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.
Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic, many of us now find ourselves working from home. While it’s hard to complain about the commute, working from home can be an adjustment. For example, you may find yourself doing tasks around the house and suddenly you’ve missed several important emails. If you feel like you need some help being more productive while working from home, here are five tips to improve your workflow.
The best kind of light is natural light. Try setting up your workspace by a window. If that’s not possible, add a desk lamp or floor lamp to brighten your space. Not only will it help with visibility; it brightens your mood, which helps you to be more productive.
Remove distracting clutter. Take everything off your desk that you don’t need. Store it elsewhere or use shelves on your wall to display it.
If you find yourself cleaning throughout the day, set aside time specifically for these tasks. If you’re still waking up at the same time you did when working at the office—which studies show is a great strategy when working from home—using your would-be commute time to tidy up helps avoid those periodic distractions.
Bring the Outdoors In
Bringing plants into your home is beneficial for productivity and health alike. Greenery is a natural mood booster and gives life to a room. Plants naturally purify the air, helping you breathe easy as you make your way through the workday. Try arranging both hanging and potted plants to improve the mood around your workspace.
Change Your Chair
A chair that’s too tall, too short, or not comfortable is a fast track to back and shoulder problems that inhibit your workday and linger afterwards. Being in a stationary position for hours at a time requires the right kind of support to stay productive. Features to look for in a quality office chair include proper lumbar support, sturdy wheels, and an adjustable base that allows your shoulders to relax and your feet to rest flat on the floor.
It’s important to keep your home office professional and dedicated to your work. However, adding personal touches to the space will help you feel at ease. Position your work computer and phone front and center with any related work tools close by and handy. Adding pictures of loved ones, artwork, and inspirational quotes will help inspire you to generate ideas while working productively.
Staying organized while uprooting your life and moving from one home to another can feel impossible. Not only are you trying to get the best financial return on your investment, but you might also be working on a tight deadline. There’s also the pressure to keep your home clean and organized at all times for prospective buyers. However, one thing you can be sure of when selling your home is that there will be strangers entering your space, so it’s important for you and your agent to take certain safety precautions. Like so many things in life, they can feel more manageable once written down, so we made this handy checklist.
- Go through your medicine cabinets and remove all prescription medications.
- Remove or lock up precious belongings and personal information. You will want to store your jewelry, family heirlooms, and personal/financial information in a secure location to keep them from getting misplaced or stolen.
- Remove family photos. We recommend removing your family photos during the staging process so potential buyers can see themselves living in the home. It’s also a good way to protect your privacy.
- Check your windows and doors for secure closings before and after showings. If someone is looking to get back into your home following a showing or an open house, they will look for weak locks or they might unlock a window or door.
- Consider extra security measures such as an alarm system or other monitoring tools like cameras.
- Don’t show your own home! If someone you don’t know walks up to your home asking for a showing, don’t let them in. You want to have an agent present to show your home at all times. Agents should have screening precautions to keep you and them safe from potential danger.
Talk to your agent about the following safety precautions:
- Do a walk-through with your agent to make sure you have identified everything that needs to be removed or secured, such as medications, belongings, and photos.
- Go over your agent’s screening process:
- Phone screening prior to showing the home
- Process for identifying and qualifying buyers for showings
- Their personal safety during showings and open houses
- Lockboxes to secure your keys for showings should be up to date. Electronic lockboxes actually track who has had access to your home.
- Work with your agent on an open house checklist:
- Do they collect contact information of everyone entering the home?
- Do they work with a partner to ensure their personal safety?
- Go through your home’s entrances and exits and share important household information so your agent can advise how to secure your property while it’s on the market.
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.
It is a seemingly simple question. However, discovering the worth of your home is more complicated than it might seem. Sites like Zillow, Redfin, Eppraisal, and others have built-in home valuation tools that make it seem easy, but how accurate are they? And if you get three different answers, which one do you believe? Online valuation tools have become a pivotal part of the home buying and selling process, but they’ve proven to be highly unreliable in certain instances. What these valuation tools have made clear is that real estate agents are as vital to the process of pricing a home as they ever were—and maybe even more so now.
Every online valuation tool has its limitations. Most are readily acknowledged by their providers, such as “Zestimate” from Zillow, which clearly states that it offers a median error rate of 4.5%. That may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind that 4.5% amounts to a difference of about $31,500 for a $700,000 home. For Redfin and Trulia, there are similar variances. When you dig deeper into these valuation tools, it’s no wonder that there are discrepancies. They rely on a range of different sources for information, some more reliable than others.
Redfin’s tool pulls information directly from multiple listing services (MLSs) across the country. Others negotiate limited data-sharing deals with those same services, relying on public and homeowners’ records alike. This can lead to gaps in coverage. These tools can serve as helpful pieces of the puzzle when buying or selling a home, but the acknowledged error rate is a reminder of how dangerous a heavy reliance on them can be.
Nothing compares to the level of detail and knowledge a professional real estate agent offers when pricing a home. An algorithm can’t possibly know about the unique characteristics of neither a home nor its neighborhood. Curious about what improvements you can make to get top dollar or how buyer behaviors are shaping the market? They cannot provide an answer there, either. That can only be delivered by a trusted professional whose number one priority is getting you the best price in a time frame that meets your needs.
If you’re curious about your home’s value, Windermere offers a tool that provides a series of evaluations on your property and the surrounding market. And once you’re ready, we’re happy to connect you with a Windermere agent who can clarify this information and perform a Comparative Market Analysis to get an even more accurate estimate of what your home could fetch in today’s market.