Agents Report Sharp Declines in Bidding Wars

There will likely be less competition for home buyers this spring—a widely reported index from Redfin shows a significant decrease among real estate professionals reporting bidding wars in March, compared to a year ago. Only 16 percent of offers written by Redfin agents on behalf of their customers in the first three weeks of March faced a bidding war, down from 61 percent a year ago, according to the brokerage’s index.

San Francisco, Boston, San Diego, and Portland, Ore., are the most competitive housing markets this month, according to the report. However, even in these markets, only one in five buyers faced bidding wars; a year ago, real estate agents in these markets reported that 65 percent of their buyers’ offers faced multiple bids.

Read the full article on REALTOR® Magazine…

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House hunting pet owners place high priority on spaces for pets

Real estate brokers are keenly aware of the priority home buyers and home owners give to their pets.

Recent Realtor.com research showed 89 percent of millennials who bought a home own a pet. Of this demographic, 79 percent of pet-owning buyers who closed on a property said they would pass up an otherwise perfect home if it didn’t meet the needs of their pets.

A recent pet parent who purchased a home said she even picked her Realtor® for her pet-friendly attitude, having learned the broker she chose had worked with several volunteers at a local animal shelter.

“It’s heartwarming to find that people will put their pets’ needs first, even when it comes to one of the biggest financial decisions they will ever make,” says Nate Johnson, chief marketing officer for realtor.com. “This survey shows that we really do consider pets part of the family-and that their needs are a critical part of finding the perfect home.”

While dog owners typically desire homes with large yards, cat owners have different space considerations, ranging from where to place to litter box to find ways to satisfy the feline’s curiosity and craving for exercise and environmental enrichment.

Cat owners on the move face an “indoor/outdoor” dilemma, according to Cynthia Chomos, who teaches classes for real estate brokers on various topics including “feng shui for buying and selling” and “color appeal for a quicker sale.” A few years ago, she started applying those skills to her other passion: creating safe, enriching outdoor enclosures for cats, sometimes known as catios or cat patios.

“Cats, whether living mostly indoors or allowed outside, are naturally drawn to the stimulation of the outdoors, but responsible cat owners know a variety of outdoor hazards lurk, especially for free-roaming cats,” according to Chomos. Veterinarians can confirm the consequences of unprotected outdoor time can be traumatic and expensive.

Having a safe and stimulating environment for beloved pets is paramount, but home buyers who search for pet-specific amenities also care about aesthetics.

“You can have a beautiful house and a pet, too,” says Julia Szabo, pet columnist for the New York Post and author of Animal House Style: Designing A Home To Share With Your Pets.

Chomos, who founded Catio Spaces in 2014 and is a licensed contractor, agreed, stating, “Rather than looking like an unsightly cage, catios can resemble outdoor rooms. She builds custom catios around Puget Sound and offers downloadable plans for DIYers who prefer to construct their own or hire their own carpenter.

Cat enclosures and protected perches come in a variety of shapes, sizes and styles. (Editor’s note: a Google search uncovered more than 4 million results for the keyword catio!)  PETA describes catios as being akin to “a vacation beach house for your feline friends.”

Escape-proof materials and components are essential, according to those who build them. Additional elements often include shelves for vertical and horizontal movement, perches for lounging, toys for enrichment, cat safe plants, seating and space to decorate.

From small and simple to large and luxurious, the enclosures can be an attractive addition to a home while ensuring the health and wellbeing of cats – as well as cat owners, birds, and other wildlife. Large catios provide outdoor space for feline and human bonding while enjoying the benefits of nature.

As a pet lifestyle expert, Chomos helped found “Catio Tour Seattle,” a showcase of local catios, and collaborates with others to promote the benefits of catios. The annual catio tour, is organized by PAWS as part of its Safe Cats, Healthy Habitats project and sponsored by Catio Spaces, The Humane Society of the United States, Oskar & Klaus and Seattle Audubon. This year’s event is scheduled for Saturday, July 13.

Source: Seattle King County REALTORS® Northwest REporter

How Will the Housing Market Fare This Spring?

Real estate pros often anxiously await for the spring selling season, a time known for an uptick in home sales. But will spring be as hot for the housing market this year as it has been in the past?

Since the end of last year, home sales have slowed (a decline of 10 percent in December compared to a year prior), and properties have been sitting on the market for longer (46 days compared to 30 days a year ago).

Nevertheless, Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of REALTORS®, says that “multiple data show definitively improving conditions” heading into the spring selling and buying season.

Consumer sentiment about home buying is turning more upbeat, and there have been greater reports of foot traffic at open houses, according to recent NAR surveys. The number of openings of lock boxes—which real estate pros use to access a key prior to unlocking a home for a showing—is “measurably higher” in January and February compared to the second half of 2018, according to NAR SentriLock data.

Further, the number of consumers applying for a mortgage to purchase a home is on the rise. “After the weak conditions of late last year, mortgage applications have picked up notably in 2019 with more consumers evidently searching for a home compared to one year ago,” Yun writes in his latest real estate column at Forbes.com. Also, contract signings to purchase a home rose 4.6 percent in January—another healthy sign about the market Yun points to.

With mortgage rates staying low, Yun expects more home buyers and sellers this spring. So far this year, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has fallen to under a 4.5 percent average. That means a typical home buyer could save nearly $100 per month due to the drop. In addition, wages are up 3.4 percent year-over-year on average, the hightest rate in a decade, .

“The slump is over” in the housing market, Yun notes. “Better times are ahead for home buyers.”

Source: REALTOR® Magazine

A Successful Move Is All in the Details

Nearly 35.5 million Americans move each year, according to data from Move.org. With so much to think about, from organizing and packing to lifting and moving heavy boxes, it’s easy to forget the little things that can make life a little easier during a move. Here are some small details that may get overlooked – tips to make any move smoother and stress free.

Unplug Carefully
Don’t just pull the plug on expensive electronics and toss them in a box – a little planning will help you protect expensive gadgets, like TVs, laptops and stereo systems. Think before dismounting that big, flat-screen TV by yourself. Follow this guide to make sure nothing is damaged. Place all user manuals in a folder so they don’t get lost in the shuffle, but don’t panic if you’ve misplaced them because you can usually find manuals on manufacturers’ websites. Consider a professional mover for your more delicate electronics. Atlas Van Lines suggests using a qualified professional to uninstall any wall-mounted AV equipment and to call in advance to schedule an appointment so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.

Food for Thought
Don’t forget about dinner – you still need to eat during a move. Packing up the kitchen is usually the last, most challenging part of the moving process, but if you make plans you won’t go hungry.

  • Donate: Think about donating canned or unopened food to your local food bank. This leaves one less thing to pack and supports your community.
  • Meal Plan: Use the foods still left in your fridge and freezer for meal planning. Take inventory of the foods you have available leading up to the big day. Home Cooking Memories has some tasty ideas.
  • Label and Organize: Don’t pack up those cooking utensils just yet. Label your moving boxes to easily access the kitchen gadgets you still need to whip up a quick dinner. Consider the packing order of appliances you won’t need, like the blender, and place everyday items, like spatulas, on top for easy access.

The Essentials
You’ve unloaded the last box and you’re ready to shower, eat and relax – only to remember that your toiletries are buried in a dozen boxes, spread across the house. Avoid this all-too-common mistake by packing one or two “essentials boxes” that contain extra clothing, towels, toiletries, medications, bedding and phone chargers that will last up to three or four days.

Know Your Limits
It may be tempting to save money by doing the moving yourself, but don’t get in over your head. Know your limits, suggests OZ Moving and Storage, “If you’re not sure if you can accomplish some part of your move without professional help, don’t try. We were called up once by a trio of college students who had gotten their couch stuck in a staircase. Getting in over your head and having to call emergency help is not ideal.” Get quotes from a few moving companies to determine what needs to be moved or packed by a professional.

A successful move is all in the details – but, with a plan in place you won’t forget the small stuff!

Be Cautious About Renovations Without Permits

Some homeowners bypass the permit process when they remodel their home. They may find the process too expensive or cumbersome. Permitting fees can sometimes cost hundreds of dollars or more. Some homeowners may believe that if they go ahead with a kitchen or bath remodel without a permit, they’ll likely never get caught.

But failing to get a permit could be troublesome when they go to sell the home.

Most states require homeowners to fill out a disclosure statement when they go to sell. In that form, sellers are usually asked if they completed work to the home without a required permit. Lying about it can also backfire—the sellers could be sued later by the new homeowner for making false statements.

“You can personally become liable for work carried out without permits,” writes Bill Gassett, a real estate professional with RE/MAX, REALTORS® in New England, for RISMedia’s Housecall. “Maybe the finished basement built by the previous homeowner with the fancy kitchen that sold the home has to be ripped out, or you’ll have to pay a penalty.”

Also, if there’s any incident that was caused by the lack of permits, the homeowner may face a denial of their insurance claim. If their insurance company finds they didn’t have the required permit, they could deny the claim. Many of these denied insurance claims stem from incidents that involve remodeling projects around electricity, gas, or water that were done without the appropriate permits.

Source: REALTOR® Magazine

Spring Is in the Air: More Homes Going Up for Sale

The housing market is changing quite a bit from a year ago. The number of homes up for sale is growing, reversing an inventory shortage trend that has plagued many markets over the last few years. The higher inventories are also driving greater price cuts, according to realtor.com®’s February housing report.

About 73,000 more listings are for sale this year compared to last year. Inventories have increased 6 percent year over year, according to realtor.com®’s analysis. The largest jumps in For Sale signs are out West, led by San Jose, Calif. (up 125 percent year over year); Seattle (up 85 percent); San Francisco (up 53 percent); San Diego (up 39 percent); and Portland, Ore. (up 36 percent).

“This is the fifth consecutive month that we’ve seen housing inventory increase, especially in large markets,” says Danielle Hale, realtor.com®’s chief economist. “As is often the case in real estate, the important trends are going on at the local level. We see large markets continue to cool, but some markets still have some strength. Additionally, we still see fewer homes priced under $200,000 on the market, so entry-level buyers won’t see the same availability of options as high-end buyers.”

The median list price rose 7 percent year over year in February to $294,800. But prices are showing signs of cooling. Thirty-nine of the 50 largest housing markets saw an increase in price cuts in February. The largest percentage of price cuts were in Las Vegas (up 19 percent); San Jose (up 9 percent); Phoenix (up 7 percent); San Francisco (up 5 percent); and Dallas (up 4 percent).

 

The High-Priority Home Features for Buyers

Laundry rooms and Energy Star–compliant windows topped the list of what buyers considered the most “essential” or “desirable” features in a home, according to the National Association of Home Builders’ 2019 “What Home Buyers Really Want” report, released at the NAHB International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas this week. Most of the features that new homeowners or aspiring buyers ranked highest related to helping them save in utility costs, add extra storage, and spruce up the outside, said Rose Quint, the NAHB’s assistant vice president of survey research.

The NAHB surveyed nearly 4,000 consumers who either purchased a home within the last three years or plan to buy a home in the next three years to identify their top desires in a home. Consumers were asked to rank 175 home features based on how essential they were to their home purchase decisions.

Consumers ranked the following home features highest:

  1. Laundry room: 91%
  2. Energy Star windows: 89%
  3. Patio: 87%
  4. Energy Star appliance: 86%
  5. Ceiling fan: 85%
  6. Garage storage: 85%
  7. Exterior lighting: 85%
  8. Walk-in pantry: 83%
  9. Hardwood flooring: 83%
  10. Double kitchen sink: 81%
  11. Energy Star–whole home: 81%

Read the full article here…