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July 6, 2021

How to Bridge the Appraisal Gap in Today’s Real Estate Market

If you’re searching for drama, don’t limit yourself to Netflix. Instead, tune in to the real estate market, where the competition among buyers has never been fiercer. And with homes selling for record highs,1 the appraisal process—historically a standard part of a home purchase—is receiving more attention than ever.

 

That’s because some sellers are finding out the hard way that a strong offer can fizzle quickly when an appraisal comes in below the contract price. Traditionally, the sale of a home is contingent on a satisfactory valuation. But in a rapidly appreciating market, it can be difficult for appraisals to keep pace with rising prices.

 

Thus, many sellers in today’s market favor buyers who are willing to guarantee their full offer price—even if the property appraises for less. For the buyer, that could require a financial leap of faith that the home is a solid investment. It also means they may need to come up with additional cash at closing to cover the gap.

 

Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, it’s never been more important to understand the appraisal process and how it can be impacted by a quickly appreciating and highly competitive housing market. It’s also crucial to work with a skilled real estate agent who can guide you to a successful closing without overpaying (if you’re a buyer) or overcompensating (if you’re a seller). Find out how appraisals work—and in some cases, don’t work—in today’s unique real estate environment.

  

APPRAISAL REQUIREMENTS

 An appraisal is an objective assessment of a property’s market value performed by an independent authorized appraiser. Mortgage lenders require an appraisal to lower their risk of loss in the event a buyer defaults on their loan. It provides assurance that the home’s value meets or exceeds the amount being lent for its purchase.

 

In most cases, a licensed appraiser will analyze the property’s condition and review the value of comparable properties that have recently sold. Mortgage borrowers are usually expected to pay the cost of an appraisal. These fees are often due upfront and non-refundable.2

 

Appraisal requirements can vary by lender and loan type, and in today’s market in-person appraisal waivers have become much more common. Analysis of the property, the local market, and the buyer’s qualifications will determine whether the appraisal will be waived. Not all properties or buyers will qualify, and not all mortgage lenders will utilize this system.3 If you’re applying for a mortgage, be sure to ask your lender about their specific terms.  

 

 If you’re a cash buyer, you may choose—but are not obligated—to order an appraisal.

 

 APPRAISALS IN A RAPIDLY SHIFTING MARKET

 An appraisal contingency is a standard inclusion in a home purchase offer. It enables the buyer to make the closing of the transaction dependent on a satisfactory appraisal wherein the value of the property is at or near the purchase price. This helps to reassure the buyer (and their lender) that they are paying fair market value for the home and allows them to cancel the contract if the appraisal is lower than expected.

 

Low appraisals are not common, but they are more likely to happen in a rapidly appreciating market, like the one we’re experiencing now.4 That’s because appraisers must use comparable sales (commonly referred to as comps) to determine a property’s value. These could include homes that went under contract weeks or even months ago. With home prices rising so quickly,5 today’s comps may be lagging behind the market’s current reality. Thus, the appraiser could be basing their assessment on stale data, resulting in a low valuation.

 

 HOW ARE BUYERS AND SELLERS IMPACTED BY A LOW APPRAISAL?

 When a property appraises for less than the contract price, you end up with an appraisal gap. In a more balanced market, that could be cause for a renegotiation. In today’s market, however, sellers often hold the upper hand.

 

That’s why some buyers are using the potential for an appraisal gap as a way to strengthen their bids. They’re proposing to take on some or all of the risk of a low appraisal by adding gap coverage or a contingency waiver to their offer.

 

Appraisal Gap Coverage


Buyers with some extra cash on hand may opt to add an appraisal gap coverage clause to their offer. It provides an added level of reassurance to the sellers that, in the event of a low appraisal, the buyer is willing and able to cover the gap up to a certain amount.6

 

For example, let’s say a home is listed for $200,000 and the buyers offer $220,000 with $10,000 in appraisal gap coverage. Now, let’s say the property appraises for $205,000. The new purchase price would be $215,000. The buyers would be responsible for paying $10,000 of that in cash directly to the seller because, in most cases, mortgage companies won’t include appraisal gap coverage in a home loan.6

 

Waiving The Appraisal Contingency

 

Some buyers with a higher risk tolerance—and the financial means—may be willing to waive the appraisal contingency altogether. However, this strategy isn’t for everyone and must be considered on a case-by-case basis.

 

It’s important to remember that waiving an appraisal contingency can leave a buyer vulnerable if the appraisal comes back much lower than the contract price. Without an appraisal contingency, a buyer will be obligated to cover the difference or be forced to walk away from the transaction and relinquish their earnest money deposit to the sellers.7

 

It’s vital that both buyers and sellers understand the benefits and risks involved with these and other competitive tactics that are becoming more commonplace in today’s market. We can help you chart the best course of action given your individual circumstances.

 

 DON’T WAIVE YOUR RIGHT TO THE BEST REPRESENTATION

There’s never been a market quite like this one before. That’s why you need a master negotiator on your side who has the skills, instincts, and experience to get the deal done...no matter what surprises may pop up along the way. If you’re a buyer, we can help you compete in this unprecedented market—without getting steamrolled. And if you’re a seller, we know how to get top dollar for your home while minimizing hassle and stress. Contact us today to schedule a complimentary consultation.

 

 Sources:

 

1.      Wall Street Journal -
https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-home-prices-push-to-record-high-slowing-pace-of-purchases-11621605953

2.      US News & World Report - https://realestate.usnews.com/real-estate/articles/what-is-a-home-appraisal-and-who-pays-for-it

3.      Rocket Mortgage –
https://www.rocketmortgage.com/learn/appraisal-waiver 

4.      Money -
https://money.com/coronavirus-low-home-appraisal/

5.      S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Home Price NSA Index - https://www.spglobal.com/spdji/en/indices/indicators/sp-corelogic-case-shiller-20-city-composite-home-price-nsa-index/#overview

6.      Bigger Pockets -
https://www.biggerpockets.com/blog/appraisal-gap-coverage

7.      Washington Post -
https://www.washingtonpost.com/realestate/competitive-buyers-waive-contingencies-to-score-homes-in-tight-market/2021/06/02/d335b050-af2c-11eb-b476-c3b287e52a01_story.html

 

 

Posted in Market Updates
June 2, 2021

Could Rising Home Prices Impact Your Net Worth?

Learn how to determine your current net worth and how an investment in real estate can help improve your bottom line.

 Among its many impacts, COVID-19 has had a pronounced effect on the housing market. Low home inventory and high buyer demand have driven home prices to an all-time high.1 This has given an unexpected financial boost to many homeowners during a challenging time. However, for some renters, rising home prices are making dreams of homeownership feel further out of reach.

 If you’re a homeowner, it’s important for you to understand how your home’s value contributes to your overall net worth. If you’re a renter, now is the time for you to figure out how homeownership fits into your short-term goals and your long-term financial future. An investment in real estate can help you grow your net worth, build wealth over time, and gain a foothold in the housing market to keep pace with rising prices.

  

What is net worth?

 Net worth is the net balance of your total assets minus your total liabilities. Or, basically, it is what you own minus what you owe.2

 Assets include the cash you have on hand in your checking and savings accounts, investment account balances, salable items like jewelry or a car and, of course, your home and any other real estate you own.

 Liabilities include your total debt obligations like car loans, credit card debt, the amount you owe on your mortgage, and student loans. In addition, liabilities would include any other payment obligations you have, like outstanding bills and taxes.

  

How do I calculate my net worth?

 To calculate your net worth, you’ll want to add up all of your assets and all of your liabilities. Then subtract your total liabilities from your total assets. The balance represents your current net worth.

 

Total Assets – Total Liabilities = Net Worth

 

Ready to calculate your net worth? Contact us to request an easy-to-use worksheet and a free assessment of your home’s current market value!

 

Keep in mind that your net worth is a snapshot of your financial position at a single point in time. Your assets and liabilities will fluctuate over both the short term and long term. For example, if you take out a loan to buy a car, you decrease your liability with each payment. Of course, the value of your asset (the car) will depreciate over time, as well. An asset that is invested in stocks or bonds can be even less predictable, as it’s subject to daily fluctuations in the market.

 As a homeowner, you enjoy significant stability through your monthly real estate investment, also known as your home mortgage payment. While the actual value of your home can fluctuate depending on market conditions, your mortgage payment will decrease your liability each month. And unlike a vehicle purchase, the value of your home is likely to appreciate over time, which can help to grow your net worth. Right now, your asset may be worth significantly more than it was this time last year.3

 If you’re a homeowner, contact us for an estimate of your home’s market value so that you can factor it into your net worth calculation. If you’re not a current homeowner, let’s talk about how homes in our area have appreciated over the last several years. That way, you can get an idea of how a home purchase could positively affect your net worth.

  

How can real estate increase my net worth?

 When you put your real estate dollars to work, it’s possible to grow your net worth, generate cash flow, and even fund your retirement. We can help you realize the possibilities and maximize the return on your investment.

 Property Appreciation

 

Generally, property appreciates in one of two ways: either through changes to the overall market or through value-added modifications to the property itself.

 

  1. Rising prices

 This type of property appreciation is the one that many homeowners are enjoying right now. Buyer demand is at an all-time high due to a combination of record-low interest rates and limited housing inventory.4 At other times, rising home prices have been attributed to different factors. Certain local conditions—like a new commercial development, influx of jobs, or infrastructure project—can encourage rapid growth in a community or region and a corresponding rise in home values. Historically, home prices have been shown to experience an upward trend punctuated by intermittent booms and corrections.5

 

  1. Strategic home improvements

 Well-planned and executed home improvements can also impact a home’s value and increase homeowner equity at the same time. The type of home improvement should be appropriate for the home and in tune with the desires of local buyers.

 

For example, a tasteful exterior remodel that is in keeping with the preferences of local home buyers is likely to add significant value to a home, while remodeling the home to look like the Taj Mahal or a favorite theme park attraction will not. A modern kitchen remodel tends to add value, while a kitchen remodel that is overly expensive or personalized may not provide an adequate return on investment.

 

Investment Property

 

You may be used to thinking of investments primarily in terms of stocks and bonds. However, the purchase of a real estate investment property offers the opportunity to increase your net worth both upon purchase and year after year through appreciation. In addition, rental payments can have a positive impact on your monthly income and cash flow. If you currently have significant equity in your home, let's talk about how you could put that equity to work by funding the purchase of an investment property.

 

  1. Long-term or traditional rental

 A long-term rental property is one that is leased for an extended period and typically used as a primary residence by the renter. This type of real estate investment offers you the opportunity to generate consistent cash flow while building equity and appreciation.6

 

As an owner, you don’t usually have to worry about paying the utility bills or furnishing the property—both of which are typically covered by the tenant. Add to this the fact that traditional tenants translate into less time and effort spent on day-to-day property management, and long-term rentals are an attractive option for many investors.

 

  1. Short-term or vacation rental

 Short-term rentals are often referred to as vacation rentals because they are primarily geared towards recreational travelers. And as more people start to feel comfortable traveling again, the short-term rental market is poised to become a more popular option than ever. In 2020 alone, in the thick of widespread travel bans, the short-term rental platform Airbnb’s market share of the hospitality industry reached as high as 41 percent.6

 

Investing in a short-term rental offers many benefits. If you purchase an investment property in a top tourist destination, you can expect steady demand from travelers while taking advantage of any non-rented periods to enjoy the home yourself. You can also adjust your rental price around peak demand to maximize your cash flow while building equity and long-term appreciation.

To reap these benefits, however, you’ll need to understand the local laws and regulations on short-term rentals. We can help you identify suitable markets with investment potential.

 

 

WE’RE HERE TO HELP 

 Ready to calculate your personal net worth? Contact us for an easy-to-use worksheet and to find out your home’s current value. And if you want to learn more about growing your net worth through real estate, we can schedule a free consultation to answer your questions and explore your options. Whether you’re hoping to maximize the value of your current home or invest in a new property, we’re here to help you achieve your real estate goals.

  

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

 

 Sources:

 

  1. National Association of Realtors -
    https://www.nar.realtor/newsroom/housing-market-reaches-record-high-home-price-and-gains-in-march
  2. Forbes -
    https://www.forbes.com/advisor/investing/what-is-net-worth/
  3. The Washington Post -
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/on-small-business/your-net-worth-is-americas-secret-economic-weapon/2020/08/20/70df5b92-e2d4-11ea-82d8-5e55d47e90ca_story.html
  4. Bloomberg -
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-04-09/home-prices-soar-in-frenzied-u-s-market-drained-of-supply
  5. Federal Reserve Economic Data -
    https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/MSPUS
  6. Propmodo -
    https://www.propmodo.com/what-the-growing-short-term-rental-market-means-for-multifamily-real-estate/
Posted in Market Updates
May 5, 2021

Finding a New Home for Your Next Stage of Life

Imagine the first place you lived as a young adult. Now imagine trying to fit your life today into that space. Not pretty, right?

For most of us, our housing needs are cyclical.1 A newly independent adult can find freedom and flexibility in even a tiny apartment. That same space, to a growing family, would feel stifling. For empty nesters, a large home with several unused bedrooms can become impractical to heat and clean. It’s no surprise that life transitions often trigger a home purchase.

While your home-buying journey may not look like your neighbor’s or friend’s, broad trends can help you understand what to keep in mind as you house hunt. No one wants to regret their home purchase, and taking the time now to think about exactly what you need can save a lot of heartache later.

The Newly Married or Partnered Couple

The financial and legal commitment of marriage has provided a springboard to homeownership for centuries, though these days more couples are buying homes without exchanging rings. In the last few decades, changing demographics have shifted the median age of first marriage and buying a first home into the late 20s and early 30s, planting most newly married or partnered buyers firmly in the millennial generation.2,3 But no matter your age, there are some key factors that you should consider as you enter into your first home purchase together.

Affordability is Key

There’s no doubt about it—with high student loan debt and two recessions in the rearview mirror, many millennials feel that the deck is stacked against them when it comes to homeownership. And it’s not just millennials—Americans of all ages are facing both financial challenges and a tough housing market. But stepping onto the property ladder can be more doable than many realize, especially in today’s low mortgage rate environment.

While many buyers are holding out for their dream home, embracing the concept of a starter home can open a lot of doors.4 In fact, that’s the route that most first-time homebuyers take—the average home purchase for a 20-something is about 1,600 square feet. While the average size increases to around 1,900 square feet for buyers in their 30s, it’s not until buyers reach their 40s that the average size passes 2,000 square feet.5

Chosen carefully, a starter home can be a great investment as well as a launchpad for your life together. If you focus on buying a home you can afford now with strong potential for appreciation, you can build equity alongside your savings, positioning you to trade up to a larger home in the future if your needs change.6

Taking Advantage of Low Mortgage Rates

Mortgage rates are historically low, making now the perfect time to purchase your first home together. A lower interest rate can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your loan, which can significantly increase the quality of home you can get for your money.

 

But what if both halves of a couple don’t have good credit? You may still have options. First, boosting a credit score can be easier than you think—simply paying your credit cards down below 30% of your limit can go a long way. But if that’s not enough to boost your score, you might consider taking out the mortgage in only the better-scoring partner’s name. The downside is that applying for a mortgage with only one income will reduce your qualification amount. And if you take that route, make sure you understand the legal and financial implications for both parties should the relationship end.

Commute and Lifestyle Considerations

Whether you’ve lived in a rental together for years or are sharing a home for the first time, you know that living together involves some compromises. But there are certain home features that can make life easier in the future if you identify them now. The number of bathrooms, availability of closet space, and even things like kitchen layout can make a big difference in your day-to-day life and relationship.

Your home’s location will also have a significant impact on your quality of life, so consider it carefully. What will commuting look like for each of you? And if you have different interests or hobbies—say, museums vs. hiking—you’ll need to find a community that meets both your needs. Need some help identifying the ideal location that fits within your budget? We can match you with some great neighborhoods that offer the perfect mix of amenities and affordability.

The Growing Family

Having kids changes things—fast. With a couple of rowdy preteens and maybe some pets in the mix, that 1,600 square foot home that felt palatial to two adults suddenly becomes a lot more cramped. Whether you’ve just had your first child or are getting to the point where your kids can’t comfortably share a bedroom any longer, there’s plenty to consider when you’re ready to size up to a home that will fit your growing family.

The Importance of School Districts

For many parents, the desire to give their kids the best education—especially once they are in middle and high school— surpasses even their desire for more breathing room. In fact, 53% of buyers with children under 18 say that school districts are a major factor in their home buying decisions.7 Of course, better funded (and often higher ranking) schools correspond to higher home prices. However, when push comes to shove, many buyers with kids prefer to sacrifice a bit of space to find a home in their desired location.

But when you’re moving to a new community, it can be tough to figure out what the local schools are actually like—and online ratings don't tell the whole story. That’s why talking to a local real estate agent can be a gamechanger. We don’t just work in this community; we know it inside and out.

Lifestyle Considerations

For many families, living space is a key priority. Once you have teenagers who want space to hang out with their friends, a finished basement or a rec room can be a huge bonus (and can help you protect some quieter living space for yourself).

A good layout can also make family life a lot easier. For example, an open plan is invaluable if you want to cook dinner while keeping an eye on your young kids playing in the living room. And if you think that you might expand your family further in the future, be sure that the home you purchase has enough bedrooms and bathrooms to accommodate that comfortably.

Functionality

Try to think about how each room will fit into your day-to-day. Are you anticipating keeping the house stocked to feed hungry teenagers? A pantry might rise to the top of the list. Dreading the loads of laundry that come with both infants and older kids (especially if they play sports)? The task can be much more bearable in a well-designed laundry room. Imagine a typical day or week of chores in the house to identify which features will have the biggest impact.

Chances are, you won’t find every nice-to-have in one home, which is why identifying the must-haves can be such a boon to the decision-making process. We can help you assess your options and give you a sense of what is realistic within your budget.

The Empty Nesters

When we talk about empty nesters, we usually think about downsizing. With kids out of the house, extra bedrooms and living space can quickly become more trouble than they’re worth. While the average buyer under 55 trades up to a larger home, buyers over 55 are more likely to purchase a smaller or similarly sized but less expensive home. Even in the highest age groups, the majority of home purchases fall in the single-family category. According to research by the National Association of Realtors, by the time buyers reach their 70s, the median home size drops to 1,750 square feet.5 But there’s plenty for empty nesters to think about besides square footage.

Maintenance and Livability

What factors are driving your decision to move? Identifying those early in the process can help you narrow down your search. For example, do you want to have space for a garden, or would you prefer to avoid dealing with lawn care altogether? What about home maintenance? In many cases, a newer home will require less maintenance than an older one and a smaller one will take less time to clean. You may also want to consider townhomes, condos, or other living situations that don’t require quite as much upkeep.

Lifestyle Considerations

Many empty nesters have retired or are nearing retirement age. This could be your chance to finally pursue hobbies and passions that were just too hard to squeeze into a 9-5. If you’re ready to move, consider how you’d like to spend your days and seek out a home that will help make that dream a reality. For some, that might mean living near a golf course or a beach. For others, being able to walk downtown for a nice dinner out is the priority. And with more time to spend as you wish, proximity to a supportive community of friends and family is priceless.

Ability to Age in Place

Let’s face it—we can’t escape aging. If you’re looking for a home to retire in, accessibility should be front-of-mind.8 This may mean a single-story home or simply having adequate spaces on the first floor to rearrange as needed. While buying a home that you plan to renovate from the start is a viable option, being forced into renovations (because of the realities of aging) a few years down the road could seriously dig into your nest egg. Location matters, too—if your family will be providing support, are they close by? Can you easily reach necessities like grocery stores and healthcare? While it’s tempting to put it out of our minds, a few careful considerations now can make staying in your home long-term much more feasible.

Finding the Right Home for Right Now

One thing is for sure—life never stands still. And your housing needs won’t, either. In the United States, the median duration of homeownership hovers around 13 years.9 That means many of us will cycle through a few very different homes as we move through different life stages. At each milestone, a careful assessment of your housing options will ensure that you are well-positioned to embrace all the changes to come.

Whatever stage you’re embarking on next, we’re here to help. Our insight into local neighborhoods, prices, and housing stock will help you hone in on exactly where you want to live and what kind of home is right for you. We’ve worked with home buyers in every stage of life, so we know exactly what questions you need to ask. Buying a home—whether it’s your first or your fifth—is a big decision, but we’re here to support you every step of the way.

We support the Fair Housing Act and equal opportunity housing.

 

Sources:

1.      Freddie Mac -
http://www.freddiemac.com/blog/homeownership/20190104_homebuying_lifecycle.page

2.      PRB -
https://www.prb.org/usdata/indicator/marriage-age-women/snapshot/

3.      Experian -
https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/research/average-age-to-buy-a-house/#:~:text=Buying%20a%20first%20home%20will,by%20real%20estate%20marketplace%20Zillow

4.      Nerdwallet -
https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/mortgages/starter-home-forever-home

5.      NAR 2020 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report -
https://cdn.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2020-generational-trends-report-03-05-2020.pdf

6.      Investopedia -
https://www.investopedia.com/personal-finance/what-look-starter-home/

7.      NAR 2019 Moving With Kids
https://www.nar.realtor/research-and-statistics/research-reports/moving-with-kids

8.      Kaiser Health News -
https://khn.org/news/baby-boomers-aging-aging-in-place-retrofit-homes/

9.      National Association of Realtors -
https://www.nar.realtor/blogs/economists-outlook/how-long-do-homeowners-stay-in-their-homes#:~:text=As%20of%202018%2C%20the%20median,varies%20from%20area%20to%20area

 

 

Posted in Buying A Home?
April 6, 2021

Can I Buy or Sell a Home Without a Real Estate Agent?

 

 

Today’s real estate market is one of the fastest-moving in recent memory. With record-low inventory in many market segments, we’re seeing multiple offers—and sometimes even bidding wars—for homes in the most sought-after neighborhoods. This has led some sellers to question the need for an agent. After all, why spend money on a listing agent when it seems that you can stick a For Sale sign in the yard then watch a line form around the block?

 

Some buyers may also believe they’d be better off purchasing a property without an agent. For those seeking a competitive edge, proceeding without a buyer’s agent may seem like a good way to stand out from the competition—and maybe even score a discount. Since the seller pays the buyer agent’s commission, wouldn’t a do-it-yourself purchase sweeten the offer?

 

We all like to save money. However, when it comes to your largest financial asset, forgoing professional representation may not always be in your best interest. Find out whether the benefits outweigh the risks (and considerable time and effort) of selling or buying a home on your own—so you can head to the closing table with confidence.

 

 

SELLING YOUR HOME WITHOUT AN AGENT

Most homeowners who choose to sell their home without any professional assistance opt for a traditional “For Sale By Owner” or a direct sale to an investor, such as an iBuyer. Here’s what you can expect from either of these options.

 

For Sale By Owner (FSBO)

For sale by owner or FSBO (pronounced fizz-bo) offers sellers the opportunity to price their own home and handle their own transaction, showing the home and negotiating directly with the buyer or his or her real estate agent. According to data compiled by the National Association of Realtors, approximately 8% of homes are sold by their owner.1

 

In an active, low inventory real estate market, it may seem like a no-brainer to sell your home yourself. After all, there are plenty of buyers out there and one of them is bound to be interested in your home. In addition, you’ll save money on the listing agent’s commission and have more control over the way the home is priced and marketed.

 

One of the biggest problems FSBOs run into, however, is pricing the home appropriately. Without access to information about the comparable properties in your area, you could end up overpricing your home (causing it to languish on the market) or underpricing your home (leaving thousands of dollars on the table).2

 

Even during last year’s strong seller’s market, the median sales price for FSBOs was 10% less than the median price of homes sold with the help of a real estate agent.1 And during a more balanced market, like the one we experienced in 2018, FSBO homes sold for 24% (or $60,000) less than agent-represented properties.3 This suggests that, while you may think that you’ll price and market your home more effectively yourself, in fact you may end up losing far more than the amount you would pay for an agent’s assistance.

 

Without the services of a real estate professional, it will be up to you to get people in the door. You’ll need to gather information for the online listing and put together the kind of marketing that today’s buyers expect to see. This includes bringing in a professional photographer, writing the listing description, and designing marketing collateral like flyers and mailers—or hiring a writer and graphic designer to do so.

 

Once someone is interested, you’ll need to offer virtual showings and develop a COVID safety protocol. You’ll then need to schedule an in-person showing (or in some cases, two or three) for each potential buyer. In addition, you’ll be on your own when evaluating offers and determining their financial viability. You’ll need to thoroughly understand all legal contracts and contingencies and discuss terms, including those regarding the home inspection and closing process.

 

While you’re doing all of this work, it’s likely that you’ll still need to pay the buyer agent’s commission. So be sure to weigh your potential savings against the significant risk and effort involved.

 

If you choose to work with a listing agent, you’ll save significant time and effort while minimizing your personal risk and liability. And the increased profits realized through a more effective marketing and negotiation strategy could more than make up for the cost of your agent’s commission.

 

iBuyer

iBuyers have been on the scene since around 2015, providing sellers the option of a direct purchase from a real estate investment company rather than a traditional direct-to-consumer sales process.4 iBuyer companies tout their convenience and speed, with a reliable, streamlined process that may be attractive to some sellers.

 

The idea is that instead of listing the home on the open market, the homeowner completes an online form with information about the property’s location and features, then waits for an offer from the company. The iBuyer is looking for a home in good condition that’s located in a good neighborhood—one that’s easy to flip and falls within the company’s algorithm.

 

For sellers who are more focused on speed and convenience, an iBuyer may offer an attractive alternative to a traditional real estate sale. That’s because iBuyers evaluate a property quickly and make an upfront offer without requesting repairs or other accommodations.

 

However, sellers will pay for that convenience with, generally, a far lower sale price than the market will provide as well as fees that can add up to as much or more than a traditional real estate agent’s commission. According to a study conducted by MarketWatch, iBuyers netted, on average, 11% less than a traditional sale when both the lower price and fees are considered.5 Other studies found some iBuyers charging as much as 15% in fees and associated costs, far more than you’ll pay for a real estate agent’s commission.6

 

In a hot market, this can mean leaving tens of thousands of dollars on the table since you won’t be able to negotiate and you’ll lose out on rising home prices caused by low inventory and increased demand. In addition, iBuyers are demonstrably less reliable during times of economic uncertainty, as evidenced by the halt of operations for most iBuyer platforms in early 2020.6 As a seller, the last thing you want is to start down the road of iBuying only to find out that a corporate mandate is stopping your transaction in its tracks.

 

If you choose to work with a real estate agent, you can still explore iBuyers as an option. That way you can take advantage of the added convenience of a fast sale while still enjoying the protection and security of having a professional negotiating on your behalf.

 

 

BUYING YOUR HOME WITHOUT AN AGENT

 

According to the most recent statistics, 88% of home buyers use a real estate agent when conducting their home search.1 A buyer’s agent is with you every step of the way through the home buying process. From finding the perfect home to submitting a winning offer to navigating the inspection and closing processes, most homebuyers find their expertise and guidance invaluable. And the best part is that, because they are compensated through a commission paid by the homeowner at closing, most agents provide these services at no cost to you!

 

Still, you may be considering negotiating your home purchase directly with the seller or listing agent, especially if you are accustomed to deal-making as part of your job. And if you are familiar with the neighborhood where you are searching, you may feel that there is no reason to get a buyer’s agent involved.

 

However, putting together a winning offer package can be challenging. This is especially true in a multiple-offer situation where you’ll be competing against buyers whose offers are carefully crafted to maximize their appeal. And the homebuying process can get emotional. A trusted agent can help you avoid overpaying for a property or glossing over “red flags” in your inspection. In addition, buyer agents offer a streamlined, professional process that listing agents may be more likely to recommend to their clients.

If you decide to forego an agent, you’ll have to write, submit, and negotiate a competitive offer all on your own. You’ll also need to schedule an inspection and negotiate repairs. You’ll be responsible for reviewing and preparing all necessary documents, and you will need to be in constant communication with the seller’s agent and your lender, inspector, appraiser, title company, and other related parties along the way.

Or, you could choose to work with a buyer’s agent whose commission is paid by the seller and costs you nothing out of pocket. In exchange, you’ll obtain fiduciary-level guidance on one of the most important financial transactions of your life. If you decide to go it alone, you’ll be playing fast and loose with what is, for most people, their most important and consequential financial decision.

 

 

SO, IS A REAL ESTATE AGENT RIGHT FOR YOU?

 

It is important for you to understand your options and think through your preferences when considering whether or not to work with a real estate professional. If you are experienced in real estate transactions and legal contracts, comfortable negotiating under high-stakes circumstances, and have plenty of extra time on your hands, you may find that an iBuyer or FSBO sale works for you.

 

However, if, like most people, you value expert guidance and would like an experienced professional to manage the process, you will probably experience far more peace of mind and security in working with a real estate agent or broker.

 

A real estate agent’s comprehensive suite of services and expert negotiation skills can benefit buyers and sellers financially, as well. On average, sellers who utilize an agent walk away with more money than those who choose the FSBO or iBuyer route.3,5 And buyers pay nothing out of pocket for expert representation that can help them avoid expensive mistakes all along the way from contract to closing.

 

According to NAR’s profile, the vast majority of buyers (91%) and sellers (89%) are thrilled with their real estate professional’s representation and would recommend them to others.1 That’s why, in terms of time, money, and expertise, most buyers and sellers find the assistance of a real estate agent essential and invaluable.

 

 

QUESTIONS ABOUT BUYING OR SELLING? WE HAVE ANSWERS

 

The best way to find out whether you need a real estate agent or broker is to speak with one. We’re here to help and to offer the insights you need to make better-informed decisions. Let’s talk about the value-added services we provide when we help you buy or sell in today’s competitive real estate landscape.

 

 

Sources:

1.      National Association of REALTORS -
https://www.nar.realtor/research-and-statistics/research-reports/highlights-from-the-profile-of-home-buyers-and-sellers

2.      Washington Post -
https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/12/09/factors-consider-when-determining-whether-use-an-agent-buy-or-sell-home/

3.      National Association of REALTORS -
https://www.nar.realtor/blogs/economists-outlook/selling-your-home-solo-to-save-money-you-ll-actually-make-less-than-you-think

4.      Seattle Times -
https://www.seattletimes.com/business/real-estate/redfin-is-first-major-ibuyer-to-sell-in-seattle

5.      MarketWatch -
https://www.marketwatch.com/story/selling-your-home-to-an-ibuyer-could-cost-you-thousands-heres-why-2019-06-11

6.      Forbes -
https://www.forbes.com/sites/nataliakarayaneva/2020/03/19/billion-dollar-real-estate-businesses-ibuyer-suspended/?sh=c7f59f921747

 

Posted in Selling Your Home
March 2, 2021

Is the Real Estate Market Going to Crash?

 

While many areas of the economy have contracted, the housing market has stayed remarkably strong. But can the good news last?

When COVID-related shutdowns began in March, real estate brokers and clients scrambled to respond to the shift. Record-low interest rates caused some lenders to call a halt to new underwriting, and homeowners debated whether or not to put their houses on the market. However, those first days of uncertainty ushered in a period of unprecedented demand in the U.S. real estate market, which ended the year with increasing average home prices (up 13.4% from the previous year) and shrinking days on market (13 fewer than in 2019).1

 

Now, as the spring market approaches, you may be wondering whether the good times can continue to roll on. If you’re a homeowner, should you take advantage of this opportunity? If you’re a buyer, should you jump in and risk paying too much? Below we answer some of your most pressing questions.

  

How is today’s market different from the one that caused the 2008 meltdown?

 At the beginning of the pandemic, fears of an economic recession and an ensuing mortgage meltdown were top of mind for homeowners all across the country. For many buyers and sellers, the two seemed to go hand in hand, just as they did in the 2008 economic crisis.

 

In reality, however, the conditions that led to 2008’s recession were very different from those that triggered the current downturn—and this time, the housing market is the source of much of the good news.2 This is in line with historical patterns, as housing prices traditionally hold steady in the face of recession, with homeowners staying put and investors putting their money into bricks and mortar to ride out uncertainty in the stock market.

 

This time around, because of lessons learned in 2008, banks are better funded, homeowners are holding more accrued equity, and, crucially, much of the economic activity is focused on financial factors outside the housing market. As many industries quickly pivoted to work-from-home, early fears of widespread job loss-related foreclosures have failed to materialize. Federal stimulus payments and the Paycheck Protection Program also helped to offset some of the worst early effects of the shutdown.

 

 Are we facing a real estate bubble?

 A real estate bubble can occur when there is a rapid and unjustified increase in housing prices, often triggered by speculation from investors. Because the bubble is (in a sense) filled with “hot air,” it pops—and a swift drop in value occurs. This leads to reduced equity or, in some cases, negative equity conditions.

 

By contrast, the current rise in home prices is based on the predictable results of historically low interest rates and widespread low inventory. Basically, the principle of supply and demand is working just as it’s supposed to do. In addition, experts predict a strong seller’s market throughout 2021 along with increases in new construction.3 This should allow supply to gradually rise and fulfill demand, slowing the rate of inflation for home values and offering a gentle correction where needed.

Effects of low interest rates

According to Freddie Mac, rates are projected to continue at their current low levels throughout 2021.4 This contributes to home affordability even in markets where homes might otherwise be considered overpriced. These low interest rates should keep the market lively and moving forward for the foreseeable future.

Effects of low inventory

Continuing low inventory is another reason for higher-than-average home prices in many markets.5 This should gradually ease as an aggressive vaccination rollout and continuing buyer demand drive more homeowners to move forward with long-delayed sales plans and as new home construction increases to meet demand.6

 

 Aren’t some markets and sectors looking particularly weak?

 One of the big stories of 2020 was a mass exodus from attached home communities and high-priced urban areas as both young professionals and families fled to the larger square footage and wide-open spaces of suburban and rural markets. This trend was reinforced by work-from-home policies that became permanent at some of the country’s biggest companies.

 

Speculation then turned to the death of cities and the end of the condo market. However, it appears that rumors of the demise of these two residential sectors have been greatly exaggerated.

 

With the first vaccine rollouts, renters have begun returning to major urban centers, attracted by the sudden rise in available inventory and newly discounted rental rates.7 In addition, buyers who were previously laser-focused on a single-family home responded to tight inventory by taking a second look at condos.8 While nationwide condo prices continue to lag behind those of detached homes, they’ve still seen significant price increases and days on market reductions year over year.

 

In addition to these improvements, the 2020 migration has spread the economic wealth to distant suburban and rural enclaves that normally don’t benefit from increases in home values or an influx of new investment. As many of these new residents set up housekeeping in their rural retreats, they’ll revitalize the economies of their adopted communities for years to come.

 

 How has COVID affected the “seasonal” real estate market?

 Frequently, the real estate market is seen as a seasonal phenomenon. However, the widespread shutdowns in March 2020, coming right at the beginning of the market’s growth cycle in many areas, has led to a protracted, seemingly endless “hot spring market.”

 

While Fannie Mae’s chief economist Douglas Duncan predicts slower growth from 2020’s historic numbers, the outlook overall is positive as we embark on the 2021 spring selling cycle.9 Duncan anticipates an additional lift in the second half of 2021 as buyers return to business as usual and look to put some of their pandemic savings to work for a down payment. Thus we could be looking at another longer-than-usual, white-hot real estate market.

  

How will a Biden administration affect the real estate market?

 Projected policy around housing promises to be a boost to the real estate market in many cases.10 While some real estate investors bemoan proposed changes to 1031 Exchanges, the Biden plan for a $15,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit aims to increase affordability and bring eager new home buyers into the market. In addition, Biden-proposed policy pinpoints low inventory as a primary driver of unsustainable home values and is geared toward more affordability through investments in construction and refurbishment.

 

Overall, according to most indicators, the real estate news looks overwhelmingly positive throughout the rest of 2021 and possibly beyond. Pent-up demand and consumer-driven policies, along with a continued low-interest-rate environment and rising inventory, should help homeowners hold on to their increased equity without throwing the market out of balance. In addition, the increase in long-term work-from-home policies promises to give a boost to a wide variety of markets, both now and in the years to come. 

 

 

STILL HAVE QUESTIONS? WE HAVE ANSWERS

While economic indicators and trends are national, real estate is local. We’re here to answer your questions and help you understand what’s happening in your neighborhood. Reach out to learn how these larger movements affect our local market and your home’s value.

 

 

Sources:

1.      Realtor.com -
https://www.realtor.com/research/december-2020-data/

2.      New York Magazine -
https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/06/why-this-economic-crisis-wont-be-as-bad-as-2008.html

3.      Washington Post -
https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/01/11/2021-housing-market-predictions/

4.      Freddie Mac -
http://www.freddiemac.com/research/forecast/20210114_quarterly_economic_forecast.page?

5.      Wall Street Journal -
https://www.wsj.com/articles/housing-market-stays-tight-as-homeowners-stay-put-11611226802?mod=re_lead_pos1

6.      Marketwatch -
https://www.marketwatch.com/story/new-home-construction-activity-soars-to-highest-level-in-over-a-decade-as-builders-rush-to-produce-single-family-homes-2021-01-21

7.      Forbes -
https://www.forbes.com/sites/noahkirsch/2021/01/14/signs-of-a-rebound-new-york-city-rent-prices-are-climbing-back

8.      Washington Post -
https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/01/07/condo-sales-rebound-amid-dwindling-inventory-houses/

9.      Mortgage Professional America -
https://www.mpamag.com/news/fannie-mae-chief-economists-forecast-for-us-economy-housing-market-in-2021-244045.aspx

10.   Inman -
https://www.inman.com/2020/11/09/what-a-joe-biden-presidency-means-for-real-estate-and-housing/

Posted in Market Updates
Feb. 25, 2021

5 Inspiring Home Design and Remodeling Trends for 2021

We’ve all spent a lot more time at home over the past year. And for many of us, our homes have become our office, our classroom, our gym—and most importantly, our safe haven during times of uncertainty. So it’s no surprise to see that design trends for 2021 revolve around soothing color palettes, cozy character, and quiet retreats.

 

Even if you don’t have immediate plans to buy or sell your home, we advise our clients to be mindful of modern design preferences when planning a remodel or even redecorating. Over-personalized or unpopular renovations could lower your property’s value. And selecting out-of-style fixtures and finishes could cause your home to feel dated quickly.

 

To help inspire your design projects this year, we’ve rounded up five of the hottest trends.  Keep in mind, not all of these will work well in every house. If you plan to buy, list, or renovate your property, give us a call. We can help you realize your vision and maximize the impact of your investment.

 

 

1. Uplifting Colors

 

Colors are gravitating toward warm and happy shades that convey a sense of coziness, comfort, and wellbeing. This year’s palettes draw from earthy hues, warm neutrals, and soothing blues and greens.1

 

While white and gray are still safe options, expect to see alternative neutrals become increasingly popular choices for walls, cabinets, and furnishings in 2021. For a fresh and sophisticated look, try one of these 2021 paint colors of the year:

 

      Aegean Teal (coastal blue) by Benjamin Moore

      Urbane Bronze (brownish-gray) by Sherwin-Williams

      Soft Candlelight (muted yellow) by Valspar

 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, indigo, ruby, sapphire and plum are showing up on everything from fireplace mantels and floating shelves to fabrics and home accessories. These classic, rich hues can help bring warmth, depth, and a touch of luxury to your living space.

 

To incorporate these colors, designers recommend using the “60-30-10 Rule.” Basically, choose a dominant color to cover 60% of your room. For example, your walls, rugs, and sofa might all be varying shades of beige or gray. Then layer in a secondary color for 30% of the room. This might include draperies and accent furniture. Finally, select an accent color for 10% of your room, which can be showcased through artwork and accessories.2

 

 

2. Curated Collections

 

After a decade of minimalism, there’s been a shift towards highly-decorative and personalized interiors that incorporate more color, texture, and character. Clearly-defined styles (e.g., mid-century modern, industrial, modern farmhouse) are being replaced by a curated look, with furnishings, fixtures, and accessories that appear to have been collected over time.3

 

 

This trend has extended to the kitchen, where atmosphere has become as important as functionality. The ubiquitous all-white kitchen is fading in popularity as homeowners opt for unique touches that help individualize their space. If you’re planning a kitchen remodel, consider mixing in other neutrals—like gray, black, and light wood—for a more custom, pieced-together look. And instead of a subway tile backsplash, check out zellige tile (i.e., handmade, square Moroccan tiles) for a modern alternative with old-world flair.4

 

 

3. Reimagined Living Spaces

 

The pandemic forced many of us to rethink our home design. From multipurpose rooms to converted closets to backyard cottages, we’ve had to find creative ways to manage virtual meetings and school. And designers expect these changes to impact the way we live and work for years to come.

 

For example, some home builders are predicting the end of open-concept floor plans as we know them.5 Instead, buyers are searching for cozier spaces with more separation and privacy. Cue the addition of alcoves, pocket doors, and sliding partitions that enable homeowners to section off rooms as needed.4

 

 

The necessity of a home office space is also here to stay. But what if you don’t have a dedicated room? Alternative workspaces have become increasingly popular. In fact, one of the biggest trends on Pinterest this year is the “cloffice”—essentially a spare closet turned home office. Searches for “home library design” and “bookshelf room divider” are on the rise, as well.6

 

 

4. Staycation-Worthy Retreats

 

With travel options limited right now, more homeowners are turning their vacation budgets into staycation budgets. Essentially, recreate the resort experience at home—and enjoy it 365 days a year!

 

Bedrooms should provide a soothing sanctuary for rest and relaxation. But this year, minimalist decor and muted colors are giving way to bolder statement pieces. To create a “boutique hotel” look in your own bedroom, start with a large, upholstered headboard in a rich color or pattern. Layer on organic linen bedding and a chunky wool throw, then complete the look with a pair of matching bedside wall lights.7

 

 

Carry those vacation-vibes into your bathroom with some of the top luxury upgrades for 2021. Curbless showers and freestanding tubs continue to be popular choices that offer a modern and spacious feel, and large-format shower tiles with minimal grout lines make clean up a breeze. Add a floating vanity and aromatherapy shower head for the ultimate spa-like experience.

4

 

5. Outdoor Upgrades

 

From exercise to gardening to safer options for entertaining, the pandemic has led homeowners to utilize their outdoor spaces more than ever. In fact, backyard swimming pool sales skyrocketed in 2020, with many installers reporting unprecedented demand.8 But a new pool isn’t the only way homeowners can elevate their outdoor areas this year.

 

The home design website Houzz recently named 2021 “the year of the pergola.” They’re a relatively quick and affordable option to add shade and ambiance to your backyard.4 Another hot trend? Decked-out, custom playgrounds for exercising (and occupying) the youngest family members who may be missing out on school and extracurricular activities.9

 

 

But don’t limit your budget to the backyard. Landscapers are reporting an increase in front yard enhancements, including porch additions and expanded seating options. These “social front yards” enable neighbors to stay connected while observing social-distancing guidelines.

10

 

DESIGNED TO SELL

 

Are you contemplating a remodel? Want to find out how upgrades could impact the value of your home? Buyer preferences vary greatly by neighborhood and price range. We can share our insights and offer tips on how to maximize the return on your investment. And if you’re in the market to sell, we can run a Comparative Market Analysis on your home to find out how it compares to others in the area. Contact us to schedule a free consultation!

 

 

Sources:

1.      Good Housekeeping  -
https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/decorating-ideas/g34762178/home-decor-trends-2021/

2.      The Spruce –

https://www.thespruce.com/timeless-color-rule-797859

3.      Homes & Gardens –

https://www.homesandgardens.com/news/interior-design-trends-2021

4.      Houzz –

https://www.houzz.com/magazine/36-home-design-trends-ready-for-takeoff-in-2021-stsetivw-vs~142229851

5.      Zillow -
https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-end-of-open-floor-plans-how-homes-will-look-different-after-coronavirus-301080662.html

6.      Pinterest -
https://business.pinterest.com/content/pinterest-predicts/more-door/

7.      Homes & Gardens –
https://www.homesandgardens.com/spaces/decorating/bedroom-trends-224944

8.      Reuters -
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-pools/pool-sales-skyrocket-as-consumers-splash-out-on-coronavirus-cocoons-idUSKCN2520HW

9.      Realtor.com -
https://www.realtor.com/advice/home-improvement/2021-design-trends/

 

10.   Realtor Magazine -
https://magazine.realtor/daily-news/2020/12/09/4-outdoor-home-trends-that-may-gain-steam-in-2021

View More
Jan. 1, 2021

New Year, New Home? Set Homeownership Goals Whether You’re Buying, Selling, or Staying Put

The start of a new year always compels people to take a fresh look at their goals, from health and career to relationships and finance. But with historically low mortgage rates, increased home sales and price growth, and a tight housing inventory, the time is right to also make some homeownership resolutions for 2021.

 

Home buyers, is this the year you work to improve your credit score, pay down some debt, or save for a down payment?

 

Home sellers, we’ve laid out plans for you to get top dollar for your property, including timing your home sale, making your property stand out from the crowd, and investing in your extra living space.

 

And even if you’re staying put for awhile, homeowners, you can resolve to improve your status quo by evaluating your home budget, finalizing your home maintenance schedule, or maybe investing in a second property.

 

So no matter your homeownership status, we’ve got some ideas and advice for you to make this year your best one yet. Read on to learn more.

 

 

HOME BUYERS

 

Resolution #1: Qualify for a better mortgage with a higher credit score.

 

Your credit report highlights your current debt, bill-paying history, and other key financial information. Importantly for your home-buying journey, it is also used by lenders and companies to calculate your credit score, which partly determines if you are qualified to obtain a mortgage. Therefore, before you start house-hunting, make sure your finances are in the best possible shape by checking your credit report from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion (via AnnualCreditReport.com). You can also obtain your credit score for free from some banks and credit card companies.

 

Your credit score will be a number ranging from 300-850.1 Generally speaking, a credit score of 740 or higher is considered very good to excellent.2 If your FICO score drops below 740, you might need to work at boosting your score for a few months before you begin house-hunting. Ways to do this are to pay your bills on time every month, keep your credit card balances low, and avoid applying for new credit.

 

 

Resolution #2: Improve your credit health by paying down debt.

 

Do you have student loans, credit card debt, or car payments tying up your income each month? That debt is hurting your “buying power,” or the amount of home you can afford. Not only is it money that you can't spend on your new home, but your debt-to-income ratio also affects your credit score, which we discussed above. The less debt you have, the higher your FICO score and the better mortgage you can obtain.

 

If you can, pay off some debt in its entiretylike a low balance on a credit card. Then apply that "extra" money you previously paid on that credit card to pay off bigger debt, like a car loan. Even if you can’t pay off all (or any) of your debt in full, reducing the balances of each account will help you qualify for the best possible mortgage terms.

 

 

Resolution #3: Create a financial safety net before applying for a mortgage.

 

Don’t forget that buying a home requires some cash as well. A down payment is typically 7% of a home’s purchase price, and closing costs currently average $3,700.3,4 You’ll also need money for moving expenses and any initial maintenance tasks that might pop up. And as the pandemic taught us, you never know when an unforeseen event might cause a job loss, drop in income, or health scare, so having some liquid savings will ensure that you can still pay your mortgage if a crisis occurs.

 

Dedicate some effort to building up your reserves. Cut down on unnecessary expenses, and consider having a portion of each paycheck automatically deposited into your savings account to avoid the temptation to spend it.

 

 

HOME SELLERS

 

Resolution #4: Decide on the right time to sell your home.

 

If you’re looking to maximize profit on the sale of your home, selling earlier in the year makes sense. Listing prices historically increase early in the year, peak in May, plateau through June, and decrease for the remainder of the year.5 And, according to the National Association of Realtors, “[w]ith both mortgage rates and the number of homes available for sale expected to remain relatively low, home prices are likely to continue to increase. [In] mid-January, home prices typically begin a quick ramp-up in a normal year.”5

 

But sales price isn’t the only thing to consider. You might not be ready to sell your home yet because you don't want to uproot your kids during the school year or because you need to tackle some minor upgrades before placing your home on the market.

 

This means that there is no one month or season that is the perfect time to sell your home. Instead, the right timeline for you takes into account factors such as when you’ll earn the highest profit, personal convenience, and whether your home is even ready to put on the market. A trusted real estate professional can talk you through your specific needs to clarify when to sell your home.

 

 

Resolution #5: Boost your home’s resale value by making your property shine.

 

Housing inventory is at historic lows across the country, and that means the market is fiercely competitive.6 Selling your home in 2021 has the potential to net you a huge return right now, and you can maximize that amount with some simple fixes to make sure your property outshines your neighbors' for sale down the street.

 

In your home, you might need to tackle a minor remodeling project, such as upgrading the flooring or adding a fresh coat of paint. According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2019 Remodeling Impact Report, simply refinishing existing hardwood floors recoups 100% of the cost at resale, and completely replacing it with new wood flooring recovers 106% of costs.7

Outside, you might consider improving your curb appeal by removing a dead bush, trimming a tree that blocks the front window, or power-washing your moldy driveway and sidewalks. In fact, real estate agents say cleaning the exterior of your house can add $10,000 to $15,000 to a home’s sale price.8 And according to a Virginia Tech study, improving a home’s landscaping may increase its value by 10 to 12%.9

 

A good agent should provide custom-tailored suggestions to ensure your property pops inside and out. Ask us about our local insider secrets that will make your home stand out from others on the market.

 

 

Resolution #6: Invest in your “extra” living space to meet current buyers’ needs.

 

Due to COVID-19, more people are staying at home to work, go to school, exercise, and stay entertained. And these lifestyle changes are showing up in home buyer preferences. For example, according to one study, buyers are looking more and more for homes with formal, outfitted home offices, private outdoor spaces, and updated kitchen appliances.10

So if you’ve got an underutilized room, consider turning it into an office, home gym, schoolroom, or multi-purpose room to meet current home buyer needs and attract better offers on your home. Got some underwhelming space outside? You could turn it into an outdoor entertainment area by adding a firepit, upgrading the patio furniture, or installing a grilling area. Be sure to consult with a local real estate professional before investing in a renovation, however, as each market’s buyers have different tastes.

 

 

HOMEOWNERS

 

Resolution #7: Evaluate your household budget to reflect financial changes.

 

After this past year, in particular, your financial picture may have changed. Maybe you were furloughed, had your hours reduced, or got a new job further from home. Perhaps you’ve kept the same job, but you’re now working remotely. A work-from-home arrangement could mean less money spent on gas, tolls, a professional wardrobe, and dining out for lunch.

 

But this could also mean new (or increased) expenses now that you’re working at home, such as new tech-related purchases, faster Wi-Fi, and higher energy bills. January marks the perfect opportunity to update your income and expenses and review last year’s spending habits, tweaking as needed for 2021.

 

For more specific ideas, contact us for our free report "20 Ways to Save Money and Stretch Your Household Budget."

 

 

Resolution #8: Save money now (and earn more later) with a home maintenance plan.

 

Having a schedule of regular home maintenance projects to tackle will save you money now and in the long-term. You’ll avoid some surprise “emergency fixes,” and when you’re ready to eventually sell your home, you’ll get higher offers from buyers who aren’t put off by overdue repairs.

 

Even if nothing necessarily needs fixing right now, you can lower your energy costs by maintaining and upgrading your home.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy, simple fixes add up: replace five most frequently used bulbs with ENERGY STAR ones to save $75/year; repair leaky faucets to save $35/year; replace older toilets with low-flow models to save $100/year; and seal air leaks to save $83-$166/year.11

 

For a breakdown of home maintenance projects to tackle throughout the year, contact us for our free report “House Care Calendar: A Seasonal Guide to Maintaining Your Home.”

 

 

Resolution #9: Invest in real estate for a better standard of living.

 

Even if you don’t plan on leaving your current residence, real estate is a great way to improve your quality of life in 2021.

 

Have cabin fever from the long quarantine? A vacation home in a getaway location you love lets you safely spread your wings. And if you have been looking for a second stream of income, an investment property might be your answer. Just be sure to consult with a real estate professional to get a realistic sense of a property’s true income potential.

 

Want more information on how a second property fits into your 2021 plans? Request our free report, "Move Up vs Second Home: Which One Is Right For You?"

 

 

LET US HELP YOU WITH YOUR 2021 GOALS

 

Without a plan and a support system, 55% of Americans will break their new year’s resolutions.12 Whether you’re looking to buy, sell, or stay put in your home, it helps to connect with a trusted real estate agent to keep you motivated and on track.

 

As local market experts, we have the knowledge, experience, and networks to help you achieve your homeownership goals, whatever they may be. Reach out to us today for a free consultation and commit to a happy and prosperous new year.

 

 

Sources:

1.      USA.gov -
https://www.usa.gov/credit-report

2.      Equifax -
https://www.equifax.com/personal/education/credit/score/what-is-a-good-credit-score/

3.      NerdWallet -
https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/mortgages/the-20-mortgage-down-payment-is-dead

4.      Zillow -
https://www.zillow.com/mortgage-learning/closing-costs/

5.      Realtor.com -
https://www.realtor.com/research/we-should-be-in-a-buyers-market-right-now-but-covid-turned-everything-upside-down-best-time-to-buy-a-home

6.      Business Insider -
https://www.businessinsider.com/how-2020-broke-the-housing-market-inventory-could-run-out-2020-9

7.      National Association of Realtors -
https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2019-remodeling-impact-10-03-2019.pdf

8.      House Logic -
https://www.houselogic.com/save-money-add-value/add-value-to-your-home/adding-curb-appeal-value-to-home/

9.      Virginia Cooperative Extension -
https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/content/dam/pubs_ext_vt_edu/426/426-087/426-087.pdf

10.   HomeLight -
https://www.homelight.com/blog/top-agent-insights-for-q2-2020/

11.   U.S. Department of Energy -
https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/articles/how-much-can-you-really-save-energy-efficient-improvements

12.   Ipsos -
https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/urban-plates-ipsos-NY-Resolutions

 

Nov. 2, 2020

The New Normal: A Strong Housing Market Expected to Continue into 2021

 

“2020 will be known for a lot of things, and a record-breaking year for real estate will certainly be one of its more unexpected legacies,” prominent economist Daryl Fairweather said.1 And he’s right: most of us would have expected the housing market to suffer from circumstances like a once-in-a-hundred-years pandemic and historic inventory shortages.

 

But, rather than a slowdown, we are continuing to experience a surprisingly robust real estate market across the country. And experts estimate that these conditions are likely to last well into the new year. Fannie Mae Senior VP and Chief Economist Doug Duncan predicts that existing home sales will ultimately “be up a percent or more in 2021.” He believes home prices will continue to rise due to limited inventory, but he is confident the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates low into the future, which will be “very good for households.”2

 

Market conditions like fewer available listings, changing criteria for desired homes, and record-low mortgage rates are changing the way people buy and sell homes, most likely in a lasting way. But this sustained activity, even in the uncertainty that is 2020, proves that our country still views real estate as a sound investment. The only question now is how you can take advantage of the housing market’s “new normal.”

  

FEWER LISTINGS EQUALS A SELLER’S MARKET

           

Inventory, meaning the number of homes for sale, is at a record low across the country. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports there are fewer homes on the market today than the association has seen in data going all the way back to 1982.3 Currently, the total housing inventory is about 1.47 million units, which is a decline of 19.2% from one year ago.4

 

Experts do predict some relief on the horizon. MarketWatch had previously anticipated housing starts would occur at a pace of 1.45 million and building permits would come in at a pace of 1.52 million.5 But it turns out that the market exceeded expectations: compared with last year, housing starts are up 11% and permitting for new homes occurred at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.55 million. That represents a 5% increase from August and an 8% increase from a year ago.

 

For now, the fact that there are fewer listings creates an advantageous housing market for sellers. There are several reasons why.

 

For one, buyers have to act fast to snap up available homes. As a result, most properties that come on the market stay for an average of just 21 days before they are sold.6 “That is the fastest ever recorded in our monthly series,” says NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

 

Another benefit is that sellers are enjoying higher net returns on their listings. This is thanks to the tough competition for homes, which often results in bidding wars between buyers. Nationwide, the median home price in September rose to $311,800. That translates to about $40,000 (15%) more than just a year ago.7

 

This seller’s market is not simply a product of the pandemic. In fact, in the country’s top 100 metro markets, inventory has been dwindling since the first quarter of 2020.8 This means that even with increased construction, buyers can’t simply wait for things to go back to normal before reentering the market. Rather, all signs indicate that this is the new normal.

 

 

What It Means for Homeowners:

These higher home prices show that buyers are willing to spend more on a home right now than they did last year. So, if there ever were a time to list for top dollar—and expect to receive asking price quickly—that time is now. Ask us for a free consultation of your home’s value today.

 

 

What It Means for Homebuyers:

Due to low inventory, buyers could easily find themselves in a bidding war. Time is of the essence in a seller’s market, so you’ll need to get your financing in order and be preapproved for a loan before you begin your home search. We can connect you with a trusted mortgage professional to get you started.

 

 

BUYERS BENEFIT FROM LOW MORTGAGE RATES AND A BIGGER PLAYING FIELD

 

Don’t worry, homebuyers. This “new normal” of real estate has benefits for you too.

 

For example, people used to base their next home purchase on how far the commute was to work or in which public school district it was. But now, thanks to the pandemic shifting the locus of jobs and work, they are free to consider what they need from a home to make it a place they truly want to be in as they work, teach, exercise, cook, and live.

 

Often, this equates to needing more space in different types of areas. Realtor.com consumer surveys show that people are desiring quieter neighborhoods, home offices, updated kitchens, and access to the great outdoors.9 The search for these criteria is driving residents out of densely populated metropolitan areas and into the suburbs.10 And this exodus from cities is good news for buyers: it opens up more possibilities for inventory that they could not have considered pre-pandemic.

 

Another advantage for buyers is the record-low mortgage rates. The average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage hit a record low in mid-October when rates fell to 2.81%. That’s the lowest since Freddie Mac began conducting the survey in 1971, and well below last year’s 3.69%.11 Similarly, a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage can be had for as low as 2.35% compared to 3.15% a year ago.

 

Thanks to these rates, buyers are afforded the opportunity to buy nearly $32,000 more home than they could one year ago, while keeping their monthly payment the same.12 So even though home prices are high now, it is currently more affordable to buy a home now than it was last year.

 

If you want to take advantage of these rock-bottom mortgage rates, you need to act fast. Though rates are projected to stay low, housing economists predict that the window of opportunity to get the best rate could be closing in the coming months. Mike Fratantoni, chief economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association, said he expects the average rate on a 30-year mortgage to rise to 3.5% by the end of 2021.13

 

 

What It Means for Homeowners:

Record-low mortgage rates offer you the opportunity to lower your monthly payment—or even take out some equity—with a refinance. With those additional funds, you could even choose to invest in a second home in a new desirable location. Reach out to us for a referral to a trusted mortgage professional or an agent in those markets.

 

 

What It Means for Homebuyers:

The time is now to determine how much home you can comfortably afford and make a plan to find it. We can set up a search for you to find homes that best meet your new needs, even if they’re in neighborhoods you wouldn’t have considered before.

 

 

A RECORD-SETTING YEAR FOR HOME SALES IS JUST THE BEGINNING

 

Despite the seemingly adverse buyer conditions, 2020 experienced a 14-year high number of home sales, NAR reports. Existing-home sales, which include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 9.4% in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.54 million.14 That’s a 21% increase from a year ago!

 

Every region of the country has seen a surge in sales activity. According to George Ratiu, senior economist for Realtor.com, part of the reason for these continued sales is that the pandemic has created a paradigm shift in the patterns of real estate.15 For example, housing needs are typically resolved by late summer and early fall to coincide with the commencement of the new school year. With homeschooling and remote work, however, buyers have been freed to continue their home search into the traditionally slow winter months.

 

Another reason for the robust market is that Millennials are finally putting their money into homeownership. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the homeownership rate for 25-to-34-year-olds rose to 40.7% by the end of last year.16 This is significant because Millennials, the generation of people in their mid-20s to late-30s, currently surpasses Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living adult generation. As the remaining percentage of this group starts investing in homes in the near future, demand will persist.

 

All of these factors indicate that the housing market is poised to remain strong as we head into the new year. And as Jonathan Woloshin, head of U.S. real estate at UBS Global Wealth Management, believes, they could “buoy the housing market for years to come.”17

 

 

What It Means for Homeowners:

It’s tempting to believe that homes will basically sell themselves in a market like this. But we’re still seeing properties that are overpriced and under-marketed sit unsold. We can help you optimize the process of selling your home so you can get the best possible offer.

 

 

What It Means for Homebuyers:

Preparation is key to success in a seller’s market like this, but don’t let yourself become paralyzed. We are here to answer your questions and offer sound advice to guide you through all the options that are available to you.

 

 

REAL ESTATE IS A SAFE BET

 

Your other investments might have been on roller coasters this year, but the real estate market has been steady, competitive, and strong throughout. That makes it a good choice for your financial future.

 

National real estate numbers can give us a pulse on the market, but real estate happens in our own backyard. As your local market experts, we can help you understand the finer points of the market that impact sales and home values in your own neighborhood. 

 

If you’re considering buying or selling a home before the new year or in early 2021, contact us now to schedule a free consultation. We’ll work with you to develop an actionable plan to meet your goals.

 

 

Sources:

  1. Redfin -
    https://www.redfin.com/news/housing-market-news-september-2020/
  2. Housing Wire -

https://www.housingwire.com/articles/fannie-maes-doug-duncan-offers-his-predictions-for-2021/

  1. CNBC –

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/10/22/september-existing-home-sales-jump-9point5percent.html

  1. NAHB –

http://eyeonhousing.org/2020/10/existing-home-sales-surge-despite-record-low-supply

  1. MarketWatch –

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/new-home-construction-slows-slightly-in-august-driven-by-pullback-in-multifamily-starts-2020-09-17

  1. National Association of Realtors –

https://www.nar.realtor/newsroom/existing-home-sales-soar-9-4-to-6-5-million-in-september

  1. Business Insider - https://www.businessinsider.com/how-2020-broke-the-housing-market-inventory-could-run-out-2020-9
  2. Forbes -

https://www.forbes.com/sites/petertaylor/2020/10/11/covid-19-has-changed-the-housing-market-forever-heres-where-americans-are-moving-and-why/#74e7355761fe

  1. Realtor.com –
    https://www.realtor.com/research/top-consumer-home-features-coronavirus/
  2. Wealth Advisor – https://www.thewealthadvisor.com/article/covid-19-has-changed-housing-market-forever-heres-where-americans-are-moving-and-why
  3. Washington Post -

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/10/15/30-year-mortgage-rate-drops-record-low/

  1. Forbes –

https://www.forbes.com/advisor/mortgages/buying-a-home-low-mortgage-rates/

  1. BankRate -

https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/refinance-window-could-close-soon/

  1. National Association of Realtors –

https://www.nar.realtor/newsroom/existing-home-sales-soar-9-4-to-6-5-million-in-september

  1. Forbes -

https://www.forbes.com/sites/petertaylor/2020/10/11/covid-19-has-changed-the-housing-market-forever-heres-where-americans-are-moving-and-why/#74e7355761fe

  1. TD Economics –

https://economics.td.com/us-falling-mortgage#:~:text=The%20homeownership%20rate%20among%20millennials,47.7%25%20at%20a%20comparable%20age.&text=This%20means%20that%201.4%20million,that%20of%20the%20older%20generation

  1. Axios Media -

https://www.axios.com/real-estate-market-819e3c85-3765-4014-91c0-b545be6d5935.html

 

Posted in Market Updates
Oct. 19, 2020

5 Secrets Buyers and Sellers Must Know About Virtual Home Tours

For years now, virtual home tours have helped real estate buyers far and wide find the perfect home. From long-distance military personnel being relocated, to investors expanding their portfolio, to homeowners looking for a vacation getaway, this technology makes finding a house that’s a bit out of driving distance much easier. And for real estate agents, virtual tours have been a useful way to help buyers with their home search and to assist sellers in creatively marketing their listings.

 

Because of the pandemic, virtual home showing options recently experienced a huge spike in popularity. One survey found that nearly 33% of recent home tour requests were for virtual tours, as compared to just 2% pre-pandemic.1 And it’s easy to see why.

 

Buyers want to quickly find their next safe haven, one that may need to serve as their office, gym, and even classroom for months to come. And sellers want to limit the number of strangers in their home, yet still have the ability to reach enough potential buyers to get the best offer on their property.

 

Virtual home tours are the popular thing right now, but that doesn’t automatically mean they’re the only option for your homebuying or selling experience. In this post, we’ll reveal five important secrets behind the virtual real estate scene. Read on to learn how they impact today’s home buyers and sellers.

 

SECRET #1: Virtual Tours Have Evolved

Lots of real estate professionals who had never used virtual tours before were forced to quickly adapt when the pandemic struck. Because of restrictions on time and resources, not everyone is able to create what would have been deemed a “virtual tour” last year. So instead, we’ve expanded the definition of the phrase by creating innovative new ways to show homes while keeping our clients safe and socially-distanced. Here are some terms you might come across as you explore homes with virtual tours.

 

Traditional virtual tours use 360° Photos, which are images that allow you to see all angles of a space. These are what allow virtual tour viewers to look up, down, and all around the interior and exterior shots of a home. Using a software program, 360° photos can be stitched together to create a digital model that looks like a dollhouse. This is called a 3D Tour. Sometimes agents will also add Virtual Staging, which decorates rooms with digital furniture and accents like wallpaper or paint.

 

Traditional virtual tours allow you to click to move from room to room in the home, but Online Walkthroughs feature the actual action of walking around. Either the seller or the agent (depending on factors such as time and safety requirements) will create a video by holding their camera or smartphone and simply moving through the home.

 

Online Walkthroughs can be filmed in advance or happen live. If they are live, they can also be referred to as Virtual Showings or Online Open Houses. A Virtual Showing is often a scheduled, one-on-one event that mimics an in-person tour of the home, in which the agent and viewer start at the exterior and move their way through the property. If your agent offers to FaceTime or Skype you from a home you’re interested in, for example, that would be a type of Virtual Showing. In contrast, an Online Open House is more freeform, allowing more viewers to pop in and out of a group video call on apps such as Facebook or Zoom.

 

 

SECRET #2: Virtual Doesn’t Mean Impersonal

All these styles of virtual tours showcase the property’s details better than static photos ever could. But for a purchase as intimate as your next home, details like a new refrigerator or the size of the master closet aren’t the only deciding factors. Luckily, virtual tours are exceptional tools for personal connection.

 

As a prospective buyer, virtual tours give you a feel for the property, inside and out, so you can easily picture yourself in the space and decide if the home’s flow and features work for your lifestyle. Live video walkthroughs with the real estate agent will give you insights on those crucial non-visual aspects, like creaky floors, super-fast internet speed, and neighborhood dynamics. Plus, you’ll be able to ask questions and get an insider’s perspective on what’s so great about the home.

 

For sellers, if your agent recommends using a virtual tour to market your home, you could attract more buyers.2 And you can be sure that those interested buyers are still getting the up-close and personal look inside your home that will inspire their strongest offers.

 

 

SECRET #3: Virtual Is Just The First Step To Safe Home Sales

Even as government restrictions begin to ease in some areas, virtual tours are still recommended as a safer way to buy and sell real estate.3 Buyers don’t have to worry about exposure to anyone who previously visited the property, and sellers cut down on the foot traffic in their home. Some data even suggest that virtual tours keep agents safer as well, since they’re hosting fewer in-person showings and open houses.4

 

But despite the variety of virtual tours available, some buyers will still need to visit a home themselves in order to feel confident enough to submit an offer. In this situation, listing agents and sellers will work together to come up with a procedure that ensures everyone feels safe and comfortable. Some recommendations include requiring interested buyers to present a pre-qualification letter, conducting tours only by appointment and with essential parties, and asking buyers to self-disclose whether they have COVID-19 or exhibit any symptoms.3

 

The day of the in-person tour, agents might ask buyers to remain in their vehicle until they arrive at the property, and to wear protective gear such as face coverings and gloves. Many will provide hand sanitizer and will ask buyers to refrain from touching any surfaces in the home. Instead, the agent (or seller, prior to the buyers’ arrival) will turn on lights, open doors, and pull back curtains. Then, after everyone has left, the agent will return the home to its original state and disinfect it as needed.3

 

 

SECRET #4: The Speed of Closing Depends on Your Goals

Though maybe not literally, virtual tours are opening doors for both buyers and sellers in terms of options available to them. In 2019, buyers viewed an average of 10 homes over a period of 10 weeks before submitting an offer.5 But thanks to an increased prevalence of virtual tours saving them driving time, they’re able to peek inside that number of homes in a much shorter period to make their final choice.

 

With all this viewing activity, it makes sense that sellers whose listings feature virtual tours are receiving more offers on their properties. According to one study, virtual tours can add between two and three percent to the sales price of a home, in part because increased buyer interest has made sellers feel confident waiting for the exact right offer.2

 

So if you’re a buyer luxuriating in viewing homes from your couch, just remember that you’re not alone in your search. Your competition is virtually viewing the same properties you are, so it’s still important to work with your real estate agent to quickly submit a strong offer when you find the home of your dreams. And for sellers, if a speedy sale is important to you, carefully weigh that against the temptation to entertain more and more offers, which can keep your home on the market up to six percent longer.2 Your agent can help you decide the right strategy for your priorities.

 

 

SECRET #5: Virtual May Not Always Be the Right Choice

Creating, editing, uploading, and marketing virtual tours for a listing can be pricey. Packages through popular 3D imaging platforms like Matterport and Immoviewers can cost hundreds of dollars on their own.6 Virtual staging will further bloat a listing’s marketing budget, and then there’s the advertising dollars needed. Even seemingly inexpensive options like video call walkthroughs still require time and energy on behalf of both the seller and agent.

 

These costs mean that a full virtual tour package might not always be the right choice for sellers. When you talk to your agent about marketing your home, it may be that an elaborate virtual tour, showing, and open house just don’t make sense. It could be that your potential buyers may not resonate with that type of marketing, that the investment-to-return ratio isn’t in your favor, or that there are more effective ways to get your listing seen by qualified buyers.

 

Buyers, you may notice that some listings within your search parameters don’t offer virtual tours. That’s because those for-sale homes might not have needed a full virtual marketing package to entice buyers to submit offers, or those homes are better marketed through more traditional tactics. Don’t close the door on your dream home because it doesn’t have virtual events and features. Stay open-minded so you can consider the wealth of home options that fit your lifestyle, needs, and budget.

 

 

 

ARE VIRTUAL HOME TOURS IN YOUR FUTURE?

 

As technology develops, it will become easier and cheaper to create virtual tours. Coupled with the high demand for them, this means that virtual tour options are likely not only here to stay, but will continue to grow into a common addition to listings.

 

If buying or selling a home is on your mind, we’d be happy to discuss how virtual tours can play a part in your real estate experience. Reach out to us today for help finding local homes for sale that have virtual tours, or to chat about if adding a virtual tour to your upcoming listing is the right fit.

 

 

Sources:

  1. Rocket Mortgage - https://www.rocketmortgage.com/learn/evolution-of-home-showings-during-covid-19
  2. Radio Iowa - https://www.radioiowa.com/2020/07/28/trying-to-sell-a-house-ui-study-finds-virtual-tours-will-bring-more/
  3. NAR Showing Guidance During Reopening - https://cdn.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/Showing-Guidance-During-COVID-05-14-2020.pdf
  4. NAR 2020 Member Safety Report - https://cdn.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2020-member-safety-report-08-31-2020.pdf
  5. NAR 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers - https://cdn.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2019-profile-of-home-buyers-and-sellers-highlights-11-21-2019.pdf
  6. Realtor.com - https://www.realtor.com/advice/sell/how-to-host-virtual-home-tours-almost-as-good-as-the-real-thing/
Posted in Market Updates
Sept. 28, 2020

What’s Your Home Buying Power?

If you’re in the market for a new home or investment property, one of the first questions you’ll probably ask is, “What can we afford?” Many buyers become so caught up in how much they can afford that they don’t realize their total buying powerthat is, the total amount of purchasing potential they actually have.

 

Buying Power Defined

Your buying power is comprised of the total amount of money you have available each month for a mortgage payment. This means the money you have each month after fixed bills and expenses. Any money you’ve saved for a down payment, the proceeds from the sale of your current home, if applicable, and the amount of money you’re qualified to borrow all impact your buying power as well. When you take all of this into account, you may find you are able to purchase a larger home or a home in a more desirable neighborhood, or you might realize you should be looking for homes in a lower price range.

 

What About Housing Affordability?

Housing affordability is a metric used by real estate experts to assess whether or not the average family earning an average wage could qualify for a mortgage on the average home.1 Although this figure is essential to creating a comprehensive overview of the real estate market, it’s not a factor you should consider in your home search. What may be considered affordable to you based on your income and other factors may be different than what’s affordable to the average buyer.

 

Why Buying Power Matters

A common misunderstanding is that a home’s list price determines whether or not you can purchase it. Although it’s important to look at the price tag, it’s essential to consider what your monthly payment will be if you own the home. After all, the purchase price doesn’t include the housing-related expenses, such as annual property taxes, homeowner insurance, associated monthly fees and any maintenance or repairs. Figuring out the payment will prevent you from overestimating or underestimating your buying power. After all, you’ll live with your monthly payment, not the sales price.

 

Once you have clarity on your buying power, you’ll be able to buy the home you want, instead of settling for a home because you feel it’s the only one you can afford. It will also prevent you from becoming “house poor,” a common term for someone who’s put all their money toward the down payment, leaving them nothing left over for fees outside of their monthly house payment. Both scenarios can negatively impact the lifestyle you want to live. Understanding your buying power can help you get the home you want without sacrificing the lifestyle you desire.

 

If you haven’t sold your current home yet, a Comparative Market Assessment (CMA) will give you a general idea of how much you may get for your home based on what other homes have sold for in your area. Contact our team for a FREE CMA!

 

Calculating Your Buying Power

You might be wondering, “How do I know what my buying power is?” Buying power is calculated by adding the money you’ve saved for a down payment and/or the money you made from selling your home (minus fees and mortgage payoff) to all of your sources of income and investments that could be used to make your monthly payment. Make sure to include your monthly pay, commissions or tips, dividends from investments, payments from rental properties or other monthly income you receive as well as the loan amount you’re willing to finance and qualify for.

 

Most lenders advised buyers to spend no more than 35 to 45 percent of their pretax income on housing, meaning all your income and sources of revenue prior to paying taxes. Make sure you factor in not only your mortgage payment, but also property tax and home insurance to the cost of housing.2 However, other financial experts advise spending no more than a very conservative 25 percent of your after-tax income on your housing expenses.2  Whether you plan to spend the average, play it conservative or split the difference is up to you.

 

Traditionally, mortgage lenders have targeted the ideal housing expense amount to be a ratio of 28 percent or less.3

 

However, these figures bring up an important point: you don’t have to spend all of your savings and available monthly income on a mortgage payment. It’s important to set money aside for regular home maintenance, unexpected repairs and monthly fees, such as a condominium or homeowners association fee. While the above ratios are commonly accepted, a lender will look at your total financial picture when they decide how much they’re willing to lend. It may be tempting to take out a large loan in order to purchase the home of your dreams, but keep in mind the less money you have to borrow, the stronger your buying power may be.

 

4 Things That Impact Buying Power

1. Credit score. A great score can help you lock into a lower interest rate.

 

2. Debt-to-income ratio. The lower the ratio, the better risk you may be to lenders as long as you have an established credit history.

 

3. Assets, including the documentation of where the money for the purchase is coming from and the mix of your investments.

 

4. Down payment. The more you’re able to put down, the less you will have to borrow. With a down payment of 20 percent or more, you won’t have to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI) and you may also be able to negotiate a lower interest rate.

 

How to Save for a Down Payment

If you’re thinking of buying a home one day, one of the first steps to take is to start saving for a down payment. Here are some tips to make saving easier.

 

First-time buyers:

1. Set a savings goal. One way to figure out how much to save is to use the average sales price for homes that are similar to what you want and figure out your target down payment percentage. For example, if homes are selling for $200,000 in your area and you want to put 20 percent down, you’ll have to save $40,000. Set a goal to save that amount within a specific time frame; just keep in mind the longer you save, the more the average selling price will change. Although the majority of buyers saved for six months or less, 29 percent of all buyers (and 31 percent of first-time buyers) saved for more than two years for a down payment.4

 

2. Cut back on expenses. Review your monthly expenses and look for ways to save. Twenty-nine percent of buyers cut spending on non-essentials items and 22 percent cut spending on entertainment while they were saving for a home.4 Think about items you can live without or cut back on temporarily while you’re saving.

 

3. Look for ways to boost your income. Get a side job or sell items online or at a garage sale to increase your income in a short amount of time. Be sure to save any windfalls you get, including your annual income tax refund or work bonuses.

 

4.  Check out home-buying programs. Your state, county or local government may offer special programs, such as grants, for first-time buyers to use.

 

5. Ask your family. Thirteen percent of all buyers, and 24 percent of first-time buyers, were given money from family or friends to use toward the down payment of their home.4

 

Repeat buyers:

More than 52 percent of repeat buyers used the proceeds from the sale of their primary residence toward the down payment on their next home.4 Similarly, 76 percent tapped into their savings accounts.4 If you’re thinking of buying another home, here are more ways to save more money, in addition to the tips listed above:

 

1. Rent a room. If you have an income flat (or mother-in-law unit) attached to your home, rent it out and channel the income into a high-interest savings account.

 

2. Make your money work for you. If you don’t plan to buy for at least five years, invest it and let the compound interest work for you. Discuss this option with your financial planner or broker to see if this is ideal for you and your goals.

 

3. Tap into your 401(k). If you have a 401(k) plan, you may be allowed to borrow a portion of it, the lessor of up to $50,000 or half of its value, for your down payment. Remember, it’s a loan so you’ll have to pay it back. If you leave or lose your job before you’ve repaid the loan, you’ll have between 60 to 90 days to repay the balance or face stiff taxes and penalties.

 

If you want to buy an investment property

Whether you’re buying a second home or a rental property, here are a couple tips to save for a down payment.

 

1. Tap into your equity. If you’ve paid off or paid down your mortgage on your primary home, you may be able to tap into your equity to purchase another property. Contact your lender to learn more about a HELOC or home equity loan.

 

2. Get a partner. Find a friend or relative who’s willing to purchase property with you. Typically, you’ll split the costs and profits equally. Just make sure to work with an attorney to create a partnership agreement to fit your situation.

 

 

Work Out Your Buying Potential

What’s your buying potential? Fill out this worksheet to get an estimate.

 

Housing Expense Ratio:

1. Monthly income before taxes

$

2. Multiply line 1 by 0.28

X 0.28

3. Monthly mortgage payment (PITI) should not exceed this amount

= $

4. Monthly income before taxes

$

5. Multiply line 4 by 0.36

X 0.36

6. Total monthly payments on all debts (including mortgage) should not exceed this amount

= $

7.  Subtract the total monthly payments on all outstanding debts (e.g., car loans, credit cards, student loans, etc.)

- $

8. The monthly mortgage payment should not exceed this amount

$

9. Look at line 3 and line 8. The lower figure is an estimate of the maximum mortgage payment in consideration of your income and debts.

$

10. Multiply line 9 by 0.80

X 0.80

11. This equals portion of your mortgage payment that is the principal and interest only

$

12. Use the table below to see the size of the loan you may be able to obtain with this monthly mortgage payment.

 

Source: Iowa State University Extension, What is your house-buying power?

 

Monthly Payment on 30-Year Fixed Rate Mortgage

Loan amount

3%

3.5%

4%

4.5%

5%

5.5%

6%

$50,000

211

225

239

253

268

284

300

$75,000

316

337

358

380

402

426

450

$100,000

421

449

477

506

536

568

600

$150,000

632

674

716

759

804

852

900

$200,000

842

898

954

1012

1072

1136

1200

$250,000

1052

1123

1193

1265

1340

1420

1500

$300,000

1263

1347

1431

1518

1608

1704

1800

 

Didn’t see your desired loan amount? Use the table below to estimate your monthly payment (principal and interest) per $1,000 of your loan. To figure out an estimated loan payment, multiply the factor by the number of thousands in the amount of your mortgage.

 

For example, if you intend to borrow $400,000, with a loan term of 30 years at 4% interest, multiply 4.77x 400 = $1908 per month.

 

Interest Rate

15-Year Term

30-Year Term

 

Monthly Payment

Monthly Payment

3%

6.90

4.21

3.5%

7.14

4.49

4%

7.39

4.77

4.5%

7.64

5.06

5%

7.90

5.36

5.5%

8.18

5.68

6%

8.44

6.00

Source: HSH.com http://www.hsh.com/mopaytable-print.html)

 

Don’t forget to factor in property taxes and insurance. These are often added to your principal and interest of your mortgage paymentthe money used to pay down the balance of your loan and the charge for borrowing the money. Since these numbers vary, contact your county assessor’s office for the current property tax rate and your insurer for a home insurance quote. Once you have these figures, divide each by 12 to estimate how much they’ll add to the above payment amounts.

 

Do you want a clearer picture of your buying power? Would you like to see what kind of homes you can get with your buying power? Give us a call!

 

Sources: 1. National Association of REALTORS https://www.nar.realtor/topics/housing-affordability-index/methodology

              2. Moneyunder30.com https://www.moneyunder30.com/percentage-income-mortgage-payments

              3. Credit.com https://www.credit.com/loans/mortgage-questions/how-to-determine-your-monthly-housing-budget/

              4. National Association of REALTORS, 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

              5. Iowa State University Extension, What is your house-buying power? https://store.extension.iastate.edu/product/pm1460-pdf

              6. HSH.com http://www.hsh.com/mopaytable-print.html

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