April 15, 2024

Builders Are Building Smaller Homes?

 

Builders Are Building Smaller Homes

There’s no arguing it, affordability is still tight. And if you’re trying to buy a home, that may mean you need to look at smaller houses to find one that’s still in your budget. But there is a silver lining: builders are focused on building these smaller homes right now and they’re offering incentives. And that can help give you more options that fit the bill.

Newly Built Homes Are Trending Smaller

During the pandemic, homebuyers wanted (and could afford) larger homes – and builders delivered. They focused on homes that were bigger, so people had more space for things like working from home, having a home gym, bonus rooms for virtual school, and more.

But with the affordability challenges buyers are facing today, builders are increasingly shifting their attention to bringing smaller single-family homes to the market. The graph below uses data from the Census to show how this trend has evolved over the last few years:

a graph of a number of blue bars

So, why the shift to less square footage? It’s simple. Builders want to build what they know will sell. Basically, they focus on where the demand is strongest. And once mortgage rates started climbing and consumers felt the challenges of affordability creeping in, it became clear there was (and is) a very real need for smaller homes. As the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) explains:

“After a brief increase during the post-covid building boom, home size is trending lower and will likely continue to do so as housing affordability remains constrained.”

A recent article in the Real Deal says this about how this helps buyers:

Even a slightly smaller home can be thousands of dollars cheaper — for both builders and buyers. . . In response to affordability challenges, major homebuilders are shifting priorities away from the big ticket homes and towards the cheaper set.”

What This Means for You

If you’re having a hard time finding something in your budget, it may help to look at smaller homes. And, if you consider new builds specifically, you may find a few other fringe benefits that can help on the affordability front – like price reductions or mortgage rate buy-downs. As NAHB says:

“More than one-third of builders cut home prices in 2023. NAHB expects builders to continue offering smaller homes and more affordable designs as housing affordability remains a barrier to homeownership.”

As Charlie Bilello, Chief Market Strategist, at Creative Planning, explains:

“Homebuilders are adapting to the lowest affordability on record by building smaller homes and offering more incentives/price cuts. The median square footage of a new single-family home in the US has moved down to its lowest level since 2010.”

If you explore these options, you’ll also get brand new everything, enjoy a house with fewer maintenance needs, and some of the latest features available. That’s worth looking into, right? 

Bottom Line

Builders building smaller homes can give you more affordable options at a time when you really need it. If you’re hoping to buy a home soon, partner with a local real estate agent to find out what’s available in your area.

Posted in News
April 3, 2024

The Perks of Downsizing When You Retire [INFOGRAPHIC]?

 

Some Highlights

  • If you’re about to retire, or just did, downsizing can be a good way to try to cut down on some of your expenses.
  • Smaller homes typically have lower energy and maintenance costs. Plus, you may have enough equity built up to fuel your move.
  • If you’re thinking about moving to a smaller home, connect with a real estate professional to go over your goals and look at your options in the local market.
Posted in News
April 2, 2024

Should I Move with Today’s Mortgage Rates?

 

Should I Move with Today’s Mortgage Rates?

When mortgage rates spiked up over the last few years, some homeowners put their plans to move on pause. Maybe you did too because you didn’t want to sell and take on a higher mortgage rate for your next home. But is that still the right strategy for you?

In today’s market, data shows more homeowners are getting used to where rates are and thinking it may be time to move. As Mark Zandi, Chief Economist at Moody’s Analyticsexplains:

“Listings are up a bit as life events and job changes are putting increasing pressure on locked-in homeowners to sell their homes. Homeowners may also be slowly coming to the realization that mortgage rates aren’t going back anywhere near the rate on their existing mortgage.

A recent study from Bank of America sheds light on some of the things homeowners say would make them sell, even with rates where they are right now (see visual below):

a group of blue and white icons

What Would Motivate You To Move?

Now that you know why other people would move, take a minute to think about what would make a move worth it for you. Is it time to take a chance and go for your dream job, even though it’s not local? Are you looking for a neighborhood that has more to offer and a close-knit sense of community? Maybe you just need more space, you’re looking for your next great adventure, or you want a house that opens up rental opportunities to pad your income.

And here’s something else to consider. Mortgage rates are still expected to go down over the course of the year. And once that happens, there’s going to be a big rush of buyers jumping back into the market. While you could delay your plans until rates drop, you’ll only have more competition with those buyers if you do.

So, does that mean it’s worth it to move now, even with rates where they are? The answer is: that it depends.

You’ll want to consider today’s mortgage rates, where they’re expected to go from here, and what would prompt you to want to make a change as you decide on your next steps. An expert can help with that. 

Bottom Line

Other homeowners are getting used to rates and deciding to move. Talk to a local real estate agent to go over what matters most to you and if it’s time for you to jump back into the market too. 

 

Posted in Listings
March 25, 2024

What Every Homebuyer Should Know About Closing Costs?

What Every Homebuyer Should Know About Closing Costs

 

What Every Homebuyer Should Know About Closing Costs

Before making the decision to buy a home, it’s important to plan for all the costs you’ll be responsible for. While you’re busy saving for the down payment, don’t forget you’ll want to prep for closing costs too.

Here’s some helpful information on what those costs are and how much you should budget for them.

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Posted in Buyer Blog
March 4, 2024

The Truth About Down Payments?

 

The Truth About Down Payments

If you’re planning to buy your first home, saving up for all the costs involved can feel daunting, especially when it comes to the down payment. That might be because you’ve heard you need to save 20% of the home’s price to put down. Well, that isn’t necessarily the case.

Unless specified by your loan type or lender, it’s typically not required to put 20% down. That means you could be closer to your homebuying dream than you realize.

As The Mortgage Reports says:

“Although putting down 20% to avoid mortgage insurance is wise if affordable, it’s a myth that this is always necessary. In fact, most people opt for a much lower down payment.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the median down payment hasn’t been over 20% since 2005. In fact, for all homebuyers today it’s only 15%. And it’s even lower for first-time homebuyers at just 8% (see graph below):

a graph of a number of blue squares

The big takeaway? You may not need to save as much as you originally thought.

Learn About Resources That Can Help You Toward Your Goal

According to Down Payment Resource, there are also over 2,000 homebuyer assistance programs in the U.S., and many of them are intended to help with down payments.

Plus, there are loan options that can help too. For example, FHA loans offer down payments as low as 3.5%, while VA and USDA loans have no down payment requirements for qualified applicants.

With so many resources available to help with your down payment, the best way to find what you qualify for is by consulting with your loan officer or broker. They know about local grants and loan programs that may help you out.

Don’t let the misconception that you have to have 20% saved up hold you back. If you’re ready to become a homeowner, lean on the professionals to find resources that can help you make your dreams a reality. If you put your plans on hold until you’ve saved up 20%, it may actually cost you in the long run. According to U.S. Bank:

“. . . there are plenty of reasons why it might not be possible. For some, waiting to save up 20% for a down payment may “cost” too much time. While you’re saving for your down payment and paying rent, the price of your future home may go up.”

Home prices are expected to keep appreciating over the next 5 years – meaning your future home will likely go up in price the longer you wait. If you’re able to use these resources to buy now, that future price growth will help you build equity, rather than cost you more.

Bottom Line

Keep in mind that you don't always need a 20% down payment to buy a home. If you're looking to make a move this year, reach out to a trusted real estate professional to start the conversation about your homebuying goals.

Posted in Listings
March 1, 2024

Why Today’s Housing Supply Is a Sweet Spot for Sellers?

 

Why Today’s Housing Supply Is a Sweet Spot for Sellers

Wondering if it still makes sense to sell your house right now? The short answer is, yes. And if you look at the current number of homes for sale, you’ll see two reasons why.

An article from Calculated Risk shows there are 15.6% more homes for sale now compared to the same week last year. That tells us inventory has grown. But going back to 2019, the last normal year in the housing market, there are nearly 40% fewer homes available now:

a graph with red and blue squares

Here’s a breakdown of how this benefits you when you sell.

1. You Have More Options for Your Move

Are you thinking about selling because your current house is too big, too small, or because your needs have changed? If so, the year-over-year growth gives you more options for your home search. That means it may be less of a challenge to find what you’re looking for.

So, if you were holding off on selling because you were worried you weren’t going to find a home you like, this may be just the good news you needed. Partnering with a local real estate professional can help you make sure you’re up to date on the homes available in your area.

2. You Still Won’t Have Much Competition When You Sell

But to put that into perspective, even though there are more homes for sale now, there still aren’t as many as there’d be in a normal year. Remember, the data from Calculated Risk shows we’re down nearly 40% compared to 2019. And that large a deficit won’t be solved overnight. As a recent article from Realtor.com explains:

“. . . the number of homes for sale and new listing activity continues to improve compared to last year. However the inventory of homes for sale still has a long journey back to pre-pandemic levels.”

For you, that means if you work with an agent to price your house right, it should still get a lot of attention from eager buyers and could sell fast.

Bottom Line

If you're a homeowner looking to sell, now's a good time. You'll have more options when buying your next home, and there's still not a ton of competition from other sellers. If you’re ready to move, talk to a local real estate agent to get the ball rolling.

Posted in Mortgages
Feb. 29, 2024

Why We Aren't Headed for a Housing Crash?

 

Why We Aren

If you’re holding out hope that the housing market is going to crash and bring home prices back down, here’s a look at what the data shows. And spoiler alert: that’s not in the cards. Instead, experts say home prices are going to keep going up.

Today’s market is very different than it was before the housing crash in 2008. Here’s why.

It’s Harder To Get a Loan Now – and That’s Actually a Good Thing

It was much easier to get a home loan during the lead-up to the 2008 housing crisis than it is today. Back then, banks had different lending standards, making it easy for just about anyone to qualify for a home loan or refinance an existing one.

Things are different today. Homebuyers face increasingly higher standards from mortgage companies. The graph below uses data from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) to show this difference. The lower the number, the harder it is to get a mortgage. The higher the number, the easier it is:

a graph showing a line going up

The peak in the graph shows that, back then, lending standards weren’t as strict as they are now. That means lending institutions took on much greater risk in both the person and the mortgage products offered around the crash. That led to mass defaults and a flood of foreclosures coming onto the market.

There Are Far Fewer Homes for Sale Today, so Prices Won’t Crash

Because there were too many homes for sale during the housing crisis (many of which were short sales and foreclosures), that caused home prices to fall dramatically. But today, there’s an inventory shortage – not a surplus.

The graph below uses data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the Federal Reserve to show how the months’ supply of homes available now (shown in blue) compares to the crash (shown in red):

a graph of a number of people

Today, unsold inventory sits at just a 3.0-months’ supply. That’s compared to the peak of 10.4 month’s supply back in 2008. That means there’s nowhere near enough inventory on the market for home prices to come crashing down like they did back then.

People Are Not Using Their Homes as ATMs Like They Did in the Early 2000s

Back in the lead up to the housing crash, many homeowners were borrowing against the equity in their homes to finance new cars, boats, and vacations. So, when prices started to fall, as inventory rose too high, many of those homeowners found themselves underwater.

But today, homeowners are a lot more cautious. Even though prices have skyrocketed in the past few years, homeowners aren’t tapping into their equity the way they did back then.

Black Knight reports that tappable equity (the amount of equity available for homeowners to access before hitting a maximum 80% loan-to-value ratio, or LTV) has actually reached an all-time high:

 a graph of a growing graph

That means, as a whole, homeowners have more equity available than ever before. And that’s great. Homeowners are in a much stronger position today than in the early 2000s. That same report from Black Knight goes on to explain:

“Only 1.1% of mortgage holders (582K) ended the year underwater, down from 1.5% (807K) at this time last year.”

And since homeowners are on more solid footing today, they’ll have options to avoid foreclosure. That limits the number of distressed properties coming onto the market. And without a flood of inventory, prices won’t come tumbling down. 

Bottom Line

While you may be hoping for something that brings prices down, that’s not what the data tells us is going to happen. The most current research clearly shows that today’s market is nothing like it was last time.

Posted in Listings
Feb. 28, 2024

Why Access Is So Important When Selling Your House?

 

Why Access Is So Important When Selling Your House

If you’re gearing up to sell your house this spring, one of the early conversations you’ll have with your agent is about how much access you want to give buyers. And you may not realize just how important it is to make your house easy to tour.

Spring is the peak homebuying season, so opening up your house to as many showings as possible can really help you capitalize on all the extra buyer activity we see at this time of year.

Since buyer competition ramps up in the spring, buyers are going to want to move fast to see your house once they find your listing. And, if they see it and fall in love with it at a time they know they’re competing with other buyers, you may be more likely to get the offer you’re looking for on your home.

It’s understandable you want to keep the disruptions to your own schedule to a minimum, and you may be stressed about having to keep it clean, but it’s worth it. As an article from Investopedia explains:

If someone wants to view your house, you need to accommodate them, even if it inconveniences you. Clean and tidy the house before every single visit. A buyer won’t know or care if your house was clean last week. It’s a lot of work, but stay focused on the prize.”

To figure out what’s best for you, your agent will walk you through options like the ones below. This list breaks things down, starting with what’s most convenient for buyers and getting less buyer-focused as the list goes on:

  • Lockbox on the Door – A key is available via a lockbox, which makes it easy for agents to show the home to potential buyers. This gives the most flexibility because the key is on-site and convenient.
  • Providing a Key to the Home – An agent would have to stop by an office to pick up the key with this option. This is still pretty convenient for showings, but not quite as simple.
  • Open Access with a Phone Call – You allow a showing with just a phone call’s notice, which can be great for someone who sees your house while driving by.
  • By Appointment Only – This gives you a more advanced warning so you can get the house tidied up and be sure you have somewhere else you can go in the meantime. But it’s also a bit more restrictive.
  • Limited Access – You might go this route if you only want to have your house available on specific days or at certain times of day. But realize this is the most difficult and least flexible of the choices.

As an article from U.S. News Real Estate says:

“Buyers like to see homes on their schedule, which often means evenings and weekends. Plus, they want to be able to tour a home soon after they find it online, especially if they’re competing with other buyers. If your home can be shown with little or no notice, more prospective buyers will see it. If you require 24 hours’ notice, they may choose to skip your home altogether.”

Your agent is going to help you find the right path forward based on your schedule and what’s working for other sellers in your area. And if you’ve got a hardline on granting buyers more access or have interested out of town buyers that just can’t be there in person, your agent will get creative and help you explore other options like video tours, virtual showings, and more.

Bottom Line

When it comes to selling your house, you want to be sure to get as much buyer activity as you can. Connect with a local real estate agent to talk about which level of access helps make that possible.

Posted in Listings
Feb. 27, 2024

Why There Won’t Be a Recession That Tanks the Housing Market?

 

Why There Won’t Be a Recession That Tanks the Housing Market

According to Jacob Channel, Senior Economist at LendingTree, the economy’s pretty strong:

“At least right now, the fundamentals of the economy, despite some hiccups, are doing pretty good. While things are far from perfect, the economy is probably doing better than people want to give it credit for.”

That might be why a recent survey from the Wall Street Journal shows only 39% of economists think there’ll be a recession in the next year. That’s way down from 61% projecting a recession just one year ago (see graph below):

a graph of the economic growth of the economy

Most experts believe there won’t be a recession in the next 12 months. One reason why is the current unemployment rate. Let’s compare where we are now with historical data from Macrotrends, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and Trading Economics. When we do, it’s clear the unemployment rate today is still very low (see graph below):

 a graph of a graph showing the number of employment rate

The orange bar shows the average unemployment rate since 1948 is about 5.7%. The red bar shows that right after the financial crisis in 2008, when the housing market crashed, the unemployment rate was up to 8.3%. Both of those numbers are much larger than the unemployment rate this January (shown in blue).

But will the unemployment rate go up? To answer that, look at the graph below. It uses data from that same Wall Street Journal survey to show what the experts are projecting for unemployment over the next three years compared to the long-term average (see graph below):

 a graph of blue bars

As you can see, economists don’t expect the unemployment rate to even come close to the long-term average over the next three years – much less the 8.3% we saw when the market last crashed.

Still, if these projections are correct, there will be people who lose their jobs next year. Anytime someone’s out of work, that’s a tough situation, not just for the individual, but also for their friends and loved ones. But the big question is: will enough people lose their jobs to create a flood of foreclosures that could crash the housing market?

Looking ahead, projections show the unemployment rate will likely stay below the 75-year average. That means you shouldn’t expect a wave of foreclosures that would impact the housing market in a big way.

Bottom Line

Most experts now think we won't have a recession in the next year. They also don't expect a big jump in the unemployment rate. That means you don’t need to fear a flood of foreclosures that would cause the housing market to crash.

Posted in Mortgages
Feb. 26, 2024

What To Know About Credit Scores Before Buying a Home

 

What To Know About Credit Scores Before Buying a Home

If you want to buy a home, you should know your credit score is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to qualifying for a mortgage. Lenders review your credit to see if you typically make payments on time, pay back debts, and more. Your credit score can also help determine your mortgage rate. An article from US Bank explains:

“A credit score isn’t the only deciding factor on your mortgage application, but it’s a significant one. So, when you’re house shopping, it’s important to know where your credit stands and how to use it to get the best mortgage rate possible.”

That means your credit score may feel even more important to your homebuying plans right now since mortgage rates are a key factor in affordability. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the median credit score in the U.S. for those taking out a mortgage is 770. But that doesn’t mean your credit score has to be perfect. The same article from US Bank explains:

“Your credit score (commonly called a FICO Score) can range from 300 at the low end to 850 at the high end. A score of 740 or above is generally considered very good, but you don’t need that score or above to buy a home.”

Working with a trusted lender is the best way to get more information on how your credit score could factor into your home loan and the mortgage rate you’re able to get. As FICO says:

“While many lenders use credit scores like FICO Scores to help them make lending decisions, each lender has its own strategy, including the level of risk it finds acceptable. There is no single “cutoff score” used by all lenders and there are many additional factors that lenders may use to determine your actual interest rates.”

If you’re looking for ways to improve your score, Experian highlights some things you may want to focus on:

  • Your Payment History: Late payments can have a negative impact by dropping your score. Focus on making payments on time and paying any existing late charges quickly.
  • Your Debt Amount (relative to your credit limits): When it comes to your available credit amount, the less you’re using, the better. Focus on keeping this number as low as possible.
  • Credit Applications: If you’re looking to buy something, don’t apply for additional credit. When you apply for new credit, it could result in a hard inquiry on your credit that drops your score.

Bottom Line

Finding ways to make your credit score better could help you get a lower mortgage rate. If you want to learn more, talk to a trusted lender.

Posted in Mortgages