Category Archives: Interest Rates

Americans Still View Homeownership as the American Dream

Americans Still View Homeownership as the American Dream Simplifying The Market

Everyone’s interpretation of the American Dream is unique and personal. But, for many people, it’s tied to a sense of success, freedom, and prosperity. These are all things that owning a home can help provide.

A recent survey from Bankrate asked respondents which achievements they feel most embody the American Dream. The responses prove owning a home is still important to so many Americans today (see graph below):

As the graph shows, homeownership ranks above other significant milestones, including retirement, having a successful career, and earning a college degree.

A recent report from MYND helps shed light on why so many people value homeownership. It finds:

“. . . nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) see homeownership as a means of building intergenerational wealth.

That’s because, when you own a home, your equity (and net worth) grows over time as you pay down your home loan and as home prices appreciate. This can be a key factor in building intergenerational wealth and long-term financial stability.

To further drive home the difference homeownership can make in your life, a report from Fannie Mae says:

“Most consumers (87%) believe owning a home is important to ‘live the good life.’ . . . Notably, significantly more see ‘having less stress’ as a benefit achieved by owning than renting.”

Especially today, this could be because, when you own a home with a fixed-rate mortgage, you stabilize what’s likely your largest monthly expense (your housing cost), and that helps combat the impact of rising costs from inflation.

What Does This Mean for You?

While it may feel challenging to buy a home today with higher mortgage rates and home prices, if the time is right for you, know that when you buy a home, incredible benefits are waiting for you at the end of your journey.

Bottom Line

Buying a home is a significant and powerful choice, embodying the foundation of the American Dream. If you plan to make your homeownership dream a reality this year, take the first step by reaching out to a local real estate expert and start the process today.

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Evaluating Your Wants and Needs as a Homebuyer Matters More Today

Evaluating Your Wants and Needs as a Homebuyer Matters More Today Simplifying The Market

When it comes to buying a home, especially with today’s affordability challenges, you’ll want to be strategic. Mortgage rates impact how much it costs to borrow money for your home loan. And, to help offset the higher borrowing costs today, some homebuyers are taking a close look at their wish list and re-evaluating what features they really need in their next home to avoid overextending. As a recent NerdWallet article says:

“A pool, for example, may be nice to have, but it may not provide as much day-to-day value as a garage or a space for a home office . . .”

While that pool may be appealing, think twice on whether or not it’s really something you must have to be happy in your next home. Is getting that pool the main reason you’re moving? Probably not. It’s more likely a need for more space, a home office, or proximity to loved ones, friends, or work that’s motivating you to make a change.

So, if you’re looking to buy a home, take some time to consider what’s truly essential for you in your next house. Make a list of all the features you’ll want to see, and from there, work to break those features into categories. Here’s a great way to organize your list:

  • Must-Haves – If a house doesn’t have these features, it won’t work for you and your lifestyle (examples: distance from work or loved ones, number of bedrooms/bathrooms, etc.).
  • Nice-To-Haves – These are features you’d love to have but can live without. Nice-to-haves aren’t dealbreakers, but if you find a home that hits all the must-haves and some of these, it’s a contender (examples: a second home office, a garage, etc.).
  • Dream State – This is where you can really think big. Again, these aren’t features you’ll need, but if you find a home in your budget that has all the must-haves, most of the nice-to-haves, and any of these, it’s a clear winner (examples: a pool, multiple walk-in closets, etc.).

Once you’ve categorized it in a way that works for you, discuss your top priorities with your real estate agent. Remember to think carefully about what’s a non-negotiable for your lifestyle and what’s a nice-to-have that’s more of an added bonus. Be sure to discuss where each feature falls with your agent. They’ll be able to help you refine the list further, coach you through the best way to stick to it, and find a home in your area that meets your top needs.

Bottom Line

Putting together your list of necessary features for your next home might seem like a small task, but it’s a crucial planning step on your homebuying journey today. If you’re ready to find a home that fits your needs, connect with a local real estate advisor.

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Key Reasons To Use a Real Estate Agent When You Sell [INFOGRAPHIC]

Key Reasons To Use a Real Estate Agent When You Sell [INFOGRAPHIC] Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights

  • An agent is a really important part of selling your home because they bring a lot of skill and expertise to the sales process.
  • They’ll explain what’s happening today, what that means for you, and how to price and market your house. They’re also skilled negotiators and well versed in the contracts and disclosures involved.
  • Connect with a local real estate agent to ensure you have an expert helping you sell your house successfully.

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Where Will You Go If You Sell? Newly Built Homes Might Be the Answer.

Where Will You Go If You Sell? Newly Built Homes Might Be the Answer. Simplifying The Market

Do you want to sell your house, but hesitate because you’re worried you won’t be able to find your next home in today’s market? You’re not alone, but there’s some good news that may ease your worries. New home construction is up and is becoming an increasingly significant part of the housing inventory.

That means when you go to put your house on the market this summer, considering newly built homes is crucial for expanding the options you’ll have for your next move.

Near-Record Percentage of New Home Inventory

Newly built homes today make up a near-record percentage of the total number of homes available for sale (see graph below):

In fact, as the data shows, newly built homes now make up 31% of the total for-sale inventory. Over the past couple of decades, newly built homes made up an average of only around 13% of total housing inventory from 1983 to 2019.

That means the percentage of the total available homes that are newly built is over two times higher than the norm.

Why This Matters to You 

Overall, the supply of homes for sale is still low. And when there’s limited supply, it’s crucial to explore all of your available choices. New-home construction has emerged as a game changer with increasing inventory. Not to mention, recent data shows it’s gaining even more momentum as more newly built homes are underway and will be coming to the market in the months ahead.

Robert Dietz, Chief Economist at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), highlights the importance of newly built homes for those looking to buy in today’s housing market. Dietz states:

“With limited available housing inventory, new construction will continue to be a significant part of prospective buyers’ search in the quarters ahead.”

Don’t overlook this growing market segment and risk missing out on great opportunities to find your ideal home. Since new home construction accounts for roughly 31% of total for sale inventory, you could be cutting nearly one in three options from your search if you don’t consider newly built homes. 

If you’re looking to make a move, a local real estate agent can help you sell your current house and explore newly built options in your area. They have the expertise you need to handle both sides of the process so you can move out of your current house and into your brand-new dream home.

Bottom Line

Now’s the time to sell your house and take advantage of the momentum that’s building in new home construction. Reach out to a trusted real estate agent who can guide you throughout the selling and buying process so you can make your transition to a newly built home a reality.

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Lending Standards Are Not Like They Were Leading Up to the Crash

Lending Standards Are Not Like They Were Leading Up to the Crash Simplifying The Market

You might be worried we’re heading for a housing crash, but there are many reasons why this housing market isn’t like the one we saw in 2008. One of which is how lending standards are different today. Here’s a look at the data to help prove it. 

Every month, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) releases the Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI). According to their website:

“The MCAI provides the only standardized quantitative index that is solely focused on mortgage credit. The MCAI is . . . a summary measure which indicates the availability of mortgage credit at a point in time.”

Basically, the index determines how easy it is to get a mortgage. Take a look at the graph below of the MCAI since they started keeping track of this data in 2004. It shows how lending standards have changed over time. It works like this: 

  • When lending standards are less strict, it’s easier to get a mortgage, and the index (the green line in the graph) is higher.
  • When lending standards are stricter, it’s harder to get a mortgage, and the line representing the index is lower.

In 2004, the index was around 400. But, by 2006, it had gone up to over 850. Today, the story is quite different. Since the crash, the index went down because lending standards got tighter, so today it’s harder to get a mortgage.

Loose Lending Standards Contributed to the Housing Bubble

One of the main factors that contributed to the housing bubble was that lending standards were a lot less strict back then. Realtor.com explains it like this: 

“In the early 2000s, it wasn’t exactly hard to snag a home mortgage. . . . plenty of mortgages were doled out to people who lied about their incomes and employment, and couldn’t actually afford homeownership.” 

The tall peak in the graph above indicates that leading up to the housing crisis, it was much easier to get credit, and the requirements for getting a loan were far from strict. Back then, credit was widely available, and the threshold for qualifying for a loan was low.

Lenders were approving loans without always going through a verification process to confirm if the borrower would likely be able to repay the loan. That means creditors were lending to more borrowers who had a higher risk of defaulting on their loans.

Today’s Loans Are Much Tougher To Get than Before

As mentioned, lending standards have changed a lot since then. Bankrate describes the difference: 

“Today, lenders impose tough standards on borrowers – and those who are getting a mortgage overwhelmingly have excellent credit.”

If you look back at the graph, you’ll notice after the peak around the time of the housing crash, the line representing the index went down dramatically and has stayed low since. In fact, the line is far below where standards were even in 2004 – and it’s getting lower. Joel Kan, VP and Deputy Chief Economist at MBA, provides the most recent update from May:

“Mortgage credit availability decreased for the third consecutive month . . . With the decline in availability, the MCAI is now at its lowest level since January 2013.”

The decreasing index suggests standards are getting much tougher – which makes it clear we’re far away from the extreme lending practices that contributed to the crash.

Bottom Line

Leading up to the housing crash, lending standards were much more relaxed with little evaluation done to measure a borrower’s potential to repay their loan. Today, standards are tighter, and the risk is reduced for both lenders and borrowers. This goes to show, these are two very different housing markets, and this market isn’t like the last time.

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Why Homeownership Wins in the Long Run

Why Homeownership Wins in the Long Run Simplifying The Market

Today’s higher mortgage rates, inflationary pressures, and concerns about a potential recession have some people questioning: should I still buy a home this year? While it’s true this year has unique challenges for homebuyers, it’s important to think about the long-term benefits of homeownership when making your decision.

Consider this: if you know people who bought a home 5, 10, or even 30 years ago, you’re probably going to have a hard time finding someone who regrets their decision. Why is that? The reason is tied to how home values grow with time and how, by extension, that grows your own wealth. That may be why, in a recent Fannie Mae survey, 70% of respondents say they believe buying a home is a safe investment.

Here’s a look at how just the home price appreciation piece can really add up over the years.

Home Price Growth over Time

The map below uses data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to show just how noteworthy price gains have been over the last five years. And, since home prices vary by area, the map is broken out regionally to help convey larger market trends.

If you look at the percent change in home prices, you can see home prices grew on average by just over 56% nationwide over a five-year period.

Some regions are slightly above or below that average, but overall, home prices gained solid ground in a short time. And if you expand that time frame even more, the benefit of homeownership and the drastic gains homeowners made over the years become even clearer (see map below):

The second map shows, nationwide, home prices appreciated by an average of over 290% over a roughly 30-year span.

 This nationwide average tells you the typical homeowner who bought a house 30 years ago saw their home almost triple in value over that time. That’s a key factor in why so many homeowners who bought their homes years ago are still happy with their decision.

And while you may have heard talk in late 2022 that home prices would crash, it didn’t happen. Even though home prices have moderated from the record peak we saw during the ‘unicorn’ years, prices are already rebounding in many areas today. That means, in most markets, your home should grow in value over the next year.

The alternative to buying a home is renting, and rental prices have been climbing for decades. So why rent and deal with annual lease hikes for no long-term financial benefit? Instead, consider buying a home.

Bottom Line

If you’re questioning if it still makes sense to buy a home today, remember the incredible long-term benefits of homeownership. If you’re ready to start the conversation, reach out to a real estate professional today.

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The True Cost of Selling Your House on Your Own

The True Cost of Selling Your House on Your Own Simplifying The Market

Selling your house is no simple task. While some homeowners opt to sell their homes on their own, known as a FSBO (For Sale by Owner), they often encounter various challenges without the guidance of a real estate agent. If you’re currently considering selling your house on your own, here’s what you should know.

The most recent Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) surveyed homeowners who’d recently sold their own homes and asked what difficulties they faced. Those sellers say some of the greatest challenges were prepping their home for sale, pricing it right, and properly managing the required paperwork, just to name a few.

When it comes to selling your most valuable asset, consider the invaluable support that a real estate agent can provide. By partnering with an agent, you can navigate the complexities of the selling process with confidence. Here are just a few of the many ways an agent is essential to your home sale:

1. Marketing and Exposure

Effective marketing is a key piece of attracting qualified buyers to your property. Real estate agents have access to various marketing tools and platforms, including MLS listings, professional photography, virtual tours, and extensive professional networks. They can create a compelling listing that highlights your home’s best features and reaches a wider audience.

If you sell on your own, you may struggle to match the reach of agents, resulting in limited exposure and, ultimately, fewer potential buyers.

2. Managing Liability and Legal Considerations

Today, more disclosures and regulations are mandatory when selling a house. And all that paperwork and all the legal aspects of selling a home can be a lot to manage. Selling a house without professional guidance exposes homeowners to potential liability risks and legal complications.

Real estate agents are well-versed in the contracts, disclosures, and regulations necessary during a sale. Their expertise helps minimize the risk of errors or omissions that could lead to legal disputes or delays.

3. Negotiations and Contracts

Negotiating the terms of a home sale can be challenging, especially when emotions are involved. You may find it overwhelming to navigate these negotiations alone. Without an agent, you assume this responsibility on your own. This means you’ll have full accountability for working and negotiating with:

  • The buyer, who wants the best deal possible.
  • The buyer’s agent, who will use their expertise to advocate for the buyer.
  • The home inspection company, who works for the buyer.
  • The home appraiser, who assesses the property’s value to protect the lender.

Rather than going toe-to-toe with all these parties alone, lean on an expert. Real estate agents act as intermediaries, skillfully negotiating on your behalf and ensuring that your best interests are protected. They have experience in handling tough negotiations, counteroffers, and contingencies. When you sell your house yourself, you’ll need to be prepared to manage these vendors on your own.

4. Pricing and Housing Market Knowledge

Determining the right asking price for your property is crucial. It requires in-depth knowledge of the local real estate market, including recent sales data, neighborhood trends, and the current demand for properties. Real estate agents have access to comprehensive market data and the expertise to analyze it accurately.

When you sell your house on your own without this comprehensive information, you risk overpricing or underpricing your home. This can result in an extended time on the market and also the risk of leaving money on the table – which decreases your future buying power. An agent is a key piece of the pricing puzzle.

Bottom Line

While selling a home on your own might seem appealing at first, the challenges that come with it can quickly become overwhelming. The expertise that a real estate agent brings to the table is vital for a successful sale. Instead of tackling it alone, make sure you have an expert on your side.

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Homeownership Helps Protect You from Inflation [INFOGRAPHIC]

Homeownership Helps Protect You from Inflation [INFOGRAPHIC] Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights

  • Wondering if it makes sense to buy a home today even when inflation is high? When other costs go up due to inflation, buying a home helps you keep your monthly housing expense steady.
  • Rents typically increase with inflation. Maybe that’s why, according to a recent survey, 65.1% of landlords say they plan to raise the rent of at least one of their properties within the next 12 months.
  • Especially when inflation is up, having a stable housing payment can be helpful. Connect with a local real estate agent so you can learn more and start your journey to owning a home today.

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What Homebuyers Need To Know About Credit Scores

What Homebuyers Need To Know About Credit Scores Simplifying The Market

If you’re thinking about buying a home, you should know your credit score’s a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to qualifying for a home loan. Lenders review your credit to assess your ability to make payments on time, to pay back debts, and more. It’s also a factor that helps determine your mortgage rate. An article from Bankrate explains:

 “Your credit score is one of the most important factors lenders consider when you apply for a mortgage. Not just to qualify for the loan itself, but for the conditions: Typically, the higher your score, the lower the interest rates and better terms you’ll qualify for.”

This means your credit score may feel even more important to your homebuying plans right now since mortgage rates are a key factor in affordability, especially today. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the median credit score in the U.S. for those taking out a mortgage is 765. But, that doesn’t mean your credit score has to be perfect. An article from Business Insider explains generally how your FICO score range can make an impact:

“. . . you don’t need a perfect credit score to buy a house. . . . Aiming to get your credit score in the ‘Good’ range (670 to 739) would be a great start towards qualifying for a mortgage. But if you’re wanting to qualify for the lowest rates, try to get your score within the ‘Very Good’ range (740 to 799).” 

Working with a trusted lender’s 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, don’t apply for other credit. When you apply for new credit, it could result in a hard inquiry on your credit that drops your score.

When you’re ready to start the homebuying process, a lender will be able to assess which range your score falls in and tell you more about the specifics for each loan type.

Bottom Line

With affordability challenges today, prioritizing ways you can have a positive impact on your credit score could help you get a better mortgage rate. If you want to learn more, connect with a trusted lender.

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Eco-Friendly, Energy-Efficient Homes Attract Buyers

Eco-Friendly, Energy-Efficient Homes Attract Buyers Simplifying The Market

Are you planning to sell your house? If so, you may be surprised to hear just how much buyers value energy efficiency and eco-friendly features today. This is especially true as summer officially kicks off.

In fact, the 2023 Realtors and Sustainability Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows 48% of agents or brokers have noticed consumers are interested in sustainability.

 So, if you’re considering selling your house, why does this matter to you? It helps you know what you can do to make your house even more appealing to today’s buyers. According to Jessica Lautz, Deputy Chief Economist and VP of Research at NAR: 

“Buyers often seek homes that either lessen their environmental footprint or reduce their monthly energy costs. There is value in promoting green features and energy information to future home buyers.”

Consider Upgrading Your Home To Make It More Appealing

If you want to upgrade your house in a way that maximizes its green appeal, you need to work with a local agent to understand what buyers in your area are looking for. The same NAR report identifies the following green home features as most important to buyers at a national level: 

  • Windows, doors, and siding
  • Proximity to frequently visited places
  • A comfortable living space
  • A home’s utility bills and operating costs

While you can’t change the location of your house, you can take action to make sure it’s as comfortable as possible while also setting up the next owners for lower operating costs. ENERGY STAR shares some suggested upgrades as ones that may be worth considering:

  • Heating and cooling: Ensure your HVAC system is properly maintained and regularly serviced to maximize its efficiency. Consider upgrading to a high-efficiency model, if needed.
  • Water heater: Your water heater uses a lot of energy. Upgrading to a heat pump water heater can significantly reduce energy consumption and appeal to environmentally conscious buyers.
  • Smart thermostat: A big part of your energy bill goes to heating and cooling. Install a programmable thermostat to better regulate temperature settings. This not only enhances comfort but can also lower energy usage.
  • Attic insulation: Proper sealing and insulation in your attic help prevent air leaks and maintain a comfortable temperature, reducing the strain on heating and cooling systems.
  • Energy-efficient windows: Replacing old, drafty windows with energy-efficient ones can minimize heat transfer and lower your energy bills.

 It’s worth noting that you may be able to take advantage of tax credits and rebates for energy-efficient home installations and upgrades. These incentives could help offset a portion of the costs associated with eco-friendly home improvements.

As you prepare to sell your house, it’s important to recognize that real estate agents are valuable resources. They can help you determine which upgrades would be most appealing for buyers in your area and provide guidance on which green features to highlight in your listing. If you’ve already made these updates recently, tell your agent so they can feature them in your listing.

Bottom Line

Focusing on energy efficiency and eco-friendly features can help make your house more appealing to buyers today. Connect with a local real estate agent to ensure you’re choosing the right upgrades for your area.

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