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Pending Sales Cave Under Mortgage Rate, Supply Pressures

 

January’s pending home sales caved, dropping 4.7 percent in the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI). All four of the major regions in the U.S. experienced fewer sales, with the Northeast 9 percent lower, the Midwest 6.6 percent lower, the South 3.9 percent lower, and the West 1.2 percent lower.

January 2018 Pending Home Sales Infographic

According to Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR, January’s activity is attributable to mortgage rates and supply, which have created conditions that are stifling transactions.

“The economy is in great shape, most local job markets are very strong and incomes are slowly rising, but there’s little doubt last month’s retreat in contract signings occurred because of woefully low supply levels and the sudden increase in mortgage rates,” says Yun. “The lower end of the market continues to feel the brunt of these supply and affordability impediments. With the cost of buying a home getting more expensive and not enough inventory, some prospective buyers are either waiting until listings increase come spring or now having to delay their search entirely to save up for a larger down payment.”

Inventory in January was 9.5 percent lower than what it was in January 2017; mortgage rates have shot up simultaneously. As of February 22, the average, 30-year, fixed mortgage was 4.40 percent—and it could increase to 4.75 percent over the next year, forecasters speculate.

NAR’s REALTORS® Confidence Index, however, indicates there is traction, even with January’s figures sliding.

“Even though contract signings were down, REALTORS® indicated that buyer traffic in most areas was up January compared to a year ago,” Yun says. “The exception was likely in the Northeast, where the frigid cold snap the first two weeks of the month may have contributed some to the region’s large decline.”

There are other positives, says Yun.

“As new multi-family supply catches up with demand and slows rents, some large investors may begin putting their holdings of affordable single-family homes up for sale, which would be great news, particularly for first-time buyers,” Yun says. “Furthermore, sellers last year typically stayed in their home for 10 years before selling (an all-time high); although higher mortgage rates will likely discourage some homeowners from wanting a new home with a higher rate, there are possibly many pent-up sellers who may look to finally trade-up or move down this year.”

For more information, please visit www.nar.realtor.

Headed for Another Housing Bust?

‘Rapid Price Increases Will Not Last Forever’

The current growth in home prices is echoing the lead-up to the recession. Is history repeating itself?

The answer is likely not, according to a recently released realtor.com® report. Building is lacking in many markets—one hallmark 10 years ago was over-construction—and credit standards are more stringent, says Danielle Hale, chief economist of realtor.com.

 “As we compare today’s market dynamics to those of a decade ago, it’s important to remember rising prices didn’t cause the housing crash,” Hale says. “It was rising prices stoked by subprime and low documentation mortgages, as well as people looking for short-term gains—versus today’s truer market vitality—that created the environment for the crash.”

In 2016, home prices (the national median home sales price) were 2 percent higher than they were in 2006, the report reveals. Pre-recession prices have returned in 31 of the 50 largest metropolitan areas.

In contrast with 2006, however, are today’s credit conditions. Currently, the median FICO score for a mortgage is 734; the median in 2006 was 700.

 Builds and flips are also different from 2006—starkly. The credit environment, among other factors, is keeping a lid on unfettered flipping and over-construction. In 2006, one household formation generally equaled 1.4 single-family housing starts; in 2016, that number shrank to 0.7 single-family starts. Flips accounted for 5 percent of sales in 2016; in 2006, they comprised 8.6 percent.

“Lending standards are critical to the health of the market,” says Hale. “Unlike today, the boom’s under-regulated lending environment allowed borrowing beyond repayable amounts and atypical mortgage products, which pushed up home prices without the backing of income and equity.”

Additionally, economic indicators point elsewhere. Employment was healthy then and is now, but inventory is limited more today—at a 20-year low. Presently, the average months supply is 4.2; in 2007, the average months supply was 6.4.

 “The healthy economy is creating more jobs and households, but not giving these people enough places to live,” Hale says. “Rapid price increases will not last forever. We expect a gradual tapering as buyers are priced out of the market—not a market correction, but an easing of demand and price growth as renting or adding roommates becomes a more affordable alternative.”

For more information, please visit www.realtor.com.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

What to Ask a Mortgage Lender before You Sign Anything

Looking at homes for sale can be the fun part of buying a house. The real work comes when you’re picking a mortgage lender that can give you the best loan for your circumstances.

After detailing your income, expenses, down payment and a monthly mortgage you can afford, a lender will run a credit check and should be able to tell you the best options for the interest rate and loan product.

Here are some questions to ask as you comparison shop for a lender:

What’s the interest rate?

This will be based on your loan and credit score, and determines your monthly payment. The lower the interest rate, the lower the payment. Improving your credit score can help lower the interest rate you qualify for.

Fixed rate or ARM?

Fixed-rate loans have the same interest rate for the life of the loan, from 10 to 30 years. Interest rates on adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, change after an initial period, such as a year, and then at regular intervals.

Ask how often an ARM rate will change, the index its tied to, and what the cap is on the interest rate during one period and the life of the loan. Make sure you can afford the higher rate. An ARM will have a lower interest rate than a fixed-rate loan, and can be a good idea if you’re not planning on living in the home for long.

How much is the monthly mortgage?

Answering the first two questions will get you to this answer. It’s a number you should already have in mind before looking for a house, and should be an amount you can afford.

Be sure to include other monthly costs, including insurance, taxes and, if required, private mortgage insurance, or PMI. This insurance is often needed if you don’t have a 20 percent down payment and is meant to protect the mortgage company if you default on the loan.

Any fees?

One-time fees called “points” are due at closing and each point paid will lower your interest rate by 1 percent. Another option is to not pay any closing costs upfront and to have them rolled into the loan in exchange for a higher interest rate.

If you want to lock in the interest rate and points for a certain amount of time in case rates go up, you may have to pay a fee.

Also ask if there are fees for making extra mortgage payments so you can pay off the principal amount early. Some loans don’t have prepayment penalties, but some do.

A lender should be able to help you find the best home loan for your finances. Just be sure not to sign a contract with them until you’re satisfied you’re getting the best deal with the best mortgage lender you can find.

I hope you found this information helpful. Please contact me for all your real estate information needs today!

The Essential Budgeting List for Buying a Home

Is house hunting in your near future?  If so, you’re probably thinking about the neighborhood you want to live in, the number of bedrooms you need and what sort of home you want. But take a step back. None of this matters if you don’t know how much you can truly afford to spend on a home.

You may have a nice down payment saved up, and an idea of costs, but most agents will tell you that first-time buyers generally miss a few things when budgeting for a home.

Before you make a wish list for your future house, here are some expenses you need to consider:

Mortgage: Most buyers need to take out a mortgage. With rates as low as they are, many are even considering a 15-year term rather than the more traditional 30-year term. Use a mortgage calculator or speak to a lender to find out exactly what your monthly rate will be and what you can afford.

Insurance: When buying a home, you also need to insure the value of the home against fire, theft and sometimes even flood damage (insurance for which must be purchased separately). Shop around for the best price and see what it’s going to cost you beforehand. Keep in mind that this cost can go up each year, especially if you file a claim.

If you’re putting down less than 20 percent, you may also have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI). This can add a substantial amount to your monthly mortgage payment so consult with a lender on what your most affordable options are.

Taxes: Property taxes can add hundreds of dollars to your monthly mortgage payment and can increase depending on school and town budgets. A home is normally taxed on its assessed value—a fraction amount of the home’s appraised value—so make sure you factor it into the equation.

Utilities: If you’re currently renting an apartment or living with your parents, there’s a good chance you don’t pay much (or anything) for utilities. But when you own a home, you have to factor in the costs of water, gas, electricity and oil each month. Ask sellers for their average monthly costs over the last year so you know how much you should be putting aside.

Yard upkeep: Buying a home with a large yard or garden may be your dream, but be realistic about the amount of time you’ll have to invest in keeping it beautiful. If you’re not up to the time commitment, you’ll have to hire someone to mow, weed and take care of those flowers and shrubs. Check with local yard contractors to see what a service like this will cost in the neighborhood you are considering.

Upgrades: You’re most likely going to want to make some changes in your new home. Make a list of all the projects you are considering—such as adding new hardwood floors, drapes or appliances—and leave room in your monthly budget for some of these costs.

You’ll need to consider all of the above before you begin your home search. Look only at what you can truly afford so you don’t end up house poor.

Finding the Best Interest Rate on a Mortgage

Mortgage brokers and other real estate experts can often help homebuyers find the best interest rate on a mortgage that fits their needs. That doesn’t mean borrowers shouldn’t shop around be well informed before talking to an expert.
Here are a few things consumers can do to get the best interest rate on a mortgage:

Fixed vs. adjustable
Fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages are the two most common forms of mortgages. A fixed rate is set for the life of a loan, usually 30 years, and the mortgage payment is the same every month.

An adjustable-rate mortgage, or ARM, has an interest rate that changes after a certain number of years. It can remain at one rate for a year, then can change based on an interest rate index chosen by your bank. An ARM can also be steady for five to 10 years, and then adjust annually.
ARMs usually have lower interest rates than fixed mortgages, and can help people afford homes if they only plan to live in them for a few years.

Pay points
Paying what’s called a “point” through an upfront fee can lower the interest rate on a home loan. One point equals 1 percent of the total mortgage amount, and lowers the interest rate by a fixed amount, usually 0.125 percent.

If you plan on staying in a home for a long time, paying points can save you money. You just need to do the math and determine how many months or years in savings it will take you to recoup the amount you paid in points.

Qualify for loan programs
Some loan programs have lower interest rates for eligible borrowers. These include VA loans for military veterans, FHA loans approved by the federal government, USDA loans and other government programs for first-time homebuyers.
If the interest rates aren’t as low as you’re hoping for, these programs can still offer savings with low down payment requirements, protections if you fall behind on a mortgage, and allow low credit scores to qualify.

Improve your credit
Having a high credit score is one of the best things you can do to qualify for a better interest rate.
In the months before applying for a home loan, pay your bills on time and pay your credit card balances in full. Also check your credit report for errors and dispute them.

Interested in more real estate tips? Contact me today!

Insurance 101 for First-Time Homeowners

If you’re thinking of becoming a homeowner, you’ve likely spent time budgeting for additional expenses – property taxes, lawn care, a big-screen TV to fill up that extra space…you get the idea. But have you factored in protection for your new home?

While you’re crunching numbers, remember to include homeowners insurance. A standard policy will cover exterior and interior damage from incidents like vandalism, fire, wind and lightning. It also covers loss of use expenses, damage to structures like sheds or gazebos, and liability and medical costs if someone is injured on your property. Personal property is covered, too – good news if you really do have your eye on that big-screen TV.

Still, standard policies aren’t comprehensive. To help you estimate how much you’ll spend on insurance, keep these points in mind:

  • Standard policy coverage can be for the cash value of your home and possessions (which may depreciate over time), repair or rebuilding costs based on the original value of the home, or replacement costs that exceed your limit if necessary. Coverage does not equal the sale price of your home.
  • Projects like building a porch or another bathroom can add significant value, so you may need to adjust your policy if you’re planning to renovate your new home. Upgrades (like a new roof) can lead to discounts if they mitigate risks, but potentially hazardous features (like a pool) may require up to $500,000 in coverage.
  • Ninety percent of natural disasters result in some form of flooding – that’s a risk insurers just don’t want to take. Even if your home isn’t in a flood area, you may want coverage anyway if you have a finished basement. You can obtain a separate flood insurance policy through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). And don’t delay – it takes 30 days for new policies to go into effect.
  • Residents in earthquake-prone areas might also want to supplement their standard policy, which doesn’t cover damage directly resulting from seismic activity. However, if a quake leads to further damage, such as a burst gas line causing a fire, your standard policy will cover it.

It may seem costly, but protecting what’s likely the largest investment you’ll make in your lifetime is worth it – and peace of mind is priceless.

Are You ‘Mortgage Pre-approval Worthy’? Learn How to Assess Your Finances in 10 Minutes

Finding the right home and the right mortgage can take a lot of time and energy, so it’s important to consider whether you’ll be prepared for approval before diving into the process. Whether you’ve had some financial setbacks or you just want to have an idea ahead of time, here are some ways to quickly determine if you’ll be pre-approved for a mortgage.

Do You Have A Down Payment?

You may have heard that the ideal down payment amount is 20% of the cost of the home, but this doesn’t mean you have to have this amount. However, it is important that you have a significant chunk of change put away so that it can signal to the lender that you’re financially sound and will be able to come up with your monthly payment. A down payment will not only minimize the amount of money you owe the lender each month, it will also show that you know how to save and can be trusted with a significant financial investment.

Determine Your Credit History

Many potential homebuyers have financial hiccups in their history, but it’s how they’re dealt with that determines the future. While you may have considerable issues getting a mortgage approved if you’re not paying your minimum payments on time and have debt, by making this change, you can have a positive impact on your credit history in a matter of months. You may also want to get a copy of your credit report to ensure there are no errors that have adversely impacted your score.

Do You Have A Solid Employment History?

It’s very important to have a solid work history in the event that you’re applying for a mortgage, as this will signal to the lender that you have the funds to make your monthly payment. Keep in mind that it’s good to have at least 2 years of solid employment under your belt, and you’ll need to provide pay stubs. If you’re self-employed or your recent job opportunities have been sporadic, this can cause issues with getting pre-approved.

It can take a lot of time to find the right house and the right lender, but if you have a solid history of employment and a sizable down payment you’re well on your way to pre-approval. If you’re preparing for purchasing a home and would like to learn more, you may want to contact Catskill Country Real Estate.

Fixed-rate vs. Adjustable-rate Mortgages: The Pros and Cons of Each

Whether or not you’re new to the housing market, you’ve likely heard about low interest rates and are wondering what kind of impact these can have on your mortgage. Both fixed and adjustable-rate mortgages have their benefits and drawbacks, but what will work for you depends on your financial health and knowledge of the real estate market. If you’re currently comparing the pros and the cons of each, here are some pointers on how they can impact your home purchase.

The Security Of A Known Rate

With the relatively low interest rates of the last few years, many people can be enraptured with the idea of a variable rate mortgage that may save them money. However, while a variable rate mortgage can certainly provide a benefit if low interest rates remain in place, a fixed rate can provide the home buyer with the economic security of knowing exactly what their rate is for the entire length of their loan period.

A Lower Mortgage Cost

It goes without saying that there’s a strong benefit in knowing exactly what your mortgage payment will be each month. However, while a fixed-rate mortgage can offer this assurance, an adjustable-rate can actually end up costing you a lot less in the long term. Since mortgage rates will fluctuate over the term of your loan and a lower interest rate means a lowered monthly payment, this can result in a more economical price tag when it comes to your biggest investment.

How Market Savvy Are You?

Many home buyers feel confident enough in timing the market and getting a good price that they aren’t as concerned with the choice between an adjustable and fixed-rates. However, if you’re not savvy when it comes to the real estate, deciding on a variable rate can make a monthly payment difficult if you’re already pushing your financial capabilities. Instead of making a rash decision, ensure you’re aware of your flexibility before deciding which rate option to choose.

There are a variety of benefits on both sides of the equation, whether you choose a fixed-rate or an adjustable-rate mortgage. However, what works best for you can depend entirely on your economic situation and your loan period so it’s important to consider all the variables before making a decision. If you’re currently on the market for a home and are considering all your options, contact John for several lenders who will pre-qu7alify you and discuss the pros and cons of fixed rate and adjustable mortgage products.

Applying for a Mortgage? 3 Easy Ways to Make the Process Easier — and Reduce Your Stress

stressThere are more than enough details involved in getting a mortgage and moving into your own home that you’ll want to know how to make the process as seamless as possible beforehand. However, there’s a chance you might not be aware of the things you can do to make it a little easier on yourself. If you’re currently looking for a home and are wondering how to streamline the approval process, here are some things to do before applying to minimize mortgage-related stress.

Get Electronic Documentation

In order to get approved for your mortgage application, you’ll need to provide documentation that will likely include bank statements, federal tax returns and recent paystubs, but providing or acquiring all of these documents in paper form can require a lot of drudgery. Instead of paper, get your documentation together and ensure it’s in electronic form so it can be easily accessed or sent from anywhere. This means you’ll have it on hand as soon as it’s needed.

Choose A House You Can Afford

As a potential homebuyer on the market, it’s easy to be swayed by your dream home, but if your dream home doesn’t come with an acceptable price tag, it’s important to move on to the next best opportunity. It can be very easy to be invested enough in a particular home that you can convince yourself you’ll budget for it, but the market can shift and this can push your monthly payment from difficult to not-doable. Choosing a home at an affordable cost will not only improve your chances of approval, it will also minimize your stress after the move-in date.

Have Your Down Payment Ready

It may be all well and good to know that your down payment money is in the bank, but it’s important that it’s in the appropriate account at least 3 months prior to your application submission so you can ensure you’ll be seen as financially sound. While it’s great to have money held in investments and RRSPs, it’s important that this down payment money is kept in an easily accessible account where it can be withdrawn without any time delays or financial losses.

There are many different steps and small details associated with obtaining a mortgage, but by having your electronic documentation and down payment ready, you’ll be well on your way to an approval. If you’re currently on the market for a home, contact John for some ideas and on how to streamline the lending process.