Cause to Pause

3e61e9ce-a4b7-413d-a061-eed6ab1131ad.jpg

Rising mortgage rates are causing some would-be buyers to pause their decisions until they determine whether rates are going to come back down. While it may be possible, the probability is that prices are going to continue to increase.

On December 23, 2021, the 30-year fixed-rate, according to Freddie Mac, was 3.05% and is at 6.29% as of September 22, 2022, a 3.24% increase. On a $360,000 mortgage, the principal and interest payment went from $1,528 to $2,226. The $698 difference represents a 46% increase in the payment.

It seems understandable to pause and see if rates will come down again, especially since they went up so fast, but it probably isn’t going to happen anytime soon based on the Fed’s position on controlling inflation.

The fact that inventories are growing slightly, and market times are increasing doesn’t negate that supply cannot keep up with demand and homes are continuing to appreciate, albeit, not as much as they did in 2021.

If a person waited a year to see if the rates come down but, in the meantime, the prices increased 10% and the rates stayed the same, the home in the example above, would have a $226 larger P&I payment.

As an alternative strategy, the buyer could purchase the home on a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage with a 4.64% rate for five-years. Instead of $2,226 for the P&I payment for the fixed rate at 6.29%, the payment on the ARM would be $1,926, a $300 savings.

They would have purchased the home at today’s prices, avoiding appreciated prices and would have five years to refinance at a lower fixed rate should they come down. Assuming the rate adjusted upward the maximum amount at each period, it would take over seven years to exhaust the savings on the lower payments for the first five years.

It is unfortunate that some buyers missed a window of opportunity to purchase last fall when mortgage rates were near an all-time low. That window has closed, and it may not open again. People who can still afford to buy, even though rates are significantly higher, are taking a risk waiting for rates to come down. Even if they are correct, the prices will be higher, offsetting any possible savings.

If they are wrong, both prices and rates will be higher, and they may be priced out of the market.

In the 1980s, when mortgage rates topped 18%, the best real estate agents in the country presented alternative financing choices to buyers. If your agent hasn’t had conversations with you about alternatives to fixed rate financing, there could be options available that you need to consider.

Depending on your price range and individual situation, investigate local and state financial assistance programs, ARM Comparison, 2/1 Buydown, and Cost of Waiting to Buy and download our Buyers Guide.

Five Factors that affect the Sale of Any Home

7bcc41a8-5eda-4f39-bd1c-b75997a4947d.jpg

Owners directly control four of the five factors that affect the sale of any home: price, location, condition, terms, and the agent you select. The one thing you can’t control is the location of the home, but you can adjust the other factors to compensate for failings.

The seller controls the price of the home which determines its positioning in the marketplace. If is priced too high, it will take longer to sell and, in some cases, for less than what it should have sold for because when it doesn’t sell immediately, it is assumed that there must be an issue with it. If it is priced too low, the owner will not realize as much of their equity as they should.

Not pricing the home in the proper search brackets could keep the property from being exposed to potential and likely, buyers. For example, if a home is priced at $399,000 to follow an age-old retail marketing principle, many of the most likely buyers will never know about it because they are searching for properties in the $400,000 to $450,000 range.

The seller also controls the condition of a property which affects not only the marketability of a home but indirectly, the price. Homes in the best condition appeal to more buyers because for the most part, they are using their available cash for the down payment and closing costs and may not be able to afford to make cosmetic or more expensive improvements to the property.

Clutter can keep buyers from seeing your home, and more importantly, it will keep them from seeing themselves in your home. There are three basic causes of clutter: there is too much stuff in the home; there is not enough space in the home; and there is no organization.

Selling a home is about positioning it to sell which sometimes means temporarily or permanently getting rid of things that make the home look small or distracts the buyers from seeing its potential for them.

Terms are the financial preferences established by the seller. In a competitive market with multiple bids, a seller may not have to offer any terms such as a financing, appraisal, or inspection contingencies. This will restrict the number of buyers who are financially able to pay cash and are willing to do so.

In lower price range homes, there could be a wealth of qualified buyers that need to use low down payment options, closing cost assistance from the seller, or other things. When the seller consents to offer a variety of terms, the market of potential buyers increases. The seller can still select the most qualified if they are not limiting protected classes.

The fourth marketing factor that the seller controls is the agent they select to represent them in the sale of the home. Selecting the "right" person to market your home is very important and worth careful consideration.

Your agent will be the manager of the entire marketing process. They’ll position your home to be competitive with the other homes in your price range and area while attracting the broadest range of buyers possible. Your agent will offer advice on what needs to be done before the property is offered for sale. Your agent can also offer recommendations for a variety of service providers if work needs to be done.

There are a lot of professionals involved in the sale of a home like lenders, title officers, appraisers, inspectors, insurance agents, surveyors, and the buyer’s agent, just to name a few. Your listing agent will coordinate the communications between the other professionals and negotiate directly with them. Your agent’s role as third party negotiator is critical and you need to feel confident in their ability to serve your best interests.

  1. Price
    • Too high; not realistic
    • Doesn’t acknowledge Internet search range
  2. Location
    • A poor location can negatively affect price
    • Since location cannot change, must adjust price for a poor location
    • Condition
    • Clutter
    • Drive-up appeal
    • Deferred maintenance
    • Odors
    • Carpets
    • Lack of updates
  3. Terms (applicable to certain price ranges)
    • Buyer concessions like closing costs
    • Incentives like home warranty, appliances, floor covering, etc.
    • Buy-down interest rates
  4. The Agent you select
    • Experience
    • Knowledge of neighborhood
    • Promotional expertise

For more information, download our Sellers Guide.

Gift Amount Increased for 2022

002d0289-6264-4f47-a192-b835669bb194.jpg

The limit for tax free gifts for 2022 is $16,000 and no tax is due to the donor or the donee. There are provisions that would allow gifts higher than this amount providing the total lifetime gifts above the annual exclusion of $12.06 million for 2022 has not been met.

The donor and donee can be separate persons so that the aggregate tax-free gift for one-year amounts to more money. For instance, a father and mother can gift $16,000 each to their married son in 2022 and an additional $16,000 each to the daughter-in-law for a total $64,000.

If the son and daughter-in-law used the money as a down payment to purchase a home, depending on how recent the gift occurred, the mortgage company might require a gift letter from the parents stating the amount was a gift and is not expected to be repaid. Lenders may ask the exact amount of the gift, where it came from and the relationship involved.

Family members and friends with financial resources can become the catalyst that allows buyers with good credit and income but without a down payment to purchase a home. Sometimes, the gift is looked at as an early inheritance that allows the recipient to show their gratitude and the donor to see the enjoyment and benefit of the gift.

In some situations, the buyers have saved enough money for a minimal down payment, but the gift allows them to put more money down that may help them get a lower interest rate or eliminate the need for private mortgage insurance.

The important thing involving gift funds is to have complete disclosure with the lender. It is best discussed during the pre-approval process. Your real estate professional should also know about it so they can guide you through the process.

Housing Affordability – Call to ARMs

c3a7a886-c756-4b58-94d5-93a09371c0f8.jpg

Housing Affordability is negatively affected by both rising home prices and mortgage rates. A 20% increase in nominal home prices and a 2% increase in the 30-year fixed rate mortgage since January have contributed to a 46 point drop in the NAR Housing Affordability Index.

The Index was 143 in June 2021 and is 98.5 in June of 2022. The Housing Affordability Index indicates whether a median income family can qualify for a mortgage loan with a 20% down payment and 25% qualifying ratio for monthly housing expenses to gross monthly income.

100 points is considered the tipping point. As the Index rises above that point, housing is considered more affordable and as it declines, it is considered less affordable.

With affordability threatening to limit buyer’s ability to purchase, more borrowers are considering an adjustable-rate mortgage. For the last ten years, fixed-rate mortgages have been so low, only about 3% of borrowers used adjustable-rate mortgages.

There is a lot of misinformation about ARMs that keeps some would-be buyers from even considering them. Even before the housing crisis of 2007, many safeguards were put into place to protect borrowers.

"As long as the ‘spread’ between ARMs and fixed-rate mortgages continues, more first-time home buyers may choose ARMs because the lower mortgage rate gives them a purchasing power ‘boost’ over the 30-year fixed mortgage rate." Mark Fleming, First American Chief Economist

The potential ARM candidate is probably not a first-time homebuyer. They should be tolerant to risk and more financially savvy with predictably increasing income. These buyers may recognize that they do not intend to stay in the home for a long time.

Adjustable-rate mortgages, generally start out at a lower-rate than a fixed-rate but can adjust, up or down, based on an independent index plus a specified margin and anniversary date that are referenced in the note. Most ARMs have stated interest rate caps that limit the amount of adjustment of the rate both on a periodic basis and a lifetime. FHA ARMs have a limit of 1% per adjustment period and a 5% lifetime cap over the original note rate. Conventional loans, more commonly, have a 2% per adjustment period and a 6% lifetime cap.

A particularly popular type of adjustable-rate mortgage is referred to as a 5/1 which means the rate for the first period lasts five years and then, each adjustment period after that is for one year. This allows a buyer to have stability in the rate during the first five years. If they plan to sell in less time than that, they will not have to deal with the adjustment.

A 5/1 ARM will have a lower payment for five years because of the lower initial rate and assuming a worst case scenario, a conventional ARM could increase a maximum of 2% at the end of the first period which would put the rate at higher than the fixed rate at the time they started. However, that is not where the breakeven point occurs. It is not until all the savings from the initial period have been exhausted, that the ARM will become more expensive than the fixed-rate alternative.

An ARM Comparison can help buyers to determine breakeven point. Let’s compare a 5.66% FRM with a 4.51% 5/1 ARM with 2 and 6 caps. A $450,000 30-year term loan amount will have a P&I payment of $2,600.41 for the fixed compared to $2,286.76 for the ARM. The $317.65 monthly savings will accumulate for 60 months plus a $6,673 lower unpaid balance on the ARM due to a lower interest rate.

The total savings in the first period would be $25,732. If you assume that the payment would increase to the maximum at each adjustment period, the breakeven point will occur at 7 years and 4 months. If you were to sell the property prior to the breakeven, the ARM would produce a lower cost of housing.

One of the benefits for lenders making adjustable-rate mortgages is that they have less risk because the yield can change to reflect the current market. Most ARMs must adjust down as well as up which means if rates do come down, the buyer can continue with the ARM at a lower rate or convert it to a fixed-rate at the, then, current rate.

Use the ARM Comparison to see where the breakeven point will be for you. Get mortgage rates for FRM and ARM mortgages from Freddie Mac and download our Buyers Guide.

Surviving Spouse Sale Period

06c96233-b876-4c1e-aa4e-0e6cb93100c1.jpg

Married couples who own a home as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, the surviving spouse inherits the home, along with their basis, and it does not trigger a taxable event. Unfortunately, the capital gain exclusion is reduced to a single person’s share unless the survivor disposes of the property in the granted time.

Married couples, filing jointly, have up to $500,000 of capital gain exclusion on qualifying sales. As a single taxpayer, the survivor is only entitled up to $250,000 exclusion of capital gain. For instance, if the home at the time of death is worth $900,000 with a basis of $400,000, the gain is $500,000. If the surviving spouse sells the home, their exclusion is only a maximum of $250,000 which would make the other $250,000 subject to long-term capital gains tax.

However, there is an exception to the rule that if a sale occurs within two years of the death of their spouse, the survivor is entitled to the $500,0000 exclusion if the ownership and use tests are met prior to the death. The two-year period begins on the date of death and ends two-years after that date which means the property needs to close and fund by that anniversary.

For more information contact your tax professional and download IRS Publication 523 and download the Homeowners Tax Guide.

Are prices and rates going to continue to rise?

2f1d3980-baeb-439a-9476-8abbae22e264.jpg

One of the most talked about questions in the real estate market has to do with "Will prices continue to rise now that interest rates have increased dramatically this year?"

It is understandable to think that if the Federal Reserve is using interest rate increases to slow consumer demand, that it would also slow homebuyer demand to moderate prices. Unfortunately for would-be homebuyers, it isn’t the case. High inflation, strong economic growth, low unemployment, and increased wage growth have been associated with high home price appreciation.

In a recent newsletter from First American, Chief Economist, Mark Fleming stated that historically, 90% of total inventory is from existing homes and homeowners are not moving as often as in the past. Prior to 2007, the average tenure was five years. After the housing crisis, between 2008 and 2016, the length of time spent in a home went to eight years.

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist with the National Association of REALTORS� when talking about the May 2022 statistics: "Nonetheless, homes priced appropriately are selling quickly and inventory levels still need to rise substantially … almost doubling … to cool home price appreciation and provide more options for home buyers." Median sales price rose to a new high of $403,800, up 10.8% from July 2021, while sales are down 20% year over year and inventory increased slightly to 3.3 months from 2.6 months in July of 2021.

In the beginning of 2022, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and NAR predicted home price appreciation would be 7.6%, 6.2%, and 5.1% for the year. Their revised forecast has been increased to 16%, 12.8%, and 11.5%. Buyer demand still exceeds inventory levels which is driving prices higher.

While the Fed does not set mortgage rates, it does determine the Fed Funds Rate which is charged by banks to each other for overnight funds. The increases often affect the U.S. Treasury rates to increase and there is generally a reaction when the 10-year U.S. Treasury Note yields increase for the 30-year mortgage rates to increase also.

The National Association of REALTORS�, on their website, states "The Housing Affordability Index measures whether or not a typical family earns enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a typical home at the national and regional levels based on the most recent price and income data." The Index uses the 30-year fixed rate mortgage as provided by Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey (PMMS).

Mortgage rates have gone up over 2% in the first half of 2022. That dramatically affects the affordability of the home even if the price didn’t increase, which it did. A $360,000 mortgage at 3.05% in December 2021 would have a principal and interest payment of $1,528 for 30-years. At 5.22% as of August 11, 2022, the P&I payment is $1,981 or a difference of $453 dollars or a 30% increase.

As of May 2022, homeowners are now staying in their homes 10.6 years. Part of the reasons can be contributed to the pandemic, but a large degree is attributed to the lack of inventory. Existing homeowners can sell their home for premium prices and in unusually short time frames, but the problem is finding a home to replace it.

The demand for housing still exceeds the supply and price are continuing to rise, although, maybe not as the same pace as 2021. Many economists predicted that price appreciation would slow but CoreLogic reported "Home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, increased year-over-year by 20.9% in April 2022 compared with April 2021. In the same report, CoreLogic predicted "…home prices are forecast to increase on a year-over-year basis by 5.6% from April 2022 to April 2023."

Another frequent question homeowners have is whether to wait to see if prices moderate and interest rates decline. The probability is more likely for prices to continue to increase along with mortgage rates. The consequences of waiting, in hopes of lower prices and rates, could totally price a person out of the market for the home they want.

Using a $400,000 home that could be purchased today at 5.22% on a 90%, 30-year mortgage, the P&I payments would be $1,981. If the price appreciated only 5% in the next year and the mortgage rates were to go up by 1%, the payment would increase by $339 a month. If a person stayed in the home for 7 years, the increased cost would be $28,458 and if they stayed for full term, it would cost them $121,965 more by waiting.

Increases in rates and prices have forced some people out of the market, at least temporarily. For the fortunate ones, who can still afford to buy, even with the increases, acting now could save them tens of thousands and maybe hundreds of thousands depending on the price of the home.

Make an appointment with your real estate professional to get the facts on what you home is worth, the mortgages available, and the logistics to put it together for your best advantage.

Indecision Can Be Expensive

1a128c7b-1eb3-4c98-9f2d-a2e4e045259b.jpg

With all that is going on in the world, a global pandemic, supply chain issues, highest inflation in 40 years, the economic effects of a war in Ukraine, it can be overwhelming to think about when the right time is to buy a home.

On a local level, there is a pent-up demand for homes that have been building for years. Builders haven’t kept up with demand for new housing for almost 15 years. Low inventory, especially in the past three years, have driven up prices nationally in 2021 by 20% and even though, the rapid appreciation seems to be moderating, in June, NAR reported that the median price home was up 13.4% from one year ago.

Then, of course, there are mortgage rates that have gone up by 2% since the beginning of 2022. Appreciation and rising interest rates are a double whammy for people looking for their first home or to move up. It is completely understandable that many people are faced with so much that they are sitting on the sidelines waiting to see if things will improve.

Let’s look at a hypothetical situation where buyers have the money for a 10% down payment on a $400,000 home but have decided to wait for three years to see if things improve. They need to park their money somewhere safe so that it will be available when they feel comfortable to buy but also earn as much as they can to ward off the effects of historically high inflation.

If they were to put the $40,000 into a certificate of deposit for three years that pays 2%, they would earn $2,448 in interest. With current inflation at 8.5%, the purchasing power of their down payment would diminish.

A slightly riskier alternative would be to invest it in the stock market or a mutual fund. Assuming they picked the right stock or fund that earned 7%, their $40,000 would grow to $49,002 in the same three-year period.

The problem is that homes are appreciating much faster and the buyers would either pay more to get the same home or to pay the same price in three years, the home would not have the same amenities.

If the buyer purchased the home today that appreciates an average of 5% per year, the equity in the home in three years would be $118,000 based on two dynamics: appreciation and amortization. The wealth position at the end of the three years in the home is almost three times what it would be with the certificate of deposit and over twice as much as the stock investment.

Homes have appreciated more than inflation over the last fifty years. The average home price appreciation from 1970 to 2020 was 7.16% compared to the average inflation for the same period which was 4.3%. In 2021, home prices were up close to 21% nationally compared to 7% inflation.

Connect with your real estate professional to find out the facts about the market, the various mortgages available, what you can expect to buy, and if you have a home, what it will sell for. Good information can make a difference in making a good decision. Download our Buyers Guide.

Good Records Can Reduce Capital Gains

b18330c2-b194-489d-a101-360f742751ff.jpg

Regardless of whether you’re entitled to $250,000 or $500,000 of exclusion when you sell your home, prices have gone up so much in the past two years, you may be approaching the limit where you might have to pay tax on the excess when you sell.

Any improvements you have made to the home during your ownership can be used to raise your basis in the home which will reduce your gain. It is worth the effort to start reconstructing the list, both big ticket items and lower priced items that qualify.

While repairs to your home do not count as improvements, other money which either materially adds value, appreciably prolongs the useful life of the property, or adapts a portion of the property to a new use will qualify. Hopefully, you have contracts and agreements on the major items and receipts on things over $75.

If you have photographs before and after the improvements were made, it can help serve as evidence that they were in fact made.

The best proof is to record the expenses and receipts as close to when they are made instead of having to dig through boxes and invariably, either not finding them or worse yet, forgetting what was done altogether.

Download more information on this from IRS Publication 523 and the Homeowners Tax Guide.

Moving Down in an Up Market

e7736796-e861-459b-b997-c033a59fb8b2.jpg

Selling and buying a lower priced home in an "Up" market can be to your advantage. The advantage is to maximize the sales price on your existing home and replace it with a less expensive one.

Moving down in an "up" market may be to your advantage in multiple ways. It is possible that your present home doesn’t meet your current needs like it once did. Making a move can allow you to "re-balance" the equity in your home to better reach your future goals.

The "up" market maximizes the sales price you can expect to receive, and it will free the equity in your home. A lower priced home will result in reducing your housing costs with lower property taxes, insurance, utilities, and maintenance…while improving your liquidity position.

It is not required to reinvest the proceeds of the sale. You may decide to get an 80% loan-to-value mortgage on the replacement home to get the best interest rate and avoid private mortgage insurance. This would allow you to put the excess proceeds into an income producing or growth investment, start a business, fund an education, buy a second home, take a spectacular trip, gift a down payment to a relative, or any other different projects.

The expression "other people’s money" describes borrowing money and using it to invest with the expectations of earning more than the rate you’re paying. Mortgage interest is one of the most attractive ways to borrow money because it is generally the lowest rate compared to other types of loans while having the option to get a fixed-rate mortgage for up to 30 years. Most other borrowed funds involve short terms and floating interest rates.

Rental real estate could be a possibility to invest part of the funds. There is a shortage of available rentals which has caused rents to increase like homes have appreciated. Single family homes for rentals provide large loan-to-value mortgages at fixed interest rates for long terms on appreciating assets with defined tax advantages and reasonable control not found in many other investments. For more information, download our Rental Income Properties Guide.

Homeowners who have owned and occupied their principal residence for two of the last five years are entitled to exclude up to $250,000 of gain for single persons and $500,000 of gain for married persons filing jointly. For more information, see IRS topic #701.

Contact your real estate professional to find out more information like potential sales price, what net proceeds you can expect to receive on a sale, available replacement homes, and the types of mortgages and rates available.

Showing How Earnest You Are

844ef11e-75d1-4358-9c49-52a8a769b71f.jpg

The expression "putting your money where your mouth is" demonstrates a monetary sincerity to what could be empty words. In today’s competitive market where multiple offers are common, sellers want as much assurance as possible that the buyer is sincere and will close on the sale.

The seller who accepts a contract expects the buyer to follow through but, in most cases, doesn’t know the buyer either personally or by reputation. The earnest money submitted by the buyer with the contract shows their commitment to the terms of the offer.

If the amount is relatively small, the seller could be concerned that the buyer may walk away from the contract if they change their mind before closing. The lost time could be injurious to a seller who is trying to meet a deadline.

The more earnest money a buyer deposits indicates to the seller a higher level of commitment to the contract. Except for stated contingencies in the sales contract, if the buyer fails to close on the sale, the earnest money could be forfeited. Significant earnest money makes the seller feel more secure that the contract will indeed close.

There certainly are a lot of things that can dictate how much earnest money is appropriate. Local customs, price of the home and type of mortgage can all help to determine the proper amount. In some areas, it may be common for it to be one to five percent of the purchase price. In other areas, it might be a specific amount like $1,000 to $10,000 depending on the sales price. It really comes down to whatever the buyer and seller agree is the proper amount.

Another strategy is for the buyer to put up an adequate amount initially prior to inspections or other contingencies, and then, to put up an additional amount when the contingencies have been removed.

The earnest money demonstrates the buyers’ sincerity in making the offer and proceeding according to the agreement so the seller can take their home off the market and start making plans to move and give possession of their home. A higher-than-normal amount could also help the seller to choose yours in a multiple offer situation. Ultimately, both parties want to close as anticipated according to the contract and the earnest money helps facilitate that.

Your agent can explain what is customary for your area and price range. Many times, a disinterested party, like a title company, will hold the earnest money and the sales contract will provide how to dispose of it should the contract not close.