Financial Fundamentals for Homebuyers [INFOGRAPHIC]

Friday, January 22nd, 2021

Financial Fundamentals for Homebuyers [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Financial Fundamentals for Homebuyers [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights

  • When you’re thinking about buying a home, there are a few key steps to take before you even start to look at houses.
  • From saving for your down payment to getting pre-approved for a mortgage, you’ll want to make sure you keep your financial plan on track from the beginning.
  • Let’s connect today to make sure you have an introduction to a trusted lender and the best possible real estate guidance as you begin your homebuying process.

What Experts Are Saying about the 2021 Job Market

Thursday, January 21st, 2021

What Experts Are Saying about the 2021 Job Market | Simplifying The Market

Earlier this month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their most recent Jobs Report. The report revealed that the economy lost 140,000 jobs in December. That’s a devastating number and dramatically impacts those households that lost a source of income. However, we need to give it some context. Greg Ip, Chief Economics Commentator at the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), explains:

“The economy is probably not slipping back into recession. The drop was induced by new restrictions on activity as the pandemic raged out of control. Leisure and hospitality, which includes restaurants, hotels, and amusement parks, tumbled 498,000.”

In the same report, Michael Pearce, Senior U.S. Economist of Capital Economics, agreed:

“The 140,000 drop in non-farm payrolls was entirely due to a massive plunge in leisure and hospitality employment, as bars and restaurants across the country have been forced to close in response to the surge in coronavirus infections. With employment in most other sectors rising strongly, the economy appears to be carrying more momentum into 2021 than we had thought.”

Once the vaccine is distributed throughout the country and the pandemic is successfully under control, the vast majority of those 480,000 jobs will come back.

Here are two additional comments from other experts, also reported by the WSJ that day:

Nick Bunker, Head of Research in North America for Indeed:

“These numbers are distressing, but they are reflective of the time when coronavirus vaccines were not rolled out and federal fiscal policy was still deadlocked. Hopefully, the recent legislation can help build a bridge to a time when vaccines are fully rolled out and the labor market can sustainably heal.”

Michael Feroli, Chief U.S. Economist for JPMorgan Chase:

“The good news in today’s report is that outside the hopefully temporary hit to the food service industry, the rest of the labor market appears to be holding in despite the latest public health challenges.”

What impact will this have on the real estate market in 2021?

Some are concerned that with millions of Americans unemployed, we may see distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales) dominate the housing market once again. Rick Sharga, Executive Vice President at RealtyTrac, along with most other experts, doesn’t believe that will be the case:

“There are reasons to be cautiously optimistic despite massive unemployment levels and uncertainty about government policies under the new Administration. But while anything is possible, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see another foreclosure tsunami or housing market crash.”

Bottom Line

For the households that lost a wage earner, these are extremely difficult times. Hopefully, the new stimulus package will lessen some of their pain. The health crisis, however, should vastly improve by mid-year with expectations that the jobs market will also progress significantly.

Owning a Home Is Still More Affordable Than Renting One

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

Owning a Home Is Still More Affordable Than Renting One | Simplifying The Market

If spending more time at home over the past year is making you really think hard about buying a home instead of renting one, you’re not alone. You may be wondering, however, if the dollars and cents add up in your favor as home prices continue to rise. According to the experts, in many cases, it’s still more affordable to buy a home than rent one. Here’s why.

ATTOM Data Solutions recently released the 2021 Rental Affordability Report, which states:

Owning a median-priced three-bedroom home is more affordable than renting a three-bedroom property in 572, or 63 percent of the 915 U.S. counties analyzed for the report.

That has happened even though median home prices have increased more than average rents over the past year in 83 percent of those counties and have risen more than wages in almost two-thirds of the nation.”

How is this possible?

The answer: historically low mortgage interest rates. Todd Teta, Chief Product Officer with ATTOM Data Solutions, explains:

“Home-prices are rising faster than rents and wages in a majority of the country. Yet, home ownership is still more affordable, as amazingly low mortgage rates that dropped below 3 percent are helping to keep the cost of rising home prices in check.

In 2020, mortgage rates reached all-time lows 16 times, and so far, they’re continuing to hover in low territory this year. These low rates are a big factor in driving affordability. Teta also notes:

“It’s startling to see that kind of trend. But it shows how both the cost of renting has been relatively high compared to the cost of ownership and how declining interest rates are having a notable impact on the housing market and home ownership. The coming year is totally uncertain, amid so many questions connected to the Coronavirus pandemic and the broader economy. But right now, owning a home still appears to be a financially-sound choice for those who can afford it.”

Bottom Line

If you’re considering buying a home this year, let’s connect today to discuss the options that match your budget while affordability is in your favor.

Should I Wait for Lower Mortgage Interest Rates?

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

Should I Wait for Lower Mortgage Interest Rates? | Simplifying The Market

Historically low mortgage rates are a big motivator for homebuyers right now. In 2020 alone, rates hit new record-lows 16 times, and the trend continued into the early part of this year. Many hopeful homebuyers are now wondering if they should put their plans on hold and wait for the lowest rates imaginable. However, the reality is, acting sooner rather than later may be the actual win if you’re ready to buy a home.

According to Greg McBride, Chief Financial Analyst for Bankrate:

“As vaccines become more widely available and a return to normal starts to come into view, we’ll see mortgage rates bounce off the record lows.”

While only a slight increase in mortgage rates is projected for 2021, some experts believe they will start to rise. Over the past week, for example, the average mortgage rate ticked up slightly, reaching 2.79%. This is still incredibly low compared to the trends we’ve seen over time. According to Freddie Mac:

“Borrowers are smart to take advantage of these low rates now and will certainly benefit as a result.”

Here’s why.

As mortgage rates rise, the increase impacts the overall cost of purchasing a home. The higher the rate, the higher your monthly mortgage payment, especially as home prices rise too. Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Mac, says:

“The forces behind the drop in rates have been shifting over the last few months and rates are poised to rise modestly this year. The combination of rising mortgage rates and increasing home prices will accelerate the decline in affordability and further squeeze potential homebuyers during the spring home sales season.”

What does this mean for buyers?

Right now, the inventory of houses for sale is also at a historic low, making it more challenging than normal to find a home to buy in many areas. As more buyers hit the market in the typically busy spring buying season, it may become even harder to find a home in the coming months. With this in mind, Len Keifer, Deputy Chief Economist for Freddie Mac, recommends taking advantage of both low mortgage rates and the opportunity to buy:

“If you’ve found a home that fits your needs at a price you can afford, it might be better to act now rather than wait for future rate declines that may never come and a future that likely holds very tight inventory.”

Bottom Line

While today’s low mortgage rates provide great opportunities for homebuyers, we may not see them stick around forever. If you’re ready to buy a home, let’s connect so you can take advantage of what today’s market has to offer.

How to Make the Dream of Homeownership a Reality This Year

Monday, January 18th, 2021

How to Make the Dream of Homeownership a Reality This Year | Simplifying The Market

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 mortgage. 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.

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, let’s connect today.

Things to Avoid after Applying for a Mortgage [INFOGRAPHIC]

Friday, January 15th, 2021

Reasons to Hire a Real Estate Professional [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Things to Avoid after Applying for a Mortgage [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights

  • There are a few key things to make sure you avoid after applying for a mortgage to help make sure you still qualify for your loan at the closing table.
  • Along the way, be sure to discuss any changes in income, assets, or credit with your lender, so you don’t unintentionally jeopardize your application.
  • The best plan is to fully disclose your intentions with your lender before you do anything financial in nature.

Why Right Now May Be the Time to Sell Your House

Thursday, January 14th, 2021

Why Right Now May Be the Time to Sell Your House | Simplifying The Market

The housing market made an incredible recovery in 2020 and is now positioned for an even stronger year in 2021. Record-low mortgage interest rates are a driving factor in this continued momentum, with average rates hovering at historic all-time lows.

According to the latest Realtors Confidence Index Survey from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), buyer demand across the country is incredibly strong. That’s not the case, however, on the supply side. Seller traffic is simply not keeping up. Here’s a breakdown by state:Why Right Now May Be the Time to Sell Your House | Simplifying The MarketAs the maps show, buyer traffic is high, but seller traffic is low. With so few homes for sale right now, record-low inventory is creating a mismatch between supply and demand.

NAR also just reported that the actual number of homes currently for sale stands at 1.28 million, down 22% from one year ago (1.64 million). Additionally, inventory is at an all-time low with 2.3 months supply available at the current sales pace. In a normal market, that number would be 6.0 months of inventory – significantly higher than it is today.

What does this mean for buyers and sellers?

Buyers need to remain patient in the search process. At the same time, they must be ready to act immediately once they find the right home since bidding wars are more common when so few houses are available for sale.

Sellers may not want to wait until spring to put their houses on the market, though. With such high buyer demand and such a low supply, now is the perfect time to sell a house on optimal terms.

Bottom Line

The real estate market is entering the year like a lion. There’s no indication it will lose that roar, assuming inventory continues to come to market.

Will Forbearance Plans Lead to a Tsunami of Foreclosures?

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

Will Forbearance Plans Lead to a Tsunami of Foreclosures? | Simplifying The Market

At the onset of the economic disruptions caused by the COVID pandemic, the government quickly put into place forbearance plans to allow homeowners to remain in their homes without making their monthly mortgage payments. Today, almost three million households are actively in a forbearance plan. Though 29.4% of those in forbearance have continued to stay current on their payments, many have not.

Yanling Mayer, Principal Economist at CoreLogic, recently revealed:

“A distributional analysis of forborne loans’ payment status reveals that more than one third (39.1%) of all forborne loans are now 150+ days behind payment, while as many as 1-in-4 (25.5%) are 180+ days past due.”

These homeowners have been given permission to not make their payments, but the question now is: how many of them will be able to catch up after their forbearance program ends? There’s speculation that a forthcoming wave of foreclosures could be the result, and that could lead to another crash in home values like we saw a decade ago.

However, today’s situation is different than the 2006-2008 housing crisis as many homeowners have tremendous amounts of equity in their homes.

What are the experts saying?

Over the last 30 days, several industry experts have weighed in on this subject.

Michael Sklarz, President at Collateral Analytics:

“We may very well see a meaningful increase in the number of homes listed for sale as these borrowers choose to sell at what is arguably an intermediate top in the market and downsize to more affordable homes rather than face foreclosure.”

Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist at First American:

“The foreclosure process is based on two steps. First, the homeowner suffers an adverse economic shock…leading to the homeowner becoming delinquent on their mortgage. However, delinquency by itself is not enough to send a mortgage into foreclosure. With enough equity, a homeowner has the option of selling their home, or tapping into their equity through a refinance, to help weather the economic shock. It is a lack of sufficient equity, the second component of the dual trigger, that causes a serious delinquency to become a foreclosure.”

Don Layton, Senior Industry Fellow at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University:

“With a greater cushion of equity, troubled homeowners have dramatically improved options: a greater ability to access funding (e.g. home equity lines) to keep paying monthly expenses until family finances might recover, improved ability to qualify for and support a loan modification, and, if push comes to shove, the ability to sell the home and monetize their increased net worth while reducing monthly payment obligations. So, what should lenders and servicers expect: a large number of foreclosures or only a modest increase? I believe the latter.”

With today’s positive equity situation, many homeowners will be able to use a loan modification or refinance to stay in their homes. If not, some will go to foreclosure, but most will be able to sell and walk away with their equity.

Won’t the additional homes on the market impact prices?

Distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales) sell at a significant discount. If homeowners sell instead of going into foreclosure, the impact on the housing market will be much less severe.

We must also realize there is currently an unprecedented lack of inventory on the market. Just last week, realtor.com explained:

“Nationally, the number of homes for sale was down 39.6%, amounting to 449,000 fewer homes for sale than last December.”

It’s important to remember that there weren’t enough homes for sale even then, and inventory has only continued to decline.

The market has the potential to absorb half a million homes this year without it causing home values to depreciate.

Bottom Line

The pandemic has led to both personal and economic hardships for many American households. The overall residential real estate market, however, has weathered the storm and will continue to do so in 2021.

Home Design Trends to Watch this Year

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

We frequently get questions from clients who are taking on decorating and remodeling projects and want to ensure their dollars are invested wisely.

Which looks will last for years to come, and which ones will feel dated quickly? What colors and styles are most popular among buyers in our area? How can I add the most value to my home?

So we’ve rounded up some of the hottest trends in home design to help guide you through the process. Whether you’ve planned a simple refresh or a full-scale renovation, making smart and informed design choices will help you maximize your return on investment … and minimize the chance of “remodeler’s remorse” down the road.

 

WHAT’S HOT NOW

While 2017 was all about millennial pink, brass fixtures and bright white kitchens, this year we expect to see a move toward warmer, cozier elements throughout the home.

1. Warm Colors
A cool color scheme has dominated home design in recent years, but this year warm neutrals like brown and tan are back, along with rich jewel tones. While the pastel craze of last year is still hanging on, expect to see alternative color palettes featuring deep, saturated shades of red, yellow, green and navy. Grey will remain popular, but in warmer tones, often referred to as “greige.”

 2. Cozy Elements
Along with warmer colors, we can expect to see a shift from stark, modern design to cozier looks. Velvet upholstery, woven textures and natural elements, like wood and stone, will heat things up this year.

3. Mixed Metals
It used to be considered gauche to mix finishes, however the look of mixed metals will be very big in 2018. Brass will continue to trend, along with matte black and classics like polished chrome and brushed nickel.

4. Bold Patterns
Expect to see a lot of bright, bold patterns in the form of geometric shapes and graphic floral prints. These will be featured on everything from furniture to throw pillows to tile.

5. Natural Elements
Look for the use of natural elements throughout the home, including wood, stone, plants, flowers and grass. Botanical patterns will also be seen in prints, wallpaper and upholstery. Concrete accents will complement these additions in an effort to bring the essence of the outdoors inside the home.

6. Feature Walls
Also called an accent wall, a feature wall is one that exhibits a different color or design than the other walls in the room. Expect to see an increased use of feature walls showcasing rich paint colors, bold patterned wallpaper, and textures brought in through millwork and shiplap.

7. Statement Lighting
Lighting will take center stage with distinctive fixtures, including local artisan and vintage pendants and chandeliers. And smart lighting technology will enable homeowners to customize their lighting experience based on time of day, activity and mood.

8. Hardwood Floors
Hardwood floors will continue to dominate the market. The trend is toward either very dark stains paired with light-colored walls or light stains with darker walls. Greyish tones will remain popular, as will matte finishes, which are easier to maintain than high gloss. Expect to see frequent use of wider and longer wood planks, as well as distressed and wire-brushed finishes, which add texture and dimension.

9. Smart Homes
Everything is getting “smarter” in homes, from locks and lights to thermostats and appliances. And with devices like Google Home and Amazon Alexa, you can control many of these with voice activation from a central hub. We will see continued integration of and advancements in smart-home technology in 2018.

KITCHEN TRENDS

While white kitchens will remain popular in 2018, expect to see more color this year in everything from cabinets to tile to appliances.

1. Two-toned Cabinets
Two-toned cabinets are quickly overtaking the white-on-white look that has dominated kitchen design for the past few years. While white remains a classic, grey and bleached-wood cabinet variations are surging in popularity, along with darker neutrals like navy and green.

2. Quartz Countertops
Granite reigned as the top countertop choice for many years, but quartz is now king. It’s highly durable, low-maintenance and comes in a wide variety of styles and colors. It’s also heat resistant, scratch resistant and non-porous (unlike granite and marble) so it doesn’t need to be sealed.
3. Bold Backsplashes
After years of dominating backsplash design, the white subway tile is officially on its way out. Expect to see it replaced with more elaborate shapes, patterns, colors and textures. Tile that mimics the appearance of wood, concrete and wallpaper is also gaining in popularity.

4. Statement Sinks
While stainless steel and white porcelain are always safe bets, the trend is moving toward sinks that make more of a statement. Look for unexpected pops of color and materials like natural stone and copper. Touch-free faucets are expected to gain favor with homeowners this year, too.

5. Brass is (Still) Back
Brass fixtures came back in a big way over the past couple of years and will continue to be a popular choice in 2018 along with matte black, black nickel, polished chrome and brushed nickel. Missing from the list? Rose gold, which is decidedly “out” this year.

6. Multi-purpose Islands
Kitchen islands have evolved from simple prep-stations into the “workhorse” of the kitchen. Many feature sinks, built-in appliances and under-counter storage while also serving as a casual dining area. They have become the focal point of the kitchen, and we expect to see more of them in 2018 and beyond.

7. Black Stainless Steel
Black stainless steel is the hot new finish option for appliances, and it’s hitting the market in a big way. It offers a cutting-edge look and is easier to keep clean than traditional stainless steel. However, it’s harder to match finishes amongst different brands, so it’s probably only feasible as part of a complete appliance package.

8. Appliance Garages
Appliance garages are counter-level compartments designed to house small appliances like blenders, toasters and stand mixers. They make it convenient to have these items readily accessible, without the look of a cluttered counter.

BATH TRENDS

Expect to see many of the same kitchen design preferences carry over into bathrooms this year, including two-tone cabinets, quartz countertops and brass fixtures.

1. Neutral Tones
Neutral shades will continue to dominate in the master bathroom as homeowners seek a soothing and relaxing retreat atmosphere. But expect to see more options than just white. Shades of brown, grey, blue, green and tan will help to warm things up.

2. Natural Elements
Natural materials are particularly hot right now in bathroom design. This includes the use of wood and stone on walls, cabinets, counters and backsplashes, as well as the incorporation of botanical design elements.

3. Large Tiles
We expect to see a lot more large and slab-sized tiles in bathrooms, which have less grout so they are easier to clean and maintain. Wood-look porcelain tiles are also a favorite in wet areas, as they offer the warmth and rustic appeal of wood with the durability of tile.

4. Stone Sinks
Sinks will continue to be an area where homeowners like to exhibit creativity, and hand-carved stone sinks are especially fashionable right now. These may be more suited to powder rooms, where functionality isn’t as crucial.

5. Freestanding Tubs
There’s been a tub resurgence in bathroom design after years of preference for stand-alone showers. Modern tastes are gravitating toward freestanding tubs that serve as a showpiece for the bathroom.

6. Smart Features
Smart technology has entered the bathroom with the addition of features like wireless shower speakers and high-tech toilets, as well as digital shower controls that automatically adjust to your preferences in temperature and spray intensity.

OUR ADVICE

Style trends come and go, so don’t invest in the latest look unless you love it. That said, highly-personalized or outdated style choices can limit the appeal of your property for resale.

For major renovation projects, it’s always a good idea to stick to neutral colors and classic styles. It will give your remodel longevity and appeal to the greatest number of buyers when it comes time to sell. It will also give you flexibility to update your look in a few years without a total overhaul. Use non-permanent fixtures – like paint, furniture and accent pieces – to personalize the space and incorporate trendier choices.

If you’d like advice on a specific remodelling or design project, give us a call! We’re happy to offer our insights and suggestions on how to maximize your return on investment and recommend local shops and service providers who may be able to assist you.

 

Sources:

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