Western Massachusetts Real Estate and Community News

May 14, 2021

4 Big Incentives for Homeowners to Sell Now

4 Big Incentives for Homeowners to Sell Now

 

The housing market keeps sailing along. The only headwind that could take it off course is the lack of inventory for sale. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that there were 410,000 fewer single-family homes for sale this March than in March of 2020. The key to continued success in the residential housing market is for more listings to come on the market. However, many homeowners are concerned that selling their homes could be challenging for several reasons.

Recently, Homes.com released the findings of a survey that identified these concerns, as well as what it will take for homeowners to feel comfortable selling their houses. Here are the four major homeowner concerns and a quick explanation of what’s actually happening in the housing market today.

1. Homeowners don’t know if they’ll be able to secure their next home before selling.

In negotiations, leverage is the power that one side may have to influence the other side while moving closer to their negotiating position. A party’s leverage is based on the ability to award benefits or eliminate costs on the other side.

In today’s market, buyers have compelling reasons to purchase a home now:

  • To own a home of their own
  • To buy before prices continue to appreciate
  • To secure a mortgage at a historically low rate, while they last

These buyer needs give the seller tremendous leverage. Most already realize this leverage enables the homeowner to sell at a good price. However, this leverage may also be used to negotiate time to find their next home. The homeowner could sell their home to the buyer at today’s price, which will enable the purchaser to take advantage of current mortgage rates. In return, the buyer might lease the house back to the seller for a pre-determined length of time while the seller finds a new home or has one built.

This gives the buyer what they want while also giving the seller what they need. It’s a true win-win negotiation.

2. Homeowners don’t know if their current home will sell for the asking price or top market price.

This is the perfect time to maximize profits while selling a house. NAR just released a study showing that bidding wars are at an all-time high. The study reveals that when comparing the first quarter of last year to the first quarter of this year, the number of offers on homes for sale doubled from an average of 2.4 to 4.8 offers.

Whenever there’s a bidding war, the price of the item for sale escalates. Bloomberg recently reported:

“For the first time ever, the average U.S. home is selling for above its list price.”

If a seller is looking for a top-dollar sale, there’s no better time to sell than right now.

3. Homeowners don’t know if they will get an offer without their home requiring work or updates.

Again, leverage is the greatest strength a seller has in this market. Due to the lack of homes for sale, many buyers are more willing to take on home improvement projects themselves in order to get the home they’re after.

A recent post on whether or not to renovate before selling notes:

“It may be wise to let future homeowners remodel the bathroom or the kitchen to make design decisions that are best for their specific taste and lifestyle. As a seller, your dollars and time might be better spent working on small cosmetic updates, like refreshing some paint and power washing the exterior. Instead of over-investing in your home with upgrades that the buyers may change anyway, work with a real estate professional to determine the key projects that will maximize your listing, without overdoing it.”

If a seller is worried about doing work or updates on their home, they must realize that today’s historically low inventory likely renders these projects less critical to the sale of the house.

4. Homeowners don’t know if they can have a quick closing process.

When speed is important, there are two points sellers should look at:

  • The time it takes to find a buyer for the home
  • The time it takes to close the transaction

In the latest Existing Home Sales Report, NAR explains:

“Properties typically remained on the market for 18 days in March, down from 20 days in February and from 29 days in March 2020. Eighty-three percent of the homes sold in March 2021 were on the market for less than a month.”

Eighteen days is fast, and it’s a new record. Here are the days the average house is on the market in each state:4 Big Incentives for Homeowners to Sell Now | Keeping Current MattersRegarding the time it will take to close the transaction, all-cash sales accounted for 23% of all home purchase transactions in March. All-cash sales can usually be closed in thirty days.

If a mortgage is necessary, the most recent Origination Insight Report from Ellie Mae shows:

“Time to close all loans decreased in March. The average time to close a purchase fell to 51 days, down from 53 the month prior.”

If you’re looking for a quick closing process, there’s never been a market in which the two-step process (finding a buyer and closing the deal) has taken less time.

Bottom Line

Selling your house can be daunting, especially in a fast-paced market. However, the fact that we’re in such a strong sellers’ market clearly eliminates many common concerns. Contact a real estate professional today to learn more about the opportunities for homeowners who are ready to sell.

May 11, 2021

Are Interest Rates Expected to Rise Over the Next Year?

Are Interest Rates Expected to Rise Over the Next Year?

 

So far this year, mortgage rates continue to hover around 3%, encouraging many hopeful homebuyers to enter the housing market. However, there’s a good chance rates will increase later this year and going into 2022, ultimately making it more expensive to borrow money for a home loan. Here’s a look at what several experts have to say.

Danielle Hale, Chief Economistrealtor.com:

Our long-term view for mortgage rates in 2021 is higher. As the economic outlook strengthens, thanks to progress against coronavirus and vaccines plus a dose of stimulus from the government, this pushes up expectations for economic growth . . . .”

Lawrence Yun, Chief EconomistNational Association of Realtors (NAR):

In 2021, I think rates will be similar or modestly higher . . . mortgage rates will continue to be historically favorable.”

Freddie Mac:

We forecast that mortgage rates will continue to rise through the end of next year. We estimate the 30-year fixed mortgage rate will average 3.4% in the fourth quarter of 2021, rising to 3.8% in the fourth quarter of 2022.”

Below are the most recent mortgage rate forecasts from four top authorities – Freddie MacFannie Mae, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), and NAR:Are Interest Rates Expected to Rise Over the Next Year? | Keeping Current Matters

Bottom Line

If you’re planning to buy a home, purchasing before mortgage interest rates rise may help you save significantly over the life of your home loan.

May 7, 2021

Why Waiting to Buy a Home Could Cost You a Small Fortune

 

 

Why Waiting to Buy a Home Could Cost You a Small Fortune

 

Many people are sitting on the fence trying to decide if now’s the time to buy a home. Some are renters who have a strong desire to become homeowners but are unsure if buying right now makes sense. Others may be homeowners who are realizing that their current home no longer fits their changing needs.

To determine if they should buy now or wait another year, they both need to ask two simple questions:

  1. Do I think home values will be higher a year from now?
  2. Do I think mortgage rates will be higher a year from now?

Let’s shed some light on the answers to these questions.

Where will home prices be a year from now?

If you average the most recent projections from the major industry forecasters, the expectation is home prices will increase by 7.7%. Let’s take a house that’s valued today at $325,000 as an example.

If the buyer makes a 10% down payment ($32,500), they’ll end up borrowing $292,500 for their mortgage. Applying the projected rate of home price appreciation, that same house will cost $350,025 next year. With a 10% down payment ($35,003), they’d then have to borrow $315,022.

Therefore, as a result of rising home prices alone, a prospective buyer will have to put down an additional $2,503 and borrow an additional $22,523 just for waiting a year to make their move.

Where will mortgage rates be a year from now?

Today, mortgage rates are hovering around 3%. However, most experts believe they’ll rise as the economy continues to recover. Any increase in the mortgage rate will also increase a purchaser’s cost. Here are the forecasts for the first quarter of 2022 from four major entities:

The projections average out to 3.6% among these four forecasts, a jump up from where they are today.

What does it mean to you if home values and mortgage rates increase?

A buyer will pay a lot more in mortgage payments each month if both of these variables increase. Assuming a buyer purchases a $325,000 home this year with a 30-year fixed-rate loan at 3% after making a 10% down payment, their monthly principal and interest payment would be $1,233.

That same home one year from now could be $350,025, and the mortgage rate could be 3.6% (based on the industry forecasts mentioned above). That monthly principal and interest payment, after putting down 10%, totals $1,432.

The difference in the monthly mortgage payment would be $199. That’s $2,388 more per year and $71,640 over the life of the loan.

Add to that the approximately $25,000 a house with a similar value would build in home equity this year as a result of home price appreciation, and the total net worth increase a purchaser could gain by buying this year is nearly $100,000. That’s a small fortune.

Posted in Buying a Home
April 26, 2021

To Renovate or Not To Renovate Before You Sell

To Renovate or Not To Renovate Before You Sell

 

When thinking about selling, homeowners often feel they need to get their house ready with some remodeling to make it more appealing to buyers. However, with so many buyers competing for available homes right now, renovations may not be as vital as they would be in a more normal market. Here are two things to keep in mind if you’re thinking of selling this season.

1. There aren’t enough homes for sale right now.

A normal market has a 6-month supply of houses for sale, but today’s housing inventory sits far below that benchmark. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), there’s only a 1.9-month supply of homes available today. As a result, buyer competition is high and homes are only on the market for about 21 days, during which time many receive multiple offers from hopeful buyers.

In a competitive market that’s moving so quickly, it makes sense to sell your house when buyers are scooping homes up as fast as they’re being listed. Spending costly time and money on renovations before you sell might just mean you’ll miss your key window of opportunity. While certain repairs on your house may be important, your best move right now is to work with a real estate advisor to determine which improvements are truly necessary, and which ones are not likely to be deal-breakers for buyers.

Today, many buyers are more willing to take on home improvement projects themselves in order to get the home they’re after, even if it means putting in a little extra work. Home Advisor explains:

When it comes to the number of home improvement projects completed, Gen Z homeowners are leading the pack, completing an average of 3.5 projects. Millennials closely follow Gen Z, taking on an average of 3.3 projects, followed by Gen X at 2.8 projects. Boomers completed an average of 2 projects, and the Silent Generation completed the fewest projects, on average, at 1.8 per household. Compared to 2019, millennials are spending 60% more on home improvement and doing on average 30% more projects.”

In this market, it may be wise to let future homeowners remodel the bathroom or the kitchen to make design decisions that are best for their specific taste and lifestyle. As a seller, your dollars and time might be better spent working on small cosmetic updates, like refreshing some paint and power washing the exterior. Instead of over-investing in your home with upgrades that the buyers may change anyway, work with a real estate professional to determine the key projects that will maximize your listing, without overdoing it.

2. Focus on getting a good return on your investment.

When planning any bigger projects to tackle, you and your real estate agent will want to discuss the potential return on your investment and if those projects are worth the cost. Some homes do need a kitchen or bathroom renovation, roof repairs, or other major work, but definitely not all of them. You might be surprised by how well your house could fair in today’s sellers’ market. Hanley Wood states:

“The 2020 Cost vs. Value report shows a predictable increase in costs for all 22 remodeling projects but a consistent dip in the perceived value of those projects at the time of home sale, as estimated by real-estate professionals in more than 100 metro areas across the U.S. This results in a slight downturn on the return on investment for nearly all projects relative to the trends we saw in last year’s report.”

Ideally, homeowners getting ready to move should try to avoid over-investing in big renovations if they won’t make that money back when they sell their house. According to the 2020 State of Home Spending report from Home Advisor:

The average household spending on home services rose to $13,138, an increase over last year’s survey results, where homeowners who did projects spent $9,081 on average in 2019.”

Before you renovate, contact a local real estate professional to see if it’s the best course of action. You may find out that putting your house on the market as-is will help you sell quickly, and it may result in the best return on your investment. Every home is different, but a conversation with your agent is mission-critical to make sure you make the right moves when selling this season.

 

April 23, 2021

What It Means To Be in a Sellers’ Market

What It Means To Be in a Sellers’ Market

 

 

If you’ve given even a casual thought to selling your house in the near future, this is the time to really think seriously about making a move. Here’s why this season is the ultimate sellers’ market and the optimal time to make sure your house is available for buyers who are looking for homes to purchase.

The latest Existing Home Sales Report from The National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows the inventory of houses for sale is still astonishingly low, sitting at just a 2-month supply at the current sales pace.

Historically, a 6-month supply is necessary for a ‘normal’ or ‘neutral’ market in which there are enough homes available for active buyers (See graph below):What It Means To Be in a Sellers’ Market | Keeping Current MattersWhen the supply of houses for sale is as low as it is right now, it’s much harder for buyers to find homes to purchase. As a result, competition among purchasers rises and more bidding wars take place, making it essential for buyers to submit very attractive offers.

As this happens, home prices rise and sellers are in the best position to negotiate deals that meet their ideal terms. If you put your house on the market while so few homes are available to buy, it will likely get a lot of attention from hopeful buyers.

Today, there are many buyers who are ready, willing, and able to purchase a home. Low mortgage rates and a year filled with unique changes have prompted buyers to think differently about where they live – and they’re taking action. The supply of homes for sale is not keeping up with this high demand, making now the optimal time to sell your house.

April 21, 2021

How a Change in Mortgage Rate Impacts Your Homebuying Budget

How a Change in Mortgage Rate Impacts Your Homebuying Budget

 

Mortgage rates are on the rise this year, but they’re still incredibly low compared to the historic average. However, anytime there’s a change in the mortgage rate, it affects what you can afford to borrow when you’re buying a home. As Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Macshares:

Since January, mortgage rates have increased half a percentage point from historic lows and home prices have risen, leaving potential homebuyers with less purchasing power.” (See graph below):

How a Change in Mortgage Rate Impacts Your Homebuying Budget | Keeping Current MattersWhen buying a home, it’s important to determine a monthly budget so you can plan for and understand what you can afford. However, when you need to stick to your budget, even a small increase in the mortgage rate can make a big difference.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), today, the median existing-home price is $313,000. Using $300,000 as a simple number close to the median price, here’s an example of how a change in mortgage rate impacts your monthly principal and interest payments on a home.How a Change in Mortgage Rate Impacts Your Homebuying Budget | Keeping Current MattersIf, for example, you’re getting ready to buy a home and know your budget allows for a monthly payment of $1200-1250 (marked in gray on the table above), every time the mortgage rate increases, the loan amount has to decrease to keep your monthly cost in range. This means you may have to look for lower-priced homes as mortgage rates go up if you want to be able to maintain your budget.

In essence, it’s ideal to close on a home loan when mortgage rates are low, so you can afford to borrow more money. This gives you more purchasing power when you buy a home. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First Americanexplains:

“Monthly payments have remained manageable despite soaring home prices because of low mortgage rates. In fact, monthly payments remain below the $1,250 to $1,260 range that we saw in both fall 2018 and spring 2019, but they are on track to hit that level this spring.

Although they remain low, mortgage rates have begun to increase and are expected to rise further later in the year, thus affordability will test buyer demand in the months ahead and likely help slow the pace of price growth.”

Today’s mortgage rates are still very low, but experts project they’ll continue to rise modestly this year. As a result, every moment counts for homebuyers who want to secure the lowest mortgage rate they can in order to be able to afford the home of their dreams.

Bottom Line

April 16, 2021

There’s No Reason To Panic Over Today’s Lending Standards

There’s No Reason To Panic Over Today’s Lending Standards

 

Today, some are afraid the real estate market is starting to look a lot like it did in 2006, just prior to the housing crash. One of the factors they’re pointing to is the availability of mortgage money. Recent articles about the availability of low down payment loans and down payment assistance programs are causing fear that we’re returning to the bad habits seen 15 years ago. Let’s alleviate these concerns.

Several times a year, the Mortgage Bankers Association releases an index titled The Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI). According to their website:

“The MCAI provides the only standardized quantitative index that is solely focused on mortgage credit. The MCAI is…a summary measure which indicates the availability of mortgage credit at a point in time.”

Basically, the index determines how easy it is to get a mortgage. The higher the index, the more available mortgage credit becomes. Here’s a graph of the MCAI dating back to 2004, when the data first became available:There’s No Reason To Panic Over Today's Lending Standards | Keeping Current MattersAs we can see, the index stood at about 400 in 2004. Mortgage credit became more available as the housing market heated up, and then the index passed 850 in 2006. When the real estate market crashed, so did the MCAI (to below 100) as mortgage money became almost impossible to secure. Thankfully, lending standards have eased somewhat since. The index, however, is still below 150, which is about one-sixth of what it was in 2006.

Why did the index rage out of control during the housing bubble?

The main reason was the availability of loans with extremely weak lending standards. To keep up with demand in 2006, many mortgage lenders offered loans that put little emphasis on the eligibility of the borrower. Lenders were approving loans without always going through a verification process to confirm if the borrower would likely be able to repay the loan.

Some of these loans offered attractive, low interest rates that increased over time. The loans were popular because they could be obtained quickly and without the borrower having to provide documentation up front. However, as the rates increased, borrowers struggled to pay their mortgages.

Today, lending standards are much tighter. As Investopedia explains, the risky loans given at that time are extremely rare today, primarily because lending standards have drastically improved:

“In the aftermath of the crisis, the U.S. government issued new regulations to improve standard lending practices across the credit market, which included tightening the requirements for granting loans.”

An example of the relaxed lending standards leading up to the housing crash is the FICO® credit score associated with a loan. What’s a FICO® score? The website myFICO explains:

“A credit score tells lenders about your creditworthiness (how likely you are to pay back a loan based on your credit history). It is calculated using the information in your credit reports. FICO® Scores are the standard for credit scores—used by 90% of top lenders.”

During the housing boom, many mortgages were written for borrowers with a FICO score under 620. Experian reveals that, in today’s market, lenders are more cautious about lower credit scores:

“Statistically speaking, 28% of consumers with credit scores in the Fair range are likely to become seriously delinquent in the future…Some lenders dislike those odds and choose not to work with individuals whose FICO® Scores fall within this range.”

There are definitely still loan programs that allow a 620 score. However, lending institutions overall are much more attentive about measuring risk when approving loans. According to Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Insight Report, the average FICO® score on all loans originated in February was 753.

The graph below shows the billions of dollars in mortgage money given annually to borrowers with a credit score under 620.There’s No Reason To Panic Over Today's Lending Standards | Keeping Current MattersIn 2006, mortgage entities originated $376 billion dollars in loans for purchasers with a score under 620. Last year, that number was only $74 billion.

April 14, 2021

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April 12, 2021

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April 9, 2021

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