Tag Archive for: pandemic

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

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

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

* Greater Scranton Board of REALTORS® statistics

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can I sell my home in this current climate?

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

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

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

Should I look for a home now or wait?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

To say the Chinese Coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected our nation would be the understatement of the year, a year some wish would be over already. Unless you recently came out of a coma, you know the effects of this pandemic. Lately, Americans have grappled with a loss of certain freedoms caused from a seemingly invisible pathogen. It has impacted the way we work, how we travel (in some cases), how our households function and it certainly has affected our relationships in one way or another.

As a small business real estate firm, who supports the efforts of our clients and our REALTORS®, we understand firsthand how work, travel, household dynamics and relationships have been impacted since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic only ten days ago. Real estate, like so many industries, has been making changes in recent days through a paradigm shift in modes of communication and how they get business done. Since the World Health Organization has declared this disease a pandemic, we’ve taken more precautions, like so many businesses throughout our nation, including Pennsylvania, who have also done the same.

Honestly, real estate appears more trivial since we’ve been asked to hunker down. There are nurses, doctors, emergency personnel, volunteers and scientists, just to name a few on the frontlines. Their health is at risk as well as their loved ones. They certainly didn’t ask for this, but they’re compassion and sacrifice lead the way through this period of uncertainty. Having said that, real estate professionals are an essential link between homebuyers and sellers in their quest for finding a place they’ll call home. At Realty Network Group, connecting buyers and sellers, is our mission in four words. Yet we know through these challenging times, we need to safely operate within the confines of this contagion and administer the highest level of care and service we can reasonably provide to our clients and customers alike.

Guided by the Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS® (PAR), we’re proceeding with caution for the sake of our clients, their families in addition to our agents. For deals already under way, we’re also seeking the advice of counsel – time is of the essence. And that’s why PAR created the COVID-19 Addendum to the Agreement of Sale. Some situations may require a timeout in order to proceed safely through the transaction. This addendum permits these steps to be taken.

Many concerns have risen within our industry in less than two weeks. As of Wednesday (3/25) evening we have more concise guidelines from PAR: REALTORS® should “cease doing [all] in-person business” until Pennsylvania’s governor, Tom Wolf, informs otherwise. We know many sellers are left wondering how they might possibly assist their agents in selling their homes remotely. Prospective homeowners are skeptical about placing their property on the market right now. Buyers are looking at record-low mortgage rates, and depending on their situation, some are realizing there might never be a better time to buy – yes, even in a seller’s market. Though real estate sales have been robust amidst this outbreak, there has been increased caution as to how consumers should be proceeding through these unchartered waters. Our firm hopes to clarify some of these matters over the next few weeks as more information becomes available to us.

Above all, we would like to sincerely wish everyone in our community and in our world good health and safety as we move ahead in these unprecedented times. If you carry one thing with you, let it be hope. Should you need to contact any of our professionals, please do so here. We look forward to addressing more of your concerns as time goes by. Stay healthy!