New Jersey Real Estate and Community News

Aug. 23, 2018

Question of the Day

Posted in Community News
Aug. 23, 2018

7 Reasons to List Your Home This Holiday Season

Every year at this time, many homeowners decide to wait until after the holidays to put their homes on the market for the first time, while others who already have their homes on the market decide to take them off until after the holidays.

Here are seven great reasons not to wait:

  • Relocation buyers are out there. Many companies are still hiring throughout the holidays and need their employees in their new positions as soon as possible.
  • Purchasers who are looking for homes during the holidays are serious buyers and are ready to buy now.
  • You can restrict the showings on your home to the times you want it shown. You will remain in control.
  • Homes show better when decorated for the holidays.
  • There is less competition for you as a seller right now. Let’s take a look at listing inventory as compared to the same time last year:

  • The desire to own a home doesn’t stop when the holidays come. Buyers who were unable to find their dream home during the busy spring and summer months are still searching!
  • The supply of listings increases substantially after the holidays. Also, in many parts of the country, new construction will continue to surge reaching new heights in 2018, which will lessen the demand for your house.

Bottom Line

Waiting until after the holidays to sell your home probably doesn’t make sense.

Posted in Selling Your Home
Aug. 23, 2018

If Your Home Hasn’t Sold Yet… Definitely Check the Price!

The residential housing market has been hot. Home sales have bounced back solidly and are now at their fourth highest pace over the past year. Demand has remained strong ­throughout spring as many real estate professionals are reporting bidding wars with many homes selling above listing price. What about your house?

If your house hasn’t sold, it could be the price.

If your home is on the market and you are not receiving any offers, look at your price. Pricing your home just 10% above market value dramatically cuts the number of prospective buyers that will even see your house. See chart below.

Bottom Line

The housing market is hot. If you are not seeing the results you want, sit down with your agent and revisit the pricing conversation.

Posted in Selling Your Home
Aug. 23, 2018

Inventory Shortages Are Slowing Down the Market

The real estate market is moving more and more into a complete recovery. Home values are up. Home sales are up. Distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales) have fallen dramatically. It seems that 2017 will be the year that the housing market races forward again.

However, there is one thing that may cause the industry to tap the brakes: a lack of housing inventory. While buyer demand looks like it will remain strong throughout the summer, supply is not keeping up.

Here are the thoughts of a few industry experts on the subject:

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at NAR:

"Sellers are in the driver's seat this spring as the intense competition for the few homes for sale is forcing many buyers to be aggressive in their offers. Buyers are showing resiliency given the challenging conditions. However, at some point — and the sooner the better — price growth must ease to a healthier rate. Otherwise sales could slow if affordability conditions worsen."

Tom O’Grady, Pro Teck CEO

“The lack of inventory is very real and could have a severe impact on home sales in the months to come. Traditionally, a balanced market would have an MRI (Months Remaining Inventory) between six and 10 months.

This month, only eight metros we track have MRIs over 10, compared to 27 last year and 48 two years ago—illustrating that this lack of inventory is not being driven by traditionally ‘hot’ markets, but is rather a broad-based, national phenomenon.”

Ralph McLaughlin, Chief Economist at Trulia

“Nationally, housing inventory dropped to its lowest level on record in 2017 Q1. The number of homes on the market dropped for the eighth consecutive quarter, falling 5.1% over the past year.”

Freddie Mac

“Tight housing inventory has been an important feature of the housing market at least since 2016. For-sale housing inventory, especially of starter homes, is currently at its lowest level in over ten years. If inventory continues to remain tight, home sales will likely decline from their 2016 levels. …all eyes are on housing inventory and whether or not it will meet the high demand.”

Bottom Line

If you are thinking of selling, now may be the time. Demand for your house will be strongest at a time when there is very little competition. That could lead to a quick sale for a really good price.

Posted in Market Updates
Aug. 23, 2018

How Fast Can You Save for a Down Payment?

Saving for a down payment is often the biggest hurdle for a first-time homebuyer. Depending on where you live, median income, median rents, and home prices all vary. So, we set out to find out how long would it take you to save for a down payment in each state?

Using data from the United States Census Bureau and Zillow, we determined how long it would take, nationwide, for a first-time buyer to save enough money for a down payment on their dream home. There is a long-standing ‘rule’ that a household should not pay more than 28% of their income on their monthly housing expense.

By determining the percentage of income spent renting a 2-bedroom apartment in each state, and the amount needed for a 10% down payment, we were able to establish how long (in years) it would take for an average resident to save enough money to buy a home of their own.

According to the data, residents in Iowa can save for a down payment the quickest in just under 2 years (1.99). Below is a map created using the data for each state:

What if you only needed to save 3%?

What if you were able to take advantage of one of Freddie Mac’s or Fannie Mae’s 3% down programs? Suddenly, saving for a down payment no longer takes 5 or 10 years, but becomes attainable in a year or two in many states as shown in the map below.

Bottom Line

Whether you have just started to save for a down payment, or have been saving for years, you may be closer to your dream home than you think! Let's meet up so I can help you evaluate your ability to buy today.

Posted in Buying a Home
Aug. 23, 2018

Tax Return Depressing? Owning a Home Could Help

Many Americans got some depressing news last week; either their tax return was not as large as they had hoped or, in some cases, they were told they owed additional money to either the Federal or State government or both. One way to save on taxes is to own your own home.

According to the Tax Policy Center’s Briefing Book -“A citizen's guide to the fascinating (though often complex) elements of the federal Tax System” - there are several tax advantages to homeownership.

Here are four items, and a quote on each, from the Briefing Book:

1. Mortgage Interest Deduction

“Homeowners who itemize deductions may reduce their taxable income by deducting any interest paid on a home mortgage. The deduction is limited to interest paid on up to $1 million of debt incurred to purchase or substantially rehabilitate a home. Homeowners also may deduct interest paid on up to $100,000 of home equity debt, regardless of how they use the borrowed funds. Taxpayers who do not own their home have no comparable ability to deduct interest paid on debt incurred to purchase goods and services.”

2. Property Tax Deduction

“Homeowners who itemize deductions may also reduce their taxable income by deducting property taxes they pay on their homes.”

3. Imputed Rent

“Buying a home is an investment, part of the returns from which is the opportunity to live in the home rent-free. Unlike returns from other investments, the return on homeownership—what economists call “imputed rent”—is excluded from taxable income. In contrast, landlords must count as income the rent they receive, and renters may not deduct the rent they pay. A homeowner is effectively both landlord and renter, but the tax code treats homeowners the same as renters while ignoring their simultaneous role as their own landlords.”

4. Profits from Home Sales

“Taxpayers who sell assets must generally pay capital gains tax on any profits made on the sale. But homeowners may exclude from taxable income up to $250,000 ($500,000 for joint filers) of capital gains on the sale of their home if they satisfy certain criteria: they must have maintained the home as their principal residence in two out of the preceding five years, and they generally may not have claimed the capital gains exclusion for the sale of another home during the previous two years.”

Bottom Line

We are not suggesting that you purchase a house just to save on your taxes. However, if you have been on the fence as to whether 2017 is the year you should become a homeowner, this information might help with that decision.

Disclaimer: Always check with your accountant to find out what tax advantages apply to you in your area. 

Posted in Real Estate News
Aug. 23, 2018

Thinking of Selling? Now Is the Time to Act

If you thought about selling your house this year, now may be the time to do it. The inventory of homes for sale is well below historic norms and buyer demand is skyrocketing. We were still in high school when we learned the concept of supply and demand: the best time to sell something is when supply of that item is low and demand for that item is high. That defines today’s real estate market.

Jonathan Smoke, Chief Economist at realtor.com, revealed in a recent article that:

“The biggest challenge to buyers this spring will be simply finding a home to buy and getting it successfully under contract. That’s because the supply of homes for sale is at an all-time low, and yet demand is strong and getting stronger.”

Smoke goes on to say:

“We started the year with the lowest inventory of homes available for sale that we’ve ever seen on realtor.com. While we did see inventory grow 2% in February, total inventory was down 11% over last year.”

In this type of market, a seller may hold a major negotiating advantage when it comes to price and other aspects of the real estate transaction including the inspection, appraisal and financing contingencies.

Bottom Line

As a potential seller, you are in the driver’s seat right now. It might be time to hit the gas.

Posted in Selling Your Home
Aug. 23, 2018

Millennials Flock to Low Down Payment Programs

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.”

Bottom Line

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.

Posted in Buying a Home
Aug. 23, 2018

Renting or Buying… Either Way You’re Paying a Mortgage

There are some people who have not purchased homes because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize that, unless you are living with your parents rent-free, you are paying a mortgage - either yours or your landlord’s.

As Entrepreneur Magazine, a premier source for small business, explained this month in their article, “12 Practical Steps to Getting Rich”:

“While renting on a temporary basis isn't terrible, you should most certainly own the roof over your head if you're serious about your finances. It won't make you rich overnight, but by renting, you're paying someone else's mortgage. In effect, you're making someone else rich.

Christina Boyle, Senior Vice President and head of the Single-Family Sales & Relationship Management organization at Freddie Mac, explains another benefit of securing a mortgage vs. paying rent:

“With a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, you’ll have the certainty & stability of knowing what your mortgage payment will be for the next 30 years – unlike rents which will continue to rise over the next three decades.”

As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings’ which allows you to build equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee the landlord is the person with that equity.

Interest rates are still at historic lows, making it one of the best times to secure a mortgage and make a move into your dream home. Freddie Mac’s latest report shows that rates across the country were at 4.23% last week.

Bottom Line

Whether you are looking for a primary residence for the first time or are considering a vacation home on the shore, now may be the time to buy.

Posted in Buying a Home
Aug. 23, 2018

5 Secret Sources of Down Payment Money

Whether you are planning to put down a full 20 percent or pulling together the cash for a 3.5 percent down payment for an FHA loan, your down payment might be the biggest single cash expenditure you ever make. Some scrimp and save for years, while others can ready the cash with less difficulty, but no buyer in the history of home buying has ever said they have too much down payment money.

Here's an insider secret: many buyers have a treasure trove of down payment resources at their disposal, hidden in plain sight. Here's a map to this hidden treasure – a handful of frequently-overlooked sources of down payment funds.

1. Your budget's biggest line items. Home buying is one of those push-meet-shove-type situations. If you're serious about coming up with your down payment funds, sit down and backtrack over your monthly budget or your last month's checking account statements. Isolate your top 10 budgetary line items and do an internal gut check on whether there is anything on this list that you can slash or eliminate.

If you spend $5 a workday on a bagel and coffee at breakfast and another $15 on your takeout lunch, that's $400 per month – almost $5000 a year! – you can save by simply bringing these things from home (not to mention the health and other benefits you'll gain). And those numbers are not inflated, if you work in a big city. Nor is the $100/month cable bill, the $20 yoga class, the $2,000 vacation or the premium pricing you might paying for cell service.

Redirecting the dollars you would normally spend for some of these big-ticket items back into your down payment savings account is like pressing fast forward on your home buying timeline.

2. Your stuff. When you need to save money, there are really only two levers you can pull: you can spend less, or you can make more. Selling stuff you already own and don't actually use is a relatively painless way to make more money to go toward your down payment. If you're really serious about home buying, put everything on the table.

Things buyers-to-be often sell (usually online) include:

  • RVs, cars and motorcycles
  • designer clothes, costumes, shoes and handbags
  • underutilized hobby-related gear (bikes, boats and snowboards)
  • furniture and antiques
  • electronics, books and CDs (think: TVs, computers, old smart phones, etc.).

Don't underestimate the amount of cash you can bring in from the things you already own.

3. Your skills and time. One way to make more money is to sell off the stuff you have lying around the other is to get to work! Spend your off-time, your evenings and weekends leveraging your professional skills or personal hobbies to bring in some extra cash.

Once you get serious about coming up with your down payment cash and decide to be creative about where to find that money, using your skills and your time creatively is a power-packed way to open the financial floodgates.

Consider starting out with a simple email to your circle of acquaintances outlining your skills and what kind of work you'd like to pick up. You can also list your potential services on a site like TaskRabbit. If you are crafty you might let your new felting hobby stock the virtual shelves of your shop on Etsy. Even if you aren't "creative" think creatively about what you might do to earn a little extra cash. One acquaintance of mine has earned thousands of dollars dog sitting while she works at home. You'll be surprised by how much you can earn hawking wares on the side or with small business projects, like research, bookkeeping or office organizing projects.

4. Your Parents, Family and Friends. Many home buyers get by with a little help from their friends (and relatives). Most mortgage programs will allow for some portion of your down payment to come in the form of 'gift money,' which is exactly what it sounds like: money someone gives you to help you buy a home.

The best case scenario is to have some idea of what sort of gift money you can count on as far in advance as possible, as it will impact your own savings targets and your lender's documentation requirements. If you have a parent, sibling or auntie who has mentioned their interest in giving you this sort of gift it is important to bring the subject up, express your gratitude and let them know that you're planning to buy soon. You'll want to have a detailed conversation about logistics and go over everything from timelines to tax obligations.

Check in with your mortgage pro about how much of your down payment needs you can satisfy with gift money – guidelines vary widely based on how much of your own cash you have to put down and what loan programs you're applying for. Lenders almost always require that gift money be contributed along with a gift letter that states that the giver is a relative and that the money is a gift, not a loan. The lender may also require to see a bank account statement from the giver showing that the money was theirs to give – just to be sure they didn't go out and get some sort of loan that they expect you to help them repay.

5. Your Assets. Some retirement accounts allow you to borrow against or pull out funds, penalty-free, to apply them toward your down payment on a home. Obviously your specific circumstances will determine if it is advisable for you to tap into your 401K or IRA and plug that cash into a house. For some buyers, it may make sense to get your down payment up to 20% by borrowing a few thousand dollars from yourself!

If getting your down payment to the 20 percent mark by borrowing from your 401K gets your mortgage interest rate down and allows you to repay that cash to your own retirement account (vs. to your mortgage lender) with interest, you and your financial advisor might agree that this move is the right move for you. Or not – this is a highly personal decision that must be made strategically, but some homebuyers should at least explore whether their retirement accounts are a sensible source of some portion of their down payment funds.

 

Posted in Buying a Home