Please be Safe and Healthy!  Below are some recommendations from the CDC during these tumultuous times:

The CDC urges individuals to take these measures to protect themselves and others:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Practice social distancing by staying out of crowded places, avoiding group gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Stay home if you have a fever, cough, shortness of breath or any other cold or flu-like symptom.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or cough or sneeze into your sleeve.

Additionally, to help prevent the continued spread of coronavirus, on March 15, 2020, the CDC recommended that for the next 8 weeks, all in-person events consisting of 50 or more people, such as conferences and assemblies, be cancelled, postponed or modified to virtual events(link is external). On March 16, 2020, President Trump announced new guidelines, advising that individuals avoid groups of more than 10 people for the next 15 days. Avoiding these in-person gatherings is an effective measure that will reduce your risk of contracting or spreading coronavirus.

Posted by Gabriel Leyba on March 30th, 2020 5:50 PM

A contingency can make or break your real estate sale, but what exactly is a contingent offer? "Contingency" may be one of those real estate terms that make you go, "Huh?" But don't sweat it. We've all been there, and we're here to help clear up the confusion.

"A contingency in a deal means there's something the buyer has to do for the process to go forward, whether that's getting approved for a loan or selling a property they own," explains Jimmy Branham of the Keyes Company in Coral Springs, FL.

If the buyer is having trouble getting a mortgage, or the property appraisal is too low, or there's some other problem with getting a mortgage, a contingency clause means that the contract can be broken with no penalty or loss of earnest money to the buyer or seller.

So when "contingency" appears in the listing itself, "it means the sellers have already accepted an offer on the property (at least regarding price), but there are still steps to clear before the contract goes fully pending in the system," says Stephanie Crawford, a Realtor® in Nashville, TN.

These are some common contingencies that could delay a contract:

  • The buyer is waiting to get the home inspection report.
  • The buyer's mortgage pre-approval letter is still pending.
  • The buyer has a contingency based on the appraisal.
  • If it's a real estate short sale, meaning the lender must accept a lesser amount than the mortgage on the home, a contingency could mean that the buyer and seller are waiting for approval of the price and sale terms from the investor or lender.
  • The seller and buyer are waiting for the official paperwork for short-sale terms that have been verbally or informally approved.
  • The would-be buyer is waiting for a spouse or co-buyer who is not in the area to sign off on the home sale.

Not all contingent offers are marked as a contingency in the real estate listing. For example, purchases made with a mortgage generally have a financing contingency.

Obviously, the buyer cannot purchase the property without a mortgage. However, real estate is generally shown as "pending" in the real estate listing, rather than as having a contingency, if the buyer's only contingency clause is a financing contingency, an inspection contingency, or other standard contingency.

Should you make an offer on a contingency listing?

Your ideal new home might be listed as having a contingency, meaning the sellers have accepted an offer from a buyer, subject to one or more contingencies. So is it still worthwhile to pursue the home?

Most experts say you're probably too late to the game. But you should never say never, especially if you've fallen hard for the house. Even deals in contract can sometimes fall through due to a contingency, so all hope may not be lost.

The seller might be willing to continue showing the property during this time, but if it's a house you're excited about, talk to your real estate agent.

It matters what the contingency is for. If the sale has a contingency based on the buyers selling their current home, for example, the sellers may be accepting other offers. If they're just waiting for an appraisal or fulfillment of a termite inspection contingency, you're probably too late.

"In the agent comments on the MLS listings (which the general public cannot see), it will typically say what the contingency clause is for and when it will be over," says Dale Weir, a Realtor in Chesterfield, MO. That should give you a better sense of your chances with the home.

Still, if the pending contract is contingent on a clean home inspection and the buyers back out, you may want to reconsider jumping in yourself. The home inspector might have found something that would make the property undesirable or even make it possible to renegotiate the purchase price.

Sometimes the deal falls apart for reasons that may be quite justified—don't let your obsession with the home cloud your judgment as a buyer.

If you're in the home-buying market and the property you like is listed as contingent, you can also place an alert on the listing. That way, you can receive a notice the moment the real estate transaction falls through and is back on the market.

Can you make an offer on a contingent listing?

There are no rules against buyers making an offer on a contingent listing. If you're up for a waiting game, go for it. But the sellers might not consider the offer, depending on what the sellers (and their real estate agent) have promised the other potential buyer.

To make your offer stronger, consider writing an offer letter to the homeowner, explaining why you are the perfect buyer, or even making your real estate contract one with zero contingencies, or with as few contingencies as you as a home buyer are comfortable with.

Just be aware that it can be a risky move: Make sure that the real estate contract provides an out for you. It wouldn't be good to lose your earnest money deposit if something troublesome turns up on the home inspection, for example, or if you don't qualify for a mortgage.

Bottom line: Talk to your real estate agent to determine if it's wise to make a real estate offer on a contingent listing. Your agent should have a good sense of whether it's worth going all out for this property or if you're wasting your time.

If you decide to let the listing go, make sure you are seeing properties you're excited about as soon as they are listed to avoid this problem in the future. If you're in a hot market, properties can move fast!

Audrey Ference has written for The Billfold, The Hairpin, The Toast, Slate, Salon, and others. She lives in Austin, TX. Follow @audreyference
Posted by Gabriel Leyba on March 16th, 2020 3:46 PM

Millennial Pink? Anything but that! Word art? We're so over it. Please, whatever you do—no more shiplap! So what are the top home trends and features of 2020? What are going to be the most popular types of homes? And what does new construction look like these days?

If you're looking for answers, the best folks to ask are those who are actually building homes. They have their fingers on the pulse of what people want—not just today, but tomorrow, and even next year. (After all, it takes a while to build!)

For starters, despite a lot of hullaballoo about luxury condos and urban living, the most popular type of home remains the single-family residence, according to survey research on about 3,000 homebuilders conducted by the National Association of Home Builders. Those were followed by townhomes, condos and co-ops, and manufactured homes.

That's because the majority of buyers are heading to the suburbs, where there's more space for a stand-alone house and a yard. The next most popular type of destination was rural areas and then cities.

"It's part of the American dream: the single-family detached home," says Rose Quint, assistant vice president of survey research at NAHB. "That's despite having less expensive options."

New homes today are getting smaller

So what do we know about new homes today?

Well, they're getting smaller. New single-family homes totaled an average 2,520 square feet in 2019. That's the smallest they've been since 2011—and about 170 square feet less than their peak in 2015.

"Builders respond to demand out there in the market, and the demand right now is mostly from entry-level buyers and first-time buyers," says Quint. "They're responding to the affordability crisis by shifting their product to smaller, more affordable homes."

Last year, about 44% of new homes have at least four bedrooms, down from 47% in 2015. A third had at least three full bathrooms, down from a high of 37% in 2015. And just 18% had a three-car garage, down from 23% in 2015. Small is the thing.

However, home buyers were more likely to choose smaller, higher-quality homes with the top home features than larger homes with fewer must-have features if given the choice between both options around the same price, according to NAHB.

"They value high-quality [homes] and amenities over size," says Quint.

First-time buyers were more likely to choose an existing home (i.e., one that's previously been lived in). Meanwhile, repeat buyers were more likely to opt for new construction. That's because new homes cost about a third more than existing ones.

All of those new finishes and features aren't cheap! Some things never change.

The must-have features in new homes

The most sought-after feature that builders are most likely to include in new homes this year is the walk-in closet.

It was followed by a host of environmentally friendly and cost-saving features that are decidedly less sexy than those giant closets. Energy-efficient windows came in second, with laundry rooms, energy-efficient lighting, and great rooms (a combo of a kitchen, family area, and living room) on its heels.

"Energy efficiency has everything to do with saving money," says Quint.

Builders are also installing central islands in kitchens, programmable thermostats, high ceilings, Energy Star appliances, and two-car garages.

The least popular features were cork flooring on the main floor, geothermal heat pumps, solar water heating and electrical systems, dual toilets in the master bath, and laminated countertops in the kitchen.

The top colors, materials, and rooms

Buyers were choosy when it came to colors and materials—as they should be! They wanted stainless-steel appliances (e.g., refrigerators, stoves, and dishwashers) over black ones. For kitchen countertops, they preferred granite and natural stone over quartz, engineered stone, and laminate.

But they were undecided when it came to kitchen cabinet colors. First-time buyers preferred medium-brown cabinets, while repeat buyers wanted white.

“No color was a big, large majority for people," says Quint. "Where there is consensus is in the color of the kitchen appliances. Stainless steel is where it is for most buyers."

First-time buyers were also partial to having dining rooms and having both a bath tub and shower stall in the master bathroom. Repeat buyers, many of whom are retirees and soon-to-be retirees hoping to downsize into homes where they can age in place, were more concerned with garage storage and exterior lighting.

Both groups wanted laundry rooms, energy-efficient windows, hardwood floors on the main level, and patios.

But there doesn't seem to be one main architectural style that buyers are clamoring for.

"What's the trend in architecture? Everything," says Donald Ruthroff, principal at Dahlin Group Architecture Planning. "We're seeing contemporary that is based on traditional. You're seeing mixes in neighborhoods of that traditional with that contemporary [style] along the same street."

They're also looking for seamless indoor-outdoor living.

"This is hugely important to buyers," says Ruthroff. "This is the marrying of landscape architecture with architecture."

Clare Trapasso is the senior news editor of and an adjunct journalism professor at St. John's University. She previously wrote for a Financial Times publication, the New York Daily News, and the Associated Press. She is also a licensed real estate agent with R New York. Contact her at Follow @claretrap


Posted by Gabriel Leyba on March 6th, 2020 11:52 PM