Delmar Readers find few Housing News Jolts...until Tuesday
With Delmar's housing news behaving pretty much in line with the rest of the nation’s—that is, exactly as expected for a brisk spring selling season—you don’t usually expect to see much eye-catching housing news in the national press. That’s why last week’s USA Today Money section’s front page story was interesting. Inside, there was more, too. Tucked inside the same section was “THE WEEK AHEAD” which provided a day-by-day schedule about imminent housing news releases—a welcome heads-up for any devoted local housing news observer. I’ll get back to how that wound up working out later...
The lead housing news item, headlined “AS RENT GOES UP, SO MAY HOUSING MARKET,” centered on the sort of shift that can wind up being indicative of something: for the first time in at least five years, they found “a milestone that should spur the sluggish home-buying market.”
That milestone was a rise in U.S. median rent prices, which climbed 4% from a year earlier—the most robust increase since March 2013. A little less firm was what the ‘something’ that this indicated, but the balance of opinion seems to be that the climbing rent number will prod more renters into buying a place of their own. This seems a reasonable enough takeaway, and it’s one that is supported by history. Underlying that conclusion is another contributing factor: “multifamily construction fell off a cliff after the…financial crisis in the late 2000s…”, so the tightening availability of rentals also factors in.
The item ends with a slightly contrary (and logical) point: rising rents means it will be tougher for tenants to save up for down payments, all the more because rents are now rising faster than wages.
That earlier-mentioned “THE WEEK AHEAD” article on the second page had a list of real estate news reports that were scheduled to be released last week. It was headlined, “Data may point to warmth,” and was indeed more real estate news (rather than a weather update). But the optimism about warm spring weather possibly pointing to a rise in home builder sentiment was slightly chilled when the actual report came out: sentiment dropped two points in May.
Housing starts data were scheduled to be released on Tuesday—and this one turned out to be GREAT! The Census Bureau “surprised the market” with the strongest monthly report for starts and permits in 7 ½ years—soaring 20+% in April (with single family housing up 16% from March). So, one has to wonder: if home builders are less optimistic than predicted, why are they breaking out the hammers and saws so energetically? The housingwire.com website thought it represented a rebound from “weather-depressed” previous numbers…so maybe the “Data may point to warmth” headline had been right, after all.
The rest of the real estate news releases for the week were less interesting because they centered on reaction to the Federal Reserve’s release of the minutes of their meeting, which (let’s face it) are traditionally confusingly vague. But the week was slated to end with Friday’s Labor Department release of consumer prices, as indeed it did: price rises slowed to 0.1% from the 0.2% in March. Good news, also. All in all, Delmar readers had to come away from the spate of housing news with a considerably warmer feeling than they’d had for much of the winter.
- Written by Russell Stucki
Low Credit Score? Still Buy Your First Delmar Home!
They really ought to teach this stuff in school: real-life, day-to-day economics. Delmar youngsters out on their own for the first time are usually left to trial and error when it comes to mastering things like how to lay out a personal budget or use credit advantageously. Or even how to go about selecting a bank, or opening a checking account…
So when it comes to buying their first Delmar home, it’s very common for newcomers to put off confronting the whole daunting issue. When you’re still new to your career, tackling a purchase involving years’ worth of income channeled through a maze of unfamiliar procedures is easy to put off. But when the delay stretches well past the point in their financial lives when it would be clearly advantageous to own rather than to continue renting, it’s the same thing as throwing hard-earned cash overboard.
They really ought to teach this stuff in school! That having been said, here is a broad-brush, very basic rundown of the lay of the land aimed at first time Delmar home buyers:
Since the asking price for even the most modest Delmar home is a number with multiple zeros on the end, you might assume that common sense indicates it’s out of reach. All the more so if early mistakes handling credit cards or student loan troubles have damaged your credit score. The good news is that potential home buyers with less than outstanding credit can still buy that first home—given some careful financial planning and research on your part.
· The most important factor banks use to determine your mortgage eligibility is your FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) credit score. The numbers range from 300 to 850, are based on a number of factors including how much debt you have and your payment history. In general, borrowers will need a credit score of at least 650 to qualify for a conventional home mortgage loan.
· BUT, it’s not the only factor. Although your credit score tops the list of elements that determine your eligibility for a mortgage, banks will also consider the amount of money you can commit to a down payment. Saving up may delay your first home purchase, and definitely takes discipline…but today, the amount you need is changing. Different lending institutions have different rules for determining eligibility, and some offer-
· Non-conventional loans. Today, first-time home buyers with relatively low credit scores can often secure such loans. You should research Delmar banks to find those currently offering non-conventional loans to borrowers with qualifying credit histories. You should also consider a Federal Housing Authority (FHA) loan, which eases credit requirements. For example, you might qualify for an FHA loan with a credit score as low as 580 with a down payment of just 3.5%!
· You can also use money from an IRA for your down payment. In other circumstances, withdrawing money from your IRA before age 59 ½ means paying a 10% penalty, but that rule doesn’t apply when you use your IRA to purchase a first home!
- Written by Russell Stucki
Home Rental: Thrifty Alternative for College-Bound Students
For many Sussex County parents of high school seniors, these are hold-your-breath days—the time of year when college acceptance letters begin showing up in Georgetown mailboxes. If all goes well, after settling on a school, next comes tackling the array of decisions that follow. Chief among them: where he or she will live. Many parents tend to take the common course, assuming that a college dorm is automatically the best answer—but a college’s room-and-board plan is actually only one of the possibilities. In fact, it may not be the best financial, social or developmental choice for parent or student. Renting a house can be an intriguing alternative. Here are three of the reasons why some Georgetown parents decide a home rental makes more sense:
Sharing a home rental is often significantly less expensive than renting an apartment—or even a dorm room. Prices vary, but it’s more than possible to end up paying as much as $4,500 per semester for student housing. If your student lives on campus during the summer, fall and spring terms, that would create a $13,500 bill for the year’s housing (the equivalent of paying more than $1,000 in rent per month). Considering that most dorm rooms are tiny, that translates into a much higher cost per square foot than does a shared home rental.
Renting even a one-bedroom home near campus can give your child more space and quiet time to study without interference from fire alarm-pulling pranksters or noisy roommates. Every student is different, and having a place to escape the hustle and bustle of campus life can provide some kids with the extra focus they’ll need for success.
When students live in crowded dorms, many parents worry that they are more likely to catch colds or other communicable diseases. Being packed into a dorm with hundreds of people who may or may not behave responsibly is a dire way to view dorm life, but that is some parents’ view. When their child lives on his or her own or teams with a select group of roommates, some parents breathe easier.
With a home rental, any student will learn more about responsible adulthood than when campus authorities assume parental-like responsibility for day-to-day living. Students who are on their own may be wholly or partially enrolled in school cafeteria programs, or may learn to shop for and prepare their own meals. Household and maintenance chores will be theirs to handle, rather than being the province of college employees. In that way, a college home rental can serve almost as a youngster's "starter home." They will graduate from college with a rental history, self-sufficiency skills, and home stewardship experience that will prepare him or her to better care for their own home later in life.
Of course, it’s not universally the best answer to the student housing problem: every institution and child combination are different, and different youngsters respond to independence and responsibility in differing ways. But if you haven’t thought about the possibility, it could be worth looking into. If I can help with a referral to a rental agency—or if you’d like to consider buying—do give me a call!
- Written by Russell Stucki
Difference Between Prepping for In-Person and Virtual Tours
To make the best use of those tools, it’s important to prepare your home with the special requirements of the medium in mind. How doing so differs from prepping for in-the-flesh showings is a subtle but real distinction. Some photographers use a couple of tricks:
Close One Eye
Virtual tours are assemblages of still or video shots —raw material that is all filtered through the single lens of a camera. When anyone walks through a home, they do so with both eyes open. They experience a three-dimensional impression of their surroundings.
What the "camera sees" is different — it’s why some people and places are said to be more "photogenic" than others. It’s also why you sometimes see a film director examining the next shot through a single-lens viewfinder — he’s viewing the set the way the camera will. The quickest way to start seeing what your virtual tour will convey is to simply close one eye. Strange but true, when you stand back and view each room that way, you get a two-dimensional (flat) version of what’s there.
Snap a Test Shot
After you have arranged a room to look pleasing in a one-eyed view, take an actual test shot, then view it critically. You will probably notice how the camera lens picks up and seems to magnify any flaws that were less apparent before. You’ll want to -
· remove excess furniture (and all clutter) to "open up" the space, expanding apparent size
· scrub any surface or thing that appears less than Q-tip clean
· place tasteful accessory combinations (lamps, plants, books) of varying heights next to one another to add dimension
The goal of virtual tours is to show a comprehensive view of the subject properties, inside and out — a view that will ignite the imaginations of potential buyers. As we enter the spring, the importance of Delmar virtual tours can’t be overemphasized! The buyers (and they are out there!) will be busier than usual. Call me today to discuss how to reach them!
- Written by Russell Stucki