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Let’s talk about homeownership. Are you considering buying vs. renting?

May 16 - Market Snapshot2
Renters often ask me if it’s too late to buy a house: Are we heading for a big downturn? Are we too deep in the market cycle to buy? they wonder. Timing the real estate market perfectly is extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, and some of these potential buyers were the same renters that were sitting on the fence when the market was down, even once we’d passed the nadir. I believe that buying a home is less about the market and more about life; your life. So don’t try to time the market, take a look at your life, the low interest rates and time that!

1.) Are you getting married, starting a family, or tired of paying skyrocketing rent without having an asset to show for it? Would you like to have more space; a backyard for the dog, the kids, the BBQs, or the tomatoes? Do you like the idea of being part of a neighborhood, community? Perhaps you got a nice raise, job or promotion and you’d like to set down roots, do you plan on staying in one place for at least five years? Do you like the idea of investing in something that will build long-term wealth?

These are the types of questions you should be asking when you are considering homeownership.

Here’s another thing to keep in mind. In the U.S., the average total net worth of rental households is $5,800. Compare that with the average net worth of a home-owning household at $199,500 and you’ve got worth 34 times more than those who rent! There’s no doubt that over the long term, homeownership is a solid way to build wealth and financial security. I often advise my first-time buyers to get into something affordable now (not so easy in Denver these days, but doable) and then move up when life allows. If you can keep that first property as a rental, it’s a great way to invest in your financial future.

2. Interest rates remain at record lows but this can’t last forever. No one knows when they’re going to rise, but news this week gave hints of a rise as early as June. Though home prices have gone up the past several years, low interest rates continue to make homes relatively affordable— especially compared to renting. Once interest rates rise, the door to home affordability will begin to close for a lot of potential buyers, leaving them sorry they didn’t act when interest rates were at 50-year lows.

Let me break down the numbers. Assume you are purchasing a $210,000 condo with a 5 percent down payment. The Principle + Interest payment at 4% interest would be $952 per month (tax and insurance and HOA not included). An interest rate increase of one percent (5%) would take your payment of $1,070 per month—an increase of $1,416 a year. Now assume that rates tick up to 6 percent. That increase would result in a 21 percent increase in payments from $952 to $1,196. Where you really see the effect of these increases is when you hold the property for the full 30 years. On a $210,000, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage that increases from 4 to 5 percent, the borrower who obtains the 5 percent loan would pay an additional $42,772 in extra interest as opposed to the borrower who paid just 4 percent interest. Though most buyers consider their monthly payment as most important, when you look at the life of the loan you’re paying a lot more in the total loan amount. This is a great reason to make a “move-up” move right now. Say you’ve outgrown your place, it may be time to cash out and get your “forever home”, or like I mentioned, use your current home as an income property and let your renters pay off your mortgage.
The main reason the average home owner has so much more personal wealth than the average renter is that homes appreciate in value. Over the past 45 years, homes in metro Denver appreciated 6.3 percent per year. If you buy a $200,000 home, you can expect over the long term its value to rise about 6 percent every year. This means you’d make $12,000 in appreciation the first year, an additional $12,720 the second year, another $13,483 in the third year, and on and on. Contrary to popular belief, only 4 of the past 45 years did prices actually fall in metro Denver.
If you’re still wondering whether you’d be better off renting or buying, Trulia built a great Rent-vs-Buy tool. Answer a few simple questions and the system tells you whether it makes more financial sense over the next seven years to rent or purchase. I think it’s worth a couple minutes of your time to see what you can learn – you’ll really like it! buyers chart
Key Messages for May

Prices are up 8% in the prior 12 months vs historical 6%. Inventories are tighter than last year, especially for small, lower priced homes. In 2016, we expect 8-9% appreciation, flat unit sales volume increases, and continued tight inventories.

…with all due respect to the Staples Singers
You’ve found the perfect house! Redone tip-to-toe! That kitchen with the gleaming stainless and the leathered granite is perfect, the master suite, divine, and the water feature will provide a soothing soundtrack for starlit summer nights on the back patio. It’s your dream house… until you see the Inspection Report.
Part “honey-do” list, part diagnosis, a home inspection is the best way to make sure your dream house isn’t a nightmare with a fresh coat of paint. No one wants to shell out $300-$600 to have someone crawl up in the attic and scope your sewer line, but believe me it may be the best money you spend in your home-buying (or selling) process. Last week, I thought for sure we’d fall out of contract once I delivered the Inspection Objection—it was the BIG LIST, and it had to be done by the seller if my buyer was going to go through with the purchase.

1. New roof
2. Sewer line offset repaired
3. Radon mitigation system installed
4. Electrical work on aluminum wiring
5. We overlooked the aging water heater.
So… now you know. What’s next? She had beaten the competing offers so she was paying a fair price, market value, certainly no bargain. With little room for $15-20k worth of repairs, especially on items which are considered “health and safety” issues, which can hold up the loan if left unattended, the buyer has some decisions to make. And I have some questions to ask, the one that tops the list…
Whose problem is it?
Thinking we might be at risk of losing the house, I sat with my client over coffee and asked her how she felt about all of this.
1. Do you love this house enough to stay in the deal?
2. Are you willing to do the work yourself?
3. What on this list is most important to you?
We worked our way through her options, she made her decisions, and I sent over the “final four” on our list of objections to the listing agent. “Do you think they’ll go for it?” my buyer asked, uncertain. “We know what you want, all we can do is ask“ (And I love the ask).
If a seller is motivated, your requests are not unreasonable, and the agents are good at what they do, chances are you can find a solution that suits all. In our case, that’s just what happened, but it ain’t always the case. So… how do you avoid the less harmonious outcome to this situation?
Sellers usually have a pretty good idea about what is wrong with their homes. The problem is they are used to living with that squeak in the floor, the drip in the downstairs bathroom and that little flicker in the dining room light fixture when the kids are on the computer. Many times, they’ll spend time and money preparing to put their house on the market, only to find a slew of hidden problems upon the Buyer’s inspection and a bucket of resentment along with them. It might be a good idea to have a home inspection BEFORE you list your property; that way, you’re able to make pre-market repairs or price accordingly if you choose not to. Buyers write offers based upon their emotional response to a home, but they walk away from contracts based upon practical matters. Chances are, they’ll feel better about a coat of paint or buying a new refrigerator than installing a radon system or a sewer repair. For Sellers, it’s “Be Prepared” and for Buyers “Beware”. In either case you will forget about the $300 check soon enough, but there will be that night at 2 a.m. when you’ll remember the mold report and wonder if it’s growing in your drywall… and if your buyer’s going to find it.