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Should I Wait for Lower Mortgage Interest Rates?

Should I Wait for Lower Mortgage Interest Rates? | Simplifying The Market

Historically low mortgage rates are a big motivator for homebuyers right now. In 2020 alone, rates hit new record-lows 16 times, and the trend continued into the early part of this year. Many hopeful homebuyers are now wondering if they should put their plans on hold and wait for the lowest rates imaginable. However, the reality is, acting sooner rather than later may be the actual win if you’re ready to buy a home.

According to Greg McBride, Chief Financial Analyst for Bankrate:

“As vaccines become more widely available and a return to normal starts to come into view, we’ll see mortgage rates bounce off the record lows.”

While only a slight increase in mortgage rates is projected for 2021, some experts believe they will start to rise. Over the past week, for example, the average mortgage rate ticked up slightly, reaching 2.79%. This is still incredibly low compared to the trends we’ve seen over time. According to Freddie Mac:

“Borrowers are smart to take advantage of these low rates now and will certainly benefit as a result.”

Here’s why.

As mortgage rates rise, the increase impacts the overall cost of purchasing a home. The higher the rate, the higher your monthly mortgage payment, especially as home prices rise too. Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Mac, says:

“The forces behind the drop in rates have been shifting over the last few months and rates are poised to rise modestly this year. The combination of rising mortgage rates and increasing home prices will accelerate the decline in affordability and further squeeze potential homebuyers during the spring home sales season.”

What does this mean for buyers?

Right now, the inventory of houses for sale is also at a historic low, making it more challenging than normal to find a home to buy in many areas. As more buyers hit the market in the typically busy spring buying season, it may become even harder to find a home in the coming months. With this in mind, Len Keifer, Deputy Chief Economist for Freddie Mac, recommends taking advantage of both low mortgage rates and the opportunity to buy:

“If you’ve found a home that fits your needs at a price you can afford, it might be better to act now rather than wait for future rate declines that may never come and a future that likely holds very tight inventory.”

Bottom Line

While today’s low mortgage rates provide great opportunities for homebuyers, we may not see them stick around forever. If you’re ready to buy a home, let’s connect so you can take advantage of what today’s market has to offer.

How to Make the Dream of Homeownership a Reality This Year

How to Make the Dream of Homeownership a Reality This Year | Simplifying The Market

In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired a powerful movement with his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Through his passion and determination, he sparked interest, ambition, and courage in his audience. Today, reflecting on his message encourages many of us to think about our own dreams, goals, beliefs, and aspirations. For many Americans, one of those common goals is owning a home: a piece of land, a roof over our heads, and a place where we can grow and flourish.

If you’re dreaming of buying a home this year, start by connecting with a local real estate professional to understand what goes into the process. With a trusted advisor at your side, you can then begin to answer the questions below to set yourself up for homebuying success.

1. How Can I Better Understand the Process, and How Much Can I Afford?

The process of buying a home is not one to enter into lightly. You need to decide on key things like how long you plan on living in an area, school districts you prefer, what kind of commute works for you, and how much you can afford to spend.

Keep in mind, before you start the process to purchase a home, you’ll also need to apply for a mortgage. Lenders will evaluate several factors connected to your financial track record, one of which is your credit history. They’ll want to see how well you’ve been able to minimize past debts, so make sure you’ve been paying your student loans, credit cards, and car loans on time. If your financial situation has changed recently, be sure to discuss that with your lender as well. Most agents have loan officers they trust and will provide referrals for you.

According to ConsumerReports.org:

“Financial planners recommend limiting the amount you spend on housing to 25 percent of your monthly budget.”

2. How Much Do I Need for a Down Payment?

In addition to knowing how much you can afford on a monthly mortgage payment, understanding how much you’ll need for a down payment is another critical step. Thankfully, there are many different options and resources in the market to potentially reduce the amount you may think you need to put down.

If you’re concerned about saving for a down payment, start small and be consistent. A little bit each month goes a long way. Jumpstart your savings by automatically adding a portion of your monthly paycheck into a separate savings account or house fund. AmericaSaves.org says:

“Over time, these automatic deposits add up. For example, $50 a month accumulates to $600 a year and $3,000 after five years, plus interest that has compounded.”

Before you know it, you’ll have enough for a down payment if you’re disciplined and thoughtful about your process.

3. Saving Takes Time: Practice Living on a Budget

As tempting as it is to pass the extra time you may be spending at home these days with a little retail therapy, putting that extra money toward your down payment will help accelerate your path to homeownership. It’s the little things that count, so start trying to live on a slightly tighter budget if you aren’t doing so already. A budget will allow you to save more for your down payment and help you pay down other debts to improve your credit score.

survey of millennial spending shows, “68% reported that shelter in place orders helped them save for their down payment.” Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com, also notes:

“If there is any silver lining to the current economic landscape, it’s that mortgage rates are hanging around record lows…Additionally, shelter-in-place orders helped many who were fortunate enough to keep their jobs save for a down payment — one of the largest hurdles of buying a home. The combination of low rates and the opportunity to save is enabling many millennials to move up their home buying timeline.”

While you don’t need to cut all of the extras out of your current lifestyle, making smarter choices and limiting your spending in areas where you can slim down will make a big difference.

Bottom Line

If homeownership is on your dream list this year, take a good look at what you can prioritize to help you get there. To determine the steps you should take to start the process, let’s connect today.

Will Forbearance Plans Lead to a Tsunami of Foreclosures?

Will Forbearance Plans Lead to a Tsunami of Foreclosures? | Simplifying The Market

At the onset of the economic disruptions caused by the COVID pandemic, the government quickly put into place forbearance plans to allow homeowners to remain in their homes without making their monthly mortgage payments. Today, almost three million households are actively in a forbearance plan. Though 29.4% of those in forbearance have continued to stay current on their payments, many have not.

Yanling Mayer, Principal Economist at CoreLogic, recently revealed:

“A distributional analysis of forborne loans’ payment status reveals that more than one third (39.1%) of all forborne loans are now 150+ days behind payment, while as many as 1-in-4 (25.5%) are 180+ days past due.”

These homeowners have been given permission to not make their payments, but the question now is: how many of them will be able to catch up after their forbearance program ends? There’s speculation that a forthcoming wave of foreclosures could be the result, and that could lead to another crash in home values like we saw a decade ago.

However, today’s situation is different than the 2006-2008 housing crisis as many homeowners have tremendous amounts of equity in their homes.

What are the experts saying?

Over the last 30 days, several industry experts have weighed in on this subject.

Michael Sklarz, President at Collateral Analytics:

“We may very well see a meaningful increase in the number of homes listed for sale as these borrowers choose to sell at what is arguably an intermediate top in the market and downsize to more affordable homes rather than face foreclosure.”

Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist at First American:

“The foreclosure process is based on two steps. First, the homeowner suffers an adverse economic shock…leading to the homeowner becoming delinquent on their mortgage. However, delinquency by itself is not enough to send a mortgage into foreclosure. With enough equity, a homeowner has the option of selling their home, or tapping into their equity through a refinance, to help weather the economic shock. It is a lack of sufficient equity, the second component of the dual trigger, that causes a serious delinquency to become a foreclosure.”

Don Layton, Senior Industry Fellow at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University:

“With a greater cushion of equity, troubled homeowners have dramatically improved options: a greater ability to access funding (e.g. home equity lines) to keep paying monthly expenses until family finances might recover, improved ability to qualify for and support a loan modification, and, if push comes to shove, the ability to sell the home and monetize their increased net worth while reducing monthly payment obligations. So, what should lenders and servicers expect: a large number of foreclosures or only a modest increase? I believe the latter.”

With today’s positive equity situation, many homeowners will be able to use a loan modification or refinance to stay in their homes. If not, some will go to foreclosure, but most will be able to sell and walk away with their equity.

Won’t the additional homes on the market impact prices?

Distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales) sell at a significant discount. If homeowners sell instead of going into foreclosure, the impact on the housing market will be much less severe.

We must also realize there is currently an unprecedented lack of inventory on the market. Just last week, realtor.com explained:

“Nationally, the number of homes for sale was down 39.6%, amounting to 449,000 fewer homes for sale than last December.”

It’s important to remember that there weren’t enough homes for sale even then, and inventory has only continued to decline.

The market has the potential to absorb half a million homes this year without it causing home values to depreciate.

Bottom Line

The pandemic has led to both personal and economic hardships for many American households. The overall residential real estate market, however, has weathered the storm and will continue to do so in 2021.

With Home Values Surging, Is it Still Affordable to Buy Right Now?

Housing inventory is at an all-time low.

Housing inventory is at an all-time low. Realtor.com just reported that there are 39% fewer homes for sale today than there were last year. At the same time, buyer demand remains strong. In a recent newsletter, research analyst Ivy Zelman explained:

“Although the headwind of severe supply constraints in most markets has contributed to slight moderation in seasonally-adjusted and year-over-year new pending contract growth for two consecutive months (albeit still growing strongly), the underlying strength of buyer demand, particularly for this time of year, remains apparent.”

Whenever there’s a shortage in the supply of an item that’s in high demand, the price of that item increases. That’s exactly what’s happening in the real estate market right now. As a result, home values are surging.

This is great news if you’re planning to sell your house. On the other hand, as either a first-time or repeat buyer, this may instead seem like troubling news. Purchasers, however, should realize that the price of a house is not as important as the monthly cost. Here’s how it breaks down.

There are several factors that influence the cost of a home. Two of the major ones are:

  1. The price of the home
  2. The mortgage rate at which a buyer can borrow the funds necessary to purchase the home

How do these factors impact affordability?

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) produces a Housing Affordability Index which takes these factors into account and determines an overall affordability score for housing. According to NAR, the index:

“…measures whether or not a typical family earns enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a typical home at the national and regional levels based on the most recent price and income data.”

Their methodology states:

“To interpret the indices, a value of 100 means that a family with the median income has exactly enough income to qualify for a mortgage on a median-priced home. An index above 100 signifies that family earning the median income has more than enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a median-priced home, assuming a 20 percent down payment.”

So, the higher the index, the more affordable it is to purchase a home. Here’s a graph of the index going back to 1990:With Home Values Surging, Is it Still Affordable to Buy Right Now? | Simplifying The MarketThe blue bar represents today’s affordability. We can see that homes are more affordable now than they were from:

  • 1990 to 2008
  • 2017 to 2018

Buying a home today is just a little less affordable than it was last year, but still very affordable compared to historical housing market trends.

Note: During the housing crash from 2009 to 2015, distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales) dominated the market. Those properties were sold at large discounts not seen before in the housing market.

Why are homes still affordable today?

The number one factor impacting today’s homebuying affordability is record-low mortgage rates. There’s no doubt that prices are on the rise. However, mortgage rates have fallen dramatically. Last week, Freddie Mac announced that the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 2.72%. Last year at this time, the average rate was 3.68%.

If you’re considering purchasing your first home or moving up to the one you’ve always hoped for, it’s important to understand how affordability plays into the overall cost of your home. With that in mind, buying while mortgage rates are as low as they are now may save you quite a bit of money over the life of your home loan.

Bottom Line

At this point, home purchase affordability is still in a historically good place. However, we need to watch price increases going forward. As Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, noted in a recent post:

“Faster nominal house price appreciation can erode, or even eliminate, the boost in affordability from lower mortgage rates, especially if household income growth doesn’t keep up.”

Knowledge Is Power on the Path to Homeownership

Knowledge Is Power on the Path to Homeownership | Simplifying The Market

Homeownership is on the goal list for many young adults, but sometimes it’s hard to know exactly how to get there. From understanding the homebuying process to pre-approval and down payment assistance options, uncertainty along the way can ultimately hold some buyers back.

Today, there are over 75 million Millennials and 67 million Gen Z’ers in the U.S., making up a significant number of both current and soon-to-be homebuyers. According to a recent Fannie Mae survey of more than 2,000 of these individuals:

“88% said they are confident they will achieve homeownership someday.”

In addition, the survey also reveals that for younger generations, the motivation to own a home may be more emotional than financial compared to previous generations:

  • <50% say they want to use their home as an asset
  • 78% believe it’s the best way to live the way they want, without restrictions
  • 80% believe homeownership is the best way to make it on their own

Whether homeownership goals come from the heart or are driven by financial aspirations (or maybe both), the obstacles standing in the way don’t have to bring these dreams to a screeching halt. The same survey also reveals two key roadblocks for potential buyers. Thankfully, they’re both easily overcome with the power of knowledge and trusted advisors leading the way. Here’s a look at these two challenges potential homebuyers face today:

1. 73% of future homebuyers are unaware of low-down-payment mortgage options

For those who want to purchase a home, low-down-payment options are instrumental to affording one sooner rather than later, especially given the amount of debt many younger adults have accumulated. Fannie Mae also notes:

“Among the challenges they face is an unprecedented amount of debt, along with a lack of understanding of the mortgage process and their own purchasing power. Debt, in particular, creates many obstacles such as a limited ability to save and the fear of taking on more debt.”

Today, there are more than 2,340 down payment assistance programs available nationwide to help relieve this pressure. Understanding what’s out there and the options available may help many buyers become homeowners faster than they thought possible. In a year like this, with record-low mortgage rates making their mark in the history books, being able to take advantage of the opportunity buyers have right now is essential to long-term affordability.

2. 64% of buyers expect lenders and other real estate professionals to educate them about the mortgage process

While many people love to do a quick search online to find instant answers to their questions, it isn’t the only way younger generations want to consume information or build their knowledge base. As the survey mentions, having trusted professionals help them learn what it takes to achieve their dreams is definitely on their wish list too.

Bottom Line

If you’re aiming for homeownership someday, it may be in closer reach than you think. Let’s connect so you can learn about the process and get the guidance you need to make it happen.

5 Tips for Homebuyers Who Want to Make a Competitive Offer

5 Tips for Homebuyers Who Want to Make a Competitive Offer | Simplifying The Market

Today’s real estate market has high buyer interest and low housing inventory. With so many buyers competing for a limited number of homes, it’s more important than ever to know the ins and outs of making a confident and competitive offer. Here are five keys to success for this important stage in the homebuying process.

1. Listen to Your Real Estate Agent

A recent article from Freddie Mac offers guidance on making an offer on a home in today’s market. Right off the bat, it points out how emotional this can be for buyers and why trusted professionals can help you stay focused on the most important things:

“Remember to let your homebuying team guide you on your journey, not your emotions. Their support and expertise will keep you from compromising on your must-haves and future financial stability.”

Your real estate professional should be your primary source for answers to the questions you have when you’re ready to make an offer.

2. Understand Your Finances

Having a complete understanding of your budget and how much house you can afford is essential. The best way to know this is to reach out to your lender to get pre-approved for a loan early in the homebuying process. Only 44% of today’s prospective homebuyers are planning to apply for pre-approval, so be sure to take this step so you stand out from the crowd. It shows sellers you’re a serious, qualified buyer and can give you a competitive edge if you enter a bidding war.

3. Be Ready to Move Quickly

According to the Realtors Confidence Index, published monthly by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the average property being sold today is receiving more than three offers and is only on the market for a few weeks. These are both results of today’s competitive market, showing how important it is to stay agile and vigilant in your search. As soon as you find the right home for your needs, be prepared to work with your agent to submit an offer as quickly as possible.

4. Make a Fair Offer

It’s only natural to want the best deal you can get on a home. However, Freddie Mac also warns that submitting an offer that’s too low can lead sellers to doubt how serious you are as a buyer. Don’t submit an offer that will be tossed out as soon as it’s received. The expertise your agent brings to this part of the process will help you stay competitive:

“Your agent will work with you to make an informed offer based on the market value of the home, the condition of the home and recent home sale prices in the area.”

5. Be a Flexible Negotiator

After submitting an offer, the seller may accept it, reject it, or counter it with their own changes. In a competitive market, it’s important to stay nimble throughout the negotiation process. Your position can be strengthened with an offer that includes flexible move-in dates, a higher price, or minimal contingencies (conditions you set that the seller must meet for the purchase to be finalized). There are, however, certain contingencies you don’t want to forego. Freddie Mac explains:

Resist the temptation to waive the inspection contingency, especially in a hot market or if the home is being sold ‘as-is’, which means the seller won’t pay for repairs. Without an inspection contingency, you could be stuck with a contract on a house you can’t afford to fix.”

Bottom Line

Today’s competitive market makes it more important than ever to make a strong offer on a home, and a trusted expert can help you rise to the top along the way.

Key Terms to Know in the Homebuying Process [INFOGRAPHIC]

Key Terms to Know in the Homebuying Process [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Key Terms to Know in the Homebuying Process [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights

  • Buying a home can be intimidating if you’re not familiar with the terms used throughout the process.
  • To point you in the right direction, here’s a list of some of the most common language you’ll hear along the way.
  • The best way to ensure your homebuying process is a positive one is to find a real estate professional who will guide you through every aspect of the transaction with ‘the heart of a teacher’ by putting your needs first.

Your House May Be High on the Buyer Wish List This Holiday Season

Your House May Be High on the Buyer Wish List This Holiday Season | Simplifying The Market

Around this time each year, many homeowners decide to wait until after the holidays to sell their houses. Similarly, others who already have their homes on the market remove their listings until the spring. Let’s unpack the top reasons why selling your house now, or keeping it on the market this season, is the best choice you can make. This year, buyers want to purchase homes for the holidays, and your house might be the perfect match.

Here are seven great reasons not to wait to sell your house this holiday season:

1. Buyers are active now. Mortgage rates are historically low, providing motivation for those who are ready to get more for their money over the life of their home loan.

2. Purchasers who look for homes during the holidays are serious ones, and they’re ready to buy.

3. You can restrict the showings in your house to days and times that are most convenient for you, or even select virtual options. You’ll remain in control, especially in today’s sellers’ market.

4. Homes decorated for the holidays appeal to many buyers.

5. Today, there’s minimal competition for you as a seller. There just aren’t enough houses on the market to satisfy buyer demand, meaning sellers are in the driver’s seat. Over the past year, inventory has declined to record lows, making it the opportune time to sell your house (See graph below): Your House May Be High on the Buyer Wish List This Holiday Season | Simplifying The Market6. The desire to own a home doesn’t stop during the holidays. Buyers who have been searching throughout the fall and have been running into more and more bidding wars are still on the lookout. Your home may be the answer.

7. This season is the sweet spot for sellers, and the number of listings will increase after the holidays. In many parts of the country, more new construction will also be available for sale in 2021, which will lessen the demand for your house next year.

Bottom Line 

More than ever, this may be the year it makes the most sense to list your house during the holiday season. Let’s connect today to determine if selling now is your best move.

Is Buying a Home Today a Good Financial Move?

Is Buying a Home Today a Good Financial Move? | Simplifying The Market

There’s no doubt 2020 has been a challenging year. A global pandemic coupled with an economic recession has caused heartache for many. However, it has also prompted more Americans to reconsider the meaning of “home.” This quest for a place better equipped to fulfill our needs, along with record-low mortgage rates, has skyrocketed the demand for home purchases.

This increase in demand, on top of the severe shortage of homes for sale, has also caused more bidding wars and thus has home prices appreciating rather dramatically. Some, therefore, have become cautious about buying a home right now.

The truth of the matter is, even though homes have appreciated by a whopping 6.7% over the last twelve months, the cost to buy a home has actually dropped. This is largely due to mortgage rates falling by a full percentage point.

Let’s take a look at the monthly mortgage payment on a $300,000 house one year ago, and then compare it with that same home today, after it has appreciated by 6.7% to $320,100:Is Buying a Home Today a Good Financial Move? | Simplifying The MarketCompared to this time last year, you’ll actually save $87 dollars a month by purchasing that home today, which equates to over one thousand dollars a year.

But isn’t the economy still in a recession?

Yes, it is. That, however, may make it the perfect time to buy your first home or move up to a larger one. Tom Gil, a Harvard trained negotiator and real estate investor, recently explained:

“When volatile assets are facing recessions, hard assets, such as gold and real estate, thrive. Historically speaking, residential real estate has done better compared to other markets during and after recessions.”

That thought is substantiated by the fact that homeowners have 40 times the net worth of renters. Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist for First American Financial Corporation, recently said:

“Despite the risk of volatility in the housing market, numerous studies have demonstrated that homeownership leads to greater wealth accumulation when compared with renting. Renters don’t capture the wealth generated by house price appreciation, nor do they benefit from the equity gains generated by monthly mortgage payments, which become a form of forced savings for homeowners.”

Bottom Line

With home prices still increasing and mortgage rates perhaps poised to begin rising as well, buying your first home, or moving up to a home that better fits your current needs, likely makes a ton of sense.