Bergen County Real Estate and Community News

April 19, 2024

Don’t Let Your Student Loans Delay Your Homeownership Plans

Blog Image

 

If you have student loans and want to buy a home, you might have questions about how your debt affects your plans. Do you have to wait until you’ve paid off those loans before you can buy your first home? Or is it possible you could still qualify for a home loan even with that debt? Here’s a look at the latest information so you have the answers you need.

Bankrate article explains:

Roughly 60 percent of U.S. adults who have held student loan debt have put off making important financial decisions due to that debt . . . For Gen Z and millennial borrowers alone, that number rises to 70 percent.”

This includes one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll ever make, buying a home. But you should know, even with student loans, waiting to buy a home may not be necessary. While everyone’s situation is unique, your goal may be more within your reach than you realize. Here’s why. 

Can You Qualify for a Home Loan if You Have Student Loans?

According to an annual report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 38% of first-time buyers had student loan debt and the typical amount was $30,000.

That means other people in a similar situation were able to qualify for and buy a home even though they also had student loans. And you may be able to do the same, especially if you have a steady source of income. As an article from Bankrate says:

“. . . you can have student loans and a mortgage at the same time. . . . If you have student loans and want a mortgage, there are multiple home loan programs you might qualify for . . .”

The key takeaway is, for many people, homeownership is achievable even with student loans. 

You don’t have to figure this out on your own. The best way to make a decision about your goals and next steps is to talk to the professionals. A trusted lender can walk you through your options based on your situation, and share what’s worked for other buyers.

 

Bottom Line

 

Lots of other people with student loan debt are able to buy their own homes. Talk to a lender to go over your options and see how close you are to reaching your goal.

 

April 19, 2024

The Top 5 Reasons You Need a Real Estate Agent when Buying a Home

Blog Image

 

You may have heard headlines in the news lately about agents in the real estate industry and discussions about their commissions. And if you’re following along, it can be pretty confusing. But here’s the thing you really need to know – expert advice from a trusted real estate agent is priceless, now more than ever. And here’s why.

A real estate agent does a lot more than you may realize.

Your agent is the person who will guide you through every step when buying a home and look out for your best interests along the way. They smooth out a complex process and take away the bulk of the stress of what’s likely your largest purchase ever. And that’s exactly what you want and deserve.

This is at least a part of the reason why a recent survey from Bright MLS found an overwhelming majority of people agree an agent is a key part of the homebuying process (see visual below):

 a green and grey pie chart

 

To give you a better idea of just a few of the top ways agents add value, check out this list.

1. Deliver Industry Experience

The right agent – the professional – will coach you through everything from start to finish. With professional training and expertise, agents know the ins and outs of the buying processAnd in today’s complex market, the way real estate transactions are executed is constantly changing, so having the best advice on your side is essential.

2. Provide Expert Local Knowledge

In a world that’s powered by data, a great agent can clarify what it all means, separate fact from fiction, and help you understand how current market trends apply to your unique search. From how quickly homes are selling to the latest listings you don’t want to miss, they can explain what’s happening in your specific local market so you can make a confident decision.

3. Explain Pricing and Market Value

Agents help you understand the latest pricing trends in your area. What’s a home valued at in your market? What should you think about when you’re making an offer? Is this a house that might have issues you can’t see on the surface? No one wants to overpay, so having an expert who really gets true market value for individual neighborhoods is priceless. An offer that’s both fair and competitive in today’s housing market is essential, and a local expert knows how to help you hit the mark.

4. Review Contracts and Fine Print

In a fast-moving and heavily regulated process, agents help you make sense of the necessary disclosures and documents, so you know what you’re signing. Having a professional that’s trained to explain the details could make or break your transaction, and is certainly something you don’t want to try to figure out on your own.

5. Bring Negotiation Expertise

From offer to counteroffer and inspection to closing, there are a lot of stakeholders involved in a real estate transaction. Having someone on your side who knows you and the process makes a world of difference. An agent will advocate for you as they work with each party. It’s a big deal, and you need a partner at every turn to land the best possible outcome.

 

Bottom Line

 

Real estate agents are specialists, educators, and negotiators. They adjust to market changes and keep you informed. And keep in mind, every time you make a big decision in your life, especially a financial one, you need an expert on your side.

Expert advice from a trusted professional is priceless. Let’s connect today.

 

April 19, 2024

Should I Move with Today’s Mortgage Rates?

Blog Image

 

When mortgage rates spiked up over the last few years, some homeowners put their plans to move on pause. Maybe you did too because you didn’t want to sell and take on a higher mortgage rate for your next home. But is that still the right strategy for you?

In today’s market, data shows more homeowners are getting used to where rates are and thinking it may be time to move. As Mark Zandi, Chief Economist at Moody’s Analyticsexplains:

“Listings are up a bit as life events and job changes are putting increasing pressure on locked-in homeowners to sell their homes. Homeowners may also be slowly coming to the realization that mortgage rates aren’t going back anywhere near the rate on their existing mortgage.

recent study from Bank of America sheds light on some of the things homeowners say would make them sell, even with rates where they are right now (see visual below):

a group of blue and white icons

 

What Would Motivate You To Move?

Now that you know why other people would move, take a minute to think about what would make a move worth it for you. Is it time to take a chance and go for your dream job, even though it’s not local? Are you looking for a neighborhood that has more to offer and a close-knit sense of community? Maybe you just need more space, you’re looking for your next great adventure, or you want a house that opens up rental opportunities to pad your income.

And here’s something else to consider. Mortgage rates are still expected to go down over the course of the year. And once that happens, there’s going to be a big rush of buyers jumping back into the market. While you could delay your plans until rates drop, you’ll only have more competition with those buyers if you do.

So, does that mean it’s worth it to move now, even with rates where they are? The answer is: that it depends.

You'll want to consider today’s mortgage rates, where they’re expected to go from here, and what would prompt you to want to make a change as you decide on your next steps. An expert can help with that. 

 

Bottom Line

 

Other homeowners are getting used to rates and deciding to move. Let’s chat to go over what matters most to you and if it’s time for you to jump back into the market too. 

 

April 19, 2024

Builders Are Building Smaller Homes

Blog Image

 

There’s no arguing it, affordability is still tight. And if you’re trying to buy a home, that may mean you need to look at smaller houses to find one that’s still in your budget. But there is a silver lining: builders are focused on building these smaller homes right now and they’re offering incentives. And that can help give you more options that fit the bill.

Newly Built Homes Are Trending Smaller

During the pandemic, homebuyers wanted (and could afford) larger homes – and builders delivered. They focused on homes that were bigger, so people had more space for things like working from home, having a home gym, bonus rooms for virtual school, and more.

But with the affordability challenges buyers are facing today, builders are increasingly shifting their attention to bringing smaller single-family homes to the market. The graph below uses data from the Census to show how this trend has evolved over the last few years:

a graph of a number of blue bars

 

So, why the shift to less square footage? It’s simple. Builders want to build what they know will sell. Basically, they focus on where the demand is strongest. And once mortgage rates started climbing and consumers felt the challenges of affordability creeping in, it became clear there was (and is) a very real need for smaller homes. As the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) explains:

“After a brief increase during the post-covid building boom, home size is trending lower and will likely continue to do so as housing affordability remains constrained.”

A recent article in the Real Deal says this about how this helps buyers:

Even a slightly smaller home can be thousands of dollars cheaper — for both builders and buyers. . . In response to affordability challenges, major homebuilders are shifting priorities away from the big ticket homes and towards the cheaper set.”

What This Means for You

If you’re having a hard time finding something in your budget, it may help to look at smaller homes. And, if you consider new builds specifically, you may find a few other fringe benefits that can help on the affordability front – like price reductions or mortgage rate buy-downs. As NAHB says:

“More than one-third of builders cut home prices in 2023. NAHB expects builders to continue offering smaller homes and more affordable designs as housing affordability remains a barrier to homeownership.”

As Charlie Bilello, Chief Market Strategist, at Creative Planningexplains:

“Homebuilders are adapting to the lowest affordability on record by building smaller homes and offering more incentives/price cuts. The median square footage of a new single-family home in the US has moved down to its lowest level since 2010.”

If you explore these options, you’ll also get brand new everything, enjoy a house with fewer maintenance needs, and some of the latest features available. That’s worth looking into, right? 

 

Bottom Line

 

Builders building smaller homes can give you more affordable options at a time when you may really need it. If you’re hoping to buy a home soon, let’s connect to look at what’s available in our area.

 

April 19, 2024

The Perks of Downsizing When You Retire [INFOGRAPHIC]

a screenshot of a cellphone

 

Some Highlights

 

 

  • If you’re about to retire, or just did, downsizing can be a good way to try to cut down on some of your expenses.
  • Smaller homes typically have lower energy and maintenance costs. Plus, you may have enough equity built up to fuel your move.
  • If you're thinking about moving to a smaller home, let’s go over your goals and look at your options in our local market.
April 19, 2024

Ways To Use Your Tax Refund If You Want To Buy a Home

Blog Image

 

Have you been saving up to buy a home this year? If so, you know there are a number of expenses involved – from your down payment to closing costs. But did you also know your tax refund can help you pay for some of these expenses? As Credit Karma explains:

“If one of your goals is to stop renting and buy a home, you’ll need to save up for closing costs and a down payment on the mortgage. A tax refund can give you a start on the road to homeownership. If you’ve already started to save, your tax refund could move you down the road faster.”

While how much money you may get in a tax refund is going to vary, it can be encouraging to have a general idea of what’s possible. Here’s what CNET has to say about the average increase people are seeing this year:

The average refund size is up by 6.1%, from $2,903 for 2023's tax season through March 24, to $3,081 for this season through March 22.”

Sounds great, right? Remember, your number is going to be different. But if you do get a refund, here are a few examples of how you can use it when buying a home. According to Freddie Mac:

  • Saving for a down payment – One of the biggest barriers to homeownership is setting aside enough money for a down payment. You could reach your savings goal even faster by using your tax refund to help.
  • Paying for closing costs – Closing costs cover some of the payments you’ll make at closing. They’re generally between 2% and 5% of the total purchase price of the home. You could direct your tax refund toward these closing costs.
  • Lowering your mortgage rate – Your lender might give you the option to buy down your mortgage rate. If affordability is tight for you at today’s rates and home prices, this option may be worth exploring. If you qualify for this option, you could pay upfront to have a lower rate on your mortgage.

The best way to get ready to buy a home is to work with a team of trusted real estate professionals who understand the process and what you’ll need to do to be ready to buy.

 

Bottom Line

 

Your tax refund can help you reach your savings goal for buying a home. Let’s talk about what you’re looking for, because your home may be more within reach than you think.

 

April 19, 2024

Should I Wait for Mortgage Rates To Come Down Before I Move?

Blog Image

 

If you’ve got a move on your mind, you may be wondering whether you should wait to sell until mortgage rates come down before you spring into action. Here’s some information that could help answer that question for you.

In the housing market, there’s a longstanding relationship between mortgage rates and buyer demand. Typically, the higher rates are, you’ll see lower buyer demand. That’s because some people who want to move will be hesitant to take on a higher mortgage rate for their next home. So, they decide to wait it out and put their plans on hold.

But when rates start to come down, things change. It goes from limited or weak demand to good or strong demand. That’s because a big portion of the buyers who sat on the sidelines when rates were higher are going to jump back in and make their moves happen. The graph below helps give you a visual of how this relationship works and where we are today:

 No Caption Received

 

As Lisa Sturtevant, Chief Economist for Bright MLSexplains:

“The higher rates we’re seeing now [are likely] going to lead more prospective buyers to sit out the market and wait for rates to come down.”

Why You Might Not Want To Wait

If you’re asking yourself: what does this mean for my move? Here’s the golden nugget. According to experts, mortgage rates are still projected to come down this year, just a bit later than they originally thought. 

When rates come down, more people are going to get back into the market. And that means you’ll have a lot more competition from other buyers when you go to purchase your next home. That may make your move more stressful if you wait because greater demand could lead to an increase in multiple offer scenarios and prices rising faster.

But if you’re ready and able to sell now, it may be worth it to get ahead of that. You have the chance to move before the competition increases.

 

Bottom Line

 

If you’re thinking about whether you should wait for rates to come down before you move, don’t forget to factor in buyer demand. Once rates decline, competition will go up even more. If you want to get ahead of that and sell now, let’s chat.

 

April 19, 2024

Is It Better To Rent Than Buy a Home Right Now?

Blog Image

 

You may have seen reports in the news recently saying it’s more affordable to rent right now than it is to buy a home. And while that may be true in some markets if you just look at typical monthly payments, there’s one thing that the numbers aren’t factoring in: and that’s home equity. Here’s a look at how big of an impact equity can have and why it’s worth considering as you make your decision.

What the Headlines Are Based on

The graph below uses national data on the median rental payment from Realtor.com and median mortgage payment from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to compare the two options. As the graph shows, especially if you’re not looking for a lot of space, it can be more affordable on a monthly basis to rent:

 No Caption Received

 

But if you’re looking for something with 2 bedrooms, the gap between the median rent and the median mortgage payment starts to shrink to a difference that may be more doable. The median monthly mortgage payment is $2,040. The median monthly rent for 2 bedrooms is $1,889. That’s a difference of about $151 a month. But here’s what happens when you factor in equity too.

How Equity Changes the Game

If you rent, your monthly rental payments only go toward covering your housing costs and your landlord’s expenses. So other than saving a bit more per month and maybe getting your rental deposit back when you move, the money you spent on housing each month is gone – forever.

When you buy, your monthly mortgage payment pays for your shelter, but it also acts as an investment. That investment grows in the form of equity as you make your mortgage payment each month and chip away at what you owe on your home loan. Your equity gets an extra boost as home values climb – which they typically do.

To give you a clearer idea of how equity can really stack up fast, here’s some data for you. Each quarter, Fannie Mae and Pulsenomics publish the results of the Home Price Expectations Survey (HPES). It asks more than 100 economists, real estate professionals, and investment and market strategists what they think will happen with home prices. In the latest release, those experts say home prices are going to keep going up over the next five years.

Here's an example of how equity builds based on the projections from the HPES (see graph below):

No Caption Received

 

Imagine you purchased a home for $400,000 at the start of this year. Chances are, since you bought, you plan to stay put for a while. Based on the HPES projections, if you live there for 5 years, you could end up gaining over $83,000 in household wealth as your home grows in value.

Here’s how that stacks up compared to renting, using the overall median rent from above:

 No Caption Received

 

While you may save a bit on your monthly payments if you rent right now, you’ll also miss out on gaining equity.

So, what’s the big takeaway? Whether it makes more sense to rent or buy is going to vary based on your personal finances. It’s not a good idea to buy if the numbers truly don’t work for you. But, if you’re ready and able, adding equity as the final puzzle piece may be enough to help you realize buying is a better move in the long run.

 

Bottom Line

 

When it comes down to it, buying a home gives you a benefit renting just can’t provide – and that’s the chance to gain equity. If you want to take advantage of long-term home price appreciation, let’s go over your options.

 

April 19, 2024

Is It Getting More Affordable To Buy a Home?

Blog Image

 

Over the past year or so, a lot of people have been talking about how tough it is to buy a home. And while there’s no arguing affordability is still tight, there are signs it’s starting to get a bit better and may improve even more throughout the year. Elijah de la Campa, Senior Economist at Redfinsays:

We’re slowly climbing our way out of an affordability hole, but we have a long way to go. Rates have come down from their peak and are expected to fall again by the end of the year, which should make homebuying a little more affordable and incentivize buyers to come off the sidelines.”

Here’s a look at the latest data for the three biggest factors that affect home affordability: mortgage rateshome prices, and wages.

1. Mortgage Rates

Mortgage rates have been volatile this year – bouncing around in the upper 6% to low 7% range. That’s still quite a bit higher than where they were a couple of years ago. But there is a sliver of good news.

Despite the recent volatility, rates are still lower than they were last fall when they reached nearly 8%. On top of that, most experts still think they’ll come down some over the course of the year. A recent article from Bright MLS explains:

Expect rates to come down in the second half of 2024 but remain above 6% this year. Even a modest drop in rates will bring both more buyers and more sellers into the market.” 

Any drop in rates can make a difference for you. When rates go down, you can afford the home you really want more easily because your monthly payment would be lower.

2. Home Prices

The second big factor to think about is home prices. Most experts project they'll keep going up this year, but at a more normal pace. That’s because there are more homes on the market this year, but still not enough for everyone who wants to buy one. The graph below shows the latest 2024 home price forecasts from seven different organizations:

 No Caption Received

 

These forecasts are actually good news for you because it means the prices aren't likely to shoot up sky high like they did during the pandemic. That doesn’t mean they’re going to fall – they'll just rise at a slower pace.

3. Wages

One factor helping affordability right now is the fact that wages are rising. The graph below uses data from the Federal Reserve to show how wages have been growing over time:

 No Caption Received

 

Check out the blue dotted line. That shows how wages typically rise. If you look at the right side of the graph, you'll see wages are climbing even faster than normal right now.

Here’s how this helps you. If your income has increased, it's easier to afford a home because you don't have to spend as big of a percentage of your paycheck on your monthly mortgage payment.

 

Bottom Line

 

If you stack these factors up, you’ll see mortgage rates are still projected to come down a bit later this year, home prices are going up at a more moderate pace, and wages are growing quicker than normal. Those trends are a good sign for your ability to afford a home.

 

April 19, 2024

Myths About the 2024 Housing Market [INFOGRAPHIC]

No Caption Received

 

Some Highlights

  • When it comes to the current housing market, there are some myths circling around right now.
  • Some of the more common ones are that it’s better to wait for mortgage rates to fall or prices to crash. But there are others about the supply of homes for sale and down payments. 
  • Let’s connect so you have an expert to help separate fact from fiction in today’s housing market.
Posted in Blog, Market Updates