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What You Need To Know About Today’s Down Payment Programs

What You Need To Know About Today’s Down Payment Programs Simplifying The Market

There's no denying it's gotten more challenging to buy a home, especially with today's mortgage rates and home price appreciation. And that may be one of the big reasons you’re eager to look into grants and assistance programs to see if there’s anything you qualify for that can help. But unfortunately, many homebuyers feel like they don’t know where to start. 

A recent Bank of America Institute study asked prospective buyers where they lack confidence in the process and need more information. And this is what topped the list:

53% said they need help understanding homebuying grant programs.

So, here’s some information that can help you close that gap.

What Is Down Payment Assistance?

As the Mortgage Reports explains:

“Down payment assistance (DPA) programs offer loans and grants that can cover part or all of a home buyer’s down payment and closing costs. More than 2,000 of these programs are available nationwide. . . DPA programs vary by location, but many home buyers could be in line for thousands of dollars in down payment assistance if they qualify.”

And here’s some more good news. On top of all of these programs, you probably don’t need to save as much for your down payment as you think. Contrary to what you may have heard, typically you don’t have to put 20% down unless it’s specified by your loan type or lender. So, you likely don’t need to save as much upfront, and there are programs designed to make your down payment more achievable. Sounds like a win-win.

First-Time and Repeat Buyers Are Often Eligible

It’s also worth mentioning, that it’s not just first-time homebuyers that are eligible for many of these programs. That means whether you’re looking to buy your first house or your fifth, there could be an option for you. As Down Payment Resource notes:

You don’t have to be a first-time buyer. Over 39% of all [homeownership] programs are for repeat homebuyers who have owned a home in the last 3 years.”

Additional Down Payment Resources That Can Help

Here are a few of the down payment assistance programs that are helping many buyers achieve their dream of homeownership, even now:

  • Teacher Next Door is designed to help teachers, first responders, health providers, government employees, active-duty military personnel, and Veterans reach their down payment goals.
  • Fannie Mae provides down payment assistance to eligible first-time homebuyers living in majority-Latino communities.
  • Freddie Mac also has options designed specifically for homebuyers with modest credit scores and limited funds for a down payment.
  • The 3By30 program lays out actionable strategies to add 3 million new Black homeowners by 2030. These programs offer valuable resources for potential buyers, making it easier to secure down payments and realize their dream of homeownership.
  • For Native Americans, Down Payment Resource highlights 42 U.S. homebuyer assistance programs across 14 states that ease the path to homeownership by providing support with down payments and other associated costs.

If you want more information on any of these, the best place to start is by contacting a trusted real estate professional.

They’ll be able to share more details about what may be available, including any other programs designed to serve specific professions or communities. And even if you don’t qualify for these types of programs, they can help see if there are any other federal, state, and local options available you should look into. 

Bottom Line

Affordability is still a challenge, so if you’re looking to buy, you’re going to want to make sure you’re taking advantage of any and all resources available.

The best way to find out what’s out there is to connect with a team of real estate professionals, including a trusted lender and a local agent. 

Worried About Mortgage Rates? Control the Controllables

Worried About Mortgage Rates? Control the Controllables Simplifying The Market

Chances are you’re hearing a lot about mortgage rates right now. You may even see some headlines talking about last week’s Federal Reserve (the Fed) meeting and what it means for rates. But the Fed doesn’t determine mortgage rates, even if the headlines make it sound like they do.

The truth is, mortgage rates are impacted by a lot of factors: geo-political uncertainty, inflation and the economy, and more. And trying to pin down when all those factors will line up enough for rates to come down is tricky.

That’s why it’s generally not worth it to try to time the market. There’s too much at play that you can’t control. The best thing you can do is control the controllables.

And when it comes to rates, here’s what you can influence to make your moving plans a reality.

Your Credit Score

Credit scores can play a big role in your mortgage rate. As an article from CNET explains:

You can’t control the economic factors influencing interest rates. But you can get the best rate for your situation, and improving your credit score is the right place to start. Lenders look at your credit score to decide whether to approve you for a loan and at what interest rate. A higher credit score can help you secure a lower interest rate, maybe even better than the average.”

That’s why it’s even more important to maintain a good credit score right now. With rates where they are, you want to do what you can to get the best rate possible. If you want to focus on improving your score, your trusted loan officer can give you expert advice to help.

Your Loan Type

There are many types of loans, each offering different terms for qualified buyers. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) says:

There are several broad categories of mortgage loans, such as conventional, FHA, USDA, and VA loans. Lenders decide which products to offer, and loan types have different eligibility requirements. Rates can be significantly different depending on what loan type you choose.”

When working with your team of real estate professionals, make sure you find out what’s available for your situation and which types of loans you may qualify for.

Your Loan Term

Another factor to consider is the term of your loan. Just like with loan types, you have options. Freddie Mac says:

When choosing the right home loan for you, it’s important to consider the loan term, which is the length of time it will take you to repay your loan before you fully own your home. Your loan term will affect your interest rate, monthly payment, and the total amount of interest you will pay over the life of the loan.”

Depending on your situation, the length of your loan can also change your mortgage rate.

Bottom Line

Remember, you can’t control what happens in the broader economy. But you can control the controllables.

Let’s connect to go over the things you can do that’ll make a difference. By being strategic with these factors, you may be able to combat today’s higher rates and lock in the lowest one you can.

Do Elections Impact the Housing Market?

Do Elections Impact the Housing Market? Simplifying The Market

The 2024 Presidential election is just months away. As someone who’s thinking about potentially buying or selling a home, you’re probably curious about what effect, if any, elections have on the housing market.

It’s a great question because buying or selling a home is a major decision, and it’s natural to wonder how such a major event might impact your plans.

Historically, Presidential elections have only had a small, temporary impact on the housing market. Here’s the latest on exactly what’s happened to home sales, prices, and mortgage rates throughout those time periods.

Home Sales

During the month of November, in years when the Presidential election takes place, there’s typically a slight slowdown in home sales. As Ali Wolf, Chief Economist at Zonda, explains:

“Usually, home sales are unchanged compared to a non-election year with the exception being November. In an election year, November is slower than normal.

This is mostly because some people feel uncertain and hesitant about making big decisions during such a pivotal time. However, it’s important to know this slowdown is temporary. Historically, home sales bounce back in December and continue to rise the following year.

In fact, data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows after nine of the last 11 Presidential elections, home sales went up the next year (see graph below): No Caption Received


The graph shows annual home sales going back to 1978. Each year with a Presidential election is noted in blue. The year immediately after each election is green if existing home sales rose that year. The two orange bars represent the only years when home sales decreased after an election.

Home Prices

What about home prices? Do they drop during election years? Not typically. As residential appraiser and housing analyst Ryan Lundquist puts it:

“An election year doesn’t alter the price trend that is already happening in the market.”

Home prices are pretty resilient. They generally rise year-over-year, regardless of elections. The latest data from NAR shows after seven of the last eight Presidential elections, home prices increased the following year (see graph below): No Caption Received


Just like the previous graph, this shows election years in blue. The only year when prices declined after an election is in orange. That was during the housing market crash, which was far from a typical year. Today’s market is different than it was back then.

All the green bars represent when prices rose the following year. So, if you're worried about your home losing value because of an election, you can rest easy knowing prices rise after most Presidential elections.

Mortgage Rates

Mortgage rates are important because they affect how much your monthly payment will be when you buy a home. Looking at the last 11 Presidential election years, data from Freddie Mac shows mortgage rates decreased from July to November in eight of them (see chart below): No Caption Received


Most forecasts expect mortgage rates to ease slightly throughout the remainder of the year. If they’re right, this year will follow the trend of declining rates leading up to most previous elections. And if you’re looking to buy a home in the coming months, this could be good news, as lower rates could mean a lower monthly payment.

What This Means for You

So, what’s the big takeaway? While Presidential elections do have some impact on the housing market, the effects are usually small and temporary. As Lisa Sturtevant, Chief Economist at Bright MLS, says:

“Historically, the housing market doesn’t tend to look very different in presidential election years compared to other years.”

For most buyers and sellers, elections don’t have a major impact on their plans.

Bottom Line

While it’s natural to feel a bit uncertain during an election year, history shows the housing market remains strong and resilient. If you have questions, reach out to a local real estate agent. They’re here to help you navigate the market, election year or not.

Real Estate Is Still the Best Long-Term Investment [INFOGRAPHIC]

Real Estate Is Still the Best Long-Term Investment [INFOGRAPHIC] Simplifying The Market

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Some Highlights

  • According to a recent poll from Gallup, real estate has been voted the best long-term investment for twelve straight years.
  • That’s because a home is so much more just than a roof over your head. It’s also an asset that typically grows in value over time. 
  • If you’ve been debating if it makes more sense to rent or buy, connect with a real estate agent to talk about why homeownership can be a better bet in the long run. 

Homebuilders Aren’t Overbuilding, They’re Catching Up

Homebuilders Aren’t Overbuilding, They’re Catching Up Simplifying The Market

You may have heard that there are more brand-new homes available right now than the norm. Today, about one in three homes on the market are newly built. And if you’re wondering what that means for the housing market and for your own move, here’s what you need to know.

Why This Isn’t Like 2008

People remember what happened to the housing market back in 2008. And one of the factors that contributed to that crash was that there were too many homes for sale. While only part of the oversupply back then came from builders, the lasting impact is that some people still feel uneasy when they hear new home construction has ramped up.

Even though the supply of new homes has grown this year, the data shows there’s no need to worry. Builders aren’t overbuilding, they’re just catching up. 

The graph below uses data from the Census to show the number of new houses built over the last 52 years. Following the crash in 2008, there was a long period of underbuilding (shown in red). And it wasn’t until recently that we finally met the long-term average for how many homes are built in a typical year. No Caption Received


This shows, that even with the increase in new builds we’ve seen lately, there won’t suddenly be an oversupply of homes for sale. There’s too much of a gap to make up after over a decade of underbuilding. And if you’re still worried builders are overdoing it, here’s something else that should be reassuring. 

New Home Construction May Be at Its Peak for the Year

The latest data from the Census on housing starts (homes where builders just broke ground) and permits (homes where builders can start development soon) shows builders are slowing down their pace right now. Why is that?

They’re responding to still high mortgage rates and how those are impacting buyer demand. Basically, they’re pulling back appropriately in response to what’s happening in the market. As an article from HousingWire explains

“Even with a massive housing shortage across the nation, homebuilders are completing their pipelines and not seeking as many permits to construct new single-family houses.” 

Builders remember what happened when they overbuilt in the crash, and they’re looking to avoid a repeat of that. So, they’re being mindful and pulling back a bit.

You May Have More Options Now Versus Later

If you’re considering a newly built home, here’s how this impacts you. With builders seeking fewer permits and not breaking ground on as many new homes, we may be at the peak of new home construction for the year. This doesn’t mean new home construction is screeching to a stop – just that the pace is slowing down now, and that’ll impact what comes to market later this year. As Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), says:

“Given the recent declines in housing starts, home completions will steadily show declines in about six months.”

So, if you’re ready and able to buy now, you may find you’ll have more newly built options to choose from now versus later on. This may be enough reason to kick off your search.

Just be sure to work with a local real estate agent you know and trust throughout the process. An agent will have valuable insight into builder reputations and other key factors specific to your market. And if there isn’t much new construction near you, they’ll be able to point you toward a nearby area where there is.

Bottom Line

While it’s true new home construction is a bigger segment of the market than the norm, that’s not a bad thing. Builders aren’t overbuilding, and they’re responding to market signals to avoid repeating the mistakes that were made in 2008.

 

If you want to buy now while new home options may be at their peak, reach out to a local real estate agent. 

Home Prices Aren’t Declining, But Headlines Might Make You Think They Are

Home Prices Aren’t Declining, But Headlines Might Make You Think They Are Simplifying The Market

If you’ve seen the news lately about home sellers slashing prices, it’s a great example of how headlines do more to terrify than clarify. Here’s what’s really happening with prices.

The bottom line is home prices are higher than they were a year ago at this time, and they’re expected to keep rising, just at a slower pace.

But a recent article from Redfin notes,

“Price Drops Hit Highest Level in 18 Months As High Rates Dampen Buyer Demand.”

And that might make you think prices are declining.

Now, while it’s true the latest report from Realtor.com also shows 16.6% of homes on the market had price reductions in May, which is up from 12.7% last May, that doesn’t mean overall home prices are falling.

The key is knowing the difference between the asking price and the sold price.

Understanding Asking Price vs. Sold Price

In essence, the asking price, also known as a listing price, is the amount a seller hopes to get for their home when they list it. In reality, sellers can’t just put any price tag on their house and expect it to sell for top dollar. Today’s buyers are savvy customers, and when they aren’t willing to pay a premium for a home because their budgets are strained by higher mortgage rates, sellers need to adjust. And that’s what’s happening right now.

Based on market factors and what offers that seller receives, that asking price can change. If a seller isn’t getting much foot traffic, you may see them revise the price and make an adjustment to reignite interest in the home – and sometimes that’s because they’ve overpriced it from the start. That’s where price reductions come in, and when you see “price drops” in a headline, it sounds like declining home prices.

Mike Simonsen, CEO and Founder of Altos Research, says:

“Not only is the share of homes with price cuts elevated compared to one year ago, but more price cuts are happening each week than last year.”

On the other hand, the final sold price is the amount a buyer actually pays when the transaction is complete.

Here’s the most important thing to note: Actual sold prices are still rising, and they’re expected to continue to do so at least over the next 5 years.

What Does This Mean for Home Prices?

So, while there's been an increase in price reductions recently, this doesn't mean overall home values are declining. Instead, it’s a sign that demand is moderating. And, as a result, sellers are adjusting their expectations to align with today's market reality.

Even with more price reductions, home values are still growing on an annual basis, as they do nearly every year in the housing market. According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), home prices went up 6.6% over the last year (see below):No Caption Received


This map shows how prices rose just about everywhere in the country, indicating the market is not in decline.

So, while seller price reductions are often a leading indicator that prices may moderate in the months ahead, which experts have been saying for a while is expected to happen, they aren’t necessarily reason for alarm. The same article from Redfin also states:

“. . .those metrics suggest sale-price growth could soften in the coming months as persistently high mortgage rates turn off homebuyers. For now, the median-home sale price is up 4.3% year over year to another record high. . .”

And with inventory as tight as it is today, price moderation is much more likely in upcoming months than price declines.

Why This Is Good News for Buyers and Sellers

For buyers, more realistic asking prices mean a better chance of securing a home at a fair price. It also means you can enter the market with more confidence, knowing prices are stabilizing rather than continuing to skyrocket.

For sellers, understanding the need to adjust your asking price can lead to faster sales and fewer price negotiations. Setting a realistic price from the start can attract more serious buyers and lead to smoother transactions.

Bottom Line

While the uptick in price reductions might seem troubling, it’s not a cause for concern. It reflects a market adjusting to new conditions. Home prices are continuing to grow, just at a more moderate pace.

Savings Strategies Every First-Time Homebuyer Needs To Know

Savings Strategies Every First-Time Homebuyer Needs To Know Simplifying The Market

If homeownership is on your goal sheet for your future, you’re probably working on your savings. And a big priority is making sure you’ve got a plan in place for things like your closing costs, down payment, and more.

Here are a few strategies that can help speed up that process.

Budget and Track Your Expenses: To start, create a detailed budget that tracks the money you’ve got coming in and the money going out. This’ll give you a better look at your finances as a whole.

Cut Down on Unnecessary Spending: Now that you have your budget sheet done and you know how you’re spending your money, look for any line items that aren’t absolutely essential. If you cut down on those, you can re-allocate that cash toward buying a home. Even the little things can add up. As the National Association of Realtors (NAR) says:

“The majority of first-time buyers did make financial sacrifices to purchase a home. For those who did, the most common sacrifices buyers reported were cutting spending on luxury goods, entertainment, and clothes.”

Automate Your Savings: Once you know how much you want to set aside for your homebuying budget, look for ways to make it easy. If you have to transfer money manually, you may forget to do it. But getting some automatic transfers set up helps drive consistency and removes the temptation to spend it elsewhere. Realtor.com explains:

“If you’re struggling to put enough money away because of the constant temptations to blow your paycheck, consider automating the process. Ask your employer if you can have your paycheck deposited into multiple accounts—if so, instruct it to send a certain percentage of your salary directly into your savings account. Or go through your bank . . .”

Lean into Any Side Hustles You Have: Do you have a gig you do (or have done before) to net some extra cash? Taking on part-time work, freelance jobs, or picking up a side hustle can help give your savings a boost.

Put any Unexpected Cash To Good Use: If you get any sudden windfalls, like a tax refund, bonus, inheritance, or cash gift from family, put it toward your house fund.

By using these strategies and focusing on your savings over time, you can make sure you’re well on the path to having what you need to buy your first home. As Ramsey Solutions says:

“Budgeting shows your money who’s in charge (that’s you). It gives you the power to tell your money where to go instead of having to wonder where it went. It’s how you make any money goals happen—like saving for a down payment.”

Bottom Line

If you need more strategies for getting ready to buy, connect with a local real estate professional.

Selling Smart: Why a Real Estate Agent Makes All the Difference

Selling Smart: Why a Real Estate Agent Makes All the Difference Simplifying The Market

If you’re considering selling your house on your own as a “For Sale by Owner” (FSBO), you want to think about if it’s really worth the extra stress. Going this route means shouldering a lot of responsibilities by yourself – and, if you’re not an expert, that opens the door for mistakes to happen and can quickly become overwhelming.

A report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows two key areas where people who sold their own house struggled the most: pricing and paperwork.

Here are just a few of the ways an agent makes those tasks a whole lot easier.

Getting the Price Right

Setting the right price for your house is important. And, if you’re selling your house on your own, two common issues can happen. You might ask for too much money (overpricing). Or you might not ask for enough (underpricing). Either can make it hard to sell your house. According to NerdWallet:

“When selling a home, first impressions matter. Your house’s market debut is your first chance to attract a buyer and it’s important to get the pricing right. If your home is overpriced, you run the risk of buyers not seeing the listing.
 . . . But price your house too low and you could end up leaving some serious money on the table. A bargain-basement price could also turn some buyers away, as they may wonder if there are any underlying problems with the house.”

To avoid these problems, team up with a real estate agent. Agents know how to figure out the perfect price because they have a deep understanding of the local housing market. And they’ll use that expertise to set a price that matches what buyers are willing to pay, giving your house the best chance to impress from the start.

Understanding and Performing Paperwork

Selling a house involves a bunch of paperwork and legal documentation that has to be just right. There are a lot of rules and regulations to follow, and that makes it a bit tricky for homeowners to manage everything on their own. Without a pro by your side, you could end up facing liability risks and legal complications.

Real estate agents are experts in all the contracts and paperwork needed for selling a house. They know the rules and can guide you through it all, reducing the chance of mistakes that might lead to legal problems or delays. As an article from First American explains:

“To buy or sell a home you need to accurately complete a lot of forms, disclosures, and legal documents. A real estate agent ensures you cross every ‘t’ and dot every ‘i’ to help you avoid having a transaction fall through and/or prevent a costly mistake.”

So, instead of dealing with the growing pile of documents on your own, team up with an agent who can be your advisor, helping you avoid any legal bumps in the road.

Bottom Line

Selling a house on your own can cost you a lot of time and stress. Connect with a local real estate agent so you have help with all the finer details, including setting the right price, handling all the paperwork, and so much more. That way you can take that stress off of your plate.

The Wealth-Building Power of Homeownership [INFOGRAPHIC]

The Wealth-Building Power of Homeownership [INFOGRAPHIC] Simplifying The Market

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Some Highlights

  • If you’re trying to decide if buying a home is worth it, consider the long-term benefits, like building equity as home values grow over time.
  • According to the FHFA, home values have increased by 315.7% since 1991.
  • Home equity is one reason owning your own place can really pay off in the long run. When you're ready, talk with a local real estate professional.

Your Equity Could Make a Move Possible

Your Equity Could Make a Move Possible Simplifying The Market

Many homeowners looking to sell feel like they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place right now. Today’s mortgage rates are higher than the one they currently have on their home, and that’s making it harder to want to sell and make a move. Maybe you’re in the same boat.

But what if there was a way to offset these higher borrowing costs? There is. And the money you need probably already exists in your current home in the form of equity.

What Is Equity?

Think of equity as a simple math equation. Freddie Mac explains:

“. . . your home’s equity is the difference between how much your home is worth and how much you owe on your mortgage.”

Your equity grows as you pay down your loan over time and as home prices climb. And thanks to the rapid home price appreciation we saw in recent years, you probably have a whole lot more of it than you realize.

The latest from the Census and ATTOM shows more than two out of three homeowners have either completely paid off their mortgages (shown in green in the chart below) or have at least 50% equity (shown in blue in the chart below):


That means the majority of homeowners have a game-changing amount of equity right now.

How Your Equity Can Help Fuel Your Move

After you sell your house, that equity can help you move without worrying as much about today’s mortgage rates. As Danielle Hale, Chief Economist for Realtor.com says:

“A consideration today's homeowners should review is what their home equity picture looks like. With the typical home listing price up 40% from just five years ago, many home sellers are sitting on a healthy equity cushion. This means they are likely to walk away from a home sale with proceeds that they can use to offset the amount of borrowing needed for their next home purchase.”

To give you some examples, here are a few ways you can use equity to buy your next home:

  • Be an all-cash buyer: If you’ve been living in your current home for a long time, you might have enough equity to buy your next home without having to take out a loan. If that’s the case, you won’t need to borrow any money or worry about mortgage rates. 
  • Make a larger down payment: Your equity could also be used toward your next down payment. It might even be enough to let you put a larger amount down, so you won’t have to borrow as much at today’s rates. 

The First Step: Determine How Much Equity You Have in Your Home

Want to find out how much equity you have? To do that, you’ll need two things:

  1. The current mortgage balance on your home
  2. The current value of your home

You can probably find the mortgage balance on your monthly mortgage statement. To understand the current market value of your house, you can pay hundreds of dollars for an appraisal, or you can contact a local real estate agent who will be able to present to you, at no charge, a professional equity assessment report (PEAR).

Once you’ve connected with a trusted local agent and run the numbers, you’re one step closer to making a move you may not have thought was realistic – all thanks to your equity.

Bottom Line

If you want to find out how much equity you have and talk more about how it can make your next move possible, connect with a local real estate professional.