4 Trends Affecting Millennials and Homeownership

If you’re under the age of 35, everything you know about owning a home could be wrong; but it’s not your fault. Parents of millennial children have taught them what was financially sound when they were the same age — go to college, get married, buy a home and have children; the formula for the American dream.

The American Dream is still real for many, but the details are murkier in 2016. The rising costs of college tuition are making it a riskier investment, young people are marrying later and having fewer kids and the appeal of buying over renting is now less obvious than it was for their parents. Blaming the shift on “a changing economy” is a cop-out, as the trends in millennial home ownership are just as cultural as they are economical. Here are some of the reasons why the nation’s youngest buyers are having an affect on the housing market:

1. Millennials Love Mobility

Economists are calling millennials the “job-hopping generation,” because they are more likely than previous generations to frequently change jobs, even if it requires moving. As unions are in decline and pensions are shrinking, job loyalty is on the fall and millennial workers are free to take their 401(k) accounts elsewhere. Because the next job, and next city, is always on the horizon, more millennials are opting for short-term apartment leases, which allow for freedom of mobility.

2. Millennials Love Cities

Millennials are more likely to buy their first home in the suburbs, not the city. Even outside of price-inflated cities like New York and San Francisco, urban housing costs are skyrocketing and forcing new homeowners outside the city limits. However, renting — still on the rise — is more manageable and gives young people the option to keep living in the city.

3. Millennials Love Incentives

The 2008 recession was a tragedy for homeowners who bought under inflated prices, but a silver lining for anyone buying after the fact. To help boost the economy and the new housing market, the IRS offered a hefty tax credit to first-time buyers until 2011. Just like a tax credit for electric cars, this was just the bump young people needed to buy homes after the biggest recession in nearly 70 years.

But now that the Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates for the first time since the recession, that boost in young home ownership could see a sharp turn in the other direction.

4. Millennials Do Not Love Student Loans

Perhaps the biggest hurdle standing in the way of homeownership, student loans account for the largest debt in the United States and are especially harsh on younger people. The more you owe in student loans, the less likely you are to buy a house. However, some programs like Income Based Repayment (IBR), which allows graduates to pay a lower monthly amount until the balance is forgiven in 20 years (10 for public sector workers), is helping ease this burden.

However, now that taxpayers could be on the hook for $108 billion in student loan relief, the future of this program could be in question under the new presidential administration. But if interest rates do go up and IBR is eliminated, the rate of buying from America’s 20- and 30-somethings could go downhill fast.

WRITTEN BY REALTY TIMES STAFF

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How To Sell Your Home In 2017

It’s 2017. Now what? Yes, the new year is typically a time for hope and renewal and for those who are looking to sell – and simultaneously buy – a home, it can represent a fresh start. But this year, political and social realities are giving some would-be home sellers pause.

Thankfully, the real estate market continues to show real strength, with many housing experts projecting home sales prices and inventory to rise in 2017, replacing doubts with consumer confidence.

“Housing prices rose nationally by around 6% in 2016, but the expected increase in 2017 ranges from 3% to 5%,” said 24/7 Wall St. “With inventory of existing homes at historic lows and a rise in interest rates thanks to the Federal Reserve, housing inventory for 2017 is almost certain to rise. For prospective sellers that means that if you were planning to sell your home this year, it’s time to get cracking.”

If you’re thinking about selling this year, these tips will help.

Be patient

Sales have been swift in many parts of the country for several years now. That can make sellers who don’t get offers on day one feel antsy. Despite some ultra-competitive markets where multiple offers and offer-asking-price sales skew the national numbers, across the country, the average days on market of a home for sale is 50.

Price it right

You may be tempted to price your home at the top of the market – or set a new top if you’re in an especially desirable area and if inventory is low. But overpriced homes don’t sell, which is probably why your real estate agent is recommending a lower listing price.


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If you’re insistent about your price, don’t be surprised if you get zero bites or the nibbles you do get are far below what you’re asking. Your agent’s pricing strategy will be based on market conditions and designed to get you the most money in the least amount of time. What it won’t be based on: What you owe on the home, what you think it’s worth based on your own estimation, or what you need to get out of it to buy your dream home.

Don’t be afraid to loan shop

If you’re selling your home to buy another, like most people, you might be concerned about rising mortgage rates. Rates are still near historic lows despite The Fed raising interest rates at the end of 2016 and indicating that further increases are in store for this year.

“Because the mortgage rate makes a big difference in how much you’ll pay for your home, it makes financial sense to shop around for the lowest rate you can qualify for,” said Investopedia. But many people don’t look beyond the first offer. According to a mortgage borrowers survey, “Almost half of borrowers seriously consider only a single lender or broker before deciding where to apply,” and “Seventy-seven percent of borrowers only end up applying with a single lender or broker, instead of filling out applications with multiple lenders or brokers to see which can offer the best deal,” said the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Asking your real estate agent for a few different trusted referrals could make a big difference. “Getting an interest rate of 4.0% instead of 4.5% translates into approximately $60 savings per month,” they said. “Over the first five years, you would save about $3,500 in mortgage payments. In addition, the lower interest rate means that you’d pay off an additional $1,400 in principal in the first five years, even while making lower payments.”


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Make sure your home is clean and lean

It’s more important than ever to make sure your home is as close to perfect as possible before you put it on the market. Unless your agent is planning to market the home as a “project,” it needs to be spotless. You’d be surprised how much better your home can look just by applying some simple staging secrets.

Listen to your agent’s advice

Staging may only be the beginning of what your home requires to get it sold, and your agent’s advice will be critical to getting it where it needs to be. “Sure, you no doubt know more about your home than anyone else. But your real estate agent knows more about how to sell it,” said Realtor.com. “And your agent may make some suggestions you might not like to hear. It’s tempting to take offense or just ignore this advice, but if you do, you could risk seeing your house sit on the market and grow stale.”

Be careful of over improvements

Getting your home in great shape may mean making some improvements, updates, and upgrades. But be careful not to go too far.

“Dying to install new kitchen cabinets or retile your master bath? Home sellers often assume any upgrades they make to their home will pay them back in full once they sell, but that’s rarely the case,” said Realtor.com. “On average you will recoup just about 64% of the money you spend on renovations once you sell—and certain improvements can actually work against you if they’re unusual or undesirable in your market, Jason Shepherd, co-founder of Atlas Real Estate Group, told them.

WRITTEN BY JAYMI NACIRI

To Buy Or Not To Buy: Is Now The Time?

The US Census Bureau recently revealed that the US homeownership rate declined to 62.9%, the lowest level reported in 51 years of Census tracking.

This statistic does not signal impending doom. Since 2006, there has been a decline from peak ownership rates which is attributed in part to responsible lending practices and shifting demographic patterns. What is significant about this statistic is that it can give those intent on homeownership the false impression that they are fighting a losing battle.

If you’re on the non-homeowner side of this statistic, does this spell opportunity for you? With the economy and employment gaining strength, and predicted home-buying demographic shifts, homeownership may start an upward swing.

If you don’t own your own home, you know there are reasons why not. Since my work dictates I challenge the best to become better, I ask you, “How sure are you that those reasons are still valid or insurmountable?”

Repeatedly, when I speak to audiences about becoming their own futurist and creating strategies to achieve the future of their choice, I frequently meet people – individuals, couples, families, groups – who did not realize that their future could include homeownership.

Because they did not consider ownership a possibility, they gave up investigating, learning, strategizing, acting, and dreaming to make it happen. So it did not.

Ask any real estate or financial professional, and they won’t hesitate to tell you that home ownership is, rarely if ever, achieved by those who make no effort or take no action in that direction.

Any “short cuts” lie in understanding exactly what effort and action are required for the most direct path to ownership success. That’s what real estate professionals are trained to know all about. They understand how to relay that information to willing buyers and sellers.

Interview real estate professionals until you find one with the right mix of experience and determination to assist you with your ownership goals.

Listen and take notes or record when this professional explains your options and how to achieve your ownership goals. If you ask questions, you will also receive details about various ownership options, including cooperatives, condominiums, and other alternatives available in your area and price range. More questions and you’ll discover how the purchasing process works.

Consider the full range of neighborhoods and communities within your area. Prices tend to go down the further out you go from city center. With good public transit, moving to the suburbs may not require as many sacrifices as you might think.

If you’d like to own your own home, this may be the right time for action.

There are a number of ways to increase your purchasing power and bring real estate ownership within reach. The important thing is not to give up on making an effort before you have explored opportunities available to you in this real estate market:

Interest rates have not risen as dramatically as they are predicted to do in the future. Waiting until rates rise will limit the size of mortgage you qualify for. Mortgage brokers can explain how much you’ll qualify for and how you may be able to improve that level of financing. When you purchase, aim for the longest term you qualify for without seriously compromising purchasing power. That way you’ll have years at a rate you can afford while the mortgage debt is declining.

Debts can reduce the size of mortgage you qualify for, but financial professional advisers can suggest do-able debt-reduction strategies to improve borrowing power.The first step may be reducing the accumulation of new debt by ending discretionary spending like impulse shopping, eating out, and holiday travel.

The real estate you purchase may become a “financial partner” in achieving ownership. For instance, buying a one or two-unit rental income property may raise your qualifying income by some or all of the rent the rental unit or units would bring in. This financial leverage may also be possible in a non-rental property if you can prove you have boarders who will move in with you, pay rent, and share expenses.

Uncertainty abounds, but the economy continues to build momentum and job prospects continue to improve. Untapped income opportunities may exist. When was the last time you explored new employment and education opportunities with your current employer or within your community? Having a job that is “just enough” to keep you going can create inertia that defeats your belief that there’s more out there for you if you persist.

Realtytimes.com contains a rich library of articles to answer your questions and help you explore alternatives. Below are a few from my ongoing column “Decisions & Communities” that reveal the range of opportunities available to those on the path to homeownership:

As you research ownership ideas and opportunities, stay skeptical. Ask for details and persist until you understand exactly what you and others involved will be responsible for. Beware of anyone promising overnight success or cheaper-than-believable housing. Stick with professionals who have verifiable credentials and proven expertise.

Since the downturn, you’ve had years to consider homeownership. Is it time for action before rising interest rates and increasing demographic demand move real estate ownership further out of reach?

WRITTEN BY

Is Now The Best Time Ever To Buy Your First Home?

If you’ve been thinking about buying your first home, talk of rising mortgage rates may have you worried. But, the reality is that this may be one of the best opportunities for first-time buyers in recent memory. Conditions were already good for first-timers with new, super-low down payment loans. But the FHA’s announcement that they would be cutting mortgage-insurance premiums makes buying even more advantageous.

“The annual fees the Federal Housing Administration charges to guarantee mortgages it backs are being cut by a quarter of a percentage point,” said Bloomberg of a statement released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). “With the reduction, the annual cost for most borrowers will be 0.60 percent of the loan balance.”

According to HUD, “The fee cut would save new FHA-insured homeowners an average of $500 this year. The cut would take effect on Jan. 27.”

What other factors should you be paying attention to if you’re looking to buy your first home?

Mortgage rates

Yes, rates are up from their lowest point. But the average 30-year fixed-mortgage rate right now is 4 percent, down a bit this week and waaaaaay down from decades ago when they were in the teens. You’ll pay a few bucks more per month now than you would have at this time last year, but, if you’re getting an FHA loan, those new mortgage interest cuts will help.


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More than anything, it’s important to be realistic. We’re not anywhere near gloom-and-doom time, despite some of the more hysterical talk out there. In fact, today’s rates are still near historic lows, which make buying a home more affordable than rent in many cities.

But, if you need to find a way to lower your monthly payment on your future home, and you’re not eager to search for less expensive homes, remember that your credit helps determine your mortgage-worthiness, and the better it is, the better your interest rate. If you’re not being offered the best rate out there, it’s time to…

Get your credit in order

Have great credit? Great! Your lender will be pleased and, presumably, you will be, too. But many of us need some help in this area, and even a small bump in your score can make a big difference not just to the rate you get but also whether you will qualify for a loan at all.

“The homebuyer’s credit score is among the most important factors when it comes to qualifying for a loan these days,” said Bankrate. Your lender will be able to give you tips for improving your score, which can range from checking your report for errors to paying off old delinquent accounts.

It’s also important to keep in mind that what you consider to be responsible credit management may not necessarily be seen as a positive when you go to qualify for a loan. “Just because you pay everything on time every month doesn’t mean your credit is stellar,” they said. “The amount of credit you’re using relative to your available credit limit, or your credit utilization ratio, can sink a credit score. The lower the utilization rate, the higher your score will be. Ideally, first-time homebuyers would have a lot of credit available, with less than a third of it used.”

BankrateLow down payment loans

For many first-time buyers, the down payment is the largest barrier to homeownership. But new loans with lower down payment requirements are helping to eliminate it.

The most popular loan for first-time homebuyers continues to be through the FHA, for a number of reasons: Because this loan is government-backed and because it requires only 3.5 percent down if you meet their credit and income requirements, and a minimum of a 620 credit score.

The new Affordable Loan Solution Mortgage from Bank of America gets those down payments even lower—to three percent—and without Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). But, there are restrictions related to income that “could rule out a lot of potential borrowers,” said The Street.

“The program, a partnership between Bank of America, Freddie Mac, and non-profit Self-Help Ventures Fund, is targeted towards low – and moderate – income borrowers. To qualify, borrowers can’t make more than the HUD area median income and must have a credit score of 660 or higher. As an example, for 2016, New York City-based borrowers with a household of one would need an income below $65,200 to qualify for the program.”

SoFi, an online lender that started out focusing on student loan refinancing, has also gotten into the mortgage game, offering a loan that has a higher down payment at 10 percent, but without PMI.

Investigate situation-specific loans

Are you a veteran, a police officer, or a firefighter? There may be a special loan for you with conditions that can make purchasing a home easier and more affordable. There are also specific loans for those who are buying a home that has (or needs) energy-efficient features, one that can be bundled with home improvement funds, and another from the USDA that can save those who are moving to a rural area money.

“This one may surprise you,” said nerdwallet. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a homebuyers assistance program. And no, you don’t have to live on a farm. The program targets rural areas and allows 100% financing by offering lenders mortgage guarantees. There are income limitations, which vary by region.”

WRITTEN BY JAYMI NACIRI

Selling Your Home This Year? 6 Reasons To Renovate Now!

Face it. Your home’s not perfect. You may keep up with general maintenance, and perhaps you’re meticulously clean. But how old is your kitchen? Do your paint colors reflect current trends? Could your living room use some updating?

When it comes to selling your home today, it’s got to be perfect, or buyers will simply move on to the next option. Doing some renovations, whether that means overhauling areas that are long overdue for a facelift or making some simple changes that freshen up the place, is typical. But if you’re thinking they can wait until you’re ready to list your home, these 6 reasons may make you rethink that plan.

1. You get to enjoy the new stuff

“A worthy update can either serve to reduce your cost of living while you remain in the home or add significant value to the home’s sale price when you decide to put it on the market,” said Scott McGillivray, a real estate investor and host of the HGTV show Income Property to US News.

But if you’re going to spend some cash on updating and renovating your place, you should at least be able to get some enjoyment out of the updates before turning the house over to someone else, right? If you’ve been waiting for 10 years for new appliances, it would be a shame to not have the opportunity to at least cook a few meals and throw a dinner party or two.


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2. They always take longer than expected

It’s a fact of renovation. If your timeline is six weeks, it’ll take 12. At least. Giving yourself plenty of time before you’re ready to list your home will help you avoid a stressful scramble at the end when you’re trying to get it on the market.

3. There may be issues you’re unaware of

Your Realtor will point out areas that need to be addressed and recommend changes to make your home more saleable. But, getting your home ready to sell might be harder than you expect if problems like mold or termites are uncovered. Getting a jump on any big issues or anything that goes beyond the cosmetic will give you the time you need to fix the problems and hold onto your sanity.

4. They don’t have to be huge

No one said you have to take your home down to the studs. Sometimes, a light touch is all that is needed. “Start by thinking small,” said Realtor.com. “Minor cosmetic upgrades go a long way in getting more buyers through the door for a quicker sale – and time on market is key to determining what you’ll net at closing.”


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5. You’re going to need them

You may not love the idea of having to do anything to – or spend any money on – your home, especially if you already have your eyes on a new one. But, most every home needs a little upgrading, updating, or, at least staging. You don’t want to have the one place in the neighborhood that won’t sell because potential homebuyers see a project house, without the project price.

6. You’ll get a return on your investment…if you renovate smart

Speaking of price…updated homes typically sell faster and for more money, if the updates have been done well and they’re the ones buyers are looking for. If you’re not sure which renovations to consider, take your cues from the Cost vs. Value Report, which tracks the “average cost for 29 popular remodeling projects with the value those projects retain at resale in 99 U.S. markets.” It’s a great way to look at national trends but also break down what’s trending in individual areas. “How much work you’ll need depends on your home’s value, your market, and the comps in your neighborhood,” said Realtor.com.

US News also has a great list of “popular updates that are worth the money,” including adding a backsplash in the kitchen and updating bathroom vanities.

WRITTEN BY JAYMI NACIRI

Room For 2: First-time Home Buying Tips For Newlyweds

Buying or selling a house is more stressful than getting divorced, going bankrupt or getting fired, according to a survey of 2,000 adults by EstatesDirect.com. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by home buying with your loved one, you’re not alone. Figuring out how to merge your lifestyles, budgets and expectations can be difficult, but doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Turn home buying as a newlywed into an empowering experience that symbolizes your rock solid foundation and partnership. Here are some actionable tips to get started and take control of your home purchase.

Choose the Right Neighborhood for Your Budget

Kick off your home-buying search by exploring neighborhoods that fit your lifestyle and budget. Remember to look beyond what your mortgage and home insurance will cost. Utilities, car payments, student loans, food, furniture, credit card debt and any other fixed expenses should be factored into your budget. Don’t forget to add in costs for annual repairs, as well as just some fun money to actually enjoy your home.

Take a look at the neighborhoods that appeal to you from how long your commute will be to the available recreation. Outdoor lovers and hiking enthusiasts will have completely different criteria than someone who loves the downtown nightlife, and either option will affect your budget.

Right-Size Your Life

Buying your first home as newlyweds is full of hope and excitement of the years to come. Soon you start thinking about how it could be your forever home and hold all the children and guests of your dreams. But in reality, any home you purchase should be right-sized for your current life or the not so distant future.

For example, purchasing a home for the five kids you want is expensive with a lot of upkeep and overhead. You may decide to put off having children for several years or change plans. Instead, focus on the home you need for the next five or six years that can comfortably accommodate the two of you. An extra room for guests, a new baby or an home office can add the needed flexibility to your new home.

Stay Proactive About Safety

Some couples may choose a less than desirable neighborhood to offset mortgage costs. That may work well for your finances, but shouldn’t compromise your safety. Meanwhile, couples moving into safe neighborhoods with little crime activity can lead to complacency. It’s always imperative to protect your home and personal safety regardless of your environment.

Start by installing a security camera system where you can monitor your home from the office, on the road or from your own bedroom. For example, Lorex Technology offers Wi-Fi home security cameras with two-way audio and night vision, as well as complete outdoor security camera systems. Joining your neighborhood watch or online community groups can help monitor for suspicious activity.

Keep Communication Open

Home maintenance, upkeep and ongoing chores can quickly create ripples in a marriage and impact your relationship. Keep the lines of communications open and set expectations early. Divide up who is doing what and become a reliable partner who sticks to their end of the bargain. It’s also crucial to allow for flexibility.

Your partner’s demands at work could exponentially increase, or you may find you loathe the chore you signed-up for. Talk it out and support each other through the ups and downs of maintaining a home together. Don’t let your home become an albatross. At the end of the day, you want your home to be a safe haven for love and communication.

WRITTEN BY REALTY TIMES STAFF

Use Technology For Attracting Serious Home Buyers

ERA Real Estate and HGTV reported 46 percent of consumers see smart-home technology as important for their current and future residences. But luxury homebuyers are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. According to Digital Interiors, 94 percent of buyers surveyed would sacrifice 1,000 square feet of living space for more technology in their new home. Oversized houses are no longer the driving trend in the luxury real estate market and agents are under pressure to respond to the demand. Here’s what affluent homebuyers are looking for and which gadgets are must-haves.

Get a Smart Thermostat

Outfit your listings for luxury with smart-home additions like a smart thermostat. The Nest programs itself based on your preferences and can adjust whenever you leave to conserve energy. Your clients can control the system right from their smartphones. Owners can warm up the living room before an evening entertaining clients. Talk about how they can jet set to their vacation home and simply check-in on their property as needed. The idea behind a smart thermostat is really about controlling the overall climate of the home as opposed to an exact temperature.

Enhance your Home Surveillance

Home security systems have always dabbled in the high-tech world of smart automation. In the past, most alarms simply triggered an annoying sound and contacted the police at signs of danger.

Today, home security cameras keep an eye on the inside and outside of the home with wireless cameras. A wireless camera system can be mounted to the wall or ceiling and monitored remotely. Home buyers are sure to be wowed by its sleek and discreet design. Some home security companies, like Lorex Technology, even offer subscription-free monitoring options, yet another attractive feature for potential buyers.

New owners can keep an eye on their home from vacation, at work or on a spontaneous outing without worry.

Go High-Tech Culinary

Updating a kitchen has always been a recommended way to raise a home’s price tag and attract buyers. But affluent home shoppers are looking for more than just new appliances and chef’s kitchens. The latest technology trends include no-touch faucets and smart refrigerators that can alert you when you’re running low on groceries. The LG model features an internal camera to check on its contents, built-in Wi-Fi to connect to your mobile device and offers available accessories that can be 3-D printed. Other high-tech touches like Bluetooth smart cooking thermometers tell your mobile device when your food is ready to create perfect dishes every time.

Upgrade your Luxury Entertainment

Just about every home has a flat-screen television; some piped for surround sound and home theaters. Let your clients take entertaining to a new level by controlling everything from one device like Savant. Your clients can adjust the lighting, change the channel on your smart TV and turn on music. A system like Savant can also help monitor your home’s security and adjust the climate as needed. While clients are getting ready upstairs for an evening with friends, they can adjust the entertainment area and living room downstairs to create a luxurious atmosphere.

WRITTEN BY REALTY TIMES STAFF