“What’s Going on With Interest Rates?”

Lots of people are asking me this question, but what they’re REALLY asking is: “Are interest rates finally going up?” The answer: Yup…and they’re not going back down anytime soon.

Shiny Percentage Up - Dollar Textured Front

Industry expert Mike Thompson from Envoy Mortgage agrees when he says, “the ultra low rate environment we’ve experienced over the past 5 years (3% range) is gone while a “historically”low range of 4 – 5% should remain thru 2017.”

To put the rise of rates in perspective, let me share the following example: On October 15th, my clients and I settled on a property with a 3.75% on a 30-year conventional mortgage. On January 30th, I submitted an offer on behalf of very similar clients on a similar property at a rate of 4.375% on a 30-year with the same lender. That’s over a half a percentage point in three months!

But if you go back and read what Mike said and you’re an optimist like me, you’ll notice he is suggesting a silver lining: while interest rates are on the move, they shouldn’t exceed 5% and even at that level, they are still at historic lows.

Translation: there is an opportunity here…

Quite simply, if you’re a buyer (especially a first timer) it’s a good idea to talk to a real estate agent (and a lender) to determine a path forward. Real estate is still a terrific investment with the guidance of competent professionals at your disposal.

I try to explain to people that even if your plan isn’t to move right away, getting a sense of what you can afford allows you to develop a strategy to achieve your goals. One of the worst things I see in this business is a couple coming to me and say, “We’re ready to buy!”

They’ve looked at homes on Zillow, they know what they are looking for and where they want to live. In some cases, they’ve even picked out their finishes for a bathroom or kitchen remodel…the problem arises when they finally talk to a lender and find out that their savings won’t get them there. Preparation is key.Savings Thermometer Measuring Money Nestegg Increase

Sellers should be paying attention too especially if they’ve been waiting out the market since rising interest rates will compel more buyers to enter the marketplace. When there are more buyers, home prices go up…simple economics. Also, sellers should consider the cost of waiting since they are subject to the increased rates if they are buying another home.

No matter your real estate goals, if you’re looking to do something in the next few years you should be talking to someone about this ever-changing real estate climate. If the last six months are any indication, those who have done their homework will be the ones who ultimately save some serious money. This is not a sales pitch…just a reality of the real estate market and a friendly (and professional) head’s up.

If you have any thoughts, questions or have a topic you’d like me to discuss in my next installment, please leave it in the comment section below.

Seth Lejeune, REALTOR, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services

610.804.2104 / seth.lejeune@foxroach.com

6 Things You Should Do to Prepare Yourself for the Real Estate Process

For the last several months, I have been telling you all to “ask me anything”. So it was no surprise that over the holidays one of my clients came up to me and asked, “WHERE DO I START WHEN IT COMES TO REAL ESTATE?” The funny thing was that he asked it as if he were embarrassed. Something I tell all my clients and repeat often: “There are no dumb questions in real estate.” To boot, this is an excellent question!

Whether you’re buying your first home, you’ve never sold a house before or you haven’t been part of a real estate transaction since the inception of the digital age, help is easy to find! As a helpful reference, I have outlined what I believe to be the “must dos” to get you started.

“Fortune favors the prepared mind.” ~ Louis Pasteur

Buying a Home?

  1. Talk to a REALTOR – Ask a qualified real estate professional about market conditions, trends, inventory levels, but most importantly about the process in general. Don’t be shy to ask for stuff in writing either as you are most likely to forget details.
  2. Talk to a lender – The mortgage is usually the bedrock of the home purchase. Without a lender, nothing else really matters. Lenders will ask for documents which show income such as bank statements or pay stubs and they will probably run a credit report. The goal here is to assess your viability as a borrower and once they do, you will be given a price range for what you may purchase. Your agent usually has a list of lenders you can call. coupleconfused
  3. Begin the search – Now that you know what you can afford, it allows you to talk location, property features, and school districts with your agent. Unless time is of the essence, I advise clients to keep their options open so no opportunities are missed.

Note: I do encourage an in-person meeting with your agent at some point during this process. There is something to be said about face-to-face contact which can’t be replaced by technology. Keep in mind that your agent will be with you from start to finish, so developing a close relationship is an advantage. 

Selling a Home?

  1. Talk to a REALTOR – Similar to buyers, one should inquire with their agent as to market conditions/trends, inventory levels and ask for comparables or “comps”. Comps are a report of past sales in the area which match the property features of your home. These give a good idea of how fast homes are selling, at what price and will be a strong factor in determining at what price you decide to list your property.
  2. Walkthrough – Next step is to invite your agent over for a quick tour. Your agent should know exactly what they’re working with and they can provide some valuable tips for any repairs or modification which need to take place before listing the property.
  3. Prepare to List – Once you’ve decided to sell your home and agreed upon a price, there are still things that need to be done that help sell your home. Main things are to generally clean and declutter. This includes getting rid of junk, smells and other things which make the place seem undesirable to buyers. Your agent (or their stager) can help in this regard. Some homes need a little more TLC.
  4. BONUS TIP – Pre-listing Inspection: Back in October, I wrote about how inspections in a real estate transaction were where the “Where the Rubber Meets the Road…“. A pre-listing inspection is performed before you put the home on the market and helps you get out ahead of any unforeseen issues.

I have found that a lot of people can be intimidated by the real estate process, but it is actually pretty straightforward. When one is armed with the knowledge and guidance of a good agent, there’s no reason it can’t be a very smooth (even fun) process.

Got questions? Please ask me anything by leaving a comment below!

Seth Lejeune is a licensed PA REALTOR.

610.804.2104 / seth.lejeune@foxroach.com

 

What Does a Trump Presidency Mean for the US Real Estate Market?

 

trump-1-0

I originally wrote this article last month, however, I decided to wait in hopes of providing you all with a little more insight into what a Trump administration will mean for real estate. It goes without saying, the implication of a Trump presidency is the most common inquiry I now receive and after speaking to several market professionals both inside and outside the real estate world, there IS a consensus on what the future will bring: UNCERTAINTY.

In terms of things likely to affect the real estate market, there are multiple factors. For example, while most agree Trump policies will lower taxes and bolster American’s ability to purchase property, there are also many predicting that interest rates will increase making the cost of homeownership rise. Of course, if the economy grows, then a rise in interest rates is not necessarily a bad thing. By the same token, some say the Republican’s plan to reform social programs might diminish the spending power of the middle class, or at the very least, affect consumer buying behavior. Diminished spending power means fewer home sales…

Furthermore, his potential changes to regulation & lending, Freddie Mac & Fannie Mae, zoning laws, the Consumer Protection Bureau etc should allow for a less regulated marketplace and free up institutions to conduct businesses at will. This will increase the number of qualified applicants for loans and allow a larger swath of Americans to purchase a home. On the other hand, some worry these changes will lead to another runaway lending situation that led to the economic collapse in 2008; or at least something on a smaller scale.

If you’re dizzy or confused at this point, that’s ok. The real estate market is like a big puzzle and if you add it all up, we come back to our original point: There is too much uncertainty to really know what is going to happen. 

What we do know is the real estate market is continuing to get stronger in most areas of the country. New construction startups are growing at a good clip and there are several metropolitan areas where home prices have rebounded quite nicely. Can the real estate market become even stronger under President Trump? Time will tell.

Not to avoid an answer here, but I would be lying if I told you I knew what was going to happen in the next 4 (or 8) years. A funny thing happens when someone begins to make predictions about big, complex industries; they tend to be more wrong than right. The best we can do is closely watch what’s going on in the market and attempt to anticipate any major changes. If I had to make a prediction, though, I would say the real estate market is going to get stronger in the short term. While Trump presents a certain amount of uncertainty (which markets generally dislike), indicators are pointing to their willingness to give the man a chance to see what he can do.

Got questions? Ask me anything!

Inspections are Where the Rubber Meets the Road…

 

With the help of a couple talented agents, getting a buyer and seller to agree on price can be a beautiful thing! It’s an exciting time for both parties and optimism is usually very high. Back in May, one of my clients thanked me at this point for my hard work and said, “It’s been a pleasure working with you!” Whoa!!! Not so fast! There’s still work to be done. Often times, inspections are where the rubber meets the road as it can take an emotional toll on both parties. In most cases, buyers want their new home to be “move-in ready” and sellers don’t wish to spend any more money than they need to.

Whether you have a buyer who is asking for unreasonable repairs or a seller who refuses to heed requests, inspections can very easily unravel a deal in a matter of hours. Perhaps at a later date, I will outline the entire inspection process, but for now….I have a few suggestions for both buyers and sellers. Every real estate transaction is unique, but these are general rules of thumb:

Buyers

  1. Always research your inspector or ask your real estate agent for a few recommendations. It can be beneficial when the agent and inspector have a prior working relationship.
  2. Be present for the inspection.
  3. If you aren’t buying new construction then assume that there will be small maintenance type things that come up at an inspection. A good inspector will point these out to you, but generally shouldn’t be asked of the seller.
  4. If there are large problems uncovered (roof, electrical, plumbing leaks, structural issues), then refrain from asking for minor fixes such as touching up paint, repairing nail pops, smoke detectors, etc. The sellers might think you’re “nickel and diming” them which is usually not received well.
  5. Remain calm and remember not to put too much emotion into this part of the transaction, even if the seller does. Deals can go off the rails in a hurry if both sides decide to take offense to the other side’s position.
  6. Ask yourself: “Would I find these repairs reasonable if I were the owner of the property?”
  7. Communicate via your agent.

Sellers

  1. Have your agent be present for the inspection if possible.
  2. Crunch numbers of all requested repairs before responding. Rely on data rather than your first impressions to guide your response.
  3. Ask yourself two things: “Will this problem come up in most inspection reports?” & “Is this something that I’d ask for if I were the buyer?” It is very important the seller answers these questions honestly. Getting upset and killing the deal only to have the next buyer ask for the exact same thing can be a very costly mistake.
  4. Consider getting an inspection done before you put your home on the market.
  5. Communicate via your agent.

Please send this along to anyone you think might benefit from this information. Of course, I’m only an email away and always happy to help!

seth.lejeune@foxroach.com