In today’s real estate market, low inventory dominates the conversation in many areas of the country. It can often be frustrating to be a first-time homebuyer if you aren’t prepared.
In a realtor.com article entitled, “How to Find Your Dream Home—Without Losing Your Mind,” the author highlights some steps that first-time homebuyers can take to help carry their excitement of buying a home throughout the whole process.
1. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage Before You Start Your Search
One way to show you are serious about buying your dream home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before starting your search. Even if you are in a market that is not as competitive, understanding your budget will give you the confidence of knowing whether or not your dream home is within your reach.
This step will also help you narrow your search based on your budget and won’t leave you disappointed if the home you tour, and love, ends up being outside your budget!
2. Know the Difference Between Your ‘Must-Haves’ and ‘Would-Like-To-Haves’
Do you really need that farmhouse sink in the kitchen 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 right now?
Before you start your search, list all the features of a home you would like and then qualify them as ‘must-haves’, ‘should-haves’, or ‘absolute-wish list’ items. This will help keep you focused on what’s most important.
3. Research and Choose a Neighborhood You Want to Live In
Every neighborhood has its own charm. Before you commit to a home based solely on the house itself, the article suggests test-driving the area. Make sure that the area meets your needs for “amenities, commute, school district, etc. and then spend a weekend exploring before you commit.”
4. Pick a House Style You Love and Stick to It
Evaluate your family’s needs and settle on a style of home that would best serve those needs. Just because you’ve narrowed your search to a zip code, doesn’t mean that you need to tour every listing in that zip code.
An example from the article says, “if you have several younger kids and don’t want your bedroom on a different level, steer clear of Cape Cod–style homes, which typically feature two or more bedrooms on the upper level and the master on the main.”
5. Document Your Home Visits
Once you start touring homes, the features of each individual home will start to blur together. The article suggests keeping your camera handy to document what you love and don’t love about each property you visit.
Making notes on the listing sheet as you tour the property will also help you remember what the photos mean, or what you were feeling while touring the home.
In a high-paced, competitive environment, any advantage you can give yourself will help you on your path to buying your dream home.
Home values have softened over the last twelve months. We are no longer seeing 6-7% annual appreciation levels for the national housing market. The current numbers are closer to 4%. Some have suggested that year-over-year appreciation levels could fall to 3% or less this year.
However, a stronger-than-expected economy and a good spring housing market have changed some opinions. Some analysts are now predicting that home value appreciation may begin to increase as we move forward.
Here are three examples:
“Data on the movement of unadjusted house prices during the early spring home-buying season won’t be available for a few more months, but it’s quite likely that price appreciation will accelerate again.”
“Home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, increased year over year by 3.7% in March 2019 compared with March 2018…The CoreLogic HPI Forecast indicates that home prices will increase by 4.8% on a year-over-year basis from March 2019 to March 2020.”
· The 2018 4th Quarter survey called for 3.8% appreciation for 2019.
· The 2019 1st Quarter survey raised the appreciation projection for this year to 4.3%.
Price appreciation has slowed over the past year. However, a strong economy and a good housing market have many experts thinking that home values might re-accelerate moderately throughout the rest of this year.
Home prices have been on the rise for the last seven years, leading many housing market analysts to conclude that first-time homebuyers are being shut out of the market due to affordability concerns.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports on the percentage of First-Time Home Buyers (FTHB) on a monthly and yearly basis. Their latest reportshows that FTHB’s made up 33% of buyers in March, which matches their reported share in 2018.
NAR uses survey data from their members to come up with this statistic, so their results do not include every transaction completed. Rather, they only the transactions reported by members who complete the survey.
The other entity that reports on FTHB share is the American Enterprise Institute(AEI). The AEI uses data from mortgage applications that define an FTHB as “any borrower who did not have a mortgage for the preceding three years.”
This means the AEI measurement also includes former homeowners who transitioned out of a home they previously owned and re-entered the market after at least 3 years. The latest FTHB share data from AEI shows that first-time buyers made up 57.5% of all mortgages in August 2018. NAR’s data shows a 31% share for the same time period.
New research from the New York Federal Reserve shows that these traditional reports on FTHB share have been unable to give an accurate depiction of this group’s involvement in the market.
The NY Fed was able to take consumer credit data and identify when a mortgage payment entered a consumer’s credit report to determine when a first-time home purchase was made. Using this data, they were able to show that AEI’s reported FTHB share was consistently 10% higher. The NAR reports were right on par with their findings until 2010, when NAR’s share dropped to the 11% gap seen today.
So, what does this all mean?
First-time home buyers have not disappeared from the market as many analysts had believed. Buying a home is very much a part of the American Dream for younger generations, just like it had been for their parents and grandparents.
This also means that rising prices have not scared buyers away from the market. Many first-time buyers are making sacrifices to save their down payment and make their dream a reality.
If you are one of the many renters who is scrolling through listings on your phone every night dreaming of buying your own home, there are opportunities in every market to make that dream a reality!