Posted May 20 2020, 10:00 AM PDT by Sandy Dodge
Questions to Ask During Your Virtual Home Tour
Image Source: Canva
Thanks to COVID-19, the new reality is that many open houses and home tours are being conducted virtually. For prospective home buyers, this new territory brings an added element to prepare for in the home buying process. Some of the questions that should be asked in a virtual home tour parallel those of in-person tours, but others are unique to today’s virtual world.
Could you zoom in?
- Sometimes it can be difficult to get a true glimpse at what you want to see in a room. Asking the agent to zoom in on specific features is commonplace in virtual home tours, and they understand this is part of the viewer experience. Don’t hesitate to ask multiple times. Getting a better look at everything you want to see will help you feel like you’ve gotten the most out of your virtual tour.
How many square feet are in this room?
- Virtual tours can slightly distort space, making it tough to gauge the size. The room-to-room square footage is information the agent is sure to have handy. Since you can’t be there in person, it will help you piece together the virtual visuals with the sense of physical space that we’re all accustomed to feeling in the places we live.
What color is that?
- In the smartphone era, and computer era at large, we have come to understand that digital representations of color are not always true to the eye. Ask the agent to confirm specific colors so you can plan accordingly. Have a color swatch on hand or look the colors up online as you go through the tour.
When were the appliances last updated?
- The importance of this question rings true in past, present, and future. Knowing the state of the home’s appliances, and the likelihood and timing of when they will need replacement, is vital information for both assessing the move-in readiness of the home and understanding what costs might lie ahead.
Has the seller provided an inspection?
- This is another example of a critical question, whether your home tour is virtual or physical. If the seller has already done an inspection, ask the agent to lead you to any areas of concern based on the inspector’s findings. If there is anything that has not yet been addressed by the seller, have your agent ask what their plan is for making the necessary repairs/updates.
When is the offer review date?
- Understanding the seller’s timeline for reviewing and accepting offers will help guide your decision-making process and allow you to strategize based on the timeline.
Whether your home tour is physical or virtual, getting the information you need to make an informed decision remains paramount. Although there is no substitute for physically being in the home you are looking to buy, keeping these questions in mind will position you well as you progress through the home buying journey.
As the situation develops with the COVID-19 pandemic, Windermere Real Estate is dedicated to taking steps to reduce the spread of the virus while continuing to work with home buyers. To help with this process, here are some ways you as a home buyer can keep yourself and others safe during the buying process.
WHEN TOURING HOMES
❱ Only tour the property if you feel healthy.
❱ Ask your Windermere agent to show you the property instead of attending an open house.
❱ Drive separately from your agent to the property.
❱ Be considerate of the seller’s home and wash or sanitize your hands before entry, touching as little as necessary. While many sellers will likely provide it, bring your own hand sanitizer and use before and after you tour the home. You might also consider wearing disposable gloves for further safety.
❱ Ask your agent to confirm with the seller’s agent that they have not recently been sick or in contact with someone suspected of having COVID-19.
❱ Sellers often ask you to take off your shoes when you tour their home or wear protective booties that have been provided. Consider bringing your own booties and throwing them away when you’ve finished touring.
❱ Be mindful of how much you touch things in the home and minimize contact with doors and hand railings.
❱ Reduce the amount of time spent with other people in the same room. This “social distancing” practice can curb person-to-person spread.
DO NOT TOUR HOMES IF
❱ If you are currently self-quarantined because of illness or other reasons, you should not tour homes in person. Ask your Windermere agent to video chat with you while they tour the home so you can see it virtually.
❱ Do not view homes when you’re sick, feeling like you’re about to be sick, or getting over an illness.
❱ We do not recommend touring homes after returning from international travel or travel that exposed you to a large group of people in close quarters, like large events.
Before you decide to sell, be sure to seriously consider the risks of putting your home on the market right now. Talk with your Windermere agent to discuss your options.
❱ While open houses generate interest and traffic, groups are hard to control, and we want to practice “social distancing” when we can. We recommend only allowing showings by appointment; this ensures that only serious buyers enter your home, reducing possible spreading of the virus.
❱ Consider vacating the property from list date to offer review date by staying with family or friends or at a short-term rental.
❱ Wipe down surfaces following every showing of your home.
❱ If you start to feel sick or have knowledge that you have been in contact with someone suspected to have COVID-19, take your home off the market immediately.
❱ Ask your agent to pre-screen buyers before they enter your home to ensure they aren’t ill and have not potentially been exposed to the virus.
❱ Place a placard in the entry of your home requesting that any person who has recently been ill or may have been in the company of someone who is suspected to have COVID-19 to not enter your home.
❱ Provide hand sanitizer throughout your home.
❱ It’s common for sellers to provide protective booties for buyers who tour the home; consider also providing disposable gloves.
❱ Leave interior doors open so that buyers who tour the home don’t have to touch the handles when entering rooms.
❱ Disinfect your home with proper cleaning supplies after every open house.
For many people, a home inspection is a hurdle that every homeowner must overcome during the process of selling a home, but it’s a useful tool for sellers looking to get the greatest possible value from their home.
When you’re selling a house, a pre-sale inspection can be particularly useful. By uncovering any potential problems your house may have, an inspection can give you an opportunity to address them before your first prospective buyer arrives.
In any market, a pre-sale inspection can give your home a competitive edge. Potential buyers are likely to find the kind of detailed information an inspection provides reassuring—and are encouraged to give your home a closer look.
When does a home inspection make sense?
In addition to routine maintenance and pre-sale inspections, there are a number of circumstances in which a home inspection could greatly benefit a homeowner. If you are not sure, here are a few simple questions to ask yourself:
- Was your home inspected when you bought it? If not, an inspection would be beneficial even if your home was a new construction at sale.
- If you are an older homeowner who intends to make upgrades in order to stay in the home, it makes sense to hire a professional who can inspect difficult-to-reach areas and point out maintenance of safety issues.
- An inspection can alert you to any potential safety issues that could possibly affect a growing family, such as mold, lead, or structural problems. If mold or lead is present, be sure to rely on technicians or labs with specialized training in dealing with these conditions.
- Are you buying a home that’s under construction? You may want to hire an inspector early on and schedule phased inspections to protect your interest and ensure that the quality of construction meets your expectations.
What doesn’t your home inspection cover?
For a variety of reasons, some homes will require special inspections that are not covered by a typical home inspection. A specialty inspection might include a sewer scope, septic system, geotechnical conditions (for homes perched on steep slopes or where there are concerns regarding soil stability) or underground oil storage tank. If you have any questions about whether your home needs a specialty inspection, talk to your real estate agent.
Hire a professional
If you decide to hire a home inspector, be sure they’re licensed in your state. They should be able to provide you with their license number, which you can use to verify their status with the appropriate government agency. It’s also helpful to ask for recommendations from friends and family members. Even among licensed and qualified home inspectors, there can be a difference in knowledge, performance and communication skills, so learn what you can before you hire a home inspector to ensure that you get the detailed inspection that you want.
What to ask your home inspector
Ask the right questions to make sure you are hiring the right professional for the job.
What does your inspection cover?
Insist that you get this information in writing. Then make sure that it’s in compliance with state requirements and includes the items you want to be inspected.
How long have you been in the business?
Ask for referrals, especially with newer inspectors.
Are you experienced in residential inspections?
Residential inspection in a unique discipline with specific challenges, so it’s important to make sure the inspector is experienced in this area.
Do you make repairs or make improvements based on inspection?
Some states and/or professional associations allow the inspector to perform repair work on problems uncovered in an inspection. If you’re considering engaging your inspector to do repairs, be sure to get referrals.
How long will the inspection take?
A typical single-family dwelling takes two to three hours.
How much will it cost?
Costs can vary depending upon a variety of things, such as the square footage, age, and foundation of the house.
Can I be there for the inspection? Will you go over the inspection report with me?
This could be a valuable learning opportunity. If your inspector refuses, this should raise a red flag.
Are you a member of a professional home inspector association? What other credentials do you hold?
Ask to see their membership ID; it provides some assurance.
Do you keep your skills up to date through continuing education?
An inspector’s interest in continuing education shows a genuine commitment to performing at the highest level. It’s especially important in older homes or homes with unique elements.
Source: Windermere Real Estate Blog, Meaghan McGlynn, 2-26-2020
As we head into a new decade, the Windermere Foundation reached a milestone in 2019 by raising nearly $3 million, bringing the grand total to over $40 million in donations raised since 1989.
Twenty-five percent of the funds raised in 2019 were donated by agents from their commissions. The rest was raised through office fundraisers, additional giving by owners, agents, and staff, and public donations. These dollars stay local, as each Windermere Real Estate office has their own Foundation funds, supporting low-income and homeless families in the communities where offices do business.
One office that celebrated a milestone of its own this past year is the Windermere office in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The Coeur d’Alene office became a part of the Windermere network in 1994. In 1996, the office hosted its first annual “Boots and Socks for Kids” event by purchasing and donating 47 pairs of boots and socks to Coeur d’Alene Children Village and St. Vincent DePaul. Since then, the office has donated a total of 12,546 pairs of boots and socks to children in the 40 area schools and local agencies that provide services to low-income or homeless families.
In 2019, Windermere Coeur d’Alene reached a milestone of $1 million total donated to support local non-profits. Organizations that have received donations include CAP Food Bank, Family Promise, CASA, Shared Harvest, St. Vincent DePaul North Idaho, Union Gospel Mission, and United Way of North Idaho, to name just a few. Safe Passage and The Children’s Village of Coeur d’Alene are two non-profits that receive support from the office annually.
Last year also marked the fourth year of Windermere’s #TackleHomelessness campaign with the Seattle Seahawks, in which Windermere committed to donating $100 for every Seahawks home game defensive tackle. This year Windermere partnered with Mary’s Place, a non-profit that provides safe, inclusive shelter and services to support women, children, and families on their journey out of homelessness. Thanks to the Seahawks, we raised $30,000 this season for Mary’s Place, bringing our grand total to $128,200 raised through our #TackleHomelessness campaign.
We are proud of the fundraising efforts made by the Windermere team and are grateful to all who have supported the Windermere Foundation over the years. Because of that support and generosity, we have been able to make a difference in the lives of many families in our local communities over the past 30 years. And we look forward to supporting even more families in 2020. If you’d like to help support programs in your community, please click the Donate button.
To learn more about the Windermere Foundation, visit https://windermerefoundation.com/.
Source: Windermere Blog, Marilou Ubungen, 1-29-20
Windermere offices throughout the Western U.S. have been busy raising money and making donations to non-profit organizations in their local communities that provide services to low-income and homeless families. And their efforts are paying off; so far this year we’ve raised over $1.5 million, bringing the total raised by the Windermere Foundation to $39.5 million since 1989.
Here are just a few examples of how our offices are giving back to their communities:
Fort Collins, Colorado
The Windermere Real Estate office in Fort Collins held its 5th Annual Windermere Foundation Tailgate Party on Friday, September 20. The family-friendly event featured food, drinks, a bouncy house obstacle course, corn hole, face painting, and live music. Over $1,800 was raised for the Windermere Foundation during this event. All proceeds from the tailgate “party with a purpose” benefitted Partners Mentoring Youth and Crossroads Safehouse.
The Windermere office in Centralia, WA sponsored the “Down Home: A Toledo Shindig” event held at Bonanza BBQ on September 14 to benefit Toledo School District students in need. Local businesses and residents came together to donate auction items, food, and volunteer their time. Windermere owner Dan Gorton spearheaded the organization of the fundraising event, seeing a need in the community that was not being met. The Gortons provided the venue and the BBQ. Other sponsors provided additional food items, entertainment, and big-ticket items for the auction. The event raised $34,000 for a fund to help provide basic needs for students in the school district, things that low-income families couldn’t otherwise afford.
Photo Courtesy of Josie Ray Photography
The Windermere office in Spokane, WA held their annual Windermere Shoes and Socks Event at their local Big 5 sporting goods store on August 24. Windermere agents and family members volunteered their time to help 132 children select a pair of shoes and socks. An additional 250 pairs of socks were also donated by Liberty Lake Rotary. In total, the Windermere office donated over $5,400 to provide shoes and socks to local children in need.
Windermere offices are proud to host events in their communities, like the ones mentioned above. These generous donations to the Windermere Foundation further our mission to support low-income and homeless families in the areas where we live and work. If you’d like to help support programs in your community, please click the Donate button.
To learn more about the Windermere Foundation, visit WindermereFoundation.com.
Source: Marilou Ubungen, Windermere, 10-30-2019
Purchasing a home can be a complex endeavor for even the most well-prepared home buyer. You’ve diligently saved for your down payment, followed the market, researched agents and now you are ready to make an offer on your dream home. Don’t let these 5 “Deal Breakers” come between you and your new home.
- Big Purchases on Credit. It is tempting to buy the furniture for your new home or a new car for the garage before the sale closes. Take care if you are making these purchases on credit. Large purchases on credit can have a major impact on your credit profile which effects your mortgage application. It’s a better plan to wait until after closing or pay cash for these transactions or you may be putting that furniture in a different living room than you originally picked them out for.
- Overpaying. Before your bank will approve your mortgage they will appraise the home you are purchasing. If they feel you are overpaying they are likely to decline your mortgage application. If you find yourself in this situation consult with your agent on renegotiating your offer to be more in line with the bank’s appraised value.
- Purchasing too close to Foreclosure. If you are making an offer on a house which is facing foreclosure be sure to have a closing date set before the foreclosure date. Have your agent work with the lender to structure closing before the house goes back to the bank and into foreclosure.
- IRS liens. You’ve heard the old saying “Death and Taxes”. Back taxes and liens can derail your attempts to get financing for a mortgage so be sure to have your books in order before filing your loan application.
- Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE). CLUE is a database of insurance claims for both people and property. Your home insurance rates are determined by the information about you and the property you plan to purchase which is contained in this report. Past claims for water damage, falling trees and even dog bites from present and past owners can multiply your insurance rates. Consult your agent about the CLUE report for your future home as soon as possible once your home purchase offer is accepted.
When purchasing a home there will be challenges which you can plan for and the unexpected hurdles. By educating yourself as a consumer and choosing a well trained real estate agent you can avoid many of the pitfalls of 21st century home ownership.
Source: Meaghan McGlynn, Windermere Real Estate Blog, 10-2-19
We are often asked, “Which is the better buy, a newer or older home?” Our answer: It all depends on your needs and personal preferences. We decided to put together a list of the six biggest differences between newer and older homes:
Surprisingly, one of the biggest factors in choosing a new home isn’t the property itself, but rather the surrounding neighborhood. While new homes occasionally spring up in established communities, most are built in new developments. The settings are quite different, each with their own unique benefits.
Older neighborhoods often feature tree-lined streets; larger property lots; a wide array of architectural styles; easy walking access to mass transportation, restaurants and local shops; and more established relationships among neighbors.
New developments are better known for wider streets and quiet cul-de-sacs; controlled development; fewer aboveground utilities; more parks; and often newer public facilities (schools, libraries, pools, etc.). There are typically more children in newer communities, as well.
Consider your daily work commute, too. While not always true, older neighborhoods tend to be closer to major employment centers, mass transportation and multiple car routes (neighborhood arterials, highways and freeways).
Design and layout
If you like Victorian, Craftsman or Cape Cod style homes, it used to be that you would have to buy an older home from the appropriate era. But with new-home builders now offering modern takes on those classic designs, that’s no longer the case. There are even modern log homes available.
Have you given much thought to your floor plans? If you have your heart set on a family room, an entertainment kitchen, a home office and walk-in closets, you’ll likely want to buy a newer home—or plan to do some heavy remodeling of an older home. Unless they’ve already been remodeled, most older homes feature more basic layouts.
If you have a specific home-décor style in mind, you’ll want to take that into consideration, as well. Professional designers say it’s best if the style and era of your furnishings match the style and era of your house. But if you are willing to adapt, then the options are wide open.
Materials and craftsmanship
Homes built before material and labor costs spiked in the late 1950s have a reputation for higher-grade lumber and old-world craftsmanship (hardwood floors, old-growth timber supports, ornate siding, artistic molding, etc.).
However, newer homes have the benefit of modern materials and more advanced building codes (copper or polyurethane plumbing, better insulation, double-pane windows, modern electrical wiring, earthquake/ windstorm supports, etc.).
The condition of a home for sale is always a top consideration for any buyer. However, age is a factor here, as well. For example, if the exterior of a newer home needs repainting, it’s a relatively easy task to determine the cost. But if it’s a home built before the 1970s, you have to also consider the fact that the underlying paint is most likely lead0based, and that the wood siding may have rot or other structural issues that need to be addressed before it can be recoated.
On the flip side, the mechanicals in older homes (lights, heating systems, sump pump, etc.) tend to be better built and last longer.
One of the great things about older homes is that they usually come with mature tress and bushes already in place. Buyers of new homes may have to wait years for ornamental trees, fruit trees, roses, ferns, cacti and other long-term vegetation to fill in a yard, create shade, provide privacy, and develop into an inviting outdoor space. However, maybe you’re one of the many homeowners who prefer the wide-open, low-maintenance benefits of a lightly planted yard.
Like it or not, most of us are extremely dependent on our cars for daily transportation. And here again, you’ll find a big difference between newer and older homes. Newer homes almost always feature ample off-street parking: usually a two-care garage and a wide driveway. An older home, depending on just how old it is, may not offer a garage—and if it does, there’s often only enough space for one car. For people who don’t feel comfortable leaving their car on the street, this alone can be a determining factor.
Finalizing your decision
While the differences between older and newer homes are striking, there’s certainly no right or wrong answer. It is a matter of personal taste, and what is available in your desired area. To quickly determine which direction your taste trends, use the information above to make a list of your most desired features, then categorize those according to the type of house in which they’re most likely to be found. The results can often be telling.
If you have questions about newer versus older homes, or are looking for an agent in your area we have professionals that can help you. Contact us here.
Source: Meaghan McGlynn, Windermere, 6-12-19
The debate about whether it makes more financial sense to rent or buy has been raging for decades. Advocates of buying argue that when you pay rent you’re paying for someone else’s mortgage. When you buy, you are making an investment, which can significantly increase in value every year you live in the home.
Supporters of renting say that the extra costs associated with owning a home, such as interest payments, taxes, maintenance, can add up. They add that there’s no guarantee that those expenses will be recouped when the house is sold. Instead of investing in a home, you may be better off investing your savings in stocks, bonds, and other financial securities that hold less risk.
Matthew Gardner, our Chief Economist, forecasts, that we will not break 5% for 30-year fixed Mortgage rates for 2019, and likely won’t break it next year.
This means that getting a mortgage is relatively cheap, raising the question, ‘Is it really worth it to keep renting?’
Even if interest rates stay low, whether to rent or buy has a lot to do with each person’s specific situation. Here are a few considerations to make as you decide.
What’s the real estate situation in your city?
Industry groups put out reports every quarter stating the average national sales price for a home, and the average monthly payment for a U.S. rental. These reports are typically based on an average of all the cities in the U.S. But what really matters is what the numbers show when you dig into them on a local level.
Investigate the local sales and rental markets, and you’ll see there are some cities that fall well below that average, and some that rise far above it. When comparing housing costs, be sure to base your evaluation on what’s happening in your city and neighborhood, not the nationwide averages.
How long do you expect to live there?
If you don’t plan to be living in the same place for at least five years, renting is probably your best bet financially. But if you think you’re ready to settle down for as long as 7 to 10 years, chances are very good that any home you purchase will appreciate during that time even if the economy runs into some bumps along the way.
What’s the mortgage rate?
One of the other key factors to consider is the cost of your loan (the interest you’ll pay the lender). Fortunately, our Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, does not expect interest rates to hit or break 5 percent, meaning money is relatively cheap.
Your mortgage rate will depend on how much money you have saved, your credit score, and other factors, so make sure to talk to a loan officer before you start looking for a home. Being pre-approved for a mortgage narrows down your price range and helps strengthen your offer when it comes time to compete for your new home.
Can you pay a bit more?
It can be advantageous to work a lower monthly payment to the bank so that you can pay a little more than the payment.
For example, if you can afford to pay a little extra towards your mortgage bill each month, say $300 more per month, on a 30-year, $300,000 loan, can knock eight years off the life of the loan and reduce your final bill by more than $63,000. That’s savings you would never see if you rented.
Will you need to make repairs or improvements?
Buying a fixer-upper may seem like a great way to get a deal on a house, but if the money you spend on the repairs is too great, your profit could be diminished when it comes time to sell. The same is true for remodeling and improvement projects.
Additionally, you can work with your Mortgage lender for a repair loan. This can help you get that lot you want, and help you pay for the repairs.
But ultimately, if you can only afford a home that demands major improvements, and you don’t have the skills to do much of the work yourself, it’s probably better to rent.
Do you have other ways to invest?
Many see a home purchase as an easy way to invest—a place where they can generate savings through home equity. But others say you can make more money renting an apartment and investing your savings in stocks, bonds, and other financial securities.
This is where a financial advisor might come in. They’ll be able to break down what you need to do in order to get the best return on your investments. They’ll also be able to see the big picture when it comes to your money.
Can you rent part of the house?
Speaking of a diverse portfolio, let your investment work for you. If you buy a house that includes a rental (extra bedroom, mother-in-law unit, etc.), you could be the landlord instead of paying the landlord. With that rental income, you could pay off the mortgage faster and contribute more to your savings. But, of course, you need to be willing to share your home with a tenant and take on the responsibilities of being a landlord or working with a professional property manager to help you with those duties.
Making your decision
To make your decision about whether to rent or buy easier, input the key financial facts regarding your situation into this Realtor.com Rent vs. Buy Calculator: For help making sense of the results and analyzing other factors, contact an experienced Windermere Real Estate agent by clicking here.
Source: Meaghan McGlynn, Windermere Blog, 5-20-19
The following analysis of the Oregon and Southwest Washington real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact your Windermere agent.
Oregon added 29,500 new jobs over the past 12 months, representing an annual growth rate of 1.5%. The current pace of job growth continues the slowdown that started in mid-2018. I am not overly concerned by this slowdown in growth, as it is typical for this stage in the economic cycle.
The Southwest Washington market (Clark, Cowlitz, Skamania, and Klickitat counties) added 4,490 new jobs over the past 12 months, which represents an annual growth rate of 2.1%.
Oregon’s unemployment rate was 4.4% in February, up from 4.2% a year ago. In Southwest Washington, the unemployment rate was 5.5%, down from 5.9% in February of 2018.
- First quarter home sales dropped 13.1% compared to the same period last year, with a total of 10,516 transactions.
- Year-over-year sales rose in five counties, remained static in one, but dropped in the other 21 counties contained in this report.
- Sales rose the most in Crook County, which saw a massive 110% increase compared to the first quarter of 2018, though this was an increase of only 11 sales. There were also solid increases in Jefferson and Cowlitz counties. Home sales fell the most in the small Tillamook, Skamania, and Hood River counties.
- Sales in the first quarter were clearly a disappointment, but I don’t believe this is a systemic drop in demand. I am confident the spring will bring more buyers and sales will pick back up in many markets.
- The average home price in the region rose 2.2% year-over-year to $369,721, but the market saw a drop of 1.4% compared to the fourth quarter of 2018.
- Eighteen of the counties contained in this report experienced price growth compared to the first quarter of 2018. Eight counties saw price contractions.
- Klamath County led the market with the strongest annual price growth. Homes there sold for 11.1% more than a year ago. Crook, Tillamook, and Klickitat counties experienced the largest drop in home prices, but these are small counties, making them more prone to significant swings.
- The takeaway is that price growth continues to moderate, but I expect it to pick up in the second quarter given the drop in interest rates earlier this year.
DAYS ON MARKET
- The average number of days it took to sell a home in the region dropped 3 days compared to a year ago, but was up by 16 days compared to the final quarter of 2018.
- Twelve counties saw the length of time it took to sell a home drop compared to a year ago. Fourteen counties saw market time rise.
- The average time it took to sell a home last quarter was 90 days.
- Homes again sold the fastest in Washington (43 days) and Cowlitz (45 days) counties.
The speedometer reflects the state of the region’s real estate market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors.
I believe listing inventories will continue to rise as we move through the spring months. We will also see more buyers start their search for a new home to take advantage of the drop in interest rates. With all of this in mind, I have moved the needle further toward buyers because they have more choice and price growth has slowed. That said, in aggregate, the market still favors home sellers.
Source: Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate