Tag Archives: home buyers

HOUSE HUNTING IN THE MIDST OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC

Raymond C. McMillan, BA., Mortgage and Real Estate Advisor – June 27, 2020

I read somewhere many years ago that “where there is a crisis, there is always opportunity”. You may be wondering where to find this opportunity. Covid 19, completely obliterated the spring housing market and will probably do the same for the summer market. These are possibly the two busiest period for homebuyers and sellers. With the recent physical and social distancing guidelines introduced and enforced by all levels of government, it has certainly crippled the real estate sector and change the way sellers and buyers engage each other. However, all is not lost as we discover new ways to house hunt and view homes.

Savvy realtors have quickly figured out how to market homes online and are doing virtual tours that allow potential home buyers to get a real life feeling of homes they are interested in viewing or purchasing. New home builders have also quickly adapted and have also made the virtual home buying experience very user friendly and interactive. Many of the floor plans can be configured by you to show the placement of furniture and appliances to get a sense of the available space. With resale homes, you can use the placement of furniture and appliances by the current owner and occupant as a guide. In the event the home is empty, it could be a bit more challenging to get a good sense of the space as a first-time home buyer, but a good realtor should be able to help you with this.

In areas where home showings are still permitted, and if you are comfortable doing them, you mayt want to exercise extreme caution when visiting homes for sale to avoid being exposed or infected by Covid 19. A few of my recommendations to keep yourself safe and reduce exposure are:

  1. Always wear a mask and gloves.
  2. If you have a pre-existing health condition, I would recommend avoid doing in-house viewings
  3. Only visit homes where the current owners or occupants have vacated the homes to allow for the viewing.
  4. Avoid touching personal items and appliances as much as possible.
  5. Do not under any circumstances view a home at the same time with another individual or family not connected to you
  6. Ensure your realtor is also wearing personal protective equipment and maintaining physical and social distancing guidelines.
  7. Practice the necessary hygiene once you have completed your viewing and returned home to eradicate any potential exposure.

If you are uncomfortable with doing in-house viewings stick to virtual viewings. There are many homes being offered that way, and you are sure to find one in your preferred neighborhood, at your desired price that you absolutely love. So be patient and enjoy the home buying journey.

The writer: Raymond McMillan is a mortgage broker and real estate consultant who has been in the banking, mortgage and real estate industry since 1994. He has been licensed as a mortgage broker since 1999 and has helped many people purchase their homes and invest in real estate. You can reach him at 1-866-883-0885 or visit www.TheMcMillanGroupInc.com

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Wave of homes could hit market when support programs end: RBC

Photo: James Bombales

Toronto, Vancouver and many other major markets across Canada began the year in seller’s market territory with high demand for housing and tight supply giving home sellers the upper hand in transactions.

The COVID-19 pandemic abruptly changed that, shifting the national market away from favouring sellers and into balanced territory. And more changes are coming, according to RBC, which published a housing report this week that predicted more listings will be coming online in the months ahead, potentially tilting the supply-demand balance into buyer’s market conditions.

In a note titled “Canada’s Housing Market Woke up in May,” RBC Senior Economist Robert Hogue wrote that, to date, listings supply and buyer demand have mostly ebbed in lockstep during the pandemic. This alignment has allowed the market to maintain balance and prices to remain steady, so far.

There were hints that this was shifting in national home sales data for May published by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) this week. New listings spiked 69 percent in May from their April lowpoint while sales rose 57 percent. While this may not appear to be a significant mismatch, Hogue believes there’s further supply and demand “decoupling” ahead for the market.

“The delay in spring listings will likely boost supply during the summer at a time when homebuyer demand will still be soft — albeit recovering. The eventual winding down of financial support programs is also poised to bring more supply to market later this year,” Hogue wrote.

“Economic hardship is no doubt taking a toll on a number of current homeowners — including investors,” the economist continued. “Some of them could be running out of options once government support programs and mortgage payment deferrals end, and may be compelled to sell their property.”

The federal government announced this week that the Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB) would be extended for another two months, with the scheduled end date now pushed back to early September. The maximum period that one can receive CERB payments was increased from 16 weeks to 24 weeks. Mortgage deferral programs being run by Canada’s large banks are also set to end in the fall.

In commentary published yesterday, Capital Economics’ Senior Canada Economist Stephen Brown wrote that the huge sums paid out through CERB since March have seemingly offset the losses to household income suffered during the same period. This will allow for a stronger economic recovery than was previously anticipated, he wrote.

But even in his relatively upbeat take, Brown said that household income is likely to still fall eventually as employment will remain lower than its pre-pandemic level even when CERB ends in September. He went on to point out that high-earners who lost jobs during the pandemic and are now receiving CERB will have certainly taken a hit to household income, which will bode poorly for the housing market.

When it comes to the anticipated shift from balanced conditions to a buyer’s market for Canadian real estate, Hogue predicted that the timing will be different depending on the market.

“We expect the increase in supply to tip the scale in favour of buyers in many markets across Canada, some sooner than others,” Hogue wrote.

“Vancouver and other BC markets, for example, could see buyers calling the shots as early as this summer. It could take a little longer in Ontario, Quebec and parts of the Atlantic Provinces. Buyers already rule in Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Nationally, Hogue predicted a seven percent decline in benchmark home prices from pre-pandemic levels by mid-2021. However, he wrote, “a widespread collapse in property values is unlikely.”

Source: Livabl.com – Sean MacKay Jun 17, 20200

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Rates Are Historically Low, But It’s Extremely Hard to Get a Loan—Here’s Why (& What to Do About It)

Real estate, like all other asset classes, goes through market cycles. As the market goes up, property values increase, and the ability to get a loan generally becomes easier. As the market goes down, property values decrease, and the ability to get a loan generally becomes harder.

When the loans get harder to obtain, you may begin to ask yourself:

  • Why has it become so much more difficult to get a loan today, when two months ago it seemed easy?
  • And most importantly, how am I going to fund my next deal?

Do I have your attention yet? Good.

Read on, and be sure to watch the video below for further information.

Now, in order to answer the above questions, we need to take a step back and see how lending has evolved in real estate.

Recent History of Lending

I started investing in real estate when I purchased my first duplex in 2004 outside Philadelphia. I used a $30,000 private loan. Since that first deal, I have seen four different lending markets.

From 2005- 2008, real estate went through its infamous “no-doc” period, which basically meant giving out loans with no required documentation. As you can imagine, this did not end well—it caused a collapse in asset prices not seen since the Great Depression.

From 2007-2010, the pendulum swung the complete opposite way, and getting a loan became extremely cumbersome. This period was famous for the ample amount of deals to buy—but no capital to buy with.

For the last nine years, the process of getting money for a deal can be summarized in one word: easy. When I talk about getting money, I’m referring to the debt of the deal.

For example, say an apartment building costs $1 million. For simplicity purposes, I have to raise 25% (or $250K) for the deal from my investing partners, leaving the remaining 75% (or $750K) to be funded by a debt provider, such as a bank, agency, or private lender.

Obtaining that 75% debt has been “easy” up until COVID-19 hit. Now we enter what I call the “corona crazy” environment.

To put it simply, the world has changed—in almost every way—in the last two months. These changes have drastically affected an investor’s ability to get loans on deals.

Where Can You Get Money for Your Next Deal?

Your Network

The first place to look to get money for your next deal is your own network. I talk about the different ways to cultivate your network in order to raise capital in my BiggerPockets book Raising Private Capital.

But even if you could raise all the funds needed for a deal, you probably wouldn’t. Why? Because real estate’s greatest asset is leverage.

The ability to put down a 20- 25% down payment in order to obtain a large leveraged asset is a great wealth creator. (A word of caution here: the opposite is also true—too much leverage is a great wealth destroyer.) So after you raised your initial funds—usually consisting of your down payment, closing costs, capital expenditures, and operating expenses—you turn your attention to the debt market.

While it may be difficult to get a loan, the investor’s reward is that debt is currently experiencing historically low interest rates. As I write this article, the rates are between 2.5- 4%. Those are impossible to beat!

 

Certain Banks

Not all banks are lending these days. In fact, most aren’t. To understand which are, you need to know where the banks get their money.

Balance sheet lenders use the money that’s been deposited with them to fund loans. They lend it out and earn interest on the loan. Since the funds are staying on the balance sheets of the bank, the bank can hold onto the loan for as long as it chooses. These balance sheet lenders are typically smaller, regional banks.

The alternative to a balance sheet lender is a warehouse lender, where an enormous bank or a large institution like Fannie or Freddie provides, in essence, a line of credit for small intermediaries to originate loans. The main goal for a warehouse line is to originate loans and package them up to sell in order to pay back the warehouse line of credit and then repeat the process.

Mortgage loan agreement application with house shaped keyring

So, how do you know which banks to go to?

It’s simple, ask them if they’re a balance sheet lender. (You’re speaking their language now!) Again, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, it just means that the bank is loaning their own money and does not plan on collateralizing or selling the loan.

If they are a balance sheet lender, you will have a better chance of them funding your deal. If they’re not, then there’s a very good chance they are not lending at this time.

And if they are lending, you may have another problem…

Why Is It Much More Difficult to Get a Loan Right Now?

Two months ago, it seemed so easy to secure a loan. But because of COVID-19, these warehouse lines have dried up. Some of it is due to the fact that Wall Street funds were backing these lines of credit, but the main reason is the unpredictability of today’s environment. Large institutions are taking a pause and shutting off the spigot.

The second major reason is that when the debt providers underwrite your deal, they look at the income available to pay down the loan. This is commonly known as the debt service coverage ratio (DSCR).

Up until the corona craziness, residential real estate has been fairly stable from an income perspective. When people decide which bills to pay, rent is usually given the highest priority in the hierarchy of expenses. Because of this factor, banks were always able to make certain assumptions on income projections—which in turn made underwriting easier for the banks.

credit-report-loan

However, in the tumultuousness we’re currently living in, underwriters have no way of projecting what the future income for a property will be. Compounding this issue, the numbers are looking worse and not better in the near future, as unemployment approaches Great Depression levels.

With this bleak outlook, a lender’s best chance to underwrite your deal is if the current month’s rent collection is strong. This can be a saving grace for current loan applicants or a death blow if the collections weren’t so hot.

Related: 12 Influential Investors Weigh in on How to Survive the Coronavirus Crisis

The Gorilla in the Room

And now it’s time to talk about the big gorilla in the room: Fannie and Freddie, who collectively are commonly referred to as agency debt. Agency debt is insured by the federal government and provides lenders the funds needed to loan on everything from a single-family all the way up to hundreds of units.

Given the vacuum created by the warehouse lenders stopping their loans, Fannie and Freddie have changed their terms. Fannie and Freddie are now requiring anywhere from six to 18 months of operating expenses. While they do give back the funds if your deal performs, it requires the investor to raise an enormous amount of escrow just to close a deal.

Conclusion

So, how are YOU going to fund your next deal?

In short, this article is a snapshot of today’s lending environment. You need to be aware of who you should go to for the best chance of securing a loan.

There are two main options in funding a deal right now: a balance sheet bank lender and agency debt. Without strong income in the current month, a balance sheet lender most likely won’t lend you the money, and without strong reserves, agency debt won’t lend you the money.

But then again, getting into a deal without strong income and reserves may not be the best thing for you anyway.

As mentioned, if you want to hear the full discussion on this, be sure to watch the video here.

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Source: BiggerPockets.com – Matt Faircloth

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FOUR STEPS TO BUYING YOUR FIRST HOME

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Raymond C. McMillan BA., Mortgage and Real Estate Advisor – May 4, 2020

A few years ago, I was listening to a program on a local television station and they were discussing the benefits of investing in the stock market and renting over buying your own home. The guest on the program believed it made more sense to pay rent and invest in the stock market, than purchase a home. Then the TV host asked him if he owned his own home, and he responded “yes”. At that point, I turned the television off.

Many will say that in some cases homeownership is overrated. I strongly disagree. Owning a home is one of the fastest ways to grow your net worth and start the journey to creating generational wealth. Not only is growing your net worth important but it is a proven fact that children who grow up in homes, display better overall social character traits.

Buying your first home is much easier than you think, if you have a plan. There are four basic steps in the journey of homeownership. These are: understanding your credit and debt, your down payment, your employment and sources of income, and finding the right home

Understanding Your Credit and Debt: Your credit plays an important role in purchasing your home. Your credit profile or credit report gives the lender a snapshot of the way you manage your finances which determines if you are a good or bad credit risk when it comes to lending you money. This is done by reviewing your credit report. Your credit report is made up of information collected by three agencies and is shared with lenders. The agencies are Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. The agencies use a scoring system to determine your credit worthiness. The score ranges from 360 to 850, with 360 being the worse score and 850 being the best. Ideally your score should be within the range of 620 to 750*. The credit score is determined by how well you pay your bills and how much is owed on credit cards and instalment loans. If your bills are not paid in a timely manner, and you carry high credit card balances, your credit score will be lower. If your bills are paid on time and you have low outstanding balances on your credit cards, you will have a higher credit score. To check your credit score, you can contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax Phone: 800-685-1111, Experian Phone: 888- 397-3742 and TransUnion Phone: 800-909-8872.

Down Payment: The next step in the home purchasing journey is having your down payment. Your down payment is the required funds the lender needs you to have to qualify for the home you are purchasing. This can range from 3% – 20% of the home purchase price.  The minimum amount of down payment required is 3% of the purchase price of the home. Therefore, if you are purchasing a home for $300,000.00, your minimum required down payment will be a minimum of $9,000.00. Where do you get these funds? It could be a gift from family, money you saved over time or a loan. If it is a loan, you will have to ensure that you are still able to qualify for the mortgage with this additional debt. Once you decide to go house hunting you will be required to have this money readily available. Remember, you will also need money for your closing costs. These closing costs include but are not limited to your lender fees and title fees.

Employment and Sources of Income: The lender will look at are your income sources. This will allow them to understand your ability to pay for the home you intend to purchase. Prior to beginning your search for a home, you should examine your budget to determine how much you can comfortably afford to pay monthly for your mortgage. Remember, home ownership should be enjoyable, not a stressful experience. So, what are the main income sources? These include salary and hourly wages, commission income, self employed income, alimony and child support, investment income, pension income and income from a trust. Note any sources of income that are used for the mortgage application, will be validated by the lender.

Your Home: This is without a doubt the most exciting part of the home buying process, and the one that needs careful analysis. Now that you have knowledge of our credit rating, have your down payment and have been pre-approved based on your income, it is time to determine what home works best for you. My recommendation is to assess your needs. If you are single a condo may work best. If you have a young family, then it many be important to have a backyard for the children. If you work in the city, it may be important to be close to transit. There is much to be considered when determining where to buy your first home. You want to ensure the neighbourhood works for you, because you may be there for a while. Some things to consider are: is it close to transit? What are the schools like if you have school age children? How close or far it is from your family and friends? What is the crime statistics like? Is it a declining or improving neighbourhood? Are there parks and cycling and running trails close by? I am sure you have some of your own things to add to this list.

Now that the four steps have been outlined, it is now time to put your home buying team together.

 

The writer: Raymond McMillan is a mortgage broker and real estate consultant who has been in the banking, mortgage and real estate industry since 1994. He has been licensed as a mortgage broker since 1999 and has helped many people purchase their homes and invest in real estate. You can reach him at 1-866-883-0885 or visit www.TheMcMillanGroupInc.com

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Is the U.S. Hurtling Toward Another Housing Crash?

All of us have a mind-boggling range of challenges to deal with in these stressful and uncharted times of COVID-19. But for many home owners, sellers, and buyers, one concern rises to the top: Are we heading straight into another housing crash?

Little is assured these days, and our current situation is without precedent. But most housing experts believe the wave of across-the-board home-price slashing and desperate sell-offs that characterized the aftermath of the Great Recession are far less likely to materialize this time around.

Why will things be different? Because bad mortgages, rampant home flipping and speculation, and overbuilding all contributed to the last financial meltdown. This time around, the much-stronger housing market isn’t the driver of the crisis—it’s one of COVID-19’s many victims.

That could provide something of a cushion for real estate to prevent another repeat of the late aughts.

“There’s no way we get through this unscathed. But I don’t think the world will fall apart in the housing market the way it did in the last recession,” says realtor.com®’s chief economist, Danielle Hale. “We won’t see prices driven down out of necessity because people were forced to sell like before.”

In fact, the fundamentals of the housing market couldn’t be more different from the economic meltdown of 2007–09. In the lead-up to the Great Recession, it seemed like just about anyone could get a mortgage—or two or three. Today, only buyers deemed less of a risk can score a loan. Credit scores need to be higher, debt-to-income ratios need to be lower, and lenders verify incomes much more carefully.

Additionally, in the mid- to late-aughts, there was a vast oversupply of homes. So when the market crashed, there simply weren’t enough qualified buyers to purchase them. And with all of the foreclosures going up for sale, a result of bad loans, home prices plummeted.

But today, there’s a severe housing shortage that’s keeping prices high.

The biggest wildcards in this current mess are just how long it takes to get the virus under control—and then how quickly the economy takes to bounce back. About 22 million people, or 13% of the U.S. workforce, filed for unemployment in a month’s time. Experts predict unemployment could rise to 15% or even 20% before the pain subsides.

Those financial struggles have made it increasingly difficult for folks to pay their rents and mortgages—let alone purchase starter homes or trade-up residences. Roughly 6% of mortgages were in forbearance as of April 12, according to the most recent data released from the Mortgage Bankers Association.

This has sparked fears of another foreclosure crisis—one of the hallmarks of the Great Recession and its aftermath.

“We’re [not going to] get through this recession without any challenges for the housing market,” says Hale.

Will there be another housing fire sale? Probably not

Deep price cuts are the dream of many cash-strapped buyers—and dread of home sellers. They may not happen this time around, but a slowdown in the price hikes of the past decade are likely, most housing experts say. Home prices may dip—but just slightly, says Hale. (The median home price was $320,000 in March, according to the most recent realtor.com data.)

Prices are driven by the rules of supply and demand. On the supply side there is a record-low inventory of homes on the market, as sellers have been steadily yanking them off. Many don’t want potentially infected strangers walking through their homes and want to wait for the economy to improve so they can fetch top dollar for their properties. Others don’t want their homes to linger on the market unsold during a time when fewer transactions are taking place.

Still, demand for new homes hasn’t evaporated. There are simply too many would-be buyers out there: millennials eager to put down roots and start families, folks who lost their homes during the last recession and want to buy another property, and boomers looking to downsize.

“People need a place to live, and at some point we’re going to get past the virus,” says Robert Dietz, chief economist of the National Association of Home Builders.

And while many potential buyers will grapple with job losses or the prospect of them, others will be lured in by the prospect of superlow mortgage interest rates. Rates were just 3.31% for 30-year fixed-rate loans as of the week ending April 16, according to Freddie Mac.

“I don’t think we’ll see significant price cuts,” says Dietz. “There’s a lot of young people who want to attain homeownership.”

There will likely be a “sharp decline” in home sales until the threat of the virus and its economic toll have waned, says Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors®. But he anticipates sales will pick right back up as soon as things return to some semblance of normalcy. That will also keep prices high.

The luxury market could take the biggest blows, however.

Even in the best of times, these ultraexpensive homes can be harder to unload. But it will likely be harder to find buyers willing to pay top dollar with the economy and stock market in shambles. Wealthier buyers often have more invested in financial markets, which are being buffeted by wild fluctuations.

“The higher-priced homes are the ones that are being withdrawn [from the market] more often,” says Frank Nothaft, chief economist of the real estate data firm CoreLogic. “The lower-priced homes continue to be in really strong demand.”

But not everyone has such confidence that home prices will remain strong.

Ken Johnson, a real estate economist at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL, expects that prices will fall much more along the lines of what many bargain-hunting buyers have been hoping to see.

If the economy reopens quickly, prices may decrease only by 5% to 10% nationally, says Johnson. They could be more or less depending on the individual market. But if the crisis and stay-at-home orders go on for another 60 to 90 days, he anticipates prices will plummet up to 50% as there won’t be many folks shopping for homes.

“I expect sales to dry up. I expect listings to dry up. I expect showings to dry up,” says Johnson. “I hope for the best and fear the worst.”

We’ve underbuilt rather than overbuilt in the run-up to this crisis

The glut of new construction was a calling card of the Great Recession. Newly built homes and communities sat vacant, or mostly empty, after the crash. Cities and suburbs were pocked with stalled construction sites. There were too many homes for too few buyers.

But things are quite different now.  Last year, builders put up just under 900,000 single-family homes, shy of the nearly 1.1 million homes considered necessary to alleviate the housing shortage and accommodate the growing population.

“We entered this [new] recession underbuilt rather than overbuilt,” says NAHB’s Dietz.

But a reduced demand from buyers will likely translate to fewer homes being erected in the near future. And the financial crisis is already making it more difficult for builders to secure the financing needed to put up new homes and developments.

Housing starts, construction that’s begun but not completed, were down 22.3% from February to March, according to the seasonally adjusted numbers in the most recent U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report. Traditionally, this is a time when construction generally picks up alongside the warmer weather heading into the busy spring and summer season.

“Building has been far below average for 10 consecutive years, which is the reason why we’ve faced housing shortages,” says NAR’s Yun. “Today during the pandemic, there are even fewer listings.”

Bad mortgages are largely a thing of the past

One of the biggest culprits of the last economic downturn were riskier subprime mortgages and “liar loans.” Since the housing bubble popped, these loans have largely ceased to exist.

Subprime loans were doled out to less qualified and often uninformed buyers, typically lower-income minorities with lower credit scores. After a set period of time, the interest rates on these loans ballooned higher—well out of reach of the borrowers. They defaulted on their mortgages, which set off the housing bust resulting in scores of foreclosures and short sales.

Liar loans were those given to folks whose lenders didn’t verify their income. That slipshod practice has largely vanished.

“The mortgages made today have much lower risk. Lenders have tightened up their standards for making loans,” says CoreLogic’s Nothaft. “They verify income, they verify employment. Subprime lending and liar loans are gone from the market.”

Of course, it’s still likely to be difficult for even the most qualified homeowners to make their mortgage payments if they’ve lost their jobs or a portion of income to the coronavirus. So the federal government is stepping in.

Mortgage forbearance, as well as loan modifications in many cases, are being offered on government-backed mortgages for up to 12 months for those affected by the coronavirus. Many lenders are offering similar assistance to those who don’t have a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan.

“The mortgage forbearance is going to prevent foreclosures,” says Yun.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be some down the line.

“We will probably see some delinquencies rise,” says realtor.com’s Hale. “And once the moratoriums are lifted, some people are going to struggle to pay their mortgages.”

In addition, investors aren’t running rampant like they were in the aughts. Instead of buying properties to hold them and jack up the prices, they’ve been investing in and upgrading the properties they’re buying. And they’ve had a tougher time of it as the number of foreclosures, short sales, and other cheap and auctioned-off homes have become harder to find as the economy had rebounded.

What does the future of the housing market look like?

How the housing market will fare over the coming months and years is still a mystery, since no one knows just how long this public health pandemic will last and how long the economy will take to rebound. Real estate is likely to suffer until the economy improves and folks feel more confident in buying and selling homes again.

The stimulus bill and extra $600 a week in additional unemployment funding are likely to buoy the economy and “relieve some of the anxiety,” says Yun.

Even in a worst-case scenario, the majority of Americans are still employed. And mortgage interest rates are at record lows. They’re hovering around 3%, unlike the more than 6% they were at at the beginning of the Great Recession.

“This [crisis] is short-term,” says Yun. “We will come out of this.”

Even those with less rosy views believe that a strong rebound for housing may be in the cards.

“If we go for an extended period where we’re under stay-at-home orders, then we can expect a crash on par with the previous one,” says real estate economist Johnson. “But the comeback could be quicker.”

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Should I Buy a House During the Coronavirus Crisis? An Essential Guide

Spring is upon us, which typically involves a big peak of home buyers checking out properties, negotiating, and closing on new places. But the coronavirus outbreak—with its quarantine measures and economic uncertainties—has many a real estate shopper wondering: Should I buy a home now, or wait?

We’re here to help you navigate this confusing new normal with this series, “Home Buying in the Age of Coronavirus.”

This first installment aims to help you figure out whether you can—and should—shop for a home right now, or hold off until this crisis blows over. Read on for some honest answers that will help you decide what to do.

The impact of the coronavirus on the housing market

So what state is the housing market in right now, anyway? While that depends on how bad an outbreak an area is suffering, most markets are feeling some sort of hit.

“The coronavirus is leading to fewer home buyers searching in the marketplace, as well as some listings being delayed,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors®.

The latest NAR Flash Survey: Economic Pulse, conducted on March 16 and 17, found that 48% of real estate agents have noticed a decrease in buyer interest attributable to the coronavirus outbreak.

However, nearly an equal number of members (45%) said that they believe lower-than-average mortgage rates are tempting buyers to shop around anyway, without any significant overall change in buyer behavior.

For those who are determined to buy a home, there is opportunity out there.

“This is the best buyer’s market I have ever seen in my career,” says Ryan Serhant of Nest Seekers and Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York.”

“Sellers are nervous, there’s excess supply, and interest rates have been hovering at historic lows. You can own a home for less per month than you can rent an equivalent property in most areas,” he adds.

With fewer home buyers out there looking, you have less competition in your way.

“Unmotivated and uncommitted buyers have dropped off,” adds Maggie Wells, a real estate professional in Lexington, KY. “Less competition is a huge leg up in this market.”

The window of opportunity for buyers won’t stay open wide forever. NAR data shows that there was a housing shortage prior to the outbreak.

“The temporary softening of the real estate market will likely be followed by a strong rebound, once the quarantine is lifted,” says Yun.

This pent-up demand could eventually push home prices higher. That could mean that the time to strike for bargains is now.

Bottom line: If social distancing has made you realize you don’t love the place where you’re currently spending most of your time, it’s a good time to consider buying.

How the housing industry has adapted to keep buyers safe

Although it’s a scary time to be out and about checking out real estate, it is still possible to do so and stay relatively safe. The industry has rapidly adapted, introducing approaches that minimize exposure to the virus.

For instance, many agents are now working remotely and conducting most of their business virtually.

“Buyer and seller consultations have transitioned to virtual meetings with success,” says Kate Ziegler, a real estate agent with Arborview Realty in Boston.

While open houses or showings may not be easy to arrange because of quarantine or other safety issues, real estate listings have stepped up to the plate by offering virtual tours.

“We can send clients videos of whatever properties they want to see, or we are happy to have our agents FaceTime from a property,” says Leslie Turner of Maison Real Estate in Charleston, SC.

While those who are immunocompromised may want to stay home, if you’re otherwise healthy, it is also still possible to see some homes in person in some parts of the country. You’ll want to take some precautions before you go.

“Hand sanitizer at the door has become the norm, as well as shoe covers, even on sunny days,” says Ziegler.

During the tour, it’s also now customary for the listing agent to open all doors, so that home buyers can explore closets and other enclosed spaces without touching anything as they look.

If you do make an offer that’s accepted and you head to the closing table, real estate agents and attorneys are also adapting to remote closings, to keep you out of a crowded conference room. (We’ll provide more information about virtual tours and remote closings in later installments.)

How to weigh economic concerns

Coronavirus aside, anyone thinking about buying a home is also likely to be weighing whether it’s a smart idea when the economy is in a downward spiral. But in the same way you can’t easily time a stock purchase to make a profit, you can’t easily time a home purchase, either.

“Recession or not, it’s impossible to time the market, whether for buying stock or buying real estate,” says Roger Ma, a New York–based financial planner and owner of lifelaidout.

Just keep in mind that while current market conditions offer an incredible opportunity for home buyers to lock in historically low interest rates for a mortgage, rates are actually going up quickly, because so many people are refinancing.

If you wait too long to buy, you may miss the money-saving boat. So make sure to read up on the latest mortgage rates first.

Besides mortgage rates, home buyers are probably wondering about the stability of their income, as fear of layoffs loom.

“We are entering uncharted territory,” says Michael Zschunke, a real estate agent in Scottsdale, AZ.

On the flip side, putting a property under contract now and locking in a low interest rate gives a buyer some control at a time of relative uncertainty, adds Turner.

The takeaway from all this? It matters more than ever to get pre-approved for a mortgage, to calculate your home-buying budget accurately.

If you’re worried about layoffs, you should buy a home well under budget so you have enough money left over for closing costs, home maintenance, and a rainy day fund. Now is the time to crunch your numbers more carefully than ever before. Below is what you need to consider.

  • Research ways to reduce your closing costs. For instance, many loans allow sellers to contribute up to 6% of the sale price to the buyer as a closing-cost credit.
  • Figure out how much you need to set aside for yearly home maintenance and repairs. A smart budget is to have between 1% and 4% of the purchase price of your home.
  • Be sure to put aside an emergency nest egg for unexpected repairs. On average, it’s a good idea to sock away 1% to 3% of a home’s value in cash reserves.

In our next installment, we’ll explore all the ways to conduct a house hunt safely. Stay tuned! In the meantime, here’s more on buying a home during a recession.

Source: Realtor.com –  | Apr 6, 2020
Margaret Heidenry is a writer living in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, and Boston Magazine.
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The real estate game in Canada has new rules

COVID-19 has changed the way Canadians shop for homes and that may not change, says Phil Soper, president and CEO of Royal LePage.

“The impact of COVID-19 on the Canadian economy has been swift and violent, with layoffs driving high levels of unemployment across the country. While is it sad that these people skewed strongly to young and to part-time workers, for the housing industry, the impact of these presumably temporary job losses will be limited as these groups are much less likely to buy and sell real estate,” says Soper. “From our experience with past recessions and real estate downturns, we are not expecting significant year-over-year price changes in 2020. Home price declines occur when the market experiences sustained low sales volume while inventory builds. Currently, the inventory of homes for sale in this country is very low, matching low sales volumes as people respect government mandates to stay at home.

“It is easy to mistakenly equate a handful of transactions at lower prices to a reset in the value of the nation’s housing stock. Distressed sales that occur during an economic crisis are a poor proxy for real estate values.”

The Royal LePage House Price Survey and Market Survey Forecast released this week says the aggregate price of a home in Canada is expected to remain remarkably stable through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If the strict, stay-at-home restrictions characterizing the fight against COVID-19 are eased during the second quarter, prices are expected to end 2020 relatively flat, with the aggregate value of a Canadian home up a modest one percent year over year, to $653,800,” says Soper. “If the current tight restrictions on personal movement are sustained through the summer, the negative economic impact is expected to drive home prices down by three percent to $627,900.

“In December 2019, Royal LePage forecast the national aggregate price to increase 3.2 percent by the end of 2020. Due to COVID-19, expected price growth has been revised down almost 70 percent compared to Royal LePage’s base scenario.”

The market will return looking different, says Soper.

“As we ease out of strict stay-at-home regimens, sales volumes will return; traditional home sales practices will not,” he says. “The popular open house gathering of buyers on a spring afternoon is gone, and it won’t be coming back any time soon. The industry is leveraging technologies that allow a home to be shown remotely and social distancing protocols, where we restrict client interaction with our realtors to limited one-on-one or two meetings, will continue for months and months. This process is inherently safer than a trip to the grocery store.”

Soper presents two scenarios

• “If the fight against the coronavirus requires today’s tight stay-at-home mandates to remain in place for several months more, with no semblance of normal business activity allowed, temporary job losses will become permanent and consumer confidence will be harder to repair,” he says. “This would place downward pressure on both home sales volumes and prices.”

• “Equally, if the collective efforts of Canadians slow the spread of the disease to manageable levels, and if promising science and therapeutic drugs are announced, people will return to their jobs, market confidence will bounce back quickly, and we could see Canada’s real markets roar back to life, with 2020 transactions delayed but not eliminated.”

Source: thesudburystar April 18, 2020 12:12 PM
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Home sales fell 14% in March as COVID-19 settled in, CREA says


A pedestrian wearing a mask walks past a real estate sign in Toronto. The coronavirus pandemic put a chill on home sales across the country in March. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

Home sales fell by 14 per cent in March as COVID-19 lockdowns slowed the market to a crawl, the Canadian Real Estate Association says.

The group that represents 130,000 realtors across the country said Wednesday that the month started out strong but slowed dramatically in the second half, “as the economic turmoil and physical distancing rules surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic caused both buyers and sellers to increasingly retreat to the sidelines.”

Sales were down just about everywhere from February’s level, including in the following cities:

  • Greater Toronto Area, down 20.8 per cent.
  • Montreal, down 13.3 per cent.
  • Greater Vancouver area, down 2.9 per cent.
  • The Fraser Valley, down 13.6 per cent.
  • Calgary, down 26.3 per cent.
  • Edmonton, down 13.2 per cent.
  • Winnipeg, down 7.3 per cent.
  • Hamilton-Burlington, down 24.9 per cent.
  • Ottawa, down 7.9 per cent.

“March 2020 will be remembered around the planet for a long time,” CREA president Jason Stephen said. “Canadian home sales and listings were increasing heading into what was expected to be a busy spring [but] after Friday the 13th, everything went sideways.”

CREA’s senior economist Shaun Cathcart said the month started out strong and then completely froze in the second half, which threw the overall monthly figure out of whack.

“Preliminary data from the first week of April suggest both sales and new listings were only about half of what would be normal for that time of year,” he said.

On the price side, the average sale price for a home that sold during the month was just over $540,000. That’s basically unchanged from the average selling price in February, but it is up by 12.5 per cent compared to the average seen in March of last year.

Source: CBC.ca – Apr 15, 2020 9:47 AM ET 
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4 Tips for Flipping Houses Successfully

Here’s how to find the right house to flip — and know what sort of renovations will help you command top dollar.

One effective way to make money through real estate investing is to know how to buy and flip houses. Often, this involves buying homes that are priced under-market, such as foreclosures or short sales, renovating them, and then selling them shortly after the fact at a higher price.

But flipping houses isn’t for the faint of heart, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could wind up losing money. With that in mind, here are a few tips for flipping houses that will increase your chances of coming out ahead financially.

1. Find a house to flip in the right location

The purpose of flipping a house is to find a buyer who’s willing to pay a handsome price for your hard work. As such, there’s no sense in buying a home in a stagnant market, because that property is likely to sit for a while once your renovations are done. A better bet? Do your research to find areas where housing is in high demand. Some generally good bets include suburbs of major cities with highly-rated school districts, areas in close proximity to major attractions, or metro areas where housing inventory is generally limited.

2. Make sure you’re buying well below market value

Flipping a home often means sinking thousands upon thousands of dollars into renovations. Even if you’re handy enough to do that work yourself, and have the time for it, supplies and materials cost money. Therefore, make certain the price you’re paying for a home to flip is reasonable, given the amount you’ll need to put into it. This means you may not want to buy a foreclosure at auction, when you’ll often be unable to perform an inspection. A better bet could be a short sale or REO property, where you have a chance to see what you’re getting into.

3. Focus on improvements with the best return on investment

If the home you buy to flip has damaged plumbing and out-of-code electrical work, you’ll clearly need to address those issues if you want to be able to sell it. But once you tackle your “must do” repairs, set priorities on cosmetic enhancements. Typically, you’ll get more bang for your buck if you sink money into kitchens and bathrooms — these are high-profile areas that tend to be important to buyers. At the same time, focus on low-cost improvements that offer a lot of value. For example, paint and carpet are fairly inexpensive but make a huge impact. Refreshing a home’s walls and floors could be a better bet to drive up its purchase price and attract potential buyers than putting in high-end lighting features.

4. Don’t over-improve that property

When you buy a home in disarray, it’s easy to go overboard on renovations to the point where it becomes the nicest property in town. That’s not necessarily what you want. If most homes in the area don’t have marble flooring or ultra-high-end kitchen appliances, follow that trend. You don’t want to improve a home to the point where you have to price it at the very top of its market. Often, buyers will balk at buying the most expensive home on the block because it’s a sign that they may not recoup their investment once the time comes to sell the house .

Flipping a home is a great way to be successful as a real estate investor. Just make sure you know what you’re getting into so you don’t lose money. If you’re not confident, talk to people who have been through the process before. Enlisting the help of a local real estate agent could also help you not only identify the right home to flip, but also invest just the right amount of money into making it marketable.

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Source: MillionAcres.com – By: , Contributor
Published on: Oct 27, 2019
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Why You Should Buy Less House Than You Can Afford

When it comes to real estate, the more you spend, the more money everyone makes. And it happens on every level of your home purchase.

The costs start adding up once you find the perfect place. According to the National Association of Realtors, real estate agents get paid by taking a percentage of the purchase price of your home. In other words, the more you spend, the bigger the payday. And the bigger the loan, the higher the closing costs and borrowing fees tend to be – a benefit that goes directly from your pocket to your lender’s.

In case you were wondering, this is why your real estate professional may pay little attention when you tell them you only want to spend X number of dollars on a new home. It’s not that they aren’t professional, or that they don’t care about your financial situation; it’s just that they only stand to benefit if your budget creeps up a few dollars here or there.

And what’s a few thousand dollars between friends?

Budgeting for Your Priorities

I know – I’ve been there. When my husband and I moved to a new town last year, our income qualified us to spend 300% more than we planned. And even though we told our Realtor what our intentions were, it didn’t stop her from suggesting houses outside our comfort zone. In fact, I remember having plenty of conversations about it, and getting advice like this:

“You know, for every $1,000 you spend, your payment will only go up $16.”

“Your kids are getting older – you need a house you can grow into.”

“Interest rates are so low. You can get a lot more house for your money in today’s market.”

In the end, we bought exactly what we wanted, and actually spent less than we planned. And it didn’t end up that way just because we’re cheap; we based our decision on our shared beliefs and goals.

Still, the principles that steered us toward a less expensive home don’t just apply to us; they could apply to your situation, too. There are some really good arguments against borrowing as much as you possibly can. Here are some of them:

What Goes Up Might Come Down

Decades ago, most people believed housing prices would keep climbing for eternity. I remember my mom telling me years ago that, when she and my dad bought their first home, their Realtor pushed them to borrow as much as possible.

“The more you buy, the more appreciation you will see over time,” they were told.

And that notion made sense at the time. After all, land is a limited commodity, and a growing population will always need somewhere to live. Housing prices should go up forever, in theory. The problem? Just because they should doesn’t mean they will stay that way.

In fact, the housing crisis of 2007-08 proved that market corrections are somewhat inevitable. Although some regions remained relatively unscathed, housing prices dropped an average of 30% nationwide. According to Forbes, some of the most overvalued housing markets, such as Las Vegas, saw housing values drop as much as 60% from 2006 to 2011. And other big markets followed suit. For example, the Chicago area witnessed a 40% drop in real estate prices, Detroit endured a 50% correction, and Phoenix saw housing prices plummet as much as 56%.

If you plan on living in your home forever, you may not care how much your new house will be worth. But what if you need to move?

Need an example? Picture this: Two families are shopping for a house in the same neighborhood. Family A drops $400,000 on their dream home, while Family B spends only $200,000. If housing prices drop 20% over the next two years, which family will be better off? (Hint: Family A would lose twice as much equity as Family B — a difference of $80,000!)

Bigger House? Expect Everything to Cost More

But even if housing prices go up, some costs are inevitable. No matter how much house you buy, the sticker price is only one piece of the puzzle. And when you buy a bigger or more expensive home, almost everything costs more.

For example, more space generally means more square footage to heat and cool — in other words, higher utility bills. And nicer, more expensive properties almost always mean higher property taxes and pricier homeowners insurance premiums.

But that’s not all. A bigger house means everything is bigger and more expensive to repair. A bigger roof will cost more than a small one, and the more windows you have, the more expensive it will be to upgrade or replace them. Flooring is typically priced by the square foot, so more carpet and tile will always lead to higher costs. A bigger yard means more landscaping and a longer driveway means more concrete to pour. The list goes on, and all of those additional costs can add up quick.

Kids Need More Than Room: They Need Money

It’s true that kids may benefit from some extra space in the house. They’ll need a place to bring friends when they come over to visit, and it’s always nice when teenagers are able to have their own room.

But you know what’s better? Having money to help your kids through college. Being able to afford a really nice family vacation each year. Having the extra money to pay for the important things your kids will inevitably start asking for as they grow older – fees for school trips, sports, and activities, spending money for weekends, and even their first car.

Buying a house you can easily afford can mean the difference between having extra money for your kid’s changing needs and being house-poor and unable to afford much of anything. That bonus room above the garage might be nice, but not so much when you consider what you had to give up.

Don’t Forget to Save for Everything Else

Speaking of giving things up, the extra money for a bigger house payment has to come from somewhere. By and large, Americans have large houses but tiny bank accounts. According to a recent survey, the average middle-class worker has a median savings of around $20,000 for retirement. Further, a full third of working middle-class adults aren’t contributing anything to retirement at all – not in a 401(k), Roth IRA, or any other retirement savings vehicle.

The poll in question, which was conducted by Harris Poll and included 1,001 middle-class adults ages 25 to 75, also proved we aren’t great at planning ahead. According to results shared in USA Today, around 55% of participants planned to save more for retirement when they’re older to make up for any shortfalls.

If a bad idea ever existed, that would surely be it. Why? Because compound interest needs time to work its magic – and the later you start saving, the less power it will have.

Simply put, if you want to retire one day, you need to start saving today — or maybe yesterday. Not doing so will only cause you grief down the line or delay your retirement altogether. Simply put, when you buy a house that is unaffordable, you will have fewer dollars to sock away for your future self.

Your Mortgage Doesn’t Have to Be Forever

Most people get a 30-year mortgage and pay that monthly payment until the cows come home. Unfortunately, that usually means they never really own a home until the bitter end.

But wait – do people really stay in their homes for 30 years anymore? According to the National Association of Home Builders, the answer is no. In fact, recent data show the average family only stays in their home for around 12 years.

So if you opt for a 30-year-mortgage each time you move, it could easily mean you’ll be making that monthly payment your entire life. Frugal friends, is there anything more depressing than that?

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way, which leads me to the next reason it makes sense to borrow less than you can afford. Obviously, the less you borrow, the faster you may be able to pay it off. And if you buy a house that is on the lower end of your budget, you may even be able to afford the monthly payment on a home loan with a shorter term.

Imagine paying your house off within 15 years and all of the financial freedom that would afford you. Big, expensive houses may have their own set of benefits, but being debt-free will be priceless.

When Life Happens, You’ll Be Prepared

Good health, youth, and job security are often fleeting. In other words, the amazing standard of living you’re experiencing now isn’t guaranteed to last. Further, a study from 2014 showed that as many as 25 million middle-class families are living paycheck to paycheck, meaning they might only be one illness – or one job loss – away from losing it all.

Look at the monthly financial obligations you have and ask yourself how you would meet them if you or your spouse lost your job, got in a debilitating accident, or experienced any other hardship that resulted in a loss of pay. Would you be okay? Could you easily afford your bills? If the answer is no, then you should try to buy even less house than you have now, and certainly not more!

The bottom line: Tragedies happen every day, but if you leave some breathing room in your monthly budget, you will be much more equipped to take them in stride. And if something unfortunate happens to one of you, having a small, manageable payment might mean the difference between keeping your home – and losing everything.

Deciding on a Price Range You Can Live With

Most mortgage companies believe your total debts should make up no more than 36% of your total gross income in any given year. So when they decide how much you qualify to borrow, they use that figure as a guideline. While other liabilities such as car payments, child support, taxes, and insurance can eat into that amount, 36% is still a pretty generous place to start.

The thing is, even the best mortgage lenders don’t know what kind of lifestyle you live. It doesn’t know if you want to help your kids with college, or if you prefer to take two family vacations every year. They’ve never listened to you talk about your dream to retire early and spend your golden years as you wish. To them, you’re just a number on a page. And they’ll be long gone by the time you realize you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.

That’s why it’s up to each of us to decide what we can truly afford to borrow. It’s up to each of us to set a price range we can live with, and not just one we can live with today, but tomorrow, too.

It all boils down to choices; when you spend less than you can afford, you have them, and when you overspend, you don’t. Just remember to look beyond this year, and even this decade, when you make that choice. You might be giving up more than you think.

Source: The Simple Dollar –  Feb 19, 2020

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