Katsumi Murouchi; ablokhin; Anna Peisl/Getty Images
I thought I was up to the challenge of a long-distance home purchase during a pandemic. After all, I was moving back to my hometown after only three years away. I knew the area. Family members could fill in the rest. I had a trusted real estate agent from my last house purchase. Plus, I look at real estate listings as a hobby even when Iâm not in the market for new property. What could go wrong?
But after purchasing a midcentury modern ranch sight unseen and trekking 1,800 miles across the country to finally get an in-person look at it, my husband and I couldn’t be more shocked.
There were so many shoddy details that hadnât translated through video and photos. The ceilings were lower and the rooms were narrower than they seemed in photos. The countertops that had looked like granite in photos were actually laminate. Every single counter and bathroom fixture was customized for a short person. After seeing broken fixtures and a layer of grime over everything, it was clear that I would have to cure decades of bad maintenance.
And then there was the constant noise pollution from the nearby interstate. Our ground team thought the sound was minimal, but a month after we moved in, the surrounding trees dropped their leaves and the dull murmur grew to a roar heard through closed windows.
So what were our mistakes?
Don’t depend on listing photos
In general, experts agree that buying a home without setting foot in it can be a dicey proposition at best and a nightmare at worst. And online listing photos, while helpful in narrowing down your property search, won’t give you the full picture of a house’s condition.
âIâve visited homes only to discover that the yard is steeper than it looked online, the rooms are smaller, and you couldnât tell there were power lines right behind the house,â says Steve Heard, a RealtorÂ® with The Heard Group in the Sacramento, CA, area.
There were so many deal breakers that I would have noticed had I been able to set foot inside the home instead of relying so heavily on listing photos and videos. Case in point: Visitors at the front door of my new home have a direct sightline to the main bathroomâs toilet.
âMuch like anything you buy online, a home’s listing is created to sell, not inform. Theyâre marketing,” says Shana OâBrien, owner of Cascadia NW Real Estate in Washington and Oregon.
Go beyond standard due diligence
A home inspection is standard operating procedure for anyone buying a home, but a long-distance purchase should always go through rigorous vetting to make sure you’re not buying a money pit.
Typically, the buyer pays for the home inspection during the escrow period. This can cost around $300 to $500, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. But to cover your bases and make sure there aren’t any major system failures before you sign a purchase agreement, experts advise bringing in an additional pair of eyes.
Go to theÂ American Society of Home Inspectors, where you can search by your home’s address for a local inspector who can examine the house on your behalf.
Barton L. Slavin, a senior litigation and transaction attorney on Long Island, NY, advises hiring an experienced licensed and insured engineer to inspect the premises before the purchase.
That would have been great in my own long-distance home purchase. After the home inspection, the seller had “fixed” some conditional electrical work that my home inspector found, but those fixes broke other things, which resulted in an electrician visit on my dime. And on the first cold day, when I turned on the furnace, it failed to heat, which was another big repair bill that would have been covered by a warranty.
In my first two months in this house, I’ve also found faulty plumbing hacks and a massive rodent infestation.
How to beat the odds
âThe key to success is extreme buyer due diligence,â O’Brien says. “That means having a team of trusted âboots on the groundâ to physically visit and inspect the home.â
In retrospect, my live-video walk-through was fairly quick, less than 15 minutes. At the time, it felt like it was enough, but now I realize it wasn’t nearly long enough.
Our experts advise an extensive live-video walk-through with a long-distance home purchase.
âFaceTime works great,â OâBrien says. If buyers see something they have questions about during the walk-through, the real estate agent can zoom in. They can even take still photos and close-ups, which have better detail than streaming video.
Pay attention off-property, too.
âWalk around the block, video camera on, and capture the neighborhood, the condition of the sidewalks, the level of pride of ownership in the surrounding homes,” says O’Brien. “Is the narrow street jammed with parked cars? Are the sounds from the elementary school super loud at recess? Whatâs the street traffic and street noise like? The buyer will not know unless their agent does the investigation.”
Despite all of your best efforts, though, there’s still a chance your long-distance home purchase will not be all you bargained for. When that happens, O’Brien suggests taking it all in stride.
âReal estate is almost always a good investment,” she says.
As for me, Iâm already planning out my investment strategy and making the best of my midcentury modern surprise fixer-upper.
The post We Bought a House Sight Unseenâand It Turned Out To Be a Total Nightmare appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.comÂ®.
The real estate market is getting hotter and hotter. The local Boise market is no exception. Hereâs your monthly update on whatâs happening.
Data from Intermountain MLS from December 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020.
According to data from the Intermountain MLS, Boise home sales are dipping monthly but higher year-over-year. At 1,245 units sold, there were 91 fewer monthly sales in December than in November, a 6.8% decrease. This follows seasonal real estate trends. Looking at yearly changes, there were 28 more homes sold in December 2020 than in December 2019. Thatâs an increase of 2.3% from last year.
At $452K, Idahoâs average sale prices continued to rise last year. The average home price in December 2020 was $87K, or 23.7%, higher than in December 2019. The monthly trend follows the yearly move upward. Average home sale prices were up by $3.7K, or .8%, from November 2020.
Days on Market (DOM)
Homes in Boise are going off the market faster than ever. Decemberâs average number of Days on the Market was 18. The previous monthâs average DOM was 17, so the average DOM has stayed steady with a one day, 5.5% increase. The average DOM in December of 2019 was 48. That means a 30-day (a whole month!) decrease year-over-year–a staggering drop of 61.9%. Homebuyers will need to jump to make an offer quickly when they find a home they like.
Analysis from Max Coursey, Homie Head of Idaho Real Estate
âBoise is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Since COVID-19, this trend has only accelerated. There are roughly 2,000 (79%) fewer houses on the Boise market now than there were last year, and we already had a housing shortage a year ago. I have personally never seen numbers this low in my 18-year career in the Treasure Valley. This lack of homes for sale and tremendous population growth has led to a very strong seller’s market. It’s not unusual to hear of a seller receiving 20 offers on a property.
Because of the fierce competition and lack of inventory, many homes are selling significantly above the asking price. To sweeten the pot further, buyers often waive inspections and appraisals and offer generous seller leasebacks and other concessions. Sales price data typically lags, as it usually takes 30 days for a home to close after listing, and reports come out monthly. I believe Boiseâs median average home prices are actually higher than the numbers stated in the reports.
The good news for buyers is that interest rates are at or near their lowest levels in the last 40 years. This has made home buying more affordable. Buyers can procure a strong hedge against future inflation by securing low interest rates that are fixed for 30 years. If inflation ever comes back, these buyers will be repaying depreciating dollars. In other words, they get more bang for their buck.â
Turn to a Homie
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The post Homieâs Boise, Idaho Housing Market Update December 2020 appeared first on Homie Blog.
I have five years until I retire. I have a nest egg of $1 million and will also have a monthly military pension of approximately $6,000, and Social Security on top of that.
I like cycling 60 miles a day and want to retire in a place that is known for good, safe cycling. I hate hot humid weather and donât want a lot of snow. I love craft beer. And I would prefer a place with limited or no income tax on a military pension.
Where should I retire? Fort Collins, Colorado, and Asheville, N.C., seem like good places, but the cost of living in Fort Collins seems above average, and I am told Asheville has a lack of housing.
What other places should I consider and how do they compare with the two locations already mentioned? My wife likes the sound of âthe Hill County in Texas,â but she knows the heat is bad.
The Fort Collins and Asheville areas sound lovely. And popular places tend to be more expensive â thatâs just the reality of supply and demand. If thatâs where you want to be, the trade-off might be as simple as a smaller house/condo/rental.
You also could seek cheaper housing a bit further from these two cities â Greeley, Colo. (donât believe everything about the smell), or Hendersonville, N.C. (recommended here), for example. Or what aboutÂ Raleigh-Durham, with the American Tobacco Trail as theÂ trail networkâs spine? Youâd have to accept more humidity with that one, however.
I started my search by looking at theÂ League of American Bicyclistsâ bicycle-friendly communities. Five, including Fort Collins, are platinum. Housing in only one is cheaper than Fort Collins, but I donât think youâll appreciate the snow in Madison, Wis. I ruled out Davis, Calif., because the state isÂ one of seven that taxes military retirement pay in full. (It doesnât tax Social Security checks, though.)
So I looked further down the list while taking weather and taxes into consideration. You can estimate your state taxesÂ using this calculator, but you may want to verify that with a tax professional.
Iâve described three suggestions for you below. Boise (a silver-level BFC) and Corvallis, Ore. (a gold BFC), recommendedÂ hereÂ andÂ here, may be other places to consider.
As always, taxes, housing costs, the number of craft brewers and even bike-friendliness can change over the next five years. And some of these places may not mesh with whatever your wifeâs wish list includes.
Another piece of advice: Be sure to experience a place in all weather, or at least the worst season, to make sure itâs a fit. Data can only tell you so much. Consider renting, at least at first. Your pension and Social Security may cover your regular expenses, but donât make yourself house-poor.
Equally, state income taxes arenât always everything. Virginia, which does tax retirement pay, is rated the best state for military retireesÂ according to this surveyÂ and scores second-highest for the âeconomic environment,â behind Alabama.
Why not check out your shortlist on a bike tour?
Instead of Asheville â¦ Knoxville, TN
Asheville is one of Americaâs premier craft beer destinations, but Knoxville hasÂ an above-average number of breweriesÂ too. By moving here, youâd get a city twice the size (nearly 190,000 people) and the stateâs flagship university (33,000 students andÂ the potential for practically free classes starting at age 65). Youâd be in a valley with the Smoky Mountains visible to the east; Ashevilleâs elevation is more than 1,000 feet higher. Average July highs would be a couple of degrees warmer than in Asheville, and January highs would be a couple of degrees cooler, but a little less snow.
Knoxville is a bronze-level bike-friendly community, as is Asheville. Check outÂ bike rides that tour the breweries. You can also joinÂ BikeWalk KnoxvilleÂ onÂ one of its ridesÂ toÂ explore the city.
Tennessee has been reducing its state income tax and will abolish it at the end of 2020. North Carolina will give you a more modest break on your pension and tax your Social Security check.
Housing is much cheaper in Knoxville than in Asheville, whether buying or renting. HereâsÂ whatâs for sale in Knoxville now, using listings from Realtor.com (which, like MarketWatch, is owned by News Corp.
AndÂ hereâs Asheville.
You can flip to the rental market for both.
Instead of Fort Collins â¦ Wenatchee Valley, WA
The Wenatchee Valley is a bronze-level bicycle-friendly area of 67,000 people in central Washington, so far from Fort Collinsâ platinum status and even smaller than Asheville. The city ofÂ WenatcheeÂ has nearly 35,000 residents, and the narrow, 50-mile-longÂ Lake ChelanÂ is an hour away. This is an agricultural area â fruit is a big crop, andÂ thereâs wine, tooÂ â so you should have plenty of rural roads to pedal on. Yes,Â youâll also find craft brewers
Washington state doesnât have an income tax, so Wenatchee checks that box. Colorado offers some tax breaks on both military pensions and Social Security.
The Wenatchee area is more affordable and less busy than Fort Collins, which you should think of as a cheaper(!) version of Boulder. Fort Collins has 170,000 people, plus there are almost another 80,00 in neighboring Loveland and 110,000 in Greeley. The plus side is that it gives you a broad range of neighborhoods and prices.
Average summer highs in Wenatchee are in the mid-80s; average highs in the winter are just above freezing. Fort Collins is a touch cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Youâd get little rain, unlike cities on the other side of the Cascade Mountains, but expect 7 to 9 inches of snow on average in December and January. Despite its higher average temperatures, the snow starts earlier in Fort Collins, lasts longer and you get more of it.
You will find plenty of retirees around Wenatchee. Nearly 20% of Chelan Countyâs 77,000 residents are 65 or older, according to the Census Bureau. Fort Collins comes with Colorado State University.
If Wenatchee looks too pricey, check out Spokane, another bronze-level BFC. Itâs far bigger, with about 225,000 people (and 525,000 in the county), and has more craft brewers. The drawback is more snow. If you want to go smaller, Ellensburg, about 90 minutes south of Wenatchee, is a silver-level BFC and a touch cheaper than Wenatchee.
Hereâs whatâs on the market inÂ Chelan County.
This is what the housing market looks like inÂ Fort Collins,Â LovelandÂ andÂ Greeley.
Wild card: Bloomington, IN
If you like older biking movies, you know this town of 85,000 people from âBreaking Awayâ and theÂ Little 500 bike race. But did you know the home of Indiana University is a gold-level bike-friendly community?
And weâre not talking about just biking past miles and miles of corn fields on those 60-mile rides. (That would be retiring near rival Purdue University in West Lafayette, a bronze-level community.) Southern Indiana is hilly â test yourself on theÂ brutal Hilly Hundred weekend rideÂ outside of town during peak foliage. Others might prefer the all-terrainÂ Gravel GrovelÂ through the Hoosier National Forest. To chill, take the 9.2-mile trail that runs from the north end of town to the limestone quarry on the south side.
For beer, check out Upland Brewing, which won aÂ gold medal at the Great American Beer FestivalÂ in 2019. Six more gold-medal winners are in Indianapolis an hour to the north.
Indiana isÂ changing how it taxes military retirement pay; your pension should be exempt as of 2021. The state also doesnât tax Social Security income.
Temperatures in Bloomington reach an average of 86 in July, while January means an average high of 37 and about 5 inches of snow. If you want to hang out on campus,Â seniors get 50% off tuition, and the break starts at age 60.
Here areÂ homes on the market now.
The post Iâll Retire With a Military Pension and Want to Move to a Bicycle-Friendly, Beer-Loving PlaceâSo Where Should I Go? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.comÂ®.
The real estate market is constantly changing, especially in the local Denver market. We like to keep an eye on it for you, so we can let you know whatâs going on! Hereâs the latest update:
Data from ReColorado from November 1, 2020 to November 30, 2020.
At 5,236, monthly sales are up 22% from this same time last year in the Denver metro area. While the sales are up from November 2019, they are 19% lower than sales in October. A decrease in monthly sales between October and November is fairly common.
November saw 3,695 new listings in Denver. This is a 1% increase from the previous November and a 40% decrease from October of this year, continuing the trend of a slow down as we move into the colder months.
The average sale price for homes in the Denver metro area in November was $547,094. This is a 13% increase from November 2019 and just a decrease of 2% from October of this year. Single-family homes are selling for higher prices than multi-family residences, such as townhomes and condos. The average sale price for a single-family home was $224,195 higher than multi-family residences.
Days on Market (DOM)
The number of days on market continues to drop, with an average of 22 days and a median of six days during November. The average is a 13-day decrease from last Novemberâs average and a 2-day decrease from this October, while the median is a 13-day decrease from last November and a 2-day decrease from this October.
Single-family residences spent an average of 6 days fewer on the market than multi-family residences.
Turn to a Homie
Whether youâre looking to buy or sell, Homie has experienced, local real estate agents who are excited to work with you. These agents understand the nuances of the local real estate market and are willing to go the extra mile to get you the deal youâre looking for. Click to start selling or buying and to get in touch with your dedicated agent.
Get more tips on navigating the Colorado real estate market!
5 Tips to Help You Afford Your First Home
Common Home Buying Fears and How to Overcome Them
Can You Buy and Sell a Home at the Same Time?
The post Homieâs Denver Housing Market Update November 2020 appeared first on Homie Blog.
Think two seasoned certified financial planners would have an easy time buying a house? Tony and Barbara Matheson would beg to differ.
In fall 2019, these empty nesters found themselves itching to downsize from their large rental in the ultraexpensive San Francisco Bay Area. Hoping to buy a reasonably priced house within walking distance of restaurants and other amenities, they set their sights on Sacramento, CA. Armed with a healthy income, solid credit history, and a deep knowledge of personal financesâplus they’d owned property beforeâthey figured they would sail through the home-buying process.
Six months and three lost bidding wars later, they realized that Sacramento’s real estate market was far more cutthroat than they’d imagined.
In March, the Mathesons finally purchased a three-bedroom, one-bathroom 1926 Tudor on a tree-lined street. With the closing papers signed, they figured they were home-freeâbut COVID-19 was about to throw another curveball into the picture.
Here Tony shares their story,Â and his hard-won lessons for aspiring first-time home buyers and others who want to learn what buying real estate is really like today.
Location: Sacramento, CA
House specs: 1,225 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms
List price: $550,000
Price paid: $580,000
Why did you decide to move?
Weâd been living in the Bay Area and were looking to downsize since both of our kids had moved out. We wanted to be near downtown Sacramento, close to restaurants, bars, museums, and coffee shops.
I’d think home buying would be a breeze for two finance pros. How did it go?
I was really surprised by how tough the market was. After five months touring homes, we made an offer on our first house. This house went into a bidding war; we had to raise our bid five times before tapping out.
Next, we fell in love with a second home. This time, we offered the sellers $30,000 over the asking price. The sellers had so many other bids, they never even bothered to counter our offer.
We found a third home, and once again bid over the asking price. But after five tries, we lost out again. It was heartbreaking.
How awful! Why do you think these homes sold to other buyers?
We came prepared with what most consider strong financials for making an offer on a single-family home: great credit scores, a significant down payment, pre-approval for a mortgage. We offered good earnest money and 15-day escrow, didn’t include an appraisal contingency, and probably had a few other bonuses to the seller that I’ve forgotten. So we were doing everything “right.”
What we were finding is that we were up against some other buyers who were making all-cash offers, sometimes $50,000 above the asking price. How does anyone compete with that?
So how did you finally get an offer accepted?
We were extremely fortunate that we had a great real estate agent who was able to find a home that hadn’t been listed yet. We could negotiate one on one with the seller without having to compete against multiple offers.
The sellers had planned to invest $30,000 to $40,000 on home improvements before putting it on the market. We offered to buy the house as is, without the improvements. After going back and forth a few times, the sellers took our offer. Â
What did you like about this house?
We knew within 5 seconds of walking into the house that this was the one. It was the perfect neighborhood. We were close to everything, within walking distance to plenty of bars and restaurants. The outdoor area is gorgeous. Beautiful trees surround our house, and the house is the perfect size for us.
So once your offer was accepted, what happened next?
The sellers werenât prepared to move immediately. They needed time to prepare. So we rented the house back to the sellers for a month after closing. We closed on Valentine’s Day, but we didnât move in until mid-March.
Little did we know what was about to happen.
March is when the coronavirus really hit. What was it like moving during that time?
It was difficult and terrifying in the beginning. We moved in ourselves without hiring movers. Then, after we moved in, it was quite an adjustment. Simple things like calling an electrician or completing other minor home projects were enormously difficult.
Did you make any renovations to your home?
We put $10,000 to $12,000 into the house so far. The major issue after moving in was electricityâit needed to be completely reconfigured. For example, the second bedroom, which became my office, only had two plugs. Between my monitors for work, computers, Peloton, cellphones, and other devices, I needed 12 plugs. We also wanted to put in a tankless water heater for more space, and install a security system. Â
How did quarantine affect these repairs?
It was horrible. We couldnât get anyone to come out to do any work for at least three months. For the first month, no one was booking. Then, when we could finally get through, the businesses were overwhelmed with requests.
What was it like when you finally settled in?
It was exhilarating, exciting, and weird. Exhilarating because we got the house we wanted. Exciting because we were beginning a new phase in our lives. And weird because we moved in at the beginning of the pandemic. We wanted to have a housewarming party, but of course, we couldn’t.
What is your advice for aspiring home buyers?
Even if your finances are completely buttoned up, be prepared that buying a house may be a difficult and even painful process.
Emotionally it does get hard. As much as you try not to get attached to a house during the negotiation process, you can’t help it. And there is a competitive drive that kicks in when you are in a bidding war with others. It’s draining.
Still, in the end,Â knowing that you’ve overcome challenges along the way just makes you more appreciative of the reward at the end. We have a place to call home amidst all this craziness. It’s all worth it.
The post Why 2 Finance Experts Still Struggled To Buy This House appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.comÂ®.