Tag Archive for: Homebuyer

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 search for a home begins online. It has for some time. In fact, consumers are surveying the terrain and pouncing on anything that hits the market like a school of piranha, unsure of when their next opportunity to eat will surface. You can’t blame homebuyers either. Today, the ones that remain, still looking to purchase, have repeatedly struck out in their attempts for homeownership. Now, feeling the pressures of inflation, higher mortgage rates and rising home prices, they’re looking to get in before the door closes on their “must-haves” and what they can afford.

The winds of a housing shortage have shifted, new listings with a slowdown in purchases have given way to more selection – finally some welcomed news for prospective shoppers. Yet the search becomes very real for them as they exit the digital environment, previewing actual houses, and doing so in a more urgent manner than buyers did only three years ago. Buyers should rely on the services of a real estate professional whenever possible, because representation is critical for protecting the interest of buyer-clients, especially in this market. And you probably have questions.

What type of real estate professionals exist today and what do they look like? There are four main distinctions homebuyers should be aware of, and they are: real estate agents, REALTORS®, REALTORS® with an ABR® designation and Brokers.

  • Real estate agents – Independent contractors who are connecting buyers and sellers and are licensed to help others rent, buy or sell real estate. Licensure requirements vary from state to state. These professionals should not be confused with REALTORS®, but regularly are.
  • REALTORS® – Licensed real estate agents who are also members of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and must likewise adhere to this organization’s code of ethics. These professionals can include real estate appraisers, salespeople, Brokers and more.
  • REALTORS® with ABR® designation – Members of NAR who have a particular skill set and frequently work with homebuyers in their day-to-day business. These professionals are usually more in accord with the trends affecting buyers and are equipped with knowledge to help their buyer-clients succeed.
  • Brokers – Licensed professionals who further their education, and if they so desire, can open their own real estate firm, hiring independently contracted agents to work under them. They perform many of the same tasks as the agents they hire, but there’s a distinction between the two.

A handful of real estate agents become Brokers after a period of time in the business. Often those pursuing licensure as a Broker are ready to dedicate more study to this field. They’ve firmly planted themselves within the real estate turf surrounding them. Having said that, real estate agents who aren’t Brokers can and are certainly encouraged to dedicate more time and study to the business as well.

What is it like to be a Broker? “The dynamics of real estate have changed significantly over the past five years, but the standards of practice remain the same,” emphasizes Dianne Montana, Principal Broker for Realty Network Group. “I enjoy working with a talented group of professionals, helping them thrive, ultimately paving the way for our clients to buy and sell successfully.” Being a Broker allows for additional independence (more than solely being an independent contractor), but with that comes greater responsibility. Brokers are responsible for supervising the agents in their Brokerage and ensuring the office/company is in compliance with national and state real estate laws and regulations. Real estate Brokers face their fair share of liability as well, and as such, it’s important for Brokers to possess an advanced skill set in order to be both distinguished and ethical.

As a homebuyer, which of these four types should you seek when actively looking to acquire property? There’s no clear cut choice, but a REALTOR® is definitely a great starting point. Those specializing in servicing buyers generally provide the best opportunity. Furthermore, a REALTOR® with an ABR® designation could be a perfect match, especially for first-time homebuyers. Can you go wrong with a Broker? Usually not, but it’s imperative that those pursuing real estate do their due diligence in finding a professional they can work well with, one who actively listens and has a tract record for success.

As a homebuyer, the landscape can be downright intimidating these days. Yes, multiple offer situations exist now, but this is changing and by July they might all but cease. First-time buyers can especially have concerns in this market, which is still a seller’s market, even though the pendulum is shifting. Why the concern? Well, interest rates have climbed and aren’t going down anytime soon. Furthermore, there’s still competition from other buyers who are eager to purchase, have been looking for a while and haven’t been priced-out of the market yet. There are many forces to consider when given the opportunity to buy real estate. Buyers in our region (Northeastern Pennsylvania) are paying about $300 more per month for a home via lender financing than they would have only six months ago for the same house. This is because rates have crept up about 2.5% points since January.

Lately, the Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS® (PAR) made some clarifications to one of their standard forms, the Appraisal Contingency Addendum (ACA), in an effort to clear up a little of the confusion surrounding buyer and seller rights and obligations surrounding the purchase of a property, specifically if a home fails to appraise. These changes will take effect on July 1, 2022. There’s been a misunderstanding in recent years about what the appraisal contingency means exactly for both parties and why the buyer doesn’t have the right to terminate an agreement of sale, if the appraisal contingency falls away, but that’s another conversation altogether.

As we mentioned above, there are still homes selling for over list price and there will be pockets of this type of activity I’m sure during the next few weeks. The concern for many potential buyers today is where does it put me if the appraised value of the home I’m looking to purchase comes in lower than the actual purchase price? This is a legitimate consideration. Thankfully, in Pennsylvania, the purchaser, through guidance from their REALTOR®, can rely on what’s called the “minimum appraised value” to protect them in the transaction. This would be the lowest value an appraiser could produce that would require the buyer to continue with the purchase. The ACA is there to accompany the sales contract and help these parties make every effort to continue forward in good faith toward settlement.

Of course, it doesn’t always work out for one or both parties, but protections like the appraisal contingency can help buyers sleep at night. “Homes failing to appraise happens more than you might think, even now,” asserts Maria Muchal Berta, Associate Broker for Realty Network Group and Owner/Certified Residential Appraiser of Chiave Appraisal Group. “It really depends if the buyer has the money to close the gap between the purchase price and its appraised value. How badly do they want the home? In some cases where the appraised value falls short of the purchase price, where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Angelo Ambrosecchia, Loan Officer for Guild Mortgage breaks down many of the intricacies involved in the following scenarios where homebuyers are seeking to secure funding for a home purchase.

“Prior to us getting involved, many transactions are negotiated that up to a certain price point, the buyer will pay the difference out of pocket, if a home appraises low. For example, someone is buying a home for $290K. If it appraises for $280K, they agree to pay the difference out of pocket, again, up to a certain amount. With inventory levels so low, we’re seeing this more as buyers don’t want to lose out on a home, if they can avoid doing so. In this example, if they were putting 5% down and getting a conventional loan, they would now be putting 5% of $280K down, and on top of that, paying $10K to make up the difference for the low appraisal, in addition to closing costs.”

“If the borrower has enough money down and they’re agreeable, we can adjust the loan-to-value to keep their out of pocket money the same. Here’s what I mean by that. We have someone buying a home for $290K and putting 20% down. This would make the loan amount $232K and down payment $58K. Let’s assume the home appraises for $280K and they want to keep their total out of pocket money the same, but agree to pay a total of $290K. We can lower the down payment from $58K to $48K and they can use that $10K to make up the difference. This keeps their total out of pocket funds overall, the same. In this case, they would now be putting $48K down on $280K and the loan-to-value would go from 80% to 82.9%. This would add a small PMI payment, but help the borrower accomplish their overall goal when it comes to total money, out of pocket.”

“As lenders, we can only lend up to the lesser of the appraised value or the purchase price. Always the lesser of the two.”

“If this isn’t agreed upon upfront, we first go to each REALTOR® and ask for any additional comparable properties the appraiser may have missed. At the permission of the buyer, we’ll have the buyer’s agent review the appraisal with them to see if any material items were missed. Is the bedroom count correct? Bathroom count? Square footage? Etc.”

“If no mistakes were made and the value isn’t able to be met, the REALTORS® involved would need to see if any re-negotiation can take place. If all parties can work it out or compromise on it, we move forward. If not, unfortunately, it may be a dead deal.”

There’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution for when the home in a real estate transaction fails to appraise, but we’ve attempted to give structure to variables that might come into play. We hope homebuyers have gained some valuable insight and can proceed with more confidence toward settlement.

 

For a related topic, see Why would I need an appraiser?

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®