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Buying a House This Year? This Should Be Your 1st Step!

In many markets across the country, the number of buyers searching for their dream homes outnumbers the number of homes for sale. This has led to a competitive marketplace where buyers often need to stand out. One way to show that you are serious about buying your dream home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before starting your search.

Even if you are not in an incredibly competitive market, understanding your budget will give you the confidence of knowing whether or not your dream home is within your reach.

Freddie Mac lays out the advantages of pre-approval in the ‘My Home’ section of their website:

“It’s highly recommended that you work with your lender to get pre-approved before you begin house hunting. Pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford and can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets.”

One of the many advantages of working with a local real estate professional is that many have relationships with lenders who will be able to help you through this process. Once you have selected a lender, you will need to fill out their loan application and provide them with important information regarding “your credit, debt, work history, down payment and residential history.”

Freddie Mac describes the ‘4 Cs’ that help determine the amount you will be qualified to borrow:

  1. Capacity: Your current and future ability to make your payments
  2. Capital or cash reserves: The money, savings, and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash
  3. Collateral: The home, or type of home, that you would like to purchase
  4. Credit: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time

Getting pre-approved is one of many steps that will show home sellers that you are serious about buying, and it often helps speed up the process once your offer has been accepted.

Bottom Line

Many potential homebuyers overestimate the down payment and credit scores necessary to qualify for a mortgage. If you are ready and willing to buy, you may be pleasantly surprised at your ability to do so today.


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No Bubble Here! How New Mortgage Standards Are Helping

Real estate is shifting to a more normal market; the days of national home appreciation topping 6% annually are over and inventories are increasing which is causing bidding wars to almost disappear. Some see these as signs that the market will soon come tumbling down as it did in 2008.

As it becomes easier for buyers to obtain mortgages, many are suggesting that this is definite proof that banks are repeating the same mistakes they made a decade ago. Today, we want to assure everyone that we are not heading to another housing “bubble & bust.”

Each month, the Mortgage Bankers’ Association (MBA) releases a measurement which indicates the availability of mortgage credit known as the Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI). According to the MBA:

“The MCAI provides the only standardized quantitative index that is solely focused on mortgage credit. The MCAI is calculated using several factors related to borrower eligibility (credit score, loan type, loan-to-value ratio, etc.).” *

The higher the measurement, the easier it is to get a mortgage. During the buildup to the last housing bubble, the measurement sat at around 400. In 2005 and 2006, the measurement more than doubled to over 800 and was still at almost 600 in 2007. When the market crashed in 2008, the index fell to just over 100.

Over the last decade, as credit began to ease, the index increased to where it is today at 186.7 – still less than half of what it was prior to the buildup of last decade and less than one-quarter of where it was during the bubble.

Here is a graph depicting this information (remember, the higher the index, the easier it was to get a mortgage):

No Bubble Here! How New Mortgage Standards Are Helping | Keeping Current Matters

Bottom Line

Though mortgage standards have loosened somewhat during the last few years, we are nowhere near the standards that helped create the housing crisis ten years ago.

*For more information on the MCAI, including methodology, FAQs, and other helpful resources, please click here.


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Will Your Side Hustle Buy You a House This Year?

The top concern for most first-time home buyers is their ability to save for a down payment. According to a new survey, 36% of millennials took on a second job to make their dreams of homeownership a reality in 2017.

Among millennials with incomes over $100,000 a year, the top ways to come up with the necessary funds were to sell stocks (20%) or to sell cryptocurrency (16%).

The most popular method of savings was the most traditional; 60% of those saving for a down payment used a percentage of their paychecks to achieve their goal, while 75% of those with salaries over $100k were able to save this way.

For those who have not yet begun to save for their down payment, 32% plan on pursuing additional employment, while 15% plan on driving for a ride-share service as their second job.

Many first-time buyers are mistaken about the down payment needed in today’s real estate market. In fact,

“In a 2017 survey, 68% of renters cited saving for a down payment as an obstacle to homeownership. Thirty-nine percent of renters believe that more than 20% is needed for a down payment and many renters are unaware of low-down payment programs.”

The many benefits of homeownership make the extra jobs, sacrificing new clothes, or skipping vacations well worth it.

Bottom Line

If you have been saving for your down payment for a while now and are curious how much further you have to go, meet with a local real estate professional who can help you determine what priced home you can afford and what size down payment you’ll need.


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The Cost of Renting vs. Buying a Home [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some Highlights:

  • Historically, the choice between renting or buying a home has been a tough decision.
  • Looking at the percentage of income needed to rent a median-priced home today (28.4%) vs. the percentage needed to buy a median-priced home (17.5%), the choice becomes obvious.
  • Every market is different. Before you renew your lease again, find out if you can put your housing costs to work by buying this year!

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75% of Renters Have Been Misinformed

Recently, multiple headlines have been written asserting that homeownership is less affordable today than at any other time in the last decade. Though the headlines are accurate, they lack context and lead too many Americans to believe that they can’t partake in a major part of the American Dream – owning a home.

In 2008, the housing market crashed and home values fell by as much as 60% in certain markets. This was the major trigger to the Great Recession we experienced from 2008 to 2010. To come back from that recession, mortgage interest rates were pushed down to levels that were never seen before.

For the last ten years, you could purchase a home at a dramatically discounted price and attain a mortgage at a historically low mortgage rate.

Affordability skyrocketed.

Now that home values have returned to where they should be, and mortgage rates are beginning to increase, it is less affordable to own a home than it was over the last ten years.

However, what is not being reported is that it is MORE AFFORDABLE to own a home today than at any other time since 1985 (when data was first collected on this point).

If you take out the years after the crash, affordability today is greater than it has been at almost any time in American history.

This has not been adequately reported which has led to many Americans believing that they cannot currently afford a home.

As an example, the latest edition of Freddie Mac’s Research: Profile of Today’s Renter reveals that 75% of renters now believe it is more affordable to rent than to own their own homes. This percentage is the highest ever recorded. The challenge is that this belief is incorrect. Study after study has proven that in today’s market, it is less expensive to own a home than it is to rent a home in the United States.

Thankfully, some are starting to see this situation and accurately report on it. The National Association of Realtors, in their 2019 Housing Forecast, mentions this concern:

“While the U.S. is experiencing historically normal levels of affordability, potential buyers may be staying out of the market because of perceived problems with affordability.”

Bottom Line

If you are one of the many renters who would like to own their own homes, talk to a local real estate professional to find out if homeownership is affordable for you right now.


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2 Myths Holding Back Home Buyers

Urban Institute recently released a report entitled, “Barriers to Accessing Homeownership: Down Payment, Credit, and Affordability,” which revealed that,

“Consumers often think they need to put more money down to purchase a home than is actually required. In a 2017 survey, 68% of renters cited saving for a down payment as an obstacle to homeownership. Thirty-nine percent of renters believe that more than 20% is needed for a down payment and many renters are unaware of low–down payment programs.”

Myth #1: “I Need a 20% Down Payment”

Buyers often overestimate the down payment funds needed to qualify for a home loan. According to the same report:

“Most potential homebuyers are largely unaware that there are low-down payment and no-down payment assistance programs available at the local, state, and federal levels to help eligible borrowers secure an affordable down payment.”  

These numbers do not differ much between non-owners and homeowners. For example, “30% of homeowners and 39% of renters believe that you need more than 20 percent for a down payment.”

While many believe that they need at least 20% down to buy their dream homes, they do not realize that there are programs available which allow them to put down as little as 3%. Many renters may actually be able to enter the housing market sooner than they ever imagined with programs that have emerged allowing less cash out of pocket.

Myth #2: “I Need a 780 FICO® Score or Higher to Buy”

Similar to the down payment, many either don’t know or are misinformed about what FICO® score is necessary to qualify.

Many Americans believe a ‘good’ credit score is 780 or higher.

To help debunk this myth, let’s take a look at Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Insight Report, which focuses on recently closed (approved) loans.

2 Myths Holding Back Home Buyers | Keeping Current Matters

As you can see in the chart above, 51.7% of approved mortgages had a credit score of 600-749.

Bottom Line

Whether buying your first home or moving up to your dream home, knowing your options will make the mortgage process easier. Your dream home may already be within your reach.


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Buying a Home Can Be Scary… Until You Know the Facts [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some Highlights:

Many potential homebuyers believe that they need a 20% down payment and a 780 FICO® score to qualify to buy a home which stops many of them from even trying! Here are some facts:

  • 72% of buyers who purchased homes this year have put down less than 20%.
  • 76.4% of loan applications were approved last month.
  • The average credit score of approved loans was 727 in September.

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Housing Is Still Affordable in the United States!

Lately, there have been many headlines circulating about whether or not there is an “affordability issue forming in the housing market.”

If you are considering selling your current house and moving up to the home of your dreams, but are unsure whether or not to believe what you’re seeing in the news, let’s look at the results of the latest Housing Affordability Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

According to NAR:

“A 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 above 100 signifies that a family earning the median income has more than enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a median-priced home, assuming a 20 percent down payment.”

  • The national index results for August came in at 141.2.
  • This is up from 138.9 in July, but down 8.3% from last August’s value of 153.9.

One big factor in determining affordability each month is the interest rate available at the time of calculation. In August 2017, the 30-year fixed rate mortgage interest rate was 4.19%. This August, the rate rose to 4.78%!

With an index reading of 141.2, housing remains affordable in the U.S.

Regionally, affordability is up in three out of four regions. The Northeast had the biggest gain at 6.2%. The South had an increase of 2.4% followed by the West with a slight increase of 0.1%. The Midwest had the only dip in affordability at 4.8%.

Despite month-over-month changes, the most affordable region remains the Midwest, with an index value of 175.7. The West remains the least affordable region at 101.2. For comparison, the index was 146.7 in the South, and 151.2 in the Northeast.

Bottom Line

If you are thinking of selling your home, contact a local real estate professional who can help you understand the affordability conditions in your marketplace.


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Will Home Prices Continue to Increase?

There are many unsubstantiated theories about what is happening with home prices. From those who are worried that prices are falling (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 by the 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 greater than seven months will cause prices to depreciate (see chart below).

Will Home Prices Continue to Increase? | Keeping Current Matters

According to the Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the monthly inventory of homes for sale has been below six months for the last five years (see chart below).

Will Home Prices Continue to Increase? | Keeping Current Matters

Bottom Line

If buyer demand continues to outpace 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.


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Pre-Approval: Your 1st Step in Buying a Home

In many markets across the country, the number of buyers searching for their dream homes outnumbers the number of homes for sale. This has led to a competitive marketplace where buyers often need to stand out. One way to show you are serious about buying your dream home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before starting your search.

Even if you are in a market that is not as competitive, understanding your budget will give you the confidence of knowing if your dream home is within your reach.

Freddie Mac lays out the advantages of pre-approval in the ‘My Home’ section of their website:

“It’s highly recommended that you work with your lender to get pre-approved before you begin house hunting. Pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford and can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets.”

One of the many advantages of working with a local real estate professional is that many have relationships with lenders who will be able to help you through this process. Once you have selected a lender, you will need to fill out their loan application and provide them with important information regarding “your credit, debt, work history, down payment and residential history.”

Freddie Mac describes the ‘4 Cs’ that help determine the amount you will be qualified to borrow:

  1. Capacity: Your current and future ability to make your payments
  2. Capital or cash reserves: The money, savings, and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash
  3. Collateral: The home, or type of home, that you would like to purchase
  4. Credit: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time

Getting pre-approved is one of many steps that will show home sellers that you are serious about buying, and it often helps speed up the process once your offer has been accepted.

Bottom Line

Many potential homebuyers overestimate the down payment and credit scores necessary to qualify for a mortgage today. If you are ready and willing to buy, you may be pleasantly surprised at your ability to do so.


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Dispelling the Myth About Home Affordability

We have all seen the headlines that report that buying a home is less affordable today than it was at any other time in the last ten years, and those headlines are accurate. But, have you ever wondered why the headlines don’t say the last 25 years, the last 20 years, or even the last 11 years?

The reason is that homes were less affordable 25, 20, or even 11 years ago than they are today.

Obviously, buying a home is more expensive now than during the ten years immediately following one of the worst housing crashes in American history.

Over the past decade, the market was flooded with distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales) that were selling at 10-50% discounts. There were so many distressed properties that the prices of non-distressed properties in the same neighborhoods were lowered and mortgage rates were kept low to help the economy.

Low Prices + Low Mortgage Rates = High Affordability

Prices have since recovered and mortgage rates have increased as the economy has gained strength. This has and will continue to impact housing affordability moving forward.

However, let’s give affordability some historical context. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) issues their Affordability Index each month. According to NAR:

“The Monthly Housing Affordability Index measures whether or not a typical family earns enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a typical home at the national and regional levels based on the most recent monthly price and income data.”

NAR’s current index stands at 138.8. The index had been higher each of the last ten years, peaking at 197 in 2012 (the higher the index the more affordable houses are).

But, the average index between 1990 and 2007 was just 123 and there were no years with an index above 133. That means that homes are more affordable today than at any time during the eighteen years between 1990 and 2007.

Bottom Line

With home prices continuing to appreciate and mortgage rates increasing, home affordability will likely continue to slide. However, this does not mean that buying a house is not an attainable goal in most markets as it is less expensive today than during the eighteen-year stretch immediately preceding the housing bubble and crash.


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Buying a Home is Cheaper than Renting in 38 States! [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some Highlights:

  • According to a study by GOBankingRates, it is cheaper to buy a home than rent in 38 states across the country.
  • In six states the difference between buying & renting would account for less than a $50 monthly difference, leaving the choice up to the individual family.
  • Nationwide, it is now 26.3% cheaper to buy.

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The Cost of NOT Paying PMI

Saving for a down payment is often the biggest hurdle for a first-time homebuyer as median incomes, rents, and home prices all vary depending on where you live.

There is a common misconception among homebuyers that a 20% down payment is required, and it is this limiting belief that often adds months, and sometimes even years, to the home-buying process.

So, if you can purchase a home with less than a 20% down payment… why aren’t more people doing just that?

One Possible Answer: Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

Freddie Mac defines PMI as:

“An insurance policy that protects the lender if you are unable to pay your mortgage. It’s a monthly fee, rolled into your mortgage payment, that is required for all conforming, conventional loans that have down payments less than 20%.

Once you’ve built equity of 20% in your home, you can cancel your PMI and remove that expense from your mortgage payment.”

As the borrower, you pay the monthly premiums for the insurance policy, and the lender is the beneficiary. The monthly cost of your PMI depends on the home’s value, the amount of your down payment, and your credit score.

Below is a table showing the difference in monthly mortgage payment for a $250,000 home with a 3% down payment and PMI vs. a 20% down payment without PMI:

The Cost of NOT Paying PMI | Keeping Current Matters

The first thing you see when looking at the table above is no doubt the added $320 a month that you would be spending on your monthly mortgage cost. The second thing that should stand out is that a 20% down payment is $50,000!

If you are buying your first home, $50,000 is a large sum of money that takes discipline and sacrifice to save. Many first-time buyers save for 5-10 years before buying their homes.

To save $50,000 in 10 years, you would need to save about $420 a month. On the other hand, if you save that same $420 a month, you could afford a 3% down payment in less than a year and a half.

In a recent article by My Mortgage Insider, they explain what could happen in the market while you are waiting to save for a higher down payment:

“The time it takes to save a (larger) down payment could mean higher home prices and tougher qualifying down the road. For many buyers, it could prove much cheaper and quicker to opt for the 3% down mortgage immediately.”

The article went on to say,

“Since renters typically devote a higher percentage of their income to housing than homeowners, providing flexible down payment options can help renters with solid earnings purchase a home – and gain a fixed-rate mortgage with principal and interest payments that will not increase over the life of the loan.”

If the prospect of having to pay PMI is holding you back from buying a home today, Freddie Mac has this advice,

“It’s no doubt an added cost, but it’s enabling you to buy now and begin building equity versus waiting 5 to 10 years to build enough savings for a 20% down payment.”

Based on results of the most recent Home Price Expectation Survey, a homeowner who purchased a $250,000 home in January would gain $50,000 in equity over the next five years based on home price appreciation alone (shown below).

The Cost of NOT Paying PMI | Keeping Current Matters

Bottom Line

If you have questions about whether you should buy now or wait until you’ve saved a larger down payment, meet with a professional in your area who can explain your market’s conditions and help you make the best decision for you and your family.


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5 Real Estate Reality TV Myths Explained

Have you ever been flipping through the channels, only to find yourself glued to the couch in an HGTV binge session? We’ve all been there, watching entire seasons of “Love it or List it,” “Million Dollar Listing,” “House Hunters,” “Property Brothers,” and so many more all in one sitting.

When you’re in the middle of your real estate themed show marathon, you might start to think that everything you see on TV must be how it works in real life, but you may need a reality check.

Reality TV Show Myths vs. Real Life:

Myth #1: Buyers look at 3 homes and decide to purchase one of them.
Truth: There may be buyers who fall in love and buy the first home they see, but according to the National Association of Realtors the average homebuyer tours 10 homes as a part of their search.  

Myth #2: The houses the buyers are touring are still for sale.
Truth: Everything is staged for TV. Many of the homes being shown are already sold and are off the market. 

Myth #3: The buyers haven’t made a purchase decision yet.
Truth: Since there is no way to show the entire buying process in a 30-minute show, TV producers often choose buyers who are further along in the process and have already chosen a home to buy. 

Myth #4: If you list your home for sale, it will ALWAYS sell at the open house.
Truth: Of course, this would be great! Open houses are important to guarantee the most exposure to buyers in your area but are only a PIECE of the overall marketing of your home. Keep in mind that many homes are sold during regular listing appointments as well. 

Myth #5: Homeowners decide to sell their homes after a 5-minute conversation.
Truth: Similar to the buyers portrayed on the shows, many of the sellers have already spent hours deliberating the decision to list their homes and move on with their lives/goals.

Bottom Line

Having an experienced professional on your side while navigating the real estate market is the best way to guarantee that you can make the home of your dreams a reality!


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Home Buying Myths Slayed [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some Highlights:

  • The average down payment for first-time homebuyers is only 6%!
  • Despite mortgage interest rates being over 4%, rates are still below historic numbers.
  • 88% of property managers raised their rents in the last 12 months!

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Buying Is Now 26.3% Cheaper Than Renting in the US

The results of the latest Rent vs. Buy Report from Trulia show that homeownership remains cheaper than renting, with a traditional 30-year fixed rate mortgage, in 98 of the 100 largest metro areas in the United States.

In the six years that Trulia has conducted this study, this is the first time that it was cheaper to rent than buy in any of the metropolitan areas.

It’s no surprise, however, that those two metros are San Jose and San Francisco, CA, where median home prices have jumped to over $1 million dollars this year. Home values in San Jose have risen 29% in the last year, while rents have remained relatively unchanged.

For the 98 metros where homeownership wins out, 97 of them show a double-digit advantage when buying. The range is an average of 2.0% less expensive in Honolulu (HI), all the way up to 48.9% in Detroit (MI), and 26.3% nationwide!

Below is a map of the 100 metros that were studied. The darker the blue dot on the metro, the cheaper it is to buy there.

Buying Is Now 26.3% Cheaper Than Renting in the US | Keeping Current Matters

In order to calculate the true cost of renting vs. buying, Trulia includes all assumed renting costs, including one-time costs (like security deposits), and compares them to the monthly costs of owning a home (insurance, mortgage payments, taxes, and maintenance) including one-time costs (down payments, closing costs, sale proceeds). They also assume that households stay in their home for seven years, put down a 20% down payment, and take out a 30-year fixed rate mortgage. The full methodology is included with the study results here.

Below is a chart created with the data from the last six years of the study, showing the impact of the median home price, rental price, and 30-year fixed rate interest rate used to calculate the ‘cheaper to buy’ metric.

Buying Is Now 26.3% Cheaper Than Renting in the US | Keeping Current Matters

In 2016, when buying was 41.3% less expensive than renting, the average mortgage rate was the driving force behind the difference. Rates this year are the highest they have been in six years which has narrowed the gap, all while home price appreciation has also been driven up by a lack of homes for sale.

Cheryl Young, Trulia’s Chief Economist, had this to say,

“One point deserves emphasizing: The ultra-costly San Francisco Bay Area is not a harbinger for the nation as a whole. While renting may outweigh buying in San Jose and San Francisco, it is unlikely that renting will tip the scales nationally anytime soon.”

Bottom Line

Homeownership provides many benefits beyond the financial ones. If you are one of the many renters out there who would like to evaluate your ability to buy this year, meet with a local real estate professional who can help you find your dream home.


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What You Need to Know About the Mortgage Process [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some Highlights:

  • Many buyers are purchasing a home with a down payment as little as 3%.
  • You may already qualify for a loan, even if you don’t have perfect credit.
  • Take advantage of the knowledge of your local professionals who are there to help you determine how much you can afford.

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First-Time Home Buyers Continue to Put Down Less Than 6%!

According to the Realtors Confidence Index from the National Association of Realtors, 61% of first-time homebuyers purchased their homes with down payments below 6% in 2017.

Many potential homebuyers believe that a 20% down payment is necessary to buy a home and have disqualified themselves without even trying, but in March, 71% of first-time buyers and 54% of all buyers put less than 20% down.

Ralph McLaughlin, Chief Economist and Founder of Veritas Urbis Economics, recently shed light on why buyer demand has remained strong,

“The fact that we now have four consecutive quarters where owner households increased while renters households fell is a strong sign households are making the switch from renting to buying.

Households under 35 – which represent the largest potential pool of new homeowners in the U.S. – have shown some of the largest gains. While they only make up a third of all homebuyers, the steady uptick in their homeownership rate over the past year suggests their enormous purchasing power may be finally coming to [the] housing market.”

It’s no surprise that with rents rising, more and more first-time buyers are taking advantage of low-down-payment mortgage options to secure their monthly housing costs and finally attain their dream homes.

Bottom Line

If you are one of the many first-time buyers unsure of whether or not they would qualify for a low-down payment mortgage, consult a local real estate professional who can set you on your path to homeownership!


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House-Buying Power at Near-Historic Levels

We keep hearing that home affordability is approaching crisis levels. While this may be true in a few metros across the country, housing affordability is not a challenge in the clear majority of the country. In their most recent Real House Price Index, First American reported that consumer “house-buying power” is at “near-historic levels.”

Their index is based on three components:

  1. Median Household Income
  2. Mortgage Interest Rates
  3. Home Prices

The report explains:

“Changing incomes and interest rates either increase or decrease consumer house-buying power or affordability. When incomes rise and/or mortgage rates fall, consumer house-buying power increases.”

Combining these three crucial pieces of the home purchasing process, First American created an index delineating the actual home-buying power that consumers have had dating back to 1991.

Here is a graph comparing First American’s consumer house-buying power (blue area) to the actual median home price that year from the National Association of Realtors (yellow line).

House-Buying Power at Near-Historic Levels | Keeping Current Matters

Consumer house-buyer power has been greater than the actual price of a home since 1991. And, the spread is larger over the last decade.

Bottom Line

Even though home prices are increasing rapidly and are now close to the values last seen a decade ago, the actual affordability of a home is much better now. As Chief Economist Mark Fleming explains in the report:

“Though unadjusted house prices have risen to record highs, consumer house-buying power stands at near-historic levels, as well, signaling that real house prices are not even close to their historical peak.”


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You DO NOT Need 20% Down to Buy Your Home NOW!

The Aspiring Home Buyers Profile from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) found that the American public is still somewhat confused about what is required to qualify for a home mortgage loan in today’s housing market. The results of the survey show that the main reason why non-homeowners do not own their own homes is because they believe that they cannot afford them.

This brings us to two major misconceptions that we want to address today.

1. Down Payment

A recent survey by Laurel Road, the National Online Lender and FDIC-Insured Bank, revealed that consumers overestimate the down payment funds needed to qualify for a home loan.

According to the survey, 53% of Americans who plan to buy or have already bought a home admit to their concerns about their ability to afford a home in the current market. In addition, 46% are currently unfamiliar with alternative down payment options, and 46% of millennials do not feel confident that they could currently afford a 20% down payment.

What these people don’t realize, however, is that there are many loans written with down payments of 3% or less.

Many renters may actually be able to enter the housing market sooner than they ever imagined with new programs that have emerged allowing less cash out of pocket.

2. FICO®Scores

An Ipsos survey revealed that 62% of respondents believe they need excellent credit to buy a home, with 43% thinking a “good credit score” is over 780. In actuality, the average FICO® scores for approved conventional and FHA mortgages are much lower.

The average conventional loan closed in May had a credit score of 753, while FHA mortgages closed with an average score of 676. The average across all loans closed in May was 724. The chart below shows the distribution of FICO® Scores for all loans approved in May.

You DO NOT Need 20% Down to Buy Your Home NOW! | Keeping Current Matters

Bottom Line

If you are a prospective buyer who is ‘ready’ and ‘willing’ to act now, but you are not sure if you are ‘able’ to, sit down with a professional who can help you understand your true options today.


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The Cost of Renting vs. Buying [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some Highlights:

  • Historically, the choice between renting or buying a home has been a tough decision.
  • Looking at the percentage of income needed to rent a median-priced home today (28.8%) vs. the percentage needed to buy a median-priced home (17.1%), the choice becomes obvious.
  • Every market is different. Before you renew your lease again, find out if you can put your housing costs to work by buying this year!

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Why 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 by the 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 below).

Why Home Prices Are Increasing | Keeping Current Matters

According to the Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the monthly inventory of homes for sale has been below six months for the last five years (see chart below).

Why Home Prices Are Increasing | Keeping Current Matters

Bottom Line

If buyer demand continues to outpace 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.


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Buying a Home Is Cheaper Than Renting in the Majority of the US

The results of the 2018 Rental Affordability Report from ATTOM show that buying a median-priced home is more affordable than renting a three-bedroom property in 54% of U.S. counties analyzed for the report.

The updated numbers show that renting a three-bedroom property in the United States requires an average of 38.8% of income.

The least affordable market for renting was Marin County, CA, just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, where renters spend a staggering 79.5% of average wages on rent, while the most affordable market was Madison County, AL where 22.3% of average wages went to rent.

Other interesting findings in the report include:

  • Average rent rose faster than income in 60% of counties
  • Average rent rose faster than median home prices in 41% of counties
  • While median home prices rose faster than average rents in 58% of counties

Bottom Line

Buying a home makes sense socially and financially. If you are one of the many renters out there who would like to evaluate your ability to buy this year, meet with a local real estate professional who can help you find your dream home.


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Home Buying Myths Slayed [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some Highlights:

  • The average down payment for first-time homebuyers is only 6%!
  • Despite mortgage interest rates being over 4%, rates are still below historic numbers.
  • 88% of property managers raised their rents in the last 12 months!
  • The credit score requirements for mortgage approval continue to fall.

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Getting Pre-Approved Should Always Be Your First Step

In many markets across the country, the number of buyers searching for their dream homes greatly outnumbers the number of homes for sale. This has led to a competitive marketplace where buyers often need to stand out. One way to show you are serious about buying your dream home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before starting your search.

Even if you are in a market that is not as competitive, understanding your budget will give you the confidence of knowing if your dream home is within your reach.

Freddie Mac lays out the advantages of pre-approval in the ‘My Home’ section of their website:

“It’s highly recommended that you work with your lender to get pre-approved before you begin house hunting. Pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford and can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets.”

One of the many advantages of working with a local real estate professional is that many have relationships with lenders who will be able to help you with this process. Once you have selected a lender, you will need to fill out their loan application and provide them with important information regarding “your credit, debt, work history, down payment and residential history.”

Freddie Mac describes the ‘4 Cs’ that help determine the amount you will be qualified to borrow:

  1. Capacity: Your current and future ability to make your payments
  2. Capital or cash reserves: The money, savings, and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash
  3. Collateral: The home, or type of home, that you would like to purchase
  4. Credit: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time

Getting pre-approved is one of many steps that will show home sellers that you are serious about buying, and it often helps speed up the process once your offer has been accepted.

Bottom Line

Many potential home buyers overestimate the down payment and credit scores needed to qualify for a mortgage today. If you are ready and willing to buy, you may be pleasantly surprised at your ability to do so.


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