Home Appraisals Coming in Right Down the Middle

Honesty never hurt anybody.

And when it comes to your home’s value – honesty is much appreciated.

According to Quicken Loans Home Price Perceptions Index, May saw an average home appraisal that was .79% lower than the homeowner’s estimate, which reflects a narrowing gap after six months of widening.

While home values rose 3.54% year over year, the index shows that on a month-over-month basis, the Midwest was the only region with home value growth with a .47% gain.

Appraisals, as most homebuyers and sellers know, can be an emotional roller coaster; either the appraisal comes in too low or too high – but as of now, it looks like it’s meeting in the middle of buyer and seller expectations.

Bill Banfield, Quicken Loans EVP of Capital Markets, explains, “[…]appraisals are not likely to cause much of a disruption in the mortgage process. This is, however, a reminder to homeowners that they should always keep an eye on the home sales around them to get a realistic gauge of their home value before estimating what it could be.”

Real Estate Tip of the Week: How to Implement Voice Search

While we all know keywords are pivotal to help your real estate website track well on Google, it might be surprising to learn about voice searches.

With smartphones, any consumer can ask their phone a question by voice instead of typing it in. ComScore has predicted that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be via voice and 30% of searches will take place without a screen.

That’s some news.

So it’s important that you tweak your blog to work within these lines – because, after all, we don’t talk the same way as we type.

Example:

Voice search: How old is Tom Cruise?

Text search: Tom Cruise age

You’ll want to organize your website and blog posts to fit voice search as well as text search – but how?

Google’s Answer Featured Snippet

Incorporate question keyword phrases into your blog writing and website copy. Think mostly about common questions being asked in your field – “How to save for a down payment,” or “how to find a real estate agent” – and tailor your content to those questions using those specific keywords.

Putting this in place will greatly help with ranking for Google’s answer featured snippet. Voice assistants can easily pull from these to answer questions – but you’ll want to write answers that are concise and straight-to-the-point.

Your titles for these blog posts should also include keywords like “how,” “what,” and “where” so Google understands that you’re answering a question.

Get Local

With 39% of voice search queries about local business information, implementing more of your SEO voice search recognition will be key.

Make sure that your business page is current and has the correct address and contact information listed.

Stay Informed

Voice searches, while still very prevalent, are still in the works when it comes to SEO and Google rankings. As voice rankings continue to progress, monitor any new information published – Google Analytics is a great way to stay informed; it breaks down how your audience is using their mobile devices, which can show you how you need to invest when updating your SEO.

Tick Tock: Homebuyers Don’t Care About the Clock

Making a commitment is hard.

Let alone purchasing a home.

Your house will probably be the biggest purchase you will make in your lifetime (not to continue scaring you), so it would make sense for you to need time on your decision.  

According to a new study from Canadian real estate firm, Zolo, nearly 2,000 recent homebuyers said they spent an average of 124 hours – 10 days – searching for a home.

And one of their biggest regrets?

Wishing they would have taken more time to look through homes.

But if you’re currently trying to sell your home, don’t let the time frame bother you. The study also found that the more the buyer visits a home, the better odds are for it to end in a sale:

  • 10% of buyers say they viewed the home just once before submitting an offer
  • 23% viewed twice
  • 31% viewed three times
  • 20% viewed four times

Younger buyers aged 21 to 29 were the biggest group to view three to four times before making an offer, whereas buyers aged 30 to 39 viewed a property twice on average.

Homeowners Gain in First Quarter – but How Much?

It pays to be a homeowner – especially now.

According to the Home Equity Report by CoreLogic, homeowners gained $6,400 in home equity between the first quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of this year.

That’s an equity increase of 5.6%!

Frank Martell, President and CEO of CoreLogic, explains, “We expect home equity to continue increasing nationally in 2019, albeit at a slower pace than in recent years.”

The top ten states with the highest average gain:

  • Idaho – $21K
  • Nevada – $21K
  • Wyoming – $20K
  • Utah – $19K
  • New York – $17K
  • Hawaii – $16K
  • Colorado – $14K
  • Arizona – $14K
  • Massachusetts – $14K
  • South Dakota – $12K

And that’s not all.

Those who owe more on their mortgage than their home’s current value also dropped in the first quarter – these households dropped to 4.1% of all mortgaged properties.

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Become the Agent Expert of the Neighborhood

As a real estate agent, there are multiple avenues to honing your craft and becoming the best agent in your localized area.

Whether you’d like to focus on high-end luxuries, new listings, or unique homes, it’s all up to you. Becoming a neighborhood expert is incredibly beneficial for your brand – you’ll become the go-to agent of the area, and if you do it right, you’ll become the first agent homebuyers think of when they’re ready to list their homes.

So, how can you become a neighborhood expert?

Familiarize Yourself

After selecting the area you’d like to specialize in, it’s critical that you become familiar with the different types of homes in the community. Research the style of homes and the price ranges.

You’ll also want to become familiar with these areas:

  • Schools
  • Local parks / recreation centers
  • Local businesses – i.e., coffee shops, markets, diners, movie theatres, bookstores, etc.

Knowing the below listed items adds a personal touch as well:

  • Trash day
  • Town events
  • Clubs / associations / churches
  • Any public works issues
  • The local job market

It would be helpful to know any optional new construction that might be taking place in the area. Talk directly to the builders, know their products, and ask them about upcoming projects.

Network, Network, Network

Getting to know the HOA board and the local business owners should be your top priority! These groups of people will be the ones to remember your name and face – and hey, they might even give you a referral or two.

When you talk with the HOA, be sure to know what the average monthly fees are, what the fees cover, and any maintenance future tenants will need to be made aware of. 

Holding open houses in the area is another great way to network and get your name out there.

Use Social Media

Keep your followers and potential clients up-to-speed with what you’re doing around town. Post about market statistics in the area, upload a photo of the new coffee shop in town, or showcase a mortgage lender located in the area.

Volunteer

Agents are busy – but if you can find a little time in your day to make a difference in that specialized community of yours, it can really work some wonders. Think about sponsoring a local sports team, volunteering at the local food bank, or helping out during a run or an event through the local parks!

Take the Right Picture – Your Home Will Sell Faster

Presentation matters; and when it comes to home listings, appearance matters even more.

With some buyers making offers without even setting foot in the home, it’s important that photos correctly highlight the features of the space.

Listing pictures are the first thing buyers see online – these images could potentially make or break a sale. So what photos are the best to list?

Professional photos will enhance your listings – these photographers will know how to angle photos, fix the color tones, and really enhance the feel of the home.

Homes professionally photographed with a high-performance Digital Single-Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera sell quicker and for thousands of dollars more than homes shot with an amateur camera – for example, homes listed between $200,000 and $1 million sold for $3,400 to $11,200 more than their list prices when professionally photographed. 

Redfin’s national photography manager, Drew Larrigan, explains: “The number one thing people get wrong with listing photography is having the mindset that anyone can do it and deliver a beautiful photo. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work you don’t see, capturing layers of High Dynamic Range (HDR) images to create one beautiful shot.”

Second Chances and Listing Your Home Right the First Time

When you list it, list it right.

At least, that’s what a new survey from Redfin is suggesting.

When it comes to listing your home for the first time, it pays to list it for the correct amount the first time, rather than initially starting with a higher price to test the waters.

Homes get 3.4 times more online views the day they are listed than they do the day the seller drops the price. Online views of the home drop significantly after the first day, with half as many visitors on the second day and a quarter as many after a week of it being listed.

Redfin Chief Economist, Daryl Fairweather, explains: “It’s critical to price your home to sell from the start; fair or not, buyers judge a home by how many days it has been on the market.”

The survey found that when a home is listed and is viewed by 100 buyers online its first day, it receives an average of just 17 views per day after 30 days on the market. The day of a price drop raises to 29 views; the day after a price drop has an average of 18 views.

Dropping the price on a home would theoretically bring in more activity, as it might become more affordable to a larger portion of home shoppers – however, it seems as though a price drop means bad news to potential homeowners.

Redfin’s advice – price right the first time.

Mortgage Shopping 101: A How To

It looks like first-time homebuyers have been making better strides when it comes to comparing mortgage rates; 29% of first-time homebuyers shopped around for 2 or more mortgages, while 20% of repeat buyers did the same.

Just like when it comes to comparison-shopping for your coffee machine on Amazon, it’s important that you do the same for your mortgage.

A new study from Lending Tree found that comparing mortgage rates could equal a median lifetime savings of $40,959 in interest on a $300,000 loan. That’s a lot of cash.

But shopping around for mortgages can be intimidating – here’s how to do it:

Begin Shopping Early

Don’t wait until the last possible moment when you have deadlines coming up – this will cause you to jump on the first offer before you really have a chance to read through the fine print. Shop around with three to four different lenders before meeting with a real estate agent to have a better idea of what you can borrow.

Compare Fees

Interest rates are important, but a lot of consumers forget about the fees. You’ll want to figure out the monthly payment you’ll be comfortable making; while a lender offering a 4.2% interest rate seems better than the other offering 4.5%, the lower lender might have higher overall fees.

Origination fees – also called an underwriter fee or processing fee – is another cost that will vary from lender to lender. Once you have the loan estimate, you should be able to view the breakdown of these fees. You can also ask each lender for an official written loan estimate of rates and fees.

Lock your Rate

After you have your home under contract, you’ll want to double check with the lenders you’ve previously talked with to see if any of their terms have changed (remember, mortgage rates change frequently). Once you have decided on the lender you want to go through, ask them to lock the best interest rate that works for you, so you’ll avoid any changes that might happen while the loan is being underwritten.

Understand Your Finances

Lenders will look at your credit score history – understand where you fall in this range. The higher the credit score, the more buying and bargaining power you will have.

Check out Alliance Title’s Buyer-Seller Guide for all the tips and advice you’ll need when searching for your dream home!

Vacant Versus Occupied: Selling Your Home for More

Don’t place that vacant home in a corner.

A new study from Redfin found that vacant homes sell for $11,306 less and spend six more days on the market than occupied homes for sale.

Which…might be surprising.

While vacant homes allow for easier access for potential buyers to view the listing, these empty spaces seem to be a reason for buyers not to rush on placing a bid on the home. Redfin also suggests that sellers who are in a position to own a vacant home for sale might not be as motivated to receive a higher price as sellers who might need the cash from their sale in order to purchase another home.

Vacant homes, while allowing potential buyers to picture their own personal touches, might seem intimidating to buyers; clients might not be able to envision how the space could be utilized. However, if a home is still currently occupied, the sale will depend on what type of furniture is still in the home.

Redfin agent, Billie Hermerson, explains: “If a home is occupied and the furniture is up to date and fits in the space, it has a positive impact on a potential buyer’s perception of the home and they may pay more than if the home were vacant. But if a seller’s furnishings are dated, dark, or too large for the space, buyers may offer less.”

Other options include staging companies, or setting up a virtual staging online.

New Housing Law Protects Against Discrimination

A new law was put in place this past Friday (June 17th) at the U.S. House of Representatives. The Equality Act passed by a vote of 236-173; this act includes protections for LGBTQ people against discrimination in housing.

This law has been added on to current state anti-discrimination laws on a national level by providing an extra layer of support against discrimination throughout the U.S. Earlier this month, the Fair and Equal Housing Act of 2019 has also been trying to add gender identity and sexual orientation to the classes that are defended against discrimination.

Maine Senator, Angus King, explains: “No one should be denied access to affordable housing because of who they are. Safe and affordable housing is the basic building block for all Americans seeking to achieve economic, educational, and personal success.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit also recently ruled that landlords could be held liable for any acts of discrimination if they did not respond to harassment tenants might be facing.