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Buy Now or Rent Longer? 5 Questions to Answer Before Purchasing Your First Home

Deciding whether to jump into the housing market or rent instead is rarely an easy decision – especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer. But in today’s whirlwind market, you may find it particularly challenging to pinpoint the best time to start exploring homeownership. 

A real estate boom during the pandemic pushed home prices to an all-time high.1 Add higher mortgage rates to the mix, and some would-be buyers are wondering if they should wait to see if prices or rates come down.

But is renting a better alternative? Rents have also soared along with inflation – and are likely to continue climbing due to a persistent housing shortage.2 And while homebuyers can lock in a set mortgage payment, renters are at the mercy of these rising costs for the foreseeable future.

So, what’s the better choice for you? There’s a lot to consider when it comes to buying versus renting. Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone. Reach out to schedule a free consultation and we’ll help walk you through your options. You may also find it helpful to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How long do I plan to stay in the home?

You’ll get the most financial benefit from a home purchase if you own the property for at least five years.3 If you plan to sell in a shorter period of time, a home purchase may not be the best choice for you.

There are costs associated with buying and selling a home, and it may take time for the property’s value to rise enough to offset those expenditures.

Even though housing markets can shift from one year to the next, you’ll typically find that a home’s value will ride out a market’s ups and downs and appreciate with time.4 The longer you own a property, the more you are likely to benefit from its appreciation.

Once you’ve found a community that you’d like to stay in for several years, then buying over renting can really pay off. You’ll not only benefit from appreciation, but you’ll also build equity as you pay down your mortgage – and you’ll have more security and stability overall.

Also important: If you plan to stay in the home for the life of the mortgage, there will come a time when you no longer have to make those payments. As a result, your housing costs will drop dramatically, while your equity (and net worth) continue to grow.

  1. Is it a better value to buy or rent in my area?

If you know you plan to stay put for at least five years, you should consider whether buying or renting is the better bargain in your area.

One helpful tool for evaluating your options is a neighborhood’s price-to-rent ratio: just divide the median home price by the median yearly rent price. The higher the price-to-rent ratio is, the more expensive it is to buy compared to rent.5 Keep in mind, though, that this equation provides only a snapshot of where the market stands today. As such, it may not accurately account for the full impact of rising home values and rent increases over the long term.

According to the National Association of Realtors, a typical U.S. homeowner who purchased a single-family existing home 10 years ago would have gained roughly $225,000 in equity — all while maintaining a steady mortgage payment.6

In contrast, someone who chose to rent for the past 10 years would have not only missed out on those equity gains, but they would have also seen U.S. rental prices increase by around 66%.7

So even if renting seems like a better bargain today, buying could be the better long-term financial play.

Ready to compare your options? Then reach out to schedule a free consultation. As local market experts, we can help you interpret the numbers to determine if buying or renting is the better value in your particular neighborhood.

  1. Can I afford to be a homeowner?

If you determine that buying a home is the better value, you’ll want to evaluate your financial readiness.

Start by examining how much you have in savings. After committing a down payment and closing costs, will you still have enough money left over for ancillary expenses and emergencies? If not, that’s a sign you may be better off waiting until you’ve built a larger rainy-day fund.

Then consider how your monthly budget will be impacted. Remember, your monthly mortgage payment won’t be your only expense going forward. You may also need to factor in property taxes, insurance, association fees, maintenance, and repairs.

Still, you could find that the monthly cost of homeownership is comparable to renting, especially if you make a sizable down payment. Landlords often pass the extra costs of homeowning onto tenants, so it’s not always the cheaper option.

Plus, even though you’ll be in charge of financing your home’s upkeep if you buy, you’ll also be the one who stands to benefit from the fruits of your investment. Every major upgrade, for example, not only makes your home a nicer place to live; it also helps boost your home’s market value.

If you want to buy a home but aren’t sure you can afford it, give us a call to discuss your goals and budget. We can give you a realistic assessment of your options and help you determine if your homeownership dreams are within reach.

  1. Can I qualify for a mortgage?

If you’re prepared to handle the costs of homeownership, you’ll next want to look into how likely you are to get approved for a mortgage.

Every lender will have its own criteria. But, in general, you can expect a creditor to scrutinize your job stability, credit history, and savings to make sure you can handle a monthly mortgage payment.

For example, lenders like to see evidence that your income is stable and predictable. So if you’re self-employed, you may need to provide additional documentation proving that your earnings are dependable. A lender will also compare your monthly debt payments to your income to make sure you aren’t at risk of becoming financially overextended.

In addition, a lender will check your credit report to verify that you have a history of on-time payments and can be trusted to pay your bills. Generally, the higher your credit score, the better your odds of securing a competitive rate.

Whatever your circumstances, it’s always a good idea to get pre-approved for a mortgage before you start house hunting. Let us know if you’re interested, and we’ll give you a referral to a loan officer or mortgage broker who can help.

Want to learn more about applying for a mortgage? Reach out to request a copy of our report: “8 Strategies to Secure a Lower Mortgage Rate”
  1. How would owning a home change my life?

Before you begin the preapproval process, however, it’s important to consider how homeownership would affect your life, aside from the long-term financial gains.

In general, you should be prepared to invest more time and energy in owning a home than you do renting one. There can be a fair amount of upkeep involved, especially if you buy a fixer-upper or overcommit yourself to a lot of DIY projects. If you’ve only lived in an apartment, for example, you could be surprised by the amount of time you spend maintaining a lawn.

On the other hand, you might relish the chance to tinker in your very own garden, make HGTV-inspired improvements, or play with your dog in a big backyard. Or, if you’re more social, you might enjoy hosting family gatherings or attending block parties with other committed homeowners.

The great thing about owning a home is that you can generally do what you want with it – even if that means painting your walls fiesta red one month and eggplant purple the next.

The choice – like the home – is all yours.  

HAVE MORE QUESTIONS? WE’VE GOT ANSWERS

The decision to buy or rent a home is among the most consequential you will make in your lifetime. We can make the process easier by helping you compare your options using real-time local market data. So don’t hesitate to reach out for a personalized consultation, regardless of where you are in your deliberations. We’d be happy to answer your questions and identify actionable steps you can take now to reach your long-term goals.

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial, legal, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.

Sources:

  1. CNN –
    https://www.cnn.com/2022/08/11/homes/home-prices-second-quarter/index.html
  2. NPR – https://www.npr.org/2022/07/14/1109345201/theres-a-massive-housing-shortage-across-the-u-s-heres-how-bad-it-is-where-you-l
  3. Bankrate –
    https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/5-year-real-estate-rule/
  4. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis –
    https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/MSPUS
  5. National Association of REALTORS – https://www.nar.realtor/blogs/economists-outlook/price-to-rent-ratios-by-state-from-2014-2019
  6. National Association of REALTORS –
    https://www.nar.realtor/blogs/economists-outlook/single-family-homeowners-typically-accumulated-225K-in-housing-wealth-over-10-years
  7. Statista –
    https://www.statista.com/statistics/200223/median-apartment-rent-in-the-us-since-1980/
Buyer, Mortgage, seller

8 Strategies To Secure A Lower Mortgage Rate

Mortgage rates have been on a roller coaster ride this year, rising and falling amid inflationary pressures and economic uncertainty. And even the experts are divided when it comes to predicting where rates are headed next.1

This climate has been unsettling for some homebuyers and sellers. However, with proper planning, you can work toward qualifying for the best mortgage rates available today – and open up the possibility of refinancing at a lower rate in the future.

How does a lower mortgage rate save you money? According to Trading Economics, the average new mortgage size in the United States is currently around $410,000.2 Let’s compare a 5.0% versus a 6.0% fixed interest rate on that amount over a 30-year term.

Mortgage Rate
(30-year fixed)
Monthly Payment on $410,000 Loan
(excludes taxes, insurance, etc.)
Difference in Monthly PaymentTotal Interest Over 30 YearsDifference in Interest
5.0%$2,200.97 $382,348.72 
6.0%$2,458.16+ $257.19$474,936.58+ $92,587.86

With a 5% rate, your monthly payments would be about $2,201. At 6%, those payments would jump to $2,458, or around $257 more. That adds up to a difference of almost $92,600 over the lifetime of the loan. In other words, shaving off just one percentage point on your mortgage could put nearly $100K in your pocket over time.

So, how can you improve your chances of securing a low mortgage rate? Try these eight strategies:

1. Raise your credit score.

Borrowers with higher credit scores are viewed as “less risky” to lenders, so they are offered lower interest rates. A good credit score typically starts at 690 and can move up into the 800s.3 If you don’t know your score, check with your bank or credit card company to see if they offer free access. If not, there are a plethora of both free and paid credit monitoring services you can utilize.

If your credit score is low, you can take steps to improve it, including:4

  • Correct any errors on your credit reports, which can bring down your score. You can access reports for free by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
  • Pay down revolving debt. This includes credit card balances and home equity lines of credit.
  • Avoid closing old credit card accounts in good standing. It could lower your score by shortening your credit history and shrinking your total available credit.
  • Make all future payments on time. Payment history is a primary factor in determining your credit score, so make it a priority.
  • Limit your credit applications to avoid having your score dinged by too many inquiries. If you’re shopping around for a car loan or mortgage, minimize the impact by limiting your applications to a short period, usually 14 to 45 days.5

Over time, you should start to see your credit score climb — which will help you qualify for a lower mortgage rate.

2. Keep steady employment.

If you are preparing to purchase a home, it might not be the best time to make a major career change. Unfortunately, frequent job moves or gaps in your résumé could hurt your borrower eligibility.

When you apply for a mortgage, lenders will typically review your employment and income over the past 24 months.5 If you’ve earned a steady paycheck, you could qualify for a better interest rate. A stable employment history gives lenders more confidence in your ability to repay the loan.

That doesn’t mean a job change will automatically disqualify you from purchasing a home. But certain moves, like switching from W-2 to 1099 (independent contractor) income, could throw a wrench in your home buying plans.6

3. Lower your debt-to-income ratios.

Even with a high credit score and a great job, lenders will be concerned if your debt payments are consuming too much of your income. That’s where your debt-to-income (DTI) ratios will come into play.

There are two types of DTI ratios:7

  1. Front-end ratio — What percentage of your gross monthly income will go towards covering housing expenses (mortgage, taxes, insurance, and dues or association fees)?
  2. Back-end ratio — What percentage of your gross monthly income will go towards covering ALL debt obligations (housing expenses, credit cards, student loans, and other debt)?

What’s considered a good DTI ratio? For better rates, lenders typically want to see a front-end DTI ratio that’s no higher than 28% and a back-end ratio that’s 36% or less.7

If your DTI ratios are higher, you can take steps to lower them, like purchasing a less expensive home or increasing your down payment. Your back-end ratio can also be decreased by paying down your existing debt. A bump in your monthly income will also bring down your DTI ratios.

4. Increase your down payment.

Minimum down payment requirements vary by loan type. But, in some cases, you can qualify for a lower mortgage rate if you make a larger down payment.8

Why do lenders care about your down payment size? Because borrowers with significant equity in their homes are less likely to default on their mortgages. That’s why conventional lenders often require borrowers to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI) if they put down less than 20%.

Larger down payment will also lower your overall borrowing costs and decrease your monthly mortgage payment since you’ll be taking out a smaller loan. Just be sure to keep enough cash on hand to cover closing costs, moving expenses, and any furniture or other items you’ll need to get settled into your new space.

5. Compare loan types.

All mortgages are not created equal. The loan type you choose could save (or cost) you money depending on your qualifications and circumstances.

For example, here are several common loan types available in the U.S. today:9

  • Conventional — These offer lower mortgage rates but have more stringent credit and down payment requirements than some other types.
  • FHA — Backed by the government, these loans are easier to qualify for but often charge a higher interest rate.
  • Specialty — Certain specialty loans, like VA or USDA loans, might be available if you meet specific criteria.
  • Jumbo — Mortgages that exceed the local conforming loan limit are subject to stricter requirements and may have higher interest rates and fees.10

When considering loan type, you’ll also want to weigh the pros and cons of a fixed-rate versus variable-rate mortgage:11

  • Fixed-rate — With a fixed-rate mortgage, you’re guaranteed to keep the same interest rate for the entire life of the loan. Traditionally, these have been the most popular type of mortgage in the U.S. because they offer stability and predictability.
  • Adjustable rate — Adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, have a lower introductory interest rate than fixed-rate mortgages, but the rate can rise after a set period of time — typically 3 to 10 years.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, 10% of American homebuyers are now selecting ARMs, up from just 4% at the start of this year.12 An ARM might be a good option if you plan to sell your home before the rate resets. However, life is unpredictable, so it’s important to weigh the benefits and risks involved.

6. Shorten your mortgage term.

A mortgage term is the length of time your mortgage agreement is in effect. The terms are typically 15, 20, or 30 years.13 Although the majority of homebuyers choose 30-year terms, if your goal is to minimize the amount you pay in interest, you should crunch the numbers on a 15-year or 20-year mortgage.

With shorter loan terms, the risk of default is less, so lenders typically offer lower interest rates.13 However, it’s important to note that even though you’ll pay less interest, your mortgage payment will be higher each month, since you’ll be making fewer total payments. So before you agree to a shorter term, make sure you have enough room in your budget to comfortably afford the larger payment.

7. Get quotes from multiple lenders.

When shopping for a mortgage, be sure to solicit quotes from several different lenders and lender types to compare the interest rates and fees. Depending upon your situation, you could find that one institution offers a better deal for the type of loan and term length you want.

Some borrowers choose to work with a mortgage broker. Like an insurance broker, they can help you gather quotes and find the best rate. However, if you use a broker, make sure you understand how they are compensated and contact more than one so you can compare their recommendations and fees.14

Don’t forget that we can be a valuable resource in finding a lender, especially if you are new to the home-buying process. After a consultation, we can discuss your financing needs and connect you with loan officers or brokers best suited for your situation.

8. Consider mortgage points.

Even if you score a great interest rate on your mortgage, you can lower it even further by paying for points. When you buy mortgage points — also known as discount points — you essentially pay your lender an upfront fee in exchange for a lower interest rate. The cost to purchase a point is 1% of your mortgage amount. For each point you buy, your mortgage rate will decrease by a set amount, typically 0.25%.15 You’ll need upfront cash to pay for the points, but you can more than makeup for the cost in interest savings over time.

However, it only makes sense to buy mortgage points if you plan to stay in the home long enough to recoup the cost. You can determine the breakeven point or the period of time you’d need to keep the mortgage to make up for the fee, by dividing the cost by the amount saved each month.15 This can help you determine whether or not mortgage points would be a good investment for you.

Getting Started

Unfortunately, the rock-bottom mortgage rates we saw during the height of the pandemic are behind us. However, today’s 30-year fixed rates still fall beneath the historical average of around 8% — and are well below the all-time peak of 18.45% in 1981.16, 17

And although higher mortgage rates have made it more expensive to finance a home purchase, they have also eliminated some of the competition from the market. Consequently, today’s buyers are finding more homes to choose from, fewer bidding wars, and more sellers willing to negotiate or offer incentives such as cash toward closing costs or mortgage points.

If you’re ready and able to buy a home, there’s no reason that concerns about mortgage rates should sideline your plans. The reality is that many economists predict home prices to continue climbing.18 So you may be better off buying today at a slightly higher rate than waiting and paying more for a home a few years from now. You can always refinance if mortgage rates go down, but you can’t make up for the lost years of equity growth and appreciation.

If you have questions or would like more information about buying or selling a home, reach out to schedule a free consultation. We’d love to help you weigh your options, navigate this shifting market, and reach your real estate goals!

Sources:

  1. Washington Post –
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2022/08/04/mortgage-rates-sink-below-5-percent-first-time-four-months/
  2. Trading Economics –
    https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/average-mortgage-size
  3. NerdWallet –
    https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/finance/what-is-a-good-credit-score
  4. Debt.org –
    https://www.debt.org/credit/improving-your-score/
  5. The Balance –
    https://www.thebalance.com/will-multiple-loan-applications-hurt-my-credit-score-960544
  6. Time –
    https://time.com/nextadvisor/mortgages/how-lenders-evaluate-your-employment/
  7. Bankrate –
    https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/why-debt-to-income-matters-in-mortgages/
  8. NerdWallet –
    https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/mortgages/payment-buy-home
  9. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau –
    https://www.consumerfinance.gov/owning-a-home/loan-options/
  10. NerdWallet –
    https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/mortgages/jumbo-loans-what-you-need-to-know
  11. Bankrate –
    https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/arm-vs-fixed-rate/
  12. MarketWatch –
    https://www.marketwatch.com/picks/as-mortgage-rates-rise-heres-exactly-how-more-homebuyers-are-snagging-mortgage-rates-around-4-01656513665
  13. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau –
    https://www.consumerfinance.gov/owning-a-home/loan-options/#anchor_loan-term_361c08846349fe
  14. Federal Trade Commission –
    https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/shopping-mortgage-faqs
  15. Bankrate –
    https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/mortgage-points/
  16. CNBC –
    https://www.cnbc.com/select/mortgage-rates-today-still-relatively-low/
  17. Rocket Mortgage –
    https://www.rocketmortgage.com/learn/historical-mortgage-rates-30-year-fixed
  18. MarketWatch –
    https://www.marketwatch.com/picks/continuing-home-price-deceleration-heres-what-5-economists-and-real-estate-pros-predict-will-happen-to-the-housing-market-this-year-01659347993
Buyer, seller

What is an Appraisal?

What is the home appraisal? When when you need to get a home appraisal? What exactly is the home appraisal based on? How long an appraisal stick with a property? When a licensed home appraiser comes out to your property to do a thorough inspection of the property, they’re going to be looking at all the details of a property and see how they compare to the market and from there determine a true fair market value for the property.

Once you get your report, make sure to look over it, it’s very, very detailed, they’re going to give you a fair market price for the home and this may not be the list price or the contract price, this is a third party objective opinion from the licensed appraiser. An appraisal report is also going to show the conditions of the property. For example, if you’re getting an FHA or a VA loan, there are other conditional things about the property that that appraiser is trained to look for, they’ll do that on the report as well.

It’s important to know if you’re a seller that has an FHA or VA buyer, where the appraisal came in low and you weren’t able to come to terms and had to part ways that the VA and FHA appraisal actually does stay with the property for a certain amount of time. Therefore, if you go under contract right away with another FHA or VA buyer there’s a chance that that appraiser is going to pull the old report and it could under appraise again, just for your reference an FHA appraiser will stick with the property for 120 days, a VA appraisal will stick with the property for six months.

Buyer, Mortgage, seller

Where Are Mortgage Rates Headed?

There’s never been a truer statement regarding forecasting mortgage rates than the one offered last year by Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American:

“You know, the fallacy of economic forecasting is: Don’t ever try and forecast interest rates and or, more specifically, if you’re a real estate economist mortgage rates, because you will always invariably be wrong.”

Coming into this year, most experts projected mortgage rates would gradually increase and end 2022 in the high three-percent range. It’s only April, and rates have already blown past those numbers. Freddie Mac announced last week that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is already at 4.72%.

Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.comtweeted on March 31:

“Continuing on the recent trajectory, would have mortgage rates hitting 5% within a matter of weeks. . . .”

Just five days later, on April 5, the Mortgage News Daily quoted a rate of 5.02%.

No one knows how swiftly mortgage rates will rise moving forward. However, at least to this point, they haven’t significantly impacted purchaser demand. Ali Wolf, Chief Economist at Zondaexplains:

Mortgage rates jumped much quicker and much higher than even the most aggressive forecasts called for at the end of last year, and yet housing demand appears to be holding steady.”

Through February, home prices, the number of showings, and the number of homes receiving multiple offers all saw a substantial increase. However, much of the spike in mortgage rates occurred in March. We will not know the true impact of the increase in mortgage rates until the March housing numbers become available in early May.

Rick Sharga, EVP of Market Intelligence at ATTOM Datarecently put rising rates into context:

“Historically low mortgage rates and higher wages helped offset rising home prices over the past few years, but as home prices continue to soar and interest rates approach five percent on a 30-year fixed rate loan, more consumers are going to struggle to find a property they can comfortably afford.”

While no one knows exactly where rates are headed, experts do think they’ll continue to rise in the months ahead. In the meantime, if you’re looking to buy a home, know that rising rates do have an impact. As rates rise, it’ll cost you more when you purchase a house. If you’re ready to buy, it may make sense to do so sooner rather than later.

Bottom Line

Mark Fleming got it right. Forecasting mortgage rates is an impossible task. However, it’s probably safe to assume the days of attaining a 3% mortgage rate are over. The question is whether that will soon be true for 4% rates as well.

Buyer, seller

Irmo, SC Home with Unfinished Basement

Wonderful cul de sac home in super convenient Coldstream neighborhood in Irmo, South Carolina. Close to everything – shopping, dining, Lake Murray, award-winning schools, and the interstates. Wood floors throughout the entire first floor! The large great room welcomes you in and invites you in to enjoy the wood-burning fireplace. Appreciate the natural sunlight and view looking out to the yard provided from the big bay window in the kitchen. The dining area offers great views through glass doors leading to your brand-new deck overlooking your backyard. The spacious primary suite is located on the main floor and features a large walk-in closet and private bath! Additional half bath and laundry on the main floor for guests. Upstairs you’ll find two additional large bedrooms with brand new carpeting, a shared full bath, and plenty of storage. Both bedrooms have two closets for extra storage space. On the lower level, you’ll find 1,080 square feet of unfinished basement space along with a full bath. The possibilities are endless for this space! Finish the lower level and rent it out or use it for a teen or in-law suite. The space currently would be ideal for an office, man cave, kids’ playroom, or workshop. At one time, it was used for an at-home daycare business. Call me for your personal tour.

Buyer

Governors Grant Neighborhood Tour Lexington, South Carolina

Are you thinking about moving to the Columbia Midlands area in South Carolina? Trying to decide where to live? Have you heard about Governors Grant Neighborhood? This Lexington, SC community features beautiful homes and even more fabulous amenities. Join me on a virtual tour of some unique Lexington real estate.

This charming community of single-family homes is located near Lake Murray in Lexington. This South Carolina neighborhood is unique because it has large lots with mature trees and is zoned for highly rated schools. Did I mention the wonderful amenities it offers as well as being convenient to Lake Murray, downtown Lexington, shopping AND SO MUCH MORE!?!

Yup, this place has it all! We know, there are so many options when it comes to places to live in South Carolina! The possibilities may seem endless! I am here to assist you to see what area of Columbia and the surrounding Midlands would be best for you and your family.

Click here for your FREE relocation guide: ➡️ https://forms.gle/rv74zxwWvcaf8g4v5​