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VA Home Loans: Helping Heroes Find a Home

Today, on Veterans Day, we honor those who have served our country and thank them for their continued dedication to our nation. In the United States, there are many valuable benefits available to Veterans, including VA home loans. For over 75 years, VA home loans have provided millions of Veterans and their families the opportunity to purchase their own homes.

As we consider the full impact of VA home loans, it’s important to both understand these great options for Veterans and to share them with those we know who may be able to benefit most. For a variety of different reasons, many Veterans don’t use their VA home loan options, so being knowledgeable about what’s available and how they work may be a game-changer for many.

Facts about 2019 VA Home Loans (most current data):

  • 624,546 home loans were guaranteed by the Veterans Administration.
  • 306,879 VA home loans were made without a down payment.
  • 2,055 grants totaling $118 million were provided to help seriously disabled Veterans purchase, modify, or construct a home to meet their needs.

VA Home Loans Often Offer:

  • No down payment options as long as the sales price isn’t higher than the home’s appraised value.
  • Better terms and interest rates than loans from other lenders.
  • Fewer closing costs, which may be paid by the seller.

Bottom Line

The best thing you can do today to celebrate Veterans Day is to share this information with those who can potentially benefit from these loan options. Let’s connect today to discuss your questions about VA home loan benefits. Thank you for your service.

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Making a Home for the Brave Possible [INFOGRAPHIC]

Making a Home for the Brave Possible [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights

  • VA Home Loans provide unique opportunities for Veterans, active-duty personnel, and their families in recognition of their service to our Nation.
  • For eligible individuals, options associated with VA Loans can help make the dream of homeownership a reality.
  • If you or someone you know may benefit from a VA Loan, let’s connect to answer your questions today.
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4 Reasons Why the Election Won’t Dampen the Housing Market

Tomorrow, Americans will decide our President for the next four years. That decision will have a major impact on many aspects of life in this country, but the residential real estate market will not be one of them.

Analysts will try to measure the impact feasible changes in regulations might have on housing, the effect of a possible first-time buyer program, and any number of other situations based on who wins. The housing market, however, will remain strong for four reasons:

1. Demand Is Strong among Millennials

The nation’s largest generation began entering the housing market last year as they reached the age to marry and have children – two key drivers of homeownership. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported:

“Millennials, long viewed as perennial home renters who were reluctant or unable to buy, are now emerging as a driving force in the U.S. housing market’s recent recovery.”

2. Mortgage Rates Are Historically Low

All-time low interest rates are also driving demand across all generations. Strong demand created by this rate drop has countered other economic disruptions (e.g., pandemic, recession, record unemployment).

In addition, Freddie Mac just forecasted mortgage rates to remain low through next year:

“One of the main drivers of the strong housing recovery is historically low mortgage interest rates…Given weakness in the broader economy, the Federal Reserve’s signal that its policy rate will remain low until inflation picks up, and no signs of inflation, we forecast mortgage rates to remain flat over the next year. From the third quarter of 2020 through the end of 2021, we forecast mortgage rates to remain unchanged at 3%.”

3. Prices Continue to Appreciate

The continued lack of supply of existing homes for sale coupled with the surge in buyer demand has experts forecasting strong price appreciation over the next twelve months.

4. History Says So

Though it’s true that the market slows slightly in November when it’s a Presidential election year, the pace returns quickly. Here’s an explanation as to why from the Homebuilding Industry Report by BTIG:

“This may indicate that potential homebuyers may become more cautious in the face of national election uncertainty. This caution is temporary, and ultimately results in deferred sales, as the economy, jobs, interest rates and consumer confidence all have far more meaningful roles in the home purchase decision than a Presidential election result in the months that follow.”

Ali Wolf, Chief Economist for Meyers Research, also notes:

“History suggests that the slowdown is largely concentrated in the month of November. In fact, the year after a presidential election is the best of the four-year cycle. This suggests that demand for new housing is not lost because of election uncertainty, rather it gets pushed out to the following year as long as the economy stays on track.”

Bottom Line

There’s no doubt this is one of the most contentious presidential elections in our nation’s history. The outcome will have a major impact on many sectors of the economy. However, as Matthew Speakman, an economist at Zillow, explained last week:

“While the path of the overall economy is likely to be most directly dictated by coronavirus-related and political developments in the coming months, recent trends suggest that the housing market – which has basically withstood every pandemic-related challenge to this point – will continue its strong momentum in the months to come.

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Buyer Interest Is Growing among Younger Generations

The demand for homes this year is extraordinary as record-breaking numbers of hopeful buyers continue to shop for homes. In a normal year, the peak homebuying season comes to a close by early fall. However, 2020 is anything but a normal year, and the housing market is no exception. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), explains:

Home sales traditionally taper off toward the end of the year, but in September they surged beyond what we normally see during this season…I would attribute this jump to record-low interest rates and an abundance of buyers in the marketplace, including buyers of vacation homes given the greater flexibility to work from home.”

What’s drawing so many buyers to the market?

As Yun mentioned, record-low interest rates are key. Today’s rates are strengthening purchasing power for buyers, too. Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Mac, emphasizes:

“Mortgage rates today are on average more than a full percentage point lower than rates over the last five years.”

If you’re a homebuyer right now, there’s no question that you want to take advantage of this opportunity – and you’re not alone. Competition among buyers is definitely increasing as more buyers enter the market and mortgage interest rates remain so low.

Who’s planning to buy a home right now?

Today’s affordability is appealing to all generations and seems to be especially attractive to younger buyers who want to begin growing their wealth through homeownership. There’s a distinct increase this year in the percentage of those in younger generations searching for homes. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) notes:

“Between the third quarters of 2019 and 2020, the share of Gen Z adults planning a home purchase rose three points to 14%. Millennials, however, are the generation most likely to be considering buying a home (22%).”

Here’s a graph showing the year-over-year increase in homebuying interest by generation:Buyer Interest Is Growing among Younger Generations | Simplifying The MarketAccording to Mark Fleming, Chief Economist for First American, millennials are reaching their prime home-buying years, a likely driver in this increase:

“Record low mortgage rates and millennials continuing to age into their prime home-buying years has boosted demand, but a lack of housing supply remains a challenge.”

What’s the biggest challenge for today’s buyers?

Finding a home, however, as Fleming notes above, is clearly a challenge today. Yun also explains:

“There is no shortage of hopeful, potential buyers, but inventory is historically low.”

With so many buyers actively searching for homes this year and so few houses for sale, it’s more important than ever to work with a trusted real estate professional to navigate today’s market. From pre-approval to bidding wars and guidance on down payment assistance resources, having an agent by your side might make the difference in your ability to land your dream home.

Bottom Line

Let’s connect if you’re ready to buy a home. More buyers mean more competition, so you need an expert guide to help you stand out from the crowd.

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Should You Buy a Retirement Home Sooner Rather than Later?

Every day in the U.S., roughly 10,000 people turn 65. Prior to the health crisis that swept the nation in 2020, most people had to wait until they retired to make a move to the beach, the golf course, or the senior living community they were looking to settle into for their later years in life. This year, however, the game changed.

Many of today’s workers who are nearing the end of their professional careers, but maybe aren’t quite ready to retire, have a new choice to make: should I move before I retire? If the sand and sun are calling your name and you have the opportunity to work remotely for the foreseeable future, now may be a great time to purchase that beach bungalow you’ve always dreamed of or the single-story home in the sprawling countryside that might be a little further out of town. Whether it’s a second home or a future retirement home, spending the next few years in a place that truly makes you smile every day might be the best way to round out a long and meaningful career.

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), explains:

“The pandemic was unexpected, working from home was unexpected, but nonetheless many companies realized that workers can be just as productive working from home…We may begin to see a boost in people buying retirement homes before their retirement.”

According to the 20th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey, 3 out of 4 retirees (75%) own their homes, and only 23% have mortgage debt (including any equity loans or lines of credit). Since entering retirement, almost 4 in 10 retirees (38%) have moved into a new home. They’re making a profit by selling their current homes in today’s low inventory market and using their equity to purchase their future retirement homes. It’s a win-win.

Why These Homeowners Are Making Moves Now

The health crisis this year made us all more aware of the importance of our family and friends, and many of us have not seen our extended families since the pandemic started. It’s no surprise, therefore, to see in the same report that 32% of those surveyed cited the top reason they’re making a move is that they want to be closer to family and friends (See graph below):Should You Buy a Retirement Home Sooner Rather than Later? | Simplifying The MarketThe survey also revealed that 73% percent of retirees currently live in single-family homes. With the overall number of homes for sale today hitting a historic low, and with the buyer demand for single-family homes skyrocketing, there’s never been a more ideal time to sell a single-family home and make a move toward retirement. Today’s market has the perfect combination of driving forces to make selling optimal, especially while buyers are looking to take advantage of low interest rates.

If you’re one of the 73% of retirees with a single-family home and want to move closer to your family, now is the time to put your house on the market. With the pace homes are selling today, you could essentially wrap up your move – start to finish – before the holidays.

Bottom Line 

Whether you’re looking to fully retire or to buy a second home with the intent to use it as your retirement home in the future, the 2020 fall housing market may very well work in your favor. Let’s connect today to discuss your options in our local market.

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Buyers Are Finding More Space in the Luxury Home Market

A year ago, additional space and extra amenities had a very different feel for homebuyers. Today, the health crisis has brought to light how valuable more square footage and carefully designed floorplans can be. Home offices, multi-purpose rooms, gyms, and theaters are becoming more popular, and some families are finding the space they need for these upgrades in the luxury market.

The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing (ILHM) explains:

“With quarantine concerns still top of mind for many luxury buyers, we see large, sprawling estates making their comeback.

For instance, the last six months have seen a resurgence in the buying of mega mansions and estate-size homes – specifically properties that offer space (both inside and outside), separate home offices, gyms, and private amenities such as swimming pools, yoga studios, and recreation rooms.”

This was not the case at this time last year, as the most recent Luxury Market Report from ILHM emphasizes:

“Exactly one year ago, we reported that demand for large properties, mega mansions, private estates, and luxury ranches had reduced significantly over the previous few years; especially from the younger generation of luxury property buyers.”

For today’s buyers looking for larger homes, steady increases in equity might be what makes a move possible. Leveraging home equity makes it easier to afford the down payment on a luxury home, and current low interest rates are making mortgage payments more affordable than they have been in years. The report from ILHM also notes:

“Luxury real estate prices may continue to strengthen further into the third quarter, as the affluent continue to see large investment returns from the currently strong stock market.

Coupled with the low interest rates, the policies granting (and insisting) on working from home implemented by many employers, and the concerns of the pandemic, all translate to the affluent increasingly trading in their city lifestyle for a home that has it all.”

Clearly, today’s strong gains in home equity paired with record-low interest rates make fall a great time to move up into the luxury market to meet those changing needs.

Bottom Line

If you’re ready to gain some breathing room in a larger home, let’s connect so you have the guidance you need to find more space in the luxury home market.

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The Cost of a Home Is Far More Important than the Price

Housing inventory is at an all-time low. There are 39% fewer homes for sale today than at this time last year, and buyer demand continues to set records. Zillow recently reported:

“Newly pending sales are up 25.5% compared to the same week last year, the highest year-over-year increase in the weekly Zillow database.”

Whenever there is a shortage in supply of an item that’s in high demand, the price of that item increases. That’s exactly what’s happening in the real estate market right now. CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index reports that values have increased by 5.5% over the last year.

This is great news if you’re planning to sell your house; on the other hand, as either a first-time or repeat buyer, this may instead seem like troubling news. However, purchasers should realize that the price of a house is not as important as the cost. Let’s break it down.

There are several factors that influence the cost of a home. The two major ones are the price of the home and the interest rate at which a buyer can borrow the funds necessary to purchase the home.

Last week, Freddie Mac announced that the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 2.87%. At this time last year, the rate was 3.73%. Let’s use an example to see how that difference impacts the true cost of a home.

Assume you purchased a home last year and took out a $250,000 mortgage. As mentioned above, home values have increased by 5.5% over the last year. To buy that same home this year, you would need to take out a mortgage of $263,750.

How will your monthly mortgage payment change based on today’s lower mortgage rate?

This table calculates the difference in your monthly payment:The Cost of a Home Is Far More Important than the Price | Simplifying The MarketThat’s a savings of $61 monthly, which adds up to $732 annually and $21,960 over the life of the loan.

Bottom Line

Even though home values have appreciated, it’s a great time to buy a home because mortgage rates are at historic lows.

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How Low Inventory May Impact the Housing Market This Fall

Real estate continues to be called the ‘bright spot’ in the current economy, but there’s one thing that may hold the housing market back from achieving its full potential this year: the lack of homes for sale.

Buyers are actively searching for and purchasing homes, looking to capitalize on today’s historically low interest rates, but there just aren’t enough houses for sale to meet that growing need. Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Mac, explains:

Mortgage rates have hit another record low due to a late summer slowdown in the economic recovery…These low rates have ignited robust purchase demand activity…However, heading into the fall it will be difficult to sustain the growth momentum in purchases because the lack of supply is already exhibiting a constraint on sales activity.”

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), right now, unsold inventory sits at a 3.1-month supply at the current sales pace. To have a balanced market where there are enough homes for sale to meet buyer demand, the market needs inventory for 6 months. Today, we’re nowhere near where that number needs to be. If the trend continues, it will get even harder to find homes to purchase this fall, and that may slow down potential buyers. Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com, notes:

“The overall lack of sustained new listings growth could put a dent in fall home sales despite high interest from home shoppers, because new listings are key to home sales.”

The realtor.com Weekly Recovery Report keeps an eye on the number of listings coming into the market (houses available for sale) and the total number of listings staying in the market compared to the previous year (See graph below):How Low Inventory May Impact the Housing Market This Fall | Simplifying The MarketBuyers are clearly scooping up homes faster than they’re being put up for sale. The number of total listings (the orange line) continues to decline even as new listings (the blue line) are coming to the market. Why? Javier Vivas, Director of Economic Research at realtor.com, notes:

“The post-pandemic period has brought a record number of homebuyers back into the market, but it’s also failed to bring a consistent number of sellers back. Homes are selling faster, and sales are still on an upward trend, but rapidly disappearing inventory also means more home shoppers are being priced out. If we don’t see material improvement to supply in the next few weeks, we could see the number of transactions begin to dwindle again even as the lineup of buyers continues to grow.”

Does this mean it’s a good time to sell?

Yes. If you’re thinking about selling your house, this fall is a great time to make it happen. There are plenty of buyers looking for homes to purchase because they want to take advantage of low interest rates. Realtors are also reporting an average of 3 offers per house and an increase in bidding wars, meaning the demand is there and the opportunity to sell for the most favorable terms is in your favor as a seller.

Bottom Line

If you’re considering selling your house, this is the perfect time to connect so we can talk about how you can benefit from the market trends in our local area.

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Is Now a Good Time to Move?

How long have you lived in your current home? If it’s been a while, you may be thinking about moving. According to the latest Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), in 2019, homeowners were living in their homes for an average of 10 years. That’s a long time to time to be in one place, considering the average length of time homeowners used to stay put hovered closer to 6 years.

With today’s changing homebuyer needs, especially given how the current health crisis has altered our daily lifestyles, many homeowners are reconsidering where they’re at and thinking about moving to a home with more space for their families. Here’s why it might be a great time to make that happen.

The real estate market has changed in many ways over the past 10 years, and current homeowners are earning much more equity today than they used to have. According to CoreLogic, in the first quarter of 2020 alone, the average homeowner gained approximately $9,600 in equity. If you’re considering selling your house right now, you may have accumulated more equity to put toward a move than you realize.

Dialing back 10 years, many homeowners also locked in a fairly low mortgage rate. In 2010, the average rate was only 4.09%. This motivated homeowners to stay in their houses longer than usual to keep their rate low, rather than moving. Just last Thursday, however, average mortgage rates hit a new historic low at 2.86%. Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Mac explains:

Mortgage rates have hit another record low due to a late summer slowdown in the economic recovery…These low rates have ignited robust purchase demand activity, which is up twenty-five percent from a year ago and has been growing at double digit rates for four consecutive months.”

Ten years ago, we couldn’t have imagined a mortgage rate under 3%. Looking at the math today, making a move into a new home and locking in a significantly lower rate than you have now could save you greatly on a monthly basis, and over the life of your loan (See chart below):Is Now a Good Time to Move? | Simplifying The MarketAs the example shows, you can save a substantial amount every month if you qualify for today’s low mortgage rate, and the savings can really add up over the life of a 30-year fixed-rate loan.

Bottom Line

As a homeowner, you have a huge opportunity to move up right now. Whether you want to save more each month or get more home for your money based on your family’s changing needs, it’s a great time to connect to discuss the market in our area. Buyers are actively looking for more homes to buy, and you can win big by making a move if the time is right for you.

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Have You Ever Seen a Housing Market Like This?

The year 2020 will certainly be one to remember, with new realities and norms that changed the way we live. This year’s real estate market is certainly no exception to that shift, with historic highlights continuing to break records and challenge what many thought possible in the housing market. Here’s a look at four key areas that are fundamentally defining the market this year.

Housing Market Recovery

The economy was intentionally put on pause this spring in response to the COVID-19 health crisis. Many aspects of the common real estate transaction were placed on hold at the same time. Thankfully, technology and innovation helped the industry power forward, and business gradually ramped back up as shelter-in-place orders were lifted.

The result? Total transformation of the market from rock-bottom lows to exceptional highs. Today, the housing recovery is being called truly remarkable by many experts and is far exceeding expectations. From pending home sales to purchase applications, buyers are back in business and homes are selling – fast.

According to the Housing Market Recovery Index by realtor.com, the market has surpassed pre-pandemic levels, and has regained the strength we remember from February of this year (See graph below):Have You Ever Seen a Housing Market Like This? | Simplifying The Market

Record-Breaking Mortgage Rates

Historically low mortgage rates are another 2020 game-changer. Today’s low rate is one of the big motivating factors bringing buyers back into the market. The average rate reached an all-time low on multiple occasions this year, and it continues to hover in record-low territory.

When rates are this low, buyers have a huge opportunity to get more for their money when purchasing a home, something many are eager to find while continuing to spend more time than expected at home this year, and likely beyond.

Continued Home Price Appreciation

One of the key drivers of home price appreciation this year is historically low inventory. Inventory was low going into the pandemic, and it is still sitting well below the level needed for a normal market. Although sellers are slowly making their way back into the game, buyers are scooping up homes faster than they’re coming up for sale.

This is a classic supply and demand scenario, forcing home prices to rise. Selling something when there is a higher demand for what is available naturally bumps up the price. If you’re ready to sell your house today, this may be the optimal time to make your move. As Bill Banfield, EVP of Capital Markets at Quicken Loans, notes:

“The pandemic has not stopped the consistent home price growth we have witnessed in recent years.” 

Increasing Affordability

Even as home prices continue to rise, affordability is working in favor of today’s homebuyers. According to many experts, rates this low are off-setting rising home prices, which increases buyer purchasing power – an opportunity not to be missed, especially if your family’s needs have changed. If you now need space for a home office, gym, virtual classroom, and more, it may be time to reconsider your current house.

According to Mortgage News Daily:

“Those shopping for a home can afford 10 percent more home than they could have one year ago while keeping their monthly payment unchanged. This translates into nearly $32,000 more buying power.

Bottom Line

With mortgage rates hitting historic lows, home prices appreciating, affordability rising, and the market recovering like no other, 2020 has been quite a year for real estate – perhaps one we’ve never seen before and may never see again. Let’s connect today if you’re ready to take advantage of this year’s record-breaking opportunities.