Real Estate Economy Seeing Highs

Real estate has seen its highs and lows – but 2020 rounded out as one of its highs.

According to the Census Bureau, single-family housing was at its highest pace since 2006 in 2020; raising 12% in December.

Matthew Speakman, Zillow Economist, comments on just how successful 2020 has been for the real estate world: “2020 will go down, quite unexpectedly, as one of the best years for home builders in recent memory, and proof that great challenges – and not just those posed by COVID – can be overcome with hard work and creativity.”

Construction has always been the main stress point in real estate. However, in 2020, an estimated 1.380 million housing units were started, which is 7% above 2019.

Single-family authorizations in December was 7.8% above the November figure. Building optimism seems high and is predicated to remain high.

2021 seems promising for the real estate world – experts will keep an eye as we continue to build, purchase, and sell!

For more real estate industry news, stop by Alliance Title’s Blog.

Ski Town Purchases on the Rise

With traveling, comes great responsibility – at least, during the Covid pandemic.

Travel restrictions due to the pandemic have changed the way many of us view “vacations.” A recent survey from Realtor Magazine found that the search of homes in ski towns have jumped 36% annually in the 4th quarter of 2020, but why?

Most of these searches originate from households already in cold weather; staying closer to home – while taking a vacation – means searching for ski towns close by. And while ski towns are widely known for their snow activities, most of these areas are also open in the summer months, which makes it a year-round friendly resort town to purchase a home. ‘

So, ski towns = an outdoor activity that you can participate in that’s relatively safe with social distancing, an escape from your day-to-day routine, and an easily accessible location within driving distance, which makes it easy to follow travel protocols during the pandemic.

Seven of the top 10 ski towns seeing the biggest jumps in online views are located in the Northwest and Midwest.

Check out the following 10 ski towns that showed the biggest spike in online views for home purchases:

  1. Union Dale, Pennsylvania (Median list price: $185,000)
  2. Choteau, Montana (Median list price: $174,500)
  3. North Creek, New York (Median list price: $272,000)
  4. Eden, Utah (Median list price: $1,190,000)
  5. Windham, New York (Median list price: $692,000)
  6. Boone, Iowa (Median list price: $165,000)
  7. Otis, Massachusetts (Median list price: $402,000)
  8.  Lakeside, Montana (Median list price: $972,500)
  9. Paoli, Indiana (Median list price: $135,000)
  10. Boyne Falls, Michigan (Median list price: $321,700)

For more real estate news, stop by Alliance Title’s Blog.

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Staging Your Home for the Modern Age

COVID brought the uptick of showing homes virtually – and even with vaccines rolling around, the real estate industry is pretty sure the whole “virtual” thing isn’t going away anytime soon.

Virtual is convenient, easy, and quick, which makes sense why consumers would like this change!

If you’re showing a home virtually, it’s important that you still stage it properly. But staging for a cell phone screen viewing might be a bit different than showing the home in person. Check out some of our tips on how to stage your home for the screen.

Organize

Obviously, you’ll want to be sure to clean up your space. Put away any loose magazines, books, toys, etc. It’s also probably a good idea to remove any personal items in the homes (pictures) – you’ll want to leave your home clean and organized, so the potential buyer can vision themselves living there.

Practice Run

If you’re doing a “live” walkthrough, it’s important that you actually walk through your house and see how the layout works. While your current layout might work for you, it might not transfer well on camera. Be sure to move any ottomans or coffee tables that might hinder walking easily from room to room.

Set Things Up

Make sure you turn on all the lights and open all of the doors.

Plan your photo montage or (live) video by starting at the front entrance of your home (make sure to also pan around to show the street), the first floor, upper floors, and end with showcasing the backyard.

Make sure you describe each photo or narrate as you create the video. I.e.: “This is the front door entrance,” “You are now looking at the living room space which opens up to the kitchen in the back,” etc.

If you’re working with a real estate agent, make sure you work with them to showcase your home in the best light!

For more real estate guides, stop by Alliance Title’s Blog.

Real Estate Lingo

If you’re currently shopping for a home, then you’ve probably ran across a couple of words or abbreviations that were a little confusing to you. All of the real estate verbiage can be a little hard to keep track of – but you’ve come to the right place!

Check out some of the common real estate vocabulary below, and their simple definitions.

  • AMC (Appraisal Management Company) – This is a company that worked independently from a lender. Once notified by a lender, they will order a home appraisal.
  • Appraisal: This is an impartial opinion of the value of a home, prepared by a licensed and certified appraiser. They come to the conclusion based on data about comparable homes in the area, as well as their own walk-through of the home.
  • Back-End Ratio: This is one of two debt-to-income ratios that a lender will analyze to determine a borrower’s eligibility for a home loan. This ratio compares the borrower’s monthly debt payments to gross income.
  • Closing: A meeting which ownership of a home is transferred from seller to buyer. This usually includes the buyer, seller, real estate agents, and the lender. (psst..and us!).
  • CD (Closing Disclosure): This document is sent to the buyer three days before closing. The document lists all terms of the loan – the amount, interested rate, monthly payment, mortgage insurance, monthly escrow amount, and closing costs.
  • Contingencies: These are written into a home purchase contract that protect the buyer if any issues come up with financing, home inspections, etc.
  • Earnest Money: A security deposit made to the seller of the buyer’s intent to purchase.
  • In Escrow: This period of time takes place after a buyer has made an offer on a home and the seller has accepted. During this (may take 30 days or longer) the home is inspected and appraised, and the title searched for liens.
  • Tax Lien: This is the government’s legal claim against property when the homeowner fails to pay a tax debt.
  • Title Insurance: This protects the buyer and lender if any person or entity steps forward with a claim that was attached to the property before the seller transferred legal ownership of the property. (psstt..hey – we do this!).

These are just some of the few real estate vocabs you might run across along your home purchasing journey. But this list is a great jumping off point to gain the confidence you need to keep on shopping!

For more real estate guides, stop by Alliance Title’s Blog.

Big Techs Solving Affordable Housing?

Amazon – one of the biggest tech companies in the United States – has announced to commit more than $2 billion to create and provide affordable housing at three of its main employment cities: Seattle, Arlington, and Nashville.

Tech companies have been blamed for creating housing problems where they’re located; with big tech companies, come surging home prices. Amazon’s goal is to aid in reducing this housing issue.

With Amazon’s $2 billion promise, also comes plans to invest in the areas for the next five years.

Where exactly is Amazon’s donation going? Their commitment will go toward low-cost loans to aid in building affordable housing. Amazon also plans to offer grants to public agencies and minority-led housing organizations.

Looking for more real estate news? Stop by Alliance Title’s Blog.

The Process for Purchasing a Foreclosed Home

You’ve been searching for homes, and you’ve been seeing foreclosed homes for sale – what does this mean, and how do you purchase one?

Let’s look at the quick facts:

Simple Definition

Sadly, foreclosed homes are seized and put up for sale by the bank that gave the original owner a loan. The home is now owned by the bank.

Pre-foreclosure

This is the first stage in the process before officially declaring a home foreclosed. The original owner has been given legal notice that the process has begun; the only way to avoid the final stage is to sell the property before the mortgage holder takes ownership of it.

If you’re wanting to purchase a home in pre-foreclosure, it usually means approaching the owner and offering to buy it outright. It’s especially important that you remember that the original owner might be running on many emotions – so it’s critical to be understanding.

Foreclosure Auction

If the original owner was not able to sell the home during the pre-foreclosure stage, it will probably go up for sale in a foreclosure auction. Usually these are very fast, so there might not be much time to research the property beforehand.

Bank Owned Property or Real Estate Owned (REO)

When the home has been passed to this stage, patience is important. The bank’s eventual goal is to sell it to make back the unpaid loan amount. Many things need to happen first before a potential buyer can enter this purchasing arena – so if you’re looking to buy quickly, this is probably not for you.

Pros and Cons of Purchasing a Foreclosed Home

Pros:

  • Lower prices
  • Title is cleared from the bank

Cons:

  • Not much time for research – banks usually sell “as-is”, which might mean more repairs within the home
  • Depending on the state, the original homeowner can have up to 12 months to reclaim ownership of their home, which would leave your process of buying the home halted

Purchasing a foreclosed home is not for the faint of heart – and if you’re interested or in the process of doing so, it’s important that you have the right real estate agent to help you through the legal jargon.

For more real estate guides, stop by Alliance Title’s Blog.

Down Payments: How Much is Enough?

If you’re trying to enter the real estate arena, then you know just how difficult it can be to save for a down payment. After all – you’ve been told that the more you put down, the better off you’ll be in the long run.

But how much is “enough”? What price is attainable for you? Being a first-time homebuyer has its challenges, but it also has many programs to help you jump through those hoops.

Check out our tips for down payments below:

First, what is a down payment?

Down payments are the cash you pay upfront when making a large purchase – in this scenario, that purchase is your home. A 10% down payment on a $300,000 home would be $30,000.

This payment is your contribution toward the purchase and ownership of the home; however, the lender provides the rest of the money (that you did not put towards the home) to buy the property.

How much?

Here’s the honest truth: putting down at least 20% on a home will greatly increase your chances of getting approved for a mortgage at a nice rate, and you’ll avoid the mortgage insurance. So a 20% down payment on that $300,000 home we mentioned earlier would be $60,000.

Take a deep breath – that’s a lot of money! If you have the means to do so, then please do so! However, for most people, putting 20% down is a lot more difficult. Fortunately, there are programs that can help you!

There are a variety of mortgages, and they all require different down payments. You just have to find the best one for you!

VA Loans: Usually do not require a down payment. These are guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and are only for current and veteran military service members and eligible surviving spouses.

USDA Loans: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Program handles these. They also have no down payment requirement. USDA loans are for rural and suburban home buyers who meet the program’s income limits, among other requirements.

FHA Loans: Handled by the Federal Housing Administration, these loans range, but require as little as 3.5% down. Going back to the $300,000 home example, a 3.5% down payment would be $10,500.

History

Your lender will also offer you better mortgage loan rates if you do your work and your research. Your credit history matters, as well as comparing lenders! Pstt…we’ve got some tips for you on a previous Mortgage Shopping guide.

The Facts

Like we mentioned before, the more you’re able to put down, the better (financially-speaking) you will be. You usually receive a better interest rate, lower fees, more equity in your home faster, and a lower monthly mortgage payment.

If you have the time and the means, save for that 20% down payment.

However, that might not be the case for everyone. Check out the various loans we mentioned above and see if any of them match your needs and what you’re able to contribute towards.

Finding the right down payment amount for you takes some work:

  • Use a mortgage calculator and play around with different down payment options to see how it affects the monthly mortgage amount
  • Set a budget and stick to it

For more real estate guides and tips, check out Alliance’s Blog.

Real Estate Tip of the Week: 2021 Design Trends

Homeowners and homebuyers are always looking to the next big thing – so home design and trends are constantly changing.

What can we expect for 2021? Houzz, a home-design website, has already made predictions as to what buyers and owners will be on the hunt for in terms of purchasing or updating. If you want to be the real estate agent these home seekers go for, then this list below should help you out.

Check out five of Houzz’s predictions here:

Multi-Zone Kitchen

Kitchens usually have three work zones between the fridge, sink, and range. However, more homeowners are adding additional work points, which Houzz refers to as a “work trapezoid.” These areas might help with baking, prepping and chopping, or other designated areas like snacks, drinks, or supplies.

Sconce Lighting

Sconce lighting is traditionally known as a bracket mounted on the wall that is used to hold a source of light. Homeowners are wanting to apply “swing-arm” sconce fixtures. Houzz notes that these type of lighting elements help add a bit of shimmer from metal finishes and helps break up walls of cabinets or tile.

Updating Bathroom Design

Bathrooms are now becoming the space in the room for evoking a “relaxing vibe” to help reduce stress. Some updates have been adding steam showers, aromatherapy shower heads, and elements to hold beverages.

Home Offices and Nooks

Obviously with the pandemic and most employees working from home, homeowners are requesting home offices where there will be an efficient space for work.

Video Conference-Worthy Backgrounds

In addition to requiring office spaces, some homeowners are also wanting an aesthetically pleasing background for all of the new video meetings. Whether that’s a built-in bookcase, a reading nook, or a pop of color, this new design trend is all about making things look pretty.

What home design trends are you most looking forward to in 2021?

For more real estate tips, check out Alliance’s Blog.

Real Estate Tip of the Week: Updating Tech to Reach Clients

As you all know, COVID has made a direct impact on how we all conduct business. It became imperative – essentially overnight – to have technology that would easily help the consumer continue business with you.

It’s almost been 10 months of change, so why not take a look and see what consumers are still needing, and how we can keep adapting – digital-wise, that is.

Moxtra, a firm that offers digital solutions, recently surveyed 1,500 small businesses and customers. Their findings showcase just how important “digital resilience” is, not only during the pandemic, but in today’s digital age in general.

Here are their findings:

  • Consumers want digital connections from small businesses. 84% of those surveyed said they’d consider seeking an alternative provider if digital capabilities were lacking.
    • Think: communication access to employees (email, social media messaging, chat box, etc.), mobile-friendly website, user-friendly websites, etc.
  • Consumers love small businesses (66% said the pandemic has made them more likely to use local business in the future), but if technology doesn’t remain a top priority, it can be a problem for clients to support them.
  • For small businesses, it may be difficult to create a seamless transition to a digital-friendly platform.

Understanding that technology is important to bridge between business and consumer isn’t the problem, but rather, making sure the transition has been, and will be, seamless for companies and clients. Technology is a necessity for both employee and consumer alike.

How has your company evolved through the pandemic?

For more real estate news, stop by Alliance’s Blog.

2021 Colors of the Year

If you’re into home design, then you’re no stranger to Pantone’s Color of the Year!

For their selection process, Pantone’s color experts search the world for new color influences – whether that’s through fashion, travel destinations, new technologies, materials, textures, or social media platforms!

And they’ve conducted their research and have announced the color of the year for 2021 – with TWO colors: Pantone 17-5104 Ultimate Gray & Pantone 13-0647 Illuminating.


Pantone explains, “[these] two independent colors highlight how different elements come together to support one another […] practical and rock solid, but at the same time warming and optimistic, the union [of these colors] is one of strength and positivity.”

Looks like we can all look to a brighter, more comforting future with these welcoming colors!

Check out Pantone’s previous colors of the year, here!

For more real estate news and tips, stop by Alliance’s Blog.