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It has been over a year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in our country. The majority of Americans have adjusted to wearing masks and keeping a safe distance from one another.These precautionary measures have affected the real estate industry in a variety of ways, such as the home showing capabilities and homebuyer preferences. For instance, before 2021, open-concept floor plans were very popular; however, the pandemic has changed a lot of peoples' minds about their next home’s layout. More people are looking for homes that have dedicated quiet/work spaces because many people are working remotely as a result of the pandemic. 

Another major home buying trend that many real estate professionals are noticing is that buyers are looking for more outdoor living space, as well as functionality around their property. Since many Americans have been cooped up inside their homes more so than ever, the desire for more larger front and back yards has increased. Not only are people in search of larger outdoor living space, but they are also looking for more functional places as well. In other words, the desire for constructions such as outdoor kitchens, seating areas, screen-in porches has been an interest of buyers probably more so than ever before. People who are designing a home build are looking to include outdoor living spaces that include outdoor kitchen stations for cooking prep as well as storage areas. 

While it is unclear when the COVID-19 pandemic will come to end, it is clear that home buyer wish lists have been changed fairly dramatically. As we continue to monitor new real estate-related trends emerging in our country, we must take note how the pandemic continues to shape the real estate industry moving forward.

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From staging to taking pictures, pricing, and research, there are many steps involved with selling a home. This process can be especially challenging if you are a first-time home seller and are brand new to the process. With this, consider the following tips for first-time home sellers. 

Be flexible with times for home showings.

Many home sellers struggle with home showings because they can often be inconvenient. Sometimes, you are required to leave your home with minimal notice. As a seller, it is best to leave when buyers and their agents are touring the home. By staying, you could create a potentially awkward situation for the buyers and make them feel uncomfortable as they are walking through your home. If you are hosting several home showings or open houses, you may want to consider staying somewhere for a weekend.

Plan ahead for movers.

Moving out of a home usually requires a team of movers. If you do not have family or friends who can assist you, you need to schedule a moving team in advance. Moving companies can get booked up very quickly during the spring and summer months, be sure to plan accordingly. You do not want to put yourself on a time crunch when it is time to leave the property.

Professional photography is a must.

Never cut corners when it comes to your home listing photos. If the goal is to sell your home as quickly as possible at the best price, investing in professional photographs is critical. First impressions are everything, and poor quality images can be a total disservice to an otherwise beautiful home listing.

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Real estate markets can vary significantly from one area to the next. In general, the majority of the U.S has been in a seller’s market since the beginning of 2021. The difference between a buyer’s and seller's market is quite simple. A buyer’s market is more favorable to buyers because there is more inventory and lower prices. A seller’s market is more favorable to sellers because it means low inventory, which leads to increased prices. With bidding wars and a constant tug of war between supply and demand, a seller’s market is a difficult climate for buyer’s agents today. However, there are a few steps that agents can take to sell more homes in the existing seller’s market of 2021.

Encourage buyers to be aggressive.

If you are serious about buying a home in a sellers market, it is important to understand what it means to be aggressive. When the market is more favorable to buyers, you may find success by making a low, safe offer. However, in the competitive market today, most buyers must make a strong first offer. Real estate agents almost always have more insight on home prices in the local area. By educating your clients on local market conditions, they are more prepared to make a competitive first offer when they encounter the right home.

Find the right fit for foreclosures.

While foreclosures are often overlooked by many buyers, many foreclosure properties offer great potential for a future home. With lower prices and clear titles, foreclosures present buyers with an opportunity to purchase a property below their budget and customize their home to their liking over time. Although foreclosures may be appealing to some, it is important to note that there are risks associated with buying a foreclosure, so it is essential to come prepared for paperwork and potential issues with the property before making a decision.

Suggest that buyers expand their search.

More often than not, buyers have a particular area in mind when they begin their home search. While it may be challenging to redirect a buyer's focus to a new area, this may be their only option in a competitive sellers market. High prices and low inventory can make it extremely difficult to find the right home. However, real estate agents may want to consider presenting other nearby areas to increase their chances of finding a suitable home. Sometimes, the next town over may be significantly cheaper and have more inventory.

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We are currently in a seller's market in the United States. This is because the housing inventory is at historic lows leading to higher prices across the country. As a buyer, you may be discouraged at the current state of the housing market. However, it is entirely possible to land your dream home in 2021. Consider the following tips for purchasing a home in a seller’s market.

Rely on the expertise of an agent.

It can be extremely difficult to navigate through the process of buying a home without having the assistance of an experienced real estate agent. This is especially true in a seller’s market where housing inventory is low. A reputable agent with years of experience can give you a tremendous advantage because of their knowledge surrounding when homes are being listed. With this, they can quickly schedule home showings for you as soon as they are available. Also, when it comes to negotiating an offer, it is almost always in your best interest to have someone to negotiate for you. 

Seek the lowest mortgage rate as soon as possible.

Did you know that mortgage rates are currently at historic lows? If you are able to obtain one of these extremely low rates it may offset the inflated prices we have been seeing in recent months. However, in order to qualify for one of these low rates, it may take some work on your part. You may need to raise your credit score by settling overdue accounts, paying off debts, and addressing any mistakes on your credit report. 

Get pre-approved prior to your search.

Buyers who are preapproved have a significant advantage over the competition. This is because they are viewed as more serious buyers and less of a risk for sellers. If a seller is faced with multiple offers, they are generally more inclined to accept the offer from a buyer who is preapproved.

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Staging a home can be an overwhelming process. In an effort to appeal to the masses you need to follow a few common practices. If you are preparing to sell your home, read on and discover some of the best staging tips that will help your home sell in 2021.

Modernize outdated cabinets.

If your home was built prior to 2000, there is a good chance that your cabinets are dated. The good news is that you do not necessarily need to invest thousands of dollars to buy new ones or to modernize your existing ones. In many cases, you may be able to get away with some fresh stain or paint. Also, you may want to consider replacing old, and outdated knobs, hinges, pulls, etc., with updated ones. This is a great way to freshen up a kitchen or bathroom.

Eliminate personal touches.

Sellers often struggle with removing personal touches from their home. The goal of staging to appeal to the greatest number of homebuyers so you have no trouble selling your home. While you may think that your decor looks beautiful, it may be too niche for home staging purposes. In terms of staging, less is more.

Use neutral paint colors.

The majority of homebuyers are looking for homes with neutral colors in 2021. While there are obviously some buyers who are enticed by bright or bold colored walls, you want your home to appeal to as many people as possible. When in doubt, stick with warm neutral colors paint colors.

Limit the amount of furnishings.

You never want your home to be over finished because it can cause your home to look crowded or even smaller in size. In terms of furniture, you want to remove any unnecessary pieces and just stick to your best items.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has made 2020 a challenging year in regards to real estate. Agents, buyers, and sellers have all had to be flexible this year to various social distancing guidelines. In a year that has brought much uncertainty, we can still anticipate some remaining trends as we continue through the pandemic and look forward to the upcoming season.

Continued reliance on virtual home tours 

The health and safety of buyers and sellers remains the top priority during the COVID-19 pandemic. The real estate industry as a whole has successfully adapted to various social distancing measures this year. Many real estate agents and buyers have opted for virtual home tours as an alternative to in-person showings. Additionally, many buyers now prefer touring homes virtually out of convenience. Buyers are able to rule out listings from their home search without needing to set foot inside. In what has been an extremely competitive market, buyers have been able to rely on virtual tours to aid them in their home search. Virtual tours may even be here to stay after the pandemic subsides.

Low mortgage interest rates

Many people are still unaware that mortgage interest rates have remained at historic lows for the last several months. One of the greatest benefits of searching for your next home this winter is that the rates should remain fairly low for at least the next few months. According to Freddie Mac, as of November 25, 2020, the US weekly average on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage is 2.72% and a 15-year fixed rate mortgage is at 2.28%. This makes this winter an especially ideal time to buy.

Changing buyer wish lists

Because many buyers can afford more due to lower interest rates, they have been able to alter their wish lists more this year. Not only can many people afford larger homes, but they are also looking for more rooms to accommodate their work-from-home needs.

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