Does anyone still remember 2019? Remember relaxing in your living room, enjoying the view, and looking forward to having friends or family come and visit (in person!) over the weekend? At that idyllic moment, who would have ever imagined that the world would be turned upside-down in just a matter of months and that things would largely remain upside-down for a little over a year?
Then, like many borrowers, when 2020 came along many of us decided that low interest rates meant now was a prime time to buy a home; there was very little idea just how volatile the housing market would be. This news isn’t new—mortgage headlines and reports have been screaming this for months and months now—but we were all walking into a heated sellers’ market, with a lack of homes for sale and an overabundance of buyers looking to upgrade, not to mention prices climbing up the walls. For a first-time homebuyer, the picture was very intimidating.
2021 has rolled around, and while things have gotten better in general, we can go to the supermarket without a mask now, purchasing a home continues to be a struggle for many would-be borrowers as the 2020 market bleeds into 2021. When will the madness end?
Why is the housing market so tough right now?
Unfortunately for borrowers, the climb of housing prices is a relatively inflexible issue of economics—supply and demand. Homeowners are remaining in their homes for longer than ever before, contributing to a low rate of turnover and a smaller housing supply, particularly compared to 2019, which in turn fuels prices. That makes now a great time to be a seller, though. With less sellers and more buyers, sellers find themselves in the captain’s chair, calling the shots and looking for buyers willing to offer just a little more than their competitors. This is part of the natural ebb and flow of the market—a sellers’ market will eventually give way to a buyers’ market, and then back, and so forth. If you have a home that you’re looking to sell, you may find yourself in a good position if you put it on the market—many homes average being on the market for merely 23 days, a record that hasn’t been beaten since 2012.
Then again, selling now might be premature, as senior economist and director of housing and commercial research at the National Association of Realtors (NAR) predicts that the current housing shortage will continue for at least another three years, but potentially five. Home prices won’t necessarily increase at the same steep incline that entire time, but it does appear that they will continue going up. Whether or not prices flat line or drop after this remains to be seen.
So what can the would-be homebuyer do to best take advantage of this crazy market?
Fortunately, options still exist for homebuyers who want to get ahead and purchase a home before prices (and rates) get too much higher. It will take a little bit of hustle, research, and good instinct to excellently position yourself to jump on an opportunity, though!
Now more than ever experts are recommending pre-preparation before entering into negotiations for a home. A pre-approval letter is good and can help you stand out from other buyers—it gives the seller more confidence that you can follow through with any contract you sign, and in a timely manner—but as this practice grows more common getting pre-qualified and even pre-underwritten become the next steps to stay ahead of the competition. This usually means carefully researching lenders at the same time as, or even before, the housing market for the area that you are interested in, so you can know who you’ll be applying for a mortgage with and the estimated costs and terms that you may be able to secure for the price range that you’re interested in. Generally speaking, the closer you are to being able to purchase a house quickly and conveniently after making an offer on it, the more of an edge you have on competing buyers.
Develop a mortgage budget and stick to it
A little bit of buying aggression can go a long way as well. On average, houses are selling for 0.7% more than the asking price, so go into the negotiation expecting to meet or beat the price the seller is offering. Usually, this means that you’ll need to look at homes in a little lower price range than you can actually afford, since the price is likely to go up before closing; don’t get yourself into a financial bind by offering more than you can afford! Decide on a maximum price that you’re willing to pay for a home before you go into negotiations and let yourself get worked up to that number only if competing offers force you to raise your bid. CBC Mortgage Agency’s National Marketing Manager, James Bethe, said it best: “Sometimes the best way to negotiate on a home is to not. Don’t overextend yourself, but do your math when it comes to your budget before you go house shopping. A home is not a home if you can’t afford it. Never consider going over your budgeted number. Having that type of willpower and patience will lead to long term happiness over an impulsive offer.”
There are also other options to help sidestep many of the current challenges for buying a home. If your current job allows it, take advantage of modern videoconferencing culture and move to where the market isn’t hot—not every market in every state is very volatile right now, and sometimes moving into smaller cities or states can mean much lower home prices. This increases the odds of having a more comfortable, buyer-oriented negotiation for a home and increases the odds of you being able to buy a more spacious forever home. In hot markets, borrowers often find themselves buying smaller homes than they’d anticipated, or even changing their goals from single family homes to townhouses or condos; in cooler markets buyers find more flexibility and are less likely to need to compromise in these areas.
But the patient borrower can try to ride the housing price surge by doing exactly that—compromising with the market and buying a more affordable townhome or condo and planning on living there for a few years as prices appreciate, then selling and using the equity to help afford a larger single family residence. As noted before, prices are predicted to go up for at least another three years, so finance-savvy borrowers that are comfortable in smaller spaces may find this an attractive, affordable option, but it’s always wise to consult a professional financial advisor before making such a decision as there is no guarantee that prices will increase and you will build equity.
Another opportunity that homebuyers may find in the current market is new construction—homes that are finished being built at about the time of closing, or just a few months before. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough new construction to entirely relieve the housing shortage, but many buyers are finding new construction a pleasant alternative to buying a used home. New construction also gives many borrowers more flexibility in deciding the layout or features of their home, while still being comparable in price and allowing for various forms of home purchase assistance, such as down payment or closing cost assistance.
Down payment assistance can combat housing shortages and price increases
And speaking of assistance, don’t forget to research local and national resources to help you buy a home. As home prices go up, increasing down payments and closing costs with them, a little bit of assistance can go a really long way while helping you to preserve your savings for home improvements or a rainy day. For example, Chenoa Fund is a national down payment assistance program offered by CBC Mortgage Agency, NMLS #1186381, that can provide 3.5% down payment assistance on FHA and Fannie Mae conventional loans, as well as 5% down payment assistance on FHA loans, in the form of a forgivable or repayable loan. If you qualify, this assistance can be applied toward the down payment or closing costs, giving you increased flexibility and buying power. What’s better, most Chenoa Fund down payment assistance loans through CBC Mortgage Agency can be subordinated after a few years, giving you the opportunity to refinance or sell when you’re ready to upgrade from a smaller home to a larger one.
Visit our website to learn more about how to combat housing shortages and price increases with the Chenoa Fund down payment assistance program offered through CBC Mortgage Agency. Discover how you can access approved lenders and real estate agents that knowledgable with Chenoa Fund.
CBC Mortgage Agency – NMLS 1186381
For licensing information, go to www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org.
Illinois Residential Mortgage License #MB.6761292. Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, Division of Banking, 100 West Randolph, 9th Floor, Chicago, IL 60601 – 1-888-473-4858