First and foremost, we hope you are staying safe and healthy! As the world begins to slowly emerge from the covid-19 pandemic it is our greatest joy to guide you through the current state of the real estate market. The market is healthy, interest rates are at an all time low and demand is high. We are here to help and if you have any questions please reach out to us.
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 the 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.
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 work spaces can help you focus during work hours and “turn off” at the end of the day.
Of course, if you have children who are home with you all day (given many schools and daycares are now closed), separating your home and work life will be more difficult. Unless you have a partner who can serve as the primary caregiver, you will need to help manage the needs of your children while juggling work and virtual meetings.
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.1 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 independent screen time can give you a window to schedule conference calls or work uninterrupted.
Homeschooling Your Children
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, try studying outside! A porch swing is a perfect spot for reading, and gardening in the backyard is a great addition to any science curriculum.
In addition to creating an academic learning environment, find age-appropriate opportunities for your children to help with household chores and meal preparation. Homeschooling advocates emphasize the importance of developing life skills alongside academic ones.2 And with more meals and activities taking place at home, there will be ample opportunity for every family member to pitch in and help.
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.
We 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.
And if you prefer a guided workout, search for free exercise videos on YouTube—there are even options specifically geared towards kids—or try one of the many fitness apps available.
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.
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.
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.
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. If you and your family are in need of assistance, please reach out and let us know how we can help. (978)664-3700
Homeownership offers many advantages over renting, including a stable living environment, predictable monthly payments, and the freedom to make modifications. Neighborhoods with high rates of homeownership have less crime and more civic engagement. Additionally, studies show that homeowners are happier and healthier than renters, and their children do better in school.1
But 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 in some areas.3
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 $250,000, and the remaining balance on your mortgage is $200,000, then you have $50,000 in home equity.
$250,000 (Home’s Market Value)
- $200,000 (Mortgage Balance)
$50,000 (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, and the remaining part goes towards paying off your principal, or loan balance. That means the amount of money you owe the bank is reduced every month. As your loan balance goes down, your home equity goes up.
Additionally, unlike other assets that you borrow money to purchase, the value of your home generally increases, or appreciates, over time. For example, when you pay off your car loan after five or seven years, you will own it outright. But if you try to sell it, the car will be worth much less than when you bought it. However, when you purchase a home, its value typically rises over time. So when you sell it, not only will you have grown your equity through your monthly mortgage payments, but in most cases, your home’s market value will be higher than what you originally paid. 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. That’s the wealth-building power of real estate.
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, 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.
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.
- Raise your home’s market value.
Boosting 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. In contrast, an upscale kitchen remodel—which can cost around $130,000—averages less than a 60% return on investment.4
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.
HOW DO I ACCESS MY HOME EQUITY IF I NEED IT?
When you put your money into a checking or savings account, it’s easy to make a withdrawal when needed. However, tapping into your home equity is a little more complicated.
The primary way homeowners access their equity is by selling their home. Many sellers will use their equity as a downpayment on a new home. Or some homeowners may choose to downsize and use the equity to supplement their income or retirement savings.
But what if you want to access the equity in your home while you’re still living in it? Maybe you want to finance a home renovation, consolidate debt, or pay for college. To do that, you will need to take out a loan using your home equity as collateral.
There are several ways to borrow against your home equity, depending on your needs and qualifications:5
- Second Mortgage - A second mortgage, also known as a home equity loan, is structured similar to a primary mortgage. You borrow a lump-sum amount, which you are responsible for paying back—with interest—over a set period of time. Most second mortgages have a fixed interest rate and provide the borrower with a predictable monthly payment. Keep in mind, if you take out a home equity loan, you will be making monthly payments on both your primary and secondary mortgages, so budget accordingly.
- Cash-Out Refinance - With a cash-out refinance, you refinance your primary mortgage for a higher amount than you currently owe. Then you pay off your original mortgage and keep the difference as cash. This option may be preferable to a second mortgage if you have a high interest rate on your current mortgage or prefer to make just one payment per month.
- Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) - A home equity line of credit, or HELOC, is a revolving line of credit, similar to a credit card. It allows you to draw out money as you need it instead of taking out a lump sum all at once. A HELOC may come with a checkbook or debit card to enable easy access to funds. You will only need to make payments on the amount of money that has been drawn. Similar to a credit card, the interest rate on a HELOC is variable, so your payment each month could change depending on how much you borrow and how interest rates fluctuate.
- Reverse Mortgage - A reverse mortgage enables qualifying seniors to borrow against the equity in their home to supplement their retirement funds. In most cases, the loan (plus interest) doesn’t need to be repaid until the homeowners sell, move, or are deceased.6
Tapping into your home equity may be a good option for some homeowners, but it’s important to do your research first. In some cases, another type of loan or financing method may offer a lower interest rate or better terms to fit your needs. And it’s important to remember that defaulting on a home equity loan could result in foreclosure. Ask us for a referral to a lender or financial adviser to find out if a home equity loan is right for you or check out of preferred vendor list on our Farrelly Realty Group website
WE’RE HERE TO HELP YOU
Wherever you are in the equity-growing process, we can help. We work with buyers to find the perfect home to begin their wealth-building journey at no cost to the buyer. We also offer free assistance to existing homeowners who want to know their home’s current market value to refinance or secure a home equity loan. And when you’re ready to sell, we can help you get top dollar to maximize your equity stake. Contact us today to talk!
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.
- National Association of Realtors -
- Urban Institute -
- Census Bureau -
- Remodeling Magazine -
- Investopedia -
- Bankrate -
A common thought in real estate is “never list your home in the winter offseason”. This thought is perpetuated by industry experts, agents and repeat sellers alike, this saying encourages many would-be sellers to wait until the spring peak to list their homes. However, studies show that homes listed in the winter offseason can at times not only sell faster than those in the spring, but sellers can also net more above their asking price at this time.1 Don’t wait until spring to sell. If you’ve been thinking of selling your home, here are five compelling reasons to list now.
1. Take advantage of low inventory. Since most sellers are waiting until spring to list, local inventory falls during the offseason. However, there are still motivated buyers who are ready to move now and don’t want to wait that long to purchase a home. According to the National Association of Realtors, 55 percent of all buyers purchased their home at the time they did because “it was just the right time.”2 These eager buyers may flock to your home. You may not need to try as hard to make your home stand out in the sea of other similar homes. With less competition, more buyers, some of whom may have otherwise overlooked your home if you listed during the peak, will express an interest to buy. While you’ll likely have fewer showings in the offseason, buyers who do visit will be more serious about writing an offer. Your home will likely sell faster than it would have during the peak season.
2. Set a higher listing price. Homes sold during the offseason can sell at a higher price, on average, than those sold during the spring and summer peak. There are many reasons for this. First, motivated buyers are willing to pay closer to the asking price for a home. Second, homes are more likely to be priced right and reflect the economics of not only the local market, but the neighborhood as well. Often, homes listed during the peak may be priced to compete with other homes in the area and neighborhood. Sellers may be pressured to sell for less than the list price in order to encourage buyers to choose their home out of the others on the market.
3. You’ll receive more attention. If you need to hire a tradesperson to handle routine maintenance or undertake a minor home renovation before you list, you may be able to take advantage of flexible scheduling and cheaper rates. Many of these professionals experience a winter offseason as well, and will be able to focus their time and attention on you and your project.
4. Easier to maintain curb appeal. Curb appeal is intended to attract the buyers who are just driving by as well as those who saw your home online and wanted to see it in-person. It sets the stage for what interested buyers can expect when they step foot in the home during a showing or open house. If you list your home during the peak of the selling season, you may exhaust your time your energy maintaining curb appeal. You’ll likely spend most of your free time mowing the lawn, weeding, trimming shrubs and hedges, planting flowers in pots and in flowerbeds, pulling spent blooms and watering it all to ensure it looks lush and healthy on a daily basis. After all, a lush landscape will attract potential buyers and set your home apart from other similar homes in the area.
The offseason eliminates the pressure to maintain a picture-perfect front landscape. Since most grass, shrubs and plants go dormant at this time of year, you’ll have less to maintain. If you live in an area that experiences a traditional winter, your landscape will be covered with snow. Even if you live in a milder climate, you may not have to mow as often, if at all. It’s still important to ensure your exterior appears well-tended, so make sure your walkway and front porch remains free of snow, ice and debris.
5. Tap into the life changes of buyers. Many buyers receive employee raises and bonuses at the end of the year. If they’ve been saving to buy a home, this extra money may allow them to reach their goal for a down payment and put them on the path to becoming a homeowner. Additionally, companies often hire new employees and relocate current ones during the first quarter of the year, creating a strong demand for housing. If you live in an area that’s home to a large company or has a strong corporate presence, this may be the perfect time to list.
Are you thinking of Listing in the Offseason? 3 Things we recommend you do Before You List
Get your home ready to list by following these tips.
1. Schedule maintenance. Buyers, especially first-time buyers, want a home they can move into right away; they don’t want to repair the roof or the furnace or replace windows with blown thermal seals before they move in. Do the scheduled maintenance and make repairs before you list your home for sale.
In some cases, it may help to have an inspector do a pre-inspection of your home. A pre-inspection will make you aware of any major, potentially deal-killing, issues that will have to be addressed before you list. It also gives you an idea of minor issues that a potential seller may want repaired. Overall, it helps you to accurately price your home and may protect you from claims a buyer might make later.3
2. Create light. Balance out the lack of natural light outdoors by turning the lights on inside. Since people naturally tend to buy emotionally, turning on the lights helps create a sense of warmth and coziness. Light a fire in the fireplace, if you have one, fill your home with the scents of the season, such as vanilla or fresh baked cookies, and put a throw blanket on your sofa.
If you plan to paint the interior of your home before you list, consider an off-white shade to create consistency throughout your home and make the space feel larger and brighter. If you have photos of your garden or the home’s exterior in the spring or summer, display them so interested buyers can get a glimpse of what the home looks like in other seasons.
3. Give your home a thorough cleaning. Cleaning puts your home in its best light. Clean and polish all the horizontal surfaces of your home, including countertops, window sills and baseboards; have the curtains dry cleaned or otherwise laundered; wash windows, glass doors and their tracks; vacuum carpeting and polish all wood surfaces, including the floor.
Additionally, this is a great time to pack any personal items and family photos as well as sort through your belongings and donate items you no longer use. This not only eliminates any clutter, but it also gives you less to pack and move when you sell.
If you’re thinking of selling, give us a call! We’d love to help you position your home to sell in our market.
Sources: 1. Time, October 30, 2015
2. National Association of REALTORS, 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers
3. Forbes, August, 27, 2013
We’re in the midst of the longest economic expansion in U.S. history, and economists think there’s still room to grow. A recent survey by the National Association for Business Economics found that experts believe the U.S. economy will remain positive throughout 2020.1
Still, given that recessions are a natural (and necessary) part of a business cycle, we know this period of growth will inevitably end. So you may be wondering … how will an eventual recession impact the real estate market?
Many Americans assume a recession would lead to a decline in housing prices like we saw during the Great Recession of 2008. But the real estate market crash we experienced wasn’t typical. In fact, the last recession wasn’t typical at all. It was the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
ATTOM Data Solutions analyzed real estate prices during the last five recessions and found that, in the majority of cases, home prices actually went up. Only twice (in 1990 and 2008) did prices decline, and in 1990 it was by less than one percent.2
So what can historical precedent—combined with today’s data—tell us about the future of real estate? Here’s where experts predict the housing market is headed in 2020 and beyond.
HOME PRICES WILL KEEP RISING
Economists predict 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.3
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.4
“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.”4
“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.”5
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.6
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.7
However, these efforts may not be enough to meet current demand. “Despite improvements to new construction and short waves of sellers, next year will once again 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.”8
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. We can help you assess your options, including new construction and up-and-coming developments.
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-2021.10
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.11
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.
MILLENNIALS WILL DRIVE THE MARKET
Millennials are expected to account for more than half of all mortgages this year, outnumbering Generation X and Baby Boomers combined. It’s not surprising, considering their age and stage of life. In 2020, the largest cohort of millennials will turn 30, and the oldest millennials will turn 39.8
"Family changes tend to drive home-buying decisions," explains Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale. "Millennials are going to be active in the housing market not just because they're just at the age when they're thinking about becoming first-time home buyers, but they're also in the age range when they're having kids."12
Younger millennials flocked to urban centers that offered easy access to work, shopping, and restaurants. But high prices, lack of square footage, and subpar schools are driving millennials out to the suburbs as they begin to marry and expand their families.
In response, a new model for suburban living has emerged. “Hipsturbias,” or mixed-use communities that bring the live/work/play concept to the suburbs, were recently named one of the top real estate trends for 2020 by the Urban Land Institute.4
What does it mean for you? If you’re a millennial who has been priced out of urban living or is looking for more space for your growing family, a number of suburbs in our area have a lot to offer. We can point you towards the communities that will best meet your needs. And if you’re a homeowner with plans to sell, give us a call. We know how to market your home to millennials … and can help you sell quickly for top dollar by appealing to this leading market segment!
WE’RE HERE TO GUIDE YOU
While national real estate numbers can provide a “big picture” outlook, real estate is local. As local market experts, we 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 us now to schedule a free consultation. We’ll work with you to develop an action plan to meet your real estate goals this year.
START PREPARING TODAY
If you plan to SELL this year:
- NBC News -
- Curbed -
- HousingWire -
- Forbes -
- National Association of Realtors -
- Redfin -
- HousingWire -
- Realtor.com -
- YCharts -
- MBA Mortgage Market Forecast November 2019 -
- Dallas Morning News -
- Realtor.com -
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