While buying and selling real estate was recently deemed essential in Washington State, the landscape looks very different than it did before the COVID-19 outbreak. Real estate offices remain closed to the public with agents (like me) working remotely and hosting virtual client meetings. Important safety regulations prohibit in-person open houses and limit the number of people who can tour a home or attend an inspection. Social distancing will remain at the forefront as we wait for a vaccine or treatment to become widely available.
So how do you buy or sell a home safely in this new environment? Thanks to modern technology, there is a lot I can do to help you through the process while minimizing the risk to you and the community. Here are some tips on how to do it right…
TIPS FOR BUYERS
- Do your homework before you tour a home in person. Take a virtual online tour, research the neighborhood and ask your agent to delve into the property and title history. If a virtual tour isn’t available, your agent can give you a preview via FaceTime or Skype while walking through the home.
- Get pre-qualified. Knowing your exact budget in advance will help you save time and avoid any non-essential showings.
- Schedule a 1-hour showing window. When you think you’ve found “the one” and are ready to tour it in-person, have your agent book a full hour so that you are less likely to run into other buyers. This will also allow time for each person to see the home since there is currently a limit of just 2 people in the home at once, including the agent.
- Meet your agent at the home. Instead of carpooling, drive separately and then wait in your car until your agent confirms that the home is empty and ready to tour. Condos may have special rules for showings and you’ll also want to take separate elevator trips if you’re touring a high-rise.
- Play it safe during the tour. Wear a mask, wash/sanitize your hands when you enter and leave, limit touching of surfaces, and maintain at least 6 feet of social distance from your agent at all times. Assume you might be recorded by the homeowner and observed by neighbors.
- Meet virtually with your agent. When it’s time to write an offer, your agent can use any number of video conferencing apps to share documents with you and discuss them in real time. You can then sign and authenticate all contracts electronically via a secure service such as Authentisign.
- Don’t skip a professional home inspection. Due to the difficulties around seeing the home in person, it is more important than ever to make sure you know of any underlying issues it may have. The 2-person rule still applies at inspections so your agent will likely request the seller’s permission for you to be in the home alone with the inspector while the agent waits in the car. You’ll also need to make sure you and your inspector comply with all social distancing and safety rules.
TIPS FOR SELLERS
- Give your listing agent a virtual tour. Rather than meeting in person, utilize an app like FaceTime or Skype to virtually walk your agent through your home using your smart phone. Hold meetings virtually whenever possible and sign documents electronically through a secure service such as Authentisign.
- Move out first if at all possible. This makes it practical for buyers to comfortably view your home while following the current 2-person limit for home occupancy during showings. It also protects you from any potential exposure—especially important if you are in at at-risk age group and/or have health problems.
- Time the market with expert advice. Talk to an agent you can trust who follows the ins and outs of regulations from the Governor’s office and also has access to showing data and activity reports that can help you determine the best time to sell.
- Look your best online. Make sure your agent will coordinate truly stellar home preparation, staging and photography. Consider having a professional video tour and interactive floor plans as well.
- Have your agent hold a virtual open house. Live-streaming a virtual tour from inside the home is a great way for your agent to reach buyers and answer their questions in real time. Virtual open houses are also now promoted on virtually all home search websites and apps.
- Prepare diligently for in-person showings. Be sure that you or your agent provides hand sanitizer, single-use booties and masks along with a sign detailing the safety guidelines you would like visitors to follow while in your home. Open interior doors and turn on lights ahead of time to minimize touching. Disinfect high-use surfaces after each showing.
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Not too long ago talk of million-dollar homes would conjure up images of lavish mansions owned by a small percentage of elite homebuyers – one percent, to be exact. Now, according to an article from The Seattle Times, seven-figure homes are becoming the norm across the Puget Sound region.
If you have been in the housing market recently, you have probably experienced the difficulty of finding a home under $1 million – especially if you are looking to find something significantly lower, such as around or under a quarter-million. That is because nearly 12 percent of all single-family houses sold in King County this year have sold for more than $1 million, which is double the average rate over the last decade. On the opposite end of the market spectrum, less than 5 percent of homes fit into the cheapest price bracket of less than $250,000. As of October the median cost of a single-family home in King County is $550,000, according to data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
Windermere’s Chief Economist Matthew Gardner commented on the extreme shift stating, “It wasn’t that long ago, you start talking about seven figures, that was rarefied air. Now, it’s a more substantial market than we’ve ever seen before.”
Not surprisingly, Eastside neighborhoods have the biggest concentration of million-dollar homes, but they are also becoming more commonplace in several Seattle neighborhoods. The bulk of luxury home buyers are the expected tech executives, California and B.C. transplants, and foreign investors who are taking advantage of opportunities in Greater Seattle. However, the million-dollar market has also expanded to include home buyers outside of those sectors who never imagined they would be million-dollar homeowners – especially out of necessity. That being said…
How does this change how we define “luxury”?
The influx of million-dollar listings and homeowners has spurred a rebranding of “luxury” in our market. One Windermere agent reports, “What we used to consider luxury listings was anything over $2 million, and now that has scooted up to $3 million.” Windermere has responded to this redefinition with the W Collection, our newest brand in ultra-luxury that features homes worth at least $3 million. Our president OB Jacobi describes the program as “a sophisticated, yet humble, brand that evokes the understated expression of wealth that is unique to the Pacific Northwest.”
Find the full article at The Seattle Times.
Anyone who has spent time in the Seattle area in recent years has likely seen for themselves how much the city has changed. Thanks in large part to the booming economy, growing tech sector, and increasing international appeal, Seattle is no longer a sleepy little city tucked away in the far corner of the United States. With this changing landscape has come an infusion of wealth that has seen the area’s high-net-worth population explode. And with it, so too has the ultra-high-end real estate market.
In order to meet the specialized needs of this burgeoning market, Windermere has launched W Collection, a new ultra-luxury brand specifically designed for homes priced at $3 million and above in Western Washington. OB Jacobi, President of Windermere Real Estate, says that Seattle’s population of “global affluent” is on the rise and they greatly value real estate. The proof is in the numbers.
Over the past five years there has been a significant increase in the number of home sales in the $3 million+ market. In 2011 there were only 45 such sales in King County, while in 2015 there were 131. “Windermere agents represent anywhere from 40-60 percent of the $3 million+ sales in the Seattle area, so we felt we were in the ideal position to build a brand that could provide enhanced marketing support to the growing number of ultra-luxury homes,” said Jacobi.
W Collection is its own standalone brand with a separate website, WByWindermere.com, signage, presentation materials, and specialized advertising opportunities. When developing W Collection, Jacobi said that the goal was to create a sophisticated, yet humble, brand that evokes the understated expression of wealth that is unique to the Pacific Northwest. “Our clients are not largely drawn to the shows of excessive wealth that you see at other companies and in other parts of the country. This is reflected in the W Collection brand,” said Jacobi.
The development of W Collection began a little over a year ago, and according to Jacobi, was a highly collaborative process with Windermere agents playing an integral role in every step, “Over the past 44 years some of Windermere’s best ideas have come from our agents who are totally in tune with the needs of their clients and the shifting demands of the market; W Collection was born from this same agent ingenuity.”
This article originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.
According to two recent surveys that took industry watchers by surprise, many family homeowners are putting frugality aside and upsizing to new houses that average as large as 2,480 square feet (an increase of as much as 13 percent from the year before), and sometimes exceed 3,500 square feet in size.
Meanwhile, millions of baby boomer homeowners are rushing to downsize—with some 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 saying they’re planning to make a move within the next five years.
It’s a tale of two very different segments of the population making dramatic shifts in their living accommodations to find the housing solutions that best suit their needs: one upsizing while the other downsizes.
With so many baby boomers now nearing retirement age (8,000 Americans turn 65 every day), it should come as no surprise that the number of prospective “downsizers” exceed the number of “upsizers” by three to one. With their children gone, these aging homeowners are interested in reducing the amount of house they need to care for, and are eager to bulk up their retirement savings with any home-sale profits.
As for why many families are choosing to upsize so substantially after years of downsizing or staying put, experts point to the extremely low interest rates and discounted home prices available today, and theorize that many families now feel confident enough about the economy to move out of homes they outgrew years ago.
If you’re considering upsizing or downsizing, here are some facts to consider:
How such a move can impact your life
The most common benefits of downsizing:
- Lower mortgage payments
- Lower tax bills
- Lower utility bills
- Less maintenance (and lower maintenance expenses)
- More time/money for travel, hobbies, etc.
- More money to put toward retirement, debts, etc. (the profits from selling your current home)
The most common benefits of upsizing:
- More living space
- More storage space
- More yard/garden space
- More room for entertaining/hosting friends and family
- Upsizing will likely increase your living expenses, so it’s important to factor into any financial forecasts
- Downsizing will require that you make some hard choices about what belongings will need to be stored or sold
Other impacts to consider:
- The loss of good neighbors
- Lifestyle changes (walking, neighborhood shopping, etc.)
- The effect on your work commute
- Public transit options
Buy first, or sell first?
Homeowners considering this transition almost always have the same initial question: “Should I buy the new home now, or wait and sell my current place first?” The answer is dependent on your personal circumstances. However, experts generally recommend selling first.
Selling your current home before buying a new one could mean you have to move to temporary quarters for some period of time—or rush to buy a new home. That could prove stressful and upsetting. However, if you instead buy first, you could be stuck with two mortgages, plus double property tax and insurance payments, which could quickly add up to lasting financial troubles.
If you need to sell in order to qualify for a loan, there’s no choice: You’ll have to sell first.
You could make the purchase of the new house contingent on selling your current home. However, this approach can put you in a weak bargaining position with the seller (if you can even find a seller willing to seriously consider a contingency offer). Plus, you may be forced to accept a low-ball offer for your current house in order to sell it in time to meet the contingency agreement timing.
The truth is, most home sales tend to take longer than the owners imagine, so it’s almost always best to finalize the sale, and do whatever is necessary to reap the biggest profit, before embarking on the purchase of your new home.
When to make the transition
Ideally, when you’re selling your home, you want to wait until the demand from potential buyers is high (to maximize your selling price). But in this case, because you’re also buying, you’ll also want to take advantage of any discounted interest rates and reduced home prices (both of which will fade away as the demand for homes grows).
How will you know when the timing is right to both sell and buy? Ask an industry expert: your real estate agent. As someone who has their finger on the pulse of the housing market every day, they can help you evaluate the current market and try to predict what changes could be coming in the near future.
Even if you’ve been through it before, the act of upsizing or downsizing can be complex. For tips, as well as answers to any questions, contact a Windermere agent any time.
This article originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.