Tag Archive for: Realty Network Group

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.

The most important things for homebuyers to consider when purchasing a home are:

  1. Being able to afford a home based upon one’s situation in life
  2. Not over-paying for a home based upon its market value
  3. A home’s location – What do the neighborhoods, school districts and surrounding area look like?
  4. A house’s age and the age of its components

Notice how security is an aspect you can’t ignore with the prospect of purchasing a home. It’s only natural to have hesitation about buying a home as it’s a big investment. Furthermore, feeling a sense of security goes beyond the financial commitments, which are required from buyers as they move forward with their purchase. If you lack security, you’ll be without peace taking another step toward homeownership. It’s also important to note that three of these four considerations listed above directly relate to money.

Tops on the list is paramount, because if your circumstances in life won’t allow it, you can’t or perhaps shouldn’t purchase a home. Home affordability comes in all shapes and sizes. What might be affordable to buyer A, isn’t feasible to buyer B. Being able to afford a home relates to the ability to budget properly for each and every cost associated with the purchase. Your debt-to-income ratio might be the surest way to prove to yourself as well as a lender, you’re able to follow-through with a home purchase. Besides your debt-to-income ratio, you should also reflect upon how much of a mortgage you can afford? You may be approved for borrowing a certain sum, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should take on that loan. The underwriters who dabble in rating an applicant’s ability to purchase will ultimately examine a buyer’s gross income, outstanding debt, assets and liabilities. They’re going to probe to see what demands have been placed on the buyer’s income. They’ll also forecast, as best they can, to ensure the bank’s ability to get paid back in the future isn’t at risk.

Secondly, buyers and sellers have been more cautious with the drastic increases in home appreciation since the onset of the pandemic. While the pandemic has vanished, home prices continue their upward climb. Since the beginning of COVID, when real estate sales were restricted, home prices have risen 54.8% in the Greater Scranton market.* A market recently named as the most affordable in the country. Again, while there are sales to be had right now, in fact we’re entering a time of the year where homebuyers will discover some of the best premiums around, buyers should exercise prudence. How long do they intend to live in the place they’re thinking about buying? Their offering on a property may not align with its value and might place undue hardship on the homeowner, if they need to sell a few years after their purchase. We would recommend living in a home for at least seven or more years at the risk of taking a loss. Though homes are generally a solid investment, there are no guarantees. If you need the freedom to move at a moment’s notice, within a shorter time frame from when you purchased the home, you might want to refrain from buying until your circumstances change.

For some buyers, a home’s location is the first litmus test it must pass. If the setting isn’t appealing or the property – though it has virtually everything the buyer is looking for – is in a non-ideal section of town or the purchaser has a family/children and thus schools are high on their list, then it’s hard to overlook locale. We would suggest reviewing pros and cons of various listings as it relates to their whereabouts. You can’t change their bearings, so start there and rate how important distances to work, school, daycare and shopping are, for instance. Look into traffic patterns and noise levels in particular parts of town. If school districts are important to you, target homes in the districts you would prefer to live. Scope out the home’s surroundings. Catch a glimpse of the area on the weekends, during the week, day and night. Is the neighborhood kid or pet friendly? Is the home in a walkable community?

Finally, the vast majority of homebuyers aren’t acquiring a new or newer construction home, one that’s less than ten years old. Being that many buyers are moving into a house that has been around the block, we’d certainly recommend a home inspection as a contingency to the purchase. Besides that, over time, a home’s elements begin to display patterns of behavior and likewise, deterioration. What parts of a home should you keep your eyes on? Windows, roof, HVAC (heating/cooling) system, foundation, to name a few, but again, call in the professionals, such as a reputable home inspector. They’re more than capable of assessing the age of a house’s components/appliances. A few decades after the construction of a home, repairs become more common, and thus as a prospective buyer it’s important to understand what your yearly maintenance/repair costs might resemble.

 

* Greater Scranton Board of REALTORS® stats; median homes sales for March 2020, October 2022

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]

For the fifth straight year, Realty Network Group was awarded the honors of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s “Best Real Estate Website.” The accolades were part of the Times-Tribune’s Readers’ Choice Awards, where online subscribers and readers of the Scranton Times voted for their favorite businesses in multiple categories such as Home & Services, Dining & Entertainment, Wellness & Person Style, Shopping as well as Recreation & Entertainment. These category winners are honored as the best in the Greater Scranton area.

Realty Network Group is so appreciative of all the support they’ve received over the years, but especially for this latest recognition as NEPA’s top dog in real estate search. Over the last year, the company has added a search by city function to their website in addition to boosting content and reorganizing many of their most visited pages. The site features one of the most dynamic search tools powered by RealtyNA, which offers a vast array of content at the consumer’s fingertips and numerous ways for prospective homebuyers to find exactly what they’re looking for. Their lakefront properties page will soon get a upgrade!

“We’re thankful for the support and votes we’ve received,” underscores Mark DeStefano, CEO and REALTOR® at Realty Network Group. “Our website, one of the strengths of our firm, continues to evolve toward the needs of our customers. They’ve been essential to our success, much in the same way as our network of real estate professionals. Without the expertise, hard work and dedication from our agents, we simply wouldn’t excel in this market.”

Realty Network Group is a smaller, boutique real estate business with a knack for reaching consumers through a high tech, high touch approach to the market. Their network of sales associates is one of the most experienced in the Greater Scranton area with a singular aim in mind: Connecting buyers and sellers. Everyday. In every way.

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.”

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!

It’s exciting when you decide that it’s the right time to grab your first investment property. However, if you’re new to these kinds of purchases, it’s also intimidating. Fortunately, as our experts understand, you can handle everything properly if you know how to approach it.

Finding the Right Investment Property

The Market

Calling the housing market hot can feel like an understatement. The median sale price for residential properties in the US was just over $408,000 at the end of 2021 and home prices across the country year-over-year (YOY) still exceed 20%, according to CoreLogic. In the Greater Scranton market, median home sale prices have been trending up at a YOY rate of 13.8%, more than the increase from a year prior (July 2020 to July 2021).*

By and large, prices have trended upward for the past few years and it isn’t uncommon for buyers to spend over list price, with some going for many thousands above list.

However, the price can vary throughout a particular area. Overall, each neighborhood can come with its own vibe and price point. As a result, where you buy matters, both from a cost and desirability standpoint.

When searching for investment properties, be sure to partner with one of our real estate professionals. They can help navigate the particulars of purchasing a home in Northeastern Pennsylvania. 

Features of Desirable Properties

When looking for investment properties, you need features that appeal to renters. For example, ValuePenguin notes that 53% of consumers want a home office over an extra bedroom. In some areas, open floor plans may typically be preferred. For downtown properties, a parking space might be a necessity, too.

Since traffic can be challenging, finding a location near convenient roadways or close to critical amenities like stores or medical centers (or even pizza!) is also essential. That way, renters won’t have to go far to get what they need.

If you’re looking at family-sized residential investment properties, then choosing one with exceptional school ratings is a smart move. That’ll make the home more attractive to parents, increasing its potential value.

The same goes for homes with large yards. Whether it’s parents or renters with dogs, having outdoor space may be high on the list. If the yard isn’t in great shape, making some outdoor improvements may be all it takes to elevate its curb appeal.

For instance, you could connect with local contractors to install a new fence, if it’s allowed by your homeowners association and/or the local municipality. Ensure they’re licensed, insured and check for underground utility lines. Next, read reviews online. Then, reach out to discuss your needs and get a quote. While the average price can vary (and it usually does in this market with distribution and supply issues that contractors typically encounter), the size, materials and location play a role, so get several estimates in advance to ensure you’re in the ballpark.

Managing the Investment Property, Beginning with Forming an LLC

Before getting into the investment property business, make sure you’ve set up a limited liability company to operate under. This will help protect you from personal liability, as well as confer tax benefits to you. You can accomplish this relatively simply by using a formation service. Once you find the right property, then you’ll need to determine how to manage it. Usually, you have two choices.

First, you can operate as the landlord, and as such, you’re responsible for all activities relating to the lease property. Along with advertising the property, you’ll screen tenants, collect rent, handle maintenance calls and more. In some cases, that also means enforcing the lease – a task that often lacks enjoyment and may not always go as planned – and handling evictions, if needed. It’s a full-plate for sure, but it’ll allow you to keep all of the profits too.

Second, you can hire a property manager. By using this approach, you’ll end up with less profit in exchange for support handling the property. The property manager will handle practically most everything, including screening tenants, accepting payments, tackling repair requests and the like. They’re also an ally for lease enforcement, ensuring you don’t have to address violations directly unless an eviction becomes necessary.

Which option is best depends on how hands-on you’d like to be along the way. While you’re always involved, a property manager reduces your burden in exchange for a fee, giving you access to support and expertise. However, if you’re confident in your capabilities, that may be unnecessary, as many investors manage their own properties.

* statistics from the Greater Scranton Board of REALTORS® (July 2020-July 2020)

 

[This content is compliments of Fix It Dads.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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.