Buying a Home

The lowdown on buying a home.

How to win in Denver’s home bidding war

I’ve been saying it since the first week of January… “It’s like someone flipped a switch and turbo charged this market!” If you aren’t on the hunt for a new home, let me be the first to tell you it’s a crazy, crazy, crazy market with the sellers in complete control. I took a quick peek at the multiple listing service statistics today, and here’s what I found:

There’s nothing to buy.

In Denver County as of February 11th, 2021, there are 895 active listings for sale and 1,831 listings that are pending (under contract). In January, there were 889 property sales. That leaves us with one month of available inventory, one month! I’m concerned for February’s stats after seeing that massive pending number. For buyers looking for properties under $1 million, it’s a very frustrating time. There isn’t much to look at. 895 homes is 0.003% of the 338,341 total homes in Denver, per the US Census as of July 1, 2019.

The competition is stiff.

Buyers are showing their resolve to succeed in this market. I was recently involved in two separate negotiations that came in over list price; one ended up $50k over list price, the other $130k. Each negotiation had over 15 offers, and not one was at or under list price. In fact, January’s single-family close-to-list price ratio was 101.3%, so my experiences were not the exception, but the rule these days. While the reality of the market may seem disheartening, let’s take a turn and break down how you can succeed in it.

Competing requires strategy.

I’ve seen some very aggressive offers in the last 30 days. Below are some of the popular tools used to get your offer accepted, though it’s by no means a comprehensive list.

  • An aggressive initial offer.
  • An escalation clause.
  • Purchasing the home “as is” and limiting inspection asks to a low dollar amount ($1-5k).
  • Appraisal protection (gap) clauses that waive the buyer’s right to object if the appraisal doesn’t come in at the above list contract price.
  • Buyer paying seller’s closing costs.
  • Higher earnest money deposits with a portion of or all of it non-refundable.
  • Shorter close periods (2-3 weeks for financed purchases).
  • Free seller lease backs after closing to allow the seller to find a replacement home (good luck).
Buyers need a Plan B.

If you find yourself on the losing end of things, don’t give up! Backup offers are becoming competitive — I just experienced my first multiple offer backup negotiation (no joke). It used to be a slam dunk to get a backup offer accepted after the home is pending, but not anymore! Have your backup prepared and submitted as soon as you receive the bad news. Being quick to the punch when everyone else is sulking could make the difference.

Backup contracts are free insurance policies that don’t prevent you from submitting other offers on new homes that you find. In the event that the primary contract terminates (which they do), you automatically become the first contract with zero negotiations. If you find another home you like while you’re in the backup position (and can get it under contract), a simple email terminates the backup contract, and voila! The best part? No earnest money is required for backup contracts!

It’s easy to get discouraged in this market, and I understand the urge to just take the “blue pill” and sign a lease to ease the endless anxiety and disappointment. But I would encourage you to take the “red pill” and work the plan that you and your real estate broker created. The end result will be worth it. Stay the course!

The emotional roller coaster of home buying in Denver

Along with every other real estate professional in Denver, for years we’ve been saying, “it’s a seller’s market,” “homes are going quickly,” so on and so on. But what does that really mean for a buyer? How do you navigate the current market, let alone the roller coaster of emotions throughout the buying process? Let’s walk through it.

Setting Expectations

It’s important to understand the current market you’re about to throw yourself into. You’ve probably heard home buying stories from co-workers, family, or friends advising on how difficult it is to purchase a home these days. While there’s certainly truth to their experiences, there also tends to be exaggeration (we all want to tell a good story, right?). The best place to start for an unbiased opinion of the market is with statistics. It may not be one of the most exciting parts of buying a home, but it’s one of the most important. It will help you understand the reality of what’s happening in the market, and more importantly, what’s driving it. You don’t need to spend hours doing research, you just need the 30,000 foot view so that you can begin to formulate accurate expectations for your upcoming journey. Luckily, we’ve made that easy for you. Skip the endless Google searches and read our 2020 real estate recap. Before you know it, you’ll be up to speed with the current market. It will be painless, I promise!

Game Planning

It’s important to have an organized plan before you start your search (yes, even your online search). Once you’ve educated yourself on the market, the next step is to make a game plan. Start putting together your advisory team, which consists of a knowledgeable real estate broker and lending partner. These professionals will help to facilitate your planning in each of their prospective areas. A few things to consider while planning:

  • Budget
  • Time frame for purchasing
  • When to start the search
  • Type of financing that is best for you
  • Down payment source and amount
  • Type of home (condo, townhome, single family, etc.)
  • Neighborhood
  • Neighborhood statistics (zoom in from the 30,000 foot view!)

This list is just a starting point. Everyone’s planning will look somewhat different based on their home buying goals. The great thing about hiring a team? You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. They’ll coach you through the process to make sure you’re making the best possible decision for you and your family.

Home Touring

This is the fun part. Once your plan is complete, it’s time to work your plan. In our current market, time is of the essence for touring homes. Traditional pre-pandemic home touring consisted of clustering several homes and viewing them back-to-back in a short time period. Usually, there are other overlapping groups touring the same home you’re looking at. Today, overlapping showings are a no-no, and bookings to view hot listings in desirable neighborhoods fill up fast. It can occasionally take one or two days for a tour slot to become available (picture anxious buyers hitting refresh over and over again). The moral of the story: When a home catches your eye, schedule a tour with your broker. Whether that’s in-person, via FaceTime, a recorded video, or on Zoom, it doesn’t matter. Just get your eyeballs on it so you have the opportunity to compete.

Submitting an Offer (or two, or three)

Now the planning pays off (hopefully). With Denver’s low inventory, you’ll likely be in competition with other buyers for a home. Emotions get high, and anxiety can creep in. Don’t worry. This is normal. The greatest advice I can give you is to trust your broker regarding the value of the home you’re interested in and listen to their negotiating strategy. Remember that they’re on your team, and together, you’ve already outlined the desired outcome in your planning session. I like to call the plan a “guard rail.” It’s outlined before all the craziness begins, and it’s there to keep a buyer from making an emotionally-based, often poor decision. Don’t let the plan fly out the window when things get stressful!

We are in a deep seller’s market, consisting of multiple offers. There can only be one winner per home, and while hopefully that winner is you, be mentally be prepared to walk away when things go awry. Stick to your plan. Listen to your broker’s advice on a recommended maximum price for the homes you are offering on, and you’ll be fine. Your solace in losing will be knowing that someone else overpaid!

In conclusion…

Buying a home can be an emotional roller coaster.The process is filled with hope, anxiety, stress, disappointment, frustration, and eventually joy. To help manage these emotions, set expectations, plan properly, and seek counsel from your real estate broker. These guard rails should soften the blows. Remember that your broker has their head in the game every day, and their years of knowledge can be trusted. Their council, along with your perseverance, will get those keys into your hands in no time.

What buying a home will actually cost you

Everyone knows that buying a home costs money. But how much exactly? While the purchase price of the home makes up the largest component, here are other costs homebuyers should be prepared to pay:

Earnest Money

This is essentially a down payment or deposit on your new home! It shows the seller that you are a serious buyer by putting some skin in the game, so to speak. Should you terminate your contract in good faith, you will get that money back. And should you make it to the closing table, the money will go towards your down payment. Earnest Money will typically be between 1%-3% of your purchase price, so make sure you have the funds readily available once you start writing offers!

Home Inspection

This is the time to have a home’s nooks, crannies, roof, sewer, and so on inspected by a qualified home inspector. Home inspection pricing can vary from company to company, but you can typically plan for $300- $1,000 depending on the types of inspections you order (sewer, radon test, general inspection, etc.).

Appraisal

If you’re like 87% of buyers that are financing their home purchase with a mortgage, your lender will need an appraisal (Property Valuation) done on the home. This ensures that they are not loaning you more money than the house is worth. Price can vary depending on the company, but you can typically plan for $500-$750 for the appraisal report.

Down Payment

The amount of a down payment typically starts around 3% of the purchase price and goes as high as you are comfortable spending or can afford. Twenty percent down is the sweet spot, where you’re no longer required to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (at less than 20% down, you’ll pay for this). You’ll want to discuss your down payment options with your lender!

Closing Costs and Prepaids

The majority of your closing costs are charged by your lender for the financing of your new home. Every lender packages their fees differently, so be sure to have them explain every charge in detail to ensure you are comfortable with them. There will be prepaid items that will be required to set up your escrow account (three months of insurance and taxes), so that the account will be solvent to pay the first bills when they arrive to the escrow servicing company.

And Of Course, Commission

Your real estate broker should disclose their commission amount and how it is paid before you submit any offers. In Colorado, it’s pretty common for the listing broker to negotiate a commission with the seller, and then advertise a co-op fee to pay the buyer’s broker’s commission. In those instances, the amount you go under contract for is the amount you pay at the closing table. Your broker’s hard work will be rewarded from the closing proceeds and reduce the amount paid to the seller.

Budgeting for closing costs is an important part of your home purchasing game plan. Unanticipated expenses right before closing is never a fun problem to deal with!

Looking for more info about buying or selling a home? Please reach out, and subscribe to our weekly emails to never miss a beat about Denver real estate.

The Cost of Waiting To Buy

By LYH broker Rhyan Diller

I’m often asked when the best time to buy is. There are always pros and cons to buying at any time of year, and while there is no exact answer, the best time is NOW.

Picture this. Leslie decides she’s ready to buy a home in the summer of 2019. She looks and looks and finds the perfect single-family home for $485,450 (the median sale price in Denver for August 2019). She puts down 5% and gets the average interest rate of 3.62%, and ends up with a monthly payment of around $2,730 per month.

Meanwhile, Ron is also thinking of buying a home in August of 2019, but he decides he wants to wait so that he can save up a bigger down payment for the ideal 20% down (which by the way, is not needed to buy!). Via his friend Leslie, Ron knows that most houses in August of 2019 are around $485,450, so he needs to save up $97,090 for his down payment. Easy! Right?

One year later, Leslie decides she wants to buy the identical house next door to her. She talks to her trusted realtor and learns that this identical house is for sale at $525,000 (the median sale price in Denver for August 2020). Confused, she asks why an identical house to hers is so much more now than when she bought one year ago.

Her realtor explains how the average home price has increased 8% since just last year! And then congratulates her, because the first house she owns already has almost $40,000 in equity — just for owning it for one year. She then learns that rates are now wildly low and refinances on her first house, taking advantage of the current 2.9% interest rates.

Meanwhile, Ron is still working on saving up $97,090, only to realize that to put 20% down, he now needs to save $105,000 (even though that’s not necessary), since the house he wanted last year is now $525,000He paid upwards of $2,000 per month in rent in Denver, essentially helping  to pay down someone else’s mortgage with no equity to be had.

We know buying a house in Denver is not easy. Most well-priced homes will sell in a matter of days, and you’ll likely be competing against multiple buyers for the “perfect” home. But if you’re waiting for the stars to align — for rates to drop even lower, for more inventory, to save for a higher down payment, or (our personal favorite) for the “bubble to burst,” you will continue missing out on earning an average of 8% year over year in appreciation for simply buying a home. No full remodel, no sweat equity, just ownership.

Home Maintenance Tips to Protect Your Investment and Your Health

By LYH broker Rhyan Diller

Being a homeowner, whether new or seasoned, comes with its responsibilities! These are some of our recommendations to make sure your home and investment stays in tip-top shape.

Every Fall
Service Your HVAC

It is typically recommended to have an HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) contractor clean and service both systems annually. This will help ensure the longevity and efficiency of your HVAC system. Scheduling this in the fall before you find your heat isn’t working (or in the spring before you find the a/c isn’t kicking in) will save some discomfort (and possibly some cash).

Winterize Your Sprinklers

If you own a home in Colorado and have a sprinkler system, you need to get it winterized! If your sprinkler system does not get winterized, you run the risk that water will freeze in the irrigation valves, pipes, and sprinkler heads, which could lead to a hefty repair bill. In Colorado, it’s best to winterize your system a few weeks before the first freeze/snow is expected. It is typically easiest to hire a professional landscaper to winterize your system if you are not familiar with how to do so.

Clean Your Gutters

If your gutters are clogged, water will not be able to properly divert from your home, which can lead to a number of issues. It is typically recommended to clean your gutters twice per year, once in the late spring and once in the early fall. However, if you have lots of trees and foliage, you may need to clean them more often. Gutter guards can be installed to prevent gutters from clogging in the first place, which will reduce your maintenance costs and clean-up time.

Check Your Downspouts

While you’re cleaning your gutters, check in on your downspouts. They play an important role in protecting your foundation by diverting water from your home. Make sure that your downspouts are diverting the water at least three feet away from the home. If your downspouts are pouring out directly on the side of your home, purchase some downspout extensions from your local hardware store.

Regularly
Change Your Furnace Filter

A good rule of thumb is to change the filter in your furnace at least every three months or whenever the filter is visibly dirty. If you have household pets who shed a lot or have had poor air quality due to wildfires, you may need to do this more often!

Check Your Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Test to make sure all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working order, with fresh batteries, at least quarterly! Colorado law states that homes must have a carbon monoxide detector on each level of a home and within 15 feet of an entrance to each bedroom. Smoke detectors are required in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home including the basement.

Looking for more info about buying or selling a home? Please reach out, and subscribe to our weekly emails to never miss a beat about Denver real estate!

What Forbearance Means for You

Over 4 million Americans have put their loans into forbearance.

Up until recently, there has been a lot of uncertainty about what it means when a borrower’s loan goes into forbearance. Will there be a huge lump sum owed at the end of the forbearance period? Will it have an impact on credit? Will people be able to purchase or refinance in the future if a loan has gone into forbearance? Initially, the CARES Act did not provide clear guidelines or statements regarding any of those questions, resulting in many borrowers unable to take advantage of record low rates and uncertain if the forbearance policies in place would cause more harm than good.

Now for the good news. On Tuesday, May 19th, the Federal Housing Agency (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) provided clarity regarding what forbearance means to borrowers, and gave guidance on how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans will handle repayment, as well as how it will affect a borrower in the future.

Here’s what it means for you.

Let us start by saying, if you’ve not been impacted financially by COVID-19 and can keep paying your payments on time and in full, you should. Forbearance or deferment is not forgiveness, and that money does not go away. So, if you can still pay, that is your best option.

Can you purchase or refinance in the future? Yes! Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac borrowers will be allowed to purchase a new home or refinance their current mortgage even if a loan has gone into forbearance. The borrower must show three consecutive months of payments after the forbearance period has ended. Additionally, if your loan has gone into forbearance accidentally (many Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans were being placed into forbearance, if a borrower even breathed the word), you can purchase or refinance immediately if your payments are up to date, without having to wait the three-month period.

Will you have to owe a lump sum at the end of your forbearance period? Not unless you want to. Here are a few ways borrowers can exit a forbearance plan:

  • A borrower can pay the sum of the missed payments in full when their forbearance period ends.
  • A borrower can defer the payments to the end of the loan. For example, if you were in forbearance for six months, you could tack those six months onto the end of your loan, adding an additional six months of payments before maturity. You can do this for up to 12 months, per the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
  • A borrower can use a repayment plan. They can pay the amount due or missed payments, over the course of 36 months or until they are up to date on their payments.

 

At Love Your Hood, we’re committed to being a resource for you and all of your housing needs. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our trusted realtors if you have any questions regarding forbearance, or buying and selling in the current climate.

Denver still feeling priced out of ownership

Source: the Colorado Real Estate Journal

The age old question, revisited: should I rent or should I buy? Here, the author presents statistics that illustrate Denver’s current preference of renting over buying. In the last 10 years, home prices have exceeded rental increases by 24%, requiring far less cash to execute a lease than to transfer a deed. But one thing to note: you don’t need to wait until you have 20% saved up to purchase a home — conventional home loans start with as little as 5% down! In fact, there are other loan products that can bring the down payment even lower.

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Should I Represent Myself When Buying or Selling Real Estate?

Admittedly, before venturing into real estate as a profession, selling a home without representation crossed my mind a few times.  Now, I frequently take calls about For Sale By Owner (FSBO) listings and inquiries on properties where the buyer only wants to talk to the listing agent because they are representing themselves. Having peeked behind the curtain to see the intricacies of the real estate transaction, I’m glad to have hired a Realtor® to guide my way to the closing table.

Selling Your Home without a Realtor®

When selling your home, the “commission carrot” can cloud your judgement and tempt you to go it alone. A good real estate broker will provide value that far exceeds the fee charged at the closing table. Here are the three main steps in the home selling process where utilizing a professional can most benefit you:

Determining Price

The biggest mistake owners make is setting the listing price incorrectly. They usually base their pricing on the internet, typically by Zillow’s Zestimates. Big mistake. Nearly 25% of Zestimates are off by more than 10% from the sale price. Zillow even states in the fine print that these estimates are a starting point for determining value. Overprice your home, and the phone might not ring after your listing goes live.  Underprice it, and you may leave money on the table at closing. 

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Should You Write a Buyer’s Letter to the Seller?

You found the perfect home and simply must have it! Your real estate broker is going to present your very strong offer to the seller’s broker and found out that there are several other offers on the home. You are very emotionally tied to getting this home. In this hot real estate market where homes can go within hours of being listed, some buyers are desperate to get the home they want. They may have written offers on several homes but weren’t successful. Writing a letter to the seller “pleading their situation” has occasionally been a tactic of buyers in such situations. Should you as a buyer write a letter to the seller in an emotional appeal for the seller to accept your offer? Consider the following.

Letter to Seller

What a Buyer’s Letter Is + When to Present It

A buyer’s letter to the seller is just that: a letter written by the buyer to the seller of the home that the buyer wants to purchase to encourage the seller to accept his offer. Letters are most often used when competition for homes is strong, there are multiple offers on a home, or when the buyer feels there is a special reason that the seller should accept his offer. The buyer may explain how this home fits him perfectly, what it would mean to his family to live there, tell the seller how well the home would be taken care of or restored, complement the seller on particular features of the home, etc., all aimed to get the seller to accept his offer. The buyer may also talk about his solid finances, job status, down payment, etc. to confirm his financial strength to purchase the home. The letter should be presented by the broker at the same time as the offer is being presented to the seller.

In some instances a seller may request a letter from prospective buyers. A buyer can include any of the items in the previous paragraph as well as a photo of the buyer and family. However, the seller must be cautious about basing his decision on any discrimination that could violate the Fair Housing Act.

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Evaluating Price Per Square Foot as an Indicator of Value

The Metro Denver real estate market is hot! Even so, buyers don’t want to overpay for a home. Likewise, sellers want to get the highest price they can for their home.

When looking at homes buyers often ask, “What is the price per square foot for the home?” Likewise, sellers may say, “The home down the street sold at so much per square foot, so why shouldn’t mine sell for at least that much?” These seemingly simple questions can actually be quite complicated. Solely using price per square foot may not be a good basis on which to compare home prices. Here’s why:

Measuring Price per Square Foot

Square footage can be measured in a variety of ways

It’s important to know whether the measurement includes:

  • above ground square feet only
  • below ground square feet
  • main level and upper level
  • finished square feet only
  • finished or unfinished square feet in a basement
  • all or some levels in a tri-level
  • any garages
  • the surrounding lot.

Unless price per square foot is based on exactly the same criteria, the comparison may not be valid.

It’s important to compare “like” homes

“Like” means homes approximately the same style (i.e. single family or condo), age, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, stories, location, lot size, and price range. Factors such as views or special amenities can be important to review. If you don’t compare “like” homes, you can get a substantial range in square foot prices. (more…)