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Rents in the United States have been skyrocketing since 2012. This has caused many renters to face a tremendous burden when juggling their housing expenses and the desire to save for a down payment at the same time. The recent stabilization of rental prices provides a great opportunity for renters to save more of their current income to put toward the purchase of a home.

Just last week the Joint Center of Housing Studies of Harvard University released the America’s Rental Housing 2020 Report. The results explain the financial challenges renters are experiencing today,

“Despite slowing demand and the continued strength of new construction, rental markets in the U.S. remain extremely tight. Vacancy rates are at decades-long lows, pushing up rents far faster than incomes. Both the number and share of cost-burdened renters are again on the rise, especially among middle-income households.”

Great News for Renters Who Want to Buy a Home | Keeping Current Matters

According to the most recent Zillow Rent Index, which measures the estimated market-rate rent for all homes and apartments, the typical U.S. rent now stands at $1,600 per month. Here is a graph of how the index’s median rent values have climbed over the last eight years:

Is Good News Coming?

There seems, however, to be some good news on the horizon. Four of the major rent indices are all reporting that rents are finally beginning to stabilize in all rental categories:

1. The Zillow Rent Index, linked above, only rose 2.6% over the last year.

2. RENTCafé’s research team also analyzes rent data across the 260 largest cities in the United States. The data on average rents comes directly from competitively rented, large-scale, multi-family properties (50+ units in size). Their 2019 Year-End Rent Report shows only a 3% increase in rents from last year, the slowest annual rise over the past 17 months.

3. The CoreLogic Single Family Rent Index reports on single-family only rental listing data in the Multiple Listing Service. Their latest index shows how overall year-over-year rent price increases have slowed since February 2016, when they peaked at 4.2%. They have stabilized around 3% since early 2019.

4. The Apartment List National Rent Report uses median rent statistics for recent movers taken from the Census Bureau American Community Survey. The 2020 report reveals that the year-over-year growth rate of 1.6% matches the rate at this time last year; it is just ahead of the 1.5% rate from January 2016. They also explain how “the past five years also saw stretches of notably faster rent growth. Year-over-year rent growth stood at 2.6% in January 2018, and in January 2016 it was 3.3%, more than double the current rate.”

It seems tenants are getting a breather from the rapid rent increases that have plagued them for almost a decade.

Bottom Line

Rental expenses are beginning to moderate, and at the same time, average wages are increasing. That power combination may allow renters who dream of buying a home of their own an opportunity to save more money to put toward a down payment. That’s sensational news!

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A desire among many seniors is to “age in place.” According to the Senior Resource Guide, the term means,

“…that you will be remaining in your own home for the later years of your life; not moving into a smaller home, assisted living, or a retirement community etcetera.”

There is no doubt about it – there’s a comfort in staying in a home you’ve lived in for many years instead of moving to a totally new or unfamiliar environment. There is, however, new information that suggests this might not be the best option for everyone. The familiarity of your current home is the pro of aging in place, but the potential financial drawbacks to remodeling or renovating might actually be more costly than the long-term benefits.

A recent report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University (JCHS) titled Housing America’s Older Adults explained,

“Given their high homeownership rates, most older adults live in single-family homes. Of the 24 million homeowners age 65 and over, fully 80 percent lived in detached single-family units…The majority of these homes are now at least 40 years old and therefore may present maintenance challenges for their owners.”

If you’re in this spot, 40 years ago you may have had a growing family. For that reason, you probably purchased a 4-bedroom Colonial on a large piece of property in a child-friendly neighborhood. It was a great choice for your family, and you still love that home.

Today, your kids are likely grown and moved out, so you don’t need all of those bedrooms. Yard upkeep is probably very time consuming, too. You might be thinking about taking some equity out of your house and converting one of your bedrooms into a massive master bathroom, and maybe another room into an open-space reading nook. You might also be thinking about cutting back on lawn maintenance by installing a pool surrounded by beautiful paving stones.

It all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? For the short term, you may really enjoy the new upgrades, but you’ll still have to climb those stairs, pay to heat and cool a home that’s larger than what you need, and continue fixing all the things that start to go wrong with a 40-year-old home.

Last month, in their Retirement ReportKiplinger addressed the point,

“Renovations are just a part of what you need to make aging in place work for you. While it’s typically less expensive to remain in your home than to pay for assisted living, that doesn’t mean it’s a slam dunk to stay put. You’ll still have a long to-do list. Just one example: You need to plan ahead for how you will manage maintenance and care—for your home, and for yourself.”

So, at some point, the time may come when you decide to sell this house anyway. That can pose a big challenge if you’ve already taken cash value out of your home and used it to do the type of remodeling we mentioned above. Realistically, you may have inadvertently lowered the value of your home by doing things like reducing the number of bedrooms. The family moving into your neighborhood is probably similar to what your family was 40 years ago. They probably have young children, need the extra bedrooms, and may be nervous about the pool.

Bottom Line

Before you spend the money to remodel or renovate your current house so you can age in place, reach out to a local real estate professional to determine if it is truly your best option. Making a move to a smaller home in the neighborhood might make the most sense.

When buying a home, we all want to feel like we’re making the right decision, paying a fair price, and making the best investment of our lives. According to a recent gender-based study, men and women can unknowingly walk away with very different financial outcomes when the deal closes. Thankfully, if you follow some simple ways to arm yourself with the information you need to prepare in advance, you’re more likely to feel like you’ve won when the keys to your new house are in your pocket.

Kelly Shue and Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham of the Yale School of Management showed in their recent study The Gender Gap in Housing Returns, when single women invest in the housing market, they’re generally losing out compared to their male counterparts. The report explains,

“We find that single men earn one percentage point higher unlevered returns per year on housing investment relative to single women…The gender gap grows significantly larger after adjusting for mortgage borrowing: men earn 6 percentage points higher levered returns per year relative to women. Data on repeat sales reveal that women buy the same property for approximately 2% more and sell for 2% less.”

On National Public Radio (NPR), Kelly Shue elaborated by saying,

“Women are losing about $1,370 per year relative to men because they tend to buy the same house at a higher price and sell for a lower price.”

In the grand scheme of things, $1,370 a year could be as much as an entire month’s mortgage payment for many households in the United States.

How can you make sure this doesn’t happen to you?

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way for anyone, regardless of gender. Here are a few tips on how to make sure you’re prepped and ready to enter the housing market with your best foot forward.

1. Work with a Trusted Real Estate Professional

You need someone on your side who’s going to have your best interest in mind and support your unique homeownership goals. Hiring an agent who has a finger on the pulse of the market will make your buying experience an educated one. You need someone who’s going to tell you the truth, not just what they think you want to hear.

2. Understand the Homebuying Process

Know the key homebuying steps in advance, so you have the best context for how the process works from pre-approval to budgeting, inspections, and more. Have a price range in mind that you can realistically afford, too, so you’re ready to make an offer that positions you for success. Ask your agent questions along the way, and partner together so you feel confident and prepared at every turn.

3. Research the Current Market

Make sure you know the current trends and insights of the housing market as well. When you find a home that’s the perfect fit, determine what other homes are selling for in the neighborhood. These numbers can vary over time based on market conditions such as inventory, appreciation, and many other economic factors. A great agent will provide you with this information and guide you through every step from start to finish.

Bottom Line

When you have a trusted advisor on your side and you’re confident you know exactly what’s happening in the market, you’ll be in a great position to negotiate effectively. Reach out to a local real estate professional today to make sure you’re ready to win the homebuying deal.

When the number of buyers in the housing market outnumbers the number of homes for sale, it’s called a “seller’s market.” The advantage tips toward the seller as low inventory heats up the competition among those searching for a place to call their own. This can create multiple offer scenarios and bidding wars, making it tough for buyers to land their dream homes – unless they stand out from the crowd. Here are three reasons why pre-approval should be your first step in the homebuying process.

1. Gain a Competitive Advantage

Low inventory, like we have today, means homebuyers need every advantage they can get to make a strong impression and close the deal. One of the best ways to get one step ahead of other buyers is to get pre-approved for a mortgage before you make an offer. For one, it shows the sellers you’re serious about buying a home, which is always a plus in your corner.

2. Accelerate the Homebuying Process

Pre-approval can also speed up the homebuying process, so you can move faster when you’re ready to make an offer. In a competitive arena like we have today, being ready to put your best foot forward when the time comes may be the leg-up you need to cross the finish line first and land the home of your dreams.

3. Know What You Can Borrow and Afford

Here’s the other thing: if you’re pre-approved, you also have a better sense of your budget, what you can afford, and ultimately how much you’re eligible to borrow for your mortgage. This way, you’re less apt to fall in love with a home that may be out of your reach.

Freddie Mac sets out the advantages of pre-approval in the My Home section of their website:

“It’s highly recommended that you work with your lender to get pre-approved before you begin house hunting. Pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford and can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets.”

Local real estate professionals also have relationships with lenders who can help you through this process, so partnering with a trusted advisor will be key for that introduction. Once you select a lender, you’ll need to fill out their loan application and provide them with important information regarding “your credit, debt, work history, down payment and residential history.”

Freddie Mac also describes the ‘4 Cs’ that help determine the amount you’ll be qualified to borrow:

  1. Capacity: Your current and future ability to make your payments
  2. Capital or Cash Reserves: The money, savings, and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash
  3. Collateral: The home, or type of home, that you would like to purchase
  4. Credit: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time

While there are still many additional steps you’ll need to take in the homebuying process, it’s clear why pre-approval is always the best place to begin. It’s your chance to gain the competitive edge you may need if you’re serious about owning a home.

Bottom Line

Getting started with pre-approval is a great way to begin the homebuying journey. Reach out to a local real estate professional today to make sure you’re on the fastest path to homeownership.

If you’re following what’s happening in the current housing market, you’ve seen how the lack of newly constructed homes is a major reason there’s a shortage of housing inventory available to today’s buyers. Another reason is that the inventory of existing homes for sale is shrinking. According to the most recent Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), sales are up 10.8% from the same time last year. That exceeds expectations and is great news.

The troubling news from the report is that the sold inventory is not being replaced. As NAR explained,

“Total housing inventory at the end of December totaled 1.40 million units, down 14.6% from November and 8.5% from one year ago. Unsold inventory sits at a 3.0-month supply at the current sales pace, down from the 3.7-month figure recorded in both November and December 2018. Unsold inventory totals have dropped for seven consecutive months from year-ago levels, taking a toll on home sales.”

The situation was also addressed in a recent Zillow article stating,

“The number of for-sale homes in the U.S. is at its lowest point in at least seven years, and the shortage appears poised to get worse before it gets better.”

Bill McBride of Calculated Risk further noted,

“Inventory always decreases sharply in December as people take their homes off the market for the holidays. However, based on the data I’ve collected, this was the lowest level for inventory in at least three decades (the previous low was 1.43 million in December 1993).”

Why is inventory falling so dramatically? I thought the housing market had softened.

A year ago, that was the case – but the market shifted again. Skylar Olsen, Director of Economic Research at Zillow, explains,

“A year ago, a combination of a government shutdown, stock market slump and mortgage rate spike caused a long-anticipated inventory rise. That supposed boom turned out to be a short-lived mirage as buyers came back into the market and more than erased the inventory gains. As a natural reaction, the recent slowdown in home values looks like it’s set to reverse back to accelerating growth right as we head into home shopping season with demand outpacing supply.”

What does this mean if you’re a homeowner thinking of selling?

Now is a great time to consider putting your home on the market. The competition (number of houses on the market) has not been this low in decades. It’s best not to wait for the inventory (both existing homes and new construction) to increase in the spring, as it always does.

Bottom Line

The supply of homes for sale is at a historic low. Buyer demand is surprisingly strong. Now would be a great time to sell.

If one of the questions you’re asking yourself today is, “Should I sell my house this year?” the current Housing Opportunities and Market Experience (HOME) Survey from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) should boost your confidence as it relates to the current selling sentiment in the housing market. Even with all the information overload in the media circling around talk of a possible recession, the upcoming 2020 election, and more, Americans feel good about selling a house now. That’s some news to get excited about!

Should I Sell My House This Year? | Keeping Current Matters

As the graph below shows, as of Q4 2019, 75% of people surveyed indicate they believe now is a good time to sell a home:In the case of those with a yearly salary of $100,000 or more, the results jumped even higher, coming in at an 82% positive sentiment.

When the study divided the outcomes by region, the results still consistently showed Americans feeling good about selling:

  • Northeast: 71% positive
  • Midwest: 76% positive
  • South: 72% positive
  • West: 81% positive
Should I Sell My House This Year? | Keeping Current Matters

In addition to looking at income and region, the report also divided the results by generation, as shown in the graph below:As you can see, many believe that, despite everything going on in the world, it is still a good time to sell a home.

According to NAR, the unsold inventory available today “sits at a 3.0-month supply at the current sales pace,” which is down from a 3.7-month supply in November. The current inventory is half of what we need for a normal or neutral housing market, which should have a 6.0-month supply of unsold inventory. This is good news for sellers, as Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at NAR, says:

“Home sellers are positioned well, but prospective buyers aren’t as fortunate. Low inventory remains a problem, with first-time buyers affected the most.”

Bottom Line

If you’re ready to list your home, you can feel good about the current sentiment in the market. Contact a local real estate professional today to determine the best next step when it comes to selling your house this year.

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In the latest Housing Trends Report, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) measured the share of adults planning to buy a home over the next 12 months. The report indicates the percentage of all buyers that will be first-time buyers looking to purchase a home grew from 58% in Q4 2018 to 63% in Q4 2019.

The results revealed,

“Millennials are the most likely generation to be making plans to purchase a home within a year (19%), followed by Gen Z (13%) and Gen X (12%)…Prospective buyers in the youngest two generations are primarily first-time buyers:  88% of Gen Z buyers and 78% of Millennial buyers are reaching out to homeownership for the first time in their lives.”

With a high demand from first-time homebuyers and a shortage of inventory in the current market, selling your existing home this year might be your best move. Why? Because when homebuyers begin their search, they’re not all looking for new construction. Many are eager to find a little charm and character in a place to call home – possibly yours.

In fact, according to the same study, there is a significant demand for existing homes:

“In terms of the type of home these prospective home buyers are interested in, 40% are looking to buy an existing home and 19% a newly-built home. The remaining 41% would buy either a new or existing home.”

With showing activity up among buyers and more new construction coming to market, as a homeowner, you have the opportunity to sell your existing house now and move up into a new one, or downsize into a home that better fits your current and ever-changing needs.

Bottom Line

Not all buyers are looking for a newly built house. If you’re ready to take advantage of low mortgage rates and a high demand for your existing home, reach out to a local real estate professional who can help you market the charming details of your current house to potential buyers.

Sketch design house with house plan, model house and palette colors on desk in the interior design office

The headlines in real estate today all revolve around one major point: there is a shortage of homes available for sale. Price appreciation is accelerating again because there is a shortage of homes available for sale. First-time buyers are taking longer to purchase a home because there is a shortage of homes available for sale in the lower price points. Boomers are staying in their current homes longer because there is a shortage of homes available for sale to which they would move. In certain markets, affordability is becoming more challenging because there is a shortage of homes available for sale.

What’s the major reason for this lack of housing inventory?

The issue was examined in a recent article by the National Home Builders Association (NAHB). In the article, Robert Dietz, Chief Economist for NAHB, explained:

“Home building in the 2010s was a story of the Long Recovery. After the Great Recession, the number of home builders declined significantly, and housing production was unable to meet buyer demand…Years of population and household formation growth, combined with relatively reduced levels of home building, have left the market with a critical supply shortage.”

The #1 Reason It Is Difficult to Find Your Dream Home | Keeping Current Matters

Here are the single-family home construction starts by decade for the last six decades:Obviously, there’s a current shortage of homes for sale because not enough houses were built over the last ten years. To add to the challenge, the U.S. population expanded by more than 20 million people during the 2010s.

The #1 Reason It Is Difficult to Find Your Dream Home | Keeping Current Matters

Below is a graph showing the number of starts per every million in population. The last decade shows that starts per population were less than half the average of the previous five decades.

There’s good news coming!

The NAHB article explains that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

How confident home builders are in the housing market is a great indicator of how much building is about to get started. The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair,” or “poor.” The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as “high to very high,” “average,” or “low to very low.” Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as “good” than “poor.”

The #1 Reason It Is Difficult to Find Your Dream Home | Keeping Current Matters

Here are the HMI readings going back to 2008:The 2019 confidence reading of 76 was the highest since 1999. The January 2020 index came in one point lower at 75. These readings indicate we should see an increase in new residential construction in 2020. Just last week, NAHB Chairman Greg Ugalde stated:

“Low interest rates and a healthy labor market combined with a need for additional inventory are setting the stage for further home building gains in 2020.”

The increase in housing starts has already begun. According to the January report from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, single‐family housing starts were up 11.2% and attained the highest level in thirteen years.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seller thinking of moving up or down, 2020 could be your year with more new construction homes coming to market.

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