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Are We Headed Towards a Foreclosure Crisis? Probably Not.

If you have spent much time reading the news you likely know that the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic has resulted in a massive loss of jobs, income, and stability for many Americans. You may also have read some opinions that the hardships people are going through will ultimately result in the foreclosure of a massive number of properties, the likes of which has not been seen since the recession of 2008.

However, the conditions that preceded that crisis are not the same as those we see today. Many Americans at that time participated in cash out refinances of their homes leveraging their homes value against the market. This left many of them high and dry when they ended up owing more on their homes than they were worth.

Today the market has far outpaced that of 2008 and homeowner levels of equity are in abundance. These homeowners would not be upside down in their mortgage in the same manner as those in 2008, which means that rather than face foreclosure they can sell their homes and pocket this equity at the close of sale. This also doesn’t take into account the fact that due to the pandemic the federal government has mandated forbearance on mortgages should homeowners choose to participate. 91% of the homeowners in forbearance have 11% equity in their homes. One can visualize this slice of the mortgage pie as the worst-case scenario, and they still have enough equity to walk away without facing foreclosure.

At the end of this there will still be those who will be foreclosed on, but the economic conditions that led to the mortgage crisis in 2008 are not the same as we see today. The economy should bounce back once COVID is a thing of the past, and jobs should return too. There is seemingly no real estate bubble, and real estate presents one of the more secure investment options outpacing bonds, notes and stocks which have proven extremely volatile throughout the pandemic. 

How We Have Adapted Our Business to better assist you during Current Events

While the global pandemic continues so does our work. The real estate market in Colorado has not stopped and neither have we. In Colorado Real Estate Agents, Title Companies, and Real Estate Appraisers have all been classified as “essential services” in order for the real estate market to continue functioning as normal as possible.

We recognize that for some of our clients buying or selling a home simply can’t wait until after the pandemic has ended. To address concerns over the spread of COVID-19 we are working with all of our clients a little differently. For our sellers we are currently offering a 3D tour of your home included in your home marketing. If you are not familiar with this process an example can be viewed here. We are also happy to offer Current Market Analysis’ to any of our clients to understand how your properties current value looks in the current market. For our sellers the limited inventory on the market can be a huge benefit to the marketing of your home if now is the time you need to sell.

For our buyers we are offering online home shopping meetings that can be held over the Zoom video conferencing service that we are sure that everyone is becoming very familiar with as this crisis continues. While in person showings are not currently possible we have the ability to write a sight unseen offer that allows you to place a home under contract and then view prior to inspection to verify that it meets your needs. This means that you might be able to go under contract if you are 99% sure that you love the house just based on what you can see without setting foot inside the home. This is beneficial if you are a member of an at risk group or at all concerned about having a showing during the normal marketing period as your viewing of the property in person can be put off until later in the process. As a buyer you have a unique opportunity right now as mortgage rates are still at multi-decade lows.

10 Reasons Why it’s Better to Own Less Stuff

Owning fewer things can be great for so many reasons.  Society has started to shift in this direction, moving towards rejecting too much consumerism. Believing now it is better to focus on what matters, relationships and time spent with people not things. If you are thinking about making this change in your life.  Here are some reasons why you should consider it.  I hope they motivate you to consider simplifying your life.

  • The number one reason to own less stuff is because it will be easier to move and also to sell your home. Donate those extra things that you do not love.  Make space in your home for nothingness. Doing this before you are ready to move can make the process of moving, once you start, less hectic.  The process of moving can be less expensive too.  Fewer things mean you may be able to move yourself or at least have a smaller moving truck.
  • Reducing stuff in your home and shifting from buying things can create memories and experiences with your family that can last a lifetime.  That is different than the toy that you buy your child that they soon will loose interest in. Accumulate memories instead of objects. This can also allow for more great times with friends.  Less time spent acquiring things make more time for the people in your life.
  • You will sleep easier.  Having too much stuff can stress us out.  Stress makes it difficult for us to sleep. Try this.  Clean your home and get rid of some things by donating them to a thrift store.  Notice how you feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders.  You could sleep better afterwards too.  Try it!
  • Owning fewer things can mean that you can be more productive. This is particularly important with many of us spending more time working from home.  We all know what it feels like to be trying to accomplish something and we have to move things out of the way, or we start something and have to do something else before we can do what we need to do.  The dishes piled in the sink have to be put away before we can start dinner.  Focus and remove some of the clutter so that you can be more productive.
  • Owning less means that you do not have to get a storage unit. You have seen all of the storage facilities in town.  These storage units can cost over $100 per month.  If you spend a year paying for one of those units, it may end up costing more than the stuff you are storing is worth.
  • You can save money.  This may seem obvious, but you buyer fewer things you have more money.  You also do not have to pay for that storage unit, see above!
  • Less to stress about.  Many people think that having stuff will make them feel proud and also give them a sense of security.  Actually, having stuff is more likely to cause stress than happiness. You have to worry about where to store it, how to keep it in good condition and more. Having less allows you to clear up mental and physical space.
  • When you have less stuff, it is easier to entertain guests. You will no longer have to say, I have to clean the house before we can have people over.  There will be more space for people to hang out.  Now, I know we are not having people over much right now, but you can get ready for the after-pandemic party!
  • Buying less allows you to spend money and get quality.  You have the ability to do quality over quantity. When we buy cheap things, unfortunately  they can end up in the trash.  Those cheap items were not made to last.  Instead of buying many of something you can save up and buy one really nice item.
  • Owning less is good for the environment. Every time you buy something you have the packaging that comes with it.  That packaging ends up in the landfill. Buying less is good for the planet, at least in a small way.

I hope these 10 reasons have helped motivate you to make a shift in your buying habits.  There are many benefits.  As a real estate agent, my favorite reason is that it will be easier to sell your home and easier for you to move.  Call me when it comes time for that move!

When is it Time to Just Move On?

When is it time to say, “I am moving?”  You have had it with the neighbor and their dogs that continue to bark night and day.  You have called animal control. You have talked to them.  You have tried everything and the problem continues. Or you have the neighbor that is just disrespectful, playing the music too loud etc.   Your situation might be that you planned to live in the house until you died and now that is not seeming like such a great idea.  You have fallen on the stairs one too many times.  It is getting hard to carry on.  When is it time to go? 

IF you are asking yourself these questions it might be the time. What should you be considering?  I know what keeps you in the home.  It is the memories, the whole idea of moving that seems so overwhelming, the idea that it cannot be quite as bad as you think it is.  You feel like you should be able to handle things just a bit longer. 

The first step is to call Lestel!  What is she going to do for me?  Lestel can walk you through what needs to be done to get your house on the market and who can do that work if you are not able.  She can also do a market analysis for you to help you know where you stand and what you would be able to net when you sell your home.  She can also take you out and show you what is available that might work for you and could be your next home.  If you are in a home that just does not work any more due to the size, floor plan or age.  She can show you what the next house that is the right size, age and floor plan might look like.  This is all done before you agree to sell your home and certainly before your home ever hits the market.  This is the background work that Lestel does to make sure that the move is the best thing for you to do!

If after this, you decide that you are ready to move.  Lestel can connect you with resources to simplify the move.  She knows that moving is a big deal but having the right help can make a huge difference.  Life is too short not to be happy.  Call Lestel and explore if now is the time for you to be moving!

Aging in Place

One of the current catch phrases is, “aging in place.”  But what does that mean and can you do it?  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines aging in place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently and comfortably…” Of the 28.5 million households with an older adult, approximately 28% reported difficulty using some aspect of the house.  This is according to a US Census Bureau report. The need for older citizens to be able to live, safely without concern of fall-related injuries, in a home that provides functional design is what aging in place is about.  So can you age in your current home?

What is the floor plan of your home?  Do you have a bedroom and bathroom on the main floor? If you develop mobility issues this could be an issue.  How wide are your hallways?  Many homes that are still in use today were built before the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed. What do you do if you do not have these features?  You can look into adding on to the main floor of your home.  Check with zoning to make sure this is possible.  When building be sure to include features like walk-in showers with grab bars, nonskid floors and easy to operate door handles.

Another issue for those wanting to age in place is taking care of a home. How will you maintain the home and take care of lawn upkeep, painting and on-going repairs? These things in addition to being a challenge to manage, can cut into your retirement budget.

Another consideration for aging in place is what happens if you need skilled care.  With the pandemic staying in your home is even more attractive.  Home is where you feel safe. Skilled home health care can be difficult to find and expensive. The national average hourly cost for home care is about $23. per hour.  Do you have family nearby that can assist in any of these needs, from home maintenance to home care?  Would you like to move so that you are closer to family?  This might be an important conversation to have with adult children.  What do they feel suitable housing looks like for you?

Rather than retrofitting your current home now may be the time to find a home that is easy to maintain, with lower expenses and easy mobility. Consider 55 plus communities that can also provide opportunities for social interaction and amenities.  Another option to consider is life care communities that can provide care for you as your needs increase. Starting with just housing and going on to total care as needed.

Aging in place is desirable.  Keep an open mind as you explore the possibilities for the future and what it will look like for you!

Thinking About Remodeling, It Might Be Difficult in an Appliance Shortage

With the Coronavirus Pandemic a lot of people have been stuck at home. With this often comes the realization that their current space doesn’t actually suit their needs. This is something that is easy to overlook if you work all day and come home to cook dinner watch T.V./read a book and sleep, but when you are home every day it becomes a little harder to ignore it if your home doesn’t fit you or your family’s needs. Once you make this realization you essentially have two choices, move to a home that better fits your needs, be it space or amenities, or make your current home work. While there have been a substantial amount of people moving this year, there have also been a large number choosing option #2 and remodeling their homes. This brings us back to the title of this post. Lately we have noticed that folks have been having trouble ordering appliances. A little more digging located an article from CNBC that confirms this to be the case.

Currently, appliances are hard to get ahold of, and the increased demand is only one part of the reason why. This shortage also results from manufacturing shortages due to COVID and the disruption of supply chains. This means that depending on brand and model if you order an appliance today it’s delivery may not be until well after new years. Not all hope is lost. If you need a new fridge today the used market is still out there. Finding something on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist might help you bridge the gap between now and when you can have a new model delivered. However, if you are doing a full remodel and already have your dream makes and models in your cart on Lowes’ or Home Depot’s websites you might be in for a bit of a wait. Make sure of the date of delivery for these appliances before you start any major remodel work, or your kitchen may be out of commission longer than you originally anticipated.

How to Interview an Agent

You have decided it is time to sell your home and you need an agent.  Spending time selecting an agent is one of the most important parts of the process.  Asking great questions will help you be successful.

Consumers think that all Realtors do the same things to sell homes.  This information could not be further from the truth.  You have heard that in business 80% of sales are done by 20% of the people.  In real estate it is a stunning 95% to 5%.  Having been a Realtor for our 23 years I found that to be eye opening. Given these numbers is not hard to see why there is so much dissatisfaction among the public.  It is easy to get stuck with a real estate agent that does not do much business and has a poor work ethic.  Becoming a real estate agent is an easy task.  Take a class and spend the required number of hours in the classroom, take a test and you are an agent.  Then you hang your license with a brokerage.

How do you avoid getting a newbie agent with limited experience that has great enthusiasm, but not a clue? Asking some good questions before you start working with an agent can go a long way in helping select one of the good ones that is out there doing the business and has the experience to help you navigate through the process and end up with a successful outcome.  Understanding how to choose an agent can be critical to your success.  Here are some good questions to ask.

  • How long have you been selling real estate?
    • Experience is helpful, but that does not mean that a newer, not brand new, agent cannot be a rising star.
  • How many homes did you sell last year?  Of the homes that you sold last year how many were assisting sellers and how many were assisting buyers?
  • When assisting a seller what was the average days on the market and list to sale price ratio?  You do not want to hire an agent that will inflate the value of the home just to get you to list with them.
  • Do you have a personal assistant?
  • I have heard that the internet is a critical tool for selling a home.  How will you market my home online?  Your website? Facebook? Twitter? 90% of buyers find their home online so an online presence is very important! Your agent should be marking your home EVERYWHERE!
  • Do you photograph your own listings or hire a professional?  Do you do videos or    virtual tours?
  • Will you show me how to make my home more marketable?  Do you do home staging?
  • How will you communicate with me through the process?
  • Do you have a feedback system?
  • How assessable will you be through the process?
  • As production goes, if I called your broker would he/she tell me that you were a top producing agent or a middle of the road agent?
  • Will you allow me to terminate the listing contract if I am not completely satisfied?

There are great agents out there.  Make sure that you do your due diligence and find them. These are great questions that should help you weed out and find a good one! A good agent can give you the best chance of a great real estate experience.

How to Move Safely During a Pandemic

Moving is considered one of life’s major stressors.  That is if you are moving, without a pandemic. Add a pandemic and you can feel even more stress.  So how does one move during COVID safely.  How to move safely certainly depends on if you are moving yourself or using movers.  If you are moving yourself, companies like U-Haul offer contactless pickup and drop-off.  Once you pick up the truck make sure that you sanitize door handles, steering wheel and other high touch areas of the truck.  

If you are using a moving company interview them about their safety protocol.  Does their staff where gloves and masks.  Do they wipe down furniture for you at the new location?  Here are some helpful safety tips. 

  • Check to see what the quarantine requirements are in your new location.  This will provide you with much information as to what you can and cannot do.  You may be moving into a place that you have not been able to see in person, only with a virtual tour.
  • Moving day make sure that you have hand sanitizer and soap out and available for use.  Have extra gloves and masks in case people helping did not bring them.
  • Be prepared to limit interaction with the movers and practice social distancing.  Stay out of the way of the movers.  Have them in one room as you prepare things to move in another.
  • If possible, have the boxes all place in one area close to the door so that the movers do not have to walk all through the house.  Have each box labeled so that the movers can place it in the correct room at the new location and you can again minimize interaction. Label the door way of each room so that the movers can match the box to the correct room.
  • Ask movers to take breaks outside of the home and to mask up and sanitize hands after break or put on gloves.

Following the CDC guidelines will provide you with the best opportunity to move safely.  The real estate market is an active one.  Know that you are not alone.  There are a lot of people moving now and it can be done safely.

Local Industry and its Effect on the Real Estate Market

One of the things that makes Fort Collins and Northern Colorado a great place to live is our economic diversity. We aren’t propped up by one major industry, instead we are a melting pot of large industry, small business, and of course Colorado State University. When it comes to real estate it also means that our home values are very stable compared to other parts of the nation. Oil and Gas production is one part of the economic picture in Northern Colorado, yet when oil prices fluctuate we aren’t likely to see a corresponding fluctuation in the real estate market. The same goes for the technology and manufacturing sectors. Even when we have major players like HP Broadcom and Intel in town we also have quite a few small tech companies like Madwire, or even Otterbox. Even during a global pandemic when many are facing layoffs housing prices in Northern Colorado continue to climb. We are clearly still a place where people want to live, and may even be the target area of those looking to move out of the big cities and into smaller communities. The outlook for Fort Collins and Northern Colorado is a bright one. As we continue to grow we also continue to attract top talent and top companies to our community. The installation of high speed fiber optic internet by the City of Fort Collins will surely contribute to  continued growth of professionals relocating to town. This is especially likely as workforces transition to “work from home” employment models for the long term.

Home Décor items that will always be in style

Timelessness can be hard to find when decorating a home.  Home décor trends come and go. You can count on there being a hew “IN” thing next year what everyone is doing in their home.  Changing with the trends can be expensive and exhausting. 

Here are some décor items that will stand the test of time.  Some of these may surprise you. 

  • Hardwood floors.  You can be rest assured if you invest in really high quality hardwood floors they could stay in your home for a long, long, long time.
  • House plants. I know it seems odd to consider a house plan a décor item but they can certainly add warmth to a home and also help your home air quality improve.
  • Art.  Art can be a great long term investment.  Find a local artist that you like and make an investment in a piece that you love.  One that touches you.  That piece can bring you joy for a long time.
  • Throw pillows.  Now this is something that you can go over board with.  So watch how many but have some fun and decorate for the season or mix and match colors and textures. 
  • Real wood furniture. I know it is easy to just run to Target or Ikea and grab something because you need it, whether that need be an end table or a night stand.  But how about getting a piece or real wood furniture that will last and you can enjoy and move with you without it falling apart. 
  • Fireplace.  It is strange to call and fireplace décor but it can add so much ambiance to a room. They are an investment that will give you a great  return and they are enjoyable too.
  • Mirrors.  Yes, they are great to check and see how you look, but they are also timeless décor pieces. They can help a small area look much bigger.
  • Luxurious throw blankets.  We all love to cozy up on the couch under a warm, cozy blanket.  Don’t just run to Walmart and pick one up for $5.00.  Invest a bit more and get one that is really luxurious.  It will stand the test of time. 
  • Detailed pieces of furniture like console tables, night stands and ottomans.  These pieces help a room feel complete and take a rooms décor from bland to wow.
  • Family heirlooms and personal items that bring you joy. 

Decorating your home does not need to be complicated and trending.  Invest in a few good pieces and enjoy!