Staging on a Budget

When selling your home it is important to use every tool at your disposal to increase the chances of a quicker sale that is close to full price.  One of the simplest things you can do is stage your home so that potential buyers find it pleasant and inviting.  That being said, it is sometimes the case that professional staging companies may not be in your budget, but no worries there are some simple things you can do that won’t break the bank.  

1.) Declutter – Clear away the extra stuff lying around so that buyers can have a clean line of sight.  If there are items that you no longer want or need this is a good time for a garage sale or donate them to a local charity and you’ll have less to pack on moving day.

2.) Deep Clean – Make sure your home is clean from floor to ceiling especially bathrooms and the kitchen (stove, refrigerator, etc.).  This will show buyers that your home was taken care of and well maintained. Never underestimate the power of a clean, fresh smelling home.

3.) Add a splash of color – Liven up your home with contrasting colors, this will draw attention to the positive aspects of your home.  Simple things like throw pillows, colorful table decorations, even a new shower curtain can make a big difference in perceptions.

Why You Still Need a Professional Real Estate Agent: Buying and Selling in Hampton Roads, VA.

Some people question the necessity of Real Estate Agents during this age of technology, where individuals have access to information and services that previously were not available to the general public.

Not using a professional real estate agent to save money in your real estate deal may cost you later. Whether you’re buying or selling, you’re negotiating a complex transaction with potential pitfalls that could impact your bottom line. A professional agent can use her knowledge and skills to guide you through the real estate process.

That being said, here are some key factors that make real estate professional invaluable to their clients:


Real estate agents have connections in the market that benefit buyer and seller. Agents work with many people involved in the real estate transaction process, including loan officers, home inspectors and attorneys. If you have a problem or need a service, your agent has the contacts necessary to help you immediately. For example, if you need a home inspection but can’t find anyone to do the job before the lender’s deadline, your agent may have an inspector she has a relationship with who will help.

Knowledge of Market

Knowledge of the real estate market you’re buying in is invaluable in the home buying or selling process. An agent can give a buyer informed opinions about the home’s future value, the neighborhood amenities and schools and whether the investment is solid. Sellers benefit from an agent’s market knowledge because the agent uses it to market the property to the most interested audience and get the highest price. Proper marketing is crucial. Buyers may be wary of an over-marketed home, while a poorly marketed home may not sell for months. Markets can vary greatly in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The cities of Newport News, Hampton, Poquoson and Williamsburg each present specific challenges when buying or selling, which makes in-depth knowledge of these specific markets essential.

Negotiation Edge

Buyers and sellers both negotiate the home price. The buyer is looking to get the house at the lowest price, while the seller wants the highest price possible. Agents apply their experience to the price negotiations without actively interfering by providing advice to their party. Your agent can help you evaluate the pros and cons of each offer or counteroffer you receive. An agent helps with the legal paperwork required for offers so your interests remain protected during the negotiations.


Buying or selling a home involves a lot of paperwork and is a complex process with different deadlines. Since an agent has experience in real estate transactions, he or she can use their knowledge to ensure the process goes smoothly and nothing important is missed. If you have any questions about the papers you’re signing, your agent will help you and get the answers if they don’t know.

Education and Training All real estate agents must have a license in the United States. While the exact licensing process varies by state, professional agents must have some specific real estate education and usually have to pass a test to get one. An agent also has knowledge of the specific real estate laws and procedures in the area she’s working in, as some of the required training is location specific. This is especially true in the Hampton and Newport News area of Virginia as certain procedures vary by location.

What is an iBuying?

An iBuyer is a company that works directly with sellers providing an instant cash offer to purchase the home outright. iBuyers purchase the home as-is without requesting any repairs, upgrades, warranties, closing costs or concessions, or real estate agent commissions.

     Ibuying is advertised as an alternative option that allows homeowners to sell their home without a broker or real estate agent, saving them money and time while avoiding the challenges and costs that can be incurred with the traditional real estate transactions

     That being said, Ibuyers do typically charge a fee ranging from 5-9% of the sales price which can be more than the standard real estate agent’s commission and since the sales price is determined by algorithm it often falls short of the fair market value.

      Some of the company’s currently promoting iBuying are:  Opendoor, Offerpad, Zillow Offers and Redfin . Now, if you are considering going this route make sure to read the fine print regarding seller obligations and fees.   However, if you want to get the best price for your home it would be more beneficial  to deal with an experienced real estate agent who can negotiate the best price and navigate any challenges that may arise. 

Here are the top 5 things homeowners should be aware of:

1. We aren’t in a housing bubble 

The U.S. is not in the midst of a housing bubble, which is when the market price of homes sharply increases due to rising demand that outpaces supply. 

The spike in home prices since the onset of the pandemic isn’t an indication of a bubble because the demand is coming from well-funded buyers who are competing for very few homes. 

2. Competition is easing

The once-intense competition to nab a home is declining as more homeowners postpone their housing search. The brokerage noted that many homeowners were either burned out from their search or “priced out.” 

3. Home prices are still climbing 

Although there is less competition in the market, homebuyers still have to make their offers stand out. 

To do so, homeowners will likely have to shell out more cash, effectively driving up housing prices even more. 

However, in order to better navigate the market, consumers shouldn’t rely on asking prices as a “good gauge of the values of a market” rather than recently sold prices. 

So pay much less attention to the percent over asking or under asking that a property sold and look at what it sold at compared to the most recent comparable sale.

4. Relatively affordable places are getting more expensive

Certain cities around the country such as Phoenix, Las Vegas and Sacramento have been popular destinations for homebuyers. 

However, with prices rising, these once-affordable spots are falling out of reach for not only newcomers but locals as well.

5. There aren’t enough homes for sale 

Supply remains a big issue. In fact, some homeowners won’t even place their home on the market out of fear of “entering the high-priced market as a buyer.

Additionally, “builders are held back by high lumber costs and labor shortages,” the brokerage said, adding that this is creating an unbalanced market. 

Prices and competition won’t settle until the “market is more balanced.” 

 Even when the price declines in the near future, homeowners benefitting from low mortgage payments for the long term will likely wait out the market and not sell until they gain equity back. 

As a result, the inventory of available homes will remain low and therefore prevent any sort of substantial drop in values because there will always be enough demand from buyers who have a required move for relocation, more space, less space.

Comparing the Impact of COVID-19 to the 2008 Financial Crisis

Causes of the 2008 Housing Crisis

In order to understand the differences between what happened in 2008 and what’s happening today, we need to first understand the causes of the last financial crisis. When the housing market crashed in 2008, the problem had started years earlier. In the late 90s, Fannie Mae wanted to make home loans accessible to borrowers with lower credit scores so they could attain the American dream of homeownership. Lenders started offering subprime mortgages with unconventional terms to high-risk borrowers. Meaning, people with bad credit and little-to-no savings were offered loans they couldn’t afford.

Such relaxed lending standards fueled the housing market growth and the corresponding rise in home values. As home prices continued to increase, the rising subprime mortgage market thrived. Then, in the second half of 2007, the housing market slowed down and house prices started to decline nationally. And in 2008, the stock market crashed. The build-up of bad debt resulted in a subprime mortgage crisis and the 2008 housing crisis. Homeowners found themselves “upside-down” on their mortgages, meaning they owed more than their home was worth. Faced with job losses and increasing mortgage payments, many lost their homes to foreclosure.

As you can see, the Great Recession in 2008 was a result of a banking crisis and the loss of housing wealth. Today, the problem comes from a totally external factor (the coronavirus pandemic) and the direct losses of income for people and businesses hurt by it. The underlying cause of the current economic distresses is fundamentally different from that which sparked the Great Recession. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean that people are less worried about a repeat of the 2008 housing crisis. This leads us to our next question.

Will the Housing Market Crash in 2020?

Investors are worried about economic slowdown from the COVID-19 pandemic that’s threatening to slow growth and eat into corporate profits by closing factories, forcing quarantine, limiting travel, and canceling big events. People are getting the idea that this outbreak is going to cause the US housing market of 2020 to crash as the recession did in 2008. However, according to many experts, this doesn’t fit the pattern of the housing crisis in 2008; the story just isn’t the same. This time the bad news comes from external factors, specifically the COVID-19 virus which has greatly impacted the stock market. Many have stated that the current financial crisis resembles the Spanish flu pandemic of 1919 a lot more than the subprime mortgage crisis that caused the Great Recession.

Today, the banking system is actually on solid footing. Banks are on more solid footing than they were before the 2008 housing crisis, with higher capital and limited direct exposures to the riskiest loans. All of this could keep any messiness in the banking sector from turning into a full-blown financial crisis as before. Government regulations also made credit requirements more stringent to make sure borrowers are better qualified. In addition, new changes were made that discourage lenders from extending new mortgages and lines of credit during times of stress. All of this created a more stable mortgage industry as mortgage default and foreclosure rates are significantly lower than they were in 2008. So, how is the coronavirus going to affect the real estate market?

Coronavirus vs the Real Estate Market

If you’re a real estate investor, you must be wondering how this pandemic is going to affect you. Experts say it’s hard to tell seeing that no one really knows how long this is going to last. However, a few housing market predictions could be made after studying how previous pandemics affected the real estate market. Many experts say that the travel, hospitality, and tourism industries will continue to be the main sectors hit directly by the coronavirus outbreak. For example, United Airlines, Apple and Microsoft supply chains from China, and dozens of other companies have warned that the virus will hurt their profits.

As for traditional long term rental property investors, the main US housing market predictions you should know include lower inventory, a slight drop in home prices, and lower mortgage interest rates. In other words, it seems that the fundamental housing market indicators are going down. However, experts say this downturn will be a lot shorter and shallower than the 2008 housing crisis.

One way to conclude this is to think of COVID-19 as an earthquake. This natural disaster can easily cause production to decline in one part of the country as stores close, shipments are delayed and people stay in their homes. But, the economy should snap back once the ground stops shaking. Actually, natural disasters are often followed by a temporary increase in economic activity as people rebuild. So in that way, disasters are different from financial crises which don’t just reduce spending and investment in the short term, but also make people and companies less willing or able to spend for months or years. So far, the coronavirus pandemic looks more like an earthquake than a recession that could cause a repeat of the 2008 housing crisis.

Most economists still expect the US to escape a recession, but that could change quickly as there is still a huge amount of uncertainty. No one can predict the economic impact with any confidence, so we highly advise you to stay updated on coronavirus trends and their impact on the US housing market 2020.

Dual Agency, What you Should Know

Whether you’re selling or buying a house, you’ve decided to hire a real estate agent to help with the transaction. They can help you get the best price for your home, or negotiate a good deal on a purchase. But what type of agent should you hire?

When looking for an agent you could stumble across the term “dual agent” and wonder what it means. Are they the right real estate agent to list your home, or should you keep looking? Find out what you need to know before signing a contract to work with an agent.

What is a Dual Agent in Real Estate?

A dual agent represents both parties in a real estate transaction. They help the seller with staging, marketing, and more to sell their house. When a buyer is found, or the agent brings them to the seller, they also represent them.

Because they represent both sides of the transaction, it’s called dual agency.

Is Dual Agency Allowed?

Yes, dual agency is allowed by most brokerages. But many real estate professionals, including many in the Hampton Roads area, consider it to be unethical. This is because buyers and sellers often have competing interests.

The seller wants to get top dollar for their house, whereas the buyer wants to get a good deal. Given the amount of negotiation involved in a home purchase, a dual agent might not advocate fully for either party. Since an agent’s commission is based upon the home’s final selling price, an unethical agent could push the price higher rather than negotiate effectively on the buyer’s behalf.

If an agent or brokerage is a dual agent, it’s illegal for them to not disclose this.

Is Dual Agency Legal?

Dual agency isn’t legal in all 50 states. It’s banned in Alaska, Colorado, Maryland, Texas, Florida, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Legislators in those states believe that potential conflicts of interest in dual agencies outweigh any of their benefits.  Dual agency is legal in the Hampton Roads area, although many brokerage companies discourage it due to the potential for ethical issues.

Dual agency is sometimes confused with a designated real estate agency, which some of these states allow.  Designated Agency is one that represents both buyers’ and sellers’ interests. One agent, working for the broker or agency, represents the seller and another stands in for the buyer. It’s a requirement that certain procedures are put in place to ensure that client information is kept separate.

Should you use a Dual Agent?

There are times where using a dual agent could work out.  If you need a fast close, a dual agent can streamline the process. Instead of your agent calling the seller’s agent with a question, and then waiting for their call back, you have one source of information.  However, if you want an agent that is going to put your best interests first, then I would strongly caution against entering into contract with a dual agent.

Real estate agents who work as dual agents cannot disclose confidential information to either party in the transaction.  In my opinion the mere fact that an agent has confidential knowledge pertaining to both parties automatically puts the both the buyer and seller at a disadvantage.

Covid-19 and the Real Estate Market

Affect on Real Estate Buyers

According to information obtained by the NAR, buyer interest has decreased significantly. On March 9, 78% of realtors reported there had been no change in buyer behavior. Only 16% of those surveyed noticed a decrease in buyers’ interest. However, by March 16, as schools began to close and social distancing guidelines ramped up, nearly half of agents claimed that buyers had become less inclined to purchase residential properties. This may be due in part to the uncertainty of their source of income and also fear of contracting the virus itself.

Affect on Real Estate Sellers

As cases of COVID-19 increased across the country, sellers’ morale was also shaken. NAR’s studies show a clear decline in sellers’ confidence as news about the virus intensified. Although 81% of realtors initially reported that sellers had kept their homes on the market, that number dropped by 20% on March 16. And 16% of agents noted that sellers had decided to pull their homes from the market, marking a 13% increase from March 9.

Considering how quickly the situation has escalated, the NAR’s figures fall short in elucidating the full effect COVID-19 has had on home sellers and the housing inventory.

Around 1,778 properties’ status changed to either permanently or temporarily off the market in January. In February, as dozens of cases began popping up around the country, 3,047 properties were removed. As of March 25, 4,454 homes were taken off the market this month alone. “So, the number of properties taken off the market literally tripled in March when the disease started spreading in New York City,” says one expert.

What We Might Expect From the Future Housing Market

Although there are some closings currently taking place throughout the country, the number of transactions has been greatly diminished by both the virus and orders to stay at home. Appraisers and inspectors have struggled to gain access to homes, and government recording offices have closed their doors, making crucial aspects of the closing process challenging to complete.

Amidst the growing concerns over COVID-19, the housing market has clearly come to an impasse. The spring selling season will not reflect the vitality it has in previous years. Most sellers will choose to hold off before putting their homes on the market, but those who cannot wait will list now and show their homes virtually. While the extreme shift in the industry seems disturbing, the future may not be as bleak as some expect.  Some experts believe there will be a really strong push for new properties hitting the market and buyers will come in droves because everyone is now hunkered down and cannot do business.  This aspect is going to have a significant effect on the strength of the market once the order is lifted.

Is this a Buyer’s or Seller’s Market:

Keep in Mind:

  • A Buyer’s Market is when there’s more supply than demand (i.e. more houses for sale than people looking to buy). Homes for sale often stay on the market longer than average and sellers will likely accept lower prices than the original listing price. This is the ideal situation for buyers because they can get great real estate investment deals.
  • A Seller’s Market is when there’s more demand than supply (i.e. more people looking to buy than people listing their houses for sale). Homes in this market are sold faster than average and possibly for a higher price. This is the ideal situation for sellers because several buyers will compete for the limited inventory of properties, hence they can get a great price.

Furthermore, results from the survey were regarding when the shift will start on the regional level. Some respondents predict that home buyers in the Midwest real estate market will be in the driver’s seat sooner than buyers in other regions. In fact, the most frequently selected year for major cities in the Midwest to turn into buyer’s markets was 2019. Other regions (Northeast, South, and West) are expected to change before the end of 2020 along with the nation overall. But what are the market trends that are causing experts to have this housing market forecast?

So, Will It Be a Seller’s Market or Buyer’s Market in 2020?

Property sellers have held all the cards at the negotiating table for years. US housing market predictions 2020, however, suggest that conditions are starting to show signs of easing up. The above-mentioned real estate trends (improving inventory, slowing home price and appreciation growth, and dropping mortgage rates) lead us to believe that buyers could have the upper hand soon. However, experts say that while these trends are noticeable, it’s far too soon to call the US a buyer’s market. Meaning, the US housing market might be described as a seller’s market in 2020 – but not a traditional one.

Still, real estate experts remain optimistic about housing forecasts. This is mainly due to a huge wave of millennials reaching peak home-buying age. Consequently, this should put pressure on demand not only in 2020 but in the years to come. So if a recession does hit at some point, the real estate market will not see the same impact because it’s much healthier now. For now, we can consider the current softening in the US real estate market as a short-term correction.

The Difference between a Pre-Approval Letter and a Pre-Qualification Letter: What Buyer’s & Seller’s should know.

Home Buyers and Home Sellers should realize the Importance Of  Pre-Approval For Home Buyers and Home Sellers.

  • The number one reason why home loans get denied during the mortgage process is that the borrower was not properly qualified
  • Loan Officers should realize the Importance Of Pre-Approval For Home Buyers as well as home sellers
  • Home Buyers depend on loan officers that once they are pre-approved, that they cannot just close on their loan but be able to close it on time

To this day, many loan officers do not realize the Importance Of Pre-Approval For Home Buyers and sellers and not thoroughly qualify a borrower before issuing pre-approval letters

Why Loan Officers Should Know The Importance Of Pre-Approval For Home Buyers & Sellers

A pre-approval letter is extremely important due to the fact that it is a great predictor that borrower will close on their residential mortgage loan

  • Whereas a pre-qualification is a mortgage loan originator’s prediction that the likelihood of getting mortgage approval is good and promising if everything checks out
  • Most real estate agents require that potential home buyers are armed with a pre-approval letter before they will show a property or let buyers make a written real estate purchase offer

What Is A Pre-Approval And How Do I Get A Pre-Approval Letter From A Mortgage Lender?

Pre-approvals are when lenders review the following when qualifying:

  • Assets
  • Debts
  • Credit report
  • Credit scores
  • Debt to income ratios
  • Qualified And Other income

Importance Of Pre-Approval For Home Buyers And the Mortgage Process

After reviewing the basics, the loan officer may require more documents for further review:

  • The mortgage loan officer may require to review the borrower’s tax returns
  • Business tax returns and 1099’s if they are self-employed or own their own business
  • This is to make sure that the income they are declaring after write-offs will qualify them
  • For borrowers with challenged credit scores or credit history or borderline debt to income ratios, the loan originator will most likely run the borrower’s application through AUS
  • Fannie Mae’s Automated Underwriting System is to make sure they get an approve/eligible per DU FINDINGS prior to proceeding with the file 
  • How pre-approvals are issued depends on each individual mortgage company
  • Many loan originators  issue pre-approval letters in a matter of less than an hour which is not highly recommended

Once a home buyer is armed with a pre-approval letter, he or she can go and make an offer to purchase a home.

What Is The Difference Between Pre-Approvals And Pre-Qualification?

Again, all lenders have their own policy on how they issue pre-qualifications and pre-approvals.

  • The number one reason for a last-minute mortgage loan denial and/or stress during the mortgage process is because a loan officer did not properly qualify the borrower
  • There is no reason for a loan denial or stress during the mortgage process if the borrower was properly qualified

Importance Of Pre-Approval For Home Buyers Versus Pre-Qualification

A pre-qualification is less formal than a pre-approval where the loan officer will just pre-qualify you whether you qualify for a mortgage loan.

The loan officer will ask borrowers the following:

  • Gross monthly income
  • Credit scores
  • Whether the borrower has a  prior bankruptcy and/or foreclosure
  • Monthly debt
  • Assets

Most realtors do not give any weight on pre-qualification letters:

  • Most real estate agents want pre-approval before buyers can view homes and enter into a real estate purchase contract

Importance Of Pre-Approval And Why Do I Need To Get Pre-Approved Instead Of Pre-Qualified?

A pre-approval will determine how much of a home you can buy and what mortgage amount buyers will qualify for.

  • A pre-approval will also determine how much down payment will need including closing costs
  • A pre-approval will also tell borrowers how much monthly mortgage payments will be
  • Almost all realtors will not show a home unless buyers have a valid pre-approval letter from a mortgage lender
  • Sellers will not entertain any offers that you might offer
  • A pre-approval will determine what the term and the rate of mortgage will be
  • For those who do not qualify for a pre-approval, the loan officer can help borrowers with credit
  • So they can qualify in the very near future