Affected by Coronavirus? Mortgage Payment Options May Be Available

Here in Florida, we’ve been hit hard. Not directly by the virus, but by the side effects of the fear, panic, and unknowns inherently found in a situation like this.

It’s March. It’s Spring Break. It’s baseball’s Spring Training.

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The roads are normally so congested it takes twice as long as any other time of the year to get anywhere. In February, March, and April, we can normally expect much greater wait times in restaurants, stores, bars, and at special events. This time of year is when our travel-related industries – hotels, restaurants, stores, bars, stadiums, etc – see their business explode. This is the time of year many of these business owners and employees restock their savings accounts to make it through the slow periods.

Yet, the tourists have not come. And that’s going to affect a lot of people and their ability to pay their bills. There is help though.

The information below comes directly from Realtor Magazine.

If you are experiencing a financial hardship due to COVID-19, please call your mortgage servicer to learn about options available to you.

Borrowers who are unable to make their monthly mortgage payments due to COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, have options to postpone payments, according to a new statement released by the Federal Housing Finance Agency. FHFA Director Mark Calabria reminded mortgage servicers this week to offer forbearance options to those who are affected as the virus continues its spread through the U.S.

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“To meet the needs of borrowers who may be impacted by the coronavirus, last week Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reminded mortgage servicers that hardship forbearance is an option for borrowers who are unable to make their monthly mortgage payment,” Calabria said in a statement. “For borrowers that may be experiencing a hardship, I encourage you to reach out to your servicer.”

The Federal Housing Administration also announced mortgage payment assistance available to those impacted by the virus. “As with any other event that negatively impacts a borrower’s ability to pay their monthly mortgage payment, FHA’s suite of loss mitigation options provides solutions that mortgagees should offer to distressed borrowers—including those that could be impacted by the coronavirus—to help prevent them from going into foreclosure,” the FHA said in a statement.

Forbearance options are available not only to those sick from the virus but also owners who may be facing a temporary hardship from it, such as a borrower who is quarantined and unable to work.

Check out my home search site at On there you can search homes, save neighborhoods you’re interested in, save homes you love, see local recommendations and insights, see school info, calculate commute times and much more.

Interested in an easy-to-use, no-obligation mobile search app? Try my KW app. It’s free! And it works all over the US. Download it now!

Best and Worst Renovations for Adding Value to Your Home

It’s a crazy market in some price ranges in the Tampa Bay area. Anything under $300,000, for example, seems to just fly off the market, often with multiple offers near or at asking price. One thing we see with most of these homes, though, are renovations adding value to the home. In other words, the homes that have been recently (less than a year) remodeled or renovated, sell much faster and closer to asking price than other homes. Even homes that are move-in ready but a little dated languish on the market for days or weeks.

When we see renovations adding that much value to a home, it tells us Realtors a couple of things. First, it speaks to buyer behavior. Buyers want to move in, show off a beautiful home, and get on with their lives. Many buyers right now are simply not interested in living in a construction zone to get a pretty home. They would rather simply pay more for a home that has already been renovated. Second, we know that sellers who invest the time and money into these renovations will come out ahead. Now, I know it isn’t always feasible to put $20,000 or $30,000 into a home before you sell it; however, if you are going to put money into your home, you probably will want to do so where you’ll see the best return on your investment.

The following are the best and worst renovations specifically for the Tampa Bay area. The data comes directly from Remodeling’s Cost vs Value Report for 2019, and the spreadsheet is pictured above. If you want more information, head over to their website and check it out for yourself.

Worst Renovations for Home Values

The worst renovations for adding value to your home are those which recoup the least percentage of your investment. They are not bad investments; they just aren’t the best places to spend your money. That said, some of these are necessities so if one of the following is a remodel job that your home really, really needs, go for it!

Wood Window Replacement – 58.8% ROI

When I preview a home for buyers or show a home to buyers, one of the things I look for first is the age of the windows. If they need to be replaced, we have to take that into consideration, especially for buyers who are already stretched thin financially. Older windows, especially crank windows, will cost buyers in power costs as well as replacement costs.

While vinyl window replacement checks in as one of the best returns on investments for renovations, wood windows are one of the worst. Though it’s true that most homes won’t use wood windows, if you’re buying an older (historic) home, chances are you might want to replace old wood windows with newer wood windows. On average, wood windows cost about $20,000 and add back a little over $11,000 in value.

Major Kitchen Remodel – 57.9% ROI

We classify kitchen remodels as minor and major, as mid-range and upscale. A major upscale kitchen remodel returns the least on the investment. So what do we mean by major and upscale? A major remodel takes it right back to the walls and sub-flooring. Major remodels replace every component, such as floors, updated electrical and plumbing, counters, cabinets, appliances, and possibly even the layout of the kitchen. An upscale remodel uses the best materials and brands. Think high-end finishes on the cabinets, quartz counter tops, and smart appliances.

Photo by Mark McCammon from Pexels

Bathroom Addition – 55.7% ROI

In Pinellas County, we have a lot of homes that were built in the 1950s and 1960s as small retirement places. They were 2 or 3 bedrooms, 1 bath and sometimes a second in the garage so “the men had somewhere to wash up,” and less 1100 square feet, often smaller.

As these homes became family and starter homes, the need for a second bathroom became apparent. Now many of these homes have a second bathroom in the garage, with varying degrees of completeness. Some are no more than a toilet and crude sink. Others rival the finest of indoor baths.

While the a second bathroom may become a necessity for some families, a bathroom addition rarely recoups the entire cost of the investment, making it one of the worse renovations for adding value to your home.

Photo by Jean van der Meulen from Pexels

Master Suite Addition – 54.5% ROI

Another addition we see often in Pinellas County is the master suite addition. This one is most often a garage conversion. I’ve seen some really beautiful ones and some not so great conversions. The best will have the garage floor brought up to the level of the rest of the house and use materials that mimic the finishes found in the home.

When considering a master suite addition, consider more than the cost. First, be sure the addition doesn’t become an over improvement for the neighborhood. Next, consider that while adding square footage to the home, if completed as a garage conversion and not done well (or permitted), an appraiser may not give much value, if any, to the conversion.

Backyard Patio – 49.5% ROI

In Florida, the backyard patio is the worst bang for your buck.

But, wait, Cris. Don’t Floridians love that outdoorsy lifestyle?

Yes. And that’s why it’s the worst renovation choice. Because a backyard patio is so common in Florida that it’s expected. Definitely, put in a patio. Use it. Enjoy it. Just don’t expect it’ll add anything. Buyers will expect one, and if your home doesn’t have one, that’ll detract from the overall appeal of the home.

All that said, the figures in the spreadsheet above put the cost of a new patio at just shy of $55,000. That’s a super fancy patio (with a pool!), and we know you can install a standard 12’x12′ patio for much less money than that.

Two Women Sitting on Sofa

Best Renovations for Adding Value to Your Home

The best renovations for adding value to your home are those which recoup the largest percentage of your investment. Some of these may surprise you. Some, maybe not. If you have to spend money on your home prior to selling, these renovations are definitely the ones you should look in to.

Roof Replacement – 67.1%

Not only is a new roof functional and a necessity, it can actually help the sale of your home. Most loan programs will require a roof to have some kind of functional life left in it. FHA- and VA-backed loans have even more stringent requirements. If your roof is at the end of it’s useful life, it’s probably a good idea to go ahead and replace before putting your home on the market. It will save you a lot of headaches with contracts potentially falling through later on. And it’s a great marketing blurb for the MLS and brochures.

Deck Addition – 72.5%

So…we’re in Florida, and many of our homes won’t fit a deck. Decks, by nature, work best in rolling terrain – which the Tampa area doesn’t have – or on homes that are lifted off the ground, like older homes with crawl spaces or mobile homes. Many of you won’t be able to add a deck on to your home, and for the reasons stated above under Backyard Patio, hopefully you have one of those already.

If you can add a deck on to your home, it’ll be a good investment. Decks create more outdoor living space where it might be difficult to create, like on a hill side. And they can be beautiful, too, with plants spilling over the edges.

Photo by Im3rd Media on Unsplash

Garage Door Replacement – 73.7%

Curb appeal again. There’s not much point in putting in new landscaping or painting the house if the garage door is old and dented. A garage door sets you back about $3,000 or so. It’s an investment worth making, and one which is affordable for many sellers. Replacing the garage door adds character and charm to the home and ups that all-important curb appeal.

Minor Kitchen Remodel – 74.1% ROI

Whereas a major kitchen remodel ranks as one of the worst renovations for adding value to your home, a minor kitchen remodel ranks as one of the best. What’s considered minor? Think new appliances, or new granite counters. It’s not remodeling the entire kitchen, just some of it.

Manufactured Stone Veneer – 83% ROI

Does it surprise you to find stone veneer as the best renovation you can make? It did me. It is, however, beautiful and a trend that’s been around for many years so we know it stands the test of time.

Manufactured stone veneer is usually made of Portland cement, aggregate, and iron oxide. The aggregate makes it lighter than real stone, and the iron oxide gives it the coloration needed to mimic stone. Stone veneer can be used inside – around a fire place, for instance – or on the exterior of the home. Wherever it’s used, it makes an impact and provides a great degree of character.

Photo by chris scott from FreeImages

Check out my home search site at On there you can search homes, save neighborhoods you’re interested in, save homes you love, see local recommendations and insights, see school info, calculate commute times and much more.

Interested in an easy-to-use, no-obligation mobile search app? Try my KW app. It’s free! And it works all over the US. Download it now!

When is the best time to sell a house?

One of the questions I’m asked most frequently resembles some variation of “when is the best time to sell my house?” The real estate industry puts out lots of answers, and if you follow any Realtors or real estate blogs for more than a year, you’ll quickly come to one conclusion: any time is a good time to sell. A quick look back at the blogs I follow revealed these headlines:

  • “7 Reasons to List Your Home for Sale This Holiday Season” (November 2018)
  • “4 Reasons to Sell Your House This Winter” (December 2018)
  • “The Best Time to List Your House? TODAY!” (January 2019)
  • “Thinking of Selling Your House? This is a Perfect Time!” (February 2019)
  • “2 Reports That Say Now is a Great Time to Sell” (March 2019)
  • “Now is the Perfect Time to Sell Your House” (July 2019)
  • “Existing Home Sales Point to a Good Time to Sell” (August 2019)

We Realtors make a living helping you consumers buy or sell homes so it’s not necessarily surprising that real estate blogs can find a good reason to sell pretty much any time of year. After all, it would be crazy to say, “Nah, now’s not a good time. You should wait.”

When someone asks me what the best of time of year to sell a house is, I have one question in reply. “What are you hoping to accomplish by selling your home?” The answer to this question will determine the answer to the previous one.

Statistically, of course, the housing market strengthens during some months more than others. And it’s those months when it is generally best to sell. For instance, during the summer when families hope to move into better school districts. On the flip side, November and December are generally slower times. People simply don’t want to pack and move during the holidays. Unless they have to.

Why do homeowners sell?

Homeowners choose to sell a home for all kinds of reasons. Broadly-speaking, though, we can divide home sellers into two categories – those who HAVE to sell and those who WANT to sell.

Homeowners HAVE to sell for many reasons, including:

  • death of a family member
  • divorce
  • job relocation
  • loss of a job making payments difficult

Those who WANT to sell do so also for many reason, including:

  • upsizing (move-up buyers)
  • downsizing
  • looking for a better lifestyle
  • moving closer to family
  • better schools
  • liquidating part of an investment portfolio

If you HAVE to sell, any time is a good time to sell your home. If you don’t have to sell, you might want to take a few things into consideration, such as buyer activity, what interest rates are doing, the political environment, and any local factors – good or bad – which might affect the value of the property.

The National Association of Realtors, through data collected over years and decades, shows us that the busiest time of year for home sellers to list their homes are January and May/June. If sellers are considering selling in November or December, they often choose to wait until after the holidays. We typically see a mass influx of new listings in January. In May/June, people are selling with the intention to make a move during the summer. There is also more buyer activity in the summer.

More buyers = more eyeballs on your home. It also means more competition in the form of other homes hitting the market. Statistics from our own MLS for Pinellas County show the same trend. The graph below shows that active listings increase the most in January though in some years May or June have seen a large increase as well.

Why Sell During a Slow Time

There are several good reasons to sell during a slower period, like during the holidays. While many home sellers will wait until a more favorable time of year, that might not be the best choice, especially if the home you’re selling isn’t your primary home (and you won’t have to convince the fam to pack and move during the holidays!)

1. Less competition among homes for sale

Would you rather be one of 6,000 homes for sale? Or one of 6,500? The first, clearly.

2. More serious buyers

We know people don’t like to move during the holidays. The buyers who are looking to buy during the holidays HAVE to buy. Maybe they’re relocating. Maybe they’ve been looking since September and keep missing out on homes due to multiple offers. Maybe they want to be in their new home before the holidays to be able to enjoy them. Whatever the reason, buyers looking during a slow time are generally serious buyers.

3. Closings happen more quickly

If there are less closings, they can happen faster. Appraisers and home inspectors can get to the appraisal or inspection faster. Title companies can get their work done faster. Lenders can approve buyers faster. We have three listings under contract right now that will go contract to closing, with financing, in less than 30 days. Typically, lenders prefer if we give them 35-45 days to close.

Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd. from Pexels


The best time to sell a house is when it works best for your life and schedule. That said, we know there are certain times of the year when buyers are actively searching more than others. And there are times of the year when a large increase in home listings creates greater competition. A good Realtor will be able to help guide you through the various factors that will go into your individual home sale.

Check out my home search site at On there you can search homes, save neighborhoods you’re interested in, save homes you love, see local recommendations and insights, see school info, calculate commute times and much more.

Interested in an easy-to-use, no-obligation mobile search app? Try my KW app. It’s free! And it works all over the US. Download it now!

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