Thinking of Buying or Selling? The Spring Buyer and Seller Guides are here. These guides will help you confidently decide if you're ready to buy or sell a home. Here are a few key highlights you'll find inside … Expert insights on the strength of today's real estate market. Information on buying and selling safely in today's housing market. Everything you need to know about mortgage rates, home prices, equity, offers, and more. If you're thinking of buying or selling this spring, let's connect so you can get the latest copy.
Today’s real estate market is one of the fastest-moving in recent memory. With record-low inventory in many market segments, we’re seeing multiple offers—and sometimes even bidding wars—for homes in the most sought-after neighborhoods. This has led some sellers to question the need for an agent. After all, why spend money on a listing agent when it seems that you can stick a For Sale sign in the yard then watch a line form around the block?
Some buyers may also believe they’d be better off purchasing a property without an agent. For those seeking a competitive edge, proceeding without a buyer’s agent may seem like a good way to stand out from the competition—and maybe even score a discount. Since the seller pays the buyer agent’s commission, wouldn’t a do-it-yourself purchase sweeten the offer?
We all like to save money. However, when it comes to your largest financial asset, forgoing professional representation may not always be in your best interest. Find out whether the benefits outweigh the risks (and considerable time and effort) of selling or buying a home on your own—so you can head to the closing table with confidence.
SELLING YOUR HOME WITHOUT AN AGENT
Most homeowners who choose to sell their home without any professional assistance opt for a traditional “For Sale By Owner” or a direct sale to an investor, such as an iBuyer. Here’s what you can expect from either of these options.
For Sale By Owner (FSBO)
For sale by owner or FSBO (pronounced fizz-bo) offers sellers the opportunity to price their own home and handle their own transaction, showing the home and negotiating directly with the buyer or his or her real estate agent. According to data compiled by the National Association of Realtors, approximately 8% of homes are sold by their owner.1
In an active, low inventory real estate market, it may seem like a no-brainer to sell your home yourself. After all, there are plenty of buyers out there and one of them is bound to be interested in your home. In addition, you’ll save money on the listing agent’s commission and have more control over the way the home is priced and marketed.
One of the biggest problems FSBOs run into, however, is pricing the home appropriately. Without access to information about the comparable properties in your area, you could end up overpricing your home (causing it to languish on the market) or underpricing your home (leaving thousands of dollars on the table).2
Even during last year’s strong seller’s market, the median sales price for FSBOs was 10% less than the median price of homes sold with the help of a real estate agent.1 And during a more balanced market, like the one we experienced in 2018, FSBO homes sold for 24% (or $60,000) less than agent-represented properties.3 This suggests that, while you may think that you’ll price and market your home more effectively yourself, in fact you may end up losing far more than the amount you would pay for an agent’s assistance.
Without the services of a real estate professional, it will be up to you to get people in the door. You’ll need to gather information for the online listing and put together the kind of marketing that today’s buyers expect to see. This includes bringing in a professional photographer, writing the listing description, and designing marketing collateral like flyers and mailers—or hiring a writer and graphic designer to do so.
Once someone is interested, you’ll need to offer virtual showings and develop a COVID safety protocol. You’ll then need to schedule an in-person showing (or in some cases, two or three) for each potential buyer. In addition, you’ll be on your own when evaluating offers and determining their financial viability. You’ll need to thoroughly understand all legal contracts and contingencies and discuss terms, including those regarding the home inspection and closing process.
While you’re doing all of this work, it’s likely that you’ll still need to pay the buyer agent’s commission. So be sure to weigh your potential savings against the significant risk and effort involved.
If you choose to work with a listing agent, you’ll save significant time and effort while minimizing your personal risk and liability. And the increased profits realized through a more effective marketing and negotiation strategy could more than make up for the cost of your agent’s commission.
iBuyers have been on the scene since around 2015, providing sellers the option of a direct purchase from a real estate investment company rather than a traditional direct-to-consumer sales process.4 iBuyer companies tout their convenience and speed, with a reliable, streamlined process that may be attractive to some sellers.
The idea is that instead of listing the home on the open market, the homeowner completes an online form with information about the property’s location and features, then waits for an offer from the company. The iBuyer is looking for a home in good condition that’s located in a good neighborhood—one that’s easy to flip and falls within the company’s algorithm.
For sellers who are more focused on speed and convenience, an iBuyer may offer an attractive alternative to a traditional real estate sale. That’s because iBuyers evaluate a property quickly and make an upfront offer without requesting repairs or other accommodations.
However, sellers will pay for that convenience with, generally, a far lower sale price than the market will provide as well as fees that can add up to as much or more than a traditional real estate agent’s commission. According to a study conducted by MarketWatch, iBuyers netted, on average, 11% less than a traditional sale when both the lower price and fees are considered.5 Other studies found some iBuyers charging as much as 15% in fees and associated costs, far more than you’ll pay for a real estate agent’s commission.6
In a hot market, this can mean leaving tens of thousands of dollars on the table since you won’t be able to negotiate and you’ll lose out on rising home prices caused by low inventory and increased demand. In addition, iBuyers are demonstrably less reliable during times of economic uncertainty, as evidenced by the halt of operations for most iBuyer platforms in early 2020.6 As a seller, the last thing you want is to start down the road of iBuying only to find out that a corporate mandate is stopping your transaction in its tracks.
If you choose to work with a real estate agent, you can still explore iBuyers as an option. That way you can take advantage of the added convenience of a fast sale while still enjoying the protection and security of having a professional negotiating on your behalf.
BUYING YOUR HOME WITHOUT AN AGENT
According to the most recent statistics, 88% of home buyers use a real estate agent when conducting their home search.1 A buyer’s agent is with you every step of the way through the home buying process. From finding the perfect home to submitting a winning offer to navigating the inspection and closing processes, most homebuyers find their expertise and guidance invaluable. And the best part is that, because they are compensated through a commission paid by the homeowner at closing, most agents provide these services at no cost to you!
Still, you may be considering negotiating your home purchase directly with the seller or listing agent, especially if you are accustomed to deal-making as part of your job. And if you are familiar with the neighborhood where you are searching, you may feel that there is no reason to get a buyer’s agent involved.
However, putting together a winning offer package can be challenging. This is especially true in a multiple-offer situation where you’ll be competing against buyers whose offers are carefully crafted to maximize their appeal. And the homebuying process can get emotional. A trusted agent can help you avoid overpaying for a property or glossing over “red flags” in your inspection. In addition, buyer agents offer a streamlined, professional process that listing agents may be more likely to recommend to their clients.
If you decide to forego an agent, you’ll have to write, submit, and negotiate a competitive offer all on your own. You’ll also need to schedule an inspection and negotiate repairs. You’ll be responsible for reviewing and preparing all necessary documents, and you will need to be in constant communication with the seller’s agent and your lender, inspector, appraiser, title company, and other related parties along the way.
Or, you could choose to work with a buyer’s agent whose commission is paid by the seller and costs you nothing out of pocket. In exchange, you’ll obtain fiduciary-level guidance on one of the most important financial transactions of your life. If you decide to go it alone, you’ll be playing fast and loose with what is, for most people, their most important and consequential financial decision.
SO, IS A REAL ESTATE AGENT RIGHT FOR YOU?
It is important for you to understand your options and think through your preferences when considering whether or not to work with a real estate professional. If you are experienced in real estate transactions and legal contracts, comfortable negotiating under high-stakes circumstances, and have plenty of extra time on your hands, you may find that an iBuyer or FSBO sale works for you.
However, if, like most people, you value expert guidance and would like an experienced professional to manage the process, you will probably experience far more peace of mind and security in working with a real estate agent or broker.
A real estate agent’s comprehensive suite of services and expert negotiation skills can benefit buyers and sellers financially, as well. On average, sellers who utilize an agent walk away with more money than those who choose the FSBO or iBuyer route.3,5 And buyers pay nothing out of pocket for expert representation that can help them avoid expensive mistakes all along the way from contract to closing.
According to NAR’s profile, the vast majority of buyers (91%) and sellers (89%) are thrilled with their real estate professional’s representation and would recommend them to others.1 That’s why, in terms of time, money, and expertise, most buyers and sellers find the assistance of a real estate agent essential and invaluable.
QUESTIONS ABOUT BUYING OR SELLING? WE HAVE ANSWERS
The best way to find out whether you need a real estate agent or broker is to speak with one. We’re here to help and to offer the insights you need to make better-informed decisions. Let’s talk about the value-added services we provide when we help you buy or sell in today’s competitive real estate landscape.
- National Association of REALTORS –
- Washington Post –
- National Association of REALTORS –
- Seattle Times –
- MarketWatch –
- Forbes –
There has been a lot of discussion as to what will happen once the 2.3 million households currently in forbearance no longer have the protection of the program. Some assume there could potentially be millions of foreclosures ready to hit the market. However, there are four reasons that won’t happen.
1. Almost 50% Leave Forbearance Already Caught Up on Payments
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), data through March 28 show that 48.9% of homeowners who have already left the program were current on their mortgage payments when they exited.
- 6% made their monthly payments during their forbearance period
- 7% brought past due payments current
- 6% paid off their loan in full
This doesn’t mean that the over two million still in the plan will exit exactly the same way. It does, however, give us some insight into the possibilities.
2. The Banks Don’t Want the Houses Back
Banks have learned lessons from the crash of 2008. Lending institutions don’t want the headaches of managing foreclosed properties. This time, they’re working with homeowners to help them stay in their homes.
As an example, about 50% of all mortgages are backed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). In 2008, the FHFA offered 208,000 homeowners some form of Home Retention Action, which are options offered to a borrower who has the financial ability to enter a workout option and wants to stay in their home. Home retention options include temporary forbearances, repayment plans, loan modifications, or partial loan deferrals. These helped delinquent borrowers stay in their homes. Over the past year, the FHFA has offered that same protection to over one million homeowners.
Today, almost all lending institutions are working with their borrowers. The report from the MBA reveals that of those homeowners who have left forbearance,
- 5% have worked out a repayment plan with their lender
- 5% were granted a loan deferral where a borrower does not have to pay the lender interest or principal on a loan for an agreed-to period of time
- 9% were given a loan modification
3. There Is No Political Will to Foreclose on These Households
The government also seems determined not to let individuals or families lose their homes. Bloomberg recently reported:
“Mortgage companies could face penalties if they don’t take steps to prevent a deluge of foreclosures that threatens to hit the housing market later this year, a U.S. regulator said. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) warning is tied to forbearance relief that’s allowed millions of borrowers to delay their mortgage payments due to the pandemic…mortgage servicers should start reaching out to affected homeowners now to advise them on ways they can modify their loans.”
The CFPB is proposing a new set of guidelines to ensure people will be able to retain their homes. Here are the major points in the proposal:
- The proposed rule would provide a special pre-foreclosure review period that would generally prohibit servicers from starting foreclosure until after December 31, 2021.
- The proposed rule would permit servicers to offer certain streamlined loan modification options to borrowers with COVID-19-related hardships based on the evaluation of an incomplete application.
- The proposal rule wants temporary changes to certain required servicer communications to make sure borrowers receive key information about their options at the appropriate time.
A final decision is yet to be made, and some do question whether the CFPB has the power to delay foreclosures. The entire report can be found here: Protections for Borrowers Affected by the COVID-19 Emergency Under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), Regulation X.
4. If All Else Fails, Homeowners Will Sell Their Homes Before a Foreclosure
Homeowners have record levels of equity today. According to the latest CoreLogic Home Equity Report, the average equity of mortgaged homes is currently $204,000. In addition, 38% of homes do not have a mortgage, so the level of equity available to today’s homeowners is significant.
Just like the banks, homeowners learned a lesson from the housing crash too.
“In the same way that grandparents and great grandparents were shaped by the Great Depression, much of the public today remembers the 2006 mortgage meltdown and the foreclosures, unemployment, and bank failures it created. No one with any sense wants to repeat that experience…and it may explain why so much real estate equity remains mortgage-free.”
What does that mean to the forbearance situation? According to Black Knight:
“Just one in ten homeowners in forbearance has less than 10% equity in their home, typically the minimum necessary to be able to sell through traditional real estate channels to avoid foreclosure.”
The reports of massive foreclosures about to come to the market are highly exaggerated. As Ivy Zelman, Chief Executive Officer of Zelman & Associates with roughly 30 years of experience covering housing and housing-related industries, recently proclaimed:
“The likelihood of us having a foreclosure crisis again is about zero percent.”
- If your house is feeling a little cramped with the addition of adult children or aging parents, it might be time to consider a move-up into a multigenerational home that better suits your changing needs.
- With benefits that include a combined homebuying budget and shared caregiving duties, an increasing number of households are discovering the value of a multigenerational home.
- With such high demand for houses today, now is a great time to sell so you can upgrade to a multigenerational home that may better suit your evolving needs.
A Fannie Mae survey recently revealed some of the most highly-rated benefits of homeownership, which continue to be key drivers in today’s power-packed housing market. Here are the top four financial benefits of owning a home according to consumer respondents:
- 88% – a better chance of saving for retirement
- 87% – the best investment plan
- 85% – the chance to be better off financially
- 85% – the chance to build up wealth
Additional financial advantages of homeownership included in the survey are having the best overall tax situation and being able to live within your budget.
Does homeownership actually give you a better chance to build wealth?
No one can question a person’s unique feelings about the importance of homeownership. However, it’s fair to ask if the numbers justify homeownership as a financial asset.
Last fall, the Federal Reserve released the Survey of Consumer Finances, a report done every three years, with the latest edition covering through 2019. Their findings confirmed that homeownership is a clear financial benefit. The survey found that homeowners have forty times higher net worth than renters ($255,000 for homeowners compared to $6,300 for renters).
The difference in net worth between homeowners and renters has continued to grow. Here’s a graph showing the results of the last four Fed surveys:
The above graph only includes data through 2019, but according to CoreLogic, the equity held by homeowners grew by $26,300 over the last twelve months alone. That means the gap between the net worth of homeowners and renters has probably widened even further over the last year.
Some might argue the difference in net worth may be due to homeowners normally having larger incomes than renters and therefore the ability to save more money. However, a study by First American shows homeowners have greater net worth than renters regardless of their income level. Here are the findings:
Others may think homeowners are older and that’s why they have a greater net worth. However, a Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University report on homeowners and renters over the age of 65 reveals:
“The ability to build equity puts homeowners far ahead of renters in terms of household wealth…the median owner age 65 and over had home equity of $143,500 and net wealth of $319,200. By comparison, the net wealth of the same-age renter was just $6,700.”
Homeowners 65 and older have 47.6 times greater net worth than renters.
The idea of homeownership as a direct way to build your net worth has met the test of time. Let’s connect if you’re ready to take steps toward becoming a homeowner.
Last Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a very encouraging jobs report. The economy gained 916,000 jobs in March – well above expert projections of 650,000 to 675,000. The unemployment rate fell again and is now at 6%.
What does this mean for you?
Our lives are deeply impacted by our nation’s economy. The better the economy is doing overall, the better most individuals in the country will do as well. Here’s a look at what four experts told the Wall Street Journal after reviewing last week’s report.
Michael Feroli, JPMorgan Chase:
“The powerful tailwind of the reopening of economic activity appears to be gathering force; while the level of employment last month was still 8.4 million positions below that which prevailed before the pandemic, it is reasonable to expect that a majority of those lost jobs will be recouped in coming months.”
Mike Fratantoni, Mortgage Bankers Association:
“We fully expect that this pace of job gains will continue for months, and anticipate that the unemployment rate, now at 6%, will be well below 5% by the end of the year.”
Paul Ashworth, Capital Economics:
“With the vaccination program likely to reach critical mass within the next couple of months and the next round of fiscal stimulus providing a big boost, there is finally real light at the end of the tunnel.”
Jason Schenker, Prestige Economics:
“People are getting back to work and the vaccine isn’t just inoculating the population, it’s clearly inoculating the economy.”
What does this mean for residential real estate?
Today, the biggest challenge for homebuyers is the lack of homes currently for sale. With listing inventory down 52% from a year ago, bidding wars are skyrocketing. As a result, home prices are climbing.
One answer to this challenge is to build more homes to satisfy the demand. The latest jobs report gives hope for new housing construction, and therefore brings hope to buyers as well. Here’s what three industry economists said about the increase in construction jobs revealed in the report:
“Construction jobs boomed in March, one of the largest monthly gains ever. This raises the prospect for more home building and more inventory reaching the market in the upcoming months. The housing market has been hot with fast rising home prices but has been constrained by a lack of supply. By hiring more workers and building more homes, home prices will move to a manageable level to give more Americans a shot at ownership.”
“Great jobs report for a housing market in an inventory crisis. Residential construction building jobs increased 3.9% from pre-2020 recession peak in Feb. 2020. The construction industry remains a labor-intensive industry. We need more hammers at work to build more homes.”
“Good job numbers in March for residential construction. 37,000 gain from Feb to March. 3.03 million total employment for home builders and remodelers, and up 49,100 from Jan 2020.”
An improving economy with a falling unemployment rate will benefit households across the country, as well as the overall housing market.