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In a recent survey, How America Views Homeownership, it was revealed that 68% of Americans feel that now is a good time to buy a home and 95% said they want to own a home if they don’t already. Franklin Codel, head of Wells Fargo home mortgage production, explains:
“Although the home buying process has changed in many ways in recent years, our survey found Americans still view homeownership as an achievement to be proud of and many believe that now is a good time to buy a home.”
Confusion Creates Paralysis
However, the survey also reported that many are afraid to purchase a home because of uncertainty about “qualifying for a mortgage or navigating the home buying process”. Though 74% said they “know and understand” the financial process involved in buying a home, they also gave answers that suggest otherwise. For example:
- 30% of respondents believe that only individuals with high incomes can obtain a mortgage
- 64% of respondents believe they must have a “very good” credit score to buy a home
- 44% believe that a 20% down payment is required
In actuality many of these beliefs are unfounded. Let’s look at the question of down payment: Freddie Mac, in a recent blog post addressing the issue, confirmed that there is misinformation regarding the amount necessary when determining the down payment for a home purchase:
“Did you know 40 percent of today’s homebuyers using mortgage financing are making down payments that are less than 10 percent? And how about this: since 2010, the number of people putting down less than 10 percent for conventional loans has grown three fold. So, not only are low down payment options real, they represent a significant portion of today’s purchases.”
Christina Boyle, Freddie Mac’s VP and Head of Single-Family Sales & Relationship Management explained further:
- A person “can get a conforming, conventional mortgage with a down payment of as little as 5 percent (sometimes with as little as 3 percent coming out of their own pockets)”.
- Qualified borrowers can further reduce the down payment coming out of their own pockets to 3 percent by lining up gifts from family, grants or loans from non-profits or public agencies.
Education is the Key
Boyle talked about the importance of educating potential buyers:
“Letting more consumers know how down payments are determined could bring more qualified borrowers off the sidelines. Depending on their credit history and other factors, many borrowers can expect to make a down payment of about 5 or 10 percent.”
“It is important for prospective homebuyers to feel empowered to ask lenders and real estate agents questions about available options, such as down payment assistance or FHA loan programs or VA loans for veterans.”
If you are saving for either your first home or that perfect move-up dream house, make sure you know all your options. You may be pleasantly surprised. For more information about qualifying for a mortgage or buying a home, contact us today at 775-432-6300.
Eric Belsky is Managing Director of the Joint Center of Housing Studies at Harvard University. He also currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Housing Research and Housing Policy Debate. Last year, he released a paper on homeownership – The Dream Lives On: the Future of Homeownership in America. In his paper, Belsky reveals five financial reasons people should consider buying a home.
Here are the five reasons, each followed by an excerpt from the study:
1.) Housing is typically the one leveraged investment available.
“Few households are interested in borrowing money to buy stocks and bonds and few lenders are willing to lend them the money. As a result, homeownership allows households to amplify any appreciation on the value of their homes by a leverage factor. Even a hefty 20 percent down payment results in a leverage factor of five so that every percentage point rise in the value of the home is a 5 percent return on their equity. With many buyers putting 10 percent or less down, their leverage factor is 10 or more.”
2.) You’re paying for housing whether you own or rent.
“Homeowners pay debt service to pay down their own principal while households that rent pay down the principal of a landlord.”
3.) Owning is usually a form of “forced savings”.
“Since many people have trouble saving and have to make a housing payment one way or the other, owning a home can overcome people’s tendency to defer savings to another day.”
4.) There are substantial tax benefits to owning.
“Homeowners are able to deduct mortgage interest and property taxes from income…On top of all this, capital gains up to $250,000 are excluded from income for single filers and up to $500,000 for married couples if they sell their homes for a gain.”
5.) Owning is a hedge against inflation.
“Housing costs and rents have tended over most time periods to go up at or higher than the rate of inflation, making owning an attractive proposition.”
We realize that homeownership makes sense for many Americans for an assortment of social and family reasons. It also makes sense financially.
There are some people that have not purchased a home because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize that, unless you are living with your parents rent free, you are paying a mortgage – either your mortgage or your landlord’s. As a paper from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University explains:
“Households must consume housing whether they own or rent. Not even accounting for more favorable tax treatment of owning, homeowners pay debt service to pay down their own principal while households that rent pay down the principal of a landlord plus a rate of return. That’s yet another reason owning often does—as Americans intuit—end up making more financial sense than renting.”
Also, if you purchase with a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, your ‘housing expense’ is locked in over the thirty years for the most part. If you rent, the one guarantee you will have is that your rent will increase over that same thirty year time period.
And, as an owner, the mortgage payment is a ‘forced savings’ which will allow you to have equity in your home you can tap into later in your life. As a renter, you guarantee the landlord is the person with that equity.
Whether you are looking for a primary residence for the first time or are considering a vacation home, owning might make more sense than renting since home values and interest rates are still at relatively low prices.
Q: Are low-ball offers a good idea?
A: Any offer can be presented, but a low-ball one that is extremely less than the asking price can dampen a prospective sale and prevent the seller from negotiating at all. Unless the home is overpriced to begin with, the offer will probably be rejected.
Do your homework before making an offer. Compare prices of recently sold homes and new listings in the neighborhood. It also helps to know something about the seller’s motivation and how long the home has been on the market. A lower price with a speedy closing, for example, might motivate a seller who must move, has another house under contract, or must sell quickly for other reasons.
Also recognize that while your low offer in a normal market might be rejected at once, in a buyer’s market, it might motivate the seller to either accept it or make a counter-offer.
If you are buying a new home on a tight budget, one of the options that will come to your attention is purchasing a condominium or townhome instead of a standard single family home. Because most of them share walls, condos and townhomes are more affordable. But before you consider moving into a multi-family complex, consider both the down and the up sides to such a purchase.
The Difference Between A Condo And A Townhome
New buyers may be confused as to the difference between a condo and a townhome. Both are attached homes, where at least one wall is shared between two units. One difference between them is that a townhome does not have any units above or below, only on the sides. Townhomes are usually at least two stories, sometimes three stories. Condos on the other hand are often single story-although not always-and may have units both above and below as in an apartment building.
But the truly important distinction between the two is in the ownership rights of the buyer. Condo owners have rights that extend only to the walls of the unit, while townhomes usually have rights to the land as well. This can become a little complicated in the legal aspects, but that is the basic difference.
Condos usually have an association, run by the owners in the complex, that helps to take care of the shared areas of the complex and also maintain the standards set out in the rules. The condo association usually handles such things as lawn and garden care, painting of the outside of the building, and roof repair. Some townhomes may have a similar association as well, called a homeowner’s association. It handles things in much the same manner. Associations require monthly fees, and all owners can take part in the decisions made by the board.
Things To Consider
Condos and townhomes have some potential downsides you should consider. There are often rules about pets, so you may not be able to take your dog or cat with you. You will also find that most such homes lack any sort of real yard, although some townhomes have a small yard. Shared green space is often available, but you will not have the same privacy.
There are also some things about this type of home you might appreciate, such as not having to do the maintenance on the exterior of the house or the yard.
Condo and townhome living is very well suited to some people, and less so to others. Consider all of the aspects when you are thinking of buying this type of home and give us a call if you have questions at 775-432-6300.