Marcie Gingle & Roberta Lerman
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Marcie & Roberta

RE/MAX 360
Marcie Gingle: 617.838.3102
Roberta Lerman: 781.983.2882
ginglelermanrealtygroup@gmail.com

12 Atlantic Ave
Marblehead, MA 01945

5 Tips for Homebuyers Who Want to Make a Competitive Offer

one gold star sitting on a pile of black stars

Today’s real estate market has high buyer interest and low housing inventory. With so many buyers competing for a limited number of homes, it’s more important than ever to know the ins and outs of making a confident and competitive offer. Here are five keys to success for this important stage in the homebuying process.

1. Listen to Your Real Estate Agent - The Gingle Lerman Team

A recent article from Freddie Mac offers guidance on making an offer on a home in today’s market. Right off the bat, it points out how emotional this can be for buyers and why trusted professionals can help you stay focused on the most important things:

“Remember to let your homebuying team guide you on your journey, not your emotions. Their support and expertise will keep you from compromising on your must-haves and future financial stability.”

Your real estate professional should be your primary source for answers to the questions you have when you’re ready to make an offer.

2. Understand Your Finances

Having a complete understanding of your budget and how much house you can afford is essential. The best way to know this is to reach out to your lender to get pre-approved for a loan early in the homebuying process. Only 44% of today’s prospective homebuyers are planning to apply for pre-approval, so be sure to take this step so you stand out from the crowd. It shows sellers you’re a serious, qualified buyer and can give you a competitive edge if you enter a bidding war.

3. Be Ready to Move Quickly

According to the Realtors Confidence Index, published monthly by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the average property being sold today is receiving more than three offers and is only on the market for a few weeks. These are both results of today’s competitive market, showing how important it is to stay agile and vigilant in your search. As soon as you find the right home for your needs, be prepared to work with The Gingle Lerman Team to submit an offer as quickly as possible.

4. Make a Fair Offer

It’s only natural to want the best deal you can get on a home. However, Freddie Mac also warns that submitting an offer that’s too low can lead sellers to doubt how serious you are as a buyer. Don’t submit an offer that will be tossed out as soon as it’s received. The expertise that The Gingle Lerman Team brings to this part of the process will help you stay competitive:

“The Gingle Lerman Team will work with you to make an informed offer based on the market value of the home, the condition of the home and recent home sale prices in the area.”

5. Be a Flexible Negotiator

After submitting an offer, the seller may accept it, reject it, or counter it with their own changes. In a competitive market, it’s important to stay nimble throughout the negotiation process. Your position can be strengthened with an offer that includes flexible move-in dates, a higher price, or minimal contingencies (conditions you set that the seller must meet for the purchase to be finalized). There are, however, certain contingencies you don’t want to forego. Freddie Mac explains:

Resist the temptation to waive the inspection contingency, especially in a hot market or if the home is being sold ‘as-is’, which means the seller won’t pay for repairs. Without an inspection contingency, you could be stuck with a contract on a house you can’t afford to fix.”

Bottom Line

Today’s competitive market makes it more important than ever to make a strong offer on a home, and a trusted expert can help you rise to the top along the way.  Contact us to discuss the best plan for you.

 

 

What to Look For in New-Construction Homes: These 5 Crucial Aspects Should Be on Your Radar

Written by Terri Williams for Realtor.com

 

Few things are as exciting as purchasing a newly constructed home. Everything is pristine and, presumably, will last for a very long time.

However, just because a house is new doesn’t mean it’s free of flaws. There are a lot of factors that could make a brand-new home a less than ideal purchase.

So, before closing on a new-construction home, here are some things you need to consider.

 

1. Quality of the build

“They don’t make 'em like they used to” is a common phrase that refers to the solid construction of many older homes. It can be true for a number of reasons—from the building materials used to the skills employed in the building process. Therefore, one of the most important things you can do with a new-construction home is to check the foundation to ensure there are no issues, since this can be costly to fix.

“You should be able to get a set of plans from the builder, designer, or city to make sure nothing was left out,” says Nathan Outlaw, president of Onvico, a design-build and general contracting firm in Thomasville, GA.

Also, he says, you need to step back and compare the home with its setting.

“Is the home oversized or undersized for the neighborhood? Do the materials and style of construction match the neighborhood?” Outlaw warns that purchasing a cheap build in a nice neighborhood will have ramifications—like costly repairs—further down the line.

 

2. The builder’s reputation

One way to minimize the chances of purchasing a low-quality home is to find out as much as you can about the builder. Outlaw recommends doing your research to find out what others think about the company. Is the builder known for taking shortcuts during the construction process?  Does the builder have a reputation for paying its subcontractors and suppliers on time?

Robin Kencel, a broker at Compass in Greenwich, CT, agrees.

"Some of the first questions I ask the listing agent are about the team behind the house: who are the architect, builder, subcontractors, and engineers involved in the project," Kencel says. "Those answers will help me gauge the strength of construction.”

It’s also a good idea to ask either the builder or the listing agent for references from people who have purchased a home from the builder.

“If the community is partially built and there are folks already living there, knock on some doors and ask what their experience was like and if they are satisfied with the final product,” says Bill Golden, an independent real estate agent with Re/Max Around Atlanta.

 

3. Possible upgrades and design options

Sometime buyers will get to choose the design elements in new-construction homes that have yet to be built. The builder will offer options for features like the countertop, flooring, tile, and more. Plus, there's often the possibility of adding upgrades (for a price) like a kitchen backsplash or a water softener.

But it's wise to avoid the temptation to go overboard. Sometimes it may be better to just stick with the standard features and upgrade them later when your budget permits.

“Ask to see what the standard fixtures/design elements look like, and what it costs to upgrade them,” says Golden. "However, things like tile and flooring make more sense to have the builder do, as changing those out later can be too much trouble to do."

 

4. A warranty

You shouldn’t expect to have any problems in a new home for a long time. But if you do, it’s important to be covered. Before you buy a new-construction home, make sure it comes with a warranty.

“Most builders have, at minimum, a customer care program and a first-year warranty, plus a longer-term structural warranty,” explains Alan Beulah, vice president of sales and marketing for M/I Homes in Charlotte, NC.

For example, Beulah's company offers a 15-year structural warranty that protects mechanical systems and other major structural elements.

But there may be an even bigger issue than honoring the warranty.

“You have to make sure that the builder is one that will be around and able to carry out warranty work,” says Jeff Benach, principal at Lexington Homes, a Chicago-based homebuilder.

 

5. An experienced real estate agent

When looking for a new-construction home, don’t forget to hire a real estate agent who has experience representing new-construction buyers.

“An experienced agent will negotiate with the builder to ensure pertinent items are covered during the first year of homeownership," says Patrick Garrett, a broker and owner at H&H Realty in Trussville, AL.

Some of these items include coordinating a punch list (a document showing work that still needs to be done on your new home), a structural and mechanical warranty, and any agreements to fix cosmetic issues that are not noticedduring initial inspections or the final walk-through.

 

Do You Have Enough Money Saved for a Down Payment?

 

One of the biggest misconceptions for first-time homebuyers is how much you’ll need to save for a down payment. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t always have to put 20% down to buy a house. Here’s how it breaks down.

A recent survey by Point2Homes mentions that 74% of millennials (ages 25-40) say they’re interested in purchasing a home over the next 12 months. The study notes, “88% say they have significantly less savings than the average national down payment amount, which is $62,600.”

Thankfully, $62,600 is not the amount every buyer needs for a down payment in the United States. There are many different options available, especially for first-time homebuyers (millennial or not). That amount can also be significantly less, depending on the purchase price of the house.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), “The median existing-home price for all housing types in August was $310,600.(These are the latest numbers available). NAR also indicates that:

“In 2019, the median down payment was 12 percent for all buyers, six percent for first-time buyers,

and 16 percent for repeat buyers.” (See graph below):

 

 

That means if a qualified first-time buyer purchases a home at today’s median price, $310,600, with a 6% down payment, in reality, the down payment only amounts to $18,636. That’s nowhere near $62,600.

Knowing there are also programs like FHA where the down payment can be as low as 3.5% of the purchase price for a first-time buyer, that up-front cost could be significantly less – as little as $10,871 for the same home noted above. There are also other programs like USDA and loans for Veterans that waive down payment requirements.

The Point2Homes study also shares how much millennials have indicated they’ve saved for a down payment. As we can see in the graph below, 39% have already saved enough for a down payment on a median-priced home. Another 47% are close to reaching that goal, depending on the purchase price of the home.

 

Unfortunately, the lack of knowledge about the homebuying process is keeping many motivated first-time buyers on the sidelines. That’s why it’s important to contact a local real estate professional to understand the requirements in your local area if you want to buy a home. A trusted agent and your lender can guide you through the process.

 

Bottom Line

Be careful not to let big myths about homebuying keep you and your family out of the housing market. Let’s connect to discuss your options today.  https://ginglelermanrealtygroup.com/

 

 

Buyer's Guide

As published by https://www.remax.com/

Buying a home can be one of the most exciting experiences of your life. This can be true whether you’ve purchased several homes or you’re preparing to buy for the first time. With the right support system and the help of a trusted RE/MAX® professional, you can make the most informed decisions.

Our guide breaks down the steps of buying a home so you can start the process feeling confident and prepared. From developing your budget to signing your name on the dotted line, you’ll find helpful tips right here. Plus, we are here to help every step of the way.

Contact us with any questions or for more info:  ginglelermanrealtygroup@gmail.com

Define Your Goals

Before you start looking, consider why you want to buy a home.  Are you tired of renting?  Do you want to buy an investment property?  Figuring out why you want to purchase a home will help you make important decisions down the road.  Considering what you want and need out of your home will help you narrow down your home search as well.  What neighborhood do you want to live in?  How  many bedrooms do you need?  Knowing your preferences can help with filtering out homes that don't fit your criteria.

Choose An Agent

Buying a home is one of the biggest investments you may ever make. Whether you’re buying your first home, relocating or just moving down the street — you want a trusted professional by your side. Working with a qualified RE/MAX agent can make this process easier, helping guide you through the home search, purchase agreements, inspections, closing matters and more. Having an agent who has your best interests at heart can ease some of your stress and can help make it go as smoothly as possible.

Determine Your Financial Standing

Knowing your budget up front helps you focus your search and can save you both time and stress. Talking to a mortgage professional can help you to determine your buying power. They can help you to find out how much you can afford, how much you should put towards a down payment, and can walk you through loan options and other costs or fees associated with purchasing a home. Consider asking your agent for a referral; they understand your needs and can help find a professional for your situation.

Make an Offer

Once you find a home you’re interested in, your agent can help negotiate a fair offer based on comparable homes in the area. If your offer is accepted, you’ll make a down payment and be officially under contract. During the due-diligence period between signing the purchase agreement and closing on your home, your agent can help you understand the conditions, provisions, and obligations of your contract. They can also help guide you through the appraisal and inspection processes.

Close on Your Home

This is the final step of your home buying journey. Closing is the official transfer of ownership from the seller to the buyer. At closing, you will sign your mortgage paperwork to solidify your purchase. From there, you officially become a homeowner and will be handed the keys to your new home so you can begin making memories.

The Tools to Help You Find Your Home

We've got all the tools you need to help you find your dream home. Visit our website https://ginglelermanrealtygroup.com/

 

 

First-Time Buyers, Beware: Homeownership Is Becoming a Tale of the Haves and Have-Nots

Time was, the American plan went something like this: You work hard at your job. You bank some cash. You use a chunk of it on the down payment for your very first house, a reasonably priced starter in a reasonably priced neighborhood. You begin raising your family while building equity. Congrats! You're on a path toward financial stability.

But these days, the script is being flipped.

Even in the throes of a deadly pandemic, a devastating economic downturn, and unemployment for millions of folks, home prices have surged to record highs as would-be buyers duke it out over a limited number of properties for sale. And while this hypercompetitive, hyperexpensive housing market is taking its toll on all buyers, the impact is being felt most deeply by first-time buyers.

Those towering prices have forced many aspiring first-timers right out of the market, back to the endless treadmill of rentals.  It's led many to wonder if homeownership is becoming something of a tale of the haves—those with good jobs, flush paychecks, and excellent credit—and the have-nots, those struggling to make ends meet.

Is owning a home something that's becoming reserved for the elites—the ultimate luxury good? Or is it still within reach of the millions of first-time buyers who don't possess six-figure incomes or a trust fund? The answer, it turns out, is more complicated than you might think.

Nationally, median home list prices shot up 10.8% year over year in the week ending Sept. 5, according to the latest realtor.com® data. The significant increases were due to record-low mortgage interest rates allowing buyers to stretch further on what they can pay for a home as well as a historic shortage of homes for sale leading to offers over asking price and bidding wars. The number of properties on the market was down 39% compared with a year ago.

The median household income was just $63,179 in 2018, according to the latest U.S. Census data. Yet the median home list price was $298,670 in that year—nearly five times more. And it keeps going up and up. The median home price has risen to $350,000 in August of this year, according to realtor.com data. That's a 17% increase in just two years—way higher than the standard 2% to 3% inflation.

"The American dream is less attainable today than it was in the past," says Ken Chilton, a public administration professor at Tennessee State University in Nashville. "House prices have appreciated faster than wages for a long time. And now that people’s income has been cut or eliminated, that just exacerbates the problem."

As the pandemic has dragged on, prices in some parts of the country have jumped more than 20% as buyers stuck in their homes for months on end flee the cities for the suburbs or simply seek more space. (For example, they shot up 25% in Pittsburgh, to $249,950, and 21.6% in Los Angeles, to $999,050, in August compared with the previous year.)

Those rapidly rising price tags are making it increasingly difficult for younger buyers to become homeowners.

About half of households can afford the national median–priced home, but that number shrinks dramatically in the big cities, according an analysis from Meyers Research, a national real estate consultancy. Just 17% of Los Angeles–area residents earning local wages can afford to become homeowners in that metropolitan area, where the median price is just shy of $1 million. Only about a third of San Francisco– and New York–area residents can afford to buy in their respective metros.

“The current steep rise in home pries is absolutely posing a challenge for first-time buyers," says realtor.com Senior Economist George Ratiu. "It’s a real estate market that seems to reflect our two-speed economy: those who are employed and have high incomes and real estate and stock market holdings—and those who do not.

"As a result of this pandemic-induced recession, the divide is widening," he adds.

Record-low mortgage rates have helped to fuel the price increases by lowering the monthly housing payment for buyers. Mortgage interest rates fell to an average 2.86% for 30-year fixed-rate loans in the week ending Sept. 10, according to Freddie Mac.

“Low mortgage rates have been the game changer," says Ali Wolf, chief economist of Meyers Research. "But low mortgage rates can only offset home price appreciation for so long.

“Every time home prices go up even 1%, more people get knocked out of the buying pool," says Wolf. "If prices keep growing at 10%, even the haves get knocked out."

The pandemic has opened up real estate across the country, driving up prices everywhere

The pandemic has opened up real estate across the country to higher-paid, white-collar workers who can suddenly work from just about anywhere. No longer shackled to commuting distance of their cubicles, some of these haves are chasing affordability out of the expensive cities and into cheaper metros, suburbs, and more rural outposts where they've been busy snapping up homes. Or they're seeking more square footage for less money.

That's been a boon for these workers, who tend to be higher earners. But here's the rub: They're also driving up prices in these areas as locals compete against deep-pocketed out-of-towners. In many cases, these new residents are pricing local buyers right out of their own markets.

"The single-family housing market is becoming a luxury market," says public administration professor Chilton. "We already had a housing affordability problem before the pandemic, but the pandemic brings a lot of those weaknesses to the forefront."

Home price appreciation is nothing new. Median list prices shot up roughly 13.5% from 2017 through 2019, back before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19 and the economy was still strong, according to realtor.com data. But such a high 10.8% increase in just one year amid a crisis is concerning, especially with so many Americans out of work.

A wide gap is also forming between those Americans able to save cash—and those living day to day.

Personal savings rates skyrocketed to 33.7% of incomes in April, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis—a remarkable jump from pre-pandemic averages of 6% to 8% (rates have since come down to 17.8% in July). After all, people have been going out less, spending little on new clothes, and barely traveling at all. Such savings, of course, are being banked only by those with steady employment.

Is the U.S. in a renter's recession?

Many of those struggling the most in this recession are renters who would likely have struggled to become homeowners even before COVID-19 hit the fan.

Some of the lowest-paid industries suffered the most furloughs and layoffs. Workers in restaurants and hotels, transportation and warehousing, and retail disproportionately lost their jobs. But the annual salary in leisure and hospitality is just over $21,000 a year; retail workers earn around $31,000. Even in areas offering cheaper real estate, it would be tough to buy a home on some of these salaries without dual incomes or assistance.

"The lower-income families are more susceptible to this recession," says Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist for Oxford Economics, a global economics consulting firm.

Chilton fears the rising prices could make it even harder for people of color to become homeowners. The Black homeownership rate has yet to recover from the foreclosure crisis of the Great Recession. It was 47% in the second quarter of this year, according to Census data. Meanwhile, about 76% of whites owned homes.

Nationwide, Black households earned a median $41,511—nearly 40% less than white households, at $67,937, according to 2018 Census data, the most recent available. The income disparity, as well as a lack of generational wealth passed down, could make it harder for many folks of color to come up with a down payment and afford the monthly mortgage payments.

"It could exacerbate existing racial disparities," says Chilton.

Are these fears overblown?

Not everyone believes the American dream of homeownership is dead for all but the wealthiest of buyers. Low mortgage rates and a willingness to untether from the most expensive cities are opening up some buying opportunities for first-timers.

Even despite the mind-bogglingly high price increases, more first-time buyers have become homeowners during the pandemic, according to National Association of Realtors® research. In July, first-time buyers made up around 34% of existing-home sales. A year ago, they were slightly lower, hovering around 32%.

Mortgages of all sizes are in demand. However, the biggest increases were in requests for loans of $510,000 and above.

“Everyone’s knee-jerk reaction when they start to see really strong price appreciation is they start freaking out about affordability," say Rick Palacios, director of research at John Burns Real Estate Consulting.

However, down payments, while challenging to cobble together amid monthly rent, car, student loan, and other payments, can be as low as 3.5% or 5% for certain government-backed mortgages. Many folks, even those on more modest incomes, can come up with these, especially if they live in lower-priced parts of the country.

“Rising prices will always push that difference between the haves and the have-nots," says Gay Cororaton, NAR's director of housing and commercial research. "But low mortgage rates are making [homeownership] more affordable.”

Written by Clare Trapasso for Realtor.com

25 Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

Buying a home can be nerve-wracking, especially if you’re a first-time home buyer. Not only is it probably the biggest purchase of your life, but the process is complicated and fraught with unfamiliar lingo and surprise expenses.

To make the first-time home buying journey a little less stressful, NerdWallet has compiled these 25 tips to help you navigate the process more smoothly and save money.

1. Start saving for a down payment early

It’s common to put 20% down, but many lenders now permit much less, and first-time home buyer programs allow as little as 3% down. But putting down less than 20% may mean higher costs and paying for private mortgage insurance, and even a small down payment can still be hefty. For example, a 5% down payment on a $200,000 home is $10,000. Play around with a down payment calculator to help you land on a goal amount. Some tips for saving for a down payment include setting aside tax refunds and work bonuses, setting up an automatic savings plan and using an app to track your progress.

2. Check your credit

When you’re taking out a mortgage loan, your credit will be one of the key factors in whether you’re approved, and it will help determine your interest rate and possibly the loan terms. So check your credit before you begin the home buying process. Dispute any errors that could be dragging down your credit score and look for opportunities to improve your credit, such as making a dent in any outstanding debts.

3. Pause any new credit activity

Any time you open a new credit account, whether to take out an auto loan or get a new credit card, the lender runs a hard inquiry, which can temporarily ding your credit score. If you’re applying for a mortgage soon, avoid opening new credit accounts to keep your score from dipping.

4. Determine how much home you can afford

Before you start looking for your dream home, you need to know what’s actually within your price range. Use a home affordability calculator to determine how much you can safely afford to spend.

5. Explore your down payment options

Struggling to come up with enough money for a down payment? First-time home buyer programs are plentiful, including federal mortgage programs with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that allow loans with only 3% down, plus Federal Housing Administration loans and Veterans Affairs loans. You could also try crowdfunding or asking if family members are willing to pitch in with a gift.

6. Research state and local assistance programs

In addition to federal programs, many states offer assistance programs for first-time home buyers with perks such as tax credits, low down payment loans and interest free loans up to a certain amount. Your county or municipality may also have first-time home buyer programs.

7. Budget for closing costs

In addition to saving for a down payment, you’ll need to budget for the money required to close your mortgage, which can be significant. Closing costs generally run between 2% and 5% of your loan amount. You can shop around and compare prices for certain closing expenses, such as homeowners insurance, home inspections and title searches. You can also defray costs by asking the seller to pay for a portion of your closing costs or negotiating your real estate agent’s commission.

8. Set aside more money for after move-in

Sorry, that’s not all you need to save up for before home shopping. Once you’ve saved for your down payment and budgeted for closing costs, you should also set aside a buffer to pay for what will go inside the house. This includes furnishings, appliances, rugs, updated fixtures, new paint and any other touches you’ll want to have when you move in.

9. Consider what type of property to buy

You may assume you’ll buy a single-family home, and that could be ideal if you want a large lot or a lot of room. But if you’re willing to sacrifice space for less maintenance and extra amenities, and you don’t mind paying a homeowners association fee, a condo or townhome could be a better fit.

10. Research mortgage options

Is a 30-year, fixed rate mortgage a given, or is another loan type right for you? If you can afford larger monthly payments, you can get a lower interest rate with a 20-year or 15-year fixed loan. Or you may prefer an adjustable-rate mortgage, which is riskier but guarantees a low interest rate for the first few years of your mortgage.

11. Compare mortgage rates

Many homebuyers get a rate quote from only one lender, but this often leaves money on the table. Comparing mortgage rates from at least three lenders can save you more than $3,500 over the first five years of your loan, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Get at least three quotes and compare both rates and fees.

12. Decide if paying points makes sense

Lenders often allow you to buy discount points, which means prepaying interest upfront to secure a lower interest rate. There may also be an option for negative points, in which the lender pays some of your closing costs in exchange for a higher interest rate. How long you plan to stay in the house is one of the key factors in whether buying points makes sense. You’ll need to do some calculations or speak to a mortgage broker or loan officer to help you decide if buying points is worth it for you.

13. Get a preapproval letter

You can get prequalified, which simply gives you an estimate of how much a lender may be willing to lend based on your income and debts. But as you get closer to buying a home, it’s smart to get a preapproval, where the lender thoroughly examines your finances and confirms in writing how much it’s willing to lend you and at what terms. Having a preapproval letter in hand makes you look much more serious to a seller and can give you an upper hand over buyers who haven’t taken this step.

14. Hire the right buyers agent

You’ll be working closely with your real estate agent, so it’s essential that you find someone you get along with well. The right buyers agent should be highly skilled, motivated and knowledgeable about the area.

15. Stay under your preapproval limit

As your agent shows you homes, look for properties that cost a little less than the amount you were approved for. While you can technically afford that amount, it’s the ceiling — and it doesn’t account for a broken washer or dryer or any other expenses that arise during homeownership, especially right after you buy. Rather than maxing out that amount, set a lower purchase budget to leave yourself wiggle room for unexpected costs.

16. Pick the right neighborhood

Finding the right neighborhood is just as important as locating the right house. Research the schools, even if you don’t have kids, since that affects a home’s value. Look at local safety and crime statistics. How close are the nearest hospital, pharmacy, grocery store and other amenities you’ll use? Also, drive through the neighborhood on various days and at different times to check out traffic, noise and activity levels.

17. Make the most of an open house

Use this as another opportunity to scope out the neighborhood and your potential neighbors. During the open house, pay close attention to the home’s overall condition and look for any smells, stains or items in disrepair. Ask a lot of questions about the home, such as when it was built, when items were last replaced and how old key systems like the air conditioning and the heating are. If several other potential buyers are viewing the home at the same time as you, don’t hesitate to schedule a second or third visit to get a closer look and ask more questions.

18. Buy a home for tomorrow

It’s easy to look at properties that meet your current needs. But if you plan to start or expand your family, it may be preferable to buy a larger home you can grow into. Consider your future needs and wants and whether this home will suit them.

19. Let little things go

When you’re looking at a home, it’s easy to get caught up on superficial details like paint color, fixtures and carpets. These features are easy to change once the home is yours, so don’t let those little details get in the way.

20. Be prepared to compromise

It’s rare to find a house that’s perfect in every way, so think carefully about what you’re willing to compromise on and what you’re not. Perhaps no walk-in closet in the master bedroom is a deal breaker, but an outdated guest bathroom will be tolerable until you can renovate it.

21. Make a strong offer

Your real estate agent can help you with this, but consider how much under or over the asking price you’re willing to pay to obtain your dream home. If there are multiple bids, think about tactics to win over the seller, such as a personalized letter.

22. Avoid a bidding war that blows your budget

In a competitive real estate market with limited inventory, it’s likely you’ll bidding on houses that get multiple offers. When you find a home you love, it’s tempting to make a high-priced offer that’s sure to win. But don’t let your emotions take over; stick to your purchase budget to avoid getting stuck with a mortgage payment you can’t afford.

23. Negotiate

A lot can be up for negotiation in the homebuying process, which can result in major savings. Are there any major repairs you can get the seller to cover, either by fully handling them or by giving you a credit adjustment at closing? Is the seller willing to pay for any of the closing costs? If you’re in a buyers market, you may find the seller will bargain with you to get the house off the market.

24. Buy homeowners insurance

Before you close on your new house, your lender will require you to buy homeowners insurance. Shop around and compare rates to find the best price. Look closely at what’s covered in the policies; going with a less expensive policy usually means fewer protections and more out-of-pocket expenses if you file a claim. Be aware that your insurer can drop your property if it thinks the home’s condition isn’t up to snuff, so you may have to be prepared to find a new policy quickly if it sends someone out to look at the property and isn’t happy with what it finds. Also, flood damage isn’t covered by homeowners insurance, so if your new home is in a flood-prone area, you may want to buy separate flood insurance.

25. Know the limits of a home inspection

Once your offer is accepted, you’ll pay for a home inspection to examine the property’s condition inside and out. But not all inspections test for things like radon, mold or pests, so be sure you know what’s included. Make sure the inspector can access every part of the home, such as the roof and any crawl spaces. Attend the inspection and pay close attention. Don’t be afraid to ask your inspector to take a look — or a closer look — at something and ask questions. No inspector will answer the question, “Should I buy this house?”, so you’ll have to make this decision after reviewing the reports and seeing what the seller is willing to fix.


The article 25 Tips for First-Time Home Buyers originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Mortgage Rates Tumble to Yet Another All-Time Low

Cash-strapped home buyers received a bit of relief this week when mortgage rates tumbled to a new all-time low—making those monthly mortgage payments just a bit cheaper.

The double whammy of the coronavirus pandemic and the economic downturn have led to the lowest mortgage rates in history. They fell to an average of just 2.86% for the most common types of loan, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, in the week ending Sept. 10, according to Freddie Mac. The previous low was 2.88% for the week ending Aug. 6.

“It’s good news for buyers who are in the market," says realtor.com®'s chief economist, Danielle Hale. "It’s going to make monthly payments lower than they otherwise would be. Buyers need that right now, because prices are rising.”

Even amid a health and economic crisis, median home list prices rose 10.8% compared with last year in the week ending Sept. 5, according to realtor.com data. Nationally, the median home price was $350,000 in August—a record high.

While a percentage point here or there may not sound like much, it can determine whether aspiring buyers can afford homeownership. It can also add up to some very big savings. Even a single percentage point difference has the potential to shave more than $100 off a monthly mortgage payment and can even result in tens of thousands of dollars of savings over the life of a 30-year loan in some cases. (The exact amount will vary based on the rate and size of the loan.)

Last year, rates were about 70 basis points higher, at 3.56% for a 30-year fixed-rate loan in the week ending Sept. 12, according to Freddie Mac. (A basis point is equivalent to 0.01%.) Investors have been buying up more mortgage-backed securities, widely considered a safer investment, in response to the pandemic, and that's pushed mortgage rates lower.

That doesn't mean folks should hold their breath, expecting rates will continue to fall.

"In order to see rates go down much further, we'd have to see the economic recovery slow down," says Hale. While she doesn't expect that to happen, she also doesn't anticipate rates shooting up anytime soon.

"They'll stay low," she adds.

The Mortgage Bankers Association predicts rates won't climb past the the mid-3% range over the next two years. It anticipates rates could eventually reach the 3.65% range only toward the end of 2022.

This offers some relief to buyers, who are having to pay more in a competitive market, says MBA economist Joel Kan.

"The low rates are helping, maybe they can afford a little bit more," he says.

 

Written by Clare Trapasso for Realtor.com

 

Is Now A Good Time To Move?

How long have you lived in your current home? If it’s been a while, you may be thinking about moving. According to the latest Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), in 2019, homeowners were living in their homes for an average of 10 years. That’s a long time to time to be in one place, considering the average length of time homeowners used to stay put hovered closer to 6 years.

With today’s changing homebuyer needs, especially given how the current health crisis has altered our daily lifestyles, many homeowners are reconsidering where they’re at and thinking about moving to a home with more space for their families. Here’s why it might be a great time to make that happen.

The real estate market has changed in many ways over the past 10 years, and current homeowners are earning much more equity today than they used to have. According to CoreLogic, in the first quarter of 2020 alone, the average homeowner gained approximately $9,600 in equity. If you’re considering selling your house right now, you may have accumulated more equity to put toward a move than you realize.

Dialing back 10 years, many homeowners also locked in a fairly low mortgage rate. In 2010, the average rate was only 4.09%. This motivated homeowners to stay in their houses longer than usual to keep their rate low, rather than moving. Just last Thursday, however, average mortgage rates hit a new historic low at 2.86%. Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Mac explains:

Mortgage rates have hit another record low due to a late summer slowdown in the economic recovery…These low rates have ignited robust purchase demand activity, which is up twenty-five percent from a year ago and has been growing at double digit rates for four consecutive months.”

Ten years ago, we couldn’t have imagined a mortgage rate under 3%. Looking at the math today, making a move into a new home and locking in a significantly lower rate than you have now could save you greatly on a monthly basis, and over the life of your loan (See chart below):

As the example shows, you can save a substantial amount every month if you qualify for today’s low mortgage rate, and the savings can really add up over the life of a 30-year fixed-rate loan.

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.

What is an escalation clause?

This tactic can help homebuyers win bidding wars – especially in a seller’s market.

A low inventory of homes for sale in the U.S. right now means that buyers are getting creative when shopping for their dream home.

In a competitive seller’s market, one popular strategy to help win a bidding war – when multiple offers are made on one property – is implementing an escalation clause.

What is an escalation clause?

Sometimes referred to as an “escalator,” an escalation clause is when a buyer submits an offer on a home for sale and adds a clause into the contract stating that they are willing to exceed their offer by a certain amount of money in order to outbid competitors. The buyer would also likely state a maximum cap price to ensure they don’t make an offer beyond their financial means.

Like at an auction, the escalation clause works in the buyer’s favor to prevent them from rewriting their offer contract over and over again to compete with fellow interested buyers.

An escalation clause can be especially useful when the seller calls for “highest and best” – a protocol designed to narrow down offers on the house to the best one possible. In the case of highest and best, an escalation clause can potentially outbid the other highest bidder.

Susan Loparo, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Traditions in Ohio, explains what goes into helping interested buyers construct escalation clauses.

“When we’re writing [escalation clauses], I say to people, ‘If the house is, for example, $350,000, and you only want to go up to $360,000, and then you hear you lost the house for $362,000, will you be upset?’ The buyers usually say yes – that they would be,” Loparo shares.

In today’s seller’s market in the U.S., homes are selling quickly. It could be a matter of days or even hours before the sign in the front yard switches from “for sale” to “sold.” Escalation clauses are sometimes appreciated for their ability to streamline the home-selling process and wrap-up a sale faster, especially when multiple offers have been made on the same property.

 

Are there any downsides to an escalation clause?

That said, sellers don’t always love grappling with escalation clauses. If a sale closes with an escalator, the seller loses the ability to issue counteroffers to the other interested buyers.

An additional downside can be the buyer’s perception of the home once they know they paid over their initial offer for it.

“At the end [of the homebuying process], buyers sometimes can have high-expectations [from the sellers] because they ended up paying more than top-dollar,” Loparo explains.

However, buyers are often relieved to have locked down their new home without enduring a tedious back-and-forth negotiation process.

Ultimately, an escalation clause is a tool meant to aid a buyer in winning out on their potential new home. With fewer homes for sale and a frenzy of buyers looking for a new place, these clauses have become a more common practice.

 

Is Fido Going To Be Happy In Your New Home?

 

How Much Pets Matter When Buying a Home

There are so many things to consider when looking for the right home: Is it located in a good neighborhood with an easy commute to work? Does the price tag fit within the budget? And perhaps most importantly, does it have everything that Fido and Tigger need to live long, happy lives there?brown down laying on gray couch

Almost 95% of pet owners said they considered the needs of their furry friends to be important when selecting the right home to buy, according to a recent realtor.com® survey.

More than 2,000 buyers participated in the survey conducted in March in which roughly 82% of respondents were pet owners. About 61% of participants were dog owners, 45% were cat owners, 12% were fish owners, and 9% had birds. Some folks had multiple pets.

“We believe that a home is so much more than a roof and four walls. It is where family and friends come together and memories are made," realtor.com Chief Marketing Officer Nate Johnson said in a statement. "The results of this survey reinforce that our pets are our family and an important part of what makes a house a home."

The top home features for pet parents were big yards, at 38%, and outdoor spaces, at 29%. Those four-legged companions need ample space to run around and sun themselves so they don't wreck the house! Pet owners also prioritized garages, at 24%; dog runs, at 22%; and lots of indoor square footage, at 20%.

That could help to explain why 68% of pet owners would pass on their dream house if it didn't accommodate the needs of their animals. Clearly, it wasn't perfect if it there were too many stairs for Couscous or it was a little too close to the highway for Mr. Giggles.

It may not be surprising that, among the survey respondents, 87% of dog and cat owners rated their pets' needs as extremely or very important when selecting a home. But 89% of bird owners, 85% of fish owners (really?), 79% of rodent owners (eww!), and 74% of horse owners also said they would also consider their animals before purchasing a property.

Written for Realtor.com