Katrina "Kat" Williams,

Real Estate Broker

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Serving all of Washington State, 

specializing in the Puget Sound area!

Home

Blog Spot

An ongoing series of informational articles and stories. 

(At least 1 new blog each month, shooting for 1 per week.) 

The #1 Reason Not to Wait to List Your House for Sale

Many industries have been devastated by the economic shutdown caused by the COVID-19 virus. Real estate is not one of them. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist for First American, just reported:


“Since hitting a low point during the initial stages of the pandemic,

the only major industry to display immunity to the economic impacts

of the coronavirus is the housing market.

Housing has experienced a strong V-shaped recovery and is

now exceeding pre-pandemic levels.


Buyer demand has been and still is strong heading into the fall. ShowingTime, an app that tracks the average number of buyer showings on residential properties, just announced that buyer showings are up 61.9% compared to the same time last year. They went on to say:


“Normally, real estate activity begins to slow down in the late summer,

but this year it peaked in July, August and into September.”


There Is One Big Challenge

Buyer demand is so high, the market is running out of available homes for sale. Just last week, realtor.com reported:

“Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic in March,

nearly 400,000 fewer homes have been listed compared to last year,

leaving a gaping hole in the U.S. housing inventory.”


The National Association of Realtors (NAR) revealed that, while home sales are skyrocketing, the inventory of existing homes for sale has dropped dramatically. Above is a graph of existing inventory (September numbers are not yet available): Homebuilders are increasing construction, but they cannot keep up with the high demand.


Bill McBride, founder of the Calculated Risk blog, in discussing inventory of newly constructed houses, notes:

“The months of supply decreased to 3.3 months ...

This is the all-time record low months of supply.”


What does this mean for sellers?

Anyone thinking of putting their home on the market should not wait. A seller will always negotiate the best deal when demand is high and supply is limited. That’s exactly the situation in the real estate market today.

Next year, when the pandemic is hopefully behind us and there will be many more properties coming to the market. Don’t wait for that increase in competition in your neighborhood. Now is the time to sell.


Bottom Line

Let’s get together and I’ll show you what I will do to sell your home. Remember, with me, you get to pick how much I get paid, based on my three (3) tiered commission system.


Take care and God bless!

6 Reasons You'll Win by 

Selling with a Real Estate Agent This Fall

October 21, 2020


There are many benefits to working with a real estate professional when selling your house. During challenging times, like what we face today, it becomes even more important to have an expert you trust to help guide you through the process. If you’re considering selling on your own, known in the industry as a For Sale by Owner (FSBO), please consider the following:


1. Your Safety Is a Priority:

Your family’s safety should always come first, and that is more crucial than ever given the current health situation in our country. When you FSBO, it is incredibly difficult to control who comes into your home. A real estate professional will have the proper protocols in place (gloves, masks, and hand sanitizer) to protect not only your belongings but your family’s health and safety as well. The real estate agent is responsible for whatever happens in your home while they are inside with their clients. From regulating the number of people in your home at one time to ensuring proper sanitization during and after a showing, and even facilitating virtual tours for buyers, real estate professionals are equipped many tools to keep you and your family.


2. A Powerful Online Strategy Is a Must to Attract a Buyer:

Recent studies from NAR have shown that, even before COVID-19, the first step 44% of all buyers took when looking for a home was to search online. Throughout the process, that number jumps to 93%. Today, those numbers have grown exponentially. Most real estate agents have developed a strong Internet and social media strategy to promote the sale of your house. Let me do a listing presentation for you. I’ll show you what I’d do to sell your home. I also offer a structured commission system, so YOU decide hat I ill get paid when I sell your home.


The average days on market for a home in Thurston County, WA is 27. That means from the day I list your home, to the day your home is pending, is only 27 days. The average days on market for a FSBO is 2-3 times that, depending on what area you are selling your home. So, the smart thing to do is to let me do a listing presentation and lets see what we can do to get your home sold fast.


3. There Are Too Many Negotiations:

Here are just a few of the people you will need to negotiate with if you decide to FSBO:

• The buyer, who wants the best deal possible

• The buyer’s agent, who solely represents the best interest of the buyer

• The inspection companies, which work for the buyer and will almost always find challenges with the house

• The appraiser, if there is a question of value


As part of their training, agents are taught how to negotiate every aspect of the real estate transaction and how to mediate the emotions felt by buyers looking to make what is probably the largest purchase of their lives.


4. You Will Not Know if Your Purchaser Is Qualified for a Mortgage:

Having a buyer who wants to purchase your house is the first step. Making sure they can afford to buy it is just as important. As a FSBO, it is almost impossible to be involved in the mortgage process of your buyer. A real estate professional is trained to ask the appropriate questions and, in most cases, will be intimately aware of the progress being made toward a purchaser’s mortgage commitment.


Further complicating the situation is how the current mortgage market is rapidly evolving. A loan program that was available yesterday could be gone tomorrow. You need someone who is working with lenders every day to guarantee your buyer makes it to the closing table.


5. FSBOing Has Become More Difficult from a Legal Standpoint:

The documentation involved in the selling process has increased dramatically as more and more disclosures and regulations have become mandatory. In an increasingly litigious society, the agent acts as a third-party to help the seller avoid legal problems. This is one of the major reasons why the percentage of people FSBOing has dropped from 19% to 8% over the last 20+ years. There are many things that you could end up being liable for, after closing, if the proper paperwork is not completed.


6. You Net More Money When Using an Agent:

Many homeowners believe they will save the real estate commission by selling on their own. But remember, you get what you pay for. Real estate agents have more knowledge, specialized training, addition marketing tools, and so much more that would sell your house more quickly. We are also more knowledgeable with regard to what your property is worth. Maybe you have a feature that isn’t of much value to you, but it might be in the real estate world. You don’t want to sell yourself short and not price your home accordingly.


A study by Collateral Analytics revealed that FSBOs do NOT actually save the seller anything by not having the help of an agent. In some cases, the seller may even net LESS money from the sale. The study found the difference in price between a FSBO and an agent-listed home was an average of 6%. One of the main reasons for the price difference is effective exposure:


“Properties listed with a broker that is a member of the local MLS will be listed online with all other participating broker websites, marketing the home to a much larger buyer population. And those MLS properties generally offer compensation to agents who represent buyers, incentivizing them to show and sell the property and again potentially enlarging the buyer pool.”


The more buyers that view a home, the greater the chance a bidding war will take place.


Bottom Line

Listing on your own leaves you to manage the entire transaction by yourself. Why do that when you can hire an agent and still net the same amount of money? Before you decide to take on the challenge of selling your house alone, let me do a listing presentation for you.

Take care and God bless! 

"The Social Dilemma"

(Click title for trailer.)

October 13, 2020

     I watched this movie the other night, “The Social Dilemma" (click for trailer). It was a documentary on how social media is tailored to each individual, to keep you searching and looking, based on your searches on Google and other platforms. It addressed the issues that social media has presented to society, and how suicide rates and depression rates have drastically increased since social media graced us with its presence. Although this is a documentary, it is intriguing and insightful.

     Have you ever noticed, while you are on social media, that something you just looked up, or were just talking about shows up in your newsfeed? An advertisement, or article, specifically geared to what you were just searching for? I know I have, several times. Anything from travel, to an item I searched for on Amazon, to news about an actor/actress. Your social media newsfeeds are manipulated.

     Social media is addicting. It may not seem like it, and you may think that you can stop at any time, but I bet you can’t. How many times do you walk by your phone, the screen is black, and you pick it up “just to see if anyone has messaged me,” Or just to see what “notifications I have.” Do you take your phone in the bathroom with you? How much longer do you think you spend in the bathroom when you have your phone? Do you take your phone to bed with you and play games or scroll through social media on your phone? How much later do you stay up because of that? If watching TV just before sleep is bad for you, what does that mean about your phone?

     Our whole lives can be in a phone: pictures, calendar, email, social media, things we want to do, notes, lists, locking and unlocking our house/garage, starting our cars, reminders to get things done, grocery lists, maps, calculators, games, the list goes on and on. As a real estate agent, my whole office is in my phone. I can do ANYTHING that I need to do, in real estate, from my phone. I use social media for marketing, so I could literally be on my phone for up to 14-hours a day (depending on how late/long I work that day).

     We have new rules in our house, since watching this movie. First, and foremost, is no more cell phones in bed. We can either talk or read; my books are all in my Nook, so I have to use self-control NOT to get on to social media or to play games. The second one is, no cell phones after 8pm – unless I am negotiating a deal for a client. The third one is, no cell phones in the bathroom – unless you really are not feeling well. And lastly, no cell phones on Sunday – unless I am negotiating a deal for a client or out showing houses.  Sunday is family day!

     Call to action! I challenge, each and every one of you to look at how much time you spend on your phones – not just social media. Most phones track that for you under “screen time.” Then set some goals for yourself about spending less time on your phone and more time with your family. Set a goal to reduce your screen time by 25%.

     Take care and God bless!

Why is it so Important get Pre-Approved?

October 6, 2020

     You may have heard that pre-approval is a great first step in the homebuying process. But why is it so important? When looking for a home, the temptation to fall in love with a house that is outside your budget is very real. So, before you start shopping around, it is helpful to know your price range, what you’re comfortable with in a monthly mortgage payment, and, ultimately, how much money you can borrow for your loan. Pre-approval from a lender is the only way to do this.

         This paperwork (the pre-approval letter) shows sellers you ARE a qualified buyer, something that can really help you stand out from the crowd in the current uber-competitive market. In my area (Puget Sound, Washington), if you are not pre-approved, your offer will NOT be accepted.


HOW COMPETATIVE IS TODAY’S MARKET - EXTREAMELY

     With limited inventory, there are many more buyers than sellers right now, and that’s fueling the competition. In my area, there are enough home to satisfy buyers for 14-days or less. That means if everyone who was looking for a home, bought a home, and no new ones went on the market … we’d be out of houses to sell in 14-days or less. There simply are not enough homes available for sale to meet the buyer demand. With most of my clients, due to the limited inventory, we are writing 3-5 offers before one gets accepted.

     The market is so competitive that sellers are seeing 3-10 offers on a single listing, and in some cases more than that. Most offers go above asking, and even have an Escalation Clause, which automatically increases their offer incrementally. Honestly, if you were a seller and your home was listed at $500k. There were two identical offers and one came with a pre-approval letter and the other one did not, which one would you accept?

     Pre-approval shows homeowners you are a serious buyer. It helps you stand out from the crowd when you get into a multiple-offer scenario. When a seller knows you ARE qualified to buy the home, you are in a better position to potentially win the bidding war and land the home of your dreams.

     Danielle Hale, Chief Economist for realtor.com notes:


“For a buyer in a competitive market, 

it’s essential to have pre-approval done in order to submit an offer. 

So getting it done before you even look at homes is a smart move 

that will enable a buyer to move fast to put an offer in on the right home."


     In addition, today’s housing market is also changing from moment to moment. Interest rates are low, prices are going up, and lending institutions are regularly updating their standards. You’re going to need guidance to navigate these waters, so it’s important to have a team of professionals (a loan officer and a real estate agent) making sure you take the right steps along the way and can show your qualifications as a buyer at the time you find a home to purchase. I have amazing lenders that I work with, so if you do not have a lender yet – just ask!


BOTTOM LINE

     In a competitive market with low inventory, a pre-approval letter is a MUST HAVE piece in the homebuying process. If you are ready to buy this year, let’s connect before you start searching for a home. We can talk about your needs, wants, and desires in a home, as well as what you are comfortable paying, and – of course – get you pre-approved. Remember, you can’t get what you don’t ask for, so – just ask!

Take care and God bless!

Cost of Buying a Home is More Important than Price

September 29, 2020

     Housing inventory is at an all-time low. There are 39% fewer homes for sale today than at this time last year, and buyer demand continues to set records. Zillow recently reported:


“Newly pending sales are up 25.5% 

compared to the same week last year, 

the highest year-over-year increase 

in the weekly Zillow database.”


     Whenever there is a shortage in supply of an item that is in high demand, the price of that item increases. That is exactly what’s happening in the real estate market right now. CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index reports that values have increased by 5.5% over the last year.
     This is great news if you are planning to sell your house; on the other hand, as either a first-time or repeat buyer, this may instead seem like troubling news. However, purchasers should realize that the price of a house is not as important as the cost. Let’s break it down.
     There are several factors that influence the cost of a home. The two major ones are the price of the home and the interest rate at which a buyer can borrow the funds necessary to purchase the home.
Last week, Freddie Mac announced that the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 2.87%. Last year at this time, the rate was 3.73%. What that means is that a $250,000 loan, last year, would cost you approximately (for interest and mortgage) $1,155 per month, at 3.73% interest. A $250,000 loan THIS year, at 2.87%, would cost you approximately $1094 per month. That’s a savings of $61 a month, which adds up to $732 a year, or $21,960 over the life of the loan (based on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage).
     Assume you purchased a home last year and took out a $250,000 mortgage. As mentioned above, home values have increased by 5.5% over the last year. To buy that same home this year, you would need to take out a mortgage of $263,750.


Bottom Line
     The moral of the story is, while prices may be approximately 5.5% higher this year than last year, it costs less to buy a home today than this same time last year because of the much lower interest rates.
     If you are interested or buying your home in this amazingly hot real estate market, please reach out. There’s no obligation in asking questions or getting more information.

Take care and God bless! 

Low Appraisals: What to Do

September 25, 2020

     Many people are wondering how the real estate market is doing. I get asked this every where I go. The reality is, it’s doing great, but there isn’t enough inventory.

     You may be wondering what that means. Well, if everyone who is looking to buy a home, bought a home, and no one else listed their home for sale, we’d run out of houses for sale within 10-14 days.

What else does a limited inventory do? It makes it a GREAT time to sell your home, as home values increase dramatically when there is limited inventory. Currently, I’m seeing home sell for $20k to $50k over asking!

     That sounds like crazy talk, right? Everyone is wondering, what happens if the home doesn’t appraise for the contracted sale amount? As the seller, if your agent did their job, they prepared you for this possibility. If the seller comes down to the appraised amount (providing it is at least what you were originally asking), you lose nothing! You get the price for your home that you were originally asking for, or the seller can pay for another appraisal to see if they can get someone to appraise it at a higher value. It is important that sellers keep that in their mind and not get greedy.

     As the buyer, if the seller doesn’t want to come down to the original asking price (or the new appraised value), then there are three things we can do. The first, is bring cash to closing to make up the difference. If the house was listed for $375k, and it went under contract for $400k, but only appraised for $380k, then the buyer would need to bring $20k cash to closing.

     Under that same set of circumstances, the second option is to suggest to the seller that they split the difference. The seller would need to come down in the contracted sales amount to $385k and the buyer would have to bring $10k to closing. Under this option the buyer can also fill out a form that says they will bring up to a certain dollar amount to closing if the home appraises for less than the contracted sales amount; this is part of their original offer.

     The third option, which I personally think makes the most sense, is that the seller brings the contracted sales price down to meet the appraised amount. Many buyers don’t want to be “underwater” on the value of their home right from the get-go; that’s a pretty risky decision to make.

     Bottom line is … if you are a buyer or a seller, be prepared for some last minute negotiating.

Take care and God bless!

Online Learning Tips

August 25, 2020


     With many schools still being forced to have online school, some parents are struggling to come up with the best way to make learning work, from home, online, for their kids. Here are a few tips and ideas that I came up with.

1. Create a Learning Space for your Child.

     Just as we have our office spaces at work, kids need a place that is specific to their learning. Even if it’s just a small desk in a corner, anything that is designated for “school” makes “going to school” easier. This “learning space” should be a quiet, clutter free area.

     If you are short on space, it’s simple to declutter a particular area, each night, so it is ready for “school” the next morning. Keep the TV off while your child is learning. It’s hard enough to focus on a computer all day, let alone adding distractions like music or the TV. If your child is at the dinning room table, make sure to declutter it, completely. This includes removing cups, napkins, salt and pepper, and any other items on the table. It should be a clutter free learning space during “school hours.” Doing theses small things will help children stay focused, which leads to better learning.

2. Make a Schedule and Stick to It.

     We have schedules, task lists, and calendars at work, right? Our kids need it too. Its much easier for them to stay on task if they have a schedule. Some schools are putting out calendars and schedules, but make sure it fits with your child’s learning style. If you need to alter it, you can.

     Remember, just because they are learning remotely doesn’t mean they don’t need substance. Breakfast in the morning is still super important. Don’t let your kids get up and go straight to the computer. Feed them, let them wake up and focus, before they sit down to study. Likewise, with nutritious snacks and lunch during the “school day.” I’m bad about this personally … I’ll go straight to the computer and work, with a cup of coffee. But that’s not the way to do it.

     Set up a schedule like a planner, nothing what they are going to be doing each hour. Plan for breaks, 15-min in between subjects or classes. Color code your schedule. In college I had a different color for each class (highlighters), and then a color for when assignments were due, and when tests were going to be. This was incredibly helpful when planning my day or even my week, in terms of studying.

     Personally, I like the August to August school year planner, from MixedRoleProductions.com here’s a link: https://www.mixedroleproductions.com/multilist_1/Purchase_Calendars_and_Covers.html. Each week is on one page, each day has enough lines to plan your day. Color code for ease of reference. It was only last year (2019) that I switched from using this exact calendar to a Google calendar. I used this exact calendar from 1990 until 2019; I started using it in college.

     Speaking of Google calendars, if your child is more tech savvy, Google calendars are great. They can be synched to your phone and your laptop. You can set up reminders for when assignments are due or tests are scheduled. Of course, you can also do this in Outlook and other digital planners as well.

3. Reduce Distractions.

     This goes right along with #1. As easy as it is to get distracted by our pets, it’s even easier for our kids to be distracted. Let pet play time be for breaks. Keeping your children focused on the learning. School time is school time, break time is break time, and play time is play time.

     My dogs are in my office with me almost all day. One sits under the desk, and one next to me. There is not doubt they are a distraction. It is great having them nearby, but sometimes I just must ignore them to get the current task done. Its easier for adults to simply ignore the pets than children. Our kids just want to play with their pets, so keep the distractions to a minimum, to keep your kids focused.

4. Schedule “Recess” Time.

     That calendar should have scheduled “recess,” play, or break time. It is best to have breaks in between each subject, to let the mind settle and “reboot.” Recess should be completely relaxing, probably best not to allow 15-minutes of videos for a break, that’s not really too relaxing. This could be play time with pets, or 15-minutes of TV or music. It probably shouldn’t be leisure reading as the mind is still working away when you read.

     Get some exercise during recess time. If you are mostly staying in, find some cool 15-minute, kid friendly, work out videos. Go for a walk or let them go for a quick bike ride. It’s the end of summer right now, in most places winter is not a good time to go outside and play, so let’s help our kids make the most of it.

5. Reach Out to Your Child’s Teachers.

     Just because there isn’t a back to school night or open house to meet your child’s teachers, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a few minutes to introduce yourself. Make sure they have the correct email and phone number for you. Let the teachers know what your plan is at home, and that it is perfectly acceptable for them to communicate with you if they think your child is struggling, falling behind, or not grasping something. If the teachers know you are there to help, they will communicate and engage with you. Believe it or not, they do want you to help your children with their schoolwork and to be involved.

     Ask them questions about their expectations, how are they going to accommodate a child who is struggling to focus and sit still at home? Is there going to be any flexibility given that they are learning new technology and having to learn in a different style. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them if YOU are having difficulties helping our child. Let’s face it, our children are more technologically literate than we are, but we can’t help them if we don’t understand.

6. Check Up on Your Child’s School Work.

     Speaking from experience, my 17yo (last year) kept telling me he was working on his schoolwork and keeping up, but I found out a month into online learning, that wasn’t the case. He’d get frustrated with something and just give up. By the beginning of May he was a whole month behind in schoolwork. As soon as I realized this, I made him give me the website, username, and login for his classroom. I checked up every day.

     Unfortunately, we had to sit down, together, for 4-6 hours, every day, to get everything completed by the end of the year. The way they had set up his classes, all he had to do was spend 2-3 hours per day on 2-3 classes per day. Trust me, you do not want this to happen.

     Since I work from home regardless of COVID, I set my laptop up in the dinning room, with my son, facing each other. He worked, and I worked, but I was there to answer his questions and help when he struggled. I checked every day. If he said he had turned something in, the next day I’d be checking for his grade and/or if he had turned it in. So, trust me, it’s much better to be on top of the schoolwork from the beginning.

     For this year, he will work on his own for 2-3 days out of the work week. The other 2-3 days, we will sit down together, at the dinning room table, and work together. Since he’s older I wanted to give him some opportunity to be held accountable and get his work done, but I also know my kid … he needs ME to help him be accountable as well.

I wish everyone the best during this COVID, stay-at-home, 

learning adventure most of us will be one. 

 Take care and God bless. 

Current Buyer & Seller Perks in the Housing Market

August 20, 2020

     Today’s housing market is making a truly impressive turnaround, and it’s also setting up some outstanding opportunities for buyers and sellers. Whether you are thinking of buying or selling a home this year, there are perks today that are rarely available, and definitely worth looking into. Here are the top two.


The Biggest Perk for Buyers: Low Mortgage Rates

     The most impressive buyer incentive today is the average mortgage interest rate. Just last week, mortgage rates hit an all-time low for the eighth time this year. The 30-year fixed-rate is now averaging 2.88%, the lowest rate in the survey’s history, which dates back to 1971.


     This is a huge advantage for buyers. To put it in perspective, it means that today you can get a lower rate than any of the past two generations of homebuyers in your family if you decide to purchase at this time.

In addition, the National Mortgage News notes how today’s buyers have increasing purchasing power due to these low mortgage rates:


“Purchasing power rose 10% year-over-year...

With interest rates hitting record lows, buyers were able to afford $32,000 "more house" as of July 23 

than they could the year before with the same monthly payment.”


     This is a great perk for buyers who are hoping to potentially get more for their money in a home, something many are considering today as they re-evaluate the amount of space they ideally need for their families. It is an opportunity not seen in 50 years, and one not to be missed if the time is right for you to buy a home.


The Biggest Perk for Sellers: Low Inventory

     Today, there are simply not enough houses on the market for the number of buyers looking to purchase them. In Washington State, specifically Thurston County, inventory is at historical lows. If everyone who wanted to buy in Thurston County bought a home, and no new homes went on the market, we would be out of homes to sell in 14-days!

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR):


“Total housing inventory at the end of June totaled 1.57 million units, 

up 1.3% from May, but still down 18.2% from one year ago (1.92 million).”


     The lack of inventory has been a challenging situation for a while now, and with low mortgage rates fueling buyer demand, it has become harder for buyers to find a home. Buyers are eager to purchase, and because of the shortage of available inventor, they are encountering more bidding wars. This is one of the factors that keeps driving home process up, which is an advantage for sellers.

     Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for NAR notes that this trend may continue, too:


“Home prices rose during the lockdown and could rise even further 

due to heavy buyer competition and a significant shortage of supply.”


     With low inventory and high buyer demand, homeowners can potentially earn an increasing profit on their houses and sell them quickly in this sizzling summer market.


Bottom Line

Whether you’re thinking about buying or selling at home, there are some key perks available right now. Let’s connect today to discuss how they may play to your advantage in our local market.


If you are curious about the value of your home - just ask! 

Just email me your address and ask for your Professional Equity Assessment!

Second Quarter 2020

August 15, 2020

It’s a Seller’s Market: The inventory of available homes is at an all time low. Right now, it takes less than 10-days to sell a home (from active to pending)! These are unprecedented times. We haven’t had a seller’s market this strong since 2000. Thurston County is the strongest seller’s market out of all 23 counties in the NWMLS; this includes King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties. Thurston County Real Estate is hot, hot, hot!  Contact me about selling your home, today!


Market at a Glance: based on last years numbers, at this same time … Home Sales are down 14%. But wait, I said the market it hot. YES! That’s because the number of homes for sale, since last July, is down by 53%! That means the number of home available for sale, right now, is more than 50% less than July of 2019! The median home price in Thurston County is up by 8%, at $351,235. We have enough homes available to satisfy the buyers for only 15-days. Last year, we had enough inventory for 1.18 months.  Contact me about selling your home, today!

Lowest Mortgage Rates in History: 

What It Means for Homeowners and Buyers

August 4, 2020

     In July, the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell below 3% for the first time in history. And while many Americans have rushed to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity, others question the hype. Are today’s rates truly a bargain?

     While average mortgage rates have drifted between 4% and 5% in recent years, they have not always been so low. Freddie Mac began tracking 30-year mortgage rates in 1971. At that time, the national average was 7.31%. As the rate of inflation started to rise in the mid-1970s, mortgage rates surged. It is hard to imagine now, but the average U.S. mortgage rate reached a high of 18.63% in 1981.

Fortunately, for home buyers, inflation normalized by October 1982, which sent mortgage rates on a downward trajectory that would bring them as low as 3.31% in 2012. Since 2012, 30-year fixed rates have risen modestly, with the daily average climbing as high as 4.94% in 2018.

     So what’s causing today’s rates to sink to unprecedented lows? Economic uncertainty.

     Mortgage rates follow bond yields, because the majority of U.S. mortgages are packaged together and sold as bonds. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to dampen the economy and inject volatility into the stock market, a growing number of investors are shifting their money into low-risk bonds. Increased demand has driven bond yields—and mortgage rates—down.

     However, according to National Association of Realtors, Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, “the number one driver of low mortgage rates is the accommodating Federal Reserve stance to keep interest rates low and to buy up mortgage-backed securities.” According to Yun, “we will see mortgage rates stay near this level for the next 18-months because of the significance of the Fed’s stance.”

HOW DO LOW MORTGAGE RATES BENEFIT CURRENT HOMEOWNERS?

     Low mortgage rates increase buyer demand, which is good news for sellers. But what if you do not have any plans to sell your home? Can current homeowners benefit from falling mortgage rates? Yes, they can!

A growing number of homeowners are capitalizing on today’s rock-bottom rates by refinancing their existing mortgages. In fact, refinance applications have surged over the past few months—and for a good reason. Reduced interest rates can save homeowners a bundle on both monthly payments and total payments over the lifetime of a mortgage.

     The chart above illustrates the potential savings when you decrease your mortgage rate by just one percentage point. When it comes to refinancing, the bigger the spread, the greater the savings. (The payment amounts are for principal only and do not include taxes, insurance, or PMI.)

     Be sure to factor in any prepayment penalties on your current mortgage and closing costs for your new mortgage. For a refinance, expect to pay between 2% to 5% of your loan amount. You can divide your closing costs by your monthly savings to find out how long it will take to recoup your investment, or use an online refinance calculator. For a more precise calculation of your potential savings, we would be happy to connect you with a mortgage professional in our network who can help you decide if refinancing is a good option for you.

HOW DO LOW MORTGAGE RATES BENEFIT HOME BUYERS?

     We have already shown how low rates can save you money on your mortgage payments. But they can also give a boost to your budget by increasing your purchasing power. For example, imagine you have a budget of $1,500 to put toward your monthly mortgage payment. If you take out a 30-year mortgage at 5.0%, you can afford a loan of $279,000.

     Now let’s assume the mortgage rate falls to 4.0%. At that rate, you can afford to borrow $314,000 while keeping the same $1,500 monthly payment. That is a budget increase of $35,000!

If the rate falls even further to 3.0%, you can afford to borrow $355,000 and still pay the same $1,500 each month. That is $76,000 over your original budget! All because the interest rate fell by two (2) percentage points. If you have been priced out of the market before, today’s low rates may put you in a better position to afford your dream home.

     On the other hand, rising mortgages rates will erode your purchasing power. Wait to buy, and you may have to settle for a smaller home in a less-desirable neighborhood. So if you are planning to move, do not miss out on the phenomenal discount you can get with today’s historically-low rates.

HOW LOW COULD MORTGAGE RATES GO?

     No one can say with certainty how low mortgage rates will fall or when they will rise again. A lot will depend on the trajectory of the pandemic and subsequent economic impact.  Forecasters at Freddie Mac, and the Mortgage Bankers Association, predict 30-year mortgage rates will average 3.2% and 3.5% respectively in 2021. However, economists at Fannie Mae expect them to dip even lower to an average of 2.8% next year.

     Still, many experts agree that those who wait to take advantage of these unprecedented rates could miss out on the deal of a lifetime. “With rates now at all-time historic lows, it’s hard to imagine that people may be holding out for something even better," warns Paul Buege, president and COO of Inlanta Mortgage. Positive news about a vaccine or a faster-than-expected economic recovery could send rates back up to pre-pandemic levels.

HOW CAN I SECURE THE BEST AVAILABLE MORTGAGE RATE?

     While the average 30-year mortgage rate is hovering around 3%, you can do a quick search online and find advertised rates that are even lower. But these ultra-low mortgages are typically reserved for only prime borrowers. So, what steps can you take to secure the lowest possible rate?

1. Consider a 15-Year Mortgage Term

     Lock in an even lower rate by opting for a 15-year mortgage. If you can afford the higher monthly payment, a shorter mortgage term can save you a bundle in interest, and you will pay off your home in half the time.

2. Give Your Credit Score a Boost

     The economic downturn has made lenders more cautious. These days, you’ll probably need a credit score of at least 740 to secure their lowest rates. While there is no fast fix for bad credit, you can take steps to help your score before you apply for a loan:

     ● Dispute inaccuracies on your credit report.

     ● Pay your bills on time and catch up on any missed payments.

     ● Hold off on applying for new credit.

     ● Pay off debt and keep balances low on your credit cards.

     ● Do not close unused credit cards (unless they’re charging you an annual fee).

If you need help with this, I have someone who can help – and it is free to you! 

 I also have a sure-fire way, if you are a renter, to increase your credit score by 

30-50 points – guaranteed! 

If you’d like to more text, email, or call me.

3. Make a Large Down Payment

     The more equity you have in a home, the less likely you are to default on your mortgage. That is why lenders offer better rates to borrowers who make a sizable down payment. Plus, if you put down at least 20%, you can avoid paying for private mortgage insurance (PMI).

4. Pay for Points

     Discount points are fees paid to the mortgage company in exchange for a lower interest rate. At a cost of 1% of the loan amount, they are no cheap. But the investment can pay off over the long-term in interest savings.

5. Shop Around

     Rates, terms, and fees can vary widely amongst mortgage providers, so do your homework. Contact several lenders to find out which one is willing to offer you the best overall deal. But be sure to complete the process within 45 days—or else the credit inquiries by multiple mortgage companies could have a negative impact on your credit score.

I have two trusted and preferred lenders that I work with. 

 Text, email, or call me and I am happy to give you a referral. 

Home Sales Hit a Record Setting Rebound

July 24, 2020

With a worldwide health crisis that drove a pause in the economy this year, the housing market was greatly impacted. Many have been eagerly awaiting some bright signs of a recovery. Based on the latest Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), June hit a much-anticipated record-setting rebound to ignite that spark.  According to NAR, home sales jumped 20.7% from May to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 4.72 million in June:


“Existing-home sales rebounded at a record pace in June, showing strong signs of a market turnaround after three straight months of sales declines caused by the ongoing pandemic…Each of the four major regions achieved month-over-month growth.”  


This significant rebound is a major boost for the housing market and the U.S. economy. According to Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for NAR, the momentum has the potential to continue on, too:


“The sales recovery is strong, as buyers were eager to purchase homes and properties that they had been eyeing during the shutdown…This revitalization looks to be sustainable for many months ahead as long as mortgage rates remain low and job gains continue.”


With mortgage rates hitting an all-time low, dropping below 3% for the first time last week, potential homebuyers are poised to continue taking advantage of this historic opportunity to buy. This fierce competition among buyers is contributing to home price increases as well, as more buyers are finding themselves in bidding wars in this environment. The report also notes:


“The median existing-home price for all housing types in June was $295,300, up 3.5% from 

June 2019 ($285,400), as prices rose in every region. June’s national price increase marks 

100 straight months of year-over-year gains.”


Yun also indicates:


“Home prices rose during the lockdown and could rise even further due to heavy buyer competition and a significant shortage of supply.”


Bottom Line


Buyers returning to the market is a great sign for the economy, as housing is still leading the way toward a recovery. If you’re ready to buy a home this year, let’s connect to make sure you have the best possible guide with you each step of the way.


Take care and God bless.

Not All Agents Are Created Equal

July 8, 2018

     In today’s fast-paced world where answers are just a Google search away, there are some who may question the benefits of hiring a real estate professional when selling a house. The reality is, the addition of more information can lead to more confusion. A real estate agent can be your essential guide, but truth be told, not all agents are created equal. Finding the right agent for you and your family should be your top priority when you’re ready to sell your house.

     The right agent is the person who can truly walk you through the whole process, look out for your best interest, and seamlessly lead you through all the steps along the way. In today’s complex market, the way we execute real estate transactions is changing constantly, especially as more elements can be done virtually. Making sure you have the best advice on your side is more important than ever.


HOW DO YOU CHOSE THE PERFECT AGENT?

     It starts with trust. You must trust the advice this person is going to give you, and you’ll want to begin by making sure you’re connected to a true professional. An agent can’t give you perfect advice because it’s impossible to know exactly what’s going to happen at every turn – especially in this unique market. A true professional agent can, however, give you the best advice possible based on the information and situation at hand, helping you make the necessary adjustments and best decisions along the way. The right agent – the professional – will get you the best offer available. That’s exactly what you want and deserve.


WHAT DO YOU TRUST YOUR AGENT TO DO?

1. Navigate the Process:

     There are over 230 possible steps that take place during a successful real estate transaction. Don’t you want someone who has been there before, someone who knows what these actions are, to ensure you have a positive selling experience?

2. Negotiate on Your Behalf:

     Today, hiring a trusted and talented negotiator could save you thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of dollars. Each step – from the buyer submitting an original offer, to the possible renegotiation of that offer after a home inspection, to the potential cancelation of the deal based on a troubled appraisal – you need someone who can keep the deal together until it closes.

3. Price Your House Competitively:

     There’s so much information in the news and on the Internet about home sales, prices, and mortgage rates. How do you know what’s going on in our local area? Who do you turn to in order to competitively and correctly price your home at the beginning of the selling process?


Dave Ramsey, known as the financial guru, advises:

     

“When getting help with money, whether it’s insurance, real estate, or investments, 

you should always look for someone with the heart of a teacher, 

not the heart of a salesman.”


     Hiring a trusted professional who has a finger on the pulse of the market and is eager to help you learn will make your experience an informed and educated one. You need someone who’s going to tell you the truth, not just what they think you want to hear.


Bottom Line

     Today’s real estate market is highly competitive. Having a trusted professional who’s been there before to guide you through the process is a simple step that will give you a huge advantage when you’re ready to sell your house. Let’s make it happen together.

Take care and God bless!

Are New Homes Going to be

Available to Buy this Year?

June 30, 2020

     In today’s economy, everyone seems to be searching for signs that a recovery is coming soon. Many experts agree that it may actually already be in motion or will be starting by the 3rd quarter of this year. With the housing market positioned to lead the way out of this recession, builder confidence might be a bright spark that gets the recovery fire started.       The construction of new homes coming right around the corner is a huge part of that effort, and it may drive your opportunity to make a move this year.  According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB):

“New home sales jumped in May, 

as housing demand was supported by low interest rates, 

a renewed household focus on housing, 

and rising demand in lower-density markets. 

Census and HUD estimated new home sales in May at a 676,000 

seasonally adjusted annual pace, a 17% gain over April.”

     In addition, builder confidence is also rising, opening up opportunity for newly constructed homes in the market. The NAHB also notes:

“In a sign that housing stands poised to lead a post-pandemic economic recovery, 

builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes 

jumped 21 points to 58 in June, according to the latest NAHB &

Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). 

Any reading above 50 indicates a positive market.”

     As noted above, this upward trend is supported by builders reporting an increase in demand for single-family homes in suburban neighborhoods with lower-density populations, a result of the COVID-19 health crisis.

     Moreover, the most recent Monthly New Residential Construction Report from the U.S. Census indicates that authorized building permits for new residential construction increased by 14.4% month-over-month from April to May, and housing starts were also up 4.3% over the same time period. (See graph above). 

     Although housing permits and starts are both considerably lower than they were at this time last year, indicating the new construction market is still working on building its way back up, the trends are moving in the right direction when it comes to having an impact on the U.S. economy. They’re also poised to create the much-needed new homes for Americans to purchase in a time when inventory is so scarce.

     Dean Mon, Chairman of the NAHB notes:

“As the nation reopens, housing is well-positioned to lead the economy forward…

Inventory is tight, mortgage applications are increasing, 

interest rates are low and confidence is rising. 

And buyer traffic more than doubled in one month 

even as builders report growing online 

and phone inquiries stemming from the outbreak.”


     The gap between homes to buy and the high demand from purchasers may be narrowed by new construction, and the data shows that these homes are on their way into the housing market.

     So, if you’ve debated whether or not to sell your house this year because you’re not sure where to move, a newly-built home – designed to your specific liking – may be your answer.


Bottom Line

     With new residential construction right around the corner, you can feel confident about selling your house and having a place to move into. Maybe it’s time to finally design the home you’ve always wanted. Let’s connect today to discuss selling your house while demand from eager buyers is high.


I'm happy to answer any of your questions regarding 

the real estate or mortgage industry 

- just ask!

Take care & God bless!

Is the Economic Recovery

Already on its Way?

June 17, 2020

     The Wall Street Journal just released their latest monthly Survey of Economists. In an article on the findings, they reported:


“The U.S. economy will be in recovery by the third quarter of this year, 

economists said in a survey that also concluded that t

he labor market will fare better than previously expected 

following the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.”


     Clearly, the latest jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed the labor market is outperforming expectations, as it revealed that 2.5 million jobs were added. Directly before the release, experts forecasted that we would lose over 8 million jobs.

     A second revelation indicating the economy is already about to turn around was also somewhat unexpected. More than 9 out of 10 economists surveyed believe the recovery has already begun this quarter or will begin in the third quarter. Here are the results of the survey question asking when the recovery will begin.


Is the Economic Recovery Already Underway? 

Though we still have a long and difficult journey ahead, it appears the worst for both the economy and the unemployment situation may be in our rearview mirror.

Is a Recession Here?  Yes!

Does that Mean a Housing Crash? No!

June 17, 2020

 On Monday, June 8, 2020, 

the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) announced 

that the U.S. economy is officially in a recession. 


This did not come as a surprise to many, as the Bureau defines a recession this way:

     “A recession is a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, normally visible in production, employment, and other indicators.  A recession begins when the economy reaches a peak of economic activity and ends when the economy reaches its trough. Between trough and peak, the economy is in an expansion.”

     Everyone realizes that the pandemic shut down the country earlier this year, causing a “significant decline in economic activity.”

     Though not surprising, headlines announcing the country is in a recession will cause consumers to remember the devastating impact the last recession had on the housing market just over a decade ago.

     The real estate market, however, is in a totally different position than it was then. As Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, explained:

     “Many still bear scars from the Great Recession and may expect the housing market to follow a similar trajectory in response to the coronavirus outbreak. But, there are distinct differences that indicate the housing market may follow a much different path. While housing led the recession in 2008-2009, this time it may be poised to bring us out of it.”


Four major differences in today’s real estate market are:

- Families have large sums of equity in their homes, which can be used as a down payment.

- Inventory is at historically low levels, which drives prices up.

- Irresponsible lending no longer exists

- Home price appreciation is not out of control


     We must also realize that a recession does not mean a housing crash will follow. In three of the four previous recessions prior to 2008, home values increased. In the other one, home prices depreciated by only 1.9%.


Bottom Line

Yes, we are now officially in a recession. However, unlike 2008, this time the housing industry is in much better shape to weather the storm.


I'm happy to answer any of your real estate 

or mortgage industry questions 

- Just ask!

Take care and God bless!

Home Buying Myths

May 28, 2020

     The 2020 Millennial Home Buyer Report shows how this generation is not really any different from previous ones when it comes to homeownership goals:


“The majority of millennials not only want to own a home, 

but 84% of millennials in 2019 considered it 

a major part of the American Dream.”


     Unfortunately, the myths surrounding the barriers to homeownership – especially those related to down payments and FICO® scores – might be keeping many buyers out of the arena. The piece also reveals:


 “Millennials have to navigate a lot of obstacles to be able to own a home. 

According to our 2020 survey, saving for a down payment 

is the biggest barrier for 50% of millennials.”


Millennial or not, unpacking two of the biggest myths that may be standing in the way of homeownership among all generations is a great place to start the debunking process.



Myth #1: “I Need a 20% Down Payment”

     Many buyers often overestimate what they need to qualify for a home loan. According to the same article:


“A down payment of 20% for a home of that (priced at $210,000) 

would be about $42,000; 

only about 30% of the millennials in our survey 

have enough in savings to cover that, 

not to mention the additional closing costs.”


     While many potential buyers still think they need to put at least 20% down for the home of their dreams, they often don’t realize how many assistance programs are available with as little as 3% down. With a bit of research, many renters may be able to enter the housing market sooner than they ever imagined.


Myth #2: “I Need a 780 FICO® Score or Higher”

     In addition to down payments, buyers are also often confused about the FICO® score it takes to qualify for a mortgage, believing they need a credit score of 780 or higher.

     Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Insight Report, which focuses on recently closed (approved) loans, shows the truth is, over 50% of approved loans were granted with a FICO® score below 750 (see graph below):Two Big Myths in the Homebuying Process | MyKCMEven today, many of the myths of the homebuying process are unfortunately keeping plenty of motivated buyers on the sidelines. In reality, it really doesn’t have to be that way.


Bottom Line

If you’re thinking of buying a home, you may have more options than you think. Let’s connect to answer your questions and help you determine your next steps.  


I'm happy to help answer all of your questions 

regarding the real estate and mortgage industries 

- just ask! 

Shopping for a Home During COVID

May 18, 2020

Were you shopping for a new home when the COVID crisis started? 

Have you put your homebuying dreams on hold out of concern that the financial market will take an even bigger turn for the worse?

     While it is true the market has taken a big hit in recent months. However, that does not mean the housing market is in crisis along with it. In fact, history shows that down markets are traditionally a better time to shop for a home.

     In Washington we are able to shop for homes in person, just taking extra precautions. Virtual, 360, tours are being posted by some real estate brokers, but we are able to actually go out and look at the property. The tips below can help you keep your dreams of homeownership alive during this difficult time.

Turn to the Experts

     The first step is to inquire about your home purchasing interest with a real estate broker (like me). As an industry expert, I will be able to guide you through the process and will be honest with you about your prospects. I pride myself for being honest and working with integrity.

Be Prepared

     Just because buyers may have the advantage in an economic slowdown, does not mean that you will not have to act quickly to get a good deal; to the contrary. With a limited inventory of homes, it is not uncommon for bidding wars to start.

     First and most important thing is to start preparing your finances now and apply to be pre-approved for a mortgage, so the process is not delayed. With multiple offers coming in on one property, your preapproval may set you out/above from the others. Once your finances are in order, you will be in a better position to make an offer that will be enticing to sellers.

Just Ask

     That is my moto … just ask! You can’t get what you don’t ask for.

     If a seller is really looking to sell quickly, they may be more willing to comply with add-ons to the deal, such as paying for closing costs. As the buyer, you will likely have an upper hand when it comes to finalizing the sale. Don’t worry about the negotiation part – that’s my job. I will help you through the transaction, step-by-step, so don’t be afraid to let the home seller know what you want.

Know Your Limits

     Buyers may still be looking to negotiate, but don’t give in on your budget because you’re worried a better deal won’t come along. You put in a $285k bid on a house, and you really want this house; then a bidding war starts. You are approved for over $300k, but you don’t want your payments to be high. You want the home so bad you are willing to increase your offer, but don’t think about the monthly payments. That’s my job … to bring to your attention what increasing your payments would mean, and to remind you that you are going off budget.

     There should still be plenty of people looking to sell, and the first home you like that comes along won’t necessarily be the last. Take your time and weigh your options to ensure you make a choice you are comfortable with. At the end of the day, it is the home you will have to live in—it should be the right fit for you and your family.

     What is most important to remember is that whether it’s a buyer’s or a seller’s market, there will always be homes available and the real estate industry will keep moving. Don’t sacrifice your dreams of homeownership. Be patient and use these tips to have a positive experience.

Let's go shopping for your next home ... 

text, email, or call me. I'm happy to help - just ask! 

Stay healthy & God bless!

Buyers Have the Upper Hand

May 12, 2020

(Update, over the last couple of months, the market has turned into a sellers market, 

driving home prices even higher (7-6-20).)


Why Buyers Have the Upper Hand in a Down Economy

     Were you shopping for a new home when the COVID crisis started? Have you put your homebuying dreams on hold out of concern that the financial market will take an even bigger turn for the worse?

While it is true the market has taken a big hit in recent months. However, that does not mean the housing market is in crisis along with it. In fact, history shows that down markets are traditionally a better time to shop for a home.

     In Washington we are able to shop for homes in person, just taking extra precautions. Virtual, 360, tours are being posted by some real estate brokers, but we are able to actually go out and look at the property. The tips below can help you keep your dreams of homeownership alive during this difficult time.


Turn to the Experts

     The first step is to inquire about your home purchasing interest with a real estate broker (like me). As an industry expert, I will be able to guide you through the process and will be honest with you about your prospects. I pride myself for being honest and working with integrity.

Be Prepared.

     Just because buyers may have the advantage in an economic slowdown, does not mean that you will not have to act quickly to get a good deal; to the contrary. With a limited inventory of homes, it is not uncommon for bidding wars to start.

     First and most important thing is to start preparing your finances now and apply to be pre-approved for a mortgage, so the process is not delayed. With multiple offers coming in on one property, your preapproval may set you out/above from the others. Once your finances are in order, you will be in a better position to make an offer that will be enticing to sellers.


Just Ask

     That is my moto … just ask! You can’t get what you don’t ask for.

     If a seller is really looking to sell quickly, they may be more willing to comply with add-ons to the deal, such as paying for closing costs. As the buyer, you will likely have an upper hand when it comes to finalizing the sale. Don’t worry about the negotiation part – that’s my job. I will help you through the transaction, step-by-step, so don’t be afraid to let the home seller know what you want.


Know Your Limits

     Buyers may still be looking to negotiate, but don’t give in on your budget because you’re worried a better deal won’t come along. You put in a $285k bid on a house, and you really want this house; then a bidding war starts. You are approved for over $300k, but you don’t want your payments to be high. You want the home so bad you are willing to increase your offer, but don’t think about the monthly payments. That’s my job … to bring to your attention what increasing your payments would mean, and to remind you that you are going off budget.

     There should still be plenty of people looking to sell, and the first home you like that comes along won’t necessarily be the last. Take your time and weigh your options to ensure you make a choice you are comfortable with. At the end of the day, it is the home you will have to live in—it should be the right fit for you and your family.

     What is most important to remember is that whether it’s a buyer’s or a seller’s market, there will always be homes available and the real estate industry will keep moving. Don’t sacrifice your dreams of homeownership. Be patient and use these tips to have a positive experience.

Stay healthy and God bless!

May 11th Tidbits

May 11, 2020

Tidbits About the Economy – May 11, 2020

     A lot of people are wondering … what is going to happen to the housing market with this “recession” that we are in? So, here are a few tidbits for you.

     Well, experts such as JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs are predicting a rebound in the economy during the second half of 2020.

     Real estate showings, across the country, have been increasing since mid-April. This is a good sign that things are improving already, and U.S. homeownership rates are continuing to rise. In Washington, and many other states, real estate has been deemed an essential service. So we are still buying and selling homes, just with a few extra precautions.

     I know everyone has seen (and heard) the unemployment rates were skyrocketing. Well here’s a neat little big of factoid for you … since mid-April, unemployment rates have actually been declining! As the country slowly opens back up, the unemployment rates will continue to decline. It is predicted that the hospitality and food service industries will be the last to completely go back to work.

     Be sure to support small businesses during this economic downturn. Get take out! Or when curbside retail goes into effect, buy from the small businesses before you go to Target, Kohls, or WalMart.

As always, if you have any questions about the buying and selling of real estate – just ask!

Stay healthy and God bless!

#StayHome: How to Create Functional

Spaces in Your Home

April 10, 2020

     Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), many of us are spending a lot more time at home. We’re all being called upon to avoid public spaces and practice social distancing to help slow the spread of this infectious disease. While it can be understandably challenging, there are ways you can modify your home and your lifestyle to make the best of this difficult situation.

     Here are a few tips for creating comfortable and functional spaces within your home for work, school, and fitness. We also share some of our favorite ways to stay connected as a community, because we’re all in this together … and no one should face these trying times alone.


BEGIN WITH BASICS

     A basic home emergency preparedness kit is a great addition to any home, even under normal circumstances. It should include items like water, non-perishable food, a flashlight, first aid kit, and other essentials you would need should you temporarily lose access to food, water, or electricity.

     Fortunately, authorities don’t anticipate any serious interruptions to utilities or the food supply during this outbreak. However, it may be a good time to start gathering your emergency basics in a designated location, so you’ll be prepared now-—and in the future—should your family ever need them.

Ready to start building an emergency kit for your home? Contact us for a free copy of our Home Emergency Preparation Checklist!


WORKING FROM HOME

     Many employees are being asked to work remotely. If you’re transitioning to a home office for the first time, it’s important to create a designated space for work … so it doesn’t creep into your home life, and vice versa. If you live in a small condominium or apartment, this may feel impossible. But try to find a quiet corner where you can set up a desk and comfortable chair. The simple act of separating your home and workspaces can help you focus during work hours and “turn off” at the end of the day.

     If both parents are working from home, try alternating shifts, so you each have a designated time to work and to parent. If that’s not an option, experts recommend creating a schedule for your children, so they know when you’re available to play, and when you need to work. A red stop sign on the door can help remind them when you shouldn’t be disturbed. And for young children, blocking off a specific time each day for them to nap or have movie time can give you a window to schedule conference calls or work uninterrupted.


HOMESCHOOLING

     Many parents with school-aged children will be taking on a new challenge: homeschooling. Similar to a home office, designating a space for learning activities can help your child transition between play and school. If you’re working from home, the homeschooling area would ideally be located near your workspace, so you can offer assistance and answer questions, as needed.

     If possible, dedicate a desk or table where your child’s work can be spread out—and left out when they break for meals and snacks. Position supplies and materials nearby so they are independently accessible and place a trash can and recycling bin within reach for easy cleanup. A washable, plastic tablecloth can help transition an academic space into an arts and crafts area. If the weather is nice, gardening in the backyard is a great addition to any science curriculum. Reading in the grass, on patio furniture, or porch swing is also a nice change to the “schoolroom.”

     In addition to creating an academic learning environment, find age-appropriate household chores and meal preparation. This is a great time for us parents to teach our kids some “Home Economics.” Homeschooling advocates emphasize the importance of developing life skills alongside academic ones. And with more meals and activities taking place at home, there will be ample opportunity for every family member to pitch in and help.


STAYING FIT

     With gyms closed and team sports canceled, it can be tempting to sit on the sofa and binge Netflix. However, maintaining the physical health and mental wellness of you and your family is crucial right now. Implementing a regular exercise routine at home can help with both. It’s also PE time for your children.

If you live in a community where you can safely exercise outdoors while maintaining the recommended distance between you and other residents, try to get out as much as possible.  If the weather is nice, go for family walks, jogs, or bike rides.

     Can’t get outside? Fortunately, you don’t need a home gym or fancy exercise equipment to stay fit. Look for a suitable space in your home, garage, or basement where you can comfortably move—you’ll probably need at least a 6’ x 6’ area for each person. Many cardio and strength training exercises require little (or no) equipment, including jumping jacks, lunges, and pushups. You can find a ton of exercise options on YouTube for indoor or outdoor activities.


SOCIALIZING FROM A DISTANCE

     Even though we’re all being called upon to practice “social distancing” right now, there are still ways to stay safely connected to our communities and our extended families. Picking up the phone is a great place to start. Make an effort to reach out to neighbors and loved ones who live alone and may be feeling particularly isolated right now.

     There are safe ways to connect offline, too. Rediscover the lost art of letter writing. Drop off groceries on an elderly neighbor’s porch. Or organize a neighborhood “chalk walk,” where children use sidewalk chalk to decorate their driveways and then head out for a stroll to view their friends’ artwork.

     Of course, there’s one group of people who you can still socialize with freely—those who reside in your home. Family dinners are back, siblings are reconnecting, and many of us have been given the gift of time, with commutes, activities, and obligations eliminated. In fact, some families are finding that this crisis has brought them closer than ever.

And while parties and playdates may be prohibited, modern technology offers countless ways to organize networked gatherings with family and friends. Try using group video conferencing tools like Google Hangouts and Zoom to facilitate a virtual happy hour or book club. Host a Netflix Party to watch (and chat about) movies with friends. Or plan a virtual game night and challenge your pals to a round of Psych or Yahtzee.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

     Even with all of the tools and technology available to keep us connected, many of us are still feeling stressed, scared, and isolated. However, you can rest assured that you are not alone. We’re not only here to help you buy and sell real estate. We want to be a resource to our clients and community through good times and bad. Stay healthy and God bless!


The Fed Cut the Prime Interest Rate

March 16, 2020

Did you hear! The Fed cut rates! 

     What does that mean for mortgages? I will tell you one thing... it does not mean there are zero percent mortgages out there!


1. The Federal Reserve cut rates by 1.5%, which means Prime is just about at zero percent. But this is NOT the rate that you get your mortgage for, but rather the rate in which banks can borrow money from the Federal Reserve. It will mean that you will likely get a better interest rate on your new mortgage, but not necessarily 1.5% less than where things are currently at. It all depends on your debt to income ratio, as well as your credit score.


2. This rate cut is good for credit cards and home equity lines.


3. Right now we are in unchartered territory. Usually lenders can rely on MBS Highway and watching the market, paying attention to when the Fed cuts and increases rates. Then they use that information to gauge what mortgage rates will do. However, this past week was a perfect example that all those things in combination with the COVID-19 virus are creating an unstable market. So, we don't really know how this rate cut will effect mortgage interest rates - yet.


4. Last week was a great example. We saw rates go down to an all time low and then bounce back up over 1.5% in one week! It was a roller coaster ride! We also have to consider that some banks raised their rates to halt loan applications from coming in because they don't have capacity to service all the business - yes, that is really happening!


5. I do think there will be opportunity to take advantage of the lower interest rates, just give it a week or two to balance out and see where things are going.


     I suggest you have a conversation with your lender about what makes sense. People that were greedy last time or wanted to wait for the next dip to get the lowest of the low, lost out. I don't want YOU to lose out. It doesn't hurt anything to make a loan application, have a conversation with your lender about what rate makes sense to lock you in at and be ready! If the rates don't ever get to where you want them to be, no harm has been done, but sometimes we only have a limited window of opportunity to get you locked in so having your application ready is good!

     If you don't have a lender, text, email, or call me!  My team of professionals includes an amazing lender. If you have any other questions regarding the real estate market or mortgage rates - just ask!


May God bless you all with good health! 

Take Advantage of your Home Equity:

A Homeowner's Guide

February 19, 2020

     Homeownership offers many advantages compared to renting; including a stable living environment and the freedom to make modifications. Neighborhoods with high rates of homeownership also tend to have less crime. Additionally, studies show that homeowners are happier and healthier than renters and their children do better in school.

     One of the biggest perks of homeownership is the opportunity to build wealth over time. Researchers at the Urban Institute found that homeownership is financially beneficial for most families,2 and a recent study showed that the median net worth of homeowners can be up to 80 times greater than that of renters.

     So how does purchasing a home help you build wealth? And what steps should you take to maximize the potential of your investment? Find out how to harness the power of home equity for a secure financial future.


WHAT IS HOME EQUITY?

     Home equity is the difference between what your home is worth and the amount you owe on your mortgage. So, for example, if your home would currently sell for $350,000, and the remaining balance on your mortgage is $300,000, then you have $50,000 in home equity.

     The equity in your home is considered a non-liquid asset. It’s your money; but rather than sitting in a bank account, it’s providing you with a place to live. And when you factor in the potential of appreciation, an investment in real estate will likely offer a better return than any savings account available today.


HOW DOES HOME EQUITY BUILD WEALTH?

     A mortgage payment is a type of “forced savings” for home buyers. When you make a mortgage payment each month, a portion of the money goes towards interest on your loan (insurance, taxes, and PMI if needed), and the remaining part goes towards paying off you’re the balance of your loan. That means the amount of money you owe the bank is reduced every month. So, as your loan balance goes down, your home equity goes up.

     When you purchase a home, its value typically increases over time. As such, when you sell it, not only will you have increased your equity by making your monthly mortgage payments but, in most cases, your home’s market value will be higher than what you originally paid – your equity. And even if you only put down 10% at the time of purchase—or pay off just a small portion of your mortgage—you get to keep 100% of the property’s appreciated value.


WHAT CAN I DO TO GROW MY HOME’S EQUITY FASTER?

     Now that you understand the benefits of building equity, you may wonder how you can speed up your rate of growth. There are two basic ways to increase the equity in your home:


Pay down your mortgage.

     We shared earlier that your home’s equity goes up as your mortgage balance goes down. So paying down your mortgage is one way to increase the equity in your home. Some homeowners do this by adding a little extra to their payment each month, making one additional mortgage payment per year, or making a lump-sum payment when extra money becomes available—like an annual bonus, tax return, gift, or inheritance.

     Before making any extra payments, however, be sure to check with your mortgage lender about the specific terms of your loan. Some mortgages have prepayment penalties. And it’s important to ensure that if you do make additional payments, the money will be applied to your loan principal. Some require a separate payment to be specifically earmarked for the  Principle balance of your loan.

     Another option to pay off your mortgage faster is to decrease your amortization period. For example, if you can afford the larger monthly payments, you might consider refinancing from a 30-year or 25-year mortgage to a 15-year mortgage. Not only will you grow your home equity faster, but you could also save a bundle in interest over the life of your loan.


Increase your home’s market value.

     Increasing the market value of your property is another way to grow your home equity. While many factors that contribute to your property’s appreciation are out of your control (e.g. demographic trends or the strength of the economy) there are things you can do to increase what it’s worth.

     For example, many homeowners enjoy do-it-yourself projects that can add value at a relatively low cost. Others choose to invest in larger, strategic upgrades. Keep in mind, you won’t necessarily get back every dollar you invest in your home. In fact, according to Remodeling Magazine’s latest Cost vs. Value Report, the remodeling project with the highest return on investment is a garage door replacement, which costs about $3600 and is expected to recoup 97.5% at resale.

     Of course, keeping up with routine maintenance is the most important thing you can do to protect your property’s value. Neglecting to maintain your home’s structure and systems could have a negative impact on its value—therefore reducing your home equity. So be sure to stay on top of recommended maintenance and repairs.


I’M HERE TO HELP YOU

Wherever you are in the home selling/buying process, I’m here to help. All you have to do is just ask! I work with buyers to find the perfect home to begin their wealth-building journey. I work with sellers to get the best return on their investment. If you’d like to know the market value of your home – just ask! When you’re ready to sell, I can help you get the maximum return on your investment. Please text, email, or call me today for more information on how I can help you begin your wealth-building journey!

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial advice. Consult a financial professional for advice regarding your individual needs.

2020 Real Estate Market Predictions

January 30, 2020


HOME PRICES WILL KEEP RISING

     Economists predict that U.S. housing prices will continue to rise, regardless of a recession. In fact, property data firm CoreLogic forecasts a faster rate of growth for home prices in 2020 than we saw in 2019, with the biggest gains at the lower end of the market.

     Arch MI Chief Economist Ralph DeFranco expects entry-level home prices to increase faster than incomes this year, making it even more difficult for many first-time buyers to afford to enter the market. “Low interest rates and a shortage of starter homes will continue to push up prices,” predicts DeFranco. “This is especially the case for lower price points, since builders have tended to focus on more expensive, higher-profit houses and less on replenishing low inventories of entry-level homes.”

     “Real estate is on firm ground with little chance of price declines,” said National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. "However, in order for the market to be healthier, more supply is needed to assure home prices as well as rents do not consistently outgrow income gains.

     What does it mean for you? If you have the ability and desire to buy a home now, don’t let a fear of recession or falling prices hold you in limbo. Economists expect home values, as well as rent prices, to continue rising. So you’ll likely pay more the longer you wait.


INVENTORY CONSTRAINTS WILL CONTINUE

     According to Redfin, Americans are staying in their homes longer. In 2019, the average homeowner had resided in their home for 13 years, up from just eight years in 2010. That means there are fewer homes available today for those who want to buy.

     It’s possible that an increase in new construction could offer some relief. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) expects single-family housing starts to total one million this year, the highest level since 2007. And NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun predicts the average price of new construction will decline slightly as builders shift to building smaller, more affordable homes.

      However, these efforts may not be enough to meet current demand. “Despite improvements to new construction and short waves of sellers, this year will fail to bring a solution to the inventory shortage,” predicts Realtor.com Senior Economist George Ratiu. “In 2020, we expect inventory to struggle to grow and could instead reach a historic low level.”

     What does it mean for you? If you’re looking to buy a starter home, be prepared to compete for the best listings. Start your search early, and if you’re up against a deadline (like a new baby), build in plenty of time to find the right home.


MORTGAGE RATES WILL REMAIN LOW

     Mortgage rates have declined more than a full percentage point since November 2018, when they hit a recent peak of 4.94%.9 The Mortgage Bankers Association predicts rates will remain low, at around 3.7%, through mid-2021.

     While it may not seem significant, on a $200,000, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, that lower rate means buyers could save around $145 on their monthly payment and more than $52,000 over the life of their mortgage. Lower mortgage rates make homeownership more accessible and affordable for buyers.

     Although economists expect mortgage rates to stay low, they caution against waiting to act. Economic factors, shifts in supply and demand, or unforeseen impacts of the November election could cause rates to rise unexpectedly. “We recommend borrowers with long-term plans of staying in their homes to lock in a low rate now because there’s no telling how long these low rates will last,” warns Preetam Purohit, a capital markets trader at Embrace Home Loans.

     What does it mean for you? If you’re looking to buy a home, act soon to lock in a historically low mortgage rate. It will minimize your monthly payment and could save you a bundle over the long term. And if you plan to stay in your current home for a while, consider whether it makes sense to refinance your mortgage at today’s lower rates.


WE’RE HERE TO GUIDE YOU

     While national real estate numbers can provide a “big picture” outlook, real estate is local. As a local market expert, I can guide you through the ins and outs of our market and the issues most likely to impact sales and home values in your particular neighborhood.

     If you’re considering buying or selling a home in 2020, contact me as soon as possible. I'll work with you to develop an action plan to meet your real estate goals this year. Even if you aren't thinking of buying until the summertime, let's get a plan in place now, so that we can hit the ground running.


START PREPARING TODAY

If you plan to BUY this year:

     Get pre-approved for a mortgage. Getting pre-approved for a mortgage will give you a jump-start on the paperwork and provide an advantage over other buyers in a competitive market. The added bonus: you will find out how much you can afford to borrow, or what you can borrow based on where you want your payments to be, and budget accordingly. If you don't have a lender to work with, I have an excellent referral for you - just ask!

     Create your wish list. How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? How far are you willing to commute to work? What’s most important to you in a home? Make a list of needs vs wants. We can set up a customized search that meets your criteria to help you find the perfect home for you - just ask!

     Let's meet up and chat (or Zoom). The buying process can be tricky and most buyers have a ton of questions. It would be my pleasure to guide you through the buying process and answer any and all questions that you may have. Call, text, or email me and we can schedule a time to meet up and chat about the process, your questions, and your needs and wants in a new home.


If you plan to SELL this year:

     Call me for a FREE Comparative Market Analysis. A CMA not only gives you the current market value of your home, it will also show how your home compares to others in the area (using sold and active listings). This will help us determine which repairs and upgrades may be required to get top dollar for your property, and it will help us price your home correctly once you’re ready to list.

     Prep your home for the market. Most buyers want a home they can move into right away, (turn key), without having to make extensive repairs and upgrades. We can help you determine which ones are worth the time and expense to deliver maximum results.

Start decluttering. Help your buyers see themselves in your home by packing up personal items and things you don’t use regularly and storing them in an attic or storage locker. This will make your home appear larger, make it easier to stage ... and get you one step closer to moving when the time comes!