The real estate market is looking better for first-time buyers, so 2018 may be the year that many young buyers finally step off the sidelines and into the market.
After slipping for three straight years and hitting a near-30-year low of 32%, the share of sales to first-time home buyers rose to 35% this year, according to the National Association of Realtors’ annual Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. That’s the highest share of first-time buyers since 2013, when they made up 38% of sales, but well below the long-term average of 40%.
The long-awaited influx of young buyers into the market is likely to continue and may help drive home sales in the year ahead. For anyone whose specific goals for 2017 include buying a home, here is a look at what to expect in the market, along with five tips for achieving your home buying goals.
What to expect
First, mortgage credit is still tight from the downturn and years of stringent underwriting, but the outlook continues to improve. Mortgage interest rates are around 4%, and despite recent increases, rates remain close to their historic lows. An increasing number of lenders also now offer loans with as little as a 3% down payment.
Second, it may take time to find your dream home. The most recent data from NAR show that the supply of existing homes for sale is insufficient, and new home construction is not meeting demand. More buyers are competing for a smaller number of affordable homes than a year ago, so you’ll likely be touring open houses and listings with many of the same people.
Third, home prices are steadily rising. With demand rising and listings scarce in many markets, NAR forecasts home prices will increase nationally about 4% in 2017 and 2018. In cities with the tightest of supply, prices could rise more than double that (10% or more) over last year.
How to buy a house:
Tips for success:
Start planning now
It’s good to begin planning a few months in advance of your home purchase. Start your home search by selecting a real estate agent who knows the area where you want to buy. Ask family and friends for recommendations; it’s important to select someone with whom you feel comfortable, since you’ll be spending a lot of time with him or her. I recommend choosing a Realtor — a member of NAR. Such agents are bound by the NAR code of ethics.
A Realtor can be an expert companion to help you find homes in your price range and can market you to sellers as a serious buyer. And when the time comes, a Realtor can develop a negotiation strategy to help make your purchase offer stand out among any others.
Get pre-approved for a mortgage
Gather your paperwork and talk with your real estate agent, who can suggest lenders to help guide you through the mortgage application and closing process, explaining what you will need to provide along with your loan options and estimated costs. When you are determining your final budget, make sure you consider the other costs of home ownership, such as taxes, maintenance, insurance and home utilities.
Identify your needs versus wants
No home is perfect, and many people have to compromise on features when buying an existing home. At the same time, you don’t want to end up settling for a house you don’t love. Prioritize your needs and wish-list items from most important to least.
Start looking and be prepared to act quickly
Based on your discussions with your lender and help from your real estate agent, visit neighborhoods and homes that align with your budget and needs. In markets with tight supply, multiple offers and bids above asking price are common, so the pressure may be on to move quickly. Don’t worry too much, though; it’s not uncommon to lose out on a few homes before the right one comes along. Keep at it!
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There’s plenty to look forward to as a first-time home buyer, from browsing houses online to touring prospective neighborhoods. But after the initial excitement of deciding to take the plunge, what comes next? How long will it be before you’re picking out paint colors and introducing yourself to the neighbors?
We have put together what to expect as you make your way from house-hunt to moving day.
Determine how much you can afford
Search for a home
Find a real estate agent
Visit open houses and tour homes
Submit an offer
Get a home inspection
Get an appraisal
Close the sale.
Navigating new territory
Purchasing a house is one of the biggest personal and financial decisions you’ll make, and often one of the most complicated. There are new legal terms to learn, like contingency and escrow, and people to meet, from mortgage lenders to real estate agents. Plus, there’s a seemingly never-ending series of steps to navigate. With so many parts, it’s no wonder many first-time buyers start out unsure about what lies ahead and how long it will take.
The best thing you can do is begin with a birds-eye view of the process. Understanding the basic steps will give you a sense of control from the start. Armed with your road map, you can relax and focus on each stage as it arrives.
Counting down to moving day
You can expect the entire home buying process take several months from start to finish. The exact speed will depend on individual factors like the local housing market. Planning for a longer journey means it will be easier to stay patient throughout.
Your first step, mortgage pre-approval, can take 30 days or more, according to Credit.com. That’s when the fun begins — and the searching. The National Association of Realtors reports that it takes on average 10 weeks for buyers to find the house they’ll likely buy.
When you find “the one,” the Home Buying Institute notes negotiation with the seller can take under a week, but with the emotional stakes at play it might well feel like longer. Once an offer is agreed upon, the closing process typically takes 30 to 60 days.
Although the road ahead may seem daunting, you’re not alone. The report by the National Association of Realtors suggests that more than a third of all American home-buyers are navigating the system for the first time.
The power of being informed
The smartest way to start your house hunt is with information. That’s why we’ve put together our “Essential checklist for first-time home buyers.” In it, we break down the stages that comprise the path to ownership, from determining how much you can afford to closing the sale. We’ve also included some extra tips and stats about the home buying process.
AND WHEN YOU ARE READY TO BUY...
WHY Choose Fresno Metro Area
Fresno is an agricultural and minor banking and financial center for the San Joaquin Valley, the southern half of California’s famed agricultural Central Valley. Agriculture and some light manufacturing round out the private employment picture. The California State University at Fresno, or “Fresno State,” adds some college-town life including sports and arts activities, but it doesn’t have much influence on the look or atmosphere of the town. The city core, once neglected, has been renovated and some projects are still underway. A few nice older neighborhoods spread north, but much of the rest of the area could be described as “functional” and not very interesting, and some are downright gritty.
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