Joe Wolvek

The Truth About Down Payments


 

If you’re planning to buy your first home, saving up for all the costs involved can feel daunting, especially when it comes to the down payment. That might be because you’ve heard you need to save 20% of the home’s price to put down. Well, that isn’t necessarily the case.

Unless specified by your loan type or lender, it’s typically not required to put 20% down. That means you could be closer to your homebuying dream than you realize.

As The Mortgage Reports says:

“Although putting down 20% to avoid mortgage insurance is wise if affordable, it’s a myth that this is always necessary. In fact, most people opt for a much lower down payment.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the median down payment hasn’t been over 20% since 2005. In fact, for all homebuyers today it’s only 15%. And it’s even lower for first-time homebuyers at just 8% (see graph below):

a graph of a number of blue squares

 

The big takeaway? You may not need to save as much as you originally thought.

Learn About Resources That Can Help You Toward Your Goal

According to Down Payment Resource, there are also over 2,000 homebuyer assistance programs in the U.S., and many of them are intended to help with down payments.

Plus, there are loan options that can help too. For example, FHA loans offer down payments as low as 3.5%, while VA and USDA loans have no down payment requirements for qualified applicants.

With so many resources available to help with your down payment, the best way to find what you qualify for is by consulting with your loan officer or broker. They know about local grants and loan programs that may help you out.

Don’t let the misconception that you have to have 20% saved up hold you back. If you’re ready to become a homeowner, lean on the professionals to find resources that can help you make your dreams a reality. If you put your plans on hold until you’ve saved up 20%, it may actually cost you in the long run. According to U.S. Bank:

“. . . there are plenty of reasons why it might not be possible. For some, waiting to save up 20% for a down payment may “cost” too much time. While you’re saving for your down payment and paying rent, the price of your future home may go up.”

Home prices are expected to keep appreciating over the next 5 years – meaning your future home will likely go up in price the longer you wait. If you’re able to use these resources to buy now, that future price growth will help you build equity, rather than cost you more.

Bottom Line: You don't always need a 20% down payment to buy a home. If you're looking to make a move this year, let’s connect to start the conversation about your homebuying goals.

Joe

What's Really Happening with Mortgage Rates?


 

Are you feeling a bit unsure about what’s really happening with mortgage rates? That might be because you’ve heard someone say they’re coming down. But then you read somewhere else that they’re up again. And that may leave you scratching your head and wondering what’s true.

The simplest answer is: that what you read or hear will vary based on the time frame they’re looking at. Here’s some information that can help clear up the confusion.

Mortgage Rates Are Volatile by Nature

Mortgage rates don’t move in a straight line. There are too many factors at play for that to happen. Instead, rates bounce around because they’re impacted by things like economic conditions, decisions from the Federal Reserve, and so much more. That means they might be up one day and down the next depending on what’s going on in the economy and the world as a whole.

Take a look at the graph below. It uses data from Mortgage News Daily to show the ebbs and flows in the 30-year fixed mortgage rate since last October:

 

 

If you look at the graph, you’ll see a lot of peaks and valleys – some bigger than others. And when you use data like this to explain what’s happening, the story can be different based on which two points in the graph you’re comparing.

For example, if you’re only looking at the beginning of this month through now, you may think mortgage rates are on the way back up. But, if you look at the latest data point and compare it to the peak in October, rates have trended down. So, what’s the right way to look at it?

The Big Picture

Mortgage rates are always going to bounce around. It’s just how they work. So, you shouldn’t focus too much on the small, daily changes. Instead, to really understand the overall trend, zoom out and look at the big picture.

When you look at the highest point (October) compared to where rates are now, you can see they’ve come down compared to last year. And if you’re looking to buy a home, this is big news. Don’t let the little blips distract you. The experts agree, overall, that the larger downward trend could continue this year. 

Please get in touch if you have any questions about what you’re reading or hearing about the Boston area housing market.

Joe

 

Key Terms Every Homebuyer Should Learn

Buying a home is a big deal and can feel especially complicated if you don’t know the terms used during the process. If you want to become a homeowner this year, it’s a good idea to learn these key housing terms and understand how they relate to the current housing market. That will help you to feel more confident when you buy a home.
 

Please get in touch so you can get experienced, expert help with your questions!

Joe

Common Mistakes to Avoid after Applying for a Mortgage


When preparing to buy a home, it’s natural to jump a few steps ahead and think about moving in and making it your own. But before you get too far down the emotional path, there are some key things to keep in mind after you apply for your mortgage and before you close. Here’s a list of things to remember when you apply for your home loan.

Don’t Deposit Large Sums of Cash

Lenders need to source your money, and cash isn’t easily traceable. Before you deposit any cash into your accounts, discuss the proper way to document your transactions with your loan officer.

Don’t Make Any Large Purchases

It’s not just home-related purchases that could disqualify you from your loan. Any large purchases can be red flags for lenders. People with new debt have higher debt-to-income ratios (how much debt you have compared to your monthly income). Since higher ratios make for riskier loans, borrowers may no longer qualify for their mortgage. Resist the temptation to make any large purchases, even for furniture or appliances.

Don’t Cosign Loans for Anyone

When you cosign for a loan, you’re making yourself accountable for that loan’s success and repayment. With that obligation comes higher debt-to-income ratios as well. Even if you promise you won’t be the one making the payments, your lender will have to count them against you.

Don’t Switch Bank Accounts

Lenders need to source and track your assets. That task is much easier when there’s consistency among your accounts. Before you transfer any money, speak with your loan officer.

Don’t Apply for New Credit

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a new credit card or a new car. When your credit report is run by organizations in multiple financial channels (mortgage, credit card, auto, etc.), it will have an impact on your FICO® score. Lower credit scores can determine your interest rate and possibly even your eligibility for approval.

Don’t Close Any Accounts

Many buyers believe having less available credit makes them less risky and more likely to be approved. This isn’t true. A major component of your score is your length and depth of credit history (as opposed to just your payment history) and your total usage of credit as a percentage of available credit. Closing accounts has a negative impact on both of those parts of your score.

Do Discuss Changes with Your Lender

Be upfront about any changes that occur or you’re expecting to occur when talking with your lender. Blips in income, assets, or credit should be reviewed and executed in a way that ensures your home loan can still be approved. If your job or employment status has changed recently, share that with your lender as well. Ultimately, it’s best to fully disclose and discuss your intentions with your loan officer before you do anything financial in nature.

Bottom Line

You want your home purchase to go as smoothly as possible. Remember, before you make any large purchases, move your money around, or make major life changes, be sure to consult your lender – someone who’s qualified to explain how your financial decisions may impact your home loan.

Why Pre-Approval Is Your Boston Homebuying Game Changer


 

If you’re thinking about buying a home, pre-approval is a crucial part of the process you definitely don’t want to skip. So, before you start picturing yourself in your new living room or dining on your future all-season patio, be sure you’re working with a trusted lender to prioritize this essential step. Here’s why.

While home price growth is moderating and mortgage have been coming down in recent weeks, affordability is still tight.  At the same time, there are a limited number of homes and condos for sale, and that means ongoing competition among hopeful buyers. If you’re strategic, there are ways to navigate these waters – and pre-approval is the game changer.

What Pre-Approval Does for You

To understand why it’s such an important step, you need to know more about pre-approval. As part of the homebuying process, a lender looks at your finances to determine what they’re willing to loan you. From there, your lender will give you a pre-approval letter to help you understand how much money you can borrow. Freddie Mac explains it like this:

A pre-approval is an indication from your lender that they are willing to lend you a certain amount of money to buy your future home. . . . Keep in mind that the loan amount in the pre-approval letter is the lender’s maximum offer. Ultimately, you should only borrow an amount you are comfortable repaying.”

Getting pre-approved starts to put you in the mindset of seeing the bigger financial picture, one step at a time. The key is actually more than just getting a pre-approval letter from your lender. The combination of pre-approval and strategic budgeting is your golden ticket to understanding what you can actually afford. It saves you from painful heartaches down the road so you don’t fall in love with a house that might be out of reach.

Pre-Approval Helps Show Sellers You’re a Serious Buyer

But that's just the beginning. With more people looking to buy than there are homes available for sale, it creates competition among homebuyers. That means you could see yourself in a multiple-offer scenario when you get ready to make your move. But getting pre-approved for a mortgage can help you stand out from other buyers.

In today's fast-moving housing market, having that pre-approval in your back pocket can be your secret weapon. When sellers see you're pre-approved, it tells them you're a strategic and serious buyer. In a world of multiple offers, that's a big deal. As an article from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) says:

If you plan to use a mortgage for your home purchase, preapproval should be among the first steps in your search process. Not only can getting preapproved help you zero in on the right price range, but it can give you a leg up on other buyers, too.”

Pre-approval shows sellers you’re more than just a window shopper. You’re a buyer who’s already undergone a credit and financial check, making it more likely that the sale will move forward without unexpected delays or issues. Sellers love that because they see your offer as a reliable one. 

So, before you start mentally arranging furniture in your dream home, work with a lender to get your pre-approval set. It’ll save you time, stress, and a lot of headaches that could come up along the way without it. The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to land the home you’re longing for.

Joe

 

Welcome to 2024! Thoughts on Boston Real Estate Moving Forward

 

Welcome to 2024!

  • Interest rates are beginning to fall a bit, and it looks like the economy may be coming in for that soft landing. Look for interest rates to continue loosening somewhat . 
  • Buyer demand has been strong, and we think that will continue and even increase as folks get back into the market.
  • Supply has been tight, but we think that it inventory will increase enough to make a difference. As interest rates soften, we think more sellers will begin to consider their next move.
  • Prices will continue to increase, but possibly on a more predictable slope.
  • Tax relief in MA: $1B in tax cuts will provide a bit of stimulation to the real estate market.

We run our market reports every two weeks, so you can get an almost up-to the minute view of what's happening around town. Take a look!

Thinking about your next real estate move? I'm very happy to answer all of your questions and to assist you with the experienced guidance you need! joe.wolvek@gibsonsir.com (617) 584-9790 

Joe

 

What You Can Do This Winter to Prepare Your Boston Area Home for Sale

As you get ready to sell your home or condo, there are a few things you should add to your to-do list to make it inviting and to boost curb appeal.

It’s a good idea to declutter, take down some personal photos and items, touch up scuffs on the walls, and tidy up your landscaping.

 

Please get in touch for further advice on what else we can do to get your house ready to sell!

Joe

 

Why Mortgage Rates Could Continue To Decline


 

When you read about the housing market, you’ll probably come across some information about inflation or recent decisions made by the Federal Reserve (the Fed). But how do those two things impact you and your homebuying plans? Here's what you need to know:

The Federal Funds Rate Hikes Have Stalled

One of the Fed’s primary goals is to lower inflation. In order to do that, they started raising the Federal Funds Rate to slow down the economy. Even though this doesn’t directly dictate what happens with mortgage rates, it does have an impact.

Recently inflation has started to cool, a signal those increases worked and are bringing inflation back down. As a result, the Fed’s hikes have gotten smaller and less frequent. In fact, there haven’t been any increases since July (see graph below):

 

And not only has the Fed decided not to raise the Federal Funds Rate the last three times the committee met, they’ve signaled there may actually be rate cuts coming in 2024. According to the New York Times (NYT):

“Federal Reserve officials left interest rates unchanged in their final policy decision of 2023 and forecast that they will cut borrowing costs three times in the coming year, a sign that the central bank is shifting toward the next phase in its fight against rapid inflation.”

This indicates the Fed thinks the economy and inflation are improving. Why does that matter to you and your plans to buy a home? It could end up leading to lower mortgage rates and improved affordability.

Mortgage Rates Are Coming Down

Mortgage rates are influenced by a wide variety of factors, and inflation and the Fed’s actions (or as has been the case recently, inaction) play a big role. Now that the Fed has paused the increases, it looks more likely mortgage rates will continue their downward trend (see graph below):

 

Although mortgage rates may remain volatile, their recent trend combined with expert forecasts indicate they could continue to go down in 2024. That would improve affordability for buyers and make it easier for sellers to move since they won’t feel as locked-in to their current, low mortgage rate.

The bottom line is that the Fed’s decisions have an indirect impact on mortgage rates. By not raising the Federal Funds Rate, mortgage rates are likely to continue declining. Let's connect so you have expert advice about changes in the Boston area housing market and how they affect you.

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    If Your Boston Area Home Hasn't Sold Yet, It May Be Overpriced


     

    Has your house been sitting on the market a while without selling? If so, you should know that’s pretty unusual, especially right now. That’s because the supply of homes available for sale is still far lower than what we’d see in a normal year. That means buyers have fewer options than they usually would, so your house should be an oasis in an inventory desert.

    So, if homebuyers have limited choices and your house still hasn’t sold, there’s a reason why. Let’s break one potential sticking point that may be turning buyers away: your asking price.

    Especially with today’s higher mortgage rates already putting a stretch on their budget, buyers are being a bit more sensitive about price. As a recent article from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) says:

    If you are serious about selling your home now, don’t get greedy with the asking price. This is still a seller’s home market as there simply aren’t enough affordable homes for sale in many parts of the country. But with average 30-year mortgage rates above 6%, buyers are much more price-sensitive than they were a year ago.”

    Why Setting the Right Price Matters

    While you want to maximize the return on your investment when you sell your home, you also need to be realistic based on current market conditions. The simple truth is your house is only going to sell for what people are willing to pay right now.

    This can be a hard thing to accept. Especially since emotions can run high during the selling process, which only complicates matters more. After all, you may have lived in this house for years, so it’s only natural you’re emotionally tied to it – and those heartstrings can make it harder to be objective. 

    But it’s important to acknowledge that a bigger-than-expected price tag deters buyers and may make them dismiss your house as a possibility before even seeing it. And if no one’s looking at it, how will it sell?

    If you want to get your house sold, you’ll need to do something to spark interest in your home again. That’s where an experienced and skilled local real estate agent comes in. I use data to find out if it’s priced too high for the local market. I balance the value of homes in your neighborhood, current market trends and buyer demand, the condition of your house, and more to find the right price for your house, so you can close this chapter and start your next one.

    The bottom line is: while it’s true there aren’t that many homes available for sale right now, your home’s asking price still matters. And, if it’s not selling, it may be priced too high. 

    Joe

    Are these Top 3 Housing Market Questions on Your Mind?


     

    When it comes to what’s happening in the housing market, there’s a lot of confusion going around right now. You may hear one thing in conversation with your friends, see something totally different on the news, and read something on social media that contradicts both of those thoughts. And, if you’re thinking about making a move, that can leave you with a lot of lingering questions. That’s where a trusted local real estate agent comes in.

    Here are the top 3 questions people are asking about today’s housing market, and the data to help answer them.

    1. What’s Next for Mortgage Rates?

    mortgage rates are higher than they’ve been in recent years. And, if you’re looking to buy a home, that impacts how much you can afford. That’s why so many buyers want to know what’s ahead for mortgage rates. The answer to that question is: no one can say for certain, but here’s what we know based on historical trends.

    There’s a long-standing relationship between mortgage rates and inflation. Basically, when inflation is high, mortgage rates tend to follow suit. Over the past year, inflation was up, so mortgage rates were as well. But inflation is easing now. And this is why the Federal Reserve has recently paused their federal funds rate hikes, which means many experts believe mortgage rates will begin to come down.

    And in some ways, we’ve started to see hints of slightly lower mortgage rates in recent weeks. But it’s certainly been volatile and will likely continue to be that way going into next year. Some ongoing variation is to be expected, but the anticipation is, that in 2024, we’ll see a downward trend. As Aziz Sunderji, Strategist at Home Economics, says:

    “The bottom line is that interest rates are likely to be lower-perhaps even lower than many optimists think - in the weeks and months to come.”

    2. Where Are Home Prices Headed?

    While there’s been a lot of concern that prices would come crashing down this year, data shows that didn’t happen. In fact, home prices are rising in most of the nation. Experts say that trend will continue, just at a slower pace that’s much more normal for the housing market – and that’s a good thing.

    To help show just how confident experts are in this continued appreciation, take a look at the Home Price Expectation Survey from Pulsenomics. It’s a survey of a national panel of over 100 economists, real estate experts, and investment and market strategists. As the graph below shows, the consensus is, that prices will keep climbing next year, and in the years to come.

     

     

    3. Is a Recession Around the Corner?

    While recession talk has been a common thing over the past few years, there’s good news on that front.

    The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) polls experts on this topic regularly. And last year at this time, most of them thought a recession would have happened by now. But as experts look at all the leading indicators today, they’re changing their minds and saying a recession is getting less and less likely. The latest results show that more experts now think we’re not headed for another recession (see chart below):

     

     

    This is big news for the housing market. And while the 48% to 52% split may seem close to half and half, the key thing to focus on is that the majority of these experts think we’ve avoided a recession already.

    The big takeaway? The data shows there isn’t cause for concern – there are actually more signs of hope. Let’s connect to talk more about the housing market questions on your mind as we head into the new year. 

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