Preparing To Buy a House in 8 Simple Steps

In life there are some situations a person simply can’t prepare for, like locking the keys in a car full of groceries or having a head full of shampoo when the smoke alarm goes off. Luckily, purchasing a home doesn’t have to be one of those moments.

Buying a house is probably one of the biggest financial decisions many people will make in their lifetime, and the process can be lengthy and complex. From getting a bird’s-eye view of their overall financial picture to calculating housing costs and securing loan pre-approval, there are many actions for home buyers to take as they get ready to purchase a home.

With the right resources and a solid strategy, however, purchasing a house can be a smooth process.

8 Steps to Prepare for a Home Purchase

1. Determining Credit Score

A home buyer’s credit score can impact their ability to secure a mortgage loan with a desirable rate. It can also affect how much they’ll be required to pay as a down payment when it’s time to close.

In a recent report from the National Association of Realtors , home buyers who had debt said it hindered their ability to set aside funds for a down payment by a median of four years.

Credit score can be influenced by a variety of factors, from payment history to amount of debt (a.k.a. credit utilization ratio) to age of credit accounts, mix of credit accounts, and new credit inquiries.

Payment history is the main factor that affects a person’s credit score, accounting for 35% of an overall FICO® score. Missing a payment on any credit account—from unpaid student loans to credit cards, auto loans, and mortgages—can negatively impact a person’s credit score.

By making on-time payments, limiting the number of new inquiries on their credit file, and working to pay down outstanding balances, home buyers could potentially boost their credit score and qualify for a lower mortgage rate.

Is There a Credit Score “Sweet Spot?”

Many buyers wonder whether there’s a desired credit score range or “sweet spot” to obtain a mortgage. The 2020 Q1 Federal Reserve Report on Household Debt and Credit found that the median credit score of newly originating borrowers increased to 773 in the first quarter for mortgages—up 14 points from 2019.

That’s not necessarily to say a credit score of 773 is a must for securing a mortgage, but the difference between a credit score in the 600 range and one in the 700 range could amount to about half a percent less interest on a mortgage loan and add up to a lot of money over time.

Credit scores can also affect the amount of the down payment itself. Many mortgage lenders require at least 20% of the house’s sale price be put down, but might offer more flexibility if the buyer’s credit score is in the higher range. A lower credit score, on the other hand, could call for a larger down payment.

Whether home buyers have debt or not, checking credit reports is still a recommended first step to applying for a mortgage. Understanding the information on credit reports is invaluable in knowing whether time is needed to repair credit, which could potentially lead to a higher credit score and possibly lower mortgage loan rate.

2. Deciding how Much To Spend

Deciding how much to pay for a new home can be based on a variety of factors including expected and unexpected housing costs, up-front payments and closing costs, and how it all fits into the buyer’s overall budget.

Calculating Housing Costs

There are several housing costs for home purchasers to consider that might affect how much they can afford to offer for the house itself. The costs of ongoing fees like property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and interest—if the loan does not have a fixed rate—can all lead to an increase in the monthly mortgage payment.

Closing costs are fees associated with the final real estate transaction that go above and beyond the price of the property itself. These costs might include an origination fee paid to the bank or lender for their services in creating the loan (typically amounting to 0.5% to 1% of the mortgage), real estate attorney fees, escrow fees, title insurance fees, home inspection and appraisal fees and recording fees, to name a few. To get an idea on how this can impact your budget, use this home affordability calculator to estimate total purchase cost.

Last year, the average closing costs for a single-family property were $5,749 including taxes, and $3,339 excluding taxes, according to a recent report from ClosingCorp .

In addition to closing costs, expenses that potential home buyers might want to consider are repairs and updates they might want to make to a home, new furniture, moving costs, or even commuting costs.

Finally, unforeseen costs of a major life event like a layoff or the birth of a new child might not be the first expenses that come to mind, but some buyers could find themselves making a potential home buying mistake by not getting their finances in order to prepare for the unexpected.

Making a list of these estimated expenses can help home buyers calculate how much they can feasibly afford and create a budget that could help them avoid being overextended on housing costs, especially if they might be paying other debt or saving for other financial goals.

3. Saving for a Down Payment

Saving money for a house is one of the biggest financial goals many people will have in their lifetime. And how much they’re able to offer as a down payment can significantly impact the amount of their monthly mortgage payment.

A larger down payment can also be convincing to sellers who see it as evidence of solid finances, sometimes beating out other offers in a competitive housing market.

The average down payment on a house varies depending on the type of buyer, loan, location, and housing prices, but, according to Zillow’s 2019 Consumer Housing Trends Report , 56% of buyers put down less than the typical 20% down payment, 19% put down 20%, and 20% of home buyers put down more than 20%.

For first-time home buyers, 20% of the price of the home can seem like a daunting figure. Many buyers find that cutting spending on luxury or non-essential items and entertainment can help them save up the funds.

Other tactics could include getting gifts and loans from family members, applying for low-down-payment mortgages, withdrawing funds from retirement, or receiving assistance from state and local agencies.

For buyers who were also sellers, proceeds from another property could also fund the down payment.

4. Shopping for a Mortgage Lender

There are many mortgage lenders competing for the business of the 86% of home buyers who finance their home purchases. These lenders offer a variety of mortgages to apply for, with a few of the most common being conventional/fixed rate, adjustable rate, FHA loans, and VA loans.

Buyers might not realize they can—and should—shop around for a lender before selecting one to work with. Different lenders offer different variations in interest rates, terms, and closing costs, so it can be helpful to conduct adequate research before landing on a particular lender.

Mortgage lenders must provide a loan estimate within three business days of receiving a mortgage application. The form is standard—all lenders are required to use the same form, which makes it easier for the applicant to compare information from different lenders and make sure they are getting the best loan for their financial situation.

5. Getting Pre-Approved for a Loan

While it might seem like a bit of a nuance, getting prequalified for a loan versus pre-approved for a loan are two different things.

When a buyer is prequalified for a loan, their mortgage lender estimates—but does not guarantee—the loan rate, based on finances provided by the buyer.

When a buyer is pre-approved, the lender conducts a thorough investigation into their finances that includes income verification, assets, and credit rating. This pre-approval gives a guarantee to the buyer that they will be able to obtain the loan and breaks down exactly what the bank is willing to lend.

Having a pre-approval letter in hand can help some buyers get ahead by appealing to the seller as a serious intention of purchase and a lender’s guarantee to back that purchase up.

6. Finding the Right Real Estate Agent

According to the National Association of Realtors 2020 Generational Trends Report :

•  89% of all buyers purchased their homes through a real estate agent.
•  The primary method most used to find that agent was referral.
•  All generations of buyers continued to utilize a real estate agent as their top resource for helping them buy a home.

While the internet and popular real estate search websites have made it easier for home buyers to hunt for a house online, most buyers still solicit the help of a real estate agent to find the right home and negotiate the price and purchase.

Also, many realtors are experts in their particular housing market, so for buyers who are searching in a specific location, a real estate agent may be able to offer valuable insights that might not be revealed online.

7. Exploring Different Neighborhoods

By researching neighborhoods where they might want to purchase a property (both in-person and online), home buyers can get a better sense of what living in their future community could look like.

Many real estate websites provide comparable listings to help determine a reasonable offer amount in a given neighborhood.

Check out housing market
trends, hot neighborhoods,
and demographics by city.

They may also highlight nearby school ratings, price and tax history, commute times, and neighborhood stats like home value fluctuations or predictions, and walkability ratings.

All of this information can help paint a picture of life in the area a home buyer chooses to settle in. Doing a deep dive into a desired neighborhood can help inform a more realistic decision on where to buy a house.

8. Kicking off the House Hunt

Once the neighborhoods are whittled down, the loan is secured, the real estate agent has been signed, and the savings are set aside, the official house hunt can begin.

For 55% of buyers, the most difficult step in the home buying process was finding the right property. Some had to undergo a considerable process before making the final purchase, with most searching for 10 weeks and seeing a median of nine homes first.

With the help of a trusted real estate agent and a housing market with adequate inventory, most home buyers can begin to book showings, attend open houses, and formally put down an offer on a house they like.

In particularly “hot” markets, houses could receive several offers, so home buyers might want to be prepared to go through the bidding process with a few properties before they get to that glorious final sale.

Home buyers might wish they could snap their fingers and move into their dream house as quickly and painlessly as possible. While that is not realistic, SoFi can help simplify the mortgage loan process.

Without any hidden fees or prepayment penalties, a SoFi home loan could be the right option for many homebuyers. For questions about buying a home, SoFi offers home loan resources, guides, and tips to steer future homeowners through the process. There are a lot of steps, but managing them can be easier with a helping hand.

Learn more about how SoFi home loans make the mortgage process as quick and painless as possible.



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Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’swebsite .
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Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.

SOHL20008

Source: sofi.com

Low Rates, COVID are Motivating Prospective Home Buyers

A
high percentage of those who told the National Association of Home Builders
(NAHB) late last year that they were thinking of buying a home have now turned
thought into action. Rose Quint writes in the NAHB Eye on Housing blog
that 15 percent of those queried in its 4th Quarter 2020 Housing
Trends survey said they were considering a purchase and now 56 percent of them
are actively looking
. A year ago, only 43 percent of those considering buying
had shifted into gear.

Quint
says this is the fourth consecutive year-over-year
rise in the share of prospective buyers who have become active buyers. She identified
several possible reasons for the most recent uptick; fear of missing out on low
interest rates
, a need for more space due to COVID-19, and a desire to move to
outlying suburbs.

Most of the increase in buying
activity was among Millennials and Gen X’ers. Millennials who transitioned from
thinking to action rose from 46 percent in Q4 of 2019 to 65 percent in the same
quarter of 2020 and for Gen X’ers the change went from 43 percent to 57
percent. The shares among Gen Z and Boomer generations remained relatively flat
with a 1-point increase in each case to 43 percent and 38 percent,
respectively.

Geographically, larger shares of
prospective buyers in every region are actively trying to find a home to buy
than a year ago, but the increase is most notable in the West and Northeast.

Quint says that, as the share of
prospective buyers has increased, so has the length of time they spend
searching. In the fourth quarter of 2020, 69 percent of buyers actively engaged
in the purchase process have spent 3 months or longer looking, compared to 60
percent a year earlier. This marks the eighth consecutive year-over-year gain
in the share of active buyers looking for three months or more for a home to
buy.

Source: mortgagenewsdaily.com

These Are the Top Reasons Home Buyers Haven’t Been Successful Lately

Posted on February 1st, 2021

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the housing market is en fuego. This is actually nothing new.

It’s been pretty red hot for years now, and home prices have risen consistently for about a decade since they bottomed around 2012.

But amazingly, the housing market has become even more competitive lately, despite us being in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.

I already explained that the 2021 housing market is akin to the toilet paper shortage, with too many buyers and not enough sellers.

This is why 2021 home prices will be roughly 10% higher than they were toward the end of 2020.

It also tells me you need to bring your ‘A’ game (and then some) if you want to be successful in winning a bid on a property.

You Better Be Ready If You’re in the Market to Buy

pending sales

  • New for-sale listings fell 12% from a year ago, the largest decline since May
  • Active listings declined 35% from 2020 to reach a new all-time record low
  • 43% of homes had an accepted offer within the first 2 weeks, up from 35% a year ago
  • Last week that number hit 55%, the highest point since at least 2012 (when Redfin began tracking such data)

Just when you thought real estate was cooling off, it got even hotter. Don’t believe me? Check out the latest data from real estate brokerage Redfin.

The company noted that new for-sale listings fell 12% from a year ago, the largest decline since May.

Meanwhile, active listings, which are the total number of homes listed for sale at any point during a given period, slipped 35% from levels seen in 2020 to reach a record low.

This supply issue resulted in nearly half (43%) of homes receiving an accepted offer within the first 2 weeks on the market, up from 35% a year ago.

And that number hit a staggering 55% during the week ending January 24th, which shows it’s only accelerating.

Prospective Buyers Are No Longer in the Planning Phase

planning

In another report from the National Association of Home Builders (the Q4 Housing Trends Report), they found that 56% of prospective buyers have exited the planning stage and are now actively attempting to purchase a home.

That number is up from 43% in the fourth quarter of 2019, and reflects a climate filled with more serious buyers, as opposed to lookie loos.

The NAHB said this is being driven by a mixture of record low mortgage rates, COVID-19, and the fear of missing out (FOMO).

Remember, we’ve just entered February. The traditionally hot housing market doesn’t begin to reveal itself until March and April. I can only imagine what that will be like.

In other words, this situation is only going to get worse as 2021 rolls on, so you better be ready if and when you find a house you like because your competition will be…

FYI, don’t buy a house because you don’t want to miss out.

Why Prospective Home Buyers Aren’t Winning

missing out

  • The most common issue is being outbid on a property
  • Which replaced the inability to find an affordable home
  • Another common gripe is finding a home in a desirable neighborhood
  • Or locating a property that has the desired features/amenities

The NAHB report also looked at why prospective home buyers aren’t closing the deal, and after years of its being an affordability issue, it’s now a matter of being outbid.

While bidding wars aren’t new, and certainly ebb and flow over time, they appear to be gaining traction again.

As you can see from the chart above, there are four main issues that have kept active home buyers from landing a property.

They include housing affordability, features/amenities, desired neighborhood, and getting outbid.

For the first time in the NAHB’s series history, getting outbid was the number one reason a long-time searcher hasn’t made a home purchase.

It usurped the “inability to find an affordably-priced home,” which had long been the issue for most prospects.

Interestingly, home buyers are less burdened by affordability and more held back by higher bids from their competition.

Of course, you could argue they are somewhat one in the same, with a higher bid possibly reflecting a price that becomes too far out of reach.

However, it further illustrates just how strong the seller’s market has become yet again.

There were some periods over the past few years where buyers had the upper hand, but it appears those days are numbered, at least for the foreseeable future.

Prepare for War (of the Bidding Variety)

  • You have to be pre-approved for a home loan (no ifs, ands, or buts), you won’t even get into a showing
  • Expect to provide your “best and final” offer right off the bat
  • Don’t be surprised if you’re outbid, but also don’t expect home prices to get any cheaper this year
  • Consider properties that aren’t picture-perfect which could offer value and help you avoid a bidding war

If you’re a buyer, you need to get your ducks in a row, now more than ever.

At a minimum, this means being pre-approved for a mortgage, having assets set aside for down payment and closing costs, and being ready to make an offer at a moment’s notice.

Oh, and if you’re currently a homeowner, how to get rid of that property without it being contingent.

If you’re worried about affordability, it’s likely only going to get worse, whether it’s higher mortgage rates or even more expensive home prices.

Remember, they’re forecast to rise another 10% by November nationally. As far as interest rates go, the 2021 mortgage rate forecast calls for mostly higher rates, or flat at best.

With regard to the features/amenities issue, the NAHB noted that 41% of buyers in the fourth quarter of 2020 were considering a newly-built home, more than double the 19% share a year earlier.

Generally, new homes have all the latest features a home buyer could want, and/or they can be paid add-ons depending on the builder.

The tradeoff is typically a home in a subdivision that isn’t as centrally located, so you might get the home you want, but not the neighborhood.

If you must have the neighborhood, home renovation isn’t as daunting as it looks, assuming we’re just talking about new paint, flooring, appliances, curb appeal, etc.

Because the market is so competitive, it might be better to look at the homes that aren’t staged to perfection, but have potential.

These diamonds in the rough good could offer a discount, or at least help you avoid a bidding war.

Read more: 2021 Home Buying Tips to Help You Seal the Deal

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

How to Actually Afford to Buy a Home in America

Home buying hurdles exist — but research, creativity and flexibility will help you clear them.

Home buyers today face tough challenges — housing prices have soared, a dollar doesn’t go as far as it once did and rent is more expensive than the past.

How are people today making such a large purchase despite these hurdles? With more flexibility and a bit of financing creativity, today’s buyers are finding ways to achieve homeownership.

Know your options (and credit score)

The first step to knowing if you can afford a home is figuring out what financing options are available to you, including what mortgages you’re eligible for and how much you need (and can afford) to put down upfront.

Learning the minimum FICO score required by lenders and understanding your own credit score are important starting points.

Many home shoppers aren’t sure how much they have to put down on a home, what the lender-required minimum down payment will be (it’s not always 20%), or what programs are available to help with down payments, like FHA loans.

Before buyers even start thinking about saving for a home, they should know what their financial resources are and if they’re eligible to buy.

Make enough money to save

With fewer resources to pull from than their older, wealthier counterparts, renters wanting to buy face tough financial headwinds.

According to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2019, renter households typically earn a median income of $37,500 annually, which is nearly $40,000 less than the median household income netted by households who recently bought a home (of whom the median household income is $75,000 annually).

While there are ways to enter into homeownership without making $75,000 in household income, it’s hard to afford to buy if you make significantly less. “If you’re making $37,500 per year, it’s probably not feasible for you to buy in almost any market,” says Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell.

While households purchasing homes are more likely to have two incomes than renter households (and thus a higher median household income combined), even two-income households struggle to afford to buy in competitive markets.

Save enough cash (but not as much as you think)

One of the most daunting parts of home buying? The down payment. In fact, two-thirds of renters cite saving for a down payment as the biggest hurdle to buying a home, according to the Zillow Housing Aspirations Report.

For people buying the national median home valued at $229,000, with the traditional 20% down payment, that’s $45,800 upfront — just to move in.

“The down payment remains a hurdle for a lot of people,” says Gudell. “But they should know they don’t have to put 20% down.”

Although putting down less than 20% means additional considerations, such as the cost for private mortgage insurance (PMI), some find it worth the hassle. In fact, according to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2019, only one-fifth of recent buyers (20%) put 20% down, and just over half of buyers (56%) put less than the traditional 20% down.

Buyers are also getting creative about piecing together a down payment from multiple sources. According to the report findings, 34% of buyers who get a mortgage also get help in the form of gifts or loans from friends and family to come up with a down payment. 

Know your deal breakers, but be flexible

To get into a home — even if it’s not the home of their dreams — some of today’s buyers are considering homes and locations outside of their initial wish list and getting increasingly flexible when it comes to neighborhood, house condition and even home type.

“I do think people get discouraged when they look in their target neighborhood and they see homes around $170,000 when they’re looking for a $110,000 home,” Gudell says.

Affordably priced homes do, in fact, exist. But in popular areas, where people most often want to live, it’s going to be harder to find that cheaper home, Gudell says.

“If you’re willing to take a longer commute and make a couple trade-offs, you might be able to find a home that is farther out that might be cheaper,” Gudell explains. “You have to leave the paved path before you can find cheaper choices.”

Related:

Source: zillow.com

14 Million Households Plan to Give Their Homes to Family

Move over, fine china — homes just might be the hottest new heirloom.

Americans are moving less than ever, according to Zillow’s analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. Just 4.2 percent of American homeowners moved between 2015 and 2016 — which is almost half the 7.7 percent rate reported in 1990.

According to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2017, 86 percent of all American homeowners — defined as those who have owned their home for more than a year — have no plans to move in the next three years. Why? Those planning to stay in their homes list love of their home (58 percent) and neighborhood (45 percent) as the top reasons they don’t plan to sell.

A smaller, but still sizable, percentage of homeowners list a very generous reason for staying. Almost one-quarter (23 percent), a total of nearly 14 million households, say they’re not moving because they plan to pass down their home to a family member.

This is good news for younger generations, who may be struggling to afford to buy their own home or living with their parents while saving up to buy one. In fact, over the past two decades, there’s been a marked increase in the number of young Americans aged 18-34 living with their parents — 33.4 percent in 2016, compared to 27 percent in the late ’70s.

This increase isn’t driven by younger generations who may be putting off moving out — it’s driven by older millennials. Since 2012, the percentage of 18- to 25-year-olds living with a parent has actually started to decline, while the share of 26- to 34-year-olds living with parents continues to increase. If their parent(s) are among the households planning to pass their home down, maybe they won’t ever have to fly the coop.

Family financial gifts play a big role in helping people buy homes, above and beyond those generous families giving their entire home away. According to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2017, 14 percent of all home buyers who purchased a home in the past 12 months used a gift from a family member or friend to help pay for the down payment. That number jumps to 20 percent for all millennial (18- to 37-year-old) home buyers.

Top featured photo from Shutterstock.

Related:

Source: zillow.com

This is why millennials struggle to buy homes

The homeownership rate of millennials is 8% lower than it was for Gen Xers and Baby Boomers when they were the same age, according to a new report by the Urban Institute. So why are younger generations struggling to obtain a home at the same rate as their parents were?

In its Millennial Homeownership report, the Urban Institute states that there would be 3.4 million more homeowners if millennials had managed to keep pace with their earlier generations.

Obviously they haven’t, and so the Urban Institute tried to find out why. It’s confusing at first because millennials are the most educated generation in the history of the U.S., but that unfortunately means that many are being hampered by student debts that prevent them from saving for a down payment on a home. The Urban Institute said its own research has found that it only takes a 1% increase in a person’s student loan debt to decrease their chances of buying a home. But the average student debt of millennials now is $19,000, way above the average debt of $12,800 that Gen Xers had when they were the same age.

Millennials face other problems too. They’re renting their accommodation for longer than earlier generations did and they have to pay higher housing costs too. As such, some analysts have started using the term “rent burdended” to describe many millennials that are forced to spend more than 30% of their income on their housing.

Another factor that makes it less likely for millennials to buy a home is that they’re generally waiting longer than their parents did before getting married. The median age for marriage has shifted from the early-20s in 1960, to the late 20s today.

The Urban Institute does however say that the new remote work trend that took off because of COVID-19 could push more millennials to look at buying a home, in order to give themselves more living space. Working from home has led to a desire among many people for more personal space, and it also gives some the freedom to move to other parts of the country where housing might be cheaper.

Indeed, realtor.com predicts in its 2021 Housing Forecast that millennials will really start to shape the housing market in the new year, and could even outnumber Gen Xer and Baby Boomer buyers.

“Older millennials will likely be trade-up buyers, while the larger, younger segment of the generation age into their key homebuying years,” realtor.com notes in its report.

Gen Z, the youngest generation, is also expected to emerge in larger numbers in 2021 and compete with millennials for a limited number of entry-level homes.

Source: realtybiznews.com

Steps to Building a House

In this article:

If you can’t find your dream home on the market or if you want to create a home that’s uniquely yours, you might consider building a house. Buyers who decided to build new homes were more likely to say that selecting the floor plan, having everything in the home be brand-new and customizing their home features were among their top reasons.* Before deciding if new construction is for you, you’ll want to learn about the different types of new-home construction and familiarize yourself with the process, from the initial land search all the way to selecting finishing touches. 

Typically, when someone says they’re planning to build their own home, they are referring to a fully custom build where they have a say in almost everything (short of items restricted by local laws and zoning regulations). But, in the realm of new construction, there are three different approaches buyers can take: 

Spec homes. With a spec home (short for speculative home), a home builder designs and constructs a single-family home without having one individual buyer in mind. Instead, they plan on selling the house to a buyer once it’s finished. Depending on how early in the process you are able to go under contract, you may be able to select some of the home’s final touches, like flooring, kitchen appliances and paint color. Sometimes these homes are listed for sale as “pre-construction.” 

Tract homes. With a tract home, a developer purchases a parcel of land and divides it into individual lots. Then, a home builder constructs all of the homes in that planned community. Tract homes can be condominiums, townhomes or single-family homes. Most homes in the community will look similar, and shared amenities are common. Similar to spec homes, you may be able to select some finishes in advance, depending on the timeline. 

Fully custom homes. With a fully custom home, you typically find the land on your own then hire a builder to build your dream home. You have total control over the floor plan, layout and finishes, but the process requires a lot of decision-making, attention to detail and disciplined budgeting — custom homes can be expensive. 

Since custom homes are the most complex new construction option out there, we’ll spend most of this article explaining the process.

Check your financing options

Once you’ve decided that building a custom home is the right choice for you, the next step is figuring out how you’ll pay for it — and a traditional 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage isn’t an option for custom home construction, at least not at first. 

Unless you can pay for the entire build with cash, you’ll likely be looking for a construction loan, which is also sometimes called a self-build loan or a construction mortgage. Getting a construction loan is often more difficult than getting a traditional mortgage, as you’re borrowing money for a concept and not a physical house. You’ll need to provide your lender with a timetable, budget, floor plans, materials needed and extensive details to be considered. Other things to know about construction loans:

  • They have variable rates that are often higher than typical mortgage rates.
  • A 20%-25% down payment is usually required.
  • The loan can include the land you’re purchasing or it can cover only the construction costs if you already own the land. 
  • There’s an opportunity to refinance into a traditional fixed-rate mortgage once construction is complete.

Locate the right lot

If you don’t already own the land you plan to build on, you’ll need to shop around for the right lot. A real estate agent can help you identify lots for sale in your area. 

As you narrow down lots you like, you’ll want to loop in your architect and builder to make sure the lot you select fits the needs of your home’s floor plan and design. They should be able to help you check zoning laws and restrictions and identify any attributes of the lot that might make it more expensive to build on — for example, a steeply graded lot may require more engineering, or a lot in a remote area may necessitate a septic tank.

Plan and design the home

Figuring out the size, layout and style of your home is a big task, and it can happen before or after the lot is selected, depending on your individual plans. When you’re building a custom home, the sky’s the limit, although you will need to keep in mind your budget and any limitations of your lot. And, if you don’t plan on living in the home forever, consider how design decisions will affect the home’s future resale value. 

The professionals on your team will be able to help you home in on the right style and layout, but it doesn’t hurt to get a feel for what you might want in advance. Drive around your area and identify homes you like. Look for interior design inspiration online or research the latest smart home features to see if you think they’re worth the added cost. 

Here are a few important design decisions that need to be made early on:

Number of bedrooms and bathrooms. How many people will be living in the house? Is your family growing, or are you downsizing? What about houseguests?

Single story vs. two story or more. Are there mobility issues that should be accommodated? Would a one-story home be easier for those with limited mobility living there? 

Outdoor space. How important is outdoor space and how much should you have? The bigger the yard, the more maintenance involved. 

Open concept or individual rooms. How open you want your house to be depends on your taste and lifestyle. Individual rooms give a more classic feel, while open concept homes are more modern. 

Home style. What aesthetic do you want your house’s exterior to have? Tudor, Cape Cod, craftsman, colonial?

Interior design. Are you partial to modern design, a more traditional look or something in between? If you plan on using the same furnishings you have now, will they match the look of the new home? 

Additional features. Think through other features that need to be decided on early in the process, like smart home compatibility, eco-friendly materials or solar panels. 

Future resale value. If you think you’ll sell the home at some point in the future, consider the home’s possible resale value. For example, if you add a pool or an upscale kitchen, will your home be priced too high for the neighborhood?

Hire professionals

Building a home isn’t an easy task, and it’s rare to take on the entire project yourself. So, you’ll need to have several different professionals by your side to ensure your home is structurally sound, follows local code and suits your needs.

Home builder

Hiring the right builder can make or break your custom home experience. Choose someone who is not only a licensed general contractor but also has a portfolio of custom homes and success stories in recent years. 

To find your builder, you can ask for a referral from friends and family, search online, or ask your real estate agent for recommendations. A good builder will help with:

  • Budget
  • Zoning laws, including acquiring permits
  • Infrastructure needs, like utilities and sewer

Architect

In most places, in order to even apply for permits, you’ll need architectural plans. Discuss the following details with your architect before they create your blueprints:

  • Square footage
  • Stories
  • Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Layout
  • Functionality

Interior designer

You may also want to hire an interior designer who can help with the finishes once the framing and structural elements are in place. From flooring to bath tiles to fixtures, there are many design choices that need to be made, and it can get overwhelming for the average home buyer. If you do plan on making all the interior design choices on your own, don’t wait until installation time. Start researching finishes and fixtures early so you can set your budget.

Other professionals

In addition to these key players, there are other professionals involved in the custom-home-building process. Many of these people are hired by your home builder or general contractor:

  • Land clearing crew
  • Surveyor
  • Structural engineer
  • Inspector (from the city)
  • Plumbers
  • Electricians

Understand the process of building a house

After the designs and blueprints have been finalized and your permits have been approved, that’s when construction starts and your home begins to take shape, generally following these steps: 

1. Land prep
The first step in the construction process is getting the land ready. This includes clearing the area, digging trenches and making sure utilities are installed. 

2. Footings and foundation
Your foundation will be made of poured concrete reinforced with steel rods. Depending on the part of the country you’re building in and the design of your home, you may have a slab foundation, crawl space or a full basement. No matter what kind of foundation is poured, it will be sprayed with a waterproofing material and inspected by the city before framing begins. 

3. Framing
In the framing step, the bones of the home start to take shape. Framing includes the floor joists, subfloors, studs that form the walls and roof trusses. During this step, the crew will wrap the house to protect it from moisture. If construction is taking place during a rainy time of year, your builder may also install windows, roof shingles and siding during this step. 

4. Plumbing, electrical and HVAC
Once the home is “dried in,” subcontractors will start installing the home’s major systems, including plumbing pipes, electrical wiring and heating and cooling ducts. Each of these steps requires signoff from a local inspector. 

5. Insulation
Your home’s insulation needs will vary by climate, but in general, insulation will be applied to exterior walls, basements, crawl spaces and attics. Fiberglass, cellulose and foam insulation are all options. 

6. Drywall
Drywall panels are hung with screws, taped and mudded, and a spray texture is applied. Then the new walls are primed with paint.  

7. Interior finishes
In this step, most of the home’s interior features will be added. This includes doors, baseboards, casings, window sills, stair balusters, kitchen counters and cabinets, bathtubs, vanities, and hard-surfaced flooring. Interior painting and hardwood installation are sometimes done during this step, but they may be done later if there is risk of damage due to continuing construction. 

8. Exterior finishes
Driveways, walkways, patios and final grading to direct water away from home will all be completed. Landscaping and exterior decorating happen during this step too. 

9. Fixture installation
With the house close to completion, toilets, faucets, light switches, heat register covers, the hot water heater, the electrical panel and the HVAC systems are all installed. Many of these items require another round of inspection. Another task that happens in this step is the installation of glass fixtures like mirrors and shower doors. 

10. Flooring installation
Carpet and hardwood flooring are added in this late stage. Make sure to check with your builder on the status of your hardwood finishing process so you don’t accidentally damage them. 

11. Final inspection
Once construction is complete, a final inspection will be conducted by a local building official. Upon passing, you’ll receive a certificate of occupancy, which gives you the green light to move in. 

12. Final walkthrough
Before you move in, you’ll want to do a final walkthrough with your builder to identify punch list items that need to be repaired for the job to be considered complete. Common punch list items include electrical defects like nonfunctioning outlets, damage to drywall and paint, or missing fixtures.

Skip construction and buy renovated

Building a custom home is a complicated process, and it can take well over a year depending on your location, lot complications, house size, laws and the permit-approval process. Another option is to buy a home that has already been renovated — you get a fresh and updated feel without having to do the work yourself.

Shop Zillow-owned homes

Buyers of Zillow-owned homes can be confident that the homes they buy have been professionally renovated by local contractors. With Zillow-owned homes, you can avoid the stress of a custom build and make yourself at home.

*Zillow New Construction Consumer Housing Trends Report 2019

Source: zillow.com

Zillow predicts a stronger housing market in 2021

Zillow has said that it expects the for-sale housing market to gain even more strength in 2021 following an incredible run that came in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Zillow said in its 2021 housing predictions that demand is continuing to grow as we enter the new year, and that this will likely surge ahead even faster in urban areas as economies start to reopen. Indeed, Zillow says that annual home sales growth will hit its highest level in almost 40 years as more financial certainty brings more sellers onto the market to cash in on the growing demand and technology makes it easier to connect with buyers.

On the downside, Zillow forecasts home price, mortgage rate and rent increases that will pose more challenges around affordability to those with less financial resources.

Demand for city living will surge in 2021

Demand for urban housing largely kept pace with the suburbs in 2020. But rent prices in urban areas softened compared to their suburban counterparts in the spring and summer as a shift in housing needs and the spike in service-sector unemployment left their mark. While it’s not quite right to call it a comeback, Zillow expects demand for city living to surge in 2021.

Some of the nearly 3 million adults who moved in with parents or grandparents in the spring have already started to move back out while taking advantage of an increase in rent concessions. With COVID-19 vaccine distribution underway, Zillow expects many of those who may have left cities temporarily during the pandemic are likely to return as local economies begin to open up, and a new class of young adults will be drawn to cities as they finish school and enter the job market. Urban rental demand is likely to be boosted by the relatively soft price growth this year, easing affordability challenges, at least temporarily.

The next home shopping season will be the hottest in recent memory

Zillow expects a perfect storm of market conditions to create the hottest spring shopping season in recent memory, with sales happening quickly and often above list price. It’s likely COVID-19 vaccine distribution will be well underway in the U.S. by the spring, and local economies and schools should be in the process of opening back up. Many will also have more certainty about whether their jobs will be performed remotely in the long term, adding buyers to the market who had been waiting for that to be settled. Add in expectations for mortgage rates to rise later in the year, and we could see a buyer frenzy as they look to lock in rates as low as possible.

It could also be the last of its kind

Springtime has historically been the best time to list a home for sale, but homes have continued to sell quickly through the fall and into the winter this year in what could be the end of the typical seasonal trend. The increased adoption of real estate technology has given home buyers more tools to shop from the comfort of their home, which can be done just as easily during the warmer spring and summer months as it can in the dead of winter. That’s likely to lessen the traditional seasonality of home shopping as it reduces the impact inclement weather can have on things like in-person showings and open houses.

Home sales growth will be biggest since the ’80s

2020 has been a remarkably strong year for the housing market, with sales on pace to grow 6% from 2019 despite essentially pressing ‘pause’ for a few weeks in the heart of the spring shopping season. Zillow expects that mark will be shattered next year, forecasting 21.9% annual growth for a total of 6.9 million homes sold. That would be the biggest annual sales growth since 1983i.

The optimistic outlook is due largely to the enduring strength of the market today, even through what is typically a slower season for home sales, and demographic factors that indicate demand will remain strong for years to come. Plus, about a third of homeowners considering selling in the next three years cited life and financial uncertainty as reasons they weren’t selling this fall. The COVID-19 vaccine rollout and expected subsequent economic recovery should pull many off the sidelines, adding more inventory to meet the heavy demand for homes and thus creating more transactions.

Moving will be a digital-first experience

Zillow predicts increased adoption of new and existing technologies during the pandemic will make a digital-first experience the new standard for real estate in 2021 and beyond, helping to increase the pace of transactions. These innovations can connect sellers with interested buyers more quickly, keeping inventory from stockpiling to the same degree it has in the past.

Take the home shopping experience: Innovations like 3D Home tours paired with interactive floor plans and virtual tours are allowing shoppers to winnow down their options without leaving their couch — requests for virtual tours tripled when stay-at-home orders began this spring. When it comes time to tour a home in person, self-tour technology allows shoppers to tour a vacant Zillow-owned home on their own schedule — no more waiting for the weekend to visit open houses. And nearly two-thirds of Zillow Offers home purchases are closed digitally with a remote notary, one more convenience over the traditional home buying process.

Renters are also expected to use pandemic-accelerated technology to search, find, apply for, and lease a home all digitally in a safer, easier, end-to-end online transaction. Nearly half (46%) of renters agree that they wish more listings offered virtual tours — since March, multifamily rental listings with a Zillow 3D Home tour have attracted 18% more visitors than those without on Zillow — and 46% of renters surveyed would prefer to sign a lease online.

Fixing housing vulnerability will become high priority as rent prices rise

The expected surge in demand for rentals, which are more common near city centers, is expected to bring big price increases and fewer concessions from landlords. That will put many renters in a tenuous financial position after they were hit hard by pandemic-related income loss.

The rental market softened in 2020, with rents about flat nationally. In large metropolitan areas like New York, Boston and San Francisco, rents dropped for the first time in recent memory. Still, given the impact of shutdowns and layoffs on renter households, government assistance proved vital in keeping many afloat financially. Moody’s Analytics estimates nearly 12 million renters will owe an average of $5,850 in back rent by January 2021, shining a spotlight on the need for eviction protections or increased cash flow for renter households, whether in the form of employment income or federal stimulus payments to avoid a painful wave of evictions.

Homes will become increasingly unaffordable for low income families

Mortgage payments have become more affordable for homeowners over the past two years thanks to ultra-low mortgage rates. Zillow expects rapid price growth and slightly higher mortgage rates to reverse that trend in 2021, so buyers contemplating a move may consider doing so sooner rather than later.

Given the expected volume of sales, hopes for an economic recovery as the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out, and the expectations for demand to continue to outpace supply, Zillow forecasts annual home value growth to reach 10.3% in November 2021 — the highest since 2006. Mortgage rates, which hit record lows in 2020, are expected to rise. Rates are likely to remain low by historical standards and not rise enough to meaningfully limit demand, but even a small increase would affect buyers’ monthly payments.

Combined, that will make homes harder to afford, especially for first-time buyers who don’t have access to funds from the sale of their current home.

Source: realtybiznews.com