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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Are You Ready to Fall in Love with Homeownership?

Reprinted from Keeping Current Matters

Are You Ready To Fall in Love with Homeownership?

Financial benefits are always a key aspect of homeownership, but it’s also important to understand that the nonfinancial and personal benefits are why so many people genuinely fall in love with their homes. When you own your home, you likely feel a sense of emotional attachment because of the comfort it provides, but also because it’s a space that’s truly yours.

Over the past two years, we’ve learned to love our homes even more as we’ve stayed home more than ever due to the ongoing pandemic. As a result, the personal and emotional benefits our homes provide have become even more important to us.

As the most recent State of the American Homeowner from Unison puts it:

“Despite the upheaval and uncertainty of the past year, one thing has stayed the same: the home continues to be of the utmost importance and a place of security and comfort.

When the health crisis began, the world around us changed almost overnight, and our homes were redefined. Our needs shifted, and our shelters became a place that protected us on a whole new level. The same study from Unison notes:

  • 91% of homeowners say they feel secure, stable, or successful owning a home
  • 64% of American homeowners say living through a pandemic has made their home more important to them than ever
  • 83% of homeowners say their home has kept them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic

It’s no surprise this study also reveals that homeowners now love their homes even more as our emotional attachments to them have grown:

Are You Ready To Fall in Love with Homeownership? | Keeping Current Matters

That sense of emotional connection genuinely reaches far beyond the financial aspect of homeownership. Because they’re our shelters – ones that we can genuinely call our own. Our homes touch our hearts and can also positively impact our mental health.

As JD Esajian, President of CT Homes, LLC, says:

“Aside from the financial factors, there are several social benefits of homeownership and stable housing to consider. It has long been thought that buying a home contributes to a sense of accomplishment. Still, most individuals fail to realize that homeownership can benefit your mental health and the community around you.

Whether you’re thinking of buying your first home, moving up to your dream home, or downsizing to something that better fits your changing lifestyle, take a moment to reflect on what Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, notes:

“Buying a home is not just a financial decision. It’s also a lifestyle decision.

Bottom Line

There are so many reasons to fall head over heels for homeownership. Your home will provide a place to customize and call your own, in addition to stability and security. If you’re ready to fall in love with homeownership, contact a real estate professional today to get started on your homebuying journey today

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Want Top Dollar for Your House? Now’s the Time to List It

Want Top Dollar for Your House? Now’s the Time To List It.

When you’re selling any item, you usually want to sell it for the greatest profit possible. That happens when there’s a strong demand and a limited supply for that item. In the real estate market, that time is right now. If you’re thinking of selling your house this year, here are two reasons why now’s the time to list.

1. Demand Is Very Strong This Winter

A recent article in Inman News explains:

“Spring, the hottest time of year for homebuyers and sellers, has started early, according to economists. . . . ‘Home shopping season appears to already be in full swing!’”

And they aren’t the only ones saying buyers are already out in full force. That claim is backed up with data released last week by ShowingTime. The ShowingTime Showing Index tracks the average number of monthly buyer showings on active residential properties, which is a highly reliable leading indicator of current and future trends for buyer demand. The latest index reveals this December was the most active December in five years (see graph below):

Want Top Dollar for Your House? Now’s the Time To List It. | Keeping Current Matters

As the data indicates, buyers are very active this winter. Last December saw even more showings than December of 2020, which was already a stronger-than-usual winter. And remember – you want to sell something when there’s a strong demand for that item. That time is now.

2. Housing Supply Is Extremely Low

Each month, realtor.com releases data on the number of active residential real estate listings (listings currently for sale). Their most recent report reveals the latest monthly number is the lowest we’ve seen in any January since 2017 (see graph below):

Want Top Dollar for Your House? Now’s the Time To List It. | Keeping Current Matters

And don’t forget, the best time to sell an item is when there’s a limited supply of it available. This graph clearly shows how extremely low housing supply is today.

Even Though Supply Is at a Historic Low, Home Sales Are at a 15-Year High

According to the latest Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), existing-home sales totaled 6.12 million in 2021 – the highest annual level since 2006. This means the market is hot and homeowners are in a great place to sell now while sales are so strong.

NAR also reports available listings by calculating the current months’ supply of inventory. They explain:

“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.”

The current 1.8-months’ supply is the lowest ever reported. Here are the December numbers over the last five years (see graph below):

Want Top Dollar for Your House? Now’s the Time To List It. | Keeping Current Matters

The ratio of buyers to sellers favors homeowners right now to a greater degree than at any other time in history. Buyer demand is high, and supply is low. That gives sellers like you an incredible opportunity.

Bottom Line

If you agree the best time to sell anything is when demand is high and supply is low, contact a local real estate professional to discuss listing your house today.

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Millions of Americans Have Discovered the Benefits of Multigenerational Households

Reprinted from Keeping Current Matters

Millions of Americans Have Discovered the Benefits of Multigenerational Households

If your needs are changing, you may be thinking about sharing a home with additional loved ones, such as grandparents, adult children, or other extended family members. Whether it’s for financial or health-related circumstances, or simply because you’ve reached a new phase of life, you might be wondering if living with multiple generations under the same roof is a good move for you. Many people have found themselves in a similar situation and they’ve already made the choice to live in a multigenerational home.

What Is a Multigenerational Home?

The Pew Research Center defines a multigenerational household as a home with two or more adult generations. They include households with grandparents and grandchildren under the age of 25. As you weigh your options and decide if multigenerational living is right for you, here’s some helpful information highlighted by other homeowners living with additional loved ones.

The Benefits of Multigenerational Living

A recent report from Generations United surveyed individuals living in a multigenerational setting and asked them about the key benefits of this housing arrangement. It says:

Nearly all Americans who live in a multigenerational household (98%) feel their household functions successfully, citing various aspects of home design, family relationships and interactions, and supports and services influencing their success.”

The study identifies some of the top benefits of this lifestyle as an improved financial situation, better mental and physical health, strengthened bonds with loved ones, and more (see chart below):

Millions of Americans Have Discovered the Benefits of Multigenerational Households | Keeping Current Matters

Those are just some of the reasons why most people who decide to live in this situation find it worthwhile. As Donna Butts, Executive Director at Generations United, says:

Families may come together from need, but they are staying together by choice. Indeed, more than 7 in 10 (72 percent) of those currently living in a multigenerational household plan to continue doing so long-term.”

With More Adults Living Under One Roof, You May Need More Space

If you decide to look for a multigenerational home, it’s important to understand what everyone will need to make the arrangement work to its fullest. Something that often makes the top of the list for homeowners living with multiple generations is additional space for privacy. This could mean more bedrooms and bathrooms or features like an in-law suite or a basement.

If you’re realizing your current house doesn’t provide the room you need for multigenerational living, an expert real estate advisor can help you navigate the process to find the right home that works for you and your loved ones.

Bottom Line

Living in a multigenerational household has real and impactful benefits. If you’re interested in learning more about these options in your local area, connect with a real estate professional today to find a home that fits your changing needs.

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The Top Indicator if You Want to Know Where Mortgage Rates are Going

Reprinted from Keeping Current Matters

The Top Indicator if You Want To Know Where Mortgage Rates Are Heading

Mortgage rates have increased significantly since the beginning of the year. Each Thursday, Freddie Mac releases its Primary Mortgage Market Survey. According to the latest survey, the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has risen from 3.22% at the start of the year to 3.55% as of last week. This is important to note because any increase in mortgage rates changes what a purchaser can afford. To give you an idea of how rising mortgage rates impact your purchasing power, see the table below:

The Top Indicator if You Want To Know Where Mortgage Rates Are Heading | Keeping Current Matters

How Can You Know Where Mortgage Rates Are Headed?

While it’s always difficult to know exactly where mortgage rates will go, a great indicator of where they may head is by looking at the 50-year history of the 10-year treasury yield, and then following its path. Understanding the mechanics of the treasury yield isn’t as important as knowing that there’s a correlation between how it moves and how mortgage rates follow. Here’s a graph showing that relationship over the last 50 years:

The Top Indicator if You Want To Know Where Mortgage Rates Are Heading | Keeping Current Matters

This correlation has continued into the new year. The treasury yield has started to climb, and that’s driven rates up. As of last Thursday, the treasury yield was 1.81%. That’s 1.74% below the mortgage rate reported the same day (3.55%) and is very close to the average spread we see between the two numbers (average spread is 1.7).

Where Will the Treasury Yield Head in the Future?

With this information in mind, a 10-year treasury-yield forecast would be a good indicator of where mortgage rates may be headed. The Wall Street Journal just surveyed a panel of over 75 academic, business, and financial economists asking them to forecast the treasury yield over the next few years. The consensus was that experts project the treasury yield will climb to 2.84% by the end of 2024. Based on the 50-year history of following this yield, that would likely put mortgage rates at about 4.5% in three years.

While the correlation between the 30-year fixed mortgage rate and the 10-year treasury yield is clear in the data shown above for the past 50 years, it shouldn’t be used as an exact indicator. They’re both hard to forecast, especially in this unprecedented economic time driven by a global pandemic. Yet understanding the relationship can help you get an idea of where rates may be going. It appears, based on the information we have now, that mortgage rates will continue to rise over the next few years. If that’s the case, your best bet may be to purchase a home sooner rather than later, if you’re able.

Bottom Line

Forecasting mortgage rates is very difficult. As Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, once said:

“You know, the fallacy of economic forecasting is don’t ever try and forecast interest rates and or, more specifically, if you’re a real estate economist mortgage rates, because you will always invariably be wrong.”

However, if you’re either a first-time homebuyer or a current homeowner thinking of moving into a home that better fits your changing needs, understanding what’s happening with the 10-year treasury yield and mortgage rates can help you make an informed decision on the timing of your purchase.

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