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Unmarried Couple Purchasing a Home? Important Conversations to Have Before Taking the Leap

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One of the biggest decisions adults will make in their lifetime involves purchasing a home.  It’s a long term commitment and, for many, one of the most expensive purchases they will make.  Another commitment a number of adults will make in their lifetime is to live with their significant other and purchase a home together.  Yet, it isn’t always a married couple that is deciding to make a home purchase together.  In fact, the number of unwed couples living together has increased almost 30% since 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

According to an article, published by Bankrate.com, there can be some considerations that unmarried couples should account for as they decide to purchase a home together since property laws don’t protect the individuals if the couple separates or one person passes away.  In the article, journalist Natalie Campisi states, “Because the law treats unmarried couples like individuals when it comes to assets like real estate, it’s up to the couple to write their own rules that will dictate how their property is handled in the event of separation or death.”

The article suggests couples agree to a “cohabitation property agreement” which touches on areas such as the percentage of the house each party owns, a buyout agreement, and exit strategy among others. It may be a difficult conversation to have in the midst of the excitement that comes along with an momentous life decision.  Yet, its financially wise to plan for the unexpected, even if it seems unlikely or impossible. 

Read the entire article for more tips and advice.

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Do Buyers Really Need a 20% Down Payment To Buy a House?

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Many homeowners may remember setting aside money each month in order to save the 20% down payment necessary to purchase a home, especially to avoid having to pay PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance.)  However, more and more first time home buyers are deciding to purchase a home before they have saved the 20% down payment.

According to an article published by Business Insider, reporter Liz Knueven states, “For many young Americans struggling with student-loan payments, higher rent costs, and relatively stagnant salaries, saving a fifth of a home’s value to get a mortgage simply isn’t on the radar.” 

Real estate professionals aren’t against the idea either.  For first time home buyers, especially near large cities where home values are steep, saving the 20% down payment can take many years.  Instead of saving the cash, buyers can purchase a home and begin building equity, even while paying the PMI of .3%-1.2%.  As the home builds in value, homeowners may be able to drop the PMI, once the mortgage value reaches 78%-80%.

Despite the decrease in home buyers waiting to have the 20% down payment, there are still advantages to a larger down payment if its possible.  It can help edge out competition in a multiple offer situation on a home, can help secure a lower interest rate and save the cost of the PMI each month. 

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Experts Make Predictions for the 2020 Real Estate Market

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As 2019 comes to a close, the trends of the real estate market for the past year are being reviewed an analyzed.  However, just as it is with all new beginnings, there is also much anticipation and speculation about what 2020 will bring for real estate professionals, home owners and potential homeowners.  Unfortunately, some real estate experts are not seeing much change in the low housing inventory trend in the coming year.

In an article published by Forbes, written by Aly J Yale, Yale states, “…According to the 2020 National Housing Forecast from Realtor.com, the national housing shortage will continue in the New Year, possibly reaching “a historic low level.”  Inventory growth is absent in nine out of ten markets, down from a much more optimistic two of three markets seeing growth at the beginning of 2019.

Contributing to the problem, homeowners are remaining in their homes longer, averaging 13 years.  Additionally, although home construction has seen growth, most of the new homes are “upper-tier” homes.  This leaves entry home buyers little supply in contrast to the large demand.  With homes for sale in the lowest price tier down 10 percent through 2019.

Some positive news to look forward to are the anticipation of mortgage rates remaining low and home prices remaining steady, maybe declining in some markets. 

Read the entire article.

Photo Credit: Mark Moz

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Home Prices are Increasing- Are Homes Less Affordable?

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Real Estate professionals and publications have recently began to educate home owners and potential home buyers with current market trends.  The common message is that there is an increase in home buyers but the supply of homes for sale is declining.  The natural consequence of this low supply and high demand situation is for home prices to increase.   The projected home values are continuing to increase, in fact experts have even adjusted their projections based on current market reports.  According to an article published in The Patch, “CoreLogic increased their 12-month projection for home values from 4.5% to 5.6% over the last few months.”

Naturally, buyers become concerned that home prices are causing them to be priced out of a home or a neighborhood.  However, the increase in home prices can’t be analyzed in a bubble.  Other factors must be taken into account to determine whether or not increasing home prices are really making homes unaffordable. 

In the article, written by Keith Kreis, other factors that should also be taken into consideration are discussed.  For example, mortgage interest rates have dropped since the beginning of 2019 which has increased home affordability by almost 10 percent.  Additionally, American workers are seeing wage growth by as much as 1.5% since last fall.  By taking these additional economic factors into consideration, one might argue that, at this point in time, buying a home is more affordable than its been.

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Real Estate Experts Weigh In on Cause of Low Housing Inventory

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Real Estate professionals and analysts have continued to look into why there continues to be a decrease in housing inventory along with rising home prices.  Redfin has determined that more Americans are deciding to stay exactly where they are instead of moving on to another home.  In fact, they have found that, “the typical American homeowner is now staying in their home for five years longer than they did just nine years ago.”

In an article published by Housing Wire, reporter Julia Falcon states that the average homeowner in the U.S. is staying in their home for about 13 years instead of only 8 years as they did in 2010.  There are U.S. cities that blow those statistics out of the water with homeowners deciding to stay in their homes for 20 years or more.  Cities such as Salt Lake City, Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas are in Texas see home owners that have stayed in their homes since the 1950s. 

According to the article, “Redfin agent Christopher Dillard states ‘Because prices have been going up, and folks are gaining more and more equity, it’s hard to justify selling when there aren’t many if any affordable options.’”

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Real Estate Expert’s Grim Outlook on the Housing Market

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Some real estate experts are concerned about the future of the real estate market and their conclusions about the real estate market may make some homeowners take pause.

In an article published by DSNews.com, titled “Residential Real Estate on ‘Shaky Ground’”, an interview with real estate analyst Keith Jurow is summarized.  The article states he doesn’t believe there was really any real estate recovery, In fact, according to Jurow, “the “illusion” stems from lenders and mortgage services not putting foreclosed properties on the market.” 

The market is at risk of due to factors such as subprime mortgages, poor home sales and mortgage defaults, despite many mortgages being modified.  Shockingly, the article notes, “There are currently $800 billion of subprime mortgages still outstanding, many of which have not been paid at all in the last five years.”

Jurow’s alarming conclusion is homeowners considering selling before the market gets much worse.  Read the entire article.

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Why Would a Real Estate Broker Publish Agent Commissions?

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At the start of September 2019, real estate firm Redfin made a change to the way they communicate with their customers and potential customers.   They have made the decision to provide more information on the homes they have listed for sale, specifically detailing how much the buyer’s agent will make upon the sale of the listed home.

According to an article published by Forbes, “…nearly 40% of recent home buyers don’t understand how their real estate agent was paid,”  while 13% indicated they had “no idea” how much or how the agent was paid upon closing.  With the recent announcement of the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, allowing brokers to share details of the commission deals, Redfin decided to get out in front of the trend sure to spread to other regional areas.

Perhaps buyers have become more interested in the ways commissions are negotiated after a few law suits alleging “….collusion, inflated commissions, and price-fixing, among other things.” To head off any concerns and to satisfy buyer’s desire for transparency, some agents feel that this up-front approach helps ease the minds of their customers.  As one Redfin broker, Paul Reid of Boise, ID,  stated, “Showing consumers the commission a seller is offering a buyer’s agent is a great win for making real estate more transparent. When a buyer has a better understanding of how his agent is being paid and the costs the seller is incurring, he can make a more informed decision on what to offer.”

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How Has the First Time Home Buyer Profile Changed Over Time?

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If asked to describe the profile of the average “first-time home buyer”, many Americans may use descriptions such as young, newly married, young children or children on the way.  There is an idea that many have about who these would-be buyers are, what stage of life they are in and it appears it is an out-of-date perception. 

Researcher at Harvard completed a study of first time home buyers over a span of 20 years, from 1997-2017 and found some significant changes in the demographics of first time home buyers over those years.  In the paper detailing the study findings, it was stated, “While discussions of first-time home buying often tie home ownership entry to life-stage changes like marriage and the birth of a first child, a growing share of first-time home buyers do not fit this profile”.

An article published by The Wire summarizes the most telling comparison of how many first-buyers were unmarried in 1997, which was 23% of all first time home buyers, compared to a 12% increase by the time 2017 rolled around.  That year, 35% of first time home buyers had never been married.  Married home buyers made up 61% of the first time home buyers in 1997, but only 52% of first-time home buyers in 2017 were married. 

What hasn’t changed much in the span of the study, the age of first time home buyers which decreased from 34 to 32 between 1997 and 2017.  The findings reveal facts that, “suggest that there may be a fundamental shift in the way that young households are approaching first-time home purchases, such as an increased willingness to purchase homes individually or with unmarried partners”. 

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Why is the Number of First Time Home Buyers Declining?

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With reports of continued low mortgage rates, many might assume the housing market would be booming with home sales.  However, it would seem that some other economic factors are affecting potential home buyers’ decisions.

The number of adults planning to purchase a home has dropped 2% since last year, and the number of first time home buyers among the groups looking to purchase a home is down 5%, from 63% in 2018 to 58% this year.  According to an article published by CNBC.com, written by Anne Cusak, a lack of affordable home coupled with worries about the economy and personal economic stability are to blame.

According to Rose Quint, the National Association of Home Builders assistant vice president for survey research, “…potential buyers are held back by the lowest levels of affordability in a decade.”  Many first time home buyers are limited in their budget; as home prices increase, they aren’t necessarily able to keep up.  Since the lower end of the real estate market has seen the fastest price increase, these home buyers are being priced out. 

Even if the home prices are within reach and the mortgage rates continue to stay low, prospective buyers are less than eager to jump in when they feel their personal finances are on shaky ground.  Cusak notes, “Buying a home is an incredibly emotional experience, and potential buyers will often pull back when they have the slightest fear of losing their jobs or losing any income.”

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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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