Category Archives: Buying Myths

The Power of Mortgage Pre-Approval [INFOGRAPHIC]

The Power of Mortgage Pre-Approval [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

The Power of Mortgage Pre-Approval [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights 

  • Mortgage pre-approval means a lender has reviewed your finances and, based on factors like your income, debt, and credit history, determined how much you’re qualified to borrow.
  • Being pre-approved for a loan can give you clarity while planning your homebuying budget, confidence in your ability to secure a loan, and a competitive edge in a bidding war.
  • In today’s market, connecting with a lender to get pre-approved may be the game-changer that helps you secure your dream home.

Should I Buy Now or Wait? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Should I Buy Now or Wait? [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Should I Buy Now or Wait? [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights

  • If you’re thinking that waiting a year or two to purchase a home might mean you’ll save some money, think again.
  • Mortgage interest rates are currently very low, but experts across the board are forecasting increases in both home prices and interest rates.
  • Buying a home now means you’ll spend less in the long run. Let’s connect to put your homebuying plans in motion before home prices and mortgage rates climb even higher.

Patience Is the Key to Buying a Home This Year

Patience Is the Key to Buying a Home This Year | Simplifying The Market

The question many homebuyers are facing this year is, “Why is it so hard to find a house?” We’re in the ultimate sellers’ market, which means real estate is ultra-competitive for buyers right now. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) notes homes are getting an average of 4.8 offers per sale, and that number keeps rising. Why? It’s because there are so few houses for sale.

Low inventory in the housing market isn’t new, but it’s becoming more challenging to navigate. Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com, explains:

The housing market is still relatively under supplied, and buyers can’t buy what’s not for sale. Relative to what we saw in 2017 to 2019, March 2021 was still roughly 117,000 new listings lower, adding to the pre-existing early-year gap of more than 200,000 fresh listings that would typically have come to market in January or February. Despite this week’s gain from a year ago, we’re 19 percent below the new seller activity that we saw in the same week in 2019.

While many homeowners paused their plans to sell during the height of the pandemic, this isn’t the main cause of today’s huge gap between supply and demand. Sam Khater, Vice President and Chief Economist at Freddie Mac, Economic Housing and Research Division, shares:

The main driver of the housing shortfall has been the long-term decline in the construction of single-family homes . . . That decline has resulted in the decrease in supply of entry-level single-family homes or, ’starter homes.’”

When you consider the number of homes built in the U.S. by decade, the serious lack of new construction is clear (See graph below):Patience Is the Key to Buying a Home This Year | Simplifying The MarketThe number of newly built homes is disproportionately lower than the rate of household formation, which, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, has continued to increase. Khater also explains:

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic and current recession, the housing market was facing a substantial supply shortage and that deficit has grown. In 2018, we estimated that there was a housing supply shortage of approximately 2.5 million units, meaning that the U.S. economy was about 2.5 million units below what was needed to match long-term demand. Using the same methodology, we estimate that the housing shortage increased to 3.8 million units by the end of 2020. A continued increase in a housing shortage is extremely unusual; typically in a recession, housing demand declines and supply rises, causing inventory to rise above the long-term trend.”

To catch up to current demand, Freddie Mac estimates we need to build almost four million homes. The good news is builders are working hard to get us there. The U.S. Census Bureau also states:

Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,766,000. This is 2.7 percent (±1.7 percent) above the revised February rate of 1,720,000 . . . Privately-owned housing starts in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,739,000. This is 19.4 percent (±13.7 percent) above the revised February estimate of 1,457,000. . . .”

What does this mean? Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at NAR, clarifies:

The March figure of 1.74 million housing starts is the highest in 14 years. Both single-family units and multifamily units ramped up. After 13 straight years of underproduction – the chief cause for today’s inventory shortage – this construction boom needs to last for at least three years to make up for the part shortfall. As trade-up buyers purchase newly constructed homes, their prior homes will show up in MLSs, and hence, more choices for consumers. Housing starts to housing completion could be 4 to 8 months, so be patient with the improvement to inventory. In the meantime, construction workers deserve cheers.

Bottom Line

If you’re planning to buy this year, the key to success will be patience, given today’s low inventory environment. Let’s connect today to talk more about what’s happening in our area.

How Much Time Do You Need To Save for a Down Payment?

How Much Time Do You Need To Save for a Down Payment? | Simplifying The Market

One of the biggest hurdles homebuyers face is saving for a down payment. As you’re budgeting and planning for your home purchase, you’ll want to understand how much you’ll need to put down and how long it will take you to get there. The process may actually move faster than you think.

Using data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Apartment List, we can estimate how long it might take someone earning the median income and paying the median rent to save up for a down payment on a median-priced home. Since saving for a down payment can be a great time to practice budgeting for housing costs, this estimate also uses the concept that a household should not pay more than 28% of their total income on monthly housing expenses.

According to the data, the national average for the time it would take to save for a 10% down payment is right around two and a half years (2.53). Residents in Iowa can save for a down payment the fastest, doing so in just over one year (1.31). The map below illustrates this time (in years) for each state:How Much Time Do You Need To Save for a Down Payment? | Simplifying The Market

What if you only need to save 3%?

What if you’re able to take advantage of one of the 3% down payment programs available? It’s a common misconception that you need a 20% down payment to buy a home, but there are actually more affordable options and down payment assistance programs available, especially for first-time buyers. The reality is, saving for a 3% down payment may not take several years. In fact, it could take less than a year in most states, as shown in the map below:How Much Time Do You Need To Save for a Down Payment? | Simplifying The Market

Bottom Line

Wherever you are in the process of saving for a down payment, you may be closer to your dream home than you think. Let’s connect to explore the down payment options available in our area and how they support your plans.

Is Homeownership Still Considered Part of the American Dream?

Is Homeownership Still Considered Part of the American Dream? | Simplifying The Market

Since the birth of our nation, homeownership has always been considered a major piece of the American Dream. As Frederick Peters reports in Forbes:

“The idea of a place of one’s own drives the American story. We became a nation out of a desire to slip the bonds of Europe, which was still in many respects a collection of feudal societies. Old rich families, or the church, owned all the land and, with few exceptions, everyone else was a tenant. The magic of America lay not only in its sense of opportunity, but also in the belief that life could in every way be shaped by the individual. People traveled here not just for religious freedom, but because in America anything seemed possible.”

Additionally, a research paper released just prior to the shelter-in-place orders issued last year concludes:

“Homeownership is undeniably the cornerstone of the American Dream, and is inseparable from our national ethos that, through hard work, every American should have opportunities for prosperity and success. It is the stability and wealth creation that homeownership provides that represents the primary mechanism through which many American families are able to achieve upward socioeconomic mobility and greater opportunities for their children.”

Has the past year changed the American view on homeownership?

Definitely not. A survey of prospective homebuyers released by realtor.com last week reveals that becoming a homeowner is still the main reason this year’s first-time homebuyers want to purchase a home. When asked why they want to buy, three of the top four responses center on the financial benefits of owning a home. The top four reasons for buying are:

  • 59% – “I want to be a homeowner”
  • 33% – “I want to live in a space that I can invest in improving”
  • 31% – “I need more space”
  • 22% – “I want to build equity”

Millennials believe most strongly in homeownership.

The survey also reports that 62% of millennials say a desire to be a homeowner is the main reason they’re buying a home. This contradicts the thinking of some experts who had believed millennials were going to be the first “renter generation” in our nation’s history.

While reporting on the survey, George Ratiu, Senior Economist at realtor.com, said:

“Americans, even millennials who many thought would never buy, have a strong preference for homeownership for the same reasons many generations before them have — to invest in a place of their own and in their communities, and to build a solid financial foundation for themselves and their families.”

Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist for First American, also addresses millennial homeownership:

“Millennials have delayed marriage and having children in favor of investing in education, pushing marriage and family formation to their early-to-mid thirties, compared with previous generations, who primarily made these lifestyle choices in their twenties…Delayed lifestyle choices delay the desire for homeownership.”

Kushi goes on to explain:

“As more millennials get married and form families, millennials remain poised to transform the housing market. In fact, the housing market is already experiencing the earliest gusts of the tailwind.”

Bottom Line

As it always has been and very likely always will be, homeownership continues to be a major component in every generation’s pursuit of the American Dream.

2021 Real Estate Myth Buster [INFOGRAPHIC]

2021 Real Estate Myth Buster [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

2021 Real Estate Myth Buster [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights

  • There are a lot of misconceptions about buying or selling a home today, making it challenging to know exactly how to navigate the current real estate landscape.
  • Here’s a little clarity when it comes to 5 common myths about the 2021 housing market.
  • Let’s connect to discuss your needs and so you can decipher facts from fiction in our local market.

Why You Should Think About Listing Prices Like an Auction’s Reserve Price

Why You Should Think About Listing Prices Like an Auction’s Reserve Price | Simplifying The Market

For generations, the homebuying process never really changed. The seller would try to estimate the market value of the home and tack on a little extra to give themselves some negotiating room. That figure would become the listing price of the house. Buyers would then try to determine how much less than the full price they could offer and still get the home. The asking price was generally the ceiling of the negotiation. The actual sales price would almost always be somewhat lower than the list price. It was unthinkable to pay more than what the seller was asking.

Today is different.

The record-low supply of homes for sale coupled with very strong buyer demand is leading to a rise in bidding wars on many homes. Because of this, homes today often sell for more than the list price. In some cases, they sell for a lot more.

According to the Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends report just released by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 45% of buyers paid full price or more.

You may need to change the way you look at the asking price of a home.

In this market, you likely can’t shop for a home with the old-school mentality of refusing to pay full price or more for a house.

Because of the shortage of inventory of houses for sale, many homes are actually being offered in an auction-like atmosphere in which the highest bidder wins the home. In an actual auction, the seller of an item agrees to take the highest bid, and many sellers set a reserve price on the item they’re selling. A reserve price is the minimum amount a seller will accept as the winning bid.

When navigating a competitive housing market, think of the list price of the house as the reserve price at an auction. It’s the minimum the seller will accept in many cases. Today, the asking price is often becoming the floor of the negotiation rather than the ceiling. Therefore, if you really love a home, know that it may ultimately sell for more than the sellers are asking. So, as you’re navigating the homebuying process, make sure you know your budget, know what you can afford, and work with a trusted advisor who can help you make all the right moves as you buy a home.

Bottom Line

Someone who’s more familiar with the housing market of the past than that of today may think offering more for a home than the listing price is foolish. However, frequent and competitive bidding wars are creating an auction-like atmosphere in many real estate transactions. Let’s connect so you have the best advice on how to make a competitive offer on a home in our local market.

What Credit Score Do You Need for a Mortgage?

What Credit Score Do You Need for a Mortgage? | Simplifying The Market

According to data from the most recent Origination Insight Report by Ellie Mae, the average FICO® score on closed loans reached 753 in February. As lending standards have tightened recently, many are concerned over whether or not their credit score is strong enough to qualify for a mortgage. While stricter lending standards could be a challenge for some, many buyers may be surprised by the options that are still available for borrowers with lower credit scores.

The fact that the average American has seen their credit score go up in recent years is a great sign of financial health. As someone’s score rises, they’re building toward a stronger financial future. As more Americans with strong credit enter the housing market, we see a natural increase in the FICO® score distribution of closed loans, as shown in the graph below:What Credit Score Do You Need for a Mortgage? | Simplifying The MarketIf your credit score is below 750, it’s easy to see this data and fear that you may not be able to qualify for a mortgage. However, that’s not always the case. While the majority of borrowers right now do have a score above 750, there’s more to qualifying for a mortgage than just the credit score, and there are still options that allow people with lower credit scores to buy their dream home. Here’s what Experian, a global leader in consumer and business credit reporting, says:

  • Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans: “With a 3.5% down payment, homebuyers may be able to get an FHA loan with a 580 credit score or higher. If you can manage a 10% down payment, though, that minimum goes as low as 500.”
  • Conventional loans: “The most popular loan type typically comes with a 620 minimum credit score.”
  • S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loans: “In general, lenders require a minimum credit score of 640 for a USDA loan, though some may go as low as 580.”
  • S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) loans: VA loans don’t technically have a minimum credit score, but lenders will typically require between 580 and 620.”

There’s no doubt a higher credit score will give you more options and better terms when applying for a mortgage, especially when lending is tight like it is right now. When planning to buy a home, speaking to an expert about steps you can take to improve your credit score is essential so you’re in the best position possible. However, don’t rule yourself out if your score is less than perfect – today’s market is still full of opportunity.

Bottom Line

Don’t let assumptions about whether your credit score is strong enough put a premature end to your homeownership goals. Let’s connect today to discuss the options that are best for you.

How Upset Should You Be about 3% Mortgage Rates?

How Upset Should You Be about 3% Mortgage Rates? | Simplifying The Market

Last Thursday, Freddie Mac announced that their 30-year fixed mortgage rate was over 3% (3.02%) for the first time since last July. That news dominated real estate headlines that day and the next. Articles talked about the “negative impact” it may have on the housing market. However, we should realize two things:

1. The bump-up in rate should not have surprised anyone. Many had already projected that rates would rise slightly as we proceeded through the year.

2. Freddie Mac’s comments about the rate increase were not alarming:

“The rise in mortgage rates over the next couple of months is likely to be more muted in comparison to the last few weeks, and we expect a strong spring sales season.”

A “muted” rise in rates will not sink the real estate market, and most experts agree that it will be a strong spring sales season.”

What does this mean for you?

Obviously, any buyer would rather mortgage rates not rise at all, as any upward movement increases their monthly mortgage payment. However, let’s put a 3.02% rate into perspective. Here are the Freddie Mac annual mortgage rates for the last five years:

  • 2016: 3.65%
  • 2017: 3.99%
  • 2018: 4.54%
  • 2019: 3.94%
  • 2020: 3.11%

Though 3.02% is not as great as the sub-3% rates we saw over the previous seven weeks, it’s still very close to the all-time low (2.66% in December 2020).

And, if we expand our look at mortgage rates to consider the last 50 years, we can see that today’s rate is truly outstanding. Here are the rates over the last five decades:

  • 1970s: 8.86%
  • 1980s: 12.7%
  • 1990s: 8.12%
  • 2000s: 6.29%
  • 2010s: 4.09%

Being upset that you missed the “best mortgage rate ever” is understandable. However, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Buying now still makes more sense than waiting, especially if rates continue to bump up this year.

Bottom Line

It’s true that you may not get the same rate you would have five weeks ago. However, you will get a better rate than what was possible at almost any other point in history. Let’s connect today so you can lock in a great rate while they stay this low.

How Smart Is It to Buy a Home Today?

How Smart Is It to Buy a Home Today? | Simplifying The Market

Whether you’re buying your first home or selling your current house, if your needs are changing and you think you need to move, the decision can be complicated. You may have to take personal or professional considerations into account, and only you can judge what impact those factors should have on your desire to move.

However, there’s one category that provides a simple answer. When deciding to buy now or wait until next year, the financial aspect of the purchase is easy to evaluate. You just need to ask yourself two questions:

  1. Do I think home values will be higher a year from now?
  2. Do I think mortgage rates will be higher a year from now?

From a purely financial standpoint, if the answer is ‘yes’ to either question, you should strongly consider buying now. If the answer to both questions is ‘yes,’ you should definitely buy now.

Nobody can guarantee what home values or mortgage rates will be by the end of this year. The experts, however, seem certain the answer to both questions above is a resounding ‘yes.’ Mortgage rates are expected to rise and home values are expected to appreciate rather nicely.

What does this mean to you?

Let’s look at how waiting would impact your financial situation. Here are the assumptions made for this example:

  • The experts are right – mortgage rates will be 3.18% at the end of the year
  • The experts are right – home values will appreciate by 5.9%
  • You want to buy a home valued at $350,000 today
  • You decide on a 10% down payment

How Smart Is It to Buy a Home Today? | Simplifying The MarketHere’s the financial impact of waiting:

  • You pay an extra $20,650 for the house
  • You need an additional $2,065 for a down payment
  • You pay an extra $116/month in your mortgage payment ($1,392 additional per year)
  • You don’t gain the $20,650 increase in wealth through equity build-up

Bottom Line

There are many things to consider when buying a home. However, from a purely financial aspect, if you find a home that meets your needs, buying now makes much more sense than buying next year.