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Stop Wondering What Your Budget Is & Get Pre-Approved!

Stop Wondering What Your Budget Is & Get Pre-Approved!

In many markets across the country, the number of buyers searching for their dream homes outnumbers the number of homes for sale. This has led to a competitive marketplace where buyers often need to stand out. One way to show that 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 not in an incredibly competitive market, understanding your budget will give you the confidence of knowing whether or not your dream home is within your reach.

Freddie Mac lays out the advantages of pre-approval in the ‘My Home’ section of their website:

“It’s highly recommended that you work with your lender to get pre-approved before you begin house hunting. Pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford and can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets.”

One of the many advantages of working with a local real estate professional is that many have relationships with lenders who will be able to help you through this process. Once you have selected a lender, you will need to fill out their loan application and provide them with important information regarding “your credit, debt, work history, down payment and residential history.”

Freddie Mac describes the ‘4 Cs’ that help determine the amount you will be qualified to borrow:

  1. Capacity: Your current and future ability to make your payments
  2. Capital or cash reserves: The money, savings, and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash
  3. Collateral: The home, or type of home, that you would like to purchase
  4. Credit: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time

Getting pre-approved is one of many steps that will show home sellers that you are serious about buying, and it often helps speed up the process once your offer has been accepted.

Bottom Line

Many potential homebuyers overestimate the down payment and credit scores necessary to qualify for a mortgage. If you are ready and willing to buy, you may be pleasantly surprised at your ability to do so today.

The Impact Staging Your Home Has On Your Sale Price [INFOGRAPHIC]

The Impact Staging Your Home Has On Your Sale Price [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some Highlights:

  • The National Association of Realtors surveyed their members & released the findings of their Profile of Home Staging.
  • 62% of seller’s agents say that staging a home decreases the amount of time a home spends on the market.
  • 50% of staged homes saw a 1-10% increase in dollar-value offers from buyers.
  • 77% of buyer’s agents said staging made it easier for buyers to visualize the home as their own.
  • The top rooms to stage in order to attract more buyers are the living room, master bedroom, kitchen, and dining room.
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!

The #1 Reason to Not Wait Until Spring to Sell Your House

The #1 Reason to Not Wait Until Spring to Sell Your House

Many sellers believe that spring is the best time to place their homes on the market because buyer demand traditionally increases at that time of year, but what they don’t realize is that if every homeowner believes the same thing, then that is when they will have the most competition!

The #1 Reason to List Your Home in the Winter Months is Less Competition!

Housing supply traditionally shrinks at this time of year, so the choices buyers have will be limited. The chart below was created using the months’ supply of listings from the National Association of Realtors.

The #1 Reason to Not Wait Until Spring to Sell Your House | Simplifying The Market

As you can see, the ‘sweet spot’ to list your home for the most exposure naturally occurs in the late fall and winter months (November – February).

Temperatures aren’t the only thing that heats up in the spring – so do listings!

The #1 Reason to Not Wait Until Spring to Sell Your House | Simplifying The Market

In 2017, listings increased by nearly half a million houses from December to June. Don’t wait for these listings to come to market before you decide to list your house.

Added Bonus: Only Serious Buyers Are Out in the Winter

At this time of year, only those purchasers who are serious about buying a home will be in the marketplace. You and your family will not be bothered and inconvenienced by mere ‘lookers.’ The lookers are at the mall or online doing their holiday shopping.

Bottom Line

If you have been debating whether or not to sell your home and are curious about market conditions in your area, let’s get together to help you decide the best time to list your house for sale.

Why You Should Not For Sale By Owner

Why You Should Not For Sale By Owner

In today’s market, as home prices rise and a lack of inventory continues, some homeowners may consider trying to sell their homes on their own, known in the industry as a For Sale by Owner (FSBO). There are several reasons why this might not be a good idea for most sellers.

Here are the top five reasons:

1. Exposure to Prospective Buyers

According to NAR’s 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 95% of buyers searched online for a home last year. That is in comparison to only 13% of buyers looking at print newspaper ads. Most real estate agents have an Internet strategy to promote the sale of your home, do you?

2. Results Come from the Internet

Where did buyers find the homes they actually purchased?

  • 50% on the Internet
  • 28% from a real estate agent
  • 7% from a yard sign
  • 1% from newspapers

The days of selling your house by putting out a lawn sign or putting an ad in the paper are long gone. Having a strong Internet strategy is crucial.

3. There Are Too Many People to Negotiate With

Here is a list of some of the people with whom you must be prepared to negotiate if you decide to For Sale by Owner:

  • The buyer who wants the best deal possible
  • The buyer’s agent who solely represents the best interests of the buyer
  • The buyer’s attorney (in some parts of the country)
  • The home inspection companies, which work for the buyer and will almost always find some problems with the house
  • The appraiser if there is a question of value

4. FSBOing Has Become More And More Difficult

The paperwork involved in selling and buying a home has increased dramatically as industry disclosures and regulations have become mandatory. This is one of the reasons that the percentage of people FSBOing has dropped from 19% to 7% over the last 20+ years.

5. You Net More Money When Using an Agent

Many homeowners believe that they can save on the real estate commission by selling on their own, but they don’t realize that the main reason buyers look at FSBOs is because they also believe that they can save on the real estate agent’s commission. The seller and buyer can’t both save the commission.

study by Collateral Analytics revealed that FSBOs don’t actually save anything, and in some cases may be costing themselves more, by not listing with an agent. One of the main reasons for the price difference at the time of sale is that,

“Properties listed with a broker that is a member of the local MLS will be listed online with all other participating broker websites, marketing the home to a much larger buyer population. And those MLS properties generally offer compensation to agents who represent buyers, incentivizing them to show and sell the property and again potentially enlarging the buyer pool.”

If more buyers see a home, the greater the chances are that there could be a bidding war for the property. The study showed that the difference in price between comparable homes of size and location is currently at an average of 6% this year.

Why would you choose to list on your own and manage the entire transaction when you can hire an agent and not have to pay anything more?

Bottom Line

Before you decide to take on the challenges of selling your house on your own, let’s get together to discuss your needs.

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.

Home Sellers in Q3 Netted $61K at Resale

Home Sellers in Q3 Netted $61K at Resale

According to a recent report by ATTOM Data Solutions, home sellers who sold their homes in the third quarter of 2018 benefited from rising home prices and netted an average of $61,232.

This is the highest average price gain since the second quarter of 2007 and represents a 32% return on the original purchase prices.

After the Great Recession, many homeowners were left in negative equity situations but home price appreciation in the recovery period since then has given homeowners something to smile about.

The results from ATTOM fall right in line with data from the latest edition of the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. Below is a chart that was created using NAR’s data to show the percentage of equity that homeowners earned at the time of sale based on when they purchased their homes.

Home Sellers in Q3 Netted $61K at Resale | Simplifying The Market

Even though those who purchased at the peak of the market netted less than those who bought before and after the peak, the good news is that there was a double-digit profit to be had! Many homeowners believe that they are still underwater which has led many of them to not even consider selling their houses.

Bottom Line

If you are curious about how much equity you’d earn if you sold your home, let’s get together to perform an equity review and determine the demand for your home in today’s market!