Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Building Your Home Buying Team



There are a lot of professionals involved in the homebuying process.  And when these people can function as a team, the buyer is much more likely to end up where they want to be...in their new home.

The lender is an integral part of the team unless you are going to be paying cash.  Trust is very important when selecting this person because they are going to qualify you for the mortgage you need.  The interest rate and fees should be fair based on your credit, income, and the market. 

You'll want someone who can close at the rate and terms that were quoted.  In a rising market, you may want to consider locking in the rate so that it doesn't go up before you close.

The appraiser is hired indirectly by the lender to determine the value of the home as part of the loan approval process.  During the financial crisis of 2008, a process was created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and the Consumer Protection Act to limit direct contact between borrowers, lenders, and appraisers.

This requirement protects appraisers from being influenced by a lender.  Sometimes, an Appraisal Management Companies, AMC, may assign an appraiser who may not be familiar with a particular area or type of property.  The real estate agent can act as a liaison to provide additional information about the property and area that the appraiser would not necessarily know about initially.

Once a contract has been fully agreed upon, one of the first steps is for the buyer to have a home inspection made by a professional.  While most states require these professionals to be licensed, 14 states do not require one to perform inspections.

In addition to being licensed, some inspectors belong to professional organizations that provide specialized education and suggest levels of performance.  Recommendations from friends who have recently purchased a home would be helpful.  Your agent may give you several names of inspectors and you can ask for the buyer's contact information who used them recently to verify their results.

Pest control is not usually included in the normal home inspection.  These are also licensed specialists who are concerned about termites, other insects, and vermin.  If you do not have experience with a pest control company, recommendations from friends and your agent can give you a place to start.

Property casualty insurance is required by the mortgage holder but even if you were paying cash for a home, it would be prudent to have insurance.  A homeowners' policy provides the broadest coverage with fire and other named perils including burglary for both the dwelling and the contents. Liability is packaged with the other coverage to protect you if someone is hurt while on your property.

Deciding based on policy price may not present a complete comparison.  Another consideration is how the company handles claims in both time and settlement.

The title insurance provider is usually named in the sales contract.  There are two different policies that are usually offered simultaneously but paid for separately.  The owner's title policy guarantees the buyer they are getting a clear and marketable title while the mortgagee's title policy guarantees the lender that they have an enforceable lien.

The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act gives the buyer the right to determine the provider.

Surveys are commonly required when new mortgages are established to make sure there are not encroachments on the property lines.  Even in a cash purchase, a buyer may want to get a survey for the same reason.  In some cases, lenders might accept a seller's previously obtained survey.

The title company usually order's the survey based on instructions from the contract or lender.

A real estate attorney is required in some states to be involved in all transactions.  In other situations, a real estate attorney may be involved to draw the legal documents but in no way is representing the interests of a specific person.

A buyer or seller can consult an attorney and have them represent their interests in the transaction.  Once a buyer understands if an attorney is not required in a real estate transaction, they are free to decide if they want legal representation.

The listing agent is hired by the seller when they place their home on the market for sale.  In many cases, the listing agent has a fiduciary duty to put the seller's interest above their own.  These duties include loyalty, confidentiality, disclosure, obedience, reasonable care and diligence and accounting.

The buyer's agent will interface with the listing agent in the various negotiations that will take place beginning with showing the property, offer, acceptance, and all the other steps that will lead to the settlement of the sale.

Agency describes a legal relationship and can apply to seller's and buyer's agents and is created once an agreement is signed; a few states have provisions for oral agreements.  Members of the National Association of REALTORS� subscribe to a code of ethics that describes their practice and behavior to clients and the public.

There are many professionals involved in the purchase of a home.  From a buyers' standpoint, it is helpful to have one person who is familiar with the process to be coordinating the efforts of the different parties to finish with a settlement and possession.

There are a lot of steps and even if a buyer has been through the process before, they may not have the experience to anticipate difficulties and solve issues that could derail the transaction.  The role of a third-party negotiator is a valuable role that the buyer's agent plays.  While the buyer is in control, the buyer's agent can provide information and background necessary for sound decisions.

The purchase of a home is the largest investment most people make.  Like it takes a village to raise a child, it helps to have a team to buy a home.  Finding an agent to keep your best interests at heart is the first team member you need to select.  From there, your agent can help you find the other team members.

For more information, download the Buyers Guide and make an appointment, in-person or virtually, to find out how they can put together your Homebuying Team.  In that appointment, ask the agent to explain agency and its benefits to you in your upcoming transaction.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Securing Your Retirement



Social Security was established, on August 14, 1935, to take care of the country's elderly in their retirement years.  Today, about 65 million or 1/6 of Americans collect benefits and the average monthly retirement amount received in January 2022 was $1,614 per month or about $19,370 per year.

This annual Social Security benefits exceed the 2022 Federal poverty level of $13,590 for individuals and $18, 310 for a family of two but from a practical level, it is nowhere near enough to be comfortable in your "Golden Years."

Every adult in the work force, can go to SSA.gov to find out what to expect to receive based on their planned retirement age.  Since it probably won't be the amount you need to retire comfortably, at least you'll know how short you'll be so that you can devise an investment plan.

There's a quick formula to estimate the investable assets needed by retirement to generate a certain income.  The target annual income is divided by a safe, conservative yield to determine the investable assets needed.

A person wanting $100,000 annual income generated from a 5% investment would need investable assets of $2,000,000.  If a person had $500,000 now, they would need to accumulate $1.5 million more by the time they retire.  A 50 year old wanting to retire at 65 would need to save about $100,000 a year for 15 years.

If trying to save an extra $100,000 a year seems impossible, consider the leveraged growth available in rental real estate.  The use of borrowed funds can contribute to the yield earned by the investment.  By reinvesting the positive cash flows from the rental to retire the mortgage, the home could be paid for by retirement, providing more cash flow when it is needed the most.

One of the bright spots in investments is rental real estate which is also open to self-directed retirement savings.  Single-family homes offer high loan-to-value mortgages at fixed interest for long terms on appreciating assets with tax advantages and reasonable control.  Price appreciation alone has outpaced inflation for the last fifty years.

Many Americans have participated in Individual Retirement Accounts, SEPs, 401(k)s or other types of retirement that would supplement the Social Security benefits.  Many of these are invested in mutual funds which have lost about 20% in value in 2022.  With inflation at a 40-year high, many retirees and future retirees are concerned about their income from these investments.

Retirees want a safe and secure investment whose income will not be eroded by inflation.  Single-family homes, in predominantly owner-occupied neighborhoods, meets those requirements.  Home prices have experienced double-digit appreciation in the past two years and around 5% for the last five decades.

Decade

Home Prices

Average Annual Increase

Consumer Prices

Average Annual Increase

70's

9.9%

7.2%

80's

5.5%

5.6%

90's

4.1%

3.0%

00's

2.3%

2.6%

10's

4.9%

1.8%

20 + 21

12%

3%

 

 

Source: NAR & Bureau of Labor Statistics

 

Increased mortgage rates coupled with rising home prices have sidelined many would-be purchasers who want to be in a home.  Since they cannot buy at this time, the next best alternative is to rent a home.  This has added to the increased demand for single-family homes in good neighborhoods which have resulted in increased rents.  While this isn't good news for tenants, it is for investors.

Investing in rental real estate could be a way for you to increase your retirement income and grow your net worth while avoiding the volatility of the stock market.  Current homeowners already are aware of the value of homes as well as the maintenance they require.

To get more information about single-family homes for rentals, download our Rental Income Properties guide.  You can also schedule a time with me to get answers for any questions you may have and find out about what is available now.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Homeowners Need Resources



Managing an asset worth hundreds of thousands of dollars is a responsibility that requires attention to details such as timely payment of the mortgage, home repairs and maintenance, upkeep, and oversight on financial issues including taxes, insurance, and other things.

Depending on how long you've been a homeowner, you may have faced some of the decisions common to homeownership.  Occasionally, there could be something new that you haven't had to deal with in the past.  This is where having a resource you can rely on becomes valuable.

During the buying or selling process, it is natural to turn to your agent for information and advice but during those periods in between where do you go for counsel?  Sure, you can turn to the Internet but that may not be the best place to get advice for your situation.

We encourage you to think of us as your "source of real estate information"; someone you're comfortable with asking a question and confident that you'll get good advice.  We not only want to be there for you when you buy or sell, but all the years in between.

By helping you with the day-to-day decisions of homeownership, we believe we can develop relationships that will lead to future sales when you move again, as well as recommendations to your friends who need the services of a trusted real estate professional.

Whether you simply need the recommendation of service provider, a trustworthy mortgage professional, an estimate of your current market value, or advice on what kind of improvements are best to consider, we're happy to share that information with you.

Just a few of the kind of questions we get almost every week:

  • Can you recommend a good (plumber, painter, handyman, etc.)
  • What is the current value of my home?
  • How do I challenge a property tax assessment?
  • When should a homeowner refinance?
  • How often should we update our personal home inventory?

We want to be your "Go-To" person for everything to do with real estate.  If you have a real estate question, please call us at (703) 217-6447.  If we don't have the answer, we'll find it for you or at least, point you in the right direction.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Waiting for the Mortgage Rates to Come Down?



Waiting for the mortgage rates to come down before you buy a home may not be a good decision.

If you are correct, and the rates do come down by two percent, the savings you benefit from a lower rate will most likely be devoured by the appreciated price increase.

As of 10/27/22, the 30-year fixed-rate was at 7.08% which is the highest level since April 2002.  If the rate drops to 5% in three years but the price increases by 5% a year, a $400,000 home today, will cost $463,050 three years from now.

An increasingly popular option that more buyers are considering is to purchase the home today with an adjustable-rate mortgage that could give them a 5.96% rate for five years.  Then, refinance to a fixed-rate when rates come down.

Not only will the buyer have lower payments with the ARM, but the buyer will also own the home, and benefit from the appreciated prices which will build equity in the home and increase their net worth.

Mortgage rates have increased over 3% in the first three quarters of this year.  Some would-be buyers are wishing they had a do-over so they could get into a home at a lower rate. The current differential between the fixed and adjustable rates are substantial and could lower the monthly payment. 

The lower adjustable-rate would save a buyer $323.90 a month during the first period of five years.  At any point during that period, they could refinance at better interest rate should it become available.  However, if the rates do start trending down, the homeowner might decide not to refinance because the rate on the ARM would have to go down at the next adjustment period to reflect the lower of rates in the market.

Mortgage rates have been low since the housing crisis that caused the Great Recession.  The government kept them low to build the economy.  Then, the Pandemic threatened the economy, and the government spent a tremendous amount of money to bolster the economy which led to inflation which is what is causing the rates to increase currently.

When inflation is under control and back to acceptable levels, the rates should lower.

Home prices are a different situation.  The recent rise in mortgage rates has cause home prices to moderate because it affects affordability.  Inventories are still low and there a pent-up demand for housing from purchasers unable to buy during the pandemic.

This coupled with millennials reaching household formation age and insufficient home building to keep up with demand for the last decade, prices are expected to continue to rise.  The rate of appreciation could even increase when rates come down which would also increase affordability and demand.

Buyers who feel they missed a window of opportunity to buy before rates started increasing should investigate financing alternatives.  Reach out to us and we can discuss the options that are available.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Finding Funds for a Down Payment



A soft second loan, sometimes called a silent second, is subordinate to the first mortgage, whose payment is deferred or forgiven until a specific date or the resale of the property.  This would mean that buyers would not have to contend with regular payments thereby keeping their debt-to-income ratio lower and more affordable.

While normal lending institutions may not be open to such types of financing, family and friends may be.  In some cases, these relatives and friends may be inclined to make a gift to help buyers get into a home.  Instead of an outright gift, if the person makes the loan, they have options to be repaid at some point in the future or in other cases, they could forgive the debt but don't have to make that decision today.

There are more than 2,000 down payment assistance programs nationwide.  State, county, and city governments run many of them.  Other programs could be from churches, employers, non-profit organizations, regional Federal Home Loan Banks, federally recognized Native American tribes and their sovereign instrumentalities or public agencies.

Various local or state Housing Finance Agencies have used "soft second" mortgages for down payment and closing costs to eligible borrowers.  For example, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority offers down payment assistance in the amount of 3 to 4 percent of the purchase price of the home at zero percent interest with no monthly payments. The loan is fully forgiven after two years if the borrower remains in the home.

In a more mainstream application, let's say that a parent or other relative was willing to help a buyer with their down payment and possibly, closing costs to purchase a home now.  However, they will need the money for their retirement at some determinable point in the future, possibly, five to ten years.

The sales contract would disclose a "soft second" together with the terms which could include interest and due date such as ten years from execution of note or when they sell or refinance the property whichever comes first.   It would also specify that no payments would be made until the maturity.

The mortgagor of the "soft second" may also retain the right to forgive the loan.

The lender of the first mortgage must be aware of the intended soft second and it should be mentioned in the sales contract so it can be underwritten by the lender appropriately.  Failure to disclose a soft second to the lender is illegal and borrowers who fail to do so could be prosecuted.  Mortgage fraud is classified as a Class C felony under federal law.

Both liens would be recorded for public record for the safety of all parties concerned.

Since this procedure is not commonplace, the advice is to run this concept past your lender prior to writing the offer.  With full disclosure in the contract and the proper terms to satisfy underwriting, you should be able to structure a transaction to get a qualified buyer without a down payment into a home.

Some things to consider in the second mortgage note is a firm due date far enough down the road that it isn't going to trigger risk issues.  An example would be ten years or when the property is sold or refinanced, whichever comes first.  Specify an interest rate and arbitrary payments which would give the buyer the option to make payments if they wanted.  By doing this, the underwriter can calculate payments and amount owed at the term.

In today's economy, there are a lot of companies that have rich cash reserves, as well as plenty of individuals also.  Once buyers have identified a friend or relative to become the lender on the second mortgage, your agent will help you find a lender for the first mortgage who is willing to participate.

The buyer will become pre-approved and the process of finding the home can begin but not until the other steps have been finished.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

"Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya?"



You may remember the famous line in the Dirty Harry movie when Clint Eastwood has just had a shootout with bank robbers and is standing in front of the lone surviving thief who is considering going for his gun. Harry with his gun pointed at the bad guy says to him ""Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a 44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you've gotta ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya?" 

Our economy has had a long recovery from the great recession, due in most part to the housing crisis of 2007-2009.  Then, the Pandemic hit in 2020 which tanked the worldwide economy but the surprise to homeowners happened to be housing.  2021 became a red-hot market with prices going up by 21% nationally. 

In 2022, mortgage rates have increased by four percentage points and haven't been this high since 2008.  Inflation, at the end of September, reached a 40-year high at 8.2%.  The Fed recently said they'll continue raising rates until they can get inflation near their target of 2% annual rate.

People who own homes have seen their values go up dramatically and so has their net worth. Due to the extremely low inventories and the maturing millennial market, there is a lot of pent-up demand for housing.

This leads us to the scene in the movie.  You may be considering buying a house now but at the same time, you're thinking "Have prices and mortgage rates hit the top of the market so they'll start coming down or will they continue to go up, making it cost more to get into a home?"

The facts are that the U.S. is the strongest economy in the world.  The housing bubble of 2007 was created by over-inflated property values and predatory lending practices.  Those conditions don't exist today.  There is a housing shortage in America due to not enough homes being built to keep up with demand and people staying in their homes longer.

Homeowners have record amounts equity in their homes and foreclosure rate hit a historic low at the end of 2021 even though it edged up a bit in spring of 2022 as reported by CoreLogic.

Homes are expected to continue to appreciate but not as fast as they did in 2021.  The revised predictions for 2022 appreciation vary from Fannie Mae at 16%, Freddie Mac at 12.8% to NAR at 11.5%.

NAR Senior Economist Nadia Evangelou recently said "Mortgage rates are a heartbeat away from the 7% threshold. According to Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose to 6.92% from 6.66% the previous week. While inflation remains elevated, mortgage rates will continue to move up, making homeownership even further out of reach for many."

If the home you could buy this year for $500,000, will cost you $550,000 next year and the mortgage rate goes up from 6.5% to 7.5%, the payment will go from $2,844 to $3,461 based on a 90% mortgage for 30-years.

If interest rates are temporarily high based on the Fed's position to lower inflation, a home could be purchased at today's price and refinanced later when the rates come down.  5/1 adjustable rate mortgages allow a borrower to lock in a lower initial rate for five years which would allow a person to find the best time to refinance.

So, back to the movie scene... "you've gotta ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya?" 

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

When will the market turn?



Housing affordability has declined dramatically in 2022 due to continued rising home prices and a three-percentage point jump in mortgage rates.  Based on the popularity of Google searches for "housing bust" or "housing bubble", it could be surmised that buyers are anticipating relief, but they are probably not going to see it anytime soon.

Home price appreciation is moderating and is down from the 20% level experienced in 2021.  Some of the major industry prognosticators are estimating anywhere from 9% to 14% for 2022.  Interest rates are expected to continue to rise through the end of 2022 and could be at 7%.  Freddie Mac 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 6.66% on October 6, 2022.

Even though homes currently for sale increased to 3.2 months in August 2022, it isn't that much more than it was for the same month in 2021 when it was at 2.6 months.  Most markets are still entrenched in favor of sellers because a balanced market between buyer's and seller's is at six month's supply.

While buyers may be feeling that a new home is no longer affordable, there are several affordability indexes that provide a baseline for objective measurement.  The National Association of REALTORS� produces a monthly index.  Affordability is determined by indicating a median income person/family can afford to purchase a median priced home with a 20% down payment based on a 25% qualifying ratio for monthly housing expense to gross monthly income. 

The index is structured so that a value of 100 indicates that a family with the median income has exactly enough income to qualify for a mortgage on a median priced home.  When the index is above 100, the family has more than enough to qualify.

The NAR Housing Affordability Index for 2019, 2020, and 2021 was 159.7, 169.9 and 152 respectively.  It was 143.1 in January and by April had decreased to 108.1 and the preliminary number for June is 98.5.  The decrease in the index is directly affected by rising interest rates and home prices outpacing family income.

Home sales were seasonally adjusted in August to be 4.8 million which is down .4% from the previous month and down 19.9% from August 2021.  Lower sales are partly a function of a smaller pool of eligible buyers and concerns about a variety of economic conditions.

This may not sound like good news for buyers whether they are labeled first-time or move-up, but it is an objective view of the market.  It has become more expensive to buy a home now and will continue to increase in the future. 

Getting into a house using whatever devices are necessary can at least put the momentum on your side.  Homes are appreciating faster than inflation and the fact that leverage improves the growth rate due to using borrowed funds to buy the home is also to the buyer's advantage.

So, getting back to the original question "when will the market turn to make homes more affordable?"  It may not be a dramatic change but more likely, a subtle one.  Prices will moderate by still appreciating but not as much as in 2021.  Inventories will increase slightly but won't affect price because the low supply has been almost a decade in the making and it will take time to reach balance in the market.

Mortgage rates are not as low as they were, but they never were before in the history of the U.S.  Millions of people had mortgages in the 1980's that were as high as 18.5%.  Buyers financed the homes at the going market rate, sometimes with creative financing, and refinanced the properties later when the rates came down and the values had gone up.

Real estate is still a great hedge against inflation, and many times, the largest and best investment individuals have.  The Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances found that homeowner's net worth is 41 times greater than renters.