Area Real Estate News & Market Trends

You’ll find our blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics and home values to community happenings. That’s because we care about the community and want to help you find your place in it. Please reach out if you have any questions at all. We’d love to talk with you!

Jan. 27, 2020

Weekly Market Update 01-27-20

📊📈📉Hey everyone, Christy Dunfee here with your Weekly Market Update!
Here's whats going on in and around your market.

 

Jan. 24, 2020

Homeownership Among Singles: A Growing Trend

Singles

There's a growing trend among buyers: Single people have become increasingly likely to shop for a home in recent years. Here's why it's noteworthy.

When a lot of people think of buying a home, they picture it as a part of settling down and building a family. There’s a pretty good reason for this; couples and families do make up a significant portion of the home-buying population. But there is a growing trend among buyers that bucks this tradition: Single people have become increasingly likely to shop for a home in recent years.

 

The Importance of Singles Buying Homes

There are multiple reasons why the increase in singles buying homes is noteworthy. The uptick may be due in part to overall changes in society, with individuals marrying or starting families later in life, after trying to achieve stability. It also speaks to the increased economic power of the Millennial generation, with those in their 20s and 30s able to buy a home of their own even as they’re working on building a career.

 

Of course, there is one other important thing about more singles buying homes that is easy to overlook. Those looking to sell their home may focus on making their property as appealing as possible to older buyers or those with families, missing out on this growing segment of homebuyers. Realizing that more singles are buying homes allows sellers to market their property to a wider range of buyers, increasing the likelihood of selling a home quickly and without having to compromise substantially on asking price.

 

Women as Homebuyers

One specific aspect of the increase in single homebuyers that is worth noting is the fact that single women are significantly more likely to buy homes than single men. In fact, as many as 1 in 5 potential buyers is likely to be a single woman according to recent trends. This is around twice as likely as a buyer being a single male. This difference is especially noteworthy when you consider that, on average, women typically earn only around 80 percent as much as men working in similar roles.

 

This is another point that sellers should consider when putting their homes on the market. Not only is it increasingly likely that singles will be interested in the property, but when they are, they will probably be women shopping for a home. This really shakes up old mindsets that focus on married couples buying with the husband as a negotiator trying to get the best price on the home purchase.

 

Attracting Single Buyers

Single homebuyers may have different criteria when shopping for a house than couples or families. They may look for smaller properties, homes with large yards for gardening or other characteristics that might not be as important to couples or families. Location can be viewed differently by single buyers as well; they are less likely to be concerned with school districts and proximity to parks or other family destinations, and more likely to consider proximity to work or attractions that appeal to singles.

 

Realizing how the priorities differ when it comes to buyers who are single versus couples and families can affect how you advertise the home you have for sale. Listings in areas that aren’t ideal for families can be targeted toward single buyers instead, focusing on those aspects that a single woman or man might find appealing. Even if you don’t target your sales specifically toward singles, being mindful of the differences can help you to create home listings that have a wider appeal across a range of potential buyers.

 

Prepping Your Home

If you’re putting your home on the market, it’s important to keep single buyers in mind. If you aren’t sure how to do this, you might consider bringing in a decorator or interior design expert that can help you to make your home as appealing as possible to a wider range of potential buyers. Sign up for a free HomeKeepr account today to find the pro that can help you find the buyer that’s right for you.

Jan. 15, 2020

How to buy a house when you have student loan debt

The majority of millennials don’t own a home — and many have student loans to blame for that. According to a recent survey from Bankrate, a whopping 61% of millennials don’t yet own a home, and nearly a quarter of them say student loan debt is the culprit.

Data from the Federal Reserve shows that 43% of college grads have taken on student loan debt, and as of 2018, the average debtor still owes between $20,000 to $25,000 on their balance.

These debts hold back potential homebuyers two-fold: first, through higher debt-to-income ratios that lenders steer clear of, and second, by making it harder to save for a down payment.

Fortunately, as difficult as it may seem, student loan debt doesn’t preclude you from buying a house. While it does make the process more challenging, there are ways to make it happen. And your financial foundation? That’s the first step.

If you’re looking to buy your first house, but student loan debts are holding you back, this guide can help you navigate the process and come out on top.

Step 1: Improve your debt-to-income ratio

One of the best things you can do to improve your chances of getting a mortgage loan is to lower your debt-to-income ratio. Your debt-to-income ratio (or DTI) is one of the most important factors a lender will look at when evaluating your application. They want to ensure you have the cash flow to handle your new mortgage payment, while also staying current on all your existing debts (student loans included).

For most mortgage loans, you can’t have a DTI higher than 28% on the front-end in order to be considered a good candidate. On the back-end, which includes your estimated mortgage and housing expense, 36% is the max. If you don’t fall under this threshold, then there are a few things you can do to improve it:

  • Pay down your debts where possible. Work on whittling down your student loan debts, credit card debts, and other balances. Use your tax refunds, holiday bonuses, or any extra funds you have to make a dent; even a small reduction in balances can help.
  • Increase your income. If you’ve been at your job a while, you may be able to ask for a raise. If not, a second job, side gig, or freelance work may be able to help supplement your income and improve your DTI.
  • Refinance or consolidate your student loans. By refinancing on consolidating your student loans, you can lower your monthly payment (and the interest you pay), improving your DTI in the process.
  • Enroll in an income-based repayment plan. Income-driven repayment plans allow you to lower your monthly student loan payments so that they’re more aligned with your current income level. These typically allow you to make payments as low as 10-15% of your monthly income.

Don’t know what your current DTI is? Use our debt-to-income ratio calculator to get an idea.

Step 2: Increase your credit score

Your credit score also plays a big role in your mortgage application, as it tells lenders how risky you are as a borrower. A higher score will typically mean an easier approval process and, more importantly, a lower interest rate on your loan.

Making consistent, on-time student loan payments is a good way to build credit and increase your score. Additionally, you can also:

  • Lower your credit utilization rate. Your credit utilization rate is essentially how much of your total available credit you’re utilizing. The less you’re using, the better it is for your score. (Credit utilization accounts for 30% of your total score).
  • Pay your bills on time. Payment history is another 35% of your score, so make sure to pay every bill (credit cards, loans, even your gym bill) on time, every time. Set up autopay if you need to, as late payments can send your score plummeting.
  • Keep paid-off accounts open. The length of your credit history matters, too, accounting for 15% of your score. Leaving long-standing accounts open (even once paid off) can help you in this department.
  • Avoid new credit lines. Don’t apply for any new credit cards or loans as you prepare to buy a home. These require hard credit inquiries, which can have a negative impact on your score.

Finally, make sure to check your credit report often. If you spot an error or miscalculation, report it to the credit bureau immediately to get it remedied.

Step 3: Get pre-approved for a mortgage before you house hunt

Hunting for that dream house is definitely the most exciting part of the process, but before you can start, you first need to get pre-approved for your mortgage loan. For one, a pre-approval lets you know how big a loan you’ll likely qualify for, which can help guide your home search and ensure you stay on budget. Additionally, a pre-approval can show sellers you’re serious about a home purchase and may give you a leg up on other buyers.

When applying for pre-approval, you’ll need to:

  • Provide information regarding your income, debts, past residences, employment, and more. You will also need to agree to a credit check.
  • You’ll need to know what down payment you can offer. If you’re going to use gift money from a loved one, you’ll need a gift letter (from the donor) saying it doesn’t need to be paid back.
  • You’ll have to provide some documentation. Your lender will need recent pay stubs, bank statements, W-2s, tax returns, and other financial paperwork in order to evaluate your application.

If you want your pre-approval application to go smoothly, go ahead and gather up your financial documentation early, and have it ready to go once your lender requests it.

Step 4: Consider down payment assistance

If your student loans are making it hard to save up that down payment (and you don’t have gift money coming from a family member or other donor), then you’re not completely out of luck. In fact, there are actually a number of assistance programs that can help you cover both your down payment and closing costs on your loan.

The assistance usually takes one of four forms:

  1.  A down payment grant. These are interest-free and do not need to be repaid
  2.  Forgivable second mortgages. These are technically second mortgage loans (on top of the one used to finance your house) but are forgiven if you live in the home for  a certain number of years.
  3.  Traditional second mortgage. There are also programs that give you assistance via a low-interest loan. These need to be paid off monthly, just as your initial loan does.
  4.  Matched savings programs. These programs encourage you to save up funds in a dedicated down payment savings account. Then, the institution or agency offering the program matches those funds (usually up to a certain point).

To qualify for these programs, you might need to:

  • Be a first-time homebuyer
  • Have an income below a certain threshold
  • Complete a homebuyer education course
  • Be a military member, veteran, or public servant (teacher, firefighter, EMT, etc.)
  • Commit to a certain level of savings each month

Agencies may also consider your credit score, debt-to-income ratio, and other financial factors when evaluating your application for assistance. The location you’re buying in (and its median income) could also play a role.

Step 5: Look into first-time homebuyer loans and programs

In addition to down payment assistance programs, you can also leverage one of the many first-time homebuyer mortgage programs that are out there — both through the federal government and state-based agencies. All of these programs offer low interest rates, and several require no down payment at all. This can be hugely beneficial if you’re dealing with a heavy student loan burden.

Federal Options

Check out the table below for a list of federal first-time homebuyer programs and the specific requirements for each.

 

Another option: State first-time home buyer programs

Individual states also have their own first-time home buyer programs and assistance offerings. Many of these help with closing costs, down payments, and more. There are also state-backed loan programs that can reduce your interest rate, lower your monthly payment, and help you save significantly over the course of your loan if you qualify.

You’ll find a full list of state-specific resources at HUD.gov.

Step 6: Find a co-borrower

If you have a fellow grad or a friend or family member who also wants to get out of the rent race, teaming up to buy a house could benefit you both. In this scenario, they become your “co-borrower,” applying for the mortgage loan jointly with you.

The advantage here is that it would allow both of your incomes and credit profiles to impact the application. That could mean a higher loan balance, an easier approval process, or a lower interest rate if they have a solid financial foundation. You can also pool your savings for a bigger down payment — another step that will lower your monthly housing costs and save you big on long-term interest.

If you don’t want to outright purchase a house with someone else, you could also ask a friend or relative to become a co-signer or guarantor on your loan. This would allow lenders to consider their income and credit on your loan application, but it wouldn’t actually give them ownership of the property.

The bottom line

Student loan debt can be a drag, especially if you’re trying to buy a house. Fortunately, there are options. By taking advantage of the right loan programs, working on your credit and DTI, and teaming up with the right partners, you can improve your chances significantly (not to mention, lower the cost of buying a home — both up front and for the long haul).

Jan. 13, 2020

Insulation 101

insulation

 

Insulation is an essential part of your home. Not only does it help keep the home warm during the winter, but it also plays an important part in keeping you cool during the summer. Once you start looking at the different insulation options that are available, though, the whole thing can get a bit confusing. To help you make sense of it all, here are some of the basics you need to know about home insulation.

 

How Insulation Works

Insulation works by providing a physical barrier to the transfer of heat through parts of the home such as the walls, ceiling and roof. Depending on the type of insulating material used, it may simply provide a barrier to heat transfer, or it could actually reflect some of the heat back in the direction it came from. In the summer, this means that heat is prevented from entering from outside; in the winter, the insulation stops heat from moving out of the house.

 

Understanding R-Values

Insulation effectiveness is measured by R-Value. The higher a material’s R-Value is, the more resistant it is to heat penetration. Insulations that have a higher R-Value tend to be thicker or made of denser materials able to resist greater amounts of heat transfer than thinner insulations. Some forms of insulation may have a lower R-Value but are still effective; an example is aerosol can spray foam, which can’t be placed very thick, but seals out air. So keep in mind that R-Value isn’t the only measure of how effective insulation is.

 

Types of Insulation

Insulation isn’t exactly a one-size-fits-all product. There are different types of insulation available to meet different needs. Though the specifics of different insulation types may vary, these are the most common types of insulation you’ll see:

  •  
  • Batt Insulation – This is what most people think of when they picture insulation. Batt insulation comes in rolls of material such as fiberglass or cotton that is applied in walls, floors, ceilings or other areas where large amounts of insulation is needed.
  •  
  • Spray Foam – As the name implies, this insulation comes in the form of a liquid foam that is sprayed onto the surface where insulation is needed. The foam expands and hardens, providing a layer of insulation that can fill gaps, cracks and other areas that other insulation types often miss.
  •  
  • Blown-In Insulation – Similar to spray foam insulation, blown-in insulation is applied by a blower instead of coming in rolls. Instead of originating as a liquid, however, this insulation is made of small bits of fiberglass or cellulose and fills in the area where it is blown. It provides excellent heat retention and creates a sound barrier where applied as well.
  •  
  • Radiant Barriers – A specialty insulation generally made of layers of perforated aluminum, this insulation is applied in the attic walls and rafters in areas with warm climates. The insulation reflects radiant energy from the sun, reducing attic temperatures and making heating and air conditioning more efficient.
  •  
  • Window Insulation – This can come in the form of films applied to the window surface, plastic sheeting applied over the windows or even insulation built into the windows themselves.

You may encounter other types of insulation as well, though they are typically intended for more specialty uses than those listed here.

 

Air Sealing

Even high-quality insulation can’t do much if there are cracks and gaps in your walls or foundation that let air flow in and out freely. Finding and filling cracks with a sealant is an important part of insulating your home. There are different sealants available for this purpose, though spray foam insulation works as both an insulator and an air sealant.

 

Insulation Installation

Making sense of different types of insulation and figuring out which is best for your needs isn’t always easy. Fortunately, HomeKeepr can help you find a professional installer who will match you to the best insulation for your home and seal up any air leaks as well. Sign up today for a free account so you can get to work on insulating your home.

Jan. 6, 2020

Weekly Market Update 01-06-20

Jan. 3, 2020

Setting Your Sales Price Too High

Jan. 2, 2020

Renovation Investors and You

Let’s take a closer look at how renovation investors operate and understand how that benefits both home buyers and sellers.

renovation

 

Depending on the condition of the house, renovation can be a major expense. However, this can also present real estate investors with significant opportunities. For those with the right know-how and a good eye for investment properties, homes in need of renovation can be reworked and then flipped for a profit. Some investors actually make a very good living doing just that.

 

So how can these investors help you? Part of that depends on exactly what it is you’re looking for, and whether you’re a potential buyer or you’re looking to sell a property that’s in need of repairs. Let’s take a closer look at how renovation investors work and how that benefits both buyers and sellers to see how this matches your needs.

 

Renovation Investors

Investors who specialize in renovations seek to buy properties at a discount because of issues the property has or repairs that it may need, in order to be habitable. Depending on the state of the property, the renovations may be extensive before it’s time to sell. The end goal is to get the property in good enough condition that the investor can sell it for more than was spent buying the property and performing the renovations.

 

In some cases, the investors themselves are the ones doing the renovations. Some investors work with contractors and have them perform the renovations instead. Regardless of who does the work and how involved the investor is in the process, any labor costs are included in the amount that the investor seeks to recoup when the property is finally sold.

 

Renovation Sellers

If you have a property that you want to sell that’s in need of repairs, a renovation investor might be able to cut you a good deal on the property. While you won’t make as much from the sale as you would if the property had already been repaired, this can be a viable option if you aren’t sure of how much repairs will cost or if you’re afraid of a “money pit” situation where the cost of repairs might balloon out of control.

 

While most renovation investors want to purchase properties at as low a price point as they can to maximize their eventual profits, there should be room for negotiation to help ensure that you get a fair deal on the property when its current state of repair is taken into account. If you speak with a renovator who simply refuses to work with you to find a fair price for the property, you always have the option of looking for different buyers or undertaking some repairs yourself to bring up the overall value of the property before it goes to market.

 

Renovation Buyers

If you’re in the market to buy a home, renovation investors can help you get into a nice house at a good price. In most cases, the homes are slightly older – but the repairs that were done by the investor should have the property in much better shape than similar homes of the same age. You may even find renovated homes that are as nice or possibly even better than houses that are newer than the one that was renovated.

 

Of course, when buying a renovated home, it’s important to find out what repairs were done and whether there are any repairs that still need to be made. Local ordinances may require the renovator to have made at least a minimum level of repairs before the property can be sold. When you have an inspection performed, the home inspector should be able to point out any potential issues that might cause a conflict with these legal requirements.

 

Finding a Renovator

Investors interested in renovating and selling properties come from several different sectors of the real estate and finance industry. Fortunately, HomeKeepr can help you find renovators from just about any of them. Sign up for a free account today and make the connections you need to take advantage of the next big renovation opportunity.

Dec. 30, 2019

Weekly Market Update 12-30-19

Dec. 18, 2019

Weekly Market Update 12-18-19

Dec. 16, 2019

What Causes Ice Build-Up on Homes?

ice

 

When the weather is cooler than cool, it can turn ice cold. Unfortunately, this can lead to a lot of ice on and around your home. There are few things that can make you lose your chill faster in the winter than ice-related falls or damage to your home. Excessive ice build-up can create a number of potentially dangerous situations during the winter, so knowing what causes it (and more importantly, how to prevent it) is an important part of staying safe as temperatures drop.

 

Ice Build-Up

There are a few different ways that ice can build up during the winter. The most basic ice buildup is just a thin layer of ice that covers large portions of the house, sometimes accompanied with snow or other precipitation. This usually isn’t that big of a deal. Of greater concern are large icicles, sheets of ice and snow that build up on the roof, frozen gutters and built up ice at the edge of the roof known as an ice dam. These can be dangerous in several ways, both to you and to your house.

 

Frozen Gutters

When ice freezes in your gutters, it places extra strain on the screws or clips holding the gutters in place. Overflow can result in icicles hanging from the gutters, and if the buildup gets too heavy it can actually pull the gutters away from your roof. This is particularly dangerous because that heavy ice can then fall to the ground… bringing part of your gutter with it.

 

Ice Dams

If a portion of your roof becomes warm enough to melt some of the snow and ice on top of it, an ice dam can form. That melted snow or ice will trickle down the roof as water, reaching the eaves or gutter and encountering much colder materials where it will freeze again. This process continues until there is a buildup of ice at the very edge of the roof, with liquid water attempting to flow underneath it. The ice can overflow onto your gutters, while the water forces its way under shingles and possibly through other materials until it freezes and expands. The longer the ice dam continues this process, the thicker it becomes and the more damage it can do.

 

Other Forms of Ice

Ice sheets and icicles also present dangers during the winter. Icicles form when liquid water gradually drips at the same spot over time, freezing more and more until it grows large enough to potentially break free and fall to the ground. Ice sheets form similarly to ice dams, but instead of melting entirely the heat of the roof only melts a small portion of the ice sitting on it. The remaining ice is able to shift under its own weight due to the thin layer of water underneath it, and in some cases may slide down the roof and fall to the ground.

 

Removing Ice Build-Up

Care should be taken when trying to remove any form of ice build-up. Don’t use any sharp implement as it can damage your roof, gutters or walls. Instead, tap away at the ice with a blunt mallet or pole. Work in small sections, making sure that there is someone with you to brace your ladder in case the ice shifts. Apply a calcium chloride ice melter to the ice beforehand, if possible, to melt as much of it as you can (but don’t use rock salt or other chemicals that can damage your home.) Take every precaution you can before you start trying to remove the ice, because even when you’re prepared, it can be dangerous.

 

Preventing Build-Up

To prevent ice build-up, work on improving ventilation in your attic to ensure even heating and consult an energy efficiency expert to see if there are other steps you can take. Use a snow rake to remove snow and ice buildup from the roof before it can become a problem, and clean your gutters thoroughly before winter weather sets in. If you have a continuing problem with build-up, you might also consider replacing some or all of your existing roof with a standing-seam metal roof with a water-repellant membrane underneath it.

 

Playing It Safe

Removing built-up ice dams and sheet ice can be dangerous. If you’re not careful, you can also damage your roof in the process. Let HomeKeepr help you find an expert with experience when it comes to safely getting rid of the ice around your home. If the damage has already been done, you can find an experienced roofer on the platform as well. Sign up today for free and get ready for an ice-free tomorrow.