The copious home sale contract

home sale contract
Home buying process (infographic from floridarealtors.org)

If you’ve recently bought or sold a home in Montgomery County MD, you probably recognized that the home sale contract was quite lengthy.  In fact, depending on the situation and additional addenda, a contract can be fifty-plus pages. It seems as if that the home sale contract gets fatter as every year passes. It’s no wonder why I am often asked “Why are home sale contracts long winded?”

Why is our home sale contract so long?  Our local home sale contract has a number of required addenda and disclosures.  There is a simple reason for this, but let’s look at the foundation and need for the contract.

It’s important to mention that property sale contracts around the country are not the same.  Every jurisdiction has their own criteria for a home sale contract.  A recent client who relocated from New Jersey shared their home sale contract, which was a fraction of the size of our local contract.  Likewise, a colleague asserted the same about the property contracts in Arizona, where he was licensed for a number of years.

Property sale contracts go back into antiquity.  Most likely, ancient contracts formed a basis of ancient record keeping.  These ancient contracts were also “promises” that were enforced in some manner that was keeping with the time.  For example, The History Blog (thehistoryblog.com) tells the account of the Mogao Caves which are located in the Gobi Desert and date back to the fourth century.  One of the caves held a cache of financial documents from medieval China, including property sale contracts and records!

According to the legal historian A. W. B. Simpson, modern English contract law has roots in the middle ages (A History of the Common Law of Contract: The Rise of the Action of Assumpsit; Clarendon Press; 1987).  The contract was founded in the concept of “assumpsit,” which was the basis for resolving “broken promises.”  Assumpsit allowed individuals to bring claims of broken promises to local courts.  Although the practice was traced back to the thirteenth century, court hearings were routine in the sixteenth century.  This model became the basis for enforcing a private contract.

It wasn’t until 1677 when the English Parliament enacted “An Act for the Prevention of Frauds and Perjuries,” known today as the Statute of Frauds.  According to Russell Decker, the Parliament enacted the law that required contracts to be written, because parties obliged by a contract were not allowed to provide testimony in court (The Repeal of the Statute of Frauds in England; American Business Law Journal; 1973; 11:1 p55).  The written contract was the “witness” to a promise.  However, most of the Statute of Frauds was mostly repealed in England in 1954.

The Statute of Frauds is still alive and well in the US and the basis for the real estate contract in Maryland.  Statute of Frauds is a subtitle of the Real Property Act of the Code of Maryland.  Section 5-104 Executory Contracts states: “No action may be brought on any contract for the sale or disposition of land or of any interest in or concerning land unless the contract on which the action is brought, or some memorandum or note of it, is in writing and signed by the party to be charged or some other person lawfully authorized by him.”

So ok, home sale contracts need to be in writing, but why are our contracts lengthy?  The reason is because many of the addenda and disclosures are generated because of statutory requirements to provide specific information in a contract of sale. Besides  the expected list of notices and disclosures (such as property condition), there is a compendium of additional required notices and disclosures that is found in Code of Maryland  Miscellaneous subtitle of the Real Property Act section 14-117 Contracts for Sale of Property.  Additionally, jurisdictions around the state include additional addenda and notices for home sales within the respective county and/or locality.  Of course, Montgomery County has added a number of disclosures and notices (such as the Utility Cost and Usage History Form and the Real Property Estimated Tax).

Make sure your agent is knowledgeable about the jurisdiction in which you are buying or selling.  As a buyer, you need to make sure you receive all the relevant notices and disclosures.  As a seller, you may incur a fine for non-disclosure of certain notices.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/09/20/copious-home-sale-contract/

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Modern homeownership

modern homeownership
Modern Homeownership (infographic from California Association of Realtors car.org)

June is National Homeownership Month.  In recognition of modern homeownership, National Association of Realtors President Elizabeth Mendenhall stated in a June 1st press release that “National Homeownership Month is a time to celebrate and promote the modern American Dream of owning a home.  Homeownership changes lives and enhances futures, and many Americans see it as one of their greatest hopes. These individuals are counting on the nation’s 1.3 million Realtors to champion and protect homeownership and help make it more affordable, attainable and sustainable (nar.realtor).”

The NAR provides a history of celebrating modern homeownership which goes back almost a century (nar.realtor).  The roots of celebrating homeownership go back to the 1920’s when local associations would bring together consumers and brokers during “Real Estate Day” events.  In 1955, the National Association of Realtors created a national “Realtor Week” to promote the value of Realtors when buying a home.  The celebration of modern homeownership began in  1976 when “Realtor Week” was changed to “Private Property Week.”  Then in 1986, the celebration was changed to “American Home Week” to promote owning a home as part of the American Dream.  June became National Homeownership Month through a proclamation by President Bush in 2002, which expanded the American Home Week to include HUD initiatives.  Although 2008 was the last official proclamation of National Homeownership Month, it has been observed annually.  However, last year, President Trump revived the annual proclamation recognizing the significance of homeownership.

Although the idea of homeownership hasn’t changed since the 1920’s, many things have.  For example, buying a home is much easier and affordable today than it was then.  You can now search homes from your couch, rather than driving to individual broker offices.  Additionally, low down payments and thirty-year fixed rate mortgages have made modern homeownership a realty for many.

Of course, some things haven’t changed in a century.  A home is still an asset that maintains relative market value.  Given regular cycles of up and down markets, real estate can appreciate over time.  There are also some tax advantages to owning a home (consult your tax preparer).  Furthermore, owning a home stabilizes communities and encourages civic pride, which positively affect home values.

Additionally, there are many social benefits to homeownership.  Studies demonstrate that home owners tend to be more charitable, have an increased connection to their neighborhood, have an increased general positive life outlook, express an increased self-esteem and higher life satisfaction, and be healthier.  Other studies indicate that children living in owner-occupied homes have higher test scores, higher graduation rates, decreased delinquencies, and an increased participation in organized activities.

homeownership rate
Homeownership Rate (census.gov)

The comparisons of the costs of renting vs. the costs of owning a home hasn’t changed over time.  Of course, the debate takes on a different tone depending on the state of the economy.  During the Great Recession, many believed that owning a home was folly.  Even after the recession, many continued to believe that real estate wasn’t a viable investment, while discounting the other benefits of homeownership.  The homeownership rate bottomed to a modern low of 62.9 percent during the second quarter of 2016 (census.gov).  However, homeownership is back in vogue.  Even with increased home prices and mortgage rates, buying a home today can still be less expensive than renting.

Modern homeownership – your home is a silent witness to your life.

You have a relationship with your home.  When you own a home, your relationship with it is intimate and symbiotic, which contributes to an intangible and intrinsic sense of wholeness.

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Home inspections pointless?

home inspections
Home Inspection Myths (infographic fom visual.ly and apexwaterproofing.com)

I have heard an increasing voice of discontent over home inspections. Not just from home sellers and their agents, but from home buyers too! Home sellers often complain about the incorrect flagging of working components as being defective. Listing agents usually gripe that home inspectors scare buyers and interfere with their sale. But many home buyers are also growing dissatisfied with inspections and the subsequent property reports.

Inspection reports are becoming “matter of fact.”  Even when an inspector flags a component or system, less information is given about it and what to do.  Additionally, there is an increasing trend for recommendations to seek expert advice .  Home inspectors have been known to make mistakes too.  Some are starting to wonder why they should hire an inspector to tell them to hire an expert.  Consumers can just hire experts to inspect the corresponding major systems and components from the start.  Some are asking if home inspections are becoming irrelevant and pointless.

The home inspection, as we know it, began in the 1980’s. As the profession became standardized, it became a necessary part of the home buying process. The inspection used to be a straight forward examination of observable systems and components. But the home inspection has morphed from a once-over by a trained professional to the concept of getting a home perfect through remedying all of the home’s defects.  The fact that home inspections have become a tool for many agents to renegotiate price is another sign the inspection may have jumped the shark.

All things considered, home buyers expect a thorough and exhaustive inspection. They are relying on the inspector to identify concealed and latent defects. They are relying on the inspection and report to help them determine the condition of the home and its systems/components before they move forward with their purchase.

According to Maryland’s home inspector licensing law, the home inspection is intended to “provide a client with objective information regarding the condition of the systems and components of a home at the time of the home inspection;” and provides an opinion of “visible defects and conditions that adversely affect the function or integrity of the items, components, and systems inspected, including those items or components near the end of their serviceable life.” However, there are limitations (COMAR 09.36.07.03).

According to COMAR, a home inspection is “not technically exhaustive,” and it may not identify a concealed condition or a latent defect. Among the list of items that the home inspector is not required to ascertain, includes the condition of systems that are not accessible, and the remaining life of any system or component.

Furthermore, an article that appeared in RealtorMag last year suggests that home inspectors are generalists and don’t know everything about a home (4 Things Home Inspectors Don’t Often Check; realtormag.realtor.org; July 05, 2017). Inspectors often defer to experts on foundations, fireplaces, chimneys, well/septic systems, and roofs. This is done because those components are not easily inspected and also requires specialized knowledge that is usually outside the scope of the inspection and/or beyond the expertise of the inspector.

However, in today’s real estate environment, home buyers are wanting and expecting more from the professionals they hire as well as the homes they buy. Buyers anticipate their home inspection with high expectations about the inspector’s opinion and conclusions. So, it’s not a surprise that many home buyers are voicing displeasure with their inspectors. Some complain that the inspector missed items and/or did not inspect a component.  Additional complaints are about the inspection reports, that some feel are lacking in detailed information.

Have home inspections become irrelevant? Or is it just a case of the home inspectors having to educate the public what they do?

Home inspections are essential for most home buyers. But home buyers need to understand that inspectors are not the authoritative voice on all home systems and components. Instead, home inspectors bridge the knowledge gap between what the home buyer knows and what they should know about a home, especially the home they are buying.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/05/07/home-inspections-becoming-irrelevant/

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Housing inventory crisis?

housing inventoryThe low housing inventory crisis has plagued the housing market for about six years.  Low inventory has frustrated home buyers and all but eliminated move up home buyers.  The ongoing housing inventory crisis is an obstacle to a balanced housing market.

As a result of the ongoing housing inventory crisis, existing home sales may see a decline in the next few months, when spring sales should be strong.  Seasonal increases are a given, as National Association of Realtors (nar.realtor) data indicated a 3.0 percent month-over-month increase for February existing home sales and a 3.1 percent month-over-month increase in the Pending Home Sale Index (the Pending Home Sales Index is a forward-looking dataset indicating the number of homes that are under contract).  However, February sales only increased 1.1 percent from last year.  But the tell of slowing activity is the 4.1 percent decrease in pending home sales from last year.

Most experts blame the sluggish home sale activity on low housing inventory.  NAR’s reporting that February’s seasonal month-over-month 4.6 percent increase of total housing inventory is expected.  However, the 8.1 percent decrease in housing inventory compared to last year is worrisome.

The Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (gcaar.com) March 2018 data for single family home sales in Montgomery County indicated a decline in activity across the board.  Listings decreased 11.1 percent month-over-month and 7.8 from last year.  Contracts decreased 6.6 percent month-over-month and 6.9 percent from last year.  While closings only decreased 3.8 percent month-over-month, there was a 7.8 percent decrease from last year.

Another sign that that the housing market is in crisis is last week’s announcement from Zillow.  If you have not yet heard, Zillow is expanding their Instant Offer program and plans to jump into the housing market (zillow.com).  They plan to fix and flip homes by making cash offers and buying houses like other investors who participate in their IO program. The homes will be listed for sale with real estate agents who subscribe to Zillow’s Premier Agent program, as well as select partner brokers.

Zillow Chief Marketing Officer Jeremy Wacksman stated,

“Even in today’s hot market, many sellers are stressed and searching for a more seamless way to sell their homes…They want help, and while most prefer to sell their home on the open market with an agent, some value convenience and time over price. This expansion of Instant Offers, and Zillow’s entrance into the marketplace, will help us better serve both types of consumers as well as provide an opportunity for Premier Agents to connect with sellers. This is expected to be a vibrant line of business for us and for our partners in the real estate industry, while providing homeowners with more choices and information.”

The venture into flipping is a huge deviation for the internet juggernaut, whose revenue is mostly generated by selling advertising and leads to real estate agents and loan officers.  The reaction in the industry is mixed, however Zillow’s stock dropped 7 percent the day after the announcement.  Critics, including experienced real estate investors, scoffed at Zillow’s ambitious plan to flip a house within ninety days.

In a market where home owners are reluctant to sell, and frustrated home buyers are dropping out, Zillow needs to find ways to increase lead generation to grow subscribers (see why tech models looking for alternate revenue).

While being ridiculed by many, Zillow’s flipping plan may be a brilliant strategy to generate home seller leads for agents.  Zillow acknowledges in their press release that “the vast majority of sellers who requested an Instant Offer ended up selling their home with an agent, making Instant Offers an excellent source of seller leads for Premier Agents and brokerage partners.”  If Zillow’s plan works, it could also grease the wheels of the housing market by turning reluctant home owners into sellers.

As a home seller, the home sale inventory shortage limits your competition.  But be aware that it’s not entirely a seller’s market.  Your home’s condition can significantly lower the sales price, or even prevent a sale.  Serious consideration should also be given to your listing price.  Additionally, you should focus your attention to preparing your home to show to home buyers.

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism DetectorDisclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Interest rate increase – Don’t panic

interest rate increase
45 years of mortgage interest rates

Last week, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) decided to raise the federal funds rate. The federal funds rate is the interest rate that is charged to banks for borrowing overnight funds to maintain the required target funds. Although the Fed interest rate increase means that a banks’ business is getting more expensive, it doesn’t necessarily mean that mortgage interest rates increase in kind.

If mortgage rates are not always affected by the Fed’s interest rate increase, then what is?

Katherine Reynolds Lewis pointed out that the FOMC’s interest rate hike indirectly influences jobs, wages, prices of the things we buy, and other items (7 ways the Fed’s decisions on interest rates affect you; bankrate.com; March 20, 2018). She states, “Sometimes mortgage rates go up when the Fed increases short-term rates, as the central bank’s action sets the tone for most other interest rates. But sometimes mortgage rates fall after the Fed raises the federal funds rate.” An example of this is the seventeen rate increases during 2004-2005 when mortgage interest rates initially dropped, then slightly increased a year later. And most recently, the three Fed rate increases during 2017 when mortgage interest rates remained stable.

The reason why a FOMC interest rate increase doesn’t always affect mortgage interest rates is because mortgage interest rates are tied to the bond market. The bond market is typically a bellwether of the economy. It is highly likely that the bond market baked in last week’s Fed’s rate increase prior to the FOMC announcement. Bond yields have already been increasing due to an improving economy, which pushed mortgage rates higher in recent weeks.

In fact, the Freddie Mac Press release the day after the Fed’s announcement indicated that mortgage rates increased one basis point (freddiemac.com; March 22, 2018):

“The Fed’s decision to raise interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point puts the federal funds rate at its highest level since 2008. The decision, while widely expected, sent the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury soaring. Following Treasurys (sic), mortgage rates shrugged off last week’s drop and continued their upward march. The U.S. weekly average 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose 1 basis point to 4.45 percent in this week’s survey.”

Immediately following the Fed’s interest rate increase, NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, statedWe are in the middle innings of monetary policy normalization (nar.realtor, March 21, 2018).” Yun believes that the labor market is pushing the Fed to act to stave off inflation. He stated that consumers should expect more rate increases throughout 2018. However, he believes that increased new construction can belay future Fed rate increases:

“Housing costs are also rising solidly and contributing to faster inflation. The one thing that could slow the pace of rate increases would be to tame housing costs through an increased supply of new homes. Not only will more home construction lead to a slower pace of rate hikes, it will also lead to faster economic growth. Let’s put greater focus on boosting home construction.”

Yun’s call to home builders to increase housing stock is preaching to the choir. The housing market’s tight sale inventory should already be spurring home builders to crank out new homes. But there are challenges. The latest new construction statistics released by the US Census (census.gov) indicated that building permits issued during February were 5.7 percent lower than January’s permits, but 6.5 percent higher than last February.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/03/29/interest-rate-increase-dont-panic/

Copyright© Dan Krell
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