The coronavirus has galvanized many die-hard city dwellers to pack up and flee for the suburbs or beyond. But how easy is it to pull off such a drastic move during a pandemic?
Just ask Angela Caban, a former Broadway dancer and decorative painter who, after 28 years of living in New York City, reached her breaking point in April. Quarantined in a cramped apartment in Queens, hearing sirens wailing all night, she decided to buy a house in Charleston, SC,Â an area she’d grown to love during her frequent work trips there over the years.
Yet since Caban was on lockdown in New York, she had to shop for homes remotely and make offers without seeing places in person. Here’s what it was like to buy a house sight unseen, and the lessons she learned that might inspire other longtime urbanites and first-time home buyers to make the leap themselves.
Location: Hanahan, SC
House specs: 1,804 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, separate barn
List price: $234,000
Price paid: $232,000
How did the pandemic play into your decision to leave NYC?
You give up a lot to live in New York because it has a lot to offer, but when those things go away, you start to question why youâre giving up so much.
Once COVID-19 hit in March, April, and May, I was stuck in my apartment for three months straight with no work. I wasn’t getting unemployment because that hadnât kicked in. I had no outdoor space to speak of. I just wanted to have some room to roam, be in nature, and not feel desperate. Thatâs what put me over the edge.
I felt like no matter how difficult New York had been in the past, this was a whole new ball of wax. I was there for 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy. When other tragedies had hit New York City, people were saying, “Weâre in this together.”
When COVID-19 hit, all of a sudden there was suspicion. Everybody was frightened of everyone else.
Watch: Listing Agents Answer Our Burning Questions About the ‘Silence of the Lambs’ House
The ambulance sirens were nonstop. Plus, my small apartment was directly on the street, with the garbage cans right outside my window. So when I tried to open the windows during the pandemic, there were roaches coming in. I was like, “I can’t do this anymore.”
What made you choose Charleston as your new home?
Iâd have work meetings down here, and I had fallen in love with the area. I liked the sense of history, the weather. And financially it was doable. My mortgage now is less than half my rent for my tiny apartment in New York City.
How did your house hunt go?
I started looking near the end of April. I put an initial offer in on a house that fell through after the home inspector I’d sent to look at it said it would fall down in two years. Then I was in a panic because Iâd already given notice on my New York apartment. So basically I had six weeks total to find another house and close on it.Â
What were your biggest challenges?
There was no inventory. Every house I looked at and said, “Oh, that’s a possibility,” would be gone by the time I called. An hour after being listed, the house would no longer be accepting offers!
How did you find the house you eventually bought?
Lucky for me, this house had been on the market for 60 days. I don’t know if it was because the photos were crappy, or the fact that the neighborhood was considered a little dicey. But Iâm from New York, so the neighborhood seemed comfortable to me. I put an offer in within 48 hours of losing the other house.Â
Wasn’t it scary to buy a house you hadn’t seen in person?
I was emboldened because I could always back outâyou have two weeks to do so when bidding on a house. So I got in the car and drove down to look at it two days after my offer was accepted. I literally did it all in one day; it took me 12 hours to drive down. I saw the house and drove around for about two hours, and then I drove back because I had to start packing! I literally didn’t sleep for 26 hours. It’s probably why I have more gray hair now than I should.
How did the house look once you saw it, compared with the photos online?
It was much better than I thought. There is a lot of detailing, dental molding, wainscoting, and paneling in the living room, along with 16 windows that let in a lot of light. Plus, there’s the barn in the back that is another 600 square feet or so. My eventual plan is to make a workshop and a place to make art and teach.
How was the mortgage process?
It was a nightmare. Nobody wants to give mortgages to a single, female, sole proprietor who does not have pay stubsâespecially during COVID-19, when theyâre afraid people may default on their loan. They had also enacted new COVID-19 regulations that meant I had a boatload more paperwork. I had to submit letters from clients, proposals for work that was going to happen, invoices for work that I was still waiting to be paid for. … It was insane. I joked with them that I had to give them everything except a bone scan.
How did you finally secure the loan?
Thanks to the help of my real estate agent, John Bell of Southern Bell Living, and his mortgage broker, Ethan Lane at Mortgage Network. They were amazing, and I was an absolute basket case: “What else do you want from me? I have no place to go. I’m going to be homeless!”
I look forward to giving them both a hug someday after COVID-19 is under control.
How did you close on the house during the pandemic?
That is a whole additional saga. I was finishing up a painting job in New York when all of a sudden on Friday they said, “You’re closing on Monday,” so I had to get an attorney to attend the closing for me. To get that, I had to get a statement notarized. In the middle of COVID-19! I met the notary on the street, but then I had to have two witnesses! It took me asking 18 strangers to find two people who said they’d help.
How did you pull off a move during the pandemic?
I couldnât get a truck in New York. So I packed my car and drove down to Charleston, where I dropped off my cats in the new house. Then I rented a U-Haul and drove it back to New York, hired two guys who then met me at my old apartment, packed the truck. Drove it back down to South Carolina, where I hired two more guys to help me unload the truck, and voilÃ .
Was leaving New York hard after living there for 28Â years?
Leaving was difficult because you almost feel like itâs a badge of honor that you’re a survivor in New York City. But down here, I finally feel like I can actually live my life instead of just trying to make it from one month to the next. I can think big thoughts and make big things happen, for which I simply didnât have the energy in New York.
Now that you’ve lived in Charleston for a few months, how are you feeling?
It’s like I can finally breathe, and I absolutely love it. I sit every morning out on my back patio and watch woodpeckers, blue jays, and cardinals. I have roses that are blooming that I planted.
What advice would you give first-time home buyers and others looking to move now?
When you’re looking at homes online, don’t immediately discount a property just by how it looks in its photos. It’s like online dating that way. You need to see how it feels once you’re face to face and interacting with the space. Luckily, though, the minute I saw it in person, I knew I would be very happy here.
The post ‘I Bought This House Based on Listing Photos Alone’: Was It Worth the Risk? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.comÂ®.
Cavan Images/Getty Images
Making the leap from being a renter to becoming a homeowner is a process that includes taking stock of your financial situation and determining whether you’re ready for such a massive responsibility. For most people, the primary question is affordability. Do you have enough cash in the bank to fund a down payment, or do you have a credit score high enough to qualify you for a home loan? But there are other considerations, tooâand plenty of misconceptions and myths that could keep you from making that first step.
Below, our experts weigh in on why some situations that may seem like roadblocks are actually not as daunting as they appear.
1. Buying a home means heavy debt
Some may argue that continuing to rent can spare you from taking on heavy debt. But owning a house offers advantages.
âBuying a home and using a typical loan would be spread out over 20 to 30 years. But if you can make one extra payment a year or make bimonthly payments instead, you can shed up to seven years from that long-term loan,â says Jesse McManus, a real estate agent for Big Block Realty in San Diego, CA.
Plus, as you pay your mortgage, you gain equity in the home and create an asset that can be used when needed, such as paying off debt or even buying a second home.
âCurrently, mortgage interests rates are at their lowest point in history, so … it’s a great time to borrow money,â McManus says.
2. At least a 20% down payment is needed to buy a home
âContrary to popular belief, a 20% down payment is not required to purchase a home,” says Natalie Klinefelter, broker/owner of the Legacy Real Estate Co. in San Diego, CA. “There are several low down payment options available to all types of buyers.â
These are as low as 0% down for Veterans Affairs loans to 5% for conventional loans.
One of the main reasons buyers assume they must put down 20% is that without a 20% down payment, buyers typically face private mortgage insuranceÂ payments that add to the monthly loan payment.
âThe good news is once 20% equity is reached in a home, the buyer can eliminate PMI. This is usually accomplished by refinancing their loan, ultimately lowering their original payment that included PMI,â says Klinefelter. âSelecting the right loan type for a buyerâs needs and the property condition is essential before purchasing a home.â
Watch: 5 Things First-Time Home Buyers Must Know
3. Your credit score needs to be perfect
Having a credit score at or above 660 looks great to mortgage lenders, but if yours is lagging, thereâs still hope.
âCredit score and history play a significant role in a buyerâs ability to obtain a home loan, but it doesn’t mean a buyer needs squeaky-clean credit. There are many loan solutions for buyers who have a lower than the ideal credit score,â says Klinefelter.
She says government-backed loans insured by the Federal Housing AdministrationÂ have lower credit and income requirements than most conventional loans.
âA lower down payment is also a benefit of FHA loans. Lenders often work with home buyers upfront to discuss how to improve their credit to obtain a loan most suitable for their needs and financial situation,â says Klinefelter.
McManus says buyers building credit can also use a home loan to bolster their scores and create a foundation for future borrowing and creditworthiness.
4. Now is a bad time to buy
Buying a home at the right timeâduring a buyer’s market or when interest rates are lowâis considered a smart money move. But don’t let the fear of buying at the “wrong time” stop you from moving forward. If you feel like you’ve found a good deal, experts say there is truly no bad time to buy a home.
âThe famous saying in real estate is ‘I donât have a crystal ball,’ meaning no one can predict exactly where the market will be at a given time. If a buyer stays within their means and has a financial contingency plan in place if the market adjusts over time, it is the right time to buy,â says Klinefelter.
5. Youâll be stuck and canât relocate
Some people may be hesitant to buy because it means staying put in the same location.
âI always advise my clients that they should plan to stay in a newly purchased home for a minimum of three years,” says McManus. “You can ride out most market swings if they happen, and it also gives you a sense of connection to your new space.”
In a healthy market, McManus says homeowners will likely be able to sell the home within a year or two if they need to move, or they can consider renting out the property.
âThere is always a way out of a real estate asset; knowing how and when to exit is the key,â says Klinefelter.
The post 5 Myths About Transitioning From Renter to Homeowner appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.comÂ®.
The local Arizona housing market has been hot nearly all year long. As we get closer and closer to the yearâs end, will the trends continue? We checked out all the stats for Arizonaâs market during November. Check out what we found out!
According to data from the ARMLS Â® from November 1, 2020 to November 30, 2020, monthly sales in the Phoenix metro area rose significantly from where they were at this same time last year. With a +27.4% year-over-year increase, sales landed at 8,886 for the month.
While this number is a slight drop from the previous month of October, the -8.3% month-to-month decrease in sales is in line with the typical slow down in the market as the year starts wrapping up.
At $453.9K, November saw a +6.4% year-over-year increase in average list price. Median prices also rose. With a +10.0% increase from November 2019, the median list price in November was $330K.
Average sale prices increased by +18.0% between November 2019 and November 2020, landing at $418.7K. With a slightly smaller jump, median sale prices still rose significantly with +16.8% year-over-year increase. The November median sale price was $331.0K.
As forecasts predicted, these numbers are slightly lower than sale prices in October of this year. The average sale price was -1.5% lower than that of October and the median sale price was -1% lower. For next month, the average sale price is projected to increase, while the median sale price is expected to have another small decrease. Check back next month to see how these forecasts turn out.
Days on Market (DOM)
While many metrics in the market slowed down this November compared to the previous month, the Average Cumulative Days on Market did not. This number continues to steadily drop, showing homes are being sold more and more quickly. Landing at 41, the Average DOM saw a 2-day decrease from October of this year and a 17-day decrease from November of last year.
Want to Know Your Homeâs Value?
If youâre thinking of selling soon, youâre probably wondering how much your home is worth. Click here to request your free home value report from a Homie pro!
A Message From Sales and Operations Manager, Wayne Graham
Going into December, inventory is 28.2% lower than it was a year ago. In fact, some areas are experiencing record low levels of inventory. However, In contrast to the record low levels of inventory, weâre seeing record-high levels of sales. Demand increased by 27.4% between November 2019 and November 2020. Low supply and high demand are one of the surest guarantees of rising sales prices.
But even though prices are rising, according to the National Association of Realtors Housing Affordability Index it is still very affordable to buy a home in Phoenix compared to historical market trends. This is still possible because of extremely low-interest rates. So overall, home affordability is still in a good historical place in the Phoenix area.
Turn to a Homie
With our dedicated team of professionals, we can help you navigate the real estate market easier than ever. Click to start selling or buying with a dedicated and experienced Homie agent.
Want to learn more about buying or selling? Sign up to get more info directly to your inbox!
The post Homieâs Greater Phoenix, AZ Housing Market Update November 2020 appeared first on Homie Blog.
Years before I ever dreamed of homeownership for myself, I was an HGTV connoisseur. In college, I double majored in âProperty Virginsâ and âHouse Huntersâ and spent hours glued to the TV with my roommate, ogling other peopleâs granite countertops.
Fast forward nearly a decade, and the time had arrived for me to purchase my own home. (No granite countertops hereâmy house was more like the âbeforeâ scene in an episode of âFixer Upperâ).
Not surprisingly, TV homeownership didnât prepare me for the real thing. There are lots of lessons Iâve had to learn the hard way.
If youâre gearing up for your own journey into homeownership, turn off the TV and gather ’round. Iâll fill you in on a few things I wish I had known beforehand, and a few surprises (some happy, some frustrating) that I encountered along the way.
1. A beautiful yard takes work
I never met a succulent that I didnât kill. Even my fake plants are looking a little wilted right now. But even though I donât have a green thumb, landscaping and yard maintenance are forever on my to-do list.
Each spring, I spray Roundup with impunity, attempting (and failing) to conquer the weeds. My husband handles mowing and edging.
Iâve slowly started to learn which plants can endure abuse, neglect, and a volatile Midwestern climate. I still have a long way to go in my landscaping journey, but all this work has given me a new appreciation for other peopleâs lush, beautiful lawns.
When you’re house hunting, keep in mind that those beautiful lawns you seeâand that outdoor space you covetâcome at a steep price. Either your time and frustration, or a hefty bill for professional landscapers, will be necessary to keep things presentable.
2. You might get a bill for neighborhood improvements
Your property taxes should pay for every improvement to the neighborhood, right? Not necessarily.
When my neighbors came together to petition the city for a speed bump on our busy street, the cost was passed on to us homeowners. It wasnât covered by property taxes, so we got a bill in the mail a few months later. Surprise!
When you’re preparing to buy a house, make sure you budget for homeownership expensesânot just repair and HOA costs, but those pesky fees that crop up when you least expect them.
3. Brush/trash removal? It works differently in every city
As a kid, I spent many fall weekends scooping leaves into yard waste bags that we left on the curb for pickup. But when I became a homeowner, I realized that my early brush with brush removal was unique to the suburb where I grew up. Every city handles it differently, if the city handles it at all.
In Milwaukee, where I live, homeowners can put leaves on the curb for pickup on designated days. For big branches, you need to request a pickup, or potentially dispose of them yourself. Check with your city to find the ordinances and regulations where you live.
4. Youâll want to clean (or hire someone to clean) your nasty windows
Window maintenance was never on my radar as a renter, probably because I never had more than a few windows in an apartment. But then I became the proud owner of many, many windowsâand all of them were coated in a thick film of gunk after years of neglect.
After we moved in, I started to tackle the cleaning on my own. But I quickly realized I was getting nowhere fast, and there was no way I could safely clean the exterior windows up in the finished attic.
So, I swallowed my pride and hired window washers. It was some of the best money Iâve ever spent.
5. You may feel a sudden urge to stock up on seasonal decorations
I never looked twice at a $50 wreath or decorative gourd before becoming a homeowner. Now, I have a burgeoning collection of lawn ornaments in the shape of snowmen and spooky cats. Sometimes I don’t even know who I am anymore.
6. Youâll need to create a budget for Halloween candy
At least I did in my Halloween-loving neighborhood, where the trick-or-treaters come out in droves.
I spent upward of $100 on candy my first year as a homeowner, and most of it was purchased in a panic at the Dollar Store after I noticed that our supply was dangerously low just halfway through the evening.
Now, I stock up in advance and shop with coupons to save a few bucks.
7. DIY renovation is equally rewarding and soul-crushing
For the first few months after we closed on our house, my husband and I spent every free hour after work and on the weekends ripping out carpeting, pulling nails one by one from the hardwood floors, and scrubbing away at generations’ worth of grime in the bathrooms and kitchen. It was some seriously sick stuff.
Being frugal and ambitious means we can accomplish a lot on a small budget. But acting as our own general contractors became a full-time job on top of both of our full-time jobs.
Simple pleasures like âhaving a social lifeâ or âFriday night with Netflixâ became distant memories. Itâs easy now to say it was all worth it, but at the time, I daydreamed about winning the lottery and hiring a team of pros to handle our rehab.
Watch: Here’s How Low You Can Go in Making an Offer on a Home
8. My impulse to check real estate listings lingered for a while
When I started house hunting, I obsessively searched for new home listings every day, poring over MLS descriptions and swiping through photos. Reaching for my phone to refresh the realtor.com app became muscle memory.
But after we closed on our house, my impulse to follow the market didnât disappear overnight. Even though I was a homeowner, I also had a phantom limb where âchecking the real estate listingsâ used to be.
A friend of mine put it best when she wrote about the sensation of loss she experienced when she âno longer had an excuse to occupy [her] free time with these real estate apps.â Itâs surprisingly challenging to turn off your home-buying brain after months of being on high alert.
9. Youâll never want to go back to sharing walls
I like my neighbors. I like them even more because, for the most part, I canât hear them. Gone are the days of people above me making bowling sounds late at night.
Now, I enjoy the sweet, sweet silence of detached livingâno adjacent neighbors blasting music or loudly quarreling. All the yard work in the world is worth it for this level of quiet.
The post 9 Things I Wish I Had Known About Owning My First Home (Before I Bought It) appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.comÂ®.
Utahâs real estate market has been hot nearly the whole year. How did it perform in November? Homie has your update!
Data from Utah MLS from November 1, 2020 to November 30, 2020.
According to data from the Utah MLS, Utah had 4,335 sales from November 1, 2020 to November 30, 2020. Of those sales, 75.6% were single-family homes, while 24.4% were multi-family residences.
The sales this month are slightly lower than the 5,602 sales in October of this year, but itâs a +18% increase from November 2019, which is an even larger percentage increase than the year-over-year comparison we saw in October. This means the market is following the usual end-of-year slowdown, but the market is still quite strong compared to a year ago.
Even though monthly sales saw the usual end-of-year slow-down, sale prices continued to rise. At $379K, Utahâs median sale price rose +2.4% from October of this year and 16.8% from November 2019.
List Price (Per Square Foot)
List prices in Utah rose during November along with sales prices. Novemberâs median list price per square foot was $175.92, which is up from the previous monthsâ median of $170.25 per square foot.
Days on Market (DOM)
Homes in Utah continue to sell quickly. The Average Cumulative Days on Market (DOM) during November was 9. This is a 72% decrease from November of last year. Prospective Utah homeowners will need to act quickly to get the homes theyâre interested in.
Number of Homes Listed With Homie
A total of 182 homies listed their homes with Homie during the month of November. This number is up from 154 during the same time period last year.
Turn to a Homie
Homieâs local real estate agents can help you navigate Utahâs hot housing market and find your ideal home. Work with a Homie to get an amazing deal whether youâre buying or selling. Click the links to get in touch with your dedicated agent.
The post Homieâs Utah Housing Market Update November 2020 appeared first on Homie Blog.
MarÃa Garrido / EyeEm / Getty Images
While most of us are familiar with new-car smellâthat distinct scent of a brand-new automobileâhome buyers might have caught a whiff of another scent entirely during their home-shopping spree: new-house smell.
What exactly is new-house smell? Also known as new-construction smell, it’s essentially a combination of smells given off by the many materials that go into building a houseâthings like fresh paint, carpet, wood, and adhesives. If thereâs any new furniture in the home, that could be contributing to the smell as well.
But is new-house smell unhealthy to breathe in, day after day? Here’s a closer look at what new-house smell is made of, and how to get rid of it, too.
What is new-house smell?
Before we dive deep into new-house smell, letâs take a step backâway backâand look at what causes anything to smell in the first place.
Bill Carroll Jr., an adjunct professor of chemistry at Indiana University, says all smells come from molecules in the air that your nose can detect. The molecules must evaporate to get into the air, and the more likely they are to evaporate, the more volatile they are and the easier they are to inhale and detect as odors.
âIf you can smell it, itâs because of a molecule in the air,â Carroll says. âThe fact that itâs in the air means that it is a volatile compound at least to some extent.”
As scary as “volatile” sounds, it doesnât necessarily mean a substance is dangerous or explosive. Carroll says it simply means that something can easily evaporate into the atmosphere, thus releasing an odor. For example, he says metals arenât very volatile, which is why you probably donât smell much (hopefully) if you sniff your stainless-steel refrigerator. Other materials like paints, adhesives, and plastics, however, are more highly volatile.
Are VOCs dangerous?
While new-house smells aren’t necessarily dangerous, there is some concern about certain types of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that exist in some building materials (e.g., paint, carpet, and furniture). Some have been linked to health issues, including cancer and central nervous system damage in people (e.g., construction workers who don’t wear face masks) exposed to high quantities of such materials.
“When you talk about VOCs that raise health concerns, that goes more to a substance’s inherent toxicity or reactivity,” Carroll says. “Itâs the difference between smelling a banana and smelling paint stripper, for example. They’re both volatile, but they have very different toxicities.”
“Regardless of odor, the ability of some of the VOCs emitted from any of [building] products and materials to cause health impacts or create other dangerous conditions varies greatly, depending on several factors,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency. “These factors may include the type and amount of VOCs emitted, the toxicity of the individual and combined VOCs, the ventilation rate in the space, the type and amount of other materials in the space, occupant level of exposure and length of time exposed, and the health of the exposed occupants.”
However, this is definitely not to say that a new-house smell will make you sick.
Watch: Get Smoker’s Smell Out of Your House for GoodâHere’s How
The good news is that because of concerns raised over certain dangerous VOCs in the past 40 to 50 years, thereâs a been a strong movement to reduce them. Carroll says thatâs most apparent in regard to paint. While oil-based paints used to emit high levels of VOCs and the odor would linger for a long time, todayâs paints contain virtually no VOCs and their odor dissipates more quickly.
In general, that means new houses today have much less of a pronounced smell than they did a years agoâand are less hazardous. For the overwhelming majority of the population, the odor is at worst a nuisance.
To reduce any potential indoor airârelated health impacts from VOCs, the EPA recommends using low-emitting products and building materials and increasing ventilation. The agency also offers further information on VOCs and indoor air auality.
How to get rid of new-house smell
âIf you like new-house smell, thatâs OK,â Carroll says. âIf you donât, itâs important to remember that the solution is dilution.â
He says for an empty house, that means opening the windows to air things out, and usually in a matter of days that new-house smell will disappear. Another solution is to âbakeâ a new home. Since some VOCs evaporate more quickly at higher heats, this technique has a homeowner turn up the heat in the unoccupied house for a few days while running fans to push them out the windows. Running exhaust fans and using an air purifier may speed things up, too.
Carroll says what’s more concerning than new-house smell, however, is what you bring into your place on your own.
âThe greatest source of VOCs is the stuff you bring into your house,â Carroll says. Items such as furniture, cleaners, waxes, and fragrances expose people to far more VOCs over the course of a lifetime.
Know this: If youâre moving into a new home and get a whiff of that telltale new-house smell, it will eventually wear off, even if you do nothing. Promise.
The post What Is New-House Smell? A Reality Check on the Risks, and How To Get Rid of It appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.comÂ®.