#1 Reason to List Your House for Sale, NOW!

#1 Reason to List Your House for Sale, NOW! | Simplifying The Market

If you are debating listing your house for sale this year, here is the #1 reason not to wait!

Buyer Demand Continues to Outpace the Supply of Homes for Sale 

The National Association of REALTORS’ (NAR) Chief Economist Lawrence Yun recently commented on the inventory:

Last month’s dip in closings was somewhat expected given that there was such a strong sales increase in March at 4.2 percent, and new and existing inventory is not keeping up with the fast pace homes are coming off the market.

Demand is easily outstripping supply in most of the country and it’s stymieing many prospective buyers from finding a home to purchase”.

The latest Existing Home Sales Report shows that there is currently a 4.2-month supply of homes for sale. This remains lower than the 6-month supply necessary for a normal market, and 4.6% lower than a year ago.

The chart below details the year-over-year inventory shortages experienced over the last 12 months:

#1 Reason to List Your House for Sale, NOW! | Simplifying The Market

Anything less than a six-month supply is considered a “seller’s market.”

Bottom Line

Let’s get together and discuss the supply conditions in your neighborhood to be able to assist you in gaining access to the buyers who are ready, willing and able to buy now!

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All Gave Some. Some Gave All.

All Gave Some. Some Gave All. | Simplifying The Market

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Inventory Challenges Continue! [INFOGRAPHIC]

Inventory Challenges Continue! [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights:

  • After a surge in March, existing home sales and new home sales slowed due to a drop in inventory available for sale in the start-up and trade-up categories.
  • Median existing home prices surged for the 62nd straight month, up 6.0% over last year to $244,800.
  • New home prices slowed as builders have started to turn their focus toward single family, smaller homes.

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How’s the Real Estate Market? Find Out What the Experts Are Saying

How's the Real Estate Market? Find Out What the Experts Are Saying | Simplifying The Market

As we head into summer, it is a great time to review how the 2017 real estate market is doing so far. Here is what the experts are saying:

Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae Chief Economist

“Positive demographic factors should continue to reshape the housing market, as rising employment and incomes appear to be positively influencing millennial homeownership rates.”

Diana Olick, CNBC

“Even as more homes come on the market for this traditionally popular sales season, they’re flying off fast, with bidding wars par for the course. Home prices have now surpassed their last peak, and at the entry level, where demand is highest, sellers are firmly in the driver’s seat.”

Daren Blomquist, Senior VP at Attom

“I am guessing we will see it get even better… If you are considering moving, it could be a really good time to sell.”

Lawrence Yun, NAR Chief Economist

“The early returns so far this spring buying season look very promising as a rising number of households dipped their toes into the market and were successfully able to close on a home last month. Although finding available properties to buy continues to be a strenuous task for many buyers, there was enough of a monthly increase in listings…for sales to muster a strong gain. Sales will go up as long as inventory does.”

Mark Fleming, First American Chief Economist

“Despite higher mortgage rates, the potential for home sales increased on an annual basis driven by steady income and job growth, along with a surge in building permits. While it may be a little late for this spring, the increase in building permits is a welcome sign that some relief may be in sight for the inventory shortages that are holding back many markets from realizing their full potential this spring.”

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More Americans Chose to Own a Home Than Rent in Q1

More Americans Chose to Own a Home Than Rent in Q1 | Simplifying The Market

According to the latest report from the US Census Bureau, more Americans chose purchasing a home over signing a lease to rent in the first quarter of 2017. This marks the first time since 2006 that the number of new homeowner households outpaced the number of new renter households.

Of the 1.22 million new households that were formed in the first quarter, 854,000 were new-owner households making the jump straight to homeownership rather than renting first.

That means that the homeownership rate amongst new households was 70%!

This is huge news as the national homeownership rate is currently 63.6% and has only ever come close to this figure in the second quarter of 2004 when the homeownership rate reached an all-time high of 69.2%.

A recent Wall Street Journal article pointed to the uptick in first-time homebuyers coming to market as a reason for the jump:

“The return of first-time buyers is accelerating. In all they have accounted for 42% of buyers this year, up from 38% in 2015 and 31% at the lowest point during the recent housing cycle in 2011, according to Fannie Mae, which defines first-time buyers as anyone who hasn’t owned a home in the past three years.”

Ralph McLaughlin, Trulia’s Chief Economist, had this to say about what a bump in new homeowner households could mean for the housing market:

“Strong renter household formation is one of the reasons why the homeownership rate has continued to drop since the onset of the housing crisis, so any sign this trend is reversing is something to take note of. We look forward to future releases of these data to determine whether this is a statistical blip or a trend.”

Bottom Line

As more and more potential first-time buyers realize their ability to buy a home without having to rent first, not only will the homeownership rate benefit, but so will the overall economy.

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Is Now a Good Time to Rent?

Is Now a Good Time to Rent? | Simplifying The Market

People often ask if now is a good time to buy a home, but nobody ever asks when a good time to rent is. Regardless, we want to make certain that everyone understands that today is NOT a good time to rent.

The Census Bureau recently released their 2017 first quarter median rent numbers. Here is a graph showing rent increases from 1988 until today:

Is Now a Good Time to Rent? | Simplifying The Market

As you can see, rents have steadily increased and are showing no signs of slowing down. If you are faced with making the decision of whether or not you should renew your lease, you might be pleasantly surprised at your ability to buy a home of your own instead.

Bottom Line

One way to protect yourself from rising rents is to lock in your housing expense by buying a home. If you are ready and willing to buy, let’s meet to determine if you are able to today!

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5 Reasons to Hire a Real Estate Professional When Buying or Selling!

5 Reasons to Hire a Real Estate Professional When Buying or Selling! | Simplifying The Market

Whether you are buying or selling a home it can be quite an adventurous journey, which is why you need an experienced real estate professional to guide you on the path to your ultimate goal. In this world of instant gratification and internet searches, many sellers think that they can For Sale by Owner or FSBO.

The 5 reasons you NEED a real estate professional in your corner haven’t changed, but have rather been strengthened by the projections of higher mortgage interest rates & home prices as the market continues to pick up steam.

1. What do you do with all this paperwork?

Each state has different regulations regarding the contracts required for a successful sale, and these regulations are constantly changing. A true real estate professional is an expert in his or her market and can guide you through the stacks of paperwork necessary to make your dream a reality.

2. Ok, so you found your dream house, now what?

There are over 180 possible steps that need to take place during every successful real estate transaction. Don’t you want someone who has been there before, someone who knows what these actions are, to make sure that you achieve your dream?

3. Are you a good negotiator?

So maybe you’re not convinced that you need an agent to sell your home. After looking at the list of parties that you will need to be prepared to negotiate with, you’ll soon realize the value in selecting a real estate professional. From the buyer (who wants the best deal possible), to the home inspection companies, to the appraiser, there are at least 11 different people who you will need to be knowledgeable of, and answer to, during the process.

4. What is the home you’re buying/selling really worth?

It is important for your home to be priced correctly from the start to attract the right buyers and shorten the amount of time that it’s on the market. You need someone who is not emotionally connected to your home to give you the truth as to your home’s value. According to the National Association of REALTORS, “the typical FSBO home sold for $185,000 compared to $245,000 among agent-assisted home sales.”

Get the most out of your transaction by hiring a professional.

5. Do you know what’s really going on in the market?

There is so much information out there on the news and the internet about home sales, prices, and mortgage rates; how do you know what’s going on specifically in your area? Who do you turn to in order to competitively, and correctly, price your home at the beginning of the selling process? How do you know what to offer on your dream home without paying too much, or offending the seller with a lowball offer?

Dave Ramsey, the financial guru, advises:

“When getting help with money, whether it’s insurance, real estate or investments, you should always look for someone with the heart of a teacher, not the heart of a salesman.”

Hiring an agent who has his or her finger on the pulse of the market will make your buying or selling experience an educated one. You need someone who is going to tell you the truth, not just what they think you want to hear.

Bottom Line

You wouldn’t replace the engine in your car without a trusted mechanic. Why would you make one of the most important financial decisions of your life without hiring a real estate professional?

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Why Americans Consider Moving to Another State? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Why Americans Consider Moving to Another State? [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights:

  • In a recent Harris Poll, Americans listed “change in climate/weather” as their top reason for wanting to relocate.
  • 41% would move for a “better job opportunity.”
  • Being closer to loved ones filled out 3 of the top 6 reasons why Americans move.

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#1 Answer to the Housing Shortage: New Construction

The biggest challenge to today’s housing market is the shortage of housing inventory for sale. A normal market would see a six-month supply of homes for sale. Currently, that number is below four months. This is the major reason home prices have continued to appreciate at higher levels than historic averages.

The good news is that builders are now starting to build more homes in lower price ranges.

Builder Confidence is Up

The Housing Market Index from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reveals that builder confidence increased last month. HousingWire quoted NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz about the reason for the increase in confidence amongst builders.

“The HMI measure of future sales conditions reached its highest level since June 2005, a sign of growing consumer confidence in the new home market. Especially as existing home inventory remains tight, we can expect increased demand for new construction moving forward.”

Builders are Meeting the Needs of Today’s Purchaser

Builders are not only jumping into the market – they are doing a better job of matching current demand. The Wall Street Journal recently reported:

“In a shift, new households are overwhelmingly choosing to buy rather than rent. Some 854,000 new-owner households were formed during the first three months of the year, more than double the 365,000 new-renter households formed during the period, according to Census Bureau data.”

The WSJ article went on to say:

“Home builders are beginning to shift their focus away from luxury homes and toward homes at lower price points to cater to this burgeoning millennial clientele.”

The graph below compares 2016 to 2017 new construction sales by price point. As we can see, builders are slowly beginning to shift to prices more favorable to the first-time and non-luxury buyer.

#1 Answer to the Housing Shortage: New Construction | Simplifying The Market

Bottom Line

There is a drastic need for a larger supply of home inventory to meet the skyrocketing demand. Builders are finally doing their part to help rectify this situation.

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Selling Your Home? Is Your Listing ‘Pet-Friendly’?

Selling Your Home? Is Your Listing ‘Pet-Friendly’? | Simplifying The Market

One of the many benefits of owning your own home is the freedom to find your ‘furever’ friend. By pointing out the aspects of your home that make it ‘pet-friendly’ in your listing, you’ll attract these buyers rather than alienate the 61% of American households that have a pet!

If you are one of the many homeowners looking to list your home for sale, how do you stand out to the millions of pet parents searching for their dream homes?

Whether a dog person, a cat person, or someone who prefers the company of another pet species, 99% of pet owners say that they consider their animal to be family. When finding a home, 95% of animal owners believe it is important that a housing community allows animals.

A recent study by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) revealed that there are many aspects of the home buying, selling and owning experience that have been greatly impacted by American’s love for their pets.

This should come as no surprise as $66.75 billion was spent on pets in the U.S in 2016, with $70 billion projected for 2017. NAR’s President William E. Brown shed some light on the impact of pet owners and their home search,

“In 2016, 61 percent of U.S. households either have a pet or plan to get one in the future, so it is important to understand the unique needs and wants of animal owners when it comes to homeownership.  

REALTORS® understand that when someone buys a home, they are buying it with the needs of their whole family in mind; ask pet owners, and they will enthusiastically agree that their animals are part of their family.”

The Power of Pets When Choosing the Right Home

  • 89% of pet owners say they would not give up their pet due to a housing restriction
  • 81% of Americans say their pets play a role in their housing situation
  • 31% of animal owners have refused to put in an offer on a home because it wasn’t a good fit for their animals
  • 19% of Americans say they would consider moving for their pet
  • 12% percent have moved for their pet

New home builders have actually begun installing retractable pet gates that tuck away neatly inside door jams as a highly requested feature in new homes to attract pet-parents, according to Builder.com.

So, if you are a homeowner looking to sell in today’s pet-friendly environment, point out the features of your home that will attract pet owners:

  • Fully fenced in backyard – (91% of pet owners ranked this as the most important feature of a home to accommodate their pet)
  • Locations of dog parks/walking paths/pet-friendly beaches in the area (71% ranked this as the top feature of any neighborhood they would consider)
  • Proximity to veterinarians/groomers/pet supply stores (31%)

Bottom Line

Americans love their pets and will look for pet-friendly features in the home they wish to buy, so take advantage of this knowledge by pointing out your home’s ability to meet their needs.

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4 Tips for Effectively Making an Offer

4 Tips for Effectively Making an Offer | Simplifying The Market

So, you’ve been searching for that perfect house to call a ‘home,’ and you finally found one! The price is right, and in such a competitive market, you want to make sure that you make a good offer so that you can guarantee that your dream of making this house yours comes true!

Freddie Mac covered “4 Tips for Making an Offer” in their latest Executive Perspective. Here are the 4 tips they covered along with some additional information for your consideration:

1. Understand How Much You Can Afford

“While it’s not nearly as fun as house hunting, fully understanding your finances is critical in making an offer.”

This ‘tip’ or ‘step’ should really take place before you start your home search process.

As we’ve mentioned before, getting pre-approved is one of many steps that will show home sellers that you are serious about buying, and will allow you to make your offer with the confidence of knowing that you have already been approved for a mortgage for that amount. You will also need to know if you are prepared to make any repairs that may need to be made to the house (ex: new roof, new furnace).

2. Act Fast

“Even though there are fewer investors, the inventory of homes for sale is also low and competition for housing continues to heat up in many parts of the country.” 

According to the latest Existing Home Sales Report, the inventory of homes for sale is currently at a 3.7-month supply; this is well below the 6-month supply that is needed for a ‘normal’ market. Buyer demand has continued to outpace the supply of homes for sale, causing buyers to compete with each other for their dream homes.

Make sure that as soon as you decide that you want to make an offer, you work with your agent to present it as soon as possible.

3. Make a Solid Offer

Freddie Mac offers this advice to help make your offer the strongest it can be:

“Your strongest offer will be comparable with other sales and listings in the neighborhood. A licensed real estate agent active in the neighborhoods you are considering will be instrumental in helping you put in a solid offer based on their experience and other key considerations such as recent sales of similar homes, the condition of the house and what you can afford.”

Talk with your agent to find out if there are any ways that you can make your offer stand out in this competitive market!

4. Be Prepared to Negotiate

“It’s likely that you’ll get at least one counteroffer from the sellers so be prepared. The two things most likely to be negotiated are the selling price and closing date. Given that, you’ll be glad you did your homework first to understand how much you can afford.

Your agent will also be key in the negotiation process, giving you guidance on the counteroffer and making sure that the agreed-to contract terms are met.”

If your offer is approved, Freddie Mac urges you to “always get an independent home inspection, so you know the true condition of the home.” If the inspector uncovers undisclosed problems or issues, you can discuss any repairs that may need to be made with the seller, or cancel the contract.

Bottom Line 

Whether you’re buying your first home or your fifth, having a local professional on your side who is an expert in their market is your best bet in making sure the process goes smoothly. Happy House Hunting!

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Do You Know the Cost of NOT Owning Your Home?

Do You Know the Cost of NOT Owning Your Home? | Simplifying The Market

Owning a home has great financial benefits, yet many continue renting! Today, let’s look at the financial reasons why owning a home of your own has been a part of the American Dream for as long as America has existed.

Zillow recently reported that:

“With Rents continuing to climb and interest rates staying low, many renters find themselves gazing over the homeownership fence and wondering if the grass really is greener. Leaving aside, for the moment, the difficulties of saving for a down payment, let’s focus on the monthly expenses of owning a home: it turns out that renters currently paying the median rent in many markets could afford to buy a higher-quality property than the typical (read: median-valued) home without increasing their monthly expenses.”

What proof exists that owning is financially better than renting?

1. The latest Rent Vs. Buy Report from Trulia pointed out the top 5 financial benefits of homeownership:

  • Mortgage payments can be fixed while rents go up.
  • Equity in your home can be a financial resource later.
  • You can build wealth without paying capital gain.
  • A mortgage can act as a forced savings account
  • Overall, homeowners can enjoy greater wealth growth than renters.

2. Studies have shown that a homeowner’s net worth is 45x greater than that of a renter.

3. Just a few months ago, we explained that a family buying an average priced home at the beginning of 2017 could build more than $42,000 in family wealth over the next five years.

4. Some argue that renting eliminates the cost of taxes and home repairs, but every potential renter must realize that all the expenses the landlord incurs are already baked into the rent paymentalong with a profit margin!!

Bottom Line

Owning a home has always been, and will always be, better from a financial standpoint than renting.

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What You Need to Know About Qualifying for a Mortgage [INFOGRAPHIC]

What You Need to Know About Qualifying for a Mortgage [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights:

  • Many buyers are purchasing a home with a down payment as little as 3%.
  • You may already qualify for a loan, even if you don’t have perfect credit.
  • Take advantage of the knowledge of your local professionals who are there to help you determine how much you can afford.

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3 Reasons the Housing Market is NOT in a Bubble

3 Reasons the Housing Market is NOT in a Bubble | Simplifying The Market

With housing prices appreciating at levels that far exceed historical norms, some are fearful that the market is heading for another bubble. To alleviate that fear, we just need to look back at the reasons that caused the bubble ten years ago.

Last decade, demand for housing was artificially propped up because mortgage lending standards were way too lenient. People that were not qualified to purchase were able to attain a mortgage anyway. Prices began to skyrocket. This increase in demand caused homebuilders in many markets to overbuild.

Eventually, the excess in new construction and the flooding of the market with distressed properties (foreclosures & short sales), caused by the lack of appropriate lending standards, led to the housing crash.

Where we are today…

1. If we look at lending standards based on the Mortgage Credit Availability Index released monthly by the Mortgage Bankers Association, we can see that, though standards have become more reasonable over the last few years, they are nowhere near where they were in the early 2000s.

3 Reasons the Housing Market is NOT in a Bubble | Simplifying The Market

2. If we look at new construction, we can see that builders are not “over building.” Average annual housing starts in the first quarter of this year were not just below numbers recorded in 2002-2006, they are below starts going all the way back to 1980.

3 Reasons the Housing Market is NOT in a Bubble | Simplifying The Market

3. If we look at home prices, most homes haven’t even returned to prices seen a decade ago. Trulia just released a report that explained:

“When it comes to the value of individual homes, the U.S. housing market has yet to recover. In fact, just 34.2% of homes nationally have seen their value surpass their pre-recession peak.”

Bottom Line

Mortgage lending standards are appropriate, new construction is below what is necessary and home prices haven’t even recovered. It appears fears of a housing bubble are over-exaggerated.

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Gallup: Real Estate is Best Long-Term Investment 4 Years Running

Gallup: Real Estate is Best Long-Term Investment 4 Years Running | Simplifying The Market

Every year, Gallup surveys Americans to determine their choice for the best long-term investment. Respondents are given a choice between real estate, stocks/mutual funds, gold, savings accounts/CDs, or bonds.

For the fourth year in a row, Real Estate has come out on top as the best long-term investment! This year’s results showed that 34% of Americans chose real estate, followed by stocks at 26%. The full results are shown in the chart below.

Gallup: Real Estate is Best Long-Term Investment 4 Years Running | Simplifying The Market

The study makes it a point to draw attention to the contrast of the sentiment over the last four years compared to that of 2011-2012, when gold took the top slot with 34% of the votes. Real estate and stocks took second and third place, respectively, while still in recovery from the Great Recession.

Bottom Line

As the real estate market has recovered, so has the belief of the American people in the stability of housing as a long-term investment.

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Inventory Shortages Are Slowing Down the Market

Inventory Shortages Are Slowing Down the Market | Simplifying The Market

The real estate market is moving more and more into a complete recovery. Home values are up. Home sales are up. Distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales) have fallen dramatically. It seems that 2017 will be the year that the housing market races forward again.

However, there is one thing that may cause the industry to tap the brakes: a lack of housing inventory. While buyer demand looks like it will remain strong throughout the summer, supply is not keeping up.

Here are the thoughts of a few industry experts on the subject:

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at NAR:

“Sellers are in the driver’s seat this spring as the intense competition for the few homes for sale is forcing many buyers to be aggressive in their offers. Buyers are showing resiliency given the challenging conditions. However, at some point — and the sooner the better — price growth must ease to a healthier rate. Otherwise sales could slow if affordability conditions worsen.”

Tom O’Grady, Pro Teck CEO

“The lack of inventory is very real and could have a severe impact on home sales in the months to come. Traditionally, a balanced market would have an MRI (Months Remaining Inventory) between six and 10 months.

This month, only eight metros we track have MRIs over 10, compared to 27 last year and 48 two years ago—illustrating that this lack of inventory is not being driven by traditionally ‘hot’ markets, but is rather a broad-based, national phenomenon.”

Ralph McLaughlin, Chief Economist at Trulia

“Nationally, housing inventory dropped to its lowest level on record in 2017 Q1. The number of homes on the market dropped for the eighth consecutive quarter, falling 5.1% over the past year.”

Freddie Mac

“Tight housing inventory has been an important feature of the housing market at least since 2016. For-sale housing inventory, especially of starter homes, is currently at its lowest level in over ten years. If inventory continues to remain tight, home sales will likely decline from their 2016 levels. …all eyes are on housing inventory and whether or not it will meet the high demand.”

Bottom Line

If you are thinking of selling, now may be the time. Demand for your house will be strongest at a time when there is very little competition. That could lead to a quick sale for a really good price.

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Is 2017 the Year to Move Up to Your Dream Home? If So, Do It Early!

Is 2017 the Year to Move Up to Your Dream Home? If So, Do It Early! | Simplifying The Market

If you are considering moving up to your dream home, it may be better to do it earlier in the year than later. The two components of your monthly mortgage payment (home prices and interest rates) are both projected to increase as the year moves forward, and interest rates may increase rather dramatically. Here are some predictions on where rates will be by the end of the year:

Freddie Mac

While full employment and rising inflation are signs of a strong economy, they also have the potential to push mortgage rates and house prices up. The higher rates and higher prices create significant affordability concerns, which may continue to characterize the housing market for the rest of 2017.”

Lynn Fisher, Vice President of Research & Economics for the Mortgage Bankers Association

By the time we get to the fourth quarter of this year, we will still be under 5 percent – we are thinking 4.7 percent…Something north of 5 percent by the time we get to 2018, and by the time we get to 2019, we show fourth-quarter rates hitting 5.5 percent.”

Mark Fleming, First American’s Chief Economist

Despite some regional disparities, title agents and real estate professionals do not expect increasing mortgage rates to have a significant impact on the housing market this spring. Continued good economic news, increasing Millennial demand and confidence that buyers will remain in the market even if rates exceed 5 percent bode well for 2017 real estate.

Len Kiefer, Deputy Chief Economist for Freddie Mac

We will probably see rates higher at the end of year, around 4.5%.”

Bottom Line

If you are feeling good about your family’s economic future and are considering making a move to your dream home, doing it sooner rather than later makes the most sense.

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Do You Know the Cost of Waiting? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Do You Know the Cost of Waiting? [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Do You Know the Cost of Waiting? [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights:

  • The “Cost of Waiting to Buy” is defined as the additional funds it would take to buy a home if prices and interest rates were to increase over a period of time.
  • Freddie Mac predicts that interest rates will increase to 4.8% by this time next year, while home prices are predicted to appreciate by 4.9% according to CoreLogic.
  • Waiting until next year to buy could cost you thousands of dollars a year for the life of your mortgage!

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Financial Planning: 4 Reasons to Buy a House Today

Financial Planning: 4 Reasons to Buy a House Today | Simplifying The Market

Homeownership will always be a part of the American Dream. There are advantages to owning your own home (educational, health, social) that far transcend any economic impact. However, we want to look at several of the financial advantages of homeownership in today’s post.

1. Buying is Cheaper Than Renting

The results of the latest Rent vs. Buy Report from Trulia show that homeownership remains cheaper than renting with a traditional 30-year fixed rate mortgage in the 100 largest metro areas in the United States. The report reveals that:

“Interest rates have remained low, and even though home prices have appreciated around the country, they haven’t greatly outpaced rental appreciation…Nationally, rates would have to reach 9.1% for renting to be cheaper than buying. Rates haven’t been that high since January of 1995, according to Freddie Mac.”

2. Homeownership “Forces” You to Save

According to SavingAdvice.com, homeownership is a great way to save. Their advice is quite simple:

“Homeownership is a “forced” savings account because you own the home, you have no choice – that monthly housing cost has got to be paid no matter what…Homeownership can be an outstanding way to force yourself to be more frugal in the rest of your spending so that you can save and build equity in your home.”

3. Homeownership Offers Several Tax Deductions

According to the Tax Policy Center’s Briefing Book -“A citizen’s guide to the fascinating (though often complex) elements of the federal Tax System” – there are several tax advantages to homeownership. Here are three:

  1. Homeowners who itemize deductions may reduce their taxable income by deducting any interest paid on a home mortgage.
  2. Homeowners who itemize deductions may also reduce their taxable income by deducting property taxes they pay on their homes.
  3. Taxpayers who sell assets must generally pay capital gains tax on any profits made on the sale.

4. Experts Expect Home Price Appreciation to Continue

Every quarter, Pulsenomics surveys a nationwide panel of over one hundred economists, real estate experts, and investment & market strategists about where they believe prices are headed over the next five years. They then average the projections of all 100+ experts into a single number.

Over the next five years, home prices are expected to appreciate 3.22% per year on average and to grow by 17.3% cumulatively, according to Pulsenomics’ most recent Home Price Expectation Survey.

Bottom Line

Some are afraid that home values may have already peaked. However, we believe that purchasing a home now will prove to be a sound financial decision for years to come. As Warren Buffet said, “When others are greedy, be fearful. When others are fearful, be greedy.”

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Buying a Home? Do You Know the Lingo?

Buying a Home? Do You Know the Lingo? | Simplifying The Market

Buying a home can be intimidating if you are not familiar with the terms used during the process. To start you on your path with confidence, we have compiled a list of some of the most common terms used when buying a home.

Freddie Mac has compiled a more exhaustive glossary of terms in their “My Home” section of their website.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) – This is a broader measure of your cost for borrowing money. The APR includes the interest rate, points, broker fees and certain other credit charges a borrower is required to pay. Because these costs are rolled in, the APR is usually higher than your interest rate.

Appraisal – A professional analysis used to estimate the value of the property. This includes examples of sales of similar properties. This is a necessary step in getting your financing secured as it validates the home’s worth to you and your lender.

Closing Costs – The costs to complete the real estate transaction. These costs are in addition to the price of the home and are paid at closing. They include points, taxes, title insurance, financing costs, items that must be prepaid or escrowed and other costs. Ask your lender for a complete list of closing cost items.

Credit Score – A number ranging from 350-800, that is based on an analysis of your credit history. Your credit score plays a significant role when securing a mortgage as it helps lenders determine the likelihood that you’ll repay future debts. The higher your score, the better, but many buyers believe they need at least a 780 score to qualify when, in actuality, over 55% of approved loans had a score below 750.

Discount Points – A point equals 1% of your loan (1 point on a $200,000 loan = $2,000). You can pay points to buy down your mortgage interest rate. It’s essentially an upfront interest payment to lock in a lower rate for your mortgage.

Down Payment – This is a portion of the cost of your home that you pay upfront to secure the purchase of the property. Down payments are typically 3 to 20% of the purchase price of the home. There are zero-down programs available through VA loans for Veterans, as well as USDA loans for rural areas of the country. Eighty percent of first-time buyers put less than 20% down last month.

Escrow – The holding of money or documents by a neutral third party before closing. It can also be an account held by the lender (or servicer) into which a homeowner pays money for taxes and insurance.

Fixed-Rate Mortgages – A mortgage with an interest rate that does not change for the entire term of the loan. Fixed-rate mortgages are typically 15 or 30 years.

Home Inspection – A professional inspection of a home to determine the condition of the property. The inspection should include an evaluation of the plumbing, heating and cooling systems, roof, wiring, foundation and pest infestation.

Mortgage Rate – The interest rate you pay to borrow money to buy your house. The lower the rate, the better. Interest rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage have hovered between 4 and 4.25% for most of 2017.

Pre-Approval Letter – A letter from a mortgage lender indicating that you qualify for a mortgage of a specific amount. It also shows a home seller that you’re a serious buyer. Having a pre-approval letter in hand while shopping for homes can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets.

Primary Mortgage Insurance (PMI) – If you make a down payment lower than 20% on your conventional loan, your lender will require PMI, typically at a rate of .51%. PMI serves as an added insurance policy that protects the lender if you are unable to pay your mortgage and can be cancelled from your payment once you reach 20% equity in your home. For more information on how PMI can impact your monthly housing cost, click here.

Real Estate Professional – An individual who provides services in buying and selling homes. Real estate professionals are there to help you through the confusing paperwork, to help you find your dream home, to negotiate any of the details that come up, and to help make sure that you know exactly what’s going on in the housing market. Real estate professionals can refer you to local lenders or mortgage brokers along with other specialists that you will need throughout the home-buying process.

The best way to ensure that your home-buying process is a confident one is to find a real estate professional who will guide you through every aspect of the transaction with ‘the heart of a teacher,’ and who puts your family’s needs first.

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Get All the Facts about PMI

Get All the Facts about PMI | Simplifying The Market

When it comes to buying a home, whether it is your first time or your fifth, it is always important to know all the facts. With the large number of mortgage programs available that allow buyers to purchase a home with a down payment below 20%, you can never have too much information about Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI).

What is PMI?

Freddie Mac defines PMI as:

“An insurance policy that protects the lender if you are unable to pay your mortgage. It’s a monthly fee, rolled into your mortgage payment, that is required for all conforming, conventional loans that have down payments less than 20%.

Once you’ve built equity of 20% in your home, you can cancel your PMI and remove that expense from your mortgage payment.”

As the borrower, you pay the monthly premiums for the insurance policy, and the lender is the beneficiary. Freddie Mac goes on to explain that:

“The cost of PMI varies based on your loan-to-value ratio – the amount you owe on your mortgage compared to its value – and credit score, but you can expect to pay between $30 and $70 per month for every $100,000 borrowed.” 

According to the National Association of Realtors, the average down payment for all buyers last year was 10%. For first-time buyers, that number dropped to 6%, while repeat buyers put down 14% (no doubt aided by the sale of their home). This just goes to show that for a large number of buyers last year, PMI did not stop them from buying their dream homes.

Here’s an example of the cost of a mortgage on a $200,000 home with a 5% down payment & PMI, compared to a 20% down payment without PMI:

Get All the Facts about PMI | Simplifying The Market

The larger the down payment you can make, the lower your monthly housing cost will be, but Freddie Mac urges you to remember:

“It’s no doubt an added cost, but it’s enabling you to buy now and begin building equity versus waiting 5 to 10 years to build enough savings for a 20% down payment.”

Bottom Line

If you have questions about whether you should buy now or wait until you’ve saved a larger down payment, meet with a professional in your area who can explain your market’s conditions and help you make the best decision for you and your family.

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Is the Current Pace of Home Sales Maintainable?

Is the Current Pace of Home Sales Maintainable? | Simplifying The Market

There are some experts questioning whether the current pace of residential home sales is maintainable. Are too many people buying homes like in 2004-2006? Are we headed for another housing crisis? Actually, if we look closely at the numbers, we can see that we are looking at a very healthy real estate market.

Why the concern?

Some are looking at the last four years of home sales and comparing them to the three years just prior to the housing bubble. Looking at the graph below, we can understand that thinking.

Is the Current Pace of Home Sales Maintainable? | Simplifying The Market

However, if we go further back in history, we can see the real picture. After taking out the “boom & bust” years, the pace of sales is growing at quite a natural pace.

Is the Current Pace of Home Sales Maintainable? | Simplifying The Market

And new home sales are way below historic numbers. Dave Liniger, Re/Max CEO explains:

“We expect a seasonal uptick in sales this time of year and March certainly met and somewhat exceeded that expectation. We don’t anticipate the tightening inventory to ease up in most markets until new home construction can catch up to its pre-recession pace. Until then, sellers will enjoy a fast-paced market and buyers will need to work with their agents to get in the right home.”

Bottom Line

The current pace of residential home sales definitely seems maintainable.

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Homes are Selling Fast Across the Country [INFOGRAPHIC]

Homes are Selling Fast Across the Country [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Homes are Selling Fast Across the Country [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights:

  • The National Association of REALTORS® surveyed their members for their monthly Confidence Index.
  • The REALTORS® Confidence Index is a key indicator of housing market strength based on a monthly survey sent to over 50,000 real estate practitioners. Practitioners are asked about their expectations for home sales, prices and market conditions.
  • Homes sold in 60 days or less in 36 out of 50 states, and Washington D.C.
  • Homes typically went under contract in 34 days in March!

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Your Tax Return: Bring it Home

Your Tax Return: Bring it Home | Simplifying The Market

This time of year, many people eagerly check their mailboxes looking for their tax return check from the IRS. But, what do most people plan to do with the money? GO Banking Rates recently surveyed Americans and asked the question – “What do you plan on doing with your tax refund?”

The results of the survey were interesting. Here is what they plan to do with their money:

  • 41% – Put it into savings
  • 38% – Pay off debt
  • 11% – Go on a vacation
  • 5% – Make a major purchase (car, home, etc.)
  • 5% – Splurge on a purchase

Upon seeing the research, The National Association of Realtors (NAR) wondered if this could help with a constant challenge cited by many people who wish to purchase a home – saving for the down payment.

In a recent post in NAR’s Economists’ Outlook Blog, they explained:

“With a sizable tax refund, the average American would have a decent down payment depending on which region or market you live in.”

They went on to add:

“[A]pproximately 5 percent of all respondents indicated they would make a major purchase which does not seem like a lot. However, there is a bigger group 41 percent who see saving the tax return is best and that group could be potential homebuyers if they are not already.”

In other words, putting that money toward purchasing a home is a form of savings.

Bottom Line

When one considers that first-time home buyers in 2016 had an average down payment of 6%, a decent tax return could go a long way toward the necessary funds needed for a down payment on a house. Or perhaps, the down payment needed by a son or daughter to make their homeownership dream a reality. How are you going to spend your return?

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