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Redfin: Seattle is quickly running out of homes to sell

Seattle is on the verge of becoming the metro with the least inventory, as it constantly finds itself among the hottest metros in the country.

According to the latest housing report from online real estate listing service and broker network, Redfin, Seattle is currently the third-most constrained for inventory, following Oakland and San Francisco.

But the inventory issue impacts more people, as it has the largest population of the three metros.

The city also recorded the largest year-over-year decrease in inventory, down 35% from last April.

As inventory plummeted, the number of Redfin customers making offers surged by 36.9%, showing that the market is more competitive for buyers this year than it was last year.

It’s no surprise, however, given Redfin recently stated Seattle and its neighboring city Tacoma, Washington are two of the five most competitive markets in the country.

The report found that 56.6% of homes sold above asking prices, while 44.4% of homes sold above asking prices in Tacoma.

“There’s no indication that this market is going to see a drastic increase in supply or a drop in demand, so waiting isn’t an option for a serious buyer,” said Redfin Seattle agent Kyle Moss.

Moss suggested that people intent on purchasing this season should be discerning and focus on the one or two criteria that are most important to them, like commute time and/or schools.

“From there, carve out a list of homes that meet your qualifications and work alongside an agent who has experience winning offers in competitive situations to build and execute a competitive strategy that fits your budget,” he said.

Additionally, the Redfin report gave the latest pulse on the housing market. According to the report, the Redfin Housing Demand Index increased 9.2% from March to a seasonally adjusted level of 121 in April.

The index is based on thousands of Redfin customers requesting home tours and writing offers. A level of 100 represents the historical average for the three-year period from January 2013 to December 2015.

The chart below shows the changes in the Redfin housing demand index since April 2013.

Click to enlarge

redfin home prices

(Source: Redfin)

“We know two things heading into the summer selling season. One, home prices continue to leap forward. Two, homebuyers continue to jump into the market,” said Redfin Chief Economist Nela Richardson.

“A pop of new listings only encourages more homebuyers to barge their way into this crowded and competitive, low-inventory market in order to take advantage of still-low mortgage rates,” said Richardson. “For these reasons, we expect prices to continue to grow above their three-year average for the remainder of the year.”

The most recent Case-Shiller home price report also come out on Tuesday, finding that home prices in March jumped to their highest level in 33 months.

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Pro Teck: These 7 housing markets close mortgages faster than anywhere else

The latest May Pro Teck Valuation Services Home Value Forecast analyzed more 200 metros throughout the U.S. to determine how long it takes for a home to close in each market, looking at sold days on market (from listing to close).

Out of all 200 metros, only seven metros are selling in 50 days or less.  

The current industry average is approximately 42 days to close a loan and has been dropping even further as of late.

Here are the seven metros that are selling at or under 50 days:

  • San Jose–Sunnyvale–Santa Clara, Calif. – 41 days
  • San Francisco–Redwood City–South San Francisco, Calif. – 42 days
  • Oakland–Hayward–Berkley, Calif. – 45 days
  • Denver–Aurora–Lakewood, Colo. – 49 days
  • Boulder, Colo. – 49 days
  • Dallas–Plano–Irving, Texas – 50 days
  • Fort Worth–Arlington, Texas – 50 days

“These numbers represent the average for the entire metro,” said Tom O’Grady, CEO of Pro Teck Valuation Services. “This doesn’t take into account the hot micro-markets inside of these metros, some of which have sold days on market as low as 30.”

O’Grady said the analysis features metros where homes are going under contract fast, often during the first few days on the market.

“In these metros, multiple bids are coming on listing day,” said O’Grady. “To be competitive, winning bidders are pre-approved, have no contingencies and often have larger down payments – all leading to less risk and a quicker close with the banks.”

Pro Teck took it a step further and looked at San Jose alone since it is has the lowest Sold Days on Market.

The chart below shows the average days on market in San Jose since 2007.

Click to enlarge


(Source: Pro Teck)

The report explained that the quicker closing days in San Jose have been the norm for the last few years, with dips to the 50-day range each of the last few years during the second quarter.

Pro Teck noted that this trend in the city isn’t likely to change anytime soon due to the lack of inventory and increasing employment there.

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CAR: California pending homes sales drop four months in a row

California pending homes sales continued to trend down in April due to low housing inventory and eroding affordability, the California Association of Realtors reported.

The report also came with CAR’s April Market Pulse Survey, which gave a more in-depth explanation from California Realtors on what they are witnessing in the market.

According to the report, based on signed contracts, year-over-year statewide pending home sales declined for the fourth straight month in April on a seasonally adjusted basis, with the Pending Home Sales Index falling 7.4% from 122.8 in April 2016 to 113.7 in April 2017.

Month-to-month, California pending home sales increased 5.9% from the March index of 107.4.  

The year-over-year decline marked the largest drop since July 2014 when sales decreased 9.1% from the previous year.

CAR explained that the quickening pace of pending sales declines shows that the typically busy spring home-buying season may underperform. The report attributed the change to demand outstripping the supply of active listings, which was 10.5% lower than in April a year ago.

The chart below gives a breakdown of pending home sales at the county/region level.

Click to enlarge       


(Source: CAR)

Meanwhile, the Market Pulse Survey noted that California Realtors said their expectations for market conditions for the year declined from April as they experienced less open-house traffic, fewer multiple offers, more price reductions, and no change in listing appointment activity compared with March.  

The chart below shows the top concerns for Realtors, with a lack of available inventory continuing to occupy the No. 1 position.

Click to enlarge         


(Source: CAR)

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Attom: Refinance originations fell to 10-year low in 1st quarter

Mortgage rates may sit at a yearly low right now, but earlier in the year rates sat well north of 4%, and that drove first-quarter refinance originations to the lowest level in 10 years, a new report from Attom Data Solutions shows.

According to Attom’s Q1 2017 U.S. Residential Property Loan Origination Report, released Thursday, there were a total of 675,899 refinance loans secured by U.S. residential properties (1 to 4 units) originated in the first quarter, which is down 36% from the previous quarter and down 22% from a year ago.

The report also showed that the total dollar volume of refinance originations in the first quarter was $167.9 billion, which is down 39% from the fourth quarter of 2016 and down 26% from a year ago.

That’s the lowest that figure has been since the first quarter of 2006, which is as far back as data is available in Attom’s report.

Overall, there were 1,415,847 loans originated on residential properties in the first quarter of 2017, down 30% from the previous quarter and down 21% from a year ago.

The total dollar amount on the loans was down as well. According to the Attom report, the total dollar volume of loan originations in the first quarter fell by 21% from a year ago to $347.9 billion.

That’s the lowest that figure has been since the first quarter of 2014.

Purchase origination dollar volume also fell to a three-year low. According to Attom’s report, there were a total of 513,350 purchase loans originated in the first quarter, down 29% from the previous quarter and down 18% from a year ago.

The report also showed that the total dollar volume of purchase originations in the first quarter was $136.6 billion, down 27% from the previous quarter and down 14% from a year ago to the lowest level since the first quarter of 2014.

Attom loan origination trend Q1 2017

(Click the image to enlarge it. Image courtesy of Attom Data Solutions.)

“Rising mortgage rates made qualifying for a home purchase more difficult and refinancing an existing home loan less attractive in the first quarter,” Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at Attom Data Solutions, said.

“Refinance originations in particular fell off a cliff in the first quarter to the lowest level in more than 10 years after posting double-digit percentage increases in the third and fourth quarters of 2016, indicating that some refinance demand was pulled forward late last year in anticipation of rising interest rates,” Blomquist said.

The report also showed that Home Equity Lines of Credit fell to a three-year low as well. Attom’s report showed that there were a total of 226,598 HELOCs originated in Q1 2017, down 14% from the previous quarter and down 22% from a year ago.

The total dollar volume of HELOCs originated during the first quarter was $43.4 billion, down 14% from the previous quarter and down 18% from a year ago to a three-year low.

“Despite the sharp drop in purchase originations, there were some encouraging signs in the data that a larger share of first-time homebuyers participated in the housing market in the first quarter: the share of FHA buyers increased from the previous quarter after two consecutive quarters down, and the median down payment decreased following three consecutive quarters of increases,” Blomquist added. 

“The data also indicates more homebuyers needed help to qualify for a home purchase in the first quarter,” Blomquist concluded. “Nearly 22% of all single family purchase originations had multiple, non-married co-borrowers on the loan, up from 20% a year ago.”

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Freddie Mac: Cash-out refinance activity highest since the bust

This years is shaping up to outpace expectations thanks to a resilience in refinance demand, especially when it comes to cash-out transactions.

According to Freddie Mac’s May Economic and Housing Research Outlook report, 2017 is performing so well that its increased its 2017 forecast for mortgage originations by just over $200 billion and added $100 billion to our 2018 forecast.

The year started out with a surprise uptick in refinance borrowers took cash out, increasing to 49% in the first quarter of 2017, which is up from 44% in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Freddie noted that this is the highest share since the fourth quarter of 2008.

However, it cautioned that the data is still below the peak of 89% in the third quarter of 2006.

The data doesn’t come as a shock though given that home prices have long been on the rise. The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s latest home price report showed that seasonally adjusted monthly index for March was up 0.6% from February.

Looking at it from a different perspective though, even though the percentage of refinance borrowers taking cash out increased in the first quarter, the total dollar amount cashed out decreased. In the first quarter of this year, an estimated $14 billion in net home equity was cashed out, down from $19.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2016.

But despite volume increasing in recent quarters, it is still below the peak of $84 billion in the second quarter of 2006.

Plus, continually low interest rates are majorly contributing the strength in the housing market. Mortgage rates for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage reached as high as 4.3% in March.

Since then, rates have declined about a quarter of a percentage point to right around 4% where they have been holding in recent weeks. This won’t stick around forever though, as mortgage rates are likely to head higher later this year.

“Despite weak economic growth, housing got off to a good start in 2017 because low mortgage rates have given the spring homebuying season a pleasant surprise,” said Sean Becketti, chief economist with Freddie Mac.

“Mortgage rates started March just above 4% and have mostly drifted lower since then, even falling below 4%. With home sales, housing starts and home values up, 2017 is shaping up to be the best year for housing in over a decade,” said Becketti.

The chart below is an updated version on Freddie’s forecasts for the year, which includes real GDP, mortgage rates, housing starts and home sales. 

Click to enlarge

housing forecast

(Source: Freddie Mac)

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Fannie Mae EXCLUSIVE: The crisis in affordable rental housing, Part 1

Across America, millions of households are struggling to find a place to rent they can afford. Fewer than half will find affordable rental housing; fewer than one in four of our poorest renter households will do so. And even those who find a rental will likely face rent hikes in the near future that may eat up any increases in their income. This crisis threatens household stability, education, health, the environment, and the quality of our neighborhoods.

The cost of the crisis is very real to me. In the 1960s, my father lost his job. He got sick at the factory where he worked and he was not part of a union – our home was foreclosed on. We moved around a bit before we settled into public housing in South Philadelphia.

We were lucky. Our rental home was affordable; it was a safety net for us. But I saw so many others struggling to find jobs with decent wages, good schools for their children, and safe neighborhoods. All while grappling with the lack of stable, affordable housing.

At Fannie Mae, we provide affordable housing opportunities for renters and owners. It’s what we focus on every day. This focus gives us some insight into the causes and potential solutions to the current affordable rental crisis.

To help spark creative solutions, we must better understand the scope of the affordability problem, how we got here, and what some communities are doing to address the issues.

What it means to be cost burdened

More than one-third of U.S. households – about 44 million – are renters, and nearly 60% are classified as low income (households with income from 51% to 80% of the area median income or AMI), very low income (31% to 50% of the AMI), or extremely low income (below 30% of the AMI). These are the families most likely burdened by rent costs.Cost burdened chart

Households that spend more than 30% of their income on rent are considered “cost burdened.” While about half of all renter households are cost burdened, an estimated three-quarters of extremely low-income renters are in that category.

Households spending more than half their income on rent are considered to be “severely cost burdened.” About one quarter of all renter households fall in that category, yet that percentage soars to 59% of extremely low-income renters.

For every affordable unit added, two are lost

That’s because there’s a disconnect between the units being built (the supply) and who’s able to rent them (the demand).

While it costs about as much to build an apartment project for low-income tenants as a market-rate project, many builders are focused on projects that will command higher rents. According to the Dodge Data & Analytics Construction Pipeline, about 343,000 apartment units were completed in 2016, with another 400,000 units expected to come online in 2017. Most of this new supply is high-income rentals located in large cities where Millennials are driving rental demand.

When it comes to new affordable units, about 100,000 are built each year on average, says the National Housing Trust. Yet the market supply is not going to keep up: For every new affordable unit added, two are lost from deterioration, abandonment, or conversion to market-rate housing.

Further, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, about 360,000 privately owned, federally subsidized units have been converted to market-rate housing since 1995, with another 10,000 to 15,000 units leaving this inventory every year. In addition, more than 2 million units are at risk of loss over the next decade.

How did supply dry up?

During the Great Recession, multifamily construction fell sharply. After the recession ended in June 2009, demand started to rise – both from previously displaced renters and from new Millennial first-time renters. However, multifamily construction didn’t rebound in a significant way until 2013, and has been playing “catch up” ever since.

In addition, construction of subsidized housing has declined as a percentage of all new multifamily construction and now represents only around a fifth of new construction annually – not enough to keep pace with demand.

Finally, costs of construction, including rising wages for construction workers nationally, have increased across the country, not just in strong metropolitan areas.

As a result, without a subsidy, developers are only willing to undertake new projects where they can generate higher rents.

Driving demand

Increased demand for rental housing stems from several factors. Millennials, those 75 million young adults born after 1980, are one of the biggest drivers of current rental housing demand. In record numbers, they are deferring homeownership, choosing to rent rather than buy. High-income renters, typically those who can afford to buy a house, are choosing to rent an apartment instead. They now represent more than 20% of all renter households. Collectively, this contributes to a 26% increase in estimated national rent levels since 2005.

Wage growth is starting to line up with rent increases

Wages and asking rent levels are two factors that play a big role in affordability. All other things being equal, it’s more affordable to rent when wage growth keeps pace or stays ahead of rent increases.

It looks like that’s starting to happen. Over the next two years, growth in household income is likely to outpace growth in asking rents by about 2%, cumulatively. But that’s based on projections showing that median household income might grow by nearly 7% while rent growth returns to more normalized levels in the 2 to 2.5% range.

Even so, this will contribute to only modest improvements in rental housing affordability.

What’s the answer? Click here to find out how communities are working toward solutions in Part 2.

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FHFA: Home prices continue climbing in first quarter

Home prices rose during each month of the first quarter, continuing a climb that began in the early part of this decade, a new report from the Federal Housing Finance Agency showed.

The FHFA’s House Price Index for March, which is the most recent data available, showed that seasonally adjusted monthly index for March was up 0.6% from February.

Overall, house prices rose 1.4% during the first quarter of 2017, the FHFA report showed. On a year-over-year basis, house prices rose 6% from the first quarter of 2016 to the first quarter of 2017.

“The steep, multi-year rise in U.S. home prices continued in the first quarter,” FHFA Deputy Chief Economist Andrew Leventis said.

“Mortgage rates during the quarter remained slightly elevated relative to most of last year, but demand for homes remained very strong,” Leventis added. “With housing inventories still languishing at extremely low levels, the strong demand led to another exceptionally large quarterly price increase.”

Low inventory is also a concern of the National Association of Realtors, as its latest existing home sales report showed that home sales fell in April and homes flew off the market at a rate not seen since 2011.

The FHFA report also showed that home prices rose in 48 states and the District of Columbia between the first quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017. 

FHFA monthly home price index March 2017

(Click the image to enlarge. Image courtesy of the FHFA.)

According to the FHFA report, the top five areas in annual appreciation were: District of Columbia at 13.9% Colorado at 10.7%; Idaho at 10.3%; Washington at 10.2%; and New Hampshire at 9.5%.

The FHFA report also showed that among the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., the annual price increase in Grand Rapids-Wyoming, Michigan was the highest in the nation, at 13.7%.

Prices were weakest in San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, California, where prices fell by 2.5%.

Of the nine census divisions, the Pacific division showed the strongest increase in the first quarter, with a 2% quarterly increase and a 7.7% increase since the first quarter of 2016, the FHFA report showed. 

Additionally, the report showed that house price appreciation was weakest in the Middle Atlantic division, where prices rose by just 1% from the last quarter.

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Gamechanger: Zillow getting into home selling business with “instant offers”

In many ways, Zillow was one of the leaders in the online real estate revolution, helping to democratize the home buying process and enabling prospective buyers to search for their next home from the comfort of their current home.

And now, Zillow wants to revolutionize the way that people sell their homes as well, as the online real estate giant announced this week that it is launching a pilot program called “Zillow Instant Offers.”

Through the program, which is now testing in Las Vegas and Orlando, homeowners looking to sell their home will be able to get cash offers on their home from selected investors interested in buying it, all within Zillow’s platform.

If the seller decides to use the “Instant Offer” program, they will also receive a comparative market analysis from a local real estate agent, which would allow them to compare the investor offers to what their home might be worth on the open market.

Consider it a “Zestimate” on steroids.

Zillow’s Zestimate, the property value estimation tool that appears on every listing on Zillow, serves as a point of contention for real estate professionals and consumers alike.

As previously noted, homebuyers and sellers often believe the Zestimate to be the true market value of the home, rather than simply a “great starting point” for determining the value of a home, as Zillow describes it.

When Zillow claimed last year that it significantly improved the accuracy of its Zestimate tool, the company said that ultimately a home is worth only what someone is willing to pay for it.

And now, home sellers that use the “Instant Offers” program will have concrete, tangible offers from investors ready and willing to buy their home, as well as an analysis of what their home might be worth if they list it on the open market instead.

Here’s how it works, according to Zillow:

To participate in Zillow Instant Offers, verified homeowners interested in receiving investor offers confirm information about the home (number of bedrooms, square footage, etc.), highlight any updates and provide several photos of the home. From there, select investors who buy homes in the area can present their offers alongside the CMA from a local real estate agent. Any investor offers and the CMA will include an overview of fees associated with each option, to enable sellers to make an informed apples-to-apples comparison.

The seller is not obligated to accept any of the investor offers, but in a release, Zillow said that it believes the program will help sellers who may not be interested in the traditional home selling process.

“People today expect speed and convenience as the foundation for many of their transactions – including when buying or selling a home,” Zillow said in a release.

“Selling a home can often be an overwhelming task as home sellers have the challenge of getting their home ready to list on the open market, while facing the uncertainty of when their home might sell and at what price,” Zillow continued.

“By using the Zillow Instant Offers marketplace, home sellers can alleviate some of that stress by eliminating the need to prepare their home for sale (staging, open houses, etc.), and gain additional control and certainty over aspects like closing date and price,” Zillow added.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because this is basically the business model of Opendoor, an online marketplace that buys homes direct from homeowners.

Here’s how Opendoor, which currently operates in Phoenix and Dallas-Fort Worth, works: A homeowner seeking to sell their home can go to Opendoor, enter details about their home, and get a near-instant price quote for the home.

Then, if the seller accepts, Opendoor then allows the seller to close on the sale when they’re ready, rather than on the timeline of another buyer.

While Opendoor cuts real estate agents out of the process, Zillow states that “Instant Offers” will include agents throughout the process.

In addition to investors being required to use an agent, should a homeowner select an investor’s offer, Zillow will also offer to connect them with a local agent to represent them throughout the transaction, Zillow said in its release.

Zillow doesn’t provide much detail on the investors who will participating the pilot program, simply stating the following in its release: “During this test in Las Vegas, Nev., and Orlando, Fla., Zillow is working with a handful of agents and select investors in each test market, who are active in the area. Participating agents will be requested to record the sale with their local Multiple Listing Service.”

An article about the program from Inman stated that Invitation Homes is participating in the pilot. HousingWire can confirm Invitation Homes’ involvement in the program, via a Zillow spokesperson. HousingWire contacted Invitation Homes for comment on its participation in the program, but as of publication, the single-family rental operator has not responded.

So why is Zillow doing this? Jeremy Wacksman, Zillow Group’s chief marketing officer, said that the company is trying to fulfill the needs of its users.

“Sellers are looking for more solutions when selling their home. For some, selling in a short timeframe with certainty around the closing date is attractive, or even necessary,” Wacksman said.

“Across many industries, we’re seeing a rise of technology assisted transactions, and many consumers desire this type of innovation in real estate,” Wacksman said.

“We want to provide options for convenience, while providing home sellers with useful information to help them make an informed financial decision,” Wacksman concluded. “That’s why we provide them with any offers submitted by investors, as well as an estimate from a real estate agent who can help them better understand what that home may sell for on the open market.”

Investors who participate in the program will also be doing so using DotLoop, a company that aims to simplify real estate transactions by enabling brokerages, real estate agents, and their clients to share, edit, sign and store documents digitally.

DotLoop is also a subsidiary of Zillow Group, which bought the company for north of $100 million back in 2015.

The article from Inman states that Zillow will not be taking a cut of these transactions, perhaps alleviating concerns about RESPA, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act.

Zillow is already facing a RESPA investigation from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau related to its real estate agent advertising program.

But if the Instant Offer program proves successful, will Zillow begin to officially act as a broker and take a percentage of each sale? Inquiring minds (at the CFPB and beyond) will want to know.

No matter what, the real estate world is facing another seismic shift thanks to Zillow.

Here’s a look at what a seller will see on Zillow’s platform when they recieve the offers:

Zillow Instant Offers

(Click the image to enlarge it. Image courtesy of Zillow.)

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Where are building permits keeping up with housing demand?

As housing inventory tightens across the U.S., the need for new builds becomes more essential to the housing market, especially for first-time homebuyers.

In order to assess the current state of the new-build market, the National Association of Realtors compared building permits from 2000, 2005 and 2015.

The study found that 28% of counties saw the highest number of building permits in 2000, 60% of counties saw a peak in 2005 and 2015, at 12%, saw the least number of counties with peaks in building permits.

In 2000, the counties that saw a peak were centered in Michigan, Colorado and Indiana, while in 2005 Arizona, Hawaii, Maine and Florida saw the highest share. In 2015, the District of Columbia and North Dakota held the highest share of building permits.

This chart shows when each county reached its peak share of building permits.

But how does this compare to the need for new housing units? The interactive tool below, which uses information from the U.S. Census Bureau, shows how many building permits were authorized for each county versus how many were needed.

For example, in San Francisco, 2,996 new housing units were needed to meet the need for new homes on the market, and 3,665 new units were authorized by building permits in 2015. In Dallas, the need was much higher at 15,558 new units, but 21,698 new housing units were authorized.

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10 tips to save money, cut stress when buying or selling a home

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(BPT) – As the weather heats up, so too does the real estate market. Spring and summer are typically busy seasons for buying and selling a home, and they can also be stressful due to high home prices and increased competition.

“Buying or selling a home is one of the largest transactions of many people’s lives, and it can be an emotional process as well,” said Steve Udelson, president of the business. “Whether a consumer is buying or selling a home, with some smart planning, they can avoid some of the stress in the process and get the best possible results from their home search or sale.”

According to the 2017 Home Buyer Study, 72 percent of potential home buyers expect stress in the home buying process. Udelson offers these tips that can help to get the most value out of your next real estate transaction with less stress.

Top home seller tips

Price your home wisely. Mispricing their home is one of the most common mistakes that people make. Sellers should research comps for current listings, recent sales and appraisal value to help guide how to set their list price. Sellers should also consider their timeline for the home sale and look into local market conditions to understand how quickly homes are selling at their target price. To help with this research, some online brokerages offer valuation tools and information on recent comps.

Pay attention to curb appeal. Potential buyers may make a decision on your home before they even walk in the door, but there’s a lot you can do yourself to make a good first impression. Trim bushes, plant flowers and keep the grass cut. Create a tidy, welcoming feeling at the entryway by sweeping the steps, painting the door and cleaning the windows. You want to be sure a buyer’s first impression compels him or her to look inside.

DIY home staging. You don’t have to hire an expensive staging company to make your home interior shine. Start by cleaning relentlessly, especially the kitchen, bathrooms and carpets. Take the time to make small updates like applying a fresh coat of paint or making minor repairs to ensure the home is move-in ready. Remove clutter and put away overly personal items like family photos and knickknacks that can potentially distract buyers.

Leverage technology. According to the Home Buyer Study, 72 percent of potential home buyers spend on average one to three hours per day looking at homes online. To showcase your home to a higher number of potential buyers, you can use a listing site that will get your home on the MLS. Create an eye-catching listing of your home by taking photos and video when it’s at its best and consider highlighting recent updates. You can also use your social media accounts to help spread the word about your listing.

Save on commissions. Rather than paying a full commission to a traditional real estate agent, consider your alternatives. provides sellers the support of professional agents and flexible listing packages that can save you time and money.

Top home buyer tips

Get your finances in order. A home is a big investment. Start by knowing your credit score, and if necessary, taking steps to increase it. Analyze your savings to determine how much you can put down. Furthermore, know what you can afford, not just what you’re approved for by the bank. Make sure you only take out what you’re comfortable paying back in monthly installments.

Think about the future. Before researching properties, you may make a list of features you want, but don’t overlook your future needs. For example, if you’re newlyweds planning to start a family in this house, you’ll likely need more than one bedroom. If you’re empty-nesters planning to stay in the home for many years, a single-level home might be easier to navigate when you’re older.

Make a savvy offer. Deciding what to offer when buying a home can be stressful. Use comps from recent sales to help guide your asking price. You can also set terms (like the closing date) and request extras (like appliances) to be included.

Keep an open mind. In a competitive real estate market, it pays to keep an open mind about the kind of house you’re looking for. The Home Buyer Study found that consumers are willing to consider a fixer-upper (51 percent) or a smaller home than desired (36 percent) to stay on budget. In fact, a Nerdwallet study found smaller homes often appreciate in value at a faster rate.

Save at the closing table. Closing on a home can cost thousands more than just the price of the home. provides professional real estate agent support, and buyers in select markets can receive up to 1.5 percent back on the purchase price at closing — savings that can help with mortgage payments or updates once you’ve moved into your beautiful new home.

Note to editors: This material was provided and sponsored by, part of the Altisource family of companies. The material is provided for general and educational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax or investment advice.