Buyer AdviceTrending News December 21, 2023

Mortgage Savings? Look to Your Seller!

Steep mortgage payments dampening your dreams of homeownership? A 2-1 buydown, plus a willing seller, could be your answer.

What’s a 2-1 buydown?

It’s a mortgage strategy that temporarily trims your interest rate during the early years of your loan, offering more manageable payments. It’s ideal for first-time homebuyers or those eyeing an income surge soon.

Here’s how it works:

• Year 1: Interest is slashed by 2 percentage points below the lender’s rate. So, if a lender offers 7%, you’re only on the hook for 5%.

• Year 2: Interest nudges up but still remains 1 percentage point below the lender’s rate. With a 7% lender rate, you’d owe 6%.

• After Year 2: Interest resets with the lender’s standard rate for the remaining term. In this scenario, that’d be 7%.

The seller’s role:

Sellers can sweeten the deal by shouldering the buydown cost, which makes this a compelling negotiation chip during price talks.

While enticing, remember the 2-1 buydown is short-term relief. Payments will jump after two years, so it’s important for buyers to plan ahead for the increase.

Intrigued by a 2-1 buydown? Let’s chat about how this mortgage solution fits into your home-buying plans in 2024. connect with me here

Trending News August 4, 2023

Taming the Blaze: Wildfire Mitigation in Northwest Montana

It’s a warm, dry summer in Northwest Montana, and the parched terrain is riddled with tinder just waiting for a spark. As beautiful as our region is, it is equally susceptible to wildfires. While the occurrence of these wildfires is an integral part of the ecosystem, their frequency and intensity have been on the rise due to factors such as climate change and human activity. Consequently, protecting your home from this looming menace through fire mitigation becomes not just prudent, but a necessity.

Understanding Wildfires in Northwest Montana

Before we delve into fire mitigation techniques, it’s important to understand why Northwest Montana is particularly prone to wildfires. This area’s climate is typified by long, cold winters and short, hot summers. During these hot, dry summer months, the lush vegetation that flourishes in the spring can quickly become kindling for wildfires.

Rising global temperatures have also led to earlier snowmelts, lengthening the wildfire season. This, combined with human activities such as camping, farming, and construction, increases the risk of fires starting.

The Role of Fire Mitigation

Fire mitigation involves implementing measures aimed at minimizing the risks and impacts of wildfires. These measures can range from simple practices around your home to collaborating with local fire departments and forestry services to manage the broader landscape.

Fire mitigation can significantly reduce the potential for fire damage and allows firefighters to safely protect your property.

Practical Fire Mitigation Measures

Here are a few practical steps you can take to protect your home through fire mitigation:

1. Creating a Defensible Space: The area around your home, termed the ‘defensible space’, is the first line of defense against wildfires. This space is typically divided into two zones:

  • Zone 1 (0-30 feet from the house): This zone should be kept free of all flammable vegetation and materials. Regularly clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves and branches, keep lawns hydrated and mowed, and store firewood and other combustibles well away from the house.
  • Zone 2 (30-100 feet from the house): In this zone, reduce the density of trees and brush to decrease the chance of fire spreading. Use ‘fire-resistant’ plants in your landscaping, prune tree branches to a height of 10 feet from the ground, and maintain a spacing of at least 10 feet between tree crowns.

2. Employing Fire-Resistant Building Materials: If you’re building a new home or upgrading an existing one, consider using fire-resistant materials. Fire-resistant roofs, siding, and decks can prevent embers from igniting your home. Double-paned or tempered glass windows can also withstand higher heat.

3. Emergency Preparedness: Prepare and maintain an emergency plan and evacuation kit. The plan should include evacuation routes, meeting points, and important contact numbers. The kit should contain vital documents, essential medications, water, non-perishable food, and pet supplies.

4. Community Efforts: Join or initiate community efforts towards broader fire mitigation practices. This could involve participating in local Firewise programs, community cleanup days, or lobbying for stricter fire safety regulations.

While we can’t completely eliminate the risk of wildfires, diligent fire mitigation practices can go a long way in protecting our homes and communities. Remember, the best time to act is now!

With a community spirit and a proactive mindset, we can coexist with the natural cycle of wildfires while minimizing their destructive potential. Fire is a formidable force, but together, we can be a stronger one.

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FIRE RESOURCES

Current wildfires in Montana

Flathead National Forest wildfire alerts

Current fire danger in Northwest Montana

Fire restriction information

Trending News July 31, 2023

Pricing Your House Right Still Matters Today

While this isn’t the frenzied market we saw during the ‘unicorn’ years, homes that are priced right are still selling quickly and seeing multiple offers right now. That’s because the number of homes for sale is still so low. Data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows 76% of homes sold within a month and the average saw 3.5 offers in June.

To set yourself up to see advantages like these, you need to rely on an agent. Only an agent has the expertise needed to find the right asking price for your house. Here’s what’s at stake if that price isn’t accurate for today’s market value.

The price you set for your house sends a message to potential buyers.

Price it too low and you might raise questions about your home’s condition or lead buyers to assume something is wrong with it. Not to mention, if you undervalue your house, you could leave money on the table, which decreases your future buying power.

On the other hand, price it too high and you run the risk of deterring buyers from ever touring it in the first place. When that happens, you may have to do a price drop to try to re-ignite interest in your house when it sits on the market for a while. But be aware that a price drop can be seen as a red flag for some buyers who will wonder why the price was reduced and what that means about the home.

recent article from NerdWallet sums it up like this:

Your house’s market debut is your first chance to attract a buyer and it’s important to get the pricing right. If your home is overpriced, you run the risk of buyers not seeing the listing . . . But price your house too low and you could end up leaving some serious money on the table. A bargain-basement price could also turn some buyers away, as they may wonder if there are any underlying problems with the house.”

Think of pricing your home as a target. Your goal is to aim directly for the center – not too high, not too low, but right at market value.

Pricing your house fairly based on market conditions increases the chance you’ll have more buyers who are interested in purchasing it. That makes it more likely you’ll see multiple offers too. Plus, when homes are priced right, they still tend to sell quickly.

To get a high-level look into the potential downsides of over or underpricing your house and the perks that come with pricing it at market value, see the chart below:

Lean on a Professional’s Expertise to Price Your House Right

So why is an agent essential in finding the right price? Your local agent has the skill and the insight necessary to find the market value of your home. They’ll use their expertise to determine a realistic listing price by assessing:

  • The prices of recently sold homes
  • The current market conditions
  • The size and condition of your house
  • The location of your house

Bottom Line

Pricing your house at market value is critical, so don’t rely on guesswork. Let’s connect to make sure your house is priced right for today’s market.

Trending News July 27, 2023

Homebuyers Are Still More Active Than Usual

Even though the housing market is no longer experiencing the frenzy that was so characteristic of the last couple of years, it doesn’t mean today’s market is at a standstill. In actuality, buyer traffic is still strong today.

The ShowingTime Showing Index is a measure of how much buyers are touring homes. The graph below uses that index to illustrate buyer activity trends over time to help put today into the proper perspective.

It shows there’s seasonality in real estate. If you look at the last normal years in the market (shown in gray), there was a consistent pattern as buyer activity peaked in the first half of each year (during the peak homebuying season in the spring) and slowed as each year came to a close.

When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, that trend was disrupted as the market responded to the resulting uncertainty (shown in blue in the middle). From there, we entered the ‘unicorn’ years of housing (shown in pink). This is when mortgage rates were record-low and buyer demand was sky high. Similar seasonal trends still existed even during that time, just at much higher levels.

Now, let’s look at 2023. Traffic is down from the previous month and it’s also lower than the peaks we saw in the ‘unicorn’ years. But what’s happening isn’t a steep drop off in demand – it’s a slow return toward more normal seasonality. As the ShowingTime report explains:

“Showing traffic declined about 10% in May . . . This follows a typical seasonal pattern – disrupted by the pandemic but now beginning to return . . .”

And, to highlight this isn’t a drastic decline, let’s zoom in. Here’s a graph using just the May data for the last five years. It shows just how strong buyer demand still is.

What Does That Mean for You?

Buyers are still out there touring homes. They’re more active than they were in May 2022 (when sticker shock over higher mortgage rates started to set in) and certainly more than they were in the last normal years. So, remember, buyer activity is still strong. And it could actually be even stronger if it wasn’t constrained by the limited supply of homes for sale. According to U.S. News:

“Housing markets have cooled slightly, but demand hasn’t disappeared, and in many places remains strong largely due to the shortage of homes on the market.”

Don’t lose sight of just how active the market still is today. If your house isn’t on the market, it’s not getting in front of all those buyers who are looking to make a purchase right now. Let’s connect to start the process.

Buyer AdviceTrending News July 26, 2023

Tips for Making Your Best Offer on a Home

While the wild ride that was the ‘unicorn’ years of housing is behind us, today’s market is still competitive in many areas because the supply of homes for sale is still low. If you’re looking to buy a home this season, know that the peak frenzy of bidding wars is in the rearview mirror, but you may still come up against some multiple-offer scenarios.

Here are a few things to consider to help you put your best foot forward when making an offer on a home.

1. Lean on a Real Estate Professional

Rely on an agent who can support your goals and help you understand what’s happening in today’s housing market. Agents are experts in the local market and on the national trends too. They’ll use both of those areas of expertise to make sure you have all the information you need to move with confidence.

Plus, they know what’s worked for other buyers in your area and what sellers may be looking for in an offer. It may seem simple, but catering to what a seller needs can help your offer stand out. As an article from Forbes says:

“Getting to know a local realtor where you’re hoping to buy can also potentially give you a crucial edge in a tight housing market.”

2. Get Pre-Approved for a Home Loan

Having a clear budget in mind is especially important right now given the current affordability challenges. The best way to get a clear picture of what you can borrow is to work with a lender so you can get pre-approved for a home loan.

That’ll help you be more financially confident because you’ll have a better understanding of your numbers. It shows sellers you’re serious, too. And that can give you a competitive edge if you do get into a multiple-offer scenario.

3. Make a Fair Offer

It’s only natural to want the best deal you can get on a home. However, submitting an offer that’s too low does have some risks. You don’t want to make an offer that will be tossed out as soon as it’s received just to see if it sticks. As Realtor.com explains:

“. . . an offer price that’s significantly lower than the listing price, is often rejected by sellers who feel insulted . . . Most listing agents try to get their sellers to at least enter negotiations with buyers, to counteroffer with a number a little closer to the list price. However, if a seller is offended by a buyer or isn’t taking the buyer seriously, there’s not much you, or the real estate agent, can do.”

The expertise your agent brings to this part of the process will help you stay competitive and find a price that’s fair to you and the seller.

4. Trust Your Agent’s Expertise Throughout Negotiations

During the ‘unicorn’ years of housing, some buyers skipped home inspections or didn’t ask for concessions from the seller in order to submit the winning bid on a home. An article from Bankrate explains this isn’t happening as often today, and that’s good news:

“While the market has largely calmed down since then, sellers are still very much in the driver’s seat in this era of scarce housing inventory. It’s not as common for buyers to waive inspections anymore, but it does still happen. . . . It’s in the buyer’s best interest to have a home inspected . . . Inspections alert you to existing or potential problems with the home, giving you not just an early heads up but also a useful negotiating tactic.”

Fortunately, today’s market is different, and you may have more negotiating power than before. When putting together an offer, your trusted real estate advisor will help you think through what levers to pull and which ones you may not want to compromise on.

When you buy a home this summer, let’s connect so you have an expert on your side who can help you make your best offer.

Buyer AdviceTrending News July 25, 2023

Don’t Fall for the Next Shocking Headlines About Home Prices

If you’re thinking of buying or selling a home, one of the biggest questions you have right now is probably: what’s happening with home prices? And it’s no surprise you don’t have the clarity you need on that topic. Part of the issue is how headlines are talking about prices.

They’re basing their negative news by comparing current stats to the last few years. But you can’t compare this year to the ‘unicorn’ years (when home prices reached record highs that were unsustainable). And as prices begin to normalize now, they’re talking about it like it’s a bad thing and making people fear what’s next. But the worst home price declines are already behind us. What we’re starting to see now is the return to more normal home price appreciation.

To help make home price trends easier to understand, let’s focus on what’s typical for the market and omit the last few years since they were anomalies. 

Let’s start by talking about seasonality in real estate. In the housing market, there are predictable ebbs and flows that happen each year. Spring is the peak homebuying season when the market is most active. That activity is typically still strong in the summer but begins to wane as the cooler months approach. Home prices follow along with seasonality because prices appreciate most when something is in high demand.

That’s why, before the abnormal years we just experienced, there was a reliable long-term home price trend. The graph below uses data from Case-Shiller to show typical monthly home price movement from 1973 through 2021 (not adjusted, so you can see the seasonality):

As the data from the last 48 years shows, at the beginning of the year, home prices grow, but not as much as they do entering the spring and summer markets. That’s because the market is less active in January and February since fewer people move in the cooler months. As the market transitions into the peak homebuying season in the spring, activity ramps up, and home prices go up a lot more in response. Then, as fall and winter approach, activity eases again. Price growth slows, but still typically appreciates.

Why This Is So Important to Understand

In the coming months, as the housing market moves further into a more predictable seasonal rhythm, you’re going to see even more headlines that either get what’s happening with home prices wrong or, at the very least, are misleading. Those headlines might use a number of price terms, like:

  • Appreciation: when prices increase.
  • Deceleration of appreciation: when prices continue to appreciate, but at a slower or more moderate pace.
  • Depreciation: when prices decrease.

They’re going to mistake the slowing home price growth (deceleration of appreciation) that’s typical of market seasonality in the fall and winter and think prices are falling (depreciation). Don’t let those headlines confuse you or spark fear. Instead, remember it’s normal to see a deceleration of appreciation, slowing home price growth, as the months go by.

If you have questions about what’s happening with home prices in our local area, let’s connect.

Trending News July 24, 2023

Foreclosure Numbers Today Aren’t Like 2008

If you’ve been keeping up with the news lately, you’ve probably come across headlines talking about the increase in foreclosures in today’s housing market. This may have left you with some uncertainty, especially if you’re considering buying a home. It’s important to understand the context of these reports to know the truth about what’s happening today.

According to a recent report from ATTOM, a property data provider, foreclosure filings are up 2% compared to the previous quarter and 8% since one year ago. While media headlines are drawing attention to this increase, reporting on just the number could actually generate worry for fear that prices could crash. The reality is, while increasing, the data shows a foreclosure crisis is not where the market is headed.

Let’s look at the latest information with context so we can see how this compares to previous years.

It Isn’t the Dramatic Increase Headlines Would Have You Believe

In recent years, the number of foreclosures has been down to record lows. That’s because, in 2020 and 2021, the forbearance program and other relief options for homeowners helped millions of homeowners stay in their homes, allowing them to get back on their feet during a very challenging period. And with home values rising at the same time, many homeowners who may have found themselves facing foreclosure under other circumstances were able to leverage their equity and sell their houses rather than face foreclosure. Moving forward, equity will continue to be a factor that can help keep people from going into foreclosure.

As the government’s moratorium came to an end, there was an expected rise in foreclosures. But just because foreclosures are up doesn’t mean the housing market is in trouble. As Clare Trapasso, Executive News Editor at Realtor.comsays:

Many of these foreclosures would have occurred during the pandemic, but were put off due to federal, state, and local foreclosure moratoriums designed to keep people in their homes . . . Real estate experts have stressed that this isn’t a repeat of the Great Recession. It’s not that scores of homeowners suddenly can’t afford their mortgage payments. Rather, many lenders are now catching up. The foreclosures would have happened during the pandemic if moratoriums hadn’t halted the proceedings.

In a recent article, Bankrate also explains:

“In the years after the housing crash, millions of foreclosures flooded the housing market, depressing prices. That’s not the case now. Most homeowners have a comfortable equity cushion in their homes. Lenders weren’t filing default notices during the height of the pandemic, pushing foreclosures to record lows in 2020. And while there has been a slight uptick in foreclosures since then, it’s nothing like it was.”

Basically, there’s not a sudden flood of foreclosures coming. Instead, some of the increase is due to the delayed activity explained above while more is from economic conditions.

To further paint the picture of just how different the situation is now compared to the housing crash, take a look at the graph below. It uses data on foreclosure filings for the first half of each year since 2008 to show foreclosure activity has been consistently lower since the crash.

While foreclosures are climbing, it’s clear foreclosure activity now is nothing like it was back then. Today, foreclosures are far below the record-high number that was reported when the housing market crashed.

In addition to all the factors mentioned above, that’s also largely because buyers today are more qualified and less likely to default on their loans.

Right now, putting the data into context is more important than ever. While the housing market is experiencing an expected rise in foreclosures, it’s nowhere near the crisis levels seen when the housing bubble burst, and that won’t lead to a crash in home prices.

Trending News July 20, 2023

Explaining Today’s Mortgage Rates

If you’re following mortgage rates because you know they impact your borrowing costs, you may be wondering what the future holds for them. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to answer that question because mortgage rates are notoriously hard to forecast.

But, there’s one thing that’s historically a good indicator of what’ll happen with rates, and that’s the relationship between the 30-Year Mortgage Rate and the 10-Year Treasury Yield. Here’s a graph showing those two metrics since Freddie Mac started keeping mortgage rate records in 1972:

As the graph shows, historically, the average spread between the two over the last 50 years was 1.72 percentage points (also commonly referred to as 172 basis points). If you look at the trend line you can see when the Treasury Yield trends up, mortgage rates will usually respond. And, when the Yield drops, mortgage rates tend to follow. While they typically move in sync like this, the gap between the two has remained about 1.72 percentage points for quite some time. But, what’s crucial to notice is that spread is widening far beyond the norm lately (see graph below):

If you’re asking yourself: what’s pushing the spread beyond its typical average? It’s primarily because of uncertainty in the financial markets. Factors such as inflation, other economic drivers, and the policy and decisions from the Federal Reserve (The Fed) are all influencing mortgage rates and a widening spread.

Why Does This Matter for You?

This may feel overly technical and granular, but here’s why homebuyers like you should understand the spread. It means, based on the normal historical gap between the two, there’s room for mortgage rates to improve today.

And, experts think that’s what lies ahead as long as inflation continues to cool. As Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist at First Americanexplains:

It’s reasonable to assume that the spread and, therefore, mortgage rates will retreat in the second half of the year if the Fed takes its foot off the monetary tightening pedal . . . However, it’s unlikely that the spread will return to its historical average of 170 basis points, as some risks are here to stay.”

Similarly, an article from Forbes says:

Though housing market watchers expect mortgage rates to remain elevated amid ongoing economic uncertainty and the Federal Reserve’s rate-hiking war on inflation, they believe rates peaked last fall and will decline—to some degree—later this year, barring any unforeseen surprises.”

If you’re either a first-time home buyer or a current homeowner thinking of moving into a home that better fits your current needs, keep on top of what’s happening with mortgage rates and what experts think will happen in the coming months.

Trending News July 18, 2023

Renting or Selling Your House: What’s the Best Move?

If you’re a homeowner ready to make a move, you may be thinking about using your current house as a short-term rental property instead of selling it. A short-term rental (STR) is typically offered as an alternative to a hotel, and they’re an investment that’s gained popularity in recent years.

While a short-term rental can be a tempting idea, you may find the reality of being responsible for one difficult to take on. Here are some of the challenges you could face if you rent out your house instead of selling it.

A Short-Term Rental Comes with Responsibilities

Successfully managing your house as a short-term rental takes a lot of time and effort. You’ll have to juggle tasks like dealing with reservations, organizing check-ins, and tackling cleaning, landscape, and maintenance duties. Any one of those can feel demanding, but all together it’s a lot to handle.

Short-term rentals experience high turnover rates, as new guests check in and out frequently. This home traffic can lead to increased wear and tear on your property—meaning you may need to make more frequent repairs or replace your furniture, fixtures, and appliances more often.

Think through your ability to make that level of commitment, especially if you plan to use a platform that advertises your rental listing. Most of them have specific requirements hosts must meet. An article from Bankrate explains:

Managing a rental property can be time-consuming and challenging. Are you handy and able to make some repairs yourself? If not, do you have a network of affordable contractors you can reach out to in a pinch? Consider whether you want to take on the added responsibility of being a landlord, which means screening tenants and fielding issues, among other responsibilities, or paying for a third party to take care of things instead.”

There’s a lot to consider before taking the leap and converting your house into a short-term rental. If you aren’t ready for the work it takes, it could be wise to sell instead.

Short-Term Rental Regulations

As the short-term rental industry continues to grow, regulations have increased. Legal restrictions commonly include limits on the number of vacation rentals in a particular location. This is especially true in larger cities and tourist destinations where there may be concerns about overcrowding or housing shortages for permanent residents. Restrictions may also apply to the type of property that can be used for short-term rentals.

Many cities also require homeowners to obtain a license or permit before renting out their properties. Nick Del Pego, CEO at Deckard Technologiesexplains:

Renting short-term rentals is considered a business by most local governments, and owners must comply with specific workplace regulations and business licensing rules established in their local communities.”

It is important to thoroughly check whether short-term rentals are regulated or prohibited by the local government and your homeowners association (HOA) before even considering renting out your home.

Converting your home into a short-term rental isn’t a decision you should make without doing your research. To decide if selling your house is a better alternative, let’s connect today.

Trending News July 17, 2023

Home Prices Are Rebounding

If you’re following the news today, you may feel a bit unsure about what’s happening with home prices and fear whether or not the worst is yet to come. That’s because today’s headlines are painting an unnecessarily negative picture. If we take a year-over-year view, home prices did drop some, but that’s because we’re comparing to a ‘unicorn’ year when prices peaked well beyond the norm.

To avoid an unfair comparison to that previous peak, we need to look at monthly data. And that tells a very different and much more positive story. While local home price trends still vary by market, here’s what the national data tells us.

The graphs below use recent monthly reports from three sources to show the worst home price declines are already behind us, and prices are appreciating nationally.

Looking at this monthly view, we can see the past year in the housing market can be divided into two parts. In the first half of 2022, home prices were going up, and fast. However, starting in July, prices began to go down (shown in red in the graphs above). By around August or September, the trend started to stabilize. But, looking at the most recent data for early 2023, these graphs also show that prices are going up again.

The fact that all three reports show prices have been going up for three or more straight months is an encouraging sign for the housing market. The month-over-month data indicates a national shift is happening – home prices are rising again.

Craig J. Lazzara, Managing Director at S&P Dow Jones Indicessays this about home price trends:

“If I were trying to make a case that the decline in home prices that began in June 2022 had definitively ended in January 2023, April’s data would bolster my argument.”

Experts believe one of the reasons prices didn’t crash like some expected is because there aren’t enough available homes for the number of people who want to buy them. Even with today’s mortgage rates, there are more people looking to buy than there are homes available for sale.

Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First Americanexplains how more demand than supply keeps upward pressure on prices:

“History has shown that higher rates may take the steam out of rising prices, but it doesn’t cause them to collapse entirely. This is especially true in today’s housing market, where the demand for homes continues to outpace supply, keeping the pressure on house prices.”

Doug Duncan, Senior VP and Chief Economist at Fannie Maestates home price growth is exceeding expectations thanks to that high demand:

“. . . housing prices continue to show stronger growth than what was previously expected . . . Housing’s performance is a testimony to the strength of demographic-related demand . . .”

Here’s How This Affects You

  • Buyers: If you’ve been holding off on buying because you were worried the value of your home would go down, knowing home prices have bounced back should bring you some relief. It also gives you the opportunity to own something that usually becomes more valuable as time goes on.
  • Sellers: If you’ve been waiting to sell your house because you were concerned about how changing home prices would affect its value, it might be a good idea to team up with a real estate agent to list your house. You don’t have to wait any longer because the latest data suggests things are turning in your favor.

If you delayed your moving plans because you were concerned about home prices dropping, the latest data reveals the worst is already over, and prices are appreciating nationally. Let’s get in touch so you know what’s happening with home prices in our area.