7 Reasons You Should Buy Your Next Home Right Now

Get off the fence. This might be the best time to buy a home you’re going to see for a while. Here’s why.

Less competition for homes

Tired of having to duke it out for available homes and then losing out to higher offers? That’s a reality in many of today’s hot real estate markets, where bidding wars are the norm. In some micro-markets, all-cash offers are king. It’s hard to compete in that kind of environment, which is what makes the holiday season attractive to home buyers. Less activity during this season diminishes the competition, and can also help you get a deal.

“Since fewer people overall are looking to buy houses, you will have less competition for your preferred house — and this gives you leverage,” said moneytips. “Holiday home sellers often have to adjust their price downward or make other concessions if they want to sell. Keep this in mind as you search for homes. Bargains may be available, and listed prices may be more open to negotiation.”

Ben Carson

President-elect Trump’s nominee for the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) post has previously made a number of comments about the agency that could spell wide-sweeping changes for buyers, and not for the better.

Carson referred to Fair Housing as “communism in a 2015 Washington Times op-ed, saying that fair housing policies “mandated social-engineering schemes” that repeated a pattern of “failed socialist experiments in this country,” said the Wall Street Journal. That has housing insiders worried that affordable housing programs, and, specifically, low-rate mortgages from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may take a hit.


Chaney Capital
Privatizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would greatly limit available mortgages and have an especially detrimental effect on low-rate mortgages that many buyers depend on to get into the market. “Carson’s appointment could also affect taxpayer-supported subsidized housing, which primarily helps homeless, low-income, and even senior Americans”, according to Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said Realtor.com.

Interest rates are on their way up

Even if you’re not ready to pull the trigger right this second, get pre-approved to lock in that interest rate now. That’s because rates have already risen some since the election, and all indications are that they’ll continue to rise after the new year.

And, of course, getting pre-approved will allow you to move quickly when you find a home you love instead of being held up by the bank and risking losing the home when someone who is pre-approved swoops in.

Because you’re ready to get your Joanna Gaines on

How badly do you want to rip out a kitchen and start over with something chic and pretty and chef-y in a place of your own? If you’re currently living in an apartment, you may not even have permission to paint the walls, let alone update the kitchen.

The good news about renovations, other than achieving a great new look, is that you can actually get loans to pay for them – and, the interest is a writeoff. “The IRS considers the interest on a home-improvement loan fully deductible, up to $100,000 in debt,” said MarketWatch.


Decoist
Loans to look for include the FHA’s 203(k) program and Fannie’s HomeStyle Renovation Mortgage. “Unlike credit lines, these renovation loans require borrowers to show that the money was spent on the house,” said Bankrate. “In the standard FHA 203(k) program, the borrower hires a consultant to assess the construction plan and to perform an inspection before each draw is made. A ‘draw’ happens when a portion of the money is disbursed to the contractor. Borrowers have up to six months to finish the project and are allowed up to five draws. The HomeStyle program does not require a consultant to monitor the work, only an initial and final inspection.”

The FHA 203(k) can be easier to qualify for, as credit scores can be as low as 660. The HomeStyle mortgage require a minimum 740 credit score for the best rates.

Tax savings

Unless you find a house tomorrow and close much more quickly than is standard today, you won’t be able to reap the tax benefits this year. But there’s always next year—and every year after that. And tax savings can be substantial, amounting to thousands of dollars you’re not saving now.

It’s probably still cheaper than renting

The tax savings associated with homeownership isn’t the only way to save money. “It’s cheaper to own rather than rent in all but eight states and Washington, D.C., according to a GOBankingRates.com study of rent and mortgage costs,” said MSN.

When calculating the difference between renting and owning, make sure you look at as much of an apples-to-apples comparison as possible. Oftentimes, when people are looking at rent, they fail to factor in renter’s insurance, security deposits, pet deposits, and annual rental increases. Those numbers can add up.

Predictable payments

Tired of that rent going up every year? Yeah, that stinks. If you live in Seattle, your rent is forecasted to rise another 7.2% this year, according to Business Insider. In Portland, it’s 6% and Denver 5.9%. Those are the cities that are predicted to have the sharpest rises across the country.

Unless you have an adjustable rate mortgage, which isn’t popular in today’s low-interest-rate, 30-year-fixed mortgage world, or you cash out your equity and raise your principle at some point, your mortgage payment will remain your mortgage payment through the life of your loan. With so many other unknowns and intangibles, it’s nice to know that what’s probably your largest monthly payment is always the same.

WRITTEN BY JAYMI NACIRI

The 4 Things Home Buyers Really Want in Kitchen Cabinetry

A great kitchen design can dramatically increase your property value – if you want to attract prospective buyers, your kitchen is the perfect place to invest money. The trick is to get it to appeal to the majority of people by spending your money on what most of them really want.

Kitchen cabinetry can do much to attract the right buyers. There are four key factors to consider: quality, symmetry, color and layout. If you can get these key elements right with your cabinetry, you’re bound to have a higher home value.

The 4 Things Most Buyers Want in a Kitchen

1. Quality

The number of cabinets you have is not as important as the quality of the cabinetry. The fewer cabinets you add to your kitchen renovation, the less expensive it will be. Choose quality over quantity.

Do: Choose quality hinges and runners, including soft-close drawers, and custom-made cabinetry.

Don’t: Go for large fillers and ill-fitted modular cabinetry.

Open Floor Plan

Keep the cost down by keeping the cabinet count down. Design the kitchen layout to keep it light, bright and with an open plan, without using tons of cabinets.

Note: Excessive internal organizers aren’t essential if you are planning on reselling your home. They are wonderful in adding value to your personal use of the kitchen but are not always a wise choice if you are renovating purely to sell. Internal drawer and cabinet fit-outs are often expensive, and the extra money you spend on these accessories may not come back to you when you’re selling your property.

2. Symmetry

The eye is naturally drawn to appreciate symmetry and repetition. When you’re renovating to sell, keep your kitchen cabinetry simple and appealing. Elegance has a way of being understated, and simplicity is key when you are trying to appeal to the majority of buyers.

Do: Keep the wall cabinetry sizes the same where possible. Drawers look nice when they are large and expansive – if you have multiple sets, keep them the same size, with the same proportion of drawers.

Hale Aina By The Sea

Don’t: Add multiple cabinets in varying sizes. Try to keep the look and feel consistent in the whole space.

3. Light, Bright Spaces

Many buyers here in Australia want an open, light and airy space. A kitchen that is white makes the space feel bigger. White is also a universally appealing color and leaves a blank slate so buyers can reenvision the space.

house A

Do: Keep the space open, bright and light with white cabinetry. If you want some contrast, go for a darker bench top. Backsplashes should be kept fairly neutral too – try to introduce texture instead of color into the backsplash. The more neutral and elegant the space is, the more potential buyers you will attract.

Don’t: Use darker-color cabinetry, which can make the space feel closed. While adding a strong color may suit your taste, it may not be to everybody’s liking. You want to attract as many potential buyers as possible, and while white may not be the most daring color for your cabinetry, it’s the most popular.

4. An Open Layout

Designing your kitchen to have a sensible and open layout is pivotal to increasing property value when you’re renovating to sell. In Australia, the trend is moving toward open-plan living and multifunctional spaces.

Kitchen

Do: Have a large open-plan space with a kitchen island if possible. Buyers often want to multitask in the kitchen. They want to cook, have their kids do their homework and socialize in it.

Don’t: Place your kitchen in a small and poky room. The kitchen is now often the hub of the house, and buyers want to see a kitchen that is interactive and sociable.

Related Articles:

Houzz is the leading platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a small room to building a custom home and everything in between, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world.

WRITTEN BY HOUZZ.COM

7 Important Steps To Help You Buy Your First Home In 2017

Thinking about buying your first home? What an exciting time this is bound to be. And, also, what a (potentially) overwhelming, confusing, and stress-filled time. It can easily veer into scary territory if you’re not prepared and not surrounding yourself with professionals who can help guide you in the right direction.

These seven tips can help you make that dream of homeownership come true in 2017.

1. Work with the right real estate agent

The guy next door or your brother’s girlfriend’s cousin who just got his real estate license may be hungry to get your business, but that doesn’t mean he’s your best bet. An experienced agent quite simply knows things that someone who is brand new probably doesn’t. An experienced agent will also have important relationships in place that may be able to help buyers in every facet of the home purchase, including:

Finding houses that aren’t even listed yet

Finding homes that may be slightly outside of a buyer’s criteria but that are worthy of consideration

Leveraging industry relationships to get you great deals or better terms

Managing appraisals and inspections

Working through every step of the purchase process and handling any issues that pop up along the way

Negotiating a deal that works for both sides


realtymyths.com
2. Don’t be afraid to talk to multiple lenders

Your Realtor will most likely have several lenders they have worked with and can refer you to. You may also want to speak to loved ones and get a referral or two from someone they’ve worked with successfully. Each lender may have a different recommendation and/or knowledge of a special loan that works for you, so it makes sense to look at a few different options.

3. Mind your credit

Many people have no idea what their credit score is, but if you’re thinking about buying a home, knowledge is power. Different loans have different minimum credit score requirements, and it could be that your score doesn’t measure up for the best loan rates, or maybe you need to do some work to qualify for even the most lenient loan.

A good mortgage lender can advise you on your best options to raise your score, from removing any errors on your credit report, to paying any delinquent accounts, to exploring credit repair options. The earlier you learn your score and delve into the details with a qualified lender, the more time you have to address any issues you find.


Total Mortgage
4. Save, save, save

For many people, getting the down payment together is the hardest part of buying a home. And the closing costs can be an unwelcome surprise for those who weren’t expecting to have to come up with even more cash. When you first set out to buy a home, make sure you know how much you have to save. Your lender should be able to give you a pretty good ballpark based on a certain home price. Housing experts recommend adding 5% to that number just to be safe.

Even if you’ve never been a great saver in the past, there are strategies you can use that will help you build the nest egg you need for your down payment and closing costs, including these tips from nerdwallet:

  • Automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings can help to make the process mandatory – and maybe a little less painful.
  • Save raises and bonuses rather than spending them.
  • Set aside tax refunds.
  • Keep the change. At least a couple of banks have variations on this theme. For example, Bank of America allows debit card users to sign up for a service that rounds up purchases to the nearest dollar and puts the change into a linked savings account.
  • Visualize your goal. Slap big, beautiful photos of your dream house on the refrigerator, near your office workspace – and wrap a small one around the primary credit card in your wallet. You might charge less and save more.”

As for where to put that money while you watch it grow, experts recommend that “If the plan is to become a homeowner in the next 12 months, the money should be kept completely liquid. That means you can easily access it at any time,” said CNN Money. “The best way to do that is in a good old-fashioned savings account, Schulte said. Look for one with a higher yield. In today’s low rate environment, that probably means an online-only account like Ally or Synchrony Bank, which currently pay around 1% annually.”

5. Lock in your rate

Rates can be unpredictable. Locking in a rate when you get close to buying, which your lender will undoubtedly recommend, can protect you if rates rise. Many lenders also offer a one-time adjustment in case rates go down.


huffingtonpost
6. Stay at your job

Not happy at work and thinking about making a change? If you’re looking to buy a home, you may have to delay that plan. Part of your qualification for a mortgage will be based on your job history. Making a big change just before you buy or during the escrow process will be problematic. Lenders advise buyers to stay the course until after the home closes escrow.

7. Don’t open new credit cards or buy a new car

Your lender will spell out the do’s and don’ts of how to protect your credit when trying to buy a house, but if you haven’t yet talked to anyone and you think you’re getting close to be purchase-ready, that Kohl’s card you take out to save 20% on your $100 bill could cost you. Before you take out any new debt, check with a lender.

WRITTEN BY JAYMI NACIRI

Staging vs. Decorating: What’s the Difference?

Selling your home means selling a lifestyle, but not necessarily your own. In home staging, you’re striving for a look that is fresh and welcoming yet not really taste specific. People with varying tastes need to feel that they can make the home their own if they purchase it.

This is the distinction between decorating your home and staging it to sell. It can be hard to understand at first, but if you don’t know the difference, you might not sell your house as quickly as you like.

Although everyone has different tastes in decor and furnishings, most people want a home that is welcoming, functional, peaceful and organized. Tailor your house so that buyers will describe it in those terms rather than by your style of decorating. Getting rid of clutter and having fewer but larger accessories is a great place to start.

Making sure your home isn’t taste specific doesn’t mean your rooms should be devoid of color. Instead, keep color schemes simple and dose them with an on-trend neutral, like a clean tan, a soft gray or a warm white.

Fresh & Neutral Brentwood Home

If you have a distinctive decorating style — whether it’s Tuscan, shabby chic or modern — you’re going to need to scale it back a bit. If you don’t, your home will appeal to the small percentage of potential buyers who love your chosen style. Staging is about strategic editing and depersonalizing, rather than decorating and personalizing.

Gustavian Bedroom

Dated is dreary. Strive to stage your space with a current and fresh feel. Use updated neutrals on the walls and furnishings that are clean-lined and simple. Punches of color are great; just use them sparingly. A room arranged symmetrically and centered on the architecture reads as peaceful — one of those important aesthetics every buyer is drawn to.

Bauman Photographers

This guest bedroom is full of great staging ideas. It has lots of on-trend design details, but it’s sparse on accessories and other distractions. The color palette is simple, easy on the eyes and would be attractive to both men and women. Most potential buyers would remember this appealing room long after leaving the house.

Interior Repaint by Warline Painting

This clever arrangement draws attention to the unique architecture in the space and illustrates a smart use for the area under the stairs: an office nook. This area is nicely decorated, not staged.

If I were staging this area, I would keep the desk, chair and lamp, remove overly personal items such as family photos, and leave a few pieces of art and an attractive notebook and pen. Simple accessories can help draw attention to a functional space.

If you are updating a kitchen or bath before putting your home on the market, keep the finishes neutral and classic. This is not the time to show off your personal style. You want to broaden your buying audience by appealing to a wide variety of tastes and preferences. This bathroom would definitely appeal to buyers with either traditional or contemporary taste, and could later be personalized with the new homeowner’s preferences for color and accessories.

Refined Rustic Master Bath Remodel: Ambler, PA

Sure, this may not be what normally sits on your countertop, but doesn’t it look better than the usual bills and coupons? Remember, you are selling an idealized lifestyle, not your reality.

The bottom line is that you have to get outside your head and inside the mind of a potential home buyer. It’s very difficult to be objective about your own home, but it’s crucial if you want to sell it.

Cottage and Vine

WRITTEN BY KRISTIE BARNETT, HOUZZ

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.


The Winning Team
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.


Pinterest
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.”


Pinterest
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

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