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  • The Dramatic Impact of Homeownership on Net Worth

    If you're trying to decide whether to rent or buy a home this year, here's a powerful insight that could give you the clarity and confidence you need to make your decision. Every three years, the Federal Reserve releases the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), which compares net worth for homeowners and renters. The latest report shows the average homeowner’s net worth is almost 40X greater than a renter’s (see graph below): One reason a wealth gap exists between renters and homeowners is because when you’re a homeowner, your equity grows as your home appreciates in value and you make your mortgage payment each month. When you own a home, your monthly mortgage payment acts like a form of forced savings, which eventually pays off when you decide to sell. As a renter, you’ll never see a financial return on the money you pay out in rent every month. Ksenia Potapov, Economist at First American, explains it like this: “Renters don’t capture the wealth generated by house price appreciation, nor do they benefit from the equity gains generated by monthly mortgage payments . . .” The Largest Part of Most Homeowner Net Worth Is Their Equity Home equity does more to build the average household’s wealth than anything else. According to data from First American and the Federal Reserve, this holds true across different income levels (see graph below): The green segment in each bar represents how much of a homeowner's net worth comes from their home equity. Based on this data, it's clear no matter what your income level is, owning a home can really boost your wealth. Nicole Bachaud, Senior Economist at Zillow, shares: “The biggest asset most people are ever going to own is a home. Homeownership is really that financial key that helps unlock stability and wealth preservation across generations.” If you’re ready to start building your net worth, the current real estate market offers several opportunities you should consider. For example, with mortgage rates trending lower lately, your purchasing power may be higher now than it has been in months. And, with more inventory coming to the market, there are more options for you to consider. A local real estate agent can walk you through the opportunities you have today and guide you through the process of finding your ideal home. Bottom Line If you're unsure about whether to rent or buy a home, keep in mind that owning a home can increase your overall wealth in the long run, no matter your income. To discover more about this and the many other benefits of homeownership, let’s connect.

  • Avoid These Common Mistakes After Applying for a Mortgage

    If you’re getting ready to buy a home, it’s exciting to jump a few steps ahead and think about moving in and making it your own. But before you get too far down the emotional path, there are some key things to keep in mind after you apply for your mortgage and before you close. Here’s a list of things to remember when you apply for your home loan. Don’t Deposit Large Sums of Cash Lenders need to source your money, and cash isn’t easily traceable. Before you deposit any cash into your accounts, discuss the proper way to document your transactions with your loan officer. Don’t Make Any Large Purchases It’s not just home-related purchases that could disqualify you from your loan. Any large purchases can be red flags for lenders. People with new debt have higher debt-to-income ratios (how much debt you have compared to your monthly income). Since higher ratios make for riskier loans, borrowers may no longer qualify for their mortgage. Resist the temptation to make any large purchases, even for furniture or appliances. Don’t Cosign Loans for Anyone When you cosign for a loan, you’re making yourself accountable for that loan’s success and repayment. With that obligation comes higher debt-to-income ratios as well. Even if you promise you won’t be the one making the payments, your lender will have to count them against you. Don’t Switch Bank Accounts Lenders need to source and track your assets. That task is much easier when there’s consistency among your accounts. Before you transfer any money, speak with your loan officer. Don’t Apply for New Credit It doesn’t matter whether it’s a new credit card or a new car. When your credit report is run by organizations in multiple financial channels (mortgage, credit card, auto, etc.), it will have an impact on your FICO® score. Lower credit scores can determine your interest rate and possibly even your eligibility for approval. Don’t Close Any Accounts Many buyers believe having less available credit makes them less risky and more likely to be approved. This isn’t true. A major component of your score is your length and depth of credit history (as opposed to just your payment history) and your total usage of credit as a percentage of available credit. Closing accounts has a negative impact on both of those parts of your score. Do Discuss Changes with Your Lender Be upfront about any changes that occur or you’re expecting to occur when talking with your lender. Blips in income, assets, or credit should be reviewed and executed in a way that ensures your home loan can still be approved. If your job or employment status has changed recently, share that with your lender as well. Ultimately, it’s best to fully disclose and discuss your intentions with your loan officer before you do anything financial in nature. Bottom Line You want your home purchase to go as smoothly as possible. Remember, before you make any large purchases, move your money around, or make major life changes, be sure to consult your lender – someone who’s qualified to explain how your financial decisions may impact your home loan.

  • Ways Your Home Equity Can Help You Reach Your Goals

    If you’ve owned your house for at least a couple of years, there’s something you’re going to want to know more about – and that’s home equity. If you’re not familiar with that term, Freddie Mac defines it like this: “. . . your home’s equity is the difference between how much your home is worth and how much you owe on your mortgage.” That means your equity grows as you pay down your home loan over time and as home values climb. While it’s true home prices dipped slightly last year, they rebounded and have been climbing in many areas since then. Here’s why that price growth is good news for you. In the latest Equity Insights Report, Selma Hepp, Chief Economist at CoreLogic, explains: “With price gains continuing to help homeowners build wealth, equity has reached a new high and regained losses that resulted from declines last year. And while the average U.S. homeowner gained over $20,000 in additional equity compared with the third quarter of 2022, some markets are seeing larger increases as price growth catches up.” And that figure is just for the last year. To help you understand how that number can add up over time, the report also says the average homeowner with a mortgage has more than $300,000 in equity. That much equity can have a big impact. Here are a few examples of how you can put your home equity to work for you. 1. Buy a Home That Fits Your Needs If your current space no longer meets your needs, it might be time to think about moving to a bigger home. And if you’ve got too much space, downsizing to a smaller one could be just right. Either way, you can put your equity toward a down payment on something that fits your changing lifestyle. 2. Reinvest in Your Current Home And, if you’re not ready to move just yet, you can use the equity you have to improve your current home. But it’s important to consider the long-term benefits certain upgrades can bring to your home’s value. A real estate agent is a great resource on which projects to prioritize to get the greatest return on your investment when you sell later on. 3. Pursue Personal Ambitions Home equity can also catalyze realizing your life-long dreams. That could mean investing in a new business venture, retirement, or funding an education. While you shouldn’t use your equity for unnecessary spending, using it responsibly for something meaningful and impactful can make a difference in your life. 4. Understand Your Options to Avoid Foreclosure While the number of foreclosure filings remains below the norm, there are still some homeowners who go into foreclosure each year. If you’re in a tough spot financially, having a clear understanding of your options can help. Equity can act as a cushion if you’re not able to make your mortgage payments on time. Bottom Line If you want to know how much equity you have in your home, let’s connect. That way you have someone who can do a professional equity assessment report on how much you’ve built up over time. Then let’s talk through how you can use it to help you reach your goals.

  • What Lower Mortgage Rates Mean for Your Purchasing Power

    If you want to buy a home, it's important to know how mortgage rates impact what you can afford and how much you’ll pay each month. Fortunately, rates for 30-year fixed mortgages have come down significantly since the end of October and are currently under 7%, according to Freddie Mac (see graph below): This recent trend is great news for buyers. As a recent article from Bankrate says: “The rate cool-off somewhat eases the housing affordability squeeze.” And according to Edward Seiler, AVP of Housing Economics and Executive Director of the Research Institute for Housing America at the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA): “MBA expects that affordability conditions will continue to improve as mortgage rates decline . . .” Here’s a bit more context on how this could help with your plans to buy a home. How Mortgage Rates Affect Your Search for a Home Understanding the connection between mortgage rates and your monthly home payment is crucial for your plans to become a homeowner. The chart below illustrates how your ability to afford a home changes when mortgage rates shift. Imagine your budget allows for a monthly payment between $2,400 and $2,500. The green part in the chart shows payments in that range or lower (see chart below): As you can see, even small changes in rates can affect your budget and the loan amount you can afford. Get Help from Reliable Experts To Understand Your Budget and Plan Ahead When you're looking to buy a home, it's important to get guidance from a local real estate agent and a trusted lender. They can help you explore different mortgage options, understand what makes mortgage rates go up or down, and how those changes impact you. By looking at the numbers and the latest data together, and then adjusting your strategy based on today's rates, you'll be better prepared and ready to buy a home. Bottom Line If you’re looking to buy a home, you should know the recent downward trend in mortgage rates is good news for your move. Let’s connect and plan your next steps.

  • Achieving Your Homebuying Dreams in 2024

    Some Highlights Planning to buy a home in 2024? Here’s what to focus on. Improve your credit score, plan for your down payment, get pre-approved, and decide what’s most important to you. Let’s connect so you have expert advice on how to achieve your homebuying goals this year. The information contained, and the opinions expressed, in this article are not intended to be construed as investment advice. Keeping Current Matters, Inc. and the Judy Weinstock Real Estate Team do not guarantee or warrant the accuracy or completeness of the information or opinions contained herein. Nothing herein should be construed as investment advice. You should always conduct your own research and due diligence and obtain professional advice before making any investment decision. Keeping Current Matters, Inc. and the Judy Weinstock Real Estate Team will not be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on the information or opinions contained herein.

  • Why Pre-Approval Is Your Homebuying Game Changer

    If you’re thinking about buying a home, pre-approval is a crucial part of the process you definitely don’t want to skip. So, before you start picturing yourself in your new living room or dining on your future all-season patio, be sure you’re working with a trusted lender to prioritize this essential step. Here’s why. While home price growth is moderating and mortgage rates have been coming down in recent weeks, affordability is still tight.  At the same time, there’s a limited number of homes for sale right now, and that means ongoing competition among hopeful buyers. But, if you’re strategic, there are ways to navigate these waters – and pre-approval is the game changer. What Pre-Approval Does for You To understand why it’s such an important step, you need to know more about pre-approval. As part of the homebuying process, a lender looks at your finances to determine what they’re willing to loan you. From there, your lender will give you a pre-approval letter to help you understand how much money you can borrow. Freddie Mac explains it like this: “A pre-approval is an indication from your lender that they are willing to lend you a certain amount of money to buy your future home. . . . Keep in mind that the loan amount in the pre-approval letter is the lender’s maximum offer. Ultimately, you should only borrow an amount you are comfortable repaying.” Getting pre-approved starts to put you in the mindset of seeing the bigger financial picture, one step at a time. And the key is more than just getting a pre-approval letter from your lender. The combination of pre-approval and strategic budgeting is your golden ticket to understanding what you can actually afford. It saves you from painful heartaches down the road so you don’t fall in love with a house that might be out of reach. Pre-Approval Helps Show Sellers You’re a Serious Buyer But that's just the beginning. Let’s face it, more people are looking to buy than there are homes available for sale, and that creates competition among homebuyers. That means you could see yourself in a multiple-offer scenario when you get ready to make your move. But getting pre-approved for a mortgage can help you stand out from other buyers. In today's fast-moving housing market, having that pre-approval in your back pocket can be your secret weapon. When sellers see you're pre-approved, it tells them you're a strategic and serious buyer. In a world of multiple offers, that's a big deal. As an article from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) says: “If you plan to use a mortgage for your home purchase, preapproval should be among the first steps in your search process. Not only can getting preapproved help you zero in on the right price range, but it can give you a leg up on other buyers, too.” Pre-approval shows sellers you’re more than just a window shopper. You’re a buyer who’s already undergone a credit and financial check, making it more likely that the sale will move forward without unexpected delays or issues. Sellers love that because they see your offer as a reliable one. A win-win, right? Bottom Line So, before you start mentally arranging furniture in your dream home, work with a trusted lender to get your pre-approval set. It’ll save you time, stress, and a lot of headaches that could come up along the way without it. The reality is, the more prepared you are, the more likely you are to land the home you’re longing for.

  • Thinking About Buying a Home? Ask Yourself These Questions

    If you’re thinking of buying a home this year, you’re probably paying closer attention than normal to the housing market. And you’re getting your information from a variety of channels: the news, social media, your real estate agent, conversations with friends and loved ones, the list goes on and on. Most likely, home prices and mortgage rates are coming up a lot. Here are the top two questions you need to ask yourself as you make your decision, including the data that helps cut through the noise. 1. Where Do I Think Home Prices Are Heading? One reliable place you can turn to for home information price forecasts is the Home Price Expectations Survey from Fannie Mae – a survey of over one hundred economists, real estate experts, and investment and market strategists. According to the most recent release, the experts are projecting home prices will continue to rise at least through 2028 (see the graph below): So, why does this matter to you? While the percent of appreciation may not be as high as it was in recent years, what’s important to focus on is that this survey says we’ll see prices rise, not fall, for at least the next 5 years. And home prices rising, even at a more moderate pace, is good news not just for the market, but for you too. It means, that by buying now, your home will likely grow in value, and you should gain home equity in the years ahead. But, if you wait, based on these forecasts, the home will only cost you more later on. 2. Where Do I Think Mortgage Rates Are Heading? Over the past year, mortgage rates spiked up in response to economic uncertainty, inflation, and more. But there’s an encouraging sign for the market and mortgage rates. Inflation is moderating, and here’s why this is such a big deal if you’re looking to buy a home. When inflation cools, mortgage rates generally fall in response. That’s exactly what we’ve seen in recent weeks. And, now that the Federal Reserve has signaled they’re pausing their Federal Funds Rate increases and may even cut rates in 2024, experts are even more confident we’ll see mortgage rates come down. Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at Realtor.com, explains: “. . . mortgage rates will continue to ease in 2024 as inflation improves and Fed rate cuts get closer. . . . a key factor in starting to provide affordability relief to homebuyers.” As an article from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) says: “Mortgage rates likely have peaked and are now falling from their recent high of nearly 8%. . . . This likely will improve housing affordability and entice more home buyers to return to the market . . .” No one can say with absolute certainty where mortgage rates will go from here. But the recent decline and the latest decision from the Federal Reserve to stop their rate increases signals there’s hope on the horizon. While we may see some volatility here and there, affordability should improve as rates continue to ease. Bottom Line If you’re thinking about buying a home, you need to know what’s expected with home prices and mortgage rates. While no one can say for certain where they’ll go, making sure you have the latest information can help you make an informed decision. Let’s connect so you can stay up to date on what’s happening and why this is such good news for you.

  • Things To Consider If Your House Didn’t Sell

    If your listing has expired and your house didn’t sell, it's completely normal to feel a mix of frustration and disappointment. Understandably, you're probably wondering what may have gone wrong. Here are three questions to think about as you figure out what to do next. Did You Limit Access to Your House? One of the biggest mistakes you can make when selling your house is restricting the days and times when potential buyers can tour it. Being flexible with your schedule is important, even though it might feel a bit stressful to drop everything and leave when buyers want to see it. After all, minimal access means minimal exposure to buyers. ShowingTime advises: “. . . do your best to be as flexible as possible when granting access to your house for showings.” Sometimes, the most determined buyers might come from far away. Since they’re traveling to see your house, they may not be able to change their plans easily if you only offer limited times for showings. So, try to make your house available as much as you can to accommodate them. It's simple – if no one’s able to look at it, how will it sell? Did You Make Your House Stand Out? When you're selling your house, the old saying matters: you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Putting in the work to make the exterior of your home look nice is just as important as how you stage it inside. Freshen up your landscaping to boost your home’s curb appeal so you can make an impact upfront. As an article from U.S. News says: “After all, if people drive by, but aren’t interested enough to walk through the front door, you’ll never sell your house.” But don’t let that impact stop at the front door. By removing personal items and reducing clutter inside, you give buyers more freedom to picture themselves in the home. Plus, a fresh coat of paint or thorough floor cleaning can work wonders in sprucing up the house for potential buyers. Did You Price Your House at Market Value? Setting the right price is key. While it might be tempting to push the price higher to maximize your profit, overpricing your house can actually turn off potential buyers and slow down the selling process. Forbes notes: “Pricing a home too high could lead to a slower sale or force the seller to drop their price.” If your house is priced higher than others like it, it may discourage buyers, resulting in increased time on the market. Pay attention to the feedback people give your agent during open houses and showings. If lots of people are saying the same thing, it might be a good idea to think about lowering the price. For all these insights and more, rely on a trusted real estate agent. A great agent will offer expert advice on relisting your house with effective strategies to get it sold. Bottom Line It’s natural to feel disappointed when your listing has expired and your house didn’t sell. Let’s connect to determine what happened, and what changes you should make to get your house back on the market.

  • 3 Keys To Hitting Your Homeownership Goals in 2024

    If buying or selling a home is your goal for 2024, it’s important to understand today’s housing market, know your why, and work with industry experts to bring your homeownership vision for the new year into focus. Over the last year, the economy had a big impact on the housing market, and likely on your wallet too. That’s why it’s critical to have a clear picture of not just the market today, but also on what you want out of it when you buy or sell a home. Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at Realtor.com, explains: “The key to making a good decision in this challenging housing market is to be laser focused on what you need now and in the years ahead, so that you can stay in your home long enough that buying is a sound financial decision.” Here are a few things to think through as you define your goals for 2024. 1. Know Your Why You’re dreaming about making a move for a reason – what is it? No matter what’s happening in the market, there are still many compelling reasons to buy a home today. Your needs may have changed in a way your current house can’t address, or you could be ready to step into homeownership for the first time. Use your why and your motivation as a guidepost in partnership with an expert advisor to make sure your move gives you a lasting sense of accomplishment. 2. Figure Out What Your Next Home Needs To Look Like You know you want to move, but how would you describe your dream home? The number of homes for sale has grown recently, and that could mean more options to choose from when you buy. But overall housing supply is still lower than more normal years in the market, so you’ll have to work closely with a pro to find what you’re looking for. Just be sure to keep your budget in mind as you balance your wants and needs. The better you understand what’s essential and where you can be flexible, the easier it will be to find a home that’s right for you. 3. Determine if You’re Ready To Buy Getting clear on your budget and available savings is essential before you get too far into the process. Partnering with a local agent and a lender early is the best way to make sure you’re in a good position to buy. This could include planning how much to save for a down payment, getting pre-approved for a home loan, and assessing your current home equity if you’re selling your existing house. A Professional Will Guide You Through Every Step of the Process Buying or selling a home takes expertise to navigate. If that feels a bit overwhelming, that’s normal. Don’t let uncertainty hold you back from your goals this year. A trusted expert will help you bridge that gap and give you the facts and advice you need about today’s housing market. Bottom Line Let’s connect to plan how to make your homeownership dreams a reality in 2024.

  • The Benefits of Working With an Agent When You Sell Your House [INFOGRAPHIC]

    Some Highlights When it comes to selling your house, the expertise of a trusted real estate agent can make a big difference. They’ll explain what’s happening today, what that means for you, and how to price and market your house. They’re also skilled negotiators and well-versed in the contracts and disclosures involved. Let’s connect so you have expert advice throughout the entire process.

  • What You Need To Know About Saving for a Home in 2024

    If you’re planning to buy a home, knowing what to budget for and how to save may sound intimidating – but it doesn’t have to be. One way to ease those concerns is to make sure you understand some of the costs you may encounter upfront. And to do that, always turn to trusted real estate professionals. They can help you set a plan and take a strategic look at your budget and your process before you even get started. Here are just a few things experts say you should be thinking about. 1. Down Payment Saving for your down payment is likely top of mind as you set out to buy a home. But do you know how much you’ll need? While every buyer’s situation is different, there’s a common misconception that putting 20% of the purchase price down is required. An article from the Mortgage Reports explains why that’s not always the case: “The idea that you have to put 20% down on a house is a myth. . . . The right amount depends on your current savings and your home buying goals.” To understand your options, partner with trusted real estate professionals to go over the various loan types, down payment assistance programs, and what each one requires. The more you know ahead of time, the easier the process will be. 2. Closing Costs Make sure you also budget for closing costs, which are a collection of fees and payments made to the various parties involved in your transaction. Bankrate explains: “Closing costs are the fees you pay when finalizing a real estate transaction, whether you’re refinancing a mortgage or buying a new home. These costs can amount to 2 to 5 percent of the mortgage so it’s important to be financially prepared for this expense.” The best way to understand what you’ll need at the closing table is to work with a trusted lender. They can provide you with answers to the questions you might have. 3. Earnest Money Deposit If you want to cover all your bases, you can also consider saving for an earnest money deposit (EMD). An EMD is money you pay as a show of good faith when you make an offer on a house. According to Realtor.com, it’s usually between 1% and 2% of the total home price. This deposit works like a credit. It’s not an added expense – it’s paying a portion of your costs upfront. You’re using some of the money you’ve already saved for your purchase to show the seller you’re committed and serious about buying their house. Realtor.com describes how it works as part of your sale: “It tells the real estate seller you’re in earnest as a buyer . . . Assuming that all goes well and the buyer’s good-faith offer is accepted by the seller, the earnest money funds go toward the down payment and closing costs. In effect, earnest money is just paying more of the down payment and closing costs upfront.” Keep in mind, an EMD isn’t required, and it doesn’t guarantee your offer will be accepted. It’s important to work with a real estate advisor to understand what’s best for your situation and any specific requirements in your local area. They’ll advise you on what moves you should make so you can make the best possible decisions throughout the buying process. Bottom Line When buying a home, being informed about what to save for is key. Let’s connect so you’ll have an expert on your side to answer any questions you have along the way.

  • Retiring Soon? Why Moving Might Be the Perfect Next Step

    If you’re thinking about retirement or have already retired this year, it’s a good time to consider if your current house is still a good fit for the next chapter in your life. Fortunately, you may be in a better position to make a move than you realize. Here are a few things to think about as you decide whether or not to sell and make a move. How Long You’ve Been in Your Home From 1985 to 2008, the average length of time homeowners typically stayed in their homes was only six years. But according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), that number is rising today, meaning many homeowners are living in their houses even longer (see graph below): When you live in a home for a significant period, it’s natural for you to experience several changes in your life while you’re in that house. As those life changes and milestones happen, your needs may change. And if your current home no longer meets them, you may have better options waiting for you. How Much Equity You’ve Gained Additionally, if you’ve been in your house for more than a few years, you’ve likely built up significant equity that can fuel your next move. That’s because the longer you’ve been in your house, the more likely it’s grown in value due to home price appreciation. Data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) illustrates that point (see graph below): While home price growth varies by state and local area, the national average shows the typical homeowner who’s been in their house for five years saw it increase in value by nearly 60%. And the average homeowner who’s owned their home since 1991 saw it more than triple in value over that time. Consider Your Retirement Goals Whether you're looking to downsize, relocate to a dream destination, or simply be closer to loved ones, your home equity can be a key to realizing your homeownership goals. NAR shares that for recent home sellers, the primary reason to move was to be closer to loved ones. Whatever your home goals are, a trusted real estate agent can work with you to find the best option. They’ll help you sell your current house and guide you through buying the home that’s right for your lifestyle today. Bottom Line Retirement can bring about major changes in your life, including what you need from your home. Let’s connect to explore the available homes in our area.

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