What You Should Know About Closing Costs (03/15/23)
Before you buy a home, it’s important to plan ahead. While most buyers consider how much they need to save for a down payment, many are surprised by the closing costs they have to pay. To ensure you aren’t caught off guard when it’s time to close on your home, you need to understand what closing costs are and how much you should budget for.
What Are Closing Costs?
People are sometimes surprised by closing costs because they don’t know what they are. According to Bankrate:
“Closing costs are the fees and expenses you must pay before becoming the legal owner of a house, condo or town home . . . Closing costs vary depending on the purchase price of the home and how it’s being financed . . .”
In other words, your closing costs are a collection of fees and payments involved with your transaction. According to Freddie Mac, while they can vary by location and situation, closing costs typically include:
Government recording costs
Credit report fees
Lender origination fees
Tax service fees
How Much Will You Need To Budget for Closing Costs?
Understanding what closing costs include is important, but knowing what you’ll need to budget to cover them is critical, too. According to the Freddie Mac article mentioned above, the costs to close are typically between 2% and 5% of the total purchase price of your home. With that in mind, here’s how you can get an idea of what you’ll need to cover your closing costs.
Let’s say you find a home you want to purchase for the median price of $366,900. Based on the 2-5% Freddie Mac estimate, your closing fees could be between roughly $7,500 and $18,500.
Keep in mind, if you’re in the market for a home above or below this price range, your closing costs will be higher or lower.
What’s the Best Way To Make Sure You’re Prepared at Closing Time?
Freddie Mac provides great advice for home buyers, saying:
“As you start your home buying journey, take the time to get a sense of all costs involved – from your down payment to closing costs.”
Work with a team of trusted real estate professionals to understand exactly how much you’ll need to budget for closing costs. An agent can help connect you with a lender, and together your expert team can answer any questions you might have.
It’s important to plan for the fees and payments you’ll be responsible for at closing. Let’s connect so I can help you feel confident throughout the process.
Characteristics of Home Buyers in 2022 (12/16/22)
• The median age jumped this year to 53 years old, from 45 last year. The largest share of home buyers this year were in the 55 to 64 age group (21 percent) and the 65 to 74 age group (21 percent), followed by the 35 to 44 years age group at 19 percent. In Georgia, the median age of recent home buyers was 60 years old. The largest share of home buyers in Georgia this year were in the 55 to 64 age group (27percent) and the 65 to 74 age group (25 percent).
• The median household income for 2021 slipped this year to $88,000 compared to $102,000 in last year’s report. In Georgia, buyers had a median income of $86,200.
• Sixty-one percent of recent buyers were married couples, 17 percent were single females, nine percent were single males, and 10 percent were unmarried couples. This is the highest share of unmarried couples recorded. In Georgia, 67 percent were married couples, 16 percent were single females, 10 percent were single males, and five percent were unmarried couples.
• First-time buyers made up 26 percent, down from last year’s 34 percent. In Georgia, 22 percent were first-time buyers.
• Thirty-one percent of all buyers had children under the age of 18 living at home, the lowest share since 1981 but holding steady from 31 percent last year. In Georgia, 28 percent buyers had children under the age of 18 living at home.
• Fourteen percent of home buyers purchased a multi-generational home, to take care of aging parents, because of children or relatives over the age of 18 moving back home, and for cost-savings. In Georgia, that share was 11 percent.
Information provided by the National Association of REALTORS.
6 Week Timeline for Packing (12/15/22)
The goal: Garage clean out! If you use the garage as make-shift storage shed, this will be the biggest and most overwhelming part of the entire moving process. Best to get it out of the way up front!
The goal: Sell a ton of stuff! Focus on selling some things around the house that won’t be coming with you. You don’t want to waste time moving anything that you already know you won’t be keeping. So spend this week listing things on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. You’ll hopefully be offloading as much as possible to make the move even easier!
The goal: Do one final purge! Moving as a really great time to get rid of the extras or items you don’t use anymore. Get rid of as much as you can before you really dive into packing
The goal: Pack the non-essentials! This is where you start making some serious progress on packing up your home. It’s the time where the house starts to feel a little chaotic! Your official goal should be to pack up the non-essentials in the kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room, and living room.
The goal: Clean, prep, and organize! At this point you’ll be down to the wire and should have a better idea of if you’ll actually be closing on time or not. Plan to take care of all the last minute organizational things like scheduling the utilities switch, scheduling the house cleaner, and making a final to-do list. You should also (hopefully) be starting to pack up the rest of the house!
The goal: Final touches! It’s moving week, you are at crunch time now. Finish packing up the remaining items and get them ready to bring to your new house. Take the beds apart, get the rest of the furniture in the moving truck, and start packing your essentials into suitcases. Keep a few changes of clothes, your chargers, laptops, toothbrushes, and toiletries in this suitcase. Moving day is stressful enough just getting the truck unloaded, you definitely don’t want to be digging around your 10,000 boxes to find your toothbrush and pajamas!
Mortgage Rates Drop by Largest Amount in 41 Years! (11/18/22)
Mortgage rates sank nearly half a percent this week, making the largest week-over-week decline since November 1981. The rate on an average 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 6.61% from 7.08% just one week prior according to Freddie Mac. The drop follows a sharp decline in the yield on the 10-year Treasury last week after the government showed inflation cooled a bit last month.
This drop in rates incentivized buyers to rush and try to lock rates this week. The difference in demand was significant. Until this week, buyer demand had weakened as borrowers have had a hard time keeping up with the higher rates and home prices. We don’t know how long this will last… so buyers are acting fast!
Getting Your Home Ready for the Holidays
Back in June, it seemed like a good idea to say you’d host Thanksgiving dinner, and Christmas day. Now the clock is ticking away and you need to get busy. Here’s how to get your home Holiday Ready in no time!
DO A QUICK DE-CLUTTER
Start with a quick de-clutter throughout the entire house to put away random items that have been left out. Clean or not, extra clutter will make your home look messy.
SPOT CLEAN YOUR OFFICE
There shouldn’t be a lot of traffic in your office, but it doesn’t hurt to give it a once over so you can keep the door slightly open.
TIDY UP THE LAUNDRY ROOM/MUD ROOM
Finish any remaining laundry. Vacuum the exhaust fan cover. Wipe down the exterior surfaces of your cabinets and appliances, and tidy up the cleaning closet and supplies.
STRAIGHTEN UP THE BEDROOMS
Unless you’re planning to have overnight guests, your bedrooms shouldn’t need a ton of attention. However, they will be a pass-through spot to the bathrooms, and a place for guests for drop their purses and coats. Make the bed, tidy up the room, just the basics!
FRESHEN UP THE DINING ROOM
This room will be the center of attention when entertaining over the Holiday’s. Dust the light fixtures and surfaces. Wipe down the table and chairs. Wash any china, glassware, silverware, serving dishes, etc.
TIDY UP THE LIVING ROOM
Your living room will also get a lot of use, so be thorough here as well.
Dust your entertainment center and television screen. Dust all lampshades and flat surfaces. Tidy up the throw pillows and blankets.
SANITIZE THE BATHROOMS
Without a doubt, your bathrooms will get a lot of use when entertaining. Hit all the spots in the bathrooms - toilets, mirrors, floors, tubs. Stock up the toilet paper, soap, and hand towels.
DEEP CLEAN THE KITCHEN
If you’re cooking for your guests, your kitchen will most likely get messy throughout the day. So just stick to the big ticket items. Wipe down the appliances, put away all of the clean dishes. Make sure the dishwasher is empty, so you can throw your dirty dishes in there throughout the day and keep them out of the way! Have a few extra rolls of paper towels on hand. Empty and wash out the ice maker and water dispenser. Change the water dispenser filter if needed. Tidy up the pantry and throw away any expired food. While doing this, take stock of all normal holiday ingredients and make note of any you need to restock.
PUT UP HOLIDAY DECORATIONS
Now that the cleaning part is done and your home is ready for the holidays, let’s get to the fun stuff. Even if it’s as simple as a fall wreath on the front door and a couple of cornucopia centerpieces on certain tables, a few holiday decorations can make a very big impact.
SET THE MOOD
Smell has a significant effect on mood and stress levels. Light a holiday candle, or bake a fresh batch of cookies. If you’re not a candle fan, put a simmering pot of water, vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, and orange slices on your stove to help set the mood.
What the Fed's November Rate Hike Means (11/10/22)
New month, new meeting — but the same result: The Federal Reserve’s raised interest rates yet again, causing the 6th rate hike of the year. The last time rates went up this much in a year was in the 1980’s.
Higher rates are challenging for both home buyers, who have to handle steeper monthly payments, and home sellers who are experiencing less demand, and lower offers on their homes.
So what’s the next step for buyers? Here are some tips for dealing with the climate of rising interest rates:
Shop around for a mortgage. Shopping around can help you find a better-than-average rate. With the refinance boom slowing, lenders are eager for your business. I know it can seem annoying to do the same process over and over again with different lenders… but think of it this way: You want the absolute best terms for a mortgage you are responsible for paying every single month for the next 30 years (or until you sell).
Be cautious of ARMs. Adjustable Rate Mortgages are growing more tempting, but many economists say borrowers should steer clear. “Don’t fall into the trap of using an adjustable-rate mortgage as a crutch of affordability,” says Greg McBride, Bankrate’s chief financial analyst. “There is little in the way of up-front savings, an average of just one-half percentage point for the first five years, but the risk of higher rates in future years looms large. New adjustable mortgage products are structured to change every six months rather than every 12 months, which had previously been the norm.”
Consider a HELOC. While mortgage refinancing is on the downhill, many homeowners are turning to home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) for tapping into home equity.
REALTORS® Confidence Index (10/27/22)
The REALTORS® Confidence Index (RCI) survey gathers on-the-ground information from REALTORS® based on their real estate transactions in the month. This report presents key results about market transactions. Here are some highlights from September’s report:
First-time buyers represented 29% of buyers, virtually unchanged from one year ago and one month ago.
22% of buyers were all-cash sales, down slightly from 24% last month and 23% in September 2021.
70% of respondents reported properties sold in less than one month. Down from 81% a month ago and down from 86% in September 2021.
90% of buyers purchased in a suburb, small town, rural, or resort area, up slightly from last month and one year ago.
5 Ways to Increase the Value of Your Home
A lot of people question whether or not a certain “upgrade” or “project” will add value to their home when they decide to sell it down the road. Here are a few items that are proven to increase your home’s value:
CLEAN AND DE-CLUTTER
Cleaning and de-cluttering your home isn’t just a random recommendation I tell sellers so the listing pictures look better. I’m telling you, it seriously increases your home’s value. A clean, de-cluttered house shows so much better than a dirty messy house. Start in the cabinets and closets, make donation piles, trash piles, and keep piles! Whether you’re planning to sell your house or not, you should probably do this anyways…
MAKE YOUR HOME MORE ENERGY-EFFICIENT
Projects that lower utility bills is a smart way to increase the value of your home. Installing a smart thermostat, for example, helps improve efficiency and save money.
One of the most popular home improvement projects is painting or wallpapering. A fresh coat of paint can make even dated exteriors and interiors look fresh and new - and it’s not that expensive, either. Begin by repainting any rooms with an “odd” color scheme. For example, did you let your then-11-year-old daughter paint her bedroom hot pink 16 years ago? If so, that’s a good place to start!
IMPROVE YOUR HOME’S CURB APPEAL
From power washing your driveway to hiring someone to wash your windows and mow the lawn, improving curb appeal can make a big difference in your home’s value. In fact, curb appeal can account for as much as 7 percent of it, according to a 2020 joint study out of the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Alabama (Go Dawgs)
UPGRADE YOUR KITCHEN
Many buyers focus on the kitchen when purchasing a new home. However most of the time you won’t see a full return on your investment of a completely renovated kitchen. While this could turn into a much more expensive project than those listed above, it can be done in ways that still increase your value without spending $80,000. Some items that typically do increase value without losing money in the end are upgraded appliances, and modernized cabinet hardware.
4 Areas in Your Kitchen You Probably Forgot to Clean
Whether you’re a religious cleaner, or a once in a blue moon cleaner, there are probably a few areas you don’t think about often. Either way, now’s the perfect time to address those often-forgotten areas.
YOUR STOVE TOP CREVICES
You might be on the ball when it comes to wiping away visible splatters after cooking, but how often do you notice the nooks and crannies in and around the stove? If you can’t remember the last time you paid attention to those areas, it’s probably worth checking out. Katina Mountanos, founder and CEO of Kosterina Kitchen says, “I dab olive oil on a microfiber cloth, and it works wonders on stainless steel. While you can use pretty much any olive oil to shine up your stove, save the fancy stuff for cooking.”
YOUR ELECTRIC KETTLE
Tea and coffee-drinkers, this one’s for you. Carla Contreras, a professional chef, says electric kettles can quickly accumulate limescale. Luckily, it’s simple to clean. Contreras adds a cup of white vinegar and a cup of water to the kettle, brings it to a boil, and then lets it sit for 30 minutes before rinsing. Then, fill up the tea kettle with clean water, bring it to a boil, and rinse it again.
YOUR SILVERWARE DRAWER
Another commonly forgotten space is inside your silverware drawer. This area can get really dirty, especially if you are prepping food above and the drawer isn’t 100% closed. To clean, take everything out, including the drawer liner and silverware. If the drawer has a ton of crumbs, use a vacuum hose, then wipe down with hot soapy water and dry with a clean towel.
YOUR SPICE AND OIL/VINEGAR AREAS
A lot of the time when people are cooking they tend to grab, use, and put back,” he says. A lot of the time when we are cooking, we tend to grab, use, and put back our spices and oils. The easiest way to keep things tidy is to give these items a wipe-down every time you use them. To go the extra mile, keep your spice jars organized and easily accessible to prevent them from falling over or spilling. Another tip: Go through your spices, oils, and vinegar at least quarterly. Pull everything out and toss anything that is expired. This is also a great opportunity to take inventory of what you have and restock on anything you might be running low on.
10 Tips to Getting Your Home Market Ready
Have a close friend that you trust walk through your house and scrutinize every room from a buyer’s perspective. THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. As human beings we become comfortable with our surroundings – as you should, it’s your home! However, you may not notice the holes in the wall where you swung the door open a little too hard. Or you may not realize that the wallpaper you put in the bathroom hasn’t been changed since the 80’s. You’ll want honest feedback from an outside perspective, so it’s better to hear the hard stuff from a friend, than when reading feedback reports from buyers saying why they don’t want your home.
Paint rooms neutral colors. This is not mandatory, but will definitely help you in the long run. I don’t mean paint every room in your house, that’s a lot to do for a home you aren’t going to be living in much longer… but if you have family members that just couldn’t live without bright orange walls in their bedroom, that’s what I’m talking about! It doesn’t take much to slap a clean beige or gray on the walls, and it’s one less thing a buyer will feel like they have to change in order to make your house the perfect one for them!
Wash floors, walls, windows, etc. Clean ceiling fans, and vents. Get all the nasties out of your home! The cleaner the property, the more appealing it will be!
Shampoo or deep clean carpets. Especially if you have animals! Most people don’t even realize their homes’ have pet odors after so long of living in it, and smell is a very strong sense. You’d be surprised how many buyers walk away from homes simply because they smell dogs the second they walk in! A deep cleaning of the carpets will help eliminate a lot of those odors.
Pack away some belongings and de-clutter! You’re moving anyways! Go ahead and box up some of those knickknacks and collectables you have lying around. Imagine when you see magazine worthy homes – they may have some furnishings here and there, maybe some clocks or modern art on the walls, but the countertops and shelves are not covered with antique salt & pepper shaker collections!
Remove personal items. No religious stuff, and no family pictures. I am all for people expressing themselves and believing what they believe. From a selling point though, buyers can have a hard time envisioning themselves in a home that has your face everywhere, or religious doodads that they may not believe in. It’s nothing against you, or what you believe, we just want all potential buyers to envision themselves in your home in order to sell it to ANY potential buyer.
Secure any valuables. This should be a given, but I feel the need to say it! If you don’t have a safe in your home, get a safety deposit box at your bank so you can store your extra money, fine jewelry, passports, guns, and important documents. I like to believe the best in people, but we live in a world where not everyone can be trusted. When you have your home openly on the market, you don’t know who is taking a stroll through your bedroom! It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Remove any area rugs that might be covering your gorgeous hardwoods! Hardwood floors are a selling point in a home. Decorative runners or rugs are super cute, don’t get me wrong. Just make sure you’re showing off those pearly woods! You can even give them a quick mop and shine so they sparkle and catch people’s eyes.
Replace old door handles, and maybe even cabinet hardware. You’d be surprised how big of a difference handles can make on kitchen appearance!
Curb appeal!! I saved the best for last. When someone comes to see your home, the outside is the first AND last thing a buyer sees. Make sure it leaves a great impression. Whether this means pressure washing that GA clay of the house, or planting some bright flowers. Oh, and definitely mowing the lawn! If you don’t currently live in the home, make sure the outside is being kept up with.
Now that you’re equipped with these home selling tips, make sure to give me a call when you’re ready to get it on the market and get some offers! It’s a fantastic time to sell, and I would love to help you get top dollar for your property!
Steps to Selling Your Home
Time to sell your home? There’s a lot to do to get ready. You love and cherish your home. You want the next owner to fall in love with it, too — through photos, through words, and through the experience of walking through your front door. But, perhaps most, you want to net the most money possible. This isn’t a small task. Selling a home requires work. It requires time. The journey isn’t always easy. There will be frustrations. But when you seal the deal and move on to your next chapter — wow, what a blissful feeling, and sigh of relief.
Below, we’ll discuss how to know what you want (and what your partner wants, if you’re selling together). How to understand the market, and ways to make a plan. And most importantly? How to create relationships with experts and trust them to help you get the job done.
Now, let’s talk about selling your house.
Know exactly what you (and/or you and your partner) want and expect out of your sale
First things first: You need to know what you want (and what your partner wants) from the very start of this process. You need to know the Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Who will be the decision makers, and who is on the title? What needs to be taken care of before listing your home on the market? When exactly do you want that For Sale sign in your yard? Where are you moving to? And finally, why are you moving?
Do your research and catch up on the Real Estate Market
Unless you bought your home last week, the housing market changed since you became a homeowner. Mortgage rates fluctuate, inventory shifts over time, and every market is unique. Your agent will bring you up to speed on what is going on in the market, so trust them and listen to them! No matter what is going on, the behavior of the market will affect your sale.
Interview and Select the Best Agent for YOU!
Choosing the right agent for YOU is the most important part of this process. The relationship you create with your agent should be specific to you and what you expect to get out of it. Different personalities need different types of agents. If you prefer an agent that will communicate with you multiple times a day and update you every single step of the way, you need a very hands on agent. If you prefer an agent that will handle everything on their own and only contact you with the important details then make sure you choose one that will respect your wishes and knows exactly how you expect things to be taken care of. There are agents that host multiple Open Houses, and agents that don’t do any. There are agents that price a home correctly based on their knowledge of the market, and agents that will list at whatever price the homeowner thinks they deserve. Whatever you do, and whatever you want out of your agent/client relationship, make sure it is said upfront before signing any paperwork!
Price Your Home
Pricing your home correctly right when you put it on the market is only going to make your deal smoother and faster. There are many people who think they should list $20k-$30k above the true value just to test it out… this is going to harm you, and here’s why: Properties generate the most interest when they first hit the market, because the buying market has a short attention span. Once your home is emailed out to every buyer looking for a home with your criteria, chances are they won’t get that notification again. If they see your home is overpriced, they’ll overlook it and not give it a second thought. Proper pricing will attract buyers, and we want to generate offers before the market moves on to newer listings. The number of showings is always greatest the first week a home is on the market, so don’t miss out on all the activity “testing the waters”.
Your agent should be able to provide you will a very accurate market value, and show proof as to how they got that number. This number should be based on recent SALES in your area, not necessarily homes that are listed as active.
Prep Your Home
In today’s world, just about every buyer out there will see your home online before coming across it in person. Which means you have to make sure your house looks picture perfect (literally) when your agent sends a professional photographer out there. De-clutter your entire house from all the little knickknacks you have laying around, and make sure your countertops are mainly clear. Having boxes stored in your garage or basement will not kill a deal either! Buyers understand you are moving out, and are going to look past the boxes. However, it’s a lot harder for a buyer to see themselves living in a home that is filled top to bottom with your collectables and personal belongings.
That’s right, plural! Depending on what market you are in, and what price range your home is sitting at, you may very well be in a multiple offer situation. Historically speaking, your first offer is typically your best, however when multiple buyers are involved, they will fight to have the best offer. Your agent will be walking you through this as well.
Negotiate with the Buyer
Once you have an offer that you are willing to work with chances are you will want to negotiate a little bit more to your benefit. Your agent will walk you through this process to help you reach an agreement with the best outcome. Remember, money and sales price are not the only aspects to an offer. Make sure you are paying close attention to any special stipulations or contingencies that a buyer may have included in their offer.
Negotiate the Home Inspection Repairs
A home inspection is just as stressful to the buyer as it is the seller. Either way, it’s most likely going to get done. Most purchase and sale agreements are contingent upon a home inspection and buyers will request certain repairs to be made during their due diligence period. This period is a time for them to decide whether or not they want to move forward with the purchase, knowing all of the flaws and repairs needed done to the home. You have some more room to negotiate here, including certain repairs they buyer may ask for. Once again, your agent will be there to help you effectively communicate with the buyer.
Be prepared for all outcomes of the Appraisal Report
Once you get past the home inspection, the next major step is the appraisal. The appraisal is ordered by the buyer’s lender and chances are you won’t even see the report unless it comes in low. Some sellers get their own appraisal before listing their home, which is great! But keep in mind that not all appraisers are the same, and the only one that really matters is the one the lender sends out there. If priced correctly from the start, appraisals shouldn’t be an issue. However, there are times that they do come in low and your agent should prepare you for all the “what ifs” if it were to happen. Basically all the appraisal is, is a list of comparable properties proving what that appraiser thinks the value of your home is, and whatever number they come up with is all that buyer’s lender is going to lend them. For example, if you list your property at $300,000, and the buyer wants to buy it at that price, but the appraisal comes in at $275,000, the buyer will either have to come up with $25,000 out of pocket to cover the difference, or the seller has to drop the price. If you cannot come to an agreement with the buyer, they have the right to terminate the contract within their appraisal contingency and move on to a different home. Listing agents do have the right to fight the appraisal if necessary, but it’s up to the appraiser to adjust their market value if they want to.
Closing the Sale
Closing day is the day you’ve been waiting for. This is where you go into the attorney’s office, sign the final paperwork, and collect your money via check or wire transfer! Before you go in to close, you will have to prepare your home for the Buyer’s final walk-through. Be prepared to troubleshoot any last minute issues if they are to appear. Vacant listings that have been sitting empty for months at a time can definitely endure issues prior to the final walk-through. Make sure if able, that you check on the house every couple of days to verify there are no leaks, cracks, or any major issues that have come up since the inspection has taken place.
Home Buying and Selling During a Pandemic
Technology and good-old-fashioned creativity are helping agents, buyers, and sellers abide by COVID-19 health and safety practices while getting deals done.
Some buyers are touring houses virtually. Others visit in person while remaining at least six feet from their agent. Sellers are hosting open houses on Facebook Live. Appraisers are doing drive-by valuations. Buyers are watching inspections via video call. Masked and gloved notaries are getting signatures on doorsteps.
Here’s what home buying and selling during the pandemic looks like.
Showings Go Virtual
The rules around in-person showings vary by city, county, and state. Some allow them and some ban them. Check with your state, county, and local government to get the latest on business closures and shut-down rules.
Agents have conducted home tours via FaceTime and other similar tools for years. But these platforms have proven invaluable for home buying and selling during the pandemic. Real estate sites report a surge in the creation of 3D home tours. Redfin, a real estate brokerage, saw a 494% increase in requests for video home tours in March 2020.
In places where in-person showings are allowed, agents wipe down door handles, spray the lockbox with disinfectant, and open up the house, closets, everything for a client. We leave all the lights on so no one touches switches, and our clients don’t touch cabinets or doors during showings.
The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, which produces HouseLogic, recommends only one buyer enter a home at a time, with 6 feet between each guest. NAR also recommends agents have potential buyers wash their hands, or use hand sanitizer when they come in the door. They should also remove their shoes. No children should be present at showings, either.
Desktop, Drive-By Appraisals
Appraisers are essential workers in many areas, so home valuations are continuing. But often remotely. New temporary rules from the Federal Housing Finance Authority allow drive-by and desktop appraisals for loans backed by the federal government.
In a desktop appraisal, the appraiser comes up with a home estimate based on tax records and multiple listing service information, without an in-person visit. For a drive-by, the appraiser only looks at the home's exterior, in combination with a desktop appraisal.
On the other hand, some private lenders still require in-person appraisals, which are allowed even in areas with shutdown orders. Private lenders hold about 35% of first-lien mortgages, according to the Urban Institute.
When appraisers come to your home, they should adhere to CDC guidelines, including wearing gloves and a face mask, keeping at least 6 feet apart from anyone in the home, and asking if the homeowners have been sick or traveled recently to a COVID-19 hot spot.
Inspections Via Live Video
Inspectors are now often working alone, no buyers in tow, and using hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes. The National Association of Certified Home Inspectors advises inspectors to videotape their inspection so clients can watch it at home later, or to use FaceTime or other live video chat apps to take their clients along on the inspection, virtually. They can also call clients with their findings after they’re done.
The American Society of Home Inspectors has also issued guidelines for inspectors so they keep themselves and the homeowners safe while providing an accurate assessment of a home's condition.
Mortgage Rates and Locks
With mortgage rates fluctuating quickly and closing times taking longer than usual, some lenders are extending mortgage rate lock periods. You can grab a good rate and hang on to it even if your lender takes longer than usual to process your loan.
But the protocol depends on the lender and the loan. Some lenders are offering this for all loans; others for refis. Check with your lender about its policy.
Remote Notarization Depends On Where You Live
About one-half of states have permanent remote online notarization (RON) policies. These allow a notary and signer in different locations to sign electronic document, usually by use of video apps like Zoom or FaceTime. Notaries will watch you sign either a paper document or do an electronic signature on an e-doc, via camera.
Some states have rolled out temporary rules allowing RON. Here’s a state-by-state list of notary law updates, and the type of remote notarization allowed. The number of states allowing remote notarization could grow as federal and state pandemic legislation expands.
So, Should You Buy or Sell?
The real estate industry is creatively and safely responding to the situation, and mortgage rates remain low. Your agent is a great source of information about home buying and selling during the pandemic to help you feel comfortable. But, ultimately, it's a question only you can answer.