There’s an old adage in real estate: location, location, location. But ever since the Federal Reserve began its series of inflation-fighting interest rate hikes last year, a new mantra has emerged: mortgage rates, mortgage rates, mortgage rates.
Higher rates had the immediate impact of dampening homebuyer affordability and demand. But this year, we’re seeing further repercussions. While analysts expected listing inventory to swell as sales declined, instead, homeowners have been pushing off plans to sell because they feel beholden to their existing, lower mortgage rates.
So what impact is this reduced demand and low supply environment having on home values? And what can we expect from the real estate market in the coming months and years? Here are several key indicators that help to paint a picture of the current market and where it’s likely headed.
HOME SALES ARE EXPECTED TO PICK UP BY EARLY NEXT YEAR
The weather isn’t the only thing that heats up in the spring and summer. Nationally, it tends to be the busiest time in real estate. But this year, the peak season got off to a slow start, with sales declines in both March and April.1,2 Existing home sales in April were down 3.4% from the previous month—and 23.2% from a year earlier.2
What’s causing this market slowdown? Industry experts attribute it to several factors, including near-record home prices, high mortgage rates, and low inventory.
According to National Association of Realtors (NAR) Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, “Home sales are trying to recover and are highly sensitive to changes in mortgage rates. Yet, at the same time, multiple offers on starter homes are quite common, implying more supply is needed to fully satisfy demand. It's a unique housing market.”1
However, some industry experts believe the market is poised for a comeback. Forecasters at the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) predict that home sales will continue to fall through Q3 before rising in Q4 and throughout next year.3 Analysts at Fannie Mae expect the recovery to take a bit longer, picking up in early 2024.
Meanwhile, home builder confidence is already up, as purchases of new single-family homes surged in March and April to a 13-month high.5 Builder incentives are helping to boost sales: According to the National Association of Home Builders, in May, 54% reported using them to win over budget-conscious buyers.6
What does it mean for you? A slower pace of sales has given buyers some breathing room. If you hated the frenzy of the pandemic-era real estate market, now might be a better time for you to shop for a home. We can help you evaluate your options and make an informed purchase.
If you plan to sell your home, prepare yourself for less foot traffic and a longer sales timeline than you may have found a year ago. It will also be crucial to enlist the help of a skilled agent who knows how to draw in buyers. Reach out for a copy of our multi-step Property Marketing Plan.
PROPERTY VALUES REMAIN RELATIVELY STABLE
Some good news for buyers: While home builder sales climbed in April, the median new-house price fell to $420,800, an 8.2% decrease from a year ago.5 Meanwhile, the median existing-home price dropped to $388,800, down 1.7% year-over-year. Notably, existing-home prices rose in parts of the country but fell in the South and West.2
“Roughly half of the country is experiencing price gains,” explains Yun. “Multiple-offer situations have returned in the spring buying season following the calmer winter market. Distressed and forced property sales are virtually nonexistent.”2
The average national home price remains about 40% higher than it was in early 2020, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller index.7 A tight housing supply has helped to buoy prices amidst a slowdown in sales.
“While it varies from region to region, home prices at the national level may fall 1% or 1.5% by the end of the year, so not much,” Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae, told Yahoo Finance in April.8
Record levels of home equity will help to stabilize the sector and prevent a wave of foreclosures, even as prices moderate, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.9
“But for those who have owned a home for more than a year or two, their home will remain a rock-solid investment. And once affordability is restored, the next generation of households can become homeowners. Getting there is critical to the financial well-being of those households, their communities, and the broader economy,” writes Zandi in The Washington Post.9
What does it mean for you? Prices have softened in certain market segments—and motivated sellers are out there and willing to make deals. We can help you find your next home and negotiate a great price.
If you’re a homeowner, the surge in home values has slowed, but you’re likely still sitting on a nice pile of equity. Reach out for a free assessment to find out how much your home is currently worth.
LISTING INVENTORY IS LOW, BUT NEW CONSTRUCTION IS ON THE RISE
Unsold existing home inventory rose 7.2% from March to April, according to NAR. At the current level of demand, this equates to 2.9 months of supply, which is still well below the 5 to 6 months of inventory required for a “balanced” market.2
Inventory remains tight despite the market slowdown because many would-be sellers are reluctant to give up their lower mortgage rates. “Affordability is not only an issue for first-time homebuyers, but also for many repeat buyers who still need to take on a mortgage,” explains Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com.10
In a recent survey by the home listing site, 82% of respondents who are planning to both buy and sell a home said they feel “locked in” by their low rate.11
In some areas, new home construction is helping to fill the supply gap. “Currently, one-third of housing inventory is new construction, compared to historical norms of a little more than 10%,” according to National Association of Home Builders Chief Economist Robert Dietz.12
And more new homes are in the pipeline, after a builder slowdown last year. Single-family housing starts rose 1.6% from March to April (seasonally adjusted) and new construction permits hit a seven-month high.13
What does it mean for you? Inventory remains tight, but less competition means more choice and negotiating power for buyers. If you’ve had trouble finding a home in the past, it may be time to take another look. We can help you explore both new and existing homes in our area.
Sellers are enjoying reduced competition right now, as well. However, the longer you wait to list, the more competition you’re likely to face. And if you feel locked in by your current, lower mortgage rate, consider this: If you roll your equity gains into a down payment on your next home, you could possibly lower your monthly payment. Reach out to discuss your options.
MORTGAGE RATES MAY FINALLY COME DOWN
According to Freddie Mac, the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage hit a peak of 7.08% in the fourth quarter of 2022, and since then it’s primarily floated between 6 and 7%.14 However, there are signs that rates could trend lower later this year.
“Calmer inflation means lower mortgage rates, eventually,” Yun predicted in a recent statement. “Mortgage rates slipping down to under 6% looks very likely toward the year’s end.”15
Other leading economists agree. In its May forecast, Fannie Mae speculates that 30-year fixed mortgage rates will continue to decline, averaging 6.0% in Q4 2023 and 5.4% by Q4 2024.4 Meanwhile, the MBA predicts rates will fall even faster, averaging 5.6% by Q4 2023 and 4.8% by Q4 2024.3
On May 3, the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark borrowing rate by another quarter point—its 10th consecutive increase since March 2022. However, in its corresponding statement, the Fed omitted language from its previous release about “additional policy firming,” leaving some analysts to speculate that the rate hikes may be over.16
Although mortgage rates aren’t directly tied to the federal funds rate, a decision by the Fed to pause rate increases could have a positive effect. In the meantime, buyers should shop around multiple lenders to find the best rate—and buckle up for what could be an exciting ride.
What does it mean for you? Mortgage rates may finally trend down, which would be great news for buyers. But, a decrease in rates could correspond with an increase in competition and prices. If you start searching now, you’ll be prepared to make an offer when the time is right. We can help you negotiate a great deal and potential seller incentives.
If you’re planning to sell, this is good news for you, too. But, there are several factors to consider when determining the right time to list your home. Reach out for a consultation so we can help you chart the best course.
WE’RE HERE TO GUIDE YOU
While national real estate forecasts can provide a “big picture” outlook, real estate is local. And as local market experts, we can guide you through the ins and outs of our market and the issues most likely to impact sales and drive home values in your particular neighborhood.
If you’re considering buying or selling a home, contact us now to schedule a free consultation. We’ll work with you to develop an action plan to meet your real estate goals.
The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial, legal, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.
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How to Become a Homeowner on a First-Time Buyer’s Budget
It's not easy being a first-time homebuyer right now. At the end of last year, housing affordability hit an all-time low. Additionally, mortgage rates have risen significantly since 2021, while inventory remains tight for many property categories, but especially for starter homes. Even lower-priced condos are harder to snag these days, as investors and downsizers muscle out first-timers by offering stronger, often cash-heavy bids.
In fact, according to the National Association of Realtors, only 26% of last year's homebuyers were first-timers—the lowest share on record and down from 34% a year prior. This underscores just how steep a hill new buyers are facing. As a result, many first-time homebuyers are finding that they need to get creative or risk renting for longer than they planned.
If you, too, are struggling to afford homeownership, here are some workarounds to consider as you plot your first home purchase.
1. Try House Hacking
“House hacking” is a real estate investment strategy in which participants use their homes to generate income in order to offset their expenditures.
For example, renting out a garage apartment or accessory dwelling unit (ADU)—such as a detached garage that's been outfitted with a bathroom and small kitchen—counts as house hacking. So does splitting housing costs with a roommate or converting a part of your home into an Airbnb.
House hacking isn’t new. But, it’s grown in popularity as a new crop of digital platforms has entered the market and made it easier than ever for homeowners to generate income from their property.
In some cases, house hacking may make it possible for you to qualify for and afford your first home. A lender, for example, may approve you for a larger mortgage if you purchase a home with immediate income potential, such as a legal duplex or a property with a secondary suite that has a kitchen and full bathroom.
In addition, house hacking could help you pay your mortgage once you move in. Here are just a few of the ways you could use your home to earn some extra cash:
Offer paid parking in your driveway on a site like Spacer or SpotHero.
Rent out your swimming pool for a few hours on Swimply.
Make your home available for photoshoots or events on Giggster or Peerspace.
Turn your backyard into a pay-by-the-hour dog park on Sniffspot.
List your garage space on an app like Neighbor Storage.
But before you make plans to house hack, make sure you fully understand an area's laws and HOA rules. We can help you find a home with income potential in a neighborhood with less restrictive zoning and regulations.
2. Team Up With Friends or Family
If you aren't wild about the idea of welcoming strangers to your home, you may want to consider co-purchasing with a friend or family member instead. This unconventional housing arrangement is also growing more popular as friends and family members cope with higher living costs by pooling resources.
According to the National Association of Realtors' 2022 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, the share of first-time homebuyers living with people other than children or a romantic partner is currently at an all-time high. Meanwhile, research from Pew found that multigenerational living has accelerated especially quickly, with a quarter of U.S. adults aged 25 to 34 now living in a multigenerational home.
Arrangements can be customized to fit your circumstances. For example, you could purchase a home and then rent a portion of it to a loved one. Or you might consider co-buying a home with friends or family members so that you can step onto the property ladder and start building equity together.
Co-ownership could work out especially well for you long-term if it helps you to buy a home that's bigger, has more investment potential, or is located in a high-demand area and so appreciates at a faster rate. Plus, you'll get to see your loved ones more often and enjoy the coziness of shared living with people you like having around.
On the other hand, sharing a big financial responsibility, like a mortgage, with friends or family could get messy—especially if you don't create a clear-cut co-ownership agreement beforehand that outlines your mutual expectations. So plan carefully before you proceed.
In addition, you may need to rethink the type of home you pursue. For example, a smaller home might be cheaper, but do you really want that much togetherness all the time? We can help you set priorities and search for a suitable property.
3. Tap Your Network for Help With Funding
Another established method for affording a first home is to lean on family or friends for financial help. Getting assistance with the down payment or other borrowing costs can go a long way toward making your homeownership dreams come true.
As long as you don't mind asking for help, a free-and-clear gift that's intended for your down payment is an ideal arrangement, since it will allow you to borrow less overall. Or, if that’s too big an ask, your loved ones could pitch in toward closing or moving costs.
Alternatively, your loved ones could help by co-signing your loan. For example, if their credit score is a lot higher than yours, it could enable you to secure a lower interest rate so that your monthly payment is more affordable.
According to a recent YouGov poll, more than a third of homeowners (and a whopping 79% of those under 30) received financial help from their parents when buying their first home. So you wouldn't be the only one leaning on family to help afford a home at today's prices.
Just be sure your parents or other generous loved ones are aware they're giving a gift, not a loan, and are willing to put that in writing. A lender will want proof that this money isn't adding to your debt burden and may require documentation from your benefactors.
Another way to tap your network for help is to crowdfund part of your down payment or ask for monetary gifts instead of tangible ones. For example, if you're getting married soon, you could skip the wedding gift registry and ask guests to contribute funds to your hoped-for home purchase instead.
4. Look for Special Programs and Assistance
You could also cut some of your upfront mortgage costs by applying for special grants and funding opportunities.
For example, consider using a grant to help you fund your down payment. There are a number of public and private grants and down payment assistance programs that are expressly intended to help first-time buyers.
Just like a gift, you don't have to pay a grant back. But, depending on your personal situation, you may find some grants difficult to qualify for—especially if you make a relatively high income.
Many grants are reserved for lower-income buyers only.
Check out grant programs, such as the HomePath Ready Buyer Program, National Homebuyers Fund, the Good Neighbor Next Door Program, and specialized grants from banks. Also look to state and local sources for potential grants and down payment assistance programs, including forgivable and deferred payment loans, Individual Development Accounts, and DPA Second Mortgages.
Similarly, if you have enough income to support a house payment but can't spare much cash for your down payment, you may qualify for a government-sponsored loan, such as an FHA loan that allows you to put down as little as 3.5% to 10%.
We can connect you with a lender or mortgage broker who can educate you about your options and help shepherd you through the process. Some financial assistance programs require you to work with specific lenders, while others require you to apply directly and fill out a separate application.
In addition, you may look to even less conventional options, such as seller financing. Be aware these kinds of arrangements are rare and hard to find. Depending on the market, you will likely get more help from a seller if you ask them to pay closing costs or contribute to your mortgage rate buydown. In many cases, we can help you negotiate seller concessions that make your home purchase more affordable.
5. Expand Your Home Search
If you’re having trouble finding a home within your budget, consider broadening your search criteria. You may be surprised by the kinds of deals that are available when you're willing to compromise.
For example, if you're struggling to find an affordable home in your target neighborhood, expand your search area and consider homes that are further out of town or that are located in up-and-coming areas with lower starting prices. We would be happy to introduce you to some great but lesser-known neighborhoods that we consider hidden gems.
You could also save money on your home purchase simply by dropping or revising some of your must-haves and settling for OK-to-haves instead.
For example, do you really need two bathrooms and a large backyard? Or could you settle for a single bathroom with space to add a second one in the future? And would a small garden, cozy balcony, or rooftop terrace still give you the outdoor time you crave? These types of compromises can sometimes shave tens of thousands off your purchase price.
Similarly, if you don't mind rolling up your sleeves or working with a contractor on minor jobs, you can look for homes that need a little TLC. Just because a house looks dated doesn't mean it's destined to stay that way or that it will take a ton of money to spruce up. In fact, a home with good bones but cosmetic flaws could be a perfect match: With less competition, you'll have a better chance of purchasing the home at an affordable price. You can then take your time to save more and fix it up to your taste.
Keep in mind, starter homes are rarely forever homes, but merely a first step onto the property ladder. By gaining a foothold in the real estate market now, you can set yourself up to afford a more expensive property in the future.
According to the National Association of Realtors, in 2021, the net worth of a typical homeowner was $300,000, while that of a renter was only $8,000. We can help you find an affordable first home so you can start building equity to reach your long-term financial and real estate goals.
YOU CAN DO IT—AND WE CAN HELP
Buying a first home is challenging, but it's not impossible—especially when you have a savvy real estate professional in your corner. We will work with you to devise a plan to overcome your financial constraints. Then, we’ll help you find a home that not only excites you but also fits your budget and lifestyle. Give us a call to get started with a free exploratory consultation.
Top 6 Home Design Trends To Watch in 2023
Over the past few years, many of us have spent extra time at home—and that means we appreciate the personal design touches that make a house cozy and comfortable more than ever. Some of us have adapted our dwellings in new ways, from creating functional home offices to upgrading the appliances we use most.
But while it’s important to make your home your own, it’s also smart to think about the long-term impact your renovations could have on its value. Choosing highly-personalized fixtures and finishes can make it harder for future homebuyers to envision themselves in the space. Even if you don’t plan to sell your home soon, investing in popular design choices that are likely to stand the test of time will make things easier down the road.
If you’re in the market for a new home, it’s wise to keep an eye out for features that might need to be updated soon so you can factor renovation costs into your budget.
We’ve rounded up six trends that we think will influence interior design in 2023, as well as ideas for how you might incorporate them in your own home. Remember, before taking action, it’s always wise to consult with a real estate professional to understand how specific updates and upgrades will affect your property’s value in your local market.
Separate Kitchen, Dining and Living Areas
For years, home design has been dominated by open-concept floor plans, particularly for kitchen, dining, and living areas. However, as the pandemic forced families to work and study from home, many struggled to find the privacy and separation they needed. As a result, designers report that more families are choosing to bring back kitchen and dining room walls to break up the space and create quieter areas.
That doesn’t mean that we’re returning to an era of dark and cramped spaces, however. Even as walls make a return, it’s important to take care to retain a sense of flow and openness within the home and to prioritize natural light.
If you’re buying or building a new home, consider how you will use the space and whether or not an open floor plan will suit your needs. If you already live in a home with an open floor plan and it isn’t working for you, try rearranging furniture and strategically placing pieces like bookshelves, room dividers, or rugs to create distinct areas within the home and reduce noise.
In the past few years, we’ve seen the “biophilia” trend explode, and there are no signs that it will be any less popular in 2023. This trend is all about bringing the outside in by adding natural touches throughout your home.
This year, design experts predict that natural, sustainable materials like bamboo, cork, and live-edge wood will lend character without being overwhelming. Wooden kitchen cabinets and islands will become more common in 2023, with white oak and walnut among the most popular choices. Wood will also appear in bathroom vanities and shelving and furniture throughout the home.
Colors inspired by nature (think mossy greens and desert tones) will also play into this trend and will blend seamlessly with wood tones. We’re also seeing a return to natural stone countertop materials like quartzite, marble, dark leathered granite, and soapstone.
If you’re planning to add new shelving or redo your kitchen, consider turning to these materials to embrace the biophilic look. Or, incorporate elements of the trend by choosing nature-inspired paint colors and adding to your houseplant collection.
Lighting as a Design Feature
Spending more time at home has shown us the importance of having the right lighting for specific tasks and times of the day. As a result, many homeowners are reconsidering the ways they light their homes and using light fixtures to change the usability and mood of their spaces.
In particular, homeowners are rejecting bright, flat overhead lighting and replacing it with lamps and task-specific options. A layered approach to lighting—such as using a combination of under-cabinet, task, and ambient lighting in a kitchen—enables homeowners to tweak the level of light they’re using based on the time of day and what they are doing.
In 2023, we expect to see more statement chandeliers, pendants, and wall sconces in a variety of shapes and materials. Thinking about switching up the lighting in your home? Start by adding floor or table lamps and swapping out fixtures before you invest in rewiring your space. Take note of what works and what doesn’t and watch how the light in your home changes throughout the day. You can then use that information to make lighting decisions that require a bigger investment.
More Vibrant Color Palettes
After the long dominance of whites and grays, more vibrant colors are coming back as a way to add character and dimension to homes.
This year, warm and earthy neutrals, jewel tones, and shades of red and pink are particularly popular. If your style tends toward the subtle, consider options like light, calming greens, blues, and pastels.
Major paint brands have responded to these homeowner preferences with their newest releases. Benjamin Moore’s 2023 color of the year, Raspberry Blush, is a lively shade of pinkish coral, while Sherwin William is embracing warm neutrals with Redend Point, a blushing beige. Behr’s choice of the year, Blank Canvas, is a creamy off-white that's a warmer version of the stark whites that have been trending over the past few years.
If you’re planning to put your home on the market soon, it’s better to play on the safer side and avoid extremely bold or bright color choices when it comes to paint or fixed finishes like tile and countertops. Instead, try incorporating pops of color through throw pillows, art, and accessories.
Curved Furniture and Architectural Accents
Goodbye, sharp corners. In 2023, arches and curves lend a sleek feel that draws on classical design and retro trends while remaining modern. Rounded corners feel more relaxed and natural than sharp edges, lending more of a sense of flow and comfort to a home.
If you want to incorporate the trend into your new build or remodeling plans, curved kitchen islands and bars and arched alcoves are all good options—or you can take it a step further with arched windows and doorways. You can also carry this trend through to your light fixtures by incorporating a bubble chandelier or globe pendants.
It’s easy to embrace this look without renovations, too. Look for a softer feel in furniture, with sofas, chairs, and tables that showcase curved edges. Or, break up your space with an arched folding screen and a circular rug.
Art Deco Revival
Art Deco, the architecture and design style that took hold in the 1920s and ’30s, is enjoying a resurgence.
As a style, Art Deco is marked by bold geometry, textures, and colors, as well as an emphasis on art. But the 2023 interpretation of this style is likely to be a bit less splashy than its historical roots. Designers predict that instead of incorporating all of the elements of the style, which could feel overwhelming, homeowners will pick bursts of color or bold accessories to bring some whimsy to their space.
Keep an eye out for vintage mirrors, lamps, or vases that bring a touch of Art Deco glam to your home, or embrace bold colors and fabrics like velvet. Choose pillows and throw blankets in bright colors and geometric patterns to nod to the look without diving in all the way.
DESIGNED TO SELL
Are you thinking about remodeling or making significant design changes to your home? Wondering how those changes might impact your future resale value?
Buyer preferences vary significantly based on your home’s neighborhood and price range. We’re happy to share our insights on the upgrades that will make it easier (or more difficult!) to sell your home. Give us a call for a free consultation!
2023 Real Estate Market Outlook (And What It Means for You)
Last year, one factor drove the real estate market more than any other: rising mortgage rates.
In March 2022, the Federal Reserve began a series of interest rate hikes in an effort to pump the brakes on inflation. While some market sectors have been slow to respond, the housing market has reacted accordingly.
Both demand and price appreciation have tapered, as the primary challenge for homebuyers has shifted from availability to affordability. Although this higher-mortgage rate environment has been a painful adjustment for many buyers and sellers, it should ultimately lead to a more stable and balanced real estate market.
So what can we expect in 2023? Will mortgage rates continue to climb? Could home prices come crashing down? While this is one of the more challenging real estate periods to forecast, here’s what several industry experts predict will happen to the U.S. housing market in the coming year.
MORTGAGE RATES WILL FLUCTUATE LESS
In 2022, 30-year fixed mortgage rates surged from roughly 3% in January to around 7%. According to Rick Sharga of real estate data company ATTOM, “We’ve never seen rates double in so short a period.”
This year, economists forecast a less dramatic shift.
In an interview with Bankrate, Nadia Evangelou, senior economist for the National Association of Realtors, shares her vision of three possible mortgage rate scenarios:
Inflation continues to surge, forcing the Fed to repeatedly raise interest rates. In that scenario, she predicts that rates could reach as high as 8.5%.
Inflation decelerates and mortgage rates follow suit, averaging 7 to 7.5% for the year.
Rising interest rates trigger a recession, which could ultimately lead mortgage rates to drop closer to 5% by the end of the year.
Realtor.com forecasts something similar to scenario #2 above: “Mortgage rates will average 7.4% in 2023, trickling down to 7.1% by year’s end.” The Mortgage Bankers Association, however, projects something closer to Evangelou’s scenario #3, with the 30-year fixed rate declining steadily throughout the year, averaging 6.2% in Q1 and 5.2% by Q4.
Economists at Fannie Mae fall somewhere in the middle. In a recent press release, they predicted that the U.S. economy will experience a “modest recession” this year. In their December Housing Forecast, they project that 30-year fixed mortgage rates will only fall by half a point from an average of 6.5% in Q1 to 6.0% in Q4.
“From our perspective, the good news is that demographics remain favorable for housing, so the sector appears well-positioned to help lead the economy out of what we expect will be a brief recession,” said Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan.
What does it mean for you? Even the experts can’t say for certain where mortgage rates are headed. Instead of trying to ”time the market,” focus instead on buying or selling a home when the time is right for you. There are a variety of mortgage options available that can make a home purchase more affordable, including adjustable rates, points, and buydowns—and keep in mind you can always refinance down the road. We’d be happy to refer you to a trusted mortgage professional who can outline your best options.
SALES VOLUME WILL FALL AND INVENTORY WILL RISE
It looks like the home-buying frenzy we experienced in recent years is behind us. While the desire to own a home remains strong, higher mortgage rates have made it unaffordable for a large segment of would-be buyers.
Many economists expect the number of home sales to continue to decline this year, leading to an increase in listing inventory and days-on-market, or the time it takes to sell a home. But, there is a wide range when it comes to specifics.
Economists at Fannie Mae forecast that total home sales will fall by around 20% this year before rising again by nearly 15% in 2024.7 National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun projects a less extreme dip of 7% in 2023 with a rebound of 10% next year.
Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale foresees something in between. “The deceleration in home sales is likely to continue as high home prices and mortgage rates limit the pool of eligible home buyers. We anticipate that existing home sales will decline another 14.1% in 2023.” She expects this drop in sales to lead to a nearly 23% increase in inventory levels this year, offering more choices for buyers who have struggled to find a home in the past.
However, given the severe lack of housing supply, even with a double-digit increase, the market is expected to remain relatively tight and below pre-pandemic levels. Hale points out: “It’s important to keep historical context in mind. The level of inventory in 2023 is expected to fall roughly 15% short of the 2019 average.”
What does it mean for you? If you’ve been frustrated by a lack of inventory in the past, 2023 may bring new opportunities for you to find the perfect home. And today’s buyers have more negotiating power than they’ve had in years. Contact us to find out about current and future listings that meet your criteria.
If you’re hoping to sell, you may want to act fast; rising inventory levels will mean increased competition. We can help you chart the best course to maximize your profits, starting with a professional assessment of your home’s current market value. Reach out to schedule a free consultation.
HOME PRICES WILL REMAIN RELATIVELY STABLE
While some economists expect home prices to fall this year, many expect them to remain fairly stable. “For most parts of the country, home prices are holding steady since available inventory is extremely low,” said Yun at a November conference.
Nationally, Yun expects the average median home price to tick up by 1% in 2023, with some markets experiencing greater appreciation and others experiencing declines. Economists at Fannie Mae offer a similar projection, forecasting a slight decrease in their Home Price Index of about 1.5%, year-over-year.
Other experts foresee a larger fluctuation. Hale expects U.S. home prices to rise by 5.4% this year, while Morgan Stanley is forecasting a 7% drop from the peak in June 2022.
Still, many economists agree that a housing market crash like the one we experienced in 2008 is highly unlikely. The factors that caused home prices to plunge during the Great Recession—specifically lax lending standards and a surplus of inventory—aren’t prevalent in our current market. Therefore, home values are expected to remain comparatively stable.
What does it mean for you? It can feel scary to buy a home when there’s uncertainty in the market. However, real estate is a long-term investment that has been shown to appreciate over time. And keep in mind that the best bargains are often found in a slower market, like the one we’re experiencing right now. Contact us to discuss your goals and budget. We can help you make an informed decision about the right time to buy.
If you’re planning to sell this year, you’ll want to chart your path carefully to maximize your profits. Contact us for recommendations and to find out what your home could sell for in today’s market.
RENT PRICES WILL CONTINUE TO CLIMB
Affordability challenges for would-be buyers, inflationary pressures, and an overall lack of housing could continue to drive “above-average” rent price increases in much of the country. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas expects year-over-year rental price growth to tick up to 8.4% in May before moderating later in the year.
According to Hale, “U.S. renters will continue to face challenges from limited supply and excess demand in the coming year that will keep upward pressure on rent growth. At a national level, we forecast rent growth of 6.3% in the next 12 months, somewhat ahead of home price growth and historical rent trends.”
However, there are signs that the surge in rent prices could be tapering. According to Jay Parsons, head of economics for rental housing software company RealPage, there’s some evidence of a slowdown in demand. He predicts that market-rate rents will rise just 3.3% this year. Still, analysts agree that a return to lower pre-pandemic rental prices is unlikely.
What does it mean for you? Rent prices are expected to keep climbing. But you can lock in a set mortgage payment and build long-term wealth by putting that money toward a home purchase instead. Reach out for a free consultation to discuss your options.
And if you’ve ever thought about purchasing a rental property, now may be a perfect time. Call today to get your investment property search started.
WE’RE HERE TO GUIDE YOU
While national real estate forecasts can provide a “big picture” outlook, real estate is local. As local market experts, we can guide you through the ins and outs of our market and the issues most likely to impact sales and drive home values in your particular neighborhood.
If you’re considering buying or selling a home in 2023, contact us now to schedule a free consultation. We’ll work with you to develop an action plan to meet your real estate goals this year.
Home for the Holidays: How To Stretch Your Budget
in a Season of Inflation
You don't have to break the bank to celebrate the holidays in style—even in this season of inflation. Prices may be higher on everything from food to gifts to decorations, but there are still plenty of opportunities to eke out extra savings.
For example, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you can save a couple of hundred dollars a year just by sealing your home and boosting its insulation. Other small fixes—such as swapping old light bulbs for LEDs and plugging electronics into a powerstrip—can boost your yearly savings enough to pay off some of your holiday budget.
And thanks to a pandemic-era boom in online shopping, it is easier than ever to find deals on new and pre-owned furniture, thrifted gifts, DIY decor, and more. Even secondhand stalwarts like Goodwill have joined the digital fray, making it a cinch to score gently-used treasures at extra-low prices.
You won't be the only one bargain-hunting your way to a more financially-stable New Year. Multiple surveys have found that inflation is not only chilling people's spending, it's also prompting shoppers to search for better deals and creative ways to reduce their bills.
Here are some strategies you can use to boost your holiday budget by trimming household expenses:
Hunt for Deals on Groceries
If you're finding it harder than it used to be to serve your family dinner on a budget, you're not alone. With the U.S. food-at-home index (a measure of grocery price inflation) at a 43-year high, many families are struggling to control costs on food staples, such as meat, dairy, produce, and grains.
That's made pulling off holiday gatherings especially stressful lately. But don't despair: Even with inflation, retailers are still giving motivated shoppers plenty of opportunities to whittle down their bills.
The key is to pay attention to the cost of each item on your shopping list—not just the most expensive—and look for easy swaps and discounts. For example, try buying non-perishable items in bulk, especially when they’re on sale, and only in-season produce. Or trade name-brand goods for less expensive options from a store's private label. As you tap into your inner bargain hunter, you could be surprised by what you save when you’re more mindful of your selections.
And unlike in the old days, you no longer have to clip your way through paper flyers to snag a bargain. Instead, you can save both time and money by scouting for deals online, digitally clipping coupons, and earning cash back through special apps and browsers. For example, coupon aggregation sites, like Coupons.com, and shopping apps—such as Checkout 51 and Ibotta—make it easy to score discounts and cash back on a variety of purchases, including groceries.
Also, check to see if your neighborhood grocer posts their weekly flyers online. If you're hosting a holiday party, the markdowns you find can help you narrow your food and recipe choices, based on what's currently on sale.
Prep Your Home for Holiday Guests With Pre-Owned Finds
You don't have to sacrifice style for the sake of preserving your holiday budget either. If you're expecting company this year and would like to add some festive flair to your home, you can do so inexpensively—especially if you're willing to decorate with items that are secondhand.
Thrifting is back in vogue, with an increasing number of shoppers preferring pre-owned furniture and home goods. A recent study found that the “recommerce” market grew almost 15% last year, which was twice the pace of general retail. Plus, buying used isn’t just a great way to save money, it also helps the environment by keeping reusable items out of landfills.
Fortunately, it’s become easier to score secondhand deals online. For example, you can scout consumer marketplaces on Facebook, Craigslist, and OfferUp. Or you can take advantage of neighborhood freecycles and “Buy Nothing” groups. And a number of thrift shops now have e-commerce sites, including major chains, like Goodwill.
If you're handy with a paintbrush or have some basic carpentry skills, you can also modernize some of your existing furniture by upcycling it yourself. Or, if you enjoy crafting, search through your own recycling or sewing bin for raw material to make one-of-a-kind decorations.
Don't stress yourself out, though, if you don't have the time or money to dress your home the way you hoped. “A house doesn’t have to be perfect or completely done for it to feel festive or inviting,” designer Justina Blakeney noted in an interview with the Washington Post. “These are family and friends, and they are not judging you.”
Forgo Major Renovations in Favor of DIY Home Improvements
Holidays are always a tricky time to undergo big renovations. But with ongoing worker and material shortages, now is an especially bad time to commit. Inflated costs can add thousands to your reno budget –—and unnecessary stress to your holiday.
Instead of suffering through an ill-timed remodel, you're better off saving this time of year for simpler, less expensive projects you can do yourself.
One winter-perfect upgrade to consider: Build a DIY fire pit so that you and your guests can roast marshmallows and relax in the cozy comfort of your backyard. You can also add some extra ambiance by hanging energy-efficient LED outdoor string lights that change from white to colorful. These are festive enough for the holidays, but also versatile enough to use year-round.
Or, if you'd rather curl up by an indoor fire, channel your DIY energy into a fireplace upgrade. Adding a wooden beam to the top of your mantel can add an extra layer of coziness. Alternatively, re-tiling or painting your fireplace surround can lend contemporary flair.
Just be sure to stick to DIY projects that you know you can do a quality job on—especially if your changes will be difficult to reverse. Feel free to reach out for a free assessment to find out how your planned renovations could impact your home’s resale value.
Invest in Home Maintenance Projects That Cut Your Utility Bills
You can save money by completing basic home maintenance tasks, such as swapping your furnace filter and updating your lightbulbs. But if you really want to lower your bills this winter, consider projects that make your home more energy efficient.
According to the EPA, 9 out of 10 homes in the U.S. are under-insulated, which wastes energy and money. Luckily, there are plenty of DIY insulation projects that you can complete in just a few days. For example, the EPA offers guides on how to:
Insulate your attic or basement crawl space
Weatherstrip doors and windows
Seal areas around the house that may be leaking air, including electrical outlets and fireplaces
The savings you get from these projects can really add up. The EPA estimates that sealing and insulating your ducts can make your HVAC system up to 20% more efficient. And thanks to new provisions from the Inflation Reduction Act, you can also save a bundle this year by investing in certain energy-efficient upgrades and claiming a tax credit. Be sure to check with us about any local rebates and incentives that may be available, too, before getting started on a project.
Use Expense Tracking to Boost Your Holiday Budget
To avoid overextending yourself during the holidays, one of the best things you can do is track your income and expenses. If your monthly budget is usually tight, you may need to make some adjustments to free up cash for holiday expenditures.
For example, here's a sample budget worksheet that we created. Start by adding in your expenses: Under the “Typical” column, you can list your standard expenses, and under the “Adjusted” column, list any areas where you could cut back on spending.
Then consider how your standard wages may be adjusted this month by extra shifts, additional tips, or an end-of-year bonus. By decreasing your spending and/or increasing your income, you can build room in your budget for holiday gifts and gatherings.
Feel free to utilize this worksheet as a template that you can personalize to your needs, or ask us for a PDF copy that you can print out and use right away.
WE’RE HERE TO HELP
We would love to help you meet your financial goals now and in the year ahead. Whether you want to find lower-cost alternatives for home renovations, maintenance, or services, we are happy to provide our insights and referrals.
And if you’re saving up to buy a new home, we can help with that, too. This is the perfect time to score a great deal because only the most motivated homebuyers and sellers are active in the market right now. So reach out to schedule a free consultation. We can fill you in on some of the exciting programs and incentives we’re seeing that help make homeownership more affordable.
7 Tips to Maximize Your Home’s Sale Price
Over the past few years, a real estate buying frenzy bid up home prices to eye-popping amounts. However, as mortgage rates have risen, buyer demand has cooled. Consequently, home sellers who enter the market today may need to reset their expectations.
The reality is, it’s no longer enough to stick a “for sale” sign in the yard and wait for buyers to bang down the door. If you want to net the most money possible for your property in today’s market, you’ll need an effective game plan and a skilled team of professionals to implement it.
Fortunately, we’ve developed a listing strategy that combines our proven approach to preparation, pricing, and promotion—all designed to help you get top dollar for your home. But you will play an important role in the selling process, as well.
Here are some crucial steps you can take to set yourself up for success as a home seller in this market:
Make Strategic Repairs and Improvements
When you sell something, it’s important to consider what your customer wants to buy. And according to the National Association of Realtors, only 6% of today’s buyers report that they are looking for a DIY fixer-upper. The vast majority want a move-in-ready home, which means that any outstanding repairs or dated features can be a major turn-off.
Before your home goes on the market, we’ll conduct a thorough walk-through to identify any problems that could prevent it from selling. In some cases, we may recommend a professional pre-listing inspection. Finding and addressing issues like leaks, rot, and foundation problems up front can pay off in the final sale price. Plus, it prevents sales from falling through because of a red flag on the home inspection, a scenario no seller wants to face.
Beyond repairs, we’ll also help you identify the simple upgrades that offer the highest return on your investment. For example, new paint can give your home a fresh look at a reasonable cost. However, it’s important to choose the right colors. One study found that painting your bathroom light blue could lead to a 1.6% increase in the offer price! Similarly, minor landscaping improvements can pay off in a major way. A healthy lawn offers an estimated 256% return on investment.
Declutter and Depersonalize
When buyers look at a home for sale, they’re trying to envision themselves living there. That’s hard to do if it’s chock-full of the current owner’s family photos, children’s artwork, and souvenir collections. Plus, cluttered homes look smaller, and older items can make them feel dated.
Decluttering before you put your home up for sale will help you in the long run—after all, you’ll need to move all your things to your new home eventually. Now is the time to shred, digitize, or organize old documents, donate old clothes, or move bulky furniture into storage. At a minimum, you’ll want to pack away excess items neatly before potential buyers view the home. Remove personal photos and other trinkets to create a blank slate that viewers can imagine decorating with their own prized possessions.
If you feel overwhelmed by this process, we’d be happy to make recommendations or refer you to a local service provider who can help.
Stage Your Home for Success
Just as you take care to dress professionally for a job interview, you should always ensure your home looks its best for potential buyers. Home shoppers today are used to scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest, and they want to see the same wow factor when touring a home.
The process of making your home look its best and appeal to potential buyers is called staging, and it can be a game changer. According to the International Association of Home Staging Professionals, an average priced staged home sells 5 to 11 times faster than its unstaged counterpart. Even better, the majority of staged homes sell for 4% to 20% over list price!
Some sellers hire a professional stager, who may bring in furniture and decor to increase the home’s appeal. Others choose to stage their homes themselves. We can help advise you on which route to choose and how much to invest in the process.
It’s also important to consider what buyers in your neighborhood are likely to be looking for in a home. We can help guide your staging choices with our local market insights. For example, in neighborhoods where a large share of residents work from home, it may be effective to stage one room as an office space so potential buyers can envision their day-to-day routine.
Prep for Each Showing
Most of us don’t live picture-perfect lives, and our homes reflect that (sometimes messy) reality. But when your home is on the market, it’s important to ensure that it is always ready for viewers, even on short notice. A missed showing is a missed opportunity to sell your home!
Before your home hits the market, it may be worth hiring professional cleaners to get in all the nooks and crannies. After, try your best to keep things spic and span. Just a few minutes a day wiping down counters, sweeping the floors, and vacuuming can make a big difference.
It’s also worth noting that most buyers will open cabinets, drawers, and closets—so try to make sure everything is as neat and organized as possible. Keep toiletries and small appliances off countertops, and secure valuables and sensitive documents in a safe or off-site.
Want help finding a cleaning service to make your home shine for buyers? Reach out for a referral!
Price Your Home Correctly From the Start
In the past few years, you may have seen homes in your neighborhood sell for shocking amounts and wondered if you could get a similar price for your property. The temptation to list your home on the high side can be strong, but it’s best to be realistic from the start. Even in a hot market, some homes will sit for months. And the longer a property is listed, the more buyers worry that something is wrong with it.
Of course, you also don’t want to set your price too low and lose out on potential profit. That’s why it’s essential to work with real estate agents (like us!) who know the ins and outs of our local market and what buyers are willing to pay today. In a quickly-evolving market, comparable sales from a few months ago can lag the current market reality.
Fortunately, if you’ve owned your home for several years, chances are good that it’s worth much more today than you paid for it. That means you stand to walk away with a handsome profit. In fact, recent reports show that homeowner equity is at an all-time high.
Avoid Acting on Emotion
The past few years of over-asking-price offers with few contingencies have set certain expectations for many sellers. It’s only natural to feel hurt or even offended if an offer comes in lower than what you think your home is worth.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that those market conditions were unprecedented, and we are now returning to a more typical market. Home sellers who act rationally, rather than emotionally, are going to get the best results.
Remember: You can always counter a low offer. The same goes for repair requests and contingencies—everything is negotiable. However, it’s important to accept that the market is adjusting and flexibility is key. Keep your expectations reasonable, and remain open-minded. And you can rest assured knowing that we’ll be by your side every step of the way to help you navigate the process and negotiate a great deal.
Work With a Local Market Expert
The economics impacting mortgage rates may be national, but real estate markets are hyperlocal. That’s why working with a professional agent who understands your neighborhood’s dynamics is essential. Through our experience, we’ve gathered insights that can help us position your home for success in this market. Plus, we have the resources to connect with qualified buyers searching for a home like yours.
Working with a knowledgeable agent is also the secret to getting as much money as possible for your home. We have access to extensive data on recent sales in your neighborhood, which we will use to price and promote your property. That’s one reason why homes sold by agents draw much higher prices than those sold by their owners alone. While for-sale-by-owner homes went for a median price of $260,000 in 2020, the median for homes sold by agents was $318,000. That’s a difference of $58,000—and money you don’t want to leave on the table.
YOUR AGENT AND ADVOCATE
Selling a home in a fast-changing market can be stressful. You’re likely to hear conflicting advice and opinions from people in your life, and decisions like what color to paint your front door or how much to list your home for can be overwhelming.
That’s where we come in. The market may be adjusting, but it’s still highly advantageous for sellers—and we’re here to help you make the most of it. We’re listing experts in our area, and we know what steps you need to take for a smooth, profitable transaction.
If you’re considering buying or selling a home, we invite you to reach out to schedule a free consultation. We’re happy to talk through your specific situation and goals and help you identify your next steps.
Buy Now or Rent Longer? 5 Questions to Answer
Before Purchasing Your First Home
Deciding whether to jump into the housing market or rent instead is rarely an easy decision – especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer. But in today’s whirlwind market, you may find it particularly challenging to pinpoint the best time to start exploring homeownership.
A real estate boom during the pandemic pushed home prices to an all-time high. Add higher mortgage rates to the mix, and some would-be buyers are wondering if they should wait to see if prices or rates come down.
But is renting a better alternative? Rents have also soared along with inflation – and are likely to continue climbing due to a persistent housing shortage.2 And while homebuyers can lock in a set mortgage payment, renters are at the mercy of these rising costs for the foreseeable future.
So, what's the better choice for you? There’s a lot to consider when it comes to buying versus renting. Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone. Reach out to schedule a free consultation and we'll help walk you through your options. You may also find it helpful to ask yourself the following questions:
How long do I plan to stay in the home?
You'll get the most financial benefit from a home purchase if you own the property for at least five years. If you plan to sell in a shorter period of time, a home purchase may not be the best choice for you.
There are costs associated with buying and selling a home, and it may take time for the property’s value to rise enough to offset those expenditures.
Even though housing markets can shift from one year to the next, you’ll typically find that a home’s value will ride out a market’s ups and downs and appreciate with time. The longer you own a property, the more you are likely to benefit from its appreciation.
Once you’ve found a community that you’d like to stay in for several years, then buying over renting can really pay off. You’ll not only benefit from appreciation, but you’ll also build equity as you pay down your mortgage – and you’ll have more security and stability overall.
Also important: If you plan to stay in the home for the life of the mortgage, there will come a time when you no longer have to make those payments. As a result, your housing costs will drop dramatically, while your equity (and net worth) continue to grow.
Is it a better value to buy or rent in my area?
If you know you plan to stay put for at least five years, you should consider whether buying or renting is the better bargain in your area.
One helpful tool for evaluating your options is a neighborhood’s price-to-rent ratio: just divide the median home price by the median yearly rent price. The higher the price-to-rent ratio is, the more expensive it is to buy compared to rent. Keep in mind, though, that this equation provides only a snapshot of where the market stands today. As such, it may not accurately account for the full impact of rising home values and rent increases over the long term.
According to the National Association of Realtors, a typical U.S. homeowner who purchased a single-family existing home 10 years ago would have gained roughly $225,000 in equity — all while maintaining a steady mortgage payment.
In contrast, someone who chose to rent for the past 10 years would have not only missed out on those equity gains, but they would have also seen U.S. rental prices increase by around 66%.
So even if renting seems like a better bargain today, buying could be the better long-term financial play.
Ready to compare your options? Then reach out to schedule a free consultation. As local market experts, we can help you interpret the numbers to determine if buying or renting is the better value in your particular neighborhood.
Can I afford to be a homeowner?
If you determine that buying a home is the better value, you’ll want to evaluate your financial readiness.
Start by examining how much you have in savings. After committing a down payment and closing costs, will you still have enough money left over for ancillary expenses and emergencies? If not, that’s a sign you may be better off waiting until you’ve built a larger rainy-day fund.
Then consider how your monthly budget will be impacted. Remember, your monthly mortgage payment won’t be your only expense going forward. You may also need to factor in property taxes, insurance, association fees, maintenance, and repairs.
Still, you could find that the monthly cost of homeownership is comparable to renting, especially if you make a sizable down payment. Landlords often pass the extra costs of homeowning onto tenants, so it’s not always the cheaper option.
Plus, even though you’ll be in charge of financing your home’s upkeep if you buy, you’ll also be the one who stands to benefit from the fruits of your investment. Every major upgrade, for example, not only makes your home a nicer place to live; it also helps boost your home's market value.
If you want to buy a home but aren’t sure you can afford it, give us a call to discuss your goals and budget. We can give you a realistic assessment of your options and help you determine if your homeownership dreams are within reach.
Can I qualify for a mortgage?
If you’re prepared to handle the costs of homeownership, you’ll next want to look into how likely you are to get approved for a mortgage.
Every lender will have its own criteria. But, in general, you can expect a creditor to scrutinize your job stability, credit history, and savings to make sure you can handle a monthly mortgage payment.
For example, lenders like to see evidence that your income is stable and predictable. So if you’re self-employed, you may need to provide additional documentation proving that your earnings are dependable. A lender will also compare your monthly debt payments to your income to make sure you aren’t at risk of becoming financially overextended.
In addition, a lender will check your credit report to verify that you have a history of on-time payments and can be trusted to pay your bills. Generally, the higher your credit score, the better your odds of securing a competitive rate.
Whatever your circumstances, it’s always a good idea to get preapproved for a mortgage before you start house hunting. Let us know if you’re interested, and we’ll give you a referral to a loan officer or mortgage broker who can help.
How would owning a home change my life?
Before you begin the preapproval process, however, it’s important to consider how homeownership would affect your life, aside from the long-term financial gains.
In general, you should be prepared to invest more time and energy in owning a home than you do renting one. There can be a fair amount of upkeep involved, especially if you buy a fixer-upper or overcommit yourself to a lot of DIY projects. If you’ve only lived in an apartment, for example, you could be surprised by the amount of time you spend maintaining a lawn.
On the other hand, you might relish the chance to tinker in your very own garden, make HGTV-inspired improvements, or play with your dog in a big backyard. Or, if you’re more social, you might enjoy hosting family gatherings or attending block parties with other committed homeowners.
The great thing about owning a home is that you can generally do what you want with it – even if that means painting your walls fiesta red one month and eggplant purple the next.
The choice – like the home – is all yours.
HAVE MORE QUESTIONS? WE’VE GOT ANSWERS
The decision to buy or rent a home is among the most consequential you will make in your lifetime. We can make the process easier by helping you compare your options using real-time local market data. So don't hesitate to reach out for a personalized consultation, regardless of where you are in your deliberations. We'd be happy to answer your questions and identify actionable steps you can take now to reach your long-term goals.
8 Strategies to Secure a Lower Mortgage Rate
Mortgage rates have been on a roller coaster ride this year, rising and falling amid inflationary pressures and economic uncertainty. And even the experts are divided when it comes to predicting where rates are headed next.
This climate has been unsettling for some homebuyers and sellers. However, with proper planning, you can work toward qualifying for the best mortgage rates available today – and open up the possibility of refinancing at a lower rate in the future.
How does a lower mortgage rate save you money? According to Trading Economics, the average new mortgage size in the United States is currently around $410,000. Let’s compare a 5.0% versus a 6.0% fixed-interest rate on that amount over a 30-year term.
With a 5% rate, your monthly payments would be about $2,201. At 6%, those payments would jump to $2,458, or around $257 more. That adds up to a difference of almost $92,600 over the lifetime of the loan. In other words, shaving off just one percentage point on your mortgage could put nearly $100K in your pocket over time.
So, how can you improve your chances of securing a low mortgage rate? Try these eight strategies:
1. Raise your credit score.
Borrowers with higher credit scores are viewed as “less risky” to lenders, so they are offered lower interest rates. A good credit score typically starts at 690 and can move up into the 800s. If you don’t know your score, check with your bank or credit card company to see if they offer free access. If not, there are a plethora of both free and paid credit monitoring services you can utilize.
If your credit score is low, you can take steps to improve it, including:
Correct any errors on your credit reports, which can bring down your score. You can access reports for free by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
Pay down revolving debt. This includes credit card balances and home equity lines of credit.
Avoid closing old credit card accounts in good standing. It could lower your score by shortening your credit history and shrinking your total available credit.
Make all future payments on time. Payment history is a primary factor in determining your credit score, so make it a priority.
Limit your credit applications to avoid having your score dinged by too many inquiries. If you’re shopping around for a car loan or mortgage, minimize the impact by limiting your applications to a short period, usually 14 to 45 days.
Over time, you should start to see your credit score climb — which will help you qualify for a lower mortgage rate.
2. Keep steady employment.
If you are preparing to purchase a home, it might not be the best time to make a major career change. Unfortunately, frequent job moves or gaps in your résumé could hurt your borrower eligibility.
When you apply for a mortgage, lenders will typically review your employment and income over the past 24 months. If you’ve earned a steady paycheck, you could qualify for a better interest rate. A stable employment history gives lenders more confidence in your ability to repay the loan.
That doesn’t mean a job change will automatically disqualify you from purchasing a home. But certain moves, like switching from W-2 to 1099 (independent contractor) income, could throw a wrench in your home buying plans.
3. Lower your debt-to-income ratios.
Even with a high credit score and a great job, lenders will be concerned if your debt payments are consuming too much of your income. That’s where your debt-to-income (DTI) ratios will come into play.
There are two types of DTI ratios:
Front-end ratio — What percentage of your gross monthly income will go towards covering housing expenses (mortgage, taxes, insurance, and dues or association fees)?
Back-end ratio — What percentage of your gross monthly income will go towards covering ALL debt obligations (housing expenses, credit cards, student loans, and other debt)?
What’s considered a good DTI ratio? For better rates, lenders typically want to see a front-end DTI ratio that’s no higher than 28% and a back-end ratio that’s 36% or less.
If your DTI ratios are higher, you can take steps to lower them, like purchasing a less expensive home or increasing your down payment. Your back-end ratio can also be decreased by paying down your existing debt. A bump in your monthly income will also bring down your DTI ratios.
4. Increase your down payment.
Minimum down payment requirements vary by loan type. But, in some cases, you can qualify for a lower mortgage rate if you make a larger down payment.
Why do lenders care about your down payment size? Because borrowers with significant equity in their homes are less likely to default on their mortgages. That’s why conventional lenders often require borrowers to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI) if they put down less than 20%.
A larger down payment will also lower your overall borrowing costs and decrease your monthly mortgage payment since you’ll be taking out a smaller loan. Just be sure to keep enough cash on hand to cover closing costs, moving expenses, and any furniture or other items you’ll need to get settled into your new space.
5. Compare loan types.
All mortgages are not created equal. The loan type you choose could save (or cost) you money depending on your qualifications and circumstances.
For example, here are several common loan types available in the U.S. today:
Conventional — These offer lower mortgage rates but have more stringent credit and down payment requirements than some other types.
FHA — Backed by the government, these loans are easier to qualify for but often charge a higher interest rate.
Specialty — Certain specialty loans, like VA or USDA loans, might be available if you meet specific criteria.
Jumbo — Mortgages that exceed the local conforming loan limit are subject to stricter requirements and may have higher interest rates and fees.
When considering loan type, you’ll also want to weigh the pros and cons of a fixed-rate versus variable-rate mortgage:
Fixed rate — With a fixed-rate mortgage, you’re guaranteed to keep the same interest rate for the entire life of the loan. Traditionally, these have been the most popular type of mortgage in the U.S. because they offer stability and predictability.
Adjustable rate — Adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, have a lower introductory interest rate than fixed-rate mortgages, but the rate can rise after a set period of time — typically 3 to 10 years.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, 10% of American homebuyers are now selecting ARMs, up from just 4% at the start of this year. An ARM might be a good option if you plan to sell your home before the rate resets. However, life is unpredictable, so it’s important to weigh the benefits and risks involved.
6. Shorten your mortgage term.
A mortgage term is the length of time your mortgage agreement is in effect. The terms are typically 15, 20, or 30 years. Although the majority of homebuyers choose 30-year terms, if your goal is to minimize the amount you pay in interest, you should crunch the numbers on a 15-year or 20-year mortgage.
With shorter loan terms, the risk of default is less, so lenders typically offer lower interest rates. However, it’s important to note that even though you’ll pay less interest, your mortgage payment will be higher each month, since you’ll be making fewer total payments. So before you agree to a shorter term, make sure you have enough room in your budget to comfortably afford the larger payment.
7. Get quotes from multiple lenders.
When shopping for a mortgage, be sure to solicit quotes from several different lenders and lender types to compare the interest rates and fees. Depending upon your situation, you could find that one institution offers a better deal for the type of loan and term length you want.
Some borrowers choose to work with a mortgage broker. Like an insurance broker, they can help you gather quotes and find the best rate. However, if you use a broker, make sure you understand how they are compensated and contact more than one so you can compare their recommendations and fees.
Don’t forget that we can be a valuable resource in finding a lender, especially if you are new to the home buying process. After a consultation, we can discuss your financing needs and connect you with loan officers or brokers best suited for your situation.
8. Consider mortgage points.
Even if you score a great interest rate on your mortgage, you can lower it even further by paying for points. When you buy mortgage points — also known as discount points — you essentially pay your lender an upfront fee in exchange for a lower interest rate. The cost to purchase a point is 1% of your mortgage amount. For each point you buy, your mortgage rate will decrease by a set amount, typically 0.25%. You’ll need upfront cash to pay for the points, but you can more than make up for the cost in interest savings over time.
However, it only makes sense to buy mortgage points if you plan to stay in the home long enough to recoup the cost. You can determine the breakeven point, or the period of time you’d need to keep the mortgage to make up for the fee, by dividing the cost by the amount saved each month. This can help you determine whether or not mortgage points would be a good investment for you.
Unfortunately, the rock-bottom mortgage rates we saw during the height of the pandemic are behind us. However, today’s 30-year fixed rates still fall beneath the historical average of around 8% — and are well below the all-time peak of 18.45% in 1981.
And although higher mortgage rates have made it more expensive to finance a home purchase, they have also eliminated some of the competition from the market. Consequently, today’s buyers are finding more homes to choose from, fewer bidding wars, and more sellers willing to negotiate or offer incentives such as cash toward closing costs or mortgage points.
If you’re ready and able to buy a home, there’s no reason that concerns about mortgage rates should sideline your plans. The reality is that many economists predict home prices to continue climbing. So you may be better off buying today at a slightly higher rate than waiting and paying more for a home a few years from now. You can always refinance if mortgage rates go down, but you can’t make up for the lost years of equity growth and appreciation.
If you have questions or would like more information about buying or selling a home, reach out to schedule a free consultation. We’d love to help you weigh your options, navigate this shifting market, and reach your real estate goals!
10 Pro Tips for a Smooth Home Move
The process of buying a new home can be both exhilarating and exhausting. But the journey doesn’t stop when you close on your property. On the contrary, you still have quite a bit to do before you can begin the process of settling into your new place.
Fortunately, you don’t have to do everything in a day. You don’t have to do it all alone, either. When you work with us to sell or purchase a home, you’ll have an ally by your side long after your transaction has closed. We’ll continue to be a resource, offering advice and referrals whenever you need them on packing, hiring movers and contractors, and acclimating to your new home and neighborhood.
When it comes to a life event as stressful as moving, it pays to have a professional by your side. Here are some of our favorite pro tips to share with clients as they prepare for an upcoming move.
1. Watch out for moving scams.
Maybe you receive a flyer for a moving company in the mail. Perhaps you find a mover online. Either way, never assume that you’re getting accurate information. According to the Better Business Bureau, moving-related fraud is on the rise. In 2021 alone, individuals and families reported more than $730,000 lost to moving scams, an increase of 216% over the previous year.
How can you tell if a moving deal is too good to be true? Trust your instincts. If the price appears too low or you can’t pin down the mover’s physical business address, try someone else. The same goes for any moving company representative who dodges questions. Reputable movers should offer transparent pricing, conduct in-home estimates, and provide referrals and copies of their insurance documents upon request. For help finding trustworthy movers, reach out. We’d be happy to share our recommendations.
2. Insure your belongings.
Your moving company promises to take care of your custom piano or your antique furniture. But don’t just take their word for it. Ask to see how much insurance they carry and talk about how the claims process works. That way, you’ll know what is (and isn’t) covered in case of loss or damage.
Of course, some items are priceless because they’re irreplaceable. You might want to move your more sensitive valuables (jewelry, documents, family heirlooms, etc.) in your own vehicle just to be safe. For added peace of mind, call your rental or home insurance provider if you’re moving anything yourself. You might already be protected or be able to purchase extra insurance to cover your move. If those options are unavailable, you could opt for moving insurance from a third-party carrier.
3. Start packing when you start looking for a new home.
As soon as your house hunting begins in earnest, think about packing away things you won’t need for the next few months. These could include seasonal or holiday decor, clothing, and books. Tackling just one or two boxes a day will give you a head start.
If you're going to put your current home on the market, you'll want to declutter anyway. Decluttering will make your home seem larger, and depersonalizing helps buyers envision their own items in the space. Consider selling, donating, or throwing out possessions you no longer need. The things you want to keep can be placed in storage until you officially start moving to a new place.
4. Pack to make unpacking easier.
Have you ever opened a packed box only to find that it’s filled with an assortment of items that don’t belong together? This isn’t efficient and will only make unpacking harder. A better way to pack is to bundle items from a single room in a labeled box. Labels can let movers know (and remind you) where to place each box, whether it’s fragile, and which side needs to be up. Some people like to assign colors to each room in their new home to make distributing color-coded boxes a breeze.
Feel free to unleash your inner organizer with this project. For example, you could create a spreadsheet and assign each box a number. As boxes are packed, simply fill in the spreadsheet with a list of contents. Anyone with access to the spreadsheet can log in and quickly find the desired item.
5. Think outside the box when transporting clothes.
Who wants to worry about boxing up clothes? If you plan on hiring professional movers, ask if you can leave clothing in your dressers. In many cases, they will use plastic to wrap the dresser so the drawers don’t fall out during transport. If keeping your clothes in your furniture makes it too heavy, the movers might be able to wrap and move drawers by themselves.
Another easy transport trick involves turning clean garbage bags into garment bags. Poke a hole in the bottom of a garbage bag, turn the bag upside down, slide it over five to seven garments on hangers, and lay the items flat in the back seat or trunk of your vehicle. The bags will help prevent wrinkling, and your clothes will be ready to hang up when you get to your new home.
6. Document prior to disassembling appliances and furnishings.
Few things are as confusing as looking at a plastic baggie filled with nuts, bolts, and screws from your disassembled dining room table or sorting through a box of electrical wires and cords to see which ones fit your TV.
The best workaround to easier reassembly is to document the disassembly process. Take photos and videos or thorough notes as you go. Whether it’s your headboard or treadmill, be very precise. And just a tip: Construct your beds first when you get to your new home. After a long moving day, the very last thing you want is to be assembling beds into the wee hours of the morning.
7. Prioritize unpacking kids’ rooms.
Children can become very stressed by a big move. To ease their transition, consider prioritizing unpacking their rooms as their “safe zones.” You aren’t obligated to unpack everything, certainly. However, set up your children’s rooms to be functional. That way, your kids can hang out in a private oasis away from the chaos while you’re running around and moving everything else.
Depending upon how old your youngsters are, you might want to give them decorating leeway, too. Even if it’s just letting them choose where furniture goes, it gives them a sense of buy-in. This can help ease the blues of leaving a former home they loved.
8. Be a thoughtful pet parent.
Many types of pets can’t handle the commotion of moving day. Knowing this, be considerate and seek ways to give your pets breaks from the action. You might ask a friend to pet sit your pooch or keep your kitty in a quieter room, like a guest bathroom.
Be sure to check in on your pet frequently. Pets like to know that you’re around. Give them treats, food, and water throughout the day. When it’s time to transport your pet, do it calmly. At your new property, give your pet access to just a room or two at first. Pets typically prefer to acclimate themselves slowly to unfamiliar environments.
9. Plan for your move like you’re planning for an exciting vacation.
When you plan vacations, you probably look up local restaurants, shops, and recreational areas. Who says you can’t do the same thing when moving? Create a list of all the places you want to go and things you want to do around your newly purchased home. Having a to-explore list keeps everyone’s spirits high and gives you starting points to settle into the neighborhood.
And don’t feel that you have to cook that first night. Once the moving trucks are gone, you can always pop over to a local eatery or order DoorDash for major convenience. The first meal in your new home should be a happy, welcoming treat. And if you’re relocating to our neck of the woods, we would love to introduce you to all the hot spots in town and recommend our local favorites.
10. Pack an “Open Me First!” box.
You won’t be able to unpack all your boxes in one day, but you shouldn’t go without your sheets, pillows, or toothbrush. Designate some boxes with “Open Me First!” labels. (Pro tip: Keep a tool kit front and center for all that reassembling.)
Along these lines, use luggage and duffel bags to transport everyone’s personal must-have items and enough clothing for a couple of days. That way, you won’t have to rummage through everything in the middle of your move looking for sneakers or snacks.
When packing your “Open Me First!” boxes, think about which items you’ll need in those first 24 hours. For example, toilet paper and hand soap are musts. A box cutter will make unpacking a lot easier, and paper towels and trash bags are sure to come in handy. Reach out for a complete, printable list of “Open Me First!” box essentials to keep on hand for your next move!
LET’S GET MOVING
Getting the phone call from your real estate agent that your bid was accepted is a thrilling moment. Make sure you keep the positivity flowing during the following weeks by mapping out a streamlined, efficient move. Feel free to get in touch with us today to help make your big move your best move.