What Should you Ask Lenders When Buying a Home?

Buying a home requires more than finding the perfect home. First, you need financing, or you won’t be able to buy the home.

Lenders have specific requirements when considering buying a home, so knowing what questions you should ask them is important.

How Much do I Need for a Down Payment?

Your down payment depends on the loan program you choose. For example, VA loans don’t require a down payment, but FHA loans require 3.5% down. Conventional loans require 5% down in most cases, and if you put down less than 20%, you’ll pay Private Mortgage Insurance.

Discuss your down payment options and how much you should put down to get the best rate and terms on your loan.

What’s the Best Interest Rate I can Get?

Interest rates are much higher this year than last, so you should talk to your lender about how you can lower your rates.

They’ll look at your qualifying factors and tell you what you can improve to ensure you get a lower rate. You can also ask about the possibility of buying the rate down (paying points) to lower the interest rate to keep it even lower.

When Should I Lock my Interest Rate?

You must lock your interest rate before closing on the loan, but your loan officer can tell you the best time to do it. Most rate locks are free for 30 days, but if you must lock it for longer, it might cost you.

It’s best to lock your rate after you sign a purchase contract, so you have a better chance of closing on the loan before it expires, but always ask your lender when it’s the best time to lock.

How Much are Closing Costs?

You’ll need more than the down payment to close on your loan. You’ll also pay closing costs. Most lenders charge 3% – 5% of the loan amount in closing costs. Ask your lender what the total cost of the loan is so you can budget accordingly.

Some loans allow you to wrap some closing costs into it if you don’t have the funds upfront. If you’re worried about affording the closing costs, talk to your lender about your options.

Final Thoughts

Knowing what to ask lenders before you buy a home is important. Mortgage financing is one of the most important aspects of buying a home. Without a mortgage, you’d need cash to buy a home, and most people don’t have enough cash for a purchase of that size.

It’s a good idea to get quotes from at least three lenders and to get to know their process. No two lenders offer the same rates and terms or have the same process. You might find one lender has an easier process and better rates than another, which can mean the difference of thousands of dollars!

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How Long Does It Take to Close on a Home? 

Buying a house is exciting and overwhelming all at the same time. Not only must you find your dream home, but you must secure financing too unless you’re paying cash. 

The financing part causes a lot of stress for most people because they don’t know what to expect. One of the largest concerns I hear about is how long does it take to close on a home? 

How Fast can you Close?

When you sign a purchase contract, it’s natural to want to close right away. But it takes time. While it varies by lender, the national average is 48 days. With higher interest rates and a slow in the industry overall, you might see faster turnaround times, though. 

The Loan Closing Process

You might wonder what takes so long to close on a home. It helps to understand the steps lenders go through.

  1. You get pre-approved before you look at homes. This allows the lender to review your credit score, income, assets, and liabilities. They use this information to make sure you qualify for any of their loan programs.
  2. You work with a reputable real estate agent to find your dream home and sign a purchase contract. Once signed, you give the lender the contract along with any other conditions you can satisfy according to your pre-approval letter.
  3. You open escrow. This is where you put money down in ‘good faith.’ This tells sellers you’re a serious and qualified buyer and are willing to risk your funds. A neutral third-party escrow company holds the funds until you close.
  4. The lender orders an appraisal and title work on the property. This information tells the lender if the home is a good risk. Is it worth at least as much as you’re paying? Is the title clear? In other words, is the chain of ownership legal and are there any outstanding liens aside from the seller’s current mortgage? This process could take a couple of weeks.
  5. Clear any outstanding conditions. At this point, to get to a clear to close, you must provide any straggling documentation the lender needs. Sometimes other issues come up when they review your paystubs, verify your employment, or look at your asset statements. Stay in touch with your loan officer and provide documentation as quickly as possible.
  6. Close on your loan. Once you have the ‘clear to close,’ you’re free to close on the loan and take ownership of the home.  

Final Thoughts

It’s always worth asking a lender what their turnaround time is, especially in today’s market. Some lenders are moving much faster than others. If you have a closing date that’s sooner than 30 – 45 days, make sure you find a lender that can work within that timeline.

Some of how fast you close a loan depends on how well you cooperate with the lender. The faster you provide the documentation they require, the faster they can clear your loan to close. 

If you have questions about the buying process or would like a great lender referal, give me a call today!

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PMI – What is it and How Does it Work? 

By now you’ve likely heard complaints or frustrations over PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance) and do whatever you can to avoid it.

What if it’s not as bad as you think, though?

Private Mortgage Insurance has its positive sides, including the fact that it allows you to get competitive financing without a 20% down payment.

Here’s everything you need to know about PMI. 

What is PMI?

Private Mortgage Insurance is insurance coverage you buy for the lender. It’s the lender’s guarantee for allowing you to put down as little as 3% – 5% on a home.

Typically, lenders require a 20% down payment for conventional financing, but many borrowers don’t have that much to put down. With PMI, you can make a much lower down payment, but cover the cost of insurance to protect the lender if you default. 

How Does PMI Work?

PMI is insurance for the lender only, but you pay the premiums. It’s your cost because you aren’t making a large down payment.

Lenders take a chance when borrowers don’t have a lot of their own money invested in the home. It would be a lot easier for you to walk away from a home if you have 3% invested versus 20%, right?

You pay the PMI premiums, but the insurance is only used if you default on the loan. In other words, if you get so far behind that the lender starts foreclosure proceedings, they’d make a claim on the insurance.

The Good News about PMI 

Here’s the good news.

PMI doesn’t last forever.

You only have to pay the premiums until you owe less than 80% of the home’s value. This can happen in a couple of ways.

  • Make your regular payments and wait until you pay as much as necessary to get your principal balance below 80% of the original home value.
  • Make regular payments but pay for a new appraisal when you know homes in your area appreciated. This may allow you to cancel PMI early.
  • You can also make larger mortgage payments than is required to pay the principal down faster.

You can request to cancel PMI whenever you get the balance lower than 80% of the home’s value, but lenders use the original value unless you pay for a new appraisal.

As long as you have a timely payment history and there aren’t any other issues with your account, they may approve your request to cancel it.

If not, by law lenders must cancel PMI automatically when you owe 78% of the home’s original value. 

Final Thoughts

PMI doesn’t add a lot to your mortgage payment, and it makes it a lot easier to buy a home without a large down payment.

If you have good credit and a low debt-to-income ratio, you might qualify for conventional financing with PMI. You’ll pay the insurance temporarily while you enjoy your new dream home.

If you need help finding the perfect home or understanding how PMI would affect your payment, contact me today!

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The Best Mortgage Loans for First Time Homebuyers


Buying your first home can be exciting and overwhelming at the same time. You’re fulfilling the American dream but at the same time, taking on the largest debt of your lifetime. 

Fortunately, there are many great mortgage loans for first time homebuyers. Here are our top choices.

FHA Loans

FHA loans used to be known as a ‘first time homebuyer’s loan.’ While today anyone can use the program, it is a great program for anyone that hasn’t owned a home before because of its flexible guidelines and low down payment requirements.

FHA loans require mortgage insurance for the life of the loan at a rate of 0.85% of the loan amount. Your insurance payment decreases each year as you pay your balance down, but you pay it for the life of the loan.

How to Qualify

  • Minimum 580 credit score
  • Maximum 43% – 50% debt-to-income ratio
  • At least 3.5% of the purchase price as a down payment
  • Stable income and employment for the last 2 years
  • No recent bankruptcies
  • Proof you’ll occupy the property as your primary residence

Conventional Loans

Conventional loans are reserved for borrowers with good credit, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. We’ve seen borrowers get approved with a credit score of 660 which isn’t in the ‘good credit’ range.

Conventional loans are different from FHA loans because you can cancel your Private Mortgage Insurance once you owe less than 80% of the home’s value. This means your mortgage payment will decrease once you eliminate PMI.

How to Qualify

  • Minimum 660 credit score
  • Maximum 36% – 43% debt-to-income ratio
  • At least 3% down payment (5% if you owned a home before)
  • Stable income and employment for the last 2 years
  • No recent bankruptcies

VA Loans

VA loans are for veterans that served or are serving our country. This flexible mortgage program doesn’t require a down payment and has the most flexible guidelines for veterans.

The program is only for owner-occupied properties and is a great option for veterans right out of the military looking to buy their first house.

How to Qualify

  • Minimum 620 credit score (this varies by lender since the VA doesn’t have a minimum credit score requirement)
  • Maximum 43% – 50% debt-to-income ratio
  • No down payment required
  • Adequate disposable income according to your location and family size according to VA guidelines
  • Stable income and employment or proof of future employment if you just got out of the military
  • Proof you’ll occupy the property as your primary residence
  • Certificate of Eligibility to prove you are eligible for a VA loan

Final Thoughts

If you’re a first time homebuyer, you have many mortgage options available to you. Compare your options and get quotes from at least 3 lenders. Each lender has different requirements and charges different rates and fees.

I’m happy to help you figure out which loan is right for you as well as help you find the house that’s perfect for your needs. Together we’ll make your dream of homeownership come true.

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How to Prepare to Buy Your First Home

First Time Homebuyer Tips

Buying your first home is exciting and overwhelming all at once. Before you get in over your head, use these simple tips to best prepare you for one of the largest investments you’ll make in your lifetime.

Save for a Down Payment

The earlier you can save for a down payment the better. While you don’t need 20% down to buy a home, the more money you invest, the easier it is to get financing. Plus, you’ll keep your mortgage payment down which not only helps you qualify for a loan but helps keep your payment affordable for the next 15 to 30 years.



Check your Credit

Your credit score is one of the most important factors in your application. It’s what lenders look at first and if it’s not high enough, they won’t approve your loan.

Everyone gets free access to their credit report weekly at www.annualcreditreport.com. Check all three credit reports and see what you need to fix. Look for:

  • Late payments
  • Credit utilization over 30% of your credit limit
  • Collections
  • Errors

Fix any issues you can and maximize your credit score. If you want to see your actual score, check with your credit card companies or bank – they may offer free access to your score too.

Get Pre-Approved (not Pre-Qualified)

Before you shop for a home, get pre-approved. Even if you think you have ‘great’ credit and good income, find out what a lender thinks first. We recommend getting quotes from at least 3 lenders so you can compare your options side-by-side.

You may find you get approved for more or less than you thought you could afford. A pre-approval letter also helps get your foot in the door with sellers. Many sellers won’t show their homes or entertain offers from buyers without a pre-approval.

Stick to your Budget

It’s tempting to go ‘slightly’ over your budget especially when you see it only makes a difference of a few dollars in your mortgage payment, but it’s a bad idea. Don’t get caught up in a bidding war or get so emotionally attached to a home that you outbid yourself. Stick to your budget and know that the right home will come along.

Exhaust all First Time Homebuyer Assistance Programs

As a first time homebuyer, you have many options for assistance. Talk with your lender and me to find out what programs are available to you. From low and no down payment loan programs to down payment grants, there are programs for borrowers of all walks of life.

Bottom Line

First time homebuyers have plenty of opportunities to secure a home. Even if you don’t have a 20% down payment or perfect credit, there are options available for you. The key is to maximize your qualifying factors as early as possible so you increase your chances of securing your dream home.

I’m always available for questions or help – together we can help you prepare for and buy your first home, making it a stress-free and fun process!

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How to Calculate your Debt-to-Income Ratio

If you’re in the market to buy a house, your mortgage lender will look at a couple of main factors to determine if you qualify. Most people know they check your credit score and credit history, but they aren’t aware of the debt-to-income ratio and how it works.

What is a Debt-to-Income Ratio?

Your DTI is a comparison of your monthly debts to your gross monthly income (income before taxes). The higher the percentage is, the higher your risk of default becomes. Lenders like borrowers with a DTI of 43% or less. This leaves plenty of money for living expenses and savings, reducing the risk of default.

What’s Included in your Debt-to-Income Ratio?

The only information you need to calculate your DTI is your total debts and total income.





Debts to Include in your DTI

The debts you include are those on your credit report. A few examples include:

  • Car payments
  • Minimum credit card payments
  • Personal loan payments
  • Student loans

The DTI also includes the new mortgage you’re applying for which includes the principal, interest, real estate taxes, and homeowner’s insurance. It also includes any HOA dues and mortgage insurance, if applicable.

Income to Include in your DTI

You can include any income the lender will use for qualifying purposes. Obviously, this includes your full-time income. But if you have any other sources of income that have a two-year history and will continue for the foreseeable future, you may include them too.

Common examples include alimony or child support you receive or side gigs you run with income you can prove.

Calculating your DTI

With these two totals, you can calculate your own debt-to-income ratio using this calculation:

Total debts/Total income = Debt-to-income ratio

Here’s an example.

Jan makes $7,000 a month before taxes. Her debts include the following:

  • Minimum credit card payments $150
  • Car payment $300
  • Student loan payment $250
  • New mortgage payment $1,750

Jan’s debt-to-income ratio is:

$2,450/$7,000 = 35%

How to Lower your Debt-to-Income Ratio

If your debt-to-income ratio is higher than a lender might like, here are a few ways to lower it:

  • Pay your credit cards down or off – If you have credit card debt, try to pay it off. If you can’t, at least pay them down so your minimum payment drops, and you lower your DTI.
  • Pay down other debts – If you have other consumer debts you can pay down to have less than 6 payments, lenders may exclude them from your DTI
  • Increase your income – If your income is too low, take on a part-time job or start a side gig. You’ll need to show receipt of income for a while, so the sooner you start it the better.

Final Thoughts

Your debt-to-income ratio is just as important as your credit score. Take the time to figure out your DTI and where you stand before thinking about buying a house. You can prepare both your credit score and debt ratio early on to increase your chances of loan approval.

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What Happens if the Property I’m Buying Doesn’t Appraise?

You found your dream house and maybe bid a little more than you intended to pay. You figure it will all work out since your mortgage pre-approval was for more than you bid. But then the appraisal happens and you hear the dreaded words ‘the house didn’t appraise.’

Now what?

What Does it Mean for a Property ‘Not to Appraise’?

First, let’s look at what it means when a house doesn’t appraise. Don’t sellers market their homes for the right price?

In a perfect world, yes they do, but not all sellers work with experienced real estate agents or appraisers. They may price the home on what they feel it’s worth, but the market data may say otherwise.

A home’s true market value relies on the appraiser’s evaluation of the subject home and any comparable sales in the area. An appraiser’s fair market value is an independent evaluation of the property that most lenders take at face value.

What Options do you Have if a Property Doesn’t Appraise?

So what happens if the appraiser says the home is worth less than you offered? It’s a difficult situation, but you have options.

  • Renegotiate the sales price with the seller – Many sellers will renegotiate the sales price knowing that unless they find a cash buyer, they won’t get the higher price since lenders won’t lend more than the home is worth.
  • Pay the difference in cash – If you have the cash handy, you can make up the difference between the sales price and appraised value. This means you’ll pay more for the house than it’s worth, but sometimes if it’s a long-term investment, it’s worth it.
  • Walk away from the sale – If you don’t have the cash to make up the difference and the seller won’t renegotiate, you may want to consider finding another property that’s worth as much as you offered.

Should you Buy a Hosue that Doesn’t Appraise?

The bigger question here is – should you buy a house that doesn’t appraise? While it’s a personal decision, you should weigh all the factors.

Ask yourself:

  • How long will you keep the home? Paying more for a home you’ll only own for a short time will likely end up with a loss.
  • Do you plan to fix the home up to increase its value?
  • Do you have the cash to invest in a home that you’re paying an inflated price for?
  • Will your lender approve it?

Final Thoughts

When a house doesn’t appraise it can feel frustrating, but there are ways to work around it. If you’re wondering how you’d handle the situation or you want a trustworthy real estate agent by your side helping you make these difficult decisions, contact me.

I’ve been in the industry for many years and have helped families through similar situations. While it’s not fun to find out a home didn’t appraise, you have options and I’m here to help you through them.

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If you’re in the market for a house, you might think about the features the house has or the price, but how often do you think about the mortgage rate?

Many buyers I work with don’t realize the importance of the mortgage rate, so I’m here to clear the air so you make an informed decision.

What is a Mortgage Rate?

The mortgage rate is the fee the lender charges you to borrow money. You borrow principal, or the amount of the loan and the interest is the fee they charge you. Your monthly mortgage payment includes both the principal (loan amount) and interest (the bank’s fee).

How Much of a Difference Does the Mortgage Rate Make?

You might not think the mortgage rate makes that much of a difference. After all, if it’s just 1%, how much more could you pay?

The difference is tremendous, especially if you’re talking about a 30-year loan. When you borrow funds for 30 years, you keep the bank’s money for that time. This means they charge you interest over 30 years versus 10 or 15 years on a shorter term loan.

Here’s an example:

You borrow $230,000 at 4% for 30 years. Your principal and interest payment are $1,098 and over the life of the loan, you’d pay $165,299 in interest. That’s in addition to the $230,000 that you pay back (the money you borrowed).

Now, if you borrowed $230,000 at 5% for 30 years, your principal and interest payment would be $1,234 per month and over the life of the loan, you’d pay $214,488 in interest.

That’s a difference of $49,189! I’m sure there’s a lot you’d rather do with that amount of money instead of paying the bank, right?

How to Lower your Interest Rate

So how do you make sure you get the lowest interest rate? While every lender is different, here are some ways to ensure you get the best rate possible.

  • Pay your bills on time
  • Don’t overextend your credit lines, keep your credit balances at 30% or less of the total credit limit
  • Dispute any incorrect information on your credit report
  • Keep a stable job and income
  • Make sure your monthly debts including the new mortgage are 43% or less of your gross monthly income
  • Don’t have any collections on your credit report
  • Make a large down payment

Lenders like it when borrowers are a low risk of default. You can be this by providing great credit, a large down payment, and solid employment and income histories.

Final Thoughts

Your interest rate makes a big difference in your mortgage payment and even what house you can afford. Sometimes even an interest rate that ½ point higher can make you ineligible for a mortgage loan.

Don’t take a chance. Shop around and get the best interest rates possible all while ensuring that you present lenders with the least amount of risk as possible.

If you have questions or would like to be connected witha local, reputable lender, please contact me today.

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Take Advantage of Your Home Equity: A Homeowner’s Guide



Homeownership offers many advantages over renting, including a stable living environment, predictable monthly payments, and the freedom to make modifications. Neighborhoods with high rates of homeownership have less crime and more civic engagement. Additionally, studies show that homeowners are happier and healthier than renters, and their children do better in school.1

But one of the biggest perks of homeownership is the opportunity to build wealth over time. Researchers at the Urban Institute found that homeownership is financially beneficial for most families,and a recent study showed that the median net worth of homeowners can be up to 80 times greater than that of renters in some areas.3

So how does purchasing a home help you build wealth? And what steps should you take to maximize the potential of your investment? Find out how to harness the power of home equity for a secure financial future.


WHAT IS HOME EQUITY?


Home equity is the difference between what your home is worth and the amount you owe on your mortgage. So, for example, if your home would currently sell for $250,000, and the remaining balance on your mortgage is $200,000, then you have $50,000 in home equity.

$250,000 (Home’s Market Value)

-           $200,000 (Mortgage Balance)

______________________________

             $50,000 (Home Equity)

The equity in your home is considered a non-liquid asset. It’s your money; but rather than sitting in a bank account, it’s providing you with a place to live. And when you factor in the potential of appreciation, an investment in real estate will likely offer a better return than any savings account available today.



HOW DOES HOME EQUITY BUILD WEALTH?


A mortgage payment is a type of “forced savings” for home buyers. When you make a mortgage payment each month, a portion of the money goes towards interest on your loan, and the remaining part goes towards paying off your principal, or loan balance. That means the amount of money you owe the bank is reduced every month. As your loan balance goes down, your home equity goes up.

Additionally, unlike other assets that you borrow money to purchase, the value of your home generally increases, or appreciates, over time. For example, when you pay off your car loan after five or seven years, you will own it outright. But if you try to sell it, the car will be worth much less than when you bought it. However, when you purchase a home, its value typically rises over time. So when you sell it, not only will you have grown your equity through your monthly mortgage payments, but in most cases, your home’s market value will be higher than what you originally paid. And even if you only put down 10% at the time of purchase—or pay off just a small portion of your mortgage—you get to keep 100% of the property’s appreciated value. That’s the wealth-building power of real estate.


WHAT CAN I DO TO GROW MY HOME’S EQUITY FASTER?


Now that you understand the benefits of building equity, you may wonder how you can speed up your rate of growth. There are two basic ways to increase the equity in your home:

  1. Pay down your mortgage.


    We shared earlier that your home’s equity goes up as your mortgage balance goes down. So paying down your mortgage is one way to increase the equity in your home.

    Some homeowners do this by adding a little extra to their payment each month, making one additional mortgage payment per year, or making a lump-sum payment when extra money becomes available—like an annual bonus, gift, or inheritance.

    Before making any extra payments, however, be sure to check with your mortgage lender about the specific terms of your loan. Some mortgages have prepayment penalties. And it’s important to ensure that if you do make additional payments, the money will be applied to your loan principal.

    Another option to pay off your mortgage faster is to decrease your amortization period. For example, if you can afford the larger monthly payments, you might consider refinancing from a 30-year or 25-year mortgage to a 15-year mortgage. Not only will you grow your home equity faster, but you could also save a bundle in interest over the life of your loan.

  2. Raise your home’s market value.

Boosting the market value of your property is another way to grow your home equity. While many factors that contribute to your property’s appreciation are out of your control (e.g. demographic trends or the strength of the economy) there are things you can do to increase what it’s worth.

For example, many homeowners enjoy do-it-yourself projects that can add value at a relatively low cost. Others choose to invest in larger, strategic upgrades. Keep in mind, you won’t necessarily get back every dollar you invest in your home. In fact, according to Remodeling Magazine’s latest Cost vs. Value Report, the remodeling project with the highest return on investment is a garage door replacement, which costs about $3600 and is expected to recoup 97.5% at resale. In contrast, an upscale kitchen remodel—which can cost around $130,000—averages less than a 60% return on investment.4

Of course, keeping up with routine maintenance is the most important thing you can do to protect your property’s value. Neglecting to maintain your home’s structure and systems could have a negative impact on its value—therefore reducing your home equity. So be sure to stay on top of recommended maintenance and repairs.



HOW DO I ACCESS MY HOME EQUITY IF I NEED IT?


When you put your money into a checking or savings account, it’s easy to make a withdrawal when needed. However, tapping into your home equity is a little more complicated.

The primary way homeowners access their equity is by selling their home. Many sellers will use their equity as a downpayment on a new home. Or some homeowners may choose to downsize and use the equity to supplement their income or retirement savings.

But what if you want to access the equity in your home while you’re still living in it? Maybe you want to finance a home renovation, consolidate debt, or pay for college. To do that, you will need to take out a loan using your home equity as collateral.

There are several ways to borrow against your home equity, depending on your needs and qualifications:5

  1. Second Mortgage - A second mortgage, also known as a home equity loan, is structured similar to a primary mortgage. You borrow a lump-sum amount, which you are responsible for paying back—with interest—over a set period of time. Most second mortgages have a fixed interest rate and provide the borrower with a predictable monthly payment. Keep in mind, if you take out a home equity loan, you will be making monthly payments on both your primary and secondary mortgages, so budget accordingly.
  2. Cash-Out Refinance - With a cash-out refinance, you refinance your primary mortgage for a higher amount than you currently owe. Then you pay off your original mortgage and keep the difference as cash. This option may be preferable to a second mortgage if you have a high interest rate on your current mortgage or prefer to make just one payment per month.
  3. Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) - A home equity line of credit, or HELOC, is a revolving line of credit, similar to a credit card. It allows you to draw out money as you need it instead of taking out a lump sum all at once. A HELOC may come with a checkbook or debit card to enable easy access to funds. You will only need to make payments on the amount of money that has been drawn. Similar to a credit card, the interest rate on a HELOC is variable, so your payment each month could change depending on how much you borrow and how interest rates fluctuate.
  4. Reverse Mortgage - A reverse mortgage enables qualifying seniors to borrow against the equity in their home to supplement their retirement funds. In most cases, the loan (plus interest) doesn’t need to be repaid until the homeowners sell, move, or are deceased.6

Tapping into your home equity may be a good option for some homeowners, but it’s important to do your research first. In some cases, another type of loan or financing method may offer a lower interest rate or better terms to fit your needs. And it’s important to remember that defaulting on a home equity loan could result in foreclosure. Ask us for a referral to a lender or financial adviser to find out if a home equity loan is right for you.


WE’RE HERE TO HELP YOU


Wherever you are in the equity-growing process, we can help. We work with buyers to find the perfect home to begin their wealth-building journey. We also offer free assistance to existing homeowners who want to know their home’s current market value to refinance or secure a home equity loan. And when you’re ready to sell, we can help you get top dollar to maximize your equity stake. Contact us today to schedule a complimentary consultation!


The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial advice. Consult a financial professional for advice regarding your individual needs.

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5 Factors That Reveal Where The Real Estate Market Is Really Headed


It’s the old supply-and-demand predicament: Home sales in the U.S. continue at a torrid pace, but the availability of listings remains limited. Buoyed by historically low mortgage rates, buyers keep shopping for homes, reducing the available inventory and sparking a rise in home prices across the country.


News website The Atlantic summarized the sizzling home market this way:


“Pick a housing statistic at random, and it’s probably setting an all-time record. Home prices: record high. Inventory: record low. Percentage of homes selling above asking price: record high. Average time on market: record low.”¹


Meanwhile, homebuilders are contending with an increase in material costs and a shortage of labor. These issues come amid an ongoing shortage of housing. A study commissioned by the National Association of Realtors found the U.S. is coping with a deficit of about 2 million single-family homes and about 3.5 million other housing units.²


So what can we expect from U.S. real estate? Here are five factors that illustrate where the housing market is today and is likely heading tomorrow.



ROCK-BOTTOM MORTGAGE RATES TO GRADUALLY RISE


Low interest rates continue to fuel demand from homebuyers. Some experts believe mortgage rates will creep up later this year, but they expect rates to remain near historic lows.3 However, the Federal Reserve signaled in mid-June that it may institute two interest rate hikes as soon as 2023, which could then trigger a more substantial uptick in mortgage rates.4


In June, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported that 2020 closed with the average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage sitting at 2.8%. But the association anticipates the average rate climbing to 3.5% at the end of 2021 and 4.2% by the end of 2022.5


“As the economy progresses and inflation remains elevated, we expect that rates will continue to gradually rise in the second half of the year,” said Sam Khater, chief economist at Freddie Mac.6


What does it mean for you?


You’ve likely heard the old saying about “striking while the iron is hot.” Well, that phrase applies to the current environment for mortgage rates. It’s impossible to predict with certainty when mortgage rates will rise or fall. So, when mortgage rates are at or near historic lows (as they are today), you should seriously consider taking advantage of those rates to borrow money for a home purchase or to refinance your existing mortgage.



HOME PRICES EXPECTED TO KEEP CLIMBING


Low mortgage rates are sparking interest among homebuyers, but some are running into affordability issues.


In June, the national median list price for a home reached an all-time high of $385,000, up 12.7% on a year-over-year basis.7 And according to the Home Buying Institute, various reports and forecasts indicate home prices will keep climbing throughout 2021 and into 2022.8


While this may be welcome news for homeowners, high prices are pushing homeownership out of reach for a growing number of first-time buyers. In a recent CoreLogic survey, 82% of respondents listed housing affordability as a key problem.9


“Younger and first-time buyers, including younger millennials, are faced with the challenge of having sufficient savings for a down payment, closing costs and cash reserves,” said Frank Martell, President and CEO of CoreLogic. “As we look to the balance of 2021, we expect price rises to continue which could very well push prospective buyers out of the market in many areas and slow home price growth over the next year.”9


What does it mean for you?


If you’re a buyer waiting on the sidelines for prices to , you may want to reconsider. While the pace of appreciation should taper off, home prices are expected to continue climbing. And rising mortgage rates will only make a home purchase more expensive.



SINGLE-FAMILY HOME SALES REMAIN ROBUST


While record-high prices are sidelining some buyers, the impressive pace of single-family home sales marches on.


Single-family home sales are down from their peak in October 2020 yet are still above the overall level last year. In May 2021, 5.8 million existing single-family homes were sold in the U.S. That’s a 45% increase over the 4 million homes sold in May 2020.10


However, home sales saw a 0.9% dip in May 2021 compared with the previous month, the National Association of Realtors says. That was the fourth straight month for a decline in home sales. The number of home sales has slid recently because of rising prices coupled with a shortage of available homes amid intense demand.10


Fannie Mae expects total home sales to tick up slightly in the fourth quarter and finish the year up 3.8% over last year. They also forecast a slight decline of 2.2% in sales volume in 2022.11


What does it mean for you?


The market for single-family home sales remains quite active. As a result, if you’re a homeowner, you may want to ponder whether to sell now, even if you hadn’t necessarily been thinking about doing so. With demand high and inventory low, your home could fetch an eye-popping price.



LACK OF INVENTORY STILL CONSTRAINS THE HOME MARKET


According to the National Association of Realtors, in May there were 1.23 million previously owned homes on the market, down 20.6% from the same time last year.10 This translates to a 2.5-month supply of homes, which is well below the 6 months of inventory typically seen in a balanced market.10,12


According to the Realtors group, this lack of inventory translates into tougher searches for buyers and contributes to a rise in prices.10


“Demand for bigger and more expensive accommodations amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left millions of Americans still working from home, is driving a housing market boom. The inventory of previously owned homes is near record lows,” according to Reuters.13


What does it mean for you?


If you’re thinking of selling your home, now may be the right time to do it. Across the country, it’s a seller’s market, meaning demand is outpacing supply. That supply-and-demand imbalance puts sellers in a great position to sell their homes at a premium price. The May 2021 Realtors Confidence Index from the National Association of Realtors found the average home that was sold attracted five offers, and the association says nearly half of homes are selling above list price.14,15



CONSTRUCTION OF SINGLE-FAMILY HOMES SEES SLIGHT UPTICK


Frustrated buyers may soon find some relief, however, from an increase in new construction. Economists forecast that 1.1 million new houses will be started in 2021, compared with a predicted 940,000 units just six months ago, with 1.2 million new starts predicted for 2022 and 2023, according to the Urban Land Institute.16


Amid the rise in home construction, builders are coping with rising costs for materials. In April, the National Association of Home Builders estimated that a surge in lumber prices over the previous year had led to $35,872 being tacked onto the cost of an average new single-family home.17


“Shortages of materials and labor have builders struggling to increase production of new homes, though the demand remains strong,” Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union, told the Reuters news service. “Potential homebuyers should expect tight inventories and rising prices for both new and existing homes for the foreseeable future.”18


Builders (and buyers) did receive some good news in June, though: Lumber prices are coming down—although likely to remain above pre-pandemic levels for the foreseeable future.19


What does it mean for you?


Given the issues affecting the new-home market, it may make sense to widen your home search to include both new and existing homes. Your brand-new dream home may not be available, but you might be able to find an existing home that lives up to your vision. Keep in mind that we can help you find either a new or existing home and can advocate for you to ensure you get the best deal possible.



ARE YOU THINKING OF BUYING OR SELLING?


If you’re in the market for a home, you’re ready to sell your house or you’ve simply been wondering whether you should sell, you definitely could benefit from an expert to help you navigate the sizzling hot real estate market. Let’s set up a free consultation to discuss your situation. We can help you figure out your options and come up with a plan to capitalize on the value of your current property or to find your ideal next home.



Sources:

  1. The Atlantic -
    https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/05/us-housing-market-records/619029/
  2. Wall Street Journal - https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-housing-market-needs-5-5-million-more-units-says-new-report-11623835800
  3. Time -
    https://time.com/nextadvisor/mortgages/mortgage-predictions-2021/
  4. Bankrate -
    https://www.bankrate.com/banking/federal-reserve/fomc-meeting-recap-june-2021/
  5. Mortgage Bankers Association - https://www.mba.org/news-research-and-resources/research-and-economics/forecasts-and-commentary/mortgage-finance-forecast-archives
  6. Associated Press News -
    https://apnews.com/press-release/globe-newswire/mortgages-mortgage-rates-business-0fc0360d0f4af0c988504385fa2794c3
  7. Realtor.com -
    https://www.realtor.com/research/june-2021-data/
  8. Home Buying Institute -
    http://www.homebuyinginstitute.com/news/home-prices-will-keep-rising-through-2021/
  9. DS News -
    https://dsnews.com/daily-dose/07-06-2021/record-high-home-prices-intensify-affordability-challenges
  10. National Association of Realtors -
    https://www.nar.realtor/newsroom/existing-home-sales-experience-slight-skid-of-0-9-in-may
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