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  • Get Ready To Buy a Home by Improving Your Credit Score

    As the new year approaches, the idea of buying a home might be on your mind. It’s an exciting goal to set, and it's never too early to start laying the groundwork. One crucial step to prepare for homeownership is building a solid credit score. Lenders review your credit to assess your ability to make payments on time, pay back debts, and more. It’s also a factor that helps determine your mortgage rate. An article from CNBC explains: “When it comes to mortgages, a higher credit score can save you thousands of dollars in the long run. This is because your credit score directly impacts your mortgage rate, which determines the amount of interest you’ll pay over the life of the loan.” This means your credit score may feel even more important to your homebuying plans right now since mortgage rates are a key factor in affordability, especially today. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the median credit score in the U.S. for those taking out a mortgage is 770. But that doesn’t mean your credit score has to be perfect. An article from Business Insider explains generally how your FICO score range can make an impact: “. . . you don’t need a perfect credit score to buy a house. . . . Aiming to get your credit score in the ‘Good’ range (670 to 739) would be a great start towards qualifying for a mortgage. But if you’re wanting to qualify for the lowest rates, try to get your score within the ‘Very Good’ range (740 to 799).” Working with a trusted lender is the best way to get more information on how your credit score could factor into your home loan and the mortgage rate. As FICO says: “While many lenders use credit scores like FICO Scores to help them make lending decisions, each lender has its own strategy, including the level of risk it finds acceptable. There is no single “cutoff score” used by all lenders and there are many additional factors that lenders may use to determine your actual interest rates.” If you’re looking for ways to improve your score, Experian highlights some things you may want to focus on: Your Payment History: Late payments can have a negative impact by dropping your score. Focus on making payments on time and paying any existing late charges quickly. Your Debt Amount (relative to your credit limits): When it comes to your available credit amount, the less you’re using, the better. Focus on keeping this number as low as possible. Credit Applications: If you’re looking to buy something, don’t apply for additional credit. When you apply for new credit, it could result in a hard inquiry on your credit that drops your score. A lender will help you navigate the process from start to finish, from assessing which range your score falls in to telling you more about the specifics for each loan type. Bottom Line As you set your sights on buying a home in the upcoming year, a focus on boosting your credit score could help you get a better mortgage rate when the time comes. If you want to learn more, connect with a trusted lender.

  • These Non-Financial Benefits Turn a House into a Happy Home

    There’s no denying the long-term financial benefits of owning a home, but today’s housing market may have you wondering if now’s still the time to buy. While the financial aspects of homeownership are important, the non-financial and emotional reasons are too. Here’s why. The word home truly means something different to everyone. Whether it’s sharing memories with loved ones around the kitchen table or settling in to read a book in your favorite chair, the emotional connections we have to our homes can be just as important as the financial ones. Here are some of the things that turn a house into a happy home. 1. You Can Be Proud of Your Accomplishment Buying a home is a major life milestone. Whether you’re ready to buy your first home or your fifth, congratulations will be in order once you’ve achieved your goal. The sense of accomplishment you’ll feel at the end of your journey will truly make your home feel like your special place. Go ahead and smile – you’ve earned it. 2. You Have Your Own Designated Happy Place Owning your home offers not only safety and security, but also a comfortable place where you can relax and unwind after a long day. Sometimes that’s just what you need to feel refreshed and recharged. 3. You Can Find the Space To Meet Your Needs Whether you want more room for your changing lifestyle (like a large backyard for entertaining or room for a home office) or you simply want to move closer to your loved ones, you can invest in a home that truly works for your evolving needs. 4. You Can Customize Your Surroundings Looking to try one of those decorative wall treatments you saw online? Tired of paying an additional pet deposit for your apartment building? Or maybe you want to create an in-house yoga studio. You can do these things and much more when you own your home. Bottom Line Whether you’re planning to buy your first home, or you’re ready to move into a different one to meet your changing needs, think about the emotional benefits that can turn a house into a happy home. When you’re ready to make a move, let’s connect.

  • Get Your House Ready To Sell This Winter [INFOGRAPHIC]

    Some Highlights As you get ready to sell your house, there are a few things you should add to your to-do list to make it inviting and boost curb appeal. To name just a couple, it’s a good idea to declutter, take down personal photos and items, touch up any scuffs on the walls, and tidy up your landscaping. Connect with a trusted real estate professional for advice on what else you may want to do to get your house ready to sell this season. The information contained, and the opinions expressed, in this article are not intended to be construed as investment advice. Keeping Current Matters, Inc. does 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. will not be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on the information or opinions contained herein.

  • Sell Smarter: Why Working with a Real Estate Agent May Beat Going Solo

    If you're thinking about selling your house on your own, called “For Sale by Owner” or FSBO, there are some important things to consider. Going this route means taking on a lot of responsibilities by yourself – and that can be a bit of a headache. A recent report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) found two of the most difficult tasks for people who sell their house on their own are getting the price right and understanding and performing paperwork. Here are just a few of the ways an agent helps with those difficult tasks. Getting the Price Right Setting the right price for your house is important when you're trying to sell it. If you're selling your house on your own, two common issues can happen. For starters, you might ask for too much money (overpricing). Alternatively, 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, it's a good idea to team up with a real estate agent. Real estate agents know how to figure out the perfect price because they understand the local housing market. They can use their 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, making 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. 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 your house is a big deal, and it can be complicated. Having a real estate agent can make a huge difference with setting the right price and managing all the details, so you can sell confidently. Let’s connect to make the process smooth and take the stress off your plate.

  • Why Mortgage Rates Could Continue To Decline

    When you read about the housing market, you’ll probably come across some information about inflation or recent decisions made by the Federal Reserve (the Fed). But how do those two things impact you and your homebuying plans? Here's what you need to know. The Federal Funds Rate Hikes Have Stalled One of the Fed’s primary goals is to lower inflation. In order to do that, they started raising the Federal Funds Rate to slow down the economy. Even though this doesn’t directly dictate what happens with mortgage rates, it does have an impact. Recently inflation has started to cool, a signal those increases worked and are bringing inflation back down. As a result, the Fed’s hikes have gotten smaller and less frequent. In fact, there haven’t been any increases since July (see graph below): And not only has the Fed decided not to raise the Federal Funds Rate the last three times the committee met, they’ve signaled there may actually be rate cuts coming in 2024. According to the New York Times (NYT): “Federal Reserve officials left interest rates unchanged in their final policy decision of 2023 and forecast that they will cut borrowing costs three times in the coming year, a sign that the central bank is shifting toward the next phase in its fight against rapid inflation.” This indicates the Fed thinks the economy and inflation are improving. Why does that matter to you and your plans to buy a home? It could end up leading to lower mortgage rates and improved affordability. Mortgage Rates Are Coming Down Mortgage rates are influenced by a wide variety of factors, and inflation and the Fed’s actions (or as has been the case recently, inaction) play a big role. Now that the Fed has paused the increases, it looks more likely mortgage rates will continue their downward trend (see graph below): Although mortgage rates may remain volatile, their recent trend combined with expert forecasts indicate they could continue to go down in 2024. That would improve affordability for buyers and make it easier for sellers to move since they won’t feel as locked-in to their current, low mortgage rate. Bottom Line The Fed’s decisions have an indirect impact on mortgage rates. By not raising the Federal Funds Rate, mortgage rates are likely to continue declining. Let’s connect so you have expert advice about changes in the housing market and how they affect you.

  • Expert Quotes on the 2024 Housing Market Forecast

    If you’re thinking about buying or selling a home soon, you probably want to know what you can expect from the housing market in 2024. In 2023, higher mortgage rates, confusion over home price headlines, and a lack of homes for sale created some challenges for buyers and sellers looking to make a move. But what’s on the horizon for the new year? The good news is, many experts are optimistic we’ve turned a corner and are headed in a positive direction. Mortgage Rates Expected To Ease Recently, mortgage rates have started to come back down. This has offered hope to buyers dealing with affordability challenges. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, explains how they may continue to drop: “Mortgage rates have already retreated from recent peaks near 8 percent and may fall further . . .” Jessica Lautz, Deputy Chief Economist at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), says: “For home buyers who are taking on a mortgage to purchase a home and have been wary of the autumn rise in mortgage rates, the market is turning more favorable, and there should be optimism entering 2024 for a better market.” The Supply of Homes for Sale May Grow As rates ease, activity in the housing market should pick up because more buyers and sellers who had been holding off will jump back into action. If more sellers list, the supply of homes for sale will grow – a trend we’ve already started to see this year. Lisa Sturtevant, Chief Economist at Bright MLS, says: “Supply will loosen up in 2024. Even homeowners who have been characterized as being ‘locked in’ to low rates will increasingly find that changing family and financial circumstances will lead to more moves and more new listings over the course of the year, particularly as rates move closer to 6.5%.” Home Price Growth Should Moderate And mortgage rates pulling back isn’t the only positive sign for affordability. Home price growth is expected to moderate too, as inventory improves but is still low overall. As the Home Price Expectation Survey (HPES) from Fannie Mae, a survey of over 100 economists, investment strategists, and housing market analysts, says: “On average, the panel anticipates home price growth to clock in at 5.9% in 2023, to be followed by slower growth in 2024 and 2025 of 2.4 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively.” To wrap it up, experts project 2024 will be a better year for the housing market. So, if you’re thinking about making a move next year, know that early signs show we’re turning a corner. As Mike Simonsen, President and Founder of Altos Research, puts it: “We’re going into 2024 with slight home-price gains, somewhat easing inventory constraints, slightly increasing transaction volume . . . All in all, things are looking up for the U.S. housing market in 2024.” Bottom Line Experts are optimistic about what 2024 holds for the housing market. If you’re looking to buy or sell a home in the new year, the best way to ensure you’re up to date on the latest forecasts is to partner with a trusted real estate agent. Let’s connect.

  • Why Now Is Still a Great Time To Sell Your House

    If you were worried buyer demand disappeared when mortgage rates went up, the data shows there are plenty of interested buyers still out there. The housing market isn't as frenzied as it was during the ‘unicorn’ years when buyer demand was through the roof, mortgage rates were historically low, and home values rose like we’ve never seen before. But that doesn’t mean the market is at a standstill. Nationally, demand is still high compared to the last normal years in the housing market and plenty of buyers are making moves right now. Here’s the data to prove it. Showing Traffic Is Up The ShowingTime Showing Index is a measure of how frequently buyers are touring homes. The graph below uses that index to show buyer activity over the past eight Octobers: In the graph, the ‘unicorn’ years are shown in pink. You can see demand has dipped some since then. That’s in response to higher mortgage rates. But, when you compare 2023 to the blue bars on the left that represent the last normal years in the market (2018-2019), you can tell buyers are still more active than the norm. But showing traffic isn’t the only way to see buyer demand is still high. The number of offers other sellers are getting and the average days homes are on the market tell the same story. Sellers Are Still Seeing Multiple Offers According to the latest data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), sellers are receiving an average of 2.5 offers on their houses. Let’s look at how that compares to recent years (see graph below): It’s true that’s fewer than the number of offers sellers were receiving during the ‘unicorn’ years (shown in pink). But compared to last year, the number is up slightly. And it’s higher than it was in the more normal, pre-‘unicorn’ years in the housing market too. Homes Priced Right Are Selling Fast And it’s not just that sellers are still typically getting multiple offers more than the norm, they’re also seeing their homes sell fast. That’s a direct result of strong buyer demand. According to Zillow: “. . . low inventory levels are spurring surprisingly strong competition . . . demand has remained resilient, and attractive, appropriately priced listings are moving quickly.” To help showcase that homes for sale are still going quickly, let’s look at data from NAR on the median days on market for this same time of year from 2018 through now (see graph below): As the graph shows, this year homes are sitting on the market only slightly longer than they were during the frenzy of the ‘unicorn’ years. And compared to the last normal years in the market, homes are still selling much faster than they did back then. That’s good news for sellers because it means there are eager buyers out there right now. Bottom Line You haven't missed your chance to sell at a time when sellers are receiving multiple offers, and homes are selling fast. When you’re ready to sell your house, let’s connect to get the ball rolling.

  • What You Need To Know About Down Payments [INFOGRAPHIC]

    Some Highlights If you want to buy a home, you may not need as much for your down payment as you think. There are various loan options for qualified buyers with down payments as low as 3.5% or even no down payment requirement. There are also thousands of programs available to help homebuyers with their down payments. With the right resources, your down payment may be more within reach than you realize. To learn more about your options, let’s connect.

  • If Your House Hasn’t Sold Yet, It May Be Overpriced

    Has your house been sitting on the market a while without selling? If so, you should know that’s pretty unusual, especially right now. That’s because the supply of homes available for sale is still far lower than what we’d see in a normal year. That means buyers have fewer options than they usually would, so your house should be an oasis in an inventory desert. So, if homebuyers have limited choices and your house still hasn’t sold, there’s a reason why. Let’s break one potential sticking point that may be turning buyers away: your asking price. Especially with today’s higher mortgage rates already putting a stretch on their budget, buyers are being a bit more sensitive about price. As a recent article from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) says: “If you are serious about selling your home now, don’t get greedy with the asking price. This is still a seller’s home market as there simply aren’t enough affordable homes for sale in many parts of the country. But with average 30-year mortgage rates above 6%, buyers are much more price-sensitive than they were a year ago.” Why Setting the Right Price Matters While you want to maximize the return on your investment when you sell your house, you also need to be realistic based on current market conditions. The simple truth is your house is only going to sell for what people are willing to pay right now. This can be a hard thing to accept. Especially since emotions can run high during the selling process, which only complicates matters more. After all, you may have lived in this house for years, so it’s only natural you’re emotionally tied to it – and those heartstrings can make it harder to be objective. But it’s important to acknowledge that a bigger-than-expected price tag deters buyers and may make them dismiss your house as a possibility before even seeing it. And if no one’s looking at it, how will it sell? If you want to get your house sold, you’ll need to do something to spark interest in your home again. That’s where a local real estate agent comes in. They’ll help use data to find out if it’s priced too high for your local market. They balance the value of homes in your neighborhood, current market trends and buyer demand, the condition of your house, and more to find the right price for your house, so you can close this chapter and start your next one. Bottom Line While it’s true there aren’t that many homes available for sale right now, your home’s asking price still matters. And, if it’s not selling, it may be priced too high.

  • The Surprising Trend in the Number of Homes Coming onto the Market

    If you're thinking about moving, it's important to know what's happening in the housing market. Here's an update on the supply of homes currently for sale. Whether you're buying or selling, the number of homes in your area is something you should pay attention to. In the housing market, there are regular patterns that happen every year, called seasonality. Spring is the peak homebuying season and also when the most homes are typically listed for sale (homes coming onto the market are known in the industry as new listings). In the second half of each year, the number of new listings typically decreases as the pace of sales slows down. The graph below uses data from Realtor.com to provide a visual of this seasonality. It shows how this year (the black line) is breaking from the norm (see graph below): Looking at this graph, three things become clear: 2017-2019 (the blue and gray lines) follow the same general pattern. These years were very typical in the housing market and their lines on the graph show normal, seasonal trends. Starting in 2020, the data broke from the normal trend. The big drop down in 2020 (the orange line) signals when the pandemic hit and many sellers paused their plans to move. 2021 (the green line) and 2022 (the red line) follow the normal trend a bit more, but still are abnormal in their own ways. This year (the black line) is truly unique. The steep drop off in new listings that usually occurs this time of year hasn’t happened. If 2023 followed the norm, the line representing this year would look more like the dotted black line. Instead, what’s happening is the number of new listings is stabilizing. And, there are even more new listings coming to the market this year compared to the same time last year. What Does This Mean for You? For buyers, new listings stabilizing is a positive sign. It means you have a more steady stream of options coming onto the market and more choices for your next home than you would have at the same time last year. This opens up possibilities and allows you to explore a variety of homes that suit your needs. For sellers, while new listings are breaking seasonal norms, inventory is still well below where it was before the pandemic. If you look again at the graph, you’ll see the black line for this year is still lower than normal, meaning inventory isn’t going up dramatically and prices aren’t heading for a crash. And with less competition from other sellers than you’d see in a more typical year, your house has a better chance to be in the spotlight and attract eager buyers. Bottom Line Whether you're on the hunt for your next home or thinking of selling, now might just be the perfect time to make your move. If you have questions or concerns about the availability of homes in our local area, let’s connect.

  • Down Payment Assistance Programs Can Help Pave the Way to Homeownership

    If you’re looking to buy a home, your down payment doesn’t have to be a big hurdle. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 38% of first-time homebuyers find saving for a down payment the most challenging step. But the reality is, you probably don’t need to put down as much as you think: Data from NAR shows the median down payment hasn’t been over 20% since 2005. In fact, the median down payment for all homebuyers today is only 15%. And it’s even lower for first-time homebuyers at 8%. But just because that’s the median, it doesn’t mean you have to put that much down. Some qualified buyers put down even less. For example, there are loan types, like FHA loans, with down payments as low as 3.5%, as well as options like VA loans and USDA loans with no down payment requirements for qualified applicants. But let’s focus in on another valuable resource that may be able to help with your down payment: down payment assistance programs. First-Time and Repeat Buyers Are Often Eligible According to Down Payment Resource, there are thousands of programs available for homebuyers – and 75% of these are down payment assistance programs. And it’s not just first-time homebuyers that are eligible. That means no matter where you are in your homebuying journey, there could be an option available 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.” The best place to start as you search for more information is with a trusted real estate professional. They’ll be able to share more information about what may be available, including additional programs for specific professions or communities. Additional Down Payment Resources That Can Help Here are a few down payment assistance programs that are helping many of today’s buyers achieve the dream of homeownership: 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 for them 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. Even if you don’t qualify for these types of programs, there are many other federal, state, and local options available to look into. And a real estate professional can help you find the ones that meet your needs as you explore what’s available. Bottom Line Achieving the dream of having a home may be more within reach than you think, especially when you know where to find the right support. To learn more about your options, let’s connect.

  • The Perfect Home Could Be the One You Perfect After Buying

    There’s no denying mortgage rates and home prices are higher now than they were last year and that’s impacting what you can afford. At the same time, there are still fewer homes available for sale than the norm. These are two of the biggest hurdles buyers are facing today. But there are ways to overcome these things and still make your dream of homeownership a reality. As you set out to make a purchase this season, you’ll want to be strategic. This includes taking a close look at your wish list and considering what features you really need in your next home versus which ones are nice-to-have. This will help you avoid overextending your budget or limiting your pool of options too much because you’re searching for that perfect 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, . . . Another key point is to avoid stretching your budget, as tempting as it may be . . .” To help identify what you truly need, make a list of all the features you’ll want to see. From there, work to break those features into categories. Here’s a great way to organize your list: Must-Haves – If a house doesn’t have these features, it won’t work for you and your lifestyle (examples: distance from work or loved ones, number of bedrooms/bathrooms, etc.). Nice-To-Haves – These are features you’d love to have but can live without. Nice-to-haves aren’t dealbreakers, but if you find a home that hits all the must-haves and some of these, it’s a contender (examples: a second home office, a garage, etc.). Dream State – This is where you can really think big. Again, these aren’t features you’ll need, but if you find a home in your budget that has all the must-haves, most of the nice-to-haves, and any of these, it’s a clear winner (examples: a pool, multiple walk-in closets, etc.). If you’re only willing to tour homes that have all of your dream features, you may be cutting down your options too much and making it harder on yourself (and your budget) than necessary. While you’d love to have granite countertops or a pool in the backyard, those are both things you could potentially add after you move. Instead, it may be best to focus on finding the things that you can’t change (like location or a certain number of rooms). Then, you can upgrade or add some of the other features or finishes you want later on. Sometimes the perfect home is the one you perfect after buying it. Once you’ve categorized your list in a way that works for you, discuss your top priorities with your real estate agent. They’ll be able to help you refine the list further, coach you through the best way to stick to it, and find a home in your area that meets your top needs. Bottom Line With the current affordability challenges and limited housing supply, you’ll want to be strategic so you can find a home that meets your needs while staying within your budget. Let’s connect to make that possible.

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