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Everything You Need to Know About iBuyers and the “Instant Cash Offer”

Everything You Need to Know About iBuyers and the “Instant Cash Offer”

Technology is changing the way we do almost everything, and real estate transactions are no exception. In fact, a new crop of tech companies wants to revolutionize the way we buy and sell homes. iBuyer startups like Opendoor, Offerpad, and Properly are rapidly expanding into new territories, and now established players, like Zillow, are starting to get in on the action. Also known as Direct Buyers, these companies use computer algorithms to provide sellers with a quick cash offer to buy their home. While the actual market share of iBuyers remains small, their big advertising budgets have helped create a noticeable buzz in the industry. This has left many of our clients curious about them and how they work. In this article, we explain their business model, weigh the pros and cons of working with an iBuyer, and share strategies you can use to protect yourself if you choose to explore this new option to buy or sell your home. FIRST, HOW DOES THE iBUYER PROCESS WORK? While each company operates a little differently, the basic premise is the same. A seller (or seller’s agent) completes a brief online form that asks questions about the size, features, and condition of the property. Some also request digital photos of the home. The iBuyer will use this information to determine whether or not the home fits within their “buy box,” or set of criteria that matches their investment model. They are generally looking for houses they can easily value and “flip.” In most cases, their ideal property is a moderately priced, single-family home located in a neighborhood with many similar houses. The property shouldn’t require any major renovations before listing.1 These qualities make it easier to assess value (lots of comparable sales data) and help to reduce risk and minimize carrying costs. Once the iBuyer has used their algorithm to determine the amount they are willing to pay, they will email an offer to the seller, usually within a few days. The offer should also disclose the company’s service fee, which is typically between 7% and 12% of the purchase price.2 If the seller accepts, an in-person visit and inspection are scheduled. The iBuyer will ask for a reduction in price to cover any defects they find during the process. Once the sale closes, they will make the necessary updates and repairs and then resell the home on the open market. WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF SELLING TO AN iBUYER? Of course, the biggest benefit of selling your home to an iBuyer is convenience. For some homeowners, the stress and disruption of preparing and listing their home can feel overwhelming. And what busy family with kids and pets wouldn’t want to skip the hassle of keeping their house “show ready” for potential buyers? Additionally, many sellers like the predictability of a cash buyer and the flexibility to choose their closing date. However, this added convenience does come at a cost. An iBuyer is an investor looking to make a profit. So their purchase offer is usually below true market value. When you tack on service fees of up to 12% and deductions for updates and repairs, studies show that sellers who work with iBuyers net a lower amount than those that list the traditional way.3 In fact, a MarketWatch investigation found that transactions involving iBuyers net the seller 11% less than if they would have sold their home with an agent on the open market.2 WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF BUYING FROM AN iBUYER? Buying a home from an iBuyer is a lot like buying a home from any investor. The pros are that it’s usually clean, neutral, and moderately updated. You’ll often find fresh paint and modern finishes. And because it’s uninhabited (no one is living there), you don’t have to work around a seller’s schedule to see the home. However, there are some pitfalls to avoid when working with iBuyers. Speed is of the essence, so sometimes the renovations are rushed and the quality can suffer. Also, their investment margins don’t leave much room for negotiating a price reduction or additional repairs. That leaves buyers —who have already invested hundreds of dollars in an inspection—little recourse if any issues are uncovered.4 That’s one of the reasons we always recommend viewing properties with an agent. During your visit, a real estate professional can point out any “red flags” at the home, provide background information about the neighborhood, and help you assess its true market value. That way, you don’t invest time and money in a high-risk or overpriced property. Safety is also a concern. Some companies allow buyers to access their homes via a smartphone app. While it may seem convenient, it provides an easy way for squatters and others to enter the home illegally.5 Luckily, since most iBuyers (and traditional sellers) pay a buyer agent’s commission, you can benefit from the guidance and expertise of a real estate professional … at no cost to you! HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF IF I CHOOSE TO WORK WITH AN iBUYER? While it may seem like the “quick and easy” way to go, working with an iBuyer can present some unique challenges. For example, they are notorious for presenting a strong initial purchase offer and then whittling it down with a long list of costly updates and repairs once they complete their inspection.2 And unlike a traditional buyer who is incentivized to make a deal work, iBuyers can easily walk away if you don’t meet their demands. Just like you wouldn’t go to court without a lawyer, you shouldn’t enter into a real estate transaction without an advocate to represent you. Having a professional agent on your side can be especially important when negotiating with an iBuyer. Remember, they employ sophisticated representatives and a team of lawyers who are focused on maximizing their profits, not yours. You need someone in your corner who has the skills and knowledge to ensure you get a fair deal and who understands the terms of their contracts, so you don’t encounter any unpleasant surprises along the way. Overall, we think the emergence of new technology that helps to streamline the real estate process is exciting. And if we believe a client can benefit from working with an iBuyer, we present it as an option. But there is—inevitably—a cost to the convenience. After all, most iBuyers eventually list the properties they acquire on the open market, which is still the best place to find a buyer if you want to maximize the sales price of your home.

EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS Do you want to learn more about iBuyers and other options currently available in our area to buy or sell your home? We can help you determine the best path, given your unique circumstances. Contact us to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation!

Sources:

  1. The Dallas Morning News – https://www.dallasnews.com/business/real-estate/2019/07/11/so-called-ibuyer-real-estate-firms-pitch-programs-to-buy-your-house-help-you-hunt-for-another/
  2. MarketWatch – https://www.marketwatch.com/story/selling-your-home-to-an-ibuyer-could-cost-you-thousands-heres-why-2019-06-11
  3. Forbes – https://www.forbes.com/sites/alyyale/2019/08/16/study-shows-ibuyers-cost-home-sellers-thousands-is-convenience-worth-the-price/#697ac0c42269
  4. US News & World Report – https://realestate.usnews.com/real-estate/articles/what-to-expect-when-buying-a-home-from-an-ibuyer
  5. Inman – https://www.inman.com/2019/09/11/police-arrest-couple-found-squatting-in-opendoor-home-with-their-kids/

National Snapshot: What’s Ahead for Real Estate

The U.S. unemployment rate is at a 50-year low, and consumer confidence remains high. In fact, the University of Michigan’s latest Surveys of Consumers found that Americans have their most positive personal finance outlook since 2003.1

However, if you follow national news, you’ve probably heard speculation that we could be headed toward a recession. Global trade tensions and a slow down in the GDP growth rate has sparked volatility in the stock market, leading to economic uncertainty.

Given these differing signals, you may be wondering: How has the U.S. housing market been impacted? Where is it headed? And more importantly … what does it mean for me?

 

MORTGAGE RATES ARE NEAR HISTORIC LOWS

In August, Freddie Mac reported that the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate hit its lowest level since November 2016, falling to 3.6%, down a full percentage point from a year earlier.Variable mortgage rates also fell when the Federal Reserve cut interest rates at the end of July for the first time since 2008.3

This was welcome news for many in the real estate industry. Freddie Mac predicts that low interest rates and a robust job market will help the housing market remain strong despite the threat of recession.

“There is a tug of war in the financial markets between weaker business sentiment and consumer sentiment,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Business sentiment is declining on negative trade and manufacturing headlines, but consumer sentiment remains buoyed by a strong labor market and low rates that will continue to drive home sales into the fall.”2

 

What does it mean for you?

If you’re looking to buy a home, now is a great time to lock in a low mortgage rate. It will shrink your monthly payment and could save you a bundle over the long term. Or if you plan to stay in your current home for a while, consider whether it makes sense to refinance your mortgage at today’s lower rates.

 

PRICES CONTINUE TO RISE AT A MODEST PACE

According to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices, housing prices continue to rise. But the rate at which prices are rising is slowing down. For May 2019, the National Home Price Index rose by 3.4%, down from 3.5% the previous month.4

Of course, national averages often don’t present the whole picture. Some markets have seen modest declines, while other areas are witnessing double-digit increases. The key differentiating factor in most cases? Housing affordability.5

Since 2012, home prices have increased at about three times the pace of wages, according to National Association of Realtors chief economist Lawrence Yun.6

“Housing unaffordability will hinder sales irrespective of the local job market conditions,” said Yun. “This is evident in the very expensive markets as home prices are either topping off or slightly falling.”5

But what about all this talk of a recession? Will we see housing values plummet like they did in 2008? Economists say no.

If we look at history, the real estate crash experienced during the Great Recession isn’t typical.

The recent Housing and Mortgage Market Review report from Arch Mortgage Insurance provides data to support this. “What we found is that the next recession is likely to be far less severe on the housing market than the last one. It’s not that this time is different; it’s that last time was really different from historic norms.”6

“A large decline in national home prices is unlikely in the next recession,” Arch economists write. “A persistent housing shortage should help cushion home price declines.”6

 

What does it mean for you?

If you have the ability and desire to buy a home now, don’t let the threat of a recession hold you in limbo. The market is cyclical, and it will experience ups and downs. But over the long term, real estate has consistently proven to be a good investment.

 

 

STARTER INVENTORY REMAINS TIGHT WHILE LUXURY MARKET SOFTENS

As we’ve seen in the past, it’s become a tale of two sectors.

The low-end of the market remains highly competitive as buyers compete for affordable housing. A lack of new construction during the last recession led to an undersupply of starter homes. This trend continues—despite growing demand—due to a lack of skilled workers, rising land and material costs, and a slow permitting process in many areas.7

The result? There’s a shortage of homes for sale that Americans can actually afford to buy.

The luxury market, on the other hand, has softened. Economic uncertainty, changes to tax laws, and rising prices have slowed demand. Plus, to recoup their higher costs, builders flocked to this segment—causing an overabundance of supply in some areas.

“If you’re selling an entry level home, you’re probably still looking at a pretty competitive market in most places,” according to Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com. “But if you’re selling a more expensive home you probably have to adjust your expectations.”8

 

What does it mean for you?

Move-up buyers, you’re in luck! If you’re ready to trade in your starter home for something more luxurious, you may get the best of both sectors. We’re still witnessing strong demand for entry-level homes, giving sellers the upper hand. At the same time, buyers of high-end homes are finding a greater selection (and more negotiating power) than they’ve had in years.

 

INVESTORS ARE BUYING HOMES AT RECORD LEVELS

There’s one group that hasn’t been slowed down by lack of affordability or economic uncertainty: investors.

According to CoreLogic, investors are purchasing homes at a record pace. In 2018, the share of U.S. homes bought by investors reached 11.3%—the highest level since the company began tracking nearly 20 years ago.9

Notably, this increased activity wasn’t led by institutional investors, but instead by small and individual investors focused on the starter-home segment.Declining interest rates and an uncertain stock market has led investors to flock to real estate as they seek out greater stability and higher returns.

“With declining mortgage rates … they’re searching for a better return for their money,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun.10

 

What does it mean for you?

If you’re looking for a way to “recession proof” your money, you might want to consider investing in real estate. People will always need a place to live, and (unlike the stock market) a rental property can provide a steady source of cash flow during uncertain economic times.

 

WE’RE HERE TO GUIDE YOU

While national real estate numbers can provide a “big picture” outlook, real estate is local. As local market experts, we can guide you through the ins and outs of our market and the issues most likely to impact sales and home values in your particular neighborhood.

If you have specific questions or would like more information about how market changes could affect you, contact us to schedule a free consultation. We’re here to help you navigate this shifting real estate landscape.

 

Sources:

  1. University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers – http://www.sca.isr.umich.edu/
  2. Freddie Mac – https://freddiemac.gcs-web.com/news-releases/news-release-details/mortgage-rates-drop-significantly?_ga=2.29332539.689041222.1565464527-928629548.1565464527
  3. CNN – https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/31/business/fed-rate-cut-july-meeting/index.html
  4. S&P Dow Jones Indices – https://us.spindices.com/documents/indexnews/announcements/20190730-965771/965771_cshomeprice-release-0730.pdf?force_download=true
  5. National Association of Realtors – https://www.nar.realtor/newsroom/metro-home-prices-increase-in-91-of-metro-areas-in-second-quarter-of-2019
  6. Forbes – https://www.forbes.com/sites/alyyale/2019/04/18/with-a-recession-looming-is-now-the-time-to-sell-your-home/#7d3a21665bce
  7. CNN – https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/09/economy/mortgages-home-buyers/index.html
  8. Forbes – https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinefeeney/2019/07/01/halfway-into-2019-how-is-the-housing-market-holding-up/#7e656e3ec5d8
  9. CoreLogic – https://www.corelogic.com/blog/2019/06/special-report-investor-home-buying.aspx
  10. Fox Business – https://www.foxbusiness.com/economy/investors-snapping-up-homes-at-record-levels

Will Your Remodel Pay Off? The Best (and Worst) Ways to Spend Your Budget

Most new homeowners have something about their property that they want to change. And as family needs and design trends shift over time, many will eventually choose to remodel. Some homeowners make updates to their property before listing it to maximize their potential sales revenue.

Whatever your reasons are for taking on a home improvement project, it’s wise to consider how the money you invest will impact your home’s value.

We’ve taken a look at six popular home renovations and identified those that—on average—have the best and worst returns on investment. So before you lift a hammer or hire a contractor, take a look at this list and see if your remodeling efforts will reward you when it comes time to sell.

RENOVATIONS THAT PAY OFF

These three common home improvement projects not only add function and style to your home, but they also offer a strong return on investment. Making strategic upgrades to your property will help you increase its value over time.

Minor Kitchen Remodel
The kitchen is often referred to as the “heart of the home,” and for good reason. Traditionally used for preparing food, it has morphed into so much more. Many of us now eat our family meals in the kitchen, it serves as a favorite spot for homework and kids’ art projects, and it’s the place guests tend to gather when we host events.

Because we spend so much time in our kitchens, it’s natural that we will eventually want to make updates and upgrades to better suit our needs and changing style preferences.

Luckily, a minor kitchen remodel is one of the best investments you can make in your home. According to Remodeling Magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report, it has an average 80.5% return on investment.1

The key to making a kitchen remodel pay off is to keep it modest in scale. Spend too much on custom or high-end selections, and you are less likely to recoup your investment. Instead, make an effort to keep your existing layout if it works for you and your family. Paint or reface cabinets instead of replacing them. Update countertops with low-maintenance quartz and swap out old light fixtures with modern alternatives. Replace outdated appliances with energy-efficient models. The average cost for a minor kitchen remodel is $22,500, and it’s likely to recoup more than $18,000 at resale.1

Wood Deck Addition
A deck addition is a popular way to extend and enhance the use of your outdoor space. It’s the perfect spot for grilling, dining alfresco, and entertaining. In fact, 81% of surveyed homeowners said they have a greater desire to be home since completing a deck addition.2

For a 16 x 20-foot wood deck, you can expect to spend around $13,000. Fortunately, the money you invest offers an average return of 76%.1

Decks made of composite material are a popular alternative these days, as they don’t require the regular sanding and staining that wood decks need. However, at an average cost of $19,000 for a 16 x 20-foot composite deck, they are significantly more expensive. Plus, the expected return on investment is only 69%.1 Still, if you plan to hire someone to provide regular maintenance to a wood deck, then a composite deck may offer cost savings over time.

Siding Replacement
Everyone knows good curb appeal is important when selling your home. And while it may not be the most exciting way to spend your remodeling budget, new siding can make a big impression on buyers … and your selling price.

Your home’s exterior is one of the first things buyers see when they view your home. It sets the tone for what they are going to see inside. It also gives an impression of how well the property has been maintained. Worn, peeling, or rotted siding can be a major red flag for buyers.

Replacing 1,250 square feet of siding costs around $16,000 and will net you an average of 76% at resale.1

For an even greater impact, consider replacing a portion of your siding with manufactured stone veneer. It can have a dramatic effect on the visual appeal of your home. A 300 square foot area will run you around $8,900, but you can expect to see a nearly 95% return when it comes time to sell.1

RENOVATIONS WITH WEAK RETURNS

These three popular remodeling projects are homeowner favorites. However, don’t expect to see a high rate of return at resale. Instead, consider them an investment in your current quality of life. Just make sure you’ll be living in the home long enough to make them worthwhile.

Major Kitchen Remodel
If there’s one room the majority of homeowners dream about making over, it’s their kitchen. From custom cabinetry to high-end appliances, the possibilities are endless. But those dreams can come at a cost.

An upscale kitchen remodel with high-end cabinetry and countertops, commercial-grade appliances, and designer features can cost upwards of $130,000. And unfortunately, you’ll only get back around 60% at resale. Even a mid-range kitchen remodel that includes new semi-custom wood cabinets, laminate countertops, and energy-efficient appliances could run you around $66,000 and net you a mere 62% at resale.1

Of course, an outdated or non-functional kitchen could turn buyers off from your home completely … and keep you from enjoying it yourself! So if your kitchen needs a major remodel, you shouldn’t necessarily scrap your plans. Just go in with the realization that you may only get back a fraction of what you invest. Then you can decide which upgrades are worth the splurge.

In-ground Pool
Few additions deliver more entertainment or enjoyment than an in-ground pool. It brings families and friends together, provides a break from the summer heat, and offers a fun and convenient way to stay fit. Plus, you’ll be the envy of your neighbors! But before you dive into a pool addition, consider whether the benefits outweigh the (substantial) costs.

The average expense to install a standard 18 x 36-foot in-ground pool is $57,500. And the estimated return at resale is only or 43%.2 In addition to the installation cost, plan to spend money each year on maintenance, repairs, and additional insurance.

However, 92% of surveyed homeowners said they “have a greater desire to be home” since installing a pool, and 83% have “an increased sense of enjoyment when they are at home.” For you and your family, the perks of a pool may be priceless.2

Master Suite Addition
If you own a house built before the 1980s, there’s a good chance it lacks a master suite, which is a feature that has become commonplace in most newly constructed homes.3

Master bedrooms have evolved from a simple place to sleep into a homeowner’s retreat—often featuring a sitting area, his-and-hers walk-in closets, and an attached bathroom with double vanities, a soaking tub, and a walk-in shower.

And master suite additions have become increasingly popular—both in homes that lack one as well as those with aging owners who can no longer accommodate stairs to an upper-level bedroom.

But what’s the typical return at resale? Unfortunately, a master suite addition offers one of the lowest returns of any remodeling project. With a median cost of $125,000, most sellers will only recoup around 52% of their investment. Nevertheless, in a survey of homeowners, the majority were satisfied with their decision to add a master suite, giving it a “Joy Score” of 10 out of 10.4

WEIGHING COST VS. BENEFIT

It’s always wise to enter into a remodeling project with knowledge of how it will impact your home’s value. In most cases, upscale or highly-customized upgrades are less likely to offer a high rate of return. That said, home renovations that improve your quality of life and enhance your enjoyment may be worthwhile no matter the cost.

GET A CUSTOMIZED ANALYSIS OF YOUR PROJECT

We’ve been talking averages. But the truth is, the actual return you can expect on a home improvement project will vary depending on your particular home and neighborhood. If you have plans to remodel, call or send us the details. We’d be happy to conduct a free analysis to determine how the renovations will impact the value of your home!

Sources:
1. 2019 Cost vs. Value Report –
https://www.remodeling.hw.net/cost-vs-value/2019/
2. NAR’ Remodeling Impact Report – https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2018-05-remodeling-impact-outdoor-features-05-23-2018.pdf
3. Zillow –
https://www.zillow.com/blog/evolution-of-the-master-bedroom-48286/
4. House Logic –

“How’s the Market?” What’s Ahead for Real Estate

How’s the Market?”
What’s Ahead for Real Estate

While no one can predict the future with certainty, most experts expect to see modest growth in the U.S. housing market for the remainder of this year and next. Inventory will remain tight, mortgage rates will continue to creep up, and affordability will remain a major issue in many parts of the country.

So what does that mean for home buyers and sellers? To answer that question, we take a closer look at some of the top indicators.

CONTINUED GROWTH IN HOUSING MARKET

There’s good news for homebuyers! In many markets across the country, prices have begun to stabilize after a period of rapid appreciation. Nationwide, home sales experienced a slight decline of 1.6 percent in the second quarter, primarily due to higher mortgage rates and housing prices combined with limited inventory.

However, buyers who have been waiting on the sidelines in anticipation of a big price drop may be disappointed. Demand remains strong across the sector and prices continue to rise. The Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index reported a 6.2 percent annual gain in June, a healthy but sustainable rate of appreciation.1

In its latest Outlook Report, Freddie Mac forecasts continued growth in the housing market due to a strong economy and low unemployment rate, which dropped to 3.9 percent in July.2

“The housing market hit some speed bumps this summer, with many prospective homebuyers slowed by not enough moderately-priced homes for sale and higher home prices and mortgage rates,” according to Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Mac. “The good news is, the economy and labor market are very healthy right now, and mortgage rates, after surging earlier this year, have stabilized in recent months. These factors should continue to create solid buyer demand, and ultimately an uptick in sales, in most parts of the country in the months ahead.”3

INVENTORY TO REMAIN TIGHT, NEW CONSTRUCTION MAY HELP

Experts predict that demand for housing will continue to outpace available supply, especially in the entry-level price range.

“Today, even as mortgage rates begin to increase and home sales decline in some markets, the most significant challenges facing the housing market stem from insufficient inventory accompanying unsustainable home-price increase,” said National Association of Realtors (NAR) Chief Economist Lawrence Yun in a recent release.

“The answer is to encourage builders to increase supply, and there is a good probability for solid home sales growth once the supply issue is addressed,” said Yun. Additional inventory will also help contain rapid home price growth and open up the market to prospective homebuyers who are consequently—and increasingly—being priced out. In the end, slower price growth is healthier price growth.”4

With so much demand, why aren’t more builders bringing inventory to the market? According to the National Association of Home Builders, a crackdown on immigration and tariffs on imported lumber have made home construction more difficult and expensive. Those factors—combined with the rising cost of land and increased zoning requirements—have put a damper on the industry overall.5

Still, there’s evidence that a modest rise in the rate of new building projects may be on the way. Freddie Mac predicts new housing construction will increase slightly after a stall last quarter.2 And a recent report by Freedonia Focus Reports forecasts an annual increase in housing starts of 2.4 percent through 2022, led by an uptick in single-family homes.6 The boost in inventory should help drive sales growth and relieve some of the pent-up demand in tight markets.

While the current lack of inventory is generally preferred by sellers because it means less competition, a combination of high prices and rising interest rates has narrowed the pool of potential buyers who can afford to enter the market. Sellers should seek out real estate agents who utilize technologically-advanced marketing tactics to reach qualified buyers in their area.

AFFORDABILITY REACHES LOWEST LEVEL IN A DECADE

According to a recent report by Morgan Stanley, Americans are paying the most in monthly mortgage payments relative to their incomes since 2008.7 And prices aren’t expected to come down any time soon.

“We believe that the current supply and demand environment will continue to push home prices higher, just at a decelerating pace,” said John Egan, Morgan Stanley’s Co-Head of U.S. Housing Strategy.

Fortunately, economists aren’t concerned about affordability levels triggering another housing crisis, as lending standards are much higher today than they were during the run-up before the recession. According to credit reporting agency TransUnion, the share of homeowners who made mortgage payments more than 60-days past due fell in the second quarter to 1.7 percent, the lowest level since the market crash.7

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun agreed with this assessment in a recent statement. “Over the past 10 years, prudent policy reforms and consumer protections have strengthened lending standards and eliminated loose credit, as evidenced by the higher than normal credit scores of those who are able to obtain a mortgage and near record-low defaults and foreclosures, which contributed to the last recession.”4

MORTGAGE RATES EXPECTED TO CONTINUE RISING

The Federal Reserve has taken measures to help keep the housing market—and the overall economy—from overheating. It has raised interest rates twice this year so far, causing mortgage rates to surge in the first half of the year.

Economists predict that the rise in mortgage rates will continue at a more gradual rate through this year and next. The U.S. weekly average mortgage rate rose from 3.99 percent in the first week of January to as high as 4.66 percent in May. Freddy Mac forecasts an average rate of 4.6 percent for 2018 and 5.1 percent in 2019.2

The good news is, mortgage rates still remain near historic lows and a whopping 14 points below the recorded high of 18.63 percent in the early 1980s.8 Buyers who have been on the fence may want to act soon to lock in an affordable interest rate … before rates climb higher.

“Some consumers may be thinking that because mortgage rates are higher than they were a year ago, maybe I should just wait until rates fall down again,” said NAR’s Chief Economist Lawrence Yun in a recent speech. “Well, they will be waiting forever.”9

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN FOR ME?

If you’ve been waiting to buy a home, you may want to act now. A shortage of available homes on the market means prices are likely to keep going up. And a lack of affordable rental inventory means rents are expected to rise, as well.

If you buy now, you will benefit from appreciating property values while locking in an historically-low interest rate on your mortgage. Waiting to buy could mean paying more for your home as prices increase and paying higher interest on your mortgage as rates continue to rise.

And if you’re in the market to sell your home, there’s no need to wait any longer. Prices have begun to stabilize, and rising interest rates could decrease the number of available buyers for your home. Act now to take advantage of this strong seller’s market.

LET’S GET MOVING

While national real estate numbers and predictions can provide a “big picture” outlook, real estate is local. As local market experts, we can guide you through the ins and outs of our market and the issues most likely to impact sales and home values in your particular neighborhood.

If you have specific questions or would like more information about where we see real estate headed in our area, let us know! We’re here to help you navigate this changing real estate landscape.

Sources:

  1. S&P Dow Jones Indices Press Release –
    https://www.spice-indices.com/idpfiles/spice-assets/resources/public/documents/766551_cshomeprice-release-0828.pdf?force_download=true
  2. Freddie Mac Outlook Report –
    http://www.freddiemac.com/research/forecast/20180827_strong_economic_growth.html
  3. DSNews –
    https://dsnews.com/daily-dose/08-28-2018/freddie-weighs-in-on-housing-market
  4. PR Newswire –
    https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/realtors-chief-economist-reflects-on-past-recession-whats-ahead-for-housing-300702632.html
  5. CNN Money –
    https://www.keyt.com/lifestyle/where-is-the-us-housing-market-headed-4-things-you-need-to-know/787471572
  6. PR Newswire –
    https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/us-housing-starts-to-rise-2-4-yearly-to-2022–300711989.html
  7. Business Insider –
    https://www.businessinsider.com/housing-affordability-slowing-market-sales-2018-8
  8. Value Penguin –
    https://www.valuepenguin.com/mortgages/historical-mortgage-rates
  9. Times Free Press –
    https://www.timesfreepress.com/news/business/aroundregion/story/2018/aug/14/despite-prospects-higher-mortgage-rateshousin/476979/

Are You Covered? A Homeowner’s Insurance Guide

Are You Covered? A Homeowner’s Insurance Guide

No one likes to think about disasters. Severe weather, fire, theft—or even a seemingly small issue like a broken pipe—can wreak havoc on your home and result in thousands of dollars in damages. Fortunately, a good homeowners insurance policy can offer you peace of mind that you and your family will be financially protected if disaster strikes.

A homeowners insurance policy covers your home—as well as the belongings in it—in case of theft, accidental damage, or certain natural disasters. In fact, most financial institutions require that you purchase homeowners insurance before they issue a mortgage. While coverage varies, most policies also help to protect you from liability should someone outside your household become injured on your property. And that liability coverage is often extended to include damage you (or anyone living in your household) may do to someone else’s property.1

With all the protection offered, it’s equally important to understand what a home insurance policy does NOT cover. For example, homeowners insurance won’t pay to repair malfunctioning systems and appliances within your home. And terms vary, but standard policies typically exclude coverage related to floods, earthquakes, slow leaks, power failure, neglect, aging, faulty repairs or construction materials, and acts of war.2

Homeowners Insurance Covers Things Like:

  • Structure
  • Roof
  • Windows
  • Furniture/Personal Belongings
  • Liability for Non-Residents Injured on Property
  • Liability for Damage or Injury Caused by You or Your Pets
Most Standard Policies DON’T Cover:

  • Malfunctioning Systems & Appliances
  • Floods
  • Earthquakes
  • Slow Leaks
  • Power Failures
  • Neglect or Aging
  • Faulty Repairs
  • Acts of War

NARROWING THE COVERAGE GAP

So how do you minimize your risk when so many potential issues are excluded from a standard homeowners policy? Many insurers offer supplemental coverage options that can be tacked on to a basic policy. We explore this further in the section below on “7 Tips for Purchasing Homeowners Insurance.”

Some homeowners also choose to purchase a home warranty, which covers many of the systems and appliances in your home that are NOT covered by homeowners insurance. Home warranties are separate from homeowners insurance, so if interested you’ll need to seek out a policy through a dedicated provider.

While terms vary, a home warranty will often pay to repair or replace components of your HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and some appliances that fail due to age or typical wear and tear. Unlike homeowners insurance, home warranties aren’t required by mortgage companies. But many homeowners like the added financial protection and peace of mind that home warranties provide.3

Keep in mind, if you do purchase a home warranty, you will still be responsible for paying a service fee, or deductible, every time you use it. And you will be limited to using service providers who are contracted through your home warranty company.

7 TIPS FOR PURCHASING HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE

Whether you’re shopping for a new policy on your first home or you’re considering switching providers on an existing policy, it’s important to do your research beforehand. Not all insurance policies—or providers—are created equal. A little due diligence can save you time, money, and hassle in the long run.

  1. Prioritize Service and Value

When choosing an insurance provider, ask around for recommendations. Check with neighbors, friends, and family members, particularly those who have filed an insurance claim in the past. Find out if they had a positive or negative experience. Read online reviews. Ask your real estate agent for a referral to a reputable insurance broker who can help you compare your options.

Don’t just choose the cheapest policy. Instead, search for one that offers excellent client service and provides the best coverage for the cost.

  1. Choose the Right Level of Coverage

Your policy limits should be high enough to cover the cost of rebuilding your home. Don’t make the common mistake of insuring your home for the price you paid for it. The cost to rebuild could be higher or lower, depending on the value of your land, your home’s unique features, market factors, new building codes, and local construction costs.4

Also, consider whether you need a higher level of liability insurance to protect your assets. If your investments and savings exceed the liability limits in your policy, you may need to purchase an excess liability or umbrella policy.

Ultimately, you should make sure your coverage is adequate to mitigate your losses—but don’t pay for excess insurance you don’t need.

  1. Inquire About Additional Coverage

Ask your insurance agent about additional coverage options that can help close any gaps you have in your policy.

For example, if you’re in a flood or earthquake-prone area, experts strongly recommend that you add those coverages to your policy. In fact, flooding is the most frequently occurring natural hazard, and a significant percentage of insurance payouts are for homes outside “flood zones,” or areas known to be at risk of flooding. So even if your home is not technically located in a flood zone, you may want to add flood coverage to your policy, just in case.5

Expensive jewelry, furs, collectibles, or artwork may not be fully insured by a standard policy. Ask about raising your limits for any items of particular value, or check with a specialty insurer about a separate policy for such items.

  1. Decide on “Replacement Cost” or “Actual Cash Value”

Insurers can use a variety of methods to determine how much they will pay to reimburse you for a loss, but the two most common are “replacement cost” or “actual cash value.”

If your seven-year-old sofa is damaged in a fire, replacement cost coverage will pay you the cost to purchase a new, comparable sofa at today’s prices. Actual cash value coverage will pay you for the depreciated value of the sofa you lost—so what you would pay to buy a seven-year-old sofa rather than a new one.6

While a replacement cost coverage policy will result in a bigger payoff if you suffer a loss, it will probably require a larger annual premium. Compare both options to find out which is the better fit for you.

  1. Consider a Higher Deductible

A deductible is the amount of money you are responsible for paying on a loss before your insurance company will pay a claim. Opting for a higher deductible can reduce your premiums.

Note that in some cases, your insurance policy may have a separate or higher deductible for certain kinds of claims, such as those caused by floods, windstorms, hail, or earthquakes.

While a higher deductible can save you money on your premiums, opt for one that is still affordable given your current financial situation.

  1. Try Bundling Your Coverage

Combining your home, automobile, and other policies under one insurer can often result in a significant discount. And some insurers offer additional benefits, such as a single deductible if property insured by multiple policies is damaged. For instance, if a fire destroys your home and your car, you may only have to pay the higher of the two deductibles. Bundling can also make payment and renewal of your policies more convenient.7

However, bundling isn’t always the best or least expensive option. In some cases, you may find better coverage options, service, and/or pricing if you split your policies between multiple insurers. So be sure to consider all of your options before making a final decision.

  1. Reassess Your Policy Each Year

Even if you’ve done all your due diligence before purchasing a homeowners insurance policy, don’t set your annual renewal on autopilot. Instead, when it comes time to renew, take some time to consider factors that have changed over the past year.

For example, have you made any home improvements that would require you to raise your coverage limits? Have you made any security or safety improvements that qualify you for a discount on your premiums?8

Has there been a shift in market conditions that would make it more or less expensive to rebuild your home now? If so, you may need to adjust your coverage levels accordingly.

If you’ve made any changes to how you use your home, you may need to adjust your policy, as well. For example, if you’ve started a home-based business or occasionally rent out your home on a home-sharing site, you may not be fully covered by your existing policy.9

Finally, consider any changes to your financial situation that may require increased liability coverage limits. If you’ve grown your investments or inherited property, it may be time to purchase additional coverage to protect your expanding asset base.

MINIMIZE RISK, MAXIMIZE VALUE

Now that you understand the basics of homeowners insurance, you should be ready to start shopping for a policy that best fits your needs and budget. Your goal should be to minimize your risk while maximizing the value your policy provides.

While you never want to leave yourself without a safety net should disaster strike, you also don’t want to overpay for insurance you don’t need (and will hopefully rarely use). Aim to strike a balance that will provide you with adequate protection at an affordable price.

NEED MORE GUIDANCE? WE CAN HELP

If you’re in the market to purchase homeowners insurance or a home warranty, give us a call! We get a lot of feedback from clients on the best (and worst) providers and are happy to share what we know.

We can also put you in touch with a trusted insurance professional who can answer your questions and help you find the best policy to meet your needs.

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial or insurance advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.

Sources:

  1. Insurance Information Institute –
    https://www.iii.org/article/what-covered-standard-homeowners-policy
  2. Insure.com –
    https://www.insure.com/home-insurance/exclusions.html
  3. American Home Shield –
    https://www.ahs.com/home-matters/cost-savers/whats-the-difference-homeowners-insurance-vs-home-warranty
  4. Insurance Information Institute –
    https://www.iii.org/article/how-much-homeowners-insurance-do-you-need
  5. Realtor.com –
    https://www.realtor.com/advice/buy/buying-home-insurance
  6. Texas Department of Insurance –
    http://www.helpinsure.com/home/documents/acvvsreplace.pdf
  7. Insure.com –
    https://www.insure.com/home-insurance-faq/bundle-insurance-policies.html
  8. National Association of Insurance Commissioners –
    https://www.insureuonline.org/consumer_homeowners_ten_tips.htm
  9. HomeAway –
    https://help.homeaway.com/articles/Do-I-need-a-special-vacation-rental-insurance-policy-for-my-property

Top 5 Home Design Trends of 2017

Top 5 Home Design Trends of 2017

The current trends are all about utilizing rich color, maximizing texture and creating comfortable interiors you can’t wait to relax in. Use these trends to get inspired to makeover your home’s interiors and create spaces you love that also appeal to your personal style. Remember, if you plan to sell in the next few years, you may want to avoid doing anything dramatic and instead incorporate small changes that would appeal to buyers.

Why are these trends gaining popularity?

The underlying theme of these trends is creating a home environment you love; one that appeals to your emotions and feels like a retreat from the stresses of the world. Although the home is a place where you can relax and spend time with loved ones, work expectations are beginning to blur the line between work and home. Even if people don’t work from home specifically, many are stretching their work hours into their evenings and weekends to complete work projects.

It’s no wonder the Nordic concept of hygge (most often pronounced “hoo-gah”) has become a hot trend. A centuries-old concept, incorporating hygge in the home means creating simple and comfortable spaces that make you feel cozy and safe and appeal to your senses.1 The emphasis is on simplicity and fostering positive experiences, whether you’re spending time with family, reading a good book or catching up on work emails.

WARM AND RICH COLORS.

Whether you want to play with a bold color or stick with neutrals, one thing is clear—paint is the foundation of a great design. Painting your interiors has a return on investment of about 75 percent and is a relatively inexpensive project to complete, costing between $25 to $100 for paint alone.2 If you’re thinking of refreshing your home’s interiors with a coat of paint, popular colors include warm taupe, fresh green and dark tones. These colors are popular choices because they evoke feeling of warmth and coziness when you walk into a room.

Wondering how to pair these colors? Taupe is the perfect alternative to traditional neutrals, such as gray and white, and goes well with cool blues, earthy greens and deep shades of wine. Green goes well with other earthy shades, such as copper and moss, as well as deep plum and bright pink. If you’re hesitant to paint your walls green, incorporate it into your home by way of accent pillows, rugs, lamps, vases and other accessories or add a few house plants.

If you’re interested in adding more drama to a room, include bold, dark colors. Dark shades add color and sophistication to any space. Plum and dark gray pair well with pale blues, warm whites and light gray.

Try one of these Colors of the Year:

Poised Taupe – Sherwin Williams

           Greenery – Pantone

Shadow – Benjamin Moore

RICH MATERIALS.

Lux materials create a space in which you can’t wait to kick off your shoes and relax at the end of the day. The Danes use a mixture of materials and pattern as a way of adding character and interest; however the overall look still needs to adhere to a color palette to prevent it from looking distracting.

Natural materials and textures allow you to maximize the comfort of the bedroom, living room or family room. Wood accents give rooms an earthy feel. Incorporate rustic wood sculptures, trays and furniture into your space. Choose furniture made with sustainably harvested wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or use reclaimed wood for an environmentally friendly alternative.

If natural elements aren’t your style, but you want to add more visual interest to your room, try mixing patterns. Although it may have been avoided in the past, mixing stripes, florals and geometric prints actually help ground a space as long as the patterns feature complimentary colors or different shades of one color. If you’re worried about going overboard and making your room look “busy,” focus your mix in one area of the room. For example, add throw pillows in a variety of patterns to your sofa.

GOING GREEN.

According to a recent study from the American Psychological Association, people are more stressed than ever, with 24 percent of adults reporting they’re experiencing “extreme stress.”3

Top sources of stress include work and money. By incorporating small changes, like making your house more energy efficient, you can start to lower your bills and get back to relaxing and enjoying life like the Danish do (who consistently top the polls as the happiest people).

Save money on your energy bills by sealing the “envelope” of your home, which includes the windows and doors, walls, floor and roof. The better insulated your home is, the less heat will escape and the lower your energy bill (and stress level) will be.

The most heat loss occurs through the walls of the home: up to 35 percent of heat loss, to be exact.4 Ceramic insulating paint is a space-inspired coating of paint mixed with ceramic compounds and applied to interior or exterior surfaces. It seals your walls and prevents heat from escaping, which means reduced energy bills all year long.

THE FUNCTIONAL HOME OFFICE.

Twenty-four percent of employed people do some or all of their work at home.5 Since more people are working remotely than ever, home offices are becoming more popular. Even if you don’t plan on working from home, a home office gives you a place to pay bills, work on personal projects, plan your family’s schedule and more. Home offices tend to be multifunctional, serving as a guest room when family and friends visit, and have the potential to meet other needs that arise.

The key idea behind hygge is to enjoy the environment around you and for each room to be a sanctuary to sink into at any given moment. Your home office is no exception! Maximize your productivity, efficiency and focus by painting the walls shades of green or blue.6 If space is an issue, create a nook by installing docking and tech cabinets that are big enough to store a printer and other small office equipment and files without taking over the room.

If you don’t have room in your home for an office, look no further than your backyard. Shedquarters, small structures or sheds built in the backyard for use as an office or home-based business, are an attractive option for homeowners who don’t have a room to dedicate to an office and don’t wish to add on their homes. while the jury is out on how much value these structure add to a home, they can convert easily into a storage shed if you plan to sell in the future.

SPLURGING ON KITCHEN RENOVATIONS.

The kitchen is often the busiest, most hectic room in the house and one of the top renovation projects with a high return on investment.7 We do more than cook meals there; it’s where homework is done, bills are paid, weeks are planned and more.

Kitchen remodels consistently show a respectable return on investment. According to the 2017 Cost vs Value Report from Remodeling magazine, a minor kitchen remodel touts an 80.2 percent return on investment.8 You don’t need to overhaul your entire kitchen to make it more hygge. Smaller additions can transform it into a relaxing and functional space you enjoy spending time with friends and family in.

What does a “minor kitchen renovation” entail? In addition to replacing the fronts of your cabinets and drawers, it also includes replacing out-of-date appliances and fixtures. You may also consider replacing countertops. Quartz and quartzite are becoming more common as are other green laminate options, including ones that mimic stone, wood and concrete. Laminates install in less time, often over the existing countertop, make it an ideal choice for busy homeowners as well. Other hot kitchen trends include incorporating sustainable materials like bamboo into your countertops and floors and water filtration systems.

Want to improve the look and feel of your home’s interior? Are you thinking of upgrading to a home that better fits your changing needs? Call us—we’d love to help you achieve all of your home-related dreams.

Sources: 1. Time, Hygge, the Nordic Trend That Could Help You Survive 2016

2. Quality Smith

3. American Psychological Association, 2015 Stress in America

4. Department of Energy

5. Department of Labor

6. Entrepreneur, How the Color of Your Office Impacts Productivity

7. Realtor.com

8. Remodeling Magazine, 2017

Ann Bragg’s Bay Area Real Estate Blog and Resource

Welcome to Ann Bragg’s real estate and lifestyle blog for the Bay Area area. Watch this page for helpful tips, articles, insights and pertinent information regarding Bay Area Real Estate and the Bay Area, TX lifestyle. Here on Ann Bragg’s website, you can access a wealth of information about the Bay Area real estate market, including the areas of Houston, Galveston, Brazoria, Harris, Dickinson, League City, Santa Fe, LaMarque, San Leon, Webster, Clear Lake, and Alvin. Ann is committed to providing area residents with helpful community and real estate information.