How Does It Measure Up?

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People are always looking for a “down and dirty” way to determine the value of a home and square footage seems to be one of the most common things used by people whether they are buyers, sellers or real estate agents. While it seems straight forward, there are several variances that can lead to inaccurate determinations.

The market data approach to value uses similar properties in size, location, condition and amenities to compare with the subject to arrive at a price. Differences in any of these things can affect the price per square foot. Appraisers are trained and licensed to make these adjustments but the differences are not necessarily objective and that is where opinions start to influence the value.

Even if a person were to make accurate adjustments, they would be based on the assumption that the square footage of the comparable properties is correct. That leads to the next area of concern: how was the subject property measured.

For detached housing it is commonly accepted to measure the outside of the dwelling. Is it customary in this area to include porches and patios under roof and if so, do they get full value or only partial value? Is there any value given to the garage since it isn’t living area? What about other areas that do not have HVAC coverage?

Some areas don’t give consideration to basement square footage at all. Others might give some value if it is finished or has access directly to the outside like a walk-out basement. Similarly, attic space could be finished and under HVAC, but if the ceiling height is not standard for the home, it may not receive value.

The problems become exacerbated when different comparables are not treated consistently and yet the common denominator ends up being an average of the square foot price of each. This is calculated by taking the sales price and dividing it by the number of square feet being quoted.

The source of the square footage should be listed to help determine the accuracy. It could be what the builder said it was to the original purchaser. If there is a set a plans available, that might seem credible but it is not uncommon for the builder to make changes while the home is being built which could increase or decrease the square footage.

Another source is the tax assessor. In many cases, they don’t actually measure the home but take the word of the builders or appraisers for it. If permits were obtained to add on to the home since it was built, then it should be reflected in the square footage. However, sometimes permits are not secured properly.

After reading this, you may think that more doubts have been introduced than solutions and you are correct. It takes diligence on the part of all parties to determine the correct amount. The most highly trained person will be the appraiser and they should be measuring the home in its “as is” condition but understand that even a competent person can inadvertently make a mistake.

It’s Worth Digging a Little Deeper

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There are hundreds of thousands of people who believe, for one reason or another, they cannot afford to buy a home currently. Some people may not for any number of reasons but it would be very surprising to know how many who can buy but have gotten some bad information along the way. It’s worth digging a little deeper to find out the facts.

John and Karen have been renting a home for the last five years at $2,000 a month. During that time, the value of the home they were renting went up by $30,000 in value while the unpaid balance decreased by $18, 400. Even though they were fortunate enough the rent remained constant over the five years, they missed out on close to $50,000 of equity that the owner realized instead of them.

Another thing to consider with today’s low interest rates, it is quite common for a mortgage payment to be lower than a tenant is paying rent for a similar property. So, in this example, John & Karen paid more to rent than a house payment would have been and missed out on the equity build-up that occurred due to appreciation and amortization.

The simple fact is when tenants like John and Karen pay their rent, the landlord is the beneficiary of the rent received as well as the equity earned. Over time, the rent paid by John and Karen and other tenants will pay for the landlord’s rental. It a great concept and a good investment.

True, not everyone can afford a home. A buyer needs money for a down payment and closing costs. They also need to have income and good credit to qualify for the mortgage. Some of these may seem insurmountable but instead of imagining that buying a home is not in the cards at the current time, talking to a real estate professional is a better route to take.

There are lots of low-down payment mortgages available including 100% financing for qualified veterans and USDA eligible buyers. It is sometimes more difficult to find sellers willing to pay all or part of a buyers closing costs when inventory is low, but lenders do allow it. It is a matter of finding the willing seller.

The source of the down payment could be a gift from a family member as long as there is no repayment expected. It’s amazing how many parents or grandparents might be willing to help a relative get into a home. Funds for a down payment may be available as loans or withdrawals from qualified retirement programs like IRAs or 401k plans. It’s worth investigating based on what retirement programs you have.

Good credit is necessary to qualify for a loan but buyers should not assume that theirs is not adequate. A trusted mortgage professional can assess a situation and may be able to suggest some things that will not only raise the score enough to be approved but possibly, even raise the score enough to qualify for a better interest rate.

There are a lot of misunderstandings about whether a person can or cannot qualify for a home at this time. Instead of relying on second hand information or something that might be floating around on the Internet, spend some time with a real estate professional who can give you the facts, assess your situation and if necessary, point you in the right direction to get help from a trusted mortgage professional. Call (316) 337-5154 to schedule an appointment where we’ll help you dig deeper to determine whether you can buy a home now.

Download our Buyers Guide to give you more information.

Grilling Safety

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More people grill in July, June & August than any other months and correspondingly, there are more injuries, as well as fires, due to grilling accidents in those months. Even though Labor Day is in September, we still need to be aware of safety.

Close to 20,000 patients per year visit the emergency room due to injuries involving grills. Approximately half of the injuries involving grills are thermal burns. If you are around fire, there’s a chance of getting burned.

About 2/3 of American households own at least one outdoor barbecue, grill or smoker. Interestingly, gas grills contribute to more fires than charcoal grills. In addition, there are over 10,600 home fires started by grills each year.

While grilling is associated with celebrations, good food, fun and friends, it is important to make sure that accidents don’t interrupt your activities.

  • Only use BBQ grills outdoors and in ventilated areas
  • Place the grill away from home or anything that could be flammable
  • Keep grill stable
  • Keep fire under control
  • Keep children away from grill
  • Never leave the grill unattended
  • The grill lid should always be open before lighting it.
  • Grease should not be allowed to build up in the grill
  • Use long-handled utensils

Gas/Propane

  • Check the tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year by using a light soapy water solution to see if bubbles appear.
  • You should not smell gas when the grill is lit. Move away from the grill and call the fire department.
  • If the flame goes out, turn off the gas for 15 minutes and open the lid before re-lighting it.

Charcoal

  • Never add any starter fluid or other flammable liquid to a fire
  • Only use charcoal starter fluid and not gasoline, kerosene or other flammable liquid.
  • Keep starter fluid away from heat sources and out of reach of children.
  • Electric starters have a coil that ignites the charcoal.
  • When finished cooking, close off the grill vents to suffocate the fire and save some of the remaining charcoal.

Practice safe grilling and enjoy any occasion to cook outdoors and share time with your family and friends.

Forbearance is Not Forgiveness

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Forbearance is a temporary postponement of mortgage payments. The lender can grant this option to a borrower instead of forcing the property into foreclosure. The CARES Act provides protections for homeowners with mortgages that are federally or Government Sponsored Enterprise backed or funded such as FHA, VA, USDA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

A mortgage holder should contact the lender to explain the temporary difficulty they are having making payments and ask for relief under forbearance or other options. Once the lender grants approval, it is important for the borrower to get the terms of the forbearance agreement in writing to be clear about when the payments will resume and how the missed payments will be recovered.

Generally speaking, homeowners in a forbearance plan will not incur late fees and it should not adversely affect their credit. Unfortunately, borrowers must be vigilant to see that the lender is protecting them from delinquent credit marks according to their agreement.

Forbearance is easy to receive but not so easy to recover from. Free credit reports can be obtained on a weekly basis until April 21, 2021 at www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Reports are available from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. This will allow borrowers to monitor whether the lender has inadvertently reported items inaccurately.

Prior to the end of the forbearance period, borrowers should contact their loan servicer, the company that accepts their payments. Review the terms of the forbearance plan and expectations for repayment. Verify the unpaid balance and that there are not any payments marked as late or delinquent during the forbearance period.

One more item to discuss with the loan servicer is the payment of the property taxes and insurance. Since multiple mortgage payments may have been missed and most payments include 1/12 of the annual amounts for these items, there may not be enough to pay for them when they become due.

Since it is estimated that there are over four million borrowers in forbearance currently, it may be difficult to talk to the servicer but starting the process early and being persistent will be helpful.

At the end of forbearance, the borrower needs to resume regular payments and establish a plan with the lender to repay the missed payments. The terms are negotiated between the borrower and the lender.

One way is through a loan modification which can restructure the loan. In some cases, it would add the missed payments to the loan balance and recalculate the payments for the remainder of the term.

A borrower could pay the forbearance money in cash but the practicality of that is not realistic. If the person couldn’t make the payments during forbearance, they probably don’t have the liquidity to pay them afterward. This option is entirely at the buyer’s election.

Forbearance is a temporary way to postpone the mortgage payments with the understanding that you will be able to resume repaying the loan. If the circumstances that caused the issue initially become permanent, then, other remedies must be considered. If there is equity in the property, selling the home may be the way to materialize it for the homeowner.

Please contact us at (316) 337-5154 if you need to know what your home is worth and how long it would take to sell it. We’re happy to provide this information as a service without obligation so you can be aware of your options.

Building a Pool Is Just the Beginning

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During the first major stay-at-home event that most of us have experienced in this country, a pool can give you and your family enjoyable recreation without leaving the home. For those without a pool, the NPD group reports that the Covid-19 pandemic has increased pool building by 161% this year.

When your children are small, pools become a magnet for not only your children but their friends as well. It can also be a great place for the summer holidays, Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day. Any day during the summer, especially on the weekends, can be an opportunity to enjoy the pool, cook outside and bask in the sun.

Some of you may have even made the transition from your children enjoying the pool to your grandchildren. Usually, there is an interim where you may have wished that your home didn’t have a pool so you would not have the maintenance and required upkeep. Then, the new generation of family starts using it regularly and again, you are glad you have a pool, so you’ll see the grandchildren more.

For those people who don’t have a pool but are considering one, there are some things that you need to think about.

If you’ve watched some of the TV shows like Pool Kings, most of those builds look like resorts or water parks and the price tag that comes with them can be staggering. Even a modest gunite, in-ground pool with a limited amount of decking can be as expensive as a luxury car, especially after including the cost of landscaping and pool furniture.

If you finance the pool as a home improvement, the term will probably be between seven to fifteen years. If you refinance your current mortgage and wrap the cost of the pool together, you could get a 30-year term.

Pool cleaning and chemicals depend on the size of the pool but will generally start at about $175 a month through a service. Your utilities will see an increase because you’re going to use more electricity and water than you did before you had a pool.

Then, of course, there is food and refreshments to consider for not only your family but your guests. There are also pool toys, floats, sunscreen, towels and other minor things that do add up.

People going through the pros and cons of building a pool usually tell themselves that the house will go up in value. It is true but not nearly as much as the cost of the pool. Long time pool owners will tell you that they have had lots of great memories and it has been a good investment in their family. It just may not be a good financial investment.

Once you’ve made the decision to build a pool, find a reputable pool builder, ask for references and check them out. Ask friends who have pools, who built them and would they use the company again. Most pool companies hire and coordinate with subcontractors to do the work. It is important to know that the builder will be around if something goes wrong and how they’ll solve the issue.

The Better Business Bureau has some suggestions about hiring a pool contractor and they warn about scammers who are eager to take advantage of the increased demand for pools.

Three Reasons to Refinance

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Three reasons to refinance a home include lowering the cost of housing, shortening the term of the mortgage to pay it off sooner or to use the equity to accomplish another purpose.

Replacing the mortgage at a lower interest rate, which is entirely possible in today’s market, would reduce the payment. On the other hand, shortening the term of the mortgage could make the payments increase but would allow the home to be paid for sooner. In either case, the equity would not be reduced unless the refinancing costs were rolled into the new mortgage.

Refinancing the home to take money out would increase the mortgage on the property and lower an owner’s equity; careful consideration should be made before doing so.

Mortgage rates are considerably lower than credit card rates and usually lower than short term borrowing like student loans or car loans. For that reason, homeowners will sometimes refinance to payoff higher cost debt.

Some people refinance for more than their current balance to improve their cash position, possibly to have funds available in case they need it. Other reasons could be to use it for an investment such as rental property or other things. Still others may use it to make capital improvements on their home like remodeling or a pool.

Another legitimate reason to refinance may be to combine a first and second lien on the home that might result in lower payments and a savings in interest.

One more situation that causes a person to refinance a home is to remove a former spouse or co-borrower from the existing mortgage. In the case of a divorce, one of the former spouses may have no financial interest in the home any longer but because they signed the note originally, they are still liable along with the other spouse. This could be an untenable position.

There can be a lot of reasons that cause a homeowner to refinance the home. The equity is a valuable asset that has powerful borrowing power combined with the good credit and income of the homeowner. A Refinance Analysis can help you to determine the new payments and how long it will take to recapture the cost of refinancing.

For a recommendation of a trusted lender, feel free to give me a call at (316) 337-5154.

Things Have Changed

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The soothsayer in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar issued his famous warning “Beware the Ides of March.” Who knew that in 2020, around the middle of March, the world would force such dramatic changes on us from the Coronavirus.

In America, it has brought our economy to its knees as in some places across the country we sheltered in place for over four months. During this time, changes have affected our lives and many of those changes could be permanent.

Previously, smaller homes were becoming the trend, for not only efficiency but upkeep, so owners would have more time to do things such as travel. For right now at least, travel is minimal and for most of us, home is a big part of our world.

For families with children, their home has become a school. For many working from home, it has become office or store or studio. If there is more than one working adult in a home, it needs to have space for each to work. The home fitness industry is experiencing record sales in exercise equipment, so home can substitute for a gym.

With more time spent at home, it’s also a place to recreate. We’re cooking more; sometimes a larger kitchen and dining area would be nice. We want to enjoy the yard, garden, pool or balcony and our current home may not even have them or we’d like to upgrade.

People are wanting or needing more space to do all of these things at home. Many experts are anticipating that changes we might wish to be temporary could be part of the new normal even after a vaccine and cure have been discovered.

If you’ve had any of these thoughts and would like to know more about how to buy or sell a home in our current market, I’d love to talk with you – by whichever means you choose to communicate. Whether buying for the first time, moving up or moving on, I would like to help. If you choose to call me: (316) 337-5154.

Do you like to negotiate?

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Whether you like to or not, buying and selling a home involves negotiation at all stages of the process. It is not like the retail world where once you decide to purchase, you pay the price. It is easily the most expensive purchase or sale that most people experience and emotions get involved that could affect the negotiations adversely.

The word “home” by itself conjures up emotions and selling a home you’ve lived in for a while could even complicate things more. A real estate professional can separate their emotions from the process to be able to help the one they are representing.

The price of the home, the type of financing and concessions, closing costs, personal property, closing dates and possession are just a few of the many things that can be negotiated in a contract. Since the seller wants to get the most for their house and the buyer wants to pay the least, their objectives are diametrically opposed.

Even after the contract is signed, removing the contingencies can cause considerable negotiations. The appraisal, the inspections process or the repairs requests resulting from it could be a source of re-evaluating the terms and provisions of the contract.

Negotiating the sale or purchase of a home is a competition; for one person to get something, someone has to give something up. If you don’t feel comfortable with this, it is important to work with an agent who can bring their skills to the table on your behalf. As your advocate, they can champion your position.

My ultimate purpose is to apply for your benefit in a sale or purchase, my skills, training and experience . Call me at (316) 393-2399.

REALTORS Thoughts on the Recovery

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The National Association of REALTORS® just released the Market Recovery Survey of a random sampling of close to 100,000 members conducted June 24-26, 2020. The following statements are the members’ opinion on various aspects of the recovery to the Covid-19 pandemic as it relates to real estate.

In response to the safety of buyers, sellers and agents, REALTORS® are expecting within the next year to have increased demand for the following technologies used to market properties:

  • 67% – Zoom or other video technology to communicate with clients
  • 66% – virtual tours
  • 63% – live virtual tours conducted by agent using video
  • 60% – virtual open houses

Nine out of ten respondents indicated that some of the buyers have returned to the market or never left the market. Agents currently working with buyers report that slightly more than half of buyer’s timeline has remained the same with about the same level of urgency. 27% believe the buyers have more urgency.

The most popular reason cited by buyers with an increased timeline is that the delay during the pandemic has amplified their demand for a new home. Others realize that new home features would make their home life more comfortable. Some buyers are wanting to buy before a potential second peak of Covid-19 occurs.

During the week the survey was taken, three out of four buyers saw the home in person physically while 26% did not.

Roughly 2/3 of the buyers are looking for the same features as they were prior to Covid-19 while new feature considerations include home office, space to accommodate family, larger home for more space, place to exercise and bigger kitchen.

Most buyers are looking for the same type home, however, respondents reported that 13% are moving away from multi-family properties to a single-family home and only 1% are going from SFH to multi-family.

89% of respondents stated that some of the sellers have returned to or never left the market. Only 23% reported more urgency to sell a home due to the pandemic.

On the commercial side, 2/3 of REALTOR® respondents felt like the demand for office space would decrease and 72% felt that retail space demand would decrease.

The stats mentioned in this article pertain nationwide. To find out specifics in your market, call your REALTOR® Phil Brumbaugh at (316) 337-5154.

Who Decides Value?

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The seller can put a price on the home but the value is ultimately determined by the buyer. Individually, a buyer could pay over market value because they love the site or the neighborhood or the aesthetic appeal of the home or the proximity to something that is important to them. The shortage of available homes resulting in increased competition among buyers can also drive the value higher.

Most experts agree initially pricing it properly will generally result in the highest sales price. If a home starts out too high it may eventually sell for a lower price than it should have after it has been on the market for a while. Especially with the current market conditions a significantly longer than average time on the market lends to the impression that there must be something “wrong” with the house because it didn’t sell immediately.

So, how does a seller determine what price to put on the home? It has nothing to do with what the seller needs to get out of it. Nor does the price the seller paid for it make any difference now. Even if the seller made considerable improvements, they may not affect the value of the home.

There are three common sources for a seller to determine market value: an (independent fee) appraisal, a broker price opinion or competitive market evaluation, or an automated value model found online.

AVM, automated value models, are mathematical estimates that analyze limited public record data to determine a value. While this process can easily compare square footage, age, number of bedrooms as objective data, it is much more challenging to make adjustments for subjective data like appeal, quality of construction, floor plan and updating. Zillow Zestimates are the most publicly known AVMs, but there are many others providing similar services.

Appraisals can only be made by a licensed appraiser. Most mortgages require an appraisal as part of the underwriting process to verify that there is ample collateral to secure the mortgage in case of default by the borrower. FHA, VA, FNMA, Freddie Mac and USDA as well as most private lenders require an appraisal, especially for high loan-to-value mortgages. In some situations where the risk is lower, some lenders may use an AVM.

An appraisal requires the appraiser to visit the property, perform a visual inspection, analyze the property in a detailed, prescribed format, and accurately report the property information that is verifiable.

A Broker Price Opinion, BPO, as the name indicates, is a price opinion on a property made by a licensed real estate agent. Whether or not the estimate accurately reflects the market will depend in part on the experience of the agent with that type of property and market area. It is possible that a BPO could be more sensitive to the actual market because it will consider homes currently for sale and recently expired properties as well as comparable sales.

While all three methods use recent comparable sales to arrive at a value, the appraiser and the real estate professional can make a series of adjustments for the differences in the comparable properties. While the appraiser is highly trained in this technique, the real estate professional also adds credibility to this process based on their experience in how the buying public might react to specific features and the home in general, including positive and negative influences.

Current condition of the property is very important for a number of reasons. In some cases, a buyer may only have the necessary down payment and closing costs and not be able to make improvements like paint, floor coverings, appliances or other major items; and they would have to live with the house in its current condition until they could afford to make wanted improvements.

Investors may not be deterred by making an additional investment in the home after purchasing it but will probably be motivated to do so only if it will increase the potential profit to be made.

An AVM can be a tool that a homeowner, prospective buyer, mortgage officer, appraiser or real estate agent can use to get a quick idea of price, but there are inherent limitations that can only be considered by personal examination balanced with experience in the market place.

Experience and understanding of the subject property and the marketplace are critical to having confidence that a value is accurate. Any person could go through the same steps to arrive at a value but an experienced, well-trained professional is far more likely to assess all of the variables more accurately. If you are curious what your home is worth, call (316) 337-5154 or email PhilB