St Louis Real Estate Blog | St Louis Real Estate Today

Dec. 12, 2017

Before You Make an Offer, Here Are 4 Tips for Success!

Before You Make An Offer So, you’ve been searching for that perfect house to call a ‘home,’ and you finally found it! The price is right, and in such a competitive market, you want to make sure that you make a good offer so that you can guarantee that your dream of making this house yours comes true! Freddie Mac covered “4 Tips for Making an Offer” in their Executive Perspective. Here are the 4 tips they covered along with some additional information for your consideration:

1. Understand How Much You Can Afford

“While it’s not nearly as fun as house hunting, fully understanding your finances is critical in making an offer.”

This ‘tip’ or ‘step’ should really take place before you start your home search process. Getting pre-approved is one of many steps that will show home sellers that you are serious about buying, and will allow you to make your offer with the confidence of knowing that you have already been approved for a mortgage for that amount. You will also need to know if you are prepared to make any repairs that may need to be made to the house (ex: new roof, new furnace).

2. Act Fast

“Even though there are fewer investors, the inventory of homes for sale is also low and competition for housing continues to heat up in many parts of the country.” 

The inventory of homes listed for sale has remained well below the 6-month supply that is needed for a ‘normal’ market. Buyer demand has continued to outpace the supply of homes for sale, causing buyers to compete with each other for their dream homes. Make sure that as soon as you decide that you want to make an offer, you work with your agent to present it as soon as possible.

3. Make a Solid Offer

Freddie Mac offers this advice to help make your offer the strongest it can be:

“Your strongest offer will be comparable with other sales and listings in the neighborhood. A licensed real estate agent active in the neighborhoods you are considering will be instrumental in helping you put in a solid offer based on their experience and other key considerations such as recent sales of similar homes, the condition of the house and what you can afford.”

Talk with your agent to find out if there are any ways that you can make your offer stand out in this competitive market!

4. Be Prepared to Negotiate

“It’s likely that you’ll get at least one counteroffer from the sellers so be prepared. The two things most likely to be negotiated are the selling price and closing date. Given that, you’ll be glad you did your homework first to understand how much you can afford. Your agent will also be key in the negotiation process, giving you guidance on the counteroffer and making sure that the agreed-to contract terms are met.”

If your offer is approved, Freddie Mac urges you to “always get an independent home inspection, so you know the true condition of the home.” If the inspector uncovers undisclosed problems or issues, you can discuss any repairs that may need to be made with the seller, or cancel the contract. Whether buying your first home or your fifth, having a local real estate professional who is an expert in their market on your side is your best bet to make sure the process goes smoothly. Let’s talk about how we can make your dreams of homeownership a reality!

Dec. 6, 2017

5 Games to Keep Guests Entertained Over the Holidays

The holidays are here, which means lots of get-togethers with family and friends. If you're stumped on how to entertain your crew of party-goers, try one (or all!) of these easy and fun holiday-themed party games. And yes, they are all app-free so you can enjoy them unplugged!

Christmas Bingo

An oldie, but goodie! Click on over to download these free printables for an all-ages fun game of BINGO. Supplies needed: bag of Hershey's Kisses and printed bingo cards.

Holiday Alphabet Pasta Game

alphabet pasta

Buy a couple bags of alphabet-shaped pasta and give each team their own bag. Give them 5 minutes to spell out as many Christmas related words as possible. Make sure the words are left out for all to see. Each pasta letter may be only used once. Supplies needed: bags of alphabet-shaped pasta.

Drawing in a Snowstorm

Snowman Drawing Game

The game host instructs everyone to hold a paper plate on their head and to draw what the host instructs them to draw without looking at what they are drawing. At first, those drawing don’t even know what they are drawing. You can of course use anything you’d like. These instructions are for a snowman:

  1. Draw a circle.
  2. Draw a line under the circle for snow.
  3. Draw a smaller circle on top of your original circle.
  4. Draw an even smaller circle on top of the second circle to complete your snowman.
  5. Add 2 arms to your snowman.
  6. Add a carrot nose to your snowman
  7. Give your snowman a scarf
  8. Add eyes and a mouth to your snowman.
  9. Put a hat on top of your snowman.

Once completed, take the plates off your head and admire one another’s artistic talents! Supplies needed: a paper plate and marker

The 12 Days of Christmas

12 Days of Christmas

Each team is given 1 bin with 12 objects, one each to represent each of the 12 gifts given in the song The 12 Days of Christmas. Also included is Post-it notes numbered 1-12. It is up to the team to remember the song, determine which item is representing which gift, and tag them with the correctly numbered Post-it note. Each teams bin should be slightly different from each other so there is no "cheating" going on. Supplies needed: (per team) sticky notes numbered 1-12, one item to represent each of the 12 Days of Christmas. Note: You can make it a bit more complicated by adding items that do not belong.

Elf Movie Drinking Game  Elf Drinking Game

The perfect way to up the fun factor on an adults-only movie night. Make a list of  "take a sip whenever _____ happens" and share with everyone before the movie starts. Just make sure everyone has a safe ride home before imbibing too much. Want a family friendly version instead? Download the PG version here which has players sip hot cocoa and eat marshmallows instead. Supplies needed: adult beverages OR hot cocoa and marshmallows.

Posted in Things To Do
Dec. 5, 2017

Why Is There So Much Paperwork Required to Get a Mortgage?

Why Is There So Much Paperwork With Mortgage Why is there so much paperwork mandated by the lenders for a mortgage loan application when buying a home today? It seems that they need to know everything about you and requires three separate sources to validate each and every entry on the application form. Many buyers are being told by friends and family that the process was a hundred times easier when they bought their home ten to twenty years ago. There are two very good reasons that the loan process is much more onerous on today’s buyer than perhaps any time in history.

1. The government has set new guidelines that now demand that the bank proves beyond any doubt that you are indeed capable of paying the mortgage.

During the run-up to the housing crisis, many people ‘qualified’ for mortgages that they could never pay back. This led to millions of families losing their home. The government wants to make sure this can’t happen again.

2. The banks don’t want to be in the real estate business.

Over the last seven years, banks were forced to take on the responsibility of liquidating millions of foreclosures and also negotiating another million plus short sales. Just like the government, they don’t want more foreclosures. For that reason, they need to double (maybe even triple) check everything on the application.

However, there is some good news in the situation.

The housing crash that mandated that banks be extremely strict on paperwork requirements also allowed you to get a mortgage interest rate around 4%. The friends and family who bought homes ten or twenty years ago experienced a simpler mortgage application process, but also paid a higher interest rate (the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 8.12% in the 1990s and 6.29% in the 2000s). If you went to the bank and offered to pay 7% instead of around 4%, they would probably bend over backward to make the process much easier! Instead of concentrating on the additional paperwork required, let’s be thankful that we are able to buy a home at historically low rate.
Nov. 30, 2017

2 Charts That Show the Truth about Home Affordability

Home Affordability There is a lot of discussion about the current state of housing affordability for both first-time and move-up buyers, and much of the narrative is tarnished with a negative slant. However, the truth is that housing affordability is better today than at almost any time in our history.

The naysayers are correct in the fact that affordability today is not as good as it has been over the last several years. But, we must remember that home prices collapsed during the housing crash, and distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales) kept home values depressed for years. When we compare affordability to the decades that proceeded the crash, a different story is revealed.

Here is a graph of the National Association of Realtors’ Housing Affordability Index. The higher the graph, the more affordable homes are. We can see that affordability is better today than in the fifteen years prior to the boom and bust. CoreLogic just published a report showing the National Homebuyers’ “Typical Mortgage Payment.” Here is a graph of their findings: It reveals that, though a ‘typical’ housing payment was less expensive in 2012 (remember distressed properties), it is currently less expensive than it was in 2000 and is still projected to be lower next year than it was in 2000. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, explained it best:

“While borrowing power for the potential home buyer has fallen relative to the low point of 2012, it remains high today and will remain high next year, relative to the long run average. If you don’t want to rent anymore and are considering becoming a homeowner, even if mortgage rates rise next year, your borrowing power will remain strong by historic standards.”
Nov. 28, 2017

Bubble Alert! Is it Getting Too Easy to Get a Mortgage?

Too Easy to Get a Mortgage There is little doubt that it is easier to get a home mortgage today than it was last year. The Mortgage Credit Availability Index(MCAI), published by the Mortgage Bankers Association, shows that mortgage credit has become more available in each of the last several years. In fact, in just the last year:

  • More buyers are putting less than 20% down to purchase a home
  • The average credit score on closed mortgages is lower
  • More low-down-payment programs have been introduced

This has some people worrying that we are returning to the lax lending standards which led to the boom and bust that real estate experienced ten years ago. Let’s alleviate some of that concern. The graph below shows the MCAI going back to the boom years of 2004-2005. The higher the graph line, the easier it was to get a mortgage. As you can see, lending standards were much more lenient from 2004 to 2007. Though it has gradually become easier to get a mortgage since 2011, we are nowhere near the lenient standards during the boom. The Urban Institute also publishes a Home Credit Availability Index (HCAI). According to the Institute, the HCAI:

“Measures the percentage of home purchase loans that are likely to default—that is, go unpaid for more than 90 days past their due date. A lower HCAI indicates that lenders are unwilling to tolerate defaults and are imposing tighter lending standards, making it harder to get a loan. A higher HCAI indicates … it is easier to get a loan.”

Here is a graph showing their findings: Housing Credit Availability   Again, today’s lending standards are nowhere near the levels of the boom years. As a matter of fact, they are more stringent than they were even before the boom.

Bottom Line

It is getting easier to gain financing for a home purchase. However, we are not seeing the irresponsible lending that caused the housing crisis.

Nov. 21, 2017

Homeowners: Your House Must Be Sold TWICE

Why Your Home Must Be Sold Twice
In today’s housing market, where supply is very low and demand is very high, home values are increasing rapidly. Many experts are projecting that home values could appreciate by another 5%+ over the next twelve months. One major challenge in such a market is the bank appraisal.

 

If prices are surging, it is difficult for appraisers to find adequate, comparable sales (similar houses in the neighborhood that recently closed) to defend the selling price when performing the appraisal for the bank. Every month in their Home Price Perception Index (HPPI), Quicken Loans measures the disparity between what a homeowner who is seeking to refinance their home believes their house is worth, and an appraiser’s evaluation of that same home.

 

Bill Banfield, Executive VP of Capital Markets at Quicken Loans urges anyone looking to buy or sell in today’s market to remember the impact of this challenge:
“Based on the HPPI, it appears homeowners in the markets where prices are rising faster than the national average – like Denver, Seattle and San Francisco – are continuing to underestimate just how quickly home values are rising, so the average appraisal is higher than homeowner estimate. On the inverse of that, homeowners in areas where the values aren’t rising as fast may think they are rising faster than they are, leading to the appraisal lagging the estimate.”
The chart below illustrates the changes in home price estimates over the last 12 months. Appraiser Home Value Estimates Every house on the market must be sold twice; once to a prospective buyer and then to the bank (through the bank’s appraisal). With escalating prices, the second sale might be even more difficult than the first. If you are planning on entering the housing market this year, let’s get together to discuss this and any other obstacles that may arise.
Nov. 16, 2017

Feeling ‘Stuck in Place’? You Aren’t Alone… And There’s Hope!

Feeling Stuck in Your Home Whether you are a renter who is searching for your dream home or a homeowner who feels like your only option is to renovate, you have at least one thing in common: feeling stuck in place. According to data from the National Association of Realtors’ Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers, the average amount of time that a family stays in their home remained at 10 years in 2017.

This mark ties the highest marks set in 2014 and 2016. Back in 1985, when data was first collected on this subject, homeowners stayed in their homes for an average of only 5 years. There are many reasons why homeowners have decided to stay and not to sell. A recent Wall Street Journal article had this to say,

“Americans aren’t moving in part because inventory levels have fallen near multidecade lows and home prices have risen to records. Many homeowners are choosing to stay and renovate, in turn making it more difficult for renters to enter the market.” 

Sam Khater, Deputy Chief Economist for CoreLogic, equated the lack of inventory to “not having enough oil in your car and your gears slowly [coming] to a grind.” Historically, a normal market (in which prices increase at the rate of inflation) requires a 6-7 month supply of inventory. There hasn’t been that much supply since August of 2012! Over the course of the last 12 months, inventory has hovered between a 3.5 to 4.4-month supply, meaning that prices have increased and buyers are still out in force!

Challenges in the new-home construction market have “helped create a bottleneck in the market in which owners of starter homes aren’t trading up to newly built homes, which tend to be pricier, in turn creating a squeeze for millennial renters looking to get into the market.”

“Economists said baby boomers also aren’t in a hurry to trade in the dream homes they moved into in middle age for condominiums or senior living communities because many are staying healthy longer or want to remain near their children.”

So, what can you do if you feel stuck & want to move on?

Don’t give up! If you are looking to move-up to an existing luxury home, there are deals to be had in the higher-priced markets. Demand is strong in the starter and trade-up home markets which means that your house will sell quickly. Let’s work together to build in contingencies that allow you more time to find your dream home; the right buyer will wait.

Nov. 14, 2017

Mortgage Interest Rates Are Going Up… Should I Wait to Buy?

Mortgage rates going up Mortgage interest rates, as reported by Freddie Mac, have increased over the last several weeksFreddie Mac, along with Fannie Mae, the Mortgage Bankers Association and the National Association of Realtors, is calling for mortgage rates to continue to rise over the next four quarters. This has caused some purchasers to lament the fact that they may no longer be able to get a rate below 3.5%. However, we must realize that current rates are still at historic lows. Here is a chart showing the average mortgage interest rate over the last several decades: Historic mortgage rates Though you may have missed getting the lowest mortgage rate ever offered, you can still get a better interest rate than your older brother or sister did ten years ago, a lower rate than your parents did twenty years ago, and a better rate than your grandparents did forty years ago.

Nov. 9, 2017

Thinking About Buying? Know Your Credit Score

Know Credit Score Knowing your credit score or getting a recent copy of your credit report is one of the first steps that you can take toward knowing how ready you are to start the home buying process. Make sure all the information listed on your report is accurate and work to correct any mistakes. The higher your credit score, the more likely you will be to receive a better interest rate for your mortgage, which will translate into more ‘home for your money.' Many potential buyers believe that they need a 750 FICO® Score or higher to be able to purchase a home. The truth is that according to Ellie Mae’s Origination Report, over 53% of loans were approved with a FICO® score under 750 last month!

Here are some tips for improving your credit score:

  • Make payments, including rent, credit cards, and car loans, on time.
  • Keep your spending to no more than 30% of your limit on credit cards.
  • Pay down high-balance credit cards to lower balances, and consider balance transfers to free up credit.
  • Check for errors on your credit report and work toward fixing them.
  • Shop for mortgage rates within a 30-day period — too many spread-out inquiries can lower your score.
  • Work with a credit counselor or a lender to improve your score.

Once you know your score, your next step will be finding a lender and getting pre-approved for a mortgage. Doing this will ensure that you know your budget before you start looking for your dream home.

Nov. 7, 2017

Why Sell Now Instead of Later? The Buyers are Out Now

Spring Kids Playing Each year, most homeowners wait until the spring to sell their houses because they believe that they can get a better deal during the normal spring buyer’s market. However, recently released data suggests that a seller’s best deal may be available right now. The concept of ‘supply & demand’ reveals that the best price for an item will be realized when the supply of that item is low and the demand for that item is high. Let’s see how this applies to the current residential real estate market.

SUPPLY

It is no secret that the supply of homes for sale has been far below the number needed for over a year. A normal market requires six months of housing inventory to meet the demand. The latest report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) revealed that there is currently only a 4.2-month supply. Supply is currently very low!!

DEMAND

A report that was just released tells us that demand is very strong. The most recent Foot Traffic Report (which sheds light on the number of buyers out looking at homes) disclosed that there are more buyers right now than at any other time in the last twelve months. This includes more buyers looking at homes right now than at any time during last year’s spring market. Demand is currently very high!! 

Bottom Line

Waiting until the spring to list your house for sale made sense in the past. This year is different. The best deal is probably available right now.

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