Today’s higher mortgage rates, inflationary pressures, and concerns about a potential recession have some people questioning: should I still buy a home this year? While it’s true this year has unique challenges for homebuyers, it’s important to think about the long-term benefits of homeownership when making your decision.
Consider this: if you know people who bought a home 5, 10, or even 30 years ago, you’re probably going to have a hard time finding someone who regrets their decision. Why is that? The reason is tied to how home values grow with time and how, by extension, that grows your own wealth. That may be why, in a recent Fannie Maesurvey, 70% of respondents say they believe buying a home is a safe investment.
Here’s a look at how just the home price appreciation piece can really add up over the years.
Home Price Growth over Time
The map below uses data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to show just how noteworthy price gains have been over the last five years. And, since home prices vary by area, the map is broken out regionally to help convey larger market trends.
If you look at the percent change in home prices, you can see home prices grew on average by just over 56% nationwide over a five-year period.
Some regions are slightly above or below that average, but overall, home prices gained solid ground in a short time.And if you expand that time frame even more, the benefit of homeownership and the drastic gains homeowners made over the years become even clearer (see map below):
The second map shows, nationwide, home prices appreciated by an average of over 290% over a roughly 30-year span.
This nationwide average tells you the typical homeowner who bought a house 30 years ago saw their home almost triple in value over that time. That’s a key factor in why so many homeowners who bought their homes years ago are still happy with their decision.
And while you may have heard talk in late 2022 that home prices would crash, it didn’t happen. Even though home prices have moderated from the record peak we saw during the ‘unicorn’ years, prices are already rebounding in many areas today. That means, in most markets, your home should grow in value over the next year.
The alternative to buying a home is renting, and rental prices have been climbing for decades. So why rent and deal with annual lease hikes for no long-term financial benefit? Instead, consider buying a home.
If you’re questioning if it still makes sense to buy a home today, remember the incredible long-term benefits of homeownership. If you’re ready to start the conversation, reach out to a real estate professional today.
Selling your house is no simple task. While some homeowners opt to sell their homes on their own, known as a FSBO (For Sale by Owner), they often encounter various challenges without the guidance of a real estate agent. If you’re currently considering selling your house on your own, here’s what you should know.
The most recent Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) surveyed homeowners who’d recently sold their own homes and asked what difficulties they faced. Those sellers say some of the greatest challenges were prepping their home for sale, pricing it right, and properly managing the required paperwork, just to name a few.
When it comes to selling your most valuable asset, consider the invaluable support that a real estate agent can provide. By partnering with an agent, you can navigate the complexities of the selling process with confidence. Here are just a few of the many ways an agent is essential to your home sale:
1. Marketing and Exposure
Effective marketing is a key piece of attracting qualified buyers to your property. Real estate agents have access to various marketing tools and platforms, including MLS listings, professional photography, virtual tours, and extensive professional networks. They can create a compelling listing that highlights your home's best features and reaches a wider audience.
If you sell on your own, you may struggle to match the reach of agents, resulting in limited exposure and, ultimately, fewer potential buyers.
2. Managing Liability and Legal Considerations
Today, more disclosures and regulations are mandatory when selling a house. And all that paperwork and all the legal aspects of selling a home can be a lot to manage. Selling a house without professional guidance exposes homeowners to potential liability risks and legal complications.
Real estate agents are well-versed in the contracts, disclosures, and regulations necessary during a sale. Their expertise helps minimize the risk of errors or omissions that could lead to legal disputes or delays.
3. Negotiations and Contracts
Negotiating the terms of a home sale can be challenging, especially when emotions are involved. You may find it overwhelming to navigate these negotiations alone. Without an agent, you assume this responsibility on your own. This means you’ll have full accountability for working and negotiating with:
The buyer, who wants the best deal possible.
The buyer’s agent, who will use their expertise to advocate for the buyer.
The home inspection company, who works for the buyer.
The home appraiser, who assesses the property’s value to protect the lender.
Rather than going toe-to-toe with all these parties alone, lean on an expert. Real estate agents act as intermediaries, skillfully negotiating on your behalf and ensuring that your best interests are protected. They have experience in handling tough negotiations, counteroffers, and contingencies. When you sell your house yourself, you’ll need to be prepared to manage these vendors on your own.
4. Pricing and Housing Market Knowledge
Determining the right asking price for your property is crucial. It requires in-depth knowledge of the local real estate market, including recent sales data, neighborhood trends, and the current demand for properties. Real estate agents have access to comprehensive market data and the expertise to analyze it accurately.
When you sell your house on your own without this comprehensive information, you risk overpricing or underpricing your home. This can result in an extended time on the market and also the risk of leaving money on the table - which decreases your future buying power. An agent is a key piece of the pricing puzzle.
While selling a home on your own might seem appealing at first, the challenges that come with it can quickly become overwhelming. The expertise that a real estate agent brings to the table is vital for a successful sale. Instead of tackling it alone, make sure you have an expert on your side.
Wondering if it makes sense to buy a home today even when inflation is high? When other costs go up due to inflation, buying a home helps you keep your monthly housing expense steady.
Rents typically increase with inflation. Maybe that’s why, according to a recent survey, 65.1% of landlords say they plan to raise the rent of at least one of their properties within the next 12 months.
Especially when inflation is up, having a stable housing payment can be helpful. Connect with a local real estate agent so you can learn more and start your journey to owning a home today.
If you’re thinking about buying a home, you should know your credit score’s a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to qualifying for a home loan. Lenders review your credit to assess your ability to make payments on time, to pay back debts, and more. It’s also a factor that helps determine your mortgage rate. An article from Bankrateexplains:
“Your credit score is one of the most important factors lenders consider when you apply for a mortgage. Not just to qualify for the loan itself, but for the conditions: Typically, the higher your score, the lower the interest rates and better terms you’ll qualify for.”
This means your credit score may feel even more important to your homebuying plans right now since mortgage rates are a key factor in affordability, especially today. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the median credit score in the U.S. for those taking out a mortgage is 765. But, that doesn’t mean your credit score has to be perfect. An article from Business Insider explains generally how your FICO score range can make an impact:
“. . . you don't need a perfect credit score to buy a house. . . . Aiming to get your credit score in the ‘Good’ range (670 to 739) would be a great start towards qualifying for a mortgage. But if you're wanting to qualify for the lowest rates, try to get your score within the ‘Very Good’ range (740 to 799).”
Working with a trusted lender’s the best way to get more information on how your credit score could factor into your home loan and the mortgage rate you’re able to get. As FICO says:
“While many lenders use credit scores like FICO Scores to help them make lending decisions, each lender has its own strategy, including the level of risk it finds acceptable. There is no single "cutoff score" used by all lenders and there are many additional factors that lenders may use to determine your actual interest rates.”
If you’re looking for ways to improve your score, Experian highlights some things you may want to focus on:
Your Payment History: Late payments can have a negative impact by dropping your score. Focus on making payments on time and paying any existing late charges quickly.
Your Debt Amount (relative to your credit limits): When it comes to your available credit amount, the less you’re using, the better. Focus on keeping this number as low as possible.
Credit Applications: If you’re looking to buy, don’t apply for other credit. When you apply for new credit, it could result in a hard inquiry on your credit that drops your score.
When you’re ready to start the homebuying process, a lender will be able to assess which range your score falls in and tell you more about the specifics for each loan type.
With affordability challenges today, prioritizing ways you can have a positive impact on your credit score could help you get a better mortgage rate. If you want to learn more, connect with a trusted lender.
Are you planning to sell your house? If so, you may be surprised to hear just how much buyers value energy efficiency and eco-friendly features today. This is especially true as summer officially kicks off.
So, if you’re considering selling your house, why does this matter to you? It helps you know what you can do to make your house even more appealing to today’s buyers. According to Jessica Lautz, Deputy Chief Economist and VP of Research at NAR:
"Buyers often seek homes that either lessen their environmental footprint or reduce their monthly energy costs. There is value in promoting green features and energy information to future home buyers."
Consider Upgrading Your Home To Make It More Appealing
If you want to upgrade your house in a way that maximizes its green appeal, you need to work with a local agent to understand what buyers in your area are looking for. The same NAR report identifies the following green home features as most important to buyers at a national level:
Windows, doors, and siding
Proximity to frequently visited places
A comfortable living space
A home’s utility bills and operating costs
While you can’t change the location of your house, you can take action to make sure it’s as comfortable as possible while also setting up the next owners for lower operating costs. ENERGY STARshares some suggested upgrades as ones that may be worth considering:
Heating and cooling: Ensure your HVAC system is properly maintained and regularly serviced to maximize its efficiency. Consider upgrading to a high-efficiency model, if needed.
Water heater: Your water heater uses a lot of energy. Upgrading to a heat pump water heater can significantly reduce energy consumption and appeal to environmentally conscious buyers.
Smart thermostat: A big part of your energy bill goes to heating and cooling. Install a programmable thermostat to better regulate temperature settings. This not only enhances comfort but can also lower energy usage.
Attic insulation: Proper sealing and insulation in your attic help prevent air leaks and maintain a comfortable temperature, reducing the strain on heating and cooling systems.
Energy-efficient windows: Replacing old, drafty windows with energy-efficient ones can minimize heat transfer and lower your energy bills.
It's worth noting that you may be able to take advantage of tax credits and rebates for energy-efficient home installations and upgrades. These incentives could help offset a portion of the costs associated with eco-friendly home improvements.
As you prepare to sell your house, it's important to recognize that real estate agents are valuable resources. They can help you determine which upgrades would be most appealing for buyers in your area and provide guidance on which green features to highlight in your listing. If you’ve already made these updates recently, tell your agent so they can feature them in your listing.
Focusing on energy efficiency and eco-friendly features can help make your house more appealing to buyers today. Connect with a local real estate agent to ensure you’re choosing the right upgrades for your area.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) will release its latest Existing Home Sales (EHS) report later this week. This monthly report provides information on the sales volume and price trend for previously owned homes. In the upcoming release, it’ll likely say home prices are down. This may feel a bit confusing, especially if you’ve been following along and seeing the blogs saying that home prices have bottomed out and turned a corner.
So, why will this likely say home prices are falling when so many other price reports say they’re going back up? It all depends on the methodology of each report. NAR reports on the median sales price, while some other sources use repeat sales prices. Here’s how those approaches differ.
The Center for Real Estate Studies at Wichita State University explains median prices like this:
“The median sale price measures the ‘middle’ price of homes that sold, meaning that half of the homes sold for a higher price and half sold for less . . . For example, if more lower-priced homes have sold recently, the median sale price would decline (because the “middle” home is now a lower-priced home), even if the value of each individual home is rising.”
Investopedia helps define what a repeat sales approach means:
“Repeat-sales methods calculate changes in home prices based on sales of the same property, thereby avoiding the problem of trying to account for price differences in homes with varying characteristics.”
The Challenge with the Median Sales Price Today
As the quotes above say, the approaches can tell different stories. That’s why median price data (like EHS) may say prices are down, even though the vast majority of the repeat sales reports show prices are appreciating again.
Bill McBride, Author of the Calculated Risk blog,sums the difference up like this:
“Median prices are distorted by the mix and repeat sales indexes like Case-Shiller and FHFA are probably better for measuring prices.”
To drive this point home, here’s a simple explanation of median value (see visual below). Let’s say you have three coins in your pocket, and you decide to line them up according to their value from low to high. If you have one nickel and two dimes, the median value (the middle one) is 10 cents. If you have two nickels and one dime, the median value is now five cents.
In both cases, a nickel is still worth five cents and a dime is still worth 10 cents. The value of each coin didn’t change.
That’s why using the median home price as a gauge of what’s happening with home values isn’t worthwhile right now. Most buyers look at home prices as a starting point to determine if they match their budgets. But, most people buy homes based on the monthly mortgage payment they can afford, not just the price of the house. When mortgage rates are higher, you may have to buy a less expensive home to keep your monthly housing expense affordable. A greater number of ‘less-expensive’ houses are selling right now for this exact reason, and that’s causing the median price to decline. But that doesn’t mean any single house lost value.
When you see the stories in the media that prices are falling later this week, remember the coins. Just because the median price changes, it doesn’t mean home prices are falling. What it means is the mix of homes being sold is being impacted by affordability and current mortgage rates.
For a more in-depth understanding of home price trends and reports, reach out to a local real estate professional.
If you're planning to buy your first home, then you're probably focused on saving for all the costs involved in such a big purchase. One of the expenses that may be at the top of your mind is your down payment. If you’re intimidated by how much you need to save for that, it may be because you believe you must put 20% down. That doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. As the National Association of Realtors (NAR) notes:
“One of the biggest misconceptions among housing consumers is what the typical down payment is and what amount is needed to enter homeownership.”
“. . . nearly a third of prospective homebuyers think they need a down payment of 20% or more to buy a home. This myth remains one of the largest perceived barriers to achieving homeownership.”
Here’s the good news. Unless specified by your loan type or lender, it’s typically not required to put 20% down. This means you could be closer to your homebuying dream than you realize.
According to NAR, the median down payment hasn’t been over 20% since 2005. In fact, the median down payment for all homebuyers today is only 14%. And it’s even lower for first-time homebuyers at just 6% (see graph below):
What does this mean for you? It means you may not need to save as much as you originally thought.
Learn About Options That Can Help You Toward Your Goal
And it’s not just how much you need for your down payment that isn’t clear. There are also misconceptions about down payment assistance programs. For starters, many people believe there’s only assistance available for first-time homebuyers. While first-time buyers have many options to explore, repeat buyers have some, too.
According to Down Payment Resource,there are over 2,000 homebuyer assistance programs in the U.S., and the majority are intended to help with down payments. That same resource goes on to say:
“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.”
Plus, there are even loan types, like FHA loans with down payments as low as3.5% as well as options like VA loans and USDA loans with no down payment requirements for qualified applicants.
If you’re interested in learning more about down payment assistance programs, information is available through sites like Down Payment Resource. Then, partner with a trusted lender to learn what you qualify for on your homebuying journey.
Remember, a 20% down payment isn’t always required. If you want to purchase a home this year, reach out to a trusted real estate professional to start the conversation about your homebuying goals.
If you're thinking about buying or selling a house, it's important to know that it doesn't just affect your life, but also your community.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) releases a report every year to show how much economic activity is generated by home sales. The chart below illustrates that impact:
As the visual shows, when a house is sold, it can make a big difference in the local economy. The impact comes largely from the workers required to build, update, and buy and sell homes. Robert Dietz, Chief Economist at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), explains how the housing industry adds jobs to a community:
“The economic impact means housing is a significant job creator. In fact, for every single-family home built, enough economic activity is generated to sustain three full-time jobs for a year, per NAHB research. . . . And one job for every $100,000 in remodeling spending.”
Housing being a major job creator makes sense when you consider there are many different industries involved in the process. A recent article from Fortunenotes housing activity could have a more robust impact than you think due to the many ways it’s tied to the economy:
“Housing has three direct linkages to economic activity (GDP): the construction of new homes, the remodeling of existing homes, and that of housing transactions. . . . consider the activity associated with home sales – think broker fees, lawyers, etc. – which are a sizable contributor to housing’s GDP footprint.”
When you buy or sell a home, you work with a team of professionals, including contractors, specialists, lawyers, and city officials. Each person plays a role in making the transaction happen.
So, when you make a move in the housing market, you're not just meeting your own needs, you're also making a positive impact on the community. Knowing this can give you a sense of empowerment as you make your decision this year.
Each and every home sale is important for the local economy. If you’re ready to move, reach out to a trusted real estate agent. It won’t just change your life – it’ll also have a strong positive effect on the whole community.
You may see media coverage talking about a drop in homeowner equity. What’s important to understand is that equity is tied closely to home values. So, when home prices appreciate, you can expect equity to grow. And when home prices decline, equity does too. Here’s how this has played out recently.
Home prices rose rapidly during the ‘unicorn’ years. That gave homeowners a considerable equity boost. But those ‘unicorn’ years couldn’t last forever. The market had to moderate at some point, and that’s what we saw last fall and winter.
As home prices dropped slightly in the back half of 2022, equity was impacted. Based on the most recent report from CoreLogic, there was a 0.7% dip in homeowner equity over the last year. However, the headlines reporting on that change aren’t painting the whole picture. The reality is, while home price depreciation during the second half of last year caused equity to drop, the data shows homeowners still have near record amounts of equity.
The graph below helps illustrate this point by looking at the total amount of tappable equity in this country going all the way back to 2005. Tappable equity is the amount of equity available for homeowners to access before hitting a maximum 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV). As the data shows, there was a significant equity boost during the ‘unicorn’ years as home prices rapidly appreciated (see the pink in the graph below).
But here’s what’s key to realize – even though there’s been a small dip, total homeowner equity is still much higher than it was before the ‘unicorn’ years.
And there’s more good news. Recent home price reports show the worst home price declines are behind us, and prices have started to go up again. As Selma Hepp, Chief Economist at CoreLogic, explains:
“Home equity trends closely follow home price changes. As a result, while the average amount of equity declined from a year ago, it increased from the fourth quarter of 2022, as monthly home prices growth accelerated in early 2023.”
The last part of that quote is particularly important and is the piece of the puzzle the news is leaving out. To further emphasize the positive turn we’re already seeing, experts say home prices are forecast to appreciate at a more normal rate over the next year. In the same report, Hepp puts it this way:
“The average U.S. homeowner now has more than $274,000 in equity – up significantly from $182,000 before the pandemic. Also, while homeowners in some areas of the country who bought a property last spring have no equity as a result of price losses, forecasted home price appreciation over the next year should help many borrowers regain some of that lost equity.”
And even though Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist at First American, references a slightly different number, Kushi further validates the fact that homeowners have a lot of equity right now:
“Homeowners today have an average of $302,000 in equity in their homes.”
That means if you’ve owned your home for a few years, you likely still have way more equity than you did before the ‘unicorn’ years. And if you’ve owned your home for a year or less, the forecast for more typical price appreciation over the next year should mean your equity is already on the way back up.
Context is everything when looking at headlines. While homeowner equity dropped some from last year, it’s still near all-time highs. Reach out to a trusted real estate professional so you can get the answers you deserve from an expert who’s there to help as you plan your move this year.