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Voting...

7/27/2020
It’s important to look closely at lawn signs during election campaigns.
Last time, I voted for a real estate agent.

2020 Economic Forecast

7/20/2020
2020 Economic Forecast To put things in perspective, the U.S. was in the 11th year economic expansion when it all came to a screeching halt in March 2020. Current conditions reflect the biggest economic contraction since 1946, bigger than the recession in 2008, with national unemployment rates the highest recording since 1940 (April 14.7% and May 13.3%). However, this recession is completely different than what happened in 1946 when the US was coming out of a war and retooling its manufacturing industries. This time around, the economy is forecast to start rebounding by 3rd quarter 2020, though it may take 18-24 months before the economy feels “normal” again. Though the Hampton Roads area did experience a large spike in unemployment (jumping from 3.7% in March 2020 to 12.5% in April), our region has fared better than nationwide. Long-term mortgage rates are at a record low. For the week ending June 12th, a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was just 3.2%. These low rates provide affordability for some buyers that would not otherwise exist. Local vs. National Housing Prior to the pandemic, we were headed into a record-breaking selling season. Not unexpectedly, once the President declared a national emergency on March 13th, things started to change. The good news is that the Hampton Roads market has rebounded much quicker than other areas of the country. New listings input into the MLS began to fall mid-March, bottoming out in mid-April (falling approximately 33% locally and 50% nationally), but have since begun to bounce back. The Hampton Roads region’s inventory is rebounding faster than nationally, with local new listings down just 2% year-over-year for the week of June 6th, compared to national new listings down 19% year-over-year the same week. Pending sales, the leading indicator of future sales/closings, has remained relatively steady for our local market, with the week of June 6th seeing an 18% year-over-year increase, whereas nationally pending sales dropped more significantly, down 2% year-over-year for the week of June 6. Though the Hampton Roads region has experienced 8 straight years of price appreciation (23% cumulative growth), concerns that national recovery may be sluggish could dampen homebuying activity and soften prices. Dr. Nothaft forecasts a 1.3% decline in home prices by April 2021. Mortgage Applications Locally, the number of loan applications being applied for remained strong in March and April (up 5-10% year-over-year), compared to nationwide, where applications were down 5-20% from last year. Of those applications, most were first time buyers and millennials, indicating that millennials are taking this opportunity to transition into home ownership. In Closing It is clear that the housing market has been significantly impacted by COVID-19, but the Hampton Roads region has outperformed national metrics and appears to be weathering the storm better than many metro areas across the country. Home sales stand to support an economic recovery sooner than later. The Spring market may just be pushed back into the Summer months, where the bigger challenge may be if there is enough inventory (which has been steadily declining for 5 years) to support a resurgence. To hear Dr. Nothaft’s full presentation, check out the blog on REINMLS.com.

One-Story vs. Two-Story: Which is Right For You

7/16/2020
REIN

Many factors go into choosing where you will call home. Should you be most concerned about the location? Do you want something older or a new construction? You may even wrestle with whether a one-story ranch is suitable for your family or if a two-story home would be a better fit. The decision between a one-story or two-story house goes a little deeper than simple personal taste and preference. Here are a few things to consider before you make your choice.

One-Story Ranch

  • Maintenance: A home that is only on one level allows for easier maintenance. No dragging a vacuum cleaner up and down stairs or hauling a laundry basket from an upstairs bedroom to a downstairs laundry room. Maybe you want to paint or pressure wash the exterior of the home. With a one-story home there is no need to fuss with a high reach to get the job done.
  • Bathrooms: Since you don’t have two levels for people to live on, one-story homes need fewer bathrooms.
  • Safety: A one-story home can be ideal if you have young children. The fear of your child falling down a flight of stairs is one less thing you have to worry about as a parent. Even if you don’t have kids, stairs can be cumbersome as you get older. A one-story home is great for those looking to age in place.
  • Emergencies: Ranch-style homes can also be great for managing emergencies. If you have to evacuate quickly from a bedroom, it’s easier to escape from a ground floor window than a second floor window. However, in the unfortunate situation where you might leave a window open, it’s easier for burglars to climb through a ground floor window than a second floor bedroom window that has been left open.
  • Privacy: A one-story home can present more opportunities for less privacy. With bedrooms on ground levels, it can be easier to see your neighbors in your private spaces or even be exposed to strangers passing by on the street.

Two-Story Home

  • Views: Two-story homes are great for views. Imagine having a balcony on a sloping lot and having the best view of your neighborhood.
  • Distinct Separation: With two-story homes, you have the distinct separation between your bedrooms and other living spaces. This can be great when it comes to cleaning, entertaining, and working from home.
  • Safety: In a two-story home you stand a better chance of shifty characters not entering a second floor window that has been accidentally left open.
  • Heating and Cooling: Heat rises and cool air drops. This can mean your heating and cooling will need to be adjusted depending on where you are in the home. With more house to heat and cool this can cause you to have to double your heating and cooling costs compared to a one-story.
  • Lot Size: Are you conscious about shrinking your housing footprint? If you want more house but you’re very specific about your lot size, a two-story would be great for you. They take up less space on a lot compared to one-story homes.
  • Outdoor space: If you value having a great space to entertain outside, a two-story home may be right for you. You’re taking up less land space so you’ll have more yard to utilize.

There are over 3,800 two-story homes currently on REIN.com with a median list price of $330,000. There are over 1,900 one-story properties currently on REIN.com with a median list price of $220,000. Over 1,400 two-story homes sold in April compared to 850 one-story homes sold in the Hampton Roads area.

HVAC Filters

7/13/2020
HVAC Air filters should be changed every ninety days. Use an Amazon subscription to have your air filter(s) delivered every ninety days. When the filter arrives, change it! An air filter costs about $12; an A/C coil costs about $3,000. Change your filters.

Pandemic Assistance Extension

7/9/2020

NAR sent a letter to the White House this week, urging further relief during the pandemic. The letter included a number of provisions to help REALTORS® and real estate remain a strong force in our economy. The proposals included:

  • Reforms to the PPP program (some of which were subsequently passed into law).
  • A reduction in the minimum loan amount for financial relief under the Federal Reserve Main Street Lending Program to allow more small businesses and non-profits to access yet another avenue of financial assistance that may better fit their business needs.
  • Support for liability protections for businesses that reopen following federal and state guidelines.
  • Housing relief for renters including emergency rental assistance, as well as relief for rental housing providers.
  • Expansion of forbearance and unemployment assistance.
  • Reforms to the opportunity zones program to encourage investment.
  • Elimination of the marriage penalty in the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction.
  • Support for the remote notarization legislation.

NAR continues to work with the Administration and Congress on common sense solutions that provide relief during these unprecedented times.

The Ultimate Smart Home: Office

7/6/2020

You’re likely spending most of your time working from home. But your home office or workstation might not be fully equipped to handle how you’re selling real estate in today’s world. Now is the perfect time to set up a workspace with smart technology that will help you work more efficiently while you continue to serve buyers and sellers.

1. Lights

Your body’s sleep-wake schedule is controlled by your circadian rhythm. Smart bulbs, such as C by GE, can adjust the temperature of the bulbs from warm yellow glow to a bright blue-white light, allowing you to stay focused during the day and wind down during the evening. Since the C by GE smart bulbs need constant power to stay connected, they can be paired with C by GE smart switches for wall control or adjusted through the product app on your smartphone or your favorite voice assistant.

2. Desk

According to Healthline, people who sit for long periods of time every day have an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. An adjustable sit-stand desk, such as the Airlift from Seville Classics, encourages you to stand—which, along with its health benefits, is said to increase productivity and makes you look better on video. The Airlift electric desk features a sleek modern design with a glass top surface and convenient USB ports located on the front of the desk that allow you to charge your devices. It’s easy to assemble, and memory settings make it easy to create healthy habits of standing while you work.

3. Webcam

Whether you’re on yet another Zoom call or sending a personalized video to a client via BombBomb, it’s important to have a nice webcam. You can pick up an affordable full HD camera that clips right onto your monitor for only $50 to $100—Logitech is a great brand with a few different options. You also want to make sure you have good sound quality. You can either use the same earbuds you use for your smartphone or, for a more professional sound, consider a USB or 3.5 mm microphone that plugs into your computer. For more tips on how to set up for producing professional-quality videos at home, be sure to check out Rehumanize Your Business (Wiley, 2019) by Ethan Beute and Stephen Pacinelli.

4. Multiuse charger

Working all day tends to drain your batteries—literally. Lumicharge is an LED desk lamp, wireless phone charger, and speaker all in one. The cell phone dock makes it easy to keep an eye out for messages while charging. The dimmable display can show your calendar or the time and temperature, and the speaker can be paired with your favorite voice assistant.

Virginia’s Housing Market Outperforms Other States During COVID-19

7/2/2020

HOME / BLOG / VIRGINIA’S HOUSING MARKET OUTPERFORMS OTHER STATES DURING COVID-19
While home sales activity has slowed across much of Virginia as a result of COVID-19, the Commonwealth’s housing market has demonstrated greater resiliency than many housing markets across the country.

In April, the number of home sales in Virginia was down 7% compared to April 2019. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, nationwide, April sales dropped 17% compared to last year.

The number of pending sales in Virginia in April was down 28% compared to a year ago. By comparison, NAR has reported pending sales down 34% nationally.

The ability of Virginia’s housing market to weather the COVID-19 pandemic better than other localities can be attributed to several key factors:

While the governor’s stay-at-home order this spring limited business activity, the real estate industry was not shut down like it was in some other places.
Virginia’s economy and housing market were very strong going into the pandemic, and there was a high demand for housing. Even in midst of economic uncertainty, home prices have risen more than 5% in Virginia since last year, illustrating the high demand.
While hundreds of thousands of Virginians have been impacted by job loss, the Commonwealth’s key economic sectors—including the Federal government and Professional & Technical Services sectors—have been relatively insulated from the downturn, which has allowed buyers to continue with home purchases.
The ability of REALTORS® to adapt to new business practices to protect the health of themselves and their clients has also made a tremendous impact. “Virginia REALTORS® have practiced responsible social distancing and pivoted to make extensive use of virtual tools to continue to transact business. This adaptability has been key to keeping Virginia’s housing market going,” says Virginia REALTORS® Chief Economist Lisa Sturtevant, PhD.

With the Commonwealth moving into Phase 1 of reopening and the governor’s stay-at-home directive scheduled to expire on June 10, Virginia REALTORS® expects there to be a spike in buyer activity in June before a more gradual return to a more typical market—albeit one that will include social distancing and virtual tools—over the next few months.

Which social media platform saw the biggest spike during COVID?

6/29/2020

Stay-at-home orders caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have created opportunities for increased social media usage. Instagram is projected to see the greatest usage over all platforms including 2020 darling TikTok. That is to say, all user time has increased everywhere from Facebook, to Instagram, and Snapchat. eMarketer projects Instagram’s gains to be sustained for the next few years.

People are consuming more video content in particular. Large parts of the engagement are coming from IG Live, Facebook Live, and short video clips. If current trends continue, eMarketer estimates that users will spend an average of 1 hour and 20 minutes per day on social media this year. Previous estimates were 6 minutes shorter.

Pre-pandemic, time on Instagram was only projected to grow 1.5% this year. Prior reports have shown its growth as mostly flat in comparison to other photo/video sharing social media apps. In an SEJ interview, eMarketer senior forecaster Oscar Orozco said “Because of COVID-19 it’s (Instagram) actually going to see the biggest, strongest growth out of all of the socials that we cover. Nearly 14% growth. That’s about 3.2 minutes when you add that up.” He adds “And we do expect that there will be a slight decline in 2021, but a lot of this will be sticky behavior. It will be sustained into the future.”

Snapchat is close behind with an estimated 12% growth this year, equally just under 30 minutes per user per day.

Facebook has seen a downturn in usage in previous years, but is expected to see positive growth of 4.3% in 2020. Orozco said “That’s about an increase of a little bit over a minute. So it’s not super significant like we’re seeing for some of the other socials like Instagram and Snapchat. But it is a positive story.” Facebook users are estimated to spend 34 minutes or more per day on the platform.

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