How COVID-19 Has Forever Altered the Home Buying Process

Under normal circumstances, selling residential real estate involves interacting with several people. The standard formalities include in-person property tours, roundtable closings, and handshakes.

But the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, safety, and social distancing has become the new norm. This means that sellers and real estate professionals have to adapt to a new way of conducting business through changing how they approach open houses, closings, and even personal greetings.

Industry experts express surprise at how quickly the industry has evolved. Industry participants have come together throughout the many facets of business to develop constructive solutions allowing them to safely and comfortably serve potential clients and buyers.

In states experiencing surges of COVID-19 cases, many of these safety solutions, such as self-guided tours while wearing personal protective gear, are still in place. However, experts predict that some of these measures will have staying power even after rates fall out of the high-risk zone and a coronavirus vaccine has been widely distributed.

Many new methods of facilitating a home sale have been ushered in due to the pandemic. Industry experts predict that the following practices are here to stay:

Curbside and No-Touch Closings

The closing day is perhaps the most exciting part of the process of home sale transactions. Finally, your property is sold! Curbside and no-touch closings have been used during the COVID-19 pandemic to remain compliant with social distancing guidelines.

How does the process of curbside closing take place? In places where this is practiced, a title expert walks out to the client’s vehicle to gather signatures on documentation that a lawyer has prepared beforehand, rather than the traditional way of completing all paperwork with a lawyer in a conference room.

In cases where remote online notarizations or remote ink notarizations are allowed, all documents can be signed remotely via an approved online notary platform (such as Notarize) or audiovisual portal (such as Microsoft Teams).

Experts predict that curbside and no-touch closings will become the norm in the future. Today, time is at a premium, and curbside and no-touch closings help save time. These new closing options help reduce travel times for most parties involved as well as help minimize some of the scheduling challenges involved in the closing process.

A majority of clients appreciate these changes and would like to see them as the norm after the pandemic is over.

Say Goodbye to Out-of-Focus Pictures and Inadequate Listing Descriptions

Well-informed sellers understand that high-resolution listing images and a detailed listing description of your property are important to attract buyers. During the pandemic, presenting your home in its most favorable light online has been more vital than ever as in-person open houses are not always recommended.

Due to the pandemic, the need for agents to be more virtually knowledgeable and use heavy pictures in their listings has accelerated. Many agents have begun leveraging social media by posting more videos of properties on Facebook Live or Instagram, which has been much appreciated by buyers.

In the future, the more “virtual” details, the better! The standard marketing strategies of a residential property is likely to include professional images, virtual tours, and a gripping property description.

Virtual Showings are Here to Stay

Physical open houses will always remain a part of the home sale process. However, virtual showings are certainly a big part of the future of residential property sales.

In virtual showings, 3D videos are used to showcase the property. This has revolutionized the way the industry operates and will continue to do so in the future, according to real estate professionals. In fact, the 3D tours are so realistic that clients now want them to be a standard part of marketing initiatives.

It appears that virtual tours will be used in conjunction with in-person open houses in the future. Buyers are now using virtual tours to shortlist their choices before physically viewing their choice properties.

Work from Home (WFH) Residences are Becoming Popular

WFH has become a significant part of life today. Thus, developers will seek new ways to capitalize on this trend. In new homes, specially designed WFH areas will be incorporated. Social distancing has increased the need to develop more and more contactless technology. Therefore, business models will now be powered by technological advances that are custom made for clients.

The real estate sector has shown great speed in responding to these changes and adopting new technologies, which is apparent in the digitization of various processes. There have been substantial shifts in investment preferences due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and these changes will last well beyond the pandemic.

Hire a Knowledgeable Real Estate Attorney for Property Purchase, Sale, and

Closings

The sale and purchase of real estate can be a tricky area of law to handle and warrants a qualified attorney to be successful. This is particularly true when it comes to the development of entitles pertaining to real estate as well as the negotiation and drafting of transaction paperwork necessary in these deals.

When it comes to your property, nothing but the very best quality legal work will do. A seasoned lawyer will be able to provide detailed and easy-to-comprehend closing services for residential and commercial real estate transactions. At Evans Law, we are equipped to handle all legal matters related to real estate transactions. For a free consultation, call today at (410) 626-6009.

 

Using a Real Estate Attorney for An Estate Sale

The term “estate” is often used to describe an individual’s assets and possessions, including their property and money, at the time of their demise. An estate sale usually refers to an attempt to dispose of the decedent’s property for the maximum amount and as fast as possible. The estate sale customarily happens in the home of the person that has passed away. A majority of the home’s contents, and often the house itself, are up “for sale.”

The sale proceeds, including proceeds from the home sale, will typically be divided amongst the heirs. If the deceased had a last will and testament detailing how they want the proceeds to be divided, the probate court would honor the decedent’s wishes.

Should I Contact an Estate Sale Lawyer?

It is vital to discuss your questions and concerns with a qualified real estate lawyer who understands the estate sale process and the legal mandates.

Various factors are at play when an estate sale is being considered, such as:

  • Does the decedent have a last will and testament?
  • Did the person pass away interstate?
  • Who are the heirs to the deceased’s estate?
  • Should an estate sale company be engaged?
  • How are an estate sale’s proceeds distributed?
  • Are there any other expenses involved in the estate sale process?
  • Are there any applicable taxes on the proceeds of the sale?

If you plan to draft a will and require guidance on whether or not to include an estate sale clause, an estate planning lawyer can help. Or, if you are an heir to property and decide to conduct an estate sale, consulting a real estate attorney will ease the complicated process during an already challenging time. Estate sale lawyers will be able to offer you guidance in making appropriate decisions for your specific situation.

Selling the Property on Behalf of the Deceased Owner

If you are left in charge of a property on the owner’s death, and the decedent did not set up a living trust, you will need to go through probate to sell it. Probate refers to a legal process that appoints a representative to administer the estate and divide the assets among the intended beneficiaries.

In this process, a seasoned probate lawyer is a necessary player. After you have inherited the property rights, your lawyer can help you handle any taxes, debts, or issues with the property. If a trustee is selling a part of a trust, there may be specific language in the trust warranting certain terms.

A lawyer can review various documents to ensure that you are compliant with all the terms of the trust and not breaching your fiduciary duty by selling the property. A real estate attorney can guide you through the selling process to ensure that you are within your legal rights.

Further, they will defend and protect you if you are one of the multiple trustees to ensure that you receive the money you are entitled to. If you are unfamiliar with the property and its condition, a real estate lawyer can work with your real estate agent to negotiate any significant issues that may arise, such as water damage or structural issues.

You are Going Through a Separation or Divorce

If you co-own a property with someone and you want to sell, you will need a lawyer, particularly if the other co-owner does not want to sell the home. A real estate lawyer will represent you and your rights when facing an uncooperative co-owner in difficult negotiations.

Various factors must be considered when you sell a property in a divorce. A real estate lawyer will assist you in working out the details. Certain aspects that can legally impact your right to the property are as follows:

  • State law on property division
  • If you were married when you bought the house
  • Any pre-marital agreements
  • The name on the property deed and mortgage
  • Your financial situation
  • The terms of your divorce agreement

If both the parties have equal rights on the home, you and your spouse will have to decide how you want to divide the property. Some options for handling your home during a split are as follows:

  • Buy out your spouse for full ownership, or vice versa
  • Decide on who will stay in the property until you are ready to sell
  • Work with each other to rent out the property and be co-landlords
  • Sell the home and divide the proceeds

Arriving at a fair decision can be challenging. However, a lawyer will ensure that your rights are protected, whether you decide to sell and divide the proceeds, or one partner can keep the home.

Legal Help by Client-Focused Real Estate Attorneys in Maryland

When a transaction is riddled with obstacles, it is best to work with an expert legal professional who can put out fires and prevent the sale from crumbling. Only a handful of law firms focus on the complex matters pertaining to real estate, land use, and construction. The skilled lawyers at Evans Law handle all three.

Annapolis lawyer Matthew S. Evans, III, and his qualified legal team possess several years of professional experience, on-going education, and active leadership in the community. With our client-focused approach, we serve individuals and enterprises with a wide array of legal services. For a no-obligation consultation, call today at (410) 626-6009.

How Does a Short Sale Work in Maryland?

A short sale, also known as a pre-foreclosure sale, is an option to prevent foreclosure on a home. Before deciding whether a short sale is a right option for you, it is necessary to speak to an attorney to understand all alternatives available to you.

If you are unable to make the monthly mortgage payments on your home, a short sale is something you may want to consider. The lender may allow you to sell the property for less than the total amount of the debt if the sale value of the property is not enough to offset the loan in full.

A short sale refers to an arrangement between the homeowner and the mortgage lender to accept less than the total amount due to pay off the property loan. The lender consents to accept the sales proceeds as full payment of your loan despite the fact that it will be “short.”

In the case of a short sale, prior lender approval is necessary as they must agree to accept less than the total amount due. It is not possible to force them to consent to a short sale. This necessitates a negotiated agreement with the lender to consent to your short sale and avoid foreclosure on your property. A committed real estate lawyer can apprise you of the various options available to you if they are a seasoned short sale negotiator.

In addition, you also need to understand your bankruptcy options. A primary reason for undertaking a short sale is to avoid bankruptcy. But sometimes the bankruptcy might be a more conducive option. However, you have to understand your options before taking action.

The Decision Is Not Yours

If the lender wishes to consider a short sale, they will analyze the facts of your particular case and determine if you are eligible to sell the home at less than the outstanding debt. If they agree, the lender accepts that shortfall as their loss.

But anyone who is thinking of a short sale must be aware that the ultimate decision on approval of a short sale is going to be made by the lender, and it will not be easy for you to get the mortgage lender to agree to a short sale.

The Lender has the Final Word
In case the lender wants to consider a short sale, they will assess the specifics of your case and establish whether you are eligible to sell the property for less than the outstanding loan. When the lender agrees to a short sale, they accept the shortfall as their loss.

If you are contemplating a short sale, it is vital to understand that the final decision on the approval of a short sale will be made by the lender, keeping their best interests in mind. In effect, it is not straightforward to get a lender to consent to a short sale.

Sometimes it may be more beneficial to the lender if you file for bankruptcy. If you are required to file a Chapter 13 instead of Chapter 7 by the Bankruptcy Judge, the lender might get more advantageous repayment terms by forcing you to file bankruptcy. Ultimately, it depends on the specificities of your circumstances.

If you cannot retain your home and wish to avoid bankruptcy, a short sale may be an ideal option.

Steps in the Short Sale Process

The following steps are involved in the short sale process in Maryland:

  1. The sellers are unable to meet their mortgage liabilities due to hardship, such as loss of employment, divorce, or illness, among others.
  2. The sellers should speak to the mortgage company to understand whether they would do a loan modification (making changes to the current mortgage terms to reduce the amount of the current payment) or if the bank has any other provisions to help them retain the home.
  3. After it is determined that the lender cannot help the seller retain the property, the seller should consult local short sale specialists. This is crucial as the skills necessary to navigate a short sale are quite distinct from those required for a home sale with equity.
  4. Put the property on the market. A key difference in marketing a short sale and a home with equity is that while preparing a property for a short sale, very little or no money should be spent on making home improvements.
  5. The agent will evaluate the price and terms with sellers once an offer is made on the home. In case the sellers find the offer acceptable, they will reach out to the bank(s) for approval. At this point, the real fun begins. It can take time to get approval from banks (also known as third-party) approval.
  6. The buyer can still undertake property inspections but will likely meet resistance if they require any repairs as the sellers may be unable to pay for repairs, and the banks are also unlikely to make any repairs.
  7. The bank(s) will arrive at a decision and will approve the short sale in writing. If the sellers are in agreement with the terms, it is time to prepare for closing.
  8. At this time, the buyer will submit all final loan documentation, the appraisal will take place, and closing will be scheduled (usually with a period of 30 days).

Every short sale is different, but all of them will test your patience. Therefore, the buyer and seller of a short sale must have realistic expectations.

Consult a Qualified Real Estate Attorney in Maryland

It is vital to work with a seasoned legal professional for those considering a short sale or any other real estate transaction. The qualified real estate lawyers at Evans Law have vast experience in handling these types of transactions. Our lawyers will assess your situation and advise you on whether a short sale is a right option for you. If you are considering this option or simply want to understand the process better, call (410) 626-6009 or message us online to schedule a consultation.

How Will the Coronavirus Pandemic Impact the Maryland Housing Market?

In the two major metro markets in Maryland, the real estate sector started strong. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic led to unprecedented lockdown orders. MarketStats data indicates that in Washington and Baltimore metro regions, the highest median March sales prices peaked at the highest amounts in the past ten years.

However, by the end of the month, there was a significant decline in new listings. According to Chris Finnegan, Bright MLS’s chief marketing and communications officer, the metro area reached a March 10-year high for the median home sale price. The figures on March housing are the first data to indicate for the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the sales of local residential real estate.

In March, the median residential real estate price in the eight counties and city that constitute Maryland’s primary metro jurisdiction almost touched $330,000. The median year-over-year price rose by 8.4 percent. Simultaneously, the number of closed sales in those jurisdictions witnessed a median increase exceeding 16 percent.

However, the pending sales decreased starting February in each of the jurisdictions in a period when sales should have been set to increase as we headed into the normally strong spring selling market. The year-over-year number of pending sales dropped by a median of 3.25 percent throughout the metro jurisdictions.

The number of new listings also decreased in March in comparison to the previous month. The Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties saw a slight rise in the number of new listings compared to last year, but the median number of new listings reduced by 2.5 percent in that category.

Recent times have witnessed a large number of Maryland residents making first-time unemployment claims.

Concerns about whether potential homebuyers will choose to opt out of purchasing new homes are growing. There is speculation on whether there will be another economic downturn, similar to the Great Recession in 2008, due to the possibility of a rise in foreclosures. As of now, the federal and state governments have ordered moratoriums on foreclosures.

According to local authorities, projections already indicate a substantial shortfall in revenues due to income tax loss. Local governments are keeping a close eye on the housing market as their largest source of income is from property taxes.

In case the economic damage due to the COVID-19 pandemic hits the residential real estate market, local authorities will face an even more challenging situation in paying their bills. Certain jurisdictions, such as Baltimore, are in the process of contemplating layoffs and furloughs for firefighters and law enforcement personnel.

Ted Zaleski, the Director of Management and Budget in Carroll County, states that in the short term, the loss of revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic is not alarming. However, at some stage, they will have to assess the effect of this situation on future earnings, which can have a significant impact.

Disruption of Homebuilder Supply Lines due to COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has had an adverse effect on the home builder supply chain. The National Association of Home Builders states that almost one-third of home building supplies are sourced from China, besides finished goods such as sinks, appliances, and bathtubs. There has been a significant disruption in these supply chains.

At a time when home construction finally gained momentum, such delays could have a negative impact. Home construction has been struggling to keep up with demand since the financial crisis due to the scarcity of available land, cost of construction, and shortage of construction labor.

But the NAHB indicates that homebuilder confidence has risen significantly in recent months. This means that among builders, there is more inclination to commence construction on residential real estate.

The Oncoming Spring Homebuying Season

The conditions were favorable for the spring homebuying season to be incredibly competitive due to low inventory, high demand, and low mortgage rates. It is a good idea for existing homeowners to consider refinancing to take advantage of such low rates.

However, there has been a drastic change due to the COVID-19 situation. The mortgage industry could be sent reeling due to any prolonged suspension in mortgage payments and cause a liquidity crunch. In this event, lenders will not have sufficient capital to give loans to potential homebuyers.

However, if the lending infrastructure of the mortgage industry sustains limited damage, a rapid recovery might be possible. This would bring the residential real estate market back to where it was before the coronavirus pandemic.

The mortgage industry could make a quick recovery, but the economy at large may not. That would impact demand, and there will be potentially fewer buyers in the market. This would be welcome news for potential buyers who will now face less competition while trying to purchase their dream residence.

Consult an Experienced Real Estate Attorney

Today, the country faces an unforeseen health crisis due to COVID-19. The health and well-being of the people remain the utmost priority. The offices of Evans Law remain open, and we are taking every measure possible to ensure the safety of our clients and team. Together we will get through this unprecedented situation!

Every client is like family at Matthew S. Evans, III law firm. We believe in developing close interpersonal relationships and providing meaningful, cost-effective legal counsel.

Our knowledgeable legal team works with clients on a wide array of litigation areas, ranging from real estate transactions to general civil litigation. To schedule a case review for your specific situation, call us today at (410) 626-6009.

Leasing Out Your First Rental Unit in Maryland

So, you’ve become a landlord! Whether you stumbled into renting by wanting to make income off of property you no longer inhabit, or bought a home or apartment building with the specific intention of renting it out, you want to get the job done right, and avoid as much legal trouble as possible. Here are some guidelines and pitfalls you’ll want to keep in mind as you embark into the world of renting and leasing property.

The Lease

Put your lease in writing. While it is legal to have an oral lease if the term of the lease is under a year long, it’s a good idea to have all terms of the agreement in writing, so that both parties can rely on those terms. Leases must be in writing if you have five or more units for rent in the state of Maryland, or where the lease term is a year or more long. The lease should also note what utilities, if any, you’re planning to cover, and which ones should be covered by the tenant. While you may wish to reuse a lease for multiple tenants, it would be in your best interest to have an attorney experienced in landlord/tenant law draft your initial lease. Be prepared to give your tenant a final copy of the lease in advance of the tenant signing it to allow for a review of all terms.

Security Deposit

Under Maryland law, a security deposit cannot exceed two months’ rent. Charging more than this amount could lead to imposition of a high penalty. You are required to give the tenant a receipt upon payment of the deposit, which must detail the tenant’s entitlement to a list of the existing defects or damage to the rental unit, if the tenant requests it within 15 days of moving in. Failure to provide this list upon request could lead to another stiff penalty. Maryland requires that landlords place security deposits in an escrow account, and pay certain levels of interest on those deposits depending on when the unit was first rented. An attorney can help you determine what you would owe in interest on your tenant’s security deposit

Collecting Rent

Should your tenant pay rent in cash on a residential unit, be prepared to offer the tenant a receipt for payment, as the tenant is entitled to a receipt under the law. If the tenant fails to pay rent on time, you may impose a penalty. However, there are limits to the percentage of the monthly rent amount you can impose as a late payment penalty. There is also a bar to evicting a tenant with less than 30 days’ notice, even if you have included this as a term in the lease.

There are many other rules and guidelines which must be followed if you’re a Maryland landlord, including those regarding what may be deducted from a security deposit, rules regarding lead paint in older properties, and rules on eviction. Consult with an attorney who knows landlord/tenant law before you rent out your property. Contact the Annapolis Law offices of Matthew S. Evans III, LLC, at 410-626-6009.

Matthew Evans, Esq. Representing Plaintiffs in “Snake House” Case

When a young family recently settled on a house in the Beechwood on the Burley neighborhood of St. Margaret’s, they were unaware of a snake infestation that would quickly drain their checkbook and drop their house value.

The Law Office of Matthew Evans III is representing the family as they try to recoup their losses and provide a safe home for their two young children. Jeff and Jody Brooks purchased their home in December, 2014 and lived uneventfully through the cold winter months, unaware that black rat snakes were hibernating quietly within the walls and rafters of their home. As the warm spring days approached, sounds above their heads and sightings of snakes around the house began to raise their suspicions that something was very wrong.

Snakes, snake skins and scat (snake droppings) began to appear in the basement and around the house as the snakes became active again. After seeking help from a local pest control company, it became obvious that they were dealing with an infestation beyond their means: “I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Stephen Kulp, manager of an Annapolis branch of Home Paramount in an interview with the Capital Gazette. For the safety of their children, they packed up and moved in with Jody’s mother down the street.


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Matthew Evans III is a leading real estate lawyer serving the Annapolis area. Experienced in Maryland real estate law, Mr. Evans will address the issues of full disclosure and whether the seller of the property was in violation of this when the home was sold to the Brooks’ last year. At issue is the potential complete loss of the value of the home if it is deemed uninhabitable and in need of a complete tear down and rebuild.

The case is currently pending a court date in the State of Maryland.

Matthew Evans Has Formed an Of-Counsel Relationship With Our Firm

The Evans Law, LLC is pleased to announce that Matthew Strohm Evans, Jr. has formed an Of-Counsel relationship with our firm. Strohm currently owns and operates United Title & Escrow in Severna Park and brings wit…h him over 40 years of real estate law experience. His wealth of knowledge includes complex real estate transactions and title matters. Strohm will certainly serve as an invaluable resource to the firm and to our clients.

Founded by one of the Annapolis area’s leading construction and real estate attorneys, the Evans Law, provides experienced, effective, and cost-efficient counsel in Maryland and the District of Columbia. From contract-related disputes to real estate and construction law to general civil litigation, the Evans Law, offers a broad range of legal services.

Real Estate Law Services

Investing in or selling real estate can be a complex transaction as well as one of the most costly.  While hiring a real estate attorney may not be necessary at every transaction, average homebuyers may benefit from their expertise.  The Evans Law in Annapolis, MD is a full service real estate law firm experienced in helping parties in both residential and commercial real estate transactions.

In addition to buying or selling a home, there are many different scenarios that require the assistance of a real estate attorney. This may include buying or selling a business property, landlord and tenant disagreements about rental lease contracts and overseeing contracts between retailers and local communities about the location of new businesses.

The Evans Law handles ownership transactions, real estate contracts and litigation, homeowners association issues, landlord and tenant disagreements and contract disputes.  They have the experience and professionalism to effectively communicate and counsel.  Even in real estate cases where there are no disagreements, it may be beneficial to have an attorney should any problems arise unexpectedly.

In addition to real estate law services, the Law Offices of Matthew Evans, III offers real estate settlement services for residential and commercial properties through their affiliate company, United Title & Escrow.  As a full service real estate settlement company, United Title & Escrow has over 30 years experience in solving difficult title issues and making property closing smooth for all parties.

If you are in need of real estate law services contact the Law Offices of Matthew S. Evans III.  With more than 15 years experience, Mr. Evans represents clients throughout Maryland and Washington, D.C. with a level of service and expertise that is difficult to find with many other law firms. Mr. Evans offers hands-on, personal service for clients of all needs. You will receive a free consultation to fully understand what to expect during the transaction.

 

Construction Law

Matthew S. Evans, III is an experienced construction law attorney based in Annapolis, Maryland. His focus on land use, construction and real estate enable him to provide a level of service that is not found among other law firms. Evans Law serves clients in the state of Maryland, along with Washington D.C.

Evans Law takes a creative approach to finding solutions in the field of construction, including liens, sureties, bonds, contracts and complicated disputes. The firm brings a decade of experience with bond claims, defects, licensing and the Miller Act. This includes:

• Counsel and advice.

• Drafting, review process and negotiation with claims and contracts.

• Arbitration and mediation for disputes.

• Trial and appellate litigation.

• Handling of bid protests.

In addition, Matthew S. Evans, III is one of a small group of Maryland attorneys who is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified. This makes him knowledgeable and experienced in the area of construction called “green building,” which is expected to continue expansion well into the future.

Evans Law provides the flexibility needed to solve problems in the 21st century legal climate. The firm engages in alternative methods of resolving disputes while maintaining keen awareness of cost and the desired result. The main goal is to present clients with the most effective approaches to avoid expensive litigation in the area of construction law.

Those in the Maryland or Washington D.C. area who require the services of a construction law attorney can contact Evans Law at 410-870-9982 to schedule a consultation.

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