3 Lists to Make When You Start Your Home Search

home search

In this day and age of being able to shop for anything anywhere, it is really important to know what you’re looking for when you start your home search.

If you’ve been thinking about buying a home of your own for some time now, you’ve probably come up with a list of things that you’d love to have in your new home. Many new home buyers fantasize about the amenities that they see on television or Pinterest, and start looking at the countless homes listed for sale with rose-colored glasses.

Do you really need that farmhouse sink in the kitchen in order to be happy with your home choice? Would a two-car garage be a convenience or a necessity? Could the man cave of your dreams be a future renovation project instead of a make or break now?

The first step in your home buying process should be to get pre-approved for your mortgage. This allows you to know your budget before you fall in love with a home that is way outside of it.

The next step is to list all the features of a home that you would like, and to qualify them as follows:

  • ‘Must Haves’ – if this property does not have these items, then it shouldn’t even be considered. (ex: distance from work or family, number of bedrooms/bathrooms)
  • ‘Should Haves’ – if the property hits all of the must haves and some of the should haves, it stays in contention, but does not need to have all of these features.
  • ‘Absolute Wish List’ – if we find a property in our budget that has all of the ‘must haves,’ most of the ‘should haves,’ and any of these, it’s the winner!

Bottom Line

Having this list flushed out before starting your search will save you time and frustration, while also letting your agent know what features are most important to you before starting to show you houses in your desired area.

Homeowners Have Gained $11,000 In Equity in 1 Year

homeowners have gained $11,000 in equity

Recently, some economic experts have wondered whether home prices are accelerating too quickly. In some areas of the country, seller supply (homes for sale) cannot keep up with the number of buyers out looking for a home, which has caused prices to rise.

The great news about rising prices, however, is that according to CoreLogic’s latest US Economic Outlook, the average American household gained over $11,000 in equity over the course of the last year, largely due to home value increases.

The map below, which was created from CoreLogic’s report, shows the average equity gain per mortgaged home from June 2015 to June 2016 (the latest data available).

homeowners have gained $11,000 in equity

For those who are worried that we are doomed to repeat 2006 all over again, it is important to note that homeowners are investing their new found equity in their homes and themselves, not in depreciating assets.

The added equity is helping families put their children through college, and even invest in starting small businesses, allowing them to pay off their mortgage sooner or move up to the home that will better suit their needs now.

Bottom Line

CoreLogic predicts that home prices will appreciate by another 5% by this time next year. If you are a homeowner looking to take advantage of your home equity by moving up to your dream home, let’s get together to discuss your options.

7 Ways The Real Estate Market Is Back

loudoun county virginia real estate market

Some Highlights:

  • Distressed property sales fell to their lowest number since the National Association of Realtors (NAR) began tracking it in 2008.
  • As you can see, with less distressed properties, sales are up in all price ranges
  • Interest rates are still at historic lows, signifying that now is the right time to buy

Appraisers and Homeowners Don’t See Eye-To-Eye on Home Values

what is my home worth?

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 closed recently) to defend the selling price when performing the appraisal for the bank.

Every month, Quicken Loans measures the disparity between what a homeowner believes their house is worth as compared to an appraiser’s evaluation in their Home Price Perception Index (HPPI). Here is a chart showing that difference for each of the last 12 months.

what is my home worth

Bottom Line

Every house on the market has to 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 obstacle that may arise.

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Qualify for a Mortgage…Even If Your FICO Score Is Less Than 750

qualify for a mortgage

The results of countless studies have shown that potential home buyers, and even current homeowners, have an inflated view of what is really required to qualify for a mortgage in today’s market.

One such study by the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, revealed that many millennials have not yet considered purchasing a home, simply because they don’t believe they can qualify for a mortgage.

The article quoted Jessica Lautz, the National Association of Realtors’ Managing Director of Survey Research, as saying that there is a significant population that does not think they will be approved for a mortgage and doesn’t even try. The article also quoted Fannie Mae CEO Tim Mayopoulos:

“I do think that there’s a sense out there in the marketplace among borrowers that credit may not be available, especially for people with lower credit scores.”

Ellie Mae’s Vice President, Jonas Moe recently encouraged buyers to know their options before assuming that they do not qualify for a mortgage:

“Many potential home buyers are ‘disqualifying’ themselves. You don’t need a 750 FICO Score and a 20% down payment to buy.”

So what credit score is necessary?

Below is a breakdown of the FICO Score Distribution of all approved loans in August from Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Report.


fico score

Over 50% of all approved loans had a FICO Score under 750. Many potential home buyers believe that they need a score over 780 to qualify.

Bottom Line

If owning a home of your own has always been a dream of yours and you are ready and willing to buy, find out if you are able to. Let’s get together to determine if your dreams can become a reality sooner than you thought.

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Home Sales Expected to Increase Nicely in 2017

The National Association of Realtors, The Mortgage Bankers’ Association, Freddie Macand Fannie Mae are all projecting that home sales will increase in 2017. Here is a chart showing what each entity is projecting in sales for this year and the next.

As we can see, each is projecting sizable increases in home sales next year. If you have considered selling your house recently, now may be the time to put it on the market.

Why We All Need a ‘Phil Dunphy’ on Our Side

Whether or not you’ve ever seen an episode of Modern Family, or know who Phil Dunphy’s character is, the concept of knowing that you have someone in your corner who is looking out for your best interests is something we all want.

When it comes to buying a home, whether you are a rookie homebuyer or have gone through the process many times, having a local real estate expert who is well versed in the neighborhood you are looking to move into, and the trends of the area, should be your goal.

For those who aren’t familiar, the character Phil Dunphy is a Realtor with a huge heart who always strives to do the best for his family and his clients.

In one recent episode, Phil even shared the oath that he created and holds himself to:

“On my honor, I promise to aid in man’s quest for shelter, to recognize I’m not just in the business of houses — I’m in the business of dreams in the shape of houses. To disclose all illegal additions, shoddy construction, murders, and ghosts. And to put my clients’ needs before my own.” 

While this might seem silly, and it was definitely written with humor in mind, the themes of helping someone achieve the American Dream and putting a client’s needs above your own are not to be taken lightly.

Bottom Line

When you make the decision to enter the housing market, as either a buyer or a seller, make sure you look for an agent who exemplifies these values and will help you through every step of the process.

US Housing Market Moving Further into ‘Buy Territory’

According to the latest Beracha, Hardin & Johnson Buy vs. Rent (BH&J) Index, the U.S. housing market has continued to move deeper into buy territory, supporting the belief that housing markets across the country remain a sound investment.

The BH&J Index is a quarterly report that attempts to answer the question:

In today’s housing market, is it better to rent or buy a home?

The index examines the entire US housing market and then isolates 23 major cities for comparison. The researchers “measure the relationship between purchasing property and building wealth through a buildup in equity versus renting a comparable property and investing in a portfolio of stocks and bonds.” 

Ken Johnson, Ph.D., Real Estate Economist & Professor at Florida Atlantic University, and one of the index’s authors explains that:

“Housing prices, in general, continue to slow and when considered in light of the recent trends in the Buy vs. Rent Index signal that ownership remains an excellent investment for the majority of Americans.”

While 15 of the 23 metropolitan markets examined moved further into buy territory since last quarter, Dallas, Denver, and Houston are three of the major cities that are currently deep into rent territory. In these three markets, it is estimated that renting will top homeownership 7 out of 10 times.

Eli Beracha, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the T&S Hollo School of Real Estate at FIU, believes that, in these three markets, the “strong odds in favor of renting to create more wealth should begin to have an impact on the demand for home ownership and from that, impact property prices in these areas.”

Simply put, home prices in these areas will begin to return to more normal levels once residents realize that renting may be a better choice, therefore bringing home affordability back as well.

Bottom Line

The majority of the country is strongly in buy territory. Buying a home makes sense socially and financially. Rents are predicted to increase substantially in the next year. Protect yourself from rising rents by locking in your housing cost with a mortgage payment now.