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.

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.

iBuyers are Just House Flippers

ibuyers
How much is your home worth? (infographic from nar.realtor)

Disruption in the marketplace seems to be the standard these days. So, it should not come as a surprise that the iBuyer phenomenon has taken hold of the real estate industry and is expanding.  What started out as an experiment in limited markets has grown into the internet version of “I Buy Houses.” (You’ve probably seen the “I Buy Houses” bandit signs around town.)  Nonetheless, iBuyers have become the trendy and acceptable version of house flippers.

According to Zillow, an iBuyer is “…a real estate investor that uses an automated valuation model (known as an AVM) and other technology to make cash offers on homes quickly.”  And although Zillow’s explanation of the iBuyer model describes that the home gets sold to the investor sight unseen, many will actually visit your home before finalizing the deal.

Automated valuations are helpful but not always accurate. Additionally, investors typically apply their AVM derived value into a formula to produce their offer price. Because they are akin to the Pawn Shop of the real estate industry, where they have to build in a profit for them, house flippers usually offer 70-75% of retail value (after repairs).

House flipping by any other name is still house flipping.  But the iBuyer trend has put a shiny veneer to the business.  The model allows for anonymity, at least initially, by giving you an offer to buy your home just by completing a form.  However, just like traditional real estate investors, iBuyer representatives will visit the home to confirm the accuracy of the reported home’s condition and other vital facts. 

If you’re looking to get top dollar on your home, you’re probably going to be disappointed with the iBuyer offer (or any real estate investor offer for that matter).  However, you might be willing to accept a lower offer on your home for a quick closing and selling “as-is.”  The desire of convenience of selling to real estate investors is confirmed by ATTOM Data Solutions 2018 Year-End Home Flipping report that indicated “207,957 U.S. single family homes and condos were flipped in 2018” (attomdata.com).  Although house flipping is down four percent from 2017, the numbers indicate a continued willingness by home owners to deal with house flippers. 

Don’t think you’re escaping the 6 percent commission when selling to iBuyers.

Patricia Mertz Esswein wrote recently that the iBuyer convenience comes at a cost (Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. April 2019, Vol. 73 Issue 4, p12).  She explained that iBuyer service fees range from 6 to 13 percent, which exceed Realtor commissions that typically range in today’s market from 3.5 to 5 percent!

Currently, most iBuyers are exclusive to specific markets that make the model financially sound.  However, new iBuyer companies are throwing their hats into the ring and expanding the model in new markets nationwide.  An article from the California Association of Realtors’ magazine (The Era of iBUYERS?; California Real Estate. September 2018, Vol. 98 Issue 6, p22-25) discusses the pros and cons of iBuyers and explains that the phenomenon is still in its “infancy.”  Meaning that iBuyer companies are still cautiously expanding in hot markets.  Furthermore, you should be wary of real estate brokers who engage in making iBuyer (or similar) offers as part of their listing service because it could be in conflict of their fiduciary duties to you.  

If you’re wanting to get top dollar on your home, you probably will go the traditional route and list on the MLS.  But, if you’re looking for a quick sale, explore all of your options.  Solicit and compare iBuyer offers to local real estate investor offers.  Also, consult with several real estate agents to not only get a picture of your home’s value, but they may have buyers for your home too. 

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/05/13/ibuyers-are-just-house-flippers

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.

Home buying process simplified

home buying process
Traditional Home Buying Process

An article by Tracey Barbour for the Alaska Business Monthly (Younger buyers partial to homeownership, home-buyer education, online resources: akbizmag.com; September 2017) describes the growing phenomenon of millennial homeownership.  Not surprisingly, many millennial home buyers are taking advantage of home buyer assistance programs.  Because millennials grew up with the internet, you might think that they would rely less on professionals when home buying.  But the opposite seems to be true.  A majority of millennials prefer to connect with a single point-of-contact when applying for a mortgage (and likely when dealing with real estate agents).  However, millennials do rely on the internet when it comes to understanding the home buying process.  They spend copious amounts of time doing their own research on the home buying process.

It’s not just millennials, but most home buyers are taking advantage of online and digital resources to learn about the home buying process.  Maybe it’s because we live in an era of information overload that home buyers are more aware of the many factors that need to be considered before buying a home.  Regardless, the abundance of “home buying process” resources are helping home buyers decide if they are suited to buy a home, assisting with financial planning of buying a home, finding down payment assistance, mortgage application information, and so much more. 

It used to be that if you were a first-time home buyer, you relied heavily on your real estate agent for the education of the home buying process.  You placed a great deal of trust on their guidance.  The home buying process was envisioned as a step-by-step formula to purchasing a house.  The purpose of explaining the home buying as a process was to reduce the major aspects of home buying into distinct parts and make it seem simple and trouble-free.

The home buying process is a big ball of stuff…

Today, the standard “home buying process” as explained by real estate agents seems nebulous and lacking detail.  Maybe even a little pedestrian.  Maybe it’s because real estate agents tried to make their job easy and have control, but the word “process” incorrectly suggests that there is an exact order that is “one size fits all.”  However, the home buying process is more aptly described by adapting the “timey-wimey” quote of the 2007 episode of Dr. Who (Blink) to say “People assume that home buying is a strict progression of cause to effect, but it is more like a big ball of home buying stuff.”

Moreover, all home buyers are different.  Not just in their preferences, but also in their needs and expectations.  And thus, home buyers will experience the process differently.  One thing I can confirm from eighteen years of listing and selling homes is that all transactions are different. 

But don’t discount the value of the traditional “home buying process” meme.  Consider it a framework of mini-processes that are critical to buying a home.  Each mini-process will be proceeding at its own pace parallel to other processes. 

Choose your buyer agent well.  The role of your buyer agent should go beyond helping you visit homes and writing an offer.  Your agent should be there every step of the way to settlement helping you maneuver through the “big ball of home buying stuff.”  When going through home buying process you can encounter pitfalls and setbacks that are time consuming and emotionally draining.  Your agent should be able to offer guidance on coping and resolving any potential issues.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/05/06/home-buying-process-simplified/

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.