summers hottest markets

Summer’s Top 5 Hottest Housing Markets

The summer days are hot and so is the housing market. This year, Florida dominated the list with 4 of its cities ranking in the top 5 markets and Washington taking the 5th spot according to data reported by Ten X, an online real estate marketplace.

The markets are ranked based on strong demand, home price appreciation and economics and demographic growth.

Check out the list below:

5. Seattle, Washington

Home sale growth increase from last year: 10.8%

4. Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Home sale growth increase from last year: 3.9%

3. Tampa, Florida

Home sale growth increase from last year: 4.5%

2. Orlando, Florida

Home sale growth increase from last year: 5.1%

1. Palm Beach County, Florida

Home sale growth increase from last year: 4.3%

Are Your Expensive Habits Costing You Hundreds?

A habit, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is a usual way of behaving: something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way.

Life’s little luxuries are nice to indulge in every now and again, but when splurges become habitual practices, your savings can seriously suffer.

Try cutting out some of these habits and finally make waves on that 6-month emergency fund you’ve been meaning to build up.

1. Wasting groceries

Picking up food after work on the drive home or ordering takeout is a habit that could cost you quite a bit of money and wasted food. Yes, it’s convenient, but if you’ve already done your grocery shopping for the week, or month, you are throwing money down the drain. Make a grocery and takeout budget for the month and stick to it.

2. Paying your bills late

With charges of $25 and up, late and overdraft fees can really set you back. Setting up automatic payments and making sure you have enough funds to cover your costs will save you money and keep you from having to pay a hefty bill.

3. Fancy lattes every morning

Starbucks is great, most of us can agree on that, but it can also get expensive. Especially if your coffee drink of choice is a $6 venti caramel macchiato (those things are addicting). I’m not telling you not to splurge on your favorite coffee drinks, just don’t make it a habit. Treat yourself to a specialty drink every now and then but opt for a simple, less expensive, cup of joe with cream and sugar, or even better make your coffee at home!

Read our blog about how to reward yourself for avoiding splurging.

 4. Designer shopping

I love my MK bag; in fact, I may even be obsessed with it, but updating to a new handbag or shoe every time Michael Kors or Coco Channel decides a style they released last week is outdated can dry up your entire paycheck. Splurging on expensive items is something you should do sparingly. Try taking a page out of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s book and just wear the same thing every day. It seems to work for him!

 

5. Paying for a gym membership… you don’t use

Ok, sure you had great intentions of working out every day when you originally bought that $50 a month gym membership, but intentions don’t save you money, and in this case, they lose you money. Time to be realistic and ask yourself “is it really worth it to pay for something I haven’t used since January 2nd?”

Million Dollar Homes The New Normal In Some Markets

Remember when you thought a house worth one million dollars was an exorbitant price paid out only on decadent mansions by the extremely wealthy? Well, those days of thinking are gone and the seven-figure price tag is becoming a new normal in many of our country’s largest housing markets.

According to a report released by Trulia, million-dollar home listings in the U.S. have increased from 1.6% to 3% since 2012, with many of the larger metros seeing an even higher increase.

No surprise California sits at the top of the increase with seven of its cities holding a spot on the list of top 10 housing markets with the biggest increase in million dollar homes and cities in Hawaii, New York and Washington taking the remainder 3 spots.

With over half of homes (57%) valued over a million dollars, San Francisco has the most staggering and dramatic increase considering in 2012 these homes made up less than a fifth of the market. What’s even more astounding is the knowledge that this state is experiencing a housing crisis with ongoing affordability issues. Simple supply and demand may be what’s at play here, but until the growing problem is fixed, more and more low (and even middle) income households will be pushed out of the market.

[image courtesy of Trulia.com]

What Is A Reverse Mortgage?

You’ve finally reached the golden age of 62 and now qualify for a reverse mortgage, so how does this impact you? Well, quite frankly all this means is you have more options, and who doesn’t like having options!

With a reverse mortgage, or a home equity conversion mortgage, eligible homeowners can pull equity out of their homes. Basically, you receive a loan based on your age and the amount of equity you have built up. After your existing mortgage is paid, the remainder of the loan amount is yours to spend; however, you are still responsible for tax and insurance payments.

As the borrower, you are not required to pay back the loan for as long as you live in the home and the loan is non-recourse, meaning neither you nor your heirs are required to pay back more than the sale price of the home.

For more information and details about what a reverse mortgages is, visit https://www.reversemortgage.org/About

Still wondering if a reverse mortgage is right for you? Check out this information from the CFPB to help you make your decision.

Reduce Your Debt-To-Income Ratio

In the wake of the home finance crisis that began in about 2008, obtaining a mortgage is now more difficult than it was before, but knowing the obstacles will help prepare you for buying a home.  Today’s lenders want to avoid the mistakes that bankrupted yesterday’s lenders.  Additionally, Government Sponsored Entities (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have set much tighter guidelines that lenders must follow.  There are numerous factors considered when determining eligibility for a mortgage, but the three big ones are credit history, income and debt.

The debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is a valuable number that underwriters look at heavily when determining your borrowing ability.  To put it simply, DTI is the amount of debt you have compared to your overall income.  A low DTI shows lenders that you have a favorable balance between debt and income.

There are two main kinds of DTI and they’re expressed as a pair (front-end/back-end).  The front-end ratio indicates the percentage of income that goes towards housing costs (principal and interest, mortgage insurance, property taxes and homeowners’ association dues).  The back-end ratio is the percentage of income that goes towards paying recurring debts, including the housing costs covered in the front-end, plus credit card payments, car payments, student loans, child support, alimony, etc.  AmeriSave, one of the nation’s largest online lenders generally requires a DTI of 45% or lower for conventional conforming loans.

If you haven’t guessed it yet, one of the keys to unlocking the door of homeownership is reducing your debt-to-income ratio.  There are many things you can do to actively reduce your DTI so you can apply for a mortgage.

Increase your income – This might mean working some overtime, asking for a salary increase or taking on a part-time job.  Be advised though, as we mentioned earlier, income verification standards have increased greatly in the new age of lending so be mindful that cash or otherwise non-reported earnings will likely not count toward your “income”; although it could be used to reduce debt to the same effect.

Reduce spending – Review your bank and credit card statements to see where you are spending most of your money.  Cut back on unnecessary expenses and research other providers of insurance, phone, cable and other utilities to see if there are lower-cost alternatives.  Plow those savings into reducing your debt.

5 Ways to Cut Costs and Save

Reduce debt – A high DTI is not necessarily bad if you’re actively reducing debt.  For example, if your income is $2000 per month and you’re putting $1000 towards debts, your DTI is temporarily 50%, but will be reduced to 0% when you’re finished.  If you have any cash saved, you might want to consider paying off some debt.  While credit cards have high interest rates, the minimum payments are typically lower than, say an auto loan. Consider this scenario:

You have credit card debt of $5000 with a minimum payment of $120 and an auto loan with $5000 remaining and a payment of $600.  The $600 per month towards the auto loan reduces your borrowing power by $100,000, so you may want to consider using the savings to eliminate the auto loan and continue paying monthly towards the credit card.

If you plan on paying off any debts in full, ask the creditor the date they report to the credit bureaus, then apply for the mortgage after your account has been updated, revealing less debt.  You can also track changes to your credit report with free services like Credit Karma.

Check out our post on easy ways to save money!

Millennials Set To Take Up The Mantle As Largest Generation Of Buyers

Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest living generation, but their buying priorities are vastly different than their elder counterparts were at similar ages.

Renting vs. Homeownership

Growing up when the housing bubble began to burst and seeing their parents struggle through a volatile housing market hasn’t done much to lend support to the benefits of investing in a home. That, and a seemingly crushing student loan debt crisis has made millennials wary when it comes to where they are investing their hard earned cash.

What does this mean for the economy?

Nothing and everything.

When examining buying behaviors, there are definitely trend changes, but millennials are buying at the same rate as the generation before them; however, where they’re spending their money is the main difference.

Experiences and travel trump tangible materials; i.e. luxury cars and homes.

Many millennials are choosing to either stay at their parent’s homes or continuing to rent instead of jumping into the world of homeownership.

After the Brexit vote, Baby Boomers jumped on refinancing opportunities for their current mortgages. Refinance applications are increasing and surveys are indicating that a large percentage of Americans are in agreement that thanks to record low mortgage rates, now is a great time to make a home purchase, but millennials aren’t biting.

In the midst of a seemingly stable housing market with excellent mortgage loan rates, rentals have continued to climb with 37% of households renting in 2015; the highest volume since the 1960’s.

Key factors to consider

As millennials continue to influence the economy through their spending, the mortgage industry will need to adapt.

In order to maintain a stable housing economy, lenders will need to follow and track trends in order to offer services that attract millennial homebuyers.

Technology advancements should be a key focus. With a generation that is constantly connected and looking for virtual convenience, online services will be highly sought after.

5 Reasons To Consider Using A Real Estate Agent

Acquiring a house is one of the biggest financial purchases you will make, and navigating the steps to homeownership can be confusing and a little intimidating; even more so if you are in the beginning stages of finding your first home. Would you leave such a big decision and financial burden to chance in the hopes that everything might turn out ok? I didn’t think so.

Asking for help from an expert is one of the best decisions you could make. Still not convinced? Check out our list below of the top 5 reasons why we believe you should consider using a real estate agent.

They know what they’re doing

Like any other professional, real estate agents are trained in what they do. They spend time educating themselves and staying current on market trends as well as key information that your internet search won’t teach you.

They save time

Having a real estate agent may save you a massive amount of time. For those busy managing their families and working, taking care of all the responsibilities that comes with selling, moving or both, may be a bit overwhelming. An agent can schedule open houses and find potential homes that fit your needs and budget.

They help decrease your stress

Home buying and selling is stressful, but having an agent may take off some of the pressure. They stay on top of the paperwork and incoming inquires.

They are your advocate

The home purchasing and selling process can be an emotional one, and when emotions are high buyers and sellers communication can get interesting. A professional middleman can address concerns  for all parties in a way that’s effective and protects the interest of their clients.

They work on a deadline

Sticking to a timeline is difficult with a professional, imagine going at it alone. Real estate agents are able to take your time frame into account and do their best to get the work done within those parameters.

AmeriSave Advantage

AmeriSave realizes the importance of connecting our clients with a network of professionals that can cater to their needs.

The AmeriSave Advantage program is designed to help customers in the home buying process by giving them access to a network of local real estate agents and providing them with a client coordinator who acts as a liaison between them and agents to ensure a smooth process and answer any questions.

Another added benefit of using AmeriSave Advantage is the possibility of receiving a cashback reward based on the purchase/sale price of the home. For example, a customer purchasing a home for $300,000 could receive a reward of $1,300. *

For more information on AmeriSave Advantage, click here.

*The program is not offered in all states and some states may have restrictions on the reward.

Landscaping Ideas That Can Make Your Home More Secure

As crime rates in major cities increase, finding clever ways to increase your home’s security is not only shrewd but necessary.

Using landscaping in a way that deters would-be burglars could keep you and your property safe. Simple design concepts will help give your home a polished look that doesn’t take away visibility or aesthetic appearance, but can dissuade perpetrators.

Check out these landscaping ideas below:

1. Plant thorny bushes

These pointy shrubs can give your home added security when strategically placed around windows and points of entry.

2. Prune your hedges

Don’t let unkempt vegetation give potential intruders a place to hide.

3. Trim trees near your home

Trees with low hanging branches that reach toward your upstairs windows could offer access into your home. Cut branches and leave distance between your trees and windows.

4. Light things up

Motion sensor lighting and accent lights can add to your homes décor and security.

5. Use gravel

Stealthy footsteps are all but impossible when one must walk across gravel pathways.