3 Reasons to Use a Real Estate Pro in a Complex Digital World

3 Reasons to Use a Real Estate Pro in a Complex Digital World | Simplifying The Market

If you’re searching for a home online, you’re not alone; lots of people are doing it. The question is, are you using all of your available resources, and are you using them wisely? Here’s why the Internet is a great place to start the home-buying process, and the truth on why it should never be your only go-to resource when it comes to making such an important decision.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the three most popular information sources home buyers use in the home search are:

  • Online website (93%)
  • Real estate agent (86%)
  • Mobile/tablet website or app (73%)

Clearly, you’re not alone if you’re starting your search online; 93% of home buyers are right there with you. The even better news: 86% of buyers are also getting their information from a real estate agent at the same time.

Here are 3 top reasons why using a real estate professional in addition to a digital search is key:

1. There’s More to Real Estate Than Finding a Home Online. It’s a lonely and complicated trek around the web if you don’t have a real estate professional to also help you through the 230 possible steps you’ll face as you navigate through a real estate transaction. That’s a pretty staggering number! Determining your price, submitting an offer, and successful negotiation are just a few of these key steps in the sequence. You’ll definitely want someone who has been there before to help you through it.

2. You Need a Skilled Negotiator. In today’s market, hiring a talented negotiator could save you thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of dollars. From the original offer to the appraisal and the inspection, many of the intricate steps can get complicated and confusing. You need someone who can keep the deal together until it closes.

3. It Is Crucial to Make a Competitive and Compelling Offer. There is so much information out there in the news and on the Internet about home sales, prices, and mortgage rates. How do you know what’s specifically going on in your area? How do you know what to offer on your dream home without paying too much or offending the seller with a lowball offer?

Dave Ramsey, the financial guru, advises:

“When getting help with money, whether it’s insurance, real estate or investments, you should always look for someone with the heart of a teacher, not the heart of a salesman.”

Hiring a real estate professional who has his or her finger on the pulse of the market will make your buying experience an informed and educated one. You need someone who is going to tell you the truth, not just what they think you want to hear.

Bottom Line

If you’re ready to start your search online, let’s get together. You’ll want someone who is educated and informed at your side who can answer your questions and guide you through a process that can be complex and confusing if you go at it with the Internet alone.

Be on the Lookout for Gen Z: The Next Generation of Homebuyers

Be on the Lookout for Gen Z: The Next Generation of Homebuyers | Simplifying The Market

Gen Zers are the next generation of homeowners, and they’re eager to jump in and buy their first homes. Whether you are part of this generation or any other, it’s never too early to start saving, so you can reach your homeownership goal sooner rather than later.

You’ve likely heard a ton about Millennials, but what about Gen Z? In the next 5 years, this generation will be between the ages of 23 and 28, and they’re eager to become homeowners faster than you may think.

According to realtor.com,Nearly 80 percent of Generation Z members say they want to own a home before age 30,” and Concentrix Analytics said, “52% of prospective Gen Z buyers are already saving to buy a home.”

Wikipedia defines Generation Z (Gen Z) as “the demographic cohort after the Millennials. Demographers and researchers typically use the mid-1990s to mid-2000s as starting birth years.”

The report from Concentrix goes a little deeper on Gen Z, identifying the main reasons this cohort wants to own homes:

  • 55% want to own a home because they want to start a family
  • 47% want to build wealth over time
  • 33% want to make their family proud

Although they’re eager to buy, this generation also perceives a few challenges ahead:

  • 66% believe saving for a down payment and closing costs will be challenging
  • 58% feel covering the monthly costs of owning may be difficult
  • 52% perceive a lack of knowledge about where to start

It is also interesting to note that 21% of Gen Zers think their parents will provide financial help, 17% will use a down payment assistance program, and 15% believe other family members will help them. One of the highlights of the report mentioned,

“More than half of Gen Zers who think they’ll receive help also think they will need to pay their parents back, compared to 40 percent of millennials.”

Bottom Line

It is never too early to start saving for your own home, whether you are part of Gen Z or a different generation. If you would like to know where to start and how much you need to save to reach your goal of buying a home, let’s get together so you can better understand the process.

Existing-Home Sales Report Indicates Now Is a Great Time to Sell

Existing-Home Sales Report Indicates Now Is a Great Time to Sell | Simplifying The Market

Based on the current state of the market, trends are shifting in favor of sellers. If you are going to sell, now may be the time to take advantage of the number of buyers who are searching for their dream home.

The best time to sell anything is when demand for that item is high and the supply of that item is limited. The latest Existing-Home Sales Report released by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), reveals that demand for housing continues to be strong, but the supply is struggling to keep pace. With this trend likely continuing throughout 2020, now is a great time to sell your house.

THE EXISTING-HOME SALES REPORT

The most important data revealed in this report was not actually sales. In reality, it was the inventory of homes for sale (supply). The report explained:

  • Total housing inventory at the end of August decreased 2.6% to 1.86 million homes available for sale.
  • Unsold inventory is lower than the 4.3-month figure recorded in August 2018.
  • This represents a 1-month supply at the current sales pace.

According to Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at NAR,

“Sales are up, but inventory numbers remain low and are thereby pushing up
home prices.”

In real estate, there is a simple guideline that often applies here. Essentially, when there is less than a 6-month supply of inventory available, we are in a seller’s market and we will see greater appreciation. Between a 6 to 7-month supply is a neutral market, where prices will increase at the rate of inflation. More than a 7-month supply means we are in a buyer’s market and can expect depreciation in home values (see below):Existing-Home Sales Report Indicates Now Is a Great Time to Sell | Simplifying The MarketAs we mentioned before, there is currently a 4.1-month supply of homes on the market, and houses are going under contract fast. The Existing Home Sales Report also shows that 49% of properties were on the market for less than a month when they were sold. In August, properties sold nationally were typically on the market for 31 days. As Yun notes, this should continue,

“As expected, buyers are finding it hard to resist the current rates…The desire to take advantage of these promising conditions is leading more buyers to the market.” 

Takeaway: Inventory of homes for sale is still well below the 6-month supply needed for a normal market, and supply will fail to catch up with demand if a sizable supply does not enter the market.

Bottom Line

If you are going to sell, now may be the time to take advantage of the ready, willing, and able buyers who are out there searching for your house to become their dream home.

You Need More Than a Guide. You Need a Sherpa.

You Need More Than a Guide. You Need a Sherpa. | Simplifying The Market

In today’s world, hiring an agent who has a finger on the pulse of the market will make your buying or selling experience an educated one.

In a normal housing market, whether you’re buying or selling a home, you need an experienced guide to help you navigate the process. You need someone you can turn to who will tell you how to price your home correctly right from the start. You need someone who can help you determine what to offer on your dream home without paying too much or offending the seller with a low-ball offer.

We are, however, in anything but a “normal market” right now. The media is full of stories about an impending recession, a trade war with China, and constant political upheaval. Each of these potential situations could dramatically impact the real estate market. To successfully navigate the landscape today, you need more than an experienced guide. You need a ‘Real Estate Sherpa.’

A Sherpa is a “member of a Himalayan people living on the borders of Nepal and Tibet, renowned for their skill in mountaineering.” Sherpas are skilled in leading their parties through the extreme altitudes of the peaks and passes in the region – some of the most treacherous trails in the world. They take pride in their hardiness, expertise, and experience at very high altitudes.

They are much more than just guides.

This is much more than a normal real estate market.

The average guide just won’t do. You need a ‘Sherpa.’ You need an expert who understands what is happening in the market and why it is happening. You need someone who can simply and effectively explain it to you and your family. You need an expert who will guarantee you make the right decision, even in these challenging times.

Dave Ramsey, the financial guru, advises:

“When getting help with money, whether it’s insurance, real estate or investments, you should always look for someone with the heart of a teacher, not the heart of a salesman.” 

Bottom Line

Hiring an agent who has a finger on the pulse of the market will make your buying or selling experience an educated one.

Homeownership is the Top Contributor to Your Net Worth

Homeownership is the Top Contributor to Your Net Worth | Simplifying The Market

Recently two U.S. Census Bureau researchers released their findings on the biggest determinants of household wealth. What they found may help shape your view on building your family’s net worth.

Many people plan to build their net worth by buying CDs or stocks, or just having a savings account. Recently, however, Economist Jonathan Eggleston and Survey Statistician Donald Hays, both of the U.S. Census Bureau, shared the biggest determinants of wealth,

“The biggest determinants of household wealth [are] owning a home and having a retirement account.” (Shown in the graph below):

Homeownership is the Top Contributor to Your Net Worth | Simplifying The MarketThis does not come as a surprise, as we often mention that homeownership can help you to increase your family’s wealth. This study reinforces that idea,

 “Net worth is an important indicator of economic well-being and provides insights into a household’s economic health.”

Having equity in your home can help your family move in that direction, building toward substantial financial growth. According to the report noted above, people are not only creating net worth in the homes they live in, but many are also earning equity in rental property investments too. (See below):Homeownership is the Top Contributor to Your Net Worth | Simplifying The MarketJohn Paulson said it well,

If you don’t own a home, buy one. If you own one home, buy another one, and if you own two homes buy a third and lend your relatives the money to buy a home.”

Bottom Line

There are financial and non-financial benefits to owning a home. If you would like to increase your net worth, let’s get together so you can learn all the benefits of becoming a homeowner.

What FICO® Score Do You Need to Qualify for a Mortgage?

What FICO® Score Do You Need to Qualify for a Mortgage? | Simplifying The Market

It’s common knowledge that your FICO® score plays an important role in the homebuying process. However, many buyers have misconceptions regarding what exactly is required to get the loans they need.

While a recent announcement from CNBC shares that the average national FICO® score has reached an all-time high of 706, the good news for potential buyers is that you don’t need a score that high to qualify for a mortgage. Let’s unpack the credit score myth so you can to become a homeowner sooner than you may think.

With today’s low interest rates, many believe now is a great time to buy – and rightfully so! Fannie Mae recently noted that 58% of Americans surveyed say it is a good time to buy. Similarly, the Q3 2019 HOME Survey by the National Association of Realtors said 63% of people believe now is a good time to buy a home. Unfortunately, fear and misinformation often hold qualified and motivated buyers back from taking the leap into homeownership.

According to the same CNBC article,

“For the first time, the average national credit score has reached 706, according to FICO®, the developer of one of the most commonly used scores by lenders.”

This is great news, as it means Americans are improving their credit scores and building toward a stronger financial future, especially after the market tumbled during the previous decade. With today’s strong economy and increasing wages, many Americans have had the opportunity to improve their credit over the past few years, driving this national average up.

Since Americans with stronger credit are now entering the housing market, we are seeing an increase in the FICO® Score Distribution of Closed Loans (see graph below):What FICO® Score Do You Need to Qualify for a Mortgage? | Simplifying The MarketBut hang on – don’t forget that this does not mean you need a FICO® score over 700 to qualify for a mortgage. Here’s what Experian, the global leader in consumer and business credit reporting, says:

FHA Loan: “FHA loans are ideal for those who have less-than-perfect credit and may not be able to qualify for a conventional mortgage loan. The size of your required down payment for an FHA loan depends on the state of your credit score: If your credit score is between 500 and 579, you must put 10% down. If your credit score is 580 or above, you can put as little as 3.5% down (but you can put down more if you want to).”

Conventional Loan: “It’s possible to get approved for a conforming conventional loan with a credit score as low as 620, although some lenders may look for a score of 660 or better.”

USDA Loan: “While the USDA doesn’t have a set credit score requirement, most lenders offering USDA-guaranteed mortgages require a score of at least 640.”

VA Loan: “As with income levels, lenders set their own minimum credit requirements for VA loan borrowers. Lenders are likely to check credit scores as part of their screening process, and most will set a minimum score, or cutoff, that loan applicants must exceed to be considered.”

Bottom Line

As you can see, plenty of loans are granted to buyers with a FICO® score that is lower than the national average. If you’d like to understand the next steps to take when determining your credit score, let’s get together so you can learn more.

62% of Buyers Are Wrong About Down Payment Needs

62% of Buyers Are Wrong About Down Payment Needs | Simplifying The Market

Contrary to common misconception, a down payment is often much less than many believe.

According to the ‘2019 Home Buyer Report conducted by Nerdwallet, many first-time buyers still believe they need a 20% down payment to buy a home in today’s market:

“More than 6 in 10 (62%) Americans believe you must put at least 20% down in order to purchase a home.”

When potential homebuyers think they need a 20% down payment to enter the market, they also tend to think they’ll have to wait several years (in some markets) to come up with the necessary funds to buy their dream homes. The report continues to say,

“The truth: 32% of current U.S. homeowners put 5% or less down on their home, according to census data.” (as shown below):

62% of Buyers Are Wrong About Down Payment Needs | Simplifying The MarketThe lack of knowledge about the home-buying process is unfortunately keeping many motivated buyers on the sidelines.

Bottom Line

Don’t let a lack of understanding keep you and your family out of the housing market. Let’s get together to discuss your options today.

3 Signs the Housing Market Is on the Rebound

3 Signs the Housing Market Is on the Rebound | Simplifying The Market

The residential real estate market has been plodding along for most of the year. However, three recent reports show the market may be on the verge of a rebound.

The residential real estate market has been plodding along for most of the year. However, three recent reports show the market may be on the verge of a rebound:

1. Existing Home Sales (closed sales) are up, marking two consecutive months of growth.

2. Pending Home Sales (contracts signed) are up with each of the four major regions reporting both month-over-month growth and year-over-year gains in contract activity.
Here is the month-over-month growth:

  • The Northeast rose 0.7%
  • The Midwest increased 0.6%
  • The South increased 1.4%
  • The West grew 3.1%

3. Buyer Traffic (the number of people shopping for a home) is up compared to the same time last year, and for the first time in 13 months.

  • The Northeast is up 5.9%
  • The Midwest increased 1.3%
  • The South is up 2.7%
  • The West grew 2.2%

In their most recent report, ShowingTime Chief Analytics Officer, Daniil Cherkasskiy explained:

“The trend we saw in year-over-year buyer traffic in previous months continued across the United States. For all four regions there were more showings per listing this year compared to last year, making it the most competitive August in the last five years.”

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist with the National Association of Realtors, believes the uptick in activity will continue into the future:

“It is very encouraging that buyers are responding to exceptionally low interest rates…With interest rates expected to remain low, home sales are forecasted to rise in the coming months and into 2020.”

Bottom Line

If you are thinking about selling your house, there are purchasers out there who are ready, willing, and able to buy.

4 Tips to Improve Your Home and Save on Your Energy Bill

4 Tips to Improve Your Home and Save on Your Energy Bill | Simplifying The Market

By making a few key upgrades to your home, you’ll save on your utility bills and improve the energy efficiency of your home. When you’re ready to sell your house, these key features will make it even more attractive to potential buyers.

As a homeowner, it’s important to keep your home running efficiently, not only to save money, but also to help the environment thrive. October 2nd is Energy Efficiency Day, a perfect time to think about making some key upgrades that will improve the efficiency of your home. If you’re looking to sell your house and increase the pool of potential buyers in your market, the upgrades below are truly a must.

According with Wallet Hub,

“In the U.S., energy costs eat between 5 and 22 percent of families’ total after-tax income.”

What should you spend on utilities?

Money Management says,

“If you’re working with a budget, and trust me, you should be, your utility costs should be no more than 8-10 percent of your monthly income.”

How can you make your home more efficient?

EnergyEfficiencyDay.Org provides some handy tips that can help you improve the energy efficiency of your home. Here are a few simple ones to consider, and how to make them happen:

1. Make the Switch to LED

LEDs are a great example of how innovation and technology can make your life easier. They last at least 25 times longer and consume up to 90 percent less electricity than incandescent bulbs.

Tip: By switching five of your home’s most frequently used bulbs with ENERGY STAR® certified LEDs, it’s possible to save $75 on energy costs annually.

2. Seal Those Leaks

On average, heating and cooling account for almost half of a home’s energy consumption. In fact, all the little leaks can be equivalent to leaving open a 3-foot-by-3-foot window.

Tip: Take simple steps like caulking windows, sealing leaks around chimneys and recessed lighting, and sliding draft guards under your doors to save up to 20% on heating costs.

3. Heat and Cool Efficiently

Don’t waste money heating or cooling an empty home. Install a programmable thermostat and in colder weather schedule your home’s heat to lower when you are away or asleep and increase when you are returning home or waking-up. In warm weather, schedule the thermostat to raise the temperature when you are away or asleep, and lower it at other times.

Tip: Follow the U.S. Department of Energy recommended temperatures and be energy-efficient all year. 

4. Maintain Your HVAC System

Make sure to clean or change your furnace filters regularly. A dirty furnace filter will slow down air flow, making the system work harder to keep you warm (or cool) and costing you more money.

Tip: Consider getting a winter tune-up. Just as a tune-up for your car can improve your gas mileage, a semi-annual or yearly tune-up of your heating and cooling system can be vital to improve efficiency, saving you money and making your home more comfortable. 

Bottom Line

By making a few key upgrades to your home, you’ll save on your utility bills and improve the energy efficiency of your home. When you’re ready to sell your house, these key features will make it even more attractive to potential buyers. Let’s get together to discuss what buyers are looking for when it comes to energy efficiency options in our area.

How Does the Supply of Homes for Sale Impact Buyer Demand?

How Does the Supply of Homes for Sale Impact Buyer Demand? | Simplifying The Market

The latest edition of the Realtors Confidence Index from NAR sheds some light on the relationship between seller traffic (supply) and buyer traffic (demand). Until the supply of homes for sale starts to meet buyer demand, prices will continue to rise.

The price of any item is determined by supply, as well as the market’s demand for the item. The National Association of REALTORS (NAR) surveys “over 50,000 real estate practitioners about their expectations for home sales, prices and market conditions” for their monthly REALTORS Confidence Index.

Their latest edition sheds some light on the relationship between seller traffic (supply) and buyer traffic (demand).

Buyer Demand

The map below was created after asking the question: “How would you rate buyer traffic in your area?”How Does the Supply of Homes for Sale Impact Buyer Demand? | Simplifying The MarketThe darker the blue, the stronger the demand for homes is in that area. The survey shows that in 3 of the 50 U.S. states, buyer demand is now very strong; only 2 of the 50 states have a ‘weak’ demand. Overall, buyer demand is slightly lower than this time last year but remains strong.

Seller Supply 

The index also asked: “How would you rate seller traffic in your area?”How Does the Supply of Homes for Sale Impact Buyer Demand? | Simplifying The MarketAs the map below shows, 18 states reported ‘weak’ seller traffic, 29 states and Washington, D.C. reported ‘stable’ seller traffic, and 3 states reported ‘strong’ seller traffic. This means there are far fewer homes on the market than what is needed to satisfy the buyers who are looking for homes.

Bottom Line

Looking at the maps above, it is not hard to see why prices are appreciating in many areas of the country. Until the supply of homes for sale starts to meet buyer demand, prices will continue to increase. If you are debating listing your home for sale, let’s get together to help you capitalize on the demand in our market now.