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Archive for the ‘Buying Tips’ Category

Worried About Mortgage Rates? Control the Controllables

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Worried About Mortgage Rates? Control the Controllables Simplifying The Market

Chances are you’re hearing a lot about mortgage rates right now. You may even see some headlines talking about last week’s Federal Reserve (the Fed) meeting and what it means for rates. But the Fed doesn’t determine mortgage rates, even if the headlines make it sound like they do.

The truth is, mortgage rates are impacted by a lot of factors: geo-political uncertainty, inflation and the economy, and more. And trying to pin down when all those factors will line up enough for rates to come down is tricky.

That’s why it’s generally not worth it to try to time the market. There’s too much at play that you can’t control. The best thing you can do is control the controllables.

And when it comes to rates, here’s what you can influence to make your moving plans a reality.

Your Credit Score

Credit scores can play a big role in your mortgage rate. As an article from CNET explains:

You can’t control the economic factors influencing interest rates. But you can get the best rate for your situation, and improving your credit score is the right place to start. Lenders look at your credit score to decide whether to approve you for a loan and at what interest rate. A higher credit score can help you secure a lower interest rate, maybe even better than the average.”

That’s why it’s even more important to maintain a good credit score right now. With rates where they are, you want to do what you can to get the best rate possible. If you want to focus on improving your score, your trusted loan officer can give you expert advice to help.

Your Loan Type

There are many types of loans, each offering different terms for qualified buyers. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) says:

There are several broad categories of mortgage loans, such as conventional, FHA, USDA, and VA loans. Lenders decide which products to offer, and loan types have different eligibility requirements. Rates can be significantly different depending on what loan type you choose.”

When working with your team of real estate professionals, make sure you find out what’s available for your situation and which types of loans you may qualify for.

Your Loan Term

Another factor to consider is the term of your loan. Just like with loan types, you have options. Freddie Mac says:

When choosing the right home loan for you, it’s important to consider the loan term, which is the length of time it will take you to repay your loan before you fully own your home. Your loan term will affect your interest rate, monthly payment, and the total amount of interest you will pay over the life of the loan.”

Depending on your situation, the length of your loan can also change your mortgage rate.

Bottom Line

Remember, you can’t control what happens in the broader economy. But you can control the controllables.

Let’s connect to go over the things you can do that’ll make a difference. By being strategic with these factors, you may be able to combat today’s higher rates and lock in the lowest one you can.

Savings Strategies Every First-Time Homebuyer Needs To Know

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Savings Strategies Every First-Time Homebuyer Needs To Know Simplifying The Market

If homeownership is on your goal sheet for your future, you’re probably working on your savings. And a big priority is making sure you’ve got a plan in place for things like your closing costs, down payment, and more.

Here are a few strategies that can help speed up that process.

Budget and Track Your Expenses: To start, create a detailed budget that tracks the money you’ve got coming in and the money going out. This’ll give you a better look at your finances as a whole.

Cut Down on Unnecessary Spending: Now that you have your budget sheet done and you know how you’re spending your money, look for any line items that aren’t absolutely essential. If you cut down on those, you can re-allocate that cash toward buying a home. Even the little things can add up. As the National Association of Realtors (NAR) says:

“The majority of first-time buyers did make financial sacrifices to purchase a home. For those who did, the most common sacrifices buyers reported were cutting spending on luxury goods, entertainment, and clothes.”

Automate Your Savings: Once you know how much you want to set aside for your homebuying budget, look for ways to make it easy. If you have to transfer money manually, you may forget to do it. But getting some automatic transfers set up helps drive consistency and removes the temptation to spend it elsewhere. Realtor.com explains:

“If you’re struggling to put enough money away because of the constant temptations to blow your paycheck, consider automating the process. Ask your employer if you can have your paycheck deposited into multiple accounts—if so, instruct it to send a certain percentage of your salary directly into your savings account. Or go through your bank . . .”

Lean into Any Side Hustles You Have: Do you have a gig you do (or have done before) to net some extra cash? Taking on part-time work, freelance jobs, or picking up a side hustle can help give your savings a boost.

Put any Unexpected Cash To Good Use: If you get any sudden windfalls, like a tax refund, bonus, inheritance, or cash gift from family, put it toward your house fund.

By using these strategies and focusing on your savings over time, you can make sure you’re well on the path to having what you need to buy your first home. As Ramsey Solutions says:

“Budgeting shows your money who’s in charge (that’s you). It gives you the power to tell your money where to go instead of having to wonder where it went. It’s how you make any money goals happen—like saving for a down payment.”

Bottom Line

If you need more strategies for getting ready to buy, connect with a local real estate professional.

Top Reasons To Own a Home [INFOGRAPHIC]

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Top Reasons To Own a Home [INFOGRAPHIC] Simplifying The Market

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Some Highlights

  • Buying a home has powerful financial and non-financial benefits. It creates more stability, helps grow your net worth, and gives you an undeniable sense of pride.
  • While today’s market can be challenging for buyers, use these reasons to remind you of why homeownership is so worthwhile. 
  • When you’re ready to enjoy all the amazing advantages that come with owning a home, get in touch with a local real estate agent.

The Biggest Mistakes Buyers Are Making Today

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The Biggest Mistakes Buyers Are Making Today Simplifying The Market

Buyers face challenges in any market – and today’s is no different. With higher mortgage rates and rising prices, plus the limited supply of homes for sale, there’s a lot to consider.

But, there’s one way to avoid getting tripped up – and that’s leaning on a real estate agent for the best possible advice. An expert’s insights will help you avoid some of the most common mistakes homebuyers are making right now.

Putting Off Pre-approval

As part of the homebuying process, a lender will look at your finances to figure out what they’re willing to loan you for your mortgage. This gives you a good idea of what you can borrow so you can really wrap your head around the financial side of things before you start looking at homes. While house hunting can be a lot more fun than talking about finances, you don’t want to do this out of order. Make sure you get your pre-approval first. As CNET explains:

“If you wait to get preapproved until the last minute, you might be scrambling to contact a lender and miss the opportunity to put a bid on a home.”

Holding Out for Perfection

While you may have a long list of must-haves and nice-to-haves, you need to be realistic about your home search. Even though your ideal state is you find a home that checks every box, you may need to be willing to compromise – especially since inventory is still low. Plus, a home that has everything you want may be too pricey. As Investopedia puts it:

When you expect to find the perfect home, you could prolong the homebuying process by holding out for something better. Or you could end up paying more for a home just because it meets all your needs.”

Instead, look for something that has most of your must-haves and good bones where you can add anything else you may need down the line.

Buying More House Than You Can Afford

With today’s mortgage rates and home prices, there’s no arguing it’s expensive to buy a home. And while it may be tempting to stretch your finances a bit further than you’re comfortable with to make sure you get the house, you want to avoid overextending your budget. Make sure you talk to your agent about how changing mortgage rates impact your monthly payment. Bankrate offers this advice:

“Focus on what monthly payment you can afford rather than fixating on the maximum loan amount you qualify for. Just because you can qualify for a $300,000 loan doesn’t mean you can comfortably handle the monthly payments that come with it along with your other financial obligations. Every borrower’s case is different, so factor in your whole financial profile when determining how much house you can afford.”

Not Working with a Local Real Estate Agent

This last one may be the most important of all. Buying a home is a process that involves a lot of steps, paperwork, negotiation, and more. Rather than take all of this on yourself, it’s a good idea to have a pro working with you. The right agent will reduce your stress and help the process go smoothly. As CNET explains:

Attempting to buy a home without a real estate agent makes the process more arduous than it needs to be. A real estate agent can give you professional legal guidance, market expertise and support, which will save you time, money and stress. They can also increase your chances of finding the right home so you don’t have to spend hours scouring the internet for listings.”  

Bottom Line

Mistakes can cost you time, frustration, and money. If you want to buy a home in today’s market, connect with a local real estate agent so you have a pro on your side who can help you avoid these missteps.

How Do Climate Risks Affect Your Next Home?

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How Do Climate Risks Affect Your Next Home? Simplifying The Market

Climate change is impacting where people buy homes. As the experts at the National Association of Realtors (NAR) explain:

“Sixty-three percent of people who have moved since the pandemic began say they believe climate change is—or will be—an issue in the place they currently live.”

If you’re planning to move, climate change is something you might want to consider, no matter where you are. A recent study from Realtor.com helps put the growing impact climate change is having on real estate into perspective (see below):

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So, how can you be sure your investment is safe from the elements?

For starters, work with a local real estate agent to understand the likelihood of your future home being exposed to hazards like wind, floods, and wildfires. Your agent will know the area and be able to tell you about the risks you’ll most likely face.

Beyond that, there are two important factors to think about: the quality of the home you want to buy and the insurance you’ll need to protect it.

A Home Built to Last

If you’re planning to be in your home for many years, you want to know it’s going to last. One way to think ahead is to work with your real estate agent to ensure the home you buy can withstand environmental hazards. They’re up to date on the most common building and remodeling techniques—like a secondary water barrier on the roof or noncombustible, fire-resistant exterior walls—used to protect homes from the effects of climate change.

And if the home you’re interested in doesn’t have the features you’re looking for, they can help you determine what you may be able to negotiate in the contract or what work it might require in the future.

Insurance To Protect It

Once you’re confident the home you’re looking at is well built, the next step is finding out what it’s going to take to insure it. As Selma Hepp, Chief Economist at CoreLogic, says:

“. . . homeowners are going to become increasingly more aware of risks of living in some areas as it becomes prohibitively expensive or very difficult to obtain hazard insurance.”

In areas where climate risks are having a bigger impact, the right home insurance can make a big difference. And the price of that insurance is an important factor when thinking about your budget and the true cost of buying and protecting your home. Get an insurance quote early in the process because you may want to compare multiple quotes and it can take several weeks to get them.

While this may feel like a lot to consider, don’t worry. An agent can help. Your real estate agent will be your go-to resource on the homebuying process, what to look for and consider, and how climate change may affect your next home. With the right planning and an agent’s expert advice, you can make this happen. Homeownership is worth it. And with a great agent by your side, you can make sure the home you find is the right fit.

Bottom Line

Climate change is an important factor to think about when buying a home. After all, your home is a huge investment, and you want to be ready for anything that might affect it. Chat with a local real estate agent so they can help you find the perfect home for you.

How VA Loans Can Help You Buy a Home

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How VA Loans Can Help You Buy a Home Simplifying The Market

For over 80 years, Veterans Affairs (VA) home loans have helped millions of veterans buy their own homes. If you or someone you know has served in the military, it’s important to learn about this program and its benefits.

Here are some key things to know about VA loans before buying a home.

Top Benefits of VA Home Loans

VA home loans make it easier for veterans to buy a home, and they’re a great perk for those who qualify. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, some benefits include:

  • Options for No Down Payment: Qualified borrowers can often purchase a home with no down payment. That’s a huge weight lifted when you’re trying to save for a home. The Associated Press says:

“. . . about 90% of VA loans are used to purchase a home with no money down.”

  • Don’t Require Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI): Many other loans with down payments under 20% require PMI. VA loans do not, which means veterans can save on their monthly housing costs.
  • Limited Closing Costs: There are limits on the types of closing costs you pay when you qualify for a VA home loan. So, more money stays in your pocket when it’s time to seal the deal.

An article from Veterans United sums up how remarkable this loan can be:

“For the vast majority of military borrowers, VA loans represent the most powerful lending program on the market. These flexible, $0-down payment mortgages have helped more than 24 million service members become homeowners since 1944.”

Bottom Line

Owning a home is the American Dream. Veterans give a lot to protect our country, and one way to honor them is by making sure they know about VA home loans.

Worried About Home Maintenance Costs? Consider This

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Worried About Home Maintenance Costs? Consider This Simplifying The Market

If one of the main reasons you’re hesitant to buy a home is because you’re worried about the upkeep, here’s some information you may find interesting on both new home construction and existing homes (a home that’s been lived in by a previous owner).

Newly Built Homes Need Less Upfront Maintenance

If you can afford it, you may find a newly built home could help ease your worries about maintenance costs. Think about it, if everything in the house is brand new, it won’t have the wear and tear you may see in an existing home – and that means it’s less likely to need repairs. As LendingTree says:

“Since the systems, appliances, roof and foundation are new, you’re less likely to pay for major or minor repairs within the first few years of homeownership. That can make a big difference for first-time homebuyers who are adjusting to owning rather than renting.”

Plus, many builders also have warranties on their homes that would cover some of the more major expenses that could pop up. As First American explains:

The new systems in your home, like plumbing, electrical, and HVAC, are typically covered for one to two years by your builder’s warranty. When something happens to these systems, you contact the builder or their warranty company.”

Existing Homes Can Still Have Great Perks

But it’s worth mentioning, that it’s not just newly built homes that can have warranties. It’s an option for existing homes too.

Your agent may be able to help you negotiate with the seller to add one as a concession on your contract. But you should know that not all sellers will be willing to do that. If they won’t, you could purchase one yourself, if you’d like to. An article from Forbes explains:

During a real estate transaction, a home warranty policy can be purchased by the buyer or the seller.”

And there are benefits for both parties when it comes to a home warranty. According to MarketWatch:

“A buyer’s home warranty benefits both buyers and sellers, as it helps the seller close the deal while providing the future homeowner with peace of mind that they’ll be covered if a system or appliance breaks down . . . Sometimes, a seller will pay for the first year of the home buyer’s warranty to sweeten the deal, but it depends on the real estate market.”

If you’re interested in a home warranty for peace of mind, lean on your agent. They’ll negotiate on your behalf to see if a seller would be willing to cover one for you. Just remember, the likelihood of a seller throwing one in depends on conditions in your local market.

So, Should I Buy New or Existing?

While the need for less upfront maintenance is a great perk for new construction, there are some things a newly built home can’t provide that an existing home can.

For example, existing homes have a lot of character and charm that’s difficult to reproduce. The quirks that come with an older home may make it feel more homey. And, existing homes usually have more developed landscaping and a well-established sense of community. So, it can feel more inviting than something that’s a blank slate, like new construction often is. Not to mention, if you go with new construction, you may have to wait for the home to finish being built based on where it is in the process. It all depends on what’s most important to you.

Bottom Line

Whether you choose a newly built or an existing home, you may be able to ease some of your concerns over maintenance with a home warranty. To weigh your options and go over what’s the top priority for you, talk to the professionals.

Why a Condo May Be a Great Option for Your First Home

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Why a Condo May Be a Great Option for Your First Home Simplifying The Market

Having a hard time finding a first home that’s right for you and your wallet? Well, here’s a tip – think about condominiums, or condos for short.

They’re usually smaller than single-family homes, but that’s exactly why they can be easier on your budget. According to the latest data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), condos are typically less expensive than single-family homes (see graph below):

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So, if you’re comfortable with a smaller space and want to buy your first home this year, adding condos to your search might be easier on your wallet.

Besides giving you more options for your home search and maybe fitting your budget better, living in a condo has a bunch of other perks, too. According to Rocket Mortgage:

“From community living to walkable urban areas, condos are great options for first-time home buyers and people looking to enjoy homeownership without extensive upkeep.”

Let’s dive into a few of the draws of condos for first-time buyers from Bankrate:

  • They require less maintenance. Condos are great if you want to own your place but don’t want to mow the lawn, shovel snow, or fix the roof. Your real estate agent can help explain any associated fees and details for the condos you’re interested in.
  • They allow you to start building equity. When you buy a condo, you build equity and your net worth as you make your mortgage payments and as your condo’s value goes up over time.
  • They often come with added amenities. Your condo might come with access to amenities like a pool, dog park, or parking. And the best part? You don’t have to take care of any of them.
  • They provide you with a sense of community. Buying a condo means you’ll be living close to other people, which is nice if you enjoy having neighbors around and making friends. Many condo communities hold fun events like barbecues and parties during holidays for everyone to enjoy.

Remember, your first home doesn’t have to be the one you stay in forever. The important thing is to get your foot in the door as a homeowner so you can start to gain home equity. Later on, that equity can help you buy another place if you need something different.

Ultimately, owning and living in a condo is a lifestyle choice. And if it’s one that appeals to you, they could provide the added options you need in today’s market.

Bottom Line

It might be a good idea to think about condos in your home search. If you’re ready to see what’s out there, get in touch with a local real estate agent today.

The Top 2 Reasons To Consider a Newly Built Home

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The Top 2 Reasons To Consider a Newly Built Home Simplifying The Market

When you’re planning a move, it’s normal to wonder where you’ll end up and what your future home is going to look like. Maybe you’ve got a specific picture of that house in your mind. But unless you came into this process knowing you want to buy a newly built home, you may not have pictured new home construction.

A trusted real estate agent can help walk you through these two reasons you may want to reconsider that.

1. Adding Newly Built Homes Could Give You More Options

There are two types of homes on the market: new and existing. A newly built home refers to a house that was just built or is under construction. An existing home is one a previous homeowner has already lived in. Right now, the inventory of existing homes is tight. But there may be options for you on the new home side of things.

Data from the Census and the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows that newly built homes are a bigger part of today’s housing inventory than the norm (see graph below):

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From 1983 to 2019 (the last normal year in the market), newly built homes made up only 13% of the total inventory of homes for sale. But today that number has climbed to over 33%.

Rest assured, after over a decade of underbuilding, builders aren’t overdoing it today. Even with an increase in new construction today, there’s still a significant housing shortage overall. But for you, the uptick in new builds can be a game changer because it gives you more options for your search.

2. Newly Built Homes May Be More Affordable Than You’d Think

You may still be wondering if a new build could really be an option for you. If you’ve previously written them off because you thought they would be out of your budget, consider this. The price gap between a newly built home and an existing house is shrinking. Here’s why.

Builders are going to build what’s in demand. And they know people need more options right now, especially ones that are smaller and potentially more affordable. So, they’re focusing on building smaller homes at lower price points. The graph below shows the price difference between new and existing homes is shrinking as that happens:

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As LendingTree explains:

In the past, newly built homes have been much more expensive than existing homes — but that gap has been getting smaller recently. In some places today, you may find that the cost to build versus buy is roughly the same.”

And an article from CNBC says:

“While new builds are still sold for slightly more than existing homes, the price gap has significantly narrowed . . .”

Not to mention, some builders are even offering price cuts and mortgage rate buy-downs right now to sweeten the deal. Today there are many reasons new builds may be worth considering. Other buyers sure seem to think so. As Freddie Mac says:

“As the supply of existing homes for sale remains low and home prices continue to rise, more buyers are choosing to purchase new homes than in previous years.”

Just know that buying a newly built home isn’t the same as buying an existing one. Builder contracts have different fine print. So, partner with a local agent who knows the market, builder reputations, and what to look for in those contracts so you have an expert on your side to help you explore this option.

Bottom Line

If you want to find out what builders are doing in your area, connect with a real estate agent. And if you’re willing to cast a wider net to open up your options even more, that agent can talk to you about broadening your search to include other towns nearby.

Is a Multi-Generational Home Right for You?

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Is a Multi-Generational Home Right for You? Simplifying The Market

Ever thought about living in the same house with your grandparents, parents, or other loved ones? You’re not alone. A lot of people are choosing to buy multi-generational homes where everyone can live together. Let’s check out why they think it’s a good idea to see if it might be a good fit for you, too.

Why People Are Choosing Multi-Generational Living

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), here are just a few key reasons buyers opted for multi-generational homes over the past year (see graph below):

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Two of the top reasons had to do with aging parents. 27% of buyers chose multi-generational homes so they could take care of their parents more easily. And 19% did it to spend more time with them. A lot of older adults want to age in place, and living in a home with loved ones can help them do just that. If your parents are hoping to do the same, but need a bit of help, a multi-generational home may be worth considering.

But buying a multi-generational home isn’t just about being close or taking care of the people you love—it can save you money, too. 22% of buyers say they picked a multi-generational home to cut down on costs, and 11% needed a bigger house multiple incomes could afford together.

Sharing costs like the mortgage and utilities can make owning a home more affordable. This is especially helpful for first-time homebuyers who might find it challenging to buy a place on their own in today’s market.

As Axios explains:

“Financial concerns and caregiving needs are two of the major reasons people live with their parents (and parents’ parents).”

How an Agent Is Key in Finding the Right Home for You

Looking for the perfect multi-generational home is a bit trickier than finding a regular house. You’ve got more people, which means more opinions and needs to think about. It’s kind of like putting together a puzzle where all the pieces need to fit perfectly.

If you’re into the idea of living with loved ones and want all the benefits that come with it, team up with a local real estate agent who can help you out.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re looking to save money or want to take care of your loved ones, buying a multi-generational home might be a good idea for you. If you want to find out more, talk to a local real estate agent.