What has Been the Impact of COVID-19 on the Real Estate Market?

Welcome to 2020 with COVID-19, social distancing, self-imposed lockdown, and Zoom meetings. Rioting and protesting aside, I have to say that America has dealt with the lifestyle and work environment change quite well. But as life starts a trek back to a new state of normality, it will do us good to take a look at the real estate market and measure the impact of the Corona virus and how it will affect the market in the future.

COVID-19 Impact on the Mortgage Market

One of the positive results of this global pandemic is the affect it has had on the U.S. mortgage market. On March 15, the Federal Reserve lowered the prime rate to zero in response to the corona virus outbreak. This dropped 30-year mortgage rates to the floor – and we are happy to say that it stayed there. As of June 18, 2020, Freddie Mac reported in their Primary Mortgage Market Survey that 30-year fixed rate mortgages are averaging 3.13%. There are some lenders quoting rates as low as 2.75% for top-tier borrowers. This is the lowest rate in 30 years.

These low rates combined with easing of lockdown restrictions are going to drive a dramatic increase in purchase demand. In fact, activity is up over 20% from a year ago. “I think rate levels will be directly tied to the ability of the economy to recover. If it goes better than expected, rates would rise, and vice versa if things remain sluggish. Either way, the Fed is committed to keeping shorter-term rates lower for longer, and that will help to anchor longer-term rates like mortgages to some extent,” said Matthew Graham, chief operating officer at Mortgage News Daily.

What does this mean for borrowers?

Anyone who is in the position to purchase real estate should act now before the next corona virus wave hits. While mortgage rates may inch down a bit more, it will not be a significant shift, so there is no need to wait for rates to drop. On the other hand, if the economy recovers quicker than expected, we could see Feds bring the rates up a bit to slow demand.

COVID-19 Impact on Buyers and Sellers

These low loan rates are pushing buyers to risk virus exposure in search of better housing. This is good news for sellers who have suffered from a stagnate market during the first quarter of 2020. Compared with May of 2019, existing home sales were down 26.6%. This was the lowest level since July, 2010 and is part of a three-month decline in sales. Much of this drop can be attributed to peaks in the pandemic during March and April. The chief economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), Lawrence Yun, predicts that “Home sales will surely rise in the upcoming months with the economy reopening, and could even surpass one-year-ago figures in the second half of the year.”

During the height of the pandemic, new home construction ground to a halt. It is hoped that this will start to soon ramp up again to meet the rising housing demand. Without additional new homes coming into the market, home prices will rise too fast and quickly exceed affordability for first-time home buyers – even with the record-low mortgage rates.

Interestingly, the first wave of the pandemic has not lasted long enough to drive down sales prices and create a buyer’s market. The spring is a relatively slow period during a standard annual real estate season. The NAR reports that median sales prices in May increased 2.3% over last year establishing a median price of $284,600.

What does this mean for buyers?

Low mortgage rates mean you can get significantly more home for a much smaller payment. Now may be a good time to go shopping for a new home – especially before the predicted fall/winter second COVID-19 wave begins.

What does this mean for sellers?

We are not expecting price reductions at this time and experts are predicting an above-active summer of activity. Listings that feature virtual tours will have greater appeal to buyers who are nervous about virus exposure. Due to the increasing demand to work from home, home offices will have increased appeal. Families will appreciate private backyards and play areas rather than close proximity to public parks.

COVID-19 Impact on Investors

There has been less of an impact on the commercial real estate sector due to COVID-19. Cushman and Wakefield summed it up well when they said that “it’s premature to draw strong inferences about the virus’s impact on property markets. The commercial real estate sector is not the stock market. It’s slower moving and the leasing fundamentals don’t swing wildly from day to day.” While we are not seeing an impact on prices, rental rates, or investor returns at this point, there are areas that an investor may want to keep on the lookout.

JLL Capital Markets has recently released their COVID-19 Global Real Estate Implications report. As can be imagined, they stated that there will continue to be a high demand for medical office space, regional manufacturing facilities and associated logistics, along with storage space for companies with lean supply chains and low inventory cover. Office space offering a more flexible layout or private offices will have increased demand. If more businesses endorse a more permanent work-at-house outsourcing solution, there could be a period of office downsizing.

In a recent addition to the Immigration Policy, the new order will restrict J-1 (short-term exchange visas), L1 and H1 Visas. A reduction in international students, the ban on skilled workers and issuance of green-cards will pose short-term risk to the demand of housing created by these people.

What does this mean for investors?

With depressingly low government bond yields, real estate continues to offer good risk-adjusted returns in spite of any COVID-19 risk. JLL advises that based on the low interest rate environment; there is a good case for additional portfolio diversification.

Medical experts are saying that COVID-19 is going to be around for longer than we would like. Dealing with it is going to create a new normal, but the real estate market will survive. In spite of the health ramifications, experts in the real estate industry predict a strong recovery and stable prices.

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Estate Appraisals in Massachusetts: Everything You Need to Know

When a family member passes away, his or her relatives can be overwhelmed quickly. Not only are they grieving, but they must also take care of the legal obligations and paperwork necessary to settle the deceased’s estate. And because real estate properties are usually the most significant financial asset of the deceased, establishing their fair market value is a priority.

Whether the plan is to sell the property, pass it on to the designated heir(s), or estimate how much obligatory taxes will be paid on the estate, it is important to know the exact worth of the property at the time of the owner’s death. If the estate is going through probate, an accurate inventory of the decedent’s possessions—including any real estate properties—is required.

In any case, the most reliable way to find out the fair market value of a home is to order an estate appraisal, also known as a time-of-death appraisal or probate appraisal. Here is everything to keep in mind regarding this critical element of any estate settlement procedure.

What Is an Estate Appraisal?

After a death, it is often necessary to establish an exhaustive list of the deceased’s possessions, including what is often the most valuable asset: real property. Even if the deceased had a will, a time-of-death appraisal may still be required to settle his or her estate. This unique appraisal type is employed to distribute the estate equitably among the heirs, to plan the estate’s future, and to calculate the estate tax incurred.

If probate is necessary—as is the case when the owner passes away intestate (without a will) or when issues arise regarding the existing will—the court usually demands a detailed inventory of the estate, including the cash value of the decedent’s home as of the date of his or her death.

As such, the executor of the estate or the legal representatives should be prepared to order an estate appraisal promptly. To do so, they need the assistance of a professional real estate appraiser. Licensed real estate appraisers are neutral third parties with no interest in the future sale of the property. They produce objective reports that are defensible in court and will resolve disputes over value that may emerge later.

Understanding the Estate Appraisal Process: A Practical Way to Ease Probate Burdens

In most cases, an estate appraisal assesses the property’s value as of the deceased’s date of death (DoD). The effective date of the appraisal is not the day the appraiser inspected the property (which is usually the case in other forms of appraisal), but prior. This type of appraisal is known as a retroactive appraisal or historical appraisal and is ordered months, or even years, after the property owner passed away. To determine property value, the appraiser needs access to information regarding the property such as retrospective photographs, a detailed list of the improvements made since the decedent passed away, and other supporting documents.

Additionally, the cost of an estate appraisal depends on many factors, including the size and location of the property. Occasionally, any of the following conditions may elevate estate appraisal prices: the retroactive appraisal requires extensive research by the appraiser, the information is not easily accessible, or the effective date is in the distant past.

The appraiser will inspect the property without taking into account the improvements that may have been made after the decedent’s death, and he or she will compare it to properties in a similar condition that sold proximate to the date of death. Although it is not always immediately required (if the property is held in a living trust, for instance), a date-of-death appraisal will likely be needed at some point.

Estate Appraisals and Taxes: The IRS Are Also Involved in Inheritance

When an estate has a transfer of ownership due to death or inheritance, the Internal Revenue Service will demand the homeowner’s relatives provide an appraisal showing the property’s market value. The property is usually appraised as of the deceased owner’s date of the death; however, the IRS may permit an alternate valuation date (AVD), which is up to six months after the date of death of the owner. A time-of-death appraisal is pertinent if the market has declined and the estate has decreased in value over time. Two appraisals are required in this case: one based on DoD and another with an AVD.

If the property is placed in a trust, the IRS will insist on an appraisal after the death of the final grantor, to determine the value of the estate and establish the basis of the property held in trust. The IRS uses the information obtained to confirm whether or not (a) the estate value exceeds the currently enacted exemption amount ($11.4 million for 2019) and (b) the estate is subject to estate tax, commonly known as the ‘death tax.’ The federal tax code allows estates to exclude a portion of value in a tax year—up to a certain threshold—from being subject to estate tax. Estates may also be subject to state taxes, depending on the state of residence of the decedent; these state estate taxes often have a threshold level lower than federal.

Knowledge Is Power: A Summation of the Estate Valuation Process

Overall, estate appraisals are often necessary, mainly because they are essential to facilitating estate settlement and help solve many issues preemptively. When family members are actively mourning, the last thing they need is an insensitive approach to property valuation, which will only further compound their sorrow. To avoid the emotional consequences of drawn-out property valuations, the first step is to create a comprehensive record of the deceased’s assets. Secondly, the heirs, executor, or attorney should order an appraisal. Before doing that, however, they should seek professional help to determine what kind of appraisal they need (typically a retroactive appraisal or historical appraisal). Lastly, it is worth noting that the IRS will get involved at some point; hence, the grieving heirs should prepare for this eventuality. The best way to proceed is for inheritors and their representation to brace for potential litigation and the IRS’s participation by equipping themselves with relevant and timely information on value and the estate settlement process.

If you’ve ordered an estate appraisal before, what are your recommendations for someone currently facing this situation?

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Real estate appraisals can be used to serve a wide range of purposes: selling, buying, refinancing, or settling an estate. However, the most common goal of an appraisal is to establish the market value of a property. Although the concept of market value (sometimes also called Fair Market Value) is frequently mentioned in the real estate business, it is not always understood. It is type of value opinion among others definitions of value. It is essential to define what market value represents to understand its relevance to an appraisal.

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Given the growth of the real estate market and gradual stabilization of values as we approach the top of the market, it’s more important than ever to evaluate the equity position in our portfolios and make educated and informed decisions to keep holding or pursue an exit strategy. Appraisal plays a critical role in the investment process and can lend considerable insight to your approach.

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Since 2015, legislative officials of Boston have been developing legislation concerning residential evictions in the city. Even though that legislation has failed to advance in the Massachusetts legislature, its proponents continue to work on a revised version for 2019. Residential real estate values are likely to be affected whether or not the bill is ultimately enacted into law.

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Appraisers frequently have their work reviewed, especially when an appraisal’s intended use is for financing. Reviewing appraisals is routinely part of the job description for appraisers employed by lending institutions. But the scope of work for review assignments varies significantly, and sometimes reviews are performed by non-appraisers. Both appraisers and their clients need to clearly understand when a review assignment is, in fact, an appraisal and whether an appraiser can conduct an accurate appraisal review.

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Agents, investors, property owners and anyone riding on the results of an appraisal want the value to come out the way they expect, and the way they think it should, but is that how high-risk financing decisions should be made? Who is most qualified to evaluate a subject property and select the best comps based on the broadest scope of possible variables, while narrowing in on the comps that match most specifically for the factors that have the great impact on value considering the market?

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The difference between construction cost and value is a central question in any appraisal assignment. Appraisers use several processes to estimate value. One of these is the cost approach, which takes into consideration the actual cost of building a structure similar or identical to the one under study. But other approaches to value often do not produce the same value estimate as simple as combining building cost and land value. Construction cost is an element of value, but it is not the same as value. An appraiser recognizes the difference and accounts for it in his value estimate. This difference is likely attributable to several causes that are identified and measured in market value appraisals.

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Appraisers have nearly unlimited possibilities in how they report the results of appraisal assignments. These choices could be oral appraisal reports, written appraisal reports, limited written appraisal reports, or many standardized report forms. The appropriate appraisal report format is determined by the appraiser and the client, considering the appraisal’s intended use and specific requirements of the client and regulatory agencies. Available appraisal formats evolve as professional appraisal standards and regulatory requirements change. Awareness of current reporting options is required of any professional real estate appraiser.

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Most improved real properties and many vacant tracts can only be sold subject to existing easements. Appraisers identify existing easements and consider their effect on value whenever a market value definition is part of an assignment. Easements and rights-of-way often influence how real property can be used and may even affect a property’s ownership cost.

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