No matter how much money you have, you still have to make choices about how to spend it. Spending too much on one thing means not having as much for another. This is simple budgeting. And, since your mortgage will likely be among your biggest monthly bills, you’ll want to give some thought to how much of your income you’d be comfortable putting toward it. Conventional wisdom says you shouldn’t spend more than 30 percent of your income on housing. But historically, Americans’ mortgage payments have been closer to 21 percent of their income. These days, it’s even lower. At the end of last year, the mortgage payment on a typical home required about 17.5 percent of the median income, according to a recent analysis. But that, of course, also depends on where you live. For example, the percentage you’d spend on a mortgage payment in Cleveland is about half of what the typical New Yorker spends. Wherever you are, though, giving some consideration to your household expenses, income, and prospective payment before heading out to find a house will help you avoid buying more than you can comfortably afford. More here.
Debt is an issue for many Americans. From student loans to credit card balances, there are a lot of things we’re trying to pay off. But while the financial struggles of millennials are well known, there isn’t as much attention paid to the debts of older Americans. After all, they aren’t trying to save for a down payment and buy their first home while also paying off student loans and keeping up with rising rent, right? Well, though some of that may be true, having too much debt or poor credit will affect your plans at any age. So how are older Americans faring? Well, one recent study looked at baby boomers and their non-mortgage debt, and found that people born between 1946 and 1964 have a median balance roughly between $20,000 and $30,000. Boomers in Houston had the most debt, carrying close to $32,000, while Oxnard, CA came in with the lowest median balance at $20,876. Among types of debt, auto loans were the biggest source comprising about 39 percent of boomer debt, while credit card balances came in a close second at 35 percent. Also in the report, of the top 10 cities with the highest amount of … Read More
If you’re doing it right, the first step in your home-buying process will be talking with your lender. Your mortgage lender is the one who will be able to tell you whether or not you’ll be able to buy and how much you’ll be able to spend. In short, you won’t get very far without first going over your numbers and figuring out what you’d be approved to borrow should you find a house you want to purchase. Some of that calculation will be determined by your financial situation, debts, income, etc. Another part will be based on credit standards. And, according to the most recent Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey from Fannie Mae, they’re easing – which means it’s getting easier to get a mortgage. In fact, the survey found “lenders on net continued to report easing lending standards at a modest pace across all loan types.” That’s good news for prospective home buyers. And, according to Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist, it’s helping push expectations for this year’s selling season. “Lenders’ improved demand outlook going into this spring selling season bodes well for our forecast of relatively flat mortgage volume following the double-digit drop in 2018,” Duncan said. … Read More
For many Americans, coming up with a down payment to buy a house is the only barrier keeping them from pursuing home ownership. In fact, according to one recent survey, 40 percent of respondents said affording a down payment was the biggest thing that kept them from buying. That more than doubles the next most cited reason, which was believing rent was more affordable. But though saving enough money for a down payment was an obstacle for a large percentage of potential home buyers, it wasn’t necessarily an insurmountable one. That’s because, many home buyers simply opted for a smaller down payment. According to the survey, more than half of the respondents who had recently purchased a home said they did it with a down payment of 10 percent or less. And 36 percent said they put down less than 5 percent. In other words, many buyers – rather than put off buying a home – are doing it by investing less up front. But prospective buyers hoping to buy with a smaller down payment should be forewarned. Though it is possible to purchase a house with less than 20 percent down, it will lead to a larger monthly payment … Read More
When a contract is signed to buy a house, that home’s sale is considered pending. It isn’t final until closing, which typically happens a few weeks later. However, since contract signings usually lead to final sales, they’re a good way of measuring current buyer interest and an indicator of what home purchase activity will look like a month or so down the road. That’s why January’s Pending Home Sales Index from the National Association of Realtors is encouraging. The report shows a 4.6 percent increase in the number of signed contracts in January compared to the month before. All four major regions of the country saw growth. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says there are a number of factors that are driving the improvement. “A change in Federal Reserve policy and the reopening of the government were very beneficial to the market,” Yun said. “Home buyers are now returning and taking advantage of lower interest rates, while a boost in inventory is also providing more choices for consumers.” According to Yun, there’s reason to believe the gains will continue. Income is rising faster than home prices in many areas, job creation continues to be strong, and mortgage rates look like … Read More
During times when the housing market has more buyers than homes for sale, the quickest remedy is to build more new homes. Adding inventory to the market gives buyers more options, helps balance supply and demand, and keeps home prices in check. In short, new home construction plays a vital role in housing market health and affordability conditions. That’s why it’s good news that recently released numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development show a 3.6 percent increase in the number of new homes that began construction in 2018. The year-over-year improvement put the number of completed new homes last year at nearly 1.2 million. Unfortunately, toward the end of the year, rising mortgage rates and stock market volatility slowed the pace of new home construction. However, with buying conditions becoming more favorable and builder confidence on the rise, there is reason to believe new construction of single-family homes will begin to climb again this spring. That’s encouraging, not just for buyers interested in finding a new home this year, but all potential home buyers. More here.
Slow January Home Sales Only Half The Story New numbers from the National Association of Realtors show sales of previously owned homes fell 1.2 percent in January from the month before. It was the third consecutive monthly decline and, among the country’s four major regions, only the Northeast saw an increase in sales activity. But, though that sounds like the housing market may be headed in the wrong direction, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Why? Well, market fundamentals are actually improving for anyone who may be considering a move this year. In addition to lower mortgage rates and rising inventory, home price increases were the slowest in six years and homes were on the market for an average of 49 days – which is considerably longer than it was last summer, when most listed homes were selling in under a month. In short, spring home buyers may find buying conditions more favorable than expected. “Decelerated sales and increases in inventory will work in favor of potential home buyers, putting them in a better negotiating position heading into the spring months,” NAR president, John Smaby, said. “On top of that, low interest rates will bring an additional $80 per month … Read More
The real estate market tends to slow down in the fall and winter. Spring and summer are far more popular with home shoppers. But last fall, in addition to the normal seasonal slowdown, mortgage rate increases caused many potential home buyers to put a hold on any plans to purchase a house. In short, affordability conditions, the holidays, and harsher weather dampened demand for homes. Since then, however, mortgage rates have decreased and for-sale inventory has shown signs of recovery. This combined with a healthy job market and the approaching spring sales season has spurred renewed optimism among housing professionals. Take the National Association of Home Builders’ Housing Market Index, for example. The index – which measures builder confidence in the market for new homes – saw a four point rebound in February and is now at 62 on a scale where any number above 50 indicates more builders view conditions as good than poor. Randy Noel, NAHB’s chairman, says expectations for the months ahead have turned hopeful. “Ongoing reduction in mortgage rates in recent weeks coupled with continued strength in the job market are helping to fuel builder sentiment,” Noel said. “In the aftermath of the fall slowdown, many … Read More
The fact that younger Americans these days are facing some financial challenges is well documented. Rent has increased and so has student loan debt. That can make saving money to buy a home difficult. So it shouldn’t be too surprising to hear that there are an increasing number of young adults living with their parents. But new numbers from the Urban Institute make clear just how many. According to their research, the share of people between the ages of 25 and 34 who are living with their parents has increased from 11.9 percent in 2000 to 22 percent in 2017. “This translates to more than 5.6 million additional young adults under their parents’ roofs between the two years,” the study says. “This trend matches the decline in young adults’ marital rate (from 55.3 percent to 40 percent) during this period.” In short, young Americans are getting married and establishing households later in life. So what does this mean for the housing market? Well, it means there are a lot of potential first-time home buyers who are going to be looking for affordable, entry-level homes in the years to come. How, where, and when they decide to enter the market will … Read More
Potential spring home buyers may find that they’ve regained some negotiating power when they head out to shop for a house to buy. That’s because, after a few years where sellers held all the cards, buyers are beginning to see conditions shift in a more favorable direction. For example, new data shows that the number of home buyers who paid above asking price in December saw its biggest month-over-month decline in six years. In fact, just 19 percent of homes sold during the month went for a price above what their owner had it listed for. That’s a five percent decline from its peak in May of last year. Simply put, continued home price increases have motivated more homeowners to put their homes up for sale. And, as the number of homes for sale has risen, it’s reduced the amount of competition among buyers. But, while competition may have begun to slow down, it isn’t quite a buyer’s market just yet. So, if you’re looking to buy a home in the months ahead, you should still be prepared, prequalified, and ready to move fast. Good homes will be in high demand, even if the competition isn’t quite as heavy as … Read More