Black-eyed Susans are in full bloom, raging across gardens and hillsides in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Chatter has begun about picking apples, not blueberries, from an orchard near you. Ritters, anyone? Sure, Dunkin Donuts is now showcasing its Blood Orange Refresher, claiming it’s their seasonal drink. Schools are reopening for the new academic year. Football has begun again! Did you catch yesterday’s Backyard Brawl thriller? The unofficial end to summer happens this Labor Day weekend. And yes, this morning was a little chilly, I must say, but I’m holding onto summer this year!

We lack the four seasons in our region, we really do. Spring, in recent years, is a mixture of winter slop and daffodils and crocuses refusing to make up their minds whether it’s time to sprout or not. Autumn seems hidden behind the winter breeze that kidnaps the summer heat. When summer finally gets into motion, department stores are cramming Halloween decor and Christmas lights into our shopping carts. Don’t get me wrong, fall is my favorite, absolute favorite season of the year. [I even purchased a case of Founders’ Oktoberfest a few days ago – shhhh!] I’m just not willing to surrender to autumn this year. I don’t care how many times you shout pumpkin spice!

Summer hasn’t made an exit yet. In fact, I had sand between my toes only days ago and a sunburn on my right arm.

Real estate may likewise side with my position. It appears, like me, it could be summer dreaming. Some of its optics exude traditional summer responses. More properties have gone under contract in August of this year as opposed to August of 2021 and the housing supply remains dismal, 1.65 months supply, last time I checked. Keep in mind, a balanced market with normal inventory levels produces a month’s supply between five and seven. Nevertheless, as much as I hate to admit it, our market’s leaves are changing color. Sold listings through last month, year-to-date, are down 6.4%. New listings, likewise, are down month-over-month, when compared to last August, by over 23%. Perhaps this market has had enough of the surge it experienced over the previous twenty-six months (give or take).

Could it be that homebuyers, much like blueberry-pickers of July and August, have had their fill? They’ve looked at the entire inventory (which hasn’t been much), they’re fatigued by record-setting inflation and mortgage rates that don’t look as appealing as they did this past January. Although there’s certainly an element of truth to these pressures, the strain has been on buyers for some time now, our market remains rather healthy. When will inventory increase and the market become more balanced? That’s really anyone’s guess at this point – industry experts have yet to nail that down. In spite of that, year-to-date, there’s been a 19.9% increase in homes sold this year opposed to only five years ago in 2017.

We’re looking forward to a change in season in real estate, after all buyers need reprieve too! But summer wants to stick around this year (it told me so). We hope you can enjoy the few remaining weeks of the season.

* statistics from the Greater Scranton Board of REALTORS® (August 2017 – August 2022)

 

Whatever season you find yourself in, make sure to use our “search by city” feature and discover all our area has to offer.

Homebuyers, 2023 may be your year! There’s no guarantee next year will welcome a buyer’s market, but recent indicators are trending in that direction. Though properties are still moving for sellers in our market, they need to be priced right and there must be an element of enticement for prospective buyers, such as its location or curb appeal. Buyers can start getting down to business. They can deal with the market at their own pace and with very little pressure.

Some never caved to outside influences, especially those who could be patient and didn’t need to purchase a home. The winds in our market are shifting. Yes, inventory is bleak, scarcer than it was only three years ago. In July of 2019, 1,387 active listings sat on the market, this past July only a fraction of that – 553 listings – down 60%. And even less today with 532 residential listings currently active.* Many professionals in the industry thought the housing supply would recover by now, but that remains to be seen. Furthermore, the national supply is up year-over-year, over a 30% increase, the largest jump since 2017.

So where is this shift occurring? First, buyers are beginning to see the housing shortage disappear (at least on a large scale). Secondly, there’s a seasonal shift to buying and selling, this is traditional and it’s obvious, it’s “back to school” and it’s the onset of the autumn season, but it’s also temporal. Next, the pool of buyers has dwindled in recent months, placing more tension back upon the sellers. Buyers have faced climbing interest rates since the beginning of the year when they hovered near 3%. Though recent weeks have seen decreases to the mortgage rates, they currently sit around 5.5-5.6%. Buyer as well as sellers have been affected by these increases. Finally, buyers are regaining the upper hand over sellers. Now, they’re looking back to contingencies and leaning on them when signing sales agreements. When competition was fierce between buyers for over two years, this rarely happened.

“It’s certainly a breath of fresh air,” explains Ann E. Cappellini, Associate Broker for Realty Network Group. “There’s a stronger sense of hope for those looking to buy a home, though obstacles still remain.” Buyers can get more realistic nowadays. As long as they have the means financially, the way is less burdensome. With less resistance, homebuyers can use contingencies, such as home inspections to weigh their options, if and when sizable issues present themselves.

When the financial risks of an escrow deposit arise, it’s in the buyer’s best interests they utilize inspections, mortgage and/or appraisal contingencies. According to Redfin, escrow is a legal arrangement where typically a third party will temporarily hold the buyer’s deposit (often used as a down payment or toward their closing costs) until the deal is consummated. In Pennsylvania, the listing Brokerage will generally hold the earnest money deposit (not a neutral third party), though this isn’t always the case. “Escrow matters in Pennsylvania, like many other states, are held in strict compliance with the Real Estate Licensing & Registration Act (RELRA) and the state’s agreement of sale, which has been formulated by the Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS® (PAR),” emphasizes Cappellini. “During the homebuying escrow period of a sale, though the deposit might be held in the listing agency’s escrow account, the money may not be commingled with other funds and furthermore not released to either party, if the Broker is in receipt of a verifiable written notice that there’s a dispute over those funds and it’s subject to mediation or litigation.” Escrow is a serious matter in real estate, especially in our state, and as such, RELRA and PAR specifically outline how earnest money is to be handled from the beginning to the end of all transactions.

Yes, contingencies can kill a transaction and they certainly impact a deal, but they’re in place to protect buyers. These protections are good for both parties, even though it doesn’t always appear so for sellers. Perhaps a deal goes south due to one of the clauses employed by the buyer. It doesn’t go as expected and the buyer is able to receive their deposit monies back. On the flip side, if it’s understood that all the contingencies are met and the buyer walks away or defaults on the deal, the seller might be entitled to the deposit and can also sue for specific performance. Whether you’re a buyer or seller, make sure to discuss with your REALTOR® how contingencies in a real estate transaction can impact you. You’ll be glad you did!

The later part of this year might bring about some stabilization in the way of a more balanced market, but don’t expect one favoring buyers anytime soon. As inventory shortages continue, and they will, prospective homebuyers are attempting to determine if they should stay in the game. Others have doubts and aren’t sure if they should join the quest for homeownership either.

The anticipation of homeownership can be intoxicating for some. Recent months have been a prime example of this in our region of Northeastern Pennsylvania. With homes sold on par with the previous year (843 versus 853, respectively)*, and inventory struggling to see the light of day (1.29 month’s supply),* there’s an element of hysteria to real estate transactions these days. Certainly the pandemic was a catalyst for the surge in activity, but make no mistake about it, our housing supply had already been depleted prior to 2020.

Before we reveal why now is a good time to buy, there are a couple reasons we caution some to re-evaluate their situation before purchasing a home. These reasons include those facing upheaval in their lives, those who must remain nomadic for the sake of their job as well as anyone who struggles to cover their monthly expenses. If your life is a little frantic today and you’re going through transitions, purchasing a home might not be the best course of action. If you’ve undergone more change than you care to admit, renting may provide you more freedom and less stress. It’s also favorable for those who need to move promptly due to work. Homeownership can only create headaches for these successful itinerant types, who could potentially sit on the sidelines waiting longer than expected for their home to sell. Finally, owning a home comes with maintenance, presumably a mortgage, taxes, insurance and occasionally other fees/costs. If you presently grapple with covering your expenses and debt, purchasing a home isn’t a path you should pursue until your situation changes for the better.

Obviously, renting in particular situations just makes sense! Doesn’t a seller’s market, the likes of 2022, qualify as one of those instances? Not necessarily. In fact, since the “lockdown dam” ruptured in June of 2020, rents have been rising too.

Yes, glaring issues in our economy such as inflation, the increasing costs for food/gas, among others, create barriers to buying (we can’t minimize them), but opportunities exist for those looking to enter the market, especially for the first time. They remain even in the midst of a supply shortage.

Homebuyers, now is the perfect time to pursue homeownership, especially if you don’t need to sell and your rental rates are continuing to climb. Purchasing property is advantageous, and in the majority of cases, will be the smarter play over leasing. Here are the top three reasons why purchasing a home (or likewise, continuing to own one) now makes sense.

Stability

Because the landscape for buying and selling is more volatile recently, having a meticulous plan of approach is essential. Before you commit to taking on a mortgage, understand your finances and prepare them appropriately. The first step toward investing in your future in real estate is stability. If you’re grounded in your finances, with trace amounts of bad debt in your name, and you have the ability to afford a home at a particular price point in addition to the closing costs that are associated with it, you’re in a good position to invest. If you have a nest egg or emergency fund, you’re in a superb position. Of course, having excellent credit gives you a competitive advantage and firmer stability still.

You’ve Been Squandering Your Extra Money

If you’re looking for safer places to store your loot, you should strongly consider building equity by purchasing a home. Homeownership forces you to produce equity. On the other hand, renting makes it easier to spend your extra cash rather than invest it. The money you’re putting into a home will come back to you as your property appreciates over time. In 2021, we witnessed homes appreciate by roughly 19% and they should sustain 5-10% through year’s end. Housing appreciation in the Greater Scranton area registers 13.1%, year-over-year for the April.* According to the latest numbers from CoreLogic from March, homes have appreciated by 20.9%, year-over-year. It’s a great time to make an investment in a home!

Feel At Home

As a result of owning property, you can create something that’s truly yours. Would you like to renovate? You can. [Make sure to check with your local municipality/borough first.] Want a bigger say in lifestyle decisions? Make them for yourself and your family. Need increased privacy? You’re in the driver’s seat. You can make additions to your property to make it more secure. You can erect shrubs and fences. Alter the landscaping or design of your residence, because you can – you’re captain of this ship. Don’t worry about the logistics! Homeownership means less restrictions and limitations and more freedom.

Why not own a place you can call home, when it’s all said and done? As a prospective homebuyer, especially a first-time one, you have the ability to invest in your family and create a foundation to build on, for their stability too. What’s more, homeownership statistically creates a better environment for children. There are many intangibles produced when a child has a safe and affordable place to live. Furthermore, homeownership drives your local economy and has the potential to enhance your community. For every two home sales, one job is generated, increasing economic mobility

If you’re looking for housing, don’t give up hope. Our region might be slightly oversaturated with buyers, but that continues to improve. What we can expect six months from now is anyone’s guess, but we’re approaching a more balanced market in the months ahead. At the moment, it’s a great time to buy, and if you’re in the position to do so, will you take the steps necessary to join those who find homeownership very rewarding?

* statistics from the Greater Scranton Board of REALTORS®

It’s no mystery the last two years have altered home design in new construction forever, but what remains to be seen is whose tastes will prevail over the next decade or so. The millennial generation, albeit the largest group of homebuyers, are still but a fraction of the whole. What may work for this age group, might not for other generations like X, baby boomers, etc. Since 2020, the emergence of flex space has become popular and has gained traction, notably for those seeking a home on the market.

Flex space is simply an area within a home that’s able to evolve with the needs of its owner. Its essential elements are flexibility, versatility and evolution. These elements are key! Depending on the daily, weekly or yearly needs of a homeowner, how can the home respond? If you ever doubted residences had life within them, disbelieve no more. Flex space breathes more life into homes than we ever could have imagined, but a short while ago. And it goes beyond residential properties and home design. This concept has lived within the confines of commercial real estate for decades, a hybrid of office and industrial space.

What makes flex space within a home attractive though is its ability to alter the interior of the home without changing the structure of it. There are no additions needed, and quite frankly, with distribution channels and contractor timetables the way they are for the foreseeable future, this is another longer-term solution available to homeowners looking to upgrade their homes.

It’s important to reinforce, this concept/trend isn’t for everyone. As stated above, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all remedy to new construction nor updates to a home. When flex space is infused into a property there’s a specific intent in mind. Just as a kitchen is the center of many homes and there’s a particular purpose for that space, flex space likewise gives greater meaning to a room. If the room becomes less functional, it ceases to be a flex room and becomes a forgotten space. The room that once served a purpose, might now contain a bed, a computer monitor and about a dozen or more tchotchke items. This is one of the downsides to this concept and the de-evolution of a room, if you will. If it starts to serve little purpose, in the end, it will mirror nothing more than a glorified closet or storage spot.

When it doesn’t include the flexibility, versatility and the ability to evolve, the space will become like any other room in the house, or worst yet – the definition of clutter. Flex space should never be used as a bonus room. Build upon it, yes, but don’t settle there. There is a danger in having a multipurpose room cease to perform as such and resemble a failed attempt to maximize space. While maximizing space and functionality are certainly important when considering flex-ability in the home, significant thought should be given to what’s most important for homeowners and their families. How much time are they spending at home? Are they working from home as well? Having a plan is vital with this design trend, which will remain a permanent expectation for buyers, according to realtor.com’s chief economist, Danielle Hale.

The needs of homeowners in addition to buyers are presently driving design and of course, this trend is an off-shoot of that. There are many ways this concept is flourishing in real estate in 2022, including home offices which double as libraries, playrooms which are also guest rooms or home theaters that morph into family rooms including a wet bar to entertain guests. The absolute best use of flex space in the home though is when we use the three principles of flexibility, versatility and evolution and merge them with technology and home automation. Quite honestly, this is the direction this trend is headed, especially with younger homebuyers. We can identify it as true “flex space.” Joe Wheeler, co-director at the Center for Design Research demonstrates how this trend is evolving and what we can expect in the not-so-distant future:

Flex space is an interesting concept, to say the least. What are your thoughts about this trend and how do you see it playing out in your residence over the next decade or so?

There’s more uncertainty in the national real estate market than we’ve seen in some time. We’re two years beyond the onset of COVID and while we’re past many of the main health concerns of the virus, obstacles still remain. Remote work is likely here to stay, thus there are adjustments to housing post pandemic, which continue to unfold and impact the market. Is time running out for sellers to take advantage? Will buyers have a better chance of acquiring real estate being that their purchasing power has somewhat diminished? What’s in store for our market in the Greater Scranton area?

The future of real estate isn’t as dark as some would have you believe. The chance of a housing crash, the likes of 2007-2010, lacks much supporting evidence. In fact, the exact opposite might be true. Many experts are calling for a busy spring market this year and even Zillow projects home appreciation to hover around 9% for 2022. Many of the conditions, which existed prior to the housing bubble, simply aren’t present. When the market began to tank fifteen years ago, there was a surplus in housing inventory, mortgage lending resembled the Wild West and foreclosures occupied their fair share of the market.

Today, the narrative is quite different. There are shortages in markets throughout the country. Here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, our month’s supply of homes continues to unimpress buyers: year-to-date we sit at 1.29.* A magnifying glass would be required if the inventory got any smaller. In the four years, which consisted of the housing bubble, the market was heavily in favor of buyers and saw surpluses of housing between 7.3 and 9.6 month’s supply, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Furthermore, lending restrictions are much tighter than those that existed fifteen years ago. In 2010, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act became law with its eye toward consumer protection and a reform of the lending industry, especially riddance of predatory lenders. In general, those who are approved for a mortgage in 2022 are much more qualified than those approved even a dozen years ago. Finally, negative equity in the national housing industry has reached its lowest level over this same period of time. Much fewer homeowners are underwater than were during the housing bubble.

The future of housing post pandemic is not scary. Actually, 2023 will probably resemble 2019 more than it will last year. Inventory will bounce back, but that might take a year or two. The immediate future for sellers does pose a threat to them receiving top dollar for their investment. “There’s a little insanity in our market right now,” maintains Amy L. Kiesinger Bohenek, an Associate Broker with Realty Network Group. “Listing agents are faced with multiple showings and offers, sometimes over asking price. The appraisal process can be cause for a headache from time-to-time too. When a home doesn’t appraise, where does that leave both parties, especially the seller?” Despite this, the window for bidding wars and high price appreciation is closing. Despite climbing mortgage rates, demand for housing remains strong. Price appreciation will continue to trend up, albeit home prices shouldn’t be in the neighborhood of 18%, like much of last year. Sellers in our region should act sooner than later if they want to take advantage of this market they find themselves firmly entrenched.

Buyers must hang in there if they have a desire to pursue real estate anytime soon. The question remains, how can you sit tight when your purchasing power appears to be vanishing? Homebuyers have seen the average thirty-year fixed mortgage rate increase to roughly 5.3%, which is about 2% higher than it was at the beginning of the year. Many first-time buyers are already struggling to get their foot in the door and compete with others, including investors. Higher rates, for those who require a mortgage, generally mean they’ll have less to contribute toward a monthly payment. That’s why it’s important for buyers to have a plan, stick to a budget and know what they can afford.

In addition to the factors listed above, real estate in Northeastern Pennsylvania continues to have affordability as its ally. Year-to-date, the median home sales price is $179,000 (up 7.7% from the previous year).* New listings are down slightly, but inventory is expected to pick up. The groundwork for homes to appreciate at a slightly slower pace with small improvements in inventory is being laid. With an increase in buyer and seller competition that’s sure to come this spring and summer, being too conservative, will surely impact homeowners thinking about selling.

 

* Greater Scranton Board of REALTORS®

Homeowners are incentivized to sell, if they’re in a position to do so, as we set sights on the spring housing market. It’s no surprise that last year was a stellar year for homebuying and selling. Unfortunately, many were left on the sidelines, especially first-time buyers who only had FHA loan approval or were relying on a more limited down-payment as they pursued homeownership. Often investors beat first-timers to the punch, swooping in and snatching up available homes for sale. The challenges still exist. You need only ask those who are still looking to buy.

Persistent low supplies, even locally, have driven up home prices. Fueling the fire was 2021 with its record-breaking growth in the housing sector. Appreciation in home prices was high at the start of the year and accelerated even higher by year’s end. “Price appreciation averaged 15% for the full year of 2021,” which was more than double the prior year.

Sellers who can afford to sell, and we use that term “afford” loosely, should do so. If you’re a homeowner thinking about selling, is there a better time of the year to put your property on the market? Is there an optimal time to sell? Is there a month or a very specific time of the year where a seller would be in a better position than if he/she waited? These are great questions. New and sold listings in our market will shed some light on this discussion.

New Listings in the Greater Scranton Board of REALTORS®
2021 2019 2018
February 172 244 228
March 267 324 320
April 330 400 364
May 387 432 448
June 374 381 434
July 368 360 387
August 397 331 353
September 329 329 313

*GSBR statistics 2018-2021

Sold Listings in the Greater Scranton Board of REALTORS®
2021 2019 2018
February 157 159 138
March 243 180 187
April 248 203 168
May 262 250 258
June 312 240 214
July 294 270 240
August 313 265 285
September 298 228 225

*GSBR statistics 2018-2021

The COVID-filled year of 2020 was a tale of two markets, an extremely silent one as well as a vigorous one beginning in June of that year, and therefore, we skipped it for obvious reasons. But the patterns of three of the last four years show a trend. New listings entering the market peaked in May/June and sales hit their highs in July/August. And this correlation between sales and listings is logical with an estimated forty-five to sixty days to close for properties in our market.

It might be advantageous for prospective sellers to circle the month of March on their calendars. Next month you say? Yes, March is the perfect time to list! ATTOM data would also suggest March or perhaps even April is the best time to put your home on the market. May and June experience the highest returns for those looking to make a profit in selling their property. But don’t sweat it, if you’re not ready to go in March or April, you might be able to catch some of that buyer activity during the summer months.

We would caution anyone looking to sell though as home price appreciation may begin to taper as this year comes to a close. The median home price was almost 12% higher than it was a year ago and that should continue short-term, according to realtor.com’s chief economist. But many forecasters believe a plunge in home prices is coming by year’s end. Sellers who are on the fence, should act soon. In fact, next month might just be the perfect month!

What if we told you we were coming up on the sweet spot for buying and selling in real estate? Would you believe us? Real estate has a long tradition of being a seasonal market, especially in Northeastern Pennsylvania where we undergo four seasons. Alright, perhaps we only have three – late summer, long winter and rainy spring! Nevertheless, if and when spring sets in, motivated sellers have their sights set on unloading their home for top dollar. Over the past few years, there’s been a slight shift in the data in how consumers have responded. And of course, COVID-19 has severely affected traditional real estate trends in our Greater Scranton market.

The trends over the past nine months show some of those glaring differences:

Month Sold Listings Year-Over-Year % Active Listings Year-Over-Year %
October 388 68.7 665 -51.5
September 335 46.9 667 -50.8
August 361 36.2 692 -50.9
July 350 29.6 811 -41.5
June 141 -41.2 856 -36.3
May 107 -57.2 888 -30.6
April 156 -23.2 968 -19.0
March 167 -7.2 1046 -8.5
February 156 -1.9 1026 -11.6
January 173 16.1 1079 -8.9

* Greater Scranton Board of REALTORS® statistics

The sold listings from this past May, June, September and October clearly point to disruptions the pandemic has imposed on real estate in Northeastern Pennsylvania all while housing inventory continues to fall. Regardless, if we’re trending back to some sense of normalcy in real estate, Thanksgiving time might be the sweet spot for buying or selling real estate.

If you’re seriously considering purchasing a home, November and December certainly can make their case as to why you should make a move into their corner. Generally, autumn has been an excellent time to buy a property. In fact, according to real estate information company Attom Data Solutions, some of the best days to buy are November 9, December 4, 7, 26 and 29. Boxing Day, December 26, a monster shopping day on the calendar, is actually the single best day to purchase a home!

As we approach the heart of winter, buyers notice some of the lowest prices of the year. In fact, low mortgage rates continue to provide many with the opportunity to purchase, while having more buying power. Though experts believe the rates will stay low for the start of 2021, a change in leadership, bond prices and the state of the economy could certainly change that.

Believe it or not, November and December likewise present a good situation for some who are looking at selling. At the end of the year, buyers typically have less choice and homeowners seeking to sell may take advantage of these circumstances. The fact of the matter is this: There’s generally less competition for sellers, whereas there’s more motivation and perhaps the lure of year-end tax benefits for buyers. If buyers are seriously considering homeownership, this creates ideal conditions for sellers, who are typically competing with lower inventory by year’s end. Today, in the Greater Scranton area, our housing inventory is incredibly low! Furthermore in recent years, more homebuyers are less fixated on “summer buying” as well as school schedules (some don’t even have children) and if they have time constraints, their motivation can play right into the hands of sellers.

“Traditionally November has always been a really terrific month for sales because you’ve got people who have been out there looking saying, look, another year is about to pass. Let’s focus”

Depending on your specific situation right now, this time of the year might be the sweet spot for buyers and sellers alike. Yes, you’ll find highly motivated sellers in the market, but there won’t be a shortage of motivated buyers either. Given the right mix, it might be perfect timing to buy and sell!

 

If you’re a buyer or seller and have more questions, see our (buyer/seller) FAQs or contact us today.

 

Flexibility quite often was an issue over the years within the real estate industry. Whether it was buyer representation or technological advancements, evolution occurred at a painstakingly slow pace. As someone who witnessed the latter, it was obvious how subpar response to consumer need and demand had taken place. I hope we’ve learned our lesson, but even so I have my skepticism.

Nevertheless, technology has come a long way: More recently, real estate tech has closed the gap, providing homebuyers and sellers more options for both searching and showcasing properties. We’ve experienced a deviation in how consumers are approaching digital content as a whole. Smart devices, cord-cutting, social media and videography have provided opportunities for real estate companies to connect with consumers earlier in the process. There’s more flexibility for REALTORS® as they brace, and I do emphasize brace, for 2021. Virtual home tours (or virtual open houses) and virtual staging are two advances I wish our industry had rolled out a few years ago. The industry, as a whole, wasn’t as proactive as it should have been. I argue, it took a pandemic to force the change.

Virtual home tours are a fantastic way for connecting buyers and sellers in a post-COVID world. With PAR guidelines as they presently exist, it’s extremely difficult to safely conduct and host an open house. More than one agent is required, almost certainly, not to mention the enforcement of PAR COVID forms/questionnaire prior to each and every party entering the premises. Then there’s social distancing, limiting the number of people who enter at one time, disinfecting the home, etc. New information has also been released from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), which suggests there might be an airborne component to transmission beyond a six foot distance. Needless to say, there are obvious challenges when hosting an open house right now.

The majority of homes listed in today’s market, like other products available online, should employ tours for prospective buyers. These home tours need to be dynamic, where users can engage with the property and gain a sense of what the space and rooms feel like. They should get a sense of the floors, ceilings, depth, closet space, foundation, among other things. After viewing the tour, they should almost presume they were physically onsite.

There’s a bright side to these obstacles though. With the onslaught of mobile technology and the strategic advantage of professional photography, virtual open houses are a superb way to capture buyers’ attention and expose sellers’ homes in an increasingly virtual real estate environment. Furthermore, being proactive in this new age of buying and selling is a smart move! Honestly, it’s good practice to have virtual home tours produced ready to go for buyers who either might not be able to access a home or might not want to access a home (because of distance or certain precautions being taken).

A second strategy the real estate industry is deploying these days is virtual staging sessions as well as virtual staging tech. These are terrific ways to connect with potential sellers. Homeowners receive guidance on how their homes can make an astounding first impression via virtual sessions, effectively staging them in this seller’s market. Staging strategies are shared through technology (Facetime, Facebook Messenger, Google Duo, etc.), from the property’s exterior (discussing landscaping and curb appeal) to highlighting key spaces within the interior, better equipping sellers for the road ahead. Tips presented by the agent can provide the homeowner with a leg up on the competition. Staging tech software and apps are also on the rise in 2020. Companies like Compass are beginning to use it, allowing consumers to see something other than vacant rooms as they search. By selecting a few key rooms, now agents, through the use of virtual staging software, have the ability to otherwise showcase those empty, boring rooms, creating a totally different experience for buyers.

Though virtual components of real estate are extremely auspicious now, nothing can replace the sensory experience of a buyer – nothing. The texture of surfaces or the smells of the home or the make-up of the neighborhood cannot be reproduced on video. Ultimately, while we seek to utilize this technology in our market, physically bringing buyers into a property is the ideal – at the very least before an offer is submitted to the selling Brokerage.

It’s been a trying time for homebuyers and sellers since mid-March. They’ve had to put their plans on hold. Their real estate future has been met with uncertainty, but of course, sadly some have lost their jobs and are either in no position to purchase property or are afraid of losing their home. Thankfully, mortgage loan forbearance has rescued many in this post-COVID-19 society. In fact, loan forbearance won’t negatively affect your credit. (Learn more about it here.) There are others who have surprisingly found themselves in a better position than they did at the start of the year: People have realized how much they dislike their jobs by having time to reflect and/or working from their residences; some are “earning” more on unemployment compensation than they did when they were employed; and some, who have families, are working from home while saving money on daycare costs (though that’s coupled with homeschooling these days).

It is a crazy world we live in right now. It seems as if my third grader had written this tale – a contagious virus attacks our cities, school’s out (as well as our supply of toilet paper) and when we opened our pool in May, it began to snow.

Presently, real estate is opened for business in only twenty-four (yellow) counties in Pennsylvania, but it’s not “business as usual” yet. There are precautions taking place in those counties resuming in-person activities. Over the next few weeks, we could see real estate showings and in-person meetings resume in parts of Northeastern PA. Homebuyers, who are patiently waiting and believe they’ll be in a position to buy in the upcoming weeks, can take steps to be ready for action. We’ve outlined six ways you can find your next home while sheltering in place:

  • Use Google’s Street View option to explore areas of interest. This tool allows you to catch a view of a house or an entire neighborhood without even taking a step outside.
  • Time is a precious commodity. We value it and we know you do too! Therefore, when you discover areas of interest, estimate how long it will take you to commute to and from work.
  • Research area schools and learn how they stack up against other districts in your community. GreatSchools is one place to look, but there are others as well. Gain insight into our area school districts and properties available for sale within those districts.
  • Research local cities to find out all they have to offer. We’ve done a little research for you on some of the popular cities of NEPA, including Archbald, Carbondale, Clarks Summit, Dickson City, Dunmore, Factoryville, Moscow, Old Forge and Scranton.
  • Connecting with locals is a great way to gain insight into a neighborhood. Scour the web for resources from local communities as well as social media groups you can join.
  • Make sure to equip yourself with crime data for neighborhoods where you’re thinking about purchasing a home. This is one way to be informed about how safe or potentially dangerous an area might be.
  • Find a buyer’s agent you can trust, who has experience selling in various market conditions and who’s knowledgeable about the areas you’re interested in.

For more insight, check out 8 Ways To Test-Drive A Neighborhood While Sheltering In Place.

Coronavirus Q&A below. Over the course of the past three weeks, Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) has undergone changes in lifestyle, business and just about everything else you can possibly imagine, including real estate. Governor Tom Wolf’s orders, as they pertain to our industry, remain non-life-sustaining. Yet, in a recent move by the Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS® (PAR), the association entered a brief in support of a lawsuit, which has been filed against Pennsylvania’s governor. The purpose of the suit? To designate real estate as a life-sustaining business.

PAR recognizes the importance of “[minimizing] in-person services wherever possible and [following] appropriate CDC guidelines” to keep the public safe and flatten the spread of COVID-19, but when deemed necessary, the association believes sellers and homebuyers should have the ability to attain shelter – one of life’s three essentials.

Coronavirus Q&A: How to approach selling your home or buying one during the coronavirus pandemic.

Nevertheless, it’s a confusing time for buyers and sellers and you can add real estate professionals to the list also! Some consumers are left wondering if obtaining a roof over their head is even an option right now. The world is changing, which is fairly evident. Real estate and how the industry will operate henceforth will be altered too. We look to keep you informed as this fluid situation constantly changes. In the meantime, we’ve addressed some of the common questions we’ve received from our clients/customers.

Can I sell my home in this current climate?

If you’re thinking about selling your home immediately, understand that the present terrain in real estate has numerous roadblocks, which you’ll encounter in some way, shape or form. Can a home be sold momentarily? Yes, it’s possible, but realize tremendous assistance from the seller would probably be required in conjunction with the agent, while attempting to procure a buyer. This is a discussion you need to have with your REALTOR®.

Are there things I can be doing now to prepare to sell my home?

There are absolutely things which can be done now to prep your home to sell in the months to come. “Clearing out the clutter” should definitely be on the top of your list. Other strategies like painting, reorganizing, attacking problem areas of the home and landscaping should strongly be considered as well. Check out this page on our site, which will give you a few more ideas to consider. As a homeowner, you should contact your REALTOR® to come up with a plan for proceeding, as many sellers find themselves on the sidelines during this outbreak.

Should I look for a home now or wait?

There are multiple phases to the home search process. Prospective buyers typically start their search online months before they even physically enter a home (which is practically impossible since the outbreak of COVID-19). For the consumer who doesn’t have to move – wait. In the state of Pennsylvania, there are no in-person showings until further notice. Only services that a REALTOR® could offer remotely are permitted at this time. Of course, you can look at homes virtually through our extensive online catalog of properties available for sale in NEPA.

As a buyer if I decide to wait, what steps would you suggest I take so that I’m prepared for a time when in-person showings resume?

First and foremost, we would recommend setting up a “virtual” homebuyer consultation. If you have an agent, get in touch with them and discuss your needs. If you don’t have one yet, start your search there. Choosing a real estate professional is more important than one might think. Select the perfect agent for you! Secondly, reach out to mortgage lenders. Have a firm grasp on what you can and can’t afford, find ways to improve your credit score, if necessary, and look at the lending options available to you. Lastly, begin examining the market and what’s available in your price range. Create a list of pros and cons. Having a better understanding of these three dimensions can only propel you toward making better decisions when the time is right.

As homebuyers and sellers, can we engage in executing an agreement of sale during this unprecedented time?

Yes, but there’s so much that goes into making these types of decisions: Can I place an offer on a property I haven’t stepped foot in? Are there certain reasons I might want to press pause for the time being whether I’m buying or selling? We strongly suggest you discuss your concerns with your REALTOR® as well as your real estate attorney.

 

We hope this Coronavirus Q&A was helpful. Should you need further assistance, please reach out to our network of real estate professionals.