Real Estate NewsRenuka's Residential ReportUncategorized February 27, 2021

Lender Pre-Approvals

The Importance of Pre-Approval

To set yourself up for a smooth and successful home purchase, getting pre-approved is perhaps the most productive first step you can take. It strengthens your buying credibility, informs your home search, and speeds up the closing process.

 

The Pre-Approval Process 

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

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.

Pre-approval

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

Credibility

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.

Home search

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.

Closing process

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.

Real Estate NewsRenuka's Residential Report December 4, 2020

Houses, Townhomes, or Condos – What are the differences you should think about.

House vs. Townhouse vs. Condo

Image sources: House, Townhouse, Condo: Canva — Question marks: Shutterstock

 

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? 
House: 
  • 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.
Townhouse: 
  • 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.
Condominium:
  • 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?
House: 
  • 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.
Townhouse: 
  • 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.
Condominium:
  • 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.

Real Estate News October 27, 2020

Buyers are looking at homes differently now

The Remote Worker’s Home Buying Process

Posted in Buying by Sandy Dodge

Image Source: Getty Images

 

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.

Location

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.

Real Estate News October 27, 2020

Economic Housing Report

Posted in Economics 101 Videos by Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate

In today’s episode of “Monday with Matthew,” Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner dives into three of the latest housing market data releases and gives context to their historical significance.

Real Estate NewsRenuka's Residential Report September 18, 2020

As Vacation Homes Become More Popular

Vacation Home or Income-Producing Investment

Posted in Buying by Meaghan McGlynn

Image Source: Alex Master Shutterstock

Whether you’re a skier who loves the mountain slopes of Colorado, a lover of the beaches of Southern California, or a potential retiree seeking to escape the snow-laden Northeast for the wide-open, sunny lands of Arizona, there are homes available to meet a wide range of budgets. The biggest decision a potential second homeowner must make is whether they are going to solely own their vacation home or turn it into a vacation rental. Here are the advantages and disadvantages to both options:

 

Investing in vacation rentals

  • Pros:
    • A good vacation rental property generally provides a healthy rental revenue which could potentially cover mortgage payments while also generating healthy additional profit.
    • Using an online short-term rental service like Airbnb makes it convenient to manage your rental property. Their website interface makes pricing, marketing, and communication with potential guests quite straightforward and easy. Airbnb will also oversee the billing process for you.
    • You may qualify for federal tax breaks and deductions related to your investment property. Everything from professional fees or commissions – including property management services- to cleaning and maintenance are potential tax write-offs.
  • Cons:
    • Vacation rentals can be costly to manage, both in terms of time and money. These properties may require seasonal upkeep and special maintenance considerations. You may even incur costs to maintain or monitor the property even when it’s not actively being utilized.
    • Vacation rental properties are particularly sensitive to seasonal fluctuations and economic downturns, which could leave you financially exposed if you suffer a lack of booking revenue.
    • Many states and cities are cracking down on short-term rental services. In California, for example, the fight has been primarily local, reaching a fever pitch in the San Francisco Bay Area. Increasingly state and local municipalities are seeking to reign in short-term vacation rentals, which could put a damper on potential revenue from these properties.
    • You may experience higher renovation and repair costs on a short-term rental. Most travelers expect the latest appliances and furnishings, so you will have to update every few years. Unfortunately, short-term renters are less likely to report any necessary repairs and guests are far less likely to treat the property with respect since there’s no sense of ownership or obligation.

 

Owning a vacation home

  • Pros:
    • Long-term profits: While assets fluctuate in value in the short term, vacation properties are more likely to retain their value and appreciate because they are located in popular areas with a geographically limited supply.
    • Familiarity: Returning to the same place time and after time can be comforting as you become familiar and comfortable with the location. It allows you the freedom to be yourself and the opportunity to expand long-term friendships with residents.
    • Convenience: The ability to conveniently store items that are used exclusively at the second home simplifies travel and packing.
    • Retirement head starts: Though we may love where we work and live, every place has its drawbacks. A common goal of retirement is to have a place to retreat for the times of the year we dislike the most at our main residence. Locating and buying a second home prior to retirement enables you to experience the benefits of a refuge before actual retirement, a time to correct and amend your plans if the reality is different than the dream.
  • Cons:
    • Initial purchase costs: Most people have higher expectations for a property that they intend to own, rather than to rent. These expectations can translate into high prices.
    • Home maintenance: As the homeowner, you are responsible for all home maintenance work.
    • Travel time: A second home will be located hours from your primary residence, requiring either long auto trips or airline flights.
    • Inflexibility: If you are paying a significant amount of money each month for a second home, you may feel that you need to constantly visit the property to justify your investment.
Real Estate NewsRenuka's Residential Report September 18, 2020

Dangers of an Overpriced Home

Posted in Selling by Sandy Dodge

Image source: Shutterstock

When it comes time to sell your home, determining its exact value can be a challenge. Naturally, homeowners want to get the most value for their home. However, if it hits the market at too high a price, it could cause serious complications in the selling process.

 

Attracting the wrong buyers

An overpriced home creates a kind of seller’s limbo that draws the attention of the wrong buyers, which is a surefire way to start your selling process off on the wrong foot.

A vast majority of homebuyers begin their home search online, especially during these days of social distancing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. If your home is overpriced in comparison to other listings in your area, it won’t appear in their search results. In this way, an overpriced home is blind to its intended buyers and actually drives traffic to nearby listings that are more accurately priced.

An overpriced home can’t compete with listings in a more expensive bracket. Buyers know what they want, and they know what to expect in their price range. When they notice a home is missing the square footage, features, and amenities typically found in others at the same price, they will quickly lose interest.

 

Fewer showings / virtual tours

Showings—both physical and virtual—play a significant role in the sale of your home. They give buyers a first-hand look and provide them the opportunity to ask questions and gather more information. Selling your home is a numbers game. The more showings scheduled at your listing, the more potential buyers you have. The more potential buyers, the greater chance of an offer.

Your agent knows that showings are critical to capturing buyer interest. But if the home is overpriced, they will have difficulty attracting attention to your home. This can slow the entire home selling process, leaving both the seller and agent feeling frustrated.

 

Expired shelf life

Think of the home you’re selling as a fresh tomato. Off the vine (newly listed), it is fresh and attractive, appealing to everyone in the market and standing out amongst the other tomatoes. As time goes on, no one buys the tomato and it begins to overripen and wither, losing its appeal. This is what happens to an overpriced home in the minds of buyers.

New listings attract the most attention—that’s when buyer interest is highest. The longer your home is on the market, the less appealing it becomes. At a certain point, sellers are forced to lower the price. However, this lowered price won’t have the same impact as hitting the market correctly priced the first time. Once price drops begin, they can continue, which creates the risk of selling the home for less than what it is worth.

Lastly, the longer your home is on the market, the more expenses you incur. Mortgage payments, utilities costs and seller’s fees will continue to pile up, making it harder to recover from these costs when your home does eventually sell.

 

Post-sale complications

Let’s say you do find a buyer at the overpriced cost. During closing, the lender will order an appraisal of your home, and if the appraiser finds that the market value of the home is less than the selling price, they could potentially deny financing.
Talk to your Windermere agent about how to price your home correctly to avoid these pitfalls of overpricing. Knowing your home’s worth will set you up for success when it comes time to hit the market.

Real Estate NewsRenuka's Residential Report September 8, 2020

Patio Upgrades to Finish Summer Strong

Posted in Living by Sandy Dodge

Image source: Shutterstock

Many homeowners have taken this extra time at home as an opportunity to retreat to their backyards and patios, turning their space into their own personal oasis. Here are some ways you can upgrade your outdoor space to make the most of the remaining days of summer.

 

Add color 

 

Add decorative throw pillows to your outdoor furniture to complement your garden’s color palette and bring some added comfort for you and your guests. Brightly colored patio umbrellas make a statement while protecting you from the sun and other outdoor elements.

In addition to having colorful flowers in your garden, another great way to add a little pizzazz to your backyard is through colored pots and planting boxes that enhance the surrounding decor.

 

Decorative lights 

 

Outdoor lighting can transform your outdoor space and set the perfect mood for those late summer nights.

LED lights are a very popular option for patio lighting, using up to ninety percent less energy than incandescent varieties. Strings of twinkle lights bring a magical nighttime quality to your backyard, creating the perfect ambience for those summer evenings under the stars. Installing light fixtures around eating areas and your landscaping will give these spaces new life during evenings outdoors.

Upgrade your BBQ 

 

The barbecue is the focal point of summer cookouts. Any time the grill gets fired up, classic summertime dishes like burgers and ribs come to my mind. However, there are simple upgrades you can make to your barbecue that give you even more options to maximize outdoor meals.

Pizza stones are perfect for making evenly cooked, delicious pizzas on the grill. They also produce a consistent heating surface for baked goods and desserts. Griddles do wonders for barbecues, allowing you to cook foods that would normally fall through the grates, like vegetables and shellfish.

 

Fire pit 

Fire pits are the modern-day conversation pit, providing the perfect spot to gather with friends and family – even during these days of social distancing. Commonly used building materials include brick, landscape blocks, stone, or cinder blocks. Traditional fire pits are best accentuated with circular seating to gather around the fire, while more modern styles like fire troughs best allow for taking in surrounding views. Natural gas fire pits offer a low-maintenance substitute to the wood-burning variety, igniting fires at the flip of a switch with easy control over the flame’s intensity.

Whichever fire pit you choose, be sure to consult local guidelines and regulations, and keep an extinguisher nearby to squash any rogue flames. If fire pits are not allowed in your area, consider safer options like flameless candles.

 

With more time being spent at home than ever before, there is plenty of opportunity to make the most of the home stretch of summer. We hope we’ve inspired you with some ways you can get creative with your slice of outdoor paradise.

Real Estate NewsRenuka's Residential Report September 5, 2020

What ‘s My Home Worth? The Downside to Home Valuation Tools

Posted in Selling by Sandy Dodge

What’s your home worth?

 

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 agent who 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.

Real Estate NewsRenuka's Residential Report August 31, 2020

Covid 19 Housing and Economic Update

Posted in Economics 101 Videos by Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate

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.

Real Estate NewsRenuka's Residential Report June 9, 2020

Home Prices Now, and What to expect for the rest of 2020

Matthew Gardner’s Weekly housing talk.

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.