Should I Refinance My Home?

 

With the recent lower interest rates, many homeowners are wondering if they should refinance.

To decide if refinancing is the best option for your family, start by asking yourself these questions:

Why do you want to refinance?

There are many reasons to refinance, but here are three of the most common ones:

  1. Lower your interest rate and payment – This is the most popular reason. If you have a 5% interest rate or higher, it might be worth seeing if you can take advantage of the current lower interest rates, hovering below 4%, to reduce your monthly payment and overall cost of the loan.
  2. Shorten the term of your loan – If you have a 30-year loan, it may be advantageous to change it to a 15 or 20-year loan to pay off your mortgage sooner.
  3. Cash-out refinance – With home prices increasing, you might have enough equity to cash out and invest in something else, like your children’s education, a vacation home, or a new business.

Once you know why you might want to refinance, ask yourself the next question:

How much is it going to cost?

There are fees and closing costs involved in refinancing, and Lenders Network explains:

“If you were to refinance that loan into a new loan, total closing costs will run between 2%-4% of the loan amount.”

They also explain that there are options for no-cost refinance loans, but be on the lookout:

“A no-cost refinance loan is when the lender pays the closing costs for the borrower. However, you should be aware that the lender makes up this money from other aspects of the mortgage. Usually pay charging a slightly higher interest rate so they can make the money back.”

If you’re comfortable with the costs of refinancing, then ask yourself one more question:

Is it worth it?

To answer this one, we’ll use an example. Let’s assume you have a $200,000 home loan. A 4% refinance cost will be $10,000. If you want to lower your interest rate from 6% to 4%,  then refinancing is going to save you $244 per month. To break even ($10,000/$244), you need to continue owning your home for over 40 months.

Now that you know how the math shakes out, think about how much longer you’d like to own your current home. If you plan to stay for more than 3 years, then maybe it is advantageous for you to refinance.

If, however, your current home does not fulfill your present needs, you might want to consider using your potential refinance costs for a down payment on a new move-up home. You will still get a lower interest rate than the one you have on your current house, and with the equity you’ve already built, you can finally purchase the home of your dreams.

Bottom Line

There are many opportunities for growth in the current real estate market. To find out what’s right for your family, meet with a local real estate professional who can help you understand your options and guide you toward the best decision.

 

 


Posted on July 16, 2019 at 10:12 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Helpful Information, Statistical Information, Strategy |

Refresh Your Home – Some Great Ideas

 

The craving to move happens to every homeowner as they start to feel bogged down, or like they need a restart. That sense of newness doesn’t have to be dramatic, however. The great part about having a home of your own is you can make improvements and give your home a chance to evolve over time. You just need to help your home live up to its potential!  These are seven of our favorite improvements to help you make the most of your home.

 

1. Find Your Home’s Purpose

Each home is as unique as its owners, so in order to fully utilize your home, consider how you view your home’s purpose. Some people like to entertain, others find it a calm space in the frenzy of daily life; some nurture their families and others nurture their creativity. Your home’s purpose can be any combination of these and more, but it helps to consider the function of your space in order to ultimately find its purpose. Knowing your home’s purpose will help guide you as you move room to room while you refresh the space.

 

2. Assemble a List

 

Create a list of haves/needs/wants. Answer questions like: what is it about the space that isn’t working; how could it work better to fulfill the purpose; where could I move some of my items to make them feel new again?

 

3. Make an “Inspiration Board”

 

An “inspiration board” is a great way to visualize your home’s decor. You can create a board online with a tool like Pinterest to organize ideas you love, you can also use the ‘Save’ feature on Instagram, or the old-fashioned way with a cork board and magazines. Doing this will allow you to see all the elements you like in one place so that you can then tie it all together into a room you love.

 

Photo Credit: @Krista4Coral on Instagram

4. Choose a New Palate

Renew the lighting and color by shaking up your color palate. It’s easy to fall into the white/beige standby to keep our rooms neutral, but sometimes a color that provides a contrast to your décor will make the room pop. Add a new color to the palate, refresh a wall with an accent color that you already feature in your decor, or overhaul your curtains and throws with a brand new hue.
What about the Pantone color of the year? See our blog on how to incorporate Living Coral into your home.

 

5. Rearrange

Moving furniture around is another easy way to reinvent your space. Try placing your sofa on an angle to open up your entertaining room or move your lamps to improve lighting. You can also think about moving a piece of furniture into a room to give it new life, like using a unique dresser for a credenza or a chair as a side table.

 

Photo Credit: HouseBeautiful

 

6. Create a Collection

If you have items that you like to collect, think about how to transform that collection into something you can display. If you don’t already have a collection of loved objects think about what this collection would be for you. You can center a room design around your travel souvenirs, old camera collection, figurines, unique plates, or familial objects. Adding to this collection over time can be a great way to keep your spaces new while maintaining a personal feel to your decor.

 

7. Find Design Motivation

Home design evolves over time and can be sustained by finding items that inspire you. Read magazines and books that inspire your interests in architecture, design, art, etc. Or find stores and flea markets that sell pieces that influence your aesthetic. Another way to get in-tune and keep your aesthetic with you is to bring a camera with you when you’re doing your favorite activities and bring back memories or inspirations.

 

Note: Have fun with it! Homes and aesthetics evolve over time, add and subtract as you go, and don’t stress if the room doesn’t feel finished. You’ll get there eventually.

 


Posted on July 11, 2019 at 7:06 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Helpful Information, Just for Fun |

Are You Better Off Paying Your Mortgage Earlier or Investing Your Money?

Few topics cause more division among economists than the age-old debate of whether you’re better off paying off your mortgage earlier, or investing that money instead. And there’s a good reason why that debate continues; both sides make compelling arguments.

For many people, their mortgage is the largest expense they will ever incur in their lives. So if given the chance, it only makes logical sense you would want to pay it off as quickly as possible. On the other hand, a mortgage is also the cheapest money you will ever borrow, and it’s generally considered good debt. Any extra money you obtain could be definitely be put to good use elsewhere.

The reality is, however, a little less cut and clear. For some homeowners, paying off their mortgage earlier is the right answer. While for others, it would be far more advantageous to invest their money.

Advantages of paying off your mortgage earlier

  • You’ll pay less interest: Each time you make a mortgage payment, a portion is dedicated towards interest, and another towards principal (we’ll ignore other costs for now). Interest is calculated monthly by taking your remaining balance, the length of your amortization period, and the interest rate agreed upon with your lending institution.

If you have a $300,000 mortgage, at a 4% fixed rate over 30 years, your monthly payment would be around $1,432.25. By the time you finish paying off your mortgage, you would have paid a total of $515,609, of which $215,609 were interest.

If you wanted to lower the total amount you pay on interest, you don’t need to make a large lump sum to make a difference. If you were to increase your monthly mortgage payment to $1,632.25 (a $200 a month increase), you would be saving $50,298 in interest, and you’ll pay off your mortgage 6 years and 3 months earlier.

Though this is an oversimplified example, it shows how even a small increase in monthly payments makes a big difference in the long run.

  • Every additional dollar towards your principal has a guaranteed return on investment: Every additional payment you make towards your mortgage has a direct effect in lowering the amount you pay in interest. In fact, each additional payment is, in fact, an investment. And unlike stocks, bonds, and other investment vehicles, you are guaranteed to have a return on your investment.
  • Enforced discipline: It takes real commitment to invest your money wisely each month instead of spending it elsewhere.

 

Your monthly mortgage payments are a form of enforced discipline since you know you can’t afford to miss them. It’s far easier to set a higher monthly payment towards your mortgage and stick to it than making regular investments on your own.

Besides, once your home is completely paid off, you can dedicate a larger portion of your income towards investments, your children or grandchildren’s education, or simply cut down on your working hours.

Advantages of investing your money

  • A greater return on your investment: The biggest reason why you should invest your money instead comes down to a simple, green truth: there’s more money to be made in investments.

Suppose that instead of dedicating an additional $200 towards your monthly mortgage payment, you decide to invest it in a conservative index fund which tracks S&P 500’s index. You start your investment today with $200 and add an additional $200 each month for the next 30 years. By the end of the term, if the index fund had a modest yield of 5% per year, you will have earned $91,739 in interest, and the total value of your investment would be $163,939.

If you think that 5% per year is a little too optimistic, all we have to do is see the S&P 500 performance between December 2002 and December 2012, which averaged an annual yield of 7.10%.

  • A greater level of diversification: Real estate has historically been one of the safest vehicles of investment available, but it’s still subject to market forces and changes in government policies. The forces that affect the stock and bonds markets are not always the same that affect real estate, because the former are subject to their issuer’s economic performance, while property values could change due to local events.

By putting your extra money towards investments, you are diversifying your investment portfolio and spreading out your risk. If you are relying exclusively on the value of your home, you are in essence putting all your eggs in one basket.

  • Greater liquidity: Homes are a great investment, but it takes time to sell a home even in the best of circumstances. So if you need emergency funds now, it’s a lot easier to sell stocks and bonds than a home.

 

Posted by Kenady Swan /Windermere

 


Posted on July 4, 2019 at 9:16 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Helpful Information, Strategy |

2020 Real Estate Excise Tax Laws are Changing!

The majority of sellers will enjoy a slight savings once the new tax structure starts in 2020, however, sellers whose homes are worth $1.5M or more should pay close attention as the tiered system will cost them more in 2020. If you own a high-end home and have been considering downsizing, doing so inside of 2019 may be a winning strategy.

If you or someone you know is curious about the value of your home or you have considered a move, please reach out. It is our goal to help keep our clients informed and empowered to make good real estate decisions.

 

 

 

 


Posted on June 27, 2019 at 10:11 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Helpful Information, Statistical Information, Uncategorized |

Why is so Much Paperwork Required to Get a Mortgage?

When buying a home today, why is there so much paperwork mandated by the lenders for a mortgage loan application? It seems like they need to know everything about you. Furthermore, it requires three separate sources to validate each and every entry on the application form. Many buyers are being told by friends and family that the process was a hundred times easier when they bought their home ten to twenty years ago.

There are two very good reasons that the loan process is much more onerous on today’s buyer than perhaps any other time in history.

1. The government has set new guidelines that now demand that the bank proves beyond any doubt that you are indeed capable of paying the mortgage.

During the run-up to the housing crisis, many people ‘qualified’ for mortgages that they could never pay back. This led to millions of families losing their home. The government wants to make sure this can’t happen again.

2. The banks don’t want to be in the real estate business.

Over the last several years, banks were forced to take on the responsibility of liquidating millions of foreclosures and negotiating an additional million plus short sales. Just like the government, they don’t want more foreclosures. For that reason, they have to double (maybe even triple) check everything on the application.

However, there is some good news in this situation.

The housing crash that mandated that banks be extremely strict on paperwork requirements also allowed you to get a low mortgage interest rate.

The friends and family who bought homes ten or twenty years ago experienced a simpler mortgage application process, but also paid a higher interest rate (the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 8.12% in the 1990s and 6.29% in the 2000s).

If you went to the bank and offered to pay 7% instead of around 4%, they would probably bend over backward to make the process much easier.

Bottom Line

Instead of concentrating on the additional paperwork required, let’s be thankful that we are able to buy a home at historically low rates.

 

Published by Keeping Current Matters – 2019


Posted on June 27, 2019 at 9:19 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Helpful Information, Strategy |

The Impact of Staging Your Home

Some Highlights:

  • The National Association of Realtors surveyed their members & released the findings of their Profile of Home Staging.
  • 62% of seller’s agents say that staging a home decreases the amount of time a home spends on the market.
  • 50% of staged homes saw a 1-10% increase in dollar-value offers from buyers.
  • 77% of buyer’s agents said staging made it easier for buyers to visualize the home as their own.
  • The top rooms to stage in order to attract more buyers are the living room, master bedroom, kitchen, and dining room.

Keeping Current Matters – May 2019


Posted on June 5, 2019 at 5:08 am
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Helpful Information |

Prep Your House With Help From Marie Kondo

One of the biggest challenges sellers face when listing their house is decluttering. Cleaning out some of the more personal decorating choices allows buyers to imagine themselves living in the house.

Those planning to sell soon are in luck! Marie Kondo, the inventor of the KonMari Method of Tidying Up, has gained popularity with her new Netflix series. She gives some great tips for sorting through years of accumulated possessions that we all collect in our homes.

“The KonMari Method™ encourages tidying by category – not by location – beginning with clothes, then moving on to books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and, finally, sentimental items. Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service – then let them go.”

When you subjectively look at all of your belongings, you can sort through the ones that mean the most to you. Not only will you increase space for more joy-bringing items in your new home, but you will also have a much easier time packing remaining belongings!

“Remember, tidying up isn’t about getting rid of stuff. It is about creating an environment that sparks joy and improves your quality of life.”

When selling your house, first impressions matter! Before you or your agent schedule a photographer to take photos for your listing, make sure to tour your home with fresh eyes. Look for any imperfections that a buyer might notice.

When you sort through your more sentimental items, consider packing them away to ensure that you know where they all are. That way, they are safe during open houses and showing appointments. This will also cut down on the amount of packing you need to do right before you move!

Bottom Line

Whether you are selling your house to move up to a larger one, downsizing, or moving in with family, only bring the items that truly spark joy for you. This will not only help cut down on the items you move, but also ensures that you’re off to a great start in your new home!

KCM Crew February 2019

 


Posted on June 5, 2019 at 3:37 am
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Helpful Information |

Multigenerational Homes Are on the Rise

We are seeing the trend everywhere…….Why are Multigenerational Homes on the Rise?

 

As loved ones start to get older, we start to wonder: how long will they be able to live alone?  Will they need someone there to help them with daily life? There’s a reason to ask those questions now more than ever, as the average life expectancy in the U.S. is 78 years old!  As a result, 41% of Americans in the market are searching for a home that can accommodate a multigenerational family.

The graph below shows the number of people by generation that purchased a multigenerational home because they will either be taking care of an aging parent or they just want to spend time together.Multigenerational Homes Are on the Rise | Keeping Current Matters

Of those buyers, 26% indicated they will be taking care of an aging parent, and 14% said they want to spend time with an aging parent. These numbers do not come as a surprise. According to Pew Research Center, 64 million Americans (20% of the population) lived in a multigenerational household in 2016 (Last numbers available).Multigenerational Homes Are on the Rise | Keeping Current MattersAn increasing number of studies affirm the benefits of being part of a multigenerational household. These benefits aren’t just for the grandchildren, but for the grandparents as well. According to these two resources:

The University of Oxford

“Children who are close to their grandparents have fewer emotional and behavioral problems and are better able to cope with traumatic life events, like a divorce or bullying at school”.

Boston College

“Researchers found that emotionally close ties between grandparents and adult grandchildren reduced depressive symptoms in both groups”.

This research gives helpful insight into why 41% of Americans are in the market to buy a multigenerational home.

Bottom Line

If you have a home that could accommodate a multigenerational family and are thinking about selling, now is the perfect time to put it on the market! The number of buyers looking for this type of home will only continue to increase.

 

Keeping Current Matters – Published May 2019

 


Posted on June 3, 2019 at 11:39 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Helpful Information, Statistical Information |

Generational Shift Impacts Demand for Real Estate

 

The generational shift that is happening in our country right now is having a strong influence on demand for real estate. As the Millennials gain a stronger foothold into their adulthood, Generation X settles in with family, Boomers move towards retirement and the Silent Generation find themselves making moves for health reasons, the desire to match their homes to the time in their life is creating strong demand in the real estate market.

In the month of April, the absorption rate based on pending sales was 81% in north King County and 91% in south Snohomish County. Historically low interest rates are helping to fuel this demand. In fact, rates are over half a point lower than they were six months ago.  The low rates are enabling people to make moves with less debt service to satisfy their changing needs for housing based on their age and lifestyle. Below you can see a chart from the National Association of Realtors outlining this motivation.

Recently, the National Association of Realtors did a survey of home buyers to help understand the generational influence on real estate. From July 2017 to June 2018 they gathered data which outlined the top motivators for each age group. Let’s take a look at what caused these groups to make moves.

Young Millennials (1990-1998)
This group accounted for 11% of all home buyers and were predominantly first-time home buyers. Motivated by the desire to start building wealth through owning real estate and purchasing as close to work as possible, this group enjoyed small ramblers, townhomes and condos. This group used financing to obtain their purchases and used savings or gift funds to amass their down payment. A common misconception from this group is that they need a large down payment in order to purchase. This group utilized loan programs with smaller, single-digit down payments to help get their foot in the door of becoming a home owner and building wealth.

Older Millennials (1980-1989)
This group accounted for 26% of all home buyers, the largest group! They have become more established in their careers and are getting married and having children, which is creating the need for a larger home. They tend to gravitate toward larger homes and are willing to move a bit further away from work to obtain the larger square footage. This group is moving into the suburbs and considering school districts and commute times. Some were able to move equity from their first home to the next, creating a larger down payment;  others bought for the first time to avoid high rents.

Generation X (1965-1979)
This group accounted for 24% of all home buyers, the second largest group. They are motivated to upgrade to the largest square footage of all, and take a multi-generational approach to their housing. Many with aging children and/or parents, it is not uncommon for this group to consider having room for adult children or older parents. Still in prime earning years, proximity to work is very important.  Positive equity positions have helped this group make these transitions.

Younger Boomers (1955-1964)
This group accounted for 18% of all home buyers. Job change and desire to be closer to friends and family motivated this group. Positive equity growth enabled some of this group to have sizable down payments. Another interesting fact about this group is that one in four were a single female, some of which were first-time home buyers.  In some cases divorce and death lead individuals to still take on home ownership to build wealth and avoid high rents.

Older Boomers (1946-1955)
This group accounted for 14% of all home buyers. The ability to move equity from one home to the next was a huge influence for this group, and enabled them to find that “forever home” with large down payments and in some cases with “all cash”. The house with less maintenance, more upgrades, possibly further away from job centers, but still close to family and friends.  Single level living is of high priority for this group along with turn-key finishes.

Silent Generation (1925-1945)
This group accounted for 7% of all home buyers and often centered themselves in senior living choices. Smaller homes or condos with stair free access in communities close to family and health services are a priority for this group. Through years of equity growth many of these purchases are “all cash” or only with the need for a very small mortgage.

Life changes motivate real estate decisions.  Career changes, marriage, divorce, family size, retirement, and the desire to be close to family and friends are just some of the reasons people decide to make moves. Fortunately, today’s low interest rates and the ability to transfer equity from one property to another is having a positive effect on demand for real estate. The recent balancing of the market due to more inventory has also made it a bit easier for first-time home buyers to purchase a home.

If you’re curious about the market and how your goals, current lifestyle, and financial position measure up, please contact me. We can help you analyze your ability to match your home to your life. It is our goal to help keep our clients informed and empower strong decisions.


Posted on May 29, 2019 at 9:21 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Statistical Information, Strategy |

What’s Your Home Worth?

What’s your home worth?  How Reliable are Home Valuation Tools?

It seems like a simple question, but finding that answer is more complicated than it might seem. Sites like Zillow, Redfin, Eppraisal, and others have built-in home valuation tools that make it seem easy, but how accurate are they? And which one do you believe if you get three different answers? Online valuation tools have become a key part of the home buying and selling process, but they’ve been proven to be highly unreliable in certain instances. One thing that is for certain is that these valuation tools have reinforced that real estate agents are as vital to the process of pricing a home as they ever were – and maybe even more so now.

There are limitations to every online valuation tool. Most are readily acknowledged by their providers, such as Zillow’s “Zestimate”, which clearly states that it offers a median error rate of 5%, with varying accuracy across the country. That may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind that amounts to a difference of about $35,000 for a $700,000 home. For Redfin and Trulia, there are similar ranges in results. When you dig deeper into these valuation tools, it’s no small wonder that there are discrepancies, as they rely on a range of different sources for information, some more reliable than others.

Redfin’s tool pulls information directly from multiple listing services (MLSs) all over the country. Others negotiate limited data sharing deals with those same services, but also rely on public records, as well as homeowners’ records. This can lead to gaps in coverage. These tools can serve as helpful pieces of the puzzle when buying or selling a home, but the acknowledged error rate is a reminder of the dangers of relying too heavily on them.

Home valuation tools can be a useful starting point in the real estate process, but nothing compares to the level of detail and knowledge a professional real estate agent offers when pricing a home. An algorithm can’t possibly know about a home’s unique characteristics or those of the surrounding neighborhood. They also can’t answer your questions about what improvements you can make to get top dollar or how buyer behaviors are shaping the market. All of this – and more – can only be delivered by a trusted professional whose number one priority is getting you the best price in a time frame that meets your needs.

If you’re curious what your home might be worth, Windermere offers a toolthat provides a series of evaluations about your property and the surrounding market. And once you’re ready, we’re happy to connect you with a Windermere agent who can clarify this information and perform a Comparative Market Analysis to get an even more accurate estimate of what your home could sell for in today’s market.

May 8 2019, 11:00 AM PDT by Kenady Swan/Windermere

 


Posted on May 26, 2019 at 10:35 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Helpful Information, Strategy |