Blog : Home Buyer Tips

Your Tax Refund Is The Key To Homeownership!

Your Tax Refund Is The Key To Homeownership!

According to data released by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Americans can expect an estimated average refund of $3,143 this year when filing their taxes. This is down slightly from the average refund of $3,436 last year.

Tax refunds are often thought of as ‘extra money’ that can be used toward larger goals. For anyone looking to buy a home in 2019, this can be a great jump start toward a down payment!

The map below shows the average tax refund Americans received last year by state.Your Tax Refund Is The Key To Homeownership! | Simplifying The MarketMany first-time buyers believe that a 20% down payment is required to qualify for a mortgage. Programs from the Federal Housing Authority, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae all allow for down payments as low as 3%. Veterans Affairs Loans allow many veterans to purchase a home with 0% down.

If you started your down payment savings with your tax refund check this year, how close would you be to a 3% down payment?

The map below shows what percentage of a 3% down payment is covered by the average tax refund by taking into account the median price of homes sold by state.Your Tax Refund Is The Key To Homeownership! | Simplifying The MarketThe darker the blue, the closer your tax refund gets you to homeownership! For Pennsylvanians looking to purchase their first home, their tax refund could potentially get them 56% closer to that dream!

Bottom Line

Saving for a down payment can seem like a daunting task. But the more you know about what’s required, the more prepared you can be to make the best decision for you and your family! This tax season, your refund could be your key to homeownership!

What Credit Score Do You Need To Buy A House?

What Credit Score Do You Need To Buy A House?

There are many misconceptions about the credit score needed to buy a house. Recently, it was reported that 24% of renters believe they need a 780-800 credit score to be considered for a mortgage. The reality is they are misinformed!

Only 25% of the Americans have a FICO® Score between 740 and 800. Here is the breakdown according to Experian:

  • 16% Very Poor (300-579)
  • 18% Fair (580-669)
  • 21% Good (670-739)
  • 25% Very Good (740-799)
  • 20% Exceptional (800-850)

Randy Hopper, Senior Vice President of Mortgage Lending for Navy Federal Credit Union said,

Just because you have a low credit score doesn’t mean you can’t purchase a home. There are a lot of options out there for consumers with low FICO® scores,”

There are many programs available with low or no credit score requirement. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) now requires a minimum FICO® score of 580 if you want to qualify for the low down payment advantage. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not set a minimum credit score requirement, but most lenders require a score of at least 640Veterans Affairs (VA) loans have no credit score requirement.

As you can see, none of them are above 700!

It is true that the average FICO® score for all closed loans in January was 726, but there are plenty of people taking advantage of the low credit score requirements. Here is the average FICO® Score of closed FHA Loans since April 2012 according to Ellie Mae:What Credit Score Do You Need To Buy A House? | Simplifying The MarketAs you can see, that number has been dropping for the last seven years. As a matter of fact, the average FHA Purchase FICO® Score reported in January 2019 was 675!

One of the challenges is that Americans are unsure about their credit score. They just assume that it is too low to qualify and do not double check. Credit.com confirmed that only 57% of individuals sought out their credit score at least once last year.

FICO® reported,

Since October 2009, the average year-over-year FICO® Score has steadily and consistently increased, from a low of 686 in 2009 to the latest high of 704 as of 2018.”

Here is the increase in the average US FICO® Score over the same period of time as the graph earlier.What Credit Score Do You Need To Buy A House? | Simplifying The Market

Bottom Line

At least 84% of Americans have a score that will allow them to buy a house. If you are unsure what your score is or would like to improve your score in order to become a homeowner, let’s get together to help you set a path to reach your dream!

What Makes a House a Home For You?

What Makes a House a Home For You?

We frequently talk about why it makes sense to buy a home financially, but more often than not the emotional reasons are the more powerful or compelling ones.

No matter what shape or size your living space is, the concept and feeling of a home can mean different things to different people. Whether it’s a certain scent or a favorite chair, the emotional reasons why we choose to buy our own homes are typically more important to us than the financial ones.

1. Owning your home offers stability to start and raise a family

From the best neighborhoods to the best school districts, even those without children at the time of purchase may have this in the back of their minds as a major reason for choosing the location of the home that they purchase.

2. There’s no place like home

Owning your own home offers you not only safety and security, but also a comfortable place that allows you to relax after a long day!

3. You have more space for you and your family

Whether your family is expanding, an older family member is moving in, or you need to have a large backyard for your pets, you can take all this into consideration when buying your dream home!

4. You have control over renovations, updates, and style

Looking to actually try one of those complicated wall treatments that you saw on Pinterest? Tired of paying an additional pet deposit for your apartment building? Or maybe you want to finally adopt that puppy or kitten you’ve seen online 100 times? Who’s to say that you can’t do all of these things in your own home?

Bottom Line

Whether you are a first-time homebuyer or a move-up buyer who wants to start a new chapter in your life, now is a great time to reflect on the intangible factors that make a house a home.

2008 vs. Now: Are Owners Using Their Homes as ATMs Again?

2008 vs. Now: Are Owners Using Their Homes as ATMs Again?

Over the last six years, we have experienced strong price appreciation which has increased home equity levels dramatically. As the number of “cash-out” refinances begins to approach numbers last seen during the crash, some are afraid that we may be repeating last decade’s mistake.

However, a closer look at the numbers shows that homeowners are being much more responsible with their home equity this time around.

What happened then…

When real estate values began to surge last decade, people started using their homes as personal ATMs. Homeowners would refinance their houses and convert their equity into instant cash (known as “cash-out” refinances). Because homes were appreciating so rapidly, many homeowners tapped into their equity multiple times.

This left homeowners with little-or-no equity left in their homes, so when prices started to fall many homeowners found their houses in a negative equity situation (where the mortgage amount was greater than the value of the home). When some of these homeowners saw that there was no value left in their houses, they just stopped paying their mortgages altogether.

Banks eventually foreclosed on those homes and the foreclosures drove prices down even further and put more homes in the negative equity category. This cycle continued, leading to the worst housing crash in almost one hundred years.

What’s happening now…

Again, Americans are seeing their home equity grow. Today, over 48% of all single-family homes in the country have over 50% equity, and yes, some families are tapping into that equity. However, this time around, homeowners are not making irresponsible decisions. According to the latest information from Freddie Mac, the total equity being “cashed out” is a fraction of what it was leading up to the crash. Here are the numbers:

2008 vs. Now: Are Owners Using Their Homes as ATMs Again? | Simplifying The Market

Bottom Line

The recklessness that accompanied the build-up in equity prior to the last crash does not exist today. That makes this housing market much more secure than the one we had heading into 2008.

4 Quick Reasons NOT to Fear a Housing Crash

4 Quick Reasons NOT to Fear a Housing Crash

There is a lot of uncertainty regarding the real estate market heading into 2019. That uncertainty has raised concerns that we may be headed toward another housing crash like the one we experienced a decade ago.

Here are four reasons why today’s market is much different:

1. There are fewer foreclosures now than there were in 2006

A major challenge in 2006 was the number of foreclosures. There will always be foreclosures, but they spiked by over 100% prior to the crash. Foreclosures sold at a discount and, in many cases, lowered the values of adjacent homes. We are ending 2018 with foreclosures at historic pre-crashnumbers – much fewer foreclosures than we ended 2006 with.

4 Quick Reasons NOT to Fear a Housing Crash | Simplifying The Market

2. Most homeowners have tremendous equity in their homes

Ten years ago, many homeowners irrationally converted much, if not all, of their equity into cash with a cash-out refinance. When foreclosures rose and prices fell, they found themselves in a negative equity situation where their homes were worth less than their mortgage amounts. Many just walked away from their houses which led to even more foreclosures entering the market. Today is different. Over forty-eight percent of homeowners have at least 50% equity in their homesand they are not extracting their equity at the same rates they did in 2006.

4 Quick Reasons NOT to Fear a Housing Crash | Simplifying The Market

3. Lending standards are much tougher

One of the causes of the crash ten years ago was that lending standards were almost non-existent. NINJA loans (no income, no job, and no assets) no longer exist. ARMs (adjustable rate mortgages) still exist but only as a fraction of the number from a decade ago. Though mortgage standards have loosened somewhat during the last few years, we are nowhere near the standards that helped create the housing crisis ten years ago.

4 Quick Reasons NOT to Fear a Housing Crash | Simplifying The Market

4. Affordability is better now than in 2006

Though it is difficult to afford a home for many Americans, data shows that it is more affordable to purchase a home now than it was from 1985 to 2000. And, it requires much less of a percentage of your income today than it did in 2006.

4 Quick Reasons NOT to Fear a Housing Crash | Simplifying The Market

Bottom Line

The housing industry is facing some rough waters heading into 2019. However, the graphs above show that the market is much healthier than it was prior to the crash ten years ago.

The Cost of Renting vs. Buying a Home [INFOGRAPHIC]

The Cost of Renting vs. Buying a Home [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights:

  • Historically, the choice between renting or buying a home has been a tough decision.
  • Looking at the percentage of income needed to rent a median-priced home today (28.4%) vs. the percentage needed to buy a median-priced home (17.5%), the choice becomes obvious.
  • Every market is different. Before you renew your lease again, find out if you can put your housing costs to work by buying this year!
Wage Increases Make Home Buying More Affordable

Wage Increases Make Home Buying More Affordable

Everyone knows that housing affordability has been negatively impacted by rising prices and increasing mortgage rates, but there is another piece to the affordability equation – wages.

How much a family earns obviously impacts how easy or difficult it is for them to afford to own a home. Because of an improving economy, wages are finally beginning to increase – and that dramatically affects home affordability.

According to the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) September 2018 Housing Affordability Index,wages have increased in every region of the country:

Wage Increases Make Home Buying More Affordable | Simplifying The Market

After applying current salaries, home prices, and mortgage rates to their Home Affordability Index equation, the index, though still lower than this time last year (160.1 to 146.7), increased over the last month (141.2 to 146.7). For the complete methodology used by NAR, click here.

The percentage of income needed to own a home has also decreased each of the last three months. It currently sits at 17% which is substantially lower than historic numbers.

Wage Increases Make Home Buying More Affordable | Simplifying The Market

Bottom Line

If you are a first-time buyer or a move-up buyer who believes that purchasing a home is not within your budget, let’s get together to determine if that is still true.

The True Cost of NOT Owning Your Home

The True Cost of NOT Owning Your Home

Owning a home has great financial benefits, yet many continue to rent! Today, let’s look at the financial reasons why owning a home of your own has been a part of the American Dream for the entirety of America’s existence.

Realtor.com reported that:

“Buying remains the more attractive option in the long term – that remains the American dream, and it’s true in many markets where renting has become really the shortsighted option…as people get more savings in their pockets, buying becomes the better option.”

What proof exists that owning is financially better than renting?

1. In a previous blog, we highlighted the top 5 financial benefits of homeownership:

  • Homeownership is a form of forced savings.
  • Homeownership provides tax savings.
  • Homeownership allows you to lock in your monthly housing cost.
  • Buying a home is cheaper than renting.
  • No other investment lets you live inside of it.

2. Studies have shown that a homeowner’s net worth is 44x greater than that of a renter.

3. Less than a month ago, we explained that a family that purchased an average-priced home at the beginning of 2018 could build more than $49,000 in family wealth over the next five years.

4. Some argue that renting eliminates the cost of taxes and home repairs, but every potential renter must realize that all the expenses the landlord incurs are already baked into the rent payment – along with a profit margin!

Bottom Line

Owning your home has many social and financial benefits that cannot be achieved by renting.

What’s Going On With Home Prices?

What’s Going On With Home Prices?

According to CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Insights Report, national home prices in August were up 5.5% from August 2017. This marks the first time since June 2016 that home prices did not appreciate by at least 6.0% year-over-year.

CoreLogic’s Chief Economist Frank Nothaft gave some insight into this change,

“The rise in mortgage rates this summer to their highest level in seven years has made it more difficult for potential buyers to afford a home. The slackening in demand is reflected in the slowing of national appreciation, as illustrated in the CoreLogic Home Price Index.  

National appreciation in August was the slowest in nearly two years, and we expect appreciation to slow further in the coming year.”

One of the major factors that has driven prices to accelerate at a pace of between 6-7% over the past two years was the lack of inventory available for sale in many areas of the country. This made houses a prized commodity which forced many buyers into bidding wars and drove prices even higher.

According to the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) latest Existing Home Sales Report, we are starting to see more inventory come to market over the last few months. This, paired with patient buyers who are willing to wait to find the right homes, is creating a natural environment for price growth to slow.

Historically, prices appreciated at a rate of 3.7% (from 1987-1999). CoreLogic predicts that prices will continue to rise over the next year at a rate of 4.7%.

Bottom Line

As the housing market moves closer to a ‘normal market’ with more inventory for buyers to choose from, home prices will start to appreciate at a more ‘normal’ level, and that’s ok! If you are curious about home prices in your area, let’s get together to chat about what’s going on!

5 Tips for Starting Your Home Search

5 Tips for Starting Your Home Search

In today’s real estate market, with low inventory dominating the conversation in many areas of the country, it can often be frustrating to be a first-time homebuyer if you aren’t prepared.

In a recent realtor.com article entitled, “How to Find Your Dream Home—Without Losing Your Mind,” the author highlights some steps that first-time homebuyers can take to help carry their excitement of buying a home throughout the whole process.

1. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage Before You Start Your Search

One way to show you are serious about buying your dream home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before starting your search. Even if you are in a market that is not as competitive, understanding your budget will give you the confidence of knowing whether or not your dream home is within your reach.

This step will also help you narrow your search based on your budget and won’t leave you disappointed if the home you tour, and love, ends up being outside your budget!

2. Know the Difference Between Your ‘Must-Haves’ and ‘Would-Like-To-Haves’

Do you really need that farmhouse sink in the kitchen to be happy with your home choice? Would a two-car garage be a convenience or a necessity? Could the ‘man cave’ of your dreams be a future renovation project instead of a make-or-break right now?

Before you start your search, list all the features of a home you would like and then qualify them as ‘must-haves’, ‘should-haves’, or ‘absolute-wish list’ items. This will help keep you focused on what’s most important.

3. Research and Choose a Neighborhood You Want to Live In

Every neighborhood has its own charm. Before you commit to a home based solely on the house itself, the article suggests test-driving the area. Make sure that the area meets your needs for “amenities, commute, school district, etc. and then spend a weekend exploring before you commit.”

4. Pick a House Style You Love and Stick to It

Evaluate your family’s needs and settle on a style of home that would best serve those needs. Just because you’ve narrowed your search to a zip code, doesn’t mean that you need to tour every listing in that zip code.

An example from the article says, “if you have several younger kids and don’t want your bedroom on a different level, steer clear of Cape Cod–style homes, which typically feature two or more bedrooms on the upper level and the master on the main.”

5. Document Your Home Visits

Once you start touring homes, the features of each individual home will start to blur together. The article suggests keeping your camera handy and documenting what you love and don’t love about each property you visit. They even go as far as to suggest snapping a photo of the ‘for sale’ sign on the way into the property to help keep the listings divided in your photo gallery.

Making notes on the listing sheet as you tour the property will also help you remember what the photos mean, or what you were feeling while touring the home.

Bottom Line

In a high-paced, competitive environment, any advantage you can give yourself will help you on your path to buying your dream home.