Can You Make An Offer On A Pending Property?

The short answer is yes, you can. This would be called a backup offer. However, it may not be worth your time, unless you’re very invested in the property. To understand why, let’s take a look at what a pending sale actually means, and what making an offer on a pending sale looks like.

When a property has the “sale pending” status, what it means is that the seller has accepted an offer, but the sale hasn’t yet been finalized. There are potentially several steps before a sale can be finalized, which can include contingencies, inspections, appraisals, and negotiations. Inspections and appraisals always take time, but may not be required. Not all sales have contingencies, but they come in multiple forms, some of which could take a long time — such as waiting for the sale of another property to close.

So while you could submit an offer on a pending property, not even the seller can know whether they will be able to accept it for a potentially extended period of time. If the pending sale falls through, they may accept or reject it, or want to negotiate further. Even if all of that works out, the property will then be pending with your offer. If you’re on any sort of time constraint, it’s probably not worth it. Furthermore, most pending sales don’t fall through, and half the potential reasons it could may reveal major issues with the property that might result in you not wanting it anymore.

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The Law of Supply and Demand

South Bay:

Could it be that after several years of insanely steep ups and downs in the real estate market, we’re finally starting to see normal sales levels and prices? One could draw that conclusion after looking at the year to date statistics for the first four months of 2024 compared to last year. Instead of crazy double digit increases and decreases the rate of change has slowed to single digits almost everywhere.

The Beach cities have been the exception with a 19% growth in the number of homes sold through April compared to 2023. That compares to an average across the South Bay of 4% growth. That’s a good sign, but sales are still off by about 20% compared to the same period in 2019, the last year of “normal business” prior to the economic turmoil of the pandemic.

Median pricing continues to escalate also, though at a much reduced pace. For the first four months of 2024, year to date median prices increased in the 5%-9% range. This is a considerable drop from price jumps of as much as 29% seen just a few months ago.

Looking back at the historical data shows that when the pandemic first hit median prices were operating on a relatively normal upward path. Monthly gains were modest fractions of a percent. Then the Federal Reserve slashed the interest rates to keep the economy moving, and the median price shot through the ceiling with monthly increases frequently topping 30%.

August of 2022 saw a price peak and median prices have been falling since. There’s a lot of resistance on the part of sellers, of course. But the sales volume remains low by historical standards, and buyers are demanding price cuts to compensate for the higher mortgage interest rates, if nothing else.

Expect to see mixed results over the coming months as prices and interest rates ebb and flow around a fluctuating political scene, both nationally and internationally.

Beach:

Monthly sales volume took an insane 55% leap at the Beach in April, after having fallen 1% in March. Seeing the median price plummet by 13% for the same period helps to explain the shift. It’s an isolated example of the push and pull of prices and interest rates. Buyers will remain constrained in their ability to purchase, either by rates, or by artificially inflated prices, until sellers reach a “need to move” point where they are willing to reduce asking prices.

Year over year sales show a similar response in the comparison to last April—a 31% growth in number of homes sold against a 1% decline in the median price.

Trends are better demonstrated in the year to date statistics. Looking at the first four months of 2024 and comparing to the same period in 2023 shows the sales volume increased by 19% while the median price increased 5%

Making the same comparison between 2019 and 2024 shows a 32% decline in the number of homes sold this year. Median price is sharply higher by 43%.

Harbor:

The Harbor area appears to be stabilizing ahead of the other South Bay areas. April sales volume declined at the Harbor by 4% versus sales in March, while median prices increased 1%. Smaller monthly movement, especially in price, is essential to reduce inflation and put the real estate economy back on a solid footing. It’s hard to argue that inflation is near 2% annually, while real estate prices are escalating at several times that goal.

Clearly there’s still a ways to go considering the April 2024 volume had zero growth compared to last April, and is still 24% below April of 2019. The median price has a similar issue being up 7% over April 2023, while holding at 44% above April of 2019.

Year to date, 2024 versus 2023, the number of home sales is off by 1% and the median price is up 8%. The elephant in the room is the constantly increasing median price, which is pushing up hard against the Fed’s inflation battle. The price keeps going up because the inventory is exceptionally limited. There were 18% fewer homes sold year to date in 2024 than in 2019. The limited selection compared to the pent up demand pushed the median up some more.

Anecdotally, many pundits point to the extremely low interest rates of the pandemic years as a big driver for the low inventory and bidding wars. Home owners who refinanced to rates well below 5% are reluctant to sell those properties and take up new loans at often double the interest rate. Consequently, homes that would have gone on the market are now artificially being held off the market.

Hill:

As usual, home sales on the Palos Verdes peninsula have been all over the map in recent months. The number of homes sold in April climbed 28% compared to March, when it jumped 39% versus February, when sales dropped 14%. The median price started with 0% change in January and has yo-yoed it’s way through the first four months, ending down 3% in April from March.

While monthly sales statistics are often sporadic on the Hill, comparing April this year to the same month last year, shows a 28% increase in the number of sales and a corresponding 3% increase in the median price.

Year to date numbers for Palos Verdes were more mundane, with the number of sales for the first four months up 5%. In the same time frame, median prices were up by 9%.

Compared to year to date 2019, PV sales volume was down 9% while prices were up 42%.

Inland:

Business in the Inland cities looks very much like business on the Peninsula right now. Month over month sales volume is growing at 8%—that’s positive because the market needs more inventory! At the same time monthly median prices are dropping by 5%—also positive because interest rates are not going back down to the record-breaking levels of the pandemic! Many of the transactions in the Inland area are entry level buyers embarking on their first home purchase. High prices and steep interest rates work against success for both sellers and buyers in that market.

Year over year sales volume increased at 34%, the kind of activity needed to stabilize the local market. Even with that increase in business, the median price pushed upward by 4%, double the Fed target.

Year to date sales volume is up 9% and median price is up 6%.

Wrapping it Up

It’s going to take some juggling to get more sellers onto the marketplace. And it’s going to require coordination with having able buyers there at the same time. Pundits are betting the Fed will engage in “brake-tapping” until after the Federal election. In the months just before the election interest rates will drop enough to encourage sellers to trade up, and allow buyers to qualify for financing. Those steps would enhance the increasing inventory being seen now. Then in the new year the brakes will be applied again to prevent inflation in the spring buying season. Of course, the outcome of the election promises to influence the market under any circumstance.

Beach=Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, El Segundo
Harbor=Carson, Long Beach, San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City
PV Hill=Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates
Inland=Torrance, Lomita, Gardena

Photo by Dez Hester, https://unsplash.com/@dezhester

What Is A Buyer Agency Agreement?

When a buyer and an agent enter into an agreement for the agent to represent the buyer in the purchase of a home, that agreement is called a buyer agency agreement. If the agent is not performing per the agreement, the buyer may cancel the agreement by providing written notice to the agent. It is important for the buyer to make sure the right conditions are outlined in the agreement. A buyer agency agreement usually spells out the duties the agent has towards the buyer in finding and closing on a home. The buyer can participate in negotiating the terms of the agreement.

Buyer agency agreements have typical term lengths of 90 days but can be negotiated for any length. A buyer can specify the kind of property being sought so the agent keeps on track during their search. The terms of the agent responsibilities should also include negotiating on behalf of the buyer and making sure the sales transaction successfully closes.

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Advantages To Buying A Fixer-Upper

Most buyers never consider purchasing a property that isn’t in a livable condition. And in many cases, there wouldn’t be much benefit to it, since they are planning to live there. But if you think of the purchase as an investment in your future, there could be advantages — that’s why most people who do purchase fixer-uppers are investors.

It should come as no surprise that fixer-uppers tend to cost less than move-in ready homes of a similar size, lot area, and location. But this isn’t the correct way to look at the investment. What it also means is that you can find properties in need of fixing with a larger lot or better location than a move-in ready home for the same price. Furthermore, the property continues to yield a return on investment as you upgrade, repair, and remodel. You end up with a property that has equal or potentially higher value than similar properties, while paying a fraction of the cost and building equity the entire time. It also might drive up the area’s desirability, further increasing property values overall, including your own.

Financial benefits aren’t the only reason to buy a fixer-upper. Though you won’t get as much freedom as with buying an empty plot of land, fixer-uppers still have a lot of flexibility in what sort of changes you can make. Even major additions and remodels can be done without needing to worry about building an entirely new foundation. If you have the means and the imagination, it’s not too far off from being a newly designed and built home with a much lower initial investment cost. Even if you don’t make too many or too significant of changes, it can be a learning experience if it’s not something you’ve done before — particularly if you choose to do some DIY repairs.

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Why You Might Want To Consider Living In A Gated Community

It’s not uncommon to think of gated community homes as mere status statements. They’re more expensive and more exclusive, both of which sound like they’re tailored toward rich people who want to flaunt their wealth. But there are actually valid reasons that gated communities tend to be more expensive. You don’t have to want to flaunt it to want to live there.

Obviously, you do need to have the money. But if you do, their high price also makes them sound investments in the future. Moreover, the extra money you spend isn’t wasted if you don’t end up selling. Gated communities automatically come with enhanced security measures, amenities, and routine maintenance. Security and amenities are high-value features that you’d need to pay extra for anyway to get elsewhere, while routine maintenance can both save money on repairs and ensure that property values don’t decline due to deferred maintenance. Another thing gated communities offer that doesn’t necessarily have a price tag, but tends to be something people value, is a sense of community while simultaneously retaining privacy.

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Mistakes To Avoid When Pricing Your Home

If you’re planning to sell your home, the ideal result is to get as much from the sale as you can. This leads sellers to look for any and all features or qualities that could potentially raise the price. But the fact of the matter is that the market sets home values, not individual sellers. There are a few common mistakes sellers make that lead them to list their homes at overpriced values, which doesn’t benefit them in terms of actually getting the sale to happen.

Sometimes sellers even purposefully list their home above market value. Usually, they are thinking they can start high and drop the price if no one is buying. However, all this does is reduce overall interest and cause the sale to take longer. If the price is right to start with, multiple people will be interested and might be forced to offer over asking to compete with other prospective buyers. The other reason sellers sometimes purposefully list above market value is that they need to reach a certain price to gain profit from the sale. There’s no point to this — either the home won’t get sold at all, or the seller will be forced to drop the price anyway and take a loss.

Of course, the seller is not always intentionally overvaluing their home. You might think that the value of a home includes both its intrinsic and extrinsic value. While this is technically true, extrinsic value is highly subjective. Don’t attempt to raise the price simply because you love the paint color you chose or you have good memories living there. If those feel like a significant portion of the home’s value to you, you probably don’t actually want to move. Of course, external factors may mean you have to sell — in that case, just remember to hold your emotions at bay. But what if you actually did make tangible improvements to the home? Well, that’s great, but not all improvements have a great return on investment. Keep in mind that it’s entirely possible you aren’t making a profit from every single upgrade you made.

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South Bay Homes – Fewer Sales, Higher Prices

In the first quarter of 2021 buyers and sellers were taking advantage of the artificially low interest rates. Sales were robust and the demand pushed prices up along with the increase in sales volume. By first quarter 2022 sales volume was waning, but sellers were still attached to the higher prices so we saw sales dropping off dramatically. The first three months of 2023 gave us even deeper cuts in the number of South Bay homes sold and brought some corresponding declines in median prices. Today, looking at the South Bay market for the first quarter of 2024, prices are still “sticky” with sellers hoping to hang onto the gains from the Covid years.

It’s not working real well. January gave sellers hope with a strong growth in sales volume and modest increases in median price. February showed returning median price increases and buyers backing off again in response. March is back to the drawing boards as buyers have balked at the price increases in the face of continuing elevated interest rates.

This is coupled with news trickling out of the Federal Reserve Board about how mortgage interest rates are probably not going to see the three rate decreases predicted at the beginning of the year. The latest announcement confirmed that if rate decreases come at all, it won’t be until late in the year and it won’t be significant.

To gain perspective on the impact to the real estate market, it must be noted that the number of South Bay homes sold during the first quarter of 2024 is nearly identical to last year, and is still 19% lower than the first quarter of 2019, the last year of normal business before the pandemic. At the same time the median price of those homes is up almost 10% over last year and is 40% higher than it was in 2019.

Somehow a 40% increase in cost within five years, with a negative demand, seems to be a violation of general economic principles. It appears the post-pandemic adjustment back to normality has digressed somewhere along the path. Of course, all this has been further impacted by the fact 2024 is a presidential election year, and simultaneously the world is in extreme turmoil both economically and physically.

Month by month performance has been unusually erratic for quite some time. So far this year the comparison of this month to the same month last year is the most stable view of the real estate market. According to that view, the number of homes sold has gradually slid into negative territory. January kicked off the year with a blanket increase in the sales volume. February flipped that showing for about half the South Bay. which slid below the sales of last February. March has furthered that negative sales volume to all areas of the South Bay.

Median prices are managing to stay above those of 2023. With sales down across the area and mortgage interest rates stubbornly increasing, that may be changing soon.

Beach: Home Sales Erratic

The Beach cities truly exemplified the erratic nature of month over month statistics during the first quarter. Compared to the prior month, sales in January were down 46%, in February up 48% and in March down 1%. Using the same metrics, monthly median prices were up 13%, down 1% and up 13%.

Looking at the same three months in a year over year method, the statistical movement is much less dramatic. Compared to the same month last year, January sales volume was up 30%, February up 33% and in a surprise drop, March was down 8%. By the same token, median prices were up 7%, up 29% and up 16%.

Disconcertingly, it’s been two years since the pandemic ended and the market is still seeing double digit movement monthly in both volume and pricing. This lack of stability results from several different influences on the real estate market. Among them the continued increase in mortgage interest rates, a corresponding relaxation of qualification requirements by lenders, a public perception of good economic conditions and a continued shortage of homes on the market.

Year to date sales volume for homes at the Beach has increased 13% while median prices have risen by 7% over 2023. Compared to 2019, sales are off by 35% with median prices 43% higher.

Harbor: Up, Then Down, Then Up

Month to month activity for the first quarter in the Harbor area has followed an equally irrational pattern to that of the Beach. January saw sales and prices drop by 13% and 4% respectively. Then February brought increases in both numbers, volume going up 8% and the median price by 6%. March came in mixed with sales volume up 16% while the median slipped by 3%. Annually, homes in the Harbor area started the year on a positive note with 9% growth in number of homes sold and an accompanying 7% growth in median price. February saw sales decline 3% with an increase in median price of 18%. Sales volume continued to fall in March, decreasing by 8%, albeit with a 4% increase in median price.

Year to date for the first quarter shows the number of homes sold declined by 2%, while the median price increased by 10%. Compared to 2019, sales are off by 16% with median prices 43% higher.

Hill: Sales and Prices Up; Sorta

After two months of negative sales volume and falling median prices, home sales on the Hill perked up in March. Volume was up 39% with 50 properties sold and median prices took a 12% jump to $1.982M. As mentioned in the past, properties on the Palos Verdes peninsula, much like those in the Beach cities, represent a smaller segment of the marketplace and often one or two outsize transactions will create a major shift in the statistics.

Of course, that “perkiness” is relative. While the number of homes sold was 39% higher than February, it was still 19% lower than March of 2023 and 25% below March of 2019, the last year prior to the upsets of the corona virus pandemic.

The 19% drop in sales was accompanied by a 14% increase in median price, a contradiction seen around the South Bay and generally across the State. The typically accepted explanation is that many home owners took advantage of the low mortgage interest rates offered during the pandemic. Those people are now unwilling to take on a new mortgage with an interest rate two to three times higher than they are currently paying. This is leaving a much smaller selection of available homes and has created an inventory shortage which encourages competitive bidding among the few buyers active in the market.

The first quarter of the year brought a 3% decline in homes sold on the Hill and an 8% increase in median price. Compared to the first three months of 2019, sales are currently off by 11% and the median is up 36%.

Inland: One Good March

The number of homes sold in the Inland area for March jumped by 33% to 125 closed escrows. Median prices increased a more modest 7% to $925K. Like the Harbor area, there is a comparatively large number homes in the Inland area and they offer a diverse range of prices. As an example, the low sale for this March was $371K while the high was $2.525M. Mathematics is a great tool for analyzing trends in real estate, but if one is planning to buy or sell in this environment, you should call a professional rather than simply applying these statistics.

Compared to the same month last year, March sales volume was down 7%, while the median price was up 11%. Year to date, the sales volume for the Inland area was unchanged, and the median price was up 8%. Similarly, comparing to 2019, sales were down 12% and prices up 40%

As discussed earlier, there’s a tendency for buyer resistance to the combination of higher prices and higher interest rates. Three months into the year, that resistance seems to be growing. Since the most recent Federal Reserve announcement, mortgage interest rates have climbed about .375% (3/8ths of a point). Looking at the statistical trend in conjunction with the increasing interest rate, we anticipate continued slippage in volume and more declines in median price throughout the South Bay.

Beach=Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, El Segundo
Harbor=Carson, Long Beach, San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City
PV Hill=Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates
Inland=Torrance, Lomita, Gardena

Photo of the San Pedro coast by Marius Christensen on Unsplash

The Impact Of School Systems On Home Values

For obvious reasons, prospective homebuyers who are expecting to have children, or already have them, might want to move to an area with a highly rated school system. What might not be so obvious is that there are benefits to this even if you aren’t directly impacted by what schools are nearby. Schools affect more than just students; they are a major driving factor in home values.

Neighborhoods with good schools are more desirable, and therefore have higher home values. And because schools don’t typically vanish unless they’re heavily underfunded — which the good schools tend not to be — this is a relatively stable factor in prices. That means homes in these neighborhoods are solid investments, even if you can’t take advantage of the good education.

Conversely, if the school system is not very good, you may think you’re getting a bargain deal with low prices. Unfortunately, your home value probably also isn’t going to go up very much. However, if you are following the trends, you may be able to take advantage of rapidly improving school systems. Maybe prices aren’t high yet, but will be as the schools continue to grow.

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The Initiatives That Are Improving Access To Affordable Housing

Increasing house prices and relatively stagnant wages have led to the need to rethink our strategies regarding housing. Of course, solving the root issue would be preferable — but if that’s not an option, easing the burden is a useful venture. There have been several recent innovations in methods to approach affordable housing.

A couple of them have been around for a while, but not necessarily targeted at affordable housing. These are government subsidies and grants and developer incentives. If you give people money or tax breaks to build or buy affordable housing, it’s going to become easier. Another that you may have heard of is micro-housing. You may dream of a large home, but the truth of the matter is that smaller houses are not only cheaper, but also more cost effective to build. The only reason they weren’t being built before is lack of demand.

There are also some options you may not be aware of, though. These are community land trusts (CLTs) and shared equity models. CLTs attempt to reduce the cost of homeownership by separating land cost from building cost — normally, a house and the land it’s built on are purchased simultaneously, but with CLTs, the land is owned by a trust and only the structure is sold, so it costs less to buy. A shared equity model allows a buyer to purchase only a portion of the ownership of a home, with the share owned increasing as the buyer accrues equity and uses it to purchase a greater share. This is somewhat similar to a loan, but carries less risk, with the downside being that the buyer doesn’t have exclusive legal ownership of the property.

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Mortgage Interest Rates Still Climbing

In a normal year, the interest rate for a conventional mortgage loan would be lower than the rate quoted for a “high balance” loan, which would be slightly lower than a “jumbo” mortgage. (Here in Los Angeles jumbo is more common than not.) The theory behind the differing rates is one of risk management. Lenders generally consider larger loans to be more risky, thus jumbo costs more.

Guess what! It’s not a normal year. It’s a Presidential Election Year. In addition to the political strife, our nation is closely involved in a couple of economy-disrupting wars in other parts of the globe.

The end result is jumbo loans with fixed interest rates that are as low or lower than conventional loans. Despite headlines touting strength in the economy, interest rates have increased by approximately .5% since the first of the year. The most recent announcements from the Federal Reserve System are hinting that anticipated rate reductions aren’t happening at all in the first half of 2024, and the number of potential reductions is expected to be less than previously expected.

Last year saw median prices in the South Bay falling below 2022 prices through July. In August of last year price declines began to abate. By December of 2023 prices had started to stabilize. The new year continued that trend with only one negative median price result in January. Improving on that, February showed solid growth in prices across the South Bay. The real estate market seems to be reacting to what is touted as an improving economy.

However, compared to last February, sales volume this February was a mixed bag with overall positive growth of 2% despite declines of 3% in the Harbor area and 14% on the Hill. These weaker sales figures follow a strong growth in the number of homes sold in January versus the same month in 2023.

Recent month to month history has shown that a decline in sales volume is typically followed by a decline in median price. This “tit for tat” resonance indicates a market where buyers are at the edge of their ability to buy and sellers are feeling the resistance. Indeed, following the upward movement of mortgage interest rate activity for the first two months of the year leads to the conclusion sales volume will drop, followed by more substantial price decreases in coming months.

Beach: Sales and Prices SeeSaw

On a month to month basis, the Beach area has seen serious ups and downs in the number of homes sold and in the median sales price. January started with a massive 46% drop in sales from December, then February showed up with a 48% increase in sales volume. By way of contrast, Palos Verdes sales were down 16% and down 14% for the same months. The median price for Beach homes slipped 1% in February versus a 13% increase in January.

February sales volume versus February of 2023 was also steeply higher at 33%, the largest increase of the South Bay areas. At $1.175M the median price was up 29% over the same month last year. This is a somewhat surprising median price increase in light of other annual increases around the South Bay falling in the range of 5-18%.

Looking at year to date for the first two months of 2024, the Beach area had positive sales volume of 32% with a median price increase of 17%.

Harbor: More Up and Down

Responding to the volatility of the economy, the Harbor area flipped from negative numbers in January to positive in February. The number of homes sold was up by 8% over the prior month, while the median price of those homes increased 6%. The largest of the South Bay areas, the Harbor area typically has less variability in both sales and prices than the other areas.

Annual figures, looking at change from one year to the next in the same month, is usually a predictor of long term direction. February home sales in the Harbor area seem to be close to the bottom of market. Volume dropped by 3% from 2023, the smallest annual decline since the end of the pandemic.

At the same time, the median price rose 18% above that of February 2023. It should be noted that the median price in the Harbor last February was exceptionally low at $675K. In contrast, the $795K for this year appears to be on the high side and should be expected to moderate as the year goes on.

Year to date, the number of homes sold has increased by 2% over 2023. The median price has gone up 12%.

Hill: Numbers Continue to Fall

Real estate on the Palos Verdes Peninsula was off more this month than last. Month to month sales volume dropped by 14%. Median price, which was flat last month, has fallen by 1% this month. This kind of back and forth jockeying in price and volume looks jerky in the month to month statistics.

When viewed against the backdrop of annual data one can more readily see the direction. Annually, residential sales dropped by 14%, roughly the average of the past few months. While sales volume was dropping, the annual median price rose a surprising 10%.

Combining January and February for year over year numbers shows the number of homes sold increasing by 11% and the median price increasing by 9%

Inland: A Mixed Bag for Sales and Prices

Like the Beach cities, the Inland area enjoyed a huge surge in the number of homes sold for February, after suffering a large drop in sales January. Volume was up by 40% for the month. Median price dropped 4% after an 11% jump last month. So far this year the market has been very unpredictable.

As mentioned early, the “same month, last year” perspective is starting to level out. Residential sales volume for February of 2024 increased by 6% compared to 2023. The median price was up 5% over for the same period. The annual percentage of change seems almost stable by comparison the the monthly.

Year to date, Inland sales have increased 7% while the median price has declined by 1%. So far in 2024, only the Inland median price has declined from the first two months of last year.

Beach=Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, El Segundo

Harbor=Carson, Long Beach, San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City

PV Hill=Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates

Inland=Torrance, Lomita, Gardena

Photo by Matt Burt on Unsplash

Some Things To Know Before Purchasing A Property

Before purchasing a new home, there are some important details that will help you make your decision. You’ll want to know what you’re paying for, as well as how to get the best deal. Asking the right questions will make the process much smoother for you.

First, make sure you know exactly what it is you’re buying. Is any personal property included in the sale? Is any fixture excluded? A purchase offer should address personal property and any exclusions. Also, if there are any disclosed concerns with the property, you’ll want to know what they are. It may not be worth your while if there are any major concerns. You’ll also want to know what you can expect to be paying in utility costs. After all, utilities are a component of homeownership costs.

If you want the best deal you can get, you should definitely ask your agent for a comparative sales report. This is a report which details recent sales histories of similar properties. Depending on the area, it may be unlikely to find an exact match, but this will give you a rough estimate of the expected price range for a property that you’re considering. This is particularly important if you’re concerned that the property may be overpriced or have some sort of defect. To aid in this, you can also ask how long the property has been on the market. If it has been sitting around longer than average, there could be an issue. Another question you may want to ask is if the sellers have already bought another home. This could give you some insight into the motivations of the sellers, which may help you negotiate.

Photo by Evgeni Tcherkasski on Unsplash

January Home Sales Down, Prices Up

Across the Los Angeles South Bay the number of homes sold in January was down compared to December—way down. For the same time period median prices are mixed with most sales either flat or down.

Looking at sales volume in January versus January of last year, shows big increases in activity. However, that serves more to show how slow the real estate market was at the beginning of 2023, than how good it is today. Median prices were likewise up for most areas when compared to the same month last year.

From a historical perspective, looking back at 2019, still the most recent “normal” business year for real estate, we see sales volume overall remains 21% below that benchmark. Median prices, which shot up during the pandemic have stubbornly stayed up. As of January, median prices range from 25-30% above the 2% inflation factor the Federal Reserve targets.

The combination of inflated prices and mortgage interest rates testing the 7% level has created a stagnant market place. Typically a presidential election year would bring rosy news about a growing economy and low interest rates. At this point there’s only one month of data, not enough to make any forecasts, but 2024 is off to a slow start.

Beach: Sales Off 46%

Month to month sales volume in the Beach cities collapsed by 46% in January. After back to back increases in the number of homes sold for November and December, the huge drop was unexpected. Juxtaposed against the 13% increase in median price, it demonstrates the current market dynamic.

The only actual buyers are people who have no choice but to move, despite the low inventory and high interest rates. At the same time, most sellers are stalling because they don’t want to be sitting on the market for weeks. And, because most sellers are also buyers, they’re waiting for a better market with more homes available and lower interest rates for their replacement purchase. As a result, the number of available homes listed on the MLS is further depressed.

This has brought about a rare phenomenon, the “off-market” sale. Both buyers and sellers are actively looking for deals that can be consummated without the competitive environment of the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Buyers love the fact there are no bidding wars. Sellers are glad to sell at asking price without endless open houses and dozens of showings. The properties usually end up on the MLS as history, but not as competition. How long this trend will last depends on the economy over the next few months.

The market at the Beach has clearly improved since last year. Sales from January of 2024 have climbed 30% compared to January of 2023. At the same time, median price has moved up 7%. Of course, as mentioned earlier, last January was far from a good market in real estate.

Given the turmoil of recent years, one is compelled to look back at 2019, before the pandemic with it’s rock-bottom interest rates and sky-rocketing prices. Using that metric, January sales this year fell 34% below January of 2019. Median price this January was 43% higher than it was in January of 2019. Clearly “normal” is still a long way off.

Harbor: Sales Off 13%

Month to month statistics from the Harbor area demonstrate a truism. Pointing the way toward stability in the market, many of January’s home sales came with a reduced price. The median price dropped 4%, rather than increasing as it did in the Beach cities. Those price reductions appealed to buyers and the number of transactions increased considerably. Correspondingly, the sales volume only dropped 13% as opposed to a 46% drop at the Beach.

Harbor area sales for January 2024 ended with 9% more transactions than the same month lin 2023 in an unsurprising response to the market collapse of last winter. Also on the positive side, median prices for Harbor area homes increased by 7%.

Pre-pandemic residential sales for January 2024 was mixed in comparison to January of 2019. Sales volume was off, with 16% fewer homes sold in 2024. At the same time, median prices were up 44%.

Hill: Sales Off 16%

November and December of last year looked like a bad thing was turning good, and then January 2024 came along. Home sales on the Hill suffered less than at the Beach or Inland, but a 16% drop in sales volume in an already moribund market hurt. Median prices on the Hill hit that “sweet spot” with no change up or down.

Compared to January of 2023 the number of home sales on the Hill went stratospheric climbing 50% for the month. Of course, having read this far you know last winter was a low spot in the market. Combine that with the comparatively small number of sales on the Palos Verdes Peninsula and it’s easy to have outsize percentages. While sales volume was up 50%, median prices climbed a more modest 8%.

January 2024 versus January 2019 in home sales on the Hill showed an solid improvement. The number of homes sold increased by 27%, in contrast to falling sales in the Harbor and Beach areas. With the number of home sales up, a 37% increase in the median price is a welcome addition.

Inland: Sales Off 36%

Home sales in the Inland area closely followed those at the Beach in January. Similarly, the month ended with a calamitous 36% drop in the number of homes sold—down to 67 homes from over 100 in both November and December. Likewise, the median price came in with an 11% increase, slightly less than at the Beach. This shows the effect of “sticky prices” where a lot of sales don’t happen because the sellers are resistant to lower offers and buyers are balking at higher prices.

On a year over year basis, January 2024 showed 8% growth in the number of sales compared to last January. Median prices continued following the long downward slide of 2023 and dropped another 6%.

Comparing the Inland sales to 2019, the most recent stable year, the number of homes sold has dropped by 39% leaving a lot of room for recovery. The median price has climbed 40% over that five years, roughly 27% greater than the “ideal inflation” sought by the Federal Reserve.

Beach=Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, El Segundo

Harbor=Carson, Long Beach, San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City

PV Hill=Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates

Inland=Torrance, Lomita, Gardena

Photo by T Narr on Unsplash

Understanding Prepayment Penalties

There’s a strong tendency to want to pay off your mortgage as quickly as possible. There’s also a strong reason for lenders to not want you to do that — they get less money because you aren’t paying as much in interest. Because of this, they frequently use prepayment penalties. This is an extra fee for paying off your mortgage too quickly or before the term of the loan ends. If you’re simply paying the minimum amount anyway, this won’t affect you, but if you think you may want to pay off your loan early, you’ll want to know your options.

Different states have different laws regarding prepayment penalties, and some don’t allow them at all. In states where they are allowed, they come in two types: hard prepayment penalties, which are fixed fees regardless of the reason for prepayment and that are usually a percentage of the loan amount, and soft prepayment penalties, which are only charged if the borrower pays a large amount in a short time period. Even in states that allow prepayment penalties, not all loans will have them, and you may be able to negotiate with your lender for their removal. When shopping for loans, make sure to read all the terms of the agreement, and talk to a legal professional if there’s anything you don’t understand or want to learn how to negotiate.

Photo by Mari Helin on Unsplash

How Generational Preferences Affect The Real Estate Market

If you’re planning to sell your home, or just want to be informed about current trends, you may want to know about present day homebuyers’ preferences. The problem is that looking at general trends only tells you about the largest cohorts of homebuyers, which are Millennials and Baby Boomers. Not only do these two groups have vastly different preferences between each other, it also ignores Gen X and the admittedly small group of Gen Z homebuyers.

Knowing the demographic makeup of your region can help you to understand what the people in your area are looking for. Alternatively, knowing what other cohorts desire can help tailor your choices to attract people to your home. There are certain things you cannot change, such as the walkability or access to public transportation in your neighborhood and presence of nearby parks or schools. However, if you know which types of people are looking for the sort of things that exist where you are, you can base your decisions about things you can change based on that group’s preferences.

Currently, Baby Boomers are not in the business of buying large, fancy homes. They’re looking to downsize, or remodel a home to suit their personal needs. They also generally want a healthcare facility nearby, since their age can lead to medical complications. Gen X is looking for a mix of business, family care, and leisure. Many Gen X people are working and also spend time caring for their aging parents, which leads them to want either nearby parks or recreational facilities to improve their work-life balance, or a suburban or rural lifestyle if they work from home. Millennials are the largest cohort of potential homebuyers, but they also can’t currently afford expensive homes. Rising housing costs mean Millennials are currently transitioning from renting to their starter homes, since many of them have had their initial homeownership plans delayed. As for what they’re looking for, they’re big on technology and sustainability, and prefer easy access to employment hubs via either walkability or public transportation. The group of Gen Z homebuyers that are actually able to afford a home have probably not been much affected by delays, so their digital native and eco-friendly identity is even more pronounced than in Millennials. They prioritize energy efficient homes, smart technology, and cultural diversity.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

2023 South Bay Real Estate: Fail

By every measure South Bay real estate failed last year. The volume was down from the prior year in every residential area, the median price fell from 2022 heights everywhere, and the double whammy of crashing sales and falling prices brought the total revenue down from 2022. Judging from early reports the same is true across most of the state.

Part of the story doesn’t read so poorly though. As we look back across the year, the second of half of 2023 was far better than the first half of the year. This in two respects: first, the month-over-month statistics for sales volume have improved. The median price is still falling, but that’s to be expected if we’re going to see a sales volume increase concurrent with continued high interest rates. The market is going to demand that some of the “overly enthusiastic” price increases come back down.

Second, the year-over-year decline in median price is slowing—not reversing—slowing. Roughly speaking, the number of homes sold for less than 2022 prices improved from 83% in the first half of the year to 45% in the second half of 2023. That signifies an approaching balance in the market. Buyers are still holding back, but some sellers are coming forth to meet them.

2024 South Bay Real Estate: Better Days Ahead

We expect to see continued slippage in the median price, accompanied by increased sales volume. The Los Angeles South Bay is somewhat insulated from the vagaries of national and international events, but 2024 is facing an active political climate. The continuing wars around the planet would be enough to rattle economic markets here. This year sellers and buyers also have to factor in a contentious national election.

While the Federal Reserve System is officially apolitical, history has shown a tendency for improved economic conditions during election years. The final quarter of 2023 saw a softening of the wild swings in home sales volume and pricing. With less than 10 months until the presidential elections we anticipate continued easing of interest rates and increased sales activity. Median prices have fallen by about 2% across the South Bay in 2023 and probably won’t drop a lot more in 2024.

Sales volume fell by 15% across the South Bay in 2023. Nearly all of that drop was in the first half of the year. The new year is expected to be positive with growth in sales across the board.

Beach: Strong Sales On Weak Prices

Comparing December to November, the number of homes sold at the Beach was up 13%. That increase in sales is on top of a 9% increase in November, a dramatic turnaround from the 27% drop in October. On the other hand, the month to month median price fell 5% in December.

December of 2023 was similarly mixed when compared to December of 2022. Year over year saw sales volume increase a staggering 39%. Looking back shows December of last year as the absolute slowest month of the year for home sales at the Beach. The median price plummeting by 10% certainly helped generate those December 2023 sales.

Year to date numbers, comparing all 12 months, showed the number of home sales off by 11%. At the same time the median price was down 4% for the year. Much of the annual decline in sales volume occurred in the first half of 2023, when monthly drops of 25%-35% put the brakes on prices. Beach area median prices have taken steep falls since February 2023. It may take a couple more months before the first stimulating news on the interest rate front, but it would appear we’re looking at the “bottom of the market” now. Regardless of whether you’re a buyer or a seller, this is time to reassess your options.

Harbor: Positive Across the Board

December versus November of 2023 saw sales volume go up 1%. During that time the median price went up 2%. Harbor area homes sales dropped precipitously through the third quarter when they suddenly found strength and were positve in the single digits for the last quarter. Monthly declines in median price have been the order until the final quarter when median prices appear to have leveled out.

Looking from the annual perspective, home sales in December 2023 were up 3% over the last month of 2022. Using the same comparison, median prices were up 13%. This suggests the Harbor area may already be seeing improved stability.

Summarizing 2022 versus 2023 for the Harbor area, overall home sales volume dropped 17% for the year. Looking from a longer term perspective, sales have fallen 26% from the ‘pre-Covid benchmark year’ of 2019. From 2022 to 2023 the median price fell 2%. Again over the longer term, median prices in the Harbor area are up 31% over 2019.

Hill: Median Price Down – Sales Up

December home sales increased on the Hill by 9% over November levels. For the same mnthly period, median prices were down 9%. This pattern is expected to shift over the first quarter of 2024 as prices stabilize and interest rates decline to allow more potential purchasers to enter the market.

Compared to December of 2022, December 2023 came in with sales of 22% more homes and a median price increase of 5%. A solid year over year growth for the Hill.

Taking a step back and looking at the full year, sales volume fell 17% from 2022. At the same time, median price fell only 1%.

Inland: Sales and Prices Still Sliding

The last month of the year brought no relief for the Inland area. The number of homes sold continued to decline with sales down 2% compared to November. The median price was down for the second month, this time 5% for the month.

Looking at the same month last year, gives year over year sales volume down 2%,and a median price that’s down 2%. The final quarter of the year has been a rough adjustment period for the Inland area.

In the broader year over year view, the Inland area again fell, with sales volume down 11%. Median price was flat for the period with a tendency toward negative. It’s a transitional period which should resolve into a firmer picture by the spring of the year.

Beach=Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, El Segundo
Harbor=Carson, Long Beach, San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City
PV Hill=Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates
Inland=Torrance, Lomita, Gardena

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

Real Estate Investment On A Budget

Many people believe they don’t have the capital to initiate a real estate investment. While it does require some capital, the requirement may be lower than you think. This is especially true if you can find a group of people that want to pool money with you for an investment. You don’t need to demonstrate that you could afford it on your own in order to convince investors to pool money. But even if you aren’t crowdfunding the investment, with enough good research you can find something that works on your budget.

The first thing you need to do is figure out what that budget actually is. While there is always some risk in investing money, real estate is not supposed to be a high-risk investment — don’t try to push the boundaries of your financial stability. Research the market and connect with real estate professionals, or more experienced investors, even if you don’t plan to pool with them. You should also research loan options, and don’t be afraid to take a loan out on investment property, since the rent should ideally pay for the loan over the course of its lifetime. You can also save on costs with some DIY work.

There are a couple different ways to start off. One option if to find cheaper, smaller investments — including off-market properties, which are often at discounted prices — and work your way up after you’ve build up some equity. Another is to purchase a multifamily residence and live in one of the units, termed “house hacking.” This allows you to simultaneously only have one property’s payments to deal with, earn rental income, and accrue equity, with the tradeoff that multifamily properties have a higher upfront cost.

Photo by Acton Crawford on Unsplash

South Bay Home Sales Improve!

Every month we compare the level of home sales from the preceding month to the same month of the preceding year. For example, November of 2023 is compared to November of 2022 to determine whether the number of homes being sold is growing or shrinking. The year over year number of homes sold across the South Bay has been shrinking every month since October of 2021–until now. November of 2023 marked the first time since October of 2021 where the number of homes sold increased over the same month in the prior year.

Lest we become overly enthusiastic, we need to remember that at this time last year successful sales figures were plummeting, Closed escrows were shrinking at up to 50% below the prior year in fall of 2022. So a positive value could only mean we’re bouncing along the bottom.

Also on the positive side, there is some improvement in median price which has been shrinking most of this year. At least as of November, it’s looking like “scattered improvement” in the South Bay real estate market.

Beach: Home Sales Pull Out of Dive

After two successive months of declining sales volume and falling median prices November real estate activity brought positive news to the Beach Cities. Last month saw a 9% jump in sales volume over October, and a 4% increase in the median price. The number of homes sold climbed from 79 last month to 86 in November. Concurrently, the median price gained nearly $70K.

The downside was a 3% drop of the median price versus November of 2022. The sold median for last November was $1.700M compared to $1.656M this year. The year over year sales volume gained 8% with 86 sales versus last years 80 transactions.

Year to date remains in red ink with sales down 14% January through November. For the same time period, the median price has fallen by 2%.

Harbor: Volume and Prices Turn Upward

Compared to November of 2022, both sales volume and median price climbed by 7% last month. This is the second month of solid upward figures for residential home sales in the Harbor area. Sales figures for the area have been in red ink since the beginning of the year, so these are welcome statistics for home owners wishing to sell.

On a monthly basis, the number of homes sold in the Harbor area fell by 6%, dropping from 267 in October to 252 in November. despite a median price increase of 1%.

Looking at the longer term, median price for the first 11 months of the year has fallen from $756K in 2022 to $740K, for a decline of 2% in the year to date median price. Sales volume for the same 11 months went from 3,770 in 2022 to 3,076 this year, a decrease of 18%.

Hill: Sales Volume Down, Prices Up

Comparing November of 2023 to November from last year shows a 10% drop in sales from 51 units in 2022 to 46 units this year. Despite the decline in number of sales, the median price for November climbed 19%, going from $1.77M in 2022 to $1.94M this year.

Monthly changes to the median price are much smaller and have been getting smaller as the year progresses. The November decrease was 1%, having dropped from $1.96M to $1.94M. The median price has varied monthly throughout the year. It ranged from a high of $2.3M in May of this year and fell as low as $1.6M in February. Year to date the median for the Hill is up 1% from 2022.

After having risen in September by 14% and in October by 13%, the number of homes sold on the Hill fell by 27% in November. Of course, part of the decline is seasonal. However, month to month sales volume for the first 11 months of 2023 was off by 19% in Palos Verdes with a similar drop of 16% overall for the South Bay.

Inland: Median Price Up from 2022

November 2023 was a good month for the Inland area compared to the same month last year. The number of homes sold climbed 11%, from 96 sold last year to 107 this year. Median price turned upward by 6%, ending the month at $851K, changed from $800K in 2022.

Compared to October of this year, Inland homes sales fell 8%, dropping from 116 homes to 107. That rate of change was slightly higher than the 6% drop across the South Bay. Median prices fell 7% for the month.

Year to date, the Inland area sales volume is off by 12% while the median price is up 1% from the same period in 2022.

Beach=Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, El Segundo
Harbor=Carson, Long Beach, San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City
PV Hill=Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates
Inland=Torrance, Lomita, Gardena

Photo by Andrew Sterling on Unsplash

Palos Verdes Homes Top the South Bay Market

Home sales on the Palos Verdes Peninsula chalked up an impressive set of statistics in October. Comparing the October 2023 sales to October of last year showed a stunning 26% increase in sales volume beside an equally impressive 11% increase in median price. At the opposite end of the spectrum the Beach Cities October sales volume fell 19% from 2022, while the median price dropped 14%.

Elsewhere across the Los Angeles South Bay volume and prices were mixed with the general trend leaning toward decreased number of homes sold and prices struggling to stay level with last month while often slipping below.

Year To Date Sales Continue to Drop

In between the highs and the lows real estate activity in the South Bay has been mixed for the months of August through October. While many commentators are cautiously hopeful, it must be noted that year to date comparisons continue to show significant declines in the number of homes sold, with an average drop of 18% from 2022 for the first 10 months of the year. Likewise, median prices are falling for the January through October time frame. For example, median prices on the Hill were up in October, but have fallen 4% year to date compared to last year. Similarly the Beach area median is down 3% and the Harbor area is off 2%.

Sales volume is clearly down. By this time in 2022 sales were at 6700 units versus 5500 this year. Many buyers have been “priced out of the market” and many sellers are resisting the idea of “prices going backward.” The result has been a lot of deals not being made.

Year to date, the deals that have been consummated are still generally at median prices above last year, however the most recent three months have shown at least half of sold homes required price reductions to make the sale. With winter setting in, we expect continued reductions in both the volume of sales and in the prices of sold homes.

Home Sales at the Beach Hit a Wall

Throughout the year real estate in the Beach Cities has maintained spotty growth. Sometimes median prices improved, sometimes sales volume. But, October brought a wall of red ink for the Beach. Month over month sales volume plummeted by 27%, while the median price dropped 5% from September when it was flat at $1.7M.

Year over year transaction volume dropped 19% from September of 2022. The median price fell 14% for the same period.

Looking at the year to date statistics showed more declines with sales volume for the first 10 months of 2023 coming in 16% below that of 2022. At the same time, the median price was off by 3%.

In prior downturns the Beach area has been among the last to respond to market negativity and one of the first to recover. If the pattern repeats, sales at the Beach will continue to show predominately negative numbers for the late fall and winter months. Most chroniclers project a return to positive market conditions in late 2025 or early 2026 in general.

Harbor Volume and Prices Turn Upward

Home sales in the Harbor area moved from all negative last month to mostly positive this month. Sales volume on a monthly basis jumped from 24% down in September to a 7% increase in October. Similarly, the month to month median price went from -1% to +1% in October.

Annually, the number of homes sold in the Harbor area increased by 6%, a significant change from having fallen 26% in September. The median price came in at $750K, up by 7%.

That’s only the second time this year the Harbor area median price has come up into the positive range when compared to 2022. Overall, the year to date median sits at $739K, 2% below last year’s number of $756K. Sales volume for the Harbor is off 20% year to date. The number of homes sold for the first 10 months is 2824, compared to 3535 in 2022.

Palos Verdes Homes Star in October Sales

Home sales on the Hill came in at 63 homes sold with a median price of just under $2M. Month over month that represented a 13% growth in sales volume and no measurable change in the median price.

On an annual basis October sales were up 26% over the same month in 2022. This year’s median price was up by 11% over last October.

While these numbers reflect impressive growth it’s important to remember that the number of transactions on the Palos Verdes peninsula is quite small, which results in some dramatic percentile shifts. For example, the annual percentage of change in the median price so far this year has ranged from a low of -29% to a high of 17%. By comparison, the Harbor area where monthly transactions number in the hundreds, has an annual range from a low of -11% to a high of 7%.

On a year to date basis, the Hill showed a more common face with the January through October sales volume down by 20% from 2022. During the same time frame median prices fell by 4%.

Inland Area Sales Volume Down, Prices Up

In a surprising turn of events, the Inland area has shown an increased median price for both the monthly and for the annual sales figures. The median price came in at $917K this October, which was 2% above the September median. On an annual basis, the median was up by 7% over the $860K of October 2022.

With 116 units sold for the month of October this year, the sales volume was 11% lower than it was this September. The monthly decline was even greater than the drop of 9% for the year over year comparison to last October.

Year to date, the Inland area has outperformed the balance of the South Bay on median price and on sales volume. For January through October there is no discernible change to the median price from 2022 to 2023. In the same time frame the sales dropped by 14%, the smallest decline of the local areas.

Beach=Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, El Segundo
Harbor=Carson, Long Beach, San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City
PV Hill=Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates
Inland=Torrance, Lomita, Gardena

Photo by Julianne Takes Photos on Unsplash

Over A Third Of Homebuyers Paying Cash

In September, the share of homebuyers paying all cash was 34.1%. This is the highest it has been since the beginning of 2014, and an increase of 4.6% from September 2022. However, this doesn’t mean homes are more affordable; in fact, it’s the opposite.

While it’s true that a significantly higher share of buyers are paying all cash, there are much fewer sales overall. Total sales decreased by 23% over the past year. Compare this to a decrease of only 11% for all cash sales. Cash sales aren’t going up, rather sales overall are going down, and cash buyers are less affected.

The reason for this is high interest rates, since cash buyers don’t care what the interest rate is for a mortgage loan they aren’t getting. Interest rates fluctuate up and down on a daily basis, but rarely change by much at a time. But in this case, they hit a two decade high in September at 7.2 and then continued an upward trend into October, almost reaching 8%. As of last week, they had started to drop back down. Despite this decrease, with how erratic rates can be, that isn’t a sure sign that rates are now trending downward.

Photo by Andres Siimon on Unsplash

More: https://www.redfin.com/news/all-cash-homebuyers-september-2023/

Inspections Alone Won’t Uncover All The Potential Problems

Certainly, one of the benefits of a home inspection is peace of mind that the property you’re buying or selling doesn’t have any major issues. However, some issues can be hidden even after an inspection. Home inspections are typically visual assessments by a single individual. Some things could be missed, particularly if the home is large, and problems that are difficult to see visually can easily escape notice.

If a mold, mildew, or pest problem is easily seen by a home inspector, it means the damage is already done. You’ll need specialists to detect these issues before they arise. The same is true of faults in the foundation or structure as well as environmental hazards such as lead and asbestos. There are also some things that records may show but that an inspector wouldn’t have any knowledge of without access to these records, such as outdated plumbing and wiring and unpermitted home renovations.

Photo by Stefan Steinbauer on Unsplash