Bergen County Real Estate and Community News

May 29, 2019

4 Most Popular Bottom Line Investments in America

Every year, Gallup surveys Americans to determine their choice for the best long-term investment. Respondents are given a choice between real estate, stocks, gold, and savings accounts.

For the sixth year in a row, real estate has come out on top as the best long-term investment! That has not always been the case. Gallup explains:

“Between 2008 and 2010, covering most of the Great Recession period that saw plummeting home and stock values, Americans were as likely to name savings accounts or CDs as the best long-term investment as they were to name stocks or real estate.”

This year’s results showed that 35% of Americans chose real estate, followed by stocks at 27%. The full results are shown in the chart below.

4 Most Popular Bottom Line Investments in America | Simplifying The Market

Bottom Line

Now that the real estate market has recovered, so has the belief of the American people in the stability of housing as a long-term investment.

May 13, 2019

The Benefits of a 20% Down Payment

 

If you are in the market to buy a home this year, you may be confused about how much money you need to come up with for your down payment. Many people you talk to will tell you that you need to save 20% or you won’t be able to secure a mortgage.

The truth is that there are many programs available that let you put down as little as 3%. Those who have served our country could qualify for a Veterans Affairs Home Loan (VA) without needing a down payment.

These programs have cut the savings time that many families would need to compile a large down payment from five or more years down to a year or two. This allows them to start building family wealth sooner.

So then, why do so many people believe that they need a 20% down payment to buy a home? There has to be a reason! Today, we want to talk about four reasons why putting 20% down is a good plan, if you can afford it.

1. Your interest rate will be lower.

Putting down a 20% down payment vs. a 3-5% down payment shows your lender/bank that you are more financially stable, thus a good credit risk. The more confident your bank is in your credit score and your ability to pay your loan, the lower the rate they will be willing to give you.

2. You’ll end up paying less for your home.

The bigger your down payment, the lower your loan amount will be for your mortgage. If you are able to pay 20% of the cost of your new home at the start of the transaction, you will only pay interest on the remaining 80%. If you put down a 5% down payment, the extra 15% on your loan will accrue interest and end up costing you more in the long run!

3. Your offer will stand out in a competitive market!

In a market where many buyers are competing for the same home, sellers like to see offers come in with 20% or larger down payments. The seller gains the same confidence that the bank did above. You are seen as a stronger buyer whose financing is more likely to be approved. Therefore, the deal will be more likely to go through!

4. You won’t have to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

Simply put, PMI is “an insurance policy that protects the lender if you are unable to pay your mortgage. It’s a monthly fee, rolled into your mortgage payment, that is required for all conforming, conventional loans that have down payments less than 20%.”

As we mentioned earlier, when you put down less than 20% to buy a home, your lender/bank will see your loan as having more risk. PMI helps them recover their investment in you if you are unable to pay your loan. This insurance is not required if you are able to put down 20% or more.

Many times, home sellers looking to move up to a larger or more expensive home are able to take the equity they earn from the sale of their house to put down 20% on their next home.

If you are looking to buy your first home, you will have to weigh the benefits of saving a 20% down payment vs. the time and cost of continuing to rent while you save that amount.

Bottom Line

If your plan for your future includes buying a home and you’re already saving for your down payment, let’s get together to help you decide what down payment size best fits with your long-term plan!

April 29, 2019

How Quickly Can You Save Your Down Payment?

Saving for a down payment is often the biggest hurdle for a first-time homebuyer. Depending on where you live, median income, median rents, and home prices all vary. So, we set out to find out how long it would take to save for a down payment in each state.

Using data from HUDCensus and Apartment List, we determined how long it would take, nationwide, for a first-time buyer to save enough money for a down payment on their dream home. There is a long-standing ‘rule’ that a household should not pay more than 28% of their income on their monthly housing expense.

By determining the percentage of income spent renting in each state, and the amount needed for a 10% down payment, we were able to establish how long (in years) it would take for an average resident to save enough money to buy a home of their own.

According to the data, residents in Kansas can save for a down payment the quickest, doing so in just over 1 year (1.12). Below is a map that was created using the data for each state:

How Quickly Can You Save Your Down Payment? | Simplifying The Market

What if you only needed to save 3%?

What if you were able to take advantage of one of Freddie Mac’s or Fannie Mae’s 3%-down programs? Suddenly, saving for a down payment no longer takes 2 to 5 years, but becomes possible in less than a year in most states, as shown on the map below.

How Quickly Can You Save Your Down Payment? | Simplifying The Market

Bottom Line

Whether you have just begun to save for a down payment or have been saving for years, you may be closer to your dream home than you think! Let’s get together to help you evaluate your ability to buy today.

April 26, 2019

Selling Your House: Here’s Why You Need A Pro In Your Corner!

 

 

With home prices on the rise and buyer demand still strong, some sellers may be tempted to try to sell their homes on their own rather than using the services of a real estate professional.

Real estate agents are trained and experienced in negotiation while, in most cases, the seller is not. Sellers must realize that their ability to negotiate will determine whether or not they get the best deal for themselves and their families.

Here is a list of just some of the people with whom the seller must be prepared to negotiate if they decide to For Sale by Owner (FSBO):

  • The buyer, who wants the best deal possible
  • The buyer’s agent, who solely represents the best interests of the buyer
  • The buyer’s attorney (in some parts of the country)
  • The home inspection companies, which work for the buyer and will almost always find some problems with the house
  • The termite company, if there are challenges
  • The buyer’s lender, if the structure of the mortgage requires the sellers’ participation
  • The appraiser, if there is a question of value
  • The title company, if there are challenges with certificates of occupancy (CO) or other permits
  • The town or municipality, if you need to get the CO permits mentioned above
  • The buyer’s buyer, in case there are challenges with the house your buyer is selling

Bottom Line

The percentage of sellers who have hired real estate agents to sell their homes has increased steadily over the last 20 years. Let’s get together to discuss all that we can do to make the process of selling your house easier for you.

 

April 16, 2019

Homeowners: Now Is A Good Time To Sell Your House

 

Every month, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) releases their Seller Traffic Index as a part of their Realtors Confidence Index. In the latest release, NAR reported that homeowners have been reluctant to sell their houses. This is reflected when broken down by state. Only 11 states have a stable level of seller traffic compared to the remainder of the country, which came in with a weak rating.

As we can see in the following table, the number of people who moved last year is half of what the rate was in the 1980s.

Homeowners: Now Is A Good Time To Sell Your House | Simplifying The Market

This does not come as a surprise, as tenure length (the number of years someone owns a home before moving again) among existing homeowners has increased. It has risen from an average of 6 years from 1985 to 2008, up to 9.5 years over the last few years. This is shown in the graph below:

Homeowners: Now Is A Good Time To Sell Your House | Simplifying The Market

As we can see, there is a pent-up seller demand!

What led to this change in behavior? Falling prices during the housing crisis led to many homeowners having negative equity in their home, meaning they owed more on their mortgage than the home was worth. Others were able to secure a low interest rate on their mortgage and have not been quick to obtain a new mortgage with a higher rate.

Will this trend continue?

Recently NAR reported that “69% of people believe now is a good time to sell a home.”

With a strong economy, low interest rates, and wages continuing to rise, some homeowners will be ready to put their house on the market and move up to the home of their dreams!

Bottom Line

There is a great opportunity for sellers to take advantage of the current real estate market before new inventory comes to market. If you are considering selling your house or would like to know your options, let’s get together today to help you understand the possibilities available to you!

April 11, 2019

What to Consider When Choosing Your Home To Retire In

 

As more and more baby boomers enter retirement age, the question of whether they should sell their homes and move has become a hot topic. In today’s housing market climate, with low available inventory in the starter and trade-up home categories, it makes sense to evaluate your home’s ability to adapt to your needs in retirement.

According to the National Association of Exclusive Buyers Agents (NAEBA), there are 7 factors that you should consider when choosing your retirement home.

1.Affordability

“It may be easy enough to purchase your home today but think long-term about your monthly costs. Account for property taxes, insurance, HOA fees, utilities – all the things that will be due whether or not you have a mortgage on the property.”

Would moving to a complex with homeowner association fees actually be cheaper than having to hire all the contractors you would need to maintain your home, lawn, etc.? Would your taxes go down significantly if you relocated? What is your monthly income going to be like in retirement?

2. Equity

“If you have equity in your current home, you may be able to apply it to the purchase of your next home. Maintaining a healthy amount of home equity gives you a source of emergency funds to tap, via a home equity loan or reverse mortgage.”

The equity you have in your current home may be enough to purchase your retirement home with little to no mortgage. Homeowners in the US gained an average of over $9,700 in equity last year.

3. Maintenance

“As we age, our tolerance for cleaning gutters, raking leaves and shoveling snow can go right out the window. A condominium with low-maintenance needs can be a literal lifesaver, if your health or physical abilities decline.”

As we mentioned earlier, would a condo with an HOA fee be worth the added peace of mind of not having to do the maintenance work yourself?

4. Security

“Elderly homeowners can be targets for scams or break-ins. Living in a home with security features, such as a manned gate house, resident-only access and a security system can bring peace of mind.”

As scary as that thought may be, any additional security is helpful. An extra set of eyes looking out for you always adds to peace of mind.

5. Pets

“Renting won’t do if the dog can’t come too! The companionship of pets can provide emotional and physical benefits.”

Consider all of your options when it comes to bringing your ‘furever’ friend with you to a new home. Will there be necessary additional deposits if you are renting or in a condo? Is the backyard fenced in? How far are you from your favorite veterinarian?

6. Mobility

“No one wants to picture themselves in a wheelchair or a walker, but the home layout must be able to accommodate limited mobility.”

Sixty is the new 40, right? People are living longer and are more active in retirement, but that doesn’t mean that down the road you won’t need your home to be more accessible. Installing handrails and making sure your hallways and doorways are wide enough may be a good reason to look for a home that was built to accommodate these needs.

7. Convenience

“Is the new home close to the golf course, or to shopping and dining? Do you have amenities within easy walking distance? This can add to home value!”

How close are you to your children and grandchildren? Would relocating to a new area make visits with family easier or more frequent? Beyond being close to your favorite stores and restaurants, there are a lot of factors to consider.

Bottom Line

When it comes to your forever home, evaluating your current house for its ability to adapt with you as you age can be the first step to guaranteeing your comfort in retirement. If after considering all these factors you find yourself curious about your options, let’s get together to evaluate your ability to sell your house in today’s market and get you into your dream retirement home!

April 11, 2019

Why Pet-Friendly Homes Are in High Demand

Why Pet-Friendly Homes Are in High Demand | MyKCM

One of the many benefits of owning your own home is the freedom to find your ‘furever’ friend. By pointing out the aspects of your home that make it ‘pet-friendly’ in your listing, you’ll attract these buyers, rather than alienating the 68% of American households that have a pet!

If you are one of the many homeowners looking to list your home for sale, how do you stand out to the millions of pet parents searching for their dream home?

Whether a dog person, a cat person, or someone who prefers the company of another pet species, 99% of pet owners say that they consider their animal to be family. When finding a home, 95% of animal owners believe it is important that a housing community allows animals.

study by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) revealed that there are many aspects of the home buying, selling and owning experience that have been greatly impacted by our love for our pets.

This should come as no surprise, as $72 billion was spent on pets in the U.S in 2018. NAR’s PresidentWilliam E. Brown shed some light on the impact of pet owners and their home search.

“It is important to understand the unique needs and wants of animal owners when it comes to homeownership. REALTORS® understand that when someone buys a home, they are buying it with the needs of their whole family in mind; ask pet owners, and they will enthusiastically agree that their animals are part of their family.”

The Power of Pets When Choosing the Right Home

  • 89% of pet owners say they would not give up their pet due to a housing restriction
  • 81% of Americans say their pets play a role in their housing situation
  • 31% of animal owners have refused to put in an offer on a home because it wasn’t a good fit for their animals
  • 19% of Americans say they would consider moving for their pet
  • 12% percent have moved for their pet

New home builders have actually begun installing retractable pet gates that tuck away neatly inside door jams as a highly requested feature in new homes to attract pet-parents.

So, if you are a homeowner looking to sell in today’s pet-friendly environment, point out the features of your home that will attract pet owners:

  • Fully fenced in backyard – (91% of pet owners ranked this as the most important feature of a home to accommodate their pet)
  • Locations of dog parks/walking paths/pet-friendly beaches in the area (71% ranked this as the top feature of any neighborhood they would consider)
  • Proximity to veterinarians/groomers/pet supply stores (31%)

Bottom Line

Americans love their pets and will look for pet-friendly features in the home they wish to buy, so take advantage of this knowledge by pointing out your home’s ability to meet their needs.

March 22, 2019

What Credit Score Do You Need To Buy A House?

There are many misconceptions about the credit score needed to buy a house. Recently, it was reported that 24% of renters believe they need a 780-800 credit score to be considered for a mortgage. The reality is they are misinformed!

Only 25% of the Americans have a FICO® Score between 740 and 800. Here is the breakdown according to Experian:

  • 16% Very Poor (300-579)
  • 18% Fair (580-669)
  • 21% Good (670-739)
  • 25% Very Good (740-799)
  • 20% Exceptional (800-850)

Randy Hopper, Senior Vice President of Mortgage Lending for Navy Federal Credit Union said,

Just because you have a low credit score doesn’t mean you can’t purchase a home. There are a lot of options out there for consumers with low FICO® scores,”

There are many programs available with low or no credit score requirement. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) now requires a minimum FICO® score of 580 if you want to qualify for the low down payment advantage. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not set a minimum credit score requirement, but most lenders require a score of at least 640Veterans Affairs (VA) loans have no credit score requirement.

As you can see, none of them are above 700!

It is true that the average FICO® score for all closed loans in January was 726, but there are plenty of people taking advantage of the low credit score requirements. Here is the average FICO® Score of closed FHA Loans since April 2012 according to Ellie Mae:What Credit Score Do You Need To Buy A House? | Simplifying The MarketAs you can see, that number has been dropping for the last seven years. As a matter of fact, the average FHA Purchase FICO® Score reported in January 2019 was 675!

One of the challenges is that Americans are unsure about their credit score. They just assume that it is too low to qualify and do not double check. Credit.com confirmed that only 57% of individuals sought out their credit score at least once last year.

FICO® reported,

Since October 2009, the average year-over-year FICO® Score has steadily and consistently increased, from a low of 686 in 2009 to the latest high of 704 as of 2018.”

Here is the increase in the average US FICO® Score over the same period of time as the graph earlier.What Credit Score Do You Need To Buy A House? | Simplifying The Market

Bottom Line

At least 84% of Americans have a score that will allow them to buy a house. If you are unsure what your score is or would like to improve your score in order to become a homeowner, let’s get together to help you set a path to reach your dream!

March 18, 2019

Don’t Let Your Luck Run Out! Buy A Home This Spring [INFOGRAPHIC]

 

  • Interest Rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage have dropped to 4.41% from near 5% in 2018.
  • Take advantage of more inventory coming to market in the spring to find your dream home!
  • Buying now will allow you to start earning equity today!

 

March 12, 2019

Why an Economic Slowdown Will NOT Crush Real Estate this Time

 

Last week, the National Association for Business Economics released their February 2019 Economic Policy Survey. The survey revealed that a majority of the panel believe an economic slowdown is in the near future:

“While only 10% of panelists expect a recession in 2019, 42% say a recession will happen in 2020, and 25% expect one in 2021.”

 

Their findings coincide with three previous surveys calling for a slowdown sometime in the next two years:

  1. The Pulsenomics Survey of Market Analysts
  2. The Wall Street Journal Survey of Economists
  3. The Duke University Survey of American CFOs

That raises the question: Will the real estate market be impacted like it was during the last recession?

A recession does not equal a housing crisis. According to the dictionary definition, a recession is:

“A period of temporary economic decline during which trade and industrial activity are reduced, generally identified by a fall in GDP in two successive quarters.”

During the last recession, prices fell dramatically because the housing collapse caused the recession. However, if we look at the previous four recessions, we can see that home values weren’t negatively impacted:

  • January 1980 to July 1980: Home values rose 4.5%
  • July 1981 to November 1982: Home values rose 1.9%
  • July 1990 to March 1991: Home values fell less than 1%
  • March 2001 to November 2001: Home values rose 4.8%

Most experts agree with Ralph McLaughlin, CoreLogic’s Deputy Chief Economist, who recently explained:

“There’s no reason to panic right now, even if we may be headed for a recession. We’re seeing a cooling of the housing market, but nothing that indicates a crash.”

The housing market is just “normalizing”. Inventory is starting to increase and home prices are finally stabilizing. This is a good thing for both buyers and sellers as we move forward.

Bottom Line

If there is an economic slowdown in our near future, there is no need for fear to set in. As renowned financial analyst, Morgan Housel, recently tweeted:

“An interesting thing is the widespread assumption that the next recession will be as bad as 2008. Natural to think that way, but, statistically, highly unlikely. Could be over before you realized it began.”