What You Can Do Right Now To Prepare for Homeownership
As rent prices continue to soar, many renters want to know what they can do to get ready to buy their first home. According to recent data from ApartmentList.com:
“The first half of 2021 has seen the fastest growth in rent prices since the start of our estimates in 2017. Our national rent index has increased by 11.4 percent since January . . . .”
Those rising rental costs may make it seem impossible to prepare for homeownership if you’re a renter. But the truth is, there are ways you can – and should – prepare to purchase your first home. Here’s some expert advice on what to do if you’re ready to learn more about how to escape rising rents.
Start Saving – Even Small Amounts – NowExperts agree, setting aside what you can – even smaller amounts of money – into a dedicated savings account is a great starting point when it comes to saving for a down payment. As Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez, Founder of Zero-Based Budget Coaching LLC, says:
“I recommend saving for a home in a ‘sinking fund’ . . . . This is a savings account separate from your emergency fund that you use to save for a short or mid-term expense.”
Zuniga-Sanchez adds saving in smaller increments can help make a large goal – such as saving for a down payment –achievable:
“Breaking up your goals into smaller bite-sized pieces by saving incrementally can make a large daunting number more manageable.”
Assess Your Finances and Work on Your CreditAnother tip experts recommend: take a look at your overall finances and credit score and find ways to reduce your debt. According to the HUD, the average credit score of first-time homebuyers is 716. If you’re not sure what your credit score is, there are numerous online tools that can help you check. If your score is below that average, don’t fret. Remember that an average means there are homeowners with credit scores both above and below that threshold.
If you find out your score is below the average, there are several ways to improve your credit before you apply for a loan. HUD recommends reducing your debt as much as you can, paying your bills on time, and using your credit card responsibly.
Start the Conversation with Your Advisor TodayFinally, it’s important to talk to someone who understands the market and what it takes to become a first-time homebuyer. That’s where we come in. A trusted advisor can help you navigate your specific market and talk you through all the available options. Having the right network of real estate and lending professionals in your corner can help you plan for the homebuying process as well as determine what you can afford and how you can get pre-approved when you’re ready.
Most importantly, we can help you understand how homeownership is achievable. As Lauren Bringle, Accredited Financial Advisor with Self Financial, says:
“Don’t write home ownership off just because you have a low income . . . . With the right tools, resources and assistance, you could still achieve your dream.”
Bottom LineIf you’re planning to be a homeowner one day, the best thing you can do is start preparing now. Even if you don’t think you’ll purchase for a few years, let’s connect today to discuss the process and to set you up for success on your journey to homeownership.
5 Reasons Today’s Housing Market Is Anything but Normal
There are many headlines out there that claim we’re reverting to a more normal real estate market. That would indicate the housing market is returning to the pre-pandemic numbers we saw from 2015-2019. But that’s not happening. The market is still extremely vibrant as demand is still strong even while housing supply is slowly returning.
Here’s the definition of normal from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
“conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern: characterized by that which is considered usual, typical, or routine.”
Using this definition, here are five housing industry metrics that prove we’re nowhere near normal.
1. Mortgage RatesIf we look at the 30-year mortgage rate chronicled by Freddie Mac, we can see the average rates by decade:
Currently, mortgage rates are anything but usual, typical, or routine.
2. Home Price AppreciationAccording to Black Knight, a housing data and analytics company, the average annual appreciation on residential real estate prices since 1995 has been 4.14%.
According to the latest forecast from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), home price appreciation will hit 14.1% this year, which will be greater than any year since Black Knight began collecting this data.
Currently, home price appreciation is anything but usual, typical, or routine.
3. Months’ Supply of Inventory (Homes for Sale)According to NAR:
“Months’ supply refers to the number of months it would take for the current inventory of homes on the market to sell given the current sales pace. Historically, six months of supply is associated with moderate price appreciation, and a lower level of months’ supply tends to push prices up more rapidly.”
As of the latest Existing Homes Sales Report from NAR, the current months’ supply of inventory stands at 2.6. That’s less than half of a normal supply.
Currently, the supply of homes for sale is anything but usual, typical, or routine.
4. Days It Takes To Sell a HomeThe days-on-market metric gives an indication of how hot a market is and how quickly homes are selling. In 2019, prior to the pandemic, the average days on market stood at 35, according to NAR. Today, that number is cut in half and is now at 17 days.
Currently, the days-on-market metric is anything but usual, typical, or routine.
5. Number of Offers per ListingAccording to NAR, the number of offers per listing stood at 2.2 in 2019. Today, that number is double at 4.5.
Currently, the number of offers per listing is anything but usual, typical, or routine.Bottom LineWhen…
Key Questions To Ask Yourself Before Buying a Home
Sometimes it can feel like everyone has advice when it comes to buying a home. While your friends and loved ones may have your best interests in mind, they may also be missing crucial information about today’s housing market that you need to make your best decision.
Before you decide whether you’re ready to buy a home, you should know how to answer these three questions.
1. What’s Going on with Home Prices?Home prices are one factor that directly impacts how much it will cost to buy a home and how much you stand to gain as a homeowner when prices appreciate.
The graph below shows just how much experts are forecasting prices to rise this year:Continued price appreciation is great news for existing homeowners but can pose a significant challenge if you wait to buy. Using these forecasts, you can determine just how much waiting could cost you. If prices increase based on the average of all forecasts (12.46%), a median-priced home that cost $350,000 in January of 2021 will cost an additional $43,610 by the end of the year. What does this mean for you? Put simply, with home prices increasing, the longer you wait, the more it could cost you.
2. Are Today’s Low Mortgage Rates Going To Last?Another significant factor that should inform your decision is mortgage interest rates. Today’s average rates remain close to record-lows. Much like prices, though, experts forecast rates will rise over the coming months, as the chart below shows:Your monthly mortgage payment can be significantly impacted by even the slightest increase in mortgage rates, which makes the overall cost of the home greater over time when you wait.
3. Why Is Homeownership Important to You?The final question is a personal one. Before deciding, you’ll need to understand your motivation to buy a home and why homeownership is an important goal for you. The financial benefits of owning a home are often easier to account for than the many emotional ones.
The 2021 National Homeownership Market Survey shows that six of the nine reasons Americans value homeownership are because of how it impacts them on a personal, aspirational level. The survey says homeownership provides:
Bottom LineHomeownership is life-changing, and buying a home can positively impact you in so many ways. With any decision this big, it helps to have a trusted advisor by your side each step of the way. If you’re ready to begin your journey toward homeownership, let’s connect to discuss your options and begin your journey.
Surprising Shift Favors Homeowners: Buyers Now Prefer Existing Homes
In April, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) posted an article, Home Buyers’ Preferences Shift Towards New Construction, which reported:
“60% of people who were looking to buy a home in 2020 said they'd prefer new construction to an existing home.”
However, it seems buyers are now shifting their preferences back to existing homes.The latest Consumer Confidence Survey reveals the percentage of Americans planning to buy a home in the next six months is virtually the same as it was back in March. However, the percentage that plan to buy a newly constructed home is lower for that same period.
NAHB confirms this sentiment in their latest Housing Trends Report. The organization explains that existing homes are now the top preference among today’s buyers. Here’s a breakdown of those findings:
Why the shift?There are several reasons why buyer preference is shifting. Here are two that impact purchasers looking to move in now:
Whether you’re shopping for new bed sheets or a new car, the drill is usually the same. Hit the reviews, check with friends, and scope out the best deal. After all, who wants to buy a car that racks up repair bills right away? Yet when picking a mortgage loan, borrowers don’t always think about comparison shopping.
In a Bankrate survey of recent home buyers, 12% of millennials said they believe their mortgage rates were too high. Some buyers may think that when mortgage rates are low, they don’t need to shop for the best offer. But even a few basis points can make a difference of thousands of dollars over the life of a loan, according to Bankrate, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Federal Trade Commission.
You may think mortgage shopping is as enjoyable as prepping for a tax audit. It’s true that comparing home mortgages can get complicated. But you don’t need a finance degree to make an informed decision. Here are some steps to get there.
Find a Few LendersWhen looking for lenders to consider, loan officers recommend going to a few sources:
Typically, the loan officer would schedule a meeting focused on comparison shopping separately. If that sounds painful to borrowers who want to (literally) get moving, no problem, Koch says. “The borrower may be well versed and want to get right to what’s most relevant for them, which are the financial and comparison details. But a lot of people need to go over their own questions or cover key topics first.”
Want to meet virtually? “Some folks are just more comfortable virtually, and that’s OK,” DeMarco says. “I’ve closed loans with people I’ve never talked to on the phone. It’s all via text.”
Interview the Mortgage Loan OfficerWhichever way you choose, this meeting is prime time to interview the loan officer. Borrowers need to find someone who will be in there with them and who can problem solve. “We call unanticipated problems ‘icebergs,’” DeMarco says. “You think there’s smooth sailing. And then, suddenly, you smack into an iceberg.”
Scope out the lender’s communication strategy and their process for delivering on time. “The process is highly complex, and you’d think professional lenders all would have mastered it. That’s not the case,” says Koch. “When a loan is not delivered on time, people’s finances and lives are basically balanced on the head of a pin, which is the closing date.”
To avoid problems, ask questions like these:
Fact finding about the process:
You’ll also want to bring up concerns like the impact on your credit score. Thirty-eight percent of buyers think comparing multiple mortgage offers in a short time will hurt their credit rating, according to a 2020 LendingTree survey. “As long as the lenders all pull the borrower’s credit within a couple of weeks, it’s counted as a single credit inquiry. So, it’s not a problem if they do it within a narrow band of time,” Koch explains.
Get and Compare Financial InformationWhether you’re looking at a federal form called a loan estimate or a precursor form called the fees worksheet, you’ll see a breakout of closing costs, explains Koch. “To compare the lender financials, you’ll want to drill down to origination charges in the lender section. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. If one lender is offering a 30-year fixed rate at 2.875% with no lender fees and another is offering 2. 75% with $1,500 in lender fees, those are unlike products. Get the fees at the same rate to find out who’s less expensive.”
6 Tips to Get Mortgage Loan InformationComparison shopping can get complicated. Here are six ways to simplify the process.
1. Keep Your Pool ManageableMortgage shopping “depends on the borrower and the personality type and how they’re wired,” Koch says. “The process can seem overwhelming. That’s why it makes sense to have a select few options to compare so borrowers can process and assimilate them.”
2. Get a Fees WorksheetThe best way to compare effectively is to zero in on the fees worksheet, which the loan officer should provide. “You’ll be able to figure out just what the lender’s direct fees are, and you can make a nice, simple comparison.”
3. Understand a Fees Worksheet Versus a Loan EstimateKeep in mind that the numbers on the worksheet are estimates and not locked in. Interest rates are fluid and change daily or even more often, DeMarco says. On the other hand, after you have a contract with a seller, “the loan estimate and loan application are where the information is binding barring structural changes to the loan,” Koch says. Make sure the information reflects previous discussions with and disclosures by the loan officer.
4. Be Careful Interpreting Third-Party FeesThird-party fee estimates are included on the worksheet. Two lenders could each come up with different estimates for title, escrow, or appraisal fees, Koch explains. But not all are negotiable. For instance, the seller chooses the title company, so the lender doesn’t control the choice or the fees. The lender could be choosing the high or low end of a range, but it’s only an estimate.
5. Think About TimingMake sure lenders are using the same time frame for locking in pricing and that it will extend through the closing, Koch notes. “A lender might offer a rate that’s a lock for three weeks, but if you anticipate or know your closing date will be five or six weeks out, that’s a problem.”
6. Consider Applying for Loan Approval Before Finding a Property“Many lenders will not do this,” Koch says. “But some will allow borrowers to go through the formal underwriting process — not just preapproval — without having a property. The borrowers can get a bona fide mortgage commitment with all of the major buyer financials truly underwritten at that point. Then when borrowers make an offer, they can close more quickly.”
You’ll have to invest some time and effort into comparison shopping for a mortgage loan and selecting a lender and a loan officer. But your return on investment can pay off over the long haul.
What Do Experts See on the Horizon for the Second Half of the Year?
As we move into the latter half of the year, questions about what’s to come are top of mind for buyers and sellers. Near record-low mortgage rates coupled with rising home price appreciation kicked off a robust housing market in the first half of 2021, but what does the forecast tell us about what’s on the horizon?
Mortgage Rates Will Likely Increase, but Remain LowMany experts are projecting a rise in interest rates. The latest Quarterly Forecast from Freddie Mac states:
“We forecast that mortgage rates will continue to rise through the end of next year. We estimate the 30-year fixed mortgage rate will average 3.4% in the fourth quarter of 2021, rising to 3.8% in the fourth quarter of 2022.”
However, even as mortgage rates rise, the anticipated increase is expected to be modest at most, and still well below historical averages. Rates remaining low is good news for homebuyers who are looking to maximize their purchasing power. The same report from Freddie Mac goes on to say:
“While higher mortgage rates will help slow the pace of home sales and moderate house price growth, we expect overall housing market activity will remain robust. Our forecast has total home sales, the sum of new and existing home sales, at 7.1 million in 2021....”
Home Price Appreciation Will Continue, but Price Growth Will Likely SlowJoe Seydl, Senior Markets Economist at J.P. Morgan, projects home prices to continue rising as well, indicating buyers interested in purchasing a home should do so sooner rather than later. Waiting for rates or home prices to fall may not be wise:
“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.”
Other experts remain optimistic about home prices, too. The graph below highlights 2021 home price forecasts from multiple industry leaders:
Inventory Remains a Challenge, but There’s Reason To Be OptimisticHome prices are rising, but they should moderate as more housing inventory comes to market. George Ratiu, Senior Economist at realtor.com, notes there are signs that we may see the current inventory challenges lessen, slowing the fast-paced home price appreciation and creating more choices for buyers:
“We have seen more new listings this year compared with 2020 in 11 of the last 13 weeks. The influx of new sellers over the last couple of months has been especially helpful in slowing price gains.”
New home starts are also showing signs of improvement, which further bolsters hopes of more options coming to market. Robert Dietz, Chief Economist at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), writes:
“As an indicator of the economic impact of housing, there are now 652,000 single-family homes under construction. This is 28% higher than a year ago.”
Finally, while it may not fundamentally change the market conditions we’re currently experiencing, another reason to be optimistic more homes might come to market: our improving economy. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, notes:
“A growing economy in the summer months has multiple implications for the housing market. Growing consumer confidence, a stronger labor market, and higher wages bode well for housing demand. While a growing economy and improving public health conditions may also spur hesitant existing owners to list their homes for sale, it’s unlikely to significantly ease the super sellers’ market conditions.”
Bottom LineAs we look at the forecast for prices, interest rates, inventory, and home sales, experts remain optimistic about what’s on the horizon for the second half of 2021. Let’s connect today to discuss how we can navigate the market together in the coming months.
Home Builders Ramp Up Construction Based on Demand
If you’re thinking of buying a home, there really is no time like the present. With today’s low mortgage rates, you have a great opportunity to get more home for your money. The challenge is inventory. Like you, many buyers want to capitalize on these market conditions, and it’s leading to more buyer competition and bidding wars.
If you’re having a hard time finding a home to buy, it may be time to talk to your trusted real estate advisor about a newly built home. Early indicators show new-home construction is beginning to ramp up. While new homes alone won’t be able to fix all of the inventory challenges, this does mean you’ll soon have more options as you search for a home. As a buyer, a newly built home may be exactly what you’re looking for – it’s brand new, and with builder customization options, it’s uniquely yours from the ground up.
Here’s what industry experts are saying about new homes coming to market:Nadia Evangelou, Senior Economist and Director of Forecasting at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), says recent research could indicate upward momentum when it comes to new home construction. Evangelou refers to the volume of new homes where construction began during a set period, known in the industry as housing starts.
According to that research, housing starts reached their highest level since 2006 in March of this year – an encouraging sign for the industry. While they dipped slightly in April, Evangelou reiterates that the level of housing construction is heading in a positive direction compared to recent years:
“…we are currently building 24% more homes than we typically have built in April in the last couple of decades. Thus, housing construction is trending upward with housing starts likely to reach 1.6 million for all of 2021 and rise further to 1.7 million in 2022.”
As new data pours in, it further confirms this trend. According to the latest Monthly New Residential Construction report from the U.S. Census Bureau, housing starts increased even more in May, which continues the ongoing upward trend (see graph below) and indicates that ground is being broken on even more new homes.Robert Dietz, Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of Economics and Housing Policy for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), singles out another encouraging sign:
“It is also worth noting that the number of single-family homes permitted but not started construction continued to increase in May, rising to 142,000 units.”
This insight that there’s also an uptick in single-family homes permitted serves as an additional sign that more new homes lie ahead. It’s important to realize that the construction doesn’t have to start on these homes before you may be able to purchase one. According to the Monthly New Residential Sales report from the U.S. Census Bureau, many new homes are selling before construction even begins (see graph below):These signs are all good news for housing inventory. And as the recent challenges of rising lumber prices and dwindling lumber supply begin to improve, builders will be able to increase their production even more in the months ahead.
Bottom LineWhile the inventory challenges we’re facing today won’t be solved overnight, the increase in new-home construction means your house may have more competition in the market. Let’s connect to talk about finding your dream home and the newly built homes available in our area.
With the correct person by your side, the buying and selling process doesn't have to be full of stress, doubt and anxiety - it can actually be FUN! Contact Jacquelyn Duke today to learn more.
1Jacquelyn Duke, Realtor®
Licensed to Sell in the State of Iowa
1360 SW Park Square Dr Ste 106
Ankeny, IA 50023
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