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Part 1 of 7: Practical real estate tips for quarantined homeowners, buyers, sellers and realtors

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This 7 part series is accompanied by BETHvids featuring tips regarding buying, selling and the real estate industry in general.


This is the first of Beth Medved Waller’s video series offering tips for people to enhance their “real estate health” while they are stuck indoors to protect their own health.  In the seven-part series, she’ll be advising homeowners, buyers (both active home seekers and those thinking of buying soon), sellers (those with active real estate listings and with properties preparing to hit the market this spring) and Realtors (agents already in business as well as people who are considering becoming a licensed practitioner).  She’ll share suggestions about what each party can do to make their time at home productive from a real estate perspective. A four part article is also being published with her timely tips by “Real Estate Agent Magazine.

Part 1: Top 5 real estate tips for homeowners with no immediate plans of moving

  1. Turn being cooped up inside into an opportunity that will pay off in the future whenever it’s time to sell your home.  Start a folder of home improvements you’ve made throughout the years and use it as a place to log annual maintenance, record replacement costs and keep track of ages of heating/air conditioning units, your roof, and other important systems/utilities in your house.  You can even keep booklets, receipts and other handy information in a convenient location inside the binder.
  2. Start that long-overdue de-cluttering – focus on your main level first (the garage/basement area is less important to keep organized than your kitchen, main living areas and master bath/closet areas). If it’s hard to get rid of even unused items, put them in a box and move them to the basement–if you haven’t gone into the box in 6 months, it’s likely safe to donate the box to be enjoyed by someone who will be blessed by your “hand-me-downs.”
  3. Start an online folder to store seasonal photos of your home. It can also be home to “before/after” photos if you complete improvements a future buyer would appreciate to have documented.  Go one step farther and set reminders on your calendar to take quality digital (cell phone is fine) photos of your home during different seasonsUpload onto your online album shots that showcase views in the winter, lovely sunsets or sunrises, fall foliage and flowers blooming in the warmer months.
  4. Take a slow and intentional walk around the outside and throughout the inside of your home and make a list of major and minor maintenance projects you’ve been putting off. Now’s the time to make a plan and budget for completing them (or to check some off the list if you have the skills to earn some sweat equity).  So many people wait until they sell to invest the time and money into improvements they wish they prioritized sooner to enjoy the benefits of the updates before handing the keys over to the buyer, who is sure to appreciate your investment in curb appeal and upkeep.
  5. Bite the bullet and begin pricing out big ticket items on your “to do” or “dream” list.  Contact your trusted Realtor to brainstorm about the potential return on costly improvements. Calling on an expert for guidance can ensure you make an educated decision about your monetary investment vs. projected future impact on market value.  Be ready to share photos or video clips with your agent so they can visualize your situation and be better equipped to educate you about the potential return on your updates.

Stay tuned for more BETHvids and corresponding articles made for buyers, sellers and Realtors for additional tips to implement while stuck indoors. Follow her real estate and WHAT MATTERS postings on the Royal Examiner under the Features Tab, “What Matters Warren.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Beth Medved Waller is a self-proclaimed “Pretend Reporter (creating video interviews/articles to promote causes or events), Pretend Philanthropist (see whatmattersw2.com to learn about her initiatives) & a Pretend Singer/Songwriter” (hear her song at dollardreamdownload.com).  She’s also a real life mother of two teens, founder of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit named WHAT MATTERS and a top producing real estate broker who has been recognized locally, regionally and nationally for her various real and pretend titles.

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Real Estate

Ask the Expert: I built equity in my house. Now how do I get rid of the PMI?

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Private mortgage insurance, or PMI, is required when you buy a house using a conventional loan and make a downpayment that’s less than 20 percent of the home’s price.

Naturally, most homebuyers want to get rid of that extra amount on their monthly mortgage payments.

You have the right to remove PMI in two ways: you can get ‘automatic’ or ‘final’ PMI termination at certain home equity milestones, or you can request the removal when you reach 80 percent home equity.

* Automatic trigger: This occurs when your mortgage balance reaches 78 percent of the purchase price or at a set time period of halfway through your amortization schedule. Payments must be up to date.

* You can request removal of PMI when the loan balance reaches 80 percent of the original value. Some homeowners hasten the process by making extra payments toward their principal. You make the PMI cancellation request in writing to the lender.

* You might be able to refinance out of PMI, which tends to apply when mortgage rates are low and values are on the rise. It usually takes two years before you can refinance.

* Get the home reappraised. Calculate the cost of an appraisal against your savings, but if your home’s value has risen appreciably, this could be a good strategy.

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Real Estate

Buying and selling in the temporary normal

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With all of this extended time spent homebound recently, many of us have discovered a new truism: if you have to be quarantined, you might as well do it in your dream home.

No matter what — the season, the economy, even a virus — people will continue to buy and sell houses. It’s only the process that changes. And buyers and sellers who can adapt and pivot are the ones who come out ahead.

Fortunately, real estate professionals are already adept at strategies that could prove especially helpful this year, as COVID-19 dominates the news.

Think: technology. Virtual tours will likely increase in popularity. Buyers were already screening houses online before seeing them in person, and a thorough virtual tour could dramatically increase the number of eyes on your property.

A 2018 report by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said that 46 percent of buyers found a virtual tour very useful, while 74 percent used the internet to search for homes. Among millennials, that figure leaped to 92 percent.

Some other accommodations this year could include:

* Sellers may request more hand-washing. Another NAR survey, this one in March, found that more sellers were requesting that visitors wash their hands or use sanitizer. (Some may also request the use of booties, a commonplace request already.)

* Open houses may limit the number of people inside a home at one time – which probably makes for a more pleasant walk-through anyway.

* Technology can also aid in brokering a deal. Already, contracts are regularly sent via email, and signatures can be gathered online. Expect more of this.

* Those who attend open houses in the coming months are more serious buyers, as the tire-kickers have opted to stay at home.

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Real Estate

Your home has secrets known to few

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From tiny holes in the siding to wainscoting or the drawer under the oven, your house may include a number of features that serve a purpose even the most attentive of homeowners wasn’t aware of.

No, a woodpecker didn’t figure out how to hammer into your siding. If you spot some tiny holes, they’re most likely “weep holes” that allow water to escape rather than make its way inside; vinyl siding is designed to allow for ventilation and for condensation to drain out.

Think a chimney cap is meant just to keep debris from falling in? Think again. It also helps wayward embers from escaping up and then damaging your roof or starting a chimney fire, says Best Life Online, which offered some other fun “secret” house features:

* Wainscoting, that charming decorative wall paneling that typically reaches chair rail height, was originally intended to provide more insulation.

* A toe kick, the indented strip of wood between the bottom of your cabinets and the floor, actually serves an anti-toe kick purpose: they make it possible for you to open the cabinet doors without hitting your feet and to work closer to the counter.

* Ever notice that the backs of your oven knobs have screws? Once they’re loosened, you can calibrate the knob with a thermometer to get a more accurate temperature reading. A how-to from GE Appliances says each notch on the back of the knob changes the temperature by 10 degrees.

* That junk drawer at the bottom of your oven? Go figure – it’s not a junk drawer. That space can serve as a warming drawer or a broiler, depending on your appliance, and can help you keep a dish hot while waiting for the rest of your food to cook. Remember this come Thanksgiving.

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Warren County Market Report – April 2020

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Numbers are in and they do reflect our restrictions at this current time with demands for social distancing and stay at home order. However, I certainly think when you consider these numbers are compared to a healthy spring market in 2019, we have a lot to stay positive about!

A shift is happening. As we start to very slowly open up again, could the real estate market come to life with a late spring market pop? We are learning how to manage the once very scary surprise of a global pandemic with more ease and common sense. I predict our numbers are going to climb back to the green.

Could we start to see more Northern Virginia buyers move out this way for space away from congested city life? Will more and more people look for home office arrangements to save overhead costs? Will larger higher end homes start to be in greater demand? Time will tell!

Watch this video for a quick summary of Warren County real estate for April 2020. Charts demonstrate the changes in the market, so be sure to click play!

In general summary:

  1. New Listings are DOWN -8.2%.  April  2019 = 110 vs April 2020 = 101
  2. New Pending DOWN -17.6%.  April  2019 = 85 vs April 2020 = 70
  3. Closed sales are DOWN -5.1%. April  2019 = 59 vs April 2020 = 56
  4. Average Median Sold $243,000
  5. Average Days on Market 38

*If you would like a copy of this report emailed to you, please send request to jenaveryrealtor@gmail.com.

Resource: 2020 Market Stats by ShowingTime
MRIS: Statistics calculated April 2020

Jennifer Avery, Realtor
“Your Happy Home Expert”

BPOR, SRS, CNE, E-Pro Certified | Licensed in VA
jenaveryrealtor@gmail.com | 540-683-0790
CRUM REALTY, INC | 318 S Loudoun St., Winchester, VA 22601 | 540-662-0400

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Understanding property stigma

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Property stigma is a challenging factor to account for when selling or buying a home. Here’s some information to help you understand it better.

What is property stigma?
Any feature of a home that makes it less attractive but is unrelated to its physical or functional properties is usually considered a type of property stigma. Common examples include:

• A suicide or death occurred

• A major crime took place

• A grow-op or meth lab was removed

• There are reports of unexplained phenomena

Whether or not a property is stigmatized is entirely subjective. What one person finds acceptable may be a deal-breaker for another.

What does it mean for buyers?
In most cases, sellers aren’t required to disclose property stigmas. The best thing to do is tell your real estate agent what you want to avoid, and they can ask the seller or their agent. If they refuse to answer, you can either conduct your own research or find another property. Your realtor will be able to assist you in making a decision.

What does it mean for sellers?
In most cases, you’re not legally required to disclose property stigmas. If something about the property could be considered one and you’re asked about it directly, you can either answer the question, answer with a qualification that the buyer does their own research or refuse to answer at all. If you choose to answer, you have to be honest.

Keep in mind that, in the end, whether or not a property is stigmatized is entirely subjective.

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5 smells home buyers hate

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An unpleasant smell can dissuade potential buyers from making a reasonable bid on your home. Here are some odors that are best to eliminate or avoid creating.

1. Smoke
Many people in the market for a home are put off by properties that smell like cigarette smoke. They may be worried about needing to pay for cleaning, odor removal or restoration services. As a result, they may ask you to factor these costs into the sales price or simply choose to purchase a different home.

2. Pet smells

You probably can’t smell your pets, but visitors and potential buyers certainly can. Ask your real estate agent if they have any recommendations for good odor removal products and, if you can bear it, consider having your pets stay somewhere else until you sell the house.

3. Cooking odors
While the aroma of freshly baked cookies may help you sell your home, not all food smells are welcome. Avoid cooking strong-smelling foods like fish or cabbage shortly before people visit, and try to get any such smells out before the next showing.

4. Bleach and other cleaners
Never go overboard when using cleaning products. It could give the impression you’re trying to hide something. This also goes for air fresheners, which can be overpowering.

5. Mold or mildew
Musty smells conjure up images of rot and water damage and are sure to deter potential buyers. Check that there are no leaks anywhere in the house and that rooms are well ventilated. In addition, bad smells coming from sinks or drains could mean you need to call a plumber.

If you notice unpleasant smells anywhere in your home, try to locate the source, as they could indicate a problem that needs to be dealt with before putting your house on the market.

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