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The Truth About Negative Home Equity Headlines

The Truth About Negative Home Equity Headlines Simplifying The Market

Home equity has been a hot topic in real estate news lately. And if you’ve been following along, you may have heard there’s a growing number of homeowners with negative equity. But don’t let those headlines scare you. In truth, the headlines don’t give you all the information you really need to understand what’s happening and at what scale. Let’s break down one of the big equity stories you may be seeing in the news, and what’s actually taking place. That way, you’ll have the context you need to understand the big picture.

Headlines Focus on Short-Term Equity Numbers and Fail To Convey the Long-Term View

One piece of news circulating focuses on the percentage of homes purchased in 2022 that are currently underwater. The term underwater refers to a scenario where the homeowner owes more on the loan than the house is worth. This was a huge issue when the housing market crashed in 2008, but it much less significant today. Media coverage right now is based loosely on a report from Black Knight, Inc. The actual report from that source says this:

Of all homes purchased with a mortgage in 2022, 8% are now at least marginally underwater and nearly 40% have less than 10% equity stakes in their home, . . .”

Let’s unpack that for a moment and provide the bigger picture. The data-bound report from Black Knight is talking specifically about homes purchased in 2022, but media headlines don’t always mention that timeframe or provide the surrounding context about how unusual of a year 2022 was for the housing market. In 2022, home price appreciation soared, and it reached its max around March-April. Since then, the rate of appreciation has been slowing down. Homeowners who bought their house last year right at the peak or those who paid more than market value in the months that followed are more likely to fall into the category of being marginally underwater. The qualifier marginally is another key piece of the puzzle the media isn’t necessarily including in their coverage. So, what does that mean for those who purchased a home in 2022? It’s important to remember, owning a home is a long-term investment, not a short-term play. When headlines focus on the short-term view, they’re not necessarily providing the full context. Typically speaking, the longer you stay in your home, the more equity you gain as you pay down your loan and as home prices appreciate. With recent market conditions, you may not have gained significant equity right away if you owned the home for just a few months. But it’s also true that many homeowners who recently bought their house are unlikely to be looking to sell quite yet.

Bottom Line

As with everything, knowing the context is important. If you have questions about real estate headlines or about how much equity you have in your home, let’s connect.

Should I Move or Refinance?

Should I Move or Refinance? | Simplifying The Market

The level of equity homeowners have is at an all-time high. According to the U.S. Census, over 38% of owner-occupied homes are owned free and clear, meaning they don’t have a mortgage. Those with a mortgage are seeing their equity skyrocket too. Every time real estate values increase, homeowners get a dollar-for-dollar gain in their home equity.

According to the first-quarter 2021 U.S. Home Equity Report from ATTOM Data Solutions:

“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 first quarter of 2021 represented 31.9 percent, or about one in three, of the 55.8 million mortgaged homes in the United States. That was up from 30.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020, 28.3 percent in the third quarter and 26.5 percent in the first quarter of 2020.”

This surge in home equity has given most homeowners the opportunity to use that equity in one of two ways:

  1. Refinance to cash out some of the equity or lower their current payment
  2. Move to a home that better fits their current needs

Let’s break down the possibilities.

1. Refinance

An abundance of equity and record-low mortgage rates can make refinancing a home very easy. Some homeowners choose to refinance so they can lower their payments. Others convert a portion of the equity to cash while keeping their monthly payment the same.

There are many homeowners who could take advantage of lower rates and higher levels of equity, but they haven’t yet. According to an Economic & Housing Research Note from earlier this month, there were over five million homeowners with a loan funded by Freddie Mac who would benefit by refinancing their loan. As of January 2021, there were:

  • 452,122 loans with an average mortgage rate of 6.17%
  • 1,027,834 loans with an average mortgage rate of 4.39%
  • 3,687,780 loans with an average mortgage rate of 4.21%

With mortgage rates currently hovering around 3%, any of these homeowners would benefit from refinancing. They could lower their payments by hundreds of dollars per month or cash out large sums of equity while keeping their monthly payment the same.

Example:

If a homeowner has a $200,000 fixed-rate mortgage with a 6% interest rate and refinances that loan to a 3% interest rate, their monthly mortgage payment (principal and interest) will go from $1,199 per month to $843 per month – a savings of $356 a month, or $4,272 each year.

On the other hand, if they keep their mortgage payment the same, they could cash out a significant amount of their equity.

2. Move into your dream home

The past year prompted many households to redefine what a dream home really means, and it’s something different to everyone. Those who have a high mortgage rate could use their equity as a down payment and perhaps buy their next home without significantly raising their mortgage payment.

Example:

Suppose a person bought a house for $216,000 at the height of the market in 2006. (The median home price in May of 2006). If they put 10% down and took out a mortgage of $194,400 at 6.41% (the average rate in 2006), the monthly mortgage payment (principal and interest) would have been $1,217.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), a typical single-family home has grown in value by approximately $150,000 over the last fifteen years. That means the $216,000 house would be worth about $366,000 today.

After deducting selling expenses, they would be left with about $130,000 ($150,000 minus approximately $20,000 in selling expenses).

A seller could take that equity and use it as a down payment on a new house. Let’s assume they purchased a home for $450,000 (roughly $80,000 more than the value of their current home). If they put the $130,000 down, they could take out a mortgage of $320,000 with a 3% interest rate. The monthly mortgage payment (principal and interest) would be $1,349. Therefore, they could buy a home worth $80,000 more than the one they have today and only spend an extra $132 per month.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re refinancing your house or moving to a new home, your current mortgage rate and your level of equity are crucial in your decision-making process. Look at your mortgage documentation to find out your interest rate, and then let’s connect to determine the potential equity in your home. You may be surprised by the opportunities you have.

Sellers Are Ready To Enter the Housing Market

Sellers Are Ready To Enter the Housing Market | Simplifying The Market

One of the biggest questions in real estate today is, “When will sellers return to the housing market?” An ongoing shortage of home supply has created a hyper-competitive environment for hopeful buyers, leading to the ultimate sellers’ market. However, as the economy continues to improve and more people get vaccinated, more sellers may finally be in sight.

The Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI) by Fannie Mae recently noted the percentage of consumer respondents who say it’s a good time to sell a home increased from 61% to 67%. Doug Duncan, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist at Fannie Mae, indicates:

Consumer positivity regarding home-selling conditions nearly matched its all-time high.” (See graph below):

Sellers Are Ready To Enter the Housing Market | Simplifying The MarketFannie Mae isn’t the only expert group noticing a rise in the percentage of people thinking about selling. George Ratiu, Senior Economist at realtor.com, shares:

“The results of a realtor.com survey . . . showed that one-in-ten homeowners plans to sell this year, with 63 percent of those, looking to list in the next 6 months. Just as encouragingly, close to two-thirds of sellers plan to sell their homes at prices under $350,000, which would offer a tremendous boost to affordable housing for first-time buyers.”

Bottom Line

If you’re considering selling your house, don’t wait for more competition to pop up in your neighborhood. Let’s connect today to explore the benefits of selling your house now before more homes come to the market.

Americans See Real Estate as a Better Investment Than Stocks or Gold

Americans See Real Estate as a Better Investment Than Stocks or Gold | Simplifying The Market

Last month, in a post on the Liberty Street Economics blog, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York noted that Americans believe buying a home is definitely or probably a better investment than buying stocks. Last week, a Gallup Poll reaffirmed those findings.

In an article on the current real estate market, Gallup reports:

“Gallup usually finds that Americans regard real estate as the best long-term investment among several options — seeing it as superior to stocks, gold, savings accounts and bonds. This year, 41% choose real estate as the best investment, up from 35% a year ago, with stocks a distant second.”

Here’s the breakdown:Americans See Real Estate as a Better Investment Than Stocks or Gold | Simplifying The MarketThe article goes on to say:

“The 41% choosing real estate is the highest selecting any of the five investment options in the 11 years Gallup has asked this question.”

Is real estate really a secure investment right now?

Some question American confidence in real estate as a good long-term investment right now. They fear that the build-up in home values may be mirroring what happened right before the housing crash a little more than a decade ago. However, according to Merrill Lynch, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs, the current real estate market is strong and sustainable.

As Morgan Stanley explains to their clients in a recent Thoughts on the Market podcast:

“Unlike 15 years ago, the euphoria in today’s home prices comes down to the simple logic of supply and demand. And we at Morgan Stanley conclude that this time the sector is on a sustainably, sturdy foundation . . . . This robust demand and highly challenged supply, along with tight mortgage lending standards, may continue to bode well for home prices. Higher interest rates and post pandemic moves could likely slow the pace of appreciation, but the upward trajectory remains very much on course.”

Bottom Line

America’s belief in the long-term investment value of homeownership has been, is, and will always be, very strong.

It’s Not Too Late To Apply For Forbearance

It’s Not Too Late To Apply For Forbearance | Simplifying The Market

Over the past year, the pandemic made it challenging for some homeowners to make their mortgage payments. Thankfully, the government initiated a forbearance program to provide much-needed support. Unless they’re extended once again, some of these plans and the corresponding mortgage payment deferral options will expire soon. That said, there’s still time to request assistance. If your loan is backed by HUD/FHA, USDA, or VA, you can apply for initial forbearance by June 30, 2021.

Recently, the Consumer Finance Institute of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia surveyed a national sample of 1,172 homeowners with mortgages. They discussed their familiarity with and understanding of lender accommodations that might be available under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The results indicate that some borrowers didn’t take advantage of the support available through forbearance:

Most borrowers who had not used forbearance during the pandemic reported that it was because they simply did not need it. However, among the remainder, a lack of understanding about available accommodations may also be playing a role. Around 2 out of 3 in this group reported not seeking forbearance because they were unsure or pessimistic about whether they would qualify — even though a high fraction of borrowers are eligible for forbearance under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.”

Here are some of the reasons why those borrowers didn’t opt for forbearance:

  • They were concerned forbearance may be costly
  • They didn’t understand how to request forbearance
  • They didn’t understand how the plans worked and/or whether they would qualify

If you have similar questions or concerns, the following answers may ease your fears.

If you’re concerned forbearance may be costly:

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) explains:

For most loans, there will be no additional fees, penalties, or additional interest (beyond scheduled amounts) added to your account, and you do not need to submit additional documentation to qualify. You can simply tell your servicer that you have a pandemic-related financial hardship.”

It’s important to contact your mortgage provider (the company you send your mortgage payment to every month) to explain your current situation and determine the best plan available for your needs.

If you’re not sure how to request forbearance:

Here are 5 steps to follow when requesting mortgage forbearance:

  1. Find the contact information for your servicer
  2. Call your servicer
  3. Ask if you’re eligible for protection under the CARES Act
  4. Ask what happens when your forbearance period ends
  5. Ask your servicer to provide the agreement in writing

If you don’t understand how the plans work and/or whether you will qualify:

This is how the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) explains the program:

Forbearance is when your mortgage servicer or lender allows you to pause or reduce your mortgage payments for a limited time while you build back your finances

Forbearance doesn’t mean your payments are forgiven or erased. You are still obligated to repay any missed payments, which, in most cases, may be repaid over time or when you refinance or sell your home. Before the end of the forbearance, your servicer will contact you about how to repay the missed payments.”

The CFPB also addresses who qualifies for forbearance relief:

You may have a right to a COVID hardship forbearance if:

  • You experience financial hardship directly or indirectly due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • You have a federally backed mortgage, which includes HUD/FHA, VA, USDA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac loans.

For mortgages that are not federally backed, servicers may offer similar forbearance options. If you are struggling to make your mortgage payments, servicers are generally required to discuss payment relief options with you, whether or not your loan is federally backed.”

Bottom Line

Like many Americans, your home may be your biggest asset. By acting quickly, you might be able to take advantage of critical relief options to help keep you in your home. Even if you tried to apply at the beginning of the pandemic and it for some reason didn’t work out, try again. Contact your mortgage provider today to determine if you qualify. If you have additional concerns, let’s connect to answer your questions and determine if there are other mortgage relief options in our area as well.

Experts Say Home Prices Will Continue to Appreciate

Experts Say Home Prices Will Continue to Appreciate | Simplifying The Market

It’s clear that consumers are concerned about how quickly home values are rising. Many people fear the speed of appreciation may lead to a crash in prices later this year. In fact, Google reports that the search for “When is the housing market going to crash?” has actually spiked 2450% over the past month.

In addition, Jim Dalrymple II of Inman News notes:

“One of the most noteworthy things that came up in Inman’s conversations with agents was that every single one said they’ve had conversations with clients about whether or not the market is heading into a bubble.”

To alleviate some of these concerns, let’s look at what several financial analysts are saying about the current residential real estate market. Within the last thirty days, four of the major financial services giants came to the same conclusion: the housing market is strong, and price appreciation will continue. Here are their statements on the issue:

Goldman Sachs’ Research Note on Housing:

“Strong demand for housing looks sustainable. Even before the pandemic, demographic tailwinds and historically-low mortgage rates had pushed demand to high levels. … consumer surveys indicate that household buying intentions are now the highest in 20 years. … As a result, the model projects double-digit price gains both this year and next.”

Joe Seydl, Senior Markets Economist, J.P.Morgan:

“Homebuyers—interest rates are still historically low, though they are inching up. Housing prices have spiked during the last six-to-nine months, but we don’t expect them to fall soon, and we believe they are more likely to keep rising. If you are looking to purchase a new home, conditions now may be better than 12 months hence.”

Morgan Stanley, Thoughts on the Market Podcast:

“Unlike 15 years ago, the euphoria in today’s home prices comes down to the simple logic of supply and demand. And we at Morgan Stanley conclude that this time the sector is on a sustainably, sturdy foundation . . . . This robust demand and highly challenged supply, along with tight mortgage lending standards, may continue to bode well for home prices. Higher interest rates and post pandemic moves could likely slow the pace of appreciation, but the upward trajectory remains very much on course.”

Merrill Lynch’s Capital Market Outlook:

“There are reasons to believe that this is likely to be an unusually long and strong housing expansion. Demand is very strong because the biggest demographic cohort in history is moving through the household-formation and peak home-buying stages of its life cycle. Coronavirus-related preference changes have also sharply boosted home buying demand. At the same time, supply is unusually tight, with available homes for sale at record-low levels. Double-digit price gains are rationing the supply.”

Bottom Line

If you’re concerned about making the decision to buy or sell right now, let’s connect to discuss what’s happening in our local market.

3 Graphs Showing Why You Should Sell Your House Now

3 Graphs Showing Why You Should Sell Your House Now | Simplifying The Market

There’s no doubt that 2021 is the year of the seller when it comes to the housing market. If you’re a homeowner thinking of moving to better suit your changing needs, now is the perfect time to do so. Low mortgage rates are in your favor when you’re ready to purchase your dream home, and high buyer demand may give you the leverage you need to negotiate the best contract terms on the sale of your house. Here’s a look at what’s driving this sellers’ advantage and why there’s so much opportunity for homeowners who are ready to move this season.

1. Historically Low Inventory

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) explains:

 “Total housing inventory at the end of March amounted to 1.07 million units, up 3.9% from February’s inventory . . . Unsold inventory sits at a 2.1-month supply at the current sales pace, marginally up from February’s 2.0-month supply and down from the 3.3-month supply recorded in March 2020.”

Even with a slight rise in the number of houses for sale this spring, inventory remains near an all-time low (See graph below):3 Graphs Showing Why You Should Sell Your House Now | Simplifying The MarketHigh buyer interest is creating a major imbalance between supply and demand, but as the small uptick in inventory shows, sellers are beginning to reenter the market. Selling your house now enables you to take advantage of buyer demand and get the most attention for your house – before more listings come to the market later this year.

2. Frequent Bidding Wars

As a result of the supply and demand imbalance, homebuyers are entering bidding wars at an accelerating rate. NAR reports the average number of bids received on the most recently closed sales is 4.8 offers. This number has doubled since the first quarter of 2020 (See graph below):3 Graphs Showing Why You Should Sell Your House Now | Simplifying The MarketAs buyers face increasingly tough competition while searching for homes to purchase, they’re more likely to be flexible and generous in their negotiations. This gives a seller the opportunity to choose the best buyer for their needs and be selective about things like time to close, contingencies, renovations, and more. Working with your trusted agent is the best way to determine how to navigate the negotiation process when selling your house.

3. Days on the Market

In today’s market, sellers aren’t waiting very long to find a buyer for their house, either. NAR reports:

Properties typically remained on the market for 18 days in March, down from 20 days in February and from 29 days in March 2020. 83% of the homes sold in March 2021 were on the market for less than a month.” (See graph below):

3 Graphs Showing Why You Should Sell Your House Now | Simplifying The MarketNAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun explains:

“The sales for March would have been measurably higher, had there been more inventory…Days-on-market are swift, multiple offers are prevalent, and buyer confidence is rising.”

Bottom Line

If you’re thinking about moving, these three graphs clearly show that it’s a great time to sell your house. Let’s connect today so you can learn more about the opportunities in our local area.

4 Big Incentives for Homeowners to Sell Now

4 Big Incentives for Homeowners to Sell Now | Simplifying The Market

The housing market keeps sailing along. The only headwind that could take it off course is the lack of inventory for sale. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that there were 410,000 fewer single-family homes for sale this March than in March of 2020. The key to continued success in the residential housing market is for more listings to come on the market. However, many homeowners are concerned that selling their homes could be challenging for several reasons.

Recently, Homes.com released the findings of a survey that identified these concerns, as well as what it will take for homeowners to feel comfortable selling their houses. Here are the four major homeowner concerns and a quick explanation of what’s actually happening in the housing market today.

1. Homeowners don’t know if they’ll be able to secure their next home before selling.

In negotiations, leverage is the power that one side may have to influence the other side while moving closer to their negotiating position. A party’s leverage is based on the ability to award benefits or eliminate costs on the other side.

In today’s market, buyers have compelling reasons to purchase a home now:

  • To own a home of their own
  • To buy before prices continue to appreciate
  • To secure a mortgage at a historically low rate, while they last

These buyer needs give the seller tremendous leverage. Most already realize this leverage enables the homeowner to sell at a good price. However, this leverage may also be used to negotiate time to find their next home. The homeowner could sell their home to the buyer at today’s price, which will enable the purchaser to take advantage of current mortgage rates. In return, the buyer might lease the house back to the seller for a pre-determined length of time while the seller finds a new home or has one built.

This gives the buyer what they want while also giving the seller what they need. It’s a true win-win negotiation.

2. Homeowners don’t know if their current home will sell for the asking price or top market price.

This is the perfect time to maximize profits while selling a house. NAR just released a study showing that bidding wars are at an all-time high. The study reveals that when comparing the first quarter of last year to the first quarter of this year, the number of offers on homes for sale doubled from an average of 2.4 to 4.8 offers.

Whenever there’s a bidding war, the price of the item for sale escalates. Bloomberg recently reported:

“For the first time ever, the average U.S. home is selling for above its list price.”

If a seller is looking for a top-dollar sale, there’s no better time to sell than right now.

3. Homeowners don’t know if they will get an offer without their home requiring work or updates.

Again, leverage is the greatest strength a seller has in this market. Due to the lack of homes for sale, many buyers are more willing to take on home improvement projects themselves in order to get the home they’re after.

A recent post on whether or not to renovate before selling notes:

“It may be wise to let future homeowners remodel the bathroom or the kitchen to make design decisions that are best for their specific taste and lifestyle. As a seller, your dollars and time might be better spent working on small cosmetic updates, like refreshing some paint and power washing the exterior. Instead of over-investing in your home with upgrades that the buyers may change anyway, work with a real estate professional to determine the key projects that will maximize your listing, without overdoing it.”

If a seller is worried about doing work or updates on their home, they must realize that today’s historically low inventory likely renders these projects less critical to the sale of the house.

4. Homeowners don’t know if they can have a quick closing process.

When speed is important, there are two points sellers should look at:

  • The time it takes to find a buyer for the home
  • The time it takes to close the transaction

In the latest Existing Home Sales Report, NAR explains:

“Properties typically remained on the market for 18 days in March, down from 20 days in February and from 29 days in March 2020. Eighty-three percent of the homes sold in March 2021 were on the market for less than a month.”

Eighteen days is fast, and it’s a new record. Here are the days the average house is on the market in each state:4 Big Incentives for Homeowners to Sell Now | Simplifying The MarketRegarding the time it will take to close the transaction, all-cash sales accounted for 23% of all home purchase transactions in March. All-cash sales can usually be closed in thirty days.

If a mortgage is necessary, the most recent Origination Insight Report from Ellie Mae shows:

“Time to close all loans decreased in March. The average time to close a purchase fell to 51 days, down from 53 the month prior.”

If you’re looking for a quick closing process, there’s never been a market in which the two-step process (finding a buyer and closing the deal) has taken less time.

Bottom Line

Selling your house can be daunting, especially in a fast-paced market. However, the fact that we’re in such a strong sellers’ market clearly eliminates many common concerns. Let’s connect today so you can learn more about the opportunities for homeowners who are ready to sell.

Is Home Price Appreciation Accelerating Again?

Is Home Price Appreciation Accelerating Again? | Simplifying The Market

At the beginning of the year, industry forecasts called for home price appreciation to slow to about half of the double-digit increase we saw last year. The thinking was that inventory would increase from record-low levels and put an end to the bidding wars that have driven home prices up over the past twelve months. However, that increase in inventory has yet to materialize. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that there are currently 410,000 fewer single-family homes available for sale than there were at this time last year.

This has forced those who made appreciation forecasts this past January to amend those projections. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the National Association of Realtors, and Zelman & Associates have all adjusted their numbers upward after reviewing first quarter housing data. Here are their original forecasts and their newly updated projections:Is Home Price Appreciation Accelerating Again? | Simplifying The MarketEven with the increases, the updated projections still don’t reach the above 10% appreciation levels of 2020. However, a jump in the average projection from 5.3% to 7.7% after just one quarter is substantial. Demand will remain strong, so future appreciation will be determined by how quickly listing inventory makes its way to the market.

Bottom Line

Entering 2021, there was some speculation that we might see price appreciation slow dramatically this year. Today, experts believe that won’t be the case. Home values will remain strong throughout the year.