Questions to Ask During Your Virtual Home Tour

Questions to Ask During Your Virtual Home Tour

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.

This post originally appeared on the Windermere.com Blog.

How Technology is Helping Buyers Navigate the Home Search Process

How Technology is Helping Buyers Navigate the Home Search Process

Realtor.com® recently released the results of a new consumer survey highlighting COVID-19’s impact on home buying, selling, and moving in the age of social distancing. The survey found that consumers, especially younger demographics, want virtual tours and are warming to the idea of buying a home without visiting it in person.

Realtor.com® and Toluna Insights surveyed 1,300 consumers during the week of April 5 to better understand their thoughts on how this pandemic has impacted current living arrangements, future plans, and feelings about technology’s role in buying and selling homes.

Majority of living situations remain stable, but COVID-19 has sparked some changes

Eighty-three percent of survey respondents noted that their living situation has not changed due to COVID-19. Of those who have experienced a change, 8 percent moved in with immediate family, 6 percent moved in with a partner, 2 percent moved in with extended family and 2 percent moved in with a new roommate. The survey also revealed that 68 percent of respondents say that their plans to move (or their plans not to move) have not changed. Of those whose plans have changed, 9 percent weren’t planning to move but now need to and 14 percent canceled their plans to move. Further, 9 percent will now rent rather than buy and 7 percent will buy rather than rent. This data points toward some level of stability in the housing market.

Younger demographics and renters feel more comfortable moving sight unseen

Despite the threat of COVID-19 and social distancing measures, the majority of people still want to see a home in person before making a purchase, but that sentiment is shifting. With access to accurate listing data, detailed photos, virtual and live video tours, 24 percent of people would be willing to buy a home without seeing it in person and 30 percent would be willing to rent one. Those numbers were slightly higher for younger demographics, of whom 29 percent would be willing to buy and 34 percent willing to rent. Further, 21 percent of people agree that COVID-19 has made them more likely to move into a home sight unseen.

“Uncertainty around COVID-19 and limitations around social interactions and group gatherings like open houses have made buying and selling homes more difficult than ever,” said Nate Johnson, CMO, realtor.com®. “As real estate agents and consumers seek out ways to safely complete these transactions, we believe that technology will become an even more imperative part of how we search for, buy and sell homes moving forward.”

Virtual tours, listing, and neighborhood information are critical for buying during COVID-19 

The biggest share of respondents (47 percent) still prefer to see a home in person with a buyer’s agent. Given new social distancing guidelines, 23 percent prefer to go alone, 13 percent prefer an online video tour and 6 percent would like their agent to go to the home and show it via video chat.

When asked to select which technology features would be most helpful when deciding on a new home, responses in order of preference were:

  1. A virtual tour of the home (61 percent)
  2. Accurate and detailed listing information (58 percent)
  3. Accurate and detailed neighborhood information (53 percent)
  4. High-quality listing photos (51 percent)
  5. The ability for my agent or landlord to walk me through the property via video chat (39 percent)

Sellers are wary of open houses but open to listing photos and virtual tours

When asked about selling a home within the next six months, respondents showed a slight discomfort toward holding open houses but were still generally open to allowing their agent and some shoppers inside. Potential sellers are most comfortable with:

  1. Allowing their agent in the home to take photos (56 percent)
  2. Allowing their agent in the home to give a virtual tour (55 percent)
  3. Having an agent walk a buyer through the home in person (47 percent)
  4. Having an agent walk a buyer through the home via video chat (44 percent)
  5. Holding an open house (35 percent)

Realtor.com® is committed to making buying, selling, and living in homes easier and more rewarding. To assist both consumers and professionals, realtor.com® has added several product enhancements including more virtual tours, video chats, and an option to schedule a virtual home tour.

To learn more, visit realtor.com®‘s COVID-19 site for information, resources, and tools to help consumers navigate these uncertain times: https://www.realtor.com/covid-19/

The Economic Impact of Buying a Home

The Economic Impact of Buying a Home

We’re in a changing real estate market, and life, in general, is changing too – from how we grocery shop and meal prep to the ways we can interact with our friends and neighbors. Even practices for engaging with agents, lenders, and all of the players involved in a real estate transaction are changing to a virtual format. What isn’t changing, however, is one key thing that can drive the local economy: buying a home.

We’re all being impacted in different ways by the effects of the coronavirus. If you’re in a position to buy a home today, know that you’re a major economic force in your neighborhood. And while we all wait patiently for the current pandemic to pass, there are a lot of things you can do in the meantime to keep your home search on track.

Every year the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shares a report that notes the full economic impact of home sales. This report summarizes:

“The total economic impact of real estate related industries on the state economy, as well as the expenditures that result from a single home sale, including aspects like home construction costs, real estate brokerage, mortgage lending and title insurance.”

Here’s the breakdown of how the average home sale boosts the economy:The Economic Impact of Buying a Home | MyKCMWhen you buy a home, you’re making an impact. You’re fulfilling your need for shelter and a place to live, and you’re also generating jobs and income for the appraiser, the loan officer, the title company, the real estate agent, and many more contributors to the process. For every person or business that you work with throughout the transaction, there’s also likely a team behind the scenes making it all happen, so the effort multiplies substantially. As noted above in the circle on the right, the impact is almost double when you purchase new construction, given the extra labor it requires to build the home.

The report also breaks down the average economic impact by state:The Economic Impact of Buying a Home | MyKCMAs a buyer, you have an essential need for a home – and you can make an essential impact with homeownership, too. That need for shelter, comfort, and a safe place to live will always be alive and well. And whenever you’re able to act on that need, whether now or later, you’ll truly be creating gains for you, your family, local business professionals, and the overall economy.

Bottom Line

Whenever you purchase a home, you’re an economic driver. Even if you’re not ready or able to make a move now, there are things you can do to keep your own process moving forward so you’re set when the time is right for you. Let’s connect to keep your home search – and your local contributions – on track.

How Interest Rates Can Impact Your Monthly Housing Payments

How Interest Rates Can Impact Your Monthly Housing Payments

Spring is right around the corner, so flowers are starting to bloom, and many potential homebuyers are getting ready to step into the market. If you’re thinking of buying this season, here’s how mortgage interest rates are working in your favor.

Freddie Mac explains:

If you’re in the market to buy a home, today’s average mortgage rates are something to celebrate compared to almost any year since 1971…

Mortgage rates change frequently. Over the last 45 years, they have ranged from a high of 18.63% (1981) to a low of 3.31% (2012). While it’s not likely that the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate will return to its record low, the current average rate of 3.45% is pretty close — all to your advantage.”

To put this in perspective, the following chart from the same article shows how average mortgage rates by decade have impacted the approximate monthly payment of a $200,000 home over time:How Interest Rates Can Impact Your Monthly Housing Payments | MyKCMClearly, when rates are low – like they are today – qualified buyers can benefit significantly over time.

Keep in mind, if interest rates go up, this can push many potential homebuyers out of the market. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) notes:

“Prospective home buyers are also adversely affected when interest rates rise. NAHB’s priced-out estimates show that, depending on the starting rate, a quarter-point increase in the rate of 3.75% on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage can price over 1.3 million U.S. households out of the market for the median-priced new home.”

Bottom Line

You certainly don’t want to be priced out of the market this year, and waiting may mean a significant change in your potential mortgage payment should rates start to rise. If your financial situation allows, now may be a great time to lock in at a low mortgage rate to benefit greatly over the lifetime of your loan.

The Overlooked Financial Advantages of Homeownership

The Overlooked Financial Advantages of Homeownership

There are many clear financial benefits to owning a home: increasing equity, building net worth, growing appreciation, and more. If you’re a renter, it’s never too early to make a plan for how homeownership can propel you toward a stronger future. Here’s a dive into three often-overlooked financial benefits of homeownership and how preparing for them now can steer you in the direction of greater stability, savings, and predictability.

1. You Won’t Always Have a Monthly Housing Payment

According to a recent article by the National Association of Realtors (NAR):

“If you’ve been a lifelong renter, this may sound like a foreign concept, but believe it or not, one day you won’t have a monthly housing payment. Unlike renting, you will eventually pay off your mortgage and your monthly payments will be funding other (possibly more fun) things.”

As a homeowner, someday you can eliminate the monthly payment you make on your house. That’s a huge win and a big factor in how homeownership can drive stability and savings in your life. As soon as you buy a home, your monthly housing costs will begin to work for you as forced savings, coming in the form of equity. As you build equity and grow your net worth, you can continue to reinvest those savings into your future, maybe even by buying that next dream home. The possibilities are truly endless.

2. Homeownership Is a Tax Break

One thing people who have never owned a home don’t always think about are the tax advantages of homeownership. The same piece states:

“Both the interest and property tax portion of your mortgage is a tax deduction. As long as the balance of your mortgage is less than the total price of your home, the interest is 100% deductible on your tax return.”

Whether you’re living in your first home or your fifth, it’s a huge financial advantage to have some tax relief tied to the interest you pay each year. It’s one thing you definitely don’t get when you’re renting. Be sure to work with a tax professional to get the best possible benefits on your annual return.

3. Monthly Housing Costs Are Predictable

A third item noted in the article is how monthly costs become more predictable with homeownership:

As a homeowner, your monthly costs are most likely based on a fixed-rate mortgage, which allows you to budget your finances over a long period of time, unlike the unpredictability of renting.”

With a mortgage, you can keep your monthly housing costs steady and predictable. Rental prices have been skyrocketing since 2012, and with today’s low mortgage rates, it’s a great time to get more for your money when purchasing a home. If you want to lock-in your monthly payment at a low rate and have a solid understanding of what you’re going to spend in your mortgage payment each month, buying a home may be your best bet.

Bottom Line

If you’re ready to start feeling the benefits of stability, savings, and predictability that come with owning a home, let’s get together to determine if buying a home sooner rather than later is right for you.

How Owning a Home Can Make You Happier

How Owning a Home Can Make You Happier

Homeownership comes with all sorts of struggles that renters never deal with. If you rent and your roof leaks, for example, a call to your landlord fixes that (or it should). You don’t have to worry about unexpected expenses, fluctuating property values, or much of anything else.

Despite the advantages of renting, 93% of Americans said they’re happier after buying a home, according to the latest Bank of America Homebuyer Insights Report. In addition, 83% said they would never go back to renting.
“The latest Homebuyer Insights Report confirms what we suspected: Owning a home makes us happier for two reasons — building personal wealth and making valuable memories,” said AJ Barkley, Bank of America’s Head of Neighborhood Lending, in an email to Millionacres.

Most homeowners credit their happiness to an emotional attachment to their home, but, interestingly, they are also more satisfied with their financial well-being than non-owners. Ultimately, no matter how Americans define home, they agree it is a way towards a more stable, happier, way of life.

If it makes you happy

Homeownership has long been a part of the American Dream. The idea that you’re supposed to buy a home as you start a family has become ingrained in American culture. It’s a right of passage that shows a level of financial success and emotional maturity, as it’s not always an easy process to navigate.

More homeowners (77%) reported being satisfied with their financial well-being than non-owners (42%), according to the report. In fact, over two-thirds of respondents said that “their relationships with family and loved ones have changed since purchasing a home.” 50% said they felt “a restored sense of family pride and attachment to loved ones.”

Essentially, even though owning a home comes with a certain level of stress, it checks off other boxes that make the stress worth it. It’s not just about the perceived financial security that owning a home brings, it’s also about putting down roots and having a base for your family.

How to be even happier

Nothing ruins happiness like financial strain. That’s why homebuyers should act rationally and not let emotions cause mistakes that could have a long-lasting impact.

The first thing to do is make sure you can afford the home you buy. Many recommend the 28% rule. That means no more than 28% of your gross income should go to paying your mortgage each month. Lenders may use that number to consider whether to approve your mortgage. Of course, if you spend less, that could be even better.

If you buy a home you can easily afford, that leaves you money for the future if things go wrong. It also lets you build up an emergency fund and replenish savings depleted from a down payment.

People often assume their income will stay the same or keep climbing and are tempted to buy the most expensive house they can afford. That’s a dangerous decision, as nobody can predict when they might face a personal crisis that impacts their income.

If you want your home to make you happy in the long term, make sure it never becomes a financial burden. One way to do that is to aim in the middle or toward the bottom of what you can afford when making the purchase.

This post originally appeared on Millionacres.