Hey there, house hunters! If you’re diving into the real estate scene in Columbus, OH, and its surrounding suburbs, you’re in for a wild ride. Buckle up because you’re about to navigate through one heck of a seller’s market! But don’t worry, We are here to dish out some insider tips and tricks to help you come out on top, with a little help from Haven Home Realty, your local real estate superheroes.

So, what’s the deal with this seller’s market, anyway? Well, picture this: demand is high, inventory is low, and homes are flying off the market faster than you can say “sold.” Yeah, it’s that kind of party. But fear not, dear buyer, because with the right strategy and the right agent by your side (hint: that’s us), you can still snag your dream home.

Let’s break it down:

Why It’s Tough Out There: So, why is it so darn tough to buy a house in Columbus right now? It all comes down to supply and demand, my friend. Columbus is a hot spot for job growth, cool neighborhoods, and a booming economy. Everyone wants a piece of the action, which means there’s way more demand for homes than there are homes available. Cue the bidding wars and heart palpitations.

But Wait, There’s Hope:

Don’t throw in the towel just yet! While it might seem like a daunting task, navigating a seller’s market is totally doable with the right game plan. And that’s where Haven Home Realty swoops in to save the day. Our team knows Columbus like the back of our hands, from the bustling city streets to the charming suburbs. We eat, sleep, and breathe real estate, and we’re here to guide you every step of the way.

Tips for Conquering the Seller’s Market:

Alright, let’s get down to business. Here are some tried-and-true tips for making waves in Columbus’ seller’s market:

  1. Get Pre-Approved: Before you start scrolling through listings, get pre-approved for a mortgage. This shows sellers you mean business and gives you a leg up in a sea of competing buyers. Plus, it helps you narrow down your budget so you don’t fall in love with a house that’s way out of reach.
  2. Partner with Haven Home Realty: Seriously, don’t go it alone. Our team at Haven Home Realty knows Columbus like nobody else. We’ll hook you up with the inside scoop on neighborhoods, market trends, and hidden gems you won’t find on Zillow. Plus, we’ve got the patience of saints and we’re here to answer all your burning questions (no matter how many times you ask).
  3. Be Flexible: In a seller’s market, you gotta be willing to roll with the punches. That might mean compromising on your dream neighborhood or being open to a fixer-upper. Keep an open mind, and you might just stumble upon your perfect match in an unexpected place.
  4. Act Fast: When you find a house you love, don’t wait around! Homes in Columbus are selling like hotcakes, so if you snooze, you lose. Work with your trusty agent (that’s us!) to craft a strong offer and seal the deal before someone else swoops in.
  5. Stay Positive: Look, we’re not gonna sugarcoat it – you might face some setbacks along the way. But don’t let a few rejection letters get you down. With perseverance and a little help from your friends at Haven Home Realty, you’ll find the perfect place to call home.

Wrapping It Up:

Navigating a seller’s market in Columbus, OH, and its surrounding suburbs might feel like a rollercoaster ride, but with the right approach and the right agent by your side, you’ll come out on top. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s go find your dream home together! Reach out to Haven Home Realty today, and let’s make magic happen.

If there is a home that you would like more information about, if you are considering selling a property, or if you have questions about the housing market in your neighborhood, please reach out. We’re here to help.

Q: What kind of down payment assistance programs are available to first-time homebuyers?

Who doesn’t love free money—especially when it can help you to afford your first home?

Saving up for a down payment on your first home isn’t fun. About a quarter of first-time buyers rated coming up with that money as one of the most difficult steps of the homebuying process, according to the National Association of Realtors®. And it’s not getting any easier. Inflation and rising rents are whittling away at paychecks, student loan and car payments keep coming due, and there always seems to be some sort of emergency you have to throw money at.

That’s where down payment assistance programs can help.

There are at least 2,000 federal, state, regional, and local programs available across the nation. Some employers even offer them. Many of these are little-known programs typically offered by government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private lenders and can put anywhere from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars into the hands of homebuyers.

That kind of cash can help turn someone’s dream of homeownership into reality.

Some buyers can qualify for these programs based solely on their income. Others might be able to secure assistance depending on their professions, military service, racial backgrounds, disabilities, and where they hope to purchase their homes, among other factors.

Homebuyers can search for down payment assistance programs on Realtor.com®. They can also check out their state’s Department of Housing website to see what sort of help is available.

The assistance can come in the form of grants, which are fully forgiven when you close on your home; forgivable loans, where you can keep the money unless you break the terms of the loan; and deferred-payment loans, which you repay at the end of your loan or if you violate the stipulations of your loan. There are also loans that you pay back every month, some with interest rates as low as 0%.

However, there is no such thing as a free lunch—or a no-strings-attached down payment in this case.

Some of the more common stipulations are that the buyers will undergo housing counseling or other education program in order to receive the funds. Many require recipients to make these properties their primary residences, sometimes for a set period of time—or they may have to pay back a portion of the assistance they received.

So don’t skip reading the fine print on the down payment applications.

Also, buyers who receive assistance still need to qualify for a mortgage. Lenders want to see steady incomes, strong credit scores, and relatively low debt.

First-time buyers might also want to consider low or even no-down-payment mortgages. Many folks believe that they must put down at least 20%, but that’s a myth. If you put down that much, you can avoid paying private mortgage insurance every month, which is great. But 20% of the median-priced home of $400,000 in December was $80,000. That’s a lot of money. And it doesn’t include closing costs, which can set buyers back an additional 2% to 6% of their loan amounts, plus repairs, furniture, and an emergency fund.

This is why the typical first-time buyer kicked in much less—just 6% of the purchase price of their home last year, according to NAR data.

Active military personnel and veterans as well as those purchasing homes in more rural areas might be eligible for 0% down loans through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or the USDA Rural Home Loan Program.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac offer several programs to lower-income homebuyers that can require as little as 3% down. The Federal Housing Administration offers loans for first-time buyers with down payments as low as 3.5%.

With fewer buyers in the market, sellers are more likely to accept offers from buyers with lower down payments. (At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, all-cash offers and sizable down payments often won out as many sellers assumed, sometimes erroneously, that buyers who had more cash to put down were on better financial footing.)

There are risks associated with these loans, though. The housing market has been cooling rapidly as higher mortgage interest rates have limited how much buyers can pay for homes. If borrowers get a 3% down loan and home prices in their market fall by 5%, they might find themselves underwater on their mortgage, owing more than their home is worth.

That’s usually not a big problem if you plan to stay in your home for a while as long as you can continue to make your mortgage payments. Home prices typically rise over time even if they fall in the short term. But if you need to sell before the housing market bounces back, you could wind up losing money.

So if you’re dreaming of homeownership but having a hard time saving up for a down payment, it doesn’t hurt to see what sort of assistance might be available to you.

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If there is a home that you would like more information about, if you are considering selling a property, or if you have questions about the housing market in your neighborhood, please reach out. We’re here to help.

Selling your house and buying another home at the same time is the ultimate feat in multitasking, and it comes with a tricky timing challenge.

If you have a mortgage on your current home and you buy a house before selling, you could get stuck with loan payments and the cost of upkeep on both properties. If you sell your house before buying, you might have nowhere to go after the sale closes.

But with planning, the right financing and strategic pricing and negotiating, you can time the sale and the new purchase in a way that works for you.

Here are some strategies to make it come together.

Laying the groundwork for buying and selling

There’s lots of prep work for buying and selling, so start getting ready for both as soon as you can.

“The more you plan, the more it will save you from making big mistakes,” says Brian G. Smith, vice president of national business development at Union Home Mortgage in Ohio.

Get ready to sell

A good listing agent can provide guidance on how to prepare your home for the market.

That will include making any necessary repairs to remove red flags for buyers, as well as decluttering and cleaning, says Joey Sheehan, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, Realtors in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

“Almost every house is too cluttered from the point of view of selling because selling a home is an entirely different activity from living in it,” Sheehan says.

After cleaning and decluttering, get photographs and videos of the home completed so those materials are set to go when you’re ready to list the property, recommends Christian Ross, managing broker for Engel & Volkers in Atlanta.

» MORE: 7 home staging ideas to get your house ready to sell

Get ready to buy

“Number one is to make sure your finances are in order. A lot of people say, ‘Oh, I know, I have great credit. I know I can get approved,'” Ross says. “But lending guidelines are changing every day.”

To get an offer accepted in today’s hot housing market, you’ll either need to have cash to buy it outright or be fully preapproved for a mortgage to finance the home, without any conditions from a lender that your existing home must sell first.

“The preapproval process for all borrowers should really start before they jump in and begin house hunting,” says Brian Blonder, senior vice president for mortgage sales at Capital Bank in Maryland.

How to make the money work

When selling your home, you likely will use the proceeds to pay off the mortgage and then apply any remaining money toward the next property.

But until that sale closes, you’ll need to come up with money for a down payment and have financing set up to buy the next home.

Some homeowners tap into savings accounts for the down payment on the next house. But not everyone has a hefty enough balance to make that work. Here are some other options.

Home equity line of credit

You could use a home equity line of credit, or HELOC, on your current home to draw cash for the down payment. But you’ll need to have the HELOC already in place; a lender won’t approve the credit line after you’ve put your house on the market, Blonder says.

Don’t wait until the last minute to apply if you think you might use a HELOC someday to finance the next purchase. Smith says sometimes a line of credit can take longer for approval than a first mortgage.

Bridge loan

With a bridge loan you can borrow up to 80% of your home’s value to pay off the old mortgage and put any remaining money toward a down payment on another home. Or you can use a bridge loan as a second mortgage to borrow a portion of your home equity for a down payment.

You make interest-only payments on the loan, and the maximum term is typically a year. But usually, bridge loans are paid off much more quickly because they’re designed to fill that short gap between the old-house sale and new-house purchase.

Because the term is short, interest rates are a couple of percentage points higher on a bridge loan than for a regular mortgage.

Some applicants who get approved for bridge loans don’t even need to use them because the sale ends up closing before the purchase after all.

401(k) or other investment account loan

You can borrow against a retirement or other investment account to get money for a down payment. A 401(k) loan, for instance, lets you borrow up to half the balance or up to $50,000, whichever is less, at reasonable interest rates.

The upside to borrowing against an investment account is that lenders don’t count that loan as debt when calculating your debt-to-income ratio for a mortgage preapproval, Blonder says. Ideally, you’ll repay the loan against your investment account as soon as your home sells.

Just make sure you stick with your plan to repay the loan after the old house sells and resist the temptation to use the money for other things. Defaulting on a loan from a 401(k) account can trigger taxes and penalties.

Low-down-payment mortgage

One option is to get a low-down-payment conventional mortgage to purchase your next home. Then when the sale of the old house closes, apply the proceeds toward your new home and get your mortgage recast.

When recasting the loan, the lender applies the lump-sum payment toward the principal and redoes the amortization schedule, which shows how much of each payment goes toward interest and how much goes toward reducing the debt. Recasting the mortgage will lower your monthly payment, and it’s a less costly and simpler process than refinancing a mortgage, Smith says.

But plan ahead. Not all lenders offer mortgage recasting. And this service is not available for government-backed loans, such as FHA, USDA or VA loans.

Getting the timing right

Once your financing is in place, a real estate agent can help you time the sale and purchase. One way is to negotiate the closing dates to work best for you.

“It’s not so hairy if you really think it through and get everything organized properly,” says Sheehan, author of “Open House!”

Here’s how she has helped clients make everything come together on the same day:

  • Her clients get their house ready to sell, and then shop for a new home.
  • Once they’re under contract to purchase and the inspection and negotiations are completed, they put their current home on the market and indicate a settlement date timed to coincide with the purchase closing.
  • The sale of their old home closes in the morning, after all their stuff is on the moving van.
  • The purchase closes in the afternoon, and they move in.

If the purchase will close a day or more after the sale closes, you’ll need a place for you and your stuff. If it’s only for a day or two, maybe you stay with friends or at a hotel and keep your belongings on a moving truck.

But if it’s much longer, you can negotiate a “rent-back” agreement with the buyer. These agreements usually top out at 60 days but often are used for just a few days to give sellers some flexibility, Ross says. In today’s competitive market, some buyers offer to let the seller stay for free.

Just be aware that squabbles can arise with rent-back arrangements. What happens, for instance, if the former owner gouges a hole in the wall? Your real estate agent can guide you with setting up the agreement and including language in the contract to protect both parties.

Can’t finance before you sell?

If you can’t qualify to finance a purchase until the sale on your first home closes, Ross says to plan where you’ll live after you’ve sold the property and until you find a new home. In today’s market it may take a few months to find a home and win a bidding war. She recommends looking for a rental property with a short-term lease or one that lets you leave with a month’s notice.

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If there is a home that you would like more information about, if you are considering selling a property, or if you have questions about the housing market in your neighborhood, please reach out. We’re here to help

If you dread opening up your electric bill these days, you’re not alone. Between inflation, bitterly cold weather, the war in Ukraine, and other factors, energy prices are surging — and homeowners and renters are starting to feel it in their wallets.

Most, if not all, of these recommendations have the added benefit of making your home more energy efficient, which means you’ll be lowering your environmental impact while also saving money. A win-win!

Turn on Your Ceiling Fans

Most ceiling fans have a small switch that changes the direction of the fan blades. In the winter, spend a few seconds fiddling with the ceiling fans in your house so the blades rotate clockwise, suggests Kelly Moye, a real estate agent in Colorado. This simple tweak will help make each room feel warmer, thus saving your furnace or heater from having to work as hard.

“Heat rises and when the ceiling fans go clockwise, they push the heat down instead of letting it settle up into the ceiling,” she says.

Change Your Furnace Filter

You can help your furnace run more efficiently — which will save you money in the long run — by changing the filter regularly, says Moye. You can find lots of YouTube videos showing you exactly how to do this, and you can typically find filters at home improvement stores starting at around $10 apiece.

“It needs to be changed every month in the winter,” she says. “When there is proper airflow through the furnace, it doesn’t have to work as hard to heat the house. Most people forget that they need to be changed as often as they do.”

Change Your Furnace Filter

You can help your furnace run more efficiently — which will save you money in the long run — by changing the filter regularly, says Moye. You can find lots of YouTube videos showing you exactly how to do this, and you can typically find filters at home improvement stores starting at around $10 apiece.

“It needs to be changed every month in the winter,” she says. “When there is proper airflow through the furnace, it doesn’t have to work as hard to heat the house. Most people forget that they need to be changed as often as they do.”

“Installing a smart thermostat can save you a lot of money and also make your home more comfortable,” he says. “These are perfect for people who are away from home for long periods of time.” 

Get an Efficiency Audit

Do some research online and look for local energy companies or sustainability nonprofits that offer free or cheap energy audits, suggests Dj Olhausen, a real estate agent in San Diego. When you schedule one, a trained professional will come to your house and evaluate its energy efficiency from top to bottom, paying special attention to insulation, air leaks, appliances, windows, and other elements.

The U.S. Department of Energy also offers tips for running a DIY energy audit on your own house, which is totally free.

“Double-check if windows are air sealed to avoid wasting air conditioning or heat,” suggests real estate agent Augusto Bittencourt.

Use Smaller, Localized Heating and Cooling Systems

Running the air conditioner or heater to adjust the temperature throughout your home can get expensive. If you spend a lot of time in one room — say, a home office — consider investing in a portable air conditioner unit or a space heater to help keep that room comfortable.

“These are great ways to control the climate of an individual room, rather than wasting electricity on a whole house,” says Olhausen.

Consider Solar Panels and Other Big Upgrades

If you can afford it, consider investing in solar panels, energy-efficient appliances, newer windows, upgraded siding, and other pieces of your home’s infrastructure, suggests real estate broker Mihal Gartenberg

“Homeowners must consider the cost/benefit before embarking on such updates,” she says. 

Spending money now should pay off later if you eventually sell your house. You can also sometimes find rebates or tax credits for these types of updates, with a little digging. Also keep in mind that the new federal infrastructure bill, signed into law by President Joe Biden in August, includes lots of money for home upgrades, so keep an eye out for more details in the near future. 

Even if big changes like these aren’t in the budget, you can still make smaller, more affordable swaps. Bittencourt recommends swapping in LED bulbs, which you can change out one lamp at a time if you need to.

And real estate agent Marie Bromberg recommends adding solar-powered lights to the garden and stashing solar power banks around your house to recharge your laptop. There are also lots of other solar-powered gadgets and devices, too.

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If there is a home that you would like more information about, if you are considering selling a property, or if you have questions about the housing market in your neighborhood, please reach out. We’re here to help.

You want to put your best foot forward when you’re getting ready to list your house. A fresh coat of paint, shiny new appliances, spa-like bathrooms — the list of home staging renovations goes on and on. It’s tempting to want to try every one in the hopes of driving the list price up. But there’s a ceiling on pre-listing renovation ROI. And not everything is going to pay off on closing day, especially if the potential buyer is eyeing your lovingly updated home as a design issue that needs to be fixed.

Four real estate agents shared the changes they advise you to skip — and how they’d update to demonstrate potential, not show off design prowess, to get the most out of your listing.

Polish — Don’t Replace — the Flooring

“Have your hardwood floors shined and polished before the first open house or staging,” suggests Theresa Raymond, principal broker and owner with Tennessee Smoky Mountain Realty.

Don’t go the extra mile of pulling up perfectly good flooring just to mimic what you’ve seen on Insta-worthy open houses. “Your next owner may just tear it up and set something trendy like vinyl flooring or decorative flooring instead of hardwood,” says Raymond.

Present the Kitchen With Potential, But Don’t Redo It

If you have a kitchen that hasn’t been touched since 1940, you may need to make some updates. But if you’re looking at a kitchen that’s dated but functional, just make sure it’s clean and clutter-free. Raymond explains, “Eight out of 10 buyers prefer customizing their kitchen. No matter how you stage it or make a renovation, current homebuyers will prefer to arrange the kitchen room in their way.” She suggests presenting it as a space with potential that could be easily customized to the buyer’s preferences, rather than throwing a dart at the wall with a total redo.

Don’t Knock Down Walls Just Yet

It’s easier to take walls out than add walls back in. Let the buyer envision how they might open the space up without doing it for them. “Buyers prefer more of a customizable space or room,” says Martin Carreon, broker and owner with Soco Wine Country Properties. You can’t anticipate whether a buyer will want to carve out a home office or create a separate dining area, so let them put their own stamp on it.

Leave the Kitchen Cabinets As Is

Painting kitchen cabinets can cost a pretty penny, and it’s at the top of the list for many buyers as soon as they get into their new home. But that doesn’t mean you should spend your own money painting them before you list. 

Kurtis Forster, a real estate agent with Nu-Vista Premiere Realty, explains, “People are painting cabinets red, blue, green, and more. I like this trend, but everyone has a different style so doing this right before selling isn’t always the best idea.”

You may think that new sage green is going to grab a buyer’s attention when they’re scrolling through Zillow, but they may see it as another $5,000 they’re going to have to spend painting them blue, or white, or whatever their heart desires. Leave them as is and you’ll spare the cabinets another layer of paint.

A Fresh Coat of Paint Is All You Need

“If you want to give the interior of your home a fresh coat of paint before selling, I’d recommend keeping things neutral,” Foster says. You don’t want to spend significant money on bold paint choices that you think look great… right before you sell (so you won’t even get to enjoy it!). A buyer may look at it and see it as another renovation they need to make, whereas a neutral is an expected blank canvas.

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If there is a home that you would like more information about, if you are considering selling a property, or if you have questions about the housing market in your neighborhood, please reach out. We’re here to help.

A little optimism can help propel you when things get difficult in the homebuying market. But if you’re feeling too good about your chances of buying this year — good in ways simply not justified given the current economic conditions — you could find yourself disappointed, at best, and unsuccessful or overextended, at worst. 

About 28 million Americans plan on buying a home in the next 12 months, according to NerdWallet’s recent annual Home Buyer Report. Typically, they’re hoping to spend $200,000. This will be extremely difficult when the national median sales price of all homes, including condos, is $342,000, according to the latest data from Zillow. 

Home prices have skyrocketed over the past two years. The housing market was overrun with buyers competing for too few available homes; pair that with low mortgage rates, and prices were driven skyward. They’ve come down a bit since their peak of $363,000 in June 2022, according to the Zillow data, but are unlikely to sink significantly in a broad-based fashion in 2023.

So, where will buyers find homes selling for $200,000? Not likely in the markets they’re hoping; high-demand markets command higher prices, and that’s always the case. And this analysis of recent sales prices and a generous forecast of where prices could fall in the coming year find buyers will be hard up for that kind of bargain in most areas across the nation.

Buying at current prices

Even if home prices stop growing this year, a $200,000 budget won’t go far in most markets. In fact, median sales prices haven’t been that low since early 2016. Of the 614 areas with available October 2022 Zillow pricing data, just 204 have median sales prices of $200,000 or lower. Most are smaller towns, as the dataset includes metropolitan and other areas with populations as low as 10,000 people. The largest of the metro areas with a sub-$200,000 sale price is Dayton, Ohio, with a population of 807,000. 

Among the 50 largest metro areas, the average, typical price for this past October (the most recent data available) was $419,000, according to the Zillow data. Buyers who hope to purchase in these more populated areas should brace themselves for sales prices far above $200,000. These geographic areas are not only city centers, but generally include surrounding neighborhoods and even suburbs, so don’t assume a commute will knock six figures off the prices you see.

Even if prices fall, they won’t likely fall far

But just for fun, what if prices do fall in a measurable way? Growth in sales prices was fast and painful for buyers over the past few years, and those high prices aren’t sustainable in some markets. The most likely scenario in 2023 is that prices will come down slightly in some areas but stabilize in others. They’re unlikely to plummet in a broad-based fashion. 

Even if prices gave up half of their recent growth, few would be within that median buyers’ budget of $200,000. 

From 2020 through October 2022, the most recent month for which data is available, sales prices grew 30% across the nation and as much as 50% or more in some metropolitan areas. In Austin, Texas, for example, sales prices rose 51%, from $347,000 in 2020, on average, to $525,000 in 2022. In Phoenix, AZ, they rose 48% during that period, from $312,000 to $462,000. 

But what if all markets nationally gave up half of their steep 2020-22 growth? Still, fewer than half would have homes priced below the $200,000 threshold. Among the 50 most populous markets, just 6% would fall below $200,000. And the typical national sales price would still be $294,000.

Click here to view a table with current median sales prices and 2020-2022 growth rates in more than 600 areas across the country. 

Glimmers of hope for 2023 buyers 

This isn’t all to dash dreams of buying in the next year. If the history of buying and selling homes in the United States has taught us anything, it’s that millions will be successful, even in tough economic times. But hopefuls should be more realistic than optimistic. Knowing what headwinds you might face can help anchor your expectations and drive the kind of planning that ensures you won’t get in over your head. 

Consult with a local real estate agent to learn a realistic budget for the area where you hope to buy. Also, use a home affordability calculator to understand better how a mortgage payment will fit in with your other financial obligations.  

Some good news for 2023: Sellers no longer have sole control; the market is more balanced than it has been, mainly because demand has come down due to higher mortgage rates. This means there’s more room for negotiations on things such as price, closing date, inspections and so on. But buyers will need to remain flexible, especially if their budget is at the lower end. A few hundred thousand may not go far enough in the hottest markets, but careful hunting in other areas and a willingness to forgo some “must haves” on your wishlist can make homeownership more likely a reality than a dream. 

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If there is a home that you would like more information about, if you are considering selling a property, or if you have questions about the housing market in your neighborhood, please reach out. We’re here to help.

As a general rule, I tend to worry way too much about seemingly small things—and buying my first house was no different. As my closing date drew near, the title company began sending me instructions about how to wire over my down payment, which was tens of thousands of dollars.

Included in their instructions? Big, bold warnings about wire fraud. I was seriously freaked out. When it came time for me to transfer my down payment, I called the title company a half-dozen times to verify their account information, double-check the wiring instructions, and, finally, to confirm that they received my payment. 

When all was said and done, my money made it to the right people at the right time—and I was able to buy my house (and take a deep breath of relief!). But things don’t always go so smoothly. There’s a reason why your title company, lender, and real estate agent will make sure you’re hyper-aware of the potential risks of wiring huge sums of money: Wire fraud.

What is wire fraud? This cybercrime is not just limited to real estate—it can occur anytime someone is “wiring” money, aka transferring it electronically to another person or entity. In real estate, it can occur when a fraudster poses as your real estate agent, lawyer, or title company representative, then convinces you to wire your down payment to their account, never to be seen again.

It’s a scary thing to think about, and it’s very real. In 2019, the FBI received 23,775 complaints for business email compromise, which includes wire fraud, with losses topping $1.7 billion.

So, what can you do to make sure you don’t fall victim to this scam? For starters, read everything your real estate agent or lender sends you about wire fraud. Read it twice. Know that this scam exists and keep it top of mind.

The title company should send over specific wiring instructions for your down payment via some form of secure, encrypted communication platform. If you get an unsolicited email or phone call about wiring instructions, be skeptical. Never give out your financial information over email or to someone who contacted you—if they’re already involved in the transaction, they should have this information already.

Once you get the wiring instructions and have read through them thoroughly, look up your title company’s phone number online, call the public number directly, and ask them to go over the instructions with you over the phone. Do not assume that a phone number you received via email is accurate—remember, it could be a scammer posing as your title company. 

“I always instruct my clients to call and verify before sending any funds via wire,” says David Dye, a real estate agent and mortgage broker in Los Angeles. 

Even better? Stop by the title company’s office in person—they should be able to independently tell you the account number, transfer amount, date, and other relevant details.

Before you get anywhere close to wiring money, learn as much as you can about your specific closing process, including a detailed timeline. Scammers often call or email you with an urgent request or a sudden change of plans—this is a surefire sign that you’re being defrauded. If you understand the timeline and due dates ahead of time, you won’t be so easily fooled if someone tries to make an unexpected change to the plan.

“Most phishing emails will say that there have been some last-minute changes about closing, and they’ll ask you to send money to a different account, which belongs to the scammer,” says Andrina Valdes, chief operating officer of Cornerstone Home Lending. “Do not do this under any circumstance. If anything seems strange or ‘phishy,’ call your lender or realtor directly.”

Unfortunately, if you become the victim of one of these scams, it’s difficult to get your money back, as wire transfers can’t be refunded or reversed. Even so, you should reach out to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center ASAP, as well as report the fraud to your bank and file a police report. The main thing to keep in mind? Taking precautions ahead of time is the best way to avoid wire fraud.

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If there is a home that you would like more information about, if you are considering selling a property, or if you have questions about the housing market in your neighborhood, please reach out. We’re here to help.

67% of Americans say a housing market crash is imminent in the next three years.

With all the talk in the media lately about shifts in the housing market, it makes sense why so many people feel this way. But there’s good news. Current data shows today’s market is nothing like it was before the housing crash in 2008.

Back Then, Mortgage Standards Were Less Strict

During the lead-up to the housing crisis, it was much easier to get a home loan than it is today. Banks were creating artificial demand by lowering lending standards and making it easy for just about anyone to qualify for a home loan or refinance an existing one.

As a result, lending institutions took on much greater risk in both the person and the mortgage products offered. That led to mass defaults, foreclosures, and falling prices. Today, things are different, and purchasers face much higher standards from mortgage companies.

The graph below uses data from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) to help tell this story. In this index, the higher the number, the easier it is to get a mortgage. The lower the number, the harder it is.

This graph also shows just how different things are today compared to the spike in credit availability leading up to the crash. Tighter lending standards have helped prevent a situation that could lead to a wave of foreclosures like the last time.

Foreclosure Volume Has Declined a Lot Since the Crash

Another difference is the number of homeowners that were facing foreclosure when the housing bubble burst. Foreclosure activity has been lower since the crash, largely because buyers today are more qualified and less likely to default on their loans. The graph below uses data from ATTOM to show the difference between last time and now:

So even as foreclosures tick up, the total number is still very low. And on top of that, most experts don’t expect foreclosures to go up drastically like they did following the crash in 2008. Bill McBride, Founder of Calculated Risk, explains the impact a large increase in foreclosures had on home prices back then – and how that’s unlikely this time.

“The bottom line is there will be an increase in foreclosures over the next year (from record level lows), but there will not be a huge wave of distressed sales as happened following the housing bubble. The distressed sales during the housing bust led to cascading price declines, and that will not happen this time.”

The Supply of Homes for Sale Today Is More Limited

For historical context, there were too many homes for sale during the housing crisis (many of which were short sales and foreclosures), and that caused prices to fall dramatically. Supply has increased since the start of this year, but there’s still a shortage of inventory available overall, primarily due to years of underbuilding homes.

The graph below uses data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to show how the months’ supply of homes available now compares to the crash. Today, unsold inventory sits at just 2.7-months’ supply at the current sales pace, which is significantly lower than the last time. There just isn’t enough inventory on the market for home prices to come crashing down like they did last time, even though some overheated markets may experience slight declines.

Bottom Line

If recent headlines have you worried we’re headed for another housing crash, the data above should help ease those fears. Expert insights and the most current data clearly show that today’s market is nothing like it was last time.

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If there is a home that you would like more information about, if you are considering selling a property, or if you have questions about the housing market in your neighborhood, please reach out. We’re here to help.

Many hopeful homeowners today are experiencing an affordability issue when it comes to financing a new home. Due to recent rate hikes from the Federal Reserve, interest rates have simply become too high for some buyers to be able to qualify for mortgages on properties they could have easily afforded in the past. And that’s not all they’re up against. Rising rates, declining property values, and inflation have ‌all‌ contributed to this unfolding crisis.

Fortunately, there’s a creative solution that some borrowers can take advantage of when it comes to getting a lower interest rate: a buydown. All you need is a little know-how and a few extra dollars in your bank account. Read on to learn everything you need to know about an interest rate buydown, including how to get one and whether it’s the right choice for your financial situation.

What Is a Buydown?

When lenders talk about a buydown, they’re referencing the act of paying money in exchange for a lower interest rate. “Traditionally, this is achieved by buying points or a fraction thereof,” explains Justin Brilman, mortgage loan officer at U.S. Bank. “For simplification, it is approximately one point in cost in exchange for a quarter percent lower interest rate,” he continues. “One point is 1 percent of the loan, so on a $1,000,000 loan that is $10,000.”

Fortunately, for most borrowers, those numbers are quite a bit lower. For example, if you have a $200,000 mortgage, it will only cost you $2,000 to lower your interest rate by .25 percent. A traditional buydown will reduce your interest rate on the life of the loan.

Are There Benefits to a Buydown?

Buying down your interest rate can get a bit expensive, especially for homebuyers who may be looking to cut costs wherever they can. This means it may not always be beneficial to do it — especially if you’re struggling to come up with the funds you need for a down payment or if you’re dipping into your emergency fund or other savings accounts.

“It is always important to calculate the monthly savings compared to the cost and how long it will take to realize the difference,” explains Sarah Alvarez, vice president of mortgage banking at William Raveis Mortgage. “A temporary buydown, which has become very popular again, is a concession that temporarily reduces a buyer’s rate on a conforming loan for either one or two years.”

Alvarez says this can help keep the monthly mortgage payments low while you wait for the next cycle of lower rates and the opportunity to refinance. “If you’re struggling to afford a monthly mortgage payment based on the current interest rates offered to you by your lender, you can ask about a buydown,” she continues. “[If] the borrower chooses to buy down their rate, it is normally confirmed when locking the rate, and the cost is paid at closing.”

What Is a Temporary Buydown?

With a temporary buydown, the seller must pay the cost, which is typically two points or 2 percent of the loan amount. “Using 7 percent as the example of the current mortgage rate, with a two to one, buydown would be 5 percent the first year and 6 percent the second year before returning to 7 percent for the remainder of the loan term,” Alvarez says. “Using $750,000 as the purchase price and $600,000 as the loan amount, it is a savings of $18,000 for the borrower over the course of the two years: $12,000 the first year and $6,000 the second year.”

Unlike a temporary buydown, a regular buydown will lower your interest rate for the life of your loan.

Should You Buy Down Your Interest Rate?

The break-even point between the lower monthly payment and the upfront fee is generally four years, according to Brilman. “When rates are nearing all-time lows, buying points on a loan you believe you will hold for a significant time period would be a good strategy,” he says. “In market cycles where rates have been rising and expect to plateau and potentially come down in subsequent years (like we are now), we see much less of this activity due to those break-even periods.” In short, a seller-paid temporary buydown may be your best bet, according to Brilman.

Alvarez says she is seeing a lot of sellers using the temporary buydown as a tool to attract buyers in this shifting market. It is more appealing than having to drop the sales price, and it feels like a win-win for everyone. It is also becoming more common for new developments to offer their own temporary buydown program, which can be designed to fit the needs of each building.

This concession allows for a significantly reduced payment your first two years. Brilman tells Hunker, “Since this is a seller-paid concession, the funds paid by the seller to allow for the buydown are placed in an escrow account and used to make up the difference from the temporary payment and the final payment. The reason this is relevant is if a borrower had the opportunity to refinance before year three, the savings benefit left in the initial two years is applied to pay down the loan balance, so the buyer never loses anything!”

Other Strategies to Make Buying a Home More Affordable

There are a few different ways to make buying a new home more affordable; it’s not limited to purchasing a lower interest rate from your lender. “In a higher-rate market, it might make sense to look at paying off existing debts or making a larger deposit if you are capable, as the general understanding is that when the next lower rate cycle comes around, you can refinance and lock in a lower rate long term,” Alvarez says. “In this case, an adjustable-rate mortgage with no points, which has a lower starting rate, might be a good fit.”

Just remember that adjustable-rate mortgages can increase over time. If rates don’t drop or if home values dip significantly, borrowers locked into adjustable-rate mortgages may find themselves faced with a higher monthly mortgage payment and little chance of relief if the market takes a negative turn.

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If there is a home that you would like more information about, if you are considering selling a property, or if you have questions about the housing market in your neighborhood, please reach out. We’re here to help.

Extra stuff isn’t just messy. It could be holding you back from living your best life. Here’s what you need to know

Envious of those neat, tidy spaces and empty shelves that fill home decor blogs and websites? Blank space can be beautiful, and popular books promise strategies to shed extra stuff. But is minimalism livable? Some research suggests that de-cluttering can have as much of an effect on your well-being as it does on your physical space.

It’s not just in your head: Extra stuff is stressful

If the constant stream of things to pick up around your home leaves you feeling anxious, you’re not alone. Objects have the power to do just that. In fact, when working couples gave tours of their homes, women who used more words describing clutter and disorganization also tended to show levels of the stress hormone cortisol, suggesting chronic stress. On the flip side, those who described their homes as being restful or talked about their beautiful outdoor spaces were less stressed and reported less sad feelings as the day went on.

What you can do: Set aside 10 to 15 minutes at the end of each day to put stray items away.

Distracted much? Clutter makes it hard to focus

Got a lot of stuff on your desk? It may make it harder to do your job. That’s because a cluttered environment can make your brain less effective at processing information — and more prone to frustration.

In other words, taking a timeout to organize your space may actually save you time by allowing you to work more efficiently.

What you can do: Clear your computer desktop — and your physical one — at the end of each day.

More stuff doesn’t equal more fun

As much as advertisers may work to convince you otherwise, having more things doesn’t necessarily make you happier. Case in point: In one experiment, when toddlers were given just four toys to play with, they played twice as long as when they had 16 toys to choose from.

Flitting from toy to toy doesn’t just mean more picking up for caregivers either. It means lost opportunities to develop longer attention spans during free play that can translate to better focus and attention later in life as well.

What you can do: Box up extra items and put them out of sight, out of mind. Ready for a change? Swap boxes for a fresh mix of toys. Don’t miss them? Sell or donate the extras. (No kids? Try the same technique with your clothes.)

A tendency toward hoarding can keep you up at night

Sleep problems keep as many as a third of adults up at night. And while experts have long recognized a link between insomnia and mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, another link is emerging in research: hoarding.

Hoarding disorder, which affects just 2 to 6 percent of the population, goes far beyond disorganization or a garden-variety tendency to accumulate stuff. It is diagnosed when clutter becomes so debilitating that space becomes unusable and even unsafe. One possible reason for a connection between hoarding and sleep: Lack of sleep inhibits decision-making, namely decisions about acquiring (or getting rid of) stuff.

For the other 98 percent of people who don’t have hoarding disorder, but simply struggle with “too much stuff” syndrome, consider this: Having fewer things means making fewer choices throughout the day. And that may add up to less willpower spent trying to make the right ones.

What you can do: Brush up on your healthy sleep routine. Try winding down with a cup of herbal tea and a good (paper) book, rather than TV or social media.

When you think of taking care of yourself, think of your health, plan fun events with your loved ones, but also have a peaceful and organized living space.

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If there is a home that you would like more information about, if you are considering selling a property, or if you have questions about the housing market in your neighborhood, please reach out. We’re here to help.