Real Estate Scam Alert: Fraudulent buyers and sellers
Across Virginia, and in neighboring states, real estate licensees are seeing a sharp increase in scams involving fraudulent buyers and sellers. In this latest scam, criminals are contacting real estate agents to list properties they do not own. Typically, the criminals are looking to sell properties that do not have a mortgage—commonly in the form of vacant lots—below market value, for cash, and quickly. By targeting properties that do not have a mortgage or other lien, scammers hope to complete the transaction before the true owner gets tipped off by the lender.
These criminals often claim some sort of emergency is keeping them stuck abroad or out of the area to explain why they are looking to sell so quickly. “We’re hearing of a lot of cases in which the phony sellers use a medical or family emergency to explain why they’re unable to conduct the transaction in person,” says Virginia REALTORS® General Counsel Laura M. Murray. “Often, they will insist on conducting the entire transaction virtually.” In many of these cases, the digital images of photo IDs provided by the criminals are intentionally made to be barely legible.
Certain steps can be taken to help agents protect themselves and their clients from scammers:
- Conduct independent research on property ownership through county land records
- Insist on meeting with sellers—either in person or by video call
- Insist on a known settlement company or attorney being involved in the transaction
Virginia REALTORS® 2023 President Katrina M. Smith reminds agents, “It is imperative to trust your intuition. If something seems off, make sure to speak with your broker about further steps you can take before taking any actions with the consumer.”
What’s a pre-purchase inspection?
Investing in a pre-purchase inspection is an essential step when buying a property. Here’s what it involves.
Why you should invest in an inspection
A pre-purchase inspection aims to identify any problems with the property you’re looking to buy. This information can help you negotiate a better sale price or even consider withdrawing your offer to purchase. In short, it tells you the exact condition and value of the home you’re bidding on.
What does an inspector do?
The inspector will examine the home’s condition, both inside and out. This includes the electricity, plumbing, foundation, heating system, siding, roofing, and ventilation. It’s important to note that a pre-purchase inspection cannot detect hidden defects but may point to signs of them.
Once complete, the inspector will send you a written report with their observations. The report will detail the condition of the inspected areas and indicate those that weren’t checked and why. The report may also recommend work, like replacing the home’s windows or roof.
To ensure you’re getting the facts and making the best decision, hire an experienced, trustworthy inspector.
Are sellers now courting buyers?
Home sellers have been in the real estate driver’s seat for some time since there was more demand for homes than homes available to buy.
However, as 2023 opened, sellers were making some concessions to buyers.
According to Redfin, 42 percent of sellers in late 2022 offered at least one concession to buyers. That is 31 percent higher than the year before. These concessions, according to Redfin, tend to mask the true cost of a home purchase since list and closing prices don’t change. So even though prices remained steady, sellers were often giving cash credit for repairs, closing costs, and mortgage buy downs, according to Redfin.
Still, in late 2022, when interest rates started rising, fewer buyers were out. People who had to sell were eager to attract a buyer.
That micro-economy might not hold through the home sales season this summer, though. New mortgage applications have picked up somewhat as interest rates tick slowly down.
In many locations, the supply of homes to buy is still below demand, which suggests that it’s still a great time to sell.
Meanwhile, there is good news for buyers, too, with a new FHFA mortgage discount program for first-time buyers, which makes it easier to get a mortgage approved without 20 percent down.
Virginia sees slowest April housing market in more than a decade
According to the April 2023 Virginia Home Sales Report released by Virginia REALTORS®, there were 8,252 homes sold in Virginia in April, a 31.2% drop from last year, making it the slowest April market the state has had in over ten years.
Typically, new listings increase between March and April as the spring market ramps up, but fewer sellers are listing their homes in housing markets across Virginia. There were 11,174 new listings added to the market in April statewide, 4,458 fewer than a year ago, a 28.5% reduction. “During the refinance boom of 2020 and 2021, many homeowners were able to lock in extremely low interest rates,” says Virginia REALTORS® 2023 President Katrina M. Smith. “Because of this, there is little incentive for them to list their homes and move into a new home with a much higher rate. This trend is keeping Virginia’s already tight inventory even tighter.”
Despite the slowdown in sales, the constrained supply has kept the state’s median sales price holding firm. Following a modest dip last month, the median sales price in Virginia in April was $391,000, inching up $1,000 from last year.
In April, Virginia’s average sold-to-list price ratio rose back above 100% for the second month in a row. Homes that sold above $800,000 in April had an average sold-to-list price ratio of 102.2%, the highest of all price segments. Homes that sold below $200,000 had an average sold-to-list price ratio of 98.2%, Virginia’s only price segment below 100%.
“Right now, many sellers are likely getting multiple offers if their homes are priced competitively,” says Virginia REALTORS® Chief Economist Ryan Price. “It’s likely that this trend will continue into the summer because the demand side of the market is so robust.”
The Virginia Home Sales Report is published by Virginia REALTORS®. Click here to view the full April 2023 Virginia Home Sales Report.
Ask the Expert: Are there any new home buying programs out there?
If you’ve never owned a house, or haven’t owned one in three years, a new Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) mortgage discount program, launched in late December of 2022, can cut up to 1.75 percent from your mortgage rate.
You can qualify for this discount program if you are buying your first home (or a home for the first time in three years) for your main residence and you are using a conventional mortgage. There is also an income requirement that you must earn less than the median income for your area.
The best mortgage rate discount of 1.75 percent goes to buyers with below-average credit scores who can make a 3 percent down payment on a fixed-rate mortgage. The higher the credit score, the lower the discount. So a buyer with a 620 credit score and 3 percent down gets a 1.75 percent discount. But a buyer with a 760 credit score and 3 to 20 percent down gets a .25 rate discount.
The income requirements are based on the mortgage giant Fannie Mae’s median income for the area. You can see what the median income is for an area by searching for the income tool. Median incomes are not necessarily low incomes. A small town in the Midwest, for example, might have a median of $76,000. Meanwhile, the median income in San Francisco is about $151,000, and FHFA offers a 20 percent income exception for this area.
There are also some exceptions to the first-time buyer requirement if the buyer is a displaced homemaker or a single parent whose prior residence was jointly owned with a spouse.
Finally, to get the discount, you must move in within 60 days of closing, and you must live in the home at least 180 days a year as your primary residence. Some exceptions apply for deployed military.
Community News & Real Estate (April 2023) with Jen Avery, REALTOR
Family Fun Day – C & C Frozen Treats
- Event link: facebook.com/events/703907138034127
- May 13th – at the gazebo!
- This will be the 8th Annual Family Fun Day. The Louisiana style parade kicks off at 10am. Nina and John will be boiling crawfish!!!
35th Annual Virginia Wine & Craft Festival
- Event link: facebook.com/events/1124013938315829
- May 20 – Main Street will be transformed into a fabulous festival with vendor tables including 2 stages for bands! Over 100 vendors will be participating this year!
Safe At Home – The Un4gettable Series
- Event link: facebook.com/events/1670278446743771
- May 27 – Community Day will be held on May 27th, 2022 at Bing Crosby Stadium from 1PM – 5PM. The event will feature three timed exhibition baseball games featuring various athletes from our Warren County baseball community, along with games for children, a 50/50 raffle, and concessions. Warren County and Skyline High School students will also be supporting the event assisting with stands and entry. Entry to the event is $5 (plus fees) for adults and children 13 and under are free.
- Game 1 – Front Royal Little League
- Game 2 – Athletes from the current WCPS Baseball Programs
- Game 3 – WCHS Alumni vs SHS Alumni
- This year’s event will be held in memory of Skyline High School students, Harlee Hire and Nathan Jenkins, with proceeds going toward scholarships for athletes from Warren County and Skyline High Schools and the House of Hope. House of Hope is a program, based in Front Royal, for homeless men who are ready and committed to making a permanent change in their lives. They offer shelter, food and guidance developing a proactive plan with each client to re-enter society as a productive citizen with stable housing.
Warren County Market Report for April 2023 with Jen Avery, REALTOR
Watch this video for a quick summary of Warren County real estate for April 2023. We are not experiencing a normal spring market right now. It is slower and will most likely remain a slower spring market but will last longer into the summer. This prediction is from the Bright MLS Economist. Buyers are still struggling with low inventory numbers.
In general summary:
- New Listings are DOWN -37.9%
- New Pending DOWN -33.7%
- Closed sales are UP -15.8%
- Average Median Sold $375,000
- Average Days on Market 30
*If you would like a copy of this report emailed to you, please send request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resource: April 2023 Market Stats by ShowingTime
Bright MLS: Statistics calculated May 2023
Jennifer Avery, REALTOR® “Your Happy Home Expert!”
BPOR, SRS, CNE, E-Pro Certified | Licensed in VA
email@example.com | 540-683-0790 | www.jenaveryrealtor.com
CRUM REALTY, INC| 318 S Loudoun St, Winchester VA 22601 | 540-662-0400
Invest in landscaping to raise your home’s value
Landscaping is a no-brainer to add curb appeal to your home, but the value is more than just cosmetic — researchers at Virginia Tech found that it can increase property value by as much as 15 percent. According to the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors, landscaping can significantly affect the perceived value of a home. And, like many investments, a long-term approach can provide the biggest payoff in the end.
- Don’t just stick flowers and shrubs in the ground at random — follow a well-thought-out plan. You can download pre-made plans or hire a designer to create a custom plan just for you.
- Use bright colors. Bright flowers are a quick and easy way to add interest to your landscaping and can conceal a few sins, too.
- Nurture the grass. A well-maintained lawn is one the easiest and most cost-effective places to start — according to LawnStarter, a $268 investment in lawn care services adds about $1,200 in value.
- Add trees. Small young trees in 15-gallon pots are easy to transport home from a nursery and already offer some sizes, often at very affordable prices. The trees will continue to add value as they grow taller.
- Maintain fences and walls. Well-kept fences add to property values, but broken panels or cracked walls can actually decrease your home’s value.
- Avoid large outdoor water features. If you ever plan to sell your home, potential buyers probably won’t consider a fountain or fish pond an asset — they’ll just see a hassle that must be maintained or removed.
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