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Is fall the new spring for real estate in 2020?

Mortgage rates likely to remain at record lows amid pandemic

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fall real estate, gay news, Washington Blade
The new fall season should remain robust.

As the summer market ends and the start of the fall real estate season begins it looks as though the historically fast-paced summer and spring seasons will carry over to the colder seasons. So, does that mean fall is the new spring real estate season? It sure seems to look that way. With record-low mortgage rates, accelerated activity, high demand for homes with less inventory, and a change of buyer needs, get ready for a strong fall housing market in the D.C. metro area.

Record-Low Mortgage Rates Hovering Around 3%

In the last month, D.C. sale prices grew by 13.8% and the current median price of U.S. homes climbed to $323,807 which is a 5.6% increase from this time last year. In four short months, the U.S. housing market has fully recovered and is even looking better than in 2019. However, mortgage rates have stayed at record lows. The Federal Reserve has kept interest rates low throughout the pandemic in an attempt to keep the economy moving. Their attempt has been successful as 2020’s housing market has outperformed 2019 with a prediction from the National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yung that this year’s home sales will surge past the 5.34 million homes sold in 2019.

Accelerated Activity: High Demand With Less Inventory

The fall real estate season should drastically surpass previous seasons particularly due to increased activity. Along with low mortgage rates comes less inventory. Realtors across the country are seeing a surplus in clients and a decrease in available homes. Simply put, there just aren’t enough homes to keep up with the current demand. Because of the incredibly high demand, current projections forecast the aggressive competition among prospective buyers seen this summer to continue into the fall season. Average homes for sale are expected to continue the trend of multiple offers, causing the average home price to jump considerably. Along with the current trends, we are also seeing first-time homebuyers fearlessly make the jump to homeowner status.

Changing Needs

While our current norm of daily living has evolved so have the needs of our home. The need for multifunctional, spacious homes has increased. Before  the pandemic, a three-bedroom, two-bath, kitchen with upgraded appliances, and a comfy living room was enough for homebuyers to sign their name on the dotted line. However, as the world-wide pandemic carries on life as we once knew homeowners’ needs have altered. With an unprecedented number of Americans working from home and the strong indication that this will continue after the eradication of the COVID-19 pandemic, homebuyers are looking for a home, workplace, and school all in one. With the increase of Americans working from home, location becomes less of a deal-breaker as it once was allowing prospective buyers to expand their search parameters.

“Zoom rooms” is an increasingly popular phrase being thrown around when searching for a new home. Zoom rooms are considered aesthetically pleasing rooms that are ideal for virtual meetings, not just rooms with 70-inch displays, camera, and noise-canceling microphone arrays, which is what a Zoom room technically is defined as. With students at home while virtually learning, having space for children’s various needs such as a safe space outside has homebuyers altering their needs.

With the fast pace at which homes are being sold, mortgage rates likely to remain at record lows, and a pandemic that has altered how Americans live it is safe to assume that fall may be the new spring for real estate in 2020. 

If you’re in the market for a new home, the Glass House team would love to help you buy and sell anywhere in the D.C. metro area. We offer a low, flat rate, commission fee for sellers and a commission rebate program for home buyers. Glass House Real Estate is a more modern and affordable way to buy and sell real estate and we’re here for you. 

Khalil El-Ghoul is principal broker of Glass House Real Estate. Reach him at [email protected], 571-235-4821. Glass House Real Estate is a modern, more affordable way to buy and sell a home in the DC Metro area. Learn more about what makes us different at glassshousere.com.

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Real Estate

5 tips for buying property in Rehoboth Beach

Local Realtors offer advice for navigating real estate boom

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Lee Ann Wilkinson and Chris Beagle offer advice on navigating Rehoboth Beach’s hot real estate market. (Blade file photo of Wilkinson by Daniel Truitt; photo of Beagle courtesy Beagle)

The pandemic has sent real estate prices soaring to unprecedented heights as more and more buyers look to secure properties. The trend has proven especially strong in beach towns and second home markets — with Rehoboth Beach, Del. no exception.

The Blade spoke with five local Realtors and asked for their tips for buying property amid a boom in the Rehoboth Beach real estate market.

Tip 1: Find a compatible Realtor

The pandemic has been a period of widespread uncertainty. For buyers, this means that staying up-to-date on the real estate market’s conditions and the availability of properties is all the more important, because they can change every day, said Lee Ann Wilkinson, CEO of The Lee Ann Wilkinson Group of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Gallo Realty.

Russell Stucki, a Realtor with RE/MAX Realty Group Rehoboth, added that it is helpful to have a Realtor with year-round experience in the area, as they will be better informed about the market as a whole.

Once you have a Realtor, it is important to communicate what you want so they can approach the market with your interests in mind, Wilkinson added.

“That’s number one, find a really good Realtor who can represent you and knows what you’re looking for,” she said. That way, when “property becomes available, you are notified immediately and can be competitive with other buyers.”

Tip 2: Get pre-approved for a loan

In the current real estate market, it is important that buyers enter the process of looking for a property prepared, said Chris Beagle, a Realtor at Berkshire-Hathaway-Gallo Realty. For those not paying in cash, this includes obtaining a pre-approval letter from the start that indicates a lender is willing to provide you the funds required to close on a purchase.

“Too often people wait and then find a property and go in the reverse order,” preparing their financial documents afterwards, Beagle explained. In the current market, “time is of the essence.”

“Be prepared to have very few if no contingencies in your contract, like inspections and financing,” Wilkinson added. “That doesn’t mean you have to have the cash to buy the house — it just means that you have to be able to prove you can buy the house without being contingent on financing.”

Tip 3: Act quickly and decisively

With so many different people looking to buy properties in the Rehoboth Beach area, it is important to make decisions as soon as possible, said Andrew Whitescarver, a Realtor with RE/MAX Realty Group Rehoboth.

“The best advice I can give a buyer is: If you see a house online you are interested in, do not wait until the weekend to come see it. The house will be gone,” he explained. Instead, “schedule a virtual walk through” as soon as you can.

If you are ready to make an offer on a certain property, “make a clean offer with an escalation clause” for it to remain competitive with other buyers, Whitescarver added.

“This is not a sleep-on-it market. You have to act quickly and decisively,” agreed Joe Sterner, a Realtor at Keller Williams Realty. “If you want something, you’re going to have to be a little aggressive. This is not the market where you can bid … under the list price.”

While there might be some room for price negotiation on properties that have been listed for more than 10 days, “you have to go into it expecting that you’re going to be paying at least list price” for recently listed homes.

Tip 4: Keep your options open

With properties selling quickly, it is important to be flexible with what you are looking for if you are buying on a budget, Wilkinson said. By “looking outside of the box,” you can “broaden your expectations so you can have more properties that would work for you,” including those that did not sell immediately and can be purchased at a better price.

“It’s a seller’s market,” Stucki added, making it potentially harder to find an exact match because “we have limited inventory.”

“Look at those things that maybe aren’t what everybody else is looking at, and see how you can make them work for you” without getting caught up in specific “contingencies” that might make securing a property less realistic, Wilkinson suggested.

Tip 5: Don’t lose hope

Although navigating such a heated market can be daunting, especially for first-time buyers, Beagle noted that it is important to stay invested and focus on securing a property that works for you.

“It does become frustrating for buyers … because a home purchase is an emotional process, and people become emotionally attached to a property and get their hopes up,” he said. Despite the challenges, “it’s a learning process” which “inexperienced buyers have to go through” in order to get what they want, requiring a level of commitment, he explained.

While the future of the Rehoboth Beach real estate market is uncertain, Stucki pointed to some changes the city has seen over the course of the pandemic that have proven beneficial.
“As far as the area is concerned, we’ve grown and diversified. We’ve experienced an influx of creative talent with all the different varieties of activities, entertainment … (and) art,” he said. Moving forward, Stucki expects Rehoboth Beach properties “will continue to maintain or exceed” their current values.

But Sterner added that, although there is still a housing boom, the market is “slowing down” some, which might help new buyers enter the market.

Beagle noted that this year is an election year for the state, and periods of uncertainty like election seasons are not historically “favorable for the market.”

He added that he is unsure how sustainable the current market is. “I don’t know that the industry could continue to sustain itself with the rapid increases in value that we’ve experienced over the last two-and-a-half years,” he said, predicting some level of “stabilization” in the market.

Beagle offered one final piece of advice: “If we’ve learned nothing else these last couple of years, expect the unexpected.”

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Real Estate

How much home can I afford with rising interest rates?

Put your best foot forward when making an offer

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In today’s hot market, there are often stories of bidding wars and multiple offers.

For many, purchasing a home is a significant, exciting expenditure. It’s one of the biggest financial decisions many people make, and it’s one that is worth considering carefully. Often, in a market as competitive and fast-moving as the current one, homebuyers find themselves looking at potential homes and realizing that a highly competitive offer may be necessary. There are often stories of bidding wars and multiple offers being made on available homes in a matter of days. 

While that may not be the case forever, what will remain true is that most homebuyers want to put their best foot forward when making an offer. Most buyers want to find a home they love, that they can bid on competitively, and that they can afford if they end up being the chosen buyer. This begs the question – what type of offer is reasonable to make given your financial circumstances? How much home can you afford? These are important questions to ask.

A closer look at the calculations

Determining how much you can comfortably spend on the mortgage for a new home while still meeting all of your other existing financial obligations is an important calculation to make ahead of time. After all, purchasing a home is a decision that can significantly impact your financial situation, so you want to be sure that you’re fully informed and that you feel confident in the choice you make. 

Often, the rule of thumb where mortgages are concerned is that you can “afford” a mortgage that is around 2 to 2.5 times your income. A mortgage payment is typically made up of four primary components – principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. It is important to consider each of these components when determining the total amount of the mortgage, and what percentage of your annual gross income will go toward that payment. Often called the front-end ratio, or mortgage-to-income ratio, you’ll want to consider that percentage and usually seek to secure a mortgage payment that does not exceed roughly 28 to 30% of your annual gross income. Considering the numbers is only a part of the picture, however.

Looking beyond the numbers

Making this decision is not always strictly a matter of numbers and calculations. It also involves carefully considering your priorities and preferences and truly making a decision that you feel will give you the freedom to live in a home that you love and enjoy, while also continuing to maintain the lifestyle that you love. Determining how much house you can afford will depend on a variety of factors, including:

Your loan amount and the term of years over which your mortgage will last;

Your income;

Your total monthly expenses;

Any taxes you might be required to pay, property or otherwise;

Current mortgage rates and estimated closing costs;

Any homeowners’ association fees;

Any other relevant factors that you determine should be considered in consultation with a trusted agent. 

After considering all of these factors, be certain to keep in mind that it’s also important to be realistic as you make your decision about what you can comfortably afford. Don’t underestimate your monthly expenses. It may not be helpful to tell yourself that you’ll cut back on leisure spending if you don’t think you really will, or to underestimate what you might need in an emergency fund for unexpected events. Doing so can often leave you in a difficult spot where debt can accumulate quickly. If anything, it’s best to overestimate your expenses so that you have some breathing room in your budget. 

We’re here for you

Wherever you are in the real estate process – if you’re searching for the perfect home to buy, considering whether now is the time to sell, or anywhere in between – at GayRealEstate.com, we’re here for you. We are passionate about connecting LGBTQ buyers and sellers across the country with talented, experienced, and LGBTQ-friendly real estate agents who know and love the communities in which they live and are ready to help you calculate just how much home you can afford, and connect you with a top LGBTQ+ mortgage lender for prequalification. Having the right agent can make all the difference to your real estate experience, and we want it to be the very best it can be. If we can help you, visit us at GayRealEstate.com today to get connected and get started. 

Jeff Hammerberg is founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at 303-378-5526 or [email protected]

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Real Estate

Reunited with Pride of ownership

Interest rates are up and (some) prices are coming down

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As interest rates rise, we’re seeing fewer properties with multiple offers and over-the-top bidding wars.

Across the DMV, people are celebrating being reUNITED with friends and family, after missing large scale Pride month events in 2020 and attending them virtually or belatedly in 2021 due to COVID-19. 

People who were lucky enough to keep a job during the height of the pandemic began working from home. Others became stay-at-home parents and part-time teachers. Whether rented or owned, their dining rooms, spare bedrooms, and breakfast nooks became ersatz office spaces and classrooms, complete with computers, faster Internet service, ergonomic chairs and Zoom software.

Soon, even those of us who would never have considered doing more manual labor than sending an electronic payment to a contractor took on do-it-yourself (DIY) challenges to make their environment more conducive to life as we had begun to know it.

As time dragged on, the DIY home improvement industry grew exponentially. According to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, spending on improvements and repairs grew by 3% to $420 billion nationwide in 2020 alone. By May 2020, 80% of respondents to their home improvement survey indicated that they had begun a project themselves in the previous three weeks.

Renters, normally feeling constrained to leave boring white walls intact, learned that paint colors can be changed (and changed back) and that there are such things as peel and stick wallpaper and backsplash tiles, which can easily be removed. 

Homeowners, naturally, had more options to change things permanently. They laid flooring, renovated kitchens, turned bathtubs into showers, and completed those annoying “honey do’s” that had been languishing for months. Many developed a sense of pride in their new DIY skills. Others wrung their hands, whispering to no one, “What have I done?”. 

Those who could, took advantage of a robust seller’s market, garnering unheard of sales prices during bidding wars, and either buying something larger, newer, or more suited to a stay-at-home lifestyle, or even moving to a lower cost area where they could still work remotely.

With interest rates rising, we are now starting to see the market calming a bit. While inventory has not increased substantially and bidding wars are still prevalent, the number of days a home is actively on the market has increased and we are starting to see price reductions in some areas.

For example, a recent search of our local multiple listing service, Bright MLS, for two-bedroom condominiums in Dupont Circle (20009) produced a total of 47 units priced under $800,000. Days on the market ranged from one to 254 (!), with an average of 44. 

We are seeing price reductions there averaging 1.7% and, while the asking prices of these homes still hover around $646,000, the largest reduction in this category and neighborhood (so far) has been $66,000 – nearly a full 10% off. 

On the high end, there are only 11 detached homes available for under $3,000,000 in zip code 20016, which encompasses American University Park, Tenleytown, and other points west of Wisconsin Avenue. This area also has seen occasional price reductions with the largest being $140,000, almost 5% off in that case. 

Branching out into the suburbs, one of 14 three- and four-bedroom townhouses in Silver Spring, Md., will run you anywhere from $375,000 to $745,000, but most that have been on the market for 20 days or more are showing discounts of $25,000 to $40,000 off the original list price.

On the opposite side of the Beltway in Fairfax County, Va., you can find 28 similar resale townhouses in Alexandria on the market for 30 days or less. Only four have been discounted and by no more than $15,000.

So, what does this mean?

For sellers, it means being more judicious in pricing to offset rising interest rates. Contrary to the words of Gordon Gekko, greed is NOT good. There will continue to be multiple offers on properties that have the most desirable locations and features, but there will likely not be 20 competitors and off-the-chart price escalations seen at the height of the pandemic.

For buyers, getting a home for a more reasonable price is a great consolation prize for paying more in interest. Being able to revisit a home that is still available after any given Tuesday is also a plus, but you may need to hone your DIY skills to prepare for upgrading a house that needs a little more love.

Remember, most of what’s happening in Akron or Los Angeles isn’t relevant here. Be guided by the definitive source for information about the hyper-local market – your real estate agent – to be reUNITED with friends and family in your new home. 

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate / @properties. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs

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