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The Big Question: Should You Renovate or Move?

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The last 18 months changed what many buyers are looking for in a home. Recently, the American Institute of Architects released their AIA Home Design Trends Survey results for Q3 2021. The survey reveals the following:

  • 70% of respondents want more outdoor living space
  • 69% of respondents want a home office (48% wanted multiple offices)
  • 46% of respondents want a multi-function room/flexible space
  • 42% of respondents want an au pair/in-law suite
  • 39% of respondents want an exercise room/yoga space

If you’re a homeowner who wants to add any of the above, you have two options: renovate your current house or buy a home that already has the spaces you desire. The decision you make could be determined by factors like:

  1. A possible desire to relocate
  2. The difference in the cost of a renovation versus a purchase
  3. Finding an existing home or designing a new home that has exactly what you want (versus trying to restructure the layout of your current house)

In either case, you’ll need access to capital: the funds for the renovation or the down payment your next home would require. The great news is that the money you need probably already exists in your current home in the form of equity.

Home Equity Is Skyrocketing

The record-setting increases in home prices over the last two years dramatically improved homeowners’ equity. The graph below uses data from CoreLogic to show the average home equity gain in the first quarter of the last nine years:The Big Question: Should You Renovate or Move? | Simplifying The MarketOdeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist at First American, quantifies the amount of equity homeowners gained recently:

“Remember U.S. households own nearly $35 trillion in owner-occupied real estate, just over $11 trillion in debt, and the remaining ~$24 trillion in equity. In inflation adjusted terms, homeowners in Q2 had an average of $280,000 in equity- a historic high.”

As a homeowner, the money you need to purchase the perfect home or renovate your current house may be right at your fingertips. However, waiting to make your decision may increase the cost of tapping that equity.

If you decide to renovate, you’ll need to refinance (or take out an equity loan) to access the equity. If you decide to move instead and use your equity as a down payment, you’ll still need to mortgage the remaining difference between the down payment and the cost of your next home.

Mortgage rates are forecast to increase over the next year. Waiting to leverage your equity will probably mean you’ll pay more to do so. According to the latest data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), almost 57% of current mortgage holders have a mortgage rate of 4% or below. If you’re one of those homeowners, you can keep your mortgage rate under 4% by doing it now. If you’re one of the 43% of homeowners with a mortgage rate over 4%, you may be able to do a cash-out refinance or buy a more expensive home without significantly increasing your monthly payment.

First Step: Determine the Amount of Equity in Your Home

If you’re ready to either redesign your current house or find an existing or newly constructed home that has everything you want, the first thing you need to do is determine how much equity you have in your current home. To do that, you’ll need two things:

  1. The current mortgage balance on your home
  2. The current value of your home

You can probably find the mortgage balance on your monthly mortgage statement. To find the current market value of your house, you can pay several hundreds of dollars for an appraisal, or you can contact a local real estate professional who will be able to present to you, at no charge, a professional equity assessment report.

Bottom Line

If the past 18 months have refocused your thoughts on what you want from your house, now may be the time to either renovate or make a move to the perfect home.

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Buying Myths

The Truth About Down Payments

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If you’re planning to buy your first home, saving up for all the costs involved can feel daunting, especially when it comes to the down payment. That might be because you’ve heard you need to save 20% of the home’s price to put down. Well, that isn’t necessarily the case.

Unless specified by your loan type or lender, it’s typically not required to put 20% down. That means you could be closer to your homebuying dream than you realize.

As The Mortgage Reports says:

“Although putting down 20% to avoid mortgage insurance is wise if affordable, it’s a myth that this is always necessary. In fact, most people opt for a much lower down payment.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the median down payment hasn’t been over 20% since 2005. In fact, for all homebuyers today it’s only 15%. And it’s even lower for first-time homebuyers at just 8% (see graph below):

a graph of a number of blue squares

The big takeaway? You may not need to save as much as you originally thought.

Learn About Resources That Can Help You Toward Your Goal

According to Down Payment Resource, there are also over 2,000 homebuyer assistance programs in the U.S., and many of them are intended to help with down payments.

Plus, there are loan options that can help too. For example, FHA loans offer down payments as low as 3.5%, while VA and USDA loans have no down payment requirements for qualified applicants.

With so many resources available to help with your down payment, the best way to find what you qualify for is by consulting with your loan officer or broker. They know about local grants and loan programs that may help you out.

Don’t let the misconception that you have to have 20% saved up hold you back. If you’re ready to become a homeowner, lean on the professionals to find resources that can help you make your dreams a reality. If you put your plans on hold until you’ve saved up 20%, it may actually cost you in the long run. According to U.S. Bank:

“. . . there are plenty of reasons why it might not be possible. For some, waiting to save up 20% for a down payment may “cost” too much time. While you’re saving for your down payment and paying rent, the price of your future home may go up.”

Home prices are expected to keep appreciating over the next 5 years – meaning your future home will likely go up in price the longer you wait. If you’re able to use these resources to buy now, that future price growth will help you build equity, rather than cost you more.

Bottom Line

Keep in mind that you don’t always need a 20% down payment to buy a home. If you’re looking to make a move this year, reach out to a trusted real estate professional to start the conversation about your homebuying goals.

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Buying Myths

Strategic Tips for Buying Your First Home

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Buying your first home is a big, exciting step and a major milestone that has the power to improve your life. As a first-time homebuyer, it’s a dream you can make come true, but there are some hurdles you’ll need to overcome in today’s housing market – specifically the limited supply of homes for sale and ongoing affordability challenges.

So, if you’re ready, willing, and able to buy your first home, here are three tips to help you turn your dream into a reality.

Save Money with First-Time Homebuyer Programs                                       

Paying the initial costs of homeownership, like your down payment and closing costs, can feel a bit daunting. But there are many assistance programs for first-time homebuyers that can help you get a loan with little or no money upfront. According to Bankrate:

“. . . you might qualify for a first-time homebuyer loan or assistance. First-time buyer loans typically have more flexible requirements, such as a lower down payment and credit score. Many help buyers with closing costs and the down payment through grants and low-interest loans.

To find out more, talk to your state’s housing authority or check out websites like Down Payment Resource.

Expand Your Options by Looking at Condos and Townhomes

Right now, there aren’t enough homes for sale for everyone who wants to buy one. That’s pushing home prices up and making affordability tight for buyers. One way to deal with that issue and find a home right now is to consider condos and townhomes. Realtor.com explains:

For many newbies, it might just be a matter of making a shift toward something they can better afford—like a condo or townhome. These lower-cost homes have historically been a stepping stone for buyers looking for a less expensive alternative to a single-family home.”

One reason why they may be more affordable is because they’re often smaller. But they still give you the chance to get your foot in the door and achieve your goal of owning a home and building equity. And that equity can help fuel your move into a larger home later on if you decide you need something bigger in the future. Hannah Jones, Senior Economic Analyst at Realtor.com, says:

Condos can help prospective homebuyers who perhaps have a smaller budget, but who are really determined to get a foothold in the market and start to accumulate some equity. It can be a really great entry point.”

Consider Pooling Your Resources To Buy a Multi-Generational Home

Another way to break into the market is by purchasing a home with friends or loved ones. That way you can split the cost of things like the mortgage and bills, to make it easier to afford a home. According to Money.com:

“Buying a home with another person has some obvious advantages in the mortgage department. With two incomes in the mix, buyers can likely qualify for a larger mortgage — a big help in today’s high-cost market.

Bottom Line

By exploring first-time homebuyer assistance, condos, townhomes, and multi-generational living, it can be easier to find and buy your first home. When you’re ready, connect with a local real estate agent.

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Buying Myths

Achieve Your Dream of Homeownership with Condos and Townhomes [INFOGRAPHIC]

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Some Highlights

  • If you’re trying to buy a home but are having a hard time finding something in your budget, here’s something that can help: consider condos and townhomes.
  • They may better fit your budget, can help you start building equity, and tend to require minimal upkeep and less maintenance.
  • Looking at condos and townhomes can make it easier to find and buy a home. When you’re ready, connect with a local real estate agent.

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The information contained, and the opinions expressed, in these article are not intended to be construed as investment advice. Let's Talk Real Estate and Keeping Current Matters, Inc. do not guarantee or warrant the accuracy or completeness of the information or opinions contained herein. Nothing herein should be construed as investment advice. You should always conduct your own research and due diligence and obtain professional advice before making any investment decision. Let's Talk Real Estate and Keeping Current Matters, Inc. will not be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on the information or opinions contained herein.