Questions to Ask with Virtual Home Tours

Image Source: Canva

 

Thanks to COVID-19, the new reality is that many open houses and home tours are being conducted virtually. For prospective home buyers, this new territory brings an added element to prepare for in the home buying process. Some of the questions that should be asked in a virtual home tour parallel those of in-person tours, but others are unique to today’s virtual world.

 

Can you zoom in?

  • Sometimes it can be difficult to get a true glimpse at what you want to see in a room. Asking the agent to zoom in on specific features is commonplace in virtual home tours, and they understand this is part of the viewer experience. Don’t hesitate to ask multiple times. Getting a better look at everything you want to see will help you feel like you’ve gotten the most out of your virtual tour.

 

How many square feet are in this room?

  • Virtual tours can slightly distort space, making it tough to gauge the size. The room-to-room square footage is information the agent is sure to have handy. Since you can’t be there in person, it will help you piece together the virtual visuals with the sense of physical space that we’re all accustomed to feeling in the places we live.

 

What color is that?

  • In the smartphone era, and computer era at large, we have come to understand that digital representations of color are not always true to the eye. Ask the agent to confirm specific colors so you can plan accordingly. Have a color swatch on hand or look the colors up online as you go through the tour.

 

When were the appliances last updated?

  • The importance of this question rings true in past, present, and future. Knowing the state of the home’s appliances, and the likelihood and timing of when they will need replacement, is vital information for both assessing the move-in readiness of the home and understanding what costs might lie ahead.

 

Has the seller provided an inspection?

  • This is another example of a critical question, whether your home tour is virtual or physical. If the seller has already done an inspection, ask the agent to lead you to any areas of concern based on the inspector’s findings. If there is anything that has not yet been addressed by the seller, have your agent ask what their plan is for making the necessary repairs/updates.

 

When is the offer review date?

  • Understanding the seller’s timeline for reviewing and accepting offers will help guide your decision-making process and allow you to strategize based on the timeline.

 

Whether your home tour is physical or virtual, getting the information you need to make an informed decision remains paramount. Although there is no substitute for physically being in the home you are looking to buy, keeping these questions in mind will position you well as you progress through the home buying journey.


Posted on June 3, 2020 at 7:10 am
Brandon Bidwell | Posted in Buyers | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

What the Numbers Say

To no one’s surprise, activity in April in terms of closings and new contracts did slow significantly.

Much of this slowing was caused by in person showings not being allowed for most of the month.

(showings are now allowed again by following Safe Showings protocols)

Here’s what the numbers say…

Closed transactions were down compared to April 2019

  • 26% in Northern Colorado (Larimer & Weld)
  • 27% in Metro Denver

New written purchase agreements were down compared to April 2020

  • 48% in Northern Colorado
  • 44% in Metro Denver

So, while activity did slow, there was nothing resembling a “screeching halt” that took place.

While the way property is shown has certainly changed, the market is still very active and we expect activity to increase even more with showings now being allowed again.

At Windermere Real Estate we are taking Safer at Home and Social Distancing very seriously.  Our people are following our Safe Showings protocol, staying connected to their clients, and providing help wherever needed.


Posted on May 8, 2020 at 4:23 pm
Brandon Bidwell | Posted in Buyers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Finding Your New Home in Four Steps

Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or you currently own and are looking for a new home, the ideas below will help you better navigate that all-important first step: Finding a property that is both appealing and affordable.

 

The search for a new home always starts out with a lot of excitement. But if you haven’t prepared, frustration can soon set in, especially in a competitive real estate market. The biggest mistake is jumping into a search unfocused, just hoping to “see what’s available.” Instead, we recommend you first take some time to work through the four steps below.

 

Step 1: Talk to your agent

Even if you’re just thinking about buying or selling a house, start by consulting your real estate agent. An agent can give you an up-to-the-minute summary of the current real estate market, as well as mortgage industry trends. They can also put you in touch with all the best resources and educate you about the next steps, plus much more. If you are interested in finding an experienced agent in your area, we can connect you here.

 

Step 2: Decide how much home you can afford

It may sound like a drag to start your home search with a boring financial review, but when all is said and done, you’ll be glad you did. With so many people competing to buy what is available, it’s far more efficient to focus your search on the properties you can afford. A meeting or two with a reputable mortgage agent should tell you everything you need to know.

 

Step 3: Envision your future

Typically, it takes at least five years for a home purchase to start paying off financially—which means—the better your new home suits you, the longer you’ll most likely remain living there.

Thinking of your near future, what life events do you anticipate in the next five or six years? If you’re planning to add to the family or change careers, or even rent out a portion of your home to others, share this information with your real estate agent. They will be able to help you evaluate your current and future needs to help find the best home that you can grow into.

 

Step 4: Visualize your ideal home

When it comes to this step, be realistic. It’s easy to get carried away dreaming about all the home features you want. Try listing everything on a piece of paper, then choose the five “must-haves,” and the five “really-wants.”

For more tips, as well as advice geared specifically to your situation, connect with an experienced Windermere Real Estate agent by clicking here.


Posted on March 6, 2020 at 6:57 am
Brandon Bidwell | Posted in Buyers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Interest Rates near All Time Low!!!

Interest rates on a 30-year mortgage right now are just about the lowest they have ever been in history.

  • The rate today is 3.45%
  • The lowest-ever in November, 2012 was 3.31%
  • A year ago they were 4.35%

So, what gives?  Why are rates so low?  It turns out that the coronavirus is pushing rates down to historic lows.

The virus is causing uncertainty in the global financial markets.  When there is uncertainty, there tends to be a flight from stocks into bonds.

Specifically, there tends to be a flight to U.S. Treasuries.

High demand for U.S. Treasuries means that the interest rates on those bonds goes down.

30-year mortgage rates track the rates on the 10-year Treasury and the 10-year Treasury just hit their lowest rates ever at 1.31%.

The uncertainty around the virus will likely keep rates down for the foreseeable future.

If you haven’t done so already, we encourage you to reach out to your mortgage lender to see if you would benefit by refinancing your loan.

If you would like to see a video recap of our annual Market Forecast you can watch that HERE.

If you would like recommendations for good, local lenders to compare just let me know and I’ll put you in touch with the best I know!


Posted on February 29, 2020 at 3:03 am
Brandon Bidwell | Posted in Buyers, Mortgage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Handle a Home Inspection

For many people, a home inspection is a hurdle that every homeowner must overcome during the process of selling a home, but it’s a useful tool for sellers looking to get the greatest possible value from their home.

 

Finding Issues

When you’re selling a house, a pre-sale inspection can be particularly useful. By uncovering any potential problems your house may have, an inspection can give you an opportunity to address them before your first prospective buyer arrives.

In any market, a pre-sale inspection can give your home a competitive edge. Potential buyers are likely to find the kind of detailed information an inspection provides reassuring—and are encouraged to give your home a closer look.

 

When does a home inspection make sense?

In addition to routine maintenance and pre-sale inspections, there are a number of circumstances in which a home inspection could greatly benefit a homeowner. If you are not sure, here are a few simple questions to ask yourself:

  • Was your home inspected when you bought it? If not, an inspection would be beneficial even if your home was a new construction at sale.
  • If you are an older homeowner who intends to make upgrades in order to stay in the home, it makes sense to hire a professional who can inspect difficult-to-reach areas and point out maintenance of safety issues.
  • An inspection can alert you to any potential safety issues that could possibly affect a growing family, such as mold, lead, or structural problems. If mold or lead is present, be sure to rely on technicians or labs with specialized training in dealing with these conditions.
  • Are you buying a home that’s under construction? You may want to hire an inspector early on and schedule phased inspections to protect your interest and ensure that the quality of construction meets your expectations.

 

What doesn’t your home inspection cover?

For a variety of reasons, some homes will require special inspections that are not covered by a typical home inspection. A specialty inspection might include a sewer scope, septic system, geotechnical conditions (for homes perched on steep slopes or where there are concerns regarding soil stability) or underground oil storage tank. If you have any questions about whether your home needs a specialty inspection, talk to your real estate agent.

 

Hire a professional

If you decide to hire a home inspector, be sure they’re licensed in your state. They should be able to provide you with their license number, which you can use to verify their status with the appropriate government agency. It’s also helpful to ask for recommendations from friends and family members. Even among licensed and qualified home inspectors, there can be a difference in knowledge, performance and communication skills, so learn what you can before you hire a home inspector to ensure that you get the detailed inspection that you want.

 

What to ask your home inspector

Ask the right questions to make sure you are hiring the right professional for the job.

What does your inspection cover?

Insist that you get this information in writing. Then make sure that it’s in compliance with state requirements and includes the items you want to be inspected.

How long have you been in the business?

Ask for referrals, especially with newer inspectors.

Are you experienced in residential inspections?

Residential inspection in a unique discipline with specific challenges, so it’s important to make sure the inspector is experienced in this area.

Do you make repairs or make improvements based on inspection?

Some states and/or professional associations allow the inspector to perform repair work on problems uncovered in an inspection. If you’re considering engaging your inspector to do repairs, be sure to get referrals.

How long will the inspection take?

A typical single-family dwelling takes two to three hours.

How much will it cost?

Costs can vary depending upon a variety of things, such as the square footage, age, and foundation of the house.

Can I be there for the inspection? Will you go over the inspection report with me?

This could be a valuable learning opportunity. If your inspector refuses, this should raise a red flag.

Are you a member of a professional home inspector association? What other credentials do you hold?

Ask to see their membership ID; it provides some assurance.

Do you keep your skills up to date through continuing education?

An inspector’s interest in continuing education shows a genuine commitment to performing at the highest level. It’s especially important in older homes or homes with unique elements.


Posted on February 27, 2020 at 4:26 am
Brandon Bidwell | Posted in Buyers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

NoCo Real Estate Stats

Here are some Northern Colorado Real Estate stats I think you’ll like:

  • Prices are up 3.5% compared to last year
  • Inventory is up 10% which means there is more selection for buyers
  • We just had the most active January in terms of closings in over 10 years
  • Well over 13,000 residential properties representing $5.4 Billion of volume has sold in the last 12 months

If you would like to see a video recap of our annual Market Forecast you can watch that HERE.


Posted on February 17, 2020 at 4:41 am
Brandon Bidwell | Posted in Buyers, Sellers | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Vacation Home or Income-Producing Investment

Whether you’re a skier who loves the mountain slopes of Colorado, a lover of the beaches of Southern California, or a potential retiree seeking to escape the snow-laden Northeast for the wide-open, sunny lands of Arizona, there are homes available to meet a wide range of budgets. The biggest decision a potential second homeowner must make is whether they are going to solely own their vacation home or turn it into a vacation rental. Here are the advantages and disadvantages to both options:

 

Investing in vacation rentals

  • Pros:
    • A good vacation rental property generally provides a healthy rental revenue which could potentially cover mortgage payments while also generating healthy additional profit.
    • Using an online short-term rental service like Airbnb makes it convenient to manage your rental property. Their website interface makes pricing, marketing, and communication with potential guests quite straightforward and easy. Airbnb will also oversee the billing process for you.
    • You may qualify for federal tax breaks and deductions related to your investment property. Everything from professional fees or commissions – including property management services- to cleaning and maintenance are potential tax write-offs.
  • Cons:
    • Vacation rentals can be costly to manage, both in terms of time and money. These properties may require seasonal upkeep and special maintenance considerations. You may even incur costs to maintain or monitor the property even when it’s not actively being utilized.
    • Vacation rental properties are particularly sensitive to seasonal fluctuations and economic downturns, which could leave you financially exposed if you suffer a lack of booking revenue.
    • Many states and cities are cracking down on short-term rental services. In California, for example, the fight has been primarily local, reaching a fever pitch in the San Francisco Bay Area. Increasingly state and local municipalities are seeking to reign in short-term vacation rentals, which could put a damper on potential revenue from these properties.
    • You may experience higher renovation and repair costs on a short-term rental. Most travelers expect the latest appliances and furnishings, so you will have to update every few years. Unfortunately, short-term renters are less likely to report any necessary repairs and guests are far less likely to treat the property with respect since there’s no sense of ownership or obligation.

 

Owning a vacation home

  • Pros:
    • Long-term profits: While assets fluctuate in value in the short term, vacation properties are more likely to retain their value and appreciate because they are located in popular areas with a geographically limited supply.
    • Familiarity: Returning to the same place time and after time can be comforting as you become familiar and comfortable with the location. It allows you the freedom to be yourself and the opportunity to expand long-term friendships with residents.
    • Convenience: The ability to conveniently store items that are used exclusively at the second home simplifies travel and packing.
    • Retirement head starts: Though we may love where we work and live, every place has its drawbacks. A common goal of retirement is to have a place to retreat for the times of the year we dislike the most at our main residence. Locating and buying a second home prior to retirement enables you to experience the benefits of a refuge before actual retirement, a time to correct and amend your plans if the reality is different than the dream.
  • Cons:
    • Initial purchase costs: Most people have higher expectations for a property that they intend to own, rather than to rent. These expectations can translate into high prices.
    • Home maintenance: As the homeowner, you are responsible for all home maintenance work.
    • Travel time: A second home will be located hours from your primary residence, requiring either long auto trips or airline flights.
    • Inflexibility: If you are paying a significant amount of money each month for a second home, you may feel that you need to constantly visit the property to justify your investment.

Posted on February 17, 2020 at 4:08 am
Brandon Bidwell | Posted in Buyers, Investors | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Housing Affordability Research

Housing affordability is a hot topic especially after the strong price appreciation that has occurred in our market over the last 7 years.

Here’s some interesting research on affordability…

Each quarter the National Association of Home Builders measures affordability in hundreds of markets across the Country.

Their method is to count the number of homes in a market that could be purchased with that particular market’s median income.

For example, San Francisco is the least-affordable market where only 8.4% of the homes could be purchased with their median income.

The most-affordable is Monroe, Michigan where 95.3% of the homes could be purchased with their median income.

Guess where all of the 10 least-affordable markets are.  California!

Guess where almost all of the 10 most-affordable markets are.  The rust belt (cities in Michigan, Ohio, upstate New York, etc.)

The U.S. average is 63.6%.

Metro Denver comes in at 55.3% and Northern Colorado at 54.5%.

So, roughly half of the homes in our market could be purchased with our local median income.

 


Posted on February 2, 2020 at 7:21 am
Brandon Bidwell | Posted in Buyers, Market Data | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

To Buy New or Old, That is the Question

We are often asked, “Which is the better buy, a newer or older home?” Our answer: It all depends on your needs and personal preferences. We decided to put together a list of the six biggest differences between newer and older homes:

 

The neighborhood

Surprisingly, one of the biggest factors in choosing a new home isn’t the property itself, but rather the surrounding neighborhood. While new homes occasionally spring up in established communities, most are built in new developments. The settings are quite different, each with their own unique benefits.

Older neighborhoods often feature tree-lined streets; larger property lots; a wide array of architectural styles; easy walking access to mass transportation, restaurants and local shops; and more established relationships among neighbors.

New developments are better known for controlled development; HOA’s or Metro Districs, fewer above ground utilities and often newer public facilities (schools, libraries, pools, etc.). There are typically more children in newer communities, as well.

Consider your daily work commute, too. While not always true, older neighborhoods tend to be closer to major employment centers, mass transportation and multiple car routes (neighborhood arterials, highways and freeways).

 

Design and layout

If you like VictorianCraftsman or Cape Cod style homes, it used to be that you would have to buy an older home from the appropriate era. But with new-home builders now offering modern takes on those classic designs, that’s no longer the case. There are even modern log homes available.

Have you given much thought to your floor plans? If you have your heart set on a family room, an entertainment kitchen, a home office and walk-in closets, you’ll likely want to buy a newer home—or plan to do some heavy remodeling of an older home. Unless they’ve already been remodeled, most older homes feature more basic layouts.

If you have a specific home décor style in mind, you’ll want to take that into consideration, as well. Professional designers say it’s best if the style and era of your furnishings match the style and era of your house. But if you are willing to adapt, then the options are wide open.

 

Materials and Craftsmanship

Homes built before material and labor costs spiked in the late 1950s have a reputation for higher-grade lumber and old-world craftsmanship (hardwood floors, old-growth timber supports, ornate siding, artistic molding, etc.).

However, newer homes have the benefit of modern materials and more advanced building codes (copper or polyurethane plumbing, better insulation, double-pane windows, modern electrical wiring, earthquake/ windstorm supports, etc.).

 

Current Condition

The condition of a home for sale is always a top consideration for any buyer. However, age is a factor here, as well. For example, if the exterior of a newer home needs repainting, it’s a relatively easy task to determine the cost.  But if it’s a home built before the 1970s, you have to also consider the fact that the underlying paint is most likely lead-based, and that the wood siding may have rot or other structural issues that need to be addressed before it can be re-coated.

On the flip side, the mechanicals in older homes (lights, heating systems, sump pump, etc.) tend to be better built and last longer.

 

Outdoor Space

One of the great things about older homes is that they usually come with mature trees and bushes already in place. Buyers of new homes may have to wait years for ornamental trees, fruit trees, roses, ferns, cacti and other long-term vegetation to fill in a yard, create shade, provide privacy, and develop into an inviting outdoor space. However, maybe you’re one of the many homeowners who prefer the wide-open, low-maintenance benefits of a lightly planted yard.

 

Car Considerations

Like it or not, most of us are extremely dependent on our cars for daily transportation. And here again, you’ll find a big difference between newer and older homes. Newer homes almost always feature ample off-street parking: usually a two-car garage and a wide driveway. An older home, depending on just how old it is, may not offer a garage—and if it does, there’s often only enough space for one car. For people who don’t feel comfortable leaving their car on the street, this alone can be a determining factor.

 

Finalizing Your Decision

While the differences between older and newer homes are striking, there’s certainly no right or wrong answer. It is a matter of personal taste, and what is available in your desired area. To quickly determine which direction your taste trends, use the information above to make a list of your most desired features, then categorize those according to the type of house in which they’re most likely to be found. The results can often be telling.

If you have questions about newer versus older homes, or are looking for an agent in your area we have professionals that can help you. Contact us here.


Posted on January 28, 2020 at 3:47 am
Brandon Bidwell | Posted in Buyers | Tagged , , , , , ,

Matthew Gardner’s 2020 Mortgage Rate Forecast

Each year Windermere’s Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, forecasts into the next. Here’s what he expects for Mortgage Rates in 2020.

 


Posted on December 18, 2019 at 3:18 am
Brandon Bidwell | Posted in Buyers, Market Data | Tagged , , , , , , , ,