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Are sellers eavesdropping on homebuyers’ private conversations?

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In the hustle and bustle of today’s real estate market, sellers are often absent during showings, and buyers are increasingly talkative when visiting their homes. However, the growing popularity of affordable home security devices should give buyers pause. In fact, the availability of surveillance equipment such as Wi-Fi enabled cameras and microphones means their conversations may not remain private.

Unexpected surveillance
Most people don’t expect to be under surveillance when visiting a house, but if the house is equipped with a surveillance system, owners can obtain sensitive information. For instance, a buyer may let slip that they’re willing to pay a lot more than asking price for the house.

A complicated issue
In most places, there’s no legal requirement to disclose the presence of a surveillance system. Nevertheless, in some states making an audio recording requires the consent of at least one of the recorded parties. Making a video recording, however, would be entirely legal in most cases. The best thing for buyers to do is to act as if the owner is present during all home showings.

Most reported cases of sellers obtaining information they can leverage have been accidental. While realtors report their customers didn’t use this knowledge to their advantage, there’s no way to know for sure.

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Real Estate

3 tips for downsizing in a hot market

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It’s common for seniors living in up-and-coming areas to be solicited by realtors and potential buyers interested in their homes. A hot real estate market can be a boon if you’re looking to downsize, but it can also attract predatory buyers and lowball offers.

Here’s how to get the most out of this opportunity, especially if you’ve been off the market for a while.

1. Hire a good realtor. Interview three or more and check their references. Ask questions about their experience with selling properties like yours, their general approach to closing on sales and what you can expect in terms of communication. You should also ensure that the realtor you hire is a registered member of the relevant professional organization in your area.

2. Get a market analysis. It’s important that you have a clear understanding of your home’s actual value. Your realtor should be able to provide you with a realistic estimate. You should also get a home appraiser to assess the value of the property.

3. Make your wishes known. Just because you’re selling doesn’t mean you need to leave everything behind. You’re perfectly within your rights to request that valuable or sentimental items, such as your vintage chandelier, be excluded from the sale.

Downsizing in a hot market can mean a quick sale, but it’s important that you work with a reliable realtor to ensure you get the most out of the deal.

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Real Estate

Is home staging worth the money?

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Staging involves altering the look of your home to make it more attractive to potential buyers. Is it worth paying for? The short answer is, it depends.

How much does it cost?
The extent of the staging will largely determine how much it costs. A minimal staging involving a deep clean and a fresh coat of paint will be less expensive than one involving renting chic furniture and installing new light fixtures.

What are the advantages?
A 2017 report by the National Association of Realtors cites that 29 percent of seller’s agents believe that home staging can increase the dollar value of a home by one to five percent.

Staging can also prevent sellers from having to accept lowball offers or drop their asking price. Realtors may insist that the price of staging a home is offset by the (potentially) gained profits, but this strongly depends on a number of hard-to-predict factors such as how strong the market is. There’s no universal rule that can be applied in every scenario.

What’s the bottom line?
How effective staging is varies from case to case. The most important thing to do is have an open discussion about it so that you can define your budget, timeline and expectations.

Finally, remember that anyone can call themselves a home stager. If you decide to stage your home, make sure to check the stager or staging firm’s references.

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Real Estate

Lockboxes: pros and cons

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If you’re selling your home, your realtor might suggest keeping a set of your house keys in a lockbox. Though this can make it easier for potential buyers to view your home, is it a good idea? Here’s what you should know.

The pros
Lockboxes are convenient, especially when the property up for sale is vacant. Sellers don’t need to attend each visit and buyers can take a look at the property when it’s most convenient for them. In addition, some buyers prefer visiting homes when the sellers aren’t around.

The cons
No matter how secure the lockbox is, there’s always some level of risk that a burglar could access it. Mechanical lockboxes, however, are more vulnerable than electronic models.

Electronic lockboxes often use smartphone applications to enter a personal code, creating a record of who opened the box and when. While secure, they don’t eliminate the risk of human error.

Keep in mind that the use of a lockbox requires your consent following a thorough explanation of the risks. If you’re not comfortable with the idea, it’s your right to refuse. Finally, remember that realtors are never allowed to give the combination to anyone who isn’t a registered real estate agent. If you see this happen, report it right away.

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Homebuyers beware: get an air inspection before you make an offer

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Are you in the market for a new home? If so, you may already know that having a property inspected before finalizing a deal is generally recommended. However, standard home inspections don’t usually include an evaluation of the building’s air quality. Since air quality can have a huge impact on the health of a home’s inhabitants, forgetting to check this important aspect is a mistake.

Testing indoor air quality
When testing the air quality in a home, the inspector will focus on several elements, including:

• The building’s history, including the year it was built and the materials used to insulate it. This information will offer insight into potential air contaminants.
• The health of the current residents, including any symptoms that indicate an issue with the air in the home.
• The state of the home’s ventilation system.

The inspector will also collect samples of the air in the home to check for mold, bacteria and gases like radon and carbon monoxide.

Don’t risk your health. Before scheduling a home inspection, ask if the inspector is qualified to assess the air quality of the home and if they’re comfortable drawing conclusions about potential health risks.

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Increasing mortgage interest rates: what it means for you

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Mortgage rates are on the rise for the first time in years, with 15-year rates expected to rise from 3.9 percent last year to 4.4 percent at the end of this year. Here’s what it means for the real estate market.

What it means for sellers
You should expect your house to stay on the market a little longer before selling it. Taking on a mortgage represents a big commitment, and climbing interest rates are forcing some prospective buyers to stop and think a little harder before buying a house. Also, don’t be surprised if you get fewer offers than you were expecting.

What it means for buyers
While rates are higher than they’ve been in several years, they’re still relatively low. However, the trend isn’t likely to change anytime soon. Unless you’re buying the home with cash, opt for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage and avoid variable rate mortgages as they’ll likely go up again in the coming years.

The bottom line is that sellers should manage their expectations, and buyers should keep in mind that rates will likely continue to go up.

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Understanding guaranteed sale programs

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Have you heard of realtors offering to buy your home if they don’t sell it within a certain length of time? While guaranteed sale programs may seem like a hassle-free way of selling your home, there are a few things you should know about them first.

You need to do your homework
No two programs of this type are the same. Different realtors offer different terms, and you need to look closely at the fine print. Find out what the limiting conditions are and ask for a detailed explanation of the offer and a written agreement that clearly outlines the costs involved.

You need to ask questions
Ask the realtor about their strategy for selling your home and how much you’ll get if they end up purchasing it. Many guaranteed sale programs involve listing a house under its market value to ensure a quick sale.

You should also get a written disclosure outlining any factors affecting property value and the brokerage’s plans for the property.

They’re not for everyone
Outside of ensuring a quick sale, these programs don’t offer many advantages. Some realtors denounce guaranteed sale programs as mere marketing schemes, citing that they rely on listing homes under market value and that anyone could sell a house for cheap.

In any case, make sure to look up potential realtors through the relevant professional real estate association and be careful before signing anything.

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‘Tis the Season

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Front Royal
39°
Sunny
07:1816:50 EST
Feels like: 35°F
Wind: 6mph NNW
Humidity: 51%
Pressure: 30.43"Hg
UV index: 2
SatSunMon
43/25°F
48/38°F
55/53°F

Quotes

Upcoming Events

Dec
7
Sat
10:00 am Books and Barks @ Samuels Public Library
Books and Barks @ Samuels Public Library
Dec 7 @ 10:00 am – 11:30 am
Books and Barks @ Samuels Public Library
Come to our extremely popular monthly program that gives developing readers the chance to read and relax with a trained therapy dog. For beginning readers and up. Choose a time slot at registration, which begins[...]
10:00 am Free Pet Adoption Event @ Subaru Dealership
Free Pet Adoption Event @ Subaru Dealership
Dec 7 @ 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Free Pet Adoption Event @ Subaru Dealership
The pet adoption event will be hosted by Subaru of Winchester and feature adoptable pets from the SPCA of Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke. This annual event will take place at the Subaru dealership located at[...]
1:00 pm “The Nutcracker” student perform... @ Skyline High School
“The Nutcracker” student perform... @ Skyline High School
Dec 7 @ 1:00 pm – 7:00 pm
“The Nutcracker” student performance @ Skyline High School
Italia Performing Arts presents the seasonal classic ballet “The Nutcracker” in Front Royal, Virginia, on December 7, 2019. Italia Performing Arts is pleased to announce its student production of “The Nutcracker”, being brought to the[...]
2:00 pm Discuss This @ Samuels Public Library
Discuss This @ Samuels Public Library
Dec 7 @ 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Discuss This @ Samuels Public Library
Are you inspired by good books, articles, movies, and art? Do you write, draw, or enjoy playing music? If so, join us as we discuss books and share our creations. This is a group for[...]
Dec
8
Sun
2:00 pm R-MA December Open House @ Randolph-Macon Academy
R-MA December Open House @ Randolph-Macon Academy
Dec 8 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
R-MA December Open House @ Randolph-Macon Academy
Discover The Power of Rise at Randolph-Macon Academy! Join us for an open house on Sunday, December 8th, with tours beginning promptly at 2:00 pm. Families interested in applying for the second semester (January 27,[...]
3:00 pm Christmas Concert @ Front Royal Presbyterian Church
Christmas Concert @ Front Royal Presbyterian Church
Dec 8 @ 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm
Christmas Concert @ Front Royal Presbyterian Church
The Valley Chorale of Front Royal (previously Front Royal Oratorio Society) presents its 2019 Christmas concert titled “HOME FOR CHRISTMAS” – a program of uplifting sacred and secular selections sure to brighten everyone’s yuletide season.[...]
Dec
10
Tue
4:30 pm Science Scouts and More @ Samuels Public Library
Science Scouts and More @ Samuels Public Library
Dec 10 @ 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Science Scouts and More @ Samuels Public Library
Tuesday, December 3: Kids will explore popular books and book series through science, games, food, and more! After reading a Christmas story, we’ll discuss giving and how it affects us and the people around us.[...]
Dec
11
Wed
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Dec 11 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, December 4 and Thursday, December 5: Gingerbread and Candy Canes will be the delicious theme of our stories, songs, and craft this week! Siblings welcome.[...]
Dec
12
Thu
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Dec 12 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, December 4 and Thursday, December 5: Gingerbread and Candy Canes will be the delicious theme of our stories, songs, and craft this week! Siblings welcome.[...]
Dec
14
Sat
11:00 am Celebrate George Washington @ Samuels Public Library
Celebrate George Washington @ Samuels Public Library
Dec 14 @ 11:00 am – 12:30 pm
Celebrate George Washington @ Samuels Public Library
December 14 is the 220th anniversary of George Washington’s death. Today we will learn more about this great leader of our country and celebrate his legacy. Refreshments will be served. For ages 7 to 18.[...]