Resources: Keeping Current Matters
It took a lot of dedicated effort to get your home on the market. It would be nice if you could just sit back and wait for the offers to roll in. Unfortunately, it's not that easy.
Once your home is on the market, your real estate agent will work hard to complete the sale, but you'll have to do your part to keep things moving forward. Here are five things you can do to help keep your marketing efforts on track.
Your work isn't done until the sale is finalized. With these tips, you can ensure everything goes right with your home sale.
When you're selling your home, first impressions are everything. Typically, each home buyer is looking for something different in the house they buy. However, there are common problems that will make them walk — and, maybe, even run — out of your home if they see them. The good news is there are several things you can do to make buyers fall in love with your home.
With these tactics and fixes, there's no doubt buyers will fall in love with your home. Ask your trusted Montague Miller real estate agent for more tips on how to get the most out of your sale.
If you're planning to sell your home, consider staging it. From decluttering and cleaning to rearranging and styling, successful home staging can make you money. In fact, according to the National Association of REALTORS®, most sellers' agents agree a well-staged home increases the dollar amount home buyers offer.
If you are an HGTV fan, you know home staging is when the "pros" go through a home clearing out the clutter, highlighting its strengths, and presenting each room in the best light that will attract the largest group of potential home buyers.
But, do you need to hire a professional stager? Maybe not. Use these six tips to manage the styling and upgrading of your home to fetch a higher sales price.
In a competitive market or in a situation where you need to sell your home quickly, staging is the key. Keep these tips in mind, and don't be afraid to talk to a professional stager. Often, the cost of professional staging is made back with a higher sales price and less time on the market!
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.1 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:
1. 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.3 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.4 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.
2. 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.5 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.6
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%.7
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.
3.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.
4. 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.
5. 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 from our Montague Miller & Co trusted real estate professionals, 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.
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.
Selling your home upon retirement is a question millions of people grapple with. While it might seem logical to scale down when you retire, is it really the best option?
There's no "one size fits all" solution for selling your home. Most people will find there are pros and cons to the choice they have to weigh before making a decision.
Ultimately, selling your home is a deeply personal decision. It's best made with input from a real estate agent you can rely on. Reach out to a Montague Miller & Company real estate professional to help you make your next move.
Selling your home soon? As you look at your finances and list your home, it's probably tempting to focus on your potential earnings. However, every real estate transaction comes with closing costs for the buyer and the seller.
You probably already know you're responsible for the agents' commissions, but what about the rest of your closing costs?
Before selling your home, make sure you understand all the closing costs you'll be expected to cover. Here are some common costs that may surprise you:
Of course, your final closing costs before selling your home will depend on a lot of different factors. From zip code and loan terms to the buyers' willingness to negotiate, these factors will help you figure out just how much to set aside for closing. Understand your responsibilities and prepare yourself for every possible expense.
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.1
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 $410,000.2 Let's compare a 5.0% versus a 6.0% fixed-interest rate on that amount over a 30-year term.
Monthly Payment on $410,000 Loan
Difference in Monthly Payment
Total Interest Over 30 Years
Difference in Interest
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:
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.3 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:4
Over time, you should start to see your credit score climb — which will help you qualify for a lower mortgage rate.
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.5 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.6
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:7
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.7
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.
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.8
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.
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:9
When considering loan type, you'll also want to weigh the pros and cons of a fixed-rate versus variable-rate mortgage:11
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, 10% of American homebuyers are now selecting ARMs, up from just 4% at the start of this year.12 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.
A mortgage term is the length of time your mortgage agreement is in effect. The terms are typically 15, 20, or 30 years.13 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.13 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.
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.14
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.
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%.15 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.15 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 1981.16, 17
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.18 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 with your local Montague Miller & Company real estate professional. We'd love to help you weigh your options, navigate this shifting market, and reach your real estate goals!