Welcome to our blog!  The purpose of our blog is to provide tips for staging your home, beneficial updates to your home, and information that we find useful in selling and buying a home.  

 

 

Feb. 22, 2024

Houses Are Still Selling Fast

Houses Are Still Selling Fast




Have you been thinking about selling your house? If so, here’s some good news. While the housing market isn't as frenzied as it was during the ‘unicorn’ years when houses were selling quicker than ever, they’re still selling faster than normal.

The graph below uses data from Realtor.com to tell the story of median days on the market for every January from 2017 all the way through the latest numbers available. For Realtor.com, days on the market means from the time a house is listed for sale until its closing date or the date it’s taken off the market. This metric can help give you an idea of just how quickly homes are selling compared to more normal years:

 

 

When you look at the most recent data (shown in green), it's clear homes are selling faster than they usually would (shown in blue). In fact, the only years when houses sold even faster than they are right now were the abnormal ‘unicorn’ years (shown in pink). According to Realtor.com:

“Homes spent 69 days on the market, which is three days shorter than last year and more than two weeks shorter than before the COVID-19 pandemic.”

What Does This Mean for You?

Homes are selling faster than the norm for this time of year – and your house may sell quickly too. That’s because more people are looking to buy now that mortgage rates have come down, but there still aren’t enough homes to go around. Mike Simonsen, Founder of Altos Researchsays:

“. . . 2024 is starting stronger than last year. And demand is increasing each week.”

Bottom Line

If you’re wondering if it’s a good time to sell your home, the most recent data suggests it is. The housing market appears to be stronger than it usually is at this time of year. To get the latest updates on what’s happening in our local market, let’s connect.

Posted in Selling a Home
Feb. 14, 2024

Having Your Own Agent Matters

Why Having Your Own Agent Matters When Buying a New Construction Home




Finding the right home is one of the biggest challenges for potential buyers today. Right now, the supply of homes for sale is still low. But there is a bright spot. Newly built homes make up a larger percent of the total homes available for sale than normal. That’s why, if you’re craving more options, it makes sense to see if a newly built home is right for you.

But it’s important to remember the process of working with a builder is different than buying from a homeowner. And, while builders typically have sales agents on-site, having your own agenthelps make sure you have proper representation throughout your homebuying journey. As Realtor.com says:

“Keep in mind that the on-site agent you meet at a new-construction office works for the builder. So, as the homebuyer, it’s a smart idea to bring in your own agent, as well, to help you negotiate and stay protected in the transaction.”

Here’s how having your own agent is key when you build or buy a new construction home.

Agents Know the Local Area and Market

It’s important to consider how the neighborhood and surrounding area may evolve before making your home purchase. Your agent is well-versed in the upcoming communities and developments that could influence your decision. One way a real estate agent can help is by reviewing the builder's site plan. For example, you’ll want to know if there are any plans to construct a highway or add a drainage ditch behind your prospective backyard. 

Knowledge of Construction Quality and Builder Reputation

An agent also has expertise in the construction quality and reputation of different builders. They can give you insights into each one's track record, customer satisfaction, and construction practices. Armed with this information, you can choose a builder known for consistently delivering top-notch homes.

Assistance with Customization and Upgrades

The most obvious benefit of opting for new home construction is the opportunity to customize your home. Your agent will guide you through that process and share advice on the upgrades that are most likely to add long-term value to your home. Their expertise helps make sure you focus your budget on areas that will give you the greatest return on your investment later.

Understanding Builder Negotiations and Contracts

When it comes to working with builders, having a skilled negotiator on your side can make all the difference. Builder contracts can be complex. Your agent can help you navigate these contracts to make sure you fully understand the terms and conditions. Plus, agents are skilled negotiators who can advocate for you, potentially securing better deals, upgrades, or incentives throughout the process. As Realtor.com says:

“A good buyer’s agent will be able to review any contracts before you sign on the dotted line, ensuring you aren’t unwittingly agreeing to terms that only benefit the builder.” 

Bottom Line

If you are interested in buying or building a new construction home, having a trusted agent by your side can make a big difference. If you'd like to start that conversation, let’s connect.

Feb. 6, 2024

Don’t Wait Until Spring To Sell Your House

Don’t Wait Until Spring To Sell Your House




As you think about the year ahead, one of your big goals may be moving. But, how do you know when to make your move? While spring is usually the peak homebuying season, you don’t actually need to wait until spring to sell. Here's why.

1. Take Advantage of Lower Mortgage Rates

Last October, the 30-year fixed mortgage rates peaked at 7.79%. In January, they hit their lowest level since May. That means you may not feel as locked-in to your current mortgage rate right now. That downward trend in rates has made moving more affordable now than it was just a few months ago.

Another reason today’s rates make now a good time to sell? More buyers are jumping back into the market. Many had been waiting on the sidelines for rates to fall, but now that that’s happening, they’re eager and ready to buy. That means more demand for your house. According to Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Mac:

“Given this stabilization in rates, potential homebuyers with affordability concerns have jumped off the fence back into the market.”

2. Get Ahead of Your Competition

Right now, there are still more people looking to buy a home than there are houses for sale, which puts you in a great position. But keep in mind, with the recent uptick in new listings, we’re seeing more sellers may already be re-entering the market.

Listing your house now helps you beat your competition and makes sure your house will stand out. And if you work with an agent to price it right, it could sell fast and get multiple offers. U.S. News explains:

“When there is low housing inventory, sellers could get top dollar for their homes.”

3. Make the Most of Rising Home Prices

Experts forecast home prices will keep going up this year. What does that mean for you? If you're ready to sell your current house and plan to buy another one, it may be a good idea to think about moving now before prices go up more. That would give you the chance to buy your next home before it gets more expensive.

4. Leverage Your Equity

Homeowners today have tremendous amounts of equity. In fact, a recent report from CoreLogic says the average homeowner with a mortgage has more than $300,000 in equity.

If you've been waiting to sell because you were worried about home affordability, know your equity can really help with your next move. It might even cover a big part, or maybe all, of the down payment for your next home.

Bottom Line

If you're thinking about selling your house and moving to another one, let’s connect to get the process started now so you can get a leg up on your competition.

Posted in Selling a Home
Feb. 6, 2024

There’s No Foreclosure Wave in Sight

 

Some Highlights

  • Headlines saying foreclosures are rising might make you feel uneasy. But the truth is, there’s no need to worry.
  • If you look at the latest numbers, they’re still below pre-pandemic norms and way below what happened during the crash.
  • If you're worried about a flood of foreclosures, the data shows a foreclosure crisis is not where the market is today and is not where it’s headed.
Posted in Market Analysis
Jan. 29, 2024

Common Mistakes After Applying for a Mortgage

Avoid These Common Mistakes After Applying for a Mortgage




If you’re getting ready to buy a home, it’s exciting to jump a few steps ahead and think about moving in and making it your own. But before you get too far down the emotional path, there are some key things to keep in mind after you apply for your mortgage and before you close. Here’s a list of things to remember when you apply for your home loan.

Don’t Deposit Large Sums of Cash

Lenders need to source your money, and cash isn’t easily traceable. Before you deposit any cash into your accounts, discuss the proper way to document your transactions with your loan officer.

Don’t Make Any Large Purchases

It’s not just home-related purchases that could disqualify you from your loan. Any large purchases can be red flags for lenders. People with new debt have higher debt-to-income ratios (how much debt you have compared to your monthly income). Since higher ratios make for riskier loans, borrowers may no longer qualify for their mortgage. Resist the temptation to make any large purchases, even for furniture or appliances.

Don’t Cosign Loans for Anyone

When you cosign for a loan, you’re making yourself accountable for that loan’s success and repayment. With that obligation comes higher debt-to-income ratios as well. Even if you promise you won’t be the one making the payments, your lender will have to count them against you.

Don’t Switch Bank Accounts

Lenders need to source and track your assets. That task is much easier when there’s consistency among your accounts. Before you transfer any money, speak with your loan officer.

Don’t Apply for New Credit

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a new credit card or a new car. When your credit report is run by organizations in multiple financial channels (mortgage, credit card, auto, etc.), it will have an impact on your FICO® score. Lower credit scores can determine your interest rate and possibly even your eligibility for approval.

Don’t Close Any Accounts

Many buyers believe having less available credit makes them less risky and more likely to be approved. This isn’t true. A major component of your score is your length and depth of credit history (as opposed to just your payment history) and your total usage of credit as a percentage of available credit. Closing accounts has a negative impact on both of those parts of your score.

Do Discuss Changes with Your Lender

Be upfront about any changes that occur or you’re expecting to occur when talking with your lender. Blips in income, assets, or credit should be reviewed and executed in a way that ensures your home loan can still be approved. If your job or employment status has changed recently, share that with your lender as well. Ultimately, it’s best to fully disclose and discuss your intentions with your loan officer before you do anything financial in nature.

Bottom Line

You want your home purchase to go as smoothly as possible. Remember, before you make any large purchases, move your money around, or make major life changes, be sure to consult your lender – someone who’s qualified to explain how your financial decisions may impact your home loan.

Jan. 23, 2024

Ways Your Home Equity Can Help You Reach Your Goals

Ways Your Home Equity Can Help You Reach Your Goals




If you’ve owned your house for at least a couple of years, there’s something you’re going to want to know more about – and that’s home equity. If you’re not familiar with that term, Freddie Mac defines it like this:

“. . . your home’s equity is the difference between how much your home is worth and how much you owe on your mortgage.”

That means your equity grows as you pay down your home loan over time and as home values climb. While it’s true home prices dipped slightly last year, they rebounded and have been climbing in many areas since then. Here’s why that price growth is good news for you.

In the latest Equity Insights Report, Selma Hepp, Chief Economist at CoreLogic, explains:

With price gains continuing to help homeowners build wealth, equity has reached a new high and regained losses that resulted from declines last year. And while the average U.S. homeowner gained over $20,000 in additional equity compared with the third quarter of 2022, some markets are seeing larger increases as price growth catches up.” 

And that figure is just for the last year. To help you really understand how that number can add up over time, the report also says the average homeowner with a mortgage has more than $300,000 in equity. That much equity can have a big impact.

Here are a few examples of how you can put your home equity to work for you.

1. Buy a Home That Fits Your Needs

If your current space no longer meets your needs, it might be time to think about moving to a bigger home. And if you’ve got too much space, downsizing to a smaller one could be just right. Either way, you can put your equity toward a down payment on something that fits your changing lifestyle.

2. Reinvest in Your Current Home

And, if you’re not ready to move just yet, you can use the equity you have to improve your current home. But it’s important to consider the long-term benefits certain upgrades can bring to your home’s value. A real estate agent is a great resource on which projects to prioritize to get the greatest return on your investment when you sell later on.

3. Pursue Personal Ambitions

Home equity can also serve as a catalyst for realizing your life-long dreams. That could mean investing in a new business venture, retirement, or funding an education. While you shouldn’t use your equity for unnecessary spending, using it responsibly for something meaningful and impactful can really make a difference in your life.

4. Understand Your Options to Avoid Foreclosure

While the number of foreclosure filings remains below the norm, there are still some homeowners who go into foreclosure each year. If you’re in a tough spot financially, having a clear understanding of your options can help. Equity can act as a cushion if you’re not able to make your mortgage payments on time.

Bottom Line

If you want to know how much equity you have in your home, let’s connect. That way you have someone who can do a professional equity assessment report on how much you’ve built up over time. Then let’s talk through how you can use it to help you reach your goals.

Posted in Buying a New Home
Jan. 19, 2024

What Lower Mortgage Rates Mean for Your Purchasing Power

What Lower Mortgage Rates Mean for Your Purchasing Power




If you want to buy a home, it's important to know how mortgage rates impact what you can afford and how much you’ll pay each month. Fortunately, rates for 30-year fixed mortgages have come down significantly since the end of October and are currently under 7%, according to Freddie Mac (see graph below):

 

 

This recent trend is great news for buyers. As a recent article from Bankrate says:

“The rate cool-off somewhat eases the housing affordability squeeze.”

And according to Edward Seiler, AVP of Housing Economics and Executive Director of the Research Institute for Housing America at the Mortgage Bankers Association(MBA):

“MBA expects that affordability conditions will continue to improve as mortgage rates decline . . .”

Here’s a bit more context on how this could help with your plans to buy a home.

How Mortgage Rates Affect Your Search for a Home

Understanding the connection between mortgage rates and your monthly home payment is crucial for your plans to become a homeowner. The chart below illustrates how your ability to afford a home changes when mortgage rates shift. Imagine your budget allows for a monthly payment between $2,400 and $2,500. The green part in the chart shows payments in that range or lower (see chart below):

 

 

As you can see, even small changes in rates can affect your budget and the loan amount you can afford.

Get Help from Reliable Experts To Understand Your Budget and Plan Ahead

When you're looking to buy a home, it's important to get guidance from a local real estate agent and a trusted lender. They can help you explore different mortgage options, understand what makes mortgage rates go up or down, and how those changes impact you.

By looking at the numbers and the latest data together, then adjusting your strategy based on today's rates, you'll be better prepared and ready to buy a home.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking to buy a home, you should know the recent downward trend in mortgage rates is good news for your move. Let’s connect and plan your next steps.

Jan. 15, 2024

What Pre-Approval Does for You

Why Pre-Approval Is Your Homebuying Game Changer




If you’re thinking about buying a home, pre-approval is a crucial part of the process you definitely don’t want to skip. So, before you start picturing yourself in your new living room or dining on your future all-season patio, be sure you’re working with a trusted lender to prioritize this essential step. Here’s why.

While home price growth is moderating and mortgage rates have been coming down in recent weeks, affordability is still tight.  At the same time, there’s a limited number of homes for sale right now, and that means ongoing competition among hopeful buyers. But, if you’re strategic, there are ways to navigate these waters – and pre-approval is the game changer.

What Pre-Approval Does for You

To understand why it’s such an important step, you need to know more about pre-approval. As part of the homebuying process, a lender looks at your finances to determine what they’re willing to loan you. From there, your lender will give you a pre-approval letter to help you understand how much money you can borrow. Freddie Mac explains it like this:

A pre-approval is an indication from your lender that they are willing to lend you a certain amount of money to buy your future home. . . . Keep in mind that the loan amount in the pre-approval letter is the lender’s maximum offer. Ultimately, you should only borrow an amount you are comfortable repaying.”

Getting pre-approved starts to put you in the mindset of seeing the bigger financial picture, one step at a time. And the key is actually more than just getting a pre-approval letter from your lender. The combination of pre-approval and strategic budgeting is your golden ticket to understanding what you can actually afford. It saves you from painful heartaches down the road so you don’t fall in love with a house that might be out of reach.

Pre-Approval Helps Show Sellers You’re a Serious Buyer

But that's just the beginning. Let’s face it, there are more people looking to buy than there are homes available for sale, and that creates competition among homebuyers. That means you could see yourself in a multiple-offer scenario when you get ready to make your move. But getting pre-approved for a mortgage can help you stand out from other buyers.

In today's fast-moving housing market, having that pre-approval in your back pocket can be your secret weapon. When sellers see you're pre-approved, it tells them you're a strategic and serious buyer. In a world of multiple offers, that's a big deal. As an article from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) says:

If you plan to use a mortgage for your home purchase, preapproval should be among the first steps in your search process. Not only can getting preapproved help you zero in on the right price range, but it can give you a leg up on other buyers, too.”

Pre-approval shows sellers you’re more than just a window shopper. You’re a buyer who’s already undergone a credit and financial check, making it more likely that the sale will move forward without unexpected delays or issues. Sellers love that because they see your offer as a reliable one. A win-win, right?

Bottom Line

So, before you start mentally arranging furniture in your dream home, work with a trusted lender to get your pre-approval set. It’ll save you time, stress, and a lot of headaches that could come up along the way without it. The reality is, the more prepared you are, the more likely you are to land the home you’re longing for.

Jan. 1, 2024

What you need to know about saving for a home in 2024

What You Need To Know About Saving for a Home in 2024




If you’re planning to buy a home, knowing what to budget for and how to save may sound intimidating – but it doesn’t have to be. One way to ease those concerns is to make sure you understand some of the costs you may encounter up front. And to do that, always turn to trusted real estate professionals. They can help you set a plan and take a strategic look at your budget and your process before you even get started.

Here are just a few things experts say you should be thinking about.

1. Down Payment

Saving for your down payment is likely top of mind as you set out to buy a home. But do you know how much you’ll need? While every buyer’s situation is different, there’s a common misconception that putting 20% of the purchase price down is required. An article from the Mortgage Reports explains why that’s not always the case:

“The idea that you have to put 20% down on a house is a myth. . . . The right amount depends on your current savings and your home buying goals.”

To understand your options, partner with trusted real estate professionals to go over the various loan types, down payment assistance programs, and what each one requires. The more you know ahead of time, the easier the process will be.

2. Closing Costs

Make sure you also budget for closing costs, which are a collection of fees and payments made to the various parties involved in your transaction. Bankrate explains:

Closing costs are the fees you pay when finalizing a real estate transaction, whether you’re refinancing a mortgage or buying a new home. These costs can amount to 2 to 5 percent of the mortgage so it’s important to be financially prepared for this expense.”

The best way to understand what you’ll need at the closing table is to work with a trusted lender. They can provide you with answers to the questions you might have.

3. Earnest Money Deposit

If you want to cover all your bases, you can also consider saving for an earnest money deposit (EMD). An EMD is money you pay as a show of good faith when you make an offer on a house. According to Realtor.com, it’s usually between 1% and 2% of the total home price.

This deposit works like a credit. It’s not an added expense – it’s paying a portion of your costs upfront. You’re using some of the money you’ve already saved for your purchase to show the seller you’re committed and serious about buying their house. Realtor.com describes how it works as part of your sale:

It tells the real estate seller you’re in earnest as a buyer . . . Assuming that all goes well and the buyer’s good-faith offer is accepted by the seller, the earnest money funds go toward the down payment and closing costs. In effect, earnest money is just paying more of the down payment and closing costs upfront.”

Keep in mind, an EMD isn’t required, and it doesn’t guarantee your offer will be accepted. It’s important to work with a real estate advisor to understand what’s best for your situation and any specific requirements in your local area. They’ll advise you on what moves you should make so you can make the best possible decisions throughout the buying process.

Bottom Line

When buying a home, being informed about what to save for is key. Let’s connect so you’ll have an expert on your side to answer any questions you have along the way.

Posted in Buying a New Home
Dec. 31, 2023

Why Mortgage Rates Could Continue To Decline

Why Mortgage Rates Could Continue To Decline




When you read about the housing market, you’ll probably come across some information about inflation or recent decisions made by the Federal Reserve (the Fed). But how do those two things impact you and your homebuying plans? Here's what you need to know.

The Federal Funds Rate Hikes Have Stalled

One of the Fed’s primary goals is to lower inflation. In order to do that, they started raising the Federal Funds Rate to slow down the economy. Even though this doesn’t directly dictate what happens with mortgage rates, it does have an impact.

Recently inflation has started to cool, a signal those increases worked and are bringing inflation back down. As a result, the Fed’s hikes have gotten smaller and less frequent. In fact, there haven’t been any increases since July (see graph below):

 

And not only has the Fed decided not to raise the Federal Funds Rate the last three times the committee met, they’ve signaled there may actually be rate cuts coming in 2024. According to the New York Times (NYT):

“Federal Reserve officials left interest rates unchanged in their final policy decision of 2023 and forecast that they will cut borrowing costs three times in the coming year, a sign that the central bank is shifting toward the next phase in its fight against rapid inflation.”

This indicates the Fed thinks the economy and inflation are improving. Why does that matter to you and your plans to buy a home? It could end up leading to lower mortgage rates and improved affordability.

Mortgage Rates Are Coming Down

Mortgage rates are influenced by a wide variety of factors, and inflation and the Fed’s actions (or as has been the case recently, inaction) play a big role. Now that the Fed has paused the increases, it looks more likely mortgage rates will continue their downward trend (see graph below):

 

Although mortgage rates may remain volatile, their recent trend combined with expert forecasts indicate they could continue to go down in 2024. That would improve affordability for buyers and make it easier for sellers to move since they won’t feel as locked-in to their current, low mortgage rate.

Bottom Line

The Fed’s decisions have an indirect impact on mortgage rates. By not raising the Federal Funds Rate, mortgage rates are likely to continue declining. Let’s connect so you have expert advice about changes in the housing market and how they affect you.