As states reopen, buyers are reemerging faster than expected, proving market resiliency against the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications to purchase a home posted their fourth consecutive weekly increase, rising 11% last week, the Mortgage Bankers Associations reported Wednesday
Applications are still 10% lower than a year ago but the annual loss continues to shrink each week. For example, last week’s purchase volume was down 19% annually. A month ago, purchase volume was down 35% compared to a year earlier.
“There continues to be a stark recovery in purchase applications, as most large states saw increases in activity last week,” says Joel Kan, MBA economist. “We expect this positive purchase trend to continue—at varying rates across the country—as states gradually loosen social distancing measures, and some of the pent-up demand for housing returns in what is typically the final weeks of the spring homebuying season.”
Among the 10 largest states that the MBA tracked in its mortgage application survey, New York led purchase demand with a 14% increase in applications. Other states posting double-digit increases last week were Illinois, Florida, Georgia, California, and North Carolina.
Mortgage rates remain near historical lows, which offers buyers a chance to lock in record-low rates. The MBA reports that the average contract interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 3.43% last week.
Meanwhile, mortgage applications for refinancings are diverging, dropping another 3% last week, the fourth consecutive week for declines. Lenders reportedly are not offering the same low rates on refinances as they are for home purchase applications. Still, refinance applications remain 201% higher than a year ago.
If you are one of the many homeowners looking to list your home for sale, how do you stand out to the millions of pet parents searching for their dream home?
Whether a dog person, a cat person, or someone who prefers the company of another pet species, 99% of pet owners say that they consider their animal to be family. When finding a home, 95% of animal owners believe it is important that a housing community allows animals.
A study by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) revealed that there are many aspects of the home buying, selling and owning experience that have been greatly impacted by our love for our pets.
This should come as no surprise, as $72 billion was spent on pets in the U.S in 2018. NAR’s PresidentWilliam E. Brown shed some light on the impact of pet owners and their home search.
“It is important to understand the unique needs and wants of animal owners when it comes to homeownership. REALTORS® understand that when someone buys a home, they are buying it with the needs of their whole family in mind; ask pet owners, and they will enthusiastically agree that their animals are part of their family.”
New home builders have actually begun installing retractable pet gates that tuck away neatly inside door jams as a highly requested feature in new homes to attract pet-parents.
So, if you are a homeowner looking to sell in today’s pet-friendly environment, point out the features of your home that will attract pet owners:
You don't need to know everything about buying and selling real estate if you hire a real estate professional who does. Henry Ford once said that when you hire people who are smarter than you are, it proves you are smarter than they are. The trick is to find the right person. For the most part, they all cost roughly the same. Why not hire a person with more education and experience than you? We're all looking for more precious time in our lives, and hiring pros gives us that time.
Agents take the spam out of your property showings and visits. If you're a buyer of new homes, your agent will whip out her sword and keep the builder's agents at bay, preventing them from biting or nipping at your heels. If you're a seller, your agent will filter all those phone calls that lead to nowhere from lookie loos and try to induce serious buyers to immediately write an offer.
Remodeling? Recoup Your Investment When You Sell
Before you pour your savings into a new kitchen and a rainforest shower for the master, think about whether or not you'll be able to recoup your investment when it comes time to sell.
If you have equity in your home, you can make improvements, but don't go over the limit of what other buyers can spend for a home similar to yours in your neighborhood.
While it's tempting to make your home more beautiful, you have to consider the rest of your neighborhood. If most residences in your neighborhood are three-bedroom single-story homes, buyers are unlikely to shop in your area for two-story four-bedroom homes.
Buyers want to shop for a home where there is the most selection of homes that fit their criteria. If they want a swimming pool, they're going to look in neighborhoods where many homes have pools. They won't be aware of your home if you have the only pool in your subdivision.
That's why over-improving for the neighborhood is a bad idea. Not only will you not get your money back for some updates, your home my be harder to sell because of them.
Another reason buyers don't tend to pay as much for updates as you might think is broad differences in taste. Your updates may include choices your buyer wouldn't have made because of several reasons:
You only improved one or two rooms, leaving the rest of the home looking unfinished.
Your updates were too radical, such as cold minimalism in a traditional setting.
Your updates masked a problem but didn't solve it, such as a kitchen that's too small. If the kitchen is still too small after you've put in granite counters, don't expect buyers to care.
You failed to do necessary repairs and updates that were less visible than the new décor but buyers noticed anyway.
Your updates are beautiful but require a lot of cost and upkeep.
Buyers want to make a home their own, and don't want to be distracted or confused by design statements that they don't agree with. Enjoy your home while you can, but make sure your new look can be easily depersonalized when it comes time to sell.
Don't expect to set a listing price based on what you've put into your home no matter how long you own it. Your home will be worth market value no matter when you sell, whatever the value is for that point in time.
All the improvements in the world won't change that basic fact. Your home and the improvements you make are only worth what willing buyers say they will pay.
Before you begin renovations, talk to your Realtor and your lender. They will help you develop a reasonable plan for updates that will add value to your home.
Here are two articles and excerpts that make this point:
“It has been an excruciatingly long time coming, but the housing sector in the United States is finally getting healthy. Thank millennials and thank homebuilders who are starting to produce more of the starter houses young people demand.”
“Interest rates are so low now that a family can buy the median-priced U.S. home on income of less than $45,000 a year -- about $11,000 less than the median household income. And half of America's houses are cheaper than that.”
“The havoc during the last cycle was the result of building too many homes and of speculation fueled by loose credit. That’s the exact opposite of what we have today.” (emphasis added)
Two often confused terms in the home buying process are a mortgage loan pre-qualification and a home loan pre-approval. Even some loan officers and real estate agents will use the terms incorrectly, so here's what you really need to know about each one.
A mortgage loan pre-qualification is simply an estimate of how much house you can afford and how much money a lender would be willing to loan you. The best time to get a pre-qualification is right at the beginning of your home buying process, before you even start looking at houses. This involves either sitting down with a lender or talking with one on the phone, and providing information on your income, assets, debts, and a potential down payment amount. The lender would then provide you with a ballpark figure in writing of how much he thinks you could afford to pay for a monthly mortgage. There is no cost involved and there is no commitment on either side. This estimate is just helpful in helping you figure out if buying a home is a viable option, and if so, what your price range would probably be.
Getting pre-approved means that you have a tentative commitment from a specific lender for mortgage funding. In this case, you provide a home loan lender with actual documentation of your income, assets, and debts. This process typically requires an application fee as well, since the bank will run a credit check and work to verify all your employment and financial information. Once you are approved, the lender will give you a letter of commitment, stating how much money her bank is willing to loan you for a home purchase. With a pre-approval in hand you can start your shopping - real estate agents and sellers will take you much more seriously when they see you have your mortgage funding in place.
It is important to understand, however, that even a pre-approval is not a guarantee that you will be approved for a mortgage loan. The funding will only be given when the property appraisal, title search, and other verifications check out on the home you have chosen to buy. Neither is the pre-approval binding; you can still obtain a mortgage from a different lender. If you do stick with the same company that pre-approved you though, the application process will be much shorter once you find the right house.
This is one of the best times to get a fixed-rate mortgage. A fixed rate simply means that the mortgage lender charges you a fixed rate of interest that doesn't ever change over the life of the loan.
If you get a fixed rate of 4.00 percent, you will be paying four percent in interest until you sell the home. At such a low rate, it's unlikely you'd refinance.
You can see how much you pay in interest in an amortization schedule. The longer you pay on a fixed rate, the more interest you pay down because your interest payment is front-loaded into the beginning years of your loan schedule.
The longer you own your home and pay on your mortgage, you'll see that a greater percentage of your monthly payment goes to reduce principal, helping you to build equity or ownership in the home.
An adjustable rate mortgage is initially lower than a fixed rate, but the loan will adjust periodically according to market rates after one year, three years, five years, or whatever you and the lender have agreed to.
The danger is that the new adjusted rate could become too expensive for you, especially if it adjusts higher every year. Part of your terms can include ceilings that limit the number of times and the amount your loan can increase. Adjustments can add as much as two percentage points more to your interest rate, or as much as several hundred dollars more to your monthly payment.
Rates first hit historical lows in 2011, and have retouched those lows several times since. Any time the national average for fixed rate mortgages is below four percent, that's a gift to homebuyers. Adjustable rates are certain to be higher down the road, making fixed rates a lower risk.
Even with a fixed rate mortgage, your monthly payment can change in other ways. You may decide to roll the costs of your mortgage into your loan, in which case you'll be paying the APR rate because the loan amount is higher, yet is still being compressed into a 30, 15 or ten-year term, depending on your loan.
Another way your monthly payment can change is by adding private mortgage insurance (PMI). If you put less than 20 percent of your home's purchase price as a down payment, lenders will require that you pay for PMI. Rates on PMI vary, but you can expect your payments to rise by 0.3 percent to 1.2 percent of the loan amount.
Last, your monthly payments can include escrows for hazard insurance and for property taxes. You should receive a statement from your insurer when it's time to renew your insurance, and your lender will divide the annual amount into monthly payments.
Your property tax authority will send you a new statement annually, usually in the spring or early summer. If you're basing your future payments on what the previous owner paid, you may be in for a surprise. Your tax basis will be based on the purchase price of the home. Most communities limit the amount that the taxing authority can raise property taxes every year.
Mortgage interest, PMI and property taxes are deductible from your income taxes if you itemize, but you still have to make the payments. For these reasons, you want to stick closely to borrowing guidelines such as loan-to-income and debt-to-income ratios.
Your mortgage should be no more than 28 to 32 percent of your gross income or 36 to 42 percent of your income including your monthly debts. That way you'll be able to handle any future changes in your monthly mortgage payments.
What will a home inspector be looking at and how you can prepare for a home inspection? The below listing may be helpful in preparing for a home inspection. Many of these items can be done with little or no cost and many are regular maintenance items for a home.
If you’re working with a couple interested in buying a second home as an investment property, you might suggest they talk to a lawyer about setting up a limited liability corporation or other legal entity before they buy. That way, if they’re sued by someone who was on the property after they bought it, they can limit their damages and protect their personal assets against losses.
Suppose a contractor they hire makes negligent repairs to a deck and it collapses while tenants and guests are having a barbecue. The judgment in a case like this could easily exceed the equity the owners have in the property and even the coverage limits on their insurance policy.
Or perhaps they rent the property to a person who owns a dog not covered in a typical landlord policy and the dog bites someone on the property. State Farm, for example, determines risk based on a dog's bite history not its breed. The company paid $121 million in dog bite claims in 2016 at an average of $33,000 a claim. A claim of that amount might exceed the equity the homeowners have in their property. That could make their personal assets vulnerable to the judgment.
Or let’s say the carbon monoxide detector is faulty and the property has a 20-year-old furnace that develops cracks, releasing gas indoors. Tragically, a family of four staying in the property is killed. The owners could face four wrongful death actions caused by negligence.
These are rare occurrences, to be sure, but they point to the gravity of risks that investment property owners can face. In fact, the scenarios illustrate one of the main differences between real estate and other types of investments like stocks or bonds: real estate can carry risks that exceed the investment in the asset.
Of course, an owner’s first layer of protection is insurance, but owners might fail to recognize that their losses can exceed coverage limits. Or there may be exceptions or carve-outs in the coverage that exclude or limit the losses. These gaps in coverage might expose the owner to unlimited liability. In today’s litigious world, $100,000, $300,000, or even $500,000 liability coverage may be inadequate. Also, owners converting their home to an investment property might not think to take out landlord or vacant property coverage.
To get the right amount of protection, buyers should strongly consider a personal liability umbrella policy with $1 million to $2 million in coverage. But they should also consider forming and running a corporation or LLC. The type of entity they can form varies and is governed by state law, but nearly all states allow incorporated entities like limited liability corporations, partnerships, C corporations, and subchapter S corporations.
Deciding which type of entity to set up and how to structure it should be done with advice of counsel. The process may not be expensive. Depending on the area and particularities of the household, the legal work can be done for a few hundred dollars. There are also do-it-yourself forms online, but self-help isn’t recommended; these entities, whether for your own investments or your clients’, have to be set up correctly to get the maximum protection.
Investing in real estate can be a smart decision. The right property can outperform other investment vehicles. But because real estate investment comes with potential pitfalls, it makes sense to have sufficient insurance and for investors to consider setting up an LLC or other type of entity to separate their liability from their personal assets.