Category Archives: Real Estate

Holiday Season Great for Home Deals—If You Can Cope With the Downsides

holiday lightsA recent, informal survey by the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (NAEBA) asked its members—real estate brokerages that only represent home buyers—to report in on the challenges of shopping for a home during the holiday season.

The responses are in most cases either entertaining—“Aftermath of a New Year’s Eve party including passed out guests complete with open and spilled adult beverages”—or daunting—“Sellers reluctant to show because house is a wreck or too much company in house” and “difficulties in meeting deadlines when financial institutions or other offices are closed or industry personnel (loan officer, inspector, etc.) take time off.”

Difficulties aside, however, the NAEBA agents noted a silver lining to home shopping while everyone else is gift shopping: “Since we know anyone whose home is on the market during the holidays is highly motivated, we can be more aggressive in offering price and terms of the contract.”

Translated, that means that no seller in their right mind would put a home on the market during this cold, dreary, and distracted time of year—and therefore anyone who does so probably has a pressing reason.

Divorce, job change, or other change in life circumstances might be among the reasons. The seller basically needs to move, and move now.

That puts the prospective home buyer in a strong negotiating position. For help, see Nolo’s articles on Buying a House or Property.  Just step carefully on those frozen front steps, and don’t close the purchase until you have a chance to persuade a home inspector to put down the eggnog and come check the roof for leaks.

Fewer First-Time Buyers Than Ever Entering U.S. Housing Market

htbh5_1_1The latest Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers (2015) from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) contains a stark statistical representation of how difficult it is for young (and possibly not so young) people to buy their first home: only 32% of buyers were first-timers last year. That’s the lowest share since 1987, when it came in at 30%.

The reasons are widely known and discussed: high home prices (and therefore needed down payments), low inventory of homes for sale, underemployment, and high (in many cases crushing) student debt loads.

Is it really so impossible to enter the U.S. real estate market? True, with median home prices across the United States at over $200,000—with some areas of the U.S. far, far above that (such as California, where the median is over $400,000)—we’re talking some serious dollars no matter who you are.

But it may also be that some people have simply been scared out of the market.

For example, Lisa Shaffer, Loan Advisor at RPM Mortgage in Alamo, California, told Nolo that one of the most satisfying things about her work is “when I can help get someone get into a home who doubted they could afford one at all. Some clients of ours have had a good income but not much saved up for a down payment, and we’ve been able to find them first-time buyer programs (either through the government or through niche programs offered by banks) to help them buy a home sooner than they’d thought possible.”

Another hopeful thing about the current housing market is that, while a 20% down payment is widely referred to as the norm, most first-time buyers don’t actually pay that much. The same NAR survey found that first-time buyers are putting an average of 6% down.

For help with the challenges of breaking into the real estate market, see Nolo’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home.

Halloween Décor Spending at Odds With Tiny House Trend!

hallwThe pumpkins, plastic gravestones, oddly placed fake spiderwebbing, and other home and yard decorations are making their yearly appearance.

In fact, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual study, 70% of Americans plan to decorate their home for Halloween in 2016, spending a collective $2.4 billion to do so.

For anyone with a practical bent, the truly scary thing is having to store all those items after Halloween is over. (With the exception of the carved pumpkins, of course, which will rot nicely in one’s compost bin.) Their closets might already be full of Halloween costumes, which 67% of Americans plan to buy this year, spending a collective $3.1 billion.

Meanwhile, fascination with tiny homes is big in the real estate world, particularly among millennials. The topic has given rise to blogs, books, websites, and even television programs.

What’s “tiny,” exactly? It’s a home that’s smaller than some people’s living room, at around 400 square feet.

Tiny homes are a good way to remain debt-free—but the closets don’t offer much space for, say, plastic gravestones. Perhaps that’s why the actual number of people purchasing tiny homes to live in remains in the thousands, according to a USA TODAY report.

If you can limit your Halloween décor to compostables, and are intrigued by tiny homes, be sure to check out attorney Will Van Vactor’s series of articles on laws concerning tiny homes in various U.S. states.

Trouble Selling Your Luxury Home? At Least You’re Not a Celebrity!

clock and faceAre Americans less starry-eyed about celebrities than they used to be? (Hard to believe, with a reality-TV star a nominee for the U.S. presidency.)

Or is there some other explanation for the fact that, according to a widely reported Redfin study, celeb-owned properties sit on the market for “about 36 days longer than other homes and they usually sell for less than the original asking price,” and in some cases for less than the amount they purchased it for?

One theory posited by Redfin is that, during their period of homeownership, celebrities tend to think less about resale value than about satisfying their own, possibly unusual, tastes. If they want a basketball court in the basement, so be it.

Another theory is that the privacy that major stars in the world of sports, movies, music, and so on must maintain–and the fear of being overrun by curious “looky-lous”–makes it difficult to open the house up to visitors. (Agents for buyers must convince the selling agent that the buyers are serious, and sometimes put them through a screening process.)

It’s bad enough to be an ordinary homeowner wondering about whether the open-house visitors will steal your prescription pills: Imagine worrying about whether visitors will not only steal the pills, but go to the media about what meds you’re on! (See “Theft During House Showing: What Can We Do?” for more on this issue.)

Still, bemoaning the inability to hold open houses is rather ironic, when you consider how much ink the real estate industry has spilled about whether open houses are actually worth the time and effort. So if you’re a nobody, you might as well revel in your nobody-ness, open your house to the public, and enjoy the benefits of having a stream of visitors.

For more tips and strategies, see Selling Your Home: Nolo’s Essential Guide.

Adult Kid Living at Home? You’re Not Alone, And It’s Not Forever

Paper house attached to yellow blank price tag on blue background

Pricey rental markets, low housing inventory and high home costs, crushing student debt loads, and difficulty finding jobs are adding up to an unmistakable U.S. trend: kids moving back in with mom and dad after graduating from a college or university.

If you live in New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, Florida, or California, the odds of having a child living at home are especially high, according to an August 18, 2016 analysis from Stateline.

Feel better now that you know it’s not just your kid? Great. But if you’re still hoping that the situation doesn’t last forever, you might want to point junior to a couple of Nolo’s free online articles:

Oops, yes, that latter one means your son or daughter may be coming to you requesting help with the down payment or more. But you wouldn’t be alone in that, either–it’s the only way that many young people today can afford to break into the real estate market.

If providing such help is financially impossible, here’s another prospect for you to consider: Do I Need a Building Permit to Construct a Tiny House in My Backyard? It could be a way to put some space between you and your returnee!