Tips for Single Homebuyers: How To Make Your Dream a Reality

Tips for Single Homebuyers: How To Make Your Dream a Reality | Simplifying The Market

If you’re living on your own and looking to buy a home, know that you can make your dream a reality with thoughtful planning and the right team of experts. Research from Freddie Mac shows 28% of all households (36.1 million) are sole-person, and that number is growing. Over the past 40 years, the number of sole-person households has nearly doubled, and that’s a trend that’s expected to continue. According to Freddie Mac:

Our calculation suggests that there will be an additional 5 million sole-person households in the United States by the next decade. This means 42% of the household growth will be contributed by sole-person households, . . .”

If you fall into this category, here are three tips to help you achieve your homeownership goals.

1. Know Your Credit Score

When you buy a home on your own, you have to qualify for your loan based solely on your own finances and credit history. Investopedia says:

“. . . lenders will be looking at just one credit profile: yours. Needless to say, it has to be in great shape. It is always a good idea to review your credit report beforehand, and this is especially true of solo buyers.”

It’s important to find out your score so you know where it falls. If you’re not sure if it’s strong enough or where to focus your energy to improve it, meet with a professional for expert advice on your individual situation.

2. Explore Down Payment Options

Next, look into down payment programs so you can get a feel for what you’ll need to save to buy a home. Rob Chrane, CEO of Down Payment Resource, explains:

“Buyers should discuss their program options with their loan officer and real estate agent to make sure they choose the program best suited to their personal needs.”

In this step, lean on the pros to determine what you’re eligible for and what’s right for you.

3. Think About Your Future Home and Your Needs

You should also spend time thinking about what you want. What type of home do you picture yourself in? To answer that question, Quicken Loans shares this advice:

Think about your lifestyle, what you want out of your home and your needs. Is being close to work important? Do you need a lot of yard space? Do you want an extra bedroom that you can transform into a home office? Condo or detached home? Lots of space for entertaining? It’s all up to you (and your budget).”

Again, a professional can help you balance what you want and how much you should spend on your monthly housing costs to determine what type of home is right for you.

While buying a home solo can feel like a big challenge, it doesn’t have to be. If you lean on the professionals, they can help you navigate these waters and make sure you’re able to take advantage of the great opportunities in today’s housing market (like low mortgage rates) to buy your dream home.

Bottom Line

The share of sole-person households is growing. If you’re looking to buy a home on your own, be confident that the dream is achievable. When you’re ready to begin your search, let’s connect so you have expert advice each step of the way.

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How To Think Strategically as a Buyer in Today’s Market

How To Think Strategically as a Buyer in Today’s Market | Simplifying The Market

The game of chess can provide incredible lessons to apply to all aspects of life, including the homebuying process. Chess requires you to plan and think about your strategy from the very beginning of the game.

The homebuying process, like chess, requires strategy and planning. Here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure your plan is as strong as possible when you begin your home search.

Pre-Approval: the Best Opening Play To Make as a Homebuyer

It’s important to have a great opening play when you’re buying a home. And the best move you can make when you begin your home search is getting pre-approved by a lender. You’ve probably already heard this is an important step, but what exactly is pre-approval and what benefits does it provide you?

As Freddie Mac puts it:

“The pre-approval letter from your lender tells you the maximum amount you are qualified to borrow. Getting a pre-approval letter is not a loan guarantee, it simply states how much your lender is willing to lend you. . . .”

And while determining how much you can afford at the start of your search is critical, the pre-approval letter also serves another important purpose. Freddie Mac also notes:

“This pre-approval allows you to look for a home with greater confidence and demonstrates to the seller that you are a serious buyer.”

In the game of chess, a strong opening move signals to your opponent that you’re a serious competitor. As a homebuyer, your pre-approval letter signals to the seller that you’re a serious, interested buyer.

Homebuying: It’s a Team Game, Not a Single-Player Experience

Every step you take to create your strategy as a buyer is important in today’s market. Why? Mortgage rates are still low, but increasing. Prices are going up. There’s a limited supply of homes for sale. These are just a few key variables in today’s market you need to be prepared for.

That means leaning on expert guidance as you plan every move is more important than ever. Have a team of professionals – like your trusted real estate agent and a loan officer – every step of the way to make sure you make the right moves.

Bottom Line

Getting a pre-approval letter isn’t just good strategy, it can be game-changing. It allows you to get a full understanding of what you can afford, and it signals to sellers that you’re serious. Let’s connect today to ensure you’re playing chess and being strategic during the home buying process.

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How Smart Buyers Are Approaching Rising Mortgage Rates

How Smart Buyers Are Approaching Rising Mortgage Rates | Simplifying The Market

Last week, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate from Freddie Mac inched up to 3.1%, and experts project rates will continue rising through 2022:

“The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 2.9% in the third quarter of 2021. We forecast mortgage rates to increase slightly through the remainder of the year and reach 3.0%, rising to 3.5% for full year 2022.”

If you’re thinking of buying a home, here are a few things to keep in mind so you can succeed even as mortgage rates rise.

Taking Time Off Can Be Costly

Mortgage rates play a significant role in your home search. As rates go up, your monthly mortgage payment increases if you’re buying a home, directly affecting how much you can afford. And even the smallest increase can have a large impact on your monthly payment (see chart below):How Smart Buyers Are Approaching Rising Mortgage Rates | Simplifying The MarketWith mortgage rates on the rise, you’ve likely seen your purchasing power impacted already. Instead of waiting and hoping rates will fall, today’s rates should motivate you to purchase now before rates increase more.

Smart Buyers Can Succeed by Planning Ahead

You can use your newfound motivation to energize your search and plan your next steps accordingly so you’re prepared to act no matter what happens with mortgage rates. One way to do that: take rising rates into consideration as part of your budget.

Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com, puts it best, saying:

“Smart buyers should consider calculating a monthly payment not only at today’s rates, but also at rates that are a bit higher so that they won’t be derailed by a sudden upward move. . . .”

You should also be ready to act when you find the home that meets your needs. That means getting pre-approved with a lender so there won’t be any delays when the time arrives.

The best way to prepare is to work with a trusted real estate advisor now. An agent can connect you with a lender, help you adjust your search based on your budget, and be ready to act quickly when it’s time to make an offer.

Bottom Line

Serious buyers should approach rising rates as a motivating factor to buy sooner, not a reason to wait. Waiting will cost you more in the long run. Let’s connect today so you can better understand your budget and be prepared to buy your home even before rates climb higher.

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VA Loans: Helping Veterans Achieve Their Homeownership Dreams

VA Loans: Helping Veterans Achieve Their Homeownership Dreams | Simplifying The Market

The purpose of Veterans Affairs (VA) home loans is to provide a pathway to homeownership for those who have sacrificed so much by serving our nation. As the Veterans Administration says of the program:

“The objective of the VA Home Loan Guaranty program is to help eligible Veterans, active-duty personnel, surviving spouses, and members of the Reserves and National Guard purchase, retain, and adapt homes in recognition of their service. . . .”

For over 75 years, VA home loans have provided millions of veterans and their families the opportunity to purchase their own homes.

2020 Data on VA Home Loans

  • 1,246,817 home loans are guaranteed by the Veterans Administration
  • The average VA loan amount totals $301,044
  • 178,171 of those using a VA Loan are first-time homebuyers

Top Benefits of the VA Home Loan Program

As we reflect on their sacrifice and honor our nation’s veterans, it’s important to ensure all veterans know the full extent of benefits VA home loans offer. As Jeff London, Director of the VA Home Loan Program, says:

“VA loans offer an extraordinary opportunity for veterans because of lower interest rates, lower monthly payments, no or low-down payments, and no private mortgage insurance.”

Those who qualify for a VA home loan are eligible for the following:

  • Borrowers can often purchase a home with no down payment. In 2020, 350,094 individuals using a VA Loan were able to purchase their homes without putting money down.
  • Many other loans with down payments under 20% require Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). VA Loans do not require PMI, which means veterans can save on their monthly housing costs.
  • Finally, VA-Backed Loans often offer the most competitive terms and interest rates.

Bottom Line

One way we can honor and thank our veterans this year is to ensure they have the best information about the benefits of VA home loans. Homeownership is the American Dream. Our veterans sacrifice so much in service to our nation and deserve to achieve their homeownership goals. Thank you for your service.

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The Mortgage Process Doesn’t Have To Be Scary [INFOGRAPHIC]

The Mortgage Process Doesn’t Have To Be Scary [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

The Mortgage Process Doesn’t Have To Be Scary [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights

  • Applying for a mortgage is a big step towards homeownership, but it doesn’t need to be one you fear. Here are some tips to help you prepare.
  • Know your credit score and work to build strong credit. When you’re ready, lean on your agent to connect you with a lender so you can get pre-approved and begin your home search.
  • Any major life change can be scary, and buying a home is no different. Let’s connect so you have an advisor by your side to take the fear out of the equation.

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Knowledge Is Power When It Comes to Appraisals and Inspections

Knowledge Is Power When It Comes to Appraisals and Inspections | Simplifying The Market

Buyers in today’s market often have questions about the importance of getting a home appraisal and an inspection. That’s because high buyer demand and low housing supply are driving intense competition and leading some buyers to consider waiving those contingencies to stand out in the crowded market.

But is that the best move? Buying a home is one of the most important transactions in your lifetime, and it’s critical to keep your best interests in mind. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect from the appraisal and the inspection, and why each one can potentially save you a lot of time, money, and headaches down the road.

Home Appraisal

The home appraisal is a critical step for securing a mortgage on your home. As Home Light explains:

“. . . lenders typically require an appraisal to ensure that your loan-to-value ratio falls within their underwriting guidelines. Mortgages are secured loans where the lender uses your home as collateral in case you default on the agreed-upon payments.”

Put simply: when you apply for a mortgage, an unbiased appraisal – typically required by your lender – is the best way to verify the value of the home. That appraisal ensures the lender doesn’t loan you more than what the home is worth.

When buyers are competing like they are today, bidding wars and market conditions can push prices up. A buyer’s contract price may end up higher than the value of the home – this is known as an appraisal gap. In today’s market, it’s common for the seller to ask the buyer to make up the difference when an appraisal gap occurs. That means, as a buyer, you may need to be prepared to bring extra money to the table if you really want the home.

Home Inspection

Like the appraisal, the inspection is important because it gives an impartial evaluation of the home. While the appraisal determines the current value of the home, the inspection determines the current condition of the home. As the American Society of Home Inspectors puts it:

“Home inspections are the opportunity to discover major defects that were not apparent at a buyer’s showing. . . . Your home inspection is to help you make an informed decision about the house, including its condition.”

If there are any concerns during the inspection – an aging roof, a malfunctioning HVAC system, or any other questionable items – you have the option to discuss and negotiate any potential issues with the seller. Your real estate advisor can help you navigate this process and negotiate what, if any, repairs need to be made before the sale is finalized.

Keep in mind – home inspections are critical because they can shed light on challenges you may face as the new homeowner. Without an inspection, serious, sometimes costly issues could come as a surprise later on.

Bottom Line

Both the appraisal and the inspection are important steps in the homebuying process. They protect your best interests as a buyer by providing unbiased information about the home’s value and condition. Let’s connect so you have an expert guiding you throughout the entire process.

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Important Distinction: Homes Are Less Affordable, Not Unaffordable

Important Distinction: Homes Are Less Affordable, Not Unaffordable | Simplifying The Market

It’s impossible to research the subject of buying a home without coming across a headline declaring that the fall in home affordability is a crisis. However, when we add context to the most recent affordability statistics, we soon realize that, though homes are less affordable than they have been over the last few years, they are more affordable than they historically have been.

Black Knight, a premier provider of data and analytics for the mortgage industry, just released their latest Monthly Mortgage Monitor which includes a new analysis of the affordability situation. Here’s what the report reveals:

“The monthly payment required to purchase the average priced home with a 20% down 30-year fixed rate mortgage increased by nearly 20% (+$210) over the first nine months of 2021, . . . It now requires 21.6% of the median household income to make the monthly mortgage payment on the average home purchase, the least affordable housing has been since 30-year rates rose to nearly 5% back in late 2018.”

Basically, the report shows that homes are less affordable today than at any other time in the last three years. However, in a previous report earlier this year, Black Knight calculated that the percentage of the median household income to make the monthly mortgage payment on the average home purchase over the last 25 years was 23.6% (see graph below):Important Distinction: Homes Are Less Affordable, Not Unaffordable | Simplifying The MarketToday’s payment-to-income ratio is more affordable than the average over the last 25 years. Given that context, we can see that American households still have the same ability to be homeowners as their parents did 20 years ago.

This confirms the recent analysis of ATTOM Data resources where Todd Teta, Chief Product and Technology Officer, explains:

“The typical median-priced home around the U.S. remains affordable to workers earning an average wage, despite prices that keep going through the roof. Super-low interests and rising pay continue to be the main reasons why.”

Bottom Line

It’s true that it’s less affordable to buy a home today than it has been the last few years. However, it’s more affordable to buy today than the average over the last 25 years. In other words, homes are less affordable, but they’re not unaffordable. That’s an important distinction.

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If You’re a Buyer, Is Offering Asking Price Enough?

If You’re a Buyer, Is Offering Asking Price Enough? | Simplifying The Market

In today’s real estate market, buyers shouldn’t shop for a home with the expectation they’ll be able to negotiate a lower sales price. In a typical housing market, buyers try to determine how much less than the asking price they can offer and still get the home. From there, the buyer and seller typically negotiate and agree on a revised price somewhere in the middle.

Things Are Different Today

Today’s housing market is anything but normal. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), homes today are:

  • Receiving an average of  3.8 offers
  • Selling in just 17 days

Homes selling quickly and receiving multiple offers highlights how competitive the housing market is right now. This is due, in large part, to the low supply of homes for sale. Low supply and high demand mean homes often sell for more than the asking price. In some cases, they sell for a lot more. Selma Hepp, Deputy Chief Economist at CoreLogic, explains how these stats can impact buyers:

“The imbalance between robust demand and dismal availability of for-sale homes has led to a continual bidding over asking prices, which reached record levels in recent months. Now, almost 6 in 10 homes listed are selling over the asking price.”

You May Need To Rethink How You Look at a Home’s Asking Price

What does that mean for you? If you’ve found your dream home, you need to be realistic about today’s housing market and how that impacts the offer you’ll make. Offering below or even at a home’s asking price may not cut it. In today’s market, the highest bidder often wins the home, much like at an auction.

Currently, the asking price is often the floor of the negotiation rather than the ceiling. If you really love a home, it may ultimately sell for more than the sellers are asking. That’s important to keep in mind as you work with your agent to craft an offer.

Understand An Appraisal Gap Can Happen

Because of today’s home price appreciation and the auction-like atmosphere in the selling process, appraisal gaps – the gap between the price of your contract and the appraisal for the house – are more frequent.

According to data from CoreLogic:

“Beginning in January 2020, nationally, 7% of purchase transactions had a contract price above the appraisal, but by May 2021, the frequency had increased to 19% of purchase transactions.”

When this happens, your lender won’t loan you more than the home’s appraised value, and the seller may ask you to make up the difference out of pocket. Buyers in today’s market need to be prepared for this possibility. Know your budget, know what you can afford, and work with a trusted advisor who can offer expert advice along the way.

Bottom Line

Bidding wars and today’s auction-like atmosphere mean buyers need to rethink how they look at the asking price of a home. Let’s connect so you have a trusted real estate professional who can advise you on the current market and help determine what the market value is on your dream home.

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Two Reasons Why Waiting a Year To Buy Could Cost You

Two Reasons Why Waiting a Year To Buy Could Cost You | Simplifying The Market

If you’re a renter with a desire to become a homeowner, or a homeowner who’s decided your current house no longer fits your needs, you may be hoping that waiting a year might mean better market conditions to purchase a home.

To determine if you should buy now or wait, you need to ask yourself two simple questions:

  1. What will home prices be like in 2022?
  2. Where will mortgage rates be by the end of 2022?

Let’s shed some light on the answers to both of these questions.

What will home prices be like in 2022?

Three major housing industry entities project continued home price appreciation for 2022. Here are their forecasts:

Using the average of the three projections (6.27%), a home that sells for $350,000 today would be valued at $371,945 by the end of next year. That means, if you delay, it could cost you more. As a prospective buyer, you could pay an additional $21,945 if you wait.

Where will mortgage rates be by the end of 2022?

Today, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate is hovering near historic lows. However, most experts believe rates will rise as the economy continues to recover. Here are the forecasts for the fourth quarter of 2022 by the three major entities mentioned above:

That averages out to 3.7% if you include all three forecasts, and it’s nearly a full percentage point higher than today’s rates. Any increase in mortgage rates will increase your cost.

What does it mean for you if both home values and mortgage rates rise?

You’ll pay more in mortgage payments each month if both variables increase. Let’s assume you purchase a $350,000 home this year with a 30-year fixed-rate loan at 2.86% after making a 10% down payment. According to the mortgage calculator from Smart Asset, your monthly mortgage payment (including principal and interest payments, and estimated home insurance, taxes in your area, and other fees) would be approximately $1,899.

That same home could cost $371,945 by the end of 2022, and the mortgage rate could be 3.7% (based on the industry forecasts mentioned above). Your monthly mortgage payment, after putting down 10%, would increase to $2,166.Two Reasons Why Waiting a Year To Buy Could Cost You | Simplifying The Market

The difference in your monthly mortgage payment would be $267. That’s $3,204 more per year and $96,120 over the life of the loan.

If you consider that purchasing now will also let you take advantage of the equity you’ll build up over the next calendar year, which is approximately $22,000 for a house with a similar value, then the total net worth increase you could gain from buying this year is over $118,000.

Bottom Line

When asking if you should buy a home, you probably think of the non-financial benefits of owning a home as a driving motivator. When asking when to buy, the financial benefits make it clear that doing so now is much more advantageous than waiting until next year.

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Is a 20% Down Payment Really Necessary To Purchase a Home?

Is a 20% Down Payment Really Necessary To Purchase a Home? | Simplifying The Market

There’s a common misconception that, as a homebuyer, you need to come up with 20% of the total sale price for your down payment. In fact, a recent survey by Lending Tree asks what is keeping consumers from purchasing a home. For over half of those surveyed, the ability to afford a down payment is the biggest hurdle.

That may be because those individuals assume a 20% down payment is necessary. While putting more money down if you’re able can benefit buyers, putting 20% down is not mandatory. As Freddie Mac puts it:

The most damaging down payment myth—since it stops the homebuying process before it can start—is the belief that 20% is necessary.”

If saving that much money sounds overwhelming, you might be ready to give up on the dream of homeownership before you even begin – but you don’t have to. According to the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the median down payment hasn’t been over 20% since 2005. It may sound surprising, but today’s average down payment is only 12%. That number is even lower for first-time homebuyers, whose average down payment is only 7%.

Based on the Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report from NAR, the graph below shows an even closer look at the down payment percentage various age groups pay:Is a 20% Down Payment Really Necessary To Purchase a Home? | Simplifying The MarketAs the graph shows, the only groups who put 20% or more down on average are older homebuyers who likely can use the sale of an existing home to fuel a larger down payment on their next home.

What does this mean for you?

If you’re a prospective homebuyer, it’s important to know you don’t have to put the full 20% down. And while saving for any down payment amount may feel like a challenge, keep in mind there are programs for qualified buyers that allow them to purchase a home with a down payment as low as 3.5%. There are also options like VA loans and USDA loans with no down payment requirements for qualified applicants.

To understand your options, you do need to do your homework. If you’re interested in learning more about down payment assistance programs, information is available through sites like downpaymentresource.com. Be sure to also work with a real estate advisor from the start to learn what you may qualify for in the homebuying process.

Bottom Line

Don’t let the myth of the 20% down payment halt your homebuying process before it begins. If you want to purchase a home this year, let’s connect to start the conversation and explore your options.

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