Tag Archive for: Homebuying

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.

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

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®

So you’re ready to buy your very first house! While becoming a homeowner is an exciting journey, there’s much to consider and prepare before you actually buy a house. Your life plans, career, finances and preferences in a home will all be factors that affect the kind of house you can buy as well as where you’ll want to live. To help you navigate all these factors, read on to learn about the three most crucial considerations when buying your first home.

Money Matters

Buying a house is no small endeavor, especially when it comes to money. You’ll want to start saving up as early as possible so that you can afford a down payment. However, after that, chances are you’ll need to get a mortgage to pay for this house over time. A common plan of payment is a 30-year fixed mortgage, which holds fixed principal and interest rates, meaning you’ll pay the same amount over the life of the loan (30 years). This is one method of paying off a mortgage, so do your research and discover what works best for you. There are other mortgage options available too such as FHA, VA, among others.

Additionally, you will want to take a close look at your finances, specifically credit and debt, as these factor into your mortgage eligibility and interest rates. When making moves to purchase a house, you’ll want to ensure that you’ve paid down as much debt as possible and that your credit score is the highest it can be. Avoid other large purchases and refrain from switching jobs during the home buying process as well.

Your Future is a Long-Term Game

Your future plans should be taken into account before you buy a house, as you’ll likely live in this house until your mortgage is paid off. Will you need to pay off any past loans, like car payments or student loans? If so, you may want to research or consult a financial planner on how to juggle paying for multiple long-term payments.

Do you want children in the future? Do you think you’ll help pay for your children’s college education? Although that may be years into the future, it’s crucial to consider everything you might possibly be paying for. Many financial aspects like paying off a mortgage or college tuition are a long-term game, so starting a college fund when you decide to have children is a great way to prepare financially for the future. It can be taxing to pay for several significant costs like college tuition and mortgage payments at the same time, as well as any other loans.

Needs Come Before Wants

Next, you’ll want to consider what you need and what you want in a house. Perhaps you need at least three bedrooms or even more if you plan on starting a family. You may need an open concept floor plan with ample room for seating, for example, if you like hosting. If you have a dog or plan on getting one, a backyard is a great asset to have. If you are self-employed, a house with enough room for a home office is necessary, so read our tips on launching a home-based business while moving to a new home.

You will also want to think about where you’ll want to reside. Depending on the state or city, houses will vary in cost. If you want a house in a large city, it’s going to cost more than a house in a very rural area. Explore and research the cost of living in different areas and what will work best for you. Remember the difference between needs and wants, as your very first house might not have everything you dreamt of. Luckily, you can always renovate or add on to your home in the future to make it your perfect home. Maybe flex space is an option for you?

 

Purchasing your first house is quite an accomplishment, but a lot of preparation and financial planning needs to be done beforehand. By considering these three factors, you set yourself up for a smooth homebuying process.

As a homeowner, why would I need the services of a real estate appraiser? And is one needed if I already have a business relationship with a REALTOR®? These are great questions, but before we dive in and answer them, let’s establish what we mean when we say “appraisal.”

For our purposes here, we’re not concerned with commercial real estate appraisals. These are a whole different animal and are sought after less than residential ones in our region. By appraisals, we’re referring to an accurate estimate of a home’s current/fair market value (emphasis added). We’ll break down the difference between this and how we understand a comparable market analysis, but it’s safe to say appraisals hold much more weight. Furthermore, an appraisal, which is required by a homebuyer’s lender, for instance, is completed by a licensed appraiser and not solely a real estate agent.

While some homeowners, who are looking to sell their home, might request from a REALTOR® what’s called a comparable market analysis (CMA), it’s critical to recognize the distinction between it and an appraisal. While agents might use methods of comparison similar to appraisers, they aren’t licensed appraisers with no motivation for the sale of the property. Generally speaking, CMAs are for agent purposes (listing a home for sale, data to support a buyer’s offer) and appraisals are for lending purposes. Read more about their differences here.

Regardless of the business relationship you have with a real estate professional, unless he/she has a license to appraise property in that state, his/her assessment on what a property is worth won’t hold water with the mortgage lender actually making the investment on the home on your behalf (whether you’re the homeowner or mortgagor). Not all appraisals involve banks though. “There are many reasons someone would hire an appraiser,” exclaims Maria Muchal Berta, Owner/Certified Real Estate Appraiser for Chiave Appraisal Group and Associate Broker with Realty Network Group. “One reason is if a buyer is using cash to purchase a property, meaning there are no banks involved in the transaction. It gives the buyer a piece of mind knowing they’re not overpaying for a property. Other common reasons for hiring an appraiser include divorces, settling estates, refinancing, applying for home equity loans, appealing tax assessments or they’re just curious about their home’s worth.”

We hope this elucidates why someone might need the services of a real estate appraiser. It’s a complicated market out there! Make sure you have the right people and tools at your fingertips. If you need further clarification regarding homebuying, look into this resource.

Becoming an entrepreneur is an exciting time, but it does require a lot of work. And if you find that you need to move at the same time to have a bigger workspace to suit your needs, it can be doubly challenging. It’s not an easy feat to start a home-based business while moving at the same time, but you can do it!

Here are eight tips on how you can accomplish both:

  • Make sure you select the right location. Make a list of everything you need close by for your personal life and then also for your business. That might be proximity to your shipping partners, an airport if you need to travel frequently, your suppliers or whatever else that might be. We have success with our clients who are relocating. We can help you find the perfect place!
  • Hire a professional moving company. Yes, you can do it all yourself and it will be cheaper, but it’ll take a lot of time and effort, which would be better spent on establishing your new business.
  • Plan ahead so that you don’t have too much workload when moving into your new place. The last thing you want is more stress piled onto everything else, so keep the days surrounding your move free of calls and deadlines as much as you can.
  • Get your business registered at your new home-office address. An LLC might be a good option for you, but make sure you check the filing requirements by state, as these can vary. This will allow you to work on your new venture without having to worry about any legal implications. You’ll also need the proper registration to claim tax deductions for expenses related to starting your business.
  • Sign up for continuing education. It’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day details of running your business. But if you keep investing in building your skills, it will help you make better business decisions and ensure long-term success. There are plenty of online degrees available in business or accounting that you can fit around your work schedule. 
  • Invest in state-of-the-art technology. Your old laptop might have been good enough for downloading music and email, but when you start a business, having the right tools will be a productivity game-changer. Invest in phones, screens, tablets, computers and any other technology you might need – keep it up-to-date.
  • Design a business plan to map out your long-term vision. By putting all of your ideas down on paper and going through the assumptions that back up all of your financials, you can troubleshoot potential problems before they arise. A business plan is also crucial if you need to go to investors or request a bank loan.
  • Stay on top of your accounting. Many entrepreneurs end up with stacks of crumpled invoices in a drawer and find themselves overwhelmed when tax season comes around. There are plenty of easy-to-use software options available today to set you off on the right foot from day one and make sure you don’t fall behind.

We hope that this post has provided you with some insights and tips on starting a small business from home while moving. You’re now ready to join the millions of entrepreneurs, who decided to pursue their dreams as well. Good luck with your new endeavours!

 

[This content is compliments of TidyHome. Image for this post – Unsplash]

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

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

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

* Greater Scranton Board of REALTORS® statistics

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

So you’ve finally convinced yourself now is the time to buy a home. Maybe this is your first rodeo, but perhaps you’ve purchased before. Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or not, ending up with the property you love for a price you can live with is the goal. Achieving this goal can be grasped through knowledge (it’s power!) and a keen insight into your local market. Focus on your goals and the information at your fingertips, it can save you grief as well as nasty surprises down the road.

When it comes to real estate, very few like surprises. In fact, many don’t even like surprises to begin with (most of my friends despise surprise parties). In order to avoid these unpleasantries, we’ve devised a list of seven ways to make your homebuying experience more enjoyable.

Lenders & Mortgage Brokers

There are so many lending options available to you, but if you’re like a majority of prospective buyers you might settle for one option. This could be a fatal first step, causing you to lose thousands of dollars in the process. Instead, a great approach would be to talk to multiple lenders (at least three) in addition to consulting a mortgage broker. You’ll want to have a solid basis for a comparison. Am I getting a good deal? Is this the lowest possible rate for my present situation (where I find myself in life, credit score, etc.)?

Compare lender fees, customer service, loan terms, rates and response times. The more you shop around, the more you’ll improve your chances of achieving some financial freedom. Certainly tap the bank you do all or most of your business with, but don’t solely rely on them.

Before you begin actively searching for homes in the marketplace, make sure you get pre-approved by a reputable lender. Don’t make the mistake of looking at properties before taking this first step into a much larger world. In competitive niche markets, you could forfeit your chance of landing your choice home if you aren’t pre-approved. This will also prevent you from gushing over a home you simply cannot afford.

Affordability Can Be An Issue Too

Ah yes, you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew either. In many markets throughout the country, the supply is dwindling, but buyers are itching for more affordable homes. It’s in these markets where we discover rising home prices and the challenges that come along with them.

7 Mistakes Homebuyers Must Avoid

If there’s one thing to take away from this article, it’s this: Don’t be swept away by your emotions, don’t let them completely engulf you, making your decisions for you. Rather, create a budget and stick with it. It should contain a list of your monthly expenses: Automobile, student loans, credit cards, groceries, health insurance, child care, investments, etc. Examine your costs and be realistic about what you can actually afford. Be sure to give yourself some wiggle room too.

Remember, by overspending, you could be putting yourself at risk for losing your home in the future should you encounter financial trouble. Overspending can often be tied to emotional needs rather than logical, unhasty decisions. Don’t lust after something that’s outside your price range nor feel the need to borrow the full amount of your pre-approval. Make an offer if you’re serious about buying a home, but do it after much reflection and preparation.

Overpaying For A Home

As stated above, overextending on a home purchase is usually not in a buyer’s best interest. I speak from experience on this. The first home I purchased, I reached to get it and seven years later when I needed to sell it, I found myself in a less than ideal situation. Stay focused on purchasing a home for a good price rather than on what you can spend.

Though there’s no way to absolutely guarantee you’ll make the best choice – markets do change as time goes by – discover the market value of a property before you’re willing to make an offer on such a large investment. Don’t rely on what the rateable or government value of a home would be. These valuations often fail to reflect what the home is actually worth in today’s market. You’ll want to make sure your offer to purchase is based on comparable homes that have already sold in recent months.

REALTORS® & Other Professionals


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Don’t follow the path to home discovery alone! Each homebuyer should have buyer’s representation. This is important in order to protect your own interests or you could find other agents, who are actually working for the seller and not your interests, coaching you. REALTORS® educated buyers about the process. They are the “go to” person before and after a transaction even occurs. They can give you insights into who to consult, the surrounding communities/neighborhoods, if attorney representation is advisable and the like. Find a real estate professional who’s a good match for your personality and your schedule.

An experience REALTOR® can put you at ease. This can’t be overstated. They point many homebuyers in the right direction. They have connections, knowledge and course correction that’s needed in the present landscape. When it’s time to buy a property they link you with the right people as well. Your real estate professional can connect you with reputable inspectors and other service providers who can give you a clearer picture of what you’re facing ahead. What’s the condition of the home? What type of repairs are needed? A thorough inspection will help you avoid a money pit, so don’t neglect to inspect.

Credit Constraints

Before embarking on your quest for a new home, it’s important to give yourself maximum buying power, if time allows. Be patient, pay down some of your debt and save money. Believe it or not, boosting your credit score and/or saving enough for a significant down payment can take months or even years to accomplish. Here are some things to keep in mind prior to getting pre-approved with a bank:

  • Have three to six months of living expenses saved in an emergency fund
  • Don’t drain your savings to put a down payment on a home nor to pay the closing costs associated with settlement
  • Stay level-headed and stick to your budget – meet with a financial planner, if necessary

When the time’s right, get pre-approved and keep the status quo in your finances through settlement. Don’t make your next significant purchase until you’ve closed on your home. Refrain from opening new lines of credit, closing existing accounts or taking on new loans. These would potentially impact your credit score and jeopardize your purchasing power. Furthermore, a buyer’s actions could cause the deal to go south and as a result he/she might be in jeopardy of losing his/her earnest money deposit.

Location, Bones, Location

As you and your agent begin to search for a home that’s perfectly suited to your needs, it’s important to keep an open mind, while not be overly picky with your selections. It may seem like a part-time job, attaining the right fit for you and your family, after all it can be vital to your lifestyle and development. Seek a home you can add value to.

7 Mistakes Homebuyers Must Avoid

When your search is underway, it may be difficult to ignore some of the cosmetic details, but that’s exactly how you may want to approach it to maintain sanity. A homebuyer should grasp the difference between things that can be changed relatively easily (like simple remodeling) versus things which are very expensive or near impossible to correct. Don’t let the physical imperfections turn you off. On the other hand, it’s important to perceive those things like your home’s yard/lot size or location, which cannot be changed. If you fixate on the home over its neighborhood or school district, you could end up loving the home, but hating where you live.

Ground yourself and know your limits. If your funds are tight, you may need to be willing to reside on a busy road, deal with a dated home or put some sweat equity into it. Prospective homebuyers should also do their research. With the aid of your REALTORS®, investigate the crime statistics and school ratings of areas where you’re interest lies. Gauge your commuting time to and from work. Visit the neighborhood where you’re thinking about moving to at different times of the day to understand traffic patterns and its vibe. Don’t look for perfection in a home, it rarely exists. In fact, in doing so, it could lead you to overpay for one along with grossly limiting your search.

Ownership’s Hidden Costs

Before you embark on this exciting adventure toward homeownership, don’t overlook the hidden costs, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer. Have you considered the other expenses? You may need to pay for property taxes, homeowners insurance, flood insurance, mortgage insurance (PMI), repairs and maintenance costs, utilities, homeowners association dues (HOA), etc.

Set aside 2% to 3% of the home’s value each year to cover costs associated with maintenance and repairs. Don’t underestimate this buffer. In order to maintain your home, you’ll need to have this set aside. For instance, if your home has a market value of $250,000 and wasn’t recently built, then each year you should have $5,000 to $7,500 set aside for upkeep and repairs.

 

I know this information can be a little overwhelming for some thinking about buying a home, but it’s paramount to keep these potential pitfalls in mind. Again, focus on your goals and discuss this further with your real estate professional. How important is it for you to be a homeowner now than continue to rent and be one in the future? This is a question you’ll inevitably need to ask yourself.

We hope you enjoyed this article. For more helpful homebuyer information as well as our FAQs, click here. We always welcome your feedback!