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Showing Guidance During Reopening: What Homebuyers and sellers can expect

Over the past several months, in-person viewing of properties and open houses have been limited to minimize the exposure to and spread of COVID-19.  As restrictions begin to ease in Massachusetts and around the country, we are seeing an increase in showing activity and open houses.

If you’re thinking about listing your home or are looking for a new place to call home you may be wondering what you can expect regarding showing guidance.

Below I have outlined some general protocols that have been adopted during the re-opening phase to help keep buyers and sellers safe when conducting real-estate related activities.

Virtual showings remain commonplace

First and foremost, even though restrictions are easing, the use of virtual showings is still encouraged to limit in-person activity as much as possible. It is recommended that buyers narrow their property search by leveraging virtual technology (online tours, videos, photos, etc.) and driving by properties before requesting an in-person viewing.

Showings for only pre-qualified buyers

Many listing agents are adopting a policy that requires all buyers to submit a pre-qualification letter prior to entry. The objective is to limit in-person showings to only serious buyers who are financially qualified for a purchase.

Reduced number of people allowed to attend a showing

Non-essential parties are discouraged from attending showings. Some sellers are requesting that a limited number of people enter their home during a single showing.

Additional disclosures may be required

It’s important for buyers and sellers to self-disclose whether they have COVID-19 or exhibit any symptoms. Prior to scheduling a showing or entering a property, buyers may be asked to complete a form or answer a series of screening questions related to potential exposure to COVID-19. At a minimum, many agents are keeping a log of buyer/seller interactions including names, dates, and locations to enable contact tracing.

Adherence to social distancing

During all showing and open houses, it is recommended that a minimum of six feet between individuals be maintained.

Open house tours by appointment

In addition to the guidelines and protocols listed above, open houses may require an appointment. In order to comply with new requirements, open house tours are often being scheduled in intervals, for example, 10-15 minute showings per party.

Sanitary protocol recommendations

For sellers:

For those planning to list their home during the pandemic, it’s important to have a protocol in place for sanitizing a home before and after showings. The National Association of REALTORs® recommends some basic precautions in order to make the experience as touch-free as possible. Examples include opening doors, cabinets, closets, window coverings, light switches, etc. prior to potential buyers entering the home. After the showing, high traffic areas and surfaces should be disinfected, including the key and lockbox. 

For buyers:

When attending a tour, buyers should be mindful of recommended precautions. These include:

  • Wear a mask or face covering
  • Avoid shaking hands
  • Wash or sanitize hands when entering a property
  • Remove shoes or wear booties prior to entry
  • Avoid touching surfaces in the home such as fixtures, cabinets, and door handles
  • Do not use the bathrooms
  • Do not share personal items like phones, pens, tablets at the property

This is general information about how real estate related activities are being conducted.  Please consult with local public health information for further guidance.

New Guide: Buying or Selling a Home During COVID-19

This season is anything but ordinary. As COVID-19 took hold, new restrictions on American life, a plunging financial market, and uncertainty about the future have impacted just about every sector and the real estate industry is not immune. 

If you are buying, selling or planning a move right now, you’re not alone in having questions. In my new guide, I shed light on what you should be thinking about and what you can expect in what could be a chaotic few weeks or months ahead in the housing market.  You can download a complimentary copy of the guide right here.
 
I specifically address and answer the following questions:
 
• What is the current state of the market?
• Is now the time to get a deal? Where can you find deals?
• What changes should I be aware of related to the transaction process?
• What are the key considerations for buyers and sellers?
• How can I make the best of this time if I’m not quite ready to buy or sell?
Safety and health is the top priority, but for a multitude of reasons you may find that now is the time to buy or sell real estate.
 
My partners and I are here to help you navigate and adapt to our new environment and position you for an optimal outcome. Whether you are a buyer, seller or a homeowner in need of a sounding board or guidance, I’m here to listen, share resources and advise on potential next steps.
 
I’m currently available for 30 minute Zoom calls throughout the week. Please contact me to schedule a time to chat.

What is a real estate market correction?

Upturns and downturns are inevitable and part of a natural economy. There have been peaks and valleys since the U.S. Federal government began selling land in the year 1800 as described in this complete history of real estate bubbles.

In the world of investments, a market correction is described as a decline of 10% or greater in the price of an asset. Unlike the stock market where large swings are common in high risk trading, homeowners don’t anticipate as much risk when purchasing a long-term investment like a home. In comparison to other markets, the housing market is generally not as susceptible to pricing bubbles due to the significant transaction costs and effort involved in buying and selling real estate. Since real estate prices in most areas tend to increase over time, people don’t purchase a house expecting value to decrease. However, from time to time prices dip. This is considered normal in housing markets that go through periods of rapid price appreciation.

Supply, demand, and housing prices

The simple logic of what goes up must come down is often applied. A booming housing market can lead to a bubble burst when factors inflate pricing to a level that is no longer sustainable. Home prices that have risen too quickly will correct to be more in line with a long-term average. This correction could appear as a quick decline or a gradual drop. Sometimes prices remain constant while the long-term average catches up.

The law of supply and demand largely drives housing prices. Usually low supply and high demand increases price and visa versa. In recent history, we’ve seen this theory at play in communities across the country facing inventory shortages where homebuyers are forced to compete. Homes receive multiple offers and bidding wars drive up pricing.

The inverse of this scenario occurs during a buyer’s market, which is an economic situation in which housing inventory is plentiful and pricing is down. By tracking price trends, you can draw a conclusion about the underlying levels of supply and demand and whether it’s a buyer’s or seller’s market. In theory, if prices decrease demand is declining in relation to supply.

The market strives for equilibrium

Another significant principle that drives a correction is the market’s tendency to strive for equilibrium. Equilibrium is a state in which the supply for housing meets the demand and price, cost, and value find balance accordingly. With regards to this concept, the market moves to meet supply and supply moves to meet demand.

Take the example of a booming suburban market where a large company decides to open up a new headquarters. Over a short period of time, the town sees an uptick in buyers relocating to the area for employment. Housing becomes scarce as the influx of buyers snatch up available homes for sale. A price increase follows suit. Developers catch wind of the opportunity and begin construction on new housing developments. Once the new homes are built, supply meets demand and the market starts to balance out.

What this example also describes is the equilibrium lag time. Market corrections take time and the real estate market is relatively slow to respond. Homes aren’t built or sold overnight so there is a time lag between when an imbalance is recognized and the market adjustment actually occurs.

Factors that impact the real estate cycle

There are a number of factors that influence the real estate cycle and the rate at which it speeds up or slows down. The market is usually in flux because the underlying determinants of supply and demand (scarcity, desire, utility, purchasing power, and costs) are constantly changing.

A real estate market correction can be healthy for the overall economy because price adjustments on overvalued housing inventory creates buying opportunity. While damaging in the short-term for those who already own property, it’s a good scenario for wannabe homeowners.

A distinguishing feature about real estate is that demand must quite literally come to meet supply. Unlike other types of financial assets, real property and particularly the land it sits on cannot be physically moved — buyers must come to the home. This creates an inherent risk for homeowners. If the demand in your local market wanes, you can’t simply transfer your home into a higher demand market. Ultimately, homeowners have to wait out lulls and hope for the best.

Note: This article was originally written for realestate.com by Dana Bull

Selling a Historic Property – The Spectacular Wedding Cake House in Salem

Coined the “Spectacular Wedding Cake Henry M Brooks Cottage” by historian John Goff, 260 Lafayette St in Salem is nothing short of amazing. A stunning example of Gothic Revival Architecture, the building is simply one of a kind. High ceilings, paneled walls, gorgeous hardwood floors, diamond-paned windows, coffered ceilings, two fireplaces, and beautiful moldings are some of the original detail throughout.

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Buying a Wicked Cute Two-Family in Salem

Home buying can be scary! Especially when your first purchase is a 150-year-old fixer upper located in Salem, the Halloween capital of the country. Did I mention that it’s a multi-family?

The idea of becoming a first time home owner AND a first time lanlord is enough to send some people running for the hills faster than you can say hocus pocus. My cousin, Evan, and his wife, Meg, were ready for the challenge and enlisted me as their trusted realtor.

After contemplating a few towns in the greater Boston area, they decided that Salem made perfect sense for their commutes, lifestyle, and budget. The couple had more ties to the Witch City than you can shake a broom at. Meg had graduated from Salem State University and the couple married at a historic Salem venue last fall.

They were quick to whip up an offer on an adorable two-family in the incredibly charming Pickering Wharf neighborhood. The property overlooks the House of Seven Gables, a tourist hotspot, and is just a short stroll to the ocean, shops, and restaurants. The home hit the major items on their wish list being in walking distance to the commuter rail and having a good-sized yard for the dog. Not only did the property include a turnkey rental unit on the first floor, it also offered expansion potential into the attic with peaks of the ocean!

After a grueling multi-bid situation (which they won by the skin of their teeth using a strategic escalation clause and thoughtful note to the owner) Evan and Meg were under agreement.

Now is about the time when most buyers start to get a bit overwhelmed. House hunting and submitting offers is mere child’s play. Once there is an accepted offer on the table, things get serious. There’s no shortage of what-if games and second-guessing only to be followed up with moments of clarity and validation.

As to be expected, the due diligence process on an old two family home is intense. The mantra for the home inspection week was “double, double toil and trouble”. Evan and Meg had multiple contractors look at the house. We even had a plumber shoot a camera down the waste line to make sure it was up to snuff. They made friends with everyone at the building department and interviewed the neighbors. While it’s impossible to learn every detail about a house built over a century ago, it doesn’t hurt to do some basic research. No matter what property you buy, you want to go in with eyes wide open to understand the risks and potential pitfalls. But, at some point, you have to take a leap of faith.

Ultimately, the home had been lovingly maintained and the pride in ownership showed. It was time to move forward with the purchase and not look back.

Buying a multi-family property has some extra complexity. Signing up for homeownership is one thing, becoming a landlord is an entirely different ball game. As an extra service, I help clients strategize on the financials of investing as well as providing basic resources for being a successful property manager. To make sure the pair got off on the right foot, we sat down to discuss marketing the rental and vetting prospective tenants.

October is always a busy time in Salem, thanks to seasonal festivities. It’s been especially busy for Evan and Meg. Since closing, they have been hard at work on some sweat equity projects to get their house in tip-top shape while simultaneously securing a tenant for the rental unit.

Happy Halloween to these new homeowners!

A big thanks to my cousins on this review of our work together:

“We were so impressed by Dana’s knowledge and expertise when we finally decided to leap into home ownership. Because of her background she is able to connect with you, as the buyer, on many different levels. Throughout the process, Dana kept us informed, answered our countless questions, and shared her previous experiences both as a buyer, seller, and a realtor. Even when we got cold feet and sent a late-night email with a laundry list of questions and worries, she helped us to understand both the upside and pitfalls to buying an old two-family property. We often said that Dana was not only our realtor but also a source of emotional support with her pep talks. Dana’s work ethic, drive, and knowledge are unparalleled. She not only works hard to make sure the process stays on track but also to make sure you understand what is happening, when it is happening, how it is happening and why it is happening. Going above and beyond to help you get your home is just how she operates. She is truly an amazing realtor to work with.”

 

 

 

A Salem Home Buying Story that’s Straight Out of a Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, Dusty and Marcela reached out to me about a rental ad in Salem. What, that’s not how most fairy tales start? Well, at least that’s were this story begins. The couple had recently moved to the area from Colorado and they were excited to be on a new adventure. In need of a landing spot to get their bearings, the newlyweds ended up renting out one of my apartments for about a year. Like most, they were quickly charmed by Salem’s history and incredible downtown and wanted to make the quirky city a permanent residence. I was thrilled when they contacted me to discuss buying.

We got to work quickly and identified a mix of single-family homes and condos within their price range. They were looking for something special, as they wanted the real “Salem experience”.

One home in particular stole the show.

We were all blown away by 270 Lafayette St #3, a penthouse condo in an 1880 Victorian that looks like it belongs in a fantasy world. The whimsical space is filled to the brim with character, including wide pine flooring, stained glass, built-in window seats, and an incredible turret. Yes, you read that right, a turret! A turret is a prominent architectural detail in a Victorian home that acts as a lookout tower. Complete with peaks of the ocean, this condo’s turret is reminiscent of Rapunzel’s purple castle.

Owning a slice of history comes with some serious perks, but it’s important to do some extra due diligence in order to understand the maintenance and pitfalls of owning an older home. During the inspection, we discussed ways to care for a home with historic integrity such as preserving a slate roof and choosing the right color schemes. As a fellow homeowner and property manager in Salem, I have an extensive vendor list of professionals who specialize in historic buildings and I am always happy to make an introduction for a client.

While I was sad to see two of my best tenants go, it was incredibly rewarding to help them land an enchanting piece of Salem real estate. Congrats Dusty and Marcela on your happily ever after and thank you for this fantastic review of the home buying experience.

“While this was not the first time my wife and I purchased a home, it was our first time purchasing a home in Massachusetts. Little did we know the breadth of knowledge we lacked in purchasing a home in the New England market. Fortunately, Dana has immense expertise in this area. From strategizing on offers to educating my wife and me on the inspection process, historical aspects of homes, etc. Dana was an invaluable resource in each phase of our buying experience. Without Dana, finding our new home would have been an arduous process. Dana’s knowledge, diligence, and responsiveness are unmatched.”

Are you looking to make a purchase in Boston or on the North Shore? I’m currently taking on a limited number of clients, please contact me if you would like to discuss working together.

Transaction Team Members

Lender: Adam Moore, Academy Mortgage Network

Attorney: Josh Karas, Karas Law Associates

Inspector: RJ Inspections

 

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again: A first-time homebuyer’s story of perseverance

Growing up, my mom had countless expressions to keep us grounded. She would be the first to point out that “life isn’t fair” when any of us kids complained about something not going our way. You would have thought she was a back up singer for the Rolling Stones based on how many times she would break out the lyrics of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” As difficult as it is to hear (especially in a Mick Jagger impersonation) that “life isn’t fair” and that “you can’t always get what you want”, these are important lessons to learn. These themes are a constant in life and in real estate. Ironically, they couldn’t ring more true throughout my own sister’s home buying story.

Anyone who knows my younger sister will tell you that she’s charismatic, determined and high achieving. When Sarah sets her mind to something, she really goes for it. At 25, she decided it was time to buy her first home. Of course, she enlisted her big sis (yours truly) to represent her in the transaction. Sarah was a dream to work with, but due to high demand and low inventory her target markets proved to be any buyer’s worst nightmare.

Her condo wish list was minimal; all she needed was a pet-friendly building with parking and two bedrooms. Based on her budget and the desire to be halfway between downtown Boston and her office in Framingham, we decided to narrow down our search to Waltham.

It seemed like the perfect plan. The only problem was that every young professional under the sun seemed to share our same idea. Waltham is a happening place and home to several big names in tech and pharma. There are some trendy local spots as well as easy access to Boston. While the Boston area is a great area to live, the process involved in getting a place is easier said than done. (Spoiler alert, it’s not impossible!)

Sarah quickly fell in love with one of the first condos she looked at and we put together a strong offer. Not surprisingly, we weren’t the only ones and she lost a six way bidding war. I hate delivering bad news, especially to my sister. It doesn’t seem fair to want something badly and to be outbid by a cash investor. It’s a tough reminder that life isn’t fair and that you can’t always get what you want.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Sarah and I worked extremely hard for several months to nail down the most perfect condo. We wrote up countless offers, only to pull out when they escalated outside of her budget. She wound up opening her search to other areas and was able to negotiate winning bids in several towns, including Waltham. Ultimately, Sarah had her choice between a condo in Waltham and a beautiful home in West Roxbury. After going through the whole process, she discovered that when you try sometimes well you just might find that you get what you need.

Below are some of the techniques that helped Sarah win. They can help you too:

Be realistic about your competition

First, you want to size up your competition. Track recent inventory and look at trends in list price vs. sold price. Attend open houses and watch and listen to other buyers to gauge their interest levels.

Build rapport with the listing agent

Introduce yourself to the listing agent and leave them with a good impression. You always want to present yourself professionally.

See if the seller has any hot buttons

Does the home have sentimental value? Sometimes writing a cover letter to the sellers goes a long way. Are they looking to move quickly? Try to accommodate their timeline.

Figure out your absolute max budget

Assign a value to the home and do not go overboard when you start to get emotional. At some point, you have to draw a line in the sand. The hardest part for buyers is being able to let a place go if it’s outside their budget.

Fine-tune your terms

While you may be stuck on max price, are there other ways to strengthen your offer? Weigh the pros and cons of tightening up the language around the inspection and financing. There are ways to strengthen these terms without slashing them entirely.

Be the squeaky wheel

The squeaky wheel gets the oil is yet another one of my mom’s favorite expressions. Make sure that you’re reiterating your enthusiasm for the property. Often times, the “over communication” is what keeps your offer on the table.

Think outside the box

Sometimes you need to get creative. We found a great place in Waltham that had been sitting on the market because of some tight restrictions in the condo docs. For that reason, everyone else had skipped over it. By offering to pay an attorney to have the condo docs rewritten, we could have put a deal together.

Put irons in the fire

I always say, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Don’t be afraid to put in an offer. Any offer is better than no offer. There are times when the first in-line buyers fall through and the listing agent comes back to other bidders.

Need help buying in the Boston area? I’m taking on a limited number of clients and would love to know how I can help you make a purchase. Drop me a line today to discuss your real estate goals.

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