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Homeownership Is Full of Financial Benefits

A Fannie Mae survey recently revealed some of the most highly-rated benefits of homeownership, which continue to be key drivers in today’s power-packed housing market. Here are the top four financial benefits of owning a home according to consumer respondents:

  • 88% – a better chance of saving for retirement
  • 87% – the best investment plan
  • 85% – the chance to be better off financially
  • 85% – the chance to build up wealth

Additional financial advantages of homeownership included in the survey are having the best overall tax situation and being able to live within your budget.

Does homeownership actually give you a better chance to build wealth?

No one can question a person’s unique feelings about the importance of homeownership. However, it’s fair to ask if the numbers justify homeownership as a financial asset.

Last fall, the Federal Reserve released the Survey of Consumer Finances, a report done every three years, with the latest edition covering through 2019. Their findings confirmed that homeownership is a clear financial benefit. The survey found that homeowners have forty times higher net worth than renters ($255,000 for homeowners compared to $6,300 for renters).

The difference in net worth between homeowners and renters has continued to grow. Here’s a graph showing the results of the last four Fed surveys:Homeownership Is Full of Financial Benefits | Simplifying The MarketThe above graph only includes data through 2019, but according to CoreLogic, the equity held by homeowners grew by $26,300 over the last twelve months alone. That means the gap between the net worth of homeowners and renters has probably widened even further over the last year.

Some might argue the difference in net worth may be due to homeowners normally having larger incomes than renters and therefore the ability to save more money. However, a study by First American shows homeowners have greater net worth than renters regardless of their income level. Here are the findings:Homeownership Is Full of Financial Benefits | Simplifying The MarketOthers may think homeowners are older and that’s why they have a greater net worth. However, a Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University report on homeowners and renters over the age of 65 reveals:

“The ability to build equity puts homeowners far ahead of renters in terms of household wealth…the median owner age 65 and over had home equity of $143,500 and net wealth of $319,200. By comparison, the net wealth of the same-age renter was just $6,700.”

Homeowners 65 and older have 47.6 times greater net worth than renters.

Bottom Line

The idea of homeownership as a direct way to build your net worth has met the test of time. Let’s connect if you’re ready to take steps toward becoming a homeowner.

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Your Tax Refund and Stimulus Savings May Help You Achieve Homeownership This Year

If you’re planning to buy a home this year, saving for a down payment is one of the most important steps in the process. One of the best ways to jumpstart your savings is by starting with the help of your tax refund.

Using data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), it’s estimated that Americans can expect an average refund of $2,925 when filing their taxes this year. The map below shows the average anticipated tax refund by state:Your Tax Refund and Stimulus Savings May Help You Achieve Homeownership This Year | Simplifying The MarketThanks to programs from the Federal Housing Authority, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae, many first-time buyers can purchase a home with as little as 3% down. In addition, Veterans Affairs Loans allow many veterans to put 0% down. You may have heard the common myth that you need to put 20% down when you buy a home, but thankfully for most homebuyers, a 20% down payment isn’t actually required. It’s important to work with your real estate professional and your lender to understand all of your options.

How can your tax refund help?

If you’re a first-time buyer, your tax refund may cover more of a down payment than you realize.

If you take into account the median home sale price by state, the map below shows the percentage of a 3% down payment that’s covered by the average anticipated tax refund:Your Tax Refund and Stimulus Savings May Help You Achieve Homeownership This Year | Simplifying The MarketThe darker the blue, the closer your tax refund gets you to homeownership when you qualify for one of the low down payment programs. Maybe this is the year to plan ahead and put your tax refund toward the down payment on a home.

Not enough money from your tax return? 

A recent paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that, of the households that received a stimulus check last year, “One third report that they primarily saved the stimulus money.” If you had the opportunity to save your Economic Impact Payments, you may consider putting that money toward your down payment or closing costs as well. Your trusted real estate professional can also advise you on the down payment assistance programs available in your area.

Bottom Line

Saving for a down payment can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. This year, your tax refund and your stimulus savings could add up big when it comes to reaching your homeownership goals.

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Is Homeownership Still Considered Part of the American Dream?

Since the birth of our nation, homeownership has always been considered a major piece of the American Dream. As Frederick Peters reports in Forbes:

“The idea of a place of one’s own drives the American story. We became a nation out of a desire to slip the bonds of Europe, which was still in many respects a collection of feudal societies. Old rich families, or the church, owned all the land and, with few exceptions, everyone else was a tenant. The magic of America lay not only in its sense of opportunity, but also in the belief that life could in every way be shaped by the individual. People traveled here not just for religious freedom, but because in America anything seemed possible.”

Additionally, a research paper released just prior to the shelter-in-place orders issued last year concludes:

“Homeownership is undeniably the cornerstone of the American Dream, and is inseparable from our national ethos that, through hard work, every American should have opportunities for prosperity and success. It is the stability and wealth creation that homeownership provides that represents the primary mechanism through which many American families are able to achieve upward socioeconomic mobility and greater opportunities for their children.”

Has the past year changed the American view on homeownership?

Definitely not. A survey of prospective homebuyers released by realtor.com last week reveals that becoming a homeowner is still the main reason this year’s first-time homebuyers want to purchase a home. When asked why they want to buy, three of the top four responses center on the financial benefits of owning a home. The top four reasons for buying are:

  • 59% – “I want to be a homeowner”
  • 33% – “I want to live in a space that I can invest in improving”
  • 31% – “I need more space”
  • 22% – “I want to build equity”

Millennials believe most strongly in homeownership.

The survey also reports that 62% of millennials say a desire to be a homeowner is the main reason they’re buying a home. This contradicts the thinking of some experts who had believed millennials were going to be the first “renter generation” in our nation’s history.

While reporting on the survey, George Ratiu, Senior Economist at realtor.com, said:

“Americans, even millennials who many thought would never buy, have a strong preference for homeownership for the same reasons many generations before them have — to invest in a place of their own and in their communities, and to build a solid financial foundation for themselves and their families.”

Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist for First American, also addresses millennial homeownership:

“Millennials have delayed marriage and having children in favor of investing in education, pushing marriage and family formation to their early-to-mid thirties, compared with previous generations, who primarily made these lifestyle choices in their twenties…Delayed lifestyle choices delay the desire for homeownership.”

Kushi goes on to explain:

“As more millennials get married and form families, millennials remain poised to transform the housing market. In fact, the housing market is already experiencing the earliest gusts of the tailwind.”

Bottom Line

As it always has been and very likely always will be, homeownership continues to be a major component in every generation’s pursuit of the American Dream.

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How a Change in Mortgage Rate Impacts Your Homebuying Budget

Mortgage rates are on the rise this year, but they’re still incredibly low compared to the historic average. However, anytime there’s a change in the mortgage rate, it affects what you can afford to borrow when you’re buying a home. As Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Mac, shares:

Since January, mortgage rates have increased half a percentage point from historic lows and home prices have risen, leaving potential homebuyers with less purchasing power.” (See graph below):

How a Change in Mortgage Rate Impacts Your Homebuying Budget | Simplifying The MarketWhen buying a home, it’s important to determine a monthly budget so you can plan for and understand what you can afford. However, when you need to stick to your budget, even a small increase in the mortgage rate can make a big difference.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), today, the median existing-home price is $313,000. Using $300,000 as a simple number close to the median price, here’s an example of how a change in mortgage rate impacts your monthly principal and interest payments on a home.How a Change in Mortgage Rate Impacts Your Homebuying Budget | Simplifying The MarketIf, for example, you’re getting ready to buy a home and know your budget allows for a monthly payment of $1200-1250 (marked in gray on the table above), every time the mortgage rate increases, the loan amount has to decrease to keep your monthly cost in range. This means you may have to look for lower-priced homes as mortgage rates go up if you want to be able to maintain your budget.

In essence, it’s ideal to close on a home loan when mortgage rates are low, so you can afford to borrow more money. This gives you more purchasing power when you buy a home. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, explains:

“Monthly payments have remained manageable despite soaring home prices because of low mortgage rates. In fact, monthly payments remain below the $1,250 to $1,260 range that we saw in both fall 2018 and spring 2019, but they are on track to hit that level this spring.

Although they remain low, mortgage rates have begun to increase and are expected to rise further later in the year, thus affordability will test buyer demand in the months ahead and likely help slow the pace of price growth.”

Today’s mortgage rates are still very low, but experts project they’ll continue to rise modestly this year. As a result, every moment counts for homebuyers who want to secure the lowest mortgage rate they can in order to be able to afford the home of their dreams.

Bottom Line

Thanks to low mortgage rates, the spring housing market’s in bloom for buyers – but these favorable conditions may not last for long. Let’s connect today to start the homebuying process while your purchasing power is still holding strong.

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Why You Should Think About Listing Prices Like an Auction’s Reserve Price

For generations, the homebuying process never really changed. The seller would try to estimate the market value of the home and tack on a little extra to give themselves some negotiating room. That figure would become the listing price of the house. Buyers would then try to determine how much less than the full price they could offer and still get the home. The asking price was generally the ceiling of the negotiation. The actual sales price would almost always be somewhat lower than the list price. It was unthinkable to pay more than what the seller was asking.

Today is different.

The record-low supply of homes for sale coupled with very strong buyer demand is leading to a rise in bidding wars on many homes. Because of this, homes today often sell for more than the list price. In some cases, they sell for a lot more.

According to the Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends report just released by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 45% of buyers paid full price or more.

You may need to change the way you look at the asking price of a home.

In this market, you likely can’t shop for a home with the old-school mentality of refusing to pay full price or more for a house.

Because of the shortage of inventory of houses for sale, many homes are actually being offered in an auction-like atmosphere in which the highest bidder wins the home. In an actual auction, the seller of an item agrees to take the highest bid, and many sellers set a reserve price on the item they’re selling. A reserve price is the minimum amount a seller will accept as the winning bid.

When navigating a competitive housing market, think of the list price of the house as the reserve price at an auction. It’s the minimum the seller will accept in many cases. Today, the asking price is often becoming the floor of the negotiation rather than the ceiling. Therefore, if you really love a home, know that it may ultimately sell for more than the sellers are asking. So, as you’re navigating the homebuying process, make sure you know your budget, know what you can afford, and work with a trusted advisor who can help you make all the right moves as you buy a home.

Bottom Line

Someone who’s more familiar with the housing market of the past than that of today may think offering more for a home than the listing price is foolish. However, frequent and competitive bidding wars are creating an auction-like atmosphere in many real estate transactions. Let’s connect so you have the best advice on how to make a competitive offer on a home in our local market.

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What Credit Score Do You Need for a Mortgage?

According to data from the most recent Origination Insight Report by Ellie Mae, the average FICO® score on closed loans reached 753 in February. As lending standards have tightened recently, many are concerned over whether or not their credit score is strong enough to qualify for a mortgage. While stricter lending standards could be a challenge for some, many buyers may be surprised by the options that are still available for borrowers with lower credit scores.

The fact that the average American has seen their credit score go up in recent years is a great sign of financial health. As someone’s score rises, they’re building toward a stronger financial future. As more Americans with strong credit enter the housing market, we see a natural increase in the FICO® score distribution of closed loans, as shown in the graph below:What Credit Score Do You Need for a Mortgage? | Simplifying The MarketIf your credit score is below 750, it’s easy to see this data and fear that you may not be able to qualify for a mortgage. However, that’s not always the case. While the majority of borrowers right now do have a score above 750, there’s more to qualifying for a mortgage than just the credit score, and there are still options that allow people with lower credit scores to buy their dream home. Here’s what Experian, a global leader in consumer and business credit reporting, says:

  • Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans: “With a 3.5% down payment, homebuyers may be able to get an FHA loan with a 580 credit score or higher. If you can manage a 10% down payment, though, that minimum goes as low as 500.”
  • Conventional loans: “The most popular loan type typically comes with a 620 minimum credit score.”
  • S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loans: “In general, lenders require a minimum credit score of 640 for a USDA loan, though some may go as low as 580.”
  • S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) loans: VA loans don’t technically have a minimum credit score, but lenders will typically require between 580 and 620.”

There’s no doubt a higher credit score will give you more options and better terms when applying for a mortgage, especially when lending is tight like it is right now. When planning to buy a home, speaking to an expert about steps you can take to improve your credit score is essential so you’re in the best position possible. However, don’t rule yourself out if your score is less than perfect – today’s market is still full of opportunity.

Bottom Line

Don’t let assumptions about whether your credit score is strong enough put a premature end to your homeownership goals. Let’s connect today to discuss the options that are best for you.

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What Is the #1 Financial Benefit of Homeownership?

There are many financial and non-financial benefits of homeownership, and the greatest financial one is wealth creation. Homeownership has always been the first rung on the ladder that leads to forming household wealth. As Freddie Mac explains:

“Homeownership has cemented its role as part of the American Dream, providing families with a place that is their own and an avenue for building wealth over time. This ‘wealth’ is built, in large part, through the creation of equity…Building equity through your monthly principal payments and appreciation is a critical part of homeownership that can help you create financial stability.”

Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist at First American, also notes:

“The wealth-building power of homeownership shows that home is not only where your heart is, but also where your wealth is…For the majority of households that transition into homeownership, the most recent data reinforces that housing is one of the biggest positive drivers of wealth creation.”

Last week, CoreLogic released their latest Homeowner Equity Insights Report, which reveals the surge in wealth created over the last twelve months through increased home equity. The report makes five key points:

  1. Roughly 38% of all homes are mortgage-free
  2. The average equity gain of mortgaged homes in the last year was $26,300
  3. The current average equity of mortgaged homes is greater than $200,000
  4. There was a 16.9% increase in total homeowner equity
  5. Total homeowner equity reached over $1.5 trillion

Here’s a map that shows the equity gains by state:What Is the #1 Financial Benefit of Homeownership? | Simplifying The MarketIncreasing equity is giving homeowners the power to better manage the challenges of the pandemic, especially for those spending more time at home. In the report, Frank Nothaft, Chief Economist for CoreLogic, explains:

“This equity growth has enabled many families to finance home remodeling, such as adding an office or study, further contributing to last year’s record level in home improvement spending.”

The financial advantage homeowners have has not gone unnoticed. In the same report, Frank Martell, President and CEO of CoreLogic, states:

“This growing bank of personal wealth that homeownership affords was noticed by many but in particular for first-time buyers who want a piece of the cake.”

Increasing wealth benefits more than just homeowners.

Last year, the Rosen Consulting Group released a report outlining the benefits of homeownership. In that report, they explained what an increase in net worth – which they call the “wealth effect” – means to the economy:

“In economic literature, the wealth effect is a term used to describe the fact that individuals have a tendency to increase their spending habits when their actual or perceived wealth increases. For homeowners, the latent savings achieved by building equity in their home and the growth in home values over time both contribute to increased net worth. Through the wealth effect, this in turn translates to households having a greater ability and willingness to spend money across a wide range of other types of goods and services that spur business activity and provide a positive multiplier effect that creates jobs and income throughout the economy.”

Bottom Line

Homeownership builds wealth through equity, and this creates a positive impact for homeowners and their communities. Let’s connect today if you’re ready to invest in a home of your own.

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How to Make a Winning Offer on a Home

Today’s homebuyers are faced with a strong sellers’ market, which means there are a lot of active buyers competing for a relatively low number of available homes. As a result, it’s essential to understand how to make a confident and competitive offer on your dream home. Here are five tips for success in this critical stage of the homebuying process.

1. Listen to Your Real Estate Advisor

An article from Freddie Mac gives direction on making an offer on a home. From the start, it emphasizes how trusted professionals can help you stay focused on the most important things, especially at times when this process can get emotional for buyers:

“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.”

A real estate professional should be the expert guide you lean on for advice 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 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. Doing so make it clear to sellers you’re a serious and qualified buyer, and it can give you a competitive edge in a bidding war.

3. Be Prepared to Move Quickly

According to the latest Realtors Confidence Index from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the average property sold today receives 3.7 offers and is on the market for just 21 days. These are both results of today’s competitive market, showing how important it is to stay agile and alert in your search. As soon as you find the right home for your needs, be prepared 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 make 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. Stay Flexible in Negotiations

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. You can strengthen your position 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). Freddie Mac explains that there are, however, certain contingencies you don’t want to forego:

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. Let’s connect to make sure you rise to the top along the way.

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How to Be a Competitive Buyer in Today’s Housing Market [INFOGRAPHIC]

How to Be a Competitive Buyer in Today’s Housing Market [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights

  • With so few houses for sale today, it’s important to be prepared when you’re ready to buy a home.
  • Meeting with your lender early, knowing your must-haves and nice-to-haves, preparing for a bidding war, and keeping your emotions in check are all ways to gain confidence in the homebuying process.
  • If you’re looking for an expert guide to help you navigate today’s lightning-fast housing market, let’s connect today.
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How Upset Should You Be about 3% Mortgage Rates?

Last Thursday, Freddie Mac announced that their 30-year fixed mortgage rate was over 3% (3.02%) for the first time since last July. That news dominated real estate headlines that day and the next. Articles talked about the “negative impact” it may have on the housing market. However, we should realize two things:

1. The bump-up in rate should not have surprised anyone. Many had already projected that rates would rise slightly as we proceeded through the year.

2. Freddie Mac’s comments about the rate increase were not alarming:

“The rise in mortgage rates over the next couple of months is likely to be more muted in comparison to the last few weeks, and we expect a strong spring sales season.”

A “muted” rise in rates will not sink the real estate market, and most experts agree that it will be a strong spring sales season.”

What does this mean for you?

Obviously, any buyer would rather mortgage rates not rise at all, as any upward movement increases their monthly mortgage payment. However, let’s put a 3.02% rate into perspective. Here are the Freddie Mac annual mortgage rates for the last five years:

  • 2016: 3.65%
  • 2017: 3.99%
  • 2018: 4.54%
  • 2019: 3.94%
  • 2020: 3.11%

Though 3.02% is not as great as the sub-3% rates we saw over the previous seven weeks, it’s still very close to the all-time low (2.66% in December 2020).

And, if we expand our look at mortgage rates to consider the last 50 years, we can see that today’s rate is truly outstanding. Here are the rates over the last five decades:

  • 1970s: 8.86%
  • 1980s: 12.7%
  • 1990s: 8.12%
  • 2000s: 6.29%
  • 2010s: 4.09%

Being upset that you missed the “best mortgage rate ever” is understandable. However, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Buying now still makes more sense than waiting, especially if rates continue to bump up this year.

Bottom Line

It’s true that you may not get the same rate you would have five weeks ago. However, you will get a better rate than what was possible at almost any other point in history. Let’s connect today so you can lock in a great rate while they stay this low.