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47% of New Buyers Surprised by How Affordable Homes Are Today

47% of New Buyers Surprised by How Affordable Homes Are Today | Simplifying The Market

Headlines matter. Right now, it’s hard to read about real estate without seeing a headline that suggests homes have become unaffordable for most Americans. In reality, there’s hard evidence that shows how owning a home is more affordable than renting in most parts of the country, as record-low interest rates are keeping monthly mortgage payments about 23% lower than the typical payment of 20 years ago. Despite the facts, misleading headlines persist, and they impact how hopeful homebuyers perceive the market.

In a recent survey by realtor.com, home shoppers indicated they were surprised by what they could actually afford when buying their first home. In fact, 47% discovered their budget was larger than they expected. George Ratiu, Senior Economist at realtor.com, explains:

“For first-time buyers, especially, the drop in the 30-year mortgage rate…has provided unexpected leverage. Lower rates allowed many buyers to stretch and buy more expensive homes while keeping their monthly budget the same.”

So why do these negative headlines that cast doubt on affordability continue to exist?

Most analysts only look at two of the three elements that make up the affordability equation: price and income. It’s true that incomes haven’t kept up with the price of houses. However, affordability is about the cost of the home, not just the price. For that reason, mortgage rates, the third element of the affordability equation, are important to consider.

For example, here’s the typical mortgage payment for assorted dates going back to 2000, as calculated by CoreLogic:47% of New Buyers Surprised by How Affordable Homes Are Today | Simplifying The MarketOutside of the housing crash (when short sales and foreclosures drove prices down), it’s more affordable to buy a home today when you consider all three elements of the affordability equation: price, income, and mortgage rate.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a move-up buyer, don’t let the headlines scare you away from your dream of homeownership. Instead, connect with mortgage and real estate professionals to determine what you can afford and what’s available at that price. Like almost half of the buyers in the survey, you may be pleasantly surprised.

The Luxury Market Is Attracting Buyers in 2021

The Luxury Market Is Attracting Buyers in 2021 | Simplifying The Market

As more people continue to identify their changing needs this year, some are turning to the upscale housing sector for more space or finer features. In their most recent Luxury Market Report, the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing (ILHM) shares:

“In a snapshot of 2020, despite the devasting effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the luxury real estate market has seen one of its strongest years since 2008. In comparison to experts’ predictions in early 2020, it is remarkable how significant demands for property type, location, and amenity preferences have changed amid the pandemic.”

With more opportunities to work from home and a growing interest in having extra space for things like virtual school, working out, and cooking more meals, the desire to own a home that can meet these needs continues to increase. Additionally, record-low mortgage rates are creating opportunities for homebuyers to stretch their legs into higher price points or even expand their real estate portfolios. The ILHM report continues to say:

Experts believe that the demand for exclusive residential properties outside the metropolitan areas will continue well into 2021; even with the introduction of vaccines, the pandemic is far from over.

For those who have moved to the suburbs and beyond, moving back to the city full time is unlikely while the work from home trend remains. Many of these affluent homeowners are now making their secondary properties their primary residences for the foreseeable future.”

If you’re interested in buying a home this year, it appears that some higher-priced markets may have more homes to choose from than those at lower price points. Javier Vivas, Director of Economic Research at realtor.com, notes:

“Interestingly, markets, where new supply is improving the fastest, tend to be higher priced than those that have yet to see improvement, suggesting sellers are more active in the more expensive markets.”

Bottom Line

If you’re hoping to buy the home of your dreams, this could be the year to achieve that goal. Let’s connect today to explore your possibilities.

3 Reasons We’re Definitely Not in a Housing Bubble

3 Reasons We’re Definitely Not in a Housing Bubble | Simplifying The Market

Home values appreciated by about ten percent in 2020, and they’re forecast to appreciate by about five percent this year. This has some voicing concern that we may be in another housing bubble like the one we experienced a little over a decade ago. Here are three reasons why this market is totally different.

1. This time, housing supply is extremely limited

The price of any market item is determined by supply and demand. If supply is high and demand is low, prices normally decrease. If supply is low and demand is high, prices naturally increase.

In real estate, supply and demand are measured in “months’ supply of inventory,” which is based on the number of current homes for sale compared to the number of buyers in the market. The normal months’ supply of inventory for the market is about 6 months. Anything above that defines a buyers’ market, indicating prices will soften. Anything below that defines a sellers’ market in which prices normally appreciate.

Between 2006 and 2008, the months’ supply of inventory increased from just over 5 months to 11 months. The months’ supply was over 7 months in twenty-seven of those thirty-six months, yet home values continued to rise.

Months’ inventory has been under 5 months for the last 3 years, under 4 for thirteen of the last fourteen months, under 3 for the last six months, and currently stands at 1.9 months – a historic low.

Remember, if supply is low and demand is high, prices naturally increase.

2. This time, housing demand is real

During the housing boom in the mid-2000s, there was what Robert Schiller, a fellow at the Yale School of Management’s International Center for Finance, called “irrational exuberance.” The definition of the term is, “unfounded market optimism that lacks a real foundation of fundamental valuation, but instead rests on psychological factors.” Without considering historic market trends, people got caught up in the frenzy and bought houses based on an unrealistic belief that housing values would continue to escalate.

The mortgage industry fed into this craziness by making mortgage money available to just about anyone, as shown in the Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI) published by the Mortgage Bankers Association. The higher the index, the easier it is to get a mortgage; the lower the index, the more difficult it is to obtain one. Prior to the housing boom, the index stood just below 400. In 2006, the index hit an all-time high of over 868. Again, just about anyone could get a mortgage. Today, the index stands at 122.5, which is well below even the pre-boom level.

In the current real estate market, demand is real, not fabricated. Millennials, the largest generation in the country, have come of age to marry and have children, which are two major drivers for homeownership. The health crisis is also challenging every household to redefine the meaning of “home” and to re-evaluate whether their current home meets that new definition. This desire to own, coupled with historically low mortgage rates, makes purchasing a home today a strong, sound financial decision. Therefore, today’s demand is very real.

Remember, if supply is low and demand is high, prices naturally increase.

3. This time, households have plenty of equity

Again, during the housing boom, it wasn’t just purchasers who got caught up in the frenzy. Existing homeowners started using their homes like ATM machines. There was a wave of cash-out refinances, which enabled homeowners to leverage the equity in their homes. From 2005 through 2007, Americans pulled out $824 billion dollars in equity. That left many homeowners with little or no equity in their homes at a critical time. As prices began to drop, some homeowners found themselves in a negative equity situation where the mortgage was higher than the value of their home. Many defaulted on their payments, which led to an avalanche of foreclosures.

Today, the banks and the American people have shown they learned a valuable lesson from the housing crisis a little over a decade ago. Cash-out refinance volume over the last three years was less than a third of what it was compared to the 3 years leading up to the crash.

This conservative approach has created levels of equity never seen before. According to Census Bureau data, over 38% of owner-occupied housing units are owned ‘free and clear’ (without any mortgage). Also, ATTOM Data Solutions just released their fourth quarter 2020 U.S. Home Equity Report, which revealed:

“17.8 million residential properties in the United States were considered equity-rich, meaning that the combined estimated amount of loans secured by those properties was 50 percent or less of their estimated market value…The count of equity-rich properties in the fourth quarter of 2020 represented 30.2 percent, or about one in three, of the 59 million mortgaged homes in the United States.”

If we combine the 38% of homes that are owned free and clear with the 18.7% of all homes that have at least 50% equity (30.2% of the remaining 62% with a mortgage), we realize that 56.7% of all homes in this country have a minimum of 50% equity. That’s significantly better than the equity situation in 2008.

Bottom Line

This time, housing supply is at a historic low. Demand is real and rightly motivated. Even if there were to be a drop in prices, homeowners have enough equity to be able to weather a dip in home values. This is nothing like 2008. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

6 Foundational Benefits of Homeownership Today

6 Foundational Benefits of Homeownership Today | Simplifying The Market

Over the past year, our homes have become an integral part of our lives more than ever. They’re much more than the houses we live in. They’re our workplaces, virtual schools, and safe havens that provide shelter, stability, and protection through the evolving health crisis. Today, 65.8% of Americans are fortunate enough to call their homes their own.

As we continue to think about the future, our goals for the year, and what we want to achieve well beyond 2021, it’s a great time to look at the benefits of owning a home. Below are some highlights and quotes on the benefits of homeownership shared by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). From feel-good motivations to economic and social impacts on the local community, these items may give you reason to believe homeownership stretches well beyond your financial investment.

Non-Financial Benefits

Owning a home brings a sense of happiness, satisfaction, and pride.

  • Pride of Ownership: It feels good to have a place that’s truly your own, especially since you can customize it to your liking. “The personal satisfaction and sense of accomplishment achieved through homeownership can enhance psychological health, happiness and well-being for homeowners and those around them.”
  • Civic Participation: Homeownership creates stability, a sense of community, and increases civic engagement. It’s a way to add to the strength of your local area and drive value into your neighborhood.

Financial Benefits

Buying a home is also an investment in your financial future.

  • Net Worth: Homeownership builds your net worth. Today, the median household net worth of all homeowners is $254,900, while the median net worth of renters is only $6,270.
  • Financial Security: Equity, appreciation, and more predictable monthly housing expenses are huge financial benefits of owning a home. Homeownership is truly the best way to improve your long-term financial position.

Economic Benefits

Homeownership is even a local economic driver.

  • Housing-Related Spending: An economic force throughout our nation, housing-related expenses accounted for more than one-sixth of the country’s economic activity over the past three decades.
  • Entrepreneurship: Homeownership is also a form of forced savings that can provide entrepreneurial opportunities. “Owning a home enables new entrepreneurs to obtain access to credit to start or expand a business and generate new jobs by using their home as collateral for small business loans.”

Bottom Line

The benefits of homeownership go well beyond the basics. Homeownership is truly a way to build financial freedom, find greater satisfaction and happiness, and make a substantial impact in your community. If owning a home is part of your dream this year, let’s connect so you can begin the homebuying process today.

Why Owning a Home Is a Powerful Financial Decision

Why Owning a Home Is a Powerful Financial Decision | Simplifying The Market

In today’s housing market, there are clear financial benefits to owning a home: increasing equity, the chance to build your net worth, and appreciating home values, just to name a few. If you’re a renter, it’s never too early to think about how homeownership can propel you toward a stronger future. Here’s a dive into three often-overlooked financial benefits of homeownership and how preparing for them now can steer you in the direction of greater financial security and savings.

1. You Won’t Always Have a Monthly Housing Payment

Personal finance advisor Dave Ramsey explains:

“Every payment brings you closer to owning the house. When you pay your rent, that money is spent. Gone. Bye. Not returning. But when you pay your mortgage, you work toward full ownership.”

As a homeowner, you can eventually eliminate the monthly payment you make on your house. That’s a huge win and a big factor in how homeownership can drive stability and savings in your life. As soon as you buy a home, your monthly housing costs begin to work for you as forced savings in the form of equity. When you build equity and grow your net worth, you can continue to reinvest those savings into your future, maybe even by buying that next dream home. The possibilities are truly endless.

2. Homeownership Is a Tax Break

One thing people who have never owned a home don’t always think about are the tax advantages of homeownership. The same article states:

“You have tax advantages. Many of the costs of owning a home—like property taxes—are tax deductible. And if you’re paying off a mortgage, you’ll get to count your mortgage interest as a deduction when you file your tax return.”

Whether you’re living in your first home or your fifth, it’s a huge financial advantage to have some tax relief tied to the interest you pay each year. It’s one thing you definitely don’t get when you’re renting. Be sure to work with a tax professional to get the best possible benefits on your annual return.

3. Monthly Housing Costs Are Predictable

A third benefit is the fact that monthly costs start to become more predictable with homeownership, something that doesn’t happen if you’re renting. Ramsey also notes:

“Rent rates will go up. Even if you found a killer deal in a hot area, inflation, competition, and rising property values will cause your rent to go up year after year.”

With a mortgage, you can keep your monthly housing costs relatively steady and predictable. Your monthly costs are most likely based on a fixed-rate mortgage, which allows you to budget your finances over a longer period of time. Rental prices have been skyrocketing since 2012, and with today’s low mortgage rates, it’s a great time to get more for your money when purchasing a home. If you want to lock-in your monthly payment at a low rate and have a solid understanding of what you’re going to spend in your mortgage payment each month, buying a home may be your best bet.

Bottom Line

If you’re ready to start feeling the benefits of stability, savings, and predictability that come with owning a home, let’s connect to determine if buying sooner rather than later is right for you.

Do I Really Need a 20% Down Payment to Buy a Home?

Do I Really Need a 20% Down Payment to Buy a Home? | Simplifying The Market

Is the idea of saving for a down payment holding you back from buying a home right now? You may be eager to take advantage of today’s low mortgage rates, but the thought of needing a large down payment might make you want to pump the brakes. Today, there’s still a common myth that you have to come up with 20% of the total sale price for your down payment. This means people who could buy a home may be putting their plans on hold because they don’t have that much saved yet. The reality is, whether you’re looking for your first home or you’ve purchased one before, you most likely don’t need to put 20% down. Here’s why.

According to Freddie Mac:

“The most damaging down payment myth—since it stops the homebuying process before it can start—is the belief that 20% is necessary.”

If saving that much money sounds daunting, potential homebuyers might give up on the dream of homeownership before they even begin – but they don’t have to.

Data in the 2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) indicates that the median down payment actually hasn’t been over 20% since 2005, and even then, that was for repeat buyers, not first-time homebuyers. As the image below shows, today’s median down payment is clearly less than 20%.Do I Really Need a 20% Down Payment to Buy a Home? | Simplifying The Market

What does this mean for potential homebuyers?

As we can see, the median down payment was lowest for first-time buyers with the 2020 percentage coming in at 7%. If you’re a first-time buyer and putting down 7% still seems high, understand that there are programs that allow qualified buyers to purchase a home with a down payment as low as 3.5%. There are even options like VA loans and USDA loans with no down payment requirements for qualified applicants.

It’s important for potential homebuyers (whether they’re repeat or first-time buyers) to know they likely don’t need to put down 20% of the purchase price, but they do need to do their homework to understand the options available. Be sure to work with trusted professionals from the start to learn what you may qualify for in the homebuying process.

Bottom Line

Don’t let down payment myths keep you from hitting your homeownership goals. If you’re hoping to buy a home this year, let’s connect to review your options.

Want to Build Wealth? Buy a Home This Year.

Want to Build Wealth? Buy a Home This Year. | Simplifying The Market

Every year, households across the country make the decision to rent for another year or take the leap into homeownership. They look at their earnings and savings and then decide what makes the most financial sense. That equation will most likely take into consideration monthly housing costs, tax advantages, and other incremental expenses. Using these measurements, recent studies show that it’s still more affordable to own than rent in most of the country.

There is, however, another financial advantage to owning a home that’s often forgotten in the analysis – the wealth built through equity when you own a home.

Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist for First American, discusses this point in a recent blog post. She explains:

“Once you include the equity benefit of price appreciation, owning made more financial sense than renting in 48 out of the 50 top markets, with the only exceptions being San Francisco and San Jose, Calif.”

What has this equity piece meant to homeowners in the past?

ATTOM Data Solutions, the curator of one of the nation’s premier property databases, just analyzed the typical home-price gain owners nationwide enjoyed when they sold their homes. Here’s a breakdown of their findings:Want to Build Wealth? Buy a Home This Year. | Simplifying The MarketThe typical gain in the sale of the home (equity) has increased significantly over the last five years.

CoreLogic, another property data curator, also weighed in on the subject. According to their latest Homeowner Equity Insights Report, the average homeowner gained $17,000 in equity in just the last year alone.

What does the future look like for homeowners when it comes to equity?

Here are the seven major home price appreciation forecasts for 2021:Want to Build Wealth? Buy a Home This Year. | Simplifying The MarketThe National Association of Realtors (NAR) just reported that today, the median-priced home in the country sells for $309,800. If homes appreciate by 5% this year (the average of the forecasts), the homeowner will increase their wealth by $15,490 in 2021 through increased equity.

Bottom Line

As you make your plans for the coming year, be sure to consider the equity benefits of home price appreciation as you weigh the financial advantages of buying over renting. When you do, you may find this is the perfect time to jump into homeownership.

Turn to an Expert for the Best Advice, Not Perfect Advice

Turn to an Expert for the Best Advice, Not Perfect Advice | Simplifying The Market

As we approach the anniversary of the hardships we’ve faced through this pandemic and the subsequent recession, it’s normal to reflect on everything that’s changed and wonder what’s ahead for 2021. While there are signs of economic recovery as vaccines are being issued, we still have a long way to go. It’s at times like these we want exact information about anything we’re doing. That information brings knowledge, and this gives us a sense of relief and comfort in uncertain times.

If you’re thinking about buying or selling a home today, the same need for information is very real. But, because it’s such a big step in our lives, that desire for clear information is even greater in the homebuying or selling process. Given the current level of overall anxiety, we want that advice to be truly perfect. The challenge is, no one can give you “perfect” advice. Experts can, however, give you the best advice possible.

Let’s say you need an attorney, so you seek out an expert in the type of law required for your case. When you go to her office, she won’t immediately tell you how the case is going to end or how the judge or jury will rule. If she could, that would be perfect advice. What a good attorney can do, however, is discuss with you the most effective strategies you can take. She may recommend one or two approaches she believes will be best for your case.

She’ll then leave you to make the decision on which option you want to pursue. Once you decide, she can help you put a plan together based on the facts at hand. She’ll help you achieve the best possible resolution and make whatever modifications in the strategy are necessary to guarantee that outcome. That’s an example of the best advice possible.

The role of a real estate professional is just like the role of a lawyer. An agent can’t give you perfect advice because it’s impossible to know exactly what’s going to happen throughout the transaction – especially in this market.

An agent can, however, give you the best advice possible based on the information and situation at hand, guiding you through the process to help you make the necessary adjustments and best decisions along the way. An agent will lead you to the best offer available. That’s exactly what you want and deserve.

Bottom Line

If you’re thinking of buying or selling this year, let’s connect to make sure you get the best advice possible.

What Record-Low Housing Inventory Means for You

What Record-Low Housing Inventory Means for You | Simplifying The Market

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

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

What Record-Low Housing Inventory Means for You | Simplifying The Market

What Does This Mean for You?

If You’re a Buyer:

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

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

If You’re a Seller:

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

Bottom Line

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

What Happens When Homeowners Leave Their Forbearance Plans?

What Happens When Homeowners Leave Their Forbearance Plans? | Simplifying The Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happens if the number is more than 10%?

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

Bottom Line

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