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So Many Offers... How Do I Get The Home I Love?

Whether you're in the market to buy a home or not, I'm sure you've heard many war stories told about the current housing market.  If you are a buyer in today's market, you may feel like you're in the Hunger Games due to the low volume of listings, multiple offers on homes, and negotiations that even I cringe at.

Well, I'm here to take you out of the Hunger Games and bring you back to the safe space of smart home purchasing. Here's what I've been seeing...

Buyer wants to buy, which is fantastic. I encourage anyone who is wanting to own a home to buy now. The mortgage rates continue to be lower than I've ever seen, which gives the buyer more buying power. However, with the low inventory mentioned above, it is difficult to find and secure a home you love.  You will need to see homes as soon as they hit the market, be ready to be decisive and put an offer in right away on a house you choose, know a multiple offer situation is a likelihood, and be ready to pay your own settlement costs.  You must also try not to get too attached to the home you want to purchase. Of course, I will do everything in my power to make sure you have a fighting chance for that home.  There will be many strategies we will use to put your best foot forward. 

I'm not going to give away my strategies here, of course.  But I will tell you a few that we all try to use.

1. Know the value of the home you're submitting an offer for. Before advising you to offer asking price or advising you on a certain amount over asking, I would do a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). This is how we know the property's value on the market for listings- it helps to do our own on a home you are wanting to purchase to make sure the asking price is truly reflective of it's value on the market at that time.  You will choose what you offer, but I'm there to advise you and take that seriously.

2. Know the seller's needs/expectations.  When you find "the one", I always call the listing agent to see if there are any other offers put in yet on the home.  I will ask them when the seller would want to settle on the home, if they are contingent on this sale to purchase another home, and ask if there is anything else I should know when writing your offer.  Showing you care about the seller side of the transaction is important.  It is not buyer vs seller in negotiations. It's team let's get this house sold and we'd like it sold to us.

3. Escrow deposit can be key.  Your escrow deposit is the good faith earnest money that will be held in a non-interest bearing account and will be put toward settlement costs later. It may all be used for your settlement costs, but if not you get the rest of the money back at settlement. Normally, I advise the buyer to put 1% of the purchase price in the escrow account.  With today's market, if you can, I'd recommend putting 2-3% of the purchase price into escrow.  There are a couple of ways that can be done. We would discuss those, if need be, at this time. More money in escrow would be seen by the seller as a more serious commitment to the purchase of their home.

These three are some of the basic strategies we use when making an offer.  There are many strategies I'm seeing buyers use that make me pause and wonder, though.

Here are a few things we would try to avoid, though it's your choice and I'm here for you whatever you decide.

1. Giving up inspections.  While I wouldn't go asking for every inspection under the sun, unless we see something that warrants all of them (not likely), I would advise you to get a home inspection.  Buying a home is one of the largest investments you will make in your life.  It's important you know it's a sound investment.  Many are giving up this right to an inspection to make their offer better than the others.  There are other ways we can make your offer stand out.  Anything you find after settlement is yours to deal with.  I'd rather you find out about any issues with the home through inspection instead of having a surprise you have to pay for after settlement.

2. Offering far more than the home is worth (on the market).  I've seen homes sell for $70,000 more than the list price. When a home is listed, it's usually listed at a fair market value.  Yes, the prices of homes are trending up right now. However, if you have to move in a couple years for some unknown reason I can almost promise you the price of your home will be far lower than what you are paying for it.  You will not have equity in the home for a very long time, which can set you back financially.  It's far better to go up in price to where you feel it will still appraise properly and end up having to look for a new home because another offer was chosen, than end up with a home that's not a financially sound investment. 

3. Giving up.  Don't give up!  This is where I sing a little Don't Stop Believing by Journey for my clients. Your new home is out there. You just have to have patience, trust me, and keep moving forward.  If you didn't get the house you just wanted, it's because the right one is waiting for you. We just have to find it... and we will.

So, here's the good, the bad, and the crazy.  When you are handed the keys to the home you have been working so hard for, all of this will seem like an adventure and will be totally worth it. 

No more Hunger Games for you- call me if you would like help finding your new home. I'm always here for you. I'm always ready to get you home.

Home Buying Process: The Nuts and Bolts of the Real Estate Transaction

You're pre-approved by a great mortgage lender and are ready to start the home buying process. You come to me and say, "I'm pre-approved for this amount of money, but I'd like to stay in this budget. Where do we start?"  While there are so many things that go into a real estate transaction, here are the basic important steps we'd follow.  Remember, it looks like a lot... but that's why you hired me!

1. Let's narrow down some choices of homes to see.  When you tell me what kind of home you are looking for think of these questions:
How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need?
How many would you really like?
How big is too big of a home?
Do you want a basement or a garage? Are you really into cooking and need that big, updated kitchen or are you good with a moderate kitchen?
Open floor plan or more cozy?
Anything you definitely do not want under any circumstances?
Anything you just can't live without?
What are your lifestyle habits- do you like being in a walkable area or more secluded, private area?  

Listings come to your email.  There are going to, hopefully, be a bunch of listings to look through.  They will be tailored to the specifics you mentioned in Step 1.  There, more than likely, won't be a home that checks every box, but the listings will be as close to what you're looking for as possible.  If we spend time going to every house, you may miss out on one you'd have really loved because homes are going under contract so quickly these days.  To avoid this, choose your top 5 favorite homes to see for our first round of showings.  Then, if none of those work, we will be able to reassess and keep going.  If you find a home you like, let's put an offer in on it!

3. You found a home - Offer time!  Congratulations! Let's get to work on the offer.  I'll do a comparative market analysis, or CMA, to give you the parameters where I believe the best offer value lies.  You choose your offer price.  Things you'll need to decide at this point will be: the amount to offer for the home, how much you'd like to put in as an escrow deposit, what your no later than settlement date should be, who will hold your escrow deposit in a non-interest bearing account, which inspections you would like to have for that property, the title company, and possibly a couple other miscellaneous items.  It's a lot, I know.  However, we will have gone over all of these things long before the offer stage and you will be able to make confident, educated decisions. Keep checking for new blog entries explaining all these things, as well.

4. Negotiations and/or contract acceptance.  If the seller comes back with a counter offer, I'll negotiate on your behalf - with your permission each step of the way.  Sometimes the offer is accepted right away and negotiations aren't needed.  You will be under contract, will full offer acceptance, once all parties sign and initial all places to show complete agreement on the offer documents. Once you're under contract, the real fun begins!

5. Inspections, appraisals, and repairs (if needed).  Oh, my. This is the part where I see the most anxiety pop up for my clients.  I'll tell you now- it will be ok. We will have a certain timeline for each item, as dictated in the contract.  Inspections must be done and repairs requested by the inspection deadline. I will do my best to be at your home inspection. When the inspection report comes in, we will each read it separately, take notes, and then go over the whole thing together.  You'll let me know if you'd like any repairs done to the home and we will request the repairs to be done by the seller.  The seller will then decide what they will/will not do and send it back through their agent to us.  You'll decide if that works for you, and we'll move on if it does.  Appraisals are ordered by the lending bank. It's what tells them the house is worth what you're asking and allows them to lend you the money for the home.  You'll receive a copy of the appraisal and we will move forward, depending on what it says.  Of course, your lender and I will give you more information on appraisals. If repairs are needed, due to property inspection or lending requirements, they must be completed by the seller before walk through and we will make sure you are provided with invoices for all the work.

6. Lending processes continue.  From before the start of our home buying process, your mortgage lender will be asking you for documents. It is greatly important that whatever the lender asks for be given to them promptly. You can't buy the house, on time or at all, unless lending has all they need to support your home purchase.  Usually by this point, possibly a bit earlier, you've entered the underwriting phase of your loan.  Underwriting sounds scary.  This is just when the lending team verifies all the information you've given them: your income, your employment, your debts, the house specifics, and more.  Do not buy a car, do not open a credit card, do not buy your furniture, do not make any large purchases, or any kinds of credit cards- not even that store card that will save you 30% on your purchase. Wait till after settlement. Any of those things may jeopardize your ability to purchase a home. You don't want any extra credit checks or a change to your debt to income ratio. If there are any questions of if you should or shouldn't do something, just reach out to either myself or your lender.  

7. Walk through.  You've made it through all of the transaction milestones mentioned above, and some others, and now it's the night before or day of settlement.  You must do a walk through of the home and property you are purchasing.  We want to make sure nothing has happened to the house the seller needs to take care of before you sign for the home.  This is when we check on the repairs the seller had made, make sure the home is in the condition (or better) it was in when you signed the contract of sale, and and make sure the property is ready for settlement.  If anything is found, I'd talk to the listing agent and see what needs to be done before we actually go to settlement. If all is good, you can sleep well knowing settlement will happen on time and the home you wanted is good to go.

8. Settlement.  This is it! This is what you've been waiting and working so hard for. Settlement is when you sign all the documents and go over all the particulars of the transaction with the title company/real estate attorney, your real estate agent, and sometimes your lender. You will get the keys to the house and will then own your new home. Don't forget to go into the house soon after to take physical possession of the home.

As you can see, there are many steps to buying a home. I'm here to guide you through the entire process and do everything I can to take most of the stress and worry off your shoulders.  I'm grateful to be your trusted real estate advisor and look forward to helping you achieve your goal of home ownership! Let's get you home!

Loaded Question: How's the market?

With Covid still looming over us, life is still in an odd holding pattern.  That is, for everything except real estate.

The real estate market is crazy right now.  Everywhere I go, I get the loaded question asking how the market is.  While the simple answers of "great!" and "on fire!" are popping out of every real estate agent's mouth as quickly as possible, there's a bit more to the market than a blaze of awesomeness.  Let's go a little more in depth.

We are now a week into September. Usually by now we would have seen a couple of lulls in the market where the buying frenzy would slow a bit and sellers could catch their breath.  Selling inventory would pick up a bit and then we'd start the next wave of buyers coming out and purchasing more again. So far, from what I've seen, we've yet to hit that lull. Spring market lasted well into summer and now the summer market doesn't show signs of stopping... no matter how many pumpkin treats we've eaten already.  Interest rates went even lower, which means many are refinancing their homes as well.  This is a great time for a buyer with those rates going down- I just had a buyer lock in a 2.75 interest rate on their first home purchase ever.  They are psyched. Side note: Buyers, if you are looking to buy right now make sure your agent knows how to negotiate. You'll see why coming up.

While all of those things are amazing for the buyers, the real heroes of the current market are the sellers.  This is definitely still a seller's market.  No matter how much we say it, it still rings true: We need sellers.  We need new listings.  These homes on the market, especially those that would qualify for USDA and FHA loans, are not lasting long before going under contract. Most of the time there are multiple offers on one property after only a few days on the market.  This leads to great negotiations for the sellers, upping their offer prices above the listed price.  Just make sure you don't accept too high of an offer. We want your home to get through appraisal well, unless you have an appraisal contingency waiver stating the buyers will make up the difference of the loan amount with cash.  Here is a chart from the Bright MLS system showing how many days on market (DOM) residential homes in Southern Maryland are accumulating before going under contract.

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This chart shows all of 2020 so far. Southern Maryland has seen 70% of its homes go under contract with less than 45 days on market. This chart shows that, of those under 45 days on market, in most price ranges the homes are not lasting more than two weeks on the market before being taken by some lucky buyers.  In many circumstances, it takes so long to go off the market because the seller is still trying to choose which offer they would like to accept.  Sellers, this means your home will more than likely go very quickly.  Be ready for enough showings to make you rethink your decision- but know it will be worth it.  Buyers, this means you need to view homes and put an offer in quickly.  You also need to realize that you'll probably be up against other buyers for the same home.  The one you get is the one you were meant to have- don't be disheartened.  However, make sure you are putting in a competitive and well thought out offer. Both sellers and buyers need to make sure you hire an agent with pricing and negotiation experience.

In a nutshell, the market is great and, figuratively, on fire.  Now you have a little more insight as to what we see on our end of the transaction.  If you're looking to sell or buy a home, or just need real estate advice, I'm always here for you when you need me.  Let's get you home!


Home Showings During Covid-19: We are still here for you.

I hope this blog finds you healthy and happy. 

While the world has seemed to stop, real estate keeps moving onward with virtual showings, digital documentation, and settlements with safety always top of mind.  We are taking new listings in our brokerage every day and marketing those listings, and other listings, to our buyers.  Luckily, in Maryland real estate agents are still essential workers since people need homes.  And this brings us to today's topic... How do we do home showings during the Covid-19 pandemic so our clients can keep their home buying process moving, while still remaining safe and following the stay home guidelines? 

1. Real estate professionals are essential, yet buyers going to showings in person is not seen as essential for the time being.  While I will not be ticketed for going to homes and viewing them, the buyer may.  For this reason, and to keep more people at home safe, we are conducting virtual showings.  My current buyers are taking virtual tours with me through zoom, facebook video chat, skype, google hangouts meets, and other platforms. If you have a platform you are comfortable with, I will learn it to provide these video tours for you.

2. How is the showing done? I will walk you through the homes you wish to see during live video. Make sure you ask questions! Want to see that carpet closer or the bathroom faucets better? Let me know and we'll do it. It's important to use all you senses when viewing your potential home.  I'll be that for you- tell you how things look in person, how the home smells (no bad odors for you!), if the floors feel level and secure, and if I hear any noises that you say you'd find unappealing.  

3. Did you see a home you love? Fantastic! We can still write offers on homes through digital documents. It is nerve wracking to put an offer in on a home you haven't been to in person.  Being a military wife, I've done this several times and it really never gets easier.  Having a trusted real estate adviser can help ease the worries and take pressure from your shoulders.  We can put a Covid contingency into the offer asking for the ability for you to see the home before purchasing it fully, making sure the escrow deposit comes back to you if the home is not what you expected.  We have a special Covid 19 addendum now that helps us navigate the home buying and selling process should issues arise.

From there on, everything is mostly as usual and I can talk you through the offer writing process.  

As you can see, reaching your home purchasing goals is still feasible. While many other things in our lives are put on hold, make sure you reach out and we don't miss the home you've been waiting for.  We've got this- I've got you. Let's get you home.

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