30-Year Fixed Mortgage Rate Returns to Record Low

As of September 15, the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow for 30-year fixed mortgages was 2.67%.

Abstract illustration of houses and charts

As of September 15, the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow for 30-year fixed mortgages was 2.67%.

Mortgage rates remain flat, but upward movements may be on the horizon.

“Mortgage rates moved slightly lower this week, barely budging as markets await a signal for a more pronounced move in either direction,” said Zillow Senior Economist Matthew Speakman. “Rates have stayed basically flat over the past few weeks, and where they head from here is dependent on two key factors: COVID-19 cases and potential actions taken by the Federal Reserve. While COVID cases remain elevated, they are showing some early signs of plateauing – news that is undoubtedly good for the world, but could place more upward pressure on mortgage rates. The Fed, meanwhile, continues to wrestle with whether, how, and when to tighten monetary policy at a time when inflation and joblessness remain elevated. A softer-than-expected August inflation reading this week likely lowered the odds that the Fed announces any immediate moves to tighten policy at their upcoming September conference, but the fact that interest rates haven’t moved much in recent weeks indicates that investors are still waiting for more certainty. All told, there’s a good chance that mortgage rates will move notably in the coming weeks, but the jury’s still out on which direction they’ll head.”

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 1.99%, and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.34%.

Check Zillow for mortgage rate trends and up-to-the-minute mortgage rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.

The weekly mortgage rate chart above illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate for the past week. Here’s a comprehensive look at the current mortgage rates for all loan types:

Today’s Average Rates for Conventional Loans

Program Interest Rate APR 1 Wk Change
30-Year Fixed 2.84% 2.9% -0.07%
20-Year Fixed 2.54% 2.62% 0%
15-Year Fixed 2.06% 2.16% -0.02%
10-Year Fixed 2.06% 2.19% -0.06%
7/1 ARM 2.4% 3.06% 0.04%
5/1 ARM 2.35% 3.18% 0.01%
3/1 ARM 0% 0% 0%

A 30-Year Fixed loan of $300,000 at 2.84% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,239. A 20-Year Fixed loan of $300,000 at 2.54% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,595. A 15-Year Fixed loan of $300,000 at 2.06% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,939. A 10-Year Fixed loan of $300,000 at 2.06% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,768. A 7/1 ARM loan of $300,000 at 2.4% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,169. A 5/1 ARM loan of $300,000 at 2.35% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,162. A 3/1 ARM loan of $0 at 0% APR with a $0 down payment will have a monthly payment of $0. All monthly payments displayed assume a maximum Loan to Value (LTV) of 80% and 740 credit score, and do not include amount for taxes and insurance. The actual monthly payment may be greater.

Today’s Average Rates for Government Loans

Program Interest Rate APR 1 Wk Change
30-Year Fixed FHA 2.25% 2.9% 0.05%
30-Year Fixed VA 2.48% 2.74% -0.02%
15-Year Fixed FHA 1.75% 2.41% 0.22%
15-Year Fixed VA 1.89% 2.35% 0.45%
5/1 ARM FHA 3.11% 3.27% 0.08%
5/1 ARM VA 2.44% 2.41% 0.07%

A 30-Year Fixed FHA loan of $300,000 at 2.25% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,146. A 30-Year Fixed VA loan of $300,000 at 2.48% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,181. A 15-Year Fixed FHA loan of $300,000 at 1.75% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,896. A 15-Year Fixed VA loan of $300,000 at 1.89% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,915. A 5/1 ARM FHA loan of $300,000 at 3.11% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,282. A 5/1 ARM VA loan of $300,000 at 2.44% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,176. All monthly payments displayed assume a maximum Loan to Value (LTV) of 80% and 740 credit score, and do not include amount for taxes and insurance. The actual monthly payment may be greater.

Today’s Average Rates for Jumbo Loans

Program Interest Rate APR 1 Wk Change
30-Year Fixed Jumbo 2.87% 2.91% 0.03%
20-Year Fixed Jumbo 3.14% 3.19% -0.05%
15-Year Fixed Jumbo 2.6% 2.68% 0.03%
10-Year Fixed Jumbo 2.78% 2.93% 0%
7/1 ARM Jumbo 2.43% 3.06% -0.02%
5/1 ARM Jumbo 2.24% 3.12% 0.05%
3/1 ARM Jumbo 0% 0% 0%

A 30-Year Fixed Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.87% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,486. A 20-Year Fixed Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 3.14% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $3,370. A 15-Year Fixed Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.6% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $4,027. A 10-Year Fixed Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.78% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $5,733. A 7/1 ARM Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.43% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,347. A 5/1 ARM Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.24% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,291. A 3/1 ARM Jumbo loan of $0 at 0% APR with a $0 down payment will have a monthly payment of $0. All monthly payments displayed assume a maximum Loan to Value (LTV) of 80% and 740 credit score, and do not include amount for taxes and insurance. The actual monthly payment may be greater.

Source: zillow.com

Why It’s Suddenly Harder to Get a Mortgage

With COVID-19 making it incredibly difficult to buy a home, or even to get a mortgage, home buyers and homeowners trying to refinance their mortgage have something new to keep them awake at night.
In response to increased risk to lenders from the coronavirus, in mid-April, JPMorgan Chase raised standards for mortgages and stopped approving mortgages with down payments lower than 20%. It also increased its minimum FICO credit score to 700.

Lenders Raise Scores

Flagstar raised its minimum credit score for new Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Veterans Affairs (VA), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) purchase loans to 680. For cash-out refinances, the bank now requires that borrowers have at least a minimum credit score of 700.

US Bank and Wells Fargo both raised their minimum credit score to 680 for FHA, VA, and USDA loans, and 640 for conventional loans. LoanDepot requires 620 minimum FICO score for VA and FHA loans and a higher score, 660+, for cash-out or streamline refinancing. Now, the bank requires borrowers to have a minimum FICO score of 700 with a maximum debt-to-income (DTI) ratio of 43% when any funds used for closing costs or down payment are not borrower’s funds or gift funds, according to HousingWire.

Serious millennial man using laptop sitting at cafe table, looking up mortgage related resourcesSerious millennial man using laptop sitting at cafe table, looking up mortgage related resources

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are adding to the new hurdles facing borrowers by asking lenders to take additional steps to verify employment status. Instead of verbal verification, lenders may obtain an email directly from the employer’s work email address that identifies the name and title of the verifier and the borrower’s name and current employment, a year-to-date pay stub from the period that immediately precedes the note date. When a borrower is using self-employment income to qualify, the lender must verify the existence of the borrower’s business within 120 calendar days before the note date from a third party, such as a CPA, regulatory agency, or the applicable licensing bureau, if possible.

Homeowners Rush to Refinance

With millions of breadwinners out of work and unemployment payments delayed, a surge of applications for home equity loans and lines of credit jumped 30% or more from a year earlier in recent weeks before stay-at-home orders cut application volumes.

Happy adult man having a video call with a laptopHappy adult man having a video call with a laptop

Bank of America significantly tightened its standards for loans to homeowners wanting to borrow against their equity, ratcheting up an internal gauge that measures market conditions from the company’s lowest level to its highest. Its minimal credit score is now 720, up from 660.

Wells Fargo cut the maximum amount homeowners can borrow and reduced how much the bank will lend relative to a property’s value. The bank is applying stingier valuations to homes due to a lack of inspections and appraisals resulting from the pandemic.

Mortgage Credit Supply is Low

With mortgage rates at a historically low level and applications to refinance exploding, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported that the supply of available mortgage credit fell 16% in March, reaching the lowest level it has been since June of 2015.
“Mortgage credit supply decreased 16% in March to the lowest level since June 2015, with declines in availability across all loan types. There was a reduction in the availability of loans with lower credit scores and higher LTV ratios, and the largest pullback came from the jumbo and non-QM space,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting.

If you’re looking for more resources as a homeowner, renter, or seller during the coronavirus outbreak then visit our COVID-19 Resources page where you can find everything from DIY projects to tackle during a weekend to seller and buyer tips during the pandemic.


Steve Cook is the editor of the Down Payment Report and provides public relations consulting services to leading companies and non-profits in residential real estate and housing finance. He has been vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Realtors, senior vice president of Edelman Worldwide and press secretary to two members of Congress.

Source: homes.com

Contingent Offers Are Useful for Buyers, but Will They Turn Off Sellers?

Contingent offers can be a challenge for home buyers because they are in the process of selling one home while purchasing another.

When homeowners decide it’s time to move to another house, they face the quandary of deciding whether to wait until their old place sells before looking for a new home. Waiting generally makes it more financially feasible to purchase a new home, but you risk having to rush around to find a suitable place to live once your old home sells. And it’s not always possible to wait—sometimes circumstances like a job transfer or a baby on the way demand a speedier move.

What are contingent offers?

Enter the contingency offer, also known as an offer with a catch. You promise you will buy, but only if your own home sells. It’s an option that’s growing in popularity because it keeps you from being locked into a purchase you can’t afford. But it can also cause you to lose your dream home if you’re unable to find a buyer for your own home.

A seller can move on, but only if your contract says so

So, what right does a seller have to ultimately pass on your offer if it’s tied up in a contingency like selling your home? The answer lies in your contract, and each contract is different.

“Whether or not [a seller can] accept a new offer and bump you guys out completely depends on the contract that you signed. You need to go over the details in the contract to see what outs the seller has,” says Melanie Atkinson, a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Tampa, FL.

Some contingency clauses allow the seller to cancel the contract if you don’t provide a loan commitment within 30 days. Others stipulate that you can’t purchase another property until your home is under contract.

There’s also the 72-hour “kick-out clause,” which requires you to remove the contingency from your offer within three days of the seller receiving another offer; otherwise that seller can “kick out” your contract and move forward with the other buyer who made the better offer.

Courting other offers

If a seller—or the seller’s agent—is still marketing the property to other interested buyers, the seller is required to disclose that there’s an executed contract on the house. But continuing to show it is legal, and Atkinson says it’s in a seller’s best interest to do so. After all, courting other offers is a seller’s contingency plan, something to protect the seller if the sale of your house falls through.

“The contingency may continue until you actually close on the house, and the seller may be able to accept other offers all the way up to that time,” says Phil Lunnon, a Realtor with Lunnon Realty in Lakewood, CO.

So how do you calm your fears about losing a home? If you’re in talks with a motivated buyer for your house, Lunnon suggests removing the contingency in your offer. “If you are confident that the buyer of your home is committed to closing on your home, remove the contingency.”

Of course, that means you’ll be banking on the purchase of your house going through; however, if you’re on the same page as the buyers, removing the contingency on your offer will prove to the sellers you’re committed and improve your chances of closing on the home you really want.

Source: realtor.com

8 Tips for Lowering Your Homeowners Association Dues

Llike any budget, there could be lots of ways to reduce HOA expenses.

Whether you just bought a condo or have owned one for years, you’ve probably accepted the monthly homeowners association (HOA) dues at face value. But there are reasons why you shouldn’t.

HOA dues are money out of your pocket. They can have a huge impact on your decision to buy, or not buy, a particular condo. For example, you might have fallen in love with a condo in a big complex but decided you just can’t afford the HOA dues. Also, high HOA dues can be a deterrent to future buyers, too, when you go to sell later.

An HOA is made up of residents of the condo building or complex — volunteers who are busy with their jobs and families just like everyone else. It could be that no one on the HOA board has time to look for ways to reduce the monthly HOA dues.

But like any budget, there could be lots of ways to reduce expenses. Here’s how you can have a positive impact on your HOA dues.

1. Ask to see the HOA budget

As a condo owner, you have the right to review the HOA budget. Get a copy and check it over thoroughly. If you have questions, ask the HOA president or a board member.

2. Join the HOA board

If you’re on the board, you’ll have more opportunity and more clout to dig into the HOA’s finances — such as its contracts with the property management company, landscapers and so on.

3. Review the HOA’s contracts

An HOA often has agreements with a variety of vendors: the property management company, a landscaping/grounds maintenance company, and so on. In some cases, those agreements or contracts may have been negotiated years ago and might be renegotiated today in more favorable terms for the HOA.

For example, the recent buyer of a condo in an Atlanta complex felt like the HOA dues were too high. So he asked to join the board, and the members were happy to have him. He then performed an audit and discovered money was being wasted in several areas, such as on landscaping/gardening.

The HOA’s agreement with its gardener had been negotiated five years earlier. The gardener, by default, raised his fees every year. The Atlanta condo buyer, with the HOA’s approval, sought bids from a variety of other gardening companies and succeeded in finding a reputable gardener at a lower monthly cost.

4. Reduce landscaping costs

If finding another landscaping or gardening company isn’t an option, maybe the HOA can reduce the frequency of these services, without jeopardizing aesthetics. It’s worth asking.

5. Determine if HOA is paying too much in property management fees

In large condo developments, the property management company would likely be the one to lead the charge to reduce expenses. But they’re unlikely to advocate lowering their own fees. So you’ll need to work with your HOA directly in exploring ways to reduce the property management company’s fees.

6. Look at insurance premiums

Insurance is often a big HOA expense. Get quotes for insurance premiums and be prepared to renegotiate with your current carrier once your policy comes up for renewal.

7. Defer non-essential maintenance or other projects

Aside from HOA dues, condo owners are often hit with assessments to cover things such as roof repairs and hallway painting. Talk to the HOA board about deferring any non-essential HOA projects for a year or two.

8. Reduce reserves, if possible

Every HOA has reserve funds to cover unexpected expenses. Over time, those reserves, if not tapped, build up. Find out how much the HOA has in reserves. If it’s a healthy amount and no major improvement or repair projects are in the works, ask the HOA board to consider temporarily reducing the amount it puts into reserves every month.

Easier said than done?

Most HOAs will welcome your participation. But your belt-tightening suggestions may require a formal vote from HOA board members or the entire association before they’re enacted.

At any rate, understand that changes to the budget may not happen overnight. Finding the fat, renegotiating fees, and asking for additional bids can be extremely time consuming.

Still, it’s worth a try. Talk to your HOA president, treasurer or other board member. Tell them your goal is to simply explore possible ways to lower the association’s cost for everyone’s benefit. A little bit of legwork may save you — and your neighbors — some money every month.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Source: zillow.com

3 Ways to Protect Your Escrow Deposit

In this article:

When buying a home, you’ll probably hear your lender or real estate agent use the word escrow. The term escrow can describe a few different functions, from the time your offer is accepted to the day you close on your home — and even after you become a homeowner with a mortgage.

There are essentially two types of escrow accounts. One is used throughout the homebuying process until you close on the home. The other, commonly referred to as an impound account, is used by your mortgage servicer to manage property tax and insurance premium payments on your behalf.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as financial or legal advice, guarantees or warranties of any kind. Reference to escrow accounts here refers to an escrow account established to facilitate the purchase transaction of a new home.

What is an escrow account?

An escrow account is a contractual arrangement in which a neutral third party, known as an escrow agent, receives and disburses funds for transacting parties (i.e., you and the seller). Typically, a selling agent opens an escrow account through a title company once you and the seller agree on a home price and sign a purchase agreement. When you’re buying a home, this escrow account serves two main purposes:

  1. To hold earnest money while you’re in escrow
  2. To handle and disburse the funds until all escrow conditions are met and escrow is closed

How does escrow work?

When you make an offer on a home, the seller may require you to pay earnest money that will be held in an escrow account until you and the seller negotiate a contract and close the deal. This earnest money gives the seller added assurance that you do not intend to back out of the deal, and it protects them in the event that you do. It also motivates the seller to pick your offer over others.

During the escrow process, the escrow agent will handle the transfer of the property, the exchange of money, and any related documents to ensure all parties receive what they are owed. This removes uncertainty over whether either party will be able to fulfill its obligations, and it helps ensure that neither party is favored over the other.

What does in escrow mean?

When you hear the phrase “in escrow”, it means that all items placed in the escrow account (e.g., earnest money, property deed, loan funds) are held with an escrow agent until all conditions of the escrow arrangement have been met. The conditions usually involve receiving an appraisal, title search and approved financing.

While the earnest money is in escrow, neither you nor the seller can touch it. Once conditions are met, the earnest money will likely be applied toward the purchase price or your down payment on the home.

What does it mean to close escrow?

To close escrow means that all of the escrow conditions have been met. You’ve received a home loan, and the title has legally passed from the seller to you. During the closing of escrow process, a closing or escrow agent (who may be an attorney, depending on the state in which the property is located) will disburse transaction funds to the appropriate parties, ensure all documents are signed and prepare a new deed naming you the homeowner.

Afterward, the escrow officer will send the deed to the county recorder for recording before escrow is officially closed. Once closed, you and the seller will receive a final closing statement and other documents in the mail. Check the statement carefully and call the closing agent immediately if you spot an error. Save the statement with your most important papers, as you will need it when you file your next income tax return.

What is an escrow payment?

After you purchase a home, you’ll be responsible for maintaining insurance on the property and paying state and local property taxes. The property tax and insurance premiums you owe are the escrow payments made to your escrow or impound account.

The impound account ensures that the funds for taxes and insurance are available and that premiums are paid on time. Your lender doesn’t want you to miss a tax payment and risk a foreclosure on the home. They also don’t want you to miss a homeowners insurance payment, or they may be forced to take out additional insurance on your behalf to cover the home in the event of property loss or severe damage.

How monthly escrow payments work

The amount of escrow due each month into the impound account is based on your estimated annual property tax and insurance obligations, which may vary throughout the life of your loan. Because of this, your mortgage servicer may collect a monthly escrow payment, along with your principal and interest, and use those collected funds to pay taxes and insurance on your behalf. 

Your lender will notify you 30 days before your next payment if the amount changes. You can also ask your mortgage servicer to walk you through the local impound account funding schedule that applies to your loan. If there are insufficient funds in your impound account to cover the taxes and insurance, your monthly mortgage payment may increase (even though your principal and interest will stay the same on fixed-rate loans).

Initial escrow payment at closing

Lenders usually require at least two months’ worth of insurance and property tax funds in the impound account at closing. The amount you have to prepay into an impound account for these costs is based on your location. Keep in mind that these funds aren’t additional closing costs. Instead, you’re prepaying extra months of home insurance and property tax bills that you would be required to pay when due. Your mortgage servicer will list the initial escrow payment amount due at closing on your loan estimate.

Your escrow analysis statement

Each month, your mortgage statement will show you how much you’ve accrued in your impound account. And each year, your mortgage servicer is required by law to send you an annual escrow account analysis showing you some of the following:

  • The amount of funds received from you
  • The amount of funds paid out for insurance and property tax
  • An estimation of how much the escrow portion of your monthly payment may increase or decrease based on the premiums owed
  • Notice if you don’t have enough funds in your account to pay the estimated tax and insurance due in the next bill (i.e., escrow shortage)
  • Notice if you have a negative balance in your account that is owed to bring your account to current (i.e., escrow deficiency)

Is an escrow account required?

An escrow account for paying property tax and homeowners insurance is generally required by lenders who originate VA, FHA and conventional loans. In some instances, lenders may allow the homeowner to pay the property tax and home insurance as a lump sum instead of setting up an escrow account. If you waive escrow, be aware that some lenders may charge you a fee or an increased interest rate.

While you may not be required to set up an escrow account, you can choose to open one voluntarily to break up insurance and property tax payments into smaller amounts, keep track of payment due dates and avoid surprise bills at the end of the tax year.

Need a home loan? Contact a pre-approval lender today to get pre-approved for a mortgage.

Source: zillow.com

Is the Home You Love Worth It? Home Pre-Inspection Tips to Put to Use

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To hear professional home inspectors tell it, Americans take better care of their automobiles than their homes. Consequently, every homebuyer should plan to spend the $400 to $600 necessary to have the house they like best thoroughly examined by an independent third party before closing.

But wait: Before you’ve made your final choice and order a home inspector to take a look, you should do some preliminary investigating of your own. That way, you can protect yourself from picking the wrong house and allowing a better maintained property to slip away.

Even rookie buyers can get a good idea of just how well kept a house has been. Even when the seller has given the place a fresh coat of paint and trimmed the lawn, there still are often telltale signs that the owner may not have been as diligent as he could have. But keep it mind, it would be counterproductive to put every house under this kind of microscope. Once you narrow your choices down to two or three homes, it’s time to take a harder look. Then, after you make your final decision, call in the experts.

Look at Small Details

For example, a clean furnace filter can be taken as an indication the house has been well cared for. But who’s to say the seller didn’t just replace a filter that hadn’t been changed in years? If the filter hasn’t been changed regularly, the furnace hasn’t been working efficiently and it may not live up to its expected life span.

So how do you now? You don’t for sure. but if you spy a pile of spare filters tucked away in a storage closet, it’s a pretty good sign that the owner is on the ball. Someone who is in the process of selling isn’t buying extra filters he won’t use.

Home Service Log

Another clue that the furnace is in good shape is to look for a service log showing that the machine has been serviced regularly, at least once a year.

Of course, homebuyers, even those who have purchased several houses, shouldn’t substitute this kind of rudimentary investigation for a complete and exhaustive inspection by a trained professional. Even if the furnace has been serviced consistently, it could be on its last legs, and only a pro will be able to determine that.

Go Through the Motions as an Owner

Don’t be afraid to kick the tires and act like you’re already living there. You have every right to open closets, flush toilets, run the dishwasher through a full cycle, turn on all the stove-top burners, check the refrigerator and open the in the windows. The owner shouldn’t object – not if he really wants to sell.

If you are really interested in a property, make an appointment with the owner to return with your agents in tow. Give yourself plenty of time to give the place a good once-over. Then, you can decide if you want to proceed.

Tips from Professionals

Here, in no particular order, are some other suggestions from professional inspectors to help you decide if the choices you are considering are inspection-worthy:

Tips for Inspecting Basements

If the house has a basement, follow your nose. If there is a damp, musty smell, there’s usually an issue. A dehumidifier is another tip-off to a wet basement. They aren’t part of the decor. Also, look for stains or rot where the stringers, or side pieces, on the basement steps touch the floor. If there is a water problem, the moisture will wick into the wood. If there is nothing on the basement floor, that could be a sign of water problems. Inspectors love to see stacks of old magazines in the corner with spider webs. That means they have been there a long time and the there is no water problem.

Water Damage to Look for

Some owners will try to hide water damage in their bathrooms by re-caulking and grouting tiles. But you can beat them at their own game by tapping on the tile where it hits the tub or shower floor. The tile should sound and feel solid. If it sounds hollow, give it a nudge to see if there is any give to the wall. If there is, something’s going on behind there that isn’t good.

Electrical Inspections that are Amateur-friendly

After water issues, improper electrical wiring is the second most common defect found by home inspectors. It is difficult for an amateur to determine if the electrical system is adequate, but there are clues. If you see a lot of fuses lying around, especially burnt-out ones, it’s a dead giveaway that the wiring is probably undersized. Another sure-fire indication that the wiring is insufficient: A bunch of extension cords snaking around, hither and yon.

Always Check the Roof

Roofing problems also are fairly common, so look for shingles that are cupping at the corners. They may have to be replaced. If the roof appears to be sagging between the joists, the entire thing may have to be removed. And if there are already are two layers of shingles, the cost could be 20% higher or more. If the house has been well maintained, the owner will know exactly how many layers are on the roof, the age of the top layer and if new sheathing has been put down between the two layers.

Turning on Faucets is Always a Great Idea

Turn on the faucets on the bathroom sink and tub and flush the toilet, all at the same time. If there is an appreciable drop in water flow, there could be a serious pressure problem, possibly caused by mineral buildup in old pipes.

Keep in Mind…

* Maybe one in 20 houses examined by the pros qualifies as well maintained. But if the seller keeps a maintenance log backed by files of receipts, warranties, instruction manuals and color swatches, it’s probably a safe bet that the house has been a labor of love. Neatness counts, too. There should be access to all space, and nothing should be blocking the furnace or electrical panel.


Lew Sichelman

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.

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Source: homes.com

How to Make an Offer Stand Out in a Seller’s Market

With a rapidly changing market and low inventory, homes are selling faster than ever. New listings can have several offers before you have even had the chance to see it. With this being the case, not only do you have to spring into rapid action, you have to come prepared with an offer that will stand out above the other buyers out there. 

Read: How is COVID-19 Impacting Homebuyer Preferences?

While it can be difficult to be the first of multiple offers coming in, you can make your offer the one that will get you the home that you have fallen in love with. The tips could be exactly what you need to get into your next home. 

Get The Inside Scoop

Say you have decided to purchase a home that you have fallen in love with and you’re prepared to put in an offer on that home. Before you meet with your real estate agent to write the offer, you should ask your agent to get the inside scoop of what the seller may want by asking the listing agent. 

When your agent contacts the listing agent, make sure that they ask questions about the home’s availability and if there are multiple offers for that home. If there are other offers, you will have to evaluate just what you are willing to do to get the home. Keep in mind that the listing agent may not be able to disclose anything to your agent at the request of the seller. 

You should also ask your agent to inquire about the seller’s preferences and what they may want. Some sellers prefer you use a specific title company or have a specific possession date that would align with a date that is convenient for them. The more your offer aligns with the seller’s goal, the better a chance of getting your dream home. 

Read: Is the Home You Love Worth it? Home Pre-inspection Tips to Put to Use

Make a Simple Offer

While making an offer on a home can be complex, you should aim to make your offer as simple as possible. The fewer contingencies that you have put in place, the better. 

Some contingencies you might put in place range from a financing contingency to a home inspection contingency. 

Realtor showing terms of contract on tablet to couple. Real estate agent sharing property details with clients.Realtor showing terms of contract on tablet to couple. Real estate agent sharing property details with clients.

Also, when you put in an offer, keep in mind that it’s not all about price. You may be prepared to go well over asking, but remember that the best offer will be the sum of the terms that work best for the home’s seller. While you want to get this home, you do not want to overextend yourself financially. 

Things Will Move Quickly

As you embark on your home search, you will want to see as many homes as possible. If you work with an agent that has a busy schedule, ask to utilize one of their team members to see the homes on your list.Remember, you will want to move quickly especially when the market is hot and your agent will do the best they can to work with you to get you the house you want. 

One Last Tip

Writing an offer can be cumbersome and can take more time than you may be willing to wait. The key tip: be patient. Let your agent provide the seller and the listing agent with your offer and wait a few days to find out if they accept or not. This is completely normal so do your best to be patient in hopes that you are able to get your next home. 

One thing that you may be able to do to get your offer accepted is to suggest to your real estate agent that they outline the terms and contingencies of your offer in a pager on the front pack of the offer package. This will give the seller and listing agent the opportunity to see what the offer entails from the beginning. 

During a hot market where homes are selling as fast, you have to be diligent in writing your offer so that they will stand out from the rest. For more tips and tricks on the homeowner journey, read through our free How To guides on buying, selling, and financing your home.


Dru Peters

As a Sr. Marketing Coordinator for Homes.com, Dru provides information and resources for agents and Realtors spanning from market reports to technology advances in the industry. With the knowledge gained from working closely with real estate professionals, Dru also shares advice for consumers on how to best navigate the homebuying and selling waters.

Source: homes.com

East Coast Market Outlook: Tallahassee, Florida

Capital of The Sunshine State, Tallahassee is a college town full of mossy oaks and award-winning outdoor recreation. The metropolitan area, which includes the city and four surrounding counties, is home to about 390,000 residents and the reputable Florida State University.

Market Snapshot

In 2015, the average starter home cost was about $48 per square foot. That average has increased 40% to almost $68 per square foot. According to Florida Realtors, the median starter home price in the area currently sits at $185,500, while the median sales price for all homes is about $227,000.

Meanwhile, average Tallahassee rental prices are increasing by about 1.03% each year; not a staggering amount, but they currently sit at around $1,012 for a 2-bedroom unit. 

Tallahassee, Florida, USA downtown skyline.Tallahassee, Florida, USA downtown skyline.

Why Consider Buying Now?

Long term, appreciation is expected to remain steady for the area. In the short-term, however, it seems to have slowed down compared to years prior. Tight inventories aside, this could open the opportunities for renters to enter the market before rates accelerate again. 

According to the National Association of Realtors, the value of a typical home in Leon County alone was about $230,900 in Q4 2019. With a 10% down payment, and a 4% interest rate (higher than current rates), they estimate that a buyer would pay about $993 each month for their mortgage — lower than the current rental average costs. 

Of course, there’s the added costs of utilities and services. But locking in a low mortgage rate now will keep monthly costs the same, opposed to rent prices that trends are suggesting will continue to increase. 

What to Prepare for

Like most markets, Tallahassee’s market is tight. However, with COVID-19 restrictions easing, sellers are looking to place their homes back on the market. Be prepared to act fast, as the time between listing and selling now averages about 21 days. 

Some Advice?

Nicholas Mihalich, president of the Tallahassee Board of Realtors, suggests buying now as long as you will be in the house for the next 3-5 years. “There is not much lower priced housing being added to the market, so demand will continue to outpace supply,” stated Mihalich. “Consequently, owning a home here is a safe and secure way to build wealth.”

Start Your Home Journey Today!

If you’re thinking about buying, Homes.com has the simply smarter tools to help you get started. From mortgage calculators to a comprehensive “How-To” guide, we’re your one-stop resource to find your dream home. 


Content Marketing Assistant at Homes.com | See more posts by this author

As Homes.com’s content marketing assistant, Sydney gets to combine one of her favorite pastimes with her job– keeping up with pop culture. Outside of work, she enjoys stepping away from her phone and computer and spending time with her friends, whether it’s just hanging out or traveling. Trying new foods, going snowboarding, and long road trips are some of her other favorite things to do, but what does she loves the most? When people read Homes.com’s blog articles, of course!

Source: homes.com

Best Cities to Buy a Vacation Home for Post-pandemic Retreats

The coronavirus pandemic has made it tough to buy a home, including vacation homes. Homebuyer sentiment is at a ten-year low, and millions of families are struggling with unemployment or small businesses that are in trouble. They are forgoing their traditional week or two at the beach or mountains this year and staying home. Short term rentals built a whole new economy in popular vacation spots and many vacation homeowners count on revenues from short-term rentals to pay their mortgages.

Perhaps the only good thing about these hard times for vacation owners are the bargains that are opening up in vacation destinations nationwide. Home sellers have been in control for years, especially in the hottest short-term rental markets. If you are fortunate enough to be immune from the economic crisis that is sweeping the nation, now is the time to buy that vacation home you’ve been considering.

beach town vacation home post-pandemic buyingbeach town vacation home post-pandemic buying

Here are five of the nation’s most popular summer vacation destinations where bargains can be found.

Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida

Sales are 20% lower than last spring, and new listings are growing at a rate of 24 listings per 1000 households in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers market. Plenty of good deals are attracting a wave of buyers from Northern states despite the pandemic.

The Cape Coral-Fort Myers real estate market is rapidly growing, yet it still retains its small-town charm. Its quality of life, miles of Gulf Coast beaches, islands, and the economy continues to attract people. Homes.com lists more than 80,000 homes for sale in the Cape Coral area and about 9,000 in and around Fort Myers.

Lakeland-Winter Haven, Florida

Through April, sales were down 20% from April 2019, creating buyers’ market conditions in Lakeland-Winter Haven offer a dense suburban feel, and most residents own their homes. Located 25 miles inland from the Tampa Bay area. November, April, and March are the most pleasant months in the Lakeland-Winter Haven metro area. Click here to see available listings in Lakeland and in Winter Haven.

Santa Barbara, California

The California coast forms a crescent north of Los Angeles that connects breathtaking beaches, mountains, and vineyards. The Channel Islands National Park offers scuba diving, hiking, and whale watching. Santa Barbara’s downtown offers world-class shopping and dining.

Its real estate offerings feature a sizeable luxury home market and affordable houses as well. The pandemic is taking its toll. According to the local MLS, closings have declined from 142 closings between March 15, 2019, and April 15, 2019, but only 95 closings during the period this year. The drop in sales gives buyers an advantage in a market that features “Access Hollywood” quality listings. To see for yourself, check out Santa Barbara’s available local listings on Homes.com.

Saugatuck, Michigan

Not all excellent beach resorts are on an ocean. If you live in the Midwest, there’s a great one on the east coast of Lake Michigan. With sun, sand, and freshwater to offer, try Saugatuck. Saugatuck is a 150-old former logging town that became a local resort a century ago. Now Southwest Michigan ranks as one of Conde Nast’s 25 best places to go in 2020. Oval Beach on Lake Michigan, sand dune rides, a beach that is litter-less, a chain ferry across the Kalamazoo River, and hammocks on every porch make Saugatuck a great place for families to relax. Homes.com lists some beachfront properties that are more affordable than either coast. Best of all, it is an easy drive from Chicago and Detroit.

Ocean City, Maryland

This Mid-Atlantic shore town is straight from the 1980s with boardwalk, putt-putt golf, beach parties, and famous french fries. In fact, it’s one of the best boardwalk beaches in the US, according to National Geographic’s Traveler. Its real estate market is also more proletarian, featuring high rise condos and bungalows. The pandemic drove away sellers this year, and new listings fell 27% in April, a multi-year low, leaving fewer than 800 listings as the summer season opens. The pandemic also drove down asking prices, and the median new listing price is only $290,000, far below the median for the year, $352,000. Looking to buy? Browse available listings in Ocean City on Homes.com.

America is starting to open up just as the summer begins. As restrictions relax and more beaches open, 2020 might become a great year to get a deal on a beach property.


Steve Cook is the editor of the Down Payment Report and provides public relations consulting services to leading companies and non-profits in residential real estate and housing finance. He has been vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Realtors, senior vice president of Edelman Worldwide and press secretary to two members of Congress.

Source: homes.com

The New Must-haves of Homebuying: What Buyers are Looking for

At the start of COVID-19, homebuyers felt uncertain about applying for a mortgage during a time filled with so much uncertainty. Now, as the pandemic and restrictions become more “normal,” we’re seeing demand grow and housing inventories shrink. But, what new homebuyers this year are likely to find are larger houses with smaller kitchens, master baths and garages. They’ll also find fewer models with open floor plans, too, as builders rework their square footage to accommodate home offices, gyms and other specialty rooms. And, buyers will likely have to venture further out from major metros to find what they’re looking for.

Read: The Future of Homebuying: Questions to Ask in a Post-pandemic World

Larger Homes for Post-pandemic Buyers

For the last four years, the size of new, single-family houses has been trending downward as builders added entry-level houses to their mix in an effort to boost supply. But, the National Association of Home Builders says its members might reverse course as buyers seek more space as a result of the pandemic, perhaps to accommodate extended families or those aforementioned extra rooms.

Spring has arrived in a residential neighborhood of ChicagoSpring has arrived in a residential neighborhood of Chicago

Actually, there already are signs of the shift. In this year’s first quarter, the Census Bureau found that the median of single-family floor area ticked up to 2,291 square feet; up from 2,252 in last year’s fourth quarter. But, while a June survey by John Burns Real Estate Consulting found that some recent buyers moved because they disliked the layout of their previous homes, many wanted more space.

Even before the pandemic struck, size was important to many buyers, according to a poll of nearly 1,800 people in late February and early March by Michigan-based builder Lombardo Homes. Price was paramount, of course, but size was more important than the house’s layout, schools or even property taxes.

Moving to the Suburbs is on the Radar

Buyers are likely to find houses with more space in the suburbs, exurbs and distant outposts. Already, the NAHB is seeing construction expand at a more rapid rate in smaller cities and rural areas. Before the pandemic hit full throttle in March, the builder group found activity increasing at a higher rate in inner and outer suburbs than in high-density places. And while the pace of construction was increasing everywhere prior to the lockdown, the outlying suburbs registered the strong growth.

The Rise of the Home Office

What is the extra space likely to look like? With the movement to work from home, count on more square footage for a home office, whether it be a room dedicated as such or a converted extra bedroom. “For years, people were scared of working from home,” said one Urban Land Institute member during a recent digital happy hour. “Now they are seeing it can and does work.”

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

Read: Working from Home? Create a Home Office from Any Small Space

The same goes for employers, who have since discovered their workers can be just as productive working from home, if not more so. More and more companies are joining the likes of Twitter, American Express and Morgan Stanley, all of which have told their employees they can work from home, either through the end of the year or forever. “Some companies,” offers Tim Sullivan of Meyers Research, “may never go back to office space.” Families also need space for children or college students who are learning for home. Only 17% of parents feel prepared for the upcoming school year, so a home office is important for those families to best feel ready for fall semesters.

Studies by the NAHB have shown that many buyers have always wanted an home office. In a 2018 survey, for example, 65% said it was a key feature on their shopping lists, and the builder group says that percentage is likely to grow.

The Forgotten About Home Gym

Another strong possibility: An in-house gym, or certainly at least a dead-end hallway that has been dubbed the “Peloton® room” where an exercise bike can be parked. Of course, there’s “only a finite amount of space” with which builders can work before the cost of their products becomes prohibitive, Dan DiClerico of HomeAdvisor points out. Consequently, he and others believe there will be a major “redistribution of space” in newer models.

The End of the Open Floor Plan?

Younger buyers, in particular, “displayed a clear preference for flexible spaces in their next home” in the latest national survey by Atlanta-based home builder Ashton Woods.

“Instead of rooms dedicated to just one purpose, home buyers now want a living, breathing floor plan that can flex as their lives change,” says Jay Kallos, the firm’s senior vice president for architecture. “They want it to adapt easily for when they’re newlyweds, starting a family, becoming empty nesters and even inviting family back into the home later in life with aging parents or boomerang kids.”

Spacious kitchens going forward could be less so. “Fewer people are going to want the great big open rooms that include the kitchen, with more now wanting the kitchen to return to having some separation to hide the smells, mess and noise,” suggests Bill Ramsey of the Denver architectural firm, KTGY.

Big master bathrooms also could become smaller, too. And builders may be taking space from large garages. Even though most people don’t park their vehicles in their garages, two-car pads are the norm nowadays. Nearly two out of three new houses sold in 2019 had two-car garages, and 19% had three bays or more.

While things continue to change in the world of homebuying and building, one thing remains the same. Homes.com is your go-to resource for everything buying, selling, renting, or financing. From our popular search tools that let you find a home you love in an instant to an optimized mobile app to take homebuying on the go, there’s not much you can’t find. For more resources, visit Homes.com’s Blog or our How-to Section if you’re looking for tips, advice, and guidance on all things home-related.


Lew Sichelman

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