Buying and selling homes is alive and well during the pandemic

As a real estate consumer, you need to know that the housing market is currently one of the bright spots in the U.S. economy.

Surprised? You’re not alone.

Sure, the processes have changed a bit and some lenders have changed their lending standards, but overall, the real estate market looks very much like the pre-pandemic market.

If you’re considering buying or selling a home in the near future, read on to learn about some of the changes.

The national market, in a nutshell

While March and April home sales plummeted, there are nuggets of wonder in the rest of the statistics.

Want to hear something surprising? Demand for homes is higher now that it was before the lockdown and prices continue to rise.

In fact, homebuyers vastly outnumber sellers in the current market. “More than 41% of homes faced a bidding war in the four weeks ending May 10,” according to Diana Olick at CNBC.com, citing a recent study.

For comparison, only 9% of homes for sale experienced bidding wars in January, pre-U.S. pandemic.

To add to the excitement, “mortgage applications from buyers jump 11%,” according to the folks at CNBC.com.

The authors add that they expect the frenzy to continue as the lockdown is eased. Perhaps then those wanting to sell will jump back into the market. We need homes to sell to these eager buyers.

Speaking of mortgages

With the volume of forbearance request rolling in, mortgage lenders decided enough was enough and began tightening lending standards.

Down payment requirements are higher and some have upped their minimum credit score requirement.

JP Morgan Chase & Co., for instance, announced that it is raising the minimum credit score they will accept to 700 and increased the minimum down payment from 3.5% to 20%.

Since Chase is the nation’s largest lender, others are following suit.

“Wells Fargo and US Bank both adjusted their minimum score requirement to 680 (including for FHA and VA loans, which typically feature credit-score requirements as low as 580),” according Natalie Campisi at Inquisitor.com.

If you are considered a credit risk, the best thing to do is work on your credit score. Check back here in the next week or two when we’ll be showing you some quick ways to raise your score.

Thinking of selling? You need to know about this

If you are thinking of selling, let’s get that home on the market sooner, rather than later, and here’s why:

“Home prices will hold up, at least through the summer, but declines are coming,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics tells Bloomberg.com’s Noah Buhayar, Prashant Gopal, and John Gittelsohn.

If you’re in forbearance, you may also find challenges to getting the home sold if you wait. It turns out that the section of the Fair Credit Reporting Act that was amended by the CARE Act has a glitch.

While the CARE Act requires lenders to report mortgages in forbearance as current, many lenders are labeling these mortgages as being in forbearance when they submit them to the credit reporting agencies.

FHA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Department of Veterans Affairs don’t allow those in forbearance to obtain a new loan or even refinance until at least one year after they’re caught up on payments.

If you decide to sell, you’ll be able to take advantage of the sellers’ market that is happening right now.

More questions about buying or selling real estate during the pandemic? Reach out to us – we love to talk about real estate!

Homebuying on a tight budget? Consider a townhome

If rapidly rising prices are making you feel squeezed out of the single-family home market, consider downsizing your dream. After all, first homes are rarely forever homes.

It’s tempting to put off the purchase of a home until either home prices fall or your income rises. Tempting, yes. Smart? Not really. The wise thing to do is to begin building equity now so that you can later use it for that dream home. One of the best ways to do this is to buy a townhome.

Townhome living has its advantages and disadvantages. The latter includes the likely HOA fees that will be tacked on to your monthly house payment and living in very close proximity to your neighbors.

Tolerate that, however, and you’re on your way to making the home of your dreams a reality.

Today, we take a look at four reasons to consider purchasing a townhome. But first:

What’s the difference between a townhome and a condo?

The confusion between the two stems from the general misunderstanding of what they describe. Townhome is an architectural term, like duplex or triplex.

It describes a building where units share a common wall, nobody lives above or below the unit and they all have separate entrances from the street. This is opposed to a main entrance and front doors off of corridors, as is the case in many condo communities.

Condominium, on the other hand, describes a type of ownership. Each homeowner owns their unit, but not the actual building, and they share ownership of the common areas.

Units can consist of one or more floors and units may have neighbors above and below.

To make matters even more confusing, a townhome can be a condo, depending on how ownership is held in the community.

1. Lawnmower not required

When you purchase a townhome, your monthly HOA fees cover the cost of landscape maintenance. Some townhomes offer private patios and, in that case, the homeowner is responsible for any upkeep of landscaping there.

The fact is, even maintenance of the hardscaping in a townhome community is covered by the association. This includes pool maintenance, tennis court resurfacing, etc.

While your single-family home-owning friends are spending their weekends mowing, edging, raking, weeding and feeding, you’ll be kicking your feet up in that hammock you installed on your patio.

2. You’ll spend less money

The average townhome costs less than the average single-family home. For instance, the average single-family home price in the U.S. hovers around $243,225 according to BusinessInsider.com. Compare that to the average townhome price of $195,000 (GlobalPropertyGuide.com).

Sure, you may run across the occasional luxury townhome that is selling for significantly more than this, but most are very reasonably priced.

The lower price tag makes for a lower mortgage payment. And, because townhomes often contain less square footage than single-family homes, they cost significantly less to heat and cool—saving you even more money.

3. How about those amenities?

If a pool, gym, outdoor kitchen or other amenities seemed beyond your homebuying budget, think again. When you buy a townhome, you may just get at least one of those amenities right there on the property.

If there are others you simply must have, shop strategically. Some of what you can find includes:

  • Private garage
  • Health club/fitness center
  • Security guard or doorman
  • Swimming pool and spa

Keep in mind that a single-family home with any of these amenities will cost significantly more than the townhome with these amenities. Remember as well that typically the more amenities, the higher the price of the home.

4. Like being social?

When you live in a townhome, your next-door neighbor (in fact, all of your neighbors) are situated a lot closer than they would be if you lived in a single-family home neighborhood. This provides lots of opportunities to get to know them, socialize with them and forge relationships.

Many people find this appealing. If you’re among them, let’s go shopping for a townhome!

 

Staging your home for video tours

We recently shared with you what has been happening in the real estate industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most parts of the process of buying or selling have gone virtual, from showings to closings.

Since then, we’ve heard from lots of folks, wanting to know how to prepare their homes to sell in this new real estate environment. It’s a good question, because showings online are a bit different than showings in person.

Getting the interior ready for its close-up

The prep work that was required pre-pandemic still holds true: clean and declutter the home. If you have any doubts about whether an item should remain in the home or get boxed up, go with the latter.

The idea is to create a somewhat clean slate, so that potential buyers can see themselves living in the home. Here are some of the items to consider removing:

  • Collectibles
  • Family photos
  • Diplomas and certificates
  • Mementos
  • Stacks of magazines and newspapers
  • Oversized furniture (it makes rooms look smaller)

Clear the bathroom and kitchen counters of anything that isn’t decorative. Need inspiration? Find decluttering advice online at GoodHousekeeping.com, ProfessionalStaging.com and ApartmentTherapy.com.

Now it’s time to get to the cleaning. We spoke with our favorite cleaning professional who suggests taking it a room at a time. Then, clean from top to bottom as you work your way around the room. From ceilings (and ceiling fixtures) to baseboards, clean every surface.

As you clean, check that the room’s lighting is sufficient. You want the rooms to appear as bright as possible. Consider brighter bulbs or adding additional lighting.

Finally, take some of your own videos of each room and then scrutinize them. How’s the furniture placement? Ensure that the rooms don’t look cluttered with furniture. Experiment with different arrangements to find the one that makes each room look its best.

Get furniture placement tips online from Let’s Revamp, Savvy for Life and Jsquared-Richmond-Home-Staging.

Don’t forget about curb appeal

An effective video tour will start at the curb and follow the route a homebuyer and his or her agent would take to enter and tour the home.

This means that how your home appears from the curb, the experience offered as the potential buyer navigates to the front door, is critical.

Clean up and spruce up the landscaping between the curb and the front door. Get rid of debris and kid and pet toys. Then turn your attention to what’s planted in the landscape. Yank dead or dying plants and then prune and fertilize what’s left.

Consider purchasing flowering plants or those with colorful foliage, such as caladium. The color will pop when it’s on video. Finally, spread fresh mulch in the planting beds.

How’s the porch looking? The front door is an often-overlooked aspect of a home’s curb appeal (or lack thereof) so consider giving it a fresh coat of paint. Don’t shy away from using a bold color, if it coordinates with the home’s color. Consider a vibrant red or even black.

In fact, a study conducted by online listing portal Zillow.com, found that “houses with black or charcoal gray front doors sold for as much as $6,271 more than expected,” according to Julia Glum at Money.com.

If there is room on the porch, consider adding pots of colorful flowers or stately potted evergreens.

When you’re finished, take an experimental video tour of the home. Start at the curb, go up to the front door, open it, enter the home and then tour it, with the camera operating.

When it’s complete, watch the video, with an eye toward anything that may look out of place, any areas that appear cluttered or any other changes you can make to wow a potential buyer.

We’d love to view your video with you and offer tips for making your home the belle of the video-tour world.

Yes, Americans are still buying and selling homes

One of the questions we’re asked almost on a daily basis is “How’s the real estate market?” Most people we speak with assume that, because of the pandemic, it’s come to a screeching halt and that prices have plummeted.

Neither of these assumptions are true. In fact, people are still buying and selling homes. We’re not seeing the volume of activity that we usually see in the spring market, but the market is not stagnant.

Prices have remained much the same as they were before the onset of the pandemic, much to the dismay of homebuyers. Home sellers are digging in and few are willing to take rock-bottom offers.

It’s the low interest rates, however, that keep homebuyers in the market.

How does real estate work in a country under attack by a virus? It’s different, that’s for sure. But the workarounds to maintain social distancing have actually turned out to be quite efficient.

Viewing homes for sale

A recent Realtor.com survey finds that nearly 60 percent of home sellers say they would be fine with holding an open house.

Then, there are others who put restrictions on showings. For that reason, many homes are now shown virtually by the agent or with 3-D tours.

And, they’re being embraced by homebuyers. One of the big real estate portals says that they are seeing an almost 500 percent increase in requests for agent-led video tours, while another portal is seeing a nearly 200 percent increase in requests for 3-D home tours.

But, will they actually buy a home they’ve only toured virtually? According to the aforementioned Realtor.com survey, 25 percent of homebuyers aren’t opposed to buying a home they have never toured in person.

The number of home showings across the country took a dip on April 12, but has been steadily rising since then (an increase of nearly 24 percent as of April 26).

The entire home buying and selling process has gone virtual, from home showings to inspections, appraisals and closings.

Please reach out if you have any questions about the process and how we can help you navigate it during the pandemic.

 

How to live in a home for sale without losing your mind

There’s a frustrating dilemma that occurs when your home is for sale. It happens when the need to keep the home clean, tidy and staged collides with daily living.

Trying to keep the home in showing-condition when you’re living in it, complete with kids and/or pets, is a delicate balancing act.

Then, there are all those little annoyances that you should be prepared to tolerate. It’s always easier and less stressful to enter a new process armed with knowledge. So, let’s dive into what you can expect while your home is on the market and how to make it easier on you and your family.

Keeping the home clean

According to a study from a few years ago, clean homes with no clutter sell for $1500 to $2000 more than comparable homes that are messy. Ah, that caught your attention, right?

Homebuyers feel that clean homes show pride of ownership, which means their perception is that it’s also been well-maintained.

If you have children and/or pets, keeping the home clean isn’t an easy job. Create a plan before the home goes on the market where each family member has a set of tasks to complete before leaving the home in the morning.

Even the tiniest in the family can pick up toys and return them to their rightful place.

Yes, it may mean getting up a bit earlier in the morning, but for an extra thousand dollars (or two) it’s worth it.

Decide now what to do with your pets

Home sellers with pets have come up with some clever ideas on how to deal with their pets during home showings.

From dropping them at doggy daycare or a groomer to hiring a dog walker to get them out of the home during showings, crating them, come up with a solution that you can put into action on those days when agents will be showing the home.

Then, make sure their food and water bowls, leashes and toys don’t create clutter – stash them away.

Tip: If your dog uses the backyard as a potty, ensure that all the droppings are picked up before showings. The last thing you want is a potential buyer with “poop” all over her shoes.

Protect your privacy

While it may appear that they’re snooping, many homebuyers will open cupboards, drawers and closets to determine how much storage these areas provide.

Then, there are the small handful that are actually snooping, hoping to come upon anything they can pocket. Although it doesn’t happen often, it’s best to be safe and lock away or remove from the home the following:

  • Sensitive paper work (such as anything having to do with your mortgage and home, credit reports, anything could be used to steal your identity and anything else you wouldn’t want a stranger to see).
  • Checkbooks
  • Credit cards
  • Prescription medications
  • Firearms
  • Anything else that is easily pocketed that is of value

From the requests for last-minute showings to potential buyers wanting to view the home when you typically eat dinner, living in a home for sale can be challenging.

Relax into the process and keep reminding yourself that it’s temporary. Soon, you’ll find a buyer and can look forward to moving on to the next phase in your life.

And – a bonus – you won’t have to worry about what to do with the dirty dishes or laundry as you rush out to work in the morning.

Homebuyer: Can I Back Out if I Change My Mind?

What if you make an offer on a home for sale, the seller accepts it and then you change your mind about the purchase? Are you locked into the contract?

Whether you’re suffering from buyer’s remorse, you found another home you like more or any other reason, it’s a common fear.

The answer is, “it depends.” Finding another house you like more isn’t going to fly, nor will a bad case of buyer’s remorse.

There are other conditions, however, built right into the purchase contract, that will allow you to get out of the purchase. Often, this includes a return of your earnest money deposit, but not always.

These conditions even have a name: Contingencies.

The dictionary defines a contingency as “a provision for an unforeseen event or circumstance.” We like to think of it as an “if.”

“I will consummate the purchase of your home IF ‘Y’ occurs.”

Y is the contingency. It can stand for the success of your loan application, the sale of your current home, a satisfactory home inspection, the home appraises for what the bank is willing to lend. There are lots of different contingencies.

Contingencies have a time limit, which is written into the contract. For instance, the home inspection contingency may expire one or two weeks after receipt of the inspection report.

Let’s assume you didn’t miss the deadline. Instead, you ask the seller to fix the hole in the roof by a certain date. If the seller fails to complete the work to your satisfaction by that date, you can walk away from the purchase with a full return of your earnest money deposit.

Today, we take a look at some of the more common contingencies in a home purchase contract.

Common contingencies

Financing

That loan preapproval that you got from your lender? You do know that isn’t an offer, right? It is conditional on a number of factors, such as proof of employment and income as well as others.

Until the underwriter clears your file, you really don’t have a loan commitment, just a promise to try to get you one.

This is why buyers’ real estate agents insist on a loan contingency clause in the contract. This way, should you not get final approval for a mortgage, you can walk away from the agreement without penalty.

Appraisal

If the appraiser (hired by the lender) finds that your home is worth less than what you’ve agreed to pay for it, they won’t approve your loan.

There are, of course, ways to mitigate this disaster:

  • Come up with the additional money required
  • Come up with half the money required and request that the seller pay the other half
  • Ask the seller to lower the price
  • Walk away from the transaction

If it comes to it, and you end up walking away, the appraisal contingency allows you to do so.

Home inspection

The home inspection report doesn’t have to derail the deal. If there are issues that the buyer can’t accept, negotiations can reopen to convince the seller to take care of them.

If the results are completely unacceptable to the buyer, a home inspection contingency allows him or her to cancel the deal, without penalty.

All contingencies are negotiable. If you feel you need more time to conclude a task, we will negotiate with the seller for more time.

It’s critical to meet the deadlines demanded of the contingencies and we work hard to keep you on track to do just that.

If you have any questions about anything in the home purchase agreement, don’t hesitate to ask. We’re happy to answer them.

5 things you may not know about home warranties

If the home inspection leaves you less-than confident that the home you really, really want to buy won’t need repairs in the near future, you may want to ask the seller for a home warranty.

You’re not alone, by the way. The home warranty industry rakes in more than $2.5 billion each year from people just like you — new homeowners seeking peace of mind.

Home warranties provide just that when it comes to the life expectancy of the home’s major systems. Some experts say that peace of mind is an illusion for those who don’t understand how the warranties work.

Read on to learn the five things you need to know about home warranties.

1. Home warranties are service contracts

Many new homeowners think of their home warranty as a type of insurance. It is not.

Furthermore, the federal government considers a warranty something that is included in the purchase price of the item. A home warranty is purchased separately, so it isn’t technically a warranty.

“Simply put, a home warranty is a yearly service contract that protects specific home systems and appliances,” according to the folks at First American Home Warranty.

2. Understand what’s covered

What your warranty covers depends on several factors, including the price of the warranty. The more expensive the warranty, the more it will cover.

The basic home warranty provides some coverage for the major systems in the home, such as heating, cooling, electrical and plumbing.

The home’s major appliances may also be covered.

3. Find out what’s not covered

“There are plenty of limitations; these plans generally don’t cover non-mechanical items such as windows or the structure of your home, for instance,” say the experts at ConsumerReports.com.

Unfortunately, exclusions (anything that isn’t covered) aren’t uniform across the home warranty industry. Most, however, won’t cover any repair or replacement of a problem caused by “normal wear and tear,” insect damage, deferred maintenance and acts of God.

This leaves the companies with a lot of wiggle room when it comes to accepting or denying a claim.

Some companies offer additional coverage for some of their exclusions, at an additional cost, of course.

4. Then, there is optional coverage

Optional coverage is the term home warranty companies use to describe coverage that you can purchase for certain systems, such as a pool and spa, septic, central vacuum or well.

If the home features any items not covered and you want coverage, ask for a policy that offers these options.

5. Is a home warranty worth the price?

“The average cost of a home warranty service contract ranges between $300–$600 per year,” according to Jessica Render at ConsumerAffairs.com.

When you need to use the warranty, and the problem is covered by the home warranty, the provider will send a service technician to your home. You are required to pay for the visit, which will run you between $50 to $100 per visit, according to Render.

Is the cost worth it? It depends. Many in the real estate industry feel that the peace of mind a warranty offers the new homeowner, who is typically cash poor for at least the first year of homeownership, is invaluable.

Consumer Reports and other consumer advocates feel otherwise.  “We recommend avoiding service contracts . . . far too often, warranty claims are denied because the company says the problem was pre-existing. Or, the claim is denied because the consumer can’t prove that a broken item was properly maintained,” says Anthony Giorgianni with Consumer Reports.

“Put your money in the bank instead,” he suggests.

If you do decide to go ahead with the purchase of a home warranty, check each company’s Better Business Bureau ranking and keep records of all home maintenance tasks you perform.

Cooped up at home? 5 outdoor projects to get your home ready for the post-pandemic real estate market

There’s talk in real estate circles that homebuyers who get into the market after we’re released from “self-isolation” will have an entirely different wish list than those who bought homes before the pandemic.

This makes sense when you consider that we’ve never spent so much time in our homes as we have over the past few months.

Look for home offices to be on many homebuyer wish lists. Outdoor spaces, however, will be hot sellers as well.

How’s your backyard looking? If you’re planning on selling, take a good long look and get to work on some projects to make your home stand out when we get back to normal.

1. Start with a clean slate

Winter is firmly in the rearview mirror. If your front and backyards still show winter’s scars, it’s time to get that remedied.

Get rid of all the debris that winter deposited in your yard. Remove broken branches, trash, leaves and any other debris.

Although we love spring, we don’t care for the weeds it brings. Weeding should be next on the list.

Pruning dead or dying branches from trees and shrubs will not only make them look better but make them healthier as well.

Tip: Disinfect your pruning equipment before using. Give it a 5-minute soak in a disinfectant, such as Lysol. Rinse with water and allow to air-dry.

2. Turn your attention to the hardscaping

Hardscaping refers to the non-living elements in your landscape. This includes pottery, benches, water features, pavers, arbors and fencing.

Consider painting the fence if it needs it. Darker colors are better, according to Darin Bradbury, a landscape designer.

“Not only does the dark color give those vertical surfaces around the garden a uniform finish, but it creates the perfect backdrop for all that green foliage,” Bradbury tells Georgia Madden with Houzz Australia.

3. Add new plants

While the gardening centers at the big box home improvement stores remain open during the pandemic, it’s a good idea to shop online right now.

There are many online plant retailers and we’ve rounded up several for you: DirectGardening.com, NatureHills.com, BrighterBlooms.com and FastGrowingTrees.com.

Landscaping professionals suggest that we should choose a theme before planting. The theme can be based on color, scent, pollinators (such as butterflies) or choose from some of the popular gardening themes:

Sticking to a theme helps prevent the space from looking too “chaotic and disconnected,” landscape designer Wayne De Klijn tells Madden.

“The right plant for the right space” is an old gardening adage that describes one of the most important secrets to gardening success.

Before purchasing plants, observe the landscape for a few days. Where is it sunny all day, shady all day, partially sunny? Choose your plants based on the existing conditions in your garden and you should have far fewer problems.

4. Mulch – the workhorse of the landscape

Mulch offers so much to your garden. It’s ornamental, it helps suppress weeds, it keeps the soil cooler in the summer, it helps the soil conserve moisture and, if it’s organic, it breaks down, adding nutrients back into the soil.

Choose whichever type of mulch you like and spread at least 2 inches of it over the soil, keeping it about 6 inches from the base of each plant.

5. Spruce up outdoor furniture 

Since we are all supposed to be staying home, running out to buy a new patio furniture set is not a wise idea. Hopefully, with a little DIY action, you can spruce up what you have.

Best of all, you can buy most of the products you’ll need online at Amazon.com or Gardener’s Supply Company and have them delivered to your door.

If your outdoor furniture is made of wood, follow the instructions you’ll find online at YouTube.com. Ideas for updating other types of patio furniture can be found at BobVila.com.

Stay well!

 

3 types of home valuation

Whether it’s a car, garage sale items or you’re selling on websites such as Ebay, successfully selling “stuff” has one major requirement: you need to know how much it’s worth.

After all, price an item too high and it most likely won’t sell. Price it too low and you’ll lose money on the deal.

The same holds true for houses, but there is a lot more money involved and the stakes are far higher.

There are several different home evaluation models, depending on the purpose for which the value needs to be ascertained. Let’s take a look at these and the differences between them.

Your home’s assessed value

Homeowners can’t get around paying property taxes and they’re based on your home’s assessed value. Your county or other municipality official, most commonly known as the “assessor,” will come up with the number for this evaluation.

He or she will use many of the same resources as a professional appraiser, from public records to recent sales. After deducting any exemptions available to you, the assessor multiplies the value by the assessment rate for your municipality to come up with the tax value for your home.

You’ll notice that the assessor’s value is often quite different than your home’s actual market value. Again, this evaluation is for tax purposes only and does not express your home’s current market value.

The market value of a home

The market value of a piece of property is based on what a buyer is willing to pay and a seller will accept. It is reflected in the recent sales prices of similar homes, or “comps,” short for “comparable homes.”

Most home sellers rely on the skill and experience of their real estate agent to determine their home’s current market value. And, although they don’t call their determination an “appraisal,” real estate agents use many of the same valuation techniques as appraisers.

They will base their determination on the following, when comparing your home to the comps:

  • The size of the home
  • Age of the home
  • Condition of the home
  • Location of the home
  • Special features

Then, if the agent is familiar with your neighborhood, he or she will use any knowledge of recent home appraisals in the area to help narrow down a price for your home.

This is what knowing market value does for homeowners: it helps them determine a competitive price for their homes.

A home’s appraised value

The appraised value of a home is that which is determined by a professional home appraiser. Typically hired by a buyer’s lender, this is the value determination that can make or break a home sale.

The appraiser will visit the home, taking measurements and notes. Back at the office, she will use many of the same techniques that real estate agents use, with the addition of public record information and other assistance.

Whether or not your agent’s evaluation matches that of the appraiser depends largely on current market conditions. In a recovering market, such that we saw after the recession ended, it may be challenging to pinpoint value.

When purchasing a home, it’s a smart move to look at a home’s property tax burden. But, for sellers, this type of value means little. It’s the market value and the appraised value that are important.

Still have questions? Fee free to reach out to us.

Is this a good time to buy or sell a home?

Social distancing. Self-quarantine. Hand sanitizer, soap and water and elbow-bumping instead of shaking hands.

In our efforts to deal with a world-wide pandemic, not only are our priorities changing, but our vocabulary as well.

There was no warning, really, so it naturally caught many of us by surprise. We’re getting a lot of questions from our clients, worried about whether or not they should continue to close on their transactions, continue searching for a home or for a buyer for their current home.

We aren’t medical experts, so we can’t field medical questions. But we are real estate experts and are happy to offer our opinion of what is happening in the housing market and what experts expect in the coming weeks and months.

Uncertainty reigns

While there are plenty of rumors and much guessing from the experts as to how the U.S. economy will be impacted by the safety measures federal, state and municipal governments are enacting, nobody is certain.

We agree with those who claim that it all centers on how long the virus takes to get under control. The longer Americans are out of work, the longer retailers and other businesses remain closed, the bigger the impact on the economy.

Yes, President Trump is working on a stimulus package for both individual taxpayers and businesses. Hopefully, it can be pushed through Congress soon.

Will our deal close?

If you have already signed a purchase agreement, as a buyer or a seller, lenders are taking extra steps to help speed up the process.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, for instance, is allowing VA buyers and sellers to participate in meetings with title companies, appraisers, lenders and VA personnel via phone or “other electronic methods,” according to the experts at Military.com.

Newly constructed home sales are still quite strong and closings are running smoothly. “During the first two weeks of March, new orders were up 16%, closings continued on schedule and traffic in home sales centers was strong,” Stuart Miller, Lennar Corporation executive chairman told the South Florida Business Journal.

The real sticking point to be aware of is that with municipal buildings closing down, the sale may not be recorded when you expected it to. Some municipalities are offering alternatives, such as closing remotely, through e-recording (thank goodness for technology!) and even by mail.

Is this an ok time to buy a home?

Within the real estate industry there’s a well-known saying that the best time to buy a home is when you can afford to buy a home.

While mortgage interest rates have edged up a bit over the past few weeks, we’re still at historic lows. Borrowing money has rarely been so inexpensive.

When rates are higher you won’t get nearly the size or type of home you can right now.

If you’re worried about exposure while house hunting, understand that touring homes for sale is a bit different now but still quite doable. Much of the process can be done online via virtual open houses, 3-D home tours, floor plan drawings and more.

Even in-person tours can be accomplished in a safe, healthy way.

What about selling? Is this an ok time?

While spring is typically the best time of the year to put a house on the market, this spring is going to be quite different.

There are buyers in the market, however, so if you need to sell, by all means, let’s get that home on the market.

As mentioned in the buying section, above, we can employ a number of methods to keep your home and your family safe during and after showings.

Remember, the inventory of available homes is still quite low, so you will have little competition for homebuyers’ attention. We’re even seeing bidding wars still happening, across the country.

If the home is in good condition and priced well, it will sell.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or concerns. We’re happy to help.