Things that Could Help You Win a Bidding War on a Home

Reprinted from Keeping Current Matters

With a limited number of homes for sale today and so many buyers looking to make a purchase before mortgage rates rise further, bidding wars are common. According to the latest report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), nationwide, homes are getting an average of 4.8 offers per sale. Here’s a look at how that breaks down state-by-state (see map below):

Things That Could Help You Win a Bidding War on a Home | Keeping Current Matters

The same report from NAR shows the average buyer made two offers before getting their third offer accepted. In this type of competitive housing market, it’s important to know what levers you can pull to help you beat the competition. While a real estate professional is your ultimate guide to presenting a strong offer, here are a few things you could consider.

Offering over Asking Price

When you think of sweetening the deal for sellers, the first thought you likely have is around the price of the home. In today’s housing market, it’s true more homes are selling for over asking price because there are more buyers than there are homes for sale. You just want to make sure your offer is still within your budget and realistic for the market value in your area – that’s where a local real estate professional can help you through the process. Bankrate says:

Simply put, being willing to pay more money than other buyers is one of the best ways to get your offer accepted. You may not have to increase it by a lot — it’ll depend on the area and other factors — so look to your real estate agent for guidance.”

Putting Down a Bigger Earnest Money Deposit

You could also consider putting down a larger deposit up front. An earnest money deposit is a check you write to go along with your offer. If your offer is accepted, this deposit is credited toward your home purchase. NerdWallet explains how it works:

A typical earnest money deposit is 1% to 2% of the home’s purchase price, but the amount varies by location. A higher earnest money deposit may catch a seller’s attention in a hot housing market.”

That’s because it shows the seller you’re seriously interested in their house and have already set aside money that you’re ready to put toward the purchase. Talk to a professional to see if this is something you can do in your area.

Making a Higher Down Payment

Another option is increasing how much of a down payment you’re going to make. The benefit of a higher down payment is you won’t have to finance as much. This helps the seller feel like there’s less risk of the deal or the financing falling through. And if other buyers put less down, it could be what helps your offer stand out from the crowd.

Non-Financial Options To Make a Strong Offer

Realtor.com points out that while increasing these financial portions of the deal can help, they’re not your only options:

. . . Price is not the only factor sellers weigh when they look at offers. The buyer’s terms and contingencies are also taken into account, as well as pre-approval letters, appraisal requirements, and the closing time the buyer is asking for.”

When it’s time to make an offer, partner with a trusted professional. They have insight into what sellers are looking for in your local market and can give you expert advice on what levers you may or may not want to pull when it’s time to write an offer.

From a non-financial perspective, this can include things like flexible move-in dates or minimal contingencies (conditions you set that the seller must meet for the purchase to be finalized). For example, you could make an offer that’s not contingent on the sale of your current home. Just remember, there are certain contingencies you don’t want to forego, like your home inspection. Ultimately, the options you have can vary state-to-state, so it’s best to lean on an expert real estate professional for guidance.

Bottom Line

In today’s hot housing market, you need a partner who can serve as your guide, especially when it’s time to write an offer. A real estate professional is your best resource and coach for making the strongest offer possible for your specific situation.

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Today’s Home Price Appreciation is Great News for Existing Homeowners

Reprinted from Keeping Current Matters

If you’re planning to sell your home this season, rising prices are great news for you. But it’s important to understand why prices are rising to begin with. One major factor is supply and demand.

In any industry, when there are more buyers for an item than there are of that item available, prices naturally rise. In those situations, buyers are willing to pay more to get the product or service they’re looking for when options are scarce. And that’s exactly what’s happening in the current real estate market.

Selma Hepp, Executive, Research & Insights and Deputy Chief Economist at CoreLogic, puts it like this:

With so few homes, buyers are once again left with fierce competition that’s driving the share of homes that sold over the listing price up to 66% . . . With the continued imbalance between supply and demand, home prices are likely to have another year of strong gains and are expected to average about 10% growth for the year.”

Because it will take some time for housing supply to increase, experts believe prices will continue rising. The latest Home Price Expectations Survey forecasts what will happen with home prices over the next 5 years. As the graph below shows, while the rate of appreciation will moderate over the next few years, prices will continue rising through 2026:

Today’s Home Price Appreciation Is Great News for Existing Homeowners | Keeping Current Matters

What This Means When You Sell Your House

If you’re a homeowner, the projection for continued price appreciation this year opens up an opportunity to move. That’s because it may give your equity a major boost. Equity is the difference between what you owe on your house and its market value. The amount of equity you have increases as you make your monthly payments and as rising home prices drive up the market value for your home.

Growing equity is a powerful tool for homeowners. When you sell your house, the equity you’ve built comes back to you in the sale. That money could be enough to cover some (if not all) of your down payment on your next home.

Of course, if you want to know how much equity you have in your current house, it’s crucial to work with a real estate professional. They follow current market trends and can help you understand your home’s value when you’re ready to sell.

What This Means for Your Next Purchase

But today’s rising home values aren’t just good news if you’re ready to sell. Because price appreciation is forecast to continue in the years ahead, you can rest assured your next home will be an investment that should grow in value with time. That’s one of several reasons why real estate has been rated the best investment in a recent Gallup poll.

Bottom Line

If you’re weighing whether or not you should sell your house this season, know rising home values may be opening up an opportunity to use equity to fuel your move. Connect with a local real estate advisor to find out how much your home is worth and to learn more about all the benefits you have in today’s market.

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What You Need to Know About Selling in a Sellers’ Market

Reprinted from Keeping Current Matters

Even if you haven’t been following real estate news, you’ve likely heard about the current sellers’ market. That’s because there’s a lot of talk about how strong market conditions are for people who want to sell their houses. But if you’re thinking about listing your house, you probably want to know: what does being in a sellers’ market really mean?

What Is a Sellers’ Market?

The latest Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows housing supply is still very low. There’s a 2-month supply of homes at the current sales pace.

Historically, a 6-month supply is necessary for a normal or neutral market where there are enough homes available for active buyers. That puts today deep in sellers’ market territory (see graph below):

What You Need To Know About Selling in a Sellers' Market | Keeping Current Matters

What Does This Mean for You When You Sell?

When the supply of houses for sale is as low as it is right now, it’s much harder for buyers to find homes to purchase. That creates increased competition among purchasers which can lead to more bidding wars. And if buyers know they may be entering a bidding war, they’re going to do their best to submit a very attractive offer upfront. This could drive the final price of your house up.

And because mortgage rates and home prices are climbing, serious buyers are motivated to make their purchase soon, before those two things rise further. That means, if you put your house on the market while supply is still low, it will likely get a lot of attention from competitive buyers.

Bottom Line

The current real estate market has incredible opportunities for homeowners looking to make a move. Listing your house this season means you’ll be in front of serious buyers who are ready to buy. Connect with a local real estate professional so you can jumpstart the selling process.

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The Dream of Homeownership is Worth the Effort

Reprinted from Keeping Current Matters

If you’re in the market to buy a home this season, stick with it. Homebuyers face challenges in any market, and today’s is no exception. But if you persevere, your decision to purchase a home will be worth the effort in the end. In fact, a recent survey from Bankrate shows homeownership is so powerful that:

Nearly three in four homeowners say they would still buy their current home if they had it to do [sic] all over again.”

That means the results – owning a home and the benefits that come with it – outweigh the effort needed to achieve their goal. If you’re a homebuyer, let that provide you with the confidence to know the work you’re putting in today will pay off for years to come. Here are a few reasons to stick with your search and focus on the outcome.

Homeownership Contributes Significantly to Your Financial Well-Being

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) lists several motivations to consider if you’re thinking about buying a home. One of the top financial reasons is the equity you build. As NAR says:

“Money paid for rent is money that you’ll never see again, but mortgage payments let you build equity . . . Building equity in your home is a ready-made savings plan.”

Your equity is a powerful tool you can leverage in a number of ways. And with recent home price appreciation, homeowners are seeing record levels of equity today. That may be one reason why so many people view owning a home as a great investment and a top indicator of financial well-being. As the survey from Bankrate mentioned above shows:

“. . . Americans place a higher value on homeownership than on any other indicator of economic stability, . . .”

Owning a home ranks above other major accomplishments like retirement, having a successful career, and getting a college degree. That indicates just how impactful the financial benefits of homeownership truly are.

The Emotional Benefits of Owning a Home Are Powerful

Of course, homeownership is more than an investment. In their list of top reasons to buy a home, NAR also highlights some of the powerful, non-financial aspects of homeownership. Among them is the opportunity to customize your home to reflect your personality and needs. As they say:

“The home is yours. You can decorate any way you want and choose the types of upgrades and new amenities that appeal to your lifestyle.”

Another benefit homeowners enjoy is the stability it provides. Homeowners typically stay put longer than renters. According to NAR, when you remain in one place longer than a few years, you can grow closer to your community. And that can enhance your sense of pride and lead to better relationships.

What Does That Mean for You?

The benefits of homeownership are powerful, as Leslie Rouda Smith, President of NAR, says:

“From building personal wealth and fostering communities, to strengthening social stability and driving the national economy, the value of homeownership is indisputable.”

Even if you face challenges in today’s market, the payoff when you succeed and purchase a home will be worth it.

Bottom Line

If you’re planning to buy a home this year, there are incredible benefits waiting for you at the end of your journey. Speak with a trusted real estate advisor today about everything homeownership has to offer.

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What You Need to Budget for When Buying a Home

Reprinted from Keeping Current Matters

When it comes to buying a home, it can feel a bit intimidating to know how much you need to save and where to find that information. But you should know, you’re not expected to have all the answers yourself. There are many trusted professionals who can help you understand your finances and what you’ll need to budget for throughout the process.

To get you started, here are a few things experts say you should plan for along the way.

1. Down Payment

As you set your savings goal for your purchase, your down payment is likely already top of mind. And, like many other people, you may believe you need to set aside 20% of the home’s purchase price for that down payment – but that’s not always the case. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) says:

One of the biggest misconceptions among housing consumers is what the typical down payment is and what amount is needed to enter homeownership. Having this knowledge is critical to know what to save . . .”

The good news is, you may be able to put as little as 3.5% (or even 0%) down in some situations. To understand your options, partner with a trusted professional who can go over the various loan types, down payment assistance programs, and what each one requires.

2. Earnest Money Deposit

Another item you may want to plan for is an earnest money deposit. While it isn’t required, it’s common in today’s highly competitive market because it can help your offer stand out in a bidding war.

So, what is it? It’s money you pay as a show of good faith when you make an offer on a house. This deposit works like a credit. You’re using some of the money you already saved for your purchase to show the seller you’re committed and serious about their house. It’s not an added expense, it’s just paying some of that up front. First American explains what it is and how it works:

The deposit made from the buyer to the seller when submitting an offer. This deposit is typically held in trust by a third party and is intended to show the seller you are serious about purchasing their home. Upon closing the money will generally be applied to your down payment or closing costs.”

In other words, an earnest money deposit could be the very first check you’ll write toward your purchase. The amount varies by state and situation. Realtor.com elaborates:

The amount you’ll deposit as earnest money will depend on factors such as policies and limitations in your state, the current market, what your real estate agent recommends, and what the seller requires. On average, however, you can expect to hand over 1% to 2% of the total home purchase price.”

Work with a real estate advisor to understand any requirements in your local area and what they’ve recommended for other buyers in your market. They’ll help you determine if it’s something that could be a useful option for you.

3. Closing Costs

The next thing to plan for is your closing costs. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defines closing costs as:

The upfront fees charged in connection with a mortgage loan transaction. …generally including, but not limited to a loan origination fee, title examination and insurance, survey, attorney’s fee, and prepaid items, such as escrow deposits for taxes and insurance.”

Basically, your closing costs cover the fees for various people and services involved in your transaction. NAR has this to say about how much to budget for:

“A home costs more than just the sale price. For example, closing costs—which make up about 2% to 5% of the home’s purchase price—are a major added expense…Lenders provide a Closing Disclosure at least three business days prior to closing on a mortgage. But buyers will need to budget for these added costs ahead of time to avoid sticker shock days before closing.”

The key takeaway is savvy buyers plan ahead for these expenses so they can come into the process prepared. Freddie Mac sums it up like this:

“If you’re in the market to buy a home, your down payment is probably top of mind. And rightly so – it’s likely the biggest cost of homebuying. However, it is not the only cost and it’s critical you understand all your expenses before diving in. The more prepared you are for your down payment, closing and other costs, the smoother your homebuying journey will be.”

Bottom Line

Knowing what to budget for in the homebuying process is essential. To make sure you understand these and any other expenses that may come up, partner with a real estate advisor for expertise on what to expect when you buy a home.

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Did Your Dream Hone Just Come on the Market?

Reprinted from Keeping Current Matters

For the first time in a long time, the number of newly listed homes is beginning to rise. In their latest monthly release, realtor.com reveals the number of existing homes entering the market has increased for two months in a row (this comes after six months of declines). Here’s a graph showing the monthly new listings going back to January of last year. The green bars indicate the first gains since June.

Did Your Dream Home Just Come on the Market? | Keeping Current Matters

However, buying demand is still outpacing housing supply.

Though the increase in homes coming to the market is great news for prospective homebuyers, the number of buyers is still outpacing the number of homes available for sale. As realtor.com explains in their latest report:

“During the final two weeks of the month, more new sellers entered the market than during the same time last year. . . . However, with 5.8 million new homes missing from the market and millions of millennials at first-time buying ages, housing supply faces a long road to catching up with demand.

In fact, according to the latest ShowingTime Showing Index, which tracks the average number of appointments received on active listings during the month, buyer demand was greater this January than any other January in the last five years (see graph below):

Did Your Dream Home Just Come on the Market? | Keeping Current Matters

This prompted ShowingTime to say:

“The latest data from ShowingTime . . . shows a surge in home buyer demand in January. . . . This enormous activity occurred in a month when buyer activity typically slows and followed a historic 2021, where buyer demand across the country was extraordinarily strong.”

What does that mean for you?

Basically, as homes come to the market, they are quickly being purchased by eagerly awaiting buyers. So even though the number of newly listed homes is increasing, the number of active listings is still shrinking every month because buyers are purchasing homes almost as soon as they come up for sale. That means listings are coming on and off the market so fast that they don’t carry over to be counted in the active listing numbers the following month. Here’s a graph showing the number of active listings each month since last January using data released by realtor.com:

Did Your Dream Home Just Come on the Market? | Keeping Current Matters

This graph shows that the number of active listings has decreased for each of the last five months even though the number of newly listed homes has increased over the last two months.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re looking to upgrade to a home that will better suit your lifestyle or looking to purchase your first house, now is the time to team up with a local real estate professional. And be prepared to move immediately if a home fitting your needs hits the market. Your dream home may be one of those new listings that just became available, but if you don’t act quickly, it could be gone tomorrow.

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Are You Wondering if This is the Year to Buy a Home?

Reprinted from Keeping Current Matters

Every year, many renters ask themselves the same question: Should I continue renting, or is it time to buy a home? If you’re a renter, chances are you’ve asked yourself that question at least once, and it’s likely because you’ve faced an increase in your monthly housing costs over time. After all, according to Census data, rents have risen consistently for decades.

To make an informed and powerful decision, the first step is understanding what’s happening in today’s housing market so you can determine which option is the better long-term financial decision for you.

Rents Are Going Up Again This Year

Rents are skyrocketing right now. Data from realtor.com shows just how much rental prices are surging throughout the country. The graph below highlights rental unit price increases over the past year:

Are You Wondering if This Is the Year To Buy a Home? | Keeping Current Matters

If you’re a renter and plan on signing a new lease, your monthly costs are likely to go up when you do. Those rising costs can have a big impact on your financial goals, including any plans you’re making to save for a home purchase.

Homeownership Offers Stable Monthly Costs

Of course, one of the key benefits of owning your home is that you’re able to lock in and stabilize your payments for the duration of your loan. That’s not the case when you rent.

While rents are already on the rise, there’s a good chance many people will see their rental costs increase even more this year. As Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com, says:

With rents already at a high and expected to keep going up, rental affordability will increasingly challenge many Americans in 2022. For those thinking about making the transition from renting to buying their first home, rising rents will remain a motivating factor. . . .”

So, if you’re ready to become a homeowner, waiting any longer may not make financial sense. Instead, escape the cycle of rising rents and enjoy the many benefits that come with homeownership today.

Bottom Line

Starting your journey toward homeownership can pay off significantly this year. If you’re financially ready today, work with a local real estate professional to discuss your options.

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Don’t Get Caught Off Guard by Closing Costs

Reprinted from Keeping Current Matters

As a homebuyer, it’s important to plan and budget for the expenses you’ll encounter when you purchase a home. While most people understand the need to save for a down payment, a recent survey found 41% of homebuyers were surprised by their closing costs. Here’s some information to help you get started so you’re not caught off guard when it’s time to close on your home.

What Are Closing Costs?

One possible reason some people are surprised by closing costs may be because they don’t know what they are or what they cover. According to U.S. News and World Report:

“Closing costs encompass a variety of expenses above your property’s purchase price. They include things like lender fees, title insurance, government processing fees, upfront tax payments and homeowners insurance.”

In other words, your closing costs are a collection of fees and payments made to a variety of individuals and organizations who are involved with your transaction. According to Freddie Mac, while they can vary by location and situation, closing costs typically include:

  • Government recording costs
  • Appraisal fees
  • Credit report fees
  • Lender origination fees
  • Title services
  • Tax service fees
  • Survey fees
  • Attorney fees
  • Underwriting Fees

How Much Will You Need To Budget for Closing Costs?

Understanding what closing costs include is important, but knowing what you’ll need to budget to cover them is critical to achieving your homebuying goals. According to the Freddie Mac article mentioned above, the costs to close are typically between 2% and 5% of the total purchase price of your home. With that in mind, here’s how you can get an idea of what you’ll need to cover your closing costs.

Let’s say you find a home you want to purchase for the median price of $350,300. Based on the 2-5% Freddie Mac estimate, your closing fees could be between roughly $7,000 and $17,500.

Keep in mind, if you’re in the market for a home above or below this price range, your closing costs will be higher or lower.

What’s the Best Way To Make Sure You’re Prepared at Closing Time?

Freddie Mac provides great advice for homebuyers, saying:

As you start your homebuying journey, take the time to get a sense of all costs involved – from your down payment to closing costs.”

The best way to understand what you’ll need at the closing table is to work with a team of trusted real estate professionals. An agent can help connect you with a lender, and together they can provide you with answers to the questions you might have.

Bottom Line

In today’s real estate market, it’s more important than ever to make sure your budget includes any fees and payments due at closing. Work with a local real estate professional to be sure you have the knowledge you need to be confident going into the homebuying process.


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Key Factors That Impact Affordability Today

Reprinted from Keeping Current Matters

You can’t read an article about residential real estate without the author mentioning the affordability challenges that today’s buyers face. There’s no doubt homes are less affordable today than they were over the last two years, but that doesn’t mean homes are now unaffordable.

There are three measures used to establish home affordability: home prices, mortgage rates, and wages. Let’s look closely at each of these components.

1. Home Prices

The most recent Home Price Insights report by CoreLogic shows home values have increased by 19.1% from last January to this January. That was one reason affordability declined over the past year.

2. Mortgage Rates

While the current global uncertainty makes it difficult to project mortgage rates, we do know current rates are almost one full percentage point higher than they were last year. According to Freddie Mac, the average monthly rate for last February was 2.81%. This February it was 3.76%. That increase in the mortgage rate also contributes to homes being less affordable than they were last year.

3. Wages

The one big, positive component in the affordability equation is an increase in American wages. In a recent article by RealtyTrac, Peter Miller addresses that point:

“Prices are up, but what about wages? ADP reports that job holder incomes increased 5.9% last year but rose 8.0% for those who switched employers. In effect, some of the higher cost to buy a home has been offset by more cash income.”

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) also recently released information that looks at income and affordability. The NAR data provides a comparison of the current median family income versus the qualifying income for a median-priced home in each region of the country. Here’s a graph of their findings:

Key Factors That Impact Affordability Today | Keeping Current Matters

As the graph shows, the median family income (shown in blue on the graph) is greater than the qualifying income needed to buy a median-priced home (shown in green on the graph) in all four regions of the country. While those figures may vary in certain locations within each region, it’s important to note that, in most of the country, homes are still affordable.

So, when you think about affordability, remember that the picture includes more than just home prices and mortgage rates. When prices rise and rates rise, it does impact affordability, and experts project both of those things will climb in the months ahead. That’s why it’s less affordable to buy a home than it was over the past two years when prices and rates were lower than they are today. But wages need to be factored into affordability as well. Because wages have been rising, they’re a big reason that, while less affordable, homes are not unaffordable today.

Bottom Line

To find out more about affordability in your local area, reach out to a trusted real estate professional. They can help you understand where home prices are locally, what’s happening with mortgage rates, and can connect you with a lender so you’re able to make an informed financial decision. Remember, while less affordable, homes are not unaffordable, which still gives you an opportunity to buy today.

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Why It’s Critical to Price Your House Right

Reprinted from Keeping Current Matters

When you make a move, you want to sell your house for the highest price possible. That might be why many homeowners are eager to list in today’s sellers’ market. After all, with record-low inventory and high buyer demand, many homes are selling for more than asking price. Data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows 46% of homes are selling above list price today.

But even in a market like we have now, working with an agent to set the right asking price is critical, as pricing it too high or too low could have a negative impact on your final sale. Here’s why.

Pricing Your House Right Is Crucial Even in a Sellers’ Market

The price you set for your house sends a message to potential buyers. Price it too low and you might raise questions about your home’s condition or lead buyers to assume something is wrong with the property. Not to mention, you could leave money on the table, which decreases your future buying power if you undervalue your house.

On the other hand, price it too high and you run the risk of deterring buyers. When that happens, you may have to do a price drop to try to re-ignite interest in your house when it sits on the market for a while. But be aware that a price drop can be seen as a red flag for some buyers who will wonder why the price was reduced and what that means about the home.

In other words, think of pricing your home as a target. Your goal is to aim directly for the center – not too high, not too low, but right at market value. Pricing your house fairly based on market conditions increases the chance you’ll have more buyers who are interested in purchasing it. That makes it more likely you’ll see a bidding war, too. And when a bidding war happens, you’ll likely get an even higher final sale price. Plus, when homes are priced right, they tend to sell quickly.

To get a look into the potential downsides of over or underpricing your house and the perks that come with pricing it at market value, see the chart below:

Why It’s Critical To Price Your House Right | Keeping Current Matters

Lean on a Professional’s Expertise To Price Your House Right

There are several factors that go into pricing your house and balancing them is the key. That’s why it’s important to lean on an expert real estate advisor when you’re ready to move. A local real estate advisor is knowledgeable about:

  • The value of homes in your neighborhood
  • The current demand for houses in today’s market
  • The condition of your house and how it affects the value

A real estate professional will balance these factors to make sure the price of your house makes the best first impression and gives you the greatest return on your investment in the end.

Bottom Line

Even in a sellers’ market, pricing your house right is critical. Don’t rely on guesswork. Work with a trusted real estate advisor to make sure your house is perfectly priced.

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