Montague Miller Blog

Montague Miller Blog Home

Subscribe and receive email notifications of new blog posts.




rss logo RSS Feed
buying a home | 90 Posts
mortgage | 3 Posts
real estate news | 42 Posts
selling a home | 25 Posts
Uncategorized | 8 Posts
May
1

Our nation is in the midst of a serious housing crunch. Last year, a lack of inventory and soaring prices left many would-be homebuyers feeling pinched. But now, with interest rates climbing, many of them are also feeling desperate to lock in a mortgage—which has only added fuel to the fire.1

Fortunately, if you're a buyer struggling to find a home, we have some good news. While it's true that higher mortgage rates can decrease your purchasing budget, there are additional ways to compete in a hot market.

Yes, a high offer price gets attention. But most sellers consider a variety of factors when evaluating an offer. With that in mind, here are five tactics you can utilize to sweeten your proposal and outshine your competition.

We can help you weigh the risks and benefits of each tactic and craft a compelling offer designed to get you your dream home—without giving away the farm. 

1.   Demonstrate Solid Financing

The reality is, no one gets paid if a home sale falls through. That's why sellers (and their listing agents) favor offers with a high probability of closing.

Sellers particularly love all-cash offers because there's no chance of financing issues cropping up at the last moment. But don't despair if you can't pay cash for your home. According to the National Association of Realtors, only about 1 in 4 home purchases are all-cash deals, which means the vast majority are financed with a mortgage.2

If sellers are assured that financing will come through, buying with a mortgage doesn't have to be a big disadvantage. The most important step you can take as a buyer is to get preapproved before you start looking for homes. A preapproval letter shows sellers that you are serious about buying and that you will be able to make good on your offer.

It's also important to consider the reputation of your lender. While sellers may not know or care about a lender's reputation, their agents often do. Some lenders are much easier to work with than others, especially if you are pursuing certain types of mortgages like FHA or VA loans.3 If so, you'll want a lender who specializes in these types of mortgages. If you're unsure who to choose, we are happy to refer you to reputable lenders known for their ease of doing business.

2.   Put Down a Sizeable Deposit

Buyers can show sellers that they're serious about their offer and have "skin in the game" by putting down a large earnest money deposit.

Earnest money is a deposit held in escrow by a title company or the seller's broker or lawyer.  If the purchase goes through, it is applied to the down payment and closing costs—if the sale falls through, the buyer may lose some or all of that deposit.

While an earnest money deposit is typically around 1-2% of the sale price, offering a higher deposit can help demonstrate to the buyer that you are serious about the property.4 However, this strategy can also be risky. We can help you determine an appropriate deposit to offer based on your specific circumstances.

3.   Ask for Few (or No) Contingencies

Most real estate offers include contingencies, which are clauses that allow one or both parties to back out of the agreement if certain conditions are not met. These contingencies appear in the purchase agreement and must be accepted by both the buyer and seller to be legally binding.5

Common contingencies include:

  • Financing: A financing contingency gives the buyer a window of time in which to secure a mortgage. If they are unable to do so, they can withdraw from the purchase and the seller can move on to other buyers.
  • Inspection: An inspection contingency gives the buyer the opportunity to have the home professionally inspected for issues with the structure, wiring, plumbing, etc. Typically, the seller may choose whether or not to remediate those issues; if they do not, the buyer may withdraw from the contract.
  • Appraisal: Most lenders will not offer a mortgage on a home that costs more than it's worth. An appraisal contingency gives the buyer an opportunity to get the home professionally assessed to ensure that its value is at or above the sales price. If an appraisal comes in low, the seller may be asked to renegotiate the contract.
  • Sale of a prior home: Some buyers cannot afford to purchase a new home until they sell their previous one. If the buyer is unable to sell their current home within a specified window of time, this contingency enables them to withdraw from the contract without penalty.

Since contingencies reduce the likelihood that a sale will go through, they generally make an offer less desirable to the seller. The more contingencies that are included, the weaker the offer becomes. Therefore, buyers in a competitive market often volunteer to waive certain contingencies.

However, it's very important to make this decision carefully and recognize the risks of doing so. For example, a buyer who chooses to waive a home inspection contingency may find out too late that the home requires extensive renovations, and a buyer who waives the appraisal may risk their mortgage falling through. If you back out of a home purchase without the protection of a contingency, you could lose your earnest money deposit.6 We can help you assess the risks and benefits involved.

4. Offer a Flexible Closing Date and/or Leaseback Option

When it comes to selling a house, money isn't everything. People sell their homes for a wide variety of reasons, and flexible terms that work with their personal situations can sometimes make all the difference. For example, if a seller is in the process of planning a significant move, they may prefer a longer closing timeline that gives them time to find housing in their new location.

Similarly, short-term leaseback options, in which the sale is completed but the seller retains the right to rent the home for a specified period of time, can be compelling.7 These arrangements enable the seller to use the money from the sale of their home to purchase their next house. A leaseback agreement also makes it possible for them to avoid moving twice when their next home is not yet ready to occupy.

Flexible closing dates and leaseback options can provide a powerful advantage for first-time homebuyers. If you have a month-to-month or easily transferable lease, for example, you may be able to offer a more flexible timeline than a buyer who is simultaneously selling their existing home.

Of course, the value of these terms depends on the seller's situation. We can reach out to the listing agent to find out the seller's preferred terms, and then collaborate with you to write a compelling offer that works for both parties.  

5. Work With a Skilled Buyer's Agent

In this ultra-competitive real estate market, one of the greatest advantages you can give yourself is to work with a skilled and trustworthy real estate professional. We will make sure you fully understand the process and help you submit an appealing offer without taking on too much risk.

Plus, we know how to write offers that are designed to win over both the seller and their listing agent. The truth is, listing agents play a huge role in helping sellers evaluate offers, and they want to work with skilled buyer's agents who are professional, communicative, and courteous.

Once your offer is accepted, we'll also handle any further negotiations and coordinate all the paperwork and other details involved in your home purchase. The best part is, you'll have a knowledgeable, licensed advocate on your side who is watching out for your best interests every step of the way.

Helping You Get to the Right Offer

In many cases, a competitive offer doesn't need to be all-cash, contingency-free, or significantly above asking price. But if you're serious about buying a home in today's market, it's important to consider what you can do to sweeten the deal.

If you're a buyer, we can help you compete in today's market without getting steamrolled. And if you're a seller, we can help you evaluate offers by taking all the relevant factors into account. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

Sources:

  1. National Association of Realtors -
    https://www.nar.realtor/newsroom/pending-home-sales-dwindle-4-1-in-february
  2. National Association of Realtors -
    https://www.nar.realtor/newsroom/existing-home-sales-fade-7-2-in-february
  3. Forbes -
    https://www.forbes.com/advisor/mortgages/housing-crisis-tips/
  4. com -
    https://www.realtor.com/advice/finance/earnest-money-deposit-mistakes-buyers-make/
  5. Bankrate -
    https://www.bankrate.com/real-estate/contingency-clause/
  6. Home Buying Institute -
    http://www.homebuyinginstitute.com/mortgage/risks-of-waiving-a-contingency/
  7. com -
    https://www.realtor.com/advice/sell/what-is-a-rent-back-agreement
April
27

April
26

April
26

April
4

Charlottesville Area Association REALTORS® inducted Barbara McMurry of Montague Miller & Co. – Westfield to the CAAR REALTOR® Hall of Fame, the highest career honor. This accolade acknowledges outstanding and exceptional contributions for more than 25 years of continuous service to the local, state, and national Associations.

Montague Miller & Company is pleased to announce that our associates were awarded the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® 2021 Professional Honor Society Awards commending member achievements for 2021 - Percy Montague, IV, Trish Owens, Anita Dunbar, Rives Bailey, Pat Sury, Patricia A. Crabtree, and John Farmer.

Montague Miller & Company is pleased to announce that our associates Cindy Reed and Carrie Brown in our Madison Office received the Greater Piedmont REALTORS® 2021 Honor Society Awards commending member achievements for 2021.

Help us congratulate Cindy and Carrie!
April
2

We're still in a seller's market, but that doesn't mean your home is guaranteed to easily sell.1 If you want to maximize your sale price, it's still important to prepare your home before putting it on the market.

Start by connecting with a real estate agent as soon as possible. Having the eyes and ears of an insightful real estate professional on your side can help you boost your home's appeal to buyers. What's more, beginning the preparation process early allows you to tackle repairs and upgrades that can increase your property's value.

Use the checklist below to figure out what other tasks you should complete in the months leading up to listing your home. While everyone's situation is unique, these guidelines will help you make sure you're ready to sell when the time is right. Of course, you can always call us if you're not sure where to start or what to tackle first. We can help customize a plan that works for you.

AS SOON AS YOU THINK OF SELLING

Some home sellers want to plan their future move far in advance, while others will be required to pack up on very short notice. Whatever your circumstances, these first steps will help assure you'll be ahead of the listing game.

  • Contact Your Real Estate Agent

We go the extra mile when it comes to servicing our clients, and that includes a series of complimentary, pre-listing consultations to help you prepare your home for the market.

Some sellers make the mistake of waiting until they are ready to list their home to contact a real estate agent. But we've found that the earlier we're brought into the process, the better the result. That often means a faster sale—and more money in your pocket after closing.

We know what buyers want in today's market, and we can help devise a plan to maximize your property's appeal. We can also connect you with our trusted network of contractors, vendors, and service professionals, so you'll be sure to get the VIP treatment. This network of support can alleviate stress and help ensure you get everything done in the weeks or months leading up to listing.

  • Address Major Issues and Upgrades

In most cases, you won't need to make any major renovations before you list. But if you're selling an older home, or if you have any doubt about its condition, it's best to get us involved as soon as possible so we can help you assess any necessary repairs.

In some instances, we may recommend a pre-listing inspection. Although it's less common in a seller's market, a pre-listing inspection can help you avoid potential surprises down the road. We can discuss the pros and cons during our initial meeting.

This is the time to address major structural, systems, or cosmetic issues that could hurt the sale of your home down the line. For example, problems with the frame, foundation, or roof are likely to be flagged on an inspection report. Issues with the HVAC system, electrical wiring, or plumbing may cause the home to be unsafe. And sometimes outdated or unpopular design features can limit a home's sales potential.

Remember, when you're dealing with major repairs or renovations, it's best to give yourself as much time as possible. Given rampant labor and material shortages, starting right away can help you avoid costly delays.2 Contact us so we can guide you on the updates that are worth your time and investment.

1 MONTH (OR MORE) BEFORE YOU LIST

Once any large-scale renovations have been addressed, you can turn your attention to the more minor updates that still play a major role in how buyers perceive your home.

  • Make Minor Repairs

Look for any unaddressed maintenance or repair issues, such as water spots, pest activity, and rotten siding. This is the time to take care of those small annoyances like squeaky hinges, sticking doors, and leaky faucets, too.

Many of these issues can be handled by going the DIY route and using a few simple tools. Tackle the ones you can and be sure to call a professional for the ones you're not comfortable doing yourself. We can refer you to local service providers who can help.

Remember that it's easy to overlook these small issues because you live with them. When you work with us, you get a fresh set of eyes on your home—so you don't miss any important repairs that could make a big difference to buyers.

  • Refresh Your Design

This is a great time to think about some simple design updates that can make a significant impression on buyers. For example, a fresh coat of paint is an easy and affordable way to spruce up your home. One survey found that interior paint offered a 107% return on investment.3 For broad appeal, opt for warm, neutral colors.

 And never underestimate the importance of good curb appeal. Homes with good curb appeal sell for 7% more, on average, than similar homes with an "uninviting exterior."4 If weather permits, lay fresh sod where needed, plant colorful flowers, and add some new mulch to your beds.

Even just repositioning your furniture can make a huge difference to buyers. A survey by the Real Estate Staging Association found that staged homes sold faster, and 73% sold over list price.5 We can refer you to a local stager or offer our insights and suggestions if you prefer the DIY route.

  • Declutter and Depersonalize

Doing a little bit of decluttering every day is a lot easier than trying to take care of it all at once right before your home hits the market. A simple strategy is to do this one room at a time, working your way through each space whenever you have a bit of free time. 

Start by donating or discarding items that you no longer want or need. Then pack up any seasonal items, family photos, and personal collections you can live without for the next few weeks. Bonus: This will give you a head start on packing for your move!

1 WEEK BEFORE YOU GO TO MARKET

With just one week before your home is available for sale, all major items should be crossed off your to-do list. Now it's time to focus on the small details that will really make your home shine. Here are a few key areas to focus on during this last week.

  • Check-In With Your Agent

 We'll connect again to make sure we're aligned on the listing price, marketing plan, and any remaining prep. We will be there every step of the way, ensuring you're fully prepared to maximize the sale of your home.

  • Tidy Your Exterior

You've already done the major landscaping—now it's time to tackle the last few details. Make sure your lawn is freshly mowed, hedges are trimmed, and flower beds are weeded.

 In addition, now is the time to clean your home's exterior if you haven't already. Power wash your siding, empty the gutters, and wash all your windows and screens.

  • Deep Clean Your Interior

 Your house should be deep cleaned before listing, including a thorough deodorizing of the home's interior and steam cleaning for all carpets. Consider hiring a professional cleaning company to ensure the space smells and looks as fresh as possible.

 In addition to cleaning, take some time to tidy up. Buyers will look inside your closets, pantries, and cabinets, so make sure they are neat and organized. Small appliances and toiletries should be cleared off the countertops.

DAY OF SHOWING

 Now you're all set to go and there are just a few small things you need to handle on the day of showings or open houses. Do a final walk-through and take care of these finishing touches to give potential buyers the best possible impression.

  • Pre-Showing Prep

Happy and comfortable buyers are more likely to submit offers! Make them feel at home by adjusting the thermostat to a comfortable temperature. Open any blinds and curtains throughout the house, and turn on all lights so buyers can see all the potential in your home.

 Then tidy up by vacuuming and sweeping floors, emptying (or hiding) trash cans, and wiping down countertops. In the bathrooms, close toilet lids and hang clean hand towels.

 Don't forget to secure firearms, jewelry, sensitive documents, prescription medications, and any other items of value in a safe or store them off-site.

 Finally, it's best to have pets out of the house during showings. If possible, you should also remove evidence of pets (litter box, dog beds, etc.), which can be a turn-off for some buyers.

DON'T WAIT TO PREP YOUR HOME FOR SELLING

 If you want to get top dollar for your home, don't put it on the market before it's ready. The right preparation can make all the difference when it comes to maximizing the offers you get. The upgrades and changes you need to make will depend upon your home's condition, so don't wait to speak with an agent.

 Call our team if you're thinking about selling your home, even if you're not sure when. It's never too early to seek the guidance of your real estate agent and start preparing your home to sell.

 Sources:

  1. Fortune -
    https://fortune.com/2022/02/08/should-i-buy-house-sellers-market-housing-real-estate-fannie-mae/
  2. Forbes -
    https://www.forbes.com/advisor/home-improvement/labor-materials-shortage-impacts-renovations/
  3. PR Web -
    https://www.prweb.com/releases/2012-homegain/home-improvement-survey/prweb9433460.htm
  4. Realtor Magazine -
    https://magazine.realtor/daily-news/2020/01/27/how-much-does-curb-appeal-affect-home-value
  5. Real Estate Staging Association -
    https://www.realestatestagingassociation.com/content.aspx?page_id=22&club_id=304550&module_id=164548
March
15

If you're thinking of selling your house this year, timing is crucial. After all, you'll want to balance getting the most out of the sale of your current home and making the best investment when you buy your next one.

If that's the case, you should know – you may be able to get the best of both worlds today. Here are four reasons why this spring may be your golden window of opportunity.

1. The Number of Homes on the Market Is Still Low

Today's limited supply of houses for sale is putting sellers in the driver's seat. There are far more buyers in the market today than there are homes available. That means purchasers are eagerly waiting for your house.

Listing your house now makes it the center of attention. And if you work with a real estate professional to price your house correctly, you can expect it to sell quickly and likely get multiple strong offers this season.

2. Your Equity Is Growing in Record Amounts

According to the most recent Homeowner Equity Insight report from CoreLogic, homeowners are sitting on record amounts of equity thanks to recent home price appreciation. The report finds that the average homeowner has gained $55,300 in equity over the past year.

That much equity can open doors for you to make a move. If you've been holding off on selling because you're worried about how rising prices will impact your next home search, rest assured your equity can help fuel your move. It may be just what you need to cover a large portion – if not all – of the down payment on your next home.

3. Mortgage Rates Are Increasing

While it's true mortgage rates have already been climbing this year, current mortgage rates are still below what they've been in recent decades. In the 2000s, the average mortgage rate was 6.27%. In the 1990s, the average rate was 8.12%.

For context, the current average 30-year fixed mortgage rate, according to Freddie Mac, is 3.85%. And while recent global uncertainty caused rates to dip slightly in the near-term, experts project rates will rise in the months ahead. Doug Duncan, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist at Fannie Mae, says:

"For homebuyers, we believe that borrowing costs will likely rise with the increase in mortgage rates…."

When that happens, it'll cost you more to purchase your next home. That's why it's important to act now if you're ready to sell. Work with a trusted advisor to kickstart the process so you can take key steps to making your next purchase before rates climb further.

4. Home Prices Are Climbing Too

Home prices have been skyrocketing in recent years because of the imbalance of supply and demand. And as long as that imbalance continues, so will the rise in home values.

What does that mean for you? If you're selling so you can move into the home of your dreams or downsize into something that better suits your current needs, you have an opportunity to get ahead of the curve by leveraging your growing equity and purchasing your next home before prices climb higher.

And, once you make your purchase, you can find peace of mind in knowing ongoing home price appreciation is growing the value of your new investment.

If you are thinking of selling your home this year, consider this...

If you want to win when you sell and when you buy, this spring could be your golden opportunity. Get connected with a trusted Montague Miller & Co real estate professional so you have the insights you need to take advantage of today's incredible sellers' market.

Resources: Freddie Mac, CoreLogic, Keeping Current Matters

March
9

Key Factors That Impact Affordability Today | MyKCM

You can't read an article about residential real estate without the author mentioning the affordability challenges that today's buyers face. There's no doubt homes are less affordable today than they were over the last two years, but that doesn't mean homes are now unaffordable.

There are three measures used to establish home affordability: home prices, mortgage rates, and wages. Let's look closely at each of these components.

1. Home Prices

The most recent Home Price Insights report by CoreLogic shows home values have increased by 19.1% from last January to this January. That was one reason affordability declined over the past year.

2. Mortgage Rates

While the current global uncertainty makes it difficult to project mortgage rates, we do know current rates are almost one full percentage point higher than they were last year. According to Freddie Mac, the average monthly rate for last February was 2.81%. This February it was 3.76%. That increase in the mortgage rate also contributes to homes being less affordable than they were last year.

3. Wages

The one big, positive component in the affordability equation is an increase in American wages. In a recent article by RealtyTrac, Peter Miller addresses that point:

"Prices are up, but what about wages? ADP reports that job holder incomes increased 5.9% last year but rose 8.0% for those who switched employers. In effect, some of the higher cost to buy a home has been offset by more cash income."

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) also recently released information that looks at income and affordability. The NAR data provides a comparison of the current median family income versus the qualifying income for a median-priced home in each region of the country. Here's a graph of their findings:

Key Factors That Impact Affordability Today | MyKCM

As the graph shows, the median family income (shown in blue on the graph) is greater than the qualifying income needed to buy a median-priced home (shown in green on the graph) in all four regions of the country. While those figures may vary in certain locations within each region, it's important to note that, in most of the country, homes are still affordable.

So, when you think about affordability, remember that the picture includes more than just home prices and mortgage rates. When prices rise and rates rise, it does impact affordability, and experts project both of those things will climb in the months ahead. That's why it's less affordable to buy a home than it was over the past two years when prices and rates were lower than they are today. But wages need to be factored into affordability as well. Because wages have been rising, they're a big reason that, while less affordable, homes are not unaffordable today.

Bottom Line

To find out more about affordability in our local area, let's discuss where home prices are locally, what's happening with mortgage rates, and get you in contact with a lender so you can make an informed financial decision. Remember, while less affordable, homes are not unaffordable, which still gives you an opportunity to buy today.

Login to My Homefinder

Login to My Homefinder