REAL ESTATE STATS AND THE NEED FOR HOMES

Unless you pay zero attention to the news and never talk to anyone, you are probably aware that we are in a housing shortage. The buyers are many and the options are few. How big of a problem is it? Let me share a few statistics. Last month we had almost 53% fewer active listings than one year ago! Yet, we sold more homes than a year ago – almost 10% more. If that sounds like a buying frenzy, you are right!

How does this affect you? Well, if you are a buyer or potential buyer, you need to realize that it will be some work to find the right home and craft the right offer. You also need to be prepared for rejection. You will submit offers on homes…good offers…and they will get rejected. This is a fact of life right now. Your best weapons are: a good loan officer, be in a good place mentally, and have an excellent Realtor (like me!) who can help you navigate the process.

If you are thinking about selling your home, stop thinking and do it! Median prices are up on every single type of home except townhomes with 4 or more bedrooms (and that is only about a 3% drop in price). The number of days on market are down! In other words, you can sell for more money and in less time. Concerned about moving to another home? You can ask for settlement to be months from now or rent back the house or make the sale contingent on you finding a home or a little of all three! The best thing to remember is: Rates are lower than they have ever been and prices are higher. The proceeds from your sale will give you more options than ever before.

Even after these statistics are you are still questioning if this is the time to sell? Or concerned that your house is not “ready”? Email me and let’s talk about it. I will do the research and show you all the sales statistics on your specific neighborhood and we can discuss it. The old saying is true: Information Is Power.

Pandemic Wishes

I am interested in how the pandemic has changed your priorities and your dreams. Every other day I see articles about how our current circumstances have made people question their lives: urban dwellers want to move to the suburbs to get away from people, suburbanites want to move to the cities because everything is within walking distance, people want larger larger homes with larger yards to spread out, people want smaller homes because they want less “stuff” in their lives – it goes on and on. 

What about you?

Are you and your better half on top of one another trying to work from home? Did you discover a couple of tricks to help you repurpose space for your kids to do their school work? (If so, I hope that you will share them in the comments!)  Have you never been much of a traveler but now you can’t stop dreaming of visiting someplace exotic or maybe even Idaho? 🙂 

Have you thought about how you will achieve these changes you want to see in your life?

Your home, whether you own now or are dreaming of a future home, is the biggest investment you will make. Are you using your current home to make your life easier? Or did it become a burden during the pandemic? Are you wishing you had more space? More yard? Or, just wish you could stop renting and finally have a place to call your own?

As an “essential” employee (Realtors are considered essential as moving is sometimes a choice thrust upon you), I haven’t stopped working during the pandemic. In fact, I have been busier than ever because there is a major housing shortage!  Rent? Buy? Either way, there are just too few homes. Expensive home? Cheap home? Doesn’t matter! Too few homes.

Why am I telling you this?

It is still a great time to buy as the rates are LOW! Just be prepared that it may take a bit more time to find your perfect place.  And, if you are thinking about selling, there has never been a better time. You won’t need to worry about people trudging through your home for weeks on end because, if it is priced right, it will be sold quick! 

Take just a moment and think about how the change of selling or buying a home can ease some of the issues you have had during the last four months and then call me. Let’s get a plan in place to help you live the life you want. 

REAL ESTATE STATS FOR HARFORD COUNTY AND ABINGDON

I took a look at the Real Estate statistics comparing May, 2020 to May, 2019. The stats were for Harford County as a whole and then I specifically broke out the Abingdon zip code. 

First, let’s look at the county as a whole. There is lots of good news! The median sales price was up as was the ratio of the average sold price to original listing price AND the average days on market were down.  In plain english, homes are selling faster and for more money!  Now, fewer homes were sold this year but that is most likely due to the fact that we had over 46% fewer active listings. If your friends are telling you they can’t find anything to buy, it’s true!

Abingdon didn’t fare quite as well as the county as a whole, but the news certainly isn’t bad. Although the median sales price is slightly down (less than 1% difference), the average sold price to original list price ratio improved! Prices for all types of properties were up slightly with the exceptions of  3-bedroom detached homes and townhomes with 4 or more bedrooms. Condos saw the biggest drop in sales price but even that was down less than 15% from a year ago. 

What is your take away from all these numbers?  People are looking for and buying homes!  The pandemic hasn’t kept people from buying.  If you have ever considered selling your home, NOW IS THE TIME!  Call or Email me today and let’s talk about your neighborhood and how we can get the most out of your house. 

IS IT REALLY JUST ABOUT YOUR CREDIT SCORE?

I have been speaking with a lot of people lately about credit scores. Many say they are “working” to raise that all-important number. Some have gone so far to enlist the help of a credit repair agency. But, just how important is this number when it comes to the real estate process?  Is it really just about your credit score?

Linda wants to buy a house. As a matter of fact, Linda told me she already knows what kind of home she wants.  She also knows that her credit score needs to improve before she can even start looking for her dream home (and she is right).  While it is great to have a goal and begin working toward it, Linda has missed the bigger question:  Will she be able to afford the home she wants?  She thinks she can, but Linda hasn’t spoken to a mortgage professional. She thinks it’s all about the credit score.

Many people don’t realize that your score only determines if you are credit eligible. What determines the payment you can afford is a little thing called the debt-to-income ratio. This number is the total of all the monthly payments on your debts (minimum payment on credit cards, student loans, car loans, etc.) divided by your gross monthly income. An experienced mortgage professional can determine this number and will calculate the highest mortgage payment you can afford and keep your debt-to-income ratio affordable. Now notice, that nowhere in that last sentence did I say they ask you what you feel you can afford. They tell you what you can afford.

How does this relate to Linda with her very definite ideas of the home she thinks she can afford? Well, the credit repair agency will tell her the quickest way to raise her scores. However, a mortgage professional can tell Linda not only the optimal credit score she needs but also what she needs to pay off to get her to the necessary debt-to-income ratio gets her into her dream home.  This whole process may take a longer time but I have seen people get demoralized when they put in all the hard work to raise their credit score, only to be disappointed that they still can’t afford the home they want.

Now that you know it’s NOT all about the credit score, please let me know if you need the name of a mortgage professional so you can get on the right track. Please email me and I will send you names and contact information. Make a plan to reach your dreams!

HARFORD COUNTY REAL ESTATE STATS APRIL 2020

In comparing the Real Estate statistics from April, 2020 to the same time last year, you can clearly see the average median sold price was 16% higher.  That is wonderful. However, the question is: How much does the low inventory of homes for sale play into the sharp increase? 

Last month, we had more closings than a year ago. However, the 340 new listings that hit the market last month was a 40% drop from a year ago!  If you feel like homes are disappearing quickly, you are right! The average time a home stays on the market before a contract is 34 days – less than a year ago.  If a house is priced right and looks good, it will sell faster.  Just last week, I spoke with an agent who received multiple offers on a Harford County townhome that was on the market for just 3 days. 

It will be very interesting to see what happens this month.

The flip side of this coin is that, according to a survey of potential home sellers (not Maryland specific), 77% said they were waiting until the quarantine order is lifted to sell their home.  How many of those really will be listing? And, if they do, will they all list at the same time? If so, the inventory could definitely swing toward the benefit of buyers – too many homes available would cause prices to fall – how much of a drop would be anyone’s guess. 

In all cases, information is key.  You need to know what situation you may be facing to help you make a plan.  If you want to know what your home is worth, reach out by email or give me a call.  I will prepare a market report for your property and help you plan for the future.

TEACHING PERSONAL FINANCE TO YOUR CHILDREN

I just read a very interesting article from Kiplinger’s (May 8, 2020) about the personal finance lessons that can be found in “Animal Crossing: New Horizon” for the Switch. It got me wondering about how many parents really learn about the games their children are playing and how to use them to teach their children? Here are some examples:

Animal Crossing: New Horizon teaches about budgeting, buying and selling, using coupons, value of work, friendship

Minecraft: They craft with items that are found in the real world – diamonds, iron, wood, quartz, cobblestone, and more. There are also times you can trade with the villagers to get obtain other items.  Patience is taught as you can dig for long periods without finding anything.

Life: The board game teaches children all about choices. At the very beginning you are asked to choose a career path – college or not. You need to decide about purchasing life, auto, and fire insurance, and whether you will invest in stock or not.

Monopoly: You may think it’s obvious, and the buying and selling part is. However, you also need to watch (budget) your money, decide how to make your property more valuable (is spending $200 for one house on Boardwalk better than buying 2, 3, or 4 homes on other monopolies?), what does mortgaging a property really mean? Do they understand the difference between “renting” and “owning”?

Payday: Your child will learn why you aren’t as excited getting mail as they are since you can get bills in this game (as well as postcards and advertisements). They also learn to budget, the cost and benefits of interest as they take out loans and start savings accounts, the benefits of health and auto insurance, and how to decide if a deal is really a good buy or not.

I’m sure there are others, but these are the first ones I thought of. Check them out.

All of these games present you opportunities to talk about life, discuss why you made some of the choices you made, etc. The important thing is that it isn’t a lecture or a time to “sit and learn this.” It’s fun and the educational part is just slipped in. You may even find that after playing these games, they have a better understanding of WHY you say things like “We don’t have the money for that right now.” If they don’t, you can point them back to the game. “It’s like you didn’t have enough bells in Animal Crossing to get that fishing pole when you first wanted it. It took you time to save the money up to buy it.”

So while we wait for the state to open, pick up one of these games and start a family game night. Trust me, your children will love it – especially if you show interest in their video games!

Send me an email and let me know your ideas on teaching personal finance to your children. Feel free to ask any Real Estate related questions or let me know if you want a valuation done of your home!

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels, Monopoly copyright by Hasbro, Inc.

A SURVEY OF HOMEOWNERS SAYS….

How are you surviving the quarantine? Have you been working on improving your current home? If so, you are like almost a third of those in a new study who have started a home improvement or “small around the home projects.” Another 15% are still planning on starting a project. But I’ll wager, the one thing many, if not most, are doing as well is dreaming about their next home.

Realtor.com and Toluna surveyed 1300 homeowners about their feelings regarding their current and future homes. Not surprisingly in this time of working from home, homeschooling, and the need to just get out of the house for an hour, 19% wished they had more living space in their current home.  Another 9% wanted their own yard or patio.  Among the responses to what they LIKED about their current home, 13% said their quiet neighborhood and another 13% said the outdoor space.

When these same homeowners were asked what they wanted in their next home, only 11% said they were happy with their current house. But for the almost 90% who ARE dreaming of their next home, the top 2 “must haves” were (surprise, surprise – NOT) more living space and outdoor space. Those were followed closely by wanting an updated kitchen and better Wi-Fi.

Are you dreaming of your next house? Or are you among those 11% who are happy right where you are? Email me and let me know!

CHECK YOUR CREDIT REPORT

The main credit reporting services – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – have all announced that they are now allowing you to check your credit reports for FREE on a weekly basis for the next year – instead of their one free check per year program. The main reason for this change is the number of people who have requested mortgage deferments and forbearances, which should not show as “late” or negatively impact your credit report in any way. However, we all know that mistakes can happen and by checking your credit report weekly, or even just monthly, will allow you to catch any mis-reported item sooner.

It also occurs to me that many of us are doing more financial transactions (or just browsing lots of websites) on our home computers.  These home computers may not be the most secure and criminals are well aware of that fact. Keeping a watchful eye on your credit report helps make sure you aren’t taken advantage of while we continue to stay at home.

You can access your, now weekly, free credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com.

As always, feel free to email any questions you may have!

Mortgage Assistance During COVID-19

I recently shared an article on my Facebook page about the difference in mortgage forbearance and mortgage deferment. So many people are hurting financially right now. Many are very scared since we don’t know how long the quarantine will last. It is so important that I wanted to be sure everybody understands what each means. The last thing anyone needs is to make the wrong decision and face further uncertainty and stress.

Mortgage deferment is the preferable choice if you can get it. The bank allows you to skip your mortgage payment for a set number of days, usually without incurring any late fees or having any negative marks placed on your credit. Any missed payments are tacked on to the end of the repayment period. If you have 60 months left to pay and are given a deferment for 90 days, your repayment period will end in 63 months. YOU MUST VERIFY THESE TERMS.

Mortgage forbearance sounds very similar. The bank allows you to skip your mortgage payment for a set number of days, usually with no late fees or negative marks on your credit report. However, at the end of the term you must make all payments in one lump sum. If you have a mortgage payment of $1,000 per month and are allowed a forbearance of 90 days, you would owe a lump sum of $3,000 at the end of the 90 days. If someone is not aware of the terms, they could easily find themselves out of the frying pan and into the fire. ALWAYS READ THE FINE PRINT!

I hope you are keeping well and sane during this time.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to email me.

HARFORD COUNTY’S REAL ESTATE SNAPSHOT FOR MARCH, 2020

During this pandemic, it may seem a little odd to be looking at the Real Estate market stats. However, eventually this will be over and things will return to “normal” (whatever that means). When that happens a lot of people will be analyzing the current state of our economy. They will wonder what impact it had on their investments – and for most of us, our home is our biggest investment. Therefore, it’s a good idea to know what is happening now – not waiting until it’s “over.”

Comparing March, 2020, to March 2019, the stats tell us that although fewer homes were sold, those that did sell, sold for almost 5% more than a year ago. Almost every category of home (detached, attached, condo) sold for more this year than last.  The sole exception being townhomes with 4 or more bedrooms. Those took a small dip (less than $1,000) in their sales price. The type of home with the biggest leap? Detached homes with 2 or fewer bedrooms. They jumped 29.6% in price.

Keep in mind that these are the averages for the entire county. If you want detailed information about your neighborhood, or have other Real Estate questions, shoot me an email!

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