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Is Your First Home Now Within Your Grasp? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some Highlights:

  • According to the US Census Bureau, “millennials” are defined as 18-36-year-olds.
  • According to NAR’s latest Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers, the median age of all first-time home buyers is 32.
  • More and more “old millennials” (25-36) are realizing that homeownership is within their grasp now!

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Now’s the Time to Move-Up and Upgrade Your Current Home!

Homes priced at the top 25% of the price range for a particular area of the country are considered “premium homes.” In today’s real estate market, there are deals to be had at the higher end! This is great news for homeowners wanting to upgrade from their current house.

Much of the demand for housing over the past couple of years has come from first-time buyers looking for their starter home. Many of the more expensive homes listed for sale have not seen as much interest.

According to ILHM’s Luxury Report, this mismatch in demand and inventory of luxury and premium homes has created a Buyer’s Market. For the purpose of the report, a luxury home was defined as one that costs $1 million or more.

“A Buyer’s Market indicates that buyers have greater control over the price point. This market type is demonstrated by a substantial number of homes on the market and few sales, suggesting demand for residential properties is slow for that market and/or price point.”

The authors of the report were quick to point out that current conditions at the higher end of the market are no cause for concern.

“While luxury homes may take longer to sell than in previous years, the slower pace, increased inventory levels and larger differences between list and sold prices, represent a normalization of the market, not a downturn.”

Luxury can mean different things to different people. To one person, luxury is a secluded home with plenty of property and privacy. To another, it could be a penthouse at the center of a bustling city. Knowing what characteristics mean luxury to you will help your agent find you the home of your dreams.

Bottom Line

If you are debating upgrading your current house to a premium or luxury home, now is the time!

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Is Mortgage Debt out of Control?

The housing crisis of the last decade was partially caused by unhealthy levels of mortgage debt. Homeowners were using their homes as ATMs by refinancing and swapping their equity for cash.

When prices started to fall, many homeowners found themselves in a negative equity situation (where their mortgage was higher than the value of their home). As a result, they walked away. This caused prices to fall even further.

Headlines are again talking about record levels of mortgage debt, making the comparison to the challenges that preceded the housing crash. However, cumulative debt is not an important data point. If we look at the debt as a percentage of disposable personal income, we are at an all-time low.

Here’s a visual representation of mortgage debt as a percent of income:Is Mortgage Debt out of Control? | Keeping Current MattersFurthermore, according to a new report from ATTOM Data Solutions, more than 1-in-4 homes with a mortgage have at least 50% equity. The report explains:

“[O]ver 14.5 million U.S. properties were equity rich — where the combined estimated amount of loans secured by the property was 50 percent or less of the property’s estimated market value — up by more than 834,000 from a year ago to a new high as far back as data is available, Q4 2013.”

Bottom Line

Unlike 2008, homeowners have a comfortable level of mortgage debt and are sitting on massive amounts of home equity. They will not be walking away from their homes if the housing market begins to soften.

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Millennials Are Increasing the Demand for Condominiums

When deciding to buy a home, people are presented with many different options. The type of home you buy depends on your needs, budget, and in many cases, the desired maintenance level. For many millennials, their choice has been buying a condominium!

According to CoreLogic,

Last year about 43% of all condo home-purchase mortgage applications were submitted by FTHBs… Similarly, the data show condos were more popular with young homebuyers and empty nesters. For instance, 21% of all condo home-purchase mortgage applications were submitted by buyers aged 18 to 30, compared with just 17% of all single-family home-purchase mortgage applications by the same group in 2018.”

With home prices increasing year-over-year, it makes sense millennials are buying condos instead of a single-family house. As a result, the demand for this type of home has been increasing.Millennials Are Increasing the Demand for Condominiums | Keeping Current MattersAs this graph explains,

The younger millennials are the largest cohort and are likely to drive much of the condo demand in the coming years”.

Bottom Line

If you are a millennial considering buying a home, understand that there are many options available. You may find yourself in a condominium as your first home. If you would like to determine which type of home best fits your needs, sit down with a real estate professional that can help evaluate your options!

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2 Myths Holding Back Home Buyers

Freddie Mac recently released a report entitled, “Perceptions of Down Payment Consumer Research.” Their research revealed that,

“For many prospective homebuyers, saving for a down payment is the largest barrier to achieving the goal of homeownership. Part of the challenge for those planning to purchase a home is their perception of how much they will need to save for the down payment…

…Based on our recent survey of individuals planning to purchase a home in the next three years, nearly a third think they need to put more than 20% down.”

Myth #1: “I Need a 20% Down Payment”

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

22% of renters and 31% of homeowners believe lenders require 20% or more of a home’s sale price as a down payment for a typical mortgage today. And,

“If a 20% down payment was required, 70% of those who were planning to buy a home in the next three years said it would delay them from purchasing and nearly 30% indicated they would never be able to afford a home.”  

While many believe at least 20% down is necessary to buy the home of their dreams, they do not realize programs are available which permit as little as 3%. Many renters may actually be able to enter the housing market sooner than they ever imagined!

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

Many either don’t know or are misinformed concerning the FICO® score necessary to qualify, believing a ‘good’ credit score is 780 or higher.

To 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 MattersAs indicated in the chart above, 52.4% 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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The Benefits of a 20% Down Payment

If you are in the market to buy a home this year, you may be confused about how much money you need to come up with for your down payment. Many people you talk to will tell you that you need to save 20% or you won’t be able to secure a mortgage.

The truth is that there are many programs available that let you put down as little as 3%. Those who have served our country could qualify for a Veterans Affairs Home Loan (VA) without needing a down payment.

These programs have cut the savings time that many families would need to compile a large down payment from five or more years down to a year or two. This allows them to start building family wealth sooner.

So then, why do so many people believe that they need a 20% down payment to buy a home? There has to be a reason! Today, we want to talk about four reasons why putting 20% down is a good plan, if you can afford it.

1. Your interest rate will be lower.

Putting down a 20% down payment vs. a 3-5% down payment shows your lender/bank that you are more financially stable, thus a good credit risk. The more confident your bank is in your credit score and your ability to pay your loan, the lower the rate they will be willing to give you.

2. You’ll end up paying less for your home.

The bigger your down payment, the lower your loan amount will be for your mortgage. If you are able to pay 20% of the cost of your new home at the start of the transaction, you will only pay interest on the remaining 80%. If you put down a 5% down payment, the extra 15% on your loan will accrue interest and end up costing you more in the long run!

3. Your offer will stand out in a competitive market!

In a market where many buyers are competing for the same home, sellers like to see offers come in with 20% or larger down payments. The seller gains the same confidence that the bank did above. You are seen as a stronger buyer whose financing is more likely to be approved. Therefore, the deal will be more likely to go through!

4. You won’t have to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

Simply put, PMI is “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%.”

As we mentioned earlier, when you put down less than 20% to buy a home, your lender/bank will see your loan as having more risk. PMI helps them recover their investment in you if you are unable to pay your loan. This insurance is not required if you are able to put down 20% or more.

Many times, home sellers looking to move up to a larger or more expensive home are able to take the equity they earn from the sale of their house to put down 20% on their next home.

If you are looking to buy your first home, you will have to weigh the benefits of saving a 20% down payment vs. the time and cost of continuing to rent while you save that amount.

Bottom Line

If your plan for your future includes buying a home and you’re already saving for your down payment, meet with a local real estate professional who can help you decide the down payment size that best fits with your long-term plan!


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Slaying the Largest Homebuying Myths Today [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some Highlights:

  • The average down payment for first-time homebuyers is only 6%!
  • Mortgage interest rates have been on the decline since November! Hop in now to lock in a low rate!
  • 88% of property managers raised their rents in the last 12 months!
  • The average credit score on approved loans continues to fall across many loan types!

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The Enormous Divide Between the Headline and the Truth [FREE WEBINAR]

“I have observed that not the man who hopes when others despair, but the man who despairs when others hope, is admired by a large class of persons as a sage.” – John Stuart Mill (1840s)

Even back in the mid-1800s, people knew that negative news sells. That is still true today. All forms of media realize that they will get more eyeballs, clicks, likes, and engagement by posting something negative. However, they must realize that negative headlines impact markets.

Just last week, the National Association of Home Builders released a survey revealing:

“Negative media reports making buyers cautious was a significant problem for 48% of builders in 2018, but 62% expect it to be a problem in 2019.”

Even today, good news is headlined with a negative spin in order to get attention. Here are two recent examples from mainstream media:

Actual Headline #1: Cash-out refis are back – will homes become ATMs again?

The real story: The headline is accurate – to a point. It is true that the percentage of refinances in which the homeowner received cash at the closing has increased to levels that existed in 2006. However, the actual amount of equity homeowners “cashed-out” compared to a decade ago isn’t close.

The dollar amount cashed-out last year was $63 billion. That seems like a really large number until we compare it to 2006, when homeowners cashed-out $321 billion. That is more than five times the current amount.

In 2006, people did use their homes as ATMs. They purchased new cars, boats, and lavish vacations. Today, the cashed-out equity is being used to consolidate debt, as seed capital for a new business, or to help a child with their college tuition.

Actual Headline #2: Consumer Debt hits $4 Trillion. Americans are diving deeper and deeper into debt.

The real story: The first sentence of the headline is accurate. The second sentence couldn’t be further from the truth. Total consumer debt is the highest it has ever been. That’s because the population continues to grow, and so does the economy (prices and wages).

The important number is how that total debt ranks as a percentage of disposable personal income. That percentage is the lowest ever recorded!! People are not “diving deeper and deeper into debt”. The exact opposite is true. They have less debt now than ever before.

Bottom Line

If you are thinking about buying or selling a home, it is important that you have a true professional handling your real estate needs. Someone who knows the truth about the current economy and its potential impact on the housing market.

Agents: Join us today for our Free Webinar as we share How to Overcome This Housing Market’s 5 Biggest Challenges at 2PM ET|11AM PT. This webinar will answer the toughest questions your buyers and sellers are asking, so you can not only survive- but thrive- in this housing market.


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How to Get a Better Perspective on Affordability

Headlines spotlight the fact that buying a home is less affordable today than it was at any other time in more than a decade. Those headlines are accurate.

Understandably, buying a home is more expensive now than 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) selling at 10-50% discounts. There were so many that this lowered the prices of non-distressed homes in the same neighborhoods. As a result, mortgage rates were kept low to help the economy.

Prices have since recovered. Mortgage rates have increased as the economy has gained strength. This has impacted housing affordability. However, it’s necessary to give historical context to the subject of affordability.

Two weeks ago, CoreLogic reported on what they call the “typical mortgage payment”. As they explain:

“One way to measure the impact of inflation, mortgage rates and home prices on affordability over time is to use what we call the ‘typical mortgage payment.’ It’s a mortgage-rate-adjusted monthly payment based on each month’s U.S. median home sale price. It is calculated using Freddie Mac’s average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with a 20 percent down payment…

The typical mortgage payment is a good proxy for affordability because it shows the monthly amount that a borrower would have to qualify for to get a mortgage to buy the median-priced U.S. home…

When adjusted for inflation, the typical mortgage payment puts homebuyers’ current costs in the proper historical context.”

Here is a graph showing the results of CoreLogic’s research:

How to Get a Better Perspective on Affordability | Keeping Current Matters

As the graph indicates, the most recent calculation remained 28% below the all-time peak of $1,275 in June 2006. That’s because the average mortgage rate at that time was 6.68%. As seen in the graph, both today’s typical payment and CoreLogic’s projection for the end of the year are less than it was in January 2000.

Bottom Line

Even though home prices are appreciating at a slower rate, home affordability will likely continue to slide. However, this does not mean that buying a house is an unattainable goal in most markets. It is still less expensive today than it was prior to the housing bubble and crash.


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One More Time… You Do Not Need 20% Down to Buy a Home

The largest obstacle renters face when planning to buy a home is saving for a down payment. This challenge is amplified by rising rents, which has eaten into the amount of money renters have leftover for savings each month after paying expenses.

In combination with higher rents, survey after survey has shown that non-homeowners (renters and those living rent-free with family or friends) believe they need to save upwards of 20% for their down payment!

According to the “Barriers to Accessing Homeownership” study commissioned in partnership between the Urban Institute, Down Payment Resource, and Freddie Mac, 39% of non-homeowners and 30% of those who already own a home believe they need more than a 20% down payment.

The percentage of those who are aware of low down payment programs (those under 5%) is surprisingly low at 12% for non-homeowners and 13% for homeowners.

In a recent Convergys Analytics report, they found that 49% of renters believe they need at least a 20% down payment.

The median down payment on loans approved in 2018 was only 5%! Those waiting until they have over 20% may already have enough saved to buy now!

There are over 45 million millennials (33%) who are mortgage ready right now, meaning their income, debt, and credit scores would all allow them to qualify for a mortgage today!

Bottom Line

If your five-year plan includes buying a home, meet with a local real estate professional who can help you determine what it will take to make that plan a reality. You may be closer to your dream than you realize!


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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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