What You Can do Right now to Prepare for Homeownership

Reprinted from Keeping Current Matters

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 – Now

Experts 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 Credit

Another 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 Today

Finally, 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 Line

If 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, meeting with a trusted real estate advisor to understand the process will set you up for success on your journey to homeownership.

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What Buyers and Sellers Need to Know About the Appraisal Gap

Reprinted from Keeping Current Matters

What Buyers and Sellers Need To Know About the Appraisal Gap

It’s economy 101 – when supply is low and demand is high, prices naturally rise. That’s what’s happening in today’s housing market. Home prices are appreciating at near-historic rates, and that’s creating some challenges when it comes to home appraisals.

In recent months, it’s become increasingly common for an appraisal to come in below the contract price on the house. Shawn Telford, Chief Appraiser for CoreLogic, explains it like this:

Recently, we observed buyers paying prices above listing price and higher than the market data available to appraisers can support. This difference is known as ‘the appraisal gap . . . .’”

Why does an appraisal gap happen?

Basically, with the heightened buyer demand, purchasers are often willing to pay over asking to secure the home of their dreams. If you’ve ever toured a house you’ve fallen in love with, you understand. Once you start to picture yourself and your furniture in the rooms, you want to do everything you can to land the property, including putting in a high offer to try to beat out other would-be buyers.

When the appraiser comes in, they look at things a bit more objectively. Their job is to assess the inherent value of the home, so they’re going to study the facts. Dustin Harris, Appraiser Coach, drives this point home:

It’s important for everyone to understand that the appraiser’s job in the end is to remain that unbiased third party, to truly tell the client what that home is worth in the current market, regardless of what decisions have been made on the price side of things.”

In simple terms, while homebuyers may be willing to pay more, appraisers are there to assess the market value of the home. Their goal is to make sure the lender isn’t loaning more money than the home is worth. It’s objective, rather than emotional.

What Buyers and Sellers Need To Know About the Appraisal Gap | Keeping Current Matters

In a highly competitive market like today’s, having a discrepancy between the two numbers isn’t unusual. Here’s a look at the increasing rate of appraisal gaps, according to data from  CoreLogic (see graph below):

What does this mean for you?

Ultimately, knowledge is power. The best thing you can do is understand an appraisal gap may impact your transaction if you’re buying or selling. If you do encounter an appraisal below your contract price, know that in today’s sellers’ market, the most common approach is for the seller to ask the buyer to make up the difference in price. Buyers, be prepared to bring extra money to the table if you really want the home.

Above all else, lean on your real estate agent. Whether you’re a buyer or seller, your trusted advisor is your ally if you come up against an appraisal gap. We’ll help you understand your options and handle any additional negotiations that need to happen.

Bottom Line

In today’s real estate market, it’s important to stay informed on the latest trends. Work with a real estate professional to help you navigate an appraisal gap to get the best possible outcome.

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If Housing Affordability is About the Money, Don’t Forget This

Reprinted from Keeping Current Matters

If Housing Affordability Is About the Money, Don’t Forget This.

There are many non-financial benefits of buying your own home. However, today’s headlines seem to be focusing primarily on the financial aspects of homeownership – specifically affordability. Many articles are making the claim that it’s not affordable to buy a home in today’s market, but that isn’t the case.

Today’s buyers are spending approximately 20% of their income on their monthly mortgage payments. According to The Essential Guide to Creating a Homebuying Budget from Freddie Mac, the 20% of income that purchasers are currently paying is well within the 28% guideline suggested:

“Most lenders agree that you should spend no more than 28% of your gross monthly income on a mortgage payment (including principal, interest, taxes and insurance).”

So why is there so much talk about challenges regarding affordability?

It’s Not That Homes Are Unaffordable – It’s That They’re Less Affordable.

Since home prices are rising, it’s true that homes are less affordable than they have been since the housing crash fifteen years ago. Headlines making these claims aren’t incorrect; they just don’t tell the whole story. To paint the full picture, you have to look at how today stacks up with historical data. A closer analysis of affordability going further back in time reveals that homes today are more affordable than any time from 1975 to 2005.

Despite that, the chatter about affordability is pushing some buyers to the sidelines. They don’t feel comfortable knowing someone else got a better deal a year ago.

However, Are Homes Really Less Affordable if We Consider Equity?

In a recent post, Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist at First American, offers a different take on the financial components of housing affordability. Kushi proposes we should at least consider the impact equity build-up has on the affordability equation, stating:

“For those trying to buy a home, rapid house price appreciation can be intimidating and makes the purchase more expensive. However, once the home is purchased, appreciation helps build equity in the home, and becomes a benefit rather than a cost. When accounting for the appreciation benefit in our rent versus own analysis, it was cheaper to own in every one of the top 50 markets.”

Let’s look at an example. In the above-mentioned post, Kushi examines the rent versus buy situation in Dallas, Texas. Kushi chose Dallas because home prices there sit near the median of the top 50 markets in the nation.

If Housing Affordability Is About the Money, Don’t Forget This. | Keeping Current Matters
If Housing Affordability Is About the Money, Don’t Forget This. | Keeping Current Matters

Kushi first calculates the monthly mortgage payment on a median-priced home with a 5% down payment and a mortgage rate of 3% (see chart below):Kushi then takes the monthly cost and subtracts the appreciation the home had over the previous twelve months. The average house price in Dallas increased 17.5% in the second quarter of 2021 compared to last year (this is in line with the national pace). That equates to an equity benefit of approximately $3,550 each month if the pace remains the same (see chart below):We can see the equity gained each month was greater than the monthly mortgage payment, resulting in a negative cost to own. The buyer could build their net worth by $1,830 each month – after paying their mortgage.

If Housing Affordability Is About the Money, Don’t Forget This. | Keeping Current Matters

Kushi then compares the monthly cost of owning to the cost of renting (see chart below):When adding equity build-up into the equation, the cost of renting is $3,140 more expensive than owning. Again, the First American analysis shows that it’s less expensive to own in each of the top 50 markets in the country when including the equity component.

Bottom Line

If you’re on the fence about whether to buy or rent right now, contact your local real estate professional to determine if the equity increase in your local market should impact your decision.

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Why 2021 is Still the Year to See Your House

Reprinted from Keeping Current Matters

Why 2021 Is Still the Year To Sell Your House
Why 2021 Is Still the Year To Sell Your House | Keeping Current Matters

If you’re trying to decide whether or not to sell your house, this is the time to think seriously about making a move. Fannie Mae’s recent Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI) reveals the number of respondents who say it’s a good time to sell is higher now than it was over the past few summers (see graph below). Today, the majority of consumers, 75 percent, say it’s a good time to sell a house.

Why is sellers sentiment up year-over-year?

The higher good time to sell sentiment has to do with today’s market conditions, specifically low housing supply and high buyer demand. In the simplest terms, we don’t have enough houses available for sale to meet buyer demand.

Why 2021 Is Still the Year To Sell Your House | Keeping Current Matters

According to the latest data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), we’re still firmly in a sellers’ market because housing supply is well below a balanced norm (shown in the graph below). Clearly, the scales are tipped in a seller’s favor today. But while housing supply is undeniably low, the right side of the graph shows how the inventory situation is improving little by little each month as more sellers list their homes for sale.

As a seller, that means each month, buyers have more options to pick from. By extension, that means your house may get less buyer attention with time. Danielle Hale, Chief Economist for realtor.com, explains it like this:

More homeowners continue to list homes for sale compared to a year ago… Notably, while new listings continue to lag behind a more ‘normal’ 2019 pace, the gap is shrinking. Even though homes continue to sell quickly thanks to high demand and limited supply, new listings are subtly shifting the balance of market conditions in favor of buyers.” 

So, what’s that mean for you?

If you’ve been waiting for the perfect time to sell, there may not be a better chance than right now. Inventory is gradually increasing each month, so selling sooner rather than later will help you maximize your home’s potential.

Bottom Line

If you’re planning to sell your house, 2021 is still the year to do it. The unique mix of low supply and high demand won’t last forever. Contact a local real estate professional today to find out what you need to do now to take advantage of this sellers’ market.

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What Does Being in a Seller’s Market Mean?

Reprinted from Keeping Current Matters

What Does Being in a Sellers’ Market Mean?

Whether or not you’ve been following the real estate industry lately, there’s a good chance you’ve heard we’re in a serious sellers’ market. But what does that really mean? And why are conditions today so good for people who want to list their house?

What Does Being in a Sellers’ Market Mean? | Keeping Current Matters

It starts with the number of houses available for sale. The latest Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows housing supply is still astonishingly low. Today, we have a 2.6-month supply of homes at the current sales pace. Historically, a 6-month supply is necessary for a ‘normal’ or ‘neutral’ market in which there are enough homes available for active buyers (see graph below):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 leads 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. As this happens, home prices rise, and sellers are in the best position to negotiate deals that meet their ideal terms.

Right now, there are many buyers who are ready, willing, and able to purchase a home. Low mortgage rates and the ongoing rise in remote work have prompted buyers to think differently about where they live – and they’re taking action. 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

Today’s ultimate sellers’ market holds great opportunities for homeowners ready to make a move. Listing your house now will maximize your exposure to serious buyers who will actively compete against each other to purchase it. Connect with a local real estate professional to jumpstart the selling process.


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A Look at Home Price Appreciation and What it Means for Sellers

Reprinted from Keeping Current Matters

A Look at Home Price Appreciation and What It Means for Sellers

When you hear the phrase home price appreciation, what does it mean to you? Through context clues alone, chances are you know it has to do with rising home prices. And as a seller, you know rising home prices are good news for your potential sale. But let’s look past the dollar signs and dive deeper into the concept. To truly understand home price appreciation, you need to know how it works and why it matters to you.

Investopedia defines appreciation like this:

Appreciation, in general terms, is an increase in the value of an asset over time. The increase can occur for a number of reasons, including increased demand or weakening supply, or as a result of changes in inflation or interest rates. This is the opposite of depreciation, which is a decrease in value over time.” 

A Look at Home Price Appreciation and What It Means for Sellers | Keeping Current Matters

When we consider this definition and how it applies to real estate, a few words stick out: supply and demand. In today’s real estate market, we’re experiencing high buyer demand and very few sellers listing their homes for sale (see maps below):No matter the industry, anytime there’s more demand than supply, prices naturally rise. It happens because buyers are willing to pay more to secure the scarce product or service they’re looking for. That’s exactly what’s happening in today’s real estate market. Buyers are competing with one another to purchase a home, leading to bidding wars that drive prices up. For sellers, the rising prices mean that opportunity is knocking.

A Look at Home Price Appreciation and What It Means for Sellers | Keeping Current Matters

According to Quicken Loans, the national average home price appreciation rate is between 3-5% in a typical year. Today, home prices are appreciating well beyond the norm thanks to high demand. Here are the latest expert projections on the rate of home price appreciation for this year (see chart below):

Compared to the normal pace of 3-5% appreciation per year, the current average forecast of nearly 11.5% is significant.

For sellers, this means that with the current rise in prices, your house may be worth more than you realize. That price appreciation helps give your equity a boost. Equity is the difference between what you owe on the home and its market value based on factors like price appreciation. It works like this (see chart below):

A Look at Home Price Appreciation and What It Means for Sellers | Keeping Current Matters

You can use your built-up equity to power a move into your dream home, or you can put it toward life-changing goals like funding an education or opening a business.

But don’t wait. While price appreciation is strong now, those same experts say it’ll start to appreciate at a more normalized pace next year. If you list your house sooner rather than later, you’ll be in a better position to capitalize on the higher-than-average home price appreciation we’re seeing today.

Bottom Line

If you’re thinking of selling your house, there really is no time like the present. Contact a local real estate professional to get an expert market analysis of your home and its potential.

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Are Houses Less Affordable Than They Were in the Past Decades?

Reprinted from Keeping Current Matters

Are Houses Less Affordable Than They Were in Past Decades?

There are many headlines about how housing affordability is declining. The headlines are correct: it’s less affordable to purchase a home today than it was a year ago. However, it’s important to give this trend context. Is it less expensive to buy a house today than it was in 2005? What about 1995? What happens if we go all the way back to 1985? Or even 1975?

Obviously, the price of a home has appreciated dramatically over the last 45 years. So have the prices of milk, bread, and just about every other consumable. Prices rise over time – we know it as inflation.

However, when we look at housing, price is just one component that makes up the monthly cost of the home. Another key factor is the mortgage rate at the time of purchase.

Let’s look back at the cost of a home over the last five decades and adjust it for inflation by converting that cost to 2021 dollars. Here’s the methodology for each data point of the table below:

  • Mortgage Amount: Take the median sales price at the end of the second quarter of each year as reported by the Fed and assume that the buyer made a 10% down payment.
  • Mortgage Rate: Look at the monthly 30-year fixed rate for June of that year as reported by Freddie Mac.
  • P&I: Use a mortgage calculator to determine the monthly principal and interest on the loan.
  • In 2021 Dollars: Use an inflation calculator to determine what each payment would be when adjusted for inflation. Green means the homes were less expensive than today. Red means they were more expensive.
Are Houses Less Affordable Than They Were in Past Decades? | Keeping Current Matters

As the chart shows, when adjusted for inflation, there were only two times in the last 45 years that it was less expensive to own a home than it is today.

  1. Last year: Prices saw strong appreciation over the last year and mortgage rates have remained relatively flat. Therefore, affordability weakened.
  2. 2010: Home values plummeted after the housing crash 15 years ago. One-third of all sales were distressed properties (foreclosures or short sales). They sold at major discounts and negatively impacted the value of surrounding homes – of course homes were more affordable then.

At every other point, even in 1975, it was more expensive to buy a home than it is today.

Bottom Line

If you want to buy a home, don’t let the headlines about affordability discourage you. You can’t get the deal your friend got last year, but you will get a better deal than your parents did 20 years ago and your grandparents did 40 years ago.

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Ready to Sell, but Don’t Know Where You’ll Go?

Reprinted from Keeping Current Matters

Ready To Sell, but Don’t Know Where You’ll Go? [INFOGRAPHIC] | Keeping Current Matters
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Surprising Shift Favors Homeowners: Buyers Now Prefer Existing Homes

Reprinted from Keeping Current Matters

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.

Surprising Shift Favors Homeowners: Buyers Now Prefer Existing Homes | Keeping Current Matters

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:

  • The process may move faster. Builders may not be able to guarantee when the house will be complete and ready for move-in due to supply chain challenges with materials like lumber and appliances. If you buy an existing home, not only is it ready, it also likely has a refrigerator, range, and other necessary home appliances already.
  • There are no unexpected costs during the buying process. With the price of land, labor, and lumber being so volatile, many builders are including an escalation clause in the price negotiation to cover rising expenses. With an existing home, the final price you will pay is negotiated upfront.

Bottom Line

If you’re a homeowner looking to sell, your house is more attractive to a greater number of buyers as compared to earlier in the year. This might be the time to contact a local real estate professional to discuss the possibility.

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Sellers: Make Today’s Home Price Appreciation Work for You

Reprinted from Keeping Current Matters

Sellers: Make Today’s Home Price Appreciation Work for You

Home prices continue to rise as we move through the summer, and that’s good news for sellers who are looking to maximize their home’s potential. If you’re on the fence about whether to list your house now or later, the question you should really ask is: will this price appreciation last?

Here’s what three leading industry experts have to say about what lies ahead:

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist, National Association of Realtors (NAR):

“At a broad level, home prices are in no danger of a decline due to tight inventory conditions, but I do expect prices to appreciate at a slower pace by the end of the year.”

Selma Hepp, Deputy Chief Economist, CoreLogic:

“The imbalance between robust demand and dismal availability of for-sale homes has led to a continual bidding over asking prices, which reached record levels in recent months . . . . Nevertheless, with more new listings and new home construction, home price acceleration that has built momentum, and continues to reach new highs, will likely slow later this summer but remain in double digits.”

George Ratiu, Chief Economist, realtor.com:

Many sellers are going to take advantage of higher prices. This summer is going to signal the move to the next chapter, and this will very much be the year they’re going to put their home on the market.”

What It Means for You:

The experts agree that the summer months give sellers a great opportunity to capitalize on today’s home prices. And while prices aren’t expected to depreciate, the rise in prices is forecast to moderate over the next few years. That means selling your house today could set you up for a bigger win.

Bottom Line

Listen to the experts. If you’re ready to make a move, work with a trusted real estate professional to sell your house sooner rather than later so you can take advantage of today’s home price appreciation before it moderates.

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