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New Flood Data Helps You Understand Risks and Better Protect Your Home

When we think about climate change, we often focus on its impacts to the planet at large. But many people don’t stop and think about its potential impact on their own home. Rising sea levels and increasingly powerful storms have the potential to damage homes and uproot lives, so it’s important to understand these risks and be prepared. We’ve partnered with First Street Foundation, a nonprofit research and technology group, to add comprehensive flood risk data to nearly all of the properties on realtor.com. Starting today, each property on realtor.com will list its FEMA flood zone and a Flood Factor between one and 10 that represents its risk of flooding not just today but over a thirty-year mortgage. This first-of-its-kind data integration will be available on for-sale and off-market properties so that homeowners and potential buyers can better understand a property’s flood risk and take necessary steps to make sure their home is properly protected. Users can also drill down for additional details on past, present and future risk, and explore the interactive flood map. Before now, flood risk information was extremely difficult to find and not always accurate. In some cases, potential buyers would have no idea a property was in a flood zone until it was flagged by the mortgage company prior to closing, or in some cases not at all. This is an unhappy surprise and something no one wants to deal with when buying a home. By surfacing this information upfront, consumers can have all the information they need to make informed decisions and feel confident about the home buying process. When it comes to buying a home in a flood zone, buyers should do their research and make sure that they have insurance coverage if needed. A recent survey we conducted with research company Toluna found that a majority of buyers (55 percent) would buy a home even if they knew it was in a flood zone. That said, roughly four in 10 would expect some kind of discount on the home, likely to cover extra costs associated with that risk including flood insurance and prevention technology. First Street Foundation’s flood data is the most comprehensive in the industry because it integrates future environmental conditions, maps precipitation as a stand-alone risk, and includes areas that are not mapped by FEMA. The model was developed by more than 80 of the world’s leading hydrologists, researchers and data scientists and has been reviewed by some of the world’s leading research institutions. It looks at flood hazards, projects future climate scenarios, incorporates local adaptation, and validates against satellite and government records for accuracy. It takes into account the four major contributors to flooding: tidal, rain, riverine and storm surge. By starting with property level data, overlaying building footprints, and applying flood hazard layers, it calculates the max depth of flood water that could potentially reach the home. When combined with the FEMA flood zone, this data can paint a more complete picture of a property’s flood risk. By better understanding the risk, homeowners can protect their home with flood insurance and other precautionary measures. We’re excited to be able to provide realtor.com users with this comprehensive and invaluable information. As always, our mission is to make buying, selling and living in homes easier and more rewarding for everyone. The addition of Flood Factor data to our site will certainly help consumers to better evaluate potential risk and make sure their home is protected now and in the future. Flood data is now available for properties across the contiguous U.S. on web, mobile web, iOS and Android.
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Will Virtual Staging Grow More Popular?

Will Virtual Staging Grow More Popular? Some home stagers see promise in the less expensive, hands-free alternative to physical staging. By:  Melissa Dittmann Tracey Staging, Using Digital Video as a Marketing Tool
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6 Home Trends Buyers Love

6 Home Trends Buyers Love Learn some of the key areas of design to highlight when marketing your listings. Design Trends
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Home Sells in a Mere 12 Hours After Remote Staging

Home Sells in a Mere 12 Hours After Remote Staging Home stager Francesca Mahoney was able to transform a space without ever stepping foot inside. By:  Melissa Dittmann Tracey Working With Sellers, Staging, Using Digital Video as a Marketing Tool
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Remotely Staged and Sold in 2 Days

Remotely Staged and Sold in 2 Days By working with home sellers over video calls, home stager Sarah Greco was able to transform a space and attract buyers. By:  Melissa Dittmann Tracey Staging, Using Digital Video as a Marketing Tool
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Barn Doors Are a Stylish Space Saver

Barn Doors Are a Stylish Space Saver These sliding doors can free up to 14 square feet of usable floor space. By:  Melissa Dittmann Tracey Design Trends
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Make the Front Porch More Welcoming

Make the Front Porch More Welcoming This exterior feature is getting more attention amid the pandemic. Get inspiration for colorful, cozy front stoops. By:  Melissa Dittmann Tracey Design & Architecture
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Designing the Perfect Pop-Up Office

Designing the Perfect Pop-Up Office Stage extra rooms as workspaces so buyers can see the flexibility of your listing. By:  Melissa Dittmann Tracey Working With Sellers, Staging, Design Trends
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Standing Against Racial Injustice

We grieve the killing of George Floyd, alongside the Black community, and the world, as we continue to grieve an already too long list of racial injustice victims. These losses are devastatingly painful. We are at a pivotal moment where it is critical that we better understand and appreciate one another, recognize that in our diversity lies strength, and commit to be allies for one another. We understand that navigating the pain, anger, anxiety and fear that the events of recent days have brought forward is tremendously challenging. We also understand that we don’t have all the answers, and frankly, many of us can’t know what it’s like to be faced with systemic racism every day of our lives. But we are committed to moving forward together, providing our employees the resources they need, and being a force for change. At realtor.com, we stand with the Black community, and for the right of every person to be who they are, to be seen, accepted, and supported, in all their uniqueness and significance. We celebrate the many amazing histories and experiences and perspectives we all bring to our work, to our families and our communities. And we all have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to take action to foster empathy, humanity, and philanthropy, both inside and outside our walls.
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Concrete Slabs: From Drab to Fab

Concrete Slabs: From Drab to Fab As flooring in the backyard, concrete can still create an inviting outdoor oasis. By:  Melissa Dittmann Tracey
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Is Now a Good Time to Buy?

With social distancing being an important part of life at the moment and so many parts of the economy suffering the effects of state lockdowns, some are worried about how all of this will affect the housing market. This is especially a concern for those who were hoping to buy a new home and have seen their plans potentially derailed by the pandemic. Is this a good time to consider buying a new home, assuming that it’s even safe to do so? Depending on where you live, the answer may be surprising. It’s a Buyer’s Market in Some Markets (but not everywhere) With the current state of the world, the demand for real estate has dropped significantly in some parts of the US and Canada. This has left many of those who have already listed homes for sale or who were planning to list over the summer in a position where there are far fewer people looking at their properties. For some sellers, this isn’t much of an issue; they can simply wait it out and stick to their previous plans. A lot of sellers don’t have that luxury, though. This creates a buyer’s market where a lot of sellers are willing to consider offers that they wouldn’t have in the past, giving potential buyers a lot more control in the home-buying process.   As the name suggests, it’s always good to buy in a buyer’s market. It isn’t necessarily a great time to list a home for sale, of course, since you’d likely have to settle for a lower offer than you were expecting if you want to move the property. This usually helps to balance out the market, with listing rates slowing down to meet demand until things pick back up again. With all of that said, not every market is experiencing this pandemic the same way.  In fact, many markets remain a seller’s market due to low inventory, mortgage rates, or any number of other local demand characteristics.   Demand Is Staying Low in Most Markets Most of the time, a buyer’s market is caused by shifts in the economy that have people trying to save money; an example of this would be a recession. These economic shifts temporarily reduce the number of people who are willing to take on large debts, creating a glut of sellers trying to entice a smaller pool of buyers. The buyer’s market typically fizzles out once the number of sellers shrinks or the economy stabilizes.   In the current buyer’s market, the economy certainly plays a factor. There is an external factor at play here as well, however: The physical distancing that COVID-19 requires has added additional worry about open houses and other forms of interpersonal contact that are traditional when buying or selling a house. There’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, including how long it will last, so with this external factor and the currently stunted economy we could see demand stay low for longer than you would expect in a buyer’s market situation.   Market Recovery This isn’t to say that the market won’t recover, of course. Some states have already started reopening non-essential businesses and other parts of the economy, and other states have plans to start reopening soon. The economy will likely stay sluggish for a while, but reopening is the first part of recovery. Even the pandemic is becoming something less of a factor as people continue to practice social caution and science continues to work toward treatment and vaccine options. While market recovery may take longer than in the past, a recovery will happen, and the good deals that buyers can find now will become less common as things move forward.   Buying Safe If you do decide to shop for a home in the current market, make sure that you’re smart about it and stay safe. Maintain all physical distancing practices while looking at homes, even if there is only a seller or agent present. Ask whether no-contact options such as virtual tours or virtual closing with digital signage are options, and if touring the property request that any doors or other barriers be opened before you arrive to reduce contact. Wear a mask, bring hand sanitizer and take the same precautions that you would in any other social situation. This may seem excessive for viewing a home, but keep in mind that these practices not only protect you, but also protect the seller and agent as well.
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New Real Estate Rules Under Social Distancing

Buying or selling a home can be stressful even under ordinary circumstances. Unfortunately, the current state of the world is far from ordinary. The housing market is feeling the crunch, as fewer buyers want to get out and shop for a home, and fewer sellers want to take a risk with selling. This isn’t to say that nobody’s buying and selling, of course; the market is just going through some changes. One of the biggest changes revolves around how buyers and sellers are handling social isolation and social distancing. If you’re thinking of selling, or are in the market to buy, here are a few new “rules” to keep in mind when entering the real estate fray in the era of self-isolation. Increasing Online Presence One of the big changes to the real estate process is an increased dependence on online resources instead of in-person shopping. This includes lots of pictures and videos of properties being posted online, but many sellers are taking things even further than this. Recorded virtual tours, online conferences to allow buyers to ask questions about the property, and even livestream walkthroughs with a seller or agent showing the property are all increasingly popular options to supplement or even replace in-person showings and conferences.   Fewer Open Houses Open houses are a popular way to show off a property to many potential buyers, but in the current crisis these events are a big no-no. In many locales, open houses aren’t even allowed under state and federal guidance. In states where they haven’t been specifically banned, many sellers are still hesitant to hold an event that would bring multiple people into close contact with each other. Online “virtual open house” conferences are popping up as one option to adapt to this, letting multiple potential buyers come together on Zoom or a similar video conference service at the same time to get a better feel for the property that’s being sold.   More One-on-One Time As convenient as online access and virtual tours are during the current isolation period, few if any buyers would sign on the dotted line without getting a chance to see a property in person. To accommodate this, many sellers and agents are meeting with potential buyers by appointment only. This lets a potential buyer get a good look at the property in question while also restricting the size of the meeting as much as possible. Many of these appointments are made with the understanding that if any participant feels the least bit under the weather on the day of the meet-up, then it will need to be rescheduled for another time.   Respecting Social Distancing Even when buyers and sellers do meet up, the process is usually a little different than it used to be. Social distancing rules are usually respected, meaning that everyone involved should stay at least six feet apart at all times to prevent potential infection. Discussions about the property and general Q&As are more likely to occur outdoors in the open air, and any greetings or introductions skip out on traditional handshakes. Masks, gloves, shoe covers and hand sanitizer are commonly available on site, and many sellers go through and open all of the doors and windows to both maximize airflow and to allow interested buyers access to the entire house without having to touch doorknobs or other surfaces in order to see inside.   Closing Remotely Remote closing negotiations are becoming much more common, taking advantage of video conferencing to bring everyone together without actually having to be in the same room. There may be some instances where people have to meet up to actually sign paperwork, but digital signing is more common because it removes that point of contact. Even when people do come together for closing and signing, it’s much more likely that everyone will utilize social distancing and that both parties will use their own pens instead of sharing.
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Threading the Needle to Flatten the Curve

A lot was happening in mid-March as a result of the growing COVID-19 threat. Our office in Silicon Valley had closed at the start of the month, followed by all of our other offices a week later. Sports leagues were suspending seasons, businesses and schools were shutting down, kids were home indefinitely, and nothing else was certain as we learned what sheltering-in-place truly meant. Everyone was calling it “the new normal.” It is a new approach to life and to community and to work and to family and to socializing — one that nobody was quite prepared for, but one that most people have taken to with commitment and positivity. That is, when we aren’t ugly crying between conference calls or yelling at our apparitional roommate because a dirty dish was left in the bedroom, or because we stress-ate a jumbo bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. (Tip of the hat, Meena Harris.) And with the growing, and emotional, challenges facing our country, I began wondering how we at realtor.com — a leading home search tool, and connection engine between consumers and Realtors — could serve the communities where we live and work. How could we reflect on, and help frame, the new ways that home is perceived and experienced during these unprecedented times?  We were all dealing differently as individuals with how our relationship and connection to home had changed quickly in the wake of this pandemic. I wasn’t sure what could work, if anything would feel right when so many people were hurting, anxious, unwell. But I knew we had to try; we had to think about how we could support all of these emotions and feelings that were shared alongside our family, friends, colleagues and even people we did not know. A team — including members of our creative services organization and our advertising agency —  came up with a range of ideas: some truly remarkable, at a very large scale that would be difficult to pull off with any expediency. But one in particular stood out to us collectively and became an easy choice to pursue: create a “mini-festo” to define what this ‘new normal’ meant to all of us, as home became more than a gathering spot or a place to lay your head.  It was important to us in producing any type of creative work that we also drew attention to, and acknowledged, those groups on the front line who were funding and supporting those most in need. We all know that countless charitable organizations have served the mounting needs of others during this time, and they needed assistance, too. We discovered Feeding America, whose mission is to feed the hungry through a network of 200 local food banks across the country, and we approached our executive leadership team to approve a $100,000 company donation to the charity. With widespread support, our employees were also encouraged to participate in the collective effort and were able to double the amount and impact of any donation they made by way of our one-to-one matching program. And so it was after riffing on the words to define home during this national and global moment of solidarity, and galvanizing around aid for Feeding America, that we took to newspapers to share our “mini-festo” of what home means to us and what has motivated us to stay home. The message was displayed in a full page ad in the leading newspapers of all the metro markets where we have offices, where our employees live and are now also working remotely. And since, we’ve taken our “mini-festo” digital into video format as well.  It was feedback from our employees, along with partners at Feeding America that validated our efforts and reminded me of the impact we were helping to drive. As Rowena Paz Norman, Director of New Partnerships at Feeding America, stated, “This pandemic is creating a food assistance emergency unlike anything we’ve ever seen. In the face of this great challenge, there is a bright spot, created by companies like yours.” It wasn’t easy to get to this point, and I regularly questioned whether our intent would come through. But doing so through such a collaborative effort, to support something so important, made all of this worthwhile. It was humbling and it was thrilling, even with circumspection driving our mission. I have never been prouder to work at realtor.com, as we support Feeding America and as we join a national conversation about what home means, during times of crisis as much as during times of joy. We’ve always been a group of professionals who very much believe in home as the place where we can be our realest selves, and no other experience has reminded us more of the role home plays in all of our lives.  A version of this post originally appeared on Medium where Andrew Strickman shared the full creative strategy the team took for this meaningful effort. Join us in supporting Feeding America and let us know in the comments below, why do you #StayHome?
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Why Copper May Become Your Favorite Metal

Why Copper May Become Your Favorite Metal Copper and its alloy cousins, bronze and brass, are germ-repellant, which means you may want to find more places in the home to add the metals. By:  Melissa Dittmann Tracey
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Lost Spring Home-Buying Season: Can you still sell your home this year?

The stay at home orders and social distancing guidelines took effect just as the spring home-buying (and selling) season was getting underway. If you are a homeowner who was considering selling your home this year, you are probably wondering what now? The good news is if you have to sell — people are still buying homes. Real estate professionals and other real estate industry providers, including realtor.com, are quickly adapting to the new normal by making it easier for people to search for a home safely. Here at realtor.com, we’ve added several product enhancements including more virtual and 3D tours and the ability to video chat with an agent. We recently introduced Livestream Open Houses, which enables home shoppers to attend a live, hosted online open house from the comfort of their own home. Although most people still prefer to see a home in person before making a purchase, a recent realtor.com survey found that 24 percent of people would be willing to buy a home sight unseen with the aid of accurate listing data, detailed photos and virtual and live video tours. So while that is all good news for people who have to sell, what if you are one of the many homeowners who thought 2020 would be the year to downsize or take advantage of the low interest rates to move into a bigger home? Does it still make sense to list your home in 2020 or should you wait? June could be the new April Mid-April is typically the best time to list your home for sale — homes listed during this time are likely to get the most views and sell fast. Although we know that’s not likely the case this year, the coronavirus’ overall impact on the U.S. housing market remains to be seen.  The housing market was extremely active prior to the pandemic, and in most markets the number of active home shoppers outnumbered the number of homes for sale. Homes were quickly selling and the median home price was increasing in most markets throughout the country. Many housing economists believe that although the housing market has stalled, we will not see a repeat of the 2008 recession.  The big question is will buyers — who have been sidelined by the stay at home orders and uneconomic uncertainty brought on by the pandemic — come back quickly or remain sidelined? The realtor.com economics team looked at historical listing data to provide insight into what sellers might expect this year. The home-buying season typically follows the school year — many buyers are looking to move into their new home before the start of the new school year. If that remains a key factor this year, there is a chance that June will become the new April — with buyers returning to the market on a condensed timeline and more motivated than before. In this scenario, as a seller, while your window for finding a buyer may be shorter this year, there is a potential you could see more interest and a quicker sale this July and August when home prices typically are at their highest than you might see this spring.  If social distancing measures remain in place later into the year past summer, people who were forced to put their home buying journey on hold may be willing to extend their search into the fall and winter off-season. Additionally, unmet demand from spring and summer could build up over the year and we may see some mini-restart later in the year when the market traditionally cools down.  In both of these scenarios, if you plan to list your home for sale this year, timing will be more critical than ever before. You should prepare now to list so that when the time comes you can do so quickly and capture buyers before they drop out for the season. With that in mind, here’s a few things you can do now: Stay on top of the last real estate news With the situation changing daily, we are all watching and waiting to see how the country emerges from the pandemic. To help you stay on top of what it means from a real estate standpoint, we’ve created a COVID-19 real estate resource center. The resource center, which is updated daily, provides news and advice on how to navigate the market as well as insights from our economics team to help you make informed decisions. With timing being so important, you’ll also want to visit the realtor.com research blog. Here, you’re able to see real estate market trends in your local area. By comparing median listing price and days on market year-over-year, you’ll be able to get a feel for how your market is performing. Make sure the price is right A big part of your decision to sell will be based on answering the question, how much is my home worth? By claiming your home on realtor.com®’s My Home portal, you can get a good ballpark idea of what your home is likely to garner and how it compares to other for-sale homes in your area. Unlike other real estate websites, realtor.com displays three estimated property values as a way to provide more insight into the value of your home. At the end of the day, a local real estate professional will be the best judge of the value of your home. Do what you can to get your home ready for sale now With timing being so important this year, take advantage of the time you are spending at home to ensure that when you are ready to list, your home is ready, too. Here’s a checklist of things to do now and No. 1 on the list brings us to our next tip.  Talk to a real estate professional Although there are many online resources, there is no substitute for the knowledge and experience of a local real estate professional. They know your market and can be the best source of information when it comes to deciding whether to list your home, determining the listing price and advising you on how to get your home ready for sale. Although many of them are practicing social distancing, they are still working and leveraging technology to virtually tour homes, etc. Start looking for your next home Again, the 2020 housing market is different than anything we’ve experienced in the past. If buyers come back into the market looking to move before the start of the school year, you may need to accelerate your plans. In addition to being able to search for homes, see virtual tours, attend live open houses and chat with an agent from the comfort of your home, you can rely on realtor.com to familiarize yourself with neighborhoods, including schools, lifestyle amenities, commute time and noise levels.
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