Thanks to COVID-19, the new reality is that many open houses and home tours are being conducted virtually. For prospective home buyers, this new territory brings an added element to prepare for in the home buying process. Some of the questions that should be asked in a virtual home tour parallel those of in-person tours, but others are unique to today’s virtual world.
Could you zoom in?
- Sometimes it can be difficult to get a true glimpse at what you want to see in a room. Asking the agent to zoom in on specific features is commonplace in virtual home tours, and they understand this is part of the viewer experience. Don’t hesitate to ask multiple times. Getting a better look at everything you want to see will help you feel like you’ve gotten the most out of your virtual tour.
How many square feet are in this room?
- Virtual tours can slightly distort space, making it tough to gauge the size. The room-to-room square footage is information the agent is sure to have handy. Since you can’t be there in person, it will help you piece together the virtual visuals with the sense of physical space that we’re all accustomed to feeling in the places we live.
What color is that?
- In the smartphone era, and computer era at large, we have come to understand that digital representations of color are not always true to the eye. Ask the agent to confirm specific colors so you can plan accordingly. Have a color swatch on hand or look the colors up online as you go through the tour.
When were the appliances last updated?
- The importance of this question rings true in past, present, and future. Knowing the state of the home’s appliances, and the likelihood and timing of when they will need replacement, is vital information for both assessing the move-in readiness of the home and understanding what costs might lie ahead.
Has the seller provided an inspection?
- This is another example of a critical question, whether your home tour is virtual or physical. If the seller has already done an inspection, ask the agent to lead you to any areas of concern based on the inspector’s findings. If there is anything that has not yet been addressed by the seller, have your agent ask what their plan is for making the necessary repairs/updates.
When is the offer review date?
- Understanding the seller’s timeline for reviewing and accepting offers will help guide your decision-making process and allow you to strategize based on the timeline.
Whether your home tour is physical or virtual, getting the information you need to make an informed decision remains paramount. Although there is no substitute for physically being in the home you are looking to buy, keeping these questions in mind will position you well as you progress through the home buying journey.
Here’s something true about today’s market. Properties are selling fast.
Compared to one year ago, the number of days it takes for a property to sell is significantly lower.
The industry term is “Days on Market” or DOM.
DOM is way down.
Here is the comparison of May 2020 versus May 2019:
- Metro Denver down 22%
- Larimer County down 19%
- Weld County down 16%
Initially, this may seem counter-intuitive. How could homes be selling faster in today’s environment?
Here’s the deal. The buyers and sellers who are active in today’s market are serious.
There really aren’t ‘tire-kicker’ buyers out looking at properties just for the fun of it.
There really aren’t sellers testing the market to ‘see what they can get.’
For the most part, buyers and sellers are on a specific mission and this mindset is showing up in the numbers.
For sellers especially, this is no time to test the market and be overly aggressive on price.
Properties that are priced right and in good condition are selling and often selling fast.
Money is on sale (again).
30-year mortgage rates now sit at 3.3%.
This is less than half of the long-term, 40-year average.
This is also almost a full percentage point lower than they were one year ago (which was still very low).
Let’s put this in real numbers.
A $300,000 loan at today’s rates has a $1,313 monthly principal and interest payment.
One year ago, that same loan would be $1,432 per month.
That’s a 8.3% difference in monthly payment.
The fact that money is on sale is one of many reasons that the housing market remains very strong right now.
Job growth is critical to the health of the housing market, so on this week’s episode of “Mondays with Matthew,” Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner analyzes the effect of COVID-19 on employment and what we can expect for the duration of the year.
We notice a very interesting dynamic in the market right now.
There was clearly a pent-up real estate demand created during the recent time when in-person showings were not allowed. The numbers back it up.
First, a little background. During a portion of “Shelter in Place,” all in-person viewing of properties ceased. Instead, buyers spent time online viewing virtual tours and 3-D photography.
Even though clients could view homes virtually, purchase activity did slow down.
Today, showings are allowed again as long as clear protocols are followed. We’ve implemented a Safe Showings program to keep our clients protected.
Now, to the numbers.
Through the first two weeks of May 2020, the number of closed properties is down compared to the same time period in 2019.
In most cases these closed properties are a result of purchase agreements that were written in April- a time when in-person showings were restricted.
So, a decrease in closings was expected.
However, the number of new written contracts so far this month is up considerably compared to the same time frame last year.
- Metro Denver closed properties down 47%
- Metro Denver new contracts up 6%
- Northern Colorado closed properties down 41%
- Northern Colorado new contracts up 19%
So, buyer activity is up compared to last year, even in our current environment.
This speaks to the resiliency of our market and the effect of low interest rates.
So far the tailwind of historically-low mortgage rates are prevailing over Wall Street and COVID-19 concerns.
Buyers are still active. Properties are still closing. Moving trucks are still showing up at people’s homes.
Open house traffic has declined, but we notice plenty of buyers looking for property. (one of our open houses last weekend had over 40 visitors)
For many, the interest rates are just too good to pass up.
We even see instances of multiple-offer situations for properties priced right in high-demand locations.
Rates today, compared to 4%, equate to not only a monthly savings for those refinancing but also equates to tens of thousands in additional purchase power.
For the average price of a home on the Front Range, the savings is $171 per month and the increased purchase power is $35,811.
Here’s what we expect to happen over the coming months. Listing inventory and transaction volume will both decline. We will no doubt see lower activity compared to a year ago.
But thoughts of the market “coming to a screeching halt” can’t be validated because of the historical performance of our market and because of the inherent fundamentals in place.
We will continue to track the numbers and communicate the facts so that you remain well-informed.
Sleek, sustainable design, open concept floor plans, minimalism, and eco-conscious thinking are defining characteristics of modern architecture. Recently, modern design concepts in home building have become more popular, and the resurgence of interest in modern real estate has followed suit.
These characteristics are what define Contemporary Architecture:
Clean geometric lines: At the heart of modernist values lies the simplification of form. Modernist homes have a very ‘linear’ feel with straight lines and exposed building materials. Furnishings and adornment reflect this value, incorporating vibrant, geometric and abstract designs.
Smaller, multifunctional spaces: With the Tiny House subculture consistently on the rise, and the new generation of homeowners expressing a desire to move away from the sprawling dwellings of the past, multifunctional living spaces are a must for modern homes. Built-in storage is commonly used to reflect this multi-purpose; space-saving feel.
Eco-conscious: Modern homes are well–suited for technological and green upgrades, as well as eco-friendly building materials and energy-efficient practices, and flat roofs to accommodate solar power. A new trend is to bring nature into each room for a calming, soothing effect. Large windows are abundant in modern architecture, allowing light to fill and expand the interior space, bringing the natural world indoors.
Post-and-beam structure: Exposed wood posts and ceiling beams are classic elements in modern architecture. This style of building has been around for thousands of years; however, modern homes significantly emphasize the structure, rather than hiding the bones behind drywall. In new modern homes, the post-and-beam structure can be made of concrete, iron or other materials. The visible horizontal and vertical beams reinforce the clean geometric lines of the space.
Open concept: Modern design strives to “open” the space by eliminating enclosed rooms. A common tactic is to open the kitchen and dining room into an open living space, allowing the spaces to flow into one another.
Minimalism: With open and connected modernist spaces, careful curation of furniture, adornments, and household objects is paramount to incorporating the modernist aesthetic. Generally, modernist homes have art and furniture that reflects the clean geometric lines and the natural materials of the architecture, leaving less space for clutter. Minimalist philosophies encourage few household items that serve both form and function, which work well within this design and architectural style.
As the situation develops with the COVID-19 pandemic, Windermere Real Estate is dedicated to taking steps to reduce the spread of the virus while continuing to work with home buyers. To help with this process, here are some ways you as a home buyer can keep yourself and others safe during the buying process.
WHEN TOURING HOMES
❱ Only tour the property if you feel healthy.
❱ Ask your Windermere agent to show you the property instead of attending an open house.
❱ Drive separately from your agent to the property.
❱ Be considerate of the seller’s home and wash or sanitize your hands before entry, touching as little as necessary. While many sellers will likely provide it, bring your own hand sanitizer and use before and after you tour the home. You might also consider wearing disposable gloves for further safety.
❱ Ask your agent to confirm with the seller’s agent that they have not recently been sick or in contact with someone suspected of having COVID-19.
❱ Sellers often ask you to take off your shoes when you tour their home or wear protective booties that have been provided. Consider bringing your own booties and throwing them away when you’ve finished touring.
❱ Be mindful of how much you touch things in the home and minimize contact with doors and hand railings.
❱ Reduce the amount of time spent with other people in the same room. This “social distancing” practice can curb person-to-person spread.
DO NOT TOUR HOMES IF
❱ If you are currently self-quarantined because of illness or other reasons, you should not tour homes in person. Ask your Windermere agent to video chat with you while they tour the home so you can see it virtually.
❱ Do not view homes when you’re sick, feeling like you’re about to be sick, or getting over an illness.
❱ We do not recommend touring homes after returning from international travel or travel that exposed you to a large group of people in close quarters, like large events.
Every so often we will hear a concern that another housing bubble is forming.
To help answer that question it’s valuable to look at the reasons that caused the last one.
There were three main drivers of the bubble that burst in 2008:
- Easy Credit – loans were very easy to attain
- Over-Leverage – people were using their homes at ATM’s
- Over-Supply – too many new homes were being built
Now, let’s compare that to today:
- Stricter Credit – the average home buyer today has a FICO score of 755
- High Equity – collectively, U.S. homeowners have $19 Trillion of equity in their homes and collective mortgage debt has not increased for 13 years
- Under-Supply – today we are building only two-thirds of the new homes being built in 2004 yet the population is much higher
Given this healthy information, we don’t see another housing bubble forming today.
If you would like to see a video recap of our annual Market Forecast you can watch that HERE.