Our Real Estate blog offers, tips, tricks and advice covering a wide range of topics to help educate buyers and sellers.

 

 
Dec. 28, 2017

What 2017 Can Teach You About Buying a House in 2018

If you’re thinking about purchasing a residence in 2018, these highlights from Trulia’s economic research team on 2017’s home-buying trends can help you make the smartest moves in the new year.

 

In 2017: Most homes were worth less than their pre-recession peak

In May, Trulia data showed that only 34.2 percent of U.S. homes were worth more than their pre-recession peak. The recovery was wildly uneven. In places with strong income growth, such as Denver and San Francisco, a full 98 percent of homes shot past their pre-recession peak prices. But in places with weak income growth, it was a different picture: Fewer than 3 percent of homes in Las Vegas and Tucson, Ariz., had recovered their pre-recession value.

 

What you can do in 2018

There’s a lot of talk about rising home prices, but the reality is that if you avoid the hot spots, homes still are more affordable than they were before the last housing peak a decade ago. Focus on whether it’s a good time for you personally to buy, and be sure to be prepared if you decide to jump into the market next year.

 

In 2017…homes were selling quickly

Homes were being snapped up at the fastest clip since Trulia began keeping track in 2012. With homes in short supply, as they were in 2017, buyers tried to gain a competitive edge by bidding up the price and also by closing faster. Back in 2012, 57 percent of homes were still on the market two months after being listed—by June 2017, that number had fallen to 47 percent. The intensity was greatest, of course, in hot markets such as San Jose, Oakland, Seattle, San Francisco and Salt Lake City.

 

What you can do in 2018

Don’t crack under the pressure of a hot market. Understand all of the steps involved in the search process and in making an offer, so that when you find the right place you’re ready to make your move.

 

In 2017…house flippers were out in force

Home flipping picked up for the first time in three years, increasing to 6.1 percent of all sales from 5.3 percent in 2015. In January 2017, Trulia’s data showed that the national capital of house flipping was Las Vegas, where 10.5 percent of homes sold had been flipped, followed by Daytona Beach, at 9 percent. 

 

What you can do in 2018

House flippers, who buy as a short-term investment, tend to drive up prices and intensify bidding. You’re in the majors now. Get into the house-flipping mindset, so you can beat investors at their own game. And always be ready to make your best offer.

 

In 2017…late summer emerged as the best time to find price cuts

You might think that the best time to find reduced prices on homes for sale would be during the winter off-season, but it turns out that price cuts actually are rarer in December. Reduced prices are most common May through October. Reductions top out just as peak home-buying season is beginning to wane in August, when 13.9 percent of all listings get a price cut.

 

What you can do in 2018

Don’t be shy about shopping in the busy summer season, but do go in with some solid high-season shopping advice from the professionals.

 

In 2017…more deals crumbled during closing

As of the beginning of 2017, 4.3 percent of all sales fell apart in escrow. up from 1.4 percent at the end of 2014. Starter home deals are the likeliest to fall through, and Las Vegas is the biggest trouble spot, where 7.6 percent of home sales don’t wind up closing. 

 

What you can do in 2018

Don’t think of your offer being accepted as the finish line—it’s the starting line. This is go time to complete your contingencies and assemble your closing team. Should something go wrong while you’re in escrow, know exactly what your rights are as a buyer.

 

In 2017…buyers were second-guessing the size of their house

Trulia’s research in March 2017 showed that less than one-third of homeowners would choose the same size house if they moved in a year, while 37 percent would want a bigger house. Bigger houses aren’t necessarily the solution, however. Sixty percent of people living in homes with more than 2,000 square feet said they would choose a smaller home if they decided to move this year, while only 39 percent said they would go bigger. 

 

What you can do in 2018

While you’re on the open-house circuit, think beyond what space you need now. Consider how many kids you hope to have and whether aging parents likely will move in at some point.

 

In 2017…buying still saved money over renting

The cost of buying can be daunting, but Trulia’s 2017 data showed that if you could put 20 percent down and if you stayed in a house for seven years, buying typically would still save you 37 percent over renting.

 

What you can do in 2018

 

Take a deep breath, analyze the cost of renting versus buying where you live, and determine whether the time might be right for you to start looking.

Posted in Buying, Market Forcast
Dec. 25, 2017

Six Home-Selling Negotiation Strategies That Could Backfire

Selling your home and think you hold all the cards? You do—sort of. But it’s easy to become overconfident in a seller’s market. Here, Realtor.com offers are six common home-seller negotiation tactics to avoid if you don’t want to sabotage your sale.

 

1. Starting a bidding war

There’s nothing wrong with fueling a little competition among buyers to get the best deal, but this tactic can easily backfire if you bungle it. Common bidding-war mistakes include:

 

• Not clearly explaining upfront how you intend to handle multiple offers;

• Giving an offer deadline that is too many days away. Some buyers might not want to wait for you to make a decision, especially if other homes are in contention; and

• Already having a strong offer on the table, but then insisting that all potential buyers come back with their highest and best bid.

 

There’s no guarantee buyers will play ball and, if that strong offer walks, you’re stuck with lower offers from which to choose. Bottom line: Proceed with caution before turning up the heat on the competition, because you could risk losing out on a dream deal.

 

2. Haggling over repairs

If the buyer completes an inspection and comes back with a long list of requested repairs, don’t get too tough here; you might send a buyer walking. Sellers should consider how good the overall package is before refusing to do repairs. If the buyer’s offer is high, and the seller tries to negotiate away from legitimate repairs, the buyer may feel the seller is taking advantage of them.

 

3. Threatening to put your home back on the market

If negotiations aren’t quite going your way, you might be tempted to call the buyer’s bluff. Hey, if they don’t want to ante up, you can always put your home back on the market and find another eager buyer to squeeze. Right? Yes, you might find another taker quickly. But beware of this move; it might not go according to plan. That’s because there’s often a stigma associated with putting a home back on the market, and it might be harder to get buyers to take a second look. Real estate markets also can change quickly from hot to cold, leaving you without all those buyers you were expecting.

 

4. Being stubborn on the closing date

You’ve decided you’re not going to allow the new people to move in until a certain date, because that’s when the closing date is on your new home. Or, they can’t possibly take possession this spring because your kids are still finishing school. Guess what? Your buyers have scheduling issues of their own, and sellers need to understand that they may have to move twice.

 

5. Getting greedy over what comes with the house

Planning to take your beautiful custom light fixtures with you? Not so fast. This could cause trouble at the negotiating table. The buyer might get so upset that a fixture they fell in love with is now missing that they won’t buy the home. Avoid this confusion by replacing anything that won’t be staying with the house before you show it. If that’s not possible, be prepared to leave the prized fixture behind, or negotiate a comparable replacement.

 

6. Refusing to pay closing costs

So, you’re coming down the home stretch and this deal is almost done. Congratulations! But the buyer asked you to cover their closing costs. Before you say no, consider that buyers sometimes roll the amount of those closing costs into their offer. For instance, let’s say your home is listed for $200,000. A buyer might then submit an offer for $204,000, but ask you to cover the $4,000 in closing costs. Some sellers will hold firm at the $204,000 offer and refuse to pay the closing costs because they want this higher price the buyer offered. However, the net is almost identical between a $200,000 offer with no closing costs and $204,000 with $4,000 in seller-paid closing costs. Do the math, keep your ego in check, and put yourself in the buyer’s shoes.

Posted in Selling
Dec. 20, 2017

Five First-Time Homebuyer Mistakes to Avoid

Thinking about buying your first home? Before you can unlock the door to homeownership, you have to face some important challenges along the way—from finding the perfect location to financing your purchase. Here, Bankrate discusses five common mistakes that many first-time homebuyers make and how to avoid them.

 

1. There’s more to the process than mortgage payments

Many first-time homebuyers decide to buy when they feel ready for a mortgage. But just because they can afford the mortgage payments, that doesn’t mean they can afford to own a home. Property insurance, taxes, homeowner’s association dues, maintenance, and higher electric and water bills are just some of the costs that first-time homebuyers tend to overlook when shopping for a place. Property taxes and insurance also have a tendency to increase every year. So, even if you can afford it now, ask yourself if you’ll be able to afford the higher costs later.

 

2. Looking for a home first and a loan later

Buying a property doesn’t begin with the home search. It begins with a mortgage prequalification—unless you’re lucky to have enough money to pay cash for your first house. Many first-time homebuyers can be afraid to get prequalified, fearing the lender may tell them they don’t qualify for a mortgage or they qualify for a loan smaller than expected. So, they pick a price range out of the sky and then go look for a house. That’s not how it should be done. Yes, it’s more fun to go look at houses than to sit in a lender’s office where you have to expose your financial situation, but that’s a backward approach. You get preapproved, and then you find a home. That way, you’ll make a financial decision versus an emotional decision.

 

3. Not getting professional help

New to the home-buying game? You’ll need a reputable real estate agent, a good loan officer or broker, and perhaps a lawyer. It’s not a good idea to venture into this process alone without professional help. Although every rule has its exception, generally, first-time homebuyers should not try to deal directly with the listing agent. If you go to a listing agent, they are only going to show you their listings. You must find a buyer’s agent to help you. If you hire an agent without a referral from friends or family, ask the agent to provide references from previous buyers. The same goes for loan officers or mortgage brokers. It’s crucial to find a professional who will give you truly independent advice, and sometimes that means hiring a lawyer.

 

4. Using savings on the down payment

One of the biggest mistakes first-time homebuyers make is spending all or most of their savings on the down payment and closing costs. Some people scrape all their money together to make the 20 percent down payment so they don’t have to pay for mortgage insurance, but then they are left with no savings at all. Homebuyers who put down 20 percent or more don’t have to pay for mortgage insurance when getting a conventional mortgage. That’s usually translated into substantial savings on the monthly mortgage payment. But it’s not worth the risk of living on the edge. Everyone—especially homeowners—needs to have a rainy-day fund.

 

5. Getting new loans before the deal is closed

 

You have prequalified for a loan. You found the house you wanted. The contract is signed and the closing is in 30 days. Don’t celebrate by financing another big purchase. Lenders pull credit reports before the closing to make sure the borrower’s financial situation has not changed since the loan was approved. Any new loans on your credit report can jeopardize the closing. Buyers, especially first-timers, often learn this lesson the hard way. They sign the contract, and then they want to purchase new furniture for the house or a new car.

Posted in Buying
Dec. 18, 2017

New to Budgeting? Try the 50/20/30 Rule

Managing your money is vital when it comes to helping you find the best home within your budget. Not only do you need to organize, but you also need to make difficult budgeting decisions about how to spend your cash. This can be overwhelming, but there’s one smart and simple strategy that makes budgeting simple. The 50/20/30 rule can help you track how much you spend and where you can save more by bucketing your finances into three categories: living essentials, savings and personal spending. Here, Trulia explains how it works.

What it is

The 50/20/30 rule helps you build a budget by narrowing your spending into three categories:

• 50 percent of your income should go to living essentials. This includes your rent, utilities and necessities such as groceries and commuting to work. Keep in mind that this percentage is the maximum you should spend.

• 20 percent of your income should go to financial goals, meaning your savings, investments and debt-reduction payments. If you have loftier than average financial goals—like those who don’t have employer-supported retirement or those whose student debt consumes the entire 20 percent—you may want to consider increasing this percentage.

• 30 percent of your income should be used for personal spending. This is everything you buy that you want, but don’t necessarily need: vacations, entertainment and shopping. This lets you enjoy the money you earn, without going overboard—and you can certainly save if you spend less than 30 percent each month.

Why it works

• Clarity and precision. Having just three simple categories lets you stay focused on your budget and goals as you move toward better financial stability.

• Flexibility and freedom. It works across income levels by having three categories that are alterable depending on your individual circumstance.

• Focus on the future. The savings category gives you a sure-fire way to pay down debt and save for major purchases, such as a down payment and retirement. Recommendations include breaking the 20 percent category into 15 percent for retirement and 5 percent for a down payment on a future home.

How to get started

• Determine your monthly take-home pay. If you have a new job or salary, you can use a free online salary paycheck calculator as a starting point to split your money into the 50/20/30 guidelines. Remember that being self-employed may cause your income to fluctuate per month, so base your rental budgeting on your average monthly income.

• Examine your spending habits. Look at bank, debit card and credit card statements and track all of your spending. Don’t leave out the mid-afternoon lattes, weekly happy hour with co-workers or extra storage for your smartphone. If moving to a less-expensive area is not possible, the living expenses category should cut into the flexible personal spending category until your income rises to overcome the imbalance.

• Plan it out. If your spending doesn’t align with the 50/20/30 Rule, come up with a plan to shift some of your expenses into the correct category buckets. You may need to cut back on splurges or look at a different set of rental listings than what you were planning. On the other hand, if you spend less on living essentials or personal expenses, allocate it to pay off debt or to save for the future.

 

Posted in Buying
Dec. 11, 2017

Are you Ready to Take on Homeownership?

Your decision to buy a home should be based on your financial well-being rather the housing market. Say, for example, your landlord keeps raising your rent, and you’re tired of reworking your budget to accommodate the other areas of your life—or worse, searching for a new rental. If you’re thinking now is the right time to invest in a home, start asking yourself the question, “Should I buy a house?” Deciding if you should rent or buy can be determined in part by your commitment to an area—you could have legitimate concerns about job relocation or you may wonder if the space you can afford now will be flexible enough that you won’t grow out of it just a few years down the road. And, on an economic level, perhaps you’re not sure you can afford all the costs that a down payment, mortgage, and home maintenance entail. Here, Trulia.com offers some questions to consider.

 

Should you buy before home prices climb higher?

In most parts of the U.S., home prices have been climbing steadily for the past few years. Does this mean you should rush to lock in the current prices before they rise even higher? The best answer: not necessarily. Do what’s right for you. If you’re planning to stay in one spot for a decade or more, short-term fluctuations in the house’s underlying value shouldn’t make a difference. After all, the primary purpose of a home is to provide a place to live, coupled with an opportunity to grow equity over time. Don’t overanalyze the market when deciding to buy a house. If the time is right for you, there’s no reason to wait.

 

Do you have a 20-percent down payment?

One of the major factors in determining if the time is right to buy a house is whether you have the finances to purchase one. Many lenders require a 20-percent down payment before they’ll grant you a mortgage. If you can’t come up with such a hefty down payment, it’s possible to secure a loan, but you’ll probably have to pay private mortgage insurance to make up the difference. PMI rates vary from lender to lender but generally cost 0.05 to 1 percent of the total loan amount. At 0.05 percent, you’ll pay $41.50 per month for every $100,000 worth of loan that you carry. If you’re holding an FHA-insured loan, you pay two different mortgage insurance premiums. The upfront premium is 1.75 percent of your loan size, and it will be added to your borrowed amount (thus increasing your monthly costs). You’ll also pay a second premium, which is assessed annually and billed monthly. This second fee, often known as monthly mortgage insurance, will cost 1.3 percent annually if you carry a 30-year mortgage and put down at least 5 percent. The bottom line? Not having a 20-percent down payment on hand can be a very expensive proposition. If you borrow $200,000, for example, and you’re charged 1 percent PMI, you’ll hand over $166 per month — not an insignificant sum.

 

Can you budget for recurring monthly expenses?

Your mortgage payment is the heftiest of all monthly payments. It comprises four items: principal, interest, taxes and insurance. (Together, these are known as PITI.) If you have a fixed-rate mortgage, your principal and interest will remain a flat monthly fee, regardless of what’s happening in the overall economy. However, your taxes and insurance may change. So, even with a fixed-rate mortgage, your payment could fluctuate. Taxes are set by your county government and are based on its assessment of your property, so this expense is subject to increase at any point—either if your county reassesses your home at a higher value or if your local government decides to boost its tax rates. Ask yourself: Do you have the space in your budget to accommodate that type of tax increase? If your budget is so tight that this will cause you to miss payments, you’re probably not in a strong enough position (right now) to buy a home. Likewise, you might decide to buy a home in a community that’s governed by a homeowner’s association (HOA). This HOA can assess mandatory “dues” and put a lien on your house if you don’t pay the bill and decide to raise its dues at any point. Do you have enough wiggle room in your budget to accommodate a fee hike?

 

Do you have savings for maintenance and repairs?

Your mortgage isn’t the only housing expense you’ll need to meet in your budget. When you move from a rental to a home, you have new responsibilities (and the related costs), such as cleaning the gutters, replacing or repairing the roof, fixing and maintaining the HVAC, refinishing the floors, hiring a plumber, installing a new dishwasher and repairing a broken garbage disposal. As a very broad rule of thumb, you should budget 1 percent of the home’s purchase price annually for repairs and maintenance. For example: If your home is worth $300,000, set aside $3,000 per year, or $250 per month. You probably won’t spend this amount each month. Some months, you’ll spend zero. But another month, you may need to replace every window in your home—and could rack up a $7,500 bill.

 

How long will you stay in your home?

Buying and selling a home incurs thousands in closing costs—including inspections, title insurance, transfer tax, attorney fees and real estate commissions. If you’re going to hold on to your home for several years, those costs will spread themselves out over time. But if you might be selling your home after two or three years, those costs (in addition to property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, mortgage interest, and maintenance) might add up to more than what you would have paid in rent.

Posted in Buying
Dec. 4, 2017

14 Staging Tips for Selling a Small Home

Trying to sell a home that’s slightly on the smaller side? No worries. It’s not the square footage that matters most, it’s how you present it. Even if you’re tight on space, you can trick buyers into thinking things are bigger than they appear—you just have to have some smart tricks up your sleeve. Here, some of Realtor.com’s experts offer a wealth of savvy and sneaky tips for seeing big returns on the petite place you currently call home.

 

1. Throw a reverse housewarming party

The less clutter, the bigger your home will look and feel to potential buyers. To get rid of your unwanted items, throw a party before your first open house, suggests Laura McHolm, co-founder of NorthStar Moving. “Instead of having your friends bring a gift, have them pick one of your items and take it home with them.”

 

2. Go down to the bare minimum

Still feel like your home is full of stuff? “Box up everything you don’t need on a daily basis and anything that’s smaller than a football,” suggests home staging expert Lori Matzke. Sift through your glass cupboards and built-ins, and clean off your countertops. “Leaving just the bare minimum will create the feeling of more space,” she says. That goes for your beloved tchotchkes, too. “A smaller space tends to favor a more minimalist design, so having all of your collectible figurines on display on the shelves, side and console tables will bring the room in rather than opening it up,” says Bee Heinemann, marketing director and interior decorating expert at Vänt Wall Panels.

 

3. Take your doors off their hinges

Remove all of your interior doors, besides those that lead to bedrooms, bathrooms and closets, suggests G. Brian Davis, director of education for SparkRental. “The farther the eye can see, the better.”

 

4. Ditch the heavy drapes

If your windows are hiding behind cumbersome drapes and other coverings, now’s the time to take them down. Leave your windows bare, or hang sheer linen curtains. Not only will your house instantly feel brighter and cheerier, but you’ll extend the view to the outdoors, which will automatically make your space feel larger,” says Matzke.

 

5. Use only one color

Painting every single room the same color isn’t an artistic cop-out—in a small home, it actually serves an important purpose. “It prevents your space from feeling choppy, and gives it more of a continuous feel,” says Matzke. The same idea goes for your furniture and accessories. Try to reduce contrasting colors wherever possible, suggests Justin M. Riordan, founder of home staging company Spade and Archer Design Agency. Contrasting hues create definition, and definition will make it that much more obvious that your space is small. Instead, opt for similar tones. “If you have a room with taupe walls, walnut floors, a brown sofa and milk-chocolate pillows—all various names for medium brown—the edges of each item will be less defined and, in turn, be perceived as taking up less space,” says Riordan.

 

6. Put away your prints

Similarly, if you have an affinity for wild and colorful designs, it’s time to rein it in. To avoid making buyers feel claustrophobic, “keep prints to a minimum and offset them with solids drawn from the same palette,” says Heinemann.

 

7. Take down your artwork

Don’t be afraid of blank space! Resist the temptation to cover your walls with artwork or other hangings. Blank space “gives a room a chance to breathe,” says Matzke. (It also will stave off any twinges of claustrophobia in potential buyers.)

 

8. Let there be light

As in, lots of light. “Add the highest possible wattage bulbs to all the lights in your home,” suggests Nancy Haworth, a professional organizer in Raleigh, NC. Daylight-toned bulbs, in particular, “provide a natural-looking light that can help make a small space seem larger,” she adds.

 

9. Cut out the rugs

“The more you break up the flow of your flooring, the smaller your space will feel,” Matzke cautions. To prevent that from happening, limit rugs to only one or two main areas such as under your dining table. Just make sure the rugs aren’t too tiny, as small rugs actually can dwarf a space.

 

10. Max out your use of mirrors

Mirrors can be a magical design tool, brightening a dark room and making a small space look much bigger by reflecting natural light, says Heinemann. Before you go wild with mirrors, make sure you know where and how to hang them (there are some things you shouldn’t do.) But generally, if you place a mirror next to—or directly across from—a window, it’ll trick visitors into thinking there’s more depth to your house than there actually is.

 

11. Watch your corners

Don’t put your couch, bookshelf or nightstand in the corner. “Leaving the corners of a room open extends the buyer’s view into a space,” says Matzke. “The more open space you can see, the larger the rooms will feel.”

 

12. Display glass and metal furnishings

You might have to send your favorite antique hutch to storage. Not forever, mind you, but until your home sells. “When it comes to furnishings, materials like glass and metal—which reflect light and feel more airy—give more sense of space than dark, heavy wood pieces,” Heinemann explains.

 

13. Streamline your linens

“You don’t want a red bedspread with orange pillows and faux fur throws, all mixed together, in a tiny space,” says Heinemann. “It’s just too much for the eye to take in.” Keep colors and textures on your bed uniform—and lighter weight is better.

 

14. Go high

Wherever you can, you want to raise the bars of your shower curtains and window treatments. “Hang it as high as you can,” says Heinemann. “Doing so gives the illusion of higher ceilings and greater space.”

Posted in Selling, Staging
Nov. 27, 2017

Secret Sources of Down Payment Money

Stockpiling enough money for a down payment on a home can be the biggest financial test some people will ever face. But keep in mind that the more money you put down, the more choice you’ll have about how much house you can afford and what you want the monthly payment to be. Plus, building up a cash cushion definitely give you peace of mind once you’re in your new home. Here, Trulia.com offers a few ways to boost your down payment savings.

 

Turn to relatives

Most mortgage programs will allow for some portion of your down payment to come in the form of “gift money,” which is exactly what it sounds like: money someone gives you to help you buy a home. 

While gift money may sound great, be aware that taking gift money from a relative can create relationship issues or come with emotional strings attached. Plus, lenders frequently require that gift money be accompanied by a letter that clearly states the money is a gift, not a loan. The lender also may want to see a bank account statement from the giver, proving that the money was theirs to give.

 

Ask your employer

Universities and municipal departments that employ first responders such as police and firefighters frequently make down payment and other home-buying assistance programs available to staffers. Large employers or even smaller companies seeking to lure top-level recruits do something similar: relocation assistance programs. Check with human resources to explore whether any such assistance is available—and if you happen to find yourself a hot prospect on the job market, consider trying to negotiate relocation or down payment assistance into your offer package.

 

Tighten your budget

Get real with yourself about what’s truly important to you. If the answer is buying a home, then it’s time to examine your spending and to look for leakage that you can redirect to your down payment savings. If you spend $20 a workday on a morning coffee and bagel and a takeout lunch, that’s at least $400 per month—almost $5,000 a year you could be saving. And those numbers are not inflated to reflect big-city prices. Nor is the $100-a-month cable bill, the $15 yoga class or the $2,000 vacation. Instead, brown-bag your lunch, stream TV shows and movies from one online source, and rally your friends to do a workout class together from that streaming site. The key is to shift out of spending autopilot and to transfer the saved money into a separate savings account that’s earmarked for your down payment.

 

Borrow from yourself

There are situations in which it may make sense to borrow a few thousand dollars from your 401(k) or IRA. Some retirement accounts allow you to borrow against or pull out funds penalty-free and apply them toward your down payment on a home. Is it advisable for everyone, in every situation, to deplete their 401(k) or IRA to plug that cash into a house? Absolutely not. But if getting your down payment to the 20 percent mark by borrowing from your 401(k) gets your mortgage interest rate down and allows you to repay that cash to your own retirement account (versus to your mortgage lender) with interest, you and your financial adviser might agree that this move is right for you.

Posted in Buying
Nov. 24, 2017

Freddie Mac September 2017 Outlook: Looking Ahead to 2018

An increase in purchase mortgage volume, a cooling of refinance activity and continued strong house price growth are the trends expected to drive the mortgage market in 2018, according to Freddie Mac‘s monthly Outlook for September.

 

“The economic environment remains favorable for housing and mortgage markets,” says Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “For several years, we have had moderate economic growth of about 2 percent a year, solid job gains and low mortgage interest rates. We forecast those conditions to persist into next year.”

 

Here are some Outlook highlights:

 

• With 1.33 million housing starts expected in 2018 (up from 1.22 in 2017), new home sales should be the primary driver of sales in 2018. Total new and existing home sales are expected to increase about 2 percent from 2017 to 2018.

 

• The gradual increase in housing starts and moderate increases in mortgage rates will help reduce house price growth next year. U.S. house price growth of 4.9 percent is expected in 2018, compared with a 6.3 percent growth in 2017 through August.

 

• With mortgage rates up from last summer’s near-record lows, the potential for rate refinances has diminished. This will cause the refinance share of mortgage activity to decline to 25 percent in 2018, down 23 percent since 2016, and the lowest annual refinance share since 1990.

 

• In July 2016, the 30-year fixed-rate conventional conforming rate refinance potential was about $800 billion. In July 2017, it was down to around $300 billion. However, refinance originations have not fallen as much as Freddie Mac’s estimate. The total refinance originations for the first half of 2017 are down only about 48 percent from the first half of 2016.

 

• Rising home prices have helped existing homeowners increase their home equity. In the second quarter of 2017, the dollar volume of equity cashed out was $15 billion, up $1.2 billion from the first quarter, but down from $19.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2016. As home prices keep rising, cash out activity also is likely to rise.

Posted in Market Forcast
Nov. 24, 2017

Four Tips for Holiday Homebuyers

While the rest of the world focuses on party planning and buying gifts, savvy homebuyers can sometimes find a good deal on a house. From Thanksgiving into the New Year, the number of home sales traditionally dips as buyers direct their attention to the holidays and choose to postpone house hunting until the next year. The result? Fewer buyers mean less competition for serious home shoppers. Here, HSH.com offers four tips for those who are thinking about buying a home during the holidays.

 

1. Pay attention to prices

Buyers should be aware of prices and values in the neighborhoods where they are looking. Sellers who keep their homes listed for sale tend to be eager to start the New Year with a “Sold” sign, so buyers can anticipate either a lower asking price or a willingness to negotiate.

 

2. Look beyond the decorations

One potential drawback to shopping for a house during the holidays is that homes may be decorated for the season, which can sometimes hide the true beauty of the home. To make sure your perception isn’t changed because of a tall Christmas tree or rearranged furniture, ask for photos of the property when it’s not decorated and take measurements of room sizes.

 

3. Be mindful of potential scheduling conflicts

Looking at homes and buying during the holiday season can be complicated by cold weather and busy personal schedules. Sometimes homeowners will decline more showings than normal due to holiday parties and events, and you may need to accommodate busy schedules with a home inspector and other professionals involved with your home purchase during the holidays. Some people in the real estate business also take vacations during this time of year because there are fewer transactions.

 

4. Do your mortgage loan paperwork early

End-of-year vacations and holiday can hinder the approval process, so make sure to get all your paperwork in early, choose your loan terms and stick to them. Mortgage rates are expected to rise next year, so it may be a good idea to lock in a rate and a loan program. In The closing date for a holiday purchase also may be this year or next year, which could have tax implications. So, it can be a good idea to consult with a tax professional before deciding when to close.

Posted in Buying
Nov. 21, 2017

Americans in These 10 Cities Made a Profit of 50 Percent or More Selling Their Homes

Some Americans who bought their home between seven and nine years ago have made up to $235,000—or $34,000 per year—during that time by selling their home, making a final return on their investment of 78 percent. That’s the median amount of money home sellers made after seven years and three months in Oakland, an analysis of sale prices by real-estate site Zillow found. In Portland, Ore., sellers last year sold for $145,000 more than what they paid nine years earlier, a 65 percent gain. San Jose was third on the list (with a gain of 56.5 percent or $271,150 over nine years and eight months).

 

“Nationally, it’s financially advantageous to buy a home rather than rent if you plan on living in it for at least two years and one month, but staying much longer than that has really paid off,” the report found. U.S. homeowners who lived in their home for about seven-and-a-half years gained almost $40,000 on the sale of their home—24 percent more than what they initially paid. “Every city on this list has been growing extremely fast over the past decade, with the majority passing peak home value hit during the housing bubble,” says Zillow Chief Economist Svenja Gudell.

 

Among all these cities, all had returns of more than 50 percent during the past decade. “Low inventory and strong demand are driving up home values in these markets, making it difficult for aspiring buyers to find a home, but providing a good opportunity for homeowners looking to sell,” says Gudell. During the past decade, homeowners cashed out at record levels, including Denver (a 56 percent return or $119,500); Los Angeles (54 percent or $200,000); Sacramento (54 percent or $82,500); Seattle (53 percent or $185,000); Philadelphia (52 percent or $40,225); New Orleans (51.5 percent or $81,000); and Boston (50 percent or $182,500).

Posted in Selling