Every year, Gallupsurveys Americans to determine their choice for the best long-term investment. Respondents are given a choice between real estate, stocks/mutual funds, gold, savings accounts/CDs, or bonds.
For the fourth year in a row, Real Estate has come out on top as the best long-term investment! This year’s results showed that 34% of Americans chose real estate, followed by stocks at 26%. The full results are shown in the chart below.
The study makes it a point to draw attention to the contrast of the sentiment over the last four years compared to that of 2011-2012, when gold took the top slot with 34% of the votes. Real estate and stocks took second and third place, respectively, while still in recovery from the Great Recession.
As the real estate market has recovered, so has the belief of the American people in the stability of housing as a long-term investment.
If you are considering moving up to your dream home, it may be better to do it earlier in the year than later. The two components of your monthly mortgage payment (home prices and interest rates) are both projected to increase as the year moves forward, and interest rates may increase rather dramatically. Here are some predictions on where rates will be by the end of the year:
“While full employment and rising inflation are signs of a strong economy, they also have the potential to push mortgage rates and house prices up. The higher rates and higher prices create significant affordability concerns, which may continue to characterize the housing market for the rest of 2017.”
“By the time we get to the fourth quarter of this year, we will still be under 5 percent – we are thinking 4.7 percent…Something north of 5 percent by the time we get to 2018, and by the time we get to 2019, we show fourth-quarter rates hitting 5.5 percent.”
“Despite some regional disparities, title agents and real estate professionals do not expect increasing mortgage rates to have a significant impact on the housing market this spring. Continued good economic news, increasing Millennial demand and confidence that buyers will remain in the market even if rates exceed 5 percent bode well for 2017 real estate.”
Buying a home can be intimidating if you are not familiar with the terms used during the process. To start you on your path with confidence, we have compiled a list of some of the most common terms used when buying a home.
Freddie Mac has compiled a more exhaustive glossary of terms in their “My Home” section of their website.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR) – This is a broader measure of your cost for borrowing money. The APR includes the interest rate, points, broker fees and certain other credit charges a borrower is required to pay. Because these costs are rolled in, the APR is usually higher than your interest rate.
Appraisal – A professional analysis used to estimate the value of the property. This includes examples of sales of similar properties. This is a necessary step in getting your financing secured as it validates the home’s worth to you and your lender.
Closing Costs – The costs to complete the real estate transaction. These costs are in addition to the price of the home and are paid at closing. They include points, taxes, title insurance, financing costs, items that must be prepaid or escrowed and other costs. Ask your lender for a complete list of closing cost items.
Credit Score – A number ranging from 350-800, that is based on an analysis of your credit history. Your credit score plays a significant role when securing a mortgage as it helps lenders determine the likelihood that you’ll repay future debts. The higher your score, the better, but many buyers believe they need at least a 780 score to qualify when, in actuality, over 55% of approved loans had a score below 750.
Discount Points – A point equals 1% of your loan (1 point on a $200,000 loan = $2,000). You can pay points to buy down your mortgage interest rate. It’s essentially an upfront interest payment to lock in a lower rate for your mortgage.
Down Payment – This is a portion of the cost of your home that you pay upfront to secure the purchase of the property. Down payments are typically 3 to 20% of the purchase price of the home. There are zero-down programs available through VA loans for Veterans, as well as USDA loans for rural areas of the country. Eighty percent of first-time buyers put less than 20% down last month.
Escrow – The holding of money or documents by a neutral third party before closing. It can also be an account held by the lender (or servicer) into which a homeowner pays money for taxes and insurance.
Fixed-Rate Mortgages – A mortgage with an interest rate that does not change for the entire term of the loan. Fixed-rate mortgages are typically 15 or 30 years.
Home Inspection – A professional inspection of a home to determine the condition of the property. The inspection should include an evaluation of the plumbing, heating and cooling systems, roof, wiring, foundation and pest infestation.
Mortgage Rate – The interest rate you pay to borrow money to buy your house. The lower the rate, the better. Interest rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage have hovered between 4 and 4.25% for most of 2017.
Pre-Approval Letter – A letter from a mortgage lender indicating that you qualify for a mortgage of a specific amount. It also shows a home seller that you’re a serious buyer. Having a pre-approval letter in hand while shopping for homes can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets.
Primary Mortgage Insurance (PMI) – If you make a down payment lower than 20% on your conventional loan, your lender will require PMI, typically at a rate of .51%. PMI serves as an added insurance policy that protects the lender if you are unable to pay your mortgage and can be cancelled from your payment once you reach 20% equity in your home. For more information on how PMI can impact your monthly housing cost, click here.
Real Estate Professional – An individual who provides services in buying and selling homes. Real estate professionals are there to help you through the confusing paperwork, to help you find your dream home, to negotiate any of the details that come up, and to help make sure that you know exactly what’s going on in the housing market. Real estate professionals can refer you to local lenders or mortgage brokers along with other specialists that you will need throughout the home-buying process.
The best way to ensure that your home-buying process is a confident one is to find a real estate professional who will guide you through every aspect of the transaction with ‘the heart of a teacher,’ and who puts your family’s needs first.
When it comes to buying a home, whether it is your first time or your fifth, it is always important to know all the facts. With the large number of mortgage programs available that allow buyers to purchase a home with a down payment below 20%, you can never have too much information about Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI).
“An insurance policy that protects the lender if you are unable to pay your mortgage. It’s a monthly fee, rolled into your mortgage payment, that is required for all conforming, conventional loans that have down payments less than 20%.
Once you’ve built equity of 20% in your home, you can cancel your PMI and remove that expense from your mortgage payment.”
As the borrower, you pay the monthly premiums for the insurance policy, and the lender is the beneficiary. Freddie Mac goes on to explain that:
“The cost of PMI varies based on your loan-to-value ratio – the amount you owe on your mortgage compared to its value – and credit score, but you can expect to pay between $30 and $70 per month for every $100,000 borrowed.”
According to the National Association of Realtors, the average down payment for all buyers last year was 10%. For first-time buyers, that number dropped to 6%, while repeat buyers put down 14% (no doubt aided by the sale of their home). This just goes to show that for a large number of buyers last year, PMI did not stop them from buying their dream homes.
Here’s an example of the cost of a mortgage on a $200,000 home with a 5% down payment & PMI, compared to a 20% down payment without PMI:
The larger the down payment you can make, the lower your monthly housing cost will be, but Freddie Mac urges you to remember:
“It’s no doubt an added cost, but it’s enabling you to buy now and begin building equity versus waiting 5 to 10 years to build enough savings for a 20% down payment.”
If you have questions about whether you should buy now or wait until you’ve saved a larger down payment, meet with a professional in your area who can explain your market’s conditions and help you make the best decision for you and your family.
There are some experts questioning whether the current pace of residential home sales is maintainable. Are too many people buying homes like in 2004-2006? Are we headed for another housing crisis? Actually, if we look closely at the numbers, we can see that we are looking at a very healthy real estate market.
Why the concern?
Some are looking at the last four years of home sales and comparing them to the three years just prior to the housing bubble. Looking at the graph below, we can understand that thinking.
However, if we go further back in history, we can see the real picture. After taking out the “boom & bust” years, the pace of sales is growing at quite a natural pace.
And new home sales are way below historic numbers. Dave Liniger, Re/Max CEOexplains:
“We expect a seasonal uptick in sales this time of year and March certainly met and somewhat exceeded that expectation. We don’t anticipate the tightening inventory to ease up in most markets until new home construction can catch up to its pre-recession pace. Until then, sellers will enjoy a fast-paced market and buyers will need to work with their agents to get in the right home.”
The current pace of residential home sales definitely seems maintainable.
Forbes.com recently released the results of their new American Dream Index, in which they measure “the prosperity of the middle class, and…examine which states best support the American Dream.”
The monthly index measures several different economic factors, including goods-producing employment, personal and commercial bankruptcies, building permits, startup activity, unemployment insurance claims, labor force participation, and layoffs.
The national index score was rounded out to 100 in January and saw a modest jump to 100.5 in February.
Alaska represented the lowest score on the index at 80.7, due mostly to the recent collapse in oil prices. Nevada came in with the highest score at 108.8, boosted by big gains in goods-producing jobs and new construction activity. The full results can be seen in the map below.
Forbes Senior Editor Kurt Badenhausen explained why many states saw a boost in the index last month:
“[B]usinesses are hiring in part in anticipation of tax cuts and less regulation… Many areas of the country have experienced strong upticks in employment and construction, as well as declines in unemployment claims since the start of the year.”
The American Dream, for many, includes being able to own a home of his or her own. With the economy improving in many areas of the country, that dream can finally become a reality.
The BH&J Index is a quarterly report that attempts to answer the question:
In today’s housing market, is it better to rent or buy a home?
The index examines the entire US housing market and then isolates 23 major cities for comparison. The researchers “measure the relationship between purchasing property and building wealth through a buildup in equity versus renting a comparable property and investing in a portfolio of stocks and bonds.”
While most of the metropolitan markets examined moved further into buy territory (15 of the 23), markets like Dallas, Denver, and Houston are currently deep into rent territory. In these three markets, it is estimated that renting will top homeownership 7 out of 10 times.
Due to a lack of inventory, the home prices in the Dallas, Denver, and Houston, areas have increased by 13%, 11.4%, and 7.3% respectively. Home prices in these areas will begin to return to more normal levels once residents realize that renting is not the best option, therefore bringing home affordability back as well.
The majority of the country is strongly in buy territory. Buying a home makes sense socially and financially, as rents are predicted to increase substantially in the next year. Protect yourself from rising rents by locking in your housing cost with a mortgage payment now.
To Find Out More About the Study: The BH&J Index and other FAU real estate activities are sponsored by Investments Limited of Boca Raton. The BH&J Index is published quarterly and is available online at http://business.fau.edu/buyvsrent.
The media has extensively covered the rise in mortgage interest rates since last fall (from 3.42% last September to the current 4.1% according to Freddie Mac). However, a less covered aspect of the mortgage market is that requirements to get a mortgage have eased while rates have risen.
The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) quantifies the availability of mortgage credit each month with their Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI). According to the MBA, the MCAI is:
“A summary measure which indicates the availability of mortgage credit at a point in time.”
The higher the index, the easier it is to get a mortgage. Here is a chart showing the MCAI over the last several months as rates have increased.
Have requirements for attaining a mortgage actually eased?
Yes. Here are two examples:
FICO® Score – the credit score which helps determine a buyer’s eligibility. The score required to attain a mortgage has been falling over the last five months:
Down Payment Requirement – the percentage of the purchase price necessary to place as a down payment on a home. To make this point, let’s look at the percentage of first-time buyers who have put less than 5% down over the last several years as compared to the 1st quarter of 2017:
Whether you are a current homeowner looking to move to a home that will better serve your family’s current needs, or a first-time buyer looking for a starter home, it is easier to get a mortgage today than it has been at any other time in the last ten years.
A recent report released by Down Payment Resource shows that 65% of first-time homebuyers purchased their homes with a down payment of 6% or less in the month of January.
The trend continued through all buyers with a mortgage, as 62% made a down payment of less than 20%, which is consistent with findings from December.
An article by DS News points to the new wave of millennial homebuyers:
“It seems that the long-awaited influx of millennial home buyers is beginning. Ellie Mae reported that mortgages to millennial borrowers for new home purchases continued their ascent in January, accounting for 84 percent of closed loans.”
Among millennials who purchased homes in January, FHA loans remained popular, making up 35% of all loans closed. Ellie Mae’s Executive Vice President of Corporate Strategy Joe Tyrrell gave some insight into why:
“It is not surprising to see Millennial borrowers leverage FHA loans because they typically offer lower down payments and lower average FICO score requirements than conventional loans. Across the board, we’re continuing to see strong interest in homeownership from this younger generation.”
If you are one of the many millennials who is debating a home purchase this year, let’s get together to help you understand your options and set you on the path to preapproval.