Tag Archive for: Homebuyers

Buying the Worst House on the Block

Affordability has become a concern in the real estate industry, but it isn’t a problem everywhere and it’s certainly not a headache for much of our region. And while affordability is more favorable in the Greater Scranton area, hesitation can capture many buyers who are eager to purchase. After all, mortgage rates are still elevated (even if they’ve come down since October) and inventory hasn’t sprung up to what we’d hoped it would have by now. It’s a time for some to get a little more creative in what exactly they’re looking for in a home.

Many homebuyers may overlook a house that needs work to bring it up to snuff, but purchasing the worst house in a desirable neighborhood can actually be a smart investment strategy. First, if you’re an investor who has an eye for flipping homes, purchasing this type of property could present a big opportunity. The lower price point may allow for a larger profit margin when renovating and reselling the property. Additionally, the potential for appreciation is higher in sought-after neighborhoods. In fact, there’s often excessive demand for rundown homes in desirable communities in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Furthermore, buying a fixer-upper can give buyers the freedom to customize their dream home while increasing its value. If the renovation costs are low-to-moderate and not too excessive, that’s a win-win. Finally, with this odd housing market still favoring sellers, buyers may have a better chance of finding a good deal on a property that needs TLC.

Buying the worst house on the block can be a smart approach, but as you may have guessed, it’s not for everyone. Experienced investors who have the time, resources and expertise to renovate and flip the property stand to make the most profit. However, more novice homebuyers with a limited budget and a willingness to take on a fixer-upper project can also benefit from this strategy. On the other hand, those who are risk-averse or lack the necessary skills to handle a major renovation may want to steer clear.

While buying the inferior house on the block may seem like a smart financial move, it’s important to understand the potential drawbacks before making a purchase. One of the biggest concerns is the amount of work and money needed to improve the property. This can be a significant and time-consuming undertaking, and unexpected issues may arise during the restoration process. This is why it could be beneficial to be handy, but also rely on the professionals for any jobs that might be over your head.

While this move can be a smart way to get into a desirable area at a lower cost, be aware of potential pitfalls. You may end up with a money pit that requires more repairs than you anticipated. It’s also important to weigh whether the surrounding homes are much nicer than your property. If this is the case, it will always be the odd one out. Don’t let the allure of a bargain blind you to the risks. Consult with a trusted real estate agent to help you navigate the potential issues and find the right home for you.

Additionally, the value of the property may not increase as much as expected even after improvements are completed. This is because the value of a home is often influenced by the value of surrounding properties, and it could be that other homes on the block are not well-maintained. Regardless, it’s imperative that you consult a real estate professional and preferably one who knows that neighborhood well. They’ll be able to assess the property and provide you with a competitive market analysis (CMA) to help you understand the value of the home after those proposed updates to it take effect.

If you’re not planning on living in the home, but instead would like to turn the property around as an investor, keeping your eye on its resale value is vital to making any profit on a future transaction. The number and cost of upgrades will certainly impact its resale value. This is why it’s important to understand and live by the five Ps, which you might already be familiar with: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance (and that’s resale performance!). Storyboarding your plans for renovation clearly helps with this preparation too.

While it can be a good tactic to buy the worst house on the block, in some cases, it’s not always the best option. Here are some other factors to consider:

Pros: 

  1. Lower purchase price: Buying an inferior home in a specific community often means you can get it at a lower price than other homes in the area. This can make it a more affordable option for those on a budget.
  2. Potential for equity: If you’re willing to put in the time and effort to renew the home, you may be able to increase its value and build equity over time.
  3. Opportunity to customize: When you purchase a fixer-upper, you have the opportunity to customize it to your liking and make it your own.

Cons: 

  1. Cost of renovation: Facelifting a home can be costly, and it’s important to factor in these expenses when considering purchasing a fixer-upper.
  2. Limited resale value: If you over-improve a home, you may not be able to recoup the costs when it comes time to sell.
  3. Locality concerns: If the neighborhood is in decline or has a high crime rate, purchasing the worst home in the area may not be a good game plan.
  4. Other pitfalls you might want to consider: Not relying on information that’s available at your fingertips, over-spending, etc.

In conclusion, buying the worst house in a neighborhood has the potential to be a profitable and rewarding investment if you’re willing to put in the time, effort (with proper planning and execution), and money to renovate it. However, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons and ponder any drawbacks before making the purchase. Decision makers should consider the surroundings, market conditions as well as other factors that could impact their bottom line.

First-Time Homebuyer Advice

Buying a home today is more complex than it was five years ago, as the market was gaining intensity – favoring sellers and their interests. Despite the pendulum shifting in the direction of homebuyers, there are those who are overwhelmed by the intricate process of a home purchase. Yet, some of the most intimidated are first-timers, who have never pursued homeownership before. Luckily, there are several programs available that can provide assistance to make this journey a little easier for first-time homebuyers. Below, we’ll attempt to present some of the challenges, resources available and the steps one should take as they seek homeownership for the first time.

The current market presents a myriad of challenges for first-time homebuyers. With rising home prices and limited inventory, finding an affordable home can be daunting. Buyers are still over-bidding now and again, and coming up short in multi-offer situations. In Pennsylvania, home prices have continued climbing, with a median sales price of $216,249 (up 4.2% year-over-year). A housing supply issue exists in the state as well, listings are down 23.4% year-over-year.* Additionally, competition from cash buyers and investors can make it difficult for first-time buyers to secure a home. Furthermore, strict lending requirements and high down payments can also pose challenges for those looking to purchase. The latter might not apply unless loan options such as FHA, VA, USDA and the like are not a possibility. To account for these challenges, first-time homebuyers should do thorough research, work with a trusted REALTOR®, and if they’re serious about shopping for a home in the current climate, be ready to make competitive offers at a moment’s notice. It may also be helpful to consider alternative financing options and be open to exploring different types of homes or different areas (i.e. alternate school districts, check out rural living over suburban or city living).

There’s good news for those who may have been classified as first-timers in the past, but haven’t purchased a home in over thirty-six months. They would likely be labeled as first-time homebuyers once again. In the industry, lenders do have various indicators, differentiating themselves from others in the business. These requirements for buyers can vary from institution to institution. Some of the typical criteria for first-time buyers includes a steady income, where a job history of two or more years must be validated, a clean credit history, a credit score of 620 or more, a debt-to-income ratio below 43% and a loan down payment of at least 3%. Furthermore, if you presently own a mobile home or have owned one within that three-year window, lenders will often grant you first-time buyer status since the rules for mobile-home ownership are unique.

Education in life goes a long way, and prospective buyers would do well to study up. The best way for first-time homebuyers to get educated on available programs is to do their research. First, talk to your real estate professional. An experienced REALTOR® has dealt with your situation before or one that was similar. Your agent will provide you with a roadmap of several avenues to follow, including homebuyer education classes/seminars as well as utilizing various online resources. These services can help buyers figure out their loan options by providing information on different mortgage programs, down payment assistance programs and other financial assistance options. It’s important for first-time homebuyers to take advantage of these resources to ensure they make informed decisions and find the best program for their individual needs. In Pennsylvania, there are programs geared toward assisting first-time homebuyers such as the Keystone Home loan program, the Keystone Advantage Assistance loan program and the HOMEstead program, just to name a few. Each state has programs in place to assist those who can qualify as first-time buyers. Moreover, there are local programs, such as NeighborWorks, who support buyers as they journey toward homeownership.

Buyers should expect help from their REALTOR® as it pertains to available first-time homebuyer assistance programs. After all, that’s the support real estate professionals provide – to counsel their clients in making the best decisions at each stage of their progress. If their agent doesn’t have the answers, they’ll direct them to the experts who do. These assistance programs can be complicated to navigate, but REALTORS® have the knowledge and expertise to guide buyers toward success. They can provide information about the eligibility requirements, the application procedures in addition to the potential benefits of these programs. They can also assist with finding the right program for a buyer’s specific needs and helping them gather all the necessary documents and information. With their lead, buyers can feel more confident and informed about taking advantage of these valuable resources to make their dream of homeownership a reality.

First-time homebuyers, listen up! As thrilling as it is to finally have a place to call your own (and it is), it’s important to manage your budget wisely and ensure you can qualify for a loan. Trust us, you don’t want to end up house-rich, cash-poor, where you’ve pumped all this equity into your home, but you’re struggling to pay your bills month after month, and regretting the decision you made to purchase. Before you buy, do a test run and start by setting a realistic budget and stick to it. Consider all expenses, including homeowners insurance, taxes, mortgage insurance (if applicable), utilities, maintenance and other debts you may have. When the time comes to acquire a loan, do your homework and shop around for the best interest rates and programs to suit your needs. Don’t immediately settle on the first lender you encounter. Don’t be afraid to negotiate and be aware of any hidden fees (such as points). Remember, a little bit of budgeting and savvy negotiating can go a long way in making your dream home a reality.

The good news is more help is on the way for homebuyers. The day when buyers can pay market value for a home without constant interference from other buyers or pay below market value in efforts to get a deal will become a reality once again. A time when buyers won’t feel rushed into making hasty decisions about homeownership is on the horizon. In the meantime, do your search and thoroughly understand all aspects of homeownership before making any decisions. With the right guidance and resources, purchasing your first home can be a rewarding and exciting experience. Happy house hunting! Take a look at our houses for sale in Clarks Summit PA.

* Latest Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS® Housing Report – Sept 2023

Other first-time homebuyer resources:
8 Steps You Should Take When Purchasing Your First Home
First-Time Homebuyer Tips

Packing your whole life up into a large truck might be one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have in your lifetime. I mean after you’ve put all that effort into getting your home ready to market, dealt with your fair share of stress while your REALTOR® worked their magic, isn’t the “delight of moving” the next logical step towards sanity? Gearing up for the task of shipping some of your priceless belongings with a group of total strangers is completely normal.

All kidding aside, moving from one residence to another is daunting and has been known to rattle some sellers as they seek to begin a new chapter of their lives. It could be the mental energy we commit to those things, such as moving, which tends to drain us and in some cases, leave us feeling a little desperate. Quite honestly, this is why it’s critical whenever we’re faced with such a task as this, we unplug from our negative past experiences and truly take time to prepare for the move.

You can also find a helpful moving checklist on page eight of our homebuyer’s guide. In this post, we’re covering four ways moving is made easier. Having said that, we in no way want to make light of the experience. I, for one, don’t love the idea of packing up a room into boxes and then unpacking them on the other side, but I’ve always been able to deal with it in a healthy manner. We hope you can too and we feel confident these four tips as well as our checklist will help you navigate your way into your new home with minimal anxiety.

Give Yourself Time

Preparation is important whether you’re buying or selling a home. In fact, we advise many of our clients to give themselves extra time when they’re thinking about a life change. Big decisions can take time, especially getting used to them. Sellers who need to make repairs to their house, should factor in more time than they think to complete those jobs. Heck, even if a professional is making the repairs/updates, you’ll want to pack in additional time. The same can be said for those who are confronted with the challenge of moving.

Moving for some is excruciating, like on the level of public speaking bad. Yet, if you give yourself extra time in anticipation of unforeseen issues arising in the process, you’ll be much better equipped to handle them and stay calm. Our advice is you don’t procrastinate throughout the moving process. Whether you’re moving out of an apartment or a home, whether you’re the buyer or seller, once that switch is activated and your life is headed in another direction, act.

Gather Intel

For some, changing scenery is welcomed, for others there’s apprehension. Whatever flavor the move provides, it’s important you eliminate as much of the unknown as possible. Chances are you’ll erase some of that stress, if you gather information on your new town or neighborhood before setting down new roots. What is your new city/neighborhood like? What places would you like to visit after your move? What are some of the activities you’d like to do once you get settled? The more comfortable you are with your new surroundings ahead of time, the easier this transition will be. Those who put the effort in from day one, are better suited to handle the curveballs which may come their way. Learn all aspects of your particular process – mentally prep yourself.

Moving apps, like Sortly and Updater, have helped others organize their thoughts and well as their possessions. They could potentially aid you as well.

Hire A Reputable Mover

Not in all situations, but many moving endeavors do require the assistance of a moving company. Someone once said: “you never know how much you accumulate until you move” [author unknown]. Boy, isn’t that the truth! If you do need to choose a professional moving company, do your due diligence and research which options are best for you and your circumstances as well as your timetable. Prior to contacting movers on the phone, it’s important to make a list of five or more and read testimonials from other buyers and sellers who faced a similar task of having to hire one. What are the good and bad stories people are sharing? Make sure to do your homework and investigate registries like Angi, NextDoor, Yelp, Google, Facebook and others.

After you whittle your list down, make sure to compile a list of questions you’ll want to ask each of the moving companies. Need help creating your own? This is a great place to start. And there may be other factors you’ll need to consider such as special services required like packing/storage services or budgetary concerns or how you want your valuables transported. For starters, you’ll want to ask each company stuff like if they have a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) registration number and how do they estimate costs for a particular job (binding estimates are usually better) and what fees are added on (hidden fees?) and what type of insurance they offer their customers.

Based upon this research and the responses to your questions, you’ll have a better idea of who you’d hire. Let’s face it, in real estate, banking, heck even cuisine, there are many choices… narrowing it down isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If one’s required, finding a reliable moving company should be at the top of your list. We hope these pointers provided you insight into making the right decision.

Soothe Thyself

Throughout the process of packing your life away and dealing with a real estate transaction, it’s vital to take care of yourself. This might sound puffed-up and maybe also a tad holistic, but stepping away from this process when it’s happening is healthy too. The self-care aspects shouldn’t be forgotten at this time. If you love to read first thing in the morning, then continue to do that even if you need to cut back slightly. If taking a walk in the evening in a park or on a trail is your thing, then keep walking. If working out a few times a week makes you feel better, gives you energy and relaxes your nerves, then by all means, do those burpees. If enjoying a glass of wine on your porch helps pacify your mind, then don’t let moving oust you from outdoor happiness.

If you have an area of your home where you and your family really take in life and the room acts like a sanctuary for you, don’t box that up until the last possible day.

Also, it’s important to keep ties to those you might be leaving behind, such as family, friends and neighbors. Set aside time to get together with neighbors and those in the community you’ve enjoyed getting to know, who you might not see again (depending on the distance of your move). Schedule your next return trip with family and friends, which will give you and them something to look forward to.

 

Moving is a trying time, yes, but there are methods we can take, which will help us deal with the challenges ahead. Stay focused on what matters, sure, but give yourself time and try not to beat yourself up when things go sideways. We’re here to help you throughout this process. Call one of our professionals should you want any assistance along the way.

Why You Need A Buyer’s Agent

Those who are looking for a home to purchase might not know what they’re searching for in a property or in an agent, but it’s not their fault, especially if they’re first-timers. This is where having a trusted real estate advisor early in the process can be a saving grace for many who are venturing into homeownership. A buyer’s agent is that trust advisor, who must make “a continuous and good faith effort to find a property for the buyer,” assuming a contract with another agent isn’t in play. And with other conditions like keeping all confidential information relayed by the buyer, confidential as well as always acting in the buyer’s best interests, these agents play a vital role in the transaction. We recently sat down with one of our own to explore the mind of a buyer agent.

“Buyers have to be able to get in touch with you, their buyer’s agent,” emphasizes Ann A. Sheroda, Associate Broker with Realty Network Group [Clarks Summit, PA]. “When they can’t there’s frustration, distrust and quite frankly, abandonment to some extent.” A successful business is predicated on fostering relationships. Connecting buyers and sellers is critical for obvious reasons in a transaction, but the connection between the seller and their agent in addition to the buyer and their agent shouldn’t be minimized.

In the relationship between agent and buyer there’s either a sense of trust or distrust. From the onset, establishing this trust is important. One way to build upon it is in how the agent protects the homebuyer. “It’s the buyer’s agent who needs to protect their client,” underscores Sheroda. “If they won’t, who will? A buyer needs a good lender, title company and attorney. It’s unfortunate when an unsuspecting party hires the services of an attorney at the eleventh hour of the transaction or teams up with a lender, who many in the field will avoid whenever possible. A good agent will make sure the terms the purchaser needs are written up correctly in the contract. They’ll make sure inspections are in place to protect them. If your buyer previews six homes and none of them are any good and don’t match their needs, you show them six more.”

These are some of the advantages to using a buyer’s agent in today’s market. Buyers desire, whether they know it or not, someone who’s going to look out for their best interests. Though they might come at a lower premium during autumn and the early winter months, home prices are elevated and buyers need someone who has their back. The same can be said for mortgage interest rates and the potential for overpaying for a property. Buyer representation is a must-have for buyers heading into 2023.

Do drawbacks to buyer representation exist? There could be disadvantages for homebuyers entering into a business relationship with a buyer’s agent. Namely, you could become a hostage to poor representation. As Sheroda points out: “It can be brutal when you can’t get in touch with your agent and they don’t make time for you. Flexibility on the agent’s part is needed, but it goes further than that. Communication is critical. If you’re not committed to your clients and their need to acquire a suitable dwelling for themselves and their families, then it begs the question: Why are you representing them in the first place?” The worst situation a prospective buyer can find themselves in prior to signing an agreement of sale, is being locked into a contract with an agent who isn’t giving their client their best effort, isn’t acting in their best interests and isn’t staying in touch with them either. “Don’t think dealing with the listing agent is the answer,” asserts Sheroda. “Though listing agents in the state of Pennsylvania, who act ethically, can also represent the interests of the buyer through dual agency, a buyer should hesitate before retreating to the agent who has the property listed. A buyer needs to make sure they’re being properly represented in the transaction.”

“There have been numerous times in my seventeen years when a client of mine has been desperate to purchase, but when previewing homes that weren’t a match for them, I’ve told them they absolutely need to walk away,” explains Sheroda. “Buyers need to understand, no matter how rushed or pressured they feel to purchase, they should not buy just to buy. I recently had a situation where a contractor I knew was previewing a home with one of my clients, who also had an association with the contractor and requested he be present at the showing. The house needed a ton of work and it wasn’t worth the aggravation, in my mind, and it certainly wasn’t a fit for my buyer. My client asked me if she should consider purchasing the home. I told her she needed to walk away. Afterwards, the contractor said he gained even more respect for me, upon hearing the counsel I was giving to my client.”

Ann Sheroda believes finding an agent can and should be a process of trial by error. The buyer needs to be comfortable with their agent. They need to trust and form a rapport with them. “If I weren’t licensed in this business, I would still use a buyer’s agent,” affirms Sheroda. “There can be pitfalls along the way and every buyer needs guidance throughout all phases of their dealings: In the search process, pricing, negotiating, networking, through the transaction to settlement and beyond. Selecting an agent should be carefully done. In fact, I recommend prospective buyers and sellers who approach me to check my references – Interviewing past clients of mine and inquiring about my services and work ethic is a great starting point.” A referral might be one of the best ways an agent acquires business, but here are a few effective questions to ask along the way:

  • How long have you been licensed as a real estate professional?
  • Do you have a flexible schedule? Can it accommodate mine?
  • How long does it take buyers you’ve worked with to find and purchase a home?
  • What areas of real estate are your specialty?

Find other noteworthy questions in our homebuyer guide.

If you’re toying with the thought of joining forces with a buyer’s agent, what’s holding you back? The home is a hub for so much in our lives, it’s a memory-making machine. A home purchase is also a large one. You want an expert who will help deliver the best outcome for you and your situation – financial and personal.

Lastly, there are many wheels spinning in a real estate transaction. Get a professional, preferably a REALTOR®, who has access to other experts in the field. You want to work with someone who has an impressive network you can approach and pull into your homebuying process. You want excellent service every step of the way. Your trusted advisor, your buyer’s agent, will have a connection with reputable lenders, inspectors, attorneys, and the like. You can hopefully rest easier knowing that an agent, you have confidence in, attracts like-minded, successful professionals.

There’s more to explore when it comes to purchasing a property — consider these things before you go all in on buying.

Buying a new house is an exciting experience, but it is also a huge life milestone. It is sometimes difficult to know whether you should purchase an affordable starter home or instead build or buy a dream house. There are benefits and disadvantages to each option, so here are three things you should understand to help you make the right decision.

Know the Benefits of Each Option

There are different benefits to buying a starter home or your dream house. It is up to you to analyze your current stage of life and determine which option is most beneficial for your unique situation.

Starter homes are more affordable than move-up homes (i.e. second home, typically a larger house), which you may want to live in for the rest of your life. They require less upkeep. You may even be able to rent them out in the future and generate additional income. However, starter homes generally need more repairs than newer ones. They are usually small in size and sometimes can be harder to sell, if/when you need the equity.

Your forever home, however, will be large enough to accommodate a growing family. Buying your dream home also gives you the opportunity to put down roots so you can avoid the hassle of moving again. The price tag is significantly higher and your dream home will likely need more upkeep than your starter house, depending upon its age.

Analyze Your Budget

The size of your budget has a direct impact on whether you purchase your forever home or a starter house. If you can only afford a small mortgage each month, you may have to buy a starter home to live within your means. If you have saved up enough money for a sizable down payment, you may be able to afford to purchase the house you’ll live in for the rest of your life. Knowing your budget and the features you desire in a home is important for finding the right house for a particular stage of life.

Understand the Costs of Each Option

Your new mortgage isn’t the only cost associated with purchasing a house. Homeowners insurance is a good investment because it covers the cost of any damage to the structure of your new house. It also covers the cost of any belongings that are stolen and any injuries that are sustained on your property. However, coverage does not extend to home systems or appliances. If you want to avoid unexpected expenses related to your plumbing, heating, electrical and cooling systems, it’s a good idea to consider buying a home warranty. While it’s an additional expense, it can save you money in the long run by dodging unnecessary repair costs.

According to one survey, less than 18% of Americans have home warranty coverage, however arming yourself with the right tools is essential for reducing unnecessary expenses for maintaining a home. When choosing a home warranty, decide which company is best by doing your research. You want to find a company with a great reputation for customer satisfaction. Furthermore, you want to ensure you’re getting excellent coverage for your home’s systems.

 

For some people, purchasing an affordable starter home is the best option. Others may prefer to go ahead and buy their dream house right out of the gate. There’s no one answer that’s right for everyone, but you must carefully weigh your options if you want to make the best decision for your family. Whether you choose to purchase a starter home or your dream house, purchasing a new place to live is a huge milestone for you! As always, we’re here to help you find the perfect place.

[This content is compliments of Well Parents]

Finding A Home Before It’s Listed

Surviving a seller’s market the likes of the past few years can be exhausting, especially for buyers. Many realize this isn’t the market for them. When most of the COVID restrictions to purchasing a home in Pennsylvania were lifted in June of 2020, homebuyers raced into bidding wars and other highly contested situations. The climate wasn’t on their side and some could argue it was a little caustic for those who needed to move due to career or lifestyle changes. Whatever the case, potential buyers are beginning to see some relief in terms of a smaller pool of competition searching for their dream home.

Nonetheless, a buyer’s market can only be seen in the distance and many would-be buyers remain secluded behind their firewall and smart devices, browsing homes from a greater orbit than most sellers or REALTORS® might care to admit. What opportunities wait in the wings? Is there a path to homeownership for those who are looking to buy, but have been disenchanted by the market over the last few years? Here are three main courses of action buyers should undertake now to stay ahead of the game. In the words of Din Djarin, “This is the way.”

Lock Down An Agent

The absolute best way to spot which homes are entering the market before they go live is to seek the services of a competent real estate professional. But not just any agent will do. We would suggest finding one who is experienced, successful, reputable, hard-working and well-connected. Isn’t this too much to ask? Not necessarily. In fact, even though this certainly narrows the field quite a bit, an agent with a few of these qualities will likely possess them all.

It greatly benefits you to work with a REALTOR® who has a large network already in place, one that’s been working for them. In markets, such as the Greater Scranton area, where housing supply is exceedingly low, real estate professionals are constantly in touch with one another. Get inside intel by utilizing their strengths to your advantage. Yes, you might be the “metaphorical bait” cast out to entice would-be sellers, but it could pay off. By asking your agent what other reputable agents in their business have been sharing, you could get the inside track to finding a home before others even know about it. Your agent may also have presented their services to other homeowners who were thinking about selling. They might know of homes, which are set to debut on the market in the immediate future. Your agent might also be seeing “coming soon” listings from other agents in their MLS.*

Hello Neighbor

While we’re not advocating for anyone to go on private property nor play the creeper in their search for the perfect home, there are some things you can do to increase your chances of buying in this market (or any market, for that matter). First, search out neighborhoods that are desirable, whose location fits the profile you’ve created. Next, walk the streets and find properties that grab your attention. Maybe there are for sale by owner (FSBO) listings or homes that are on the verge of foreclosure that interest you. Of course, your REALTOR® will assist you throughout this whole process, connecting with owners of FSBOs or those trying to avoid the bank from ceasing their property. They’ll see if the owner would have any interest in selling their property to you, a serious buyer. Often, FSBOs have little luck selling on their own, and thus are likely very interested in selling to an agent who has an interested party.

Homeowners’ associations (HOAs) can be another channel for prospective buyers as well. Have your agent reach out to the association to see if there have been rumors of residents who are about to move/sell. That internal chatter might be just what you need to locate your next house. Some of these HOAs regularly have community (digit) bulletin boards, which seek to share information with other members of their association.

Another great strategy to employ is direct mailings (letters of interest or postcards). While snail mail isn’t as effective for real estate agents to deploy, mass mailings straight from buyers could open some doors. This tactic will allow you to avoid the open market. It shows select homeowners that you’re very interested and would strongly consider buying their home at the right price. If you’re willing to put the extra time and money into your home search, this approach can be a game-changer. 

Don’t Be Shy

While it is important to routinely stay in touch with your REALTOR® and have them do a bulk of the heavy-lifting, don’t fear getting your hands dirty too! Those looking to buy, need to get out there and leave no stone unturned. They need to network, establish connections (prior to their search is ideal) and get the word out that they are serious about purchasing a home. Share this desire with everyone you meet, but especially family, friends, co-workers in addition to your sphere on social media. There might be opportunities on Facebook to join neighborhood or community groups (though some are private) and identify what you’ve been seeking all along. Social clubs, open houses, country clubs, professional and charity organizations can all be great avenues for gaining worthwhile information in your home search.

If you’re looking to gain the upperhand over other aspiring buyers, keep your ears attune to life events such as the birth of a baby, weddings, divorces, obituaries, just to name a few. These occasions are legitimate leads for those looking to buy.

 

Finding a home that’s “off market,” either presently not listed on the MLS (i.e. a pocket listing) or not for sale in the first place, can be challenging for most, but it can and has been done. Stay focused and stay up to speed with the inventory in a particular locality. Of course, lean on your agent at all times and good things will develop as time begins to take root in this grand adventure you find yourself in.

For more insight prior to purchasing a home, make sure to read this.

* According to local MLS requirements, unless a listing is filed at the Greater Scranton Board of REALTORS® office (GSBR) and a seller(s) has explicitly requested in writing that their property not be displayed on the Internet, the listing information must be disseminated by the MLS. Furthermore, any member of the National Association of REALTORS®, and likewise the GSBR, must adhere to the clear cooperation policy, which states that “within one business day of marketing a property to the public [i.e. a “coming soon” listing displayed on social media], the listing Broker must submit the listing to the MLS for cooperation with other MLS participants.”

When Buyers Get More Realistic

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!

Real Estate Broker Defined

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.

NEPA’s Most Walkable Communities

Summer is the best time of the year to explore Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA)! Alright, I lied, my favorite time of the year in our region is early autumn with cider donut runs, changing foliage and high school football back on the menu, but summer is easy on the eyes too. There’s plenty to see and do in the Greater Scranton area and we hope you can set aside some time to get busy and explore.

NEPA has diverse environments with everything from hiking trails to city streets and commercial businesses in the downtown areas of Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Dickson City, to name a few. You can explore much of this region from our “search by city” page.

Over the past two years, homebuyers have looked at their purchase slightly differently. Now, some buyers desire spaces where they can work-from-home. They want living spaces without open floor plans to allow for remote work in addition to having areas for their children to complete their homework and other ways to escape. Are open floor plans going out of style? Maybe, but the pandemic brought us here and we’ve taken notice of this trend in recent months. A modification in purchasing habits certainly happens from time-to-time. That’s why there are trends in the first place, but this one came on rapidly. Solitude in the home is welcomed and some buyers need walls for crying out loud. But if you can’t break from an open-concept home, perhaps living in a walkable community will help ground you and alleviate some of that stress.

In Northeastern Pennsylvania, walkable communities are slightly harder to discover, because after all, we have many rural areas. On the other hand, you can get just about everywhere in Scranton. While various parts of the city are certainly walkable and unique to the area (Green Ridge, North Scranton or the Hill Section immediately come to mind), car traffic has its day too. Is Scranton walkable? Yes, but it didn’t make our list. 

The tiny town of Jessup is nestled between Mount Cobb and the Lower Valley (Blakely) with a good mix of dwellings. There’s a rich heritage here, especially from those of Italian-American descent. The town is laid out well with the Casey Highway (Route 6) cutting through/above town, yet not obtrusive in any way. Jessup has a few parks for its residents to frequent, including Jessup Memorial Field Park & Kids Korner and Eales Preserve (a nature conservancy). Another bonus for inhabitants is the ease of access to the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail, in the north section of town. Shops and restaurants are within walking distance and most sit on Church Street or Hill Street. One drawback is walking access to grocery stores. For instance, the nearest one is approximately 1 to 2.5 miles depending on where you live. While some errands require car use in Jessup, the town does feature tourists at various times of the year and has access to public transit. Is Jessup walkable? Yes, but it didn’t make our list either.

Nonetheless, here are NEPA’s four most walkable communities:

Pittston

Location – Northeast of Wilkes-Barre, southwest of Scranton, in Luzerne County
Access – Route 11 and within close proximity to Interstate 81 and the northeast extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike
Walk Score – 76 
Highlights – Campbell’s Ledge is close to Pittston and for those who love to walk/bike, hop on the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail
Parks – Riverfront Park, Sullivan Park, Jefferson Park, James Clark Park, Albert West Park
Amenities – Restaurants and shops fill in Main Street as well as across the bridge in West Pittston (on/off Route 11)

Dunmore

Location – Neighboring Scranton on its east side
Access – Ranks very high with the ability to connect to Interstates 81, 84, 380/80 and the Casey Highway, all directly from town
Walk Score – 74
Highlights – Walking and biking around town is relatively easy with the wonderful sights of the Dunmore Cemetery and Marywood University. Scranton is relatively close too.
Parks – McHale Park (Dunmore Community Center), Sherwood Park, Saint Anthony’s Memorial Park
Amenities – Restaurants and shops along South Blakely and East Drinker Streets

Tunkhannock

Location – Northwest of Scranton in Wyoming County
Access – Route 6 and Route 29
Walk Score – 61
Highlights – Some of the cutest shops you’ll find outside of Clarks Summit and Honesdale, businesses are coming back into town and if you visit, you’ll see why
Parks – Riverside Park, McCord Park, Lazybrook Park
Amenities – Wonderful access to stores, restaurants and more on Tioga Street or Bridge Street; the Bypass has also helped keep much of the business/commuter traffic away from town

Old Forge

Location – Southwest of Scranton
Access – Quick ability to connect to the northeast extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Interstate 81 and Route 11
Walk Score – 59
Highlights – Pizza is a favorite here, but you probably already knew that
Parks – There are nearby parks, which are worth the trip, but other than softball and little league fields, there are no parks in this borough
Amenities – Superb access to restaurants, stores along Main and Oak Streets, grocery stores would need to be accessed by car

Real Estate Post-COVID

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®