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buying a home | 94 Posts
mortgage | 3 Posts
real estate news | 44 Posts
selling a home | 28 Posts
Uncategorized | 8 Posts
August
1

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.1

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.2 For help finding trustworthy movers, reach out. We'd be happy to share our recommendations. 

  1. 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

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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."4 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.

  1. 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.5

  1. 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. 

  1. 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.

Sources:

  1. Better Business Bureau - https://www.bbb.org/article/scams/24198-bbb-scam-alert-avoid-moving-scams-this-national-moving-mont
  2. org -
    https://www.move.org/how-to-tell-moving-company-scam/
  3. Forbes -
    https://www.forbes.com/advisor/homeowners-insurance/moving-insurance/
  4. New York Times -
    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/13/parenting/moving-tips-kids.html
  5. ASPCA -
    https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/moving-your-pet
July
6

Moving doesn't have to be a stressful experience.

You're moving! Let's face it; whether you're moving across the street or across the country, it can be one of life's more stressful events. Before you surround yourself with cardboard boxes and packing tape, use these tips to find and hire a reliable moving company in your area.

  1. Stay Local
    Use someone in your local community. Ask your real estate agent, family, or friends who they trust for moving projects. They will point you in the right direction.

    The majority of moving scams are found online so stay local by searching businesses in your hometown. You can search online but remember, by staying local, it is easier to verify that they are a legitimate business.


  2. Read Reviews
    In the moving industry, reputation is everything. You're going to tell everyone how great the movers were and that word of mouth is what keeps their business going.

    Further, check out the reviews posted for several moving companies that you are researching. In doing so, you will help ensure that you get a great company for a good value.


  3. Visit the BBB
    Visit the Better Business Bureau and check for any complaints or reports against the moving company. Look for customer complaints and business reports, and even check their Department of Transportation license. Simply ask your moving company for their DOT Number.

    You can then search the database to investigate their record. Make sure the company is insured. Check their insurance number. Visit the moving companies beforehand to see what their operations are like.


  4. Get Estimates
    Get at least three estimates from three different companies that have passed your initial screening tests. Try to ask for a not-to-exceed binding estimate. This means a cap will be placed on the maximum amount they can charge you for the move.

    When the moving company comes to your home, show them your belongings. Further, let them see your home's layout and what challenges they may face with stairs or other obstacles in moving items out of your home. Estimates should be free and always conducted in person. Phone estimates are bad.


  5. Check the Paperwork
    Just like selling your home comes with paperwork, so should a good moving company provide you with several documents. They should give you a bill of lading, which is a legal document that serves as a receipt of the shipment of goods.

    Further, an inventory list should include all of the items they are moving for you. The most important document is the estimate itself which should be a written binding estimate which is dated and signed by the moving company.

You Are Ready to Move

You have checked potential companies thoroughly and should feel good about your choice. You have done your homework. Now choose the best one. A smooth transition awaits.

June
24

Every buyer-to-be knows searching for a home can be a challenge. However, your house hunt doesn't have to mean chaos if you start with an organized plan. Streamlining your search starts with a healthy dose of preparation by including a great real estate agent, setting a budget, creating a wish list, and reviewing real estate listings that meet your requirements.

These six tips can keep you organized and focused as you search for your new home.

  1. Involve Your Agent
    Your real estate agent isn't there just to set up visits and oversee the closing process when you're buying a house. They're also your number one resource for answering questions, sharing ideas, and providing real estate advice.

  2. Set a Budget
    While you don't have to know exactly how much you'll be able to spend at the start, it's a good idea to narrow your budget down to a comfortable range. Setting a sensible budget from the start makes every step that comes after easier. You can always adjust later if your finances change.

  3. Scout First
    Before you start scheduling visits, it's a good idea to scout some neighborhoods and identify possible matches. Doing online research will help you narrow down the possibilities. You can learn even more by driving through the most appealing spots that your research uncovers. Be sure to write down the info of any homes that catch your eye so that you can visit them later for a closer look.

  4. When in Doubt, Make a List
    Making lists are a great way to stay organized and super helpful when buying a house. Making lists of your needs, wants, and deal-breakers will help you lock in on the best fits and save time by quickly eliminating homes that just aren't a match.

  5. Ask Around
    Have any friends or family members who recently bought in a new community or live in a neighborhood you're considering? It helps to get the inside scoop on a neighborhood from someone you trust.

  6. Get Pre-Approved
    Want to impress potential sellers and gain some peace of mind in the process? Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is an excellent idea when shopping for a house and will make life much easier when it's time to make an offer. Get this step out of the way early and you'll be in great shape.

Creating a plan before you start your search for a home gives you the chance to enjoy the process and to make an efficient, informed decision when it's time to place an offer on your new house.

June
1

 

The last two years caught many of us off guard—and not just because of the pandemic. They also ushered in the hottest housing market on record, with home prices rising nationally by nearly 19% in 2021, driven primarily by low mortgage rates and a major supply shortage.1

 But while some had hoped 2022 would bring a return to normalcy, the U.S. real estate market continues to boom, despite rising interest rates and decreasing affordability.

 So what's driving this persistent demand? And is there an end in sight?

Here are three factors impacting the real estate market right now. Find out how they could affect you if you're a current homeowner or plan to buy or sell a home this year.

 MORTGAGE RATES ARE RISING FASTER THAN EXPECTED

 Over the past couple of years, homebuyers have faced intense competition for new homes—in part due to historically low mortgage rates that were a result of the Federal Reserve's efforts to keep the economy afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 However, in response to a concerning level of inflation, the Fed is now reversing those efforts by raising the federal funds rate. And as a result, mortgage rates are rising, as well. Few experts predicted, though, that mortgage rates would go up as quickly as they have.

 In January 2022, the Mortgage Bankers Association projected that rates would reach 4% by the end of this year.2 By mid-April, however, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate had already hit 5%, up from around 3% just one year prior.3 On a $400,000 mortgage, that 2% difference could translate into an additional $461 per monthly payment.

 Since then, mortgage rates have continued on an upward trend. So what impact are these rising rates having on demand? While many buyers had hoped for a cooling effect, experts warn that may not be the case.

 Ali Wolf, chief economist at housing market research firm Zanda, told Fortune magazine, "Rising mortgage rates are having a counterintuitive effect on the housing market. Home shoppers are actually sprung into action in an attempt to buy a home before mortgage rates rise any higher."4

 Since inventory remains low, the resulting "race" has kept the homebuying market highly competitive–at least for now.

 What does it mean for you?

 While current 30-year fixed mortgage rates represent an increase over previous months, they remain well below the historical average of 8%.5 As inflation across the economy continues, the Fed is likely to raise rates further this year. Buyers should act fast to secure a good mortgage rate. We'd be happy to refer you to a lender who can help.

 For sellers, speed is also of the essence. The pool of potential buyers may shrink as mortgages become more expensive. And if you plan to finance your next home, you'll want to act quickly to secure a favorable rate for yourself. Contact us today to discuss your options.

 HOME PRICES KEEP CLIMBING

 History shows that higher interest rates don't necessarily translate to lower home prices. In fact, home prices rose 5% between 1980 and 1982, a period of significantly higher mortgage rates and inflation.5

 Forecasters expect that home prices will continue to go up throughout 2022, though likely at a slower pace than the 18.8% increase of the last 12 months.4 Bank of America predicts that prices will be up approximately 10% by the end of this year, while Fannie Mae estimates 11.2%.6,7

 In addition to limited supply and a race to beat rising mortgage rates, home values are also climbing because of positive economic indicators, like low unemployment.8 Plus, rents are soaring–up 17% from a year ago–which is prompting more first-time homebuyers to enter the market.9 Add to that the continued popularity of remote work, and it's easy to see why property prices continue to surge.

 However, it's not all bad news for prospective homebuyers. Economists expect that as mortgage rates rise, the rate of appreciation will continue to taper, though the effect may be gradual.

 "Eventually mortgage rates will slow down home prices," according to Ken Johnson, an economist at Florida Atlantic University interviewed by Marketwatch.10 "We should not see rapid upticks in prices as mortgage rates rise." Forecasters agree—Fannie Mae expects price increases to slow to 4.2% in 2023.7

 What does it mean for you?

 While the pace of appreciation is likely to decrease next year, home prices show no signs of going down. However, current labor shortages are leading to higher salaries and better job opportunities for many workers. You may find that your income growth outpaces home prices, making homeownership more affordable for you in the future.

 For homeowners, the outlook's even brighter. You could find yourself sitting on a nice pile of equity. Contact us for a free home value assessment to find out.

 INVENTORY REMAINS EXTREMELY LOW

 As noted, one of the largest hurdles to homeownership is a lack of inventory. According to a February 2022 report by Realtor.com, there's an expanding gap between household formation and home construction, which has resulted in a nationwide shortage of 5.8 million housing units.11

 The origins of this shortage date back to the 2008 housing crisis, during which crashing home values led contractors to stop building new properties—a trend that has not been fully reversed.12

 That decline in home construction also resulted in a decrease in the number of home building professionals, a trend that was exacerbated by job losses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, many builders are limited by their ability to find qualified labor.

 Another major challenge is a staggering increase in the cost of materials. Pandemic-related supply chain shortages have been a significant driver, with home building material costs rising on average 20% on a year-over-year basis. The price of framing lumber alone has tripled since August 2021.13

 These trends add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of a typical home. Factors like a lack of buildable land in many areas, restrictive zoning, and a shortage of developers are also contributing to the issue.14

 Most homebuying experts agree that the lack of inventory is the primary factor driving rising housing prices and unprecedented competition for homes. With available housing units near four-decade lows, the end of the current housing boom is not yet in sight.15

 What does it mean for you?

 Prospective buyers should be prepared to compete for a home, since low inventory can lead to multiple offers. You may also need to expand your search parameters. If you're ready to look, we're ready to help.

 For sellers, the picture is rosier. In this strong market, your home may be worth more than you realize. Contact us to find out how much your home could sell for in today's market.

 WE'RE HERE TO GUIDE YOU

 While national real estate trends 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 local issues that are likely to drive home values in your particular neighborhood.

 If you're considering buying or selling a home, contact one of our Montague Miller & Co real estate professionals to schedule a free consultation. We can help you assess your options and make the most of this unique real estate landscape.

Sources:

  1. Marketwatch - https://www.marketwatch.com/picks/home-price-appreciation-will-normalize-what-5-economists-and-real-estate-pros-predict-will-happen-to-home-prices-in-2022-01646940841
  2. Bankrate -
    https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/mortgage-rate-forecast
  3. CNBC -
    https://www.cnbc.com/2022/04/16/heres-how-much-the-same-mortgage-costs-now-compared-to-last-year.html
  4. Fortune -
    https://fortune.com/2022/03/23/housing-market-interest-rate-economic-shock/
  5. National Association of Realtors -
    https://www.nar.realtor/blogs/economists-outlook/instant-reaction-mortgage-rates-april-07-2022
  6. Fortune -
    https://fortune.com/2022/03/16/home-prices-2022-2023-bank-of-america-forecast-mortgage-rates/
  7. Fortune -
    https://fortune.com/2022/03/07/what-home-prices-will-look-like-2023-fannie-mae/
  8. Fortune -
    https://fortune.com/2022/03/17/home-prices-drop-housing-markets-california-michigan-massachusetts-corelogic/
  9. CNN -
    https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/23/success/us-national-rent-february/index.html
  10. MarketWatch -
    https://www.marketwatch.com/story/home-prices-increase-at-one-of-the-fastest-rates-on-record-but-higher-mortgage-rates-should-slow-future-growth-11648559497
  11. com -
    https://www.realtor.com/research/us-housing-supply-gap-expands/
  12. NPR -
    https://www.npr.org/2022/03/29/1089174630/housing-shortage-new-home-construction-supply-chain
  13. Investopedia -
    https://www.investopedia.com/housing-market-dips-in-early-march-2022-5222449
  14. NPR -
    https://www.npr.org/2022/03/29/1089174630/housing-shortage-new-home-construction-supply-chain
  15. Fortune -
    https://fortune.com/2022/03/14/housing-market-key-metric-inventory-zillow-bad-for-buyers/

May
23

Some Highlights

What does the rest of the year hold for the Houseing Market? Here's what experts have to say about what lies ahead.

Home Prices are projected to rise and so are mortgage rates.  Experts are also forecasting another strong year for home sales as people move to meet their changing needs. 

Connect with a Montague Miller & Co local real estate professional so you can make your best move this year.

Resources: Keeping Current Matters, CoreLogic, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, NAR, Calculated Risk, MBA

May
1

Our nation is in the midst of a serious housing crunch. Last year, a lack of inventory and soaring prices left many would-be homebuyers feeling pinched. But now, with interest rates climbing, many of them are also feeling desperate to lock in a mortgage—which has only added fuel to the fire.1

Fortunately, if you're a buyer struggling to find a home, we have some good news. While it's true that higher mortgage rates can decrease your purchasing budget, there are additional ways to compete in a hot market.

Yes, a high offer price gets attention. But most sellers consider a variety of factors when evaluating an offer. With that in mind, here are five tactics you can utilize to sweeten your proposal and outshine your competition.

We can help you weigh the risks and benefits of each tactic and craft a compelling offer designed to get you your dream home—without giving away the farm. 

1.   Demonstrate Solid Financing

The reality is, no one gets paid if a home sale falls through. That's why sellers (and their listing agents) favor offers with a high probability of closing.

Sellers particularly love all-cash offers because there's no chance of financing issues cropping up at the last moment. But don't despair if you can't pay cash for your home. According to the National Association of Realtors, only about 1 in 4 home purchases are all-cash deals, which means the vast majority are financed with a mortgage.2

If sellers are assured that financing will come through, buying with a mortgage doesn't have to be a big disadvantage. The most important step you can take as a buyer is to get preapproved before you start looking for homes. A preapproval letter shows sellers that you are serious about buying and that you will be able to make good on your offer.

It's also important to consider the reputation of your lender. While sellers may not know or care about a lender's reputation, their agents often do. Some lenders are much easier to work with than others, especially if you are pursuing certain types of mortgages like FHA or VA loans.3 If so, you'll want a lender who specializes in these types of mortgages. If you're unsure who to choose, we are happy to refer you to reputable lenders known for their ease of doing business.

2.   Put Down a Sizeable Deposit

Buyers can show sellers that they're serious about their offer and have "skin in the game" by putting down a large earnest money deposit.

Earnest money is a deposit held in escrow by a title company or the seller's broker or lawyer.  If the purchase goes through, it is applied to the down payment and closing costs—if the sale falls through, the buyer may lose some or all of that deposit.

While an earnest money deposit is typically around 1-2% of the sale price, offering a higher deposit can help demonstrate to the buyer that you are serious about the property.4 However, this strategy can also be risky. We can help you determine an appropriate deposit to offer based on your specific circumstances.

3.   Ask for Few (or No) Contingencies

Most real estate offers include contingencies, which are clauses that allow one or both parties to back out of the agreement if certain conditions are not met. These contingencies appear in the purchase agreement and must be accepted by both the buyer and seller to be legally binding.5

Common contingencies include:

  • Financing: A financing contingency gives the buyer a window of time in which to secure a mortgage. If they are unable to do so, they can withdraw from the purchase and the seller can move on to other buyers.
  • Inspection: An inspection contingency gives the buyer the opportunity to have the home professionally inspected for issues with the structure, wiring, plumbing, etc. Typically, the seller may choose whether or not to remediate those issues; if they do not, the buyer may withdraw from the contract.
  • Appraisal: Most lenders will not offer a mortgage on a home that costs more than it's worth. An appraisal contingency gives the buyer an opportunity to get the home professionally assessed to ensure that its value is at or above the sales price. If an appraisal comes in low, the seller may be asked to renegotiate the contract.
  • Sale of a prior home: Some buyers cannot afford to purchase a new home until they sell their previous one. If the buyer is unable to sell their current home within a specified window of time, this contingency enables them to withdraw from the contract without penalty.

Since contingencies reduce the likelihood that a sale will go through, they generally make an offer less desirable to the seller. The more contingencies that are included, the weaker the offer becomes. Therefore, buyers in a competitive market often volunteer to waive certain contingencies.

However, it's very important to make this decision carefully and recognize the risks of doing so. For example, a buyer who chooses to waive a home inspection contingency may find out too late that the home requires extensive renovations, and a buyer who waives the appraisal may risk their mortgage falling through. If you back out of a home purchase without the protection of a contingency, you could lose your earnest money deposit.6 We can help you assess the risks and benefits involved.

4. Offer a Flexible Closing Date and/or Leaseback Option

When it comes to selling a house, money isn't everything. People sell their homes for a wide variety of reasons, and flexible terms that work with their personal situations can sometimes make all the difference. For example, if a seller is in the process of planning a significant move, they may prefer a longer closing timeline that gives them time to find housing in their new location.

Similarly, short-term leaseback options, in which the sale is completed but the seller retains the right to rent the home for a specified period of time, can be compelling.7 These arrangements enable the seller to use the money from the sale of their home to purchase their next house. A leaseback agreement also makes it possible for them to avoid moving twice when their next home is not yet ready to occupy.

Flexible closing dates and leaseback options can provide a powerful advantage for first-time homebuyers. If you have a month-to-month or easily transferable lease, for example, you may be able to offer a more flexible timeline than a buyer who is simultaneously selling their existing home.

Of course, the value of these terms depends on the seller's situation. We can reach out to the listing agent to find out the seller's preferred terms, and then collaborate with you to write a compelling offer that works for both parties.  

5. Work With a Skilled Buyer's Agent

In this ultra-competitive real estate market, one of the greatest advantages you can give yourself is to work with a skilled and trustworthy real estate professional. We will make sure you fully understand the process and help you submit an appealing offer without taking on too much risk.

Plus, we know how to write offers that are designed to win over both the seller and their listing agent. The truth is, listing agents play a huge role in helping sellers evaluate offers, and they want to work with skilled buyer's agents who are professional, communicative, and courteous.

Once your offer is accepted, we'll also handle any further negotiations and coordinate all the paperwork and other details involved in your home purchase. The best part is, you'll have a knowledgeable, licensed advocate on your side who is watching out for your best interests every step of the way.

Helping You Get to the Right Offer

In many cases, a competitive offer doesn't need to be all-cash, contingency-free, or significantly above asking price. But if you're serious about buying a home in today's market, it's important to consider what you can do to sweeten the deal.

If you're a buyer, we can help you compete in today's market without getting steamrolled. And if you're a seller, we can help you evaluate offers by taking all the relevant factors into account. Contact a local Montague Miller & Co real estate professionals today to schedule a free consultation.

Sources:

  1. National Association of Realtors -
    https://www.nar.realtor/newsroom/pending-home-sales-dwindle-4-1-in-february
  2. National Association of Realtors -
    https://www.nar.realtor/newsroom/existing-home-sales-fade-7-2-in-february
  3. Forbes -
    https://www.forbes.com/advisor/mortgages/housing-crisis-tips/
  4. com -
    https://www.realtor.com/advice/finance/earnest-money-deposit-mistakes-buyers-make/
  5. Bankrate -
    https://www.bankrate.com/real-estate/contingency-clause/
  6. Home Buying Institute -
    http://www.homebuyinginstitute.com/mortgage/risks-of-waiving-a-contingency/
  7. com -
    https://www.realtor.com/advice/sell/what-is-a-rent-back-agreement
April
26

April
26

March
9

Key Factors That Impact Affordability Today | MyKCM

You can't read an article about residential real estate without the author mentioning the affordability challenges that today's buyers face. There's no doubt homes are less affordable today than they were over the last two years, but that doesn't mean homes are now unaffordable.

There are three measures used to establish home affordability: home prices, mortgage rates, and wages. Let's look closely at each of these components.

1. Home Prices

The most recent Home Price Insights report by CoreLogic shows home values have increased by 19.1% from last January to this January. That was one reason affordability declined over the past year.

2. Mortgage Rates

While the current global uncertainty makes it difficult to project mortgage rates, we do know current rates are almost one full percentage point higher than they were last year. According to Freddie Mac, the average monthly rate for last February was 2.81%. This February it was 3.76%. That increase in the mortgage rate also contributes to homes being less affordable than they were last year.

3. Wages

The one big, positive component in the affordability equation is an increase in American wages. In a recent article by RealtyTrac, Peter Miller addresses that point:

"Prices are up, but what about wages? ADP reports that job holder incomes increased 5.9% last year but rose 8.0% for those who switched employers. In effect, some of the higher cost to buy a home has been offset by more cash income."

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) also recently released information that looks at income and affordability. The NAR data provides a comparison of the current median family income versus the qualifying income for a median-priced home in each region of the country. Here's a graph of their findings:

Key Factors That Impact Affordability Today | MyKCM

As the graph shows, the median family income (shown in blue on the graph) is greater than the qualifying income needed to buy a median-priced home (shown in green on the graph) in all four regions of the country. While those figures may vary in certain locations within each region, it's important to note that, in most of the country, homes are still affordable.

So, when you think about affordability, remember that the picture includes more than just home prices and mortgage rates. When prices rise and rates rise, it does impact affordability, and experts project both of those things will climb in the months ahead. That's why it's less affordable to buy a home than it was over the past two years when prices and rates were lower than they are today. But wages need to be factored into affordability as well. Because wages have been rising, they're a big reason that, while less affordable, homes are not unaffordable today.

Bottom Line

To find out more about affordability in our local area, let's discuss where home prices are locally, what's happening with mortgage rates, and get you in contact with a lender so you can make an informed financial decision. Remember, while less affordable, homes are not unaffordable, which still gives you an opportunity to buy today.

March
9

Down Payment Assistance Programs Can Help You Achieve Homeownership | MyKCM

For many homebuyers, the thought of saving for a down payment can feel daunting, especially in today's market. That's why, when asked what they find most difficult in the homebuying process, some buyers say it's one of the hardest steps on the path to homeownership. Data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows:

"For first-time home buyers, 29 percent said saving for a downpayment [sic] was the most difficult step in the process."

If you're finding that your down payment is your biggest hurdle, the good news is there are many down payment assistance programs available that can help you achieve your goals. The key is understanding where to look and learning what options are available. Here's some information that can help.

First-Time and Repeat Buyers Are Often Eligible

According to downpaymentresource.com, there are thousands of financial assistance programs available for homebuyers, like affordable mortgage options for first-time buyers. But, of the many programs that are available, down payment assistance options make up the large majority. They say 73% of the assistance available to homebuyers is there to help you with your down payment.

And it's not just first-time homebuyers that are eligible for these programs. Downpaymentresource.com notes:

"You don't have to be a first-time buyer. Over 38% of all programs are for repeat homebuyers who have owned a home in the last 3 years."

That means no matter where you are in your homeownership journey, there could be an option available for you.

There Are Local Programs and Specialized Programs for Public Servants

There are also multiple down payment assistance resources designed to help those who serve our communities. Teacher Next Door is one of those programs:

"The Teacher Next Door Program was designed to increase home ownership among teachers and other public servants, support community development and increase access to affordable housing free from discrimination."

Teacher Next Door is just one program that seeks to help teachers, first responders, health providers, government employees, active-duty military personnel, and veterans reach their down payment goals.

And, most importantly, even if you don't qualify for these types of specialized programs, there are many federal, state, and local programs available for you to explore. And the best way to do that is to connect with a local real estate professional to learn more about what's available in your area.

Bottom Line

If saving for a down payment seems daunting, there are programs available that can help. And if you work to serve our community, there may be even more opportunities available to you. To learn more about your options, let's connect so you can start your homebuying journey today.

Resources: Keeping Current Matters, Teacher Next Door, Simplifying the Market, National Association of Realtors (NAR)

March
9

Highlights

  • Today's housing market is the direct result of low supply and high buyer demand. Here's what that means for you and your plans to buy or sell.
  • For buyers, expect competition, be ready to move fast, and be prepared to submit your strongest offer. For sellers,  know your house will be the center of attention  and that it'll likely sell quickly and get multiple offers.
  • If you're ready to move, let's connect to talk about our local area and how you can take advantage of today's unprecedented housing market.

Resources by Keeping Current Matters, NAR

February
8

What's Your Home Buying Power?

If you're in the market for a new home or investment property, one of the first questions you'll probably ask is, "What can we afford?" Many buyers become so caught up in how much they can afford that they don't realize their total buying power—that is, the total amount of purchasing potential they actually have.

 Buying Power Defined

Your buying power is comprised of the total amount of money you have available each month for a mortgage payment. This means the money you have each month after fixed bills and expenses. Any money you've saved for a down payment, the proceeds from the sale of your current home, if applicable, and the amount of money you're qualified to borrow all impact your buying power as well. When you take all of this into account, you may find you are able to purchase a larger home or a home in a more desirable neighborhood, or you might realize you should be looking for homes in a lower price range.

 What About Housing Affordability?

Housing affordability is a metric used by real estate experts to assess whether or not the average family earning an average wage could qualify for a mortgage on the average home.1 Although this figure is essential to creating a comprehensive overview of the real estate market, it's not a factor you should consider in your home search. What may be considered affordable to you based on your income and other factors may be different than what's affordable to the average buyer.

Why Buying Power Matters

A common misunderstanding is that a home's list price determines whether or not you can purchase it. Although it's important to look at the price tag, it's essential to consider what your monthly payment will be if you own the home. After all, the purchase price doesn't include the housing-related expenses, such as annual property taxes, homeowner insurance, associated monthly fees, and any maintenance or repairs. Figuring out the payment will prevent you from overestimating or underestimating your buying power. After all, you'll live with your monthly payment, not the sales price.

Once you have clarity on your buying power, you'll be able to buy the home you want, instead of settling for a home because you feel it's the only one you can afford. It will also prevent you from becoming "house poor," a common term for someone who's put all their money toward the down payment, leaving them nothing left over for fees outside of their monthly house payment. Both scenarios can negatively impact the lifestyle you want to live. Understanding your buying power can help you get the home you want without sacrificing the lifestyle you desire.

If you haven't sold your current home yet, a Comparative Market Assessment (CMA) will give you a general idea of how much you may get for your home based on what other homes have sold for in your area. Contact our team for a FREE CMA!

Calculating Your Buying Power

You might be wondering, "How do I know what my buying power is?" Buying power is calculated by adding the money you've saved for a down payment and/or the money you made from selling your home (minus fees and mortgage payoff) to all of your sources of income and investments that could be used to make your monthly payment. Make sure to include your monthly pay, commissions or tips, dividends from investments, payments from rental properties or other monthly income you receive as well as the loan amount you're willing to finance and qualify for.

Most lenders advised buyers to spend no more than 35 to 45 of their pretax income on housing, meaning all your income and sources of revenue prior to paying taxes. Make sure you factor in not only your mortgage payment but also property tax and home insurance to the cost of housing.2 However, other financial experts advise spending no more than a very conservative 25 percent of your after-tax income on your housing expenses.2  Whether you plan to spend the average, play it conservative or split the difference is up to you.

Traditionally, mortgage lenders have targeted the ideal housing expense amount to be a ratio of 28 percent or less.3

However, these figures bring up an important point: you don't have to spend all of your savings and available monthly income on a mortgage payment. It's important to set money aside for regular home maintenance, unexpected repairs, and monthly fees, such as a condominium or homeowners association fee. While the above ratios are commonly accepted, a lender will look at your total financial picture when they decide how much they're willing to lend. It may be tempting to take out a large loan in order to purchase the home of your dreams, but keep in mind the less money you have to borrow, the stronger your buying power may be.

4 Things That Impact Buying Power

  1. Credit score. A great score can help you lock into a lower interest rate.
  2. Debt-to-income ratio. The lower the ratio, the better risk you may be to lenders as long as you have an established credit history.
  3. Assets, including the documentation of where the money for the purchase is coming from and the mix of your investments.
  4. Down payment. The more you're able to put down, the less you will have to borrow. With a down payment of 20 percent or more, you won't have to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI) and you may also be able to negotiate a lower interest rate.

How to Save for a Down Payment

If you're thinking of buying a home one day, one of the first steps to take is to start saving for a down payment. Here are some tips to make saving easier.

First-time buyers:

  1. Set a savings goal. One way to figure out how much to save is to use the average sales price for homes that are similar to what you want and figure out your target down payment percentage. For example, if homes are selling for $200,000 in your area and you want to put 20 percent down, you'll have to save $40,000. Set a goal to save that amount within a specific time frame; just keep in mind the longer you save, the more the average selling price will change. Although the majority of buyers saved for six months or less, 29 percent of all buyers (and 31 percent of first-time buyers) saved for more than two years for a down payment.4
  1. Cut back on expenses. Review your monthly expenses and look for ways to save. Twenty-nine percent of buyers cut spending on non-essentials items and 22 percent cut spending on entertainment while they were saving for a home.4 Think about items you can live without or cut back on temporarily while you're saving. 
  1. Look for ways to boost your income. Get a side job or sell items online or at a garage sale to increase your income in a short amount of time. Be sure to save any windfalls you get, including your annual income tax refund or work bonuses.
  1. Check out home-buying programs. Your state, county or local government may offer special programs, such as grants, for first-time buyers to use.
  2. Ask your family. Thirteen percent of all buyers, and 24 percent of first-time buyers, were given money from family or friends to use toward the down payment of their home.4

Repeat buyers:

More than 52 percent of repeat buyers used the proceeds from the sale of their primary residence toward the down payment on their next home.4 Similarly, 76 percent tapped into their savings accounts.4 If you're thinking of buying another home, here are more ways to save more money, in addition to the tips listed above:

  1. Rent a room. If you have an income flat (or mother-in-law unit) attached to your home, rent it out and channel the income into a high-interest savings account.
  1. Make your money work for you. If you don't plan to buy for at least five years, invest it and let the compound interest work for you. Discuss this option with your financial planner or broker to see if this is ideal for you and your goals.
  1. Tap into your 401(k). If you have a 401(k) plan, you may be allowed to borrow a portion of it, the lessor of up to $50,000 or half of its value, for your down payment. Remember, it's a loan so you'll have to pay it back. If you leave or lose your job before you've repaid the loan, you'll have between 60 to 90 days to repay the balance or face stiff taxes and penalties.

If you want to buy an investment property

Whether you're buying a second home or a rental property, here are a couple of tips to save for a down payment.

  1. Tap into your equity. If you've paid off or paid down your mortgage on your primary home, you may be able to tap into your equity to purchase another property. Contact your lender to learn more about a HELOC or home equity loan.

  1. Get a partner. Find a friend or relative who's willing to purchase property with you. Typically, you'll split the costs and profits equally. Just make sure to work with an attorney to create a partnership agreement to fit your situation.

Work Out Your Buying Potential

What's your buying potential? Fill out this worksheet to get an estimate.

 

Housing Expense Ratio:

1. Monthly income before taxes

$

2. Multiply line 1 by 0.28

X 0.28

3. Monthly mortgage payment (PITI) should not exceed this amount

= $

4. Monthly income before taxes

$

5. Multiply line 4 by 0.36

X 0.36

6. Total monthly payments on all debts (including mortgage) should not exceed this amount

= $

7.  Subtract the total monthly payments on all outstanding debts (e.g., car loans, credit cards, student loans, etc.)

- $

8. The monthly mortgage payment should not exceed this amount

$

9. Look at line 3 and line 8. The lower figure is an estimate of the maximum mortgage payment in consideration of your income and debts.

$

10. Multiply line 9 by 0.80

X 0.80

11. This equals portion of your mortgage payment that is the principal and interest only

$

12. Use the table below to see the size of the loan you may be able to obtain with this monthly mortgage payment.

 

Source: Iowa State University Extension, What is your house-buying power?

 

Monthly Payment on 30-Year Fixed Rate Mortgage

Loan amount

3%

3.5%

4%

4.5%

5%

5.5%

6%

$50,000

211

225

239

253

268

284

300

$75,000

316

337

358

380

402

426

450

$100,000

421

449

477

506

536

568

600

$150,000

632

674

716

759

804

852

900

$200,000

842

898

954

1012

1072

1136

1200

$250,000

1052

1123

1193

1265

1340

1420

1500

$300,000

1263

1347

1431

1518

1608

1704

1800

 

Didn't see your desired loan amount? Use the table below to estimate your monthly payment (principal and interest) per $1,000 of your loan. To figure out an estimated loan payment, multiply the factor by the number of thousands in the amount of your mortgage.

For example, if you intend to borrow $400,000, with a loan term of 30 years at 4% interest, multiply 4.77x 400 = $1908 per month.

Interest Rate

15-Year Term

30-Year Term

 

Monthly Payment

Monthly Payment

3%

6.90

4.21

3.5%

7.14

4.49

4%

7.39

4.77

4.5%

7.64

5.06

5%

7.90

5.36

5.5%

8.18

5.68

6%

8.44

6.00

Source: HSH.com 

 

Don't forget to factor in property taxes and insurance. These are often added to your principal and interest of your mortgage payment—the money used to pay down the balance of your loan and the charge for borrowing the money. Since these numbers vary, contact your county assessor's office for the current property tax rate and your insurer for a home insurance quote. Once you have these figures, divide each by 12 to estimate how much they'll add to the above payment amounts.

Do you want a clearer picture of your buying power? Would you like to see what kind of homes you can get with your buying power? Give us a call!

 

Sources: 1. National Association of REALTORS  2. Moneyunder30.com 3. Credit.com  4. National Association of REALTORS, 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers 5. Iowa State University Extension  6. HSH.com 

 

 

 

 

 

February
1

You may have heard that it's important to get pre-approved for a mortgage at the beginning of the homebuying process, but what does that really mean, and why is it so important? Especially in today's market, with rising home prices and high buyer competition, it's crucial to have a pre-approval letter prior to making an offer. Here's why.

Being intentional and competitive are musts when buying a home this year. Pre-approval from a lender is the only way to know your true price range and how much money you can borrow for your loan. Just as important, being able to present a pre-approval letter shows sellers you're a qualified buyer, something that can really help you land your dream home in an ultra-competitive market.

With limited housing inventory, there are many more buyers active in the market than there are sellers, and that's creating some serious competition. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), homes today are receiving an average of 3.8 offers for sellers to consider. As a result, bidding wars are still common. Pre-approval gives you an advantage if you get into a multiple-offer scenario, and these days, it's likely you will. When a seller knows you're qualified to buy the home, you're in a better position to potentially win the bidding war.

Freddie Mac explains:

"By having a pre-approval letter from your lender, you're telling the seller that you're a serious buyer, and you've been pre-approved for a mortgage by your lender for a specific dollar amount. In a true bidding war, your offer will likely get dropped if you don't already have one."

Every step you can take to gain an advantage as a buyer is crucial when today's market is constantly changing. Interest rates are rising, prices are going up, and lending institutions are regularly updating their standards. You're going to need guidance to navigate these waters, so it's important to have a team of professionals such as a loan officer and a trusted real estate advisor making sure you take the right steps and can show your qualifications as a buyer when you find a home to purchase.

In a competitive market with low inventory, a pre-approval letter is a game-changing piece of the homebuying process. Not only does being pre-approved bring clarity to your homebuying budget, but it shows sellers how serious you are about purchasing a home.

Resources: Freddi Mac, NAR, Keeping Current Matters

March
3

So many of us are asking this question right now and it's not an easy one to come to a quick conclusion.

Whether you're buying your first home or selling your current house, if your needs are changing and you think you need to move, the decision can be complicated. You may have to take personal or professional considerations into account, and only you can judge what impact those factors should have on your desire to move.

However, there's one category that provides a simple answer. When deciding to buy now or wait until next year, the financial aspect of the purchase is easy to evaluate. You just need to ask yourself two questions:

  1. Do I think home values will be higher a year from now?
  2. Do I think mortgage rates will be higher a year from now?

From a purely financial standpoint, if the answer is 'yes' to either question, you should strongly consider buying now. If the answer to both questions is 'yes,' you should definitely buy now.

Nobody can guarantee what home values or mortgage rates will be by the end of this year. The experts, however, seem certain the answer to both questions above is a resounding 'yes.' Mortgage rates are expected to rise and home values are expected to appreciate rather nicely.

What does this mean to you?

Let's look at how waiting would impact your financial situation. Here are the assumptions made for this example:

  • The experts are right - mortgage rates will be 3.18% at the end of the year
  • The experts are right - home values will appreciate by 5.9%
  • You want to buy a home valued at $350,000 today
  • You decide on a 10% down payment

How Smart Is It to Buy a Home Today? | MyKCM

Here's the financial impact of waiting:

  • You pay an extra $20,650 for the house
  • You need an additional $2,065 for a down payment
  • You pay an extra $116/month in your mortgage payment ($1,392 additional per year)
  • You don't gain the $20,650 increase in wealth through equity build-up

Consider this...

There are many things to consider when buying a home. However, from a purely financial aspect, if you find a home that meets your needs, buying now makes much more sense than buying next year. Connect with one of Montague Miller's real estate professionals who can help you make your next move.

Resource: Keeping Current Matters March 3, 2021

February
7

In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired a powerful movement with his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Through his passion and determination, he sparked interest, ambition, and courage in his audience. Today, reflecting on his message encourages many of us to think about our own dreams, goals, beliefs, and aspirations. For many Americans, one of those common goals is owning a home: a piece of land, a roof over our heads, and a place where we can grow and flourish.

If you're dreaming of buying a home this year, start by connecting with a local real estate professional to understand what goes into the process. With a trusted advisor at your side, you can then begin to answer the questions below to set yourself up for homebuying success.

1. How Can I Better Understand the Process, and How Much Can I Afford?

The process of buying a home is not one to enter into lightly. You need to decide on key things like how long you plan on living in an area, school districts you prefer, what kind of commute works for you, and how much you can afford to spend.

Keep in mind, before you start the process to purchase a home, you'll also need to apply for a mortage.  Lenders will evaluate several factors connected to your financial track record, one of which is your credit history. They'll want to see how well you've been able to minimize past debts, so make sure you've been paying your student loans, credit cards, and car loans on time. If your financial situation has changed recently, be sure to discuss that with your lender as well. Most agents have loan officers they trust and will provide referrals for you.

According to ConsumerReports.org:

"Financial planners recommend limiting the amount you spend on housing to 25 percent of your monthly budget."

2. How Much Do I Need for a Down Payment?

In addition to knowing how much you can afford on a monthly mortgage payment, understanding how much you'll need for a down payment is another critical step. Thankfully, there are many different options and resources in the market to potentially reduce the amount you may think you need to put down.

If you're concerned about saving for a down payment, start small and be consistent. A little bit each month goes a long way. Jumpstart your savings by automatically adding a portion of your monthly paycheck into a separate savings account or house fund. AmericaSaves.org says: 

"Over time, these automatic deposits add up. For example, $50 a month accumulates to $600 a year and $3,000 after five years, plus interest that has compounded."

Before you know it, you'll have enough for a down payment if you're disciplined and thoughtful about your process.

3. Saving Takes Time: Practice Living on a Budget

As tempting as it is to pass the extra time you may be spending at home these days with a little retail therapy, putting that extra money toward your down payment will help accelerate your path to homeownership. It's the little things that count, so start trying to live on a slightly tighter budget if you aren't doing so already. A budget will allow you to save more for your down payment and help you pay down other debts to improve your credit score.

A survey of millennial spending shows, "68% reported that shelter in place orders helped them save for their down payment." Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com, also notes:

"If there is any silver lining to the current economic landscape, it's that mortgage rates are hanging around record lows…Additionally, shelter-in-place orders helped many who were fortunate enough to keep their jobs save for a down payment — one of the largest hurdles of buying a home. The combination of low rates and the opportunity to save is enabling many millennials to move up their home buying timeline."

While you don't need to cut all of the extras out of your current lifestyle, making smarter choices and limiting your spending in areas where you can slim down will make a big difference.

Bottom Line

If homeownership is on your dream list this year, take a good look at what you can prioritize to help you get there. To determine the steps you should take to start the process, connect with a local Montague Miller & Co real estate professional today. 

research by Keeping Current Matters

December
1

There's no doubt 2020 has been a challenging year. A global pandemic coupled with an economic recession has caused heartache for many. However, it has also prompted more Americans to reconsider the meaning of "home." This quest for a place better equipped to fulfill our needs, along with record-low mortgage rates, has skyrocketed the demand for home purchases.

This increase in demand, on top of the severe shortage of homes for sale, has also caused more bidding wars and thus has home prices appreciating rather dramatically. Some, therefore, have become cautious about buying a home right now.

The truth of the matter is, even though homes have appreciated by a whopping 6.7%  over the last twelve months, the cost to buy a home has actually dropped. This is largely due to mortgage rates falling by a full percentage point.

Let's take a look at the monthly mortgage payment on a $300,000 house one year ago, and then compare it with that same home today, after it has appreciated by 6.7% to $320,100:

Compared to this time last year, you'll actually save $87 dollars a month by purchasing that home today, which equates to over one thousand dollars a year.

But isn't the economy still in a recession?

Yes, it is. That, however, may make it the perfect time to buy your first home or move up to a larger one. Tom Gil, a Harvard trained negotiator and real estate investor, recently explained: 

"When volatile assets are facing recessions, hard assets, such as gold and real estate, thrive. Historically speaking, residential real estate has done better compared to other markets during and after recessions."

That thought is substantiated by the fact that homeowners have 40 times the net worth of renters. Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist for First American Financial Corporation, recently said: 

"Despite the risk of volatility in the housing market, numerous studies have demonstrated that homeownership leads to greater wealth accumulation when compared with renting. Renters don't capture the wealth generated by house price appreciation, nor do they benefit from the equity gains generated by monthly mortgage payments, which become a form of forced savings for homeowners."

In summary, 

With home prices still increasing and mortgage rates perhaps poised to begin rising as well, buying your first home, or moving up to a home that better fits your current needs, likely makes a ton of sense.

research by Keeping Current Matters

June
29

May
11

 

Two Big Myths in the Homebuying Process | MyKCM

The 2020 Millennial Home Buyer Report shows how this generation is not really any different from previous ones when it comes to homeownership goals:

"The majority of millennials not only want to own a home, but 84% of millennials in 2019 considered it a major part of the American Dream."

Unfortunately, the myths surrounding the barriers to homeownership – especially those related to down payments and FICO® scores – might be keeping many buyers out of the arena. The piece also reveals:

"Millennials have to navigate a lot of obstacles to be able to own a home. According to our 2020 survey, saving for a down payment is the biggest barrier for 50% of millennials."

Millennial or not, unpacking two of the biggest myths that may be standing in the way of homeownership among all generations is a great place to start the debunking process.

Myth #1: "I Need a 20% Down Payment"

Many buyers often overestimate what they need to qualify for a home loan. According to the same article:

"A down payment of 20% for a home of that price [$210,000] would be about $42,000; only about 30% of the millennials in our survey have enough in savings to cover that, not to mention the additional closing costs."

While many potential buyers still think they need to put at least 20% down for the home of their dreams, they often don't realize how many assistance programs are available with as little as 3% down. With a bit of research, many renters may be able to enter the housing market sooner than they ever imagined.

Myth #2: "I Need a 780 FICO® Score or Higher"

In addition to down payments, buyers are also often confused about the FICO® score it takes to qualify for a mortgage, believing they need a credit score of 780 or higher.

Ellie Mae's latest Origination Insight Report, which focuses on recently closed (approved) loans, shows the truth is, over 50% of approved loans were granted with a FICO® score below 750. See graph below:

Two Big Myths in the Homebuying Process | MyKCM

Even today, many of the myths of the homebuying process are unfortunately keeping plenty of motivated buyers on the sidelines. In reality, it really doesn't have to be that way.

If you're thinking of buying a home, you may have more options than you think. Connect with a Montague Miller & Co REALTOR® to answer your questions and help you determine your next steps.

April
14

Buying your first home can seem overwhelming. Thankfully, there's a lot of great information out there to help you feel more confident as you learn about the process. For those in younger generations who aspire to buy, here are three things to consider sooner rather than later in your journey:

1. Understand What it Takes to Purchase a Home

Overall, Millennials make up the largest group of homebuyers in today's real estate market, and Gen Z is not too far behind. A recent study shared by Freddie Mac shows, however, that Generation Z isn't as confident in the homebuying process as Millennials. The best thing potential young buyers can do is understand what it takes to buy a home. Learn as much as you can about the mortgage process, down payment options, and the overall steps to take along the way. 

2. Realize Your Opportunity to Build Wealth 

Homeownership allows you the chance to put a small portion of the home's value down when you buy, and then watch your appreciation grow on the full value of the home – not just on the down payment. It's one of the best investments you can make, and a form of "forced savings"  working in your favor over time. The added bonus? You get to live there, too.

3. Find Someone You Trust to Help You Through the Process 

Having someone you trust to guide you through this process is invaluable. Finding a local real estate expert to help you navigate through the transaction and feel more confident as you make important decisions could be the best choice you make.

For Millennials and Gen Z'ers thinking about buying, today's historically low interest rates combined with the outlook for future home appreciation is a big win. This means whatever you buy today, you'll be bragging about 10 years from now. You can feel confident about that!

Bottom Line

If you're ready, buying your first home sooner rather than later is one of the best decisions you can make. But there are many things to consider before taking that step, so it is critically important to educate yourself properly. Any one of our Montague Miller & Co REALTORS® can help you confidently navigate through the full journey.

Previously published by Keeping Current Matters

November
8

Home buyers are ready to plant roots: Today's buyers are young, multicultural, tech-savvy, and eager to buy a home as a personal investment, according to the National Association of REALTORS®' 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. Young adults ages 25 to 34 make up a quarter of all home buyers, the largest share. Meanwhile, first-time buyers are getting older: The median age of this cohort rose to 33—the highest on record in the NAR survey.

Snapshot of Home Buyers

  • Average age: 47
  • Median household income: $93,200
  • Living situation: 61% married; 17% single females; 9% single males; 9% unmarried couples
  • Demographics: 84% white; 7% Hispanic; 5% Asian; 4% African American; 3% other
  • Average length of house hunt: 10 weeks (touring a median of 9 homes)
  • Primary reason for purchase: Desire to own a home
  • Most common house type purchased: Detached single-family home, 1,850 square feet, three bedrooms, two baths
  • Median cost of home purchased: $257,000
  • Most common method for finding real estate agent: Referral from friend, neighbor, or relative
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  • Published in National Association of REALTORS®' 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers
June
18

During the housing market crash, Gen X homeowners lost more wealth than other generations. However, things are changing now! A strong economy, increasing home prices, and the recovery of the housing market are helping this generation to regain their lost wealth.

According to Pew Research Center,

"Their fortunes have rebounded more than those of other generations during the post-recession economic expansion and as home and stock prices have risen. Since 2010, the median net worth of Gen X households has risen 115%. In fact, in 2016, the most recent year with available data, the net worth of a typical Gen X household had surpassed what it was in 2007 ($84,200 vs. $63,400)".

The same report also mentioned,

"15% of Gen X's homeowners were 'underwater' on their homes in 2010 (meaning they owed more than they owned). By 2016 only 3% were underwater."

As a result of homes regaining market value and their increasing net worth, many Gen Xers are presented with the opportunity of selling their current home in order to move up to the house they always dreamed of!

According to the 2019 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report by the National Associations of Realtors, in 2018 Gen Xers made up the second largest share of home buyers by generation at 24%.

The report also provided some highlights about their purchase:

  • Greatest share that purchased a multi-generational home (16%).
  • Largest share that purchased a detached single-family home (88%).
  • Highest median household income ($111,100).
  • Bought the most expensive homes of all the generations.
  • Job-related relocation was identified as the primary reason to buy.

But this generation is not only buying- they are selling too!

  • Largest share of home sellers (25%).
  • Highest median household income among sellers ($123,6000).
  • Tenure in the previous home was a median of 9 years.
  • House too small was indicated as the primary reason to sell.
  • 91% sold the home using a real estate professional.

Bottom Line

If you are a Gen Xer who would like to know exactly how much your house is worth today so that you can move up to the home of your dreams, contact one of our Montague Miller & Co real estate professionals who can help you analyze your current circumstances.

First Published by Keeping Current Matters

June
1

Are You On the Home Buying Journey

June
25

Video: What's the First Step on the Home Buying Journey?

January
4

Shared Information by Association of Exclusive Buyers Agents (NAEBA) and Keeping Current Matters

Are you coming up on retirement age and thinking about where you'd like to live in "your golden years?" More and more baby boomers are entering retirement age, and question whether or not to sell their homes and move. In today's housing market climate, with low available inventory in the starter and trade-up home categories, it makes sense to evaluate your home's ability to adapt to your needs in retirement.

According to the National Association of Exclusive Buyers Agents (NAEBA), listed here are 7 important factors you may want to consider when choosing your retirement home.

  1. Affordability

"It may be easy enough to purchase your home today but think long-term about your monthly costs. Account for property taxes, insurance, HOA fees, utilities – all the things that will be due whether you have a mortgage on the property."

Would moving to a complex with homeowner association fees be cheaper than having to hire all the contractors you would need to maintain your home, lawn, etc.? Would your taxes go down significantly if you relocated? What is your monthly income going to be like in retirement?

  1. Equity

"If you have equity in your current home, you may be able to apply it to the purchase of your next home. Maintaining a healthy amount of home equity gives you a source of emergency funds to tap, via a home equity loan or reverse mortgage."

The equity you have in your current home may be enough to purchase your retirement home with little to no mortgage. Homeowners in the US gained an average of over $14,000 in equity last year.

  1. Maintenance

"As we age, our tolerance for cleaning gutters, raking leaves and shoveling snow can go right out the window. A condominium with low-maintenance needs can be a literal lifesaver, if your health or physical abilities decline."

As we mentioned earlier, would a condo with an HOA fee be worth the added peace of mind of not having to do the maintenance work yourself?

  1. Security

"Elderly homeowners can be targets for scams or break-ins. Living in a home with security features, such as a manned gate house, resident-only access and a security system can bring peace of mind."

As scary as that thought may be, any additional security and an extra set of eyes looking out for you always adds to peace of mind.

  1. Pets

"Renting won't do if the dog can't come too! The companionship of pets can provide emotional and physical benefits."

Evaluate all your options when it comes to bringing your 'furever' friend with you to a new home. Will there be necessary additional deposits if you are renting or in a condo? Is the backyard fenced in? How far are you from your favorite veterinarian?

  1. Mobility

"No one wants to picture themselves in a wheelchair or a walker, but the home layout must be able to accommodate limited mobility."

Sixty is the new 40, right? People are living longer and are more active in retirement, but that doesn't mean that down the road you won't need your home to be more accessible. Installing handrails and making sure your hallways and doorways are wide enough may be a good reason to look for a home that was built to accommodate these needs.

  1. Convenience

"Is the new home close to the golf course, or to shopping and dining? Do you have amenities within easy walking distance? This can add to home value!"

How close are you to your children and grandchildren? Would relocating to a new area make visits with family easier or more frequent? Beyond being close to your favorite stores and restaurants, there are a lot of factors to consider.

Bottom Line

When it comes to your forever home, evaluating your current house for its ability to adapt with you as you age can be the first step to guaranteeing your comfort in retirement. If after considering all these factors you find yourself curious about your options, contact a Montague Miller & Co real estate professional who can evaluate your ability to sell your house in today's market and get you into your dream retirement home!

Shared information by National Association of Exclusive Buyers Agents (NAEBA) and Keeping Current Matters

March
26

Are you beginning your new home purchasing journey? Consider the following key factors when choosing the right location for your family, as well as for optimizing the property's resale potential. 

Aerial Google Map photo of a Charlottesville neighborhood

TRYING BEFORE BUYING

Consider the option of renting before purchasing. This is a very good idea, especially when moving a long distance or to an unfamiliar city or region, and it will likely help in making a more informed home-purchasing decision.

LOCAL TAXES, OTHER EXPENSES

It's important to research the local taxes and additional home-purchasing expenses. Even if you're renting to start, property taxes can have a strong influence on housing costs and on the overall cost of living. Don't forget about the additional expenses of living in a certain neighborhood. If you're moving into a country club development or a condo, you may be responsible for a costly homeowner's association fee. A change in the tax rate can also affect monthly payments, so by having an idea of how rates have moved over the past several years can offer a view of what they might do in the future.

PRIORITIZING SAFETY

Another very important aspect of a home-purchasing decision is the local crime rate. Crime statistics and neighborhood stability go hand in hand. While a less safe area may have lower rents and home prices, making it cheaper to locate there, it may also come with greater risk of property damage or theft. Your real estate agent will be able to offer sound insight on local statistics.

EDUCATION AND LIFESTYLE AMENITIES

The quality of the school system will affect property resale values. On the other hand, if you're renting and do not have children, good schools in the area may not be a priority, with the exception of resale value.

Local amenities are also a key factor in choosing where to buy a home. The availability of neighborhood parks, libraries, bike trails, local business and shops all affect property values.

FUTURE DEVELOPMENT

A quiet, private neighborhood with dense tree cover may sound ideal to a prospective homebuyer, but for developers, it means more opportunities to expand. It's important to find out what other developments are planned the area, as the supply pipeline—and construction process—can impact the resale value of a property.

Our Montague Miller & Co REALTORS® are familiar with these factors and will help guide you in finding the right neighborhood for you and your family. Ready to move forward?  Contact one of our agents in your area to help with your journey! 

 

 

January
8

 

No need to push the panic button now that you want to buy a new home… Review this Quick Guide on Credit Scores and see how you stack up!

Credit scores range between 200 and 850, with scores above 620 considered desirable for obtaining a mortgage. The following factors affect your score:

Your payment history.

Did you pay your credit card bills on time? Bankruptcy filing, liens, and collection activity also affect your history.

How much you owe and where. 

If you owe a great deal of money on numerous accounts, it can indicate that you are overextended. However, spreading debt among several accounts can help you avoid approaching the maximum on any individual credit line.

The length of your credit history.

In general, the longer an account has been open, the better.

How much new credit you have.

New credit—whether in the form of installment plans or new credit cards—is considered more risky, even if you pay down the debt promptly.

The types of credit you use.

Generally, it's desirable to have more than one type of credit—such as installment loans, credit cards, and a mortgage.

 

December
28

Purchasing a new home, especially your first home may be both exciting and foreboding and a lot of emotions in between!  However, with the help of a professional REALTOR® early in the process you may quickly realize you are not alone and can relax and enjoy the journey!

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) recently released their 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers in which they surveyed recent home buyers and sellers about their experiences. An entire section of the profile is dedicated to buyers' experiences with their real estate agents.

Here are the top 5 benefits of using a real estate agent when buying your new home as cited by recent buyers:

  1. Helped the buyer understand the process – 60%

If you are new to the home buying process, an experienced real estate professional can explain exactly what to expect during the entire transaction so you aren't caught off guard.

  1. Pointed out unnoticed features/faults with the property – 56%

Whether it's pointing out possible uses for an extra bedroom/office, or using their trained eye to see potentially disastrous hazards that may be hiding out of site, your agent is there to protect your interests and make sure your home buying experience is a good one.

  1. Negotiated better sales contract terms – 47%

When it comes to negotiating the complex terms of your contract and coming to an agreement with the seller, it never hurts to have someone who has been there before on your side. If earlier in your search you found a couple of less than desirable features on the home you are going to purchase, your agent can make sure that contingencies are in place for you to pay the best price. Their analysis of comparable properties in the area will also help to make sure that your dream home is priced properly for the market.

  1. Provided a better list of service providers – 46%

Real estate agents are titans of networking. Many have a list of preferred providers who they have worked with in the past and who they trust to work as a part of your team to make your dream come true. This can include mortgage professionals (listed as the #8 reason to use an agent at 22%), home inspectors, plumbers, contractors, painters, landscapers, home stagers, and so many more!

  1. Improved the buyer's knowledge of search areas – 44%

Local real estate professionals are often members of community organizations and are usually well versed in their area's history. Their ties to the community make them a great resource whether you plan to relocate to a new area or across town.

If your plans for the coming year include purchasing your dream home, start your search with Montague Miller & Co and enlist the help of a local real estate partner who lives and works in the area and can help you make the most powerful and confident decisions for you and your family.

 

November
5

You decide the time is now to buy your first home. You have heard time and again it's better to start building equity in your home instead of renting year after year. So, what's the next step?
 
You may be closer than you think!  Besides being confident that this is the time to move forward, first learn what you need to know about the Mortgage Process:
  1. What you will need to Qualify in Today's Market
  2. What Steps to Take
 
September
17

This is the right house for us!

Many first home buyers wonder how they will know when they have found the right house, and that's perfectly normal! Here are a few preliminary things you should know about finding the right house.

  • First, an ethical real estate agent will never, pressure you into buying a house.
  • Second, you will instinctively know it when you see it.
  • Third, you may want to sleep on the decision. Don't.

Forget the fact that you are not the only one looking at this house. Trust your instincts. 

Real estate professional of 40 years, Elizabeth Weintraub, cleverly draws from her experience the following signs that will clue you in!

10 Little Signs You Will Know You Have Found the Right House

  • You Really Want to Go Inside the House
  • The House Embraces You the Moment You Enter
  • You Don't Feel Funny in the Bathroom
  • You Are Possessive About the House
  • You Begin to Envision Furniture Arrangement
  • You Can See Yourself Painting a Wall Your Favorite Color
  • The House Fits Your Basic Needs
  • You Want to Stop Looking at Other Homes
  • You Can't Wait to Brag About This House to Your Friends
  • Every Thought in Your Mind Tells You to Buy That House

Except for that nagging little thought, that wonders if you should sleep on it, every other thought in your head says this is the perfect house for you. No doubt about it, this will be your home!

April
29

wedding registry for down payment title graphic

If you're getting married, skip the traditional wedding registry and ask your guests to contribute towards a down payment for a home instead.  The folks at the National Association of Realtors teach you all you need to know about the process here.

Looking for an online wedding registry to fund your down payment?

Here are the most popular:

Hatch My House

Down Payment Dreams

However, be careful when choosing any of these options as some charge hefty service fees to use their service.

A better resource for this type of creative home financing comes from the FHA Bridal Registry Program. This program, created in the late nineties by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), allows you to receive wedding gifts to pay for your home purchase, provided you use an FHA loan instead of conventionalmortgage.

Before choosing an online registry or government program, be sure to consult a qualified mortgage professional to learn about the pros and cons of each one.

March
11

Montague Miller Real Estate Feb 2016 Graphic

 
March
16

difference between cost and price buying a home

 

As a seller, you will be most concerned about 'short term price' – where home values are headed over the next six months. As a buyer, you must be concerned not about price but instead about the 'long term cost' of the home.

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), the National Association of RealtorsFannie Mae and Freddie Mac all projected that mortgage interest rates will increase by about three-quarters of a percentage point over the next twelve months.

According to CoreLogic's most recent Home Price Index Report, home prices will appreciate by 5.2% over the next 12 months.

What Does This Mean as a Buyer?

Here is a simple demonstration of what impact an interest rate increase would have on the mortgage payment of a home selling for approximately $250,000 today if home prices appreciate by the 5.2% predicted by CoreLogic over the next twelve months:

Cost of Waiting | Keeping Current Matters

April
13

buying home less expensive than renting title graphicIn the Rent vs. Buy Report from Trulia, they explained that homeownership remains cheaper than renting with a traditional 30-year fixed rate mortgage throughout the 100 largest metro areas in the United States.

The updated numbers actually show that the range is from an average of 16% in Honolulu (HI), all the way to 55% in Sarasota (FL), and 35% Nationwide!

The other interesting findings in the report include:

  • Interest rates have remained low and even though home prices have appreciated around the country, they haven't greatly outpaced rental appreciation. "In the past year, these two trends have made homeownership even more affordable compared with renting."
  • Some markets might tip in favor of renting if home prices increase at a greater rate than rents and if – as most economists expect – mortgage rates rise, due to the strengthening economy.
  • Nationally, rates would have to rise to 10.6% for renting to be cheaper than buying – and rates haven't been that high since 1989.

Bottom Line

Buying a home makes sense socially and financially. Rents are predicted to increase substantially in the next year, lock in your housing cost with a mortgage payment now.

February
3

how long to save down payment title graphicIn a recent study conducted by Builder.com, researchers determined that nationwide it would take "nearly eight years" for a first-time buyer to save enough for a down payment on their dream home.

Depending on where you live, median rents, incomes and home prices all vary. By determining the percentage a renter spends on housing in each state and the amount needed for a 10% down payment, they were able to establish how long (in years) it would take for an average resident to save.

According to the study, residents in South Dakota are able to save for a down payment the quickest in just under 3.5 years. Below is a map created using the data for each state:

Years Needed to Save 10% Down | Keeping Current Matters

What if you only needed to save 3%?

What if you were able to take advantage of one of the Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae 3% down programs? Suddenly saving for a down payment no longer takes 5 or 10 years, but becomes attainable in under two years in many states as shown in the map below.

Years Needed to Save 3% Down | Keeping Current Matters

Bottom Line

Whether you have just started to save for a down payment, or have been for years, you may be closer to your dream home than you think! Meet with a local real estate professional who can help you evaluate your ability to buy today.