Are you a homeowner, seller or maybe even a buyer looking for some additional peace of mind for your investment? If you are, then you possibly should consider adding a home warranty, creating that umbrella for your home. We’ve seen hesitancy surrounding warranty providers in our industry and that’s certainly understandable. There are myths as well as pros when utilizing home warranty companies. It’s important to know what they are before buying a plan. Have a firm awareness of what your needs are so you can make the most of your home warranty.

Below, you’ll find additional insight as well as some tips, if you’re considering making this leap. We spoke with one of our real estate professionals, Florence Avvisato, who spoke of emerging trends to watch for, what factors consumers should have on their radar when choosing a warranty company, not to mention some of the common issues our clients experience.

With financial security becoming of rising concern for many homeowners this year, home warranties are an appealing option to consider. “One trend has been an increase in warranty providers, who are seeking owners who want to ease the risk and have financial security high on their lists,” states Florence Avvisato, REALTOR® with Realty Network Group. These companies are also shifting toward proactive home maintenance programs with numerous choices and varying levels of coverage for property owners to entertain. Another emerging trend in the industry is the increasing use of technology, such as online portals and mobile apps, to streamline the claims process and provide faster service to customers. While this technology has been available before, it’s certainly in wider use now. Having customers’ information in a database helps to engage the proper professionals to the home when they’re needed there sooner than later. Finally, “there has been a shift towards more customizable plans, allowing customers to tailor their coverage to their specific needs and budget,” emphasized Florence. “There’s an expansion of coverage options.” Over the years, there’s been a shift from general coverage to buyer and seller plans to now specific plans focused upon particular systems and appliances in the home. Customers should also be aware of the increasing competition in the home warranty market. As stated above, more warranty providers are entering the market to meet the demand from homeowners, who are starting to recognize the value of coverage lately. More providers in the market has led to more competitive pricing and better (and more specific) coverage options. It’s important for customers to stay informed and compare/contrast different companies to ensure they are getting the best bang for their buck.

When evaluating and choosing a home warranty company, there are several factors that consumers should consider. “At the top of the list, I advise my clients to contact two or more companies,” explains Florence. “They need to put in the time and should research a company’s reputation along with customer reviews to ensure that they have a good track record of providing reliable and efficient services. In this industry, we face scrutiny and praise from our clients too, and this is always an indicator of how we, or in this case, home warranty companies likewise rank and respond to concerns from their customer base.” Consumers should also look at the coverage options and pricing plans offered by the company to determine if they align with their specific needs and budget. It’s not always the case, but some warranty providers have coverage options which can be tailored to unique needs from the owner of the home. It’s important to thoroughly read and understand the fine print of the warranty to avoid any unexpected costs or limitations. “Another crucial factor to consider is the company’s network of contractors and their qualifications, as they will be the ones performing any necessary repairs,” maintains Florence. “If you can attain this list ahead of time, that would be ideal. I believe a company is only as good as the contractors and repair personnel who are coming into your home.” Even though this pursuit is harder to fulfill, consumers should also look into the company’s claim process and customer service to ensure that they will receive prompt and satisfactory assistance when needed. Overall, it’s essential to carefully evaluate all these factors to make an informed decision and choose a reputable and reliable home warranty company.

The biggest beef we hear in our industry with respect to home warranty providers is their inability to operate in an efficient manner whether it’s communication to all parties involved, getting the proper professionals on site or even getting the ball rolling on a filed claim. Issues in delays for service or repairs can dishearten mutual clients of both REALTORS® as well as home warranty suppliers. This can be frustrating for customers who are relying on their warranty to cover unexpected repairs in the home on things they rely upon. “They want to know when they sign up for coverage, they’ll receive good service when a repair of a home appliance or system, which is covered under their plan, fails,” reiterates Florence. “Additionally, some customers may face difficulty in reaching customer service or getting timely responses from the home warranty company. This can lead to further frustration and delays in resolving issues.” Lastly, another common issue is denied claims, where the home warranty company may refuse to cover a certain repair or replacement. This can be due to various reasons, and some of them are legitimate, such as pre-existing conditions or lack of proper maintenance. Again, property owners will want to confirm ahead of time what’s covered and what isn’t under the plan they’re considering. We never want there to be confusion or miscommunication regarding coverage and what’s included in the home warranty plan, causing disappointment and unexpected expenses for our clients. Overall, these issues can make the experience of dealing with home warranty companies a challenging one for sure, but it’s important to rely on your real estate professional, who can guide you throughout this process.

Don’t let your home sit, let it stand above the rest of the competition and be noticed. If there’s one thing we counsel our clientele on today, it’s making a distinction between their home and others “on the market, not selling.” What are the unique selling points of their home? What is the state of the market, even as granular as their neighborhood? What are comparable properties selling for now? Putting together a vivid picture of the subject property and how to elevate it above other similar homes could mean the difference between less time on the market and maybe even a multiple offer situation.

But before you get carried away, here are five ways to position your home for a quicker sale:

Pricing

This is the obvious. The elephant in the room. We’d be deceiving ourselves if we didn’t mention this one first, because it’s the most important and for good reason. Remember, the whole process for a buyer begins (or should begin) with an honest assessment of what they can afford and tailoring their search around that benchmark. The buyer consults a mortgage lender, discovers how much they’re pre-approved for, compares that to their financial situation, determines their must-haves when previewing homes and investigates the market. Homebuyers, especially if they’ve been searching for some time, have an eye for present circumstances and how compatible properties have fared.

Sellers, who better understand what buyers are witnessing in terms of pricing, will be better able to estimate and position their property for its initial release. This is why having a REALTOR® generate a competitive market analysis (CMA) specifically tailored to the seller’s home is ideal for understanding how they should be pricing it. Although we might be in a period of correction, the market still favors sellers. Because of this, real estate professionals are advising some homeowners to set their list price toward the higher end of its range of value.

Repairs

When an owner anticipates selling their home, they should review all aspects of their property to conclude what’s in need of repair and what could benefit from an upgrade. Ideally, this should be done months ahead of when they plan to sell. They should consult their REALTOR® in order to judge which repairs/updates would help sell their home and which ones should be evaded. Soon-to-be sellers want to avoid alterations that buyers, for the most part, could care less about – repairs or updates that won’t add value, and in some cases might even have a negative impact.

It’s worth mentioning, some homeowners pursue a “pre-listing” inspection, where a professional home inspector evaluates their home and pinpoint areas they might want to address, making the proper repairs, before listing their home for sale. Though this approach isn’t as common as one might think, it can be extremely beneficial to owners in certain instances.

Curb Appeal

It seems like we overemphasize this point time and time again (because we do!), but we believe it’s that important. Do you want increased engagement and more prospective buyers to see your home? Of course! One of the quickest ways to get more eyeballs on your home, both online in addition to in person showings, is to create an inviting atmosphere that draws buyers in. The exterior facade of your home will either captivate or deter onlookers. It’s that simple. A fresh coat of paint on the front door and front porch, fresh landscaping, cut grass, trimmed shrubbery, new garage door, replacing that weathered mailbox, etc. make a statement and appeal to buyers.

There’s certainly a lot to say about curb appeal as it’s a very effective tool for selling, but homeowners shouldn’t go overboard either. They should refrain from changes, which won’t appeal to a majority of buyers. Sellers might want to consider taking a more simplistic approach to the peripheral of their home in hopes that potential buyers won’t see a yard that requires too much upkeep. As with any upgrade, sellers need to be cautious not to dump money into aspects of the home that have little to no return on investment (ROI).

Buyer Incentives

One way to really make your home stand out is to offer buyers and their agents perks that will truly differentiate your home from the rest. An incentive some deploy is offering would-be buyers a home warranty. In fact, there’s relatively affordable coverage available that will protect the home for the seller while it’s listed in addition to a year from its closing date. Thus, this coverage benefits both the owner and the buyer.

Another incentive to entertain is concessions or a closing credit giving a boost to those looking to purchase the seller’s property. Seller concessions are a portion of the costs the seller has agreed to pay in order to lower the amount the buyer needs to close on the property. This assist or contribution is typically rolled into the buyer’s mortgage. A closing credit can be a great way to attract buyers as well. Usually a percentage of the purchase price or a flat credit is presented to consumers in hopes that it will attract more parties to put forth an offer.

A rare, though effective means of reducing those days on market can also be achieved by incentivizing agents to bring their clients into the seller’s abode through offering a buyer’s agent bonus. Agents make money beyond their portion of their agency’s commission, and thus will be much more eager to bring buyers into that seller’s home.

Marketing

Finally, investing in a real estate professional, who understands the current conditions and can effectively position a seller’s home for maximum exposure, will reduce market time. Experienced agents know the state of the market and know how to best approach it. How will current trends affect market time? Sellers need to rely on their agent to sift through the data to discover what’s selling, what’s not selling and why it isn’t selling.

Sellers would also be wise to team up with a REALTOR® and brand, who are well versed in exposing their home to the largest pool of buyers. Their agent should be aggressive, regardless of the conditions that exist, willing to go the extra mile for their clients. Their agent should have a drive to succeed, despite the challenges which may exist. Their agent should have a plan on how to elevate their client’s listing to get noticed and shown.

 

As a homeowner, there are things you can’t change like location or maybe even costly upgrades to a home, but the above five are within your control. Sitting down with your agent and creating a strategy corresponding to these tips, among others, may ultimately reduce the number of days your home is on the market. There’s a lot on the mind of today’s sellers, but having a meeting with your agent will help ease your mind too!

If you’re thinking about listing your home, even many months from now, it’s never too early to create a plan for when the time comes to sell. Contact one of our professionals today to get started right away.

“Lake life” isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The bugs, the smells, the dew and fog in the early morning hours, the sounds encapsulating your abode, to name a few, keep many at bay. But these are the exact same reasons people gravitate towards lakes in Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA). If you own a residence or second home on one of our region’s lakes, you understand the experience as well as the peace that comes with living on or near a lake. Don’t you?

Of course, there are numerous benefits in addition to disadvantages when living near a body of water in our area of Pennsylvania.

Pros include wildlife, fishing, outdoor recreation (good luck trying to get the kids to come in for dinner), sunrises/sunsets, relaxation, neighbors, community, privacy and entertaining. Furthermore, property value is a big bonus for numerous homeowners situated waterfront or near the body of water itself. Valuation on these homes varies depending on surrounding amenities, the view of the lake itself not to mention access to it, which most everyone wants. In a way, when you sell a lake house, you’re selling a particular lifestyle. Is there the option to entertain outside on a deck with an exterior kitchenette, dock and/or pool? These are things, which help prospective homebuyers realize they’re buying more than a home, they’re purchasing a vacation-like lifestyle. And the value far exceeds the lifestyle! In fact, homes located near a lake see an increase in property value of about 25% or more versus their in-land comparables.

Besides having the sense you’ve made a good investment and you’re always on vacation, there are definitely cons to buying a lake house. While not all of these are relevant to each lake house, similar to the pros as well, they’re important to identify when considering a lake house purchase. Some of these challenges include more regular upkeep and maintenance on homes exposed to the elements surrounding lake house living. More money may need to held in reserve to not only protect your investment, but also come to the rescue if storms and natural disasters strike. While privacy can be a plus for those making a move to a lake, lack of privacy in some cases is a stumbling block. Certain times and seasons on a lake pose a threat to tranquility. The summer months will often usher in various forms of commotion and entertainment, not suited for everyone. Higher insurance costs and lake association dues could also be seen as hardships for those not used to lake house living.

This article gives you a deeper glimpse into the advantages and disadvantages of choosing life on a lake.

Whether or not you’ve ever dreamed of living near a lake, we invite you to experience what it’s like. Poet Richard Milton Grahn draws you into “lake life,” a medicine for the lucky (perhaps).

Butterflies in brilliant light
What a sight as dreams take flight
Whatever comes, whatever goes
The ripples in the lake still flow

[excerpt from “Lake of Dreams” by Richard Milton Grahn]

As spring emerges so too does the foliage and critters around the lake. Summer makes way for water play, boats, kayaks, jet skis, swimming and fishing. Autumn supplies us with brisk clean air and the sounds of the ripples on water. Winter invites us to recall a year that was and listen to the stillness left behind. We hope to see you on one of our many beautiful lakes in NEPA. If you’re interested in discovering more about our lakes or would like to purchase a lake house, take a tour here.

Always make sure you have a lake house or waterfront real estate professional on your side as you begin to pursue lake living.

Downtown living is a different way of life, especially in Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA). Whether it’s Scranton or Wilkes-Barre, there are arguably more amenities at your fingertips and a different mode of going about your daily activities compared to other areas in the region. Downtown living provides residents options for how they conduct their affairs and how they interact with their community.

Downtown living in NEPA is often perceived as being in sharp contrast to the more rural lifestyle so many from our region experience regularly. Most of our school districts cater to children from bucolic areas. Heck, even some from our communities will joke about how traveling into downtown Scranton is like entering “the big city.” Yet, there are those who migrated in from major metropolitan cities. To them, Scranton is as miniature as you get for downtown living!

The Electric City, as Scranton is also known, once built upon the shoulders of coal-mining families, has evolved into something of legend. On November 30, 1886, the first streetcar system run entirely by electricity, made its debut in America in downtown Scranton. Where there were once strong ethnic concentrated centers of Irish, Italians, Polish, Germans, Jews throughout parts of the city, a melting pot has sprung up giving unique spins on the culture. This is evident in restaurants like Thai Rak Thai or even two in the north side: Casa Bella and Ipanema Grille. There’s a new-found sense of hope for a rebirth movement in this city.

The rebirth of a city plays a role in downtown living done right. Some of the essential features that make for great downtown living are walkable sections of town; commercial space that is of the mixed-used category; gathering spaces for recreation, education and entertainment; a successful residential component; and accessible/affordable parking. While these aren’t the only features that make a downtown thrive, they should be on everyone’s radar. We believe Scranton is building towards something spectacular. Obviously there’s still work to be done, but economic revitalization efforts have been undertaken by the city and organizations, such as Scranton Tomorrow. We simply can’t overstate how vital this volunteer-based organization has been in transforming downtown Scranton, especially in recent years.

Being a walkable community makes for great downtown living. Wide sidewalks, decorative courts/side-streets, greenspaces and removing graffiti/litter are ways to create pleasant spaces for pedestrians. Having a mixed-use mindset is also necessary for any new development and construction that takes place in the downtown area. Pedestrians want to be able to connect to the larger community, which surrounds them, and they want to feel welcomed as they venture around town. Community connection goes beyond commercial businesses. Connecting at events, drinking establishments, performing arts centers, fairs, movie theaters, parks, artisan markets, just to name a few is important for the creation of downtown living, which is a step above the rest. People want downtown living to be their city’s family room, especially in the later hours of the evening. Having affordable and convenient housing as well as parking are also what makes downtown living click.

Since COVID, we’ve experienced a trend in NEPA whenever possible where restaurants and pubs have provided more opportunities for patrons to enjoy food, drink and entertainment outside, in larger upgraded/converted spaces or in semi-covered areas, usually a back patio space or front of a building. Other accommodations have been made at hotels, convention centers, etc., but restaurants seem to have been the most creative to date.

A recent positive trend with respect to downtown living has been a decrease in vacant commercial space. When more businesses are leasing space or renting larger spaces, or when developers start thinking about catering to a person’s balanced lifestyle rather than only one of their aspects, everyone wins. In Scranton, one great example of a business who has done exactly this and has doubled-down on investing in the downtown area is Noteology. For downtown living to be done right, it’s all about a lived experience which is optimized and shared by residents and visitors to the city. Create a story and memories, then some of the first steps toward building a flourishing downtown are realized.

Successful downtowns don’t sprout up overnight. They take time, hard work, cooperation, great minds, forward-thinkers, patience and the like. To produce a “live-work-play” community in Scranton, or anywhere for that matter, takes these things in addition to the attributes described above.

 

* Image courtesy of Discover NEPA

 

Real Estate and Houses for Sale in Scranton, PA

Commercial Properties for Sale Near Scranton, PA

Lake Houses for Sale Near Scranton, PA

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, is 2023 going to 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!