Eco-Friendly, Energy-Efficient Homes Attract Buyers
Are you planning to sell your house? If so, you may be surprised to hear just how much buyers value energy efficiency and eco-friendly features today. This is especially true as summer officially kicks off.
In fact, the 2023 Realtors and Sustainability Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows 48% of agents or brokers have noticed consumers are interested in sustainability.
So, if you’re considering selling your house, why does this matter to you? It helps you know what you can do to make your house even more appealing to today’s buyers. According to Jessica Lautz, Deputy Chief Economist and VP of Research at NAR:
“Buyers often seek homes that either lessen their environmental footprint or reduce their monthly energy costs. There is value in promoting green features and energy information to future home buyers.”
Consider Upgrading Your Home To Make It More Appealing
If you want to upgrade your house in a way that maximizes its green appeal, you need to work with a local agent to understand what buyers in your area are looking for. The same NAR report identifies the following green home features as most important to buyers at a national level:
- Windows, doors, and siding
- Proximity to frequently visited places
- A comfortable living space
- A home’s utility bills and operating costs
While you can’t change the location of your house, you can take action to make sure it’s as comfortable as possible while also setting up the next owners for lower operating costs. ENERGY STAR shares some suggested upgrades as ones that may be worth considering:
- Heating and cooling: Ensure your HVAC system is properly maintained and regularly serviced to maximize its efficiency. Consider upgrading to a high-efficiency model, if needed.
- Water heater: Your water heater uses a lot of energy. Upgrading to a heat pump water heater can significantly reduce energy consumption and appeal to environmentally conscious buyers.
- Smart thermostat: A big part of your energy bill goes to heating and cooling. Install a programmable thermostat to better regulate temperature settings. This not only enhances comfort but can also lower energy usage.
- Attic insulation: Proper sealing and insulation in your attic help prevent air leaks and maintain a comfortable temperature, reducing the strain on heating and cooling systems.
- Energy-efficient windows: Replacing old, drafty windows with energy-efficient ones can minimize heat transfer and lower your energy bills.
It’s worth noting that you may be able to take advantage of tax credits and rebates for energy-efficient home installations and upgrades. These incentives could help offset a portion of the costs associated with eco-friendly home improvements.
As you prepare to sell your house, it’s important to recognize that real estate agents are valuable resources. They can help you determine which upgrades would be most appealing for buyers in your area and provide guidance on which green features to highlight in your listing. If you’ve already made these updates recently, tell your agent so they can feature them in your listing.
Focusing on energy efficiency and eco-friendly features can help make your house more appealing to buyers today. Let’s connect to ensure you’re choosing the right upgrades for our area.
Why You Shouldn’t Fear Today’s Foreclosure Headlines
If you’ve seen recent headlines about foreclosures surging in the housing market, you’re certainly not alone. There’s no doubt, the stories in the media can be pretty confusing right now. They may even make you think twice about buying a home for fear that prices could crash. The reality is, the data shows a foreclosure crisis is not where the market is headed, and understanding what that really means is mission critical if you want to know the truth about what’s happening today. Here’s a deeper look.
According to the Year-End 2022 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report from ATTOM, foreclosure filings are up 115% from 2021, but down 34% from 2019. As media headlines grab onto this 115% increase, it’s more important than ever to put that percentage into context.
While the number of foreclosure filings did more than double last year, we need to remember why that happened and how it compares to more normal, pre-pandemic years in the market. Thanks to the forbearance program and other relief options for homeowners, foreclosure filings were down to record-low levels in 2020 and 2021, so any increase last year is — no surprise — a jump up. Rick Sharga, Executive VP of Market Intelligence at ATTOM, notes:
“Eighteen months after the end of the government’s foreclosure moratorium, and with less than five percent of the 8.4 million borrowers who entered the CARES Act forbearance program remaining, foreclosure activity remains significantly lower than it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. It seems clear that government and mortgage industry efforts during the pandemic, coupled with a strong economy, have helped prevent millions of unnecessary foreclosures.”
Clearly, these options meant millions of homeowners could stay in their homes, allowing them to get back on their feet during a very challenging period. With home values rising at the same time, many homeowners who may have found themselves facing foreclosure under other circumstances were able to leverage their equity and sell their houses rather than face foreclosure, and that trend continues today.
And remember, as the graph below shows, foreclosures today are far below the record-high 2.9 million that were reported in 2010 when the housing market crashed.
So, while foreclosures are rising, keeping perspective in mind is key. As Bill McBride, Founder and Author of Calculated Risk, noted just last week:
“The bottom line is there will be an increase in foreclosures over the next year (from record low levels), but there will not be a huge wave of distressed sales as happened following the housing bubble. The distressed sales during the housing bust led to cascading price declines, and that will not happen this time.”
Right now, putting the data into context is more important than ever. While the housing market is experiencing an expected rise in foreclosures, it’s nowhere near the crisis levels seen when the housing bubble burst, and that won’t lead to a crash in home prices.
Pre-Approval in 2023: What You Need To Know
One of the first steps in your homebuying journey is getting pre-approved. To understand why it’s such an important step, you need to understand what pre-approval is and what it does for you. Business Insider explains:
“In a preapproval [sic], the lender tells you which types of loans you may be eligible to take out, how much you may be approved to borrow, and what your rate could be.”
Basically, pre-approval gives you critical information about the homebuying process that’ll help you understand your options and what you may be able to borrow.
How does it work? As part of the pre-approval process, a lender will look at your finances to determine what they’d be willing to loan you. From there, your lender will give you a pre-approval letter to help you understand how much money you can borrow. That can make it easier when you set out to search for homes because you’ll know your overall numbers. And with higher mortgage rates impacting affordability for many buyers today, a solid understanding of your numbers is even more important.
Pre-Approval Helps Show You’re a Serious Buyer
Another added benefit is pre-approval can help a seller feel more confident in your offer because it shows you’re serious about buying their house. A recent article from Forbes notes:
“From the seller’s perspective, a preapproval [sic] letter from a reputable local lender often can make the difference between accepting and rejecting an offer.”
This goes to show, even though you may not face the intense bidding wars you saw if you tried to buy during the pandemic, pre-approval is still an important part of making a strong offer. In fact, Christy Bieber, Personal Finance Writer at The Motley Fool explains it may be the most important part of making an offer:
“Pre-approval maximizes the chances you’ll be able to actually close the deal – and sellers want to see that.
The fact that a pre-approval gives you a better chance of getting your offer accepted is undoubtedly the most important reason to complete this step . . .”
Getting pre-approved is an important first step towards buying a home. It lets you know what you can borrow, shows sellers you’re serious about purchasing their home, and last but not least, it helps ME know what to be looking for as we search for a home. We have a great team of Lenders to help you get that important pre-approval! Check them out at YOUR TEAM Page here on the site.
So, you’ve made an offer on a home (in this crazy market that is 2020-2021) and the Seller and Seller’s agent come back and ask for “highest and best.” What exactly does that mean? This is a term that both Buyers and Sellers need to understand and how it can affect the purchase (or sale if the Seller) of the home.
First off, it means what it says. You may have already submitted an offer on a home, and the Seller has received multiple offers on their property. They are asking you to look at your offer, and submit your “highest and best.” You can also find this term on homes listed, meaning if you still wanted to submit an offer, you better have your pencil sharp! Sometimes, a Seller will just review the offers they have and select the best one (with the help of their agent, of course!) But then others will see if they “can do better” and call for highest and best.
There are many parts to your offer, and you want to look at all of them to see where you can improve. It’s a common mistake for a buyer to just focus on one part of their offer. Let’s look at some common mistakes Buyers make in this situation.
“Highest and Best” Common Mistakes
Put it in Writing
In Georgia (and probably any state) a verbal offer is not a binding offer. Your agent needs to update your offer you have submitted, and have you sign it. This can be done in person, but with today’s real estate technology, it can be done electronically. Pay particular attention to your pre-approval letter. If you increased the purchase price significantly (or at all) make sure you have an updated pre-approval letter from your lender.
Finding out What is Important to the Seller
Well, getting the most money for their house, right? Sure, that’s part of it, but there are other factors that could be more important to the Seller. Your agent should have this conversation with the Seller’s agent to learn of any unique situation that the Seller might have. One example is a longer closing date. Maybe the Seller is under contract to purchase a new construction home, but it won’t be finished for 2 more months. Your offer could include a closing date to match the closing date on their new home. Another consideration is to close earlier, but then “lease back” the home to the Seller for those two months. You become a landlord in this situation and would need a lease in place (your agent can help with this as well) and you also have to confirm your lender will allow this.
Just Changing the Price
As we said earlier, there is more to your offer than just the purchase price. A common mistake is buyers just raise the price, without looking at the other terms of their offer. Other parts to consider:
- Contingencies in the Contract The most common contingencies in a Georgia real estate contract are the financing and appraisal. In a hectic, seller’s market, it may be a challenge to shorten your appraisal contingency, as a third party does this on behalf of your lender. But a good relationship with your lender will help, as they will know how much time they can work with to get an appraisal back. Your financing contingency is completely up to your lender and where you are in the loan approval process. A good lender can have you fully approved and they just need the purchase contract and the appraisal to finish your loan. This means you have submitted all the required documents to your lender, and they have been able to approve your loan based on all of that information. Here again we refer to the lender you work with and the things you need to do!
- Earnest Money Deposit Earnest money is your good faith deposit attached to your purchase agreement. There is no set amount required in the state of Georgia, but by offering a large earnest money deposit, you are showing to the Seller that you are serious about buying their home, and are willing to put up a larger deposit. This amount can later become an issue if there Buyer cannot close, and the Seller seeks to retain that deposit.
- Due Diligence Period In Georgia, you have an opportunity in a purchase contract to ask for a period of time to complete a home inspection, review condominium or HOA documents and any other information you may want to obtain. This is a negotiable period of time, and can be as short as “0” days to 10 days. During this time, the buyer has the option to terminate their contract and receive a full refund of their earnest money payment. To the Seller, this is a statement like, “I love your home (submitted an offer) but I’d like to take a second look and make sure I am happy (inspection, etc.)” It also means the Seller could lose valuable marketing time with their home off the market during this due diligence period.
Waiting For a Deadline
When the Seller asks for “highest and best” there will be a time limit, or deadline, when your revised offer is due by. First, it might seem like being right at the wire will be the best way to win. (think of an auction when the final bid comes in at the ‘going, going’ and it wins). But just because the Seller provided a deadline, does NOT mean they will honor it. If they receive a really great offer before the deadline, they may choose to move forward with that offer….and it might have been yours if you had already submitted it. It’s easy to get this offer in quickly via the electronic documents and systems that you agent has in place.
Do You Have the Right Team on Your Side?
When you are buying a home, there are several people involved that help you get to the Celebration Day! Those people make up your real estate team. If you are working with a local lender, they can have better contact with their underwriting department to get you that loan approval we mentioned earlier. If there is a last minute need to update your preapproval letter, you can miss out on that offer when they are an unresponsive, or online lender that is not easily accessible.
A local lender can also call the listing agent directly to confirm that you are indeed pre-approved (or have that full loan approval) and this could put you at an advantage. Also part of your team is the home inspector. Working with a reputable company that can get your inspection scheduled quickly is important as well. (And that they do a GOOD inspection…it’s not all about how much they charge)
And the reputation of your agent is important. If they are known for being easy to work with and responsive to emails and phone calls….this can make a difference.
Some Final Thoughts
Who you work with matters! You want to have an agent that can help you understand the market conditions, what’s happening in the particular neighborhood where you are looking and be able to build you a strong offer! If you know there are going to be multiple offers, then you want to have your best foot forward with your first offer. You could be competing with an all-cash buyer with minimal or no contingencies, but cash does not always win!
Whether you have lived in your home for 3 years, or even 30 years, there are choices you can make during that time that will affect the future value of your home. Let’s take a look at 5 Mistakes Homeowners Make Which Affect Value.
What’s that phrase…”you only get one chance to make a first impression?” Nothing could be more true when it comes to selling your home. (This is not quite as important when selling a condo, but I’ll give you some suggestions there too!)
When a potential buyer drives by, or comes with their real estate agent, the first thing they are going to see is how your home looks from the street. And this is what they will see online if they saw your home there first. If your landscape lacks some luster, then spruce it up. Seasonal plantings for Spring, Summer or Fall/Winter make a great impression. If you have any landscape beds, a fresh layer of mulch or pinestraw is a night and day difference in how things look. If your lawn is older, it may have some weeds…or lots of weeds. Starting a weed control program now, could actually make your lawn look worse. A tip here is to keep it mowed really sort. Face it, weeds grow way faster than any grass, but if kept mowed short, don’t show as much.
Any shrubbery you have should be trimmed, and trimmed away from the house, if necessary. Think how you look and feel after a haircut or a visit to the beauty salon! Well, your landscape will look and feel the same way.
Curb appeal extends up to the exterior of the home as well. If you have peeling paint, it lends to an air of “this home has been neglected.” Fresh paint (both inside and out) go a long way to making your home look better.
Condominium Curb Appeal
In a condominium, first impressions are usually found in the lobby area where the buyers will first arrive. This is pretty much out of your control, but one thing you can do is make sure you visit personally with any Concierge staff that may be working when your condo can be shown. They appreciate your conversation, and they DO make a difference on how a buyer can feel about a building. The only other thing you may be able to focus on is the hallway in front of your condo and your front door. If you have any damage to your door, work with your HOA and property management to get it repaired/replaced. If your hallway is not very clean due to lack of a housekeeping staff…you might be wise to grab your own vacuum and hit the carpet! Does this sound like crazy? Maybe, but remember that Buyer is going to be walking from the elevator to your door and what they see…well….
The curb appeal we just talked about falls into the category as well. If you have not maintained the landscape around your home, a potential buyer will be looking at the costs (and work if they do it themselves) to make the home look better.
If you’ve had a water leak in the past, but did not have the damage repaired, this needs to be a priority. You still need to disclose this information on your Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement, but you don’t want it to be obvious. You want a repair that makes it look like it never happened.
A dripping faucet…a cracked switch plate cover, severely scratched hardwood floors, broken window blinds, burned out lights or inoperable lights or ceiling fans…all these things will go a long way towards a better looking home.
If you driveway is severely cracked from tree roots, you might want to consider a new driveway. This is no small expense, but will help you with the value of your home as well as the aforementioned curb appeal. (don’t forget to pressure wash it too!)
There are two sides to having a pre-listing inspection done on your home. First, it will help you identify things you can fix to keep a future report cleaner. It can also identify things you now need to disclose to a potential buyer because you now know about them. (Think mold or dampness in a basement or crawl space) But this inspection can really give you a detailed “to-do” list to have your home in the best shape possible. It also can help you with future negotiations as you know what a buyer may find when they have their home inspection done.
Over Improved Or Trendy
We’ve put two of our 5 Mistakes Homeowners Make Which Affect Value together here, because they can be one in the same.
As you make improvements or renovations to your home, you should take personal taste and a future sale into consideration. Personal example…in my last condo, we had black subway tile backsplash in the kitchen. I knew it could look so cool with a blue or even a red tile. A personal taste that a future Buyer would not like at all. And they would look at that as an immediate expense they would incur to make that change. We are not saying don’t make your home or condominium a place you can’t enjoy, but keep design ideas in mind that will help in the future. Of course, if you remodeled a kitchen 15 or 20 years ago, it’s probably going to show it’s age both in wear and design styles by now.
If you go “over the top” on a kitchen or bathroom renovation, because it is what you want, just bear in mind that it may be more than your neighborhood or building can justify in value, and you may not get all of your money back out of the over-improvement.
Painting can be the same. ( I recently saw a listing where almost every room had some kind of mural painted on the walls. They were amazing in detail…but certainly not for everyone.) So if you are selling your home and you have not painted the interior in a long time, and have some bright, or “off” colors in rooms, now is the time to make it neutral. A buyer can live with that builder gray for a lot longer than they can that bright yellow room your kids loved.
Make your home….your home…but think long term how the changes you are making could make the sale of your home more challenging.
This marketing choice can send various messages. “We know our house has issues and we are not going to deal with them.” We have seen the phrase on listings, “As-is, with right to inspect.” What this means is you can have an inspection done on the home as part of your due diligence period, but we are not going to make any repairs or concessions. Sometimes this can be the best way if you are selling an estate property you inherited. You don’t want to take time to address deferred maintenance or other issues.
But if you choose this route, you may want to consider your listing price. Using round numbers, if you know homes in your neighborhood are selling for $300,000 that have been updated and well cared for, you may want to price your home $10-30,000 less than that price point. Again, this is all determined by what needs to be done and the condition of the home. (Kitchen and baths are original, old carpet, wallpaper, etc.)
It goes back to your goal with the sale of the home. If you just want to get it sold, or if you want to maximize the return on the sale, this will determine if “as-is” is the way to sell your home.
And hiring the right Realtor is an important consideration. Just because you have a friend that is a real estate agent, they may not be familiar with your neighborhood or type of home (think condominium vs. single family home).
When a Buyer is looking at your home, they will take many things into consideration, and many of them will be very personal in nature. After all, buying and selling a home is not only a big financial decision, but an emotional one as well.
A garage, or lack thereof, could be a deal breaker. But a buyer will look at a kitchen and bath remodel and think, “I love this kitchen (or bathroom)” or they can think “Oh these kitchen cabinets and flooring have to go!”