Homeownership is still “an important part of the American Dream”

According to a Merrill Lynch survey, over 80% of the people in this country believe that homeownership is still “an important part of the American Dream”. There are many financial and non-financial reasons people feel this way.

One of the biggest reasons is because it helps build family wealth. Last week, Freddie Mac posted about the power of home equity. They explained:

“In the simplest terms, equity is the difference between how much your home is worth and how much you owe on your mortgage. You build equity by paying down your mortgage over time and through your home’s appreciation. In a nutshell, your money is working for you and contributing toward your financial future.”

They went on to show an example where a person bought a home for $150,000 with a down payment of 10%, resulting in a loan amount of $135,000. The buyer secured a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 4.5% with a monthly mortgage payment of $684.03 (not including taxes and insurance). They then illustrated what would happen after seven years of making a mortgage payment, assuming 3% per year home appreciation (the historic national average):

And that number continues to build as you continue to own the home. Merrill Lynch published a report earlier this year that showed the average equity homeowners have acquired at certain ages.

Bottom Line

Home equity is important to building wealth as a family. Referring to the first scenario above, Freddie Mac explained:

“Now, if you continued to rent, and made the same payment of $684.03 per month, you’d have zero equity and no means to build it.

Building equity is a critical part of homeownership and can help you create financial stability.”

Two Graphs That Scream List Your House Today

The spring and summer months have always been known as a very popular time for homebuyers to start the search for their dream home. This year is no different! We all learned in school that when selling anything, you will get the most money if the demand for that item is high and the inventory of that item is low. It is the well-known Theory of Supply & Demand. If you are thinking of selling your home, here are two graphs that strongly suggest that the time is now. Here is why…

DEMAND

According to research at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), buyer activity this year has far outpaced the same months in 2014. Purchasers who are ready, willing and able to buy are in the market at great numbers.

According to NAR, “Foot Traffic has a strong correlation with future contracts and home sales, so it can be viewed as a peek ahead at sales trends two to three months into the future.”

SUPPLY

The most recent Existing Home Sales Report from NAR revealed that the current supply of housing inventory is at a 5.1 month supply, which remains below the 6-months necessary for a normal market.

Buyer demand is far outpacing the supply of homes available for sale.

Bottom Line

Listing your house for sale when demand is high and supply is low will guarantee the offers made will truly reflect the true value of your property. Call your Windermere Realtor today!

Keeping Current Matters

Mortgage Rates Just Jumped Over 4%. Now What?

Last week, mortgage interest rates jumped over the 4% mark for the first time this year according to Freddie Mac’s Mortgage Market Survey.

In an article in Housing Wire, a Bankrate analyst explained:

“Mortgage rates rocketed higher following a stronger than expected monthly employment report. The good news on the job front further solidifies the notion that the Federal Reserve will likely begin raising interest rates soon, perhaps in the third quarter of this year.”

This is the same type of commentary we heard back in the spring of 2013 when the talk of the Fed possibly raising rates caused mortgage interest rates to surge by a full percentage point from the end of April through the end of June of that year.

Will We See that Same Surge in 2015?

No one knows for sure. However, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Mortgage Bankers Association and the National Association of Realtors are each calling for rates to continue their upswing over the next six quarters.

Here is a chart comparing 2013 to this year:

Bottom Line

Though no one can definitely say where rates will be six months from now, most experts believe they will be higher. If you are thinking of buying your first home or are considering a move up to the house of your family’s dreams, now may be the best time to do it. Click here to contact a Windermere Realtor and find out which opportunities can be yours.

Existing-Home Sales Lose Momentum in April

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently released the results of their Existing Home Sales Report. Despite the fact that properties are selling faster than they have at any other time since July of 2013, existing home sales declined 3.3% from March. NAR’s Chief Economist Lawrence Yun explained the main reason for the slow:

“April’s setback is the result of lagging supply relative to demand and the upward pressure it’s putting on prices.”

One major news organization actually used this headline about the decline:

Existing home sales crater in April, falling 3.3%

They certainly haven’t cratered! April marked the second month in a row that the annual sales pace remained above the five million mark (5.04 million). Year-over-year sales have increased for seven consecutive months and are still 6.1% above a year ago. Every month, SentriLock, LLC provides NAR Research with data on the number of homes shown to potential buyers. This data is referred to as ‘Foot Traffic’ and is a great predictor of future sales and buyer demand. In April, buyer demand remained at the same level experienced in March.

So why did sales go down?

Buyers who are ready and willing to make a purchase are entering a market where their dream house may not have been listed yet. They can’t find it! Or if they find it, it happens to catch the eye of other buyers and an ‘auction like environment’ begins.

“Housing inventory declined from last year and supply in many markets is very tight, which in turn is leading to bidding wars, faster price growth and properties selling at a quicker pace,” says Yun. “To put it in perspective, roughly 40 percent of properties sold last month went at or above asking price, the highest since NAR began tracking this monthly data in December 2012.” (emphasis added)

The median home price of existing homes sold in April was $219,400, which is 8.9% higher than last year, and marks the 38th consecutive month of year-over-year price gains.

Bottom Line

So how do you make sense of everything that’s going on in the housing market when there are so many conflicting headlines on the same report? John Burns, real estate expert and CEO of John Burns Real Estate Consulting gives this advice:

“The bottom line is this: don’t make decisions based on newspaper articles. Read the actual press release, including the methodology, and make sure the results jive with other data points and qualitative feedback you receive.”

If you are one of the many homeowners out there realizing that now may be the time to list your home for sale, or one of the many renters debating a purchase, sitting with a Windermere Realtor, who takes the time to find out what’s really going on in the market, should be your first step!

Keeping Current Matters

The Truth About Rising Prices & Family Wealth

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently released a report revealing that the growing wealth gap in this country has been impacted by the recent increases in real estate values coupled with the drop in homeownership rates. The report discloses:

“Over 90 percent of metro areas have experienced declining homeownership rates at a time when home values have risen and incomes have remained flat.”

Increasing home values in many regions of the country have helped homeowners build housing wealth in recent years. However, the continued decline in homeownership means this increase in wealth is shared by fewer people and likely leading to worsening inequality in the U.S.

Here is a chart showing the aforementioned increasing gap between renters and homeowners in regard to family wealth:

Bottom Line

If the experts are correct, and a homeowner really will have an average of 40 times the wealth of a renter by the end of this year, doesn’t it make sense to evaluate if a purchase could be in your future? Meet with a Windermere Real Estate professional to find out how you can start building your family’s wealth.

Keeping Current Matters

We Need You(r House)!!

Though the real estate market has improved, we still have one item holding it back from a full recovery – a robust supply of homes for sale. Demand has increased dramatically. At the same time, housing inventory is decreasing especially at the lower price points. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently revealed that there is a pent-up seller demand caused by the uncertainty created by the housing crisis of the last decade.

What does that mean to you?

Houses listed today sell quickly. With prices still below peak values of 2007 in many parts of the country and mortgage interest rates at historic lows, this may be the perfect time for your family to make the move to the dream house you always wanted – whether that’s a larger home or that vacation/retirement home you have been looking at.

What does that mean to the economy?

Housing has always been an essential part of the U.S. economy. As reported before, real estate not only provides housing for families. It is often the greatest source of wealth and savings for many. The recent increase in real estate sales has led to an increase in real estate prices. This has increased the value of everyone’s’ home, whether they are selling or not. This leads to an increase in consumer confidence which in turn leads to an increase in consumer spending. Plus, each home sale automatically puts money into the economy. NAR compiled data from research conducted by the Bureau of Economic Analysis & Macroeconomic Advisors on the economic impact of a home purchase. After reviewing the data, they concluded that the total economic impact of a typical home sale in the United States is an astonishing $52,205. The more homes that sell, the better the economy.

Bottom Line

In order for the U.S. economy to get better, we need to sell more homes. Perhaps, it makes sense for one of those homes to be yours. If you have considered selling but are still a little nervous, now might be the time to sit down with a Windermere Real Estate professional familiar with your market and see what your options truly are.

Keeping Current Matters

The Price is Right

Selling Your House? Price it Right Up Front

In today’s market, where demand is outpacing supply in many regions of the country, pricing a house is one of the biggest challenges real estate professionals face. Sellers often want to price their home higher than recommended, and many agents go along with the idea to keep their clients happy. However, the best agents realize that telling the homeowner the truth is more important than getting the seller to like them.

There is no “later.”

Sellers sometimes think, “If the home doesn’t sell for this price, I can always lower it later.” However, research proves that homes that experience a listing price reduction sit on the market longer, ultimately selling for less than similar homes.

John Knight, recipient of the University Distinguished Faculty Award from the Eberhardt School of Business at the University of the Pacific, actually did research on the cost (in both time and money) to a seller who priced high at the beginning and then lowered the their price. In his article, Listing Price, Time on Market and Ultimate Selling Price published in Real Estate Economics revealed: “Homes that underwent a price revision sold for less, and the greater the revision, the lower the selling price. Also, the longer the home remains on the market, the lower its ultimate selling price.”

Additionally, the “I’ll lower the price later” approach can paint a negative image in buyers’ minds. Each time a price reduction occurs, buyers can naturally think, “Something must be wrong with that house.” Then when a buyer does make an offer, they low-ball the price because they see the seller as “highly motivated.” Pricing it right from the start eliminates these challenges.

Don’t build “negotiation room” into the price.

Many sellers say that they want to price their home high in order to have “negotiation room.” But, what this actually does is lower the number of potential buyers that see the house. And we know that limiting demand like this will negatively impact the sales price of the house.

Not sure about this? Think of it this way: when a buyer is looking for a home online (as they are doing more and more often), they put in their desired price range. If your seller is looking to sell their house for $400,000, but lists it at $425,000 to build in “negotiation room,” any potential buyers that search in the $350k-$400k range won’t even know your listing is available, let alone come see it!

A better strategy would be to price it properly from the beginning and bring in multiple offers. This forces these buyers to compete against each other for the “right” to purchase your house. Look at it this way: if you only receive one offer, you are set up in an adversarial position against the prospective buyer. If, however, you have multiple offers, you have two or more buyers fighting to please you. Which will result in a better selling situation?

Great pricing comes down to truly understanding the real estate dynamics in your neighborhood. Look for a Windermere Real Estate agent that will take the time to simply and effectively explain what is happening in the housing market and how it applies to your home. You need an agent that will tell you what you need to know rather than what you want to hear. This will put you in the best possible position.

Don’t Let Your “Luck” Run Out

The 30-year fixed mortgage interest rate is currently still below 4%. Many buyers may be on the fence as to whether to act now and purchase a new home, or wait until next year, believing they still have time to lock in a low rate.

If you look at what the experts are predicting over the course of the next 12 months, it may make the decision for you.

Predictions for 2016 2Q:

Even an increase of half a percentage point can put a dent in your family’s net worth.

Let’s look at it this way…

The monthly payment (principal & interest only) on a $250,000 home today, with the current 3.86% interest rate would be $1,173.

If we take that same home a year later, the Home Price Expectation Survey projects that prices will rise about 4.4% making that home cost $11,000 more at $261,000.

If we take Freddie Mac’s rate projection of 4.7%, the monthly mortgage payment climbs to $1,354.

Some buyers might not think that an extra $181 a month is that bad. But over the course of 30-year mortgage you have spent an additional $65,160 by waiting a year.

Why You Should Sell Your House Now!

School is back in session, the holidays are right around the corner, you might not think that now is the best time to sell your house. But with inventory below historic numbers and demand still strong, you could be missing out on a great opportunity for your family.

1. Demand is Strong

Foot traffic refers to the number of people out actually physically looking at home right now. The latest foot traffic numbers show that there are more prospective purchasers currently looking at homes than at any other time in the last twelve months which includes the latest spring buyers’ market. These buyers are ready, willing and able to buy…and are in the market right now!

As we get later into the year, many people have other things (weather, holidays, etc.) that distract them from searching for a home. Take advantage of the buyer activity currently in the market.

2. There Is Less Competition Now

Housing supply is still under the historical number of 6 months’ supply. This means that, in many markets, there are not enough homes for sale to satisfy the number of buyers in that market. This is good news for home prices. However, additional inventory is about to come to market.

There is a pent-up desire for many homeowners to move as they were unable to sell over the last few years because of a negative equity situation. Homeowners are now seeing a return to positive equity as real estate values have increased over the last two years. Many of these homes will be coming to the market in the near future.

Also, new construction of single-family homes is again beginning to increase. A recent study by Harris Poll revealed that 41% of buyers would prefer to buy a new home while only 21% prefer an existing home (38% had no preference).

The choices buyers have will continue to increase over the next few months. Don’t wait until all this other inventory of homes comes to market before you sell.

3. The Process Will Be Quicker

One of the biggest challenges of the 2014 housing market has been the length of time it takes from contract to closing. Banks are requiring more and more paperwork before approving a mortgage. Any delay in the process is always prolonged during the winter holiday season. Getting your house sold and closed before those delays begin will lend itself to a smoother transaction.

4. There Will Never Be a Better Time to Move-Up

If you are moving up to a larger, more expensive home, consider doing it now. Prices are projected to appreciate by over 19% from now to 2018. If you are moving to a higher priced home, it will wind-up costing you more in raw dollars (both in down payment and mortgage payment) if you wait. You can also lock-in your 30 year housing expense with an interest rate in the low 4’s right now. Rates are projected to be over 5% by this time next year.

5. It’s Time to Move On with Your Life

Look at the reason you decided to sell in the first place and determine whether it is worth waiting. Is money more important than being with family? Is money more important than your health? Is money more important than having the freedom to go on with your life the way you think you should?

Only you know the answers to the questions above. You have the power to take back control of the situation by putting your home on the market. Perhaps, the time has come for you and your family to move on and start living the life you desire.

That is what is truly important.

Here’s Your Fall Home Maintenance Checklist

Fall is an ideal time to tackle maintenance projects both inside and outside. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Gutters top to bottom: Water in the wrong spots can do a lot of damage. Start by ensuring that gutters and downspouts are doing their job. (Don’t attempt this task yourself if you have a two-story house with a steep roof; hire a professional instead.) If your home is surrounded by deciduous trees you may need to clean out your gutters a few times a year, especially in the fall. Check to make sure your gutters are flush with the roof and attached securely, repairing any areas that sag or where the water collects and overflows. Clean out the gutters and downspouts, checking that outlet strainers are in good shape, and are firmly in place. Finally, check that your downspouts direct water away from your house, not straight along the foundation.

If you haven’t already, you may want to consider installing gutter guards. Gutter guards create a barrier so water can get through to your gutters, but debris cannot, limiting gutter buildup (and the time you spend cleaning out your gutters). There are DIY installation kits available or you can always hire a professional to install a gutter guard system.

If you have a sump pump under your house, now is a good time to test it. Run a hose to be sure draining water travels directly to the pump (dig small trenches if needed), and that the pump removes the water efficiently and expels it well away from the foundation. For more information about how sump pumps work go to howstuffworks.com.

Check for leak: The best opportunity to catch leaks is the first heavy rain after a long dry spell, when roofing materials are contracted. Check the underside of the roof, looking for moisture on joints or insulation. Mark any spots that you find and then hire a roofing specialist to repair these leaks. What you don’t want to do is wait for leaks to show up on your ceiling. By then, insulation and sheet rock have been damaged and you could have a mold problem too.

Don’t forget the basement. Check your foundation for cracks, erosion, plants growing inside, broken windows, and gaps in window and door weathering.  Make sure to properly seal any leaks while the weather is nice. This will ensure materials dry properly.

Pest Prevention: Rodents are determined and opportunistic, and they can do tremendous amounts of property damage (and endanger your family’s health). As temperatures cool, take measures to prevent roof rats and other critters from moving in. Branches that touch your house and overhang your roof are convenient on-ramps for invaders, so trip back branches so they’re at least four feet from the house. If you do hear scuttling overhead or discover rodent droppings in your attic, crawl space or basement, take immediate action. The website thisoldhouse.com has several helpful articles on the topic.

Maintain your heating and cooling systems: Preventative maintenance is especially crucial for your home’s heating and air-conditioning systems. Fall is a smart time to have your systems checked and tuned up if necessary. Don’t wait for extreme temperatures to arrive, when service companies are slammed with emergency calls. Between tune-ups, keeps your system performing optimally by cleaning and/or replacing air filters as needed.

If you have a wood-burning fireplace, a professional inspection and cleaning will help prevent potentially lethal chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. Even if you don’t use your fireplace often, always keep a supply of dry firewood or sawdust-composite logs so you have a backup heat source in an emergency.

Insulate & seal: Insulating your home is a cost-efficient investment, whether you’re trying to keep the interior warm in the winter or cool in the summer. Aside from more major improvements like energy-efficient windows and insulation, there are some quick fixes that do-it-yourselfers can tackle. If an exterior door doesn’t have a snug seal when closed, replace the weather stripping; self-adhesive foam stripping is much simpler to install than traditional vinyl stripping. If there is a gap under the door (which can happen over time as a house settles), you may need to realign the door and replace the vinyl door bottom and/or door sweep. Air also sneaks inside through electrical outlets and light switches on exterior walls. Dye-cut foam outlet seals placed behind the wall plates are a quick and inexpensive solution.