Rising home prices have been in the news a lot lately, and much of the focus is on whether they're accelerating too quickly and how sustainable the growth in prices really is. One of the often-overlooked benefits of rising prices, however, is the impact they have on a homeowner's equity position.
Home equity is defined as the difference between a home’s fair market value and the outstanding balance of all liens on the property. While homeowners pay down their mortgages, the amount of equity they have in their homes climbs each time the value increases.
Today, the number of homeowners that currently have significant equity in their homes is growing. According to the Census Bureau, 38% of all homes in the country are mortgage-free. In a home equity study, ATTOM Data Solutions revealed that of the 54.5 million homes with a mortgage, 26.7% of them have at least 50% equity. That number has been increasing over the last eight years.
CoreLogic also notes:
…the average homeowner gained approximately $5,300 in equity during the past year.
The map below shows a breakdown of the increasing equity gain across the country, painting a clear picture that home equity is growing in nearly every state.
This may be the year to take advantage of your home equity by applying it forward, either as you downsize or as you move up to a new home.
If you're looking to buy a home in 2020, have you thought about putting your tax refund toward a down payment? Homeownership may be one step closer than you think if you spend your dollars wisely this year.
Based on data released by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Americans can expect an estimated average refund of $2,962 when filing their taxes this year.
The map below shows the average tax refund Americans received last year by state:According to programs from the Federal Housing Authority, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae, many first-time buyers can purchase a home with as little as 3% down. Truth be told, a 20% down payment is not always required to buy a home, even though that's a common misconception about homebuying. Veterans Affairs Loans allow many veterans to purchase a home with 0% down.
If you're a first-time buyer, your tax refund may cover more of a down payment than you ever thought possible.
If you take into account the median home sale price by state, the map below shows the percentage of a 3% down payment that's covered by the average tax refund:The darker the blue, the closer your tax refund gets you to homeownership in one of these programs. Maybe this is the year to plan ahead and put your tax refund toward a down payment on a home.
Saving for a down payment can seem like a daunting task, but the more you know about what's required, the more prepared you'll be to make the best decision for you and your family. This tax season, your refund could be your key to homeownership.
The housing market has started off much stronger this year than it did last year. Lower mortgage interest rates have been a driving factor in that change. The average 30-year rate in 2019, according to Freddie Mac, was 3.94%. Today that rate is closer to 3.5%.
The Census Bureau also just reported the highest homeownership rate since 2014 for people under 35. This is evidence that owning their own home is becoming more important to Millennials as they reach the age where marriage and children are part of their lives.
According to the latest Realtors Confidence Index Survey from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), buyer demand across the country is strong. That's not the case, however, with seller demand, which remains weak throughout most of the nation. Here's a breakdown by state:Demand for housing is high, but supply is extremely low. NAR also just reported that the actual number of homes currently for sale stands at 1.42 million, which is one of the lowest totals in almost three decades. Additionally, the ratio of homes for sale to the number purchased currently stands at 3.1 months of inventory. In a normal market, that number would be nearly double that at 6.0 months of inventory.
Buyers need to remain patient in the search process. At the same time, buyers must be ready to act immediately once they find the right home.
Sellers may not want to wait until spring to put their houses on the market. With demand so high and supply so low, now is the perfect time to sell your house for the greatest dollar value and the least hassle.
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.
In the spring, many excited buyers get ready to enter the housing market. Others continue dreaming about the homes they'd like to buy. The truth is, many potential buyers continue to dream longer than they need to, simply because they're confused about the homebuying process. Thankfully, working with a trusted real estate professional can help ease those concerns and make the process to homeownership much easier to understand.
A recent survey conducted by Ipson and Freddie Mac reveals the confidence level of Gen Z and Millennial buyers regarding the homebuying process. The graph below shows the breakdown of the top results, clearly indicating there's a significant portion of younger buyers who are not yet confident with some of the steps in the homebuying process.Between the homebuying process and the mortgage process, there are 230 possible steps in the transaction. With trusted professionals on your side, you certainly don't have to know them all to have a successful experience.
There are many reasons why these steps can change as you move through each one. Depending on your personal circumstances, the term or your mortgage, and the type of loan you use, the path you take may need to vary. That's why guidance and support from the experts is key.
In addition to the process itself, respondents in the survey definitely expressed concerns about understanding the types of loans available. Here are just a few of the basic loans to consider. Be sure to speak with your lender about the specifics of what will work best for you:
Interest rates also popped up as a common area of confusion among Gen Z and Millennial respondents in the survey. With today's rates hovering at near historic lows, it's a fantastic time for buyers to get more house for their money in the current market. Why? When mortgage rates are this low and wages are increasing as they are today, overall affordability increases, enabling home buyers to stretch their mortgage dollars further. It's just another area where a trusted professional can help simplify the process and give guidance along the way.
There are many possible steps in a real estate transaction, but they don't have to be confusing. To understand your best course of action, let's get together today to ensure you have a trusted advisor who will help you feel confident and informed at every turn.
Even though there's a big buyer demand for homes in today's low inventory market, it doesn't mean you should price your home as high as the sky when you're ready to sell. Here's why making sure you price it right is key to driving the best price for the sale.
If you've ever watched the show The Price Is Right, you know the only way to win the game is to be the one to correctly guess the price of the item up for bid without going over. That means your guess must be just slightly under the retail price.
When it comes to pricing your home, setting it at or slightly below market value will increase the visibility of your listing and drive more buyers your way. This strategy actually increases the number of buyers who will see your home in their search process. Why? When potential buyers look at your listing and see a great price for a fantastic home, they're probably going to want to take a closer look. This means more buyers are going to be excited about your house and more apt to make an offer.
When this happens, you're more likely to set up a scenario with multiple offers, potential bidding wars, and the ability to drive a higher final sale price. At the end of the day, even when inventory is tight, pricing it right – or pricing it to sell immediately – makes a big difference.
Here's the other thing: homeowners who make the mistake of overpricing their homes will eventually have to lower the prices anyway after they sit on the market for an extended period of time. This leaves buyers wondering if the price drops were caused by something wrong with these homes when in reality, nothing was wrong, the initial prices were just too high.
If you're thinking about selling your home this year, let's get together so you have a professional on your side to help you properly price your home and maximize demand from the start.
A desire among many seniors is to age in place. According to the Senior Resource Guide, the term means,
…that you will be remaining in your own home for the later years of your life; not moving into a smaller home, assisted living, or a retirement community etcetera.
There is no doubt about it – there's a comfort in staying in a home you've lived in for many years instead of moving to a totally new or unfamiliar environment. There is, however, new information that suggests this might not be the best option for everyone. The familiarity of your current home is the pro of aging in place, but the potential financial drawbacks to remodeling or renovating might actually be more costly than the long-term benefits.
A recent report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University (JCHS) titled Housing America's Older Adults explained,
Given their high homeownership rates, most older adults live in single-family homes. Of the 24 million homeowners age 65 and over, fully 80 percent lived in detached single-family units…The majority of these homes are now at least 40 years old and therefore may present maintenance challenges for their owners.
If you're in this spot, 40 years ago you may have had a growing family. For that reason, you probably purchased a 4-bedroom Colonial on a large piece of property in a child-friendly neighborhood. It was a great choice for your family, and you still love that home.
Today, your kids are likely grown and moved out, so you don't need all of those bedrooms. Yard upkeep is probably very time consuming, too. You might be thinking about taking some equity out of your house and converting one of your bedrooms into a massive master bathroom, and maybe another room into an open-space reading nook. You might also be thinking about cutting back on lawn maintenance by installing a pool surrounded by beautiful paving stones.
It all sounds wonderful, doesn't it? For the short term, you may really enjoy the new upgrades, but you'll still have to climb those stairs, pay to heat and cool a home that's larger than what you need, and continue fixing all the things that start to go wrong with a 40-year-old home.
Last month, in their Retirement Report, Kiplinger addressed the point,
Renovations are just a part of what you need to make aging in place work for you. While it's typically less expensive to remain in your home than to pay for assisted living, that doesn't mean it's a slam dunk to stay put. You'll still have a long to-do list. Just one example: You need to plan ahead for how you will manage maintenance and care—for your home, and for yourself.
So, at some point, the time may come when you decide to sell this house anyway. That can pose a big challenge if you've already taken cash value out of your home and used it to do the type of remodeling we mentioned above. Realistically, you may have inadvertently lowered the value of your home by doing things like reducing the number of bedrooms. The family moving into your neighborhood is probably similar to what your family was 40 years ago. They probably have young children, need the extra bedrooms, and may be nervous about the pool.
Before you spend the money to remodel or renovate your current house so you can age in place, let's get together to determine if it is truly your best option. Making a move to a smaller home in the neighborhood might make the most sense.
Home values have been increasing for 93 consecutive months, according to the National Association of Realtors. If you're a homeowner, particularly one looking to downsize your living space, that's great news, as you've likely built significant equity in your home.
Here's some more good news: mortgage rates are expected to remain low throughout 2020 at an average of 3.8% for a 30-year fixed-rate loan.
The combination of leveraging your growing equity and capitalizing on low rates could make a big difference in your housing plans this year.
For move-up buyers, the typical pattern for building financial stability and wealth through homeownership works this way: you buy a house and gain equity over several years of mortgage payments and price appreciation. You then take that equity from the sale of your house to make a down payment on your next home and repeat the process.
For homeowners ready to downsize, home equity can work in a slightly different way. What you choose to do depends in part upon your goals.
According to HousingWire.com, for some, the desire to downsize may be related to retirement plans or children aging out of the home. Others may be choosing to live in a smaller home to save money or simplify their lifestyle in a space that's easier to clean and declutter. The reasons can vary greatly and by generation.
Those who choose to put their equity toward a new home have the opportunity to make a substantial down payment or maybe even to buy their next home in cash. This is incredibly valuable if your goal is to have a minimal mortgage payment or none at all.
A local real estate professional can help you evaluate your equity and how to use it wisely. If you're planning to downsize, keep in mind that home prices are anticipated to continue rising in 2020, which could influence your choices.
Low mortgage rates can offset price hikes, so locking in while rates are low will be key. For many downsizing homeowners, a loan with a shorter term is ideal, so the balance can be reduced more quickly.
Interest rates on 10, 15, and 20-year loans are lower than the rates on a 30-year fixed-rate loan. If you're downsizing your housing costs, you may prefer a shorter-term loan to pay off your home faster. This way, you can save thousands in interest payments over time.
If you're planning a transition into a smaller home, the twin trends of low mortgage rates and rising home equity can kickstart or boost your plans, especially if you're anticipating retirement soon or just want to live in a smaller home that's easier to maintain. Let's get together today to explore your options.
There's a current narrative that owning a home today is less affordable than it has been in the past. The reason some are making this claim is because house prices have substantially increased over the last several years.
It's not, however, just the price of a home that matters.
Homes, in most cases, are purchased with a mortgage. The current mortgage rate is a major component of the affordability equation. Mortgage rates have fallen by over a full percentage point since December 2018. Another major piece of the affordability equation is a buyer's income. The median family income has risen by approximately 3% over the last year.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) releases a monthly Housing Affordability Index. The latest index shows that home affordability is better today than at almost any point over the last 30 years. The index determines how affordable homes are based on the following:
A Home Affordability Index value of 100 means that a family with the median income has exactly enough income to qualify for a mortgage on a median-priced home. An index of 120 signifies that a family earning the median income has 20 percent more than the level of income needed pay the mortgage on a median-priced home, assuming a 20 percent down payment so that the monthly payment and interest will not exceed 25 percent of this level of income (qualifying income).
The higher the index, therefore, the more affordable homes are. Here is a graph showing the index since 1990:Obviously, affordability was better during the housing crash when distressed properties – foreclosures and short sales – sold at major discounts (2009-2015). Outside of that period, however, homes are more affordable today than any other year since 1990, except for 2016.
The report on the index also includes a section that calculates the mortgage payment on a median priced home as a percentage of the median national income. Historically, that percentage is just above 21%. Here are the percentages since June of 2018:Again, we can see that affordability is much better today than the historical average and has been getting better over the last year and a half.
Whether you're thinking about buying your first home or moving up to the home of your dreams, don't let the false narrative about affordability prevent you from moving forward. From an affordability standpoint, this is one of the best times to buy in the last 30 years.
Movies, tv shows, and celebrities often have us dreaming of owning large homes, but the reality for most people is quite different.
Since 2015, the square footage of newly built houses has been shrinking, according to Yahoo Finances. This is not projected to change as we continue into the beginning of the year.
We expect this downsizing trend to continue in 2020, driven by a confluence of economic and demographic trends.
As noted in the article, there are a few main reasons for this demand:
With these two demographic groups surging through the market, the demand for this type of home is rising. If you're a homeowner with a smaller-scale house, now may be a great time to sell, as the demand for this end of the market is surely on the rise.
The demand for smaller houses will continue to rise throughout 2020. Let's get together to discuss what the housing inventory looks like in your neighborhood. It might be time for you to take advantage of this trend!