There are many people sitting on the sidelines trying to decide if they should purchase a home or sign a rental lease. Some might wonder if it makes sense to purchase a house before they are married and have a family, others might think they are too young, and still, others might think their current income would never enable them to qualify for a mortgage.
We want to share what the typical first-time homebuyer actually looks like based on theNational Association of REALTORSmost recentProfile of Home Buyers & Sellers. Here are some interesting revelations on the first-time buyer:
The Impact Of Tight Inventory On The Housing Market
The housing crisis is finally in the rear-view mirror as the real estate market moves down the road to a complete recovery. Home values are up, home sales are up, and distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales) have fallen to their lowest points in years. It seems that the market will continue to strengthen in 2018.
However, there is one thing that may cause the industry to tap the brakes: a lack of housing inventory. Whilebuyer demandlooks like it will remain strong throughout the winter, supply is not keeping up.
Here are the thoughts of a few industry experts on the subject:
“Total housing inventory at the end of November dropped 7.2 percent to 1.67 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 9.7 percent lower than a year ago (1.85 million) and has fallen year-over-year for 30 consecutive months.Unsold inventory is at a 3.4-month supply at the current sales pace, which is down from 4.0 months a year ago.”
“The increases in single-family permits and starts show that builders are planning and starting new construction projects, that’s a good thing because it will help to relievethe shortage of homes on the market.”
“Inventory is tighter than it appears. It’s much lower for entry-level buyers.”
If you are thinking of selling, now may be the time. Demand for your house will be strong at a time when there is very little competition. That could lead to a quick sale for a really good price.
The #1 Reason To List Your House Today!
Many people believe that selling their house during“the spring buyers’ market”is the best thing to do. Their reasoning is that there will be more buyers than there are during the winter months and, therefore, their house will sell quicker and for a higher price.
Historically, this made sense. However, today’s real estate market is not following the rules of the past.
The National Association of Realtors(NAR) measures buyer“foot traffic”each month. It receives data on the number of properties shown to a prospective purchaser by a Realtor® (based on the number of lockboxes used). The data reveals the number of buyers out actively looking for a home, not just window shopping on the internet. NAR explains:
“Foot traffic has a strong correlation with future contracts and home sales, so it can be viewed as a peek ahead at sales trends two to three months into the future.”
According to the latestFoot Traffic Report,buyer traffic is greater now than it was during this year’s spring market andthere are more buyers out now than at any other time in the last five years(March of 2012).
The chart below shows that buyer activity over the last three months (blue bars) was greater than it was during this past spring market (green bars).
If you are waiting for next spring to list your home because you think that’s when the buyers will be out in force, perhaps you should reconsider. Buyers are out right now!
How To Get The Home You Want!
Talk to your mortgage professional about your financial situation and credit history to determine your loan options. It’s important to know how much house you can afford based on your down payment and income. A strong letter of pre-approval can really add to your bargaining power.
Have a meeting with your real estate agent. Discuss your needs and preferences and establish the best method for your agent to send listings and communicate with you about available properties. Tap into his or her knowledge of the local market. When it comes time to act, your agent will represent your interests in negotiations and work to ensure a smooth transaction.
Expect to pay more for a showplace; if you consider a fixer-upper, judge structural deficiencies more harshly than cosmetic flaws. It can be costly to replace major components or to change the layout, but redecorating with flooring, fixtures or paint is relatively easy and sometimes offers instant equity potential.
Location is key. Even if the site seems perfect for you at the present time, think about whether it will appeal to a large pool of buyers if you should decide to sell in the future.
3.-GO FOR IT
To write a winning offer without overpaying, look at the prices for comparable sales. Consider whether the property is in a high-demand area or if there is plenty of competition. Ask your agent to find out why it is for sale and if the seller seems motivated. If you accommodate the seller’s preferred closing dates or other terms, he or she may be more flexible with the price.
Do Your Due Diligence
Schedule a home inspection after coming to terms. Many sellers expect to address issues related to safety or building codes, and additional repairs (or a credit) may be negotiated. Make sure all of your questions or concerns regarding the home’s condition are answered through the inspection process.
The Real Reason Home Prices Are Increasing
There are many unsubstantiated theories as to why home values are continuing to increase. From those who are worried that lending standards are again becoming too lenient(data shows this is untrue), to those who are concerned that prices are again approaching boom peaks because of“irrational exuberance”(this is also untrue as prices are not at peak levels when they are adjusted for inflation),there seems to be no shortage of opinion.
However, the increase in prices is easily explained bythe theory of supply & demand. Whenever there is a limited supply of an item that is in high demand, prices increase.
It is that simple. In real estate, it takes a six-month supply of existing salable inventory to maintain pricing stability. In most housing markets, anything less than six months will cause home values to appreciate and anything more than seven months will cause prices to depreciate(see chart 1).
According to theExisting Home Sales Reportfrom theNational Association of Realtors(NAR), the monthly inventory of homes has been below six months for the last four years(see chart 2).
If buyer demand outpaces the current supply of existing homes for sale, prices will continue to appreciate. Nothing nefarious is taking place. It is simply the theory of supply & demand working as it should.
Buying Is Now 33.1% Cheaper Than Renting In The US
The results of the latestRent vs. Buy ReportfromTruliashow that homeownership remains cheaper than renting with a traditional 30-year fixed rate mortgage in the 100 largest metro areas in the United States.
The updated numbers actually show that the range is an average of 3.5% less expensive in San Jose (CA), all the way up to 50.1% less expensive in Baton Rouge (LA), and 33.1% nationwide!
Other interesting findings in the report include:
Interest rates have remained low and, even though home prices have appreciated around the country, they haven’t greatly outpaced rental appreciation.
With rents & home values moving in tandem, shifts in the ‘rent vs. buy’ decision are largely driven by changes in mortgage interest rates.
Nationally, rates would have to reach 9.1%, a 128% increase over today’s average of 4.0%, for renting to be cheaper than buying. Rates haven’t been that high since January of 1995, according toFreddie Mac.
What to do when your smartphone falls into the water.
Kerplunk! That may be the most dreaded sound a smartphone user can ever hear. If your cell phone has ever dropped in the water, you know exactly what I mean. Here are some things you can do when your smartphone decides unexpectedly to take a bath.
Step 1. Get it out of the water – and fast! The faster you remove your smartphone from the water, the better, because the longer it’s in contact with water, the more likely it is to never recover.
Just be sure to stay safe while you do it – be mindful of where it fell and whether it is connected to any electric power supply.
Step 2. Turn it off. Power down your smartphone completely as quickly as you can. If you have an iPhone, hold down both the Lock Button and the Home Button for 5 seconds, and that will create a “Hard Shut Down.” The fastest solution for Android phone users is to simply remove the battery as quickly as possible. Keep it powered off and do not turn it back on.
Step 3. Pat it dry, but don’t shake or blow on it. Take off any case, remove any headphones remove the SIM card if one is installed, and for Android phones, remove the back and battery. What you want to prevent is further any corrosion, short circuit, or additional dmaage from taking place. Gently pat dry the components with an absorbing cloth, tap it gently against your hand with the Lightning connector facing down to drain the fluid, but don’t blow on it, as that could push water further inside, and don’t insert anything into the openings either. Clean off all water outside and gently drain any excess water inside your phone through any openings.
Something to keep in mind: if water got inside, your warranty is probably already voided. Here are a couple of sites that can aid you in checking the Liquid Damage Indicator of your phone: • Samsung • Apple Check the policy that your phone provider has on damaged phones, as it may guide your next steps. You can also visit an Apple Store or Authorized Service Center.
Step 4. Did it fall in dirty or salty water? Rinse it out. [Optional] If your phone was immersed in salt or dirty water, you’ll need to rinse it out to remove chemicals and impurities. Rinsing it with high concentration isopropyl alcohol will help remove the impurities while helping to dry it out. You can also try distilled water to clean out possible contaminants. Don’t use tap water, as it has minerals which can create further damage. And remember to keep the battery, SIM card and any other removable parts off if you do this.
Step 5. Dry it out – and wait! If you have an iPhone, opening it up and putting it back together is well beyond the skill level of most folks. Patience is really a key factor in drying out your phone.
Expert testing says that open air-drying your smartphone is the safest method. Leaving your phone in open air, where there is an open space with good circulation such as a countertop, will dry your phone out faster. Adding a small fan could help accelerate things, and some folks have found success leaving their phones on an air conditioner vent (but don’t leave it on a heater vent, as too much heat could damage your phone).
Step 6. Fully charge it and then power it on Once you have dried it out for 48 hours, it’s time to fully charge your smartphone and then try to power it on. If it works, congratulations, but keep an eye on it, as you may find that it may not perform 100% like it used to.
One common malady of a water accident with a smartphone: the battery is destroyed. So, if your phone does not work after you have dried it out for two days, you can take a gamble after and try to replace the battery (easier to do with Android phones) and see if that fixes the problem.
What not to do. A few things to keep in mind that you don’t want to do if your smartphone falls into water: • Don’t try to turn it on right away. • Don’t try pressing buttons or keys unless you are trying to power it off. • Don’t try to blow dry it and never put it in a microwave or oven. • Don’t shake, tap or bang your phone.
What to do The key is to react fast and get it out of the water source, then wipe it off gently to get the water out, not push it in, and have patience to let it dry fully. Contact your cell carrier quickly to have your calls forwarded so you won’t miss a beat!
By Kevin Hawkins, an award winning freelance writer on real estate and technology topics.
7 Reasons to Own A Home
Tax benefits. The U.S. Tax Code lets you deduct the interest you pay on your mortgage, your property taxes, and some of the costs involved in buying a home.
Historically, real estate has had a long-term, stable growth in value. In fact, median single-family existing-home sale prices have increased on average 5.2 percent each year from 1972 through 2014, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. The recent housing crisis has caused some to question the long-term value of real estate, but even in the most recent 10 years, which included quite a few very bad years for housing, values are still up 7.0 percent on a cumulative basis. In addition, the number of U.S. households is expected to rise 10 to15 percent over the next decade, creating continued high demand for housing.
Equity. Money paid for rent is money that you’ll never see again, but mortgage payments let you build equity ownership interest in your home.
Building equity in your home is a ready-made savings plan. And when you sell, you can generally take up to $250,000 ($500,000 for a married couple) as gain without owing any federal income tax.
Unlike rent, your fixed-rate mortgage payments don’t rise over the years so your housing costs may actually decline as you own the home longer. However, keep in mind that property taxes and insurance costs will likely increase.
The home is yours. You can decorate any way you want and choose the types of upgrades and new amenities that appeal to your lifestyle.
Remaining in one neighborhood for several years allows you and your family time to build long-lasting relationships within the community. It also offers children the benefit of educational and social continuity.
6 Home-Selling Myths You Need to Stop Believing Immediately
When you get ready to sell your home, you might very well have a false sense of security. After all, you got through the hard part of buying. Now all you have to do is call a Realtor, put your home on the market, and wait for the buyers to line up. Selling will be a breeze, right?
Of course not! Selling a home is as much a science as buying one is. And lots of people who’ve been there before will want to tell you how it’s done. Beware of these (well-meaning) storytellers, and don’t fall for some of the most common misconceptions about selling your home.
Myth No. 1: You can do it solo
We know—you’re cringing at the idea of paying those seller fees. But there’s more to this process than putting a sign in the front yard and an ad on Craigslist.
If you try to sell on your own, you have to do all the hustle—and there’s a lot of hustle to marketing a home. Plus, who’s going to weed out the creeps and the nonserious buyers? A Realtor® does the heavy lifting—to attract the right kind of buyer, sift out the ones you would never want to do business with, and negotiate the heck out of potential offers to get you the best possible deal.
“It’s about establishing relationships, trust, and facilitating communication to keep the deal alive until it closes,” says Deborah Stewart, a sales associate for Jan Scholtz Realty in Louisville, KY.
Myth No. 2: You know best what your home is really worth
Who understands what your home is worth better than you? After all, you know all the sweat and money you’ve poured into it over the years—plus a few tiny flaws here and there.
But stop right there. Home valuations are always better left to the pros.
Sellers “aren’t always the best judges of value,” Stewart says. “It’s an intensely personal thing to put your home on the market.”
In fact, sales by owners tend to be overpriced because of the emotional factor, she says—and that can make it harder to attract buyers. Your agent will know the neighborhood and has access to comps in order to suss out the best price for your home.
Myth No. 3: It’s fine to sell your home as is
We’re reiterating this one because we simply can’t emphasize it enough. You might think your home is in great shape (or at least adequate enough to sell), but you’re probably overlooking some necessary changes that could boost your profits. What are some of the home improvements that will get you the best ROI? Walls and floors, doors, and kitchens.
Myth No. 4: Upgrades should be drastic
But you don’t have to do a gut reno in order to get your home in selling condition. Maybe you need to freshen up the kitchen instead of getting a whole new one. Maybe you have to do a bit of front-yard landscaping to boost curb appeal. No matter what, sellers should be judicious about improvements, Stewart says.
“Simple things make a big difference. When I walk through, I advise sellers to remove most personal items,” she says. “When people come to look, if there’s a lot of memorabilia, they feel like they’re intruding, not shopping. Get pros to help clean it up.”
When you make too many improvements, you might be wasting money, because your taste and style might not appeal to prospective buyers. They might want to rip out your upgrades, or be turned off altogether.
Myth No. 5: Spring is the best time to sell a home
“In Louisville, spring used to be a strong time, but not anymore,” Stewart says. “I think houses sell pretty well all year long.”
Kristen Riffle, co-partner of the Schilling Group at Urban Nest Realty in Las Vegas, says the hot season to sell homes is when it’s, well, hot.
“Summer or school break is a busy time, and slow time is generally mid-November to early January, due to holidays and family,” she says. But she still sees plenty of buyers, even if there isn’t a lot of inventory.
“It’s a great time to get a good price if you list your home during the holidays,” she says.
Bottom line: Know what’s going on in your local housing market and don’t wait for the “best” time to list. With the services of a savvy Realtor, you’ll make out OK no matter when you decide to make a move.
Myth No. 6: You can rely entirely on online home value estimates
Although online home value estimates (like the ones on realtor.com®!)are a good starting point, they’re no substitute for the expertise of a Realtor.
“There are all kinds of variables. You can’t plug in a standard formula and expect it to give you accurate results,” Stewart says. “There’s no substitute for a real person.”
Riffle agrees. “Most professionals have no problem giving someone a comparative marketing analysis,” she says. “If a neighborhood is all over the place as far as prices go, not only do I run a CMA, I [also] go through last sales, what the photos look like, and everything listed in the area to compare. I also go to the home to see upgrades to add value.”
What Is a Bedroom? Make Sure You Know the Legal Requirements
Chase Jarvis/Getty Images
Does anyone who is not from the other side of the galaxy really need to ask, “What is a bedroom?” Actually, yes. Welcome to the nuances of real estate speak, where not everything is as it seems.
There are, in fact, a number of details that make a room a “bedroom”—and both home buyers and sellers had best know them to avoid misunderstandings.
“Since a home and/or bedroom can go through many incarnations over its life, sellers should be familiar with what makes a bedroom a legal bedroom prior to listing their home, to ensure there are no issues holding up the sale when a buyer has been secured,” says Carl Ekroth of Douglas Elliman in New York City.
Bedrooms are one of the most important selling features of a home, notes Mark Abdel, a real estate professional with Re/Max Advantage Plus in Minneapolis–St. Paul. So it’s no surprise that homeowners want to slap that label on as many rooms as possible.
“Sellers can usually set and get a higher price the more bedrooms a home has,” Abdel says.
Six features that define a bedroom
The laws vary by state, but here are six ways you can tell if your room is a bedroom rather than just a “room”:
Minimum square footage:This is the top issue, says Shaun Andersof Douglas Elliman. Although this can vary from state to state, 70 to 80 square feet is generally the acceptable minimum. “Sellers in urban markets such as New York City and Chicago would love 5-by-7[-foot] rooms to qualify as a bedroom, but no go,” says Anders.
Minimum horizontal footage:The minimum square footage doesn’t tell the whole tale. A bedroom must also measure at least 7 feet in any horizontal direction. That is why you can’t call a hallway a bedroom!
Two means of egress:There have to be two ways out of a bedroom. Traditionally, these would be a door and a window. Ekroth adds that in most markets, a skylight would also qualify as that means of egress.
Minimum ceiling height:At least half of the bedroom ceiling has to be at least 7 feet tall.
Minimum window size:The window opening must be a minimum size, usually 5.7 square feet.
A heating and cooling element: We’re talking a heater (a space heater won’t qualify) as well as a way to cool it down, whether that’s by opening a window or good old AC.
Does a bedroom need a closet?
Contrary to popular belief, a bedroom does not have to have a closet to be considered official. (Your significant other might disagree, but legally, at least in most states, it does not.) Closets are expected in newer homes, but older ones might require a more creative approach to stowing your clothes.
So what can you call a room that doesn’t hit these requirements? Based on your state, you could get away with calling it an “office,” “nursery,” or the ultimate catch-all, “bonus room.” Because bedroom or not, just about any indication of extra space will make most buyers’ eyes light up.