According to the National Association of Realtors®, active home-buying prospects are turning to the Internet in overwhelming numbers. If you have been a Georgetown house-hunter yourself anytime recently, this will not surprise you. Even after you’ve had to wrestle with an ever-expanding number of new computer apps, you know that when your computer (or notebook or smartphone) is working well, it’s unmatched for speed and breadth of access to what you’re trying to find.

In fact, 62% of those who search for their next home online wind up touring a real-life property after first viewing it online. For homeowners who have listed their Georgetown properties, that’s a healthy incentive to be certain that what they put online is as effective as possible. The more information you can provide these potential buyers, the better your odds of getting them in the door.

One great way to accomplish this is to include a virtual tour with your Georgetown listing. Showing individual photos has always been important, yet single photos alone can’t insure that potential buyers get an in-depth feel for a property. Too often they underplay details that could make a home a standout.

Most virtual tours include multiple angles of each room in the home, giving viewers a better sense of the size of each room and emphasizing more features than would otherwise be possible. You can also include carefully chosen shots picturing important exterior features like the scope of the backyard, the roominess of the garage, plantings in full bloom, etc.

The most well-structured virtual tours in Georgetown take buyers on an emotional journey — a progression through the property similar to what happens during a successful showing. If you want to spark interest, captivate potential buyers, and increase the chances of selling your property in less time, including a virtual tour is all but a necessity in today’s market.

Looking for a powerful marketing approach to sell your home this spring? A Georgetown virtual tour is just one small part of the marketing plan I can offer. Contact me today to see more of my marketing approach: it sells homes!

That housing needs change as people get older goes without saying. For Georgetown Baby Boomers, the "getting older" concept has gradually morphed from the distant abstraction it seemed in the 60’s and 70’s to a more immediate concern. And of all the decisions that will have the most impact on those nearing their golden years, buying the right Georgetown home—one that makes the most sense for the future—tops the list.

Boomers have heard and read much advice about buying a home; advice having to do with downsizing, mobility issues and the like. Most of it is cautionary…and not very cheerful. But suddenly weighing into seniors’ "buying a home" deliberations is a contrary point of view: one that many of them have apparently begun to suspect on their own. It’s news that could be of considerable importance, not only for their own age group, but for younger adults as well:

Growing older doesn’t seem to be nearly as dire as everyone has been led to believe.

Last Monday, "Why Everything You Know about Aging is Probably Wrong" led The Wall Street Journal’s special insert on planning and living "in the new retirement." Its lead article dissected the most common preconceptions Americans have about aging, including the expected declines in mind, body, productivity, and stereotypes of growing loneliness and depression. "Everyone knows that as we age…life becomes less satisfying and enjoyable," the Journal reported…followed by what a wide range of research shows: "Everyone, it seems, is wrong."

Among the scientists quoted was the former director of a Baltimore study that has been underway for three decades. Of the widespread notion of the aged as being depressed, cranky, and irritable, etc., he says they constitute no more than 10% of the older population. The remaining 90% are "not like that at all." Another Stanford study showed that as participants aged, their moods improved!

This may or may not change how we approach buying a home for our latter years, but to the extent that it’s a 180-degree reversal from what most of us have always believed about what to expect next, it should warrant at least a thoughtful examination of how we choose.

Common wisdom

: Downsizing. Baby boomers who stay in large houses are probably spending more money than necessary; cleaning unused rooms may be too physically taxing, etc.

Second thought

: "Extra" rooms may be needed to accommodate new hobbies, visiting children and grandkids.

Common wisdom

: Mobility. Must be a single-level home; mobility issues are paramount.

Second thought

: Stairs provide regular mild exercise; greatest threats to physical well-being are inactivity (and over-exercise).

Common wisdom

: Budgeting. A budget showing exactly how much can be afforded when renting or buying a home is critical. It should include taxes, insurance, maintenance, and other expenses.

Second thought

: No research changes this one: buying a house in retirement should always be based on solid budget realities.

Whether you’re retirement-bound, buying your next Georgetown home sets the table for the coming years in so many ways it’s vital to base your selection on reality rather than myth. Once you’ve set your course, I’m standing by to help find your dream house in all the many ways that I can put at your disposal.

U.S. Backs Off Tight Mortgage Rules” screamed the top headline on the front page of The Wall Street Journal last week. For Georgetown mortgage shoppers, it could scarcely have been better news. Probably.

‘Probably’ because any change is not yet a done deal, but it’s hard to see what will derail the likely full reverse of the federal establishment’s years-long tight home loan policy. Why is this suddenly in the cards? The full answer is complicated, but here is a quick (admittedly over-simplified) summary of what’s been happening to Georgetown mortgage applicants—and what probably lies ahead.

The ongoing real estate recovery has been less of a boon to banks (including Georgetown’s mortgage originators) than to other participants because of tightened lending guidelines. Since the economic meltdown had been triggered by the crash of too many ‘easy money’ mortgages that had been repackaged and sold to Wall Street investors, regulators created mortgage guidelines that were much stricter.

Although borrowers found it harder to qualify for mortgages, at the same time, the Federal Reserve held interest rates at such bargain-basement levels real estate sales hummed. But first-time borrowers found it hard to qualify.

But lately, observers of the national scene have been worrying. Over the past months, the gradual cooling of real estate activity may have been welcome in the sense that the torrid rate of activity had slowed from an unsustainable pace—but some economists began to fret. Even though there was still some growth, now there wasn’t enough—and that could stall the recovery for the whole economy.

Washington has decided to listen to the worrywarts: hence last week’s WSJ headline story. It reported on the first speech delivered by Mel Watt, the new boss of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage giants whose policies largely guide what happens when you apply for a Georgetown mortgage.

Among a number of other rules, there had been in place a basic guideline calling for minimum 20% down payments (and punishing repercussions for banks who didn’t agree). But one result came as a surprise to regulators: lenders were newly fearful of requirements that might penalize them for even reasonable loans that went bad, so they became even tougher than the guidelines! Real estate loans began to dry up. It had been hoped that private lenders would take the place of Fannie and Freddie, allowing the government to gradually back out of its leading role. But the lenders sat on their wallets.

Of his decision to lighten up on credit barriers, Mr. Watt explained that he hoped “that lenders will start operating more inside the credit box that Fannie and Freddie” provide. In other words, that mortgage originators will add to the easing effect by hewing to the guidelines instead of exceeding them. If so, we can expect an influx of long-frustrated first-time homebuyers.

If you have been thinking of offering your own Georgetown home for sale anytime soon, that should be a most encouraging development!

Many of Sussex County’s would-be first time home buyers are stopped short when they come up against the need to raise the initial deposit. But just because you don’t have a hefty down payment, it needn’t mean you can’t own your own home. You can still purchase a house with less than a 20% down payment if you are otherwise qualified—that is, if you take advantage of something called private mortgage insurance (“PMI”).

The reason there is a market for private mortgage insurance in Georgetown is because lenders face an increased risk when they issue a loan with a low down payment. The simple fact is that the less money a home buyer invests in a property, the greater the possibility that he or she will choose to simply walk away. Someone with 5% equity in a home has a lot less invested than had they plunked down 20%—so if anything goes wrong, it’s proportionately easier for them to just hand the keys to the bank. Mortgage insurance covers the lender in such a default.

The cost of private mortgage insurance in Georgetown comes in the form of monthly premiums in an amount set by the PMI issuer. The amount charged depends upon the loan-to-value ratio of the property, factored in with the borrower’s credit score. The insurer guarantees the difference between a 20% down payment and the amount put down by the borrower. For instance, if the borrower puts a 15% deposit on a $200,000 home, but then defaults, the PMI provider would cover the lender for $10,000—the difference between a standard 20% down payment (here that would have been $40,000) and the amount actually made as a down payment ($30,000).

The obligation to continue making PMI policy payments ends once the principal balance on the mortgage falls below 78%, since the borrower’s stake in the property will have risen to 22%—a touch above the 20% threshold. Borrowers can reach this benchmark early by choosing pay extra on their home’s principal balance or by making improvements that result in raising the value of the property: another way to improve the LTV. That route requires a request for PMI cancellation and borrower’s payment for an updated property appraisal (the appraiser will be named by the insurer).

For prospective buyers who are otherwise fully qualified — but for one reason or another can’t supply a 20% down payment — private mortgage insurance makes homeownership possible. No matter what your financial profile, starting the pre-qualification process is your first step. Contact me to get the ball rolling this month!

Call/text 302-228-7871 or email me, Russell Stucki, REALTOR® of Beach Real Estate Market to provide detailed information on Delaware homes for sale, investment and commercial properties, luxury and  waterfront homes, condos/townhomes, new construction, lots and land, farms and equestrian properties located in but not limited to Bethany, Bethel, Bridgeville, Dagsboro, Delmar, Ellendale, Fenwick Island, Frankford, Georgetown, Greenwood, Harbeson, Laurel, Lewes, Lincoln, Milford, Millsboro, Millville, Milton, Ocean View, Rehoboth Beach, Seaford, Selbyville, Delaware.