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What can buyers do to combat rising interest rates?

A fine line between inflation, control, and recession

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Despite rising interest rates, now may still be the optimal time to buy before the rates go higher.

During the past quarter, we have seen most favored interest rates rise from 3.5% to 4.5%. While these rates are still historically among the lowest in decades, that fact may not make you feel any better about the possibility of paying more for your first or next home.

This week’s rate is the highest we have seen in two-and-a-half years. Loan officers are projecting further increases in rates as the Federal Reserve (the “Fed”) attempts to control inflation. Basic economics tells us that more expensive credit slows spending, which, in turn, lowers prices. It can be a fine line to walk between inflation, control, and recession.

People who are seeking a conventional loan of $647,200 or less with a 20% down payment will likely receive the best 30-year fixed rate if they hold a salaried job and have a credit score of more than 740.

Using an example of a typical $750,000 D.C. rowhouse with a $150,000 down payment, the difference between the principal and interest payment at 3.5% and 4.5% is $346 a month without taking tax-deductible mortgage interest into consideration.

Often, there is a rate premium paid for the purchase of a condominium or cooperative apartment, for being self-employed, for less than stellar credit, and for lower down payments or larger loans.

So, what can you do to minimize the effects of an increase in interest rates?

First, make sure your credit is squeaky clean. Consult a loan officer to get a copy of your tri-merged credit report (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union) to avoid any surprises. Do not start paying off debt or closing credit cards without your loan officer’s input. There is such a thing as good debt where credit is concerned.

Shop around for your mortgage and consider alternative mortgage programs. For example, as rates rise, adjustable mortgages with payments fixed for 5, 7, or 10 years can be more affordable. A 30-year fixed rate, often thought to be the safest bet, may not be as desirable if you will not be keeping the home for 30 years.

Search for any special benefits for which you may qualify. D.C., Maryland, and Virginia all have programs geared toward people with low to moderate incomes or who have as little as 3% for a down payment. The funds for these programs may have been secured when rates were lower, with savings passed along to the consumer.

This should be the time to look for sellers who have assumable FHA mortgages obtained when rates were lower. In addition to lower rates, the cost of assuming such a mortgage will be less than originating a new one, so you might save money in closing costs as well. VA loans can also be assumed by active-duty military or veterans, or by others under certain circumstances.

Have the lender you choose provide you with an estimate of what your mortgage payment may be at different rates. Even if you can afford the payment, it is best not to be surprised as you go through the process. When you find a rate that gives you a comfortable monthly payment, lock it in so your rate will not go up if or when the Fed makes another adjustment.

Consider whether to pay points to lower your interest rate. One point is equal to one percent of the loan amount, but you can “buy down” the rate in increments of as little as 1/8 of a percent. When interest rates were higher than 10%, it was quite common for sellers to pay points to help a buyer afford his loan. While I do not anticipate this happening here anytime soon, the “buy down” procedure still exists.

Find an infusion of cash to lower your loan amount. The National Bank of Mom and Dad is a common place to obtain a gift of funds. In 2022, each parent can give a gift of $16,000 to a child or grandchild without tax consequences to the giver or the recipient. Consult your tax adviser for more information.

If you have a 401k retirement plan with your employer or a federal government Thrift Savings Plan, you can borrow from it without incurring penalties and pay yourself back with interest. Most lenders will not count this against your debt load.

Lastly, you may need to adjust your expectations regarding size and location of your prospective home, since any increase in rates will affect everything from entry-level condos to luxury properties. Still, with the Fed anticipating raising rates in small increments through 2023, this may still be the optimum time to buy.

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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Real Estate

Consider buying a beach house with a group of friends 

A lawyer can ensure everyone’s rights are protected

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Enjoy weekends at the beach? Why not invest with a group of friends?

A trend that we are seeing across the boards (get it…like boardwalk) as we head into summer, aside from the swimsuits getting smaller and smaller, is friends buying homes together. Buying a property with another individual is not only an option for those in a relationship, marriage, domestic partnership, business etc. but also friendships.

With the pandemic and the increase of people wanting to move out of their small spaces in the city and leave for the more bucolic settings, the trend has been to ask your roomie, kiki partner or other friend to go halfsies on your primary residence. Why pay rent when you can have an investment and build equity in your home, right? Well why not take that approach for a second home at the beach? You will likely have the beach house to entertain and have friends over for weekends or weeks during the summer so let’s get them on the hook for more than just a few bottles of vodka or boxed wine. Let’s get their names on that mortgage.

With the rising market prices your borrowing power is stronger as a collective. Think of your group that you head to the beach with. How many of those folks would love to have a space at the beach? Likely all of them. If you can only afford $200k but three of your best friends can also only afford $200k then collectively you can afford $800k. Using simple terms and numbers here, but I trust you are tracking. 

Now that you have found those select few that you implicitly, or mostly implicitly trust and are financially stable let’s now consider the actual items that matter in practice such as (1) how you will split up days, weeks etc., (2) how and who handles/coordinates repairs to the property, (3) what happens if you no longer enjoy this person or someone wants out of the house and they’re on the mortgage? This is where a lawyer comes into place and can advise on creating an operating agreement similar to what a business or corporation would have in place to ensure that all parties in the home are protected and each has their own rights as well as common rights for the home.

I know what you’re thinking, this sounds a little dicey, but I know if you’re reading this, that you have likely been in dicier situations, and for those who really want a beach house to enjoy but might not have the capital to do so, this is a great option. Instead of renting a beach house for the season and paying high season beaucoup bucks, why not get a few friends together to buy a beach house together?

Justin Noble is a Realtor with Sotheby’s international Realty licensed in D.C., Maryland, and Delaware for your DMV and Delaware Beach needs. Specializing in first-time homebuyers, development and new construction as well as estate sales, Justin is a well-versed agent, highly regarded, and provides white glove service at every price point. Reach him at 202-503-4243, [email protected] or BurnsandNoble.com.

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Real Estate

How do Federal Reserve decisions impact mortgage rates?

Don’t panic, recent increases not as dire as some fear

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Will the increased rates mean fewer buyers? Not necessarily.

Recently, the real estate market has been incredibly active. In many neighborhoods, it seems that a for sale sign is scarcely placed in the front yard before multiple offers, even some above asking price, roll in. In many cases, this was made possible by relatively low mortgage rates, which enticed buyers to get into the market and make those offers. Recently, however, there have been concerns about the state of the economy and increased inflation – furthered by the recent news that the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates.

This increase has understandably left many potential homebuyers wondering – what does this mean for mortgage rates, and my ability to obtain the loan I need to purchase a home? It has also left sellers asking – will the increased rates mean fewer buyers? Will it be harder to sell? These are important questions to ask. While no one has a crystal ball, many remain hopeful that the real estate market will continue to thrive. Let’s take a closer look at why together.

The Federal Reserve – Why it Matters

The Federal Reserve is the central bank of the United States, and among its many functions, it essentially guides the national economy. Part of that mission is keeping inflation under control. Recently, in an attempt to slow ever-increasing inflation, the Federal Reserve raised short-term interest rates by half a percentage point. Short-term interest rates are essentially the interest rates that banks charge one another for short-term loans.

It’s been some time since the Federal Reserve has made a move of that nature – slightly more than 20 years in fact, with the last such increase occurring in 2000. The Fed also indicated that more adjustments may be planned before the end of the year. Certainly, this raises the question – what does this mean for mortgage rates?

Federal Interest Rates Vs. Mortgage Rates

It’s important to understand that the Federal Reserve does not actually set mortgage rates – there is in fact no such thing as a “federal mortgage rate.” Ultimately, the decisions of the Federal Reserve don’t directly impact mortgage rates in the same manner as with other products, like savings accounts or CDs, for example. Mortgage rates generally respond both to the actions of the Federal Reserve, as well as to the general movement of both the United States and global economies, so there are many factors to consider.

Nevertheless, those in the mortgage industry do closely monitor the actions of the Federal Reserve, and certainly, how much buyers pay for a home loan is influenced by those decisions. As a very rough rule of thumb, for every one point increase by the Fed, your buying power goes down by $100,000.

When the Federal Reserve makes it more expensive for banks to borrow by setting a higher federal funds rate, the banks typically pass on those higher costs to their customers. This ultimately means that interest rates on consumer borrowing, which includes mortgage rates, tend to go up.

Keeping it in Perspective

While any increase in mortgage rates may not be welcome news for buyers, it’s important to keep these increases in perspective. Historically, the current interest rate, which is around 5 to 6%, depending on whether you have a 15 or 30-year mortgage, is still very low and very favorable for buyers. At the end of the 1970s, for example, interest rates were hovering near 10%, only to ultimately reach an all-time high of about 16.5% in 1981 before eventually decreasing. Throughout the 1980s, however, mortgage interest rates remained near 10% – nearly twice what they are today.

Another potential silver lining is that increased rates may also mean increased inventory – which is certainly good news for buyers. While rates are still historically very low, the increase may nevertheless mean that there are more available homes to choose from, as the number of buyers in the market decreases overall. This could be a refreshing change of pace for those buyers who felt that they had minimal choices in a highly competitive market.

While this may not be the most welcome news for sellers, it’s not necessarily bad news either. As rates are still relatively low, there will still likely be plenty of potential buyers out there. When the present market is compared to the course of the real estate market over the last several decades, now is still an excellent time to sell.

At GayRealEstate.com, we are passionate about helping LGBTQ home buyers and sellers through every aspect of the real estate process – and that includes more than just buying and selling. It also includes addressing the important issues in the real estate market that matter to you the most. We believe in the importance of connecting LGBTQ buyers and sellers with talented and dedicated agents who can help. We also believe in ensuring that our clients feel informed, prepared, and knowledgeable about all aspects of the real estate process. You deserve nothing less. Whatever your real estate needs, we’re here to help.

Jeff Hammerberg is founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at 303-378-5526 or [email protected].

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Real Estate

Rain. On. Me? Flooding a common concern among buyers

Always ask your insurance agent if you have the coverage you need

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Worried about moisture intrusion? If you’re buying a home, you should be.

One of the many concerns buyers of homes and condos have are moisture intrusion and how well the building is prepared for floods, heavy rains, burst pipes and if they have installed sump pumps and other things to help with moisture intrusion.

To find out how to handle these situations I had a call with a local insurance agent and asked her to give me her advice about being able to make sure you are covered if there is any type of water event that costs you money as a home owner.

In a condo, you will have the master insurance policy that will help if something outside of the walls of your home causes a moisture intrusion. You will also have your own homeowner’s insurance. The agent that I spoke to said to always make sure you SPEAK to your insurance agent and ask specifically about what is covered and what is not. Just getting an internet quote is not the same. There are also third-party companies that can help cover conditions that are considered “exceptions” by the insurance company so you are going to want be educated on that.

There is a difference between being in a flood plain, having a pipe burst, water leaking in around windows, having water back up into a home and having a sump pump fail. There is also a difference in the types of coverage you can get for these situations.

They are all filed under different types of claims, and you will want your insurance agent to walk you through the various types of protections you can purchase and if you need additional protection from a third-party company. A recent inquiry by a client of mine resulted in him being told that his property was not in a flood zone so the basement (which is finished) would not be brought back to its current condition. Only drywall would be replaced.

Always ask your insurance agent if you have the coverage you need and please shop around. Water issues seem to happen more frequently, so you want to be prepared. I am always available to discuss homeownership and how to make that happen – feel free to reach out.

Joseph Hudson is a Realtor with The Rutstein Group at Compass. Reach him at 703-587-0597 or [email protected].

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