—and we’re finally taking notice. Bidet use was already on the rise before the coronavirus, and since toilet paper shortages have hit hard, more and more folks are looking to install this amenity.
Bidets are gentle and hygienic, and even when TP is back on store shelves, these devices will still be in demand, says Gold.
Want something cheaper than installing a whole new appliance? Consider the washlet, which is a seat fitted to an existing toilet that’s equipped with a spray nozzle.
“There’s less need for tissue with a washlet,” says Melanie Turner, an architect at Perkins & Will.
“COVID-19 has brought to light a heightened desire for discrete areas, no matter how small, and convertible spaces like guest rooms that can be used for playtime or as a homework spot,” says Turner. But open floor plans probably won’t disappear—instead, a better balance between private, semiprivate, and public spaces is coming.
“The reason is the need for homes to multitask better, which means if you have two partners suddenly working from home and a couple of kids home schooling, you’ll have more quiet, separate spaces for everyone to function effectively,” says Gold.
Adapting to a new, more germ-conscious way of living starts with a return to copper and brass (a copper-zinc combo) for doorknobs and fixtures. In fact, brass kills bacteria more effectively than stainless steel, according to research.
Brass and copper are excellent metals for the home because both are naturally antimicrobial and corrosion-resistant.
“Copper is one of the best for its antimicrobial properties and has been used for decades in plumbing—and brass and bronze are also very popular because of their inherent ability to kill germs, plus over time they give a desirable rustic look,” said Karp.
“We already have hands-free faucets, light switches, and voice-control features to operate windows, showers, thermostats, and sound systems. Plus there’s a hands-free door opener that’s being introduced for homes,” points out Gold, who anticipates seeing them in homes now more than ever.
“We’ve had touchless entry and infrared detection systems in place for years in hotels, so I expect to see these technologies applied for opening home cabinets, fridges, and drawers in the near future,” adds Karp.
For people with allergies, asthma, or other respiratory issues, more sophisticated HVAC systems, including those that can be closed from the outside world for limited amounts of time, might become more common.
“We have to weigh the benefits of fresh air with the desire to temper or limit intake at very specific times,” says Turner.
This one’s obvious, and it runs the gamut from a fully equipped workspace in a separate room to smaller iterations like nooks under the stairs or a retrofitted closet.
Having a quiet area in which to work will be a must-have, and if you can include the ability to work while standing up or moving, your wellness will be enhanced, says Gold.
“As people video chat and Zoom more with colleagues from home, they’re becoming hyperaware of the changes they’d like to see in a home office, including better lighting and more storage. And since a return to the workplace will be gradual, high demand will continue for an office that’s comfortable and functional,” says Sipp.
For some homeowners who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a high level of concern about paying their mortgage. Fortunately, there are options to aid struggling homeowners from governments, financial institutions, and loan providers. The following information is intended to provide clarity on which financial relief options are available to you during this time.
What are my mortgage relief options?
Newly placed into law, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, provides two protections for homeowners with federally backed mortgages:
Your lender or loan servicer may not foreclose on you for 60 days following March 18, 2020. The CARES Act prohibits lenders and/or servicers from beginning a non-judicial foreclosure, or finalizing a foreclosure sale, against you within this time period. While 60 days has passed since this was put into place, it is still important to be aware of in the event that any of these actions were taken against you.
You have a right to request a forbearance for up to 180 days if you experience financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can also apply for a 180-day extension beyond the forbearance period. This does not require submitting additional documentation beyond your claim, nor will you incur additional fees, penalties or interest beyond what has already been scheduled.
With forbearance, mortgage servicers and lenders allow you to pause or reduce your mortgage payments for a period of time while you get back on your feet financially.
Different types of loans beget different forbearance options, understanding the differences and which options apply to your loan is key to navigating the forbearance landscape.
Once your income is back to a normal level, contact your loan servicer and resume your payments.
Forbearance is not…
Forbearance is not a means to forgive or erase your payments. Any missed or reduced payments still require payment in the future.
Which relief options do I qualify for?
The first step in discovering your mortgage assistance qualifications is to contact your mortgage provider. If you are unsure of how to get in touch with them, look at your mortgage statement for contact information or see what contact options are available online.
After you have successfully made contact, find out if your mortgage is federally backed. To be eligible for assistance under the CARES act, your mortgage must either be backed federally, or by one of the entities in the list below. These links show the agencies’ current advise and related loan information:
For non-federally backed loans, contact your lender or servicer to learn more about their forbearance repayment options.
Today’s financial landscape can be stressful for homeowners, especially those that are struggling to keep up financially. Fortunately, these entities, institutions, and servicers have provided options to help lessen the burden. Knowing which options apply to you and your household will help you navigate through hardship as your finances recover.
Twelve weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic and we are certainly seeing the impact it has had on the housing market. Today’s episode of “Mondays with Matthew” covers home prices now, and what to expect for the rest of 2020.