7 Mistakes That Could Keep You From Selling Your Home This Winter

Selling a house during winter comes with its own unique challenges. Snow, for one, can bury your home’s best features. Your normally lush landscaping may look drab and lifeless. And truth be told, all you want to do is cozy up at home rather than welcome buyers through your door.

Still, if you’re game to sell during winter, it’s essential that you put on your snow pants and put some effort into making your house shine. To help, here are some classic mistakes to avoid once the temperature drops, and why they can make such a difference. Just avoid making these all-too-common winter-selling fumbles in order to get top dollar.

Mistake No. 1: Setting down the shovel

You cleared off enough of the driveway for your car, but potential buyers won’t be entering through the garage like you do.

“Blazing a path through 3 feet of virgin snow makes a lousy first impression,” says John Engel, a Realtor® with Halstead Properties, in New Canaan, CT.

Don’t put away your snow shovel until you’ve cleared a path to your front door. Or save your poor back by hiring a snow removal company to keep your paths walkable.

“Not only does it make it more inviting for buyers, but it avoids potential safety and liability concerns,” says Massachusetts Realtor John Ternullo.

Mistake No. 2: Giving in to the winter blahs

Gray skies and barren trees make winter a particularly depressing time to sell. But you don’t have to let your home look as doleful as the weather.

“Pops of color by the entryway, like a seasonal wreath and topiaries, can add some interest to the front entrance as well as make it more inviting,” Ternullo says.

And don’t wait until buyers schedule showings to add some life: Colorful curb appeal transforms your listing photos from drab to dramatic.

Mistake No. 4: Not scrubbing your windows

Colder temps have robbed your trees of their leaves, leaving your home to look a bit sadder in winter’s wake. But that’s not the only problem. Those full trees previously shielded your home from direct sunlight. And now that it’s pouring in your windows, potential buyers will be able to see everything. 

Scuffs, fingerprints, and streaks are “never more apparent” than in the wintertime, Engel says, so you should make sure you’re vigilant about keeping windows clean. Alone, that grime might not be enough to turn off a potential buyer, but it might make them wonder what other details you’ve missed.

Mistake No. 5: Displaying outdated summer photos

Your Tudor looks particularly glorious in the summer, but if your only listing photos were taken in April, buyers will immediately suspect a problem.

“Nothing says ‘old, tired listing’ more than the photo you took nine months ago,” Engel says. Talk to your Realtor about taking new photos that make your home look festive and seasonal. Feel free to keep older photos in the listing—your buyers might want to know what the home looks like when the gardens are in full bloom—but updated photos will make your listing seem fresh.

Mistake No. 6: Turning down the heat

Don't give potential buyers a chilly reception.
Don’t give potential buyers a chilly reception.

Olivier Le Moal/iStock

“Frugality is great, but not when you’re trying to sell real estate for top dollar,” says Brian Davis, a real estate investor and co-founder of SparkRental.com.

Turn the heat up before you leave for showings, your utility bill be damned. Stick to 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit to keep everyone comfy.

“It will make the house feel homier and more welcoming,” Davis says. “It also gives the impression that the house is energy-efficient and well-insulated.”

Mistake No. 7: Denying access

It’s New Year’s Eve and a buyer wants to stop by. How dare they! Shouldn’t they assume you have a fabulous party to prepare for?

Maybe. But if you want to sell your home in the off-season, the buyer has to come first. You’ll need to work with your Realtor to devise a strategy for squeezing in showings, even in between all of winter’s holiday events and family gatherings.

“While it may be inconvenient, it’s crucial not to deny showings, as that could be a missed opportunity,” Ternullo says. “There may be less buyers compared to spring, but winter buyers tend to be serious.”

Mistake No. 8: Leaving out your draft stoppers

Your hand-knit draft stopper might look adorable snuggled against your door, but it “sends a clear message to buyers,” Davis says. “This house is drafty and loses heat easily.”

Not that you should lie. But every home has hidden problems, and it’s best to let the buyers make their own assessments and discoveries during the inspection period. Don’t leave out little things that could sway their decision.

Source: realtor.com

Homebuying Must-Haves: How COVID-19 Has Changed What’s Hot or Not in a Home

The last two months of stay-at-home orders and quarantines have drastically changed how people are utilizing and enjoying their home. The needs of homeowners have changed and that has altered what home buyers are now looking for in a home. What used to be the “must-have” item or space in a home is changing as homes have become people’s offices, playrooms, restaurants, and classrooms. Here’s what you can expect to come back in style, and fade out, in a post-coronavirus market.

What’s In

The Rise in Home Offices

As both children and parents are now working from home, homeowners are discovering the necessity for dedicated home offices. While the new normal post-coronavirus remains to be seen, companies are already planning for employees to work remotely more often. The days of utilizing the dining table as a workspace are proving to not be functional or realistic for the new reality. With an estimated 56% of the US workforce employed in a remote work compatible field and an estimated 66% of employees currently working from home during the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s now a critical element for home buyers that a home has a dedicated home office or an area that could be utilized as one. As sellers list their homes this summer, they’d be wise to cater to this new need by staging a room or area as an office for home buyers to see the potential.

Comfortable workplace with computer near wooden wall in stylish room interior. Home office designComfortable workplace with computer near wooden wall in stylish room interior. Home office design

Taking the Living Room Outside

The yard and extended living areas have always been a factor in the home buyer’s mind. But as community swimming pools and playgrounds are shuttered due to the outbreak, the importance of ample backyard space or additional outdoor areas to enjoy and relax have risen in popularity. As quarantine grows, many are looking for ways to escape their four walls in a safe way. Since COVID-19 and food scarcity, many homeowners value the area to create their own garden. Buyers will be looking for existing gardens or spaces to create one.

A Need for Flexible Spaces

As homeowners utilize their homes in new ways, spaces that can serve double (or triple) duty has major appeal. A guest bedroom that also provides a home office area, or a bonus room that serves as a media room and an at-home classroom. Homeowners are getting creative with their spaces and needing their spaces to serve multiple purposes. For those selling in the coming months, staging to promote and define flexible spaces would appeal to home buyers!

What’s Out

Open Concept Floor Plans

Although it has been all-the-rage for the last several years, open concept makes it difficult for homeowners that are cooking, Zoom-learning, and conference calling more often. As many modern designs offer one large room that serves as the living room, dining room, and kitchen, its popularity has waned as families need more individual, quiet spaces to work and learn at home.

Stainless Steel

What has been the “gold” standard in kitchens for many years, in a post-COVID world, home buyers are looking for sanitary surfaces. If you’ve ever stepped back to look at your stainless steel dishwasher, you’ve probably seen its front cluttered with fingerprints and handprints. Having lived through Coronavirus, we know the detrimental power of transferring germs and viruses from touch. More sanitary surfaces such as copper will most likely grow in popularity with buyers. In fact, in a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine and funded by the National Institute of Health, researchers discovered that the novel coronavirus survived for only four hours on copper versus three days on stainless steel.

While the future “new normal” is still up in the air, the real estate market is still moving homes. As with other previous events, COVID-19 has forced a change in the needs of buyers—and those needs may continue to evolve as more of our day-to-day lives are changed because of the pandemic. But, buyers are already shifting their needs and wants which we can reasonably expect to have a long term effect on home design.


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Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.

Source: homes.com

Acronyms of Real Estate: What Homebuyers Need to Know

Real estate is a regular smorgasbord of acronyms – everything from APR to REO. Here’s a list of the ones you’re likely to run into and what they mean when you’re buying or selling a house:

Acronyms You’ll Hear Associated with Real Estate Professionals

Real estate agents, builders and most other realty-related professions have numerous professional designations, all designed to set them apart from those who haven’t taken advanced courses in their fields. These designations don’t mean that professionals without letters after their names are not as experienced or skilled, but rather only that they haven’t taken the time to further their educations.

Read: How to Build Your Real Estate Team

Let’s start with the letter “R,” which stands for Realtor. A Realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors, the nation’s largest trade group. NAR says it speaks for homeowners, and it usually does. But in that rare occasion when the interests of its members and owners don’t align, it sides with those who pay their dues.

Read: A Timeline of the History of Real Estate

NAR embraces a strict code of ethics. There are about 2 million active and licensed real estate agents nationwide, and 1.34 million can call themselves Realtors.

NAR members sometimes have the letters GRI or CRS after their names. The Graduate, REALTOR® Institute (GRI) designation signifies the successful completion of 90 hours of classroom instruction beyond the continuing education courses required by many states for agents to maintain their licenses. After the GRI, an agent may become a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) by advancing his or her education even further.

black family touring a house to buy racial homeownership gap discriminationblack family touring a house to buy racial homeownership gap discrimination

Builders can obtain the GBI – Graduate Builder Institute – designation by completing nine one-day classes sponsored by the educational arm of the National Association of Home Builders. Those who pass more advanced courses become Graduate Master Builders, or GMBs. Remodeling specialists with at least five years of experience can be Certified Graduate Remodelers, or CGRs. And, salespeople can be CSPs, or Certified New Home Sales Professionals.

In the mortgage profession, the Mortgage Bankers Association awards the Certified Mortgage Banker (CMB) and Accredited Residential Originator (ARO) designations, but only after completing a training program that may take up to five years to finish. To start the process, CMB and ARO candidates must have at least three years’ experience and be recommended by a senior officer in their companies.

Acronyms Associated with Mortgage Lending

When obtaining a mortgage, you will be quoted an interest rate; however, perhaps the more important rate is the annual percentage rate, or APR, which is the total cost of the loan per year over the loan’s term. It measures the interest rate plus other fees and charges.

An FRM is a fixed-rate mortgage, the terms of which never change. Conversely, an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) allows rates to increase or decrease at certain intervals over the life of the loan, depending on rates at the time of the adjustment.

Female client consulting with a agent in the officeFemale client consulting with a agent in the office

A conventional loan is one with an amount at or less than the conforming loan limit set by federal regulators on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two major suppliers of funds for home loans. These two quasi-government outfits replenish the coffers of main street lenders by buying their loans and packing them into securities for sale to investors worldwide.

Other key agencies you should be familiar with are the FHA and the VA. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insures mortgages up to an amount which changes annually, as does the conforming loan ceiling. The Veterans Administration (VA) guarantees loans made to veterans and active duty servicemen and women.

LTV stands for loan-to-value. This important ratio measures what your are borrowing against the value of the home. Some lenders want as much as 20% down, meaning the LTV would be 80%. But in many cases, the LTV can be as great as 97%.

Private mortgage insurance (PMI), is a fee you’ll have to pay if you make less than a 20% down payment. PMI covers the lender should you default, but you have to pay the freight. Fortunately, you can cancel coverage once your LTV dips below 80%.

Your monthly payment likely will include more than just principal and interest. Many lenders also want borrowers to include one-twelfth of their property tax and insurance bills every month, as well. That way, lenders will have enough money on hand to pay these annual bills when they come due. Thus, the acronym PITI (principle, interest, taxes, and insurance).

Real-estate owned (REO) properties are foreclosed upon by lenders when borrowers fail to make their payments. When you buy a foreclosure, you buy REO. Short sales are not REO because, while they are in danger of being repossessed, they are still owned by the borrower.

houses real estate market selling buyinghouses real estate market selling buying

Acronyms You’ll Hear During an Appraisal

There is no acronym for an appraisal, which is an opinion of value prepared by a certified or licensed appraiser (though sometimes other types of valuation methods are used in the buying and selling process).

A Certified Market Analysis (CMA) is prepared by a real estate agent or broker to help determine a home’s listing price. A Broker Price Opinion (BPO) is a more advanced estimate of the probable future selling price of a property, and an automated valuation model (AVM) is a software program that provides valuations based on mathematical modeling.

AVMs are currently used by some lenders and investors to confirm an appraiser’s valuation, but they are becoming increasingly popular as replacements of appraisals, especially in lower price ranges.

Other Terms to Know

If you hear the term MLS, you should know it stands for multiple listing service. An MLS is a database that allows real estate brokers to share data on properties for sale, making the buying and selling process more efficient. There are many benefits to both homebuyers and sellers utilizing an MLS, for more information on how to get your home available through an MLS, work with a real estate professional when selling.

Read: What Buyers and Sellers Need to Know About Multiple Listing Services

Did you know? Homes.com has some serious MLS partnerships, no joke! When you start your home search on Homes.com, you’ll see accurate property information quickly so you’ll never have to wonder if a home is actually available.

House tourHouse tour

However, not all properties for sale are listed on the MLS. A home may be a for-sale-by-owner (FSBO), if the owner is selling his or her property without an agent and bypassing an MLS listing. In addition, some agents fail to enter their listings in the MLS for days or weeks at a time in hopes of selling to a list of preferred clients.

Read: Advantages of Buying With or Without an Agent

Finally, you may find yourself buying into a homeowners association (HOA) when you purchase a house or condominium apartment. HOAs are legal governing bodies that establish requirements everyone must adhere to in order to keep the community it oversees running smoothly and ensure property values are maintained.


Lew Sichelman

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Syndicated newspaper columnist, Lew Sichelman has been covering the housing market and all it entails for more than 50 years. He is an award-winning journalist who worked at two major Washington, D.C. newspapers and is a past president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

Source: homes.com

Is Your Mortgage Forbearance Ending Soon? What To Do Next

mortgage forbearanceSEAN GLADWELL / Getty Images

Millions of Americans struggling to make their monthly mortgage payments because of COVID-19 have received relief through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

But mortgage forbearance is only temporary, and set to expire soon, leaving many homeowners who are still struggling perplexed on what to do next.

Enacted in March, the CARES Act initially granted a 180-day forbearance, or pause in payments, to homeowners with mortgages backed by the federal government or a government-sponsored enterprise such as Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Furthermore, some private lenders also granted mortgage forbearance of 90 days or more to financially distressed homeowners.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, 8.39% of loans were in forbearance as of June 28, representing an estimated 4.2 million homeowners nationwide.

So what are affected homeowners to do when the forbearance goes away? You have options, so it’s well worth contacting your lender to explore what’s best for you.

“If you know you’re going to be unable to meet the terms of your forbearance agreement at its maturity, you should call your loan servicer immediately and see what options they may be able to offer to you,” says Abel Carrasco, mortgage loan originator at Motto Mortgage Advisors in St. Petersburg, FL.

Exactly what’s available depends on the fine print in the terms of your mortgage forbearance agreement. Here’s an overview of some possible avenues to explore if you still can’t pay your mortgage after the forbearance period ends.

Extend your mortgage forbearance

One simple option is to contact your lender to request an extension.

Homeowners granted forbearance under the CARES Act can request a 180-day extension, giving them a total of 360 days of forbearance, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The key is to contact your lender well before your forbearance expires. If you let it expire without an extension, your lender could impose penalties.

“If you just stop making regular, scheduled payments, you could have a late mortgage payment on your credit,” warns Carrasco. “That could severely impact refinancing or purchasing another property in the immediate future and potentially subject you to foreclosure.”

Keep in mind, though, a forbearance simply delays payments, meaning they’ll still need to be made in the future. It doesn’t mean payments are forgiven.

Refinance to lower your mortgage payment

Mortgage interest rates are at all-time lows, hovering around 3%. So if you can swing it, this may be a great time to refinance your home, says Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree.

Refinancing could come with some hefty fees, however, ranging from 2% to 6% of your loan amount. But it could be worth it.

A lower interest rate will likely lower your monthly payment and save you thousands over the life of your mortgage. Dropping your interest rate from 4.125% to 3% could save more than $40,000 over 30 years, for example, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“Lenders have tightened standards, though, so you will need to show that you are a good candidate for refinancing,” Kapfidze says. You’ll need a good credit score of 620 or higher.

As long as you’ve kept up your end of the forbearance terms, having a mortgage forbearance shouldn’t affect your credit score, or your ability to refinance or qualify for another mortgage.

Ask for a loan modification

Many lenders are offering an assortment of programs to help homeowners under hardship because of the pandemic, says Christopher Sailus, vice president and mortgage product manager at WaFd Bank.

“Lenders quickly recognized the severity of the economic situation due to the pandemic, and put programs into place to defer payments or help reduce them,” he says.

A loan modification is one such option. This enables homeowners at risk of default to change the terms of their original mortgage—such as payment amount, interest rate, or length of the loan—to reduce monthly payments and clear up any delinquencies.

Loan modifications may affect your credit score, but not as much as a foreclosure. Some lenders charge fees for loan modifications, but others, like WaFd, provide them at no cost.

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Watch: 5 Things to Know About Selling a Home Amid the Pandemic

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Put your home on the market

It may seem like a strange time to sell your home, with COVID-19 cases growing, unemployment rising, and the economy on shaky ground. But, it’s actually a great time to sell a house.

Pending home sales jumped 44.3% in May, according to the National Association of Realtors®’ Pending Home Sales Index, the largest month-over-month growth since the index began in 2001.

Home inventory remains low, and buyer demand is up with many hoping to jump on the low interest rates. Prices are up, too. The national median home price increased 7.7% in the first quarter of 2020, to $274,600, according to NAR.

So if you can no longer afford your home and have plenty of equity built up, listing your home may be a smart move. (Home equity is the market value of your home minus how much you still owe on your mortgage.)

Consider foreclosure as a last resort

Foreclosure may be the only option for many homeowners, especially if you fall too behind on your mortgage payments and can’t afford to sell or refinance. In May, more than 7% of mortgages were delinquent, a 20% increase from April, according to mortgage data and analytics firm Black Knight.

“When to begin a foreclosure process will vary from lender to lender and client to client,” Sailus says. “Current and future state and federal legislation, statutes, or regulations will impact the process, as will the individual homeowner’s situation and their ability to repay.”

Foreclosures won’t begin until after a forbearance period ends, he adds.

The CARES Act prohibited lenders from foreclosing on mortgages backed by the government or government-sponsored enterprise until at least Aug. 31. Several states, including California and Connecticut, also issued temporary foreclosure moratoriums and stays.

Once these grace periods (and forbearance timelines) end, and homeowners miss payments, they could face foreclosure, Carrasco says. When a loan is flagged as being in foreclosure, the balance is due and legal fees accumulate, requiring homeowners to pay off the loan (usually by selling) and vacating the property.

“Absent participation in an agreed-upon forbearance, deferment, repayment plan, or loan modification, loan servicers historically may begin the foreclosure process after as few as three months of missed mortgage payments,” he explains. “This is unfortunately often the point of no return.”

The post Is Your Mortgage Forbearance Ending Soon? What To Do Next appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

What Buyers and Sellers Need to Know About Multiple Listing Services

In the world of real estate, both buyers and sellers need to ensure they have access to a multiple listing service for many reasons. The connection? Using a real estate professional. Here are the benefits both buyers and sellers need to know when using an MLS.

The post What Buyers and Sellers Need to Know About Multiple Listing Services appeared first on Homes.com.

Source: homes.com