Seller to Sell Faster, Market Changes

The coronavirus pandemic initiated several shifts in America’s housing market over the past eight months. Changes in the behaviors of home buyers and sellers were especially notable as buyers’ usual tendencies altered, and the urgency to sell accelerated.

This is according to new data from the National Association of Realtors®’ 2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers,1 a yearly report which discusses demographics, preferences and experiences of buyers and sellers across America.

Those who completed their transaction after March were more likely to purchase a multi-generational home. Multigenerational home purchases accounted for 15% of sales after March, compared to 11% for those who closed before April. In light of stay-at-home orders, instituted within the early weeks of the pandemic, 14% of buyers who bought after March said their transaction was delayed because of COVID-19.

“The coronavirus without a doubt led home buyers to reassess their housing situations and even reconsider home sizes and destinations,” said Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavioral insights at NAR.

“Buyers sought housing with more rooms, more square footage and more yard space, as they may have desired a home office or home gym,” she added. “They also shopped for larger homes because extra space would allow households to better accommodate older adult relatives or young adults that are now living within the residence.”

Among other updated statistics, this year’s report includes two new sections on active home buyers and sellers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Purchases and sales that closed in April 2020 or after are considered transactions that occurred during the pandemic. The survey evaluated buyers’ and sellers’ behaviors prior to the virus taking shape and then assessed consumer and seller patterns in the midst of the outbreak.

Buyers who purchased after March were more likely to relocate to the suburbs and were more likely to pay more for that home – regardless of its location – paying an average of $339,400 compared to $270,000 for those who purchased before April. Findings show those who bought a home  during the pandemic are expected to remain there for 10 years. That is compared to 15 years for those who purchased prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Five percent of buyers who purchased after March did so without physically seeing the home in-person, compared to 3% of buyers who purchased before April. Those who went to closing after March were less likely to be denied by a lender – 2% compared to 5% for pre-April buyers. This group also had higher household incomes – $100,800 compared to $94,400 for pre-April buyers.

Lautz notes several additional, significant behavioral changes among home sellers due to the pandemic, including a desire from many to accelerate their transactions.

“So many sellers were eager to get out of their old home and move to something bigger that would better meet their needs during quarantine,” she said.

The NAR report reveals that owners who sold in 2020 were more likely to say that their need to sell was “at least somewhat urgent.” Those who closed in April or later were more likely to sell because their home was too small – 18% compared to 13% of those before April.

Sellers after March were more likely to use incentives to help sell their home, and they sold for 98% of the list price compared to 99% for those before April. However, those homes sold after March ultimately had higher selling prices – $300,000 compared to $270,700 for those that sold before April.

Fifty-six percent of homeowners who sold after March sold in the suburbs, compared to 48% who sold before April.

Other Shifts in Buyer and Seller Behaviors

The average buyer age of 55 was an all-time high, according to the NAR survey. The average first-time buyer was 33 years old. There was a slight rebound in single women buyers – 18% from 17% in 2019. A record-low 33% share of buyers with kids at home under the age of 18 was recorded – a drop from 58% in 1985.

The proportion of first-time buyers dropped to 31%, down from 33% in 2019. This is the lowest share since 1987’s recording of 30%. Twenty-two percent of first-time buyers moved from a family member’s home directly into ownership. This is also a lower share than last year’s.

The NAR study found that 97% of buyers searched for their home online. This is the highest percentage for an online home search and is a jump from last year’s 93%. The time spent looking for a home declined to eight weeks from 10, which is the shortest search since 2007.

“Some buyers purchased their homes before ever physically seeing them in person,” said Lautz. “They researched, viewed photos online and did virtual tours from their computers and phones, and ultimately made an offer through their agent.”

On average, buyers looked at nine homes in person, and an additional five homes via virtual tour listing online only. Fifty-three percent of buyers said finding the right property was the hardest step in the home buying process.

The market changes and so do we. We’re watching the market closely and grow with all changes.

For all of your Real Estate needs, Talk To Tammy 636.931.9100!

COVID-19: Landlord FAQs

Must a landlord consider unemployment assistance as a form of income?

  • In most cases, no. Owners are under no federal requirements when it comes to counting unemployment assistance as income in connection with lease applications. In addition, the one-time $1200 check received by many taxpayers was a tax rebate or credit and should not be included in calculating a tenant’s income. If you are in a state or locality that has “source of income” provision in its discrimination laws, owners should check with legal counsel to determine how to treat unemployment compensation to avoid discrimination claims.
  • If you participate in HUD-assisted housing, the amount of assistance a family receives may be affected by the amount of income they receive and so it is important to know how to count unemployment assistance.  Recent HUD guidance says that different types of unemployment assistance is treated differently in calculating a family’s “annual income”:
    • Regular payments of unemployment insurance are treated as annual income.
    • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (“PUA”, CARES Act §2102): this is unemployment assistance for individuals who are self-employed, seeking part time employment or who otherwise would not qualify for regular unemployment assistance. HUD says PUA payments are included in annual income.
    • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (“FPUC,” CARES Act §2104): This is the payment of $600 that supplemented regular unemployment compensation and that ended at the end of July 2020. HUD has determined FPUC payments are “temporary income” that is not included in annual income.
    • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (“PEUC”, CARES Act §2017): This program provides up to a 13-week extension of unemployment compensation (from 26 weeks to a total of 39 weeks). HUD has determined that PEUC payments are included in annual income.

Communications with residents

What is the best policy for communications with residents?

If they have not done so already, housing providers should communicate frequently with residents, providing them with regular updates about the steps they are taking to maintain a healthy environment. Signs and posters should be placed around the property to encourage personal hygiene (wash your hands!) and other steps individual tenants can take to make themselves and the property safer. Examples are available on the CDC website (cdc.gov). If they have not done so already, housing providers should explain to residents that the COVID-19 virus is still spreading rapidly through the population and that they should assume that other people – including other residents at the property – may be carrying the virus and take appropriate precautions. Residents should be reminded that if everyone takes precautions to protect themselves from the virus, it will improve the health prospect of all residents.

What should I do if I learn that a resident or staff person has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus?

First, do not respond to rumor or gossip. A verbal report from one tenant that another tenant is sick or has suspicious symptoms is not sufficiently reliable to take action.

The situation is different if a housing provider receives a reliable statement from a tenant that he/she has tested positive, or a similar report from a public health official. Although the law varies greatly from place to place, as a general matter, a landlord has a duty to warn tenants of known hazards at their property. While there is no case law specifically with respect to COVID-19, reliable information that someone at the property has tested positive for the virus could be deemed to constitute knowledge of a hazard that should be shared with other tenants. At a minimum, disclosing that information will encourage other tenants to redouble their efforts to avoid the virus, which will make the housing provider’s job easier. But, as discussed below, you should not disclose specific resident or employee names or information. Better to communicate the issue generally and steps taken to protect residents and staff so they are not exposed. Both HUD and the CDC have advised that housing providers can inform residents that a staff member or another resident has tested positive for the virus.

Be aware, however, that some local public health agencies have urged housing providers not to disclose this information, largely to protect the privacy interests of persons who test positive. Before notifying other residents, even generally, that someone at the property has tested positive, you should try to determine if your local public health agency has published guidance.

If I decide to disclose that someone at the property has tested positive, can I disclose who that person is?

No: Medical information is subject to a variety of state and federal privacy protections, and providing personally identifying information about someone who has tested positive would likely violate these principles. And employees may also be protected under privacy and labor laws. Given the widespread presence of the virus and the many asymptomatic people who may be spreading the virus, information that a particular person has the virus may not provide really useful information. As a practical matter, it also may create issues for that resident or employee that will only complicate dealing with other residents: disclosing this information would make it much less likely that another person who tests positive would disclose that information to you. Housing providers should politely discourage any request to share personally identifying information about a person who tests positive, explaining that they treat all residents’ privacy seriously and reminding residents that if they tested positive, they would want the housing provider to treat their personal health information similarly.

A resident has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Can I ask them to vacate their unit or evict them?

Except in extraordinary cases, no: HUD guidance is that in most cases, persons who have tested positive can successfully isolate themselves in their unit until they recover. If a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 refuses to self-isolate, however, the housing provider should consider taking additional action. Housing providers should check with their legal counsel to determine whether their lease form and applicable landlord/tenant law allows additional action against non-compliant tenants. While it does not expressly discuss grounds for eviction, the Fair Housing Act does not protect persons from discrimination claims who present a “direct threat” to the health or safety of others. Conceivably, someone who fails to comply with direction to self-isolate may present such a direct threat. But courts advise that each “direct threat” claims must be based on an “individualized assessment” of the specific facts of each case, including whether some action less than eviction may persuade the person who has tested positive to follow self-isolation guidance. In serious cases, it may be appropriate to seek advice from local public health or law enforcement officials.

Cleaning

What additional cleaning procedures should housing providers adopt?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the CDC has urged constant cleaning and disinfecting of public spaces. In a multifamily housing property, this will include disinfecting door handles, counter surfaces, elevator buttons, handrails, light switches, and laundry rooms, including controls for washers and dryers. Making extra efforts to clean and disinfect the property is probably the most visible way to demonstrate your concern for keeping your property virus-free and to encourage residents to make their own anti-virus efforts. Cleaning and disinfecting operations should happen multiple times each day – of course, whenever a surface is touched, it may become contaminated, but multiple cleaning will eliminate at least some possible exposure. Where possible, hand sanitizing stations and disinfecting wipes should be made available near doors, elevators and other “touch points” for residents’ use. Even during this re-opening phase, it is best to continue this cleaning process vigilantly until it is clear there are no or minimal reported cases in your state or region.

Disinfecting contaminated apartments.

Professional cleaning companies are gearing up to provide this service. The apartment should be treated as if it has exposed to a type of toxic substance. Cleaning protocols should be consistent with CDC guidance. For example, if an apartment is vacated by a sick resident, CDC recommends that the windows should be opened for at least 24 hours to allow ventilation that may help remove the virus. It also would be reasonable to leave the unit vacant for two weeks (considered generally to be the maximum incubation period reported for people with the virus). Cleaning personnel should still wear gloves, goggles and masks as appropriate and should scrupulously follow all warning labels on products they use.

Stay informed and stay healthy! If you’re ready to list your house or want to find your new dream home, Talk To Tammy636.931.9100

6 Home Trends Buyers Love

Open floor plans, smart homes, and outdoor areas are among the features in top demand for home shoppers this year. Home improvement website Fixr’s recent study, Single-Family Home Construction and Remodeling Trends 2020, highlights the renovation and construction choices of buyers and homeowners in 2020. The results reveal some key areas of interest in home design that real estate professionals may want to spotlight.

1. Open floor plan and two-story homes represent the most popular layouts.

Floor Plans

While there has been a trend toward open floor plans for the past few years, 2020 is seeing an overwhelming consensus: 90% of experts selected an open floor plan as the most popular single-family layout. And it’s likely to remain so in the future.

As quarantine periods and social distancing guidelines force families to spend more time together at home, large common areas command a premium value. Family rooms, dens, and open kitchen areas are acquiring new importance.

Another large percentage—77%—are favoring two-story houses in 2020. Compare this to the 29% who preferred single-story homes, or the 2% who favor split-level residences.

2. Smart homes rank first among design choices.

Popular Design Choices

A growing trend in home design is the smart home, in which AI-based automation systems are seamlessly incorporated into electric circuits, heating/cooling systems, and entrances. Buyers this year are likely to appreciate homes in which smart thermostats, security cameras, and smart outlets are already installed.

Since installation of many smart systems is relatively affordable, this represents an important opportunity for real estate professionals to make their listings trendy, modern, and full-featured.

3. Most homeowners make accessibility modifications to their home for future personal use.

Modification Reasons

Homeowners looking to age in place are exploring renovations that allow them to do so more easily. Homes with accessibility features likely will be more attractive to senior buyers as they look toward a future of independence, even as their physical abilities may decrease. This future need is a motivating factor behind such renovations (54%) than current personal use (11%) or current use for an aging relative (22%).

Buyers also are evaluating potential homes with accessibility modifications in mind. For instance, a front yard with space for a ramp will be more appealing than one with front steps leading directly to the street.

4. Energy efficient homes with tight building envelopes are among the top designs for green construction.

Green Construction

As Americans deal with furloughs, layoffs, and economic uncertainty, many are paying more attention to their energy bills. Energy efficient homes are suddenly much more attractive than conventional properties, and buyers who may not have ever considered green construction are making energy efficiency a priority.

Sixty-two percent of design experts say energy efficient homes are a top priority in 2020, according to Fixr’s study, far outweighing other options like cool roofs or solar panels.

Prevent Energy Transfer

Experts say a tight building envelope—more than exterior or interior insulation—is the most common way to prevent energy seepage. A tight building envelope minimizes air transfer and can be an important feature of an energy efficient and environmentally friendly home. A home with both effective insulation and a tight building envelope will provide the best value to a buyer who desires lower energy bills and minimal heating requirements.

5. Family space and outdoor kitchens are trending in 2020.

Outdoor Living

Outdoor playsets, firepits, and recreation-oriented yards are seeing an uptick in popularity, especially among married couples with kids. For real estate and staging pros, this means that a little attention to backyards, porches, and other outdoor living areas can ignite extra buyer interest.

This is a 2020 trend that has only been cemented by quarantine rules and social distancing regulations. As playgrounds, parks, and outdoor amusements became unavailable, families were forced to think in terms of what outdoor activities they could offer their children on their own property.

Outdoor Living Spaces

But outdoor living spaces aren’t limited to playgrounds, decks, and patios. Fixr’s research shows that outdoor kitchens were nearly twice as popular as a traditional patio. The outdoor kitchen is another trend that has been steadily increasing over the past few years, and it will be interesting to see how it continues to evolve in 2020 and 2021. New recommendations for socially distant entertaining, which may be better suited for meals and meetings with friends outside, may increase the number of homeowners wanting both outdoor kitchens and seating spaces.

6. Contemporary and modern will be the most common styles used in modular construction.

Prefab Construction

Modular and prefab construction continues to be widely used, and Millennials are most likely to build modular homes. As part of the Fixr survey, consumers were asked which style of prefab building would be most popular in 2020. A large majority (62%) indicated that a contemporary, modern style would be most commonly selected by home buyers. The runner-up choice was ranch-style—but it was only selected by 22% of respondents.

This year has been in many ways an uncharted year, full of unexpected surprises. But even as priorities have changed, many home buying and renovation trends have remained consistent. Keeping track of these trends can help us stay relevant as we navigate the real estate industry in a socially distant world. Looking for a new home? Talk To Tammy, 636-931-9100