Summer home safeguards

summer home safeguards
Summer home safeguards (infographic from crime prevention pamphlet montgomerycountymd.gov/POL)

Did you know that the AAA estimates that there will be about 100 million Americans who will take a family vacation this year (aaa.com)?  If you’re one of those millions planning a trip this summer, you’re likely stressing over your plans.  Some of that stress is certainly vacation planning, but some may be about leaving your home vacant for several or more days.  Besides planning your vacation, you should also plan to “summerize” your home by taking some summer home safeguards.

Just like winterizing a vacant home before winter, summerizing is safeguarding your home while your away on vacation.  And just like winterizing a home, summerizing is implementing a preventative plan to secure your home and possibly save a few dollars. Here are a few common knowledge ideas for summer home safeguards.

To save a few dollars, many homeowners adjust the HVAC thermostat while vacationing.  Some even turn off the HVAC system.  However, if you have a basement or cellar, consider adjusting the thermostat to a reasonable temperature (and/or use a dehumidifier) to prevent mold growth in a dark and potentially humid area of the home.

If your home will be vacant for an extended period, consider unplugging “zombie” appliances.  Zombie appliances are appliances that consume electricity even when they are not in use.  Many small appliances and internet connected appliances (such as your TV and other entertainment devices) are included in this category. 

One of the biggest concerns while away is the potential of returning to a waterlogged home.  A faulty valve or supply line can leak at any time.  If you’re away, you obviously can’t immediately respond to this scenario.  Although some home owners turn off the water at the main valve, this can interfere with a sprinkler system.  Most shut off specific valves to appliances and fixtures.  Some vacationing home owners also shut off outside water hose bibs to prevent others from using water at their expense.

Securing your home can deter burglars and pests.  Although it’s tempting to brag to your friends about your vacation, refrain from posting about your plans on social media.  Store your valuables in a safe, inconspicuous place.  If you don’t have a security system, consider installing a camera and lighting system that can alert you of unexpected activity.  An exterior camera and lighting system can be a major deterrent.  However, interior cameras can also alert you of a determined intruder so you can take appropriate action. 

To deter mice and other rodents from ransacking your home while you’re away, ensure that the home’s doors and windows are shut and secure.  Also, make sure the exterior dryer vent cover is closed.  Find and seal any holes where rodents can gain access your home. 

You may also want to employ some common some summer home safeguards strategies that make it appear as if you never went on vacation.  Connect a few lights to a timer to give the impression that someone is turning on lights at night.  Ask your neighbor or a friend to park in your driveway (or reserved space).  Although stopping the paper and mail while on vacation may seem clever, some home owners have a friend or neighbor pick up the daily paper and mail. 

One of the most common aspects of some summer home safeguards is having a trusted neighbor and/or friend occasionally check on the home.  They can ensure the home is secure, pick up any packages left at the door, and deal with any necessary maintenance (such as adjusting the thermostat).  Spreading this responsibility among multiple “guardians” can make it less of a burden and increase the frequency of “check-ins.”

Many local police departments offer a home security survey. Consider going through the survey to help with your planning.

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/06/15/summer-home-safeguards/

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2019

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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.

Great time to buy a home

great time to buy a home
Should I Buy Now or Wait? (infographic from keepingcurrentmatters.com)

If you’ve been waiting to buy a home, now may be your time to jump into the market.  Maybe you’ve been wary of home prices, or concerned about mortgage rates.  Maybe you’ve been attempting to “time the market” to get a good deal on a home.  Regardless of your reason for waiting to buy a home, you shouldn’t ignore the current market conditions.  It’s as if a perfect storm of home buying conditions is lining up to a great time to buy a home.

The big news is that mortgage interest rates continue to drop.  National average mortgage rates have been declining since the fall, moving closer to the historic bottom!  The May 30th U.S. weekly average for a thirty-year fixed rate mortgage provided by the Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey(freddiemac.com) dropped to 3.99 percent.  Mortgage News Daily’s Matthew Graham reported on June 3rd that mortgage rates dropped further (mortgagenewsdaily.com).  Graham’s title “Mortgage Rates Continue to Plummet” is telling.

Although economists express confidence in the economy, they attribute the movement in mortgage interest rates to the current trade wars and bond market activity.  The mortgage industry may also be anticipating a Fed rate cut at the next week’s meeting of the Open Market Committee.

Lower mortgage rates aren’t always a reason to take the plunge into the housing market.  But what about moderating home sale prices?  The FHFA Home Price Index (fhfa.gov) indicates that nationwide average home prices increased only 1.1 percent during the first quarter of 2019!  Compared to the year-over-year 5.1 percent HPI increase, the modest first quarter gain may indicate a more affordable housing market.   Locally, the Montgomery County year-over-year average home sale price only increased 0.2 percent, according to MarketStats by ShowingTime (getsmartcharts.com).  However, the average price per square foot decreased 14.3 percent!

Another factor making it a great time buy a home is the lackluster spring home sales.  Counter to what is expected, home sales have somewhat cooled during the spring.  A May 30th NAR press release titled “Pending Home Sales Trail Off 1.5% in April” indicates that national home sales have been declining.  In fact, the forward-looking indicator based on contract signings dropped 1.5 percent this past month.  The total pending home sales in Montgomery County dropped about 2.8 percent compared to last spring. 

There are increasingly more housing choices.  Although housing supply remains tight, there were about 2.5 percent more new listings this April compared to the same time last year.  Although many of these new listings go quickly, increasing new listings mean that there are more home sellers that are entering the market this year giving you more homes to consider.

Putting all the data points together signify a great time to buy a home.  Housing affordability has increased, partly due in part by increasing family incomes, lower mortgage rates, and moderating home prices.  Home sellers who are listing their homes for sale this spring are adjusting their sale price expectations.  Homes that have been on the market for an extended time may be an opportunity for you to negotiate a lower sale price.  According to mortgage experts, average mortgage rates have “plummeted,” giving you more flexibility and possibly lower housing costs. 

These home buying conditions may not last very long. But before you decide to buy, determine if buying a home is the right choice by consulting a Realtor and other financial professionals.

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/06/08/great-time-to-buy-a-home/

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2019

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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.

Overpaying First-time Homebuyers

overpaying first-time homebuyers
First-Time Homebuyers (infographic from nar.Realtor)

If you’re thinking of buying your first home, or have already started the process, take note.  First time home buyers tend to overpay when buying a home.  This is the conclusion of a study recently published in the Journal of Real Estate Research (Under What Circumstances do First-time Homebuyers Overpay? – An Empirical Analysis Using Mortgage and Appraisal Data; 2019).  Although the stunning claim of overpaying first-time homebuyers is worthy of discussion, there’s more to the story than what’s implied. 

Considering housing affordability, authors Jessica Shui and Shriya Murthy tested their hypothesis that first-time homebuyers tend to overpay for their homes compared to repeat home buyers. Their conclusions indicate that the overpayment is a little more than one percent.  It doesn’t sound like much, but the overpayment could be a little more than $3,500 on a $350,000 home purchase.  In addition to discussing overpayment, they found that first-time homebuyers typically buy smaller homes with less amenities (which is not a surprise). 

Are home prices increased because of seller closing cost assistance?  Many first-time homebuyers lack cash and savings and typically ask for seller closing cost assistance.  For most first-time homebuyer purchases, the seller credit is already “baked” into the list price.  Anticipating that the buyer will ask for a closing assistance, the home seller typically will increase their asking price from the outset.  However, some home sale prices are negotiated upward to add seller closing assistance to the list price.

Although Shui and Murthy imply that first-time homebuyers are less savvy than their counterparts, they look toward appraisals as the cause and the solution.  Their results indicate that a majority of first-time homebuyer appraisals provide valuations at contract price, and suggest that appraisers are somewhat “biased” to help the house appraise.  Their solution is for appraisers to be neutral, which they believe would mitigate inflated home prices and help first-time homebuyers renegotiate the contract price. 

Although the study takes a circuitous route to the conclusion, the premise and statistics are presented to make it sound as if appraisers are at fault for overpaying first-time homebuyers .  However, if this is your first home purchase, there are many more factors to consider. 

Take for instance the buyer agent.  Research has demonstrated that most buyer agents don’t act in the best interest of their clients.  Most notable is the research that indicates that seller-paid buyer agent commissions actually increase home sale price (which I cited last week).  When hiring a buyer agent, you should take into account how they view their fiduciary responsibility.  Don’t assume the list price is reasonable.  Have your buyer agent provide unbiased comparables to formulate an offer and negotiating strategy. 

Although you have the right to choose your lender and title company (among other real estate professionals), you may be steered toward a professional affiliated with your buyer broker/agent.  Before deciding, compare costs and ask for references.  (Knowing your rights as a real estate consumer is crucial, see: https://dankrell.com/blog/2014/02/27/respa-empowers-home-buyers-and-consumers/)

Overpaying first-time homebuyers is not just about home sale price.  There are other areas where you may not negotiate well. The home inspection is one of those issues, and can also reveal that the home is need of repair.  You probably would like to negotiate repairs to be completed by licensed contractors.  Sometimes, the seller will offer a credit in lieu of making repairs. Before accepting the credit, make certain the amount is adequate by checking with your licensed contractor.

Finally, understand that buying your first home is emotional.  Don’t fall prey to agent sales tactics.  Stay focused on the facts and use the data to help you formulate your offer to negotiate the best price.

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/06/02/overpaying-first-time-homebuyers

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2019

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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.

Buyer agent commission controversy

buyer agent commission
Annual mean wage of Real Estate Brokers (infographic from bls.gov)

One of the hottest controversies in real estate that you have yet to hear about is who should pay buyer agent commissions. Agent commissions controversies have been around in one form or another for decades.  The commissions issue typically becomes front and center when the housing market is doing well.  This time, however, the buyer agent commission controversy is gaining steam and has the potential of changing (and possibly upending) residential real estate and online real estate platforms.

The debate is center in an anti-trust class action law suit filed against the National Association of Realtors and a number of major real estate brokerage brands.  As I reported last month, the law suit alleges that the defendants engaged in “anticompetitive practices.”  Among the alleged issues listed in the law suit, includes a “Buyer Broker Commission Rule” that requires buyer agent compensation for a home to be listed in the MLS. 

Regardless of how a listing agreement “structures” broker commissions, the perception and general acknowledgement is that the (buyer broker) buyer agent commission is paid by the seller.  The seller typically pays the listing broker a commission, which is shared if another broker represents the buyer.  This commission “pass-through” is responsible for the growth of online platforms selling home buyer leads and contacts.  It has also been responsible for the growth of real estate groups that act as “buyer mills,” which rely on high volume leads generated via online platforms and other means.  It can be argued that because of Buyer Broker Commission Rules, the billions of dollars that are generated and spent on home buyer leads (as well as buyer rebates) can be traced back to the home seller. 

Home sellers are not the only victims.  A study conducted by Joachim Zietz and Bobby Newsome (A Note on Buyer’s Agent Commission and Sale Price; The Journal of Real Estate Research; 2001, Vol.21 No.3 p.245-254) revealed that buyer agent commissions had a positive effect on home sale price, but only on lower-priced homes.  The conclusions suggested that buyer agents “do not act in the best interest of their clients because of the institutional structure of sales commissions.

Is it possible that the MLS perpetuates steering and anticompetitive behavior?  A recent study by Barwick, Pathak and Wong (Conflicts of Interest and Steering in Residential Brokerage; American Economic Journal; 2017, Vol.9 No.3 p.191-222) has shocking conclusions that resonates with those who are wary of the residential real estate industry.  The study pointed out that real estate commissions are higher the US than other industrialized countries.  The authors concluded, “Properties listed with lower commission rates experience less favorable transaction outcomes…they are 5% less likely to sell and take 12% longer to sell. These adverse outcomes reflect decreased willingness of buyers’ agents to intermediate low commission properties (steering)…”  They “provide empirical support for regulatory concerns” because the data indicates buyer agents will steer their clients towards homes paying higher commission.

Home sellers can learn from home builders about marketing and agent compensation.  Home builders figured out buyer broker commissions a long time ago.  They will not pay advertised compensation to buyer brokers who don’t show up with their clients.  And during hot markets, they pay a modest referral fee in lieu of commission. 

All things considered, the issue of buyer broker commission is a complex issue that depends on multiple factors, including market conditions.  However, increasing awareness is inventing new business models and lower buyer broker compensation expectations. 

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/05/24/buyer-agent-commission-controversy

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2019

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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.

Mixed housing stats

mixed housing stats
Mixed housing market stats (infographic from keepingcurrentmatters.com)

This week’s National Association of Realtors press release (nar.realtor) sends mixed signals about the housing market.  Reports of sluggish home sales and slowing home price appreciation is not what you would expect when the spring market should be humming along.  But then again, mixed housing stats may be a vital sign of a healthy market in motion.

First, let’s talk about home sale prices.  The NAR’s report on metro home prices and affordability indicate that the average home sale price for the first quarter of the year was $254,800.  This is a 3.9 percent increase compared to the same time last year.  Average home sale prices in the Baltimore metro area were slightly higher than the rest of nation at $275,300.  Not surprisingly, Washington metro prices were significantly higher at $420,000 (a 6.5 increase from the same time last year).

The latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index (spindices.com) is almost spot on with the NAR, indicating a 4 percent increase in home sale prices nationwide.

Affordability is always a concern when mixed housing stats confound the market. So, how much income do you need to qualify for a home?  The National Association of Realtors Qualifying Income report indicates the average qualifying income for a 5 percent down conventional mortgage is $60,143 nationwide.  The average qualifying income in the Baltimore metro area is slightly higher at $64,982.  However, because of significantly higher home sale prices, the average qualifying income in the Washington metro area is $99,137. 

The neighboring Baltimore and Washington metro areas highlight home pricing extremes in competing markets.  Many home buyers who work in the Washington metro area are opting for longer commutes to make homeownership affordable.  Others are opting for alternative work to not only lower their housing cost, but eliminate the commute as well.  Commenting on affordability, NAR’s chief economist Lawrence Yun stated, “There are vast home price differences among metro markets. The condition of extremely high home prices may not be sustainable in light of many alternative metro markets that are much more affordable. Therefore, a shift in job search and residential relocations into more affordable regions of the country is likely in the future.”

Although home sale prices continue to climb, the national home sale picture is another story.  The 1.2 percent increase in spring home sales compared to winter sales should be expected.  However, the 5.4 percent decrease from last spring is a disappointment.  According to MarketStats by ShowingTime (getsmartcharts.com), the number of homes sold in the Mid-Atlantic region decreased 4.77 percent year-to-date.  There was a larger decline in Montgomery County, where there was a 7.25 percent decrease in home sales year-to-date! 

Days-on-market is another fundamental indicator of the housing market.  And, like home prices and units sold, days-on-market can vary depending on the local market.  Homes in the Mid-Atlantic region are taking a bit longer to sell, as days-on-market increased 7.04 percent to 76 days.  However, houses in Montgomery County are selling quicker, where days-on-market decreased about 13 percent to 65 days. 

Mixed housing stats can confound home buyers, sellers, and their agents. But consider the analysis of David M. Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. He stated that that home sale prices gains have been slowing down until recently.  And although mortgage rates are lower, home sales have “drifted down” from their peak during February 2018.  Even new home sales and residential investment have shown weakness since last year.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/05/20/mixed-housing-stats/

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2019

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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.