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The “REAL” in Real Estate

By Elle Smith,

Realtor, J&B Real Estate

For this month’s article, I asked friends and clients what they would like more information on, and several said they would like to know what to do to prepare to sell. Even in a seller’s market like we’re currently seeing, there are things you can do to make the process smoother. Houses are still selling quickly and often getting multiple offers, but there are still things you can and should do to make your home shine for listing photos and for showings. These tips will help you get the most for your property.

1.    Keep up on your maintenance and repairs. Keep service records,     receipts, and information on work you have had done to your home.

2.    Keep records on updates you have completed, such as new roof, new windows, new hot water heater, etc.

3.    Declutter.

4.    Take down most of your personal items. For example, removing family photos allows the potential buyers to imagine living in the house.

5.    Touch up paint. Repaint any loud or out of the ordinary colors or designs. A neutral color scheme presents like a blank canvas for potential buyers. Touch up doors, baseboards, and ceilings—these are often overlooked when preparing a home for sale, but buyers notice them.

6.    Make sure all lightbulbs and exhaust fans are working. These are other items potential buyers notice.

7.    Resist the urge to hide things in your microwave, oven, closet, etc. (I’ve seen this). Buyers might look, and you don’t want to appear that these items do not have a home.

8.    Don’t use too many strong scents—plug-in air fresheners, candles, etc. are very noticeable and will make potential buyers wonder if you are trying to hide something.

9.    Don’t ignore the curb appeal—mow, weed, mulch, and prune. First impressions matter.

10.  Clean, clean, clean. Consider hiring a cleaning service before listing photos are taken.

One thing I recommend to sellers—especially those with busy households—is to keep a tub or large bag by the door, and when you have a last minute showing, you can toss anything laying around into the bag and take it with you. This can alleviate a lot of stress when you have multiple showings a day. Also, whenever possible, sellers should leave for showings, being present can make a potential buyer uncomfortable. Remember to put your valuables away and out of sight. And always tell your real estate agent if you need notice for showings or if there are days or times that you cannot accommodate. It is much better to let potential buyers know this in advance instead of declining or canceling showings. These tips can make the showing part of selling your home go a little smoother and hopefully help you get even more for your property.

Everyone is always interested in how our local market is performing. Here are stats from March 2022 for the Catoctin High feeder area:           12 homes sold in March; Average Sales Price = $302,910; 19 residential properties for sale and coming soon as of April 17.*

The “REAL” in Real Estate

By Sandi Reed Burns,

Realtor, Climb Properties Real Estate

Happy spring, everyone! Let’s spring right into what’s going on in your area as of March 22, 2022, according to Bright MLS data.

Thurmont: 29 total listings—made up of land, leases, commercial, and residential. If we only look at residential sales, there are a total of nine and four of them are “coming soon.” (This excludes the new builds under construction, as they are not on the MLS).

Emmitsburg: 16 total listings—made up of land, leases, commercial, and residential. Again, if we only look at residential sales, there are four active listings and zero “coming soon.”

Rocky Ridge: 7 total multiple listings types.

It certainly doesn’t look like much of a “Spring Market,” does it? This low inventory remains to keep the prices higher and limits buyers’ options of available homes.

Here’s a snapshot from National Association of Realtors: “February 2022 brought 6.02 million in sales, a median sales price of $357,300, and 1.7 months of inventory. The median sales price is up 15% year-over-year, and inventory was down 0.3 months from February 2021.”

I’m going to spring right to the point. We need more inventory in order to balance out the market. So, if you’re thinking about selling, please contact your local Realtor® for advice, and thank you for being part of the solution.

A Look At Real Estate In the Catoctin Region

Buying or Selling in Today’s Market

By Erin Kelly, Realtor, Team Reeder of Long & FosterReal Estate, Inc.

Is purchasing a home one of your resolutions for 2022? Today’s real estate market continues to be highly competitive and fast-paced. As a buyer, it can feel overwhelming to keep up with the demands of the homebuying process. Here are five tips to help you write a strong offer.

1. Find a Trustworthy, Real Estate Professional

No matter what the housing market looks like, it is always important to work with a trusted real estate agent. As Freddie Mac puts it: “The success of your homebuying journey largely depends on the company you keep. . . . Be sure to select experienced, trusted professionals who will help you make informed decisions and avoid any pitfalls.” Real estate agents are experts in the local market. They have insight into what’s worked for other buyers in your area and what sellers may be looking for in an offer. They inform you of your options and walk with you through the process so that you can achieve success. Remember that your agent is always your biggest advocate.

2. Get Pre-Approved & Know Your Budget

Knowing what you can afford and how much a mortgage lender is willing to let you finance is critical to your success as a homebuyer. The best course of action is to get pre-approved with a lender before you even start to look at homes with your agent; that way, you can focus on properties that are within your means. In today’s market, having a pre-approval letter already in-hand when making an offer has become the standard, and sellers are sometimes even looking for a pre-approval from a local lender. Instead of waiting for a lender to run the numbers while another buyer swoops in, get pre-approved ahead of time. It will allow you to move quickly when you find one that you love.

3. Be Prepared to Move Fast

Homes are selling quickly, sometimes even within days of being on the market. As a buyer, staying on top of the market and moving quickly is key. Your agent can help you put together and submit your best offer as soon as you find the home you want to buy. Sometimes offers will be presented to the seller as they are received, or sometimes an offer deadline will be set and offers will be presented all at once. It depends on the seller and their listing agent. Either way, it is always helpful to be ahead of the competition.

4. Make a Strong, But Fair Offer

According to the latest Realtors Confidence Index from NAR, 40 percent of offers today are above the list price. In such a competitive market, emotions and prices can run high. Unfortunately, that means submitting an offer at or below list price can give reason for your offer to be overlooked. Having an agent to help you submit a strong, yet fair offer, is critical in these situations. Your agent can help you understand the market value of the home and recent sales trends in the area. They can also give insight on the other aspects of your offer, besides the price, that you can adjust to entice a seller. These include contingencies like inspections, appraisals, and financing.

5. Be a Flexible Negotiator

When putting together an offer, your trusted real estate agent will help you consider which levers you can pull, including contract contingencies. Be aware that there are certain contingencies you may not want to give up. Waiving inspections or purchasing a home “as-is,” (which means that the seller isn’t required to pay for repairs) can leave you stuck with a house that you can’t afford to fix. Lean on your real estate agent to make an informed decision, and only do what makes you feel comfortable.

Bottom Line

It’s no secret that owning real estate provides many financial benefits. But beyond that, the non-financial benefits are what makes owning a home a New Year’s resolution for so many people. When a house becomes a home, it provides security and stability. Purchasing a home can be a highly emotional process.

In today’s competitive landscape, trusting a local real estate professional is more important than ever to keep your head above water and make a winning offer on your dream home!

Buying or Selling in Today’s Market

By K. Diane Bowers, Realtor, GRI, J&B Real Estate, Inc.

Can YOU BUY a home? One of the biggest myths is that you need 20 percent as a down payment. This is not true; actually, most are 0-5 percent.

Steps to Buying a Home

Find a Good Realtor. Others may say this is Step #2. I think it should be your first step. Find someone you trust and has experience. There are many ways to search for a realtor but the BEST way is to get a recommendation from someone close to you. The realtor you select is YOUR personal representative so choose wisely.

Find a Lender to Get Pre-Approved. This is your most important step! Do NOT look at any potential homes until this is completed! It is the buyer’s choice which lender to use, but your agent will help guide you through this process. It is crucial to chat with lenders that were referred to you, not some random lender you found using Google. Many things can go wrong with this step. The lender will verify your income, credit, funds, and work history to qualify for a loan program. There are several good loan programs. Mortgage payments are more than calculating just principal and interest; property taxes, homeowners insurance, lender mortgage insurance (due if you put less than 20 percent down), and HOA fees are all considered when getting approved.

Decide on Type of Loan. As I mentioned, there are so many types of programs. The most utilized is FHA (Federal Housing Admin), VA (Veteran), USDA (US Dept of Ag-Rural Development), Conventional (not insured by the Federal Government), Rehab, and the list goes on and on. I will elaborate in a future issue.

Start Looking for Homes. This is the FUN part! Discuss with your realtor your personal wants and needs for your future home. Keep in mind, you will NEVER check off every box, but you still set the standard. Send your realtor a list of homes you want to see in your price-range. There is NO point in looking above your range unless you want to be constantly disappointed. It is not fair to the $200,000 homes if you start looking at $300,000 homes when that isn’t affordable. Just like I don’t want to be compared to a 20-year-old. No thanks!

 Once You Find the “One,” Make an Offer. This is where the REALTOR OF CHOICE matters!  This person is your representative during the entire process, which starts with an offer. Hiring someone you know or referred to you, your best interests are being protected.  I am not a fan of the quote “IT’S BUSINESS,  NOT PERSONAL”… I strongly believe that BUSINESS IS PERSONAL and should be! There is so much that goes into an offer, beyond offer price alone. They will guide you on pros/cons of those specifics in your offer.  

Conduct Inspections. Inspect the home using a third-party company to prepare you for current and potential issues. Home, well, septic, radon, termite/pest, mold, chimney, are the most utilized inspections.  

Order Appraisal. Lender will order an appraisal. We have no control over this selection.  The appraiser inspects home to determine value. The lender gets this report then shares with the buyer.

Address Repairs, Safety Issues, Value. Once the inspections and appraisal are finished, major issues will be addressed with the seller, depending on terms of the contract.  Each house is different.  

Wait for Final Loan Approval. Once we get the above steps done and all documents to the lender (this is the dreadful part), we will get a CLEAR TO CLOSE, meaning we are ready for settlement. Woohoo!  You will get final numbers from the settlement company to wire your funds for your deposit, closing costs, etc. 

Setup Utilities, Movers, etc. Start calling the utility companies, cable, internet to be scheduled to start the day of settlement.  

Do Final Walk-Through. This is your final “showing” to confirm the house is in the same condition at time of ratified contract. It is conducted right before settlement.  If anything is broken, etc. this will need to be addressed with the seller.

Attend Settlement at a Title Company. IT’S THE BIG DAY!  Plan on being at settlement 45-60 minutes. Some are longer, some are shorter, but this is  a good average to plan on. You will sign your name as a buyer, maybe 25 times that feels like 500 times. Once all parties sign the paperwork, you are now the NEW OWNER! 

 Grab the keys and start moving in! Congrats!

Buying or Selling in Today’s Market

By Elle Smith, J&B Real Estate, Inc. Realtor

It’s no secret that the real estate market in our area has been in a strong sellers’ market. And, it’s no secret that Frederick County is a desirable area. I’ve been blessed to call this area home my entire life, and I would not want to live anywhere else. So, I can understand why our area is so popular. Whether buying or selling a home, it’s never too early to start preparing.

During the holiday season, the market tends to slow down. This year is no exception. While the market is still healthy, we have seen a slowdown in activity. This makes it the ideal time to prepare to sell. If you have been considering selling, take this time to get your home ready for the spring selling season.

When I go on listing appointments, the number one question I get asked is “What do we need to do to prepare to sell our home?” The biggest thing you can do is declutter. The less clutter, the more spacious a home will feel. This may involve boxing things and putting them in storage. Make sure all appliances and major systems are in good operating condition. Touch up paint and drywall—neutral colors are always an excellent choice. Enhance the curb appeal: keep grass mowed, leaves raked, snow shoveled, and make a welcoming entrance. Remove or minimize personal items and photographs. Finally, clean your home top to bottom. Try to view your home through the eyes of a potential buyer. Think about what would make it appeal to you if you were seeing it for the first time. Updated bathrooms and kitchens will get more interest from potential buyers. And, with the increase in working from home and virtual school, home office areas are increasingly important. Outdoor living spaces—patios, decks, sunrooms—are also a big draw for potential buyers.

Selling your home during the holiday season can be challenging, but do not let it deter you from listing now. There are advantages to selling your home this time of year. Traditionally, there are less homes on the market, and therefore, less competition. Some buyers want or need to buy a home before the end of the year for job reasons. Even if you are waiting for spring to put your home on the market, it is never too early to start preparing your home for sale.

Buyers, don’t let the term “sellers’ market” scare you if you have been wanting to buy a home. With interest rates at record lows and rental prices at record highs, this is a good time to buy a home.

Depending on the property, you could pay a monthly mortgage payment that is less than a monthly rental payment. And, with the lack of rental properties in our area, buying a home is a realistic option.

When writing an offer on a home in this market, you want to be a competitive buyer. So, always be pre-approved with a mortgage lender before beginning your home search. A pre-approval will tell you how much house you can afford and will give you a summary of cash you would need at settlement. Meeting with a real estate agent is also one of the first things you should do. Maryland encourages all parties to have representation, so having an agent represent you as a buyer is in your best interest.

A buyer’s agent will meet with you to discuss your needs and wants. They can create a search for you that will alert you to “coming soon” and “active” properties on the market. They will represent your best interests in the home-buying process. Looking online is great, but sometimes the home you love may be under contract before you see it online. A buyer’s agent can send you alerts the minute a property hits the market.

 Buying or selling a home can be an exciting, yet overwhelming, step. Having a professional there to help you along the way can make it less stressful.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and wonderful New Year.

Our Region’s Real Estate Market

By Sandi Reed Burns, Climb Properties Realtor

Over the past year, across the country, the real estate market has been booming, with the market favoring sellers rather than buyers. Our communities of Thurmont and Emmitsburg have also experienced this trend. Homes that went on the market sold quickly, and our builders have not been able to keep up with the demand for new home construction. The pandemic has people looking for less densely populated and more affordable places to live. Our communities offer both, along with the scenic Catoctin mountains and national state parks.

With all our area has to offer, it is no wonder that generation after generation has chosen to stay here. I have been able to proudly call this area home since 2008, and there is nowhere else I’d rather live. I have pulled the data from residential sales for our area as of October 19, 2021, so you can get an idea of just how popular our area has become.

Thurmont (data source: Bright MLS)

Coming Soon & Active Listings—17 homes (3 are new builds, not all completed yet); price range: $140,000 to $565,000.

Active Under Contract—6 homes

Pending (going to close)—21 homes

Closed in the Last 30 Days—20 homes; price range: $150,000 to $950,000

DOM (days on market): Averaged 14.45 days.

Emmitsburg (data source: Bright MLS)

Coming Soon & Active Listings—10 homes (6 are new builds, not all completed yet); price range: $209,900 to $935,000.

Active Under Contract—1 home

Pending (going to close)—11 homes

Closed in the Last 30 Days—5 homes; price range: $215,500 to $605,000

DOM (days on market): 1 to 9 days.

If you are looking to buy in this market, my advice to you is to make sure you have a pre-approval letter that is based on actual documentation you provided to your lender, rather than a verbal pre-approval. Sellers want to know that your financing is solid before they agree to your offer. I also advise not to buy emotionally. You need to look beyond the seller’s pretty furniture, countertops, and appliances, looking instead under the cabinets for leaks, checking the age of the HVAC and roof, and inspecting the grounds for water runoff patterns.

If you are selling in this market, I advise you to keep your holiday decorations to a minimum. This allows the buyers to see their own decorations in the space and not feel as if they are just visiting your home. The seller’s market that we have been experiencing is now starting to show signs of slowing. If you are thinking of selling your home, now is the time to list. Until next time, enjoy this fall weather and our beautiful communities!