How Do I Know the Market Value of a Home?

Home prices in the U.S. have risen more or less steadily over the last few years. In many cities, home values are now at their highest point in history — even higher than the last housing boom.

But what determines the “market value” of a home? How do sellers determine their list prices, and how can buyers evaluate a listing based on current market conditions. Here’s a crash course in determining market value, for sellers and buyers alike.

The Definition of ‘Market Value’

Let’s start off with a quick definition. In a real estate context, the “market value” is the most likely price a home will sell for within a reasonable amount of time. It is based on local housing market conditions and recent sales activity.

You’ll notice this definition does not mention the original price paid by the homeowner. Unless they bought the home a month ago, the original purchase price is likely irrelevant to the current market. Likewise, the market value of a home has nothing to do with the homeowner’s current mortgage balance. Some sellers list their homes for the amount needed to pay off their mortgage loans. But that doesn’t always line up with the current market value of the property.

How to Determine Market Value

So, with that introduction out of the way, let’s get to the heart of the matter. How do you know the market value of a home you’re thinking about buying? Or the value of your own property, when listing it for sale?

The first thing you’d want to do is track home sales in the area. The longer you do this, the better. It gives you a good base of knowledge with regard to asking prices versus selling prices (hint: it’s the latter of these two that determines market value).

Next, you’ll want to review sales data on homes that are similar to the one you’re considering. This is what real estate agents refer to as comparable sales, or comps. The more alike the two properties are, the more accurate the pricing comparison.

Try to find as many comparable home sales as possible. This will help you support your offer amount, by showing the seller you’re using actual market data from recent sales in the area. Remember, home prices can change over time. So recent comps will give you a better idea of what’s happening now, in the current real estate market.

When you determine the market value of a home, you also need to take any unique features into account. For example, let’s say I’ve found sales data for two colonial-style homes that are 2,000 square feet. The home I’m considering is also a colonial with 2,000 square feet. But it has a completely renovated kitchen, a pool, and sits on a more spacious corner lot with a great view. The other houses lack these qualities. So the house I’m considering will likely sell for more than the two comps, despite the fact that the homes are similar in size and style.

Here’s a good “formula” to keep in mind when considering the market value of a home in a particular area:

Comparable sale prices + unique features = a good asking price

An Easier Way: Work With a Real Estate Agent

This is just a basic overview of market value within the context of real estate sales. There’s more work involved to properly evaluate the value of a particular property, especially when the market is changing constantly. And that’s where real estate agents come into the picture.

Real estate agents undergo extensive training in this area. Much of their education has to do with real estate market cycles, home prices and values, and related topics. So whether you’re buying or selling a home, you could save yourself a lot of time and energy by having an agent on your side!

Income Needed to Qualify for a Mortgage Loan

When you apply for a home loan, the mortgage lender will conduct a thorough review of your income situation. Income is one of the most important factors to a lender, along with your credit score and debt level. This article answers a common, income-related question that home buyers often ask: How much income is needed to qualify for a mortgage loan?

The first thing to know is that mortgage lending standards and requirements can vary from one lender to the next. For example, if I approach a handful of lenders about a certain home loan, and my income level is on the “border” of acceptability, one company might approve me for the loan while others turn me down. That’s because they have their own business models and assessment procedures.

In addition, your household income level is only one piece of the mortgage qualification process. Lenders will review other things as well, including your credit score and your total amount of debt. Remember, your debt takes away a big part of your income — so the two things are usually reviewed together.

How Much Income to Qualify?

These days, most lenders set the bar somewhere around 43% to 45% for the total debt-to-income ratio, or DTI. This means that if your recurring monthly debts use up more than 45% of your monthly income, you might have trouble qualifying for a loan. On the other hand, a borrower who only uses about 35% of her income to cover the monthly debts should be in good shape, as far as lenders are concerned.

These numbers are not set in stone. Some lenders may allow total DTI ratios above 45%, especially when there are certain “compensating factors.”

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB):

“Larger lenders may still make a mortgage loan if your debt-to-income ratio is more than 43 percent … But they will have to make a reasonable, good-faith effort, following the CFPB’s rules, to determine that you have the ability to repay the loan.”

So, where do you stand? What’s your total debt-to-income ratio? You can find plenty of calculators online to help you calculate your DTI level. That’s a good place to continue your research.

Applying for a Mortgage Quote

When you’ve done the necessary research, and feel that you’re ready to take on a mortgage loan, the next logical step is to apply for quotes from lenders. The good news is that this process is easier than ever, thanks to the internet. You can apply online and get information sent to you by email.

Granted, you’ll have to fill out a more complete application at some point, along with plenty of supporting documents (tax records, bank statements, etc.). But the initial online application is a good way to get the ball rolling.

Don’t Overstretch Your Income

The last point I want to make is that a mortgage lender cannot tell you what you can afford. They can only tell you what they are willing to lend you, in terms of a loan. You must determine your own affordability limits, before you even start talking to lenders.

Doing some basic budget math up front could help you avoid financial issues down the road. So take a good, hard look at your current debt and income situation — and decide what you’re comfortable paying each month in the form of a mortgage payment.

Mortgage Rates Rise to Their Highest Level in Over Four Years

Are you thinking about buying a home in the near future? Do you need a mortgage loan to finance your purchase? Here’s a trend you should know about. This week, the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loan rose to its highest level since 2013. This is based on the weekly industry survey conducted by Freddie Mac.

Mortgage Rates Hit 4-Year High in April 2018

On April 26, 2018, Freddie Mac published the latest results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey (PMMS). This survey has been running for decades, and it gives us good insight into various trends. The company describes it as “the foremost reliable, representative source of regional and national mortgage rate trends.”

Here are the results of the survey for the week of April 26, 2018:

•    30-year fixed mortgage loans had an average rate of 4.58%.
•    15-year fixed mortgage loans had an average rate of 4.02%.
•    5/1 adjustable (ARM) loans had an average rate of 3.74%.

Here’s what is truly noteworthy about these latest indicators. The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage (the most popular loan product used by home buyers) just hit its highest level in years. To date, the average rate for a 30-year home loan hasn’t been this high since August 2013.

As Freddie Mac officials reported in their April 26 report:

“Mortgage rates increased for the third consecutive week, climbing 11 basis points to 4.58 percent. Rates are now at their highest level since the week of August 22, 2013. Higher Treasury yields, driven by rising commodity prices, more Treasury issuances and the steady stream of solid economic news, are behind the uptick in rates over the past week.”

Buying a Home Now Versus Later

Granted, the interest rates that are actually assigned to home loans can vary from one borrower to the next, and for a number of reasons. Loan type, credit scores, and discount points all play a role. The numbers above are merely averages across all of the surveyed lenders.

It’s the overall trend here that’s most important. And the trend is that average mortgage rates have shot up quite a bit over the last few months.

Home prices, meanwhile, continue to rise in most cities across the country. According to the real estate information company Zillow, the nationwide median home value rose by around 8% over the last year (as of April 2018). And while prices have slowed a down a bit in many areas, they are expected to continue moving north over the coming months — and into 2019.

These are important trends for home buyers, particularly those who need mortgage financing to complete their purchases. Rising rates can chip away at your buying power, as can rising home values. So those who are planning to buy a home in 2018 might want to consider purchasing sooner rather than later.

Disclaimer: This article includes data, trends and forecasts relating to the housing industry nationwide. This information was provided by third-party sources outside of our company. The information above is deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

Homes Expected to Sell Fast in 2018, Like Last Year

A recent report showed that homes across the U.S. sold faster than ever during 2017. And experts believe that 2018 could be an even hotter real estate market, due to a chronically low level of homes for sale. So buyers should be prepared for competition.

A Fast-Moving Real Estate Market in 2018

Here’s the big message for home buyers and house hunters in 2018: Be prepared to move quickly when you find a house you want to buy. Nationwide, homes sold at their fastest pace on record last year. And this year could match, or even outpace, that record.

According to a recent report from the real estate information company Zillow, it took a median of 81 days to sell a home in 2017. That was nine days faster than the previous year. The fastest-selling month for houses was June of 2017, when it took about 73 days for a home to sell (including the actual closing process). Since it can take between four and six weeks to close a sale, this means the typical home was on the market for around 30 days, before going under contract.

Buyers Still Dealing With Limited Inventory

So here we are in spring 2018, and housing markets across the country are still red-hot. This is largely due to the dearth of inventory seen in many areas. Home buyers in 2018 are facing limited inventory this home-shopping season, which has been the case for the last three years.

According to the latest figures, housing market inventory across the country has declined on a year-over-year basis for 37 months in a row. This leaves fewer options for home buyers, while boosting competition and prices. In 2017, nearly a quarter of all homes sold across the U.S. went for more than the list price. This shows that stiff competition could be leading to bidding wars and driving prices higher.

According to Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow, 2018 will be marked by fast home sales.

“As demand has outpaced supply in the housing market over the past three years, buying a home has become an exercise in speed and agility,” Terrazas said in a recent news release. “This [year] is shaping up to be another competitive home shopping season for buyers, who may have to linger on the market until they find the right home but then sprint across the finish line once they do.”

Tips for Buying in a ‘Fast’ Market

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to make the house-hunting process more efficient, and to make your offer stand out.

  1. Here are five tips for buying in a competitive market:
  2. Review recent home sales in your target area, to get a feel for pricing.
  3. Work with an experienced real estate agent who knows the local market.
  4. Get pre-approved for mortgage financing to help narrow your price range.
  5. Move quickly with a strong offer when the right house comes along.
  6. Keep the big picture in mind; don’t quibble with the seller over “nickels and dimes.”

The fastest-selling real estate markets of 2017 were mostly located in California and the Pacific Northwest, where inventory is most constrained. San Jose, California; San Francisco and Seattle topped the list. But these conditions are affecting many cities and towns across the country, to varying degrees.

Article provided by MetroDepth real estate content.

Mortgage Rates Keep Climbing, According to Industry Survey 

Should I buy a home now, or wait until later in the year? Will I pay more if I postpone my purchase?

These are perennial questions from home buyers nationwide. And a recent upsurge in mortgage rates has some buyers rushing to close on their loans, out of concern that rates could keep rising in the weeks ahead.

On March 8, 2018, Freddie Mac reported the results of its latest survey of the mortgage industry. This long-running survey goes out to more than a hundred lenders across the country, every week. Freddie Mac’s research team then compiles the results into a weekly mortgage rate average that gives us some useful insight into industrywide trends.

Rates Climb to Highest Level Since 2014

According to the latest report, the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loan rose to 4.46%, for the week ending on March 9, 2018. That percentage is significant for two reasons:

1. It marks nine straight weeks of rising loan rates. So it’s a trend — not a fluke.

2. It’s also the highest average for 30-year mortgage rates since January of 2014.

According to Freddie Mac:

“The 10-year Treasury yield has been bouncing around in a narrow 15 basis point range for the last month. While the yield on the 10-year Treasury is currently below the high of 2.95 percent reached two weeks ago, mortgage rates are up for the ninth consecutive week. The U.S. weekly average 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose 3 basis points to 4.46 percent in this week’s survey, its highest level since January 2014.”

It bears repeating: Mortgage rates haven’t been this high since the start of 2014. And it all happened over the last few weeks.

Average rates rose for other commonly used products as well, and that includes the 15-year fixed-rate home loan and the 5/1 adjustable mortgage (ARM).

Still, the Housing Market Marches On

But the recent spike in rates might not last long. Economists from Freddie Mac said they “anticipate rate increases will be gradual [throughout 2018], allowing housing market activity to maintain momentum.” In other words, they don’t expect the recent upward trend to put a damper on home-buying activity in the U.S.

Home Prices Still Rising in Most Cities

Meanwhile, home prices continue to rise in most parts of the country. And this too has added a sense of urgency to the housing market, particularly among home buyers who are eyeing a purchase in the near future.

In many cities across the U.S., real estate markets are experiencing a shortage of homes for sale. This comes at a time when demand for housing is either steady or rising in most markets. This supply-and-demand imbalance is putting upward pressure on home prices, as evidenced by the 6% to 7% increase in U.S. home values over the last year.

What does the future hold? No one can say for certain. But recent trends within the housing and mortgage industry seem to make a strong case for buying a home sooner rather than later. Buyers who postpone their purchases until later in 2018 could encounter higher housing costs.

Top 7 Mortgage Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

The mortgage lending process can be somewhat intimidating, especially for first-time home buyers who’ve never been through it before. There’s so much money on the line, and so many steps along the way.

Below, we have assembled a “top-seven” list of mortgage tips for home buyers. Once you finish reading this list, you’ll have a much better understanding of how it all works.

1. Study the mortgage types.

Each type of mortgage loan comes with its own set of pros and cons. Some products are ideal for certain types of buyers, but disadvantageous for others. To decide which type of loan is right for you, you’ll need to know the pluses and minuses of each type. Start by learning the pros and cons of (A) conventional versus government-backed loans, and (B) adjustable-rate versus fixed-rate loans. These are your two biggest choices.

2. Consider your staying time.

How long do you plan to stay in the home? This will often determine which type of home loan is best for you. For instance, an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) could lower your interest rate up front, when compared to a fixed-rate mortgage. But if you stay in the home beyond the ARM loan’s introductory period, you’ll face the uncertainty of interest rate adjustments. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is the most popular type of loan these days.

3. Consider all types of lenders.

Many first-time home buyers don’t realize they can find mortgage financing locally, at local banks and credit unions. It’s true. So when shopping around for a lender and a loan program, be sure to look beyond the “big banks.” Don’t limit yourself. Keep your options open. If you have an existing relationship with a bank or credit union, ask them if they offer home loans.

4. Shop for the best rate.

Mortgage lenders will offer interest rates based on your credit history and credit score. When your credit is good, lenders might offer you a lower rate. When your credit is bad, the opposite can be true. Each lender defines their comfort level differently, so interest rates may vary from one company to the next. This is why it’s so important to get offers from multiple lenders.

5. Consider paying points.

One “point” is equal to one percent of the loan amount. (On a mortgage loan for $200,000, a single point would equal $2,000.) Some home buyers pay points at closing in order to lower their interest rate over the life of the loan. It’s a tradeoff. You can pay more upfront, and out of pocket, to lower your total interests costs over time. This can be a wise strategy over the long term, but it might not work out well for a shorter stay. Ask your lender to show you pricing strategies both with and without points being paid.

6. Don’t go it alone.

Most of us have friends or family members who own homes. These are good sources of information. Somebody who has been through the process and seen mortgage loans from “all sides” can often provide great information. You should also enlist the support of your real estate agent. A real estate agent is not a mortgage advisor, but most are well-informed about the mortgage process.

7. Factor in PMI.

PMI stands for private mortgage insurance. If your down payment on a house is less than 20%, your lender might require that you pay PMI. This will increase the size of your monthly payments. If you can afford to put 20% down, you’ll avoid having to pay PMI. It’s possible to get a mortgage loan with a down payment below 20%, but you’ll probably end up paying mortgage insurance of some kind — either private or government. When you get mortgage estimates from lenders, any required mortgage insurance should be included in the quote. But ask about it anyway, just to be sure.

Spring 2018 Home-Buying Season to Be Marked by Low Inventory

Home buying activity tends to pick up in the spring, as more and more buyers shake off the winter chills and prepare to enter the real estate market. This year, the spring home-buying “season” will be marked by low inventory across much of the country. And that will keep things competitive for home buyers seeking a property to purchase.

42: Number of Months Inventory Has Declined

Inventory has been the big housing headline for the last couple of years. And real estate markets nationwide continue to contract, as demand outweighs the supply of homes for sale.

According to Danielle Hale, chief economist for realtor.com, inventory within the nation’s housing market has been dropping steadily for years.

“This year [2018] there is even less inventory than last year,” she told Forbes recently. “According to our February 2018 data inventory is down 8.5% from last February.”

According to Hale, housing market inventory (the number of homes listed for sale) has declined for 42 consecutive months. That’s nearly a four-year trend!

Granted, these are national averages. Housing trends and conditions can vary widely from one city to the next. For instance, larger metro areas tend to have more demand for housing, and often less inventory, than smaller surrounding cities. And the big tech hubs — like Austin, Seattle and Denver — are among the tightest real estate markets in the country as we enter spring 2018.

Tight inventory is affecting sales volume too. “We expect little growth in sales in 2018, given tight inventories,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics in New York.

There has been an uptick in new construction permits nationwide. But it will be a while before this has any measurable impact on housing markets across the country.

According to Aaron Terrazas, as senior economist at Zillow:

“New construction has showed signs of perking up, but remains well below estimates of demand. More importantly, builders face rising labor, materials and land costs making it difficult to build at a price point attractive to entry-level buyers.”

What It Means for Buyers and Sellers

For home buyers, these trends highlight the importance of working with an experienced real estate agent when making a purchase. An agent can help you navigate the local real estate market and make a strong offer in a timely fashion. This is the key to success in a tight, competitive housing market. And those are the kinds of conditions we are seeing nationwide, as we enter the spring home-buying season.

Sellers can benefit from the high demand and relatively low supply we are seeing right now. Under these conditions, homes tend to sell faster and for a higher percentage of the initial list price. Multiple-offer situations are also more common when housing demand exceeds the available supply.

All in all, it should be an interesting spring for the real estate market.

Article provided by MetroDepth content service.