Buying Land to Build a House

Buying Land to Build a House

So many people imagine building their dream home in an ideal location. Finding that location and buying land to build a house is the first step in fulfilling this dream. 

Paying for this lot with cash is the ideal scenario but with lot prices climbing into the hundreds of thousands of dollars range, most buyers will need a loan to purchase a lot. 

The loan you use for buying land to build a house on is very different than the traditional home mortgage loan. Land loans differ because there are generally no improvements like a house on the property. On a traditional mortgage, the home is used to secure the loan. In a land scenario, there are no improvements to use in order to secure the loan. 

This makes the land loan a risky loan for the bank. Because of this, these loans have more stringent requirements than traditional mortgages. You’ll need more money down 20% to 30% depending on your credit score.

Yes, these loans can be difficult to obtain because of the requirements but at the end of the day, it’s worth the hassle because you’ll enjoy plenty of benefits when you do so. Before you even start thinking about them all, you need to do a lot of research. Don’t worry! We’ve done it for you!

Here’s everything you need to know about purchasing land before building your house.

Reasons to Look for Land to Build on

Privacy: Living in an urban or even a suburban neighborhood usually means a lack of privacy. You see and hear your neighbors constantly, and while they may be great people, you want your privacy.

When you buy land to build a house, you have the flexibility of choosing a place the lends itself to seclusion and privacy. Additionally, you have the option of situating your home on the lot in order to maximize your privacy. 

While custom home lots are more extensive than subdivided lots, they also tend to be much larger. This means you’ll have more space surrounding your home, hopefully giving you peace, privacy, and quiet.

Convenience: One of the advantages of buying land is choosing where you’re going to be. That means you can be closer to work, family, or whatever your lifestyle priorities are. 

If convenience is your priority, you may need to be flexible when it comes to designing and building your home. Since communities located close to amenities and other conveniences tend to have more restrictions than more rural communities, you may have to adhere to building restrictions and requirements. This may force you to compromise on the actual type and style of home you end up building.

Style: One of the biggest benefits of building your own home is that you get to choose the style of the home. If you want to build something truly unique, building your own home is the right decision. When you shop for your lot, it’s important that you do your homework in order to make sure you can build what you want. Many communities have architectural guidelines and restrictions that will dictate what you can and cannot build.

When you build your house, you are supposed to get everything that you want. Make sure you buy your lot in an area that has no restrictions or at least restrictions you can live with.

Flexibility: Tract or production builders do a great job of building an attractive product that appeals to a wide range of homebuyers. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same needs and wants. Have you always dreamt about a larger garage, a dedicated workshop, or a cottage? Since you’re in charge of designing the house, you can do it!. You can choose to be practical, extravagant, or something in-between. It’s up to you.

It’s important that you make sure you will have the ability to do the things you want when you choose your building site. You need to make sure the building envelope large enough to accommodate your plans. Also, check to make sure there are no environmental issues that would keep you from executing your plans. We often see large pieces of land that are either too steep or have unbuildable areas because of drainage or some other issue.

The time to find out about these types of conditions is before you close on your lot, not after.

How to Find Land to Build on

Realtor: Your Realtor is a great place to start when looking for land. Realtors often have access to pocket listings, these are lots that are not yet on the market but the owner might be looking to sell.

It’s important to note that realtors tend to specialize in different aspects of the market. A Realtor that specializes in luxury condos in an urban area is probably not a great resource for a custom home lot in a rural or suburban setting. Ask around in order to find realtors that specialize in the type of land you are looking for.

MLS: A Multiple Listing Service (or MLS) is like a realtor’s database, where multiple real estate agents offer both homes and land for sale to each other. Unlike the pocket listing, a property offered on the MLS is there because the owner wants to sell.

Your realtor can set up a search for you on the MLS system. This search will send you notifications when a listing that meets your criteria hits the market. One of the most valuable aspects of this type of search is that the agent can change the search criteria if you aren’t seeing the types of properties you are interested in.

Tax records: If you have a very specific area or neighborhood that you want to live in, this is a great way to search for a lot. Looking at the county tax assessor’s website to locate unimproved properties is how the professionals do it. Builders will often scour the tax records looking for unimproved land. The goal is to find a vacant lot that has been owned for a while, if the owner is out of the area, it’s even better.

Builders will reach out to the owners to see if they have any interest in selling the property. These lots are often owned free and clear, so the only expense to the owner is the property tax. These property owners often don’t even consider selling until someone asks.

This method requires a little detective work and a little bit of hustle but the results can be very rewarding.

Landwatch: Realtors, MLS, and tax records are old-school ways of looking for land. Nowadays, we can take advantage of the internet. And www.landwatch.com is the perfect place to look for land online.

On this website, you’ll find countless land listings from huge agricultural tracts to small parcels. These listings come with descriptions, pictures, pricing, and more. If you like what you see, you can contact the owner and buy it.

Subdivisions: The developers of large subdivisions tend to sell directly to home builders. This is a very efficient method for these developers because the builders buy in bulk and have the financing in place. It’s rare to find a subdivision that sells directly to homeowners, but they do exist. 

Subdivisions that sell directly to private individuals tend to be custom home subdivisions. If you are looking for this type of opportunity, you’ll need to stay on top of the market. Talk to builders and Realtors about where these subdivisions are. If you have already chosen your home builder, they can be a great asset in this search as well.

Important considerations

Rural or Suburban: You probably know the difference between a rural and a suburban setting. When you decide to buy land to build a house, this is a crucial factor.

View: Do you want a view? Or, perhaps, are you willing to sacrifice that in favor of other things? You have to figure out what you want – and to picture how things will look from your finished house, both in and out.

Exposure to the sun: Enough sun exposure will heat your house – but too much of it will overheat your place. In colder areas, too little or too much sun can be the difference between snow and ice on your driveway.

Utilities: Water, electricity, and gas are all a given for most people. Not for those who are building their own house, though. Does your lot have access to utilities? Are the utilities at the property line or will you need to bring them in? Do you have access to a municipal water system, or are you going to need a well? Are you able to tap into a sewer system or will your home need a dedicated septic system?

Access: Can you get to your future house from public-access roads? Sometimes, a plot of land is only accessible from other people’s property; if that’s the case, you need an easement to access your house through private land. That could turn into a legal hassle.

Zoning: Zoning laws and a major consideration when building and proper zoning could be the difference between building your dream house and having a plot of land you no longer want. You need to check and double-check your land’s zoning rules and regulations to make sure you can build what you want.

Survey: No matter if someone surveyed the land not too long ago, you need to survey the lot you want to buy. That’s the only way to know where you can build and where your property ends.

Soils and perc tests: Believe it or not, certain soils like clay and rock can be problematic for building houses. You need to perform a soil test before you build. Savvy buyers will do these tests as a part of the due diligence portion of the sales process. This way you don’t end up with a lot you can’t build on.

How to pay

Cash: Cash is king. Always was and always will be. And this is even truer when you’re buying land to build a house.

Sure, you can take a loan to buy land (although they are more expensive than your average mortgage), but if that’s the case, you’ll have to pay back the loan and invest in building your house at the same time.
On the other hand, if you buy the land using cash, you can then use your new property as equity to finance construction.

Land Loan: As we’ve discussed, land loans are different from mortgages. They have higher interest rates, are not that simple to obtain. These loans have much shorter terms and require a good credit score as well as a 20% to 30% downpayment.

Usually, land loan interest rates are much higher than the average mortgage interest rate. And you have to pay it back in 3 to 5 years; that’s almost ten times less than your average 30-year mortgage.

USDA: Not all land loans are equal, though. If you wish to buy land in a rural area, you might qualify for a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) – and almost 97% of all Americans are eligible for it.
These loans have few requirements, don’t need a down payment, and feature a fixed interest rate.
The USDA loans are for people who want to build their primary residence, not for any other purpose. And you’ll have to meet specific criteria to ask for one.

Owner Carry: If you don’t have the cash right now and don’t qualify for any loan, it’s not over yet. You can arrange a loan-like scenario with the land’s owner.
Because financing a land purchase can be difficult, property sellers will agree to act as the bank and carry the loan for the sale. The buyer makes payments directly to the property owner. In these scenarios, the buyer will often be asked to make a balloon payment after a number of years. In most cases, the landowner is paid off once the purchaser obtains construction financing.

The relationship between lot cost and total building cost

One final thought when it comes to building your home and the purchase of the lot. Cost and value are two very important factors. It is important from an investment standpoint that you keep the relationship between lot cost and home value in the proper relationship.

The lot price is traditionally 25% of the total cost of the entire home building project. Failing to observe this metric can cause problems further down the road when it’s time to sell the home. After construction, the lot price becomes a part of the home price. If you pay too much for the lot, it increases the price per square foot of the home.

When it’s time to sell, your home is compared to other homes on the market. If your value is in the lot, it’s usually difficult to recover those costs when it’s time to sell.

The bank is also going to be concerned with this when it’s time to get your construction financing. There are requirements you’ll have to meet for this type of loan. Such as showing detailed specs, providing proof of income, and having a good credit score. They vary depending on the loan you’re after.

In Conclusion

Finding an ideal spot to build your dream home can be a difficult task but at the end of the day, it’s worth the journey. In a world where there are very few truly special homes, this is your opportunity to get exactly what you want and make it special. There is a special pride you see in people that have built their dream homes that you almost never see in those that settled for a tract home in a cookie-cutter subdivision.

So, if you are up for the task the rewards are worth it but make sure to use the advice of professionals and experts in the field. Mistakes in this type of project can have serious consequences.

Source: realtybiznews.com

Miami-Dade Total Home Sales Continue Surging in January 2021

Miami-Dade County total home sales posted a double-digit increase for the fifth consecutive month in January 2021 as pent-up demand and record-low mortgage rates continue fueling transactions, according to the MIAMI Association of Realtors (MIAMI) and the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) system.

Miami-Dade County total home sales jumped 19.1% year-over-year in January 2021, from 1,857 to 2,211. Miami single-family home sales rose 9.1% year-over-year, from 887 to 968. Miami existing condo transactions increased 28.1% year-over-year, from 970 to 1,243.

“Double-digit home sale increases for five consecutive months speaks to the resiliency of the Miami real estate market, the global pent-up demand for South Florida properties, record-low mortgage rates, purchases from home buyers in tax-burdened states, the importance of the home as a hub in our daily lives and increased interest from international buyers,” MIAMI Chairman of the Board Jennifer Wollmann said.

Miami real estate accounted for 12,918 total home sales in the five-month stretch from September 2020 to January 2021. That is a 18.4% increase in the number of total transactions compared to the five-month stretch from September 2019 to January 2020.

Lack of inventory in certain price points is impacting sales, particularly for single-family homes. Increased housing starts and more sellers listing properties in 2021 should help alleviate the lack of supply.

Miami Luxury Condo Sales Surge 130.6% in January 2021
Miami single-family luxury ($1-million-and-up) transactions jumped 114.1% year-over-year to 167 sales in January 2021. Miami existing condo luxury ($1-million-and-up) sales increased 130.6% year-over-year to 113 transactions.

Luxury months of supply continues to trend downward for all property types, month-over-month, and year-over-year.

Miami single-family homes priced between $400K to $600K surged 51.5% year-over-year to 294 transactions in January 2021. Miami existing condo sales priced between $400K to $600K increased 64.5% to 153 transactions.

Record-low interest rates; a robust S&P 500; the appeal of stable assets in a volatile economy; homebuyers leaving tax-burdened Northeastern states to purchase in Florida (no state income tax); and work-from-home and remote-learning policies have all combined to create a robust market for luxury single-family properties.

110 Consecutive Months of Price Appreciation in Miami
Strong demand coupled with limited supply continue to drive price appreciation in Miami-Dade.

Miami-Dade County single-family home prices increased 25.2% year-over-year in January 2021, increasing from $375,000 to $469,500. Miami single-family home prices have risen for 110 consecutive months, a streak of more than 9 years. Existing condo prices increased 14.3% year-over-year, from $245,000 to $280,000. Condo prices have increased or stayed even in 112 of the last 116 months.

Miami, where the median price is still comparable to 2007 figures, remains a bargain compared to other global cities. In Miami, $1 million can net homebuyers 93 square meters of prime property, according to Knight Frank’s 2019 The Wealth Report. Monaco (16 square meters), Hong Kong (22), New York (31), Los Angeles (36) and others offer significantly less prime land for $1 million.

Single-Family Home and Condo Dollar Volume Increases
Single-family home dollar volume increased 86.4% year-over-year, from $471.7 million to $879.2 million. Condo dollar volume increased 69.4% year-over-year, from $393.9 million to $667.1 million.

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 2.74% in January, up from 2.68% in December. The average commitment rate across all of 2020 was 3.11%.

Lack of access to mortgage loans continues to inhibit further growth of the existing condominium market. Of the 9,307 condominium buildings in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, only 13 are approved for Federal Housing Administration loans, down from 29 last year, according to Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and FHA.

A better condo approval process is expected to increase sales. The guidance, which went into effect in October 2019, extends certifications from two years to three, allows for single-unit mortgage approvals, provides more flexibility with owner/occupancy ratios, and increases the allowable number of FHA loans in a single project. The changes, many of which MIAMI and NAR have championed, are expected to generate increased homeownership opportunities.

Miami Distressed Sales Stay Low, Reflecting Healthy Market
Only 1.8% of all closed residential sales in Miami were distressed last month, including REO (bank-owned properties) and short sales, compared to 5.9% in January 2020. In 2009, distressed sales comprised 70% of Miami sales.

Total Miami distressed sales decreased 64.5%, from 110 to 39.

Short sales and REOs accounted for 0.7% and 1.1% year-over-year, respectively, of total Miami sales in January 2021. Short sale transactions decreased 37.5% year-over-year while REOs decreased 72.1%.

Nationally, distressed sales represented less than 1% of sales in January 2021, down from 2% in January 2020.

Miami Real Estate Selling Close to List Price
The median percent of original list price received for single-family homes was 96.8% in January 2021, up 1.3% from 95.6% last year. The median percent of original list price received for existing condominiums was 94.3%, up 1% from 93.4% last year.

The median number of days between listing and contract dates for Miami single-family home sales was 28 days, a 44% decrease from 50 days last year. The median number of days between the listing date and closing date for condos was 63 days, down 23.2% from 82 days.

The median time to sale for single-family homes was 80 days, a 18.4% decrease from 98 days last year. The median number of days to sale for condos was 111 days, a 9.8% decrease from 123 days.

National and State Statistics
Nationally, total existing-home sales transactions completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 0.6% from December to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 6.69 million in January. Sales in total climbed year-over-year, up 23.7% from a year ago (5.41 million in January 2020).

In January, closed sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 21,587, up 18% year-over-year, while existing condo-townhouse sales totaled 9,608, up 24.6% over January 2020. Closed sales may occur from 30- to 90-plus days after sales contracts are written.

Nationally, the median existing-home price for all housing types in January was $303,900, up 14.1% from January 2020 ($266,300), as prices increased in every region. January’s national price jump marks 107 straight months of year-over-year gains.

The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes was $305,000, up 15.1% from the previous year, according to data from Florida Realtors Research Department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. Last month’s statewide median price for condo-townhouse units was $230,000, up 15% over the year-ago figure. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

Miami’s Cash Buyers Top National Figure
Miami cash transactions comprised 33.1% of January 2021 total closed sales, compared to 33.8% last year. The national figure for cash buyers is 19%.

Miami’s high percentage of cash sales reflects South Florida’s ability to attract a diverse number of international homebuyers, who tend to purchase properties in all cash.

Condominiums comprise a large portion of Miami’s cash purchases as 43% of condo closings were made in cash in January 2021 compared to 20.4% of single-family home sales.

Seller’s Market for Single-Family Homes, Buyer’s Market for Condos
Inventory of single-family homes decreased 45.8% in January 2021 from 6,277 active listings last year to 3,401 last month. Condominium inventory decreased 15.4% to 12,608 from 14,902 listings during the same period in 2020.

Inventory of active listings has decreased the last 17 months for single-family homes.

Months supply of inventory for single-family homes decreased 44.6% to 3.1 months, which indicates a seller’s market. Inventory for existing condominiums decreased 9.6% to 11.3 months, which indicates a buyer’s market. A balanced market between buyers and sellers offers between six- and nine-months supply.

Months supply of inventory is down since July 2019 for single-family, reflecting strong demand.

Total active listings at the end of January 2021 decreased 24.4% year-over-year, from 21,179 to 16,009. Active listings remain about 60% below 2008 levels when sales bottomed.

New listings of Miami single-family homes decreased 13.7% to 1,541 from 1,785. New listings of condominiums increased 1.3%, from 2,468 to 2,500.

Nationally, total housing inventory at the end of January amounted to 1.04 million units, down 1.9% from December and down 25.7% from one year ago (1.40 million). Unsold inventory sits at a 1.9-month supply at the current sales pace, equal to December’s supply and down from the 3.1-month amount recorded in January 2020. NAR first began tracking the single-family home supply in 1982.

To access January 2021 Miami-Dade Statistical Reports, visit http://www.SFMarketIntel.com

Source: realtybiznews.com

Beverly Hills mansion built by alleged ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ embezzler sells for $27.4 million

This 13,000-square-foot mansion in Beverly Hills has a new owner — one who wasn’t accused of laundering about $250 million from a Malaysian government investment fund and using the stolen cash to produce “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

It’s been a dramatic decade for the property perched in Trousdale Estates, which has been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times with questionable taste and dubious funding. In 2007, it was bought by Mohamed Hadid — the celebrity real estate developer known for building a 30,000-square-foot spaceship-like mega-mansion in Bel-Air before a court ordered it to be torn down two years ago.

For this one, Hadid erected an Egyptian-themed house complete with a pyramid in the front room and sold it to Jho Low, the Malaysian businessman accused of masterminding a scheme that stole $4.5 billion from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund, also known as 1MDB.

Low, who fled the country and is considered an international fugitive, later transferred it to his partner in the scandal, Riza Aziz.

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Aziz acquired the property in hopes of rebuilding the gaudy home into a vacation spot for his stepfather; in addition to being the co-founder of Red Granite Pictures and producing films such as “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Daddy’s Home,” he’s the stepson of former Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak. (Razak was also charged with looting the 1MDB fund and sentenced to 12 years in jail last summer.)

According to the listing, Aziz poured more than $40 million into transforming the extravagant mansion, adding a three-tiered movie theater where he screened “The Wolf of Wall Street” and a posh guest suite for himself.

Construction was halted, however, when federal authorities accused Aziz of laundering $250 million from 1MDB, money which allegedly funded the movies he produced and the real estate he purchased. He plead not guilty but agreed to return $107 million in assets, including the Beverly Hills home he was preparing for Razak.

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As part of the deal, he quietly sold the estate for $19 million in 2019 to a limited liability company based in Delaware whose ownership is not clear. The new developer put the finishing touches on the property, fixing the torn-up landscaping and clearing off dirt and construction equipment that riddled the grounds.

“There was a cement mixer left in the driveway,” according to one real estate source who was not authorized to comment on the sale.

Once completed, the mansion surfaced for sale at $30 million last summer and just sold for $27.4 million. The buyer is Steven Gilfenbain, founder and chief executive of grape distribution company Stevco Inc., according to the source.

Sold fully furnished, the newly finished residence boasts sleek, modern style and commanding views of the city below. A chandelier-topped entry hall sets a dramatic tone, and the adjacent great room features a motorized wall of glass that leads to an infinity pool and spa.

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The gallery-white walls are ideal for art displays with museum-style tracks and lighting. Six bedrooms and 11 bathrooms complete the single-story floor plan, including a primary suite with dual bathrooms, dual closets and an outdoor garden shower.

Outside, the gated grounds include a guardhouse and spacious lawn with approved plans for a 3,600-square-foot guesthouse.

At $27.4 million, it’s the priciest home sale in Beverly Hills so far this year, according to the Multiple Listing Service.

Fred Bernstein and Ethan Peskowitz of Westside Estate Agency held the listing. Orah Nassirzadeh, also with Westside Estate Agency, represented the buyer.

Source: latimes.com

Santa Monica’s Sunset Park neighborhood sees highest sale ever at $5.387 million

There’s a new champion in Sunset Park, the Santa Monica neighborhood tucked between Lincoln Boulevard and the Santa Monica Airport. A brand-new architectural home just traded hands for $5.387 million, setting a price record in the community.

That’s over $1 million more than the previous record, which was set just last year when a modern-style spot sold for $4.325 million, according to the Multiple Listing Service.

The jagged, striking structure stands out from its neighbors, appearing as a series of boxes stacked on top of each other with massive walls of glass that hover over the street. The blocky, geometric style continues inside, as floating staircases navigate a split-level floor plan punctuated by skylights.

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Concrete covers the living spaces, lining the walls and heated floors under dramatic wood ceilings. On the main level, there’s a voluminous dining room, step-down living room with a fireplace and chef’s kitchen with a custom island.

Upstairs, the primary suite features a sitting room, private terrace and steam shower. The bottom level adds a wine cellar and movie theater. In total, there are four bedrooms and six bathrooms in 5,400 square feet.

Colorful landscaping touches up the front of the property, and out back, a patio ascends to a fountain-fed swimming pool and spa.

David and Anna Solomon of Douglas Elliman of California held the listing.

Source: latimes.com

Billionaire Steve Wynn sets price for Beverly Hills mega-mansion: $110 million

Steve Wynn is eyeing a jackpot in Beverly Hills. The casino mogul, who stepped down as CEO of Wynn Resorts in 2018 after accusations of sexual misconduct, just listed his extravagant showplace for $110 million.

That makes it the fourth-most expensive property currently up for grabs in L.A. County, according to the Multiple Listing Service.

If the billionaire gets his price, it will rank among the priciest home sales in California history. The crown currently belongs to Jeff Bezos, who dropped $165 million on Beverly Hills’ famed Warner estate last year.

It would also be a massive return on investment for Wynn. He bought it from Guess jeans co-founder Maurice Marciano for $47.85 million in 2015 and expanded the home dramatically, adding about 8,000 square feet to the already-colossal estate.

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The mansion now spans more than 27,000 square feet, which makes it the largest of his lavish, cross-country collection of homes. Records show he also owns a 25,000-square-foot retreat in Idaho, a 24,600-square-foot oceanfront mansion in Florida, a 13,500-square-foot Mediterranean villa in Las Vegas and an 11,000-square-foot penthouse in New York.

This one offers a more contemporary style. Accessed by a private gate on a cul-de-sac, the property sits on 2.7 acres with a main house, guesthouse, swimming pool, custom landscaped lawn and tennis court with a seating house. Terraces and patios hang off the back of the home, taking in views of the city below.

Inside, 11 bedrooms and 20 bathrooms are spread across three stories. In addition to the usual slew of chic living spaces including a reception area and bar room, there are amenities such as a movie theater, wine cellar, gym, office and elevator.

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Leonard Rabinowitz, Rick Hilton and Jack Friedkin of Hilton & Hyland hold the listing.

Wynn, 78, served as chief executive of Mirage Resorts before selling the company to MGM Grand Inc. and forming Wynn Resorts. He stepped down as CEO of that company in 2018 after accusations of sexual misconduct, which he has denied. In 2019, he was ordered to pay a settlement of $20 million to Wynn Resorts. Forbes puts his net worth at $3 billion.

Last summer, he offered up his Las Vegas mansion for sale at $25 million, which at the time was the most expensive listing in the city.

Source: latimes.com

Former Rams star Todd Gurley tackles Chatsworth home sale

A season after signing with the Atlanta Falcons, former Rams star Todd Gurley has scored a sale back in Southern California. The running back just unloaded his Mediterranean-style retreat in Chatsworth for $2.025 million, or $200,000 more than he paid in 2017.

The three-time Pro Bowler will still have a place to stay nearby after buying actor Taylor Lautner’s 10,500-square-foot mansion in Chatsworth for $4.15 million last year.

This place is about half the size at 5,133 square feet but spreads out on over an acre in gated Indian Falls Estates. Palm trees and columns frame the entry in front, and the resort-like grounds also feature a basketball court and a swimming pool with a spa and slide.

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Floors of wood and stone alternate in the living spaces, which open with a two-story foyer complete with glass double doors, a tile inlay and chandelier. A fireplace anchors the double-height living room, and elsewhere are five bedrooms and six bathrooms spread across two stories.

Out back, a patio with built-in grill takes advantage of the sweeping mountain views.

A standout at Georgia, Gurley was drafted by the Rams in 2015 and racked up multiple accolades with the team including offensive rookie of the year and offensive player of the year. He led the league in rushing touchdowns twice and helped the Rams reach the Super Bowl in 2019, where they lost to the Patriots 13-3.

He first listed the home over the summer for $2.295 million, according to the Multiple Listing Service.

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Tai Savetsila and Michael Chambers of Agents of LA held the listing. Maurice Mirmehdi of Pinnacle Estate Properties represented the buyer.

Source: latimes.com

‘CSI’ actor David Berman gets more than he asked for Hollywood Hills home

Actor David Berman, who played assistant coroner David Phillips on “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” for 15 years, just sold his Hollywood Hills home with clinical efficiency. Records show the hillside retreat traded hands for $2.235 million, or $38,000 more than he was asking.

Berman found a buyer in less than two weeks, according to the Multiple Listing Service.

Although it’s less than a quarter of an acre, the property manages to squeeze in a 2,400-square-foot home, entertainment deck, dining patio and outdoor lounge with a movie projector. On the sloping lot below, manicured gardens with 20 fruit trees and a vineyard descend to a fire pit and spa.

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Berman touched up the interiors during his stay, whitewashing the vaulted beams in the living room and adding a floor-to-ceiling fireplace. Arched doorways navigate the space, leading to a scenic dining room and galley-style kitchen with skylight.

Three bedrooms, three bathrooms and a movie theater with reclining stadium seats complete the interior. Built in 1948, the house is tucked behind gates on a gated street and runs on solar power.

Berman, 47, appeared in nearly 300 episodes of “CSI” from 2000-15 and also served as a researcher for the show. His other credits include “Vanished” and “The Blacklist.”

Mia Capanna and Garrett McKechnie of Wish Sotheby’s International Realty held the listing. Christine Kim of Douglas Elliman represented the buyer.

Source: latimes.com

How the Bernie Sanders Mittens Meme Made a Michigan Home Listing Go Viral>

For those of you nowhere near a computer or phone in the past few days, here’s the quick backstory: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders spurred a viral meme sensation that has taken the World Wide Web by storm.

It all started when Sanders was photographed outside at Joe Biden‘s presidential inauguration on Wednesday looking relatively unimpressed by the historic occasion. There the 79-year-old sat, arms crossed, in a chair while wearing a practical heavy winter coat and—here’s the kicker—patterned knitted mittens. Something about the image of the gruff-looking Sanders tempered by the childlike mittens lit up the internet’s collective brain. It was meme time!

Soon images of Sanders took over social media feeds everywhere. Be-mittened Bernie, as he’s affectionately known, was digitally added onto the deck of the USS Enterprise, riding on a log flume, and selling Girl Scout Cookies. The hashtag #berniesmittens trended on Twitter.

And now the meme has shown up on the true final frontier: real estate listing photos!

Can Bernie Sanders’ mittens help sell your home?

Bernie Sanders is everywhere—even in this Michigan home for sale.
Bernie Sanders is everywhere—even in this Michigan home for sale.

realtor.com

The general rule of thumb for listing photos is to keep them extremely straightforward and free of personal belongings, especially personal photos. The thinking is that personal photos can somehow turn off potential home buyers.

An even bigger no-no than a snapshot of Mom and dear old Dad? A listing with anything at all political that could potentially turn off 50% of buyers.

But try telling that to Tiffany Szakal, real estate agent with IHeartGR.org in Grand Rapids, MI, who has a property to sell.

“The house came back on the market Thursday as I was falling in love with all the amazing Bernie memes,” she said.

And there was something about Szakal’s listing itself—which is a government-owned home specifically for low-income buyers on, ahem, Donald Place and directly behind Wealthy Street—that reminded her of the self-described democratic socialist senator.

So Szakal decided to have some fun. She asked her admin Aubrey Kuipers to digitally add Sanders into a few of the listing photos.

Now the first photo that comes up for the property on 321/325 Donald Place SE shows Sanders sitting in his chair and wearing his mittens on the home’s porch. And yep, there he is again in the kitchen, looking like he’s making a beeline for some hot cocoa to wrap those mittens around.

Szakal thought the photos would eventually fade into the multiple listing service with the millions of other listings out there.

But two hours after the photos were posted, a real estate agent tagged Szakal in a post. That post was also shared on a popular Instagram account. And so just like Sanders himself, the listing on Donald Place soon went viral. By the time Szakal checked the Instagram post, “there was something like 50,000 likes,” she said.

The quick decision to add a little Sanders to the listing is paying off in dividends.

“My phone has been ringing off the hook. I’ve gotten a ton of calls for a showing and tons of requests for information about the property,” said Szakal. “The timing of adding Bernie lined up perfectly.”

For anyone else who wants to add a little Sanders meme magic to their listing, Szakal is all for it.

“This is a collaborative industry, we should all share our ideas,” she says.

So as you peruse homes for sale this weekend and beyond, be on the lookout for Sanders. The senator might pop up in the family room, in the basement, or maybe even out in the backyard lending his mittens to a newly built snowman.

Source: realtor.com

Best Advice on Buying or Selling a Home During the Coronavirus Crisis

The economic downturn affects both home buyers and sellers. Find out how to make wise real estate decisions and stay safe during the pandemic.

By

Laura Adams, MBA
April 29, 2020

National Association of Realtors, the number of homes for sale across the US continues to decline. Additionally, fewer potential buyers can or want to tour properties and risk contracting COVID-19.

The economic downturn—due to coronavirus stay-at-home mandates and social distancing—has resulted in pros and cons for both home buyers and sellers. I’ll cover advice to help both parties make wise real estate decisions during this uncertain time.

4 tips for home buyers during the coronavirus crisis

Since the coronavirus crisis began, more than 26 million Americans have filed for federal and state unemployment benefits. If you’ve lost part or all of your job or business income, and you’re unsure when your finances will return to normal, buying a home may not be the best idea.

But if your income is stable, you have cash in the bank, and you’re confident that you can stay in a home for at least five years, buying a home now might be a smart move. Here are four tips if you’re in the market to upsize, downsize, or become a first-time homeowner.

1. Evaluate your current and future budget

Buying a home is a significant financial commitment, so understanding how much you can afford is essential. If you’re at all worried about getting laid off or the future of your business, buying a home that’s under your budget is wise.

In addition to your mortgage payment, homeowners must cover many other expenses, including property taxes, home insurance, applicable association fees, and ongoing maintenance. Take a hard look at your income, expenses, and savings to make sure you have enough cash for closing and to keep a healthy emergency fund.

Take a hard look at your income, expenses, and savings to make sure you have enough cash for closing and to keep a healthy emergency fund.

Here are some ways to crunch your budget numbers:

  • Down payment: Depending on a home’s purchase price, your credit, and your lender, the required mortgage down payment could range from 3% to 10% of the purchase price.
  • Closing cash: At the closing table, you’ll need to pay the down payment plus additional expenses, which vary depending on location. They typically include fees for a home inspector, surveyor, property appraiser, credit check, loan underwriting, and homeowners insurance. The total could add up to around 2% to 5% of a home’s purchase price.
  • Monthly housing payment: Unless you have a high amount of debt, consider spending a maximum of 20% to 25% of your after-tax income for a home. It includes the mortgage principal, interest, taxes, and insurance—known as PITI.
  • Emergency savings: Keep a minimum of six months’ worth of living expenses on hand. This safety net will keep you safe from unexpected expenses or the loss of job or business income.
  • Maintenance reserve: Have cash ready for ongoing repairs, such as fixing a roof leak, replacing a heating or cooling system, or needing a new refrigerator. A good rule of thumb is to save 1% to 3% of your home’s value for annual maintenance.

2. Get preapproved for a mortgage

Before spending too much time or mental energy searching for a home, make sure you qualify for a desirable mortgage. The amount you can borrow, the interest rate, and your downpayment depend on a variety of factors, including your credit and income stability.  

Due to the economic crisis, lenders are expecting delinquencies from existing customers who are facing hardships. To offset those risks, they’re tightening lending standards for new borrowers making it more challenging to qualify. You may need better credit and more down payment money than was typical before the pandemic.

Due to the economic crisis, lenders are tightening lending standards for new borrowers making it more challenging to qualify.

A mortgage preapproval is a document that outlines how much a lender will allow you to borrow, at what rate, and for how long. It’s a critical tool to know the price range of homes you should be shopping for. Additionally, a preapproval can carry a lot of weight with a potential seller who may be evaluating multiple offers and needs to close quickly.

Remember that you still need emergency money in the bank after buying a home. The fact is, you need even higher amounts of cash on hand for a maintenance reserve. Also, consider other expenses such as moving and furnishing a new place, which can really add up.

3. Use technology to research and tour homes virtually

Many digital tools allow you to research potential homes and stay safe. Here are some ways you can find a new home from the safety and comfort of your existing one:

  • Video calls: Have a Zoom or Facetime call with potential real estate professionals or sellers. They can give you a virtual tour of the home and neighborhood and chat about other points of interest like schools, shopping, and public transportation.
  • Google Maps: Google’s street view allows you to see the features of a neighborhood and even walk it virtually. You can time your commute to work based on the time of day.
  • Neighborhood review sites: Check out the walkability, crime statistics, and school rankings using sites such as Walk Score, SpotCrime, Family Watchdog, AreaVibes, and GreatSchools.org.

Using a variety of resources, you should be able to narrow down your potential home choices significantly. If you can drive by properties, that will also help you know which ones you want to tour.

Once you have a mortgage preapproval and feel sure that you’re interested in buying a specific home or homes, inquire about getting physical access. If it’s vacant, an owner or real estate agent may be able to open it up and let you roam around with plenty of social distancing.

Home tour safety guidelines during social distancing may vary from state to state. Check with your real estate agent to get a better understanding of any requirements or limitations.

However, if the seller still lives in the property, they’ll likely want to make arrangements to be away or to stay outside while buyers tour their home. Be respectful of everyone’s desire to avoid the coronavirus by wearing masks, gloves, shoe coverings, and using hand sanitizer before going into a listing. Find out if anyone in the home has been sick or spent time with someone diagnosed with COVID-19. Likewise, disclose if you’ve been ill or exposed to the coronavirus.

4. Save money with a historically low mortgage rate

The rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is at a historic low and keeps going lower. According to mortgage rates on Bankrate.com, they fell to 3.55% from last week’s rate of 3.58%. If you want a 15-year fixed-rate loan, it could be as low as 3%. In many parts of the country, owning a home costs less per month than renting a similar property.

However, don’t wait too long to get a mortgage commitment if you’re a serious home buyer. Lenders are under enormous pressure due to a wave of potential defaults, forbearance requests, refinancing applications, and federal stimulus programs they may be processing and funding. As I mentioned, it’s only going to get more challenging to get a mortgage application through underwriting and approved.

Lower rates and monthly mortgage payments may allow you to afford a higher-priced home if your finances are in good shape.

But if you can lock in a low mortgage rate and get a property under contract, it can undoubtedly allow you to save money over the long run. Lower rates and monthly mortgage payments may allow you to afford a higher-priced home if your finances are in good shape.

In addition to low-rate mortgages, there may be bargains on the market, depending on where you want to live. If a seller is uncertain about their financial future, they may be willing to unload their property for a low price. Although many banks are offering forbearance programs, some homeowners may be feeling pressure to sell, giving buyers an advantage right now.

4 tips for home sellers during the coronavirus crisis

Selling a home anytime can be a hassle. But selling a property during a pandemic is probably something you’ve never thought about.

However, real estate closings are happening, so don’t think you can’t find a qualified buyer. Getting a deal may depend on creative marketing and finding a real estate agent who can help you find solutions to new challenges. Here are four tips to make your home attractive and safe for potential buyers.

1. Use technology to market your home

Creating virtual tours is critical to pique a buyer’s interest and reduce the number of strangers in your home. It’s never been easier to use a camera or smartphone to create videos of your home’s interior, exterior, amenities, and neighborhood. However, make sure the lighting is good and presents your home favorably.

You can upload videos to a variety of sites that buyers can access, such as a YouTube channel, Zillow, or Dropbox. If you have a real estate agent, they can include your video files in the multiple listing service (MLS) database and their company website. They may offer professional photographers and videographers as part of their listing services.

 

2. Vacate your home if possible

If you can move out of your home while it’s for sale, you may get more interest from buyers. Touring a vacant property may seem less risky to buyers and real estate agents. Plus, you won’t have to worry about people coming into your space that could be carrying the coronavirus.

If your mortgage lender offers forbearance, consider suspending your payments and using the money for a short-term rental.

If your mortgage lender offers forbearance, consider suspending your payments and using the money for a short-term rental. Getting distance between you and home buyers might be critical if you, or someone in your household, are elderly or have health conditions that make you vulnerable to COVID-19.

3. Be clear about how you’ll interact with buyers

If you can’t move out of your home, be clear about how you will protect yourself, agents, and potential buyers who want a tour. As the seller, you dictate the protocol, such as everyone must wear masks and sanitize their hands before entering.

Include information about measures you’re willing to take, such as disinfecting high-touch surfaces and leaving doors and cabinets opens, so visitors don’t need to touch anything. If you have hand sanitizer or personal protective gear to offer, that’s a goodwill gesture that should make everyone feel more at ease.

Once you have a purchase agreement signed, you or your real estate agent will need to coordinate with other professionals, such as inspectors, appraisers, contractors, and surveyors. Depending on the buyer’s lender, you should be able to complete a remote closing by mailing the original documents.

4. Be prepared for longer than normal marketing times

Since there are fewer buyers and many overwhelmed lenders, the average marketing time for homes across the country may be longer than usual. Being as creative and flexible as possible will increase the likelihood of signing a deal.

No one is sure what market value is right now, so buyers may be aggressive to find out how low you’ll go.

If a buyer throws out a lowball offer, don’t let it offend you. Carefully consider what your bottom line is and make an appropriate counteroffer. No one is sure what market value is right now, so buyers may be aggressive to find out how low you’ll go.

While the fear of the coronavirus and a looming recession may make it more challenging to sell your home, remember that the lending environment is favorable. For buyers who aren’t worried about losing a job or business income, getting a historically low home loan is a huge incentive to invest in a home sooner rather than later.