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Fournier Law Blog

Intelligent legal insight from our team of experienced attorneys.

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Possible Cost Savings for First Time Home Buyers

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Buying a home is expensive, buying a home for the first time is overwhelming and the costs can be surprising and cause some to think twice before signing the papers.  There is good news for first time home buyers; they may be able to save some money when purchasing a home.  Specifically, some may be able to qualify 25 basis-point discount on the FHA mortgage insurance.

The Housing Financial Literacy Act of 2019 passed in the House of Representatives earlier in July.  This bill’s purpose is to encourage first time homeowners to complete a program to educate them on the home buying and home ownership experience in order to promote sustainable homeownership.  Buyers that complete this training could qualify for the discount, but the bill needs to pass the Senate’s vote and move on for presidential approval.

According to an article published by HousingWire.com, although some experts are concerned the discount could have a negative impact the FHA’s insurance fund, many agree that promoting education about home buying and ownership is vital in helping more American’s have a positive homeownership experience. 

“Whether you are managing your credit, creating a budget, saving for retirement, or purchasing a home, understanding the basic principles of planning, saving, and investing for the future is vitally important,” Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-OH, who presented the bill, said. “Studies show that pre-purchase housing counseling equips first-time homebuyers with the much-needed financial skills and tools to make informed financial decisions that ultimately benefit not only their families, but also the surrounding neighborhood and our entire economy.”

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Is Housing Market Ready to Rebound?

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Homeowners trying to or thinking about putting their home on the market may have been a little hesitant based on the trends in the real estate market over the past year.  As real estate professionals know, and homeowners may have noticed, the real estate market took a turn last summer.  An increased number of homes hit the market, but higher prices and decreased sales, the outlook for homeowners was less than ideal.

However, homeowners may be able to breathe a sigh of relief as this slump could be coming to an end.  With mortgage rates dipping below 4 percent and a slowed housing inventory, it appears prices and home sales should begin to climb again.

According to an article published on Realtor.com, written by Clare Trapasso, “…much of the fate of the housing market relies on mortgage interest rates. If they stay low, buyers have more money to spend on homes. So prices have more room to rise.”  However, homeowners should be aware, despite a high demand for homes as younger buyers begin their families and look to settle down, current buyers, Chief Economist Danielle Hale of realtor.com®  warns “seem a little more patient. They’re more willing to wait for a good property.”

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What Challenges to Buyers with Children Face?

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Buying a home can be an overwhelmingly stressful decision.  There are many factors buyers need to take into account when making a final home purchase decision.  Location, size, floor plan, down payments, and mortgage rates are a few that buyers must consider.  The buyer’s budget is another very important factor that must be considered.  It appears, however, that a specific group of buyers is more likely to go over their set budget when purchasing a home.

According to an article published by The M Report, buyers with children seem to have trouble sticking to their budget when purchasing a home.  In fact, 25.6% of buyers with children exceeded their budget when purchasing a home.  This group also had 31% that were denied a mortgage, where buyers without children only saw 11% denied mortgages.

It appears that having children in the home increases the list of demands that buyers make for their homes.  They want shorter commute times to their workplace, which can put them in more desirable and expensive locations.  The size of the home increases as the need for more space to accommodate growing families increases.  Some buyers make sacrifices on these items in order to stay within, or at least closer, to their budget. 

To make matters more stressful for this group of buyers, many decisions on home purchases can be rushed for families as they work to ensure they are settled before the school year begins. 

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Photo Credit: Franco Giovanella

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What Regrets Are Most Common Among New Home Buyers?

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In an article published by TheMReport.com, a study from Zillow revealing some of the top regrets of home buyers are described.  To begin, it seems that younger, and possibly less experienced, home buyers are more likely to feel some sort of remorse after purchasing a house.  In fact, 81% of home owners under 34 years old have some sort of regret. 

The article states, “Zillow notes that the lower level of satisfaction among younger buyers could be due to their inexperience with the home buying process. Additionally, many of these buyers are likely still living in their first home, and 29% of young homeowners regret rushing the process, compared with 12% of older buyers.” Another source of regret for buyers is a higher than desired mortgage rate and the type of mortgage they were able to secure. 

Very few homeowners, however, report wishing they would have simply rented instead of buying.  “The American Dream of homeownership is still alive and well, and younger buyers who are building families and forging their careers must stretch their budgets to achieve it,” said Zillow Director of Economic Research Skylar Olsen.

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How is the New Housing Market Faring So Far in 2019?

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The 2019 real estate market is approaching the halfway point of the year and recent statistics published jointly by the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development reveal an interesting mix of ups and downs within the new housing market.  The good news is that new house prices have increased 8.8% from last May.  However, disappointing drops in the sale of new single family homes was also reported, they fell 6.9% 

An article published by Bloomberg, reported by Reade Pikert, offers some explanation behind these conflicting statistics.  A detailed view of the home sales decline reveals that the home that are experiencing the decline in sales are almost all priced below $300,000.  Thus suggesting there is a shortage of “affordable” properties. 

Additionally, sales of existing homes took a dip in April, yet the number of sales of pre-construction properties reached the highest level since 2017.  Pickert indicates, “New-home purchases account for about 10% of the market and are calculated when contracts are signed. They are considered a timelier barometer than purchases of previously-owned homes, which are calculated when contracts close.”

Despite the mixed reviews of the new housing market’s 2019 performance thus far, it seems investors remain optimistic.  The article states, ”A gauge of U.S. homebuilding-industry stocks erased losses after the data and was up about 0.3% despite losses in the broader market, suggesting investors were focusing on the upward revisions to new home sales.”

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Is Zillow’s Co-Marketing Program Illegal?

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Many in the market for a new home look to the web when beginning their search.  Most likely, Zillow.com is one of the site visited by prospective buyers.  Not only can these house hunters view homes for sale in their desired neighborhood, recently they have also been shown advertisement for “premier” agents and brokers.  According to an article published by the Miami Herald, these real estate professionals “ …pay hundreds or thousands of dollars a month in advertising fees to the company. Premier agents need not be the highest volume or most successful agents in their area; they simply need to pay for the label.”

The program then expanded about 6 years ago, and introduced a program allowing agents to share advertising costs by partnering with lenders.  It was a win win for agents, who were able to have much of their advertising cost covered, and lenders, who could get a foot in the door with prospective home buyers.  However, it is now being reviewed to determine if this program violates the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act which “prohibits payment of fees for business referrals among realty, mortgage and title industry providers that are not for services actually rendered”, according to journalist Kenneth R Harney. 

In fact, a judge in the U.S. district court in Seattle determined that, “the court can draw a reasonable inference that Zillow designed the co-marketing program to allow agents to provide referrals to lenders in violation of RESPA.” The class-action lawsuit filed will hear from both whistle blowers alleging violations and certainly Zillow defending its program’s legality.

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What Influences Mortgage Rates?

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Keeping up with the ups and downs of mortgage rates can be daunting.  As home owners consider refinancing their home and buyers try to determine the right time to purchase a home and secure a mortgage rate, it can feel like they are aiming at a moving target and aren’t sure when to actually lock in a rate.  It can make many wonder what causes the rates to fluctuate?  The answer is, many factors impact the mortgage rates.

In an article published by Bankrate, Deborah Khearns thoroughly details several of the reasons mortgage rates increase and decrease over time.  As many know, the Federal Reserve can play a roll in mortgage rate changes.  As the article states, “The Federal Reserve doesn’t set mortgage rates but, sometimes, their decisions can indirectly influence them.”

It is probably pretty obvious that the economy and its current conditions influence the mortgage rates.  It may be surprising, however, to learn that it’s a bad economy that actually helps improve mortgage rates for buyers.  As the economy becomes less favorable, investors tend to move toward safer investments like bonds.  According to Greg Mc Bride, Bankrate’s chief financial analyst, increased number of bond investors results in “…pushing bond prices higher but the yields on those bonds lower.”

The article goes on to discuss the influence of inflation and origination costs as well as the borrower’s financial and credit history and the impact of those on rates.  Read the entire article.

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Is the Real Estate Market Starting to Turn?

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The 2019 spring real estate market is in full swing and many home owners and prospective home buyers may be wondering what this year’s market has in store for them.  Will home buyers be able to list their home and quickly receive a full-priced offer, maybe even multiple offers?  Will prospective home buyers be competing against many other buyers and have to make quick and above list price offers? 

Despite the fact that there are reports indicating we are on the horizon of another hot real estate market season, data from Trulia predicts something quite different. Trulia has collected data that reflects home prices have been in a steady decline since the beginning of 2018.  This trend is the first indicator that the housing market may be entering into a “cyclical downturn”.  In an article published by Housing Wire, Alcynna Lloyd quotes Trulia, “’Cyclical housing market downturns occur roughly every 10 years, and they typically don’t happen overnight. Instead, they play out steadily over a few years, first showing up in sales volumes and later—usually a year or two later—in prices,’ Trulia writes.”

Fear not, however, that we are in store for a declining market similar to the one that occurred a decade ago.  The article goes on to detail the findings of the Trulia analysis, indicating home prices should only slightly decline and are more likely to just see “flat-to-modest housing price growth”.  Yet, home owners should expect their home to sell not quite as quickly and should certainly be prepared to enter in more vigorous negotiations with buyers in order to finalize a sale.

Since these changes are not expected to be extreme or immediate, more likely gradual and result in slow steady declines or even flat growth, only time will tell how this potential change plays out.

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Generous Incentives Available for Home Buyers

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Before deciding to purchase a home, it would be wise to research incentive programs offered by lenders; programs can offer qualified home buyers a few thousand dollars to put toward down payments, closing costs, and other fees associated with purchasing a home.

An article published by Housing Wire details a program offered by Bank of America which, according to reporter Ben Lane, can provide as much as $10,000 to a borrower.   In fact, the article states, “Bank of America is committing $5 billion to help boost homeownership for “low- to moderate-income and multicultural homebuyers and communities” across the country, the bank announced Tuesday.” 

Their Neighborhood Solutions program can provide up to $10,000 to qualified borrowers to apply toward closing costs.   Additionally, the America’s Home Grant program is being expanded to offer lender credits up to $7500.  These are funds that the bank is not requiring be repaid by the borrower. 

In additional to credits towards purchase, buyers can look for competitive mortgage rates and low down payment requirements geared toward low and moderate income borrowers.  According to D. Steve Boland, head of consumer lending at Bank of America. “We know many of our clients want the power to own their first home, which can sometimes be challenging. One of the ways we’re helping is through our suite of affordable homeownership solutions and professional resources, which aid them in overcoming barriers and put sustainable homeownership within reach.”

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Studies reveal positive news for home buyers in 2019

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The spring real estate market is in full swing.  Sellers have begun the process of listing their homes with the hopes of a quick sale.  Buyers search listings, schedule showings and begin to decide on a home to purchase.  So far, in 2019, it appears home buyers are making the decision on which home to purchase faster than they were last year at this time.

In fact, a study completed by Redfin, revealed that in 2019 buyers’ time to close is three days less than in 2018.  According to an article published by the MReport, “Some of the factors responsible for home buyers being able to close on their homes faster in 2019 compared to previous years included, a rise in housing supply, a slower growth rate of home prices, and a less competitive market, according to Redfin.”

The fact that the supply of homes for sale has increased and there are more buyers than sellers often means that sellers will accept the first offer they receive.  Unfortunately, some sellers just have to wait longer to receive that offer while competing against a larger number of other sellers.  The article reports that homes are spending about two days more on the market compared to 2018.

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