Attaining the American Dream: 5 Financial Reasons to Buy

Attaining the American Dream: 5 Financial Reasons to Buy | Simplifying The Market

Heading into 2015 many people have their sights set on buying a home. The personal reasons differ for each buyer, with many basic similarities. Eric Belsky, the Managing Director of the Joint Center of Housing Studies at Harvard University expanded on the top 5 financial benefits of homeownership his paper – The Dream Lives On: the Future of Homeownership in America.

Here are the five reasons, each followed by an excerpt from the study:

1.) Housing is typically the one leveraged investment available.

“Few households are interested in borrowing money to buy stocks and bonds and few lenders are willing to lend them the money. As a result, homeownership allows households to amplify any appreciation on the value of their homes by a leverage factor. Even a hefty 20 percent down payment results in a leverage factor of five so that every percentage point rise in the value of the home is a 5 percent return on their equity. With many buyers putting 10 percent or less down, their leverage factor is 10 or more.”

2.) You’re paying for housing whether you own or rent.

“Homeowners pay debt service to pay down their own principal while households that rent pay down the principal of a landlord.”

3.) Owning is usually a form of “forced savings”.

“Since many people have trouble saving and have to make a housing payment one way or the other, owning a home can overcome people’s tendency to defer savings to another day.”

4.) There are substantial tax benefits to owning.

“Homeowners are able to deduct mortgage interest and property taxes from income…On top of all this, capital gains up to $250,000 are excluded from income for single filers and up to $500,000 for married couples if they sell their homes for a gain.”

5.) Owning is a hedge against inflation.

“Housing costs and rents have tended over most time periods to go up at or higher than the rate of inflation, making owning an attractive proposition.”

Bottom Line

We realize that homeownership makes sense for many Americans for an assortment of social and family reasons. It also makes sense financially.

3 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Home

3 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Home | Simplifying The Market

If you are thinking about purchasing a home right now, you are surely getting a lot of advice. Though your friends and family have your best interests at heart, they may not be fully aware of your needs and what is currently happening in real estate. Let’s look at whether or not now is actually a good time for you to buy a home.

There are three questions you should ask before purchasing in today’s market:

1. Why am I buying a home in the first place?

This truly is the most important question to answer. Forget the finances for a minute. Why did you even begin to consider purchasing a home? For most, the reason has nothing to do with finances. A study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University reveals that the four major reasons people buy a home have nothing to do with money:

  • A good place to raise children and for them to get a good education
  • A place where you and your family feel safe
  • More space for you and your family
  • Control of the space

What non-financial benefits will you and your family derive from owning a home? The answer to that question should be the biggest reason you decide to purchase or not.

2. Where are home values headed?

When looking at future housing values, Home Price Expectation Survey provides a fair assessment. Every quarter, Pulsenomics surveys a nationwide panel of over one hundred economists, real estate experts and investment & market strategists about where prices are headed over the next five years. They then average the projections of all 100+ experts into a single number.

Here is what the experts projected in the latest survey:

  • Home values will appreciate by 4% in 2015.
  • The cumulative appreciation will be 23.5% by 2019.
  • Even the experts making up the most bearish quartile of the survey still are projecting a cumulative appreciation of over 15.1% by 2019.

3. Where are mortgage interest rates headed?

A buyer must be concerned about more than just prices. The ‘long term cost’ of a home can be dramatically impacted by an increase in mortgage rates.

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), the National Association of RealtorsFannie Mae and Freddie Mac have all projected that mortgage interest rates will increase by approximately one full percentage over the next twelve months.

Bottom Line

Only you and your family can know for certain the right time to purchase a home. Answering these questions will help you make that decision.

Don’t Wait! Move Up To The House You Always Wanted

Don’t Wait! Move Up To The House You Always Wanted | Simplifying The Market

Now that the housing market has stabilized, more and more homeowners are considering moving up to the home they have always dreamed of. In most areas, prices are still below those of a few years ago. Also, interest rates are still near 4%.

However, sellers should realize that waiting to make the move while mortgage rates are projected to increase probably doesn’t make sense. As rates increase, the price of the house you can buy will decrease. Here is a chart detailing this point:

Buyers Purchasing Power | Simplifying The Market

Buying A House? Everyone Seems To Think This Is The Time

Buying A House? Everyone Seems To Think This Is The Time | Simplifying The Market

There are many people deciding on whether to sign a new lease on a rental property or take the dive into homeownership. Every situation is different. However, with rents, home values and mortgage interest rates projected to rise, buying now might make a lot more sense than waiting until next year.

Here are others who seem to agree:

An article at NPR:

“Economists see several reasons why 2015 might be a banner year for homebuying — and not just in San Francisco and Miami.”

An article on Consumer Affairs:

“If you have been thinking about purchasing a home, the first half of 2015 might be a good time.”

An article on Fox Business News:

“As rent increases, it simply makes more sense to buy a home.”

Bottom Line

Buying earlier in the year probably makes more sense than putting off the decision.

New Fannie Mae Appraisal Program: Helping or Hurting?

New Fannie Mae Appraisal Program: Helping or Hurting? | Simplifying The Market

Every home must be sold TWICE! Once to the buyer, and once to the bank appraiser if a mortgage is involved.

The second sale may have just become more difficult.

A new program announced by Fannie Mae may slow down the home-sale closing process by causing more disputes over prices between sellers and buyers.

In a recent Washington Post article they explained the basics of the program:

“Starting Jan. 26, Fannie plans to offer mortgage lenders access to proprietary home valuation databases that they can use to assess the accuracy and risks posed by the reports submitted by appraisers.” 

“The Fannie data will flag possible errors in the appraiser’s work before the lender commits to fund the loan, will score the appraisal for overall risk of inaccuracy and may provide as many as 20 alternative “comps” — properties in the area that have sold recently and are roughly comparable to the house the lender is considering for financing but were not used by the appraiser.”

Using the additional information provided by Fannie Mae, the lender can then ask for an explanation from the appraisal company for any discrepancies and request an amended appraisal.

This added step in the process of determining the price of the home to be bought/sold, could add time to the closing process and cost to the appraisal for the additional work.

Why is this happening?

Fannie Mae wants lenders to make informed decisions when agreeing to the amount of a loan that a buyer will be approved for.

“Excessive valuations create the risk of future losses to lenders and investors if the borrower defaults and the house goes to foreclosure.”

What is the process now?

As a seller:

You’ve put your house on the market, picked an agent who has helped you determine that the best price to list your home for is $250,000, and found a buyer willing to pay that price. The appraiser comes to the home and agrees your home is worth the asking price and writes their report. Everything is working perfectly!

As a buyer:

You’ve found your dream home, in the right neighborhood, in the right school district, with the perfect yard, at the high end of your budget, but all the pluses are worth it. You agree on a price and start daydreaming about living in your new home.

What happens after January 26th?

The lender submits the appraisal report to the new Fannie Mae program and they come back with “lower-risk comps” that value the home at $230,000. The lender then turns to the appraisal company to justify the $20,000 difference, adding time and frustration to the process.

If the lender does not agree with the reasons for the price difference they will not lend the buyer the amount they need to purchase their dream home and the amicable, agreeable sale turns into a heated justification of the higher price. The buyer may even have to give up on the home if the funding isn’t there.

An article by Housing Wire shares the appraiser’s point of view:

“The bottom line, appraisers say, is this could lead to delays to closings and higher costs, as well as a depression of prices in markets where prices are rising.

Appraisers complain that if they have to justify every step of their comps for their valuation, rather than those coming from the one-size-fits-all evaluation from Fannie, it will delay closing, throw off buyer and seller timetables, and delay real estate broker commissions.”

Bottom Line

The fear of some real estate practitioners is that if appraisers feel as though they are constantly being second-guessed, they may become more conservative in their assessments, impacting home values and slowing growth in the market.

5 Demands to Make on Your Listing Agent

5 Demands to Make on Your Listing Agent | Simplifying The Market

Are you thinking of selling your house? Are you dreading having to deal with strangers walking through the house? Are you concerned about getting the paperwork correct? Hiring a professional real estate agent can take away most of the challenges of selling. A great agent is always worth more than the commission they charge just like a great doctor or great accountant.

You want to deal with one of the best agents in your marketplace. To do this, you must be able to distinguish the average agent from the great one.

Here are the top 5 demands to make of your Real Estate Agent when selling your house:

1. Tell the truth about the price

Too many agents just take the listing at any price and then try to the ‘work the seller’ for a price correction later. Demand that the agent prove to you that they have a belief in the price they are suggesting. Make them show you their plan to sell the house at that price – TWICE! Every house in today’s market must be sold two times – first to a buyer and then to the bank.

The second sale may be more difficult than the first. The residential appraisal process has gotten tougher. Surveys show that there was a challenge with the appraisal on almost 20% of all residential real estate transactions. It has become more difficult to get the banks to agree on the contract price. A red flag should be raised if your agent is not discussing this with you at the time of the listing.

2. Understand the timetable with which your family is dealing

You will be moving your family to a new home. Whether the move revolves around the start of a new school year or the start of a new job, you will be trying to put the move to a plan.

This can be very emotionally draining. Demand from your agent an appreciation for the timetables you are setting. Your agent cannot pick the exact date of your move, but they should exert any influence they can, to make it work. 

3. Remove as many of the challenges as possible

It is imperative that your agent knows how to handle the challenges that will arise. An agent’s ability to negotiate is critical in this market.

Remember: If you have an agent who was weak negotiating with you on the parts of the listing contract that were most important to them and their family (commission, length, etc.), don’t expect them to turn into a super hero when they are negotiating for you and your family with the buyer.

4. Help with the relocation

If you haven’t yet picked your new home, make sure the agent is capable and willing to help you. The coordination of the move is crucial. You don’t want to be without a roof over your head the night of the closing. Likewise, you don’t want to end up paying two housing expenses (whether it is rent or mortgage). You should, in most cases, be able to close on your current home and immediately move into your new residence.

5. Get the house SOLD!

There is a reason you are putting yourself and your family through the process of moving.

You are moving on with your life in some way. The reason is important or you wouldn’t be dealing with the headaches and challenges that come along with selling. Do not allow your agent to forget these motivations. Constantly remind them that selling the house is why you hired them. Make sure that they don’t worry about your feelings more than they worry about your family. If they discover something needs to be done to attain your goal (i.e. price correction, repair, removing clutter), insist they have the courage to inform you.

Good agents know how to deliver good news. Great agents know how to deliver tough news. In today’s market, YOU NEED A GREAT AGENT!

Did It Make Sense to Wait?

Did It Make Sense to Wait? | Simplifying The Market

There are many people out there who debated purchasing a home over the course of the last year, but ultimately did not. Whatever their reasons were for delaying, let’s look at whether the decision to wait to buy made sense.

What happened in 2014?

The 30 year fixed rate on January 2, 2014 was 4.53% as reported by Freddie Mac. Looking at the chart below, your monthly mortgage payment with principal and interest for a $250,000 home would have been $1,271.17.

Even though interest rates have dropped below 4% and ended 2014 at 3.87%, home prices appreciated by 4.8 percent over the same time according to the Home Price Expectation Survey.

So that same home appreciated by $12,000 and now costs $262,000. The most recent report by Freddie Mac reports the average 30-year fixed rate is currently 3.73%.

Did It Make Sense To Wait? | Simplifying The Market

Many may say, “See waiting a year made total sense, I’m saving $60 a month.” And they’d be right, over the course of the year they saved $729.36.

But what they haven’t realized, is that as the price of the home they purchased went up by $12,000, even if they just put a down payment of 5%, they had to come up with an additional $600 at the start of the process. So really they’ve only saved $129.36 in a year.

Is a savings of $11 a month really worth holding off on pursuing a home to call your own after you weigh all the benefits that come along with that?

  • Building equity you can borrow against in the future
  • Having a safe, comfortable environment that fits your family’s needs
  • Having control over your space
  • Tax benefits
  • And so many more…

Bottom Line

The experts are predicting that homes will appreciate by another 4% and interest rates will increase by a full percentage point by the end of 2015. If you are in a position to be able to buy a home now before these predictions become reality, contact a local real estate professional and start the process.

A Stunning $441 Billion Paid in Rent

A Stunning $441 Billion Paid in Rent | Simplifying The Market

A recently released study revealed that a whopping $441 Billion was spent on rents in the U.S. in 2014. This represents an increase of over $20 Billion from the year before. As shown on the chart below, rents have increased consistently over the last 20+ years.

Median Rents Since 1988 | Simplifying The Market

However, the recent increases have been astounding.

Why such a jump?

Many Millennials have postponed the purchase of their first home while waiting for the economy to recover. This has increased demand and dramatically lowered vacancy rates. In a recent article on the MarketWatch, economics reporter Ruth Mantell explains:

“Landlords have ramped up rents by the fastest pace in six years, with national vacancy rates the lowest in two decades.”

Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries let us know that increases will continue:

“Another increase in total rent paid similar to that seen this year isn’t out of the question. In fact, it’s probable.”