Will the Housing Market Turn Around This Year?

Today, many people are asking themselves if they should buy or sell a home in 2020. Some have shifted their plans or put them on hold over the past couple of months, and understandably so. Everyone seems to be wondering if the market is going to change and when the economy will turn around. If you’re trying to figure out what’s going to happen and how to play your cards this year, you’re not alone.

This spring in the 2020 NAR Flash Survey: Economic Pulse, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) has been tracking the behavior changes of homebuyers and sellers. In a reaction to their most recent survey, Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at NAR, noted the beginnings of a turn in the market:

“After a pause, home sellers are gearing up to list their properties with the reopening of the economy…Plenty of buyers also appear ready to take advantage of record-low mortgage rates and the stability that comes with these locked-in monthly payments into future years.”

What does the survey indicate about sellers?

Sellers are positioning themselves to make moves this year. More than 3 in 4 potential sellers are preparing to sell their homes once stay-at-home orders are lifted and they feel more confident, which means more homes will start to be available for interested buyers.

Just this week, Zillow also reported an uptick in listings, which is great news for the health of the market:

“The number of new for-sale listings overall has shown improvement, up 5.9% last week from the previous week. New listings of the most-expensive homes…are now seeing the biggest resurgence, up 8%. The uptick is likely a sign sellers are feeling more confident because of improving buyer demand, as newly pending sales have also jumped up during the same period.”

What does the survey note about buyers?

The recent pandemic has clearly impacted buyer preferences, showing:

  • 5% of the respondents said buyers are shifting their focus from urban to suburban areas.
  • 1 in 8 Realtors report changes in desired home features, with home offices, bigger yards, and more space for their families becoming increasingly important.
  • Only 17% said buyers stopped looking due to concerns about their employment or loss of a job.

As we’ve mentioned before, buyer demand is strong right now, and many are simply waiting for more inventory to become available so they can make a move, especially as the country begins to reopen.

Bottom Line

If you’re thinking about putting your house on the market, contact a local real estate professional today. There’s a good chance an eager buyer is looking for a home just like yours.

Forbearance is NOT forgiveness

Let’s do some ‘mortgage forbearance math’

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Mom and Dad have a mortgage.

It’s currently $1,500 per month.

Dad gets laid off, calls the servicer, and asks for forbearance.

In one phone call, he gets 6 months “off” from paying.

Seven months later, Dad is finally back to work, and hasn’t been able to save any money during the forbearance.

Forbearance is lifted and servicer says,”That will be $9,000 + $1,500, which is now due”. ($10,500)

Dad almost passes out and says, “WHY??

“Servicer: “That’s the 6 months of forbearance plus the current month.”

Dad: “I can’t do that, can we work something out?

“Servicer: “Sure, we will spread out the $9,000 over 12 months.

“Dad: “Phew….ok, good. What will that look like?

“Servicer: That will be $2250 a month for the next 12 months.

“Dad: ” OMG!!! I can’t afford that.

“Servicer: “Sorry…..”

Dad: “Can I refinance?”

Servicer: “No because the loan went into forebearance.”

Dad: “What can I do?”

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In a nutshell, this is forbearance, folks. Forbearance is not forgiveness. We need to keep putting this message out there, because it is a problem. Please understand the seriousness of this, and if you still have questions, I can connect you with a professional to talk about your options.

What’s going on in the real estate world and how can we keep you safe?

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

The biggest conversation going around currently is about Covid-19, social distancing and how to avoid catching the virus. In a world where people need to see your home before they buy it, how do you handle that?

A lot of restrictions have been placed on those of us who work in the real estate world. Open houses and group showings are prohibited, Hand sanitizer and wipes are everywhere, and we’re encouraged to not touch anything. So what ARE we doing to keep you safe?

  • Virtual Tours: I’m not sure about you, but I want to see a house before I put an offer on it to make sure its the right house for me. With open houses not being an option, I am personally doing virtual walk throughs for all my seller clients. Honestly, It’s a really cool feature and it takes no time at all to set up. It allows a potential buyer to see your house without ever stepping foot into your house.
  • Not opening doors: This one might sound odd to you, but many agents are asking the seller to leave all doors open. This would be those in the bedrooms, bathrooms, closets and pantries. By limiting how many surfaces you touch, you minimize how many places you can potentially spread germs. Hopefully your agent has sanitizer wipes for those couple doors you do have to open.
  • Putting in the proper verbiage into your offer: Right now, there is a lot of uncertainty with people who work in industries that are having a harder time than others. Make sure your agent puts in a clause in case your loan is either denied, or commitment is postponed because your job has been affected.

A lot of people have put their house hunting on hold right now, but if you’re thinking about selling and you are comfortable with someone being in your house, there are lots you can do now while buyers are biding their time. Take this opportunity and let your Realtor get your pictures done and enhanced, get the virtual tour set up, and create a floor plan. Doing these things now gives you a better advantage in the spring market this year. Be prepared, don’t procrastinate!

$25,000 Homes for Heroes Foundation Grant: Together As Team We Are Helping Healthcare Heroes

Many people are asking, “How can I help?”  Here at the Homes for Heroes head office, we are asking that very question! In this time of great need the Homes for Heroes Foundation took swift action and just donated $25,000 to HealthWell’s COVID-19 Fund to specifically assist healthcare professionals at risk or who are quarantined due to COVID-19.  It’s because of affiliates like me, and heroes like you, fueling the Circle of Giving that this is able to happen.
 
When a Hero uses an affiliate in their real estate transaction, a portion of that transaction goes towards the Circle of Giving which allows donations like this to happen. Thank you.

The tree that fell

Once upon a time there was a tree….

It was a big tree, that prevented the houses around it from having the ability to have solar panels, had too many leaves that fell in the fall, and cast so much shadow that it was close to impossible to grow grass under its substantial shade.

It was a good tree…

It held strong against the forces of New England weather, and even when parts would fall it did manageable damage and provided many laughs when someone would attempt to climb and trim its colossal limbs. 

One December day the landowners decided to remove the tree. They chose a candidate they felt was worthy of the task. But destruction lay in their wake.

The tree had fallen on a neighbors fence and broken limbs off another tree. They were unprepared for the amount of wood that would need to be removed and could only take on small piece away at a time. The noble landowner took their word when they said they would come back from their quest to dispose of the wood. Times goes by, and the noble landowner wonders when the chosen contractor will be back….


Unfortunately many home owners go through this exact thing. We find a project we can’t do ourselves and we find someone who claims they can do it for you and they really can’t. The moral of the story: do your due diligence when hiring contractors for ANY project. Ask about their license and insurance. You want to make sure you are protected if something goes wrong.

problems with older homes

Older homes offer a host of opportunities for customization, blended with character and history, which is why many people love them. But the flip side is that the older they are, the more likely they are to come bundled with unpleasant surprises—including some you might not even have heard of.

Fixing them is sure to be expensive, but knowing what to expect can help you prepare your budget. Here’s what to look for in an old home, depending on when it was built.

1900s

A home that is more than 100 years old might seem like a sweet deal, especially if you’re fond of classic architecture and “This Old House,” and don’t mind a healthy dose of down-and-dirty DIY. But buyer beware: These gorgeous antiques can make “The Money Pit” seem like a documentary of your life.

It is somewhat inevitable that many of these older homes will have some type of settling, so you will see floors that look like they are leaning slightly. Often, tilting is nothing more than a cosmetic annoyance—but it could indicate expensive-to-fix foundation issues.

Unrenovated homes might also have knob-and-tube wiring, the early electrical systems that were common until the 1930s. Ceramic knobs and tubes run through the floor joists or wall studs, carrying electricity throughout the home. However, the rubber insulation can degrade and create a fire hazard. And without GFCI outlets (ground-fault circuit interrupters, which trip the circuit if there is a surge in current), the system isn’t grounded.

Fixing it is pricey, so get ready—and start working on getting estimates from some good electricians.

1920s

Balloon framing was invented as an inexpensive alternative to traditional timber framing, and was used frequently from the late 19th century through the 1920s and early ’30s. Instead of complicated joinery to keep post and beams well-connected, balloon framing utilizes… really, really long boards. And nails.

Sketchy as it all sounds (“balloon” was originally a derogatory term indicating that the frame might just blow off in the wind), the structure itself is relatively sound. But the framing can be a tremendous fire risk. Unless the gaps between the planks are filled or well-insulated, basement or crawl-space fires can rocket upstairs.

1930s

Homes built in the 1930s and earlier—and the occasional ’40s home—typically used clay sewer lines. Tree roots can invade every type of sewer line, but the clay kind are particularly vulnerable because terra-cotta, the material they were made of, is brittle and liable to break. Because plumbers typically cobbled together shorter pipes to form the line, they might separate over time, causing leakage and soil contamination.

Clay isn’t your only potential sewer problem: Your water main and sewage line may be installed too close together to meet modern standards. Most municipalities require at least 10 feet of separation. While no one will make you dig up your existing lines, the regulation can greatly increase the cost of a replacement if either line breaks.

1950s

Clay lines aren’t the only troublesome sewage system. Cast-iron sewer lines, popular from the mid-20th century to the ’80s, can corrode or crack, with a replacement cost in the many thousands.

Buyers might also find ungrounded outlets, especially if the home hasn’t been sold since its construction. Expect an expensive update to ground your system and mitigate your fire risk. At the very least, GFCI outlets will need to be installed.

1960s

Feeling a little chilly in your Mid-Century bungalow? Check inside the walls.

1960s homes were not built with an emphasis on insulation. Energy prices were much lower, so preventing heat loss was not a huge concern for builders or homeowners.

Luckily, unlike replacing a sewer system, improving insulation is an easy DIY. Rent an insulation blower from your favorite hardware store—expect to spend about $50 per day—and your home will be toasty long before wintertime.

1970s

Expect to find fewer outlets per room and fewer circuits—which means all your electronics could trip a fuse. And if you find single-strand aluminum wiring—common during the copper shortage of the late ’60s and early ’70s—be prepared to replace the system. Faulty connections overheat the wiring, creating (surprise!) a fire hazard.

Of course, you can’t ignore the No. 1 problem of homes built in the 1970s: the decor. Shag carpeting? Avocado walls? Fake wall paneling? Ugh. Fortunately, you don’t need a home inspector to point those out.

1980s

By the ’80s, builders had figured out how to build a mostly modern home. But there is one quirk to look out for: PB (polybutylene) piping. Prone to rapid degradation and subsequent bursting, these gray-colored water pipes cost homeowners millions of dollars in water damage.

Most PB has long been replaced, but if you’re unlucky enough to score a home that still has the faulty piping, budget for a replacement. Even if you don’t care, your homeowners’ insurance company may decline to cover you until a change is made.

Count yourself lucky if your old home isn’t rife with problems—but not too lucky. One of the joys of home ownership is knowing that something will always go wrong. But even when it inevitably does, don’t panic. Everything is fixable.

Lead Paint

Of all the things you have to worry about when you’re buying a home, paint really shouldn’t be one of them. The problem is, if you’re looking at an older home, the topic can shift quickly from “Why did they choose that color?” to “Welcome to the danger zone”— all due to the possible existence of lead paint.

Lead was a popular ingredient in house paint for years before scientists discovered that this element—if eaten or inhaled as dust in the air—could cause health problems, from anemia to seizures to death, particularly in children.

This may not something you want hanging around a home once you move in, especially if you have young children. Thankfully, there are ways to check for lead paint and get rid of it.

Which homes have lead paint?

The federal government banned the sale of lead-based paint in 1978, giving many people the impression that a house built after that time is free and clear. But that is not always the case.

Many painters loved lead-based paint. It tends to be glossier, more lustrous, and it holds color better. Once they learned the ban was going into effect, many of them stocked up on a cache of lead-based paint.

And since the government made it illegal only to manufacture and buy the paint, using what you already had was a gray area that lasted for years.

Signs of lead paint

Unfortunately, like with most things that spell disaster for a potential dream home, you can’t definitively spot lead-based paint just by looking at it. However, you can get a good idea that it is there based on one telltale sign.

When the paint deteriorates it creates a pattern that looks like scales.

Finding these series of cracks along walls can be a good indication that you’ve entered into lead territory, but most homeowners aren’t going to just leave crumbling paint on the living room walls, so you might need to dig a little deeper. Inside closets, along baseboards and basement window sashes are good places to check because they are areas that a painter might have overlooked.

How to test for lead paint

Walls can be tested for surface lead using a paint testing kit available at most local hardware stores. For the test, you rub a solution on the wall. If the solution turns pink, you have lead. (Though, it will also stain the wall if it turns pink, so maybe it’s not a great idea if you’re just looking at a property.)

The problem is, the test has limits. It only finds lead on the surface. If the lead-based paint was covered up by new paint, the test won’t work. And while covering (or encasing) lead-based paint is one way to limit its danger, it isn’t always the best way.

When painters encapsulate lead-based paint, they can miss spots. Common spots like around windows can still have exposed lead, which can cause lead dust to disperse throughout your house when you touch the area.

Can your home inspector test for lead?

To really tell if a home has lead-based paint, you’re going to need a professional.

When lead is suspected, inspectors use an X-ray to look through the paint layers to the base wood of the wall. X-rays can’t pass through lead, so it is easy to spot.

Many home inspectors will check for lead paint, but not all—so be sure to ask. If not, you can hire a certified lead inspector. If lead paint is found, a certified inspector can also remove it, although it will cost you.

According to the EPA, you’ll spend about $8 to $15 per square foot, or about $10,000 for an average-size home. There are also programs in place to help with lead abatement with options for 0% loans and government grants. In the end, walking away from the house of lead might be the better option, but if you love the place you should take heart that there are ways to make it safe.

Best ways to get more money when selling your home

Have you ever thought about remodeling your home?

As a homeowner, if you’re thinking about taking on a project or two in your home you might want to consider what would give you the most return on your investment.

Here are some ways that you increase the market value of your home.

Finish the Basement

Many basements are plain, empty and unused spaces that rarely see any visitors. Why let all that space go to waste? Create an entertainment area that will “wow” your guests! Adding a fabulous bar area, seating and beautiful finishes will add character and value to your home.

Add a Deck

There’s nothing like relaxing on a deck in the summertime with a cool drink in your hand. If you don’t already have one, build one! However, you don’t want your deck to be too big or too small – it shouldn’t be more than a third of your house. Most decks cost about $10,000, give or take. Keep in mind that an appraiser’s job is to find homes that are very similar within a mile away of your home, so matching your improvements to the homes in your neighborhood is very important.

Do a Bath Remodel

Transform an ugly duckling into a swan of a master bath by finding more space – without building an addition. Stealing space can be a better solution if you can find the extra square footage, like opening up a closet to make more room, creating separate his-and-her areas with separate sinks, or adding a skylight to bring in valuable natural light.

If a complete overhaul isn’t your forte, keep it simple! Minor changes can be advantageous because they cost less and often net a greater return than the investment. If you have old tile or a dated tub, sink and toilet, consider replacing those items. If you keep the same layout there’s not a lot of expense that has to go into it. Updating light fixtures, linens and accessories are easy ways to breathe new life into the space.

Paint, Paint and More Paint

Don’t be afraid of paint. It is one of the easiest and inexpensive things to do to dramatically change the look of your home. Here are some tips: If you are not sure about your color sense, bring in a professional color specialist to help. Also, think classic and neutral. A future buyer needs to be able to picture living in your home, and too much personalization can prevent that. If your painting skills are below par, hire someone. In the end, it evens out because nothing is worse then a bad paint job. So fight your fear of commitment, and splash a little color on those walls!

On to the Attic!

Renovate your attic. The space above a garage is often small, dusty and cramped space and sometimes rarely even used for storage. Why not turn it into a bedroom suite? Add as many windows as possible for that precious natural light. Recessed windows, hardwood flooring, built-ins and custom seating are also great ways to add value.

Build a Second Floor

If you’re looking for a long term project, adding a second story can do more than just create square footage, it can bring balance to an uneven house. A flat roof over a garage can be an eyesore as well as a huge waste of space. You could solve both problems at the same time by adding on to the top of the garage. Use all that dead space to build a master suite or a reading room. You will not only add space, but you will also add tremendous curb appeal.

Keep Rooms Flexible

Does your home have a unique specialty room? No one’s saying you need to give up your “special place,” but it’s important to hold back a little. Too much customization can be a problem if you ever plan to sell your home, so try not to overdo it. Things like hardwood floors, wiring for cable, phone and DSL, and plenty of windows are good ways to customize while keeping the room versatile. Another idea is to make the space one that can easily be converted into a guest suite, studio, family room or a den.

Revive the Kitchen

If you get creative and think about some small changes you can make in your kitchen, you won’t have to spend a ton of money. Take down the rooster wallpaper and paint it a neutral color! More and more buyers are expecting some standard items in a kitchen – things like granite counter tops and stainless-steel appliances. Throw in new modern light fixtures and you’ve got a great-looking, updated space. Whether they can cook or not, a kitchen is a huge prospect for a buyer. Bottom line: kitchens sell houses, so investing in an improvement in this room is the way to go.

Spruce Up the Outside

Replacing siding is a number 1 pick for home improvements that add value to your home and makes it a whole lot easier to sell. Here is your chance to make a great first impression in the real estate world! If your siding is in bad shape, your home could earn the title of fixer-upper. You can usually judge a book by its cover, so cracked or broken siding sets the tone for expectations of what potential buyers will find inside the house. Try adding curb appeal and lower maintenance with composite siding. Cement board siding is efficient, it lasts, and it’s little maintenance, but keep a look out for peeling paint! In a lot of cases, peeling paint ends up being a deal breaker, so make sure you address it before putting your house up for sale.

To Buy or Not to Buy?

To buy or not to buy… that is the real question for Millenials trying to figure out their next step in life.  While renting is traditionally the next step after moving out of your parents’ house, is it truly the better option in the longstanding debate of renting vs buying?

There’s a bit of truth in all sayings–including the fact that it’s better to buy.  Buying a house is an investment in your future, and for most people, it is the biggest asset of their lifetime.  It’s an incentive to save every month. There’s the added benefit that mortgage interest payments are tax deductible. Plus, owning a house can also end up having a big impact on your retirement plans. Everyone’s financial situation is different, but…when you pay rent, you are paying someone else’s mortgage or retirement. No equity, no gain, no write off. When you buy, you are putting money into your future. So, isn’t it best to start that investment early? Kind of like maximizing the investment into your 401K right off the bat. Well, yes…and no…

There’s much more to buying a house than just the monthly mortgage:  there’s a down payment, property insurance, property tax, and maintenance costs. Juggling all these expenses can be extremely difficult for someone at the start of their career. Not to mention most millennials are facing crippling amounts of student loan debt and a high cost of living. According to Housingwire, 52% of millennial non-homeowners who wish they owned a home said their income wasn’t enough.

Another big factor that plays into your decision is what you want out of life right now. Are you looking for stability or flexibility? Where do you see yourself in five years? Millennials have become a bit synonymous with the “wanderlust” lifestyle, choosing to spend their money on trips and experiences over material goods. In fact, according to a 2019 Millennial Survey,  when asked to indicate their ambitions, participants prioritized travel over settling down with 57% of participants saying they want to see the world, 49% looking towards buying homes, and only 39% interested in starting families. This need for flexibility and change transpires beyond their personal life and into their professional lives with 49% of participants saying they would quit their current job in the next two years if they had the choice. Even with a proper income and financial order, this need for flexibility better suits the lifestyle of a renter, and some early buyers find themselves regretting it. Other millennials are pushing these big life milestones to later in life.

When talking to my older friends about renting an apartment or buying a home, the advice they always give is to live with your parents as long as they’ll let you in order to save up as much money as you can. My friends that started renting straight out of college share how hard they have found it to accumulate any kind of savings with their monthly expenses and starter salaries. Both paths though have led to the same trend: buying later and buying bigger. According to USA Today, after having to rent or live with their parents for years, Millennials are mapping out a new path to homeownership by skipping the starter home and going straight for larger houses that they can see as their forever home.

Although many factors and trends lean in favor of putting off buying, there are numerous success stories of buying early on, Including my own. I closed on my first house when I was 21. I couldn’t quite afford it making less than Minimum wage at the time, so I decided on a multifamily, bought a ton of books on landlord and tenant rights, got a roommate and now, 10 years later, my investment has doubled.

So which option wins in the debate of renting vs buying? Perhaps there isn’t one clear-cut answer. However, there is one constant in every equation—you. If you’re currently struggling on figuring out what would be best for you specifically, my advice is to go straight to the experts. Whether to rent or buy is different for each situation. Some people really should rent. Some could buy. It depends so much on so many specific factors and as agents, it’s our job to realize who is in the position to buy a house or not.

If you’re looking to take that next step in your life, but not quite sure what path to choose, Let’s have a conversation.