Thinking about Building a New Home? Your Agent Is Critical. [INFOGRAPHIC]

 

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Some Highlights

  • A real estate professional is an expert who can advocate on your behalf throughout the process when building a home.
  • Agents help you understand key steps, like choosing upgrades and managing negotiations, while staying within your budget from start to finish.
  • If building is the right choice for you, work with a trusted real estate professional who can help you successfully navigate the path to your dream home.

Why Moving May Be Just the Boost You Need

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we look back over the past year, we’ve certainly lived through one of the most stressful periods in recent history. After spending so much more time at home throughout the health crisis, some are wondering if they should move to improve their mental health and well-being. This is no surprise since the U.S. Census Bureau reported an increase in the percentage of adults with symptoms of anxiety and depression in a recent Household Pulse Survey.

There’s logic behind the idea that making a move could improve someone’s quality of life. When people change their scenery, they often feel happier. Catherine Hartley, an Assistant Professor at New York University’s Department of Psychology and co-author of a study on how new experiences impact happiness, mentioned:

“Our results suggest that people feel happier when they have more variety in their daily routines—when they go to novel places and have a wider array of experiences.”

If you’re looking for a new experience, planning a move into a new home may be something you’ve started to consider more carefully. If so, you’re not alone. The 2020 Annual National Movers Study by United Van Lines shows:

For customers who cited COVID-19 as an influence on their move in 2020, the top reasons associated with COVID-19 were concerns for personal and family health and wellbeing (60%); desires to be closer to family (59%); 57% moved due to changes in employment status or work arrangement (including the ability to work remotely); and 53% desired a lifestyle change or improvement of quality of life.”

So, if you’re thinking of moving this year to help boost your happiness factor, here are a few questions to ask yourself as you make your decision.

How’s the Weather?

Is the weather something that’s important to you? Does it have a tendency to impact your mood? The World Population Review shares:

“What states have the best weather? When evaluating each state for temperature, rain, and sun, some states stand out. Although climate and weather preferences are personal and subjective, some criteria are considered to make up the best weather, according to Current Results:

  • Comfortable temperatures from 63°F to 86°F for more than half of the year.
  • Dry weather with no more than 60 inches of rain per year.
  • Mostly clear skies with an average of sunshine for at least 60% of the year.”

“Better weather” can mean different things to different people – some prefer the heat, others cooler temperatures, and some want to experience all four seasons. Think about what makes you feel happiest if you’re looking for a new location.

Should I Choose the City, Suburbs, or Country?

With the COVID-19 pandemic, some people are deciding to move to lower-density areas. Robert Dietz, Chief Economist at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), mentions:

“The third quarter Home Building Geography Index (HBGI) reveals that a suburban shift for consumer home buying preferences in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating as telecommuting is providing consumers more flexibility to live further out within large metros or even to relocate to more affordable, smaller metro areas.”

Can you work from home? Are you open to a longer commute in the future? If so, a move to the suburbs or even a quieter rural area may be a win for you. Or, if you’ve always dreamed of life in the city, now may be your chance to move into town.

Bottom Line

As we look beyond the trials of the pandemic, many are hoping for a new beginning, and that may mean moving. Contact a local real estate advisor today to talk about your new goals and options in today’s market.

What Record-Low Housing Inventory Means for You

What Record-Low Housing Inventory Means for You

 

The real estate market is expected to do very well in 2021, with mortgage rates that are hovering at historic lows and forecasted by experts to remain favorable throughout the year. One challenge to the housing industry, however, is the lack of homes available for sale today. Last week, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) released their Existing Home Sales Report, which shows that the inventory of homes for sale is currently at an all-time low. The report explains:

“Total housing inventory at the end of December totaled 1.07 million units, down 16.4% from November and down 23% from one year ago (1.39 million). Unsold inventory sits at an all-time low 1.9-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 2.3 months in November and down from the 3.0-month figure recorded in December 2019. NAR first began tracking the single-family home supply in 1982.”
(See graph below):

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What Does This Mean for You?

If You’re a Buyer:

Be patient during your home search. It may take time to find a home you love. Once you do, however, be ready to move forward quickly. Get pre-approved for a mortgage, be prepared to make a competitive offer from the start, and know that a shortage in inventory could mean you’ll enter a bidding war. Calculate just how far you’re willing to go to secure a home and lean on your real estate professional as an expert guide along the way. The good news is, more inventory is likely headed to the market soon, Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at NAR, notes:

“To their credit, homebuilders and construction companies have increased efforts to build, with housing starts hitting an annual rate of near 1.7 million in December, with more focus on single-family homes…However, it will take vigorous new home construction in 2021 and in 2022 to adequately furnish the market to properly meet the demand.”

If You’re a Seller:

Realize that, in some ways, you’re in the driver’s seat. When there’s a shortage of an item at the same time there’s a strong demand for it, the seller is in a good position to negotiate the best possible terms. Whether it’s the price, moving date, possible repairs, or anything else, you’ll be able to request more from a potential purchaser at a time like this – especially if you have multiple interested buyers. Don’t be unreasonable, but understand you probably have the upper hand.

Bottom Line

The housing market will remain strong throughout 2021. Know what that means for you, whether you’re buying, selling, or doing both.

What Happens When Homeowners Leave Their Forbearance Plans?

What Happens When Homeowners Leave Their Forbearance Plans?

 

According to the latest report from Black Knight, Inc., a well-respected provider of data and analytics for mortgage companies, 6.48 million households have entered a forbearance plan as a result of financial concerns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s where these homeowners stand right now:

  • 2,543,000 (39%) are current on their payments and have left the program
  • 625,000 (9%) have paid off their mortgages
  • 434,000 (7%) have negotiated a repayment plan and have left the program
  • 2,254,000 (35%) have extended their original forbearance plan
  • 512,000 (8%) are still in their original forbearance plan
  • 116,000 (2%) have left the program and are still behind on payments

This shows that of the almost 3.72 million homeowners who have left the program, only 116,000 (2%) exited while they were still behind on their payments. There are still 2.77 million borrowers in a forbearance program. No one knows for sure how many of those will become foreclosures. There are, however, three major reasons why most experts believe there will not be a tsunami of foreclosures as we saw during the housing crash over a decade ago:

  1. Almost 30% of borrowers in forbearance are still current on their mortgage payments.
  2. Banks likely don’t want to repeat the mistakes of 2008-2012 when they put large numbers of foreclosures on their books. This time, many will instead negotiate a modification plan with the borrower, which will enable households to maintain ownership of the home.
  3. With the significant equity homeowners have today, many will be able to sell instead of going into foreclosure.

Will there be foreclosures coming to the market? Yes. There are hundreds of thousands of foreclosures in this country each year. People experience economic hardships, and in some cases, are not able to meet their mortgage obligations.

Here’s the breakdown of new foreclosures over the last three years, prior to the pandemic:

  • 2017: 314,220
  • 2018: 279,040
  • 2019: 277,520

Through the first three quarters of 2020 (the latest data available), there were only 114,780 new foreclosures. If 10% of those currently in forbearance go to foreclosure, 275,000 foreclosures would be added to the market in 2021. That would be an average year as the numbers above show.

What happens if the number is more than 10%?

If we do experience a higher foreclosure rate from those in forbearance, most experts believe the current housing market will easily absorb the excess inventory. We entered 2020 with 1,210,000 single-family homes available for purchase. At the time, that was low and problematic. The market was experiencing high buyer demand, and we needed more houses to meet that demand. We’re now entering 2021 with 320,000 fewer homes for sale, while buyer demand remains extremely strong. This means the housing market has the capacity to soak up a lot of inventory.

Bottom Line

There will be more foreclosures entering the market later this year, especially compared to the record-low numbers in 2020. However, the market will be able to handle the increase as buyer demand remains strong.

What’s the Difference between an Appraisal and a Home Inspection?

 

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If you’re planning to buy a home, an appraisal is an important step in the process. It’s a professional evaluation of the market value of the home you’d like to buy. In most cases, an appraisal is ordered by the lender to confirm or verify the value of the home prior to lending a buyer money for the purchase. It’s also a different step in the process from a home inspection, which assesses the condition of the home before you finalize the transaction. Here’s the breakdown of each one and why they’re both important when buying a home.

Home Appraisal

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) explains:

“A home purchase is typically the largest investment someone will make. Protect yourself by getting your investment appraised! An appraiser will observe the property, analyze the data, and report their findings to their client. For the typical home purchase transaction, the lender usually orders the appraisal to assist in the lender’s decision to provide funds for a mortgage.”

When you apply for a mortgage, an unbiased appraisal (which is required by the lender) is the best way to confirm the value of the home based on the sale price. Regardless of what you’re willing to pay for a house, if you’ll be using a mortgage to fund your purchase, the appraisal will help make sure the bank doesn’t loan you more than what the home is worth.

This is especially critical in today’s sellers’ market where low inventory is driving an increase in bidding wars, which can push home prices upward. When sellers are in a strong position like this, they tend to believe they can set whatever price they want for their house under the assumption that competing buyers will be willing to pay more.

However, the lender will only allow the buyer to borrow based on the value of the home. This is what helps keep home prices in check. If there’s ever any confusion or discrepancy between the appraisal and the sale price, your trusted real estate professional will help you navigate any additional negotiations in the buying process.

Home Inspection

Here’s the key difference between an appraisal and an inspection. MSN explains:

In simplest terms, a home appraisal determines the value of a home, while a home inspection determines the condition of a home.”

The home inspection is a way to determine the current state, safety, and condition of the home before you finalize the sale. If anything is questionable in the inspection process – like the age of the roof, the state of the HVAC system, or just about anything else – you as a buyer have the option to discuss and negotiate any potential issues or repairs with the seller before the transaction is final. Your real estate agent is a key expert to help you through this part of the process.

Bottom Line

The appraisal and the inspection are critical steps when buying a home, and you don’t need to manage them by yourself. Reach out to a local real estate professional today so you have the expert guidance you need to navigate through the entire homebuying process.


Should I Wait for Lower Mortgage Interest Rates?

Should I Wait for Lower Mortgage Interest Rates?

 

Historically low mortgage rates are a big motivator for homebuyers right now. In 2020 alone, rates hit new record-lows 16 times, and the trend continued into the early part of this year. Many hopeful homebuyers are now wondering if they should put their plans on hold and wait for the lowest rates imaginable. However, the reality is, acting sooner rather than later may be the actual win if you’re ready to buy a home.

According to Greg McBride, Chief Financial Analyst for Bankrate:

“As vaccines become more widely available and a return to normal starts to come into view, we’ll see mortgage rates bounce off the record lows.”

While only a slight increase in mortgage rates is projected for 2021, some experts believe they will start to rise. Over the past week, for example, the average mortgage rate ticked up slightly, reaching 2.79%. This is still incredibly low compared to the trends we’ve seen over time. According to Freddie Mac:

“Borrowers are smart to take advantage of these low rates now and will certainly benefit as a result.”

Here’s why.

As mortgage rates rise, the increase impacts the overall cost of purchasing a home. The higher the rate, the higher your monthly mortgage payment, especially as home prices rise too. Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Macsays:

“The forces behind the drop in rates have been shifting over the last few months and rates are poised to rise modestly this year. The combination of rising mortgage rates and increasing home prices will accelerate the decline in affordability and further squeeze potential homebuyers during the spring home sales season.”

What does this mean for buyers?

Right now, the inventory of houses for sale is also at a historic low, making it more challenging than normal to find a home to buy in many areas. As more buyers hit the market in the typically busy spring buying season, it may become even harder to find a home in the coming months. With this in mind, Len Keifer, Deputy Chief Economist for Freddie Macrecommends taking advantage of both low mortgage rates and the opportunity to buy:

“If you’ve found a home that fits your needs at a price you can afford, it might be better to act now rather than wait for future rate declines that may never come and a future that likely holds very tight inventory.”

Bottom Line

While today’s low mortgage rates provide great opportunities for homebuyers, we may not see them stick around forever. If you’re ready to buy a home, it’s time to chat with a real estate professional so you can take advantage of what today’s market has to offer.

OWNING A HOME IS STILL MORE AFFORDABLE THAN RENTING ONE

Owning a Home Is Still More Affordable Than Renting One

 

If spending more time at home over the past year is making you really think hard about buying a home instead of renting one, you’re not alone. You may be wondering, however, if the dollars and cents add up in your favor as home prices continue to rise. According to the experts, in many cases, it’s still more affordable to buy a home than rent one. Here’s why.

ATTOM Data Solutions recently released the 2021 Rental Affordability Report, which states:

Owning a median-priced three-bedroom home is more affordable than renting a three-bedroom property in 572, or 63 percent of the 915 U.S. counties analyzed for the report.

That has happened even though median home prices have increased more than average rents over the past year in 83 percent of those counties and have risen more than wages in almost two-thirds of the nation.”

How is this possible?

The answer: historically low mortgage interest rates. Todd Teta, Chief Product Officer with ATTOM Data Solutions, explains:

“Home-prices are rising faster than rents and wages in a majority of the country. Yet, home ownership is still more affordable, as amazingly low mortgage rates that dropped below 3 percent are helping to keep the cost of rising home prices in check.

In 2020, mortgage rates reached all-time lows 16 times, and so far, they’re continuing to hover in low territory this year. These low rates are a big factor in driving affordability. Teta also notes:

“It’s startling to see that kind of trend. But it shows how both the cost of renting has been relatively high compared to the cost of ownership and how declining interest rates are having a notable impact on the housing market and home ownership. The coming year is totally uncertain, amid so many questions connected to the Coronavirus pandemic and the broader economy. But right now, owning a home still appears to be a financially-sound choice for those who can afford it.”

Bottom Line

If you’re considering buying a home this year, contact a local real estate professional today to learn more about the options that match your budget while affordability is in your favor.

How to Make the Dream of Homeownership a Reality This Year

How to Make the Dream of Homeownership a Reality This Year

 

In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired a powerful movement with his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Through his passion and determination, he sparked interest, ambition, and courage in his audience. Today, reflecting on his message encourages many of us to think about our own dreams, goals, beliefs, and aspirations. For many Americans, one of those common goals is owning a home: a piece of land, a roof over our heads, and a place where we can grow and flourish.

If you’re dreaming of buying a home this year, start by connecting with a local real estate professional to understand what goes into the process. With a trusted advisor at your side, you can then begin to answer the questions below to set yourself up for homebuying success.

1. How Can I Better Understand the Process, and How Much Can I Afford?

The process of buying a home is not one to enter into lightly. You need to decide on key things like how long you plan on living in an area, school districts you prefer, what kind of commute works for you, and how much you can afford to spend.

Keep in mind, before you start the process to purchase a home, you’ll also need to apply for a mortgage. Lenders will evaluate several factors connected to your financial track record, one of which is your credit history. They’ll want to see how well you’ve been able to minimize past debts, so make sure you’ve been paying your student loans, credit cards, and car loans on time. If your financial situation has changed recently, be sure to discuss that with your lender as well. Most agents have loan officers they trust and will provide referrals for you.

According to ConsumerReports.org:

“Financial planners recommend limiting the amount you spend on housing to 25 percent of your monthly budget.”

2. How Much Do I Need for a Down Payment?

In addition to knowing how much you can afford on a monthly mortgage payment, understanding how much you’ll need for a down payment is another critical step. Thankfully, there are many different options and resources in the market to potentially reduce the amount you may think you need to put down.

If you’re concerned about saving for a down payment, start small and be consistent. A little bit each month goes a long way. Jumpstart your savings by automatically adding a portion of your monthly paycheck into a separate savings account or house fund. AmericaSaves.org says:

“Over time, these automatic deposits add up. For example, $50 a month accumulates to $600 a year and $3,000 after five years, plus interest that has compounded.”

Before you know it, you’ll have enough for a down payment if you’re disciplined and thoughtful about your process.

3. Saving Takes Time: Practice Living on a Budget

As tempting as it is to pass the extra time you may be spending at home these days with a little retail therapy, putting that extra money toward your down payment will help accelerate your path to homeownership. It’s the little things that count, so start trying to live on a slightly tighter budget if you aren’t doing so already. A budget will allow you to save more for your down payment and help you pay down other debts to improve your credit score.

survey of millennial spending shows, “68% reported that shelter in place orders helped them save for their down payment.” Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com, also notes:

“If there is any silver lining to the current economic landscape, it’s that mortgage rates are hanging around record lows…Additionally, shelter-in-place orders helped many who were fortunate enough to keep their jobs save for a down payment — one of the largest hurdles of buying a home. The combination of low rates and the opportunity to save is enabling many millennials to move up their home buying timeline.”

While you don’t need to cut all of the extras out of your current lifestyle, making smarter choices and limiting your spending in areas where you can slim down will make a big difference.

Bottom Line

If homeownership is on your dream list this year, take a good look at what you can prioritize to help you get there. To determine the steps you should take to start the process, connect with a local real estate professional today.


4 Reasons People Are Buying Homes in 2021

4 Reasons People Are Buying Homes in 2021

 

According to many experts, the real estate market is expected to continue growing in 2021, and it’s largely driven by the lasting impact the pandemic is having on our lifestyles. As many of us spend extra time at home, we’re reevaluating what “home” means and what we may need in one going forward.

Here are 4 reasons people are reconsidering where they live and why they’re expecting to buy a home this year. 

1. Record-Low Mortgage Interest Rates

In 2020, the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage hit a record low 16 times, continuing to fall further below 3%. According to Freddie Mac, the average 30-year fixed interest rate today is 2.65%. Many wonder how low these rates will go and how long they’ll last. Len Keifer, Deputy Chief Economist for Freddie Mac, advises:

“If you’ve found a home that fits your needs at a price you can afford, it might be better to act now rather than wait for future rate declines that may never come and a future that likely holds very tight inventory.”

This sense of urgency is driving many to buy this year.

2. Working from Home

Remote work is a new normal for many businesses, and it’s lasting longer than most expected. Many in the workforce today are discovering they don’t need to live close to the office anymore and they can get more for their money by moving a little further outside of the city limits. David Mele, President at Homes.com, says: 

“The surge in the work-from-home population has rewritten the playbook for many homebuying and rental decisions, from when and where to relocate, to what people are looking for in their next residence.”

The reality is, for some people, working remotely in their current home is challenging, especially when there may be other options available.

3. More Outdoor Space

Another new priority for homeowners is having more usable outdoor space. Being at home is driving those in some areas to seek less densely populated neighborhoods so they have more room to stretch their legs. In addition, those living in apartments and townhomes are often looking for extra square footage, both inside and out.

According to the State of Home Spending report by HomeAdvisor, of the households surveyed, almost half reported spending 27% more on outdoor living over the past year. This is a trend that’s expected to grow in 2021 and beyond.

4. Avoiding Renovations

It’s recently come to light that many homeowners would also rather buy a new home than go through the process of fixing up the one they have. According to the 2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 44% of homebuyers purchased a new home to “avoid renovations or problems with the plumbing or electricity.”

Depending on what needs to be addressed, today’s high buyer demand may make it possible to skip some renovations before selling. Many of these homeowners have prioritized buying over renovating for convenience and potential cost savings.

Bottom Line

It’s clear that homeownership needs are changing. As a result, Americans are expected to move in record numbers this year. If you’re trying to decide if now is the right time to buy a home, contact a local real estate professional today to discuss your options.

Reasons to Hire a Real Estate Professional [INFOGRAPHIC]

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Some Highlights

  • Choosing the right real estate professional to work with is one of the most important decisions you can make in your homebuying or selling process.
  • The right agent can explain current market conditions and break down exactly what they mean for you.
  • If you’re considering buying or selling a home this year, make sure to work with someone who has the experience to answer all of your questions about pricing, contracts, negotiations, and more.