Thursday, June 22nd, 2023
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 Bankrate explains:
“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.
Monday, June 19th, 2023
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.”
And a recent Freddie Mac survey finds:
“. . . 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 as 3.5% 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.
Friday, June 16th, 2023
- If you’re thinking of buying a home this year, be sure to factor in the long-term benefits of homeownership.
- Over time, homeownership allows you to build equity. On average, nationwide home prices appreciated by 290.2% over the last 32 years.
- That means your net worth can grow significantly in the long term when you own a home. Reach out to a real estate professional so you can start your homebuying journey today.
Wednesday, June 14th, 2023
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.