Working With a Design-Build Team to Create Your Dream Home

What do the experts say you need to do and know for a smooth build out?

Building your dream home from scratch is a daunting task, especially if you’ve never worked with an architect, builder, and design team before.

To make the project a little easier to wrap your head around, here’s some advice from construction professionals.

Do your research

The building process isn’t short, so make sure you are happy with your team — you’re stuck with them for a long time.

This requires doing a little homework.

To start the building process right, you’ll want to do the following:

  • Conduct extensive online research to make sure you’re using a reputable builder
  • Get referrals from friends and family
  • Look at examples of the builder’s current work

Nikki James, studio manager at Ashton Woods, a builder and design studio constructing homes in the South and Southwest, recommends visiting a builder’s model homes and those under construction.

It’s fine to even be a little sneaky, says Jesse Fowler, president of Southern California-based Tellus Design + Build. Pop in at a construction site unannounced to see what the job site looks like. Workers not wearing hard hats or lots of garbage on the ground are red flags.

Ask questions (and more questions)

You need to understand the parameters of what the builder is doing for you, advises Roger Kane of Kane Built Homes in Massachusetts. And you get that information by asking questions. Make sure the builder can execute what you want, because not all builders can accommodate custom designs.

One of the first things you should do before meeting with your team for the first time is to identify what you don’t know, and then eliminate that doubt.

If this is your first time building, there are probably going to be a lot of things you don’t know, and that’s fine, Fowler says. There are no dumb questions.

Here are a few starter questions:

  • What exactly are you paying for?
  • Do you need full architecture/design/build services, or do you just want a blueprint?
  • How much time should you allow?

Know what you want

“Design inspiration can come from anywhere,” says James. She asks her clients to bring in plenty of pictures, scraps of fabric, or anything that speaks to their aesthetic.

The first thing to do, Fowler says, is to figure out the look and feel that a customer likes, and weed out what they don’t like.

It’s also important to know your limitations, though. James warns that you must make the structural selections for your floor plan before picking design elements so you know what you can and can’t have. For example, if you want a freestanding tub, you will first need to know if you have the right plumbing for it.

An architect wants to know how you’re going to use your home, advises Kim Nigro, the architect at Chicago-based Studio Nigro Architecture. Tell your architect what you don’t like about your current home, and what your day-to-day needs are.

This can be as simple as letting them know you shop at Costco a lot, so you want a big pantry, James says.

The details matter

You probably never thought about what kind of grout you want between your tiles. But these are the kinds of decisions you will be making.

Ashton Woods gives its customers a checklist for details like this, and there are a lot of specific items on it, from what kind of edge you want on your counters to how many outlets and phone jacks you’ll need.

This sounds overwhelming, but Kane’s advice is to just take it room by room. Start out with the basics. Determine how many bedrooms and bathrooms you need, then go inside each room and think about what should be in it.

“Make a list,” he says. “’We want hardwood flooring; we need his-and-her closets.’ Make your own little notebook and just address every room. That’s a great way to start.“

Know your budget

The harsh reality is that you can’t buy something you can’t afford. So, do your math and be upfront about your budget.

“Not communicating a clear budget to a designer is a mistake,” Fowler advises. “Designers need something tangible. If you let them go wild, 99 times out of 100 they are going to do something you can’t afford.”

There are good reasons not to pinch too many pennies, though.

As the saying goes, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” You probably shouldn’t go with the cheapest guy out there, Fowler suggests. A lot of builders, he says, cut corners by doing things illegally.

Don’t get roped into a mess like that. Saving a few bucks now might end up costing you more later.

James recommends doing things exactly the way you want them from the beginning, because remodeling later will cost you more money and more stress.

“We see a lot of buyers getting nervous about spending too much. As people get closer [to finishing], they wish they had spent that extra money,” she reports.

Spending more for quality products is another big consideration. Kane uses sustainable products for the exterior of his houses that last “pretty much a family’s life in a home — 30 to 40 years.”

That’s good for the environment and your wallet, because regular maintenance like repainting the outside of a house can cost $15,000.

Be decisive

The biggest mistake Kane, a veteran homebuilder, has seen homeowners make is being wishy-washy with their decisions.

Once a home is under construction, it’s important to have made all your major design selections.

“Paint color’s not a big deal,” Kane says. “But you should have things like all your tile and granite picked out.”

Why? Because at this point in the process, your selections could be backordered, and waiting on them is costly to the builder and to you.

If you do tend to change your mind a lot, make sure you pick a builder with a good warranty program.

Communication is key

One core piece of advice from construction professionals: Keep the lines of communication open. The biggest mistake you can make, says Fowler, is leaving gray areas in your building and design plan.

“I’ve heard horror stories, and most are because one party’s expectations were different from the other’s,” Nigro states. “The more developed drawings can be, the fewer assumptions the contractor will have to make.”

And it’s not only important for you to communicate to your design team. The members of your team need to be on the same page with each other as well.

“They need to really create a collaborative team,” Nigro says. “There are a lot of decisions to be made.”

Fowler recommends getting the whole team together to meet each other and start working collaboratively from the start. Most times, he says, architects, designers, and builders who work in a community have met and done projects with each other before.

Consider the trends

More homes across the country are being built “healthy” or “green.” These are homes built with non-toxic, natural products and materials.

Nigro says she used to recommend healthy building to her clients, and now people are coming to her asking for it.

Another trend sweeping the nation is “mother-in-law suites” or homes that accommodate multi-generational families.

Over the past five years, a lot of Nigro’s clients have started looking down the road to when older relatives might move in with them, or maybe their adult children will move back home after college.

This could mean a separate apartment over a garage, or maybe a guest bedroom on the main floor.

Why are trends an important factor to consider? It could help you sell your home in the future.

Have fun

“It’s important for us to personalize your home and make it yours and something that you’re proud of,” James remarks.

If this means having a full basketball court right on the main floor next to the dining room, like one of Nigro’s customers wanted, then that’s what you should have!

Custom features can range from practical to fantastical: Fowler has had clients ask for water pipes over their nightstand so they wouldn’t have to get up for water in the middle of the night; “living walls” (walls with plants or grass growing right on them); hidden cameras; and even an unexplained hole in the closet floor.

Hey, it’s your dream house, after all.

Wondering if new construction is right for you? Search new construction listings, and get more home-buying tips and resources to help you decide.

Related:

Originally published October 21, 2016.

Source: zillow.com

Bodnar of MMG: What Does Continued Volatility Mean for Clients?

Bill Bodnar of The Mortgage Market Guide (MMG) discussed how volatility continues in the bond market.

Friday morning’s “gap down” open is a negative sign. Key resistance levels in the 10-year Note yield are still holding at the moment.

Inflation will be sharply higher over the next three months due to the year-over-year baseline effect. However, Bodnar says he doesn’t see inflation being a big problem longer-term.

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Source: themortgageleader.com

Why Is the Last Friday in May so Important When Buying a House?

When You Put in an Offer on a Home Can Have a Big Impact on How Much You Can Save

If you have plans on buying a home this year and you want to get the best deal possible, many signs point to the fact that you should be acting now. This is because after the month of May ends, you could be paying a lot more for the home you’re interested in.

In the real estate world, the month in which you buy isn’t the only important factor you need to consider; the day of the week you put in your offer can also affect your price. Here’s why the last Friday in May is so important to be mindful of, when you want to get the best deal possible on the home you’re looking to buy.

home buying in mayhome buying in may

Why Is It Best to Submit an Offer on Friday

You have five days in any given week when you can submit an offer on a home. In most cases, a buyer will find the home they want on a Saturday, compare the pros and cons of the home on Sunday, and then submit their offer on Monday. This is what most people do because it simply fits easier in their schedule best.

But many experienced buyers will tell you that Friday is actually the best time to submit an offer. Buyers who submit their offers on a home on Monday will often find themselves stuck in a bidding war for the rest of the week. But you can often avoid this unpleasant (and expensive) situation by submitting your offer on a Friday, before Monday’s rush of offers.

If the home is priced properly, then you will want to include in your offer a short acceptance period. The goal is to have the home under contract with the proper terms by the end of the weekend. With your offer accepted before Monday, you will avoid the bidding war process and wind up getting the home at the best price possible.

home buying in mayhome buying in may

Buying in May Versus June

When spring transitions into summer, the housing market typically explodes, which can make for a bad time to buy if you’re interested in saving money. After May ends, home prices start climbing because sellers anticipate the increase in buyer traffic.

June also sees home closings happening at a faster rate than most other months. This means there’s less time for a buyer to negotiate the price. Homes sold in June also tend to sell for much more than the asking price due to the increase in buyer traffic and the bidding wars that this can cause.

home buying in mayhome buying in may

Find the Home You Want Before Summer’s Market Shift

If you want to get into a home before the start of the summer onslaught of buyers and escalating home prices, then now is the time you want to start looking for a home. At Homes.com, we can provide you with up-to-the-minute listings in your desired buying area. You even can use our filters to narrow down your options to only those homes that best fit your wants and needs, saving you time in the process.

Find the home you want and make sure you submit your offer by the last Friday in May to get the home you want at the best price possible.


Carson is a real estate agent based out of Phoenix, Arizona. Carson loves data and market research, and how readily available it is in today’s world. He is passionate about interpreting these insights to help his clients find and buy their perfect home. Carson got into the real estate industry because he loves the feeling of handing over the keys to a new home to happy clients. In his free time, he works on his backyard bonsai garden and spends time with his wife, Julia.

Source: homes.com

5 Ways to Show Your Home Some Love

Don’t leave your home out of the Valentine’s Day fun — send it a love note or two with these quick tips.

When February rolls around, we’re often thinking of little ways to show our loved ones how special they are to us. Why not take the opportunity to do the same for your home?

While you can’t send your home a box of chocolates or a card, there are plenty of things you can do to show it a little love this Valentine’s Day.

Make easy DIY updates

Even if you’re not planning on selling your home anytime soon, it’s always good to make small improvements to increase your home’s value. Plan a quick weekend project, like one of the following:

  • Install a no-touch faucet on the kitchen sink
  • Swap those brass drawer pulls from the ’90s with a more modern design
  • Replace the old fluorescent light fixtures in the bathroom
  • Upgrade the frameless builder-grade mirror to a more stylish one
  • Paint the front door and shutters a vibrant color you love

These simple changes can make a huge difference in how you see and enjoy your home — and make it easier to sell when the time comes.

Buy it something pretty

Just like buying a new ensemble usually lifts your spirits, purchasing something you love for your home will instantly put you in a great mood.

Buy that gorgeous vintage door you’ve been eyeing online (after carefully measuring, of course). Upgrade the curtains the previous owner left behind, buy something colorful and cheery to change the room’s look, or take the plunge and finally purchase that department store rug.

Cultivating great style in your home doesn’t usually happen overnight, but occasionally purchasing items that that make you happy will eventually result in a space you love.

Make happy memories in it

When you first looked at your home, you might have said something like, “This would be a great space for entertaining.” Since moving in, however, have you actually entertained in your home?

If you haven’t (or if it’s been awhile), consider hosting a potluck or a casual dinner with friends and family.

But don’t think you have to scrub the floors for three days and prepare a feast. There’s no need to get too fancy when you host — all you really need is great friends, lively conversation, and good food. Make a menu, choose the music, and hang some string lights or light some candles to create a festive atmosphere.

Save money on it

If mortgage rates are down and you’re interested in lowering your monthly payments, you might want to consider refinancing your home.

Though saving money on your mortgage is the most obvious reason to refinance, many homeowners choose to refinance so they can change from an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) to a fixed-rate mortgage. This can make payments more predictable and less dependent on how the market is doing.

Knowing that you are making the best financial decisions when it comes to your home will ultimately make you happier to be there.

Make sure it’s protected

Reviewing your home insurance policy may not be the most exciting way to spend an evening, but it’s a good way to make sure there aren’t any obvious gaps in your coverage.

Read your policy carefully. Are you overly insured? Or are you overpaying for the amount of coverage you’re getting? Remember that standard coverage often doesn’t often pay for flood or earthquake damage, so check your policy and understand what’s covered in the rare case of a disaster.

If you find areas for improvement, shop around for a new insurance company or work with your existing provider to create a plan that makes you feel more prepared and secure. Understanding the ins and outs of your insurance policy is the best way to look after your pocketbook — and it will likely help you sleep better at night, too.

A home is more than just a roof over your head — it’s a place that’s meant to be loved and enjoyed. Try some of these quick tips this weekend, and you’re sure to fall in love with your home even more.

Related:

Source: zillow.com

Forbearances Down 5% Over Past Month: Black Knight

Active forbearance plans fell again this week, dropping by another 19,000 (-0.7%) from last Tuesday. In total, this puts the number of active plans down by 135,000 over the last month, a 5% reduction.

That 5% monthly decline represents the strongest rate of improvement since late November 2020 and is a direct result of servicers working through the 1.2 million plans that entered this month with scheduled March month-end expirations for extension and/or removal.

It is important to note that even with such strong monthly improvement, there are still more than 46,000 active plans with March month-end expirations, which provides the potential for additional improvement in coming weeks.

As of March 23, 2.57 million homeowners remain in forbearance, representing 4.9% of all homeowners with mortgages.

This week’s improvement was driven by improvements among both GSE (-21,000) and FHA/VA plans (-10,000), while active plan volumes rose among portfolio/PLS mortgages (+12,000).

Early extension activity suggests servicers continue to approach forbearance plans in three-month increments, with the bulk of would-be March expirations being extended out through June.

Plan extensions have accounted for 75% of all extension/removal activity in recent weeks, but removals are up simply as a result of the volume of expirations that were scheduled for this month.

Early extension activity suggests servicers continue to approach forbearance plans in three-month increments, with the bulk of would-be March expirations being extended out through June.

Black Knight’s McDash Flash Payment Tracker shows that 90.7% of observed borrowers had made their payment through March 22, up from 89.8% at the same time in February.

Source: themortgageleader.com

San Diego Influencer KimiCoyo Gives Inside Look of her Downtown Digs

When I first moved from Norfolk, Virginia to San Diego, California, I moved into the very first apartment I toured. Three and a half years later, it was time to look for a new place that fit my style better. 

Must-Haves and Nice-to-Haves

I started my search by thinking about what my top three “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves” would be. Natural lighting, a neutral kitchen, and no carpet are what I landed on as top priorities. My nice-to haves included tall ceilings, a walk-in closet, and an all-white white kitchen. Luckily, I ended up finding a loft in downtown San Diego that I right away knew I had to have! The size and location were perfect, but it still needed some work and I was okay with that. With five of the six requirements, how could I say no?

[embedded content]The first thing that captured my attention was the large window in the living area. Aside from the amazing view of the city it has, there’s an abundance of natural lighting it brings into the loft and working in well-lit spaces does wonders for my productivity. The ceiling also was a selling point for me, in downtown San Diego it’s really difficult to find a large space at a decent price. High ceilings really open up the space to make it look larger. But, more importantly, the details are what make me go, “Wow!” every time I walk in. The loft was built in the early 1900s and was a lumber facility for many years. When the company closed down, the space was renovated into lofts. They put wooden platforms on the ceiling and then poured cement over it to give it texture.

My home is my sanctuary and I want to be happy with everything in it.  Knowing that I’ll be spending the majority of my time at home, I wanted to make sure I was creating a space that would also help amplify my creativity. I wanted my home to have every corner filled with meaningful pieces.

Kimi Coyo's San Diego LoftKimi Coyo's San Diego Loft

The Fun Part

After researching different styles, I finally figured out a look that I thought would be timeless. I got rid of the pieces from my old apartment and started purchasing new ones that would be more versatile. Since the new place is very neutral, I wanted to add pops of black to really show contrast in the loft. I found my inspiration from several places, one of them being Kim Kardashian’s home. In her interview with Vogue Magazine, she describes her home as a “minimal monastery” with stark and neutral spaces. I didn’t necessarily want my home to look like a monastery, but there was an artistic feel to it that I just fell in love with. I also drew a lot of inspiration from my past trips to Europe. If you know me, you know I love European culture. From the art and history to the architecture, I love it all.

Kimi Coyo's San Diego LoftKimi Coyo's San Diego Loft

A Blank Canvas

I also found that the way you use your wall space is really important. In my new place, I’m going to keep my walls pretty bare. I find that when there’s too much on the walls, I tend to get a bit distracted. Since the majority of my days consist of creating content, I feel like having a clean, white space helps me with creating new ideas.

However, one of the biggest challenges was trying to create storage space without cluttering the loft. While I have a hall closet for coats, household supplies, and luggage, there wasn’t any storage for my clothes, and being a lifestyle blogger, I have a lot of clothes. Sure, I could have covered my entire wall with clothing racks, but I wanted to leave the space open. I made the decision to donate over twenty bags of clothes and shoes in lieu of fitting everything in the loft. I stored my winter wardrobe and brought out my favorite summer pieces. Clutter tends to stress me out, so having my home be a blank canvas was really important.

Speaking of blank canvases, I mentioned one of my must-haves was a neutral kitchen, but a nice-to-have would be a white kitchen. I am a huge fan of cooking and love sharing new recipes with my followers, so having an aesthetically pleasing kitchen was important to me. I needed it to be clean and crisp so that the food could do the talking and not the squeaky cabinets or the dark and dingy backsplash. The loft has brand new kitchen appliances, white cabinets, and jaw-dropping light grey countertops! How perfect could this be? Unfortunately, the building doesn’t allow for gas-range stoves, but I’m still super happy with everything else. I am inspired more than ever to continue entertaining in my new kitchen.

Kimi Coyo kitchenKimi Coyo kitchen

A Space for Myself

With the new loft, I decided to create a little “zen zone”. Although I work from home, it doesn’t mean that I necessarily need to work from my couch all the time. For me, it’s good to separate your workspace from your personal space. So, I found the most amazing fuzzy chair and dedicated the space to where I start my day (with coffee in hand!).

I wanted to create areas that are not only aesthetically pleasing but more importantly, functional. My work and “zen” zone also makes for an amazing little reading nook on the weekends, which is amazing. Each area of my home, I believe, should have a purpose, so now that my new space has all of these things, it makes me happy to be at home!

Kimi Coyo Living RoomKimi Coyo Living Room

Long story short, everybody has a unique sense of style and everyone has a groove that spurs his or her productivity. For those looking for anything from new home décor inspiration to tips on how to work at home, I hope you found this article to be beneficial! Your home is a representation of you, so be creative with it. I had such an amazing time sharing San Diego digs and I hope that you enjoyed it!


Kimmy Nguyen

CEO at Blushing Agency | See more posts by this author

Kimmy Nguyen is a lifestyle blogger known as KimiCoyo, and the CEO of Blushing Agency, a social media marketing firm, based out of San Diego, California. A Norfolk, Virginia Native, Nguyen moved to San Diego almost four years ago from Norfolk, Virginia and dove into blogging as a way to meet friends and explore more of California. Since then, she has worked with a number of brands and has met some of her closest friends.

Source: homes.com

Dealing With a Seller Who Is ‘Just Not That Into You’

You’ve got your heart set on their home. Should you try to win them over, or just walk away?

As Valentine’s Day approaches, many single folks swipe left and right searching for the “one” love of their life. Looking for the right match is not much different in real estate: trying to find the perfect home, in a prime location, that checks all the boxes on your wish list.

Given the ups and downs of a home search and the love affair many buyers have with potential matches, many real estate agents feel their job becomes part therapist and part matchmaker.

Buyers tour dozens of homes and sift through dozens of properties, maybe even going on “second dates” — or in real estate terms, “private showings.”

Sometimes they feel it in their gut when the right house comes along. They know the comps, and are prepared to make an offer at fair market value. In their minds, they’ve already moved in.

Unfortunately, sometimes love is unrequited — even in real estate.

The seller has every right to reject a buyer for any reason whatsoever. They may stand firm on their price or wait for better terms. It could be they don’t like the buyer’s contingencies, or they’re holding out for a cash deal.

Either way, the seller has no obligation to sell to you, even if you offer what seems like a fair price.

Here are five tips for dealing with a seller who is “just not that into you.”

Go to your max

After submitting an offer and even going through a series of counter offers, you realize you’re probably too far apart on price.

You’re wasting time by holding back and playing the seller’s game. If you want the home, it’s time to go to your max.

By putting your best offer forward, you’ll have done all you can. Sometimes a few weeks pass, and they will come back to you.

Move on

Moving on is easier said than done, of course. But if the seller isn’t interested in working with you, move on.

Hanging around wishing the seller will come to their senses and accept your offer is a waste of time and emotional energy. By pining away in your love affair with that house, you risk missing out on other great properties that are available and whose owners may be more “into” you.

And who knows? Sometimes, when you move on, the seller may suddenly show interest.

Learn from the experience

The sheer desire to own a home and the assumption that an available home should be yours doesn’t always translate into homeownership. If things don’t work out for you, analyze what went wrong.

What mistakes could you have avoided? Did you spend too much time negotiating with that seller? Did you get too emotionally involved?

If you can walk away with some lessons learned, your next try at homeownership should be easier — and more likely to succeed.

Don’t try to figure out the seller

You’ve got no idea what’s going on in a seller’s head. For all you know, the seller is emotionally attached to the home and not ready to sell. Or maybe they’re simply are firm on their price, and that’s it — no matter how high it seems relative to the market.

It’s certainly tempting to play armchair analyst when a seller isn’t selling to you for mysterious reasons. It’s also, in most cases, a waste of time and energy.

Accept the fact that the seller just isn’t that into you for whatever reason, and move on to the next home.

Do try to figure yourself out

Is there a pattern developing? Are you only going after the ones you can’t have? If so, are you sure you’re ready to commit?

Like finding a mate, buying a home is a huge decision and financial commitment. If you find that you keep going after sellers that aren’t co-operating, the issue may be you — not them.

Identify the motivated and serious seller, and make a play for their home.

And don’t spare too much thought for the one that got away. You’d be surprised how many times buyers, at the closing table, admit that the home they had previously pinned for wasn’t the one for them, anyhow.

Related:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Source: zillow.com

Biden Housing Secretary Seeks $100B Funding Boost

Marcia Fudge, the Biden administration’s recently confirmed Housing and Urban Development Secretary, has urged lawmakers to top off the department’s budget by as much as $100 billion. So reports Politico.

Fudge also called for Congress to make permanent the majority of housing-related pandemic legislation.

HUD’s annual budget, holding near $55 billion of late, is inadequate to meet the needs of more than 500,000 homeless, fix up deteriorating public housing and remove lead from subsidized housing, Fudge said in a press briefing.

Read the full article from Politico. 

Source: themortgageleader.com

Local Market Outlook: Why First-Time Buyers Love Pittsburgh

Real estate observers did a double take when a city that once defined the term “rust belt” came in first or tied for first in five national rankings of the best cities for first-time buyers and millennials over the past year. After the big steel mills closed 40 years ago, Pittsburgh’s housing market plunged into a multi-year economic depression. It never experienced the housing boom 15 years ago. During the boom and the recovery from the Great Recession, home prices in many markets rose much faster than they did in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh SkylinePittsburgh Skyline

In some ways, Pittsburgh’s real estate economy was several years ahead of national trends. By 2010, years before the recovery took hold in most markets, homes in Pittsburgh started to appreciate as the regional economy went through a transition. Once synonymous with shuttered steel mills and unemployment peaks, Pittsburgh has quietly undergone an economic renaissance and today is a hub for artificial intelligence, robotics, and biomedical companies. Pittsburgh recovered from the Great Recession faster than most markets, but never experienced the rampant appreciation that characterized most East and West Coast markets.

When the housing bubble burst in 2008, Pittsburgh was already in recovery. However, unlike many markets that flourished during the boom and the recent recovery, appreciation in Pittsburgh never exceeded local income levels. “Unlike in other cities, home ownership in Pittsburgh has little risk but also little reward. From almost any perspective, Pittsburgh’s housing market lagged or ran counter to the national trends,” commented Pittsburgh’s MetroGuide Magazine.

All Real Estate is Local

Pittsburgh is an excellent example of the maxim “All real estate is local.” The superheated real estate markets that developed in response to millennial-generated demand and shrinking inventories is now a liability. First-time buyers, who are critical players in housing markets, are driven away by prices far above their means. They are discovering markets like Pittsburgh that never experienced the volatile booms and busts of recent years.

Some 71% of average wage earners could not afford to buy a home in 71% of America’s counties in the first quarter of 2019. The lack of affordable housing has risen to critical levels in the past three years. Unaffordability is now the most crucial factor for prospective first-time buyers. Though largely immune from national trends as it experienced its renaissance, Pittsburgh prices are currently rising faster as inventories shrink and demand grows. Pittsburgh home values are forecasted to grow 7.1% in 2019  but Pittsburgh will remain a good buy for the near future; its median home was $142,800 in 2018, only about 55% of the national median of $259,300.

In many markets today, many first-time buyers who qualify for a mortgage still can’t find a home they can afford. More expensive markets have severe shortages of starter homes that first-time buyers and low-earning households can afford. Pittsburgh did not experience the conversion of large numbers of foreclosures into rentals that reduced single-family housing stocks in many markets after the housing bubble burst. It also has a healthy supply of condos and townhomes for first-time and lower-income buyers. Some 55.8% of Pittsburgh families who make $55,000 or less in household income owned a home in 2017.

Pittsburgh’s housing stock is growing slowly. Just like the rest of the nation, new home construction has not kept up with demand. “During the nine years since the recession started, there has been an average of 1,920 new single-family detached homes started. The average for the last five – which covers the period in which Pittsburgh saw strong job growth – has been 1,962,” reported Pittsburgh Metroguide.

Pittsburgh is an excellent market for first-time buyers because of the unique path its local economy took over the past 20 years.  While other markets experienced a boom and bust cycle from 2008 to 2013, Pittsburgh improved incrementally as local employment and incomes grew. In recent years, however, Pittsburgh is developing problems common to other major markets.  Prices are forecasted to rise faster than the national median this year. Rising demand is putting pressure on supplies, and new construction is not filling the gap.

Pittsburgh in the Spotlight

Here is what recent national rankings have said about Pittsburgh.

HSH

HSH.com ranked Pittsburgh first among ten metros that cost less than $1000 a month. With a 10% down payment, homebuyers in the Pittsburgh metro area would need an annual income of $42,611.03, as the PITI (and mortgage insurance) payment would rise to $994.26 per month.

Bankrate

According to the 2019 Bankrate Best/Worst Metros for First-time Buyers Study, Pittsburgh topped the list of metropolitan markets where homeownership is attainable, safe and fun for residents. Markets were ranked by affordability, culture, job market, market tightness, and safety.

LendingTree

Pittsburgh tied with Cleveland for first place as best for first-time homebuyers. Using data from its mortgage platform, LendingTree created a winning profile for Pittsburgh:

  • Average down payment amount: $34,049
  • Average down payment percentage: 15%
  • Share of buyers using an FHA mortgage: 36.5%
  • Average FHA down payment as a percentage of the average down payment for all loans: 31.2%
  • Percentage of buyers who have credit scores below 680: 41.3%

“Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Oklahoma City offer first-time homebuyers the easiest time purchasing a home. While these metros may not necessarily have the lowest credit score requirements or down payments in the country, they consistently rank highly across all six metrics that were considered in this study. Overall, Pittsburgh and Cleveland are tied for first place, while Oklahoma City is third,” said LendingTree.

SmartAsset

“The Steel City secured the top spot as the best city for first-time homebuyers. According to our data, the average price per square foot of a home in Pittsburgh is only $91, 13th-lowest in our study,” concluded SmartAsset’s Best Cities for First-Time Homebuyers in 2018.

“First-time homebuyers can also feel relatively confident that their home won’t lose value right off the bat. Pittsburgh had zero quarters of negative growth in home values between 2012 and 2017. For that metric, the city is tied for first,” the study found.

Apartment List

“No. 1 Pittsburgh tops the list of the best metros for millennials, with high marks for jobs and affordability,” the Apartment List’s Report Card: What are the Top US Metros for Millennials? reported. The city earns higher than average livability scores, with renters particularly satisfied with the city’s low crime level and options to date and make friends. Devastated by deindustrialization and the collapse of the steel industry in the 1980s, Pittsburgh has been undergoing a revitalization.

“The city has moved away from factory jobs and today attracts young, educated workers. The number of Pittsburgh residents 25 years of age and older with a college degree grew by 37.3% between 2000 and 2013. Tech giants, such as Apple, Facebook, Google, and Uber, have opened offices in Pittsburgh, and the city has a thriving food and art scene,” wrote Apartment List’s Sydney Bennet.

“While large coastal metros, from San Francisco to New York City, offer strong job markets and plenty of entertainment options, affordability concerns make them a poor choice for many millennials. Inland metros, including Pittsburgh, Provo, and Madison, are some of the best locations for millennials. These metros offer millennials more than just affordable housing options. They also provide strong job markets and vibrant social scenes” she said.

Source: SmartAsset


Steve Cook is the editor of the Down Payment Report. He is a member of the board of the National Association of Real Estate Editors and writes for several leading Web sites, including Inman News. From 1999 to 2007 he was vice president for public affairs at the National Association of Realtors.

Source: homes.com

What Do You Need and Want in Your Next Home?

In this article:

While everybody knows that buyers shop based on price range, there are many additional considerations to make when looking for a home. And, most buyers end up refining their criteria once they start touring homes. Ultimately, your home criteria should depend on your personal lifestyle and needs. Regardless of what you’re looking for, here are some general rules you should follow to make sure you’ll be happy with the home you buy for the foreseeable future.

What are the top features buyers look for in a home?

Today’s buyers are juggling many different priorities when it comes to buying a home, but according to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2019, here are the features that rank as very important or extremely important to most buyers.

Neighborhood wants and needs for buyers

  • Safety: 82% say a neighborhood that feels safe is very or extremely important
  • Walkability: 60% say it’s very or extremely important
  • Preferred neighborhood: 56% say it’s very or extremely important
  • Proximity to shopping, services and/or leisure activities: 53% say it’s very or extremely important
  • Optimal commute to work or school: 52% say it’s very or extremely important
  • Offers a sense of community or belonging: 48% say it’s very or extremely important
  • Close to family and friends: 46% say it’s very or extremely important
  • In preferred school district: 43% say it’s very or extremely important

Home features buyers want

  • Within initial budget: 83% say it’s very or extremely important
  • Air conditioning: 78% of buyers say it’s very or extremely important
  • Preferred number of bedrooms: 76% of buyers say it’s very or extremely important
  • Preferred number of bathrooms: 67% of buyers say it’s very or extremely important
  • Private outdoor space: 67% of buyers say it’s very or extremely important
  • Preferred size/square footage: 67% of buyers say it’s very or extremely important
  • Floor plan/layout that fits preferences: 67% of buyers say it’s very or extremely important

28% of buyers look for a home to rent out, 27% looked for smart homes, 58% of buyers looked for assigned parking

1. Search for the right price

Price will ultimately dictate what you can or cannot buy. While looking at homes above your price range can be fun, it’s not a good use of time — and it can lead to heartbreak when you realize it’s not financially feasible. Despite this, Zillow research found that in 2019, just 55% of buyers stayed on budget, while 26% went over their initial budget.

How to set your home buying budget

Use Zillow’s Affordability Calculator: This handy tool gives you an initial budget range based on your income, existing monthly bills, and down payment amount. Once you have that range, you can set up Zillow alerts for homes on the market that fit your price range, along with other criteria.

Get pre-approved: Once you’re ready to really start your home search, you’ll want to get pre-approved by the lender of your choice. They’ll approve you for a loan up to a specific amount, based on your income, debt and credit history.

Forecast your mortgage payment: Even if you are pre-approved for a large loan from your lender, you should make sure you’re comfortable with your estimated monthly housing payment. When you use Zillow’s mortgage calculator to estimate your monthly payments, be sure the taxes, insurance, and HOA fees are accurate — those items can make a big difference in your monthly costs.

2. Prioritize the location

Next to budget, location is one of the most important things to consider when buying a house. The 2019 report uncovered that 24% of buyers found it difficult or extremely difficult to find a home in their desired location. If you can’t find or afford a home in your ideal neighborhood, you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions (and enlist the help of your agent) to find a location that fits your lifestyle, needs and budget. Remember — your home’s location can’t be changed, so take the time to really identify a neighborhood where you’ll be happy live.

Proximity to downtown

Unsurprisingly, homes closer to core downtown areas have better resale value, thanks to their shorter commutes. According to Zillow research, in 29 of the country’s 33 largest metro areas included in the analysis, buyers should expect to pay more per square foot for a home within a 15-minute rush-hour drive to the downtown core. That may be why 15% of buyers who compromise to stay within their budget add time to their commute.

Community attributes

If you like being able to walk to restaurants and shops, try walking the distance to town to see if it’s doable. Spend some time exploring the area, checking out nearby parks and figuring out what kinds of attractions are nearby.

Alternatively, if you’re someone who likes a more solitary life and doesn’t mind driving, you might prioritize a home that offers more privacy, perhaps in a location that’s off the beaten path.

School district quality

If you have kids (or are planning on having kids in the future), you want them to get the best education possible. Checking out the school district ratings is a starting point, but you should visit the local schools to gather your assessment of the education and programs. Even if you don’t have children, the school district that your home is in can impact your future resale value.

Flood zone status

Homes located in flood zones require additional insurance, and buying a home in a flood-prone area means you need to be prepared if a flood actually happens.

3. Think long term

According to the Zillow Group Report, the typical homeowner stays in their home for 14 years before selling. When shopping for a home, don’t just think of your immediate needs. Make sure the home you select will meet your long-term goals, so you won’t have to move again in the near future.

Bedrooms and bathrooms

If you plan to expand your family in the near future, make sure the new home can accommodate your plans, whether it’s an extra room for a new baby, an in-law suite for parents, or a guest bedroom if you’re moving out of state and anticipate lots of visitors. The same goes if you are planning to downsize or you have grown children who will be moving out soon.

Outdoor space

As mentioned above, most buyers rank outdoor space as important. If you have a dog (or plan to get one), have kids who need a safe place to play or are an avid gardener, you’ll want to make sure the home’s outdoor space meets your needs.

Potential to personalize

Many buyers look for a home that’s move-in ready, so they can avoid costly repairs and updates (especially right after moving in). But at the same time, it’s nice to be able to add some personal flair to make a house feel like home. If you’d like to add some of your own style, be sure to steer clear of homes that you won’t be able to change enough to fit your preferences.

Lifestyle amenities

Ideally, your new home should enhance your current lifestyle — and you’ve probably already envisioned what your life in a new home will look like. As you evaluate houses, consider your hobbies and what makes you happy. For example, if you love spending time outdoors, you probably want a home with a nice yard. If you love to cook, maybe a nice, big kitchen is on your wish list. And, think about your current living situation: What things do you wish were different?

4. Assess property condition

TV makes home renovations look easy, but in reality, they’re anything but. If you’re a first-time buyer who has never undergone a renovation, you may want to steer clear of a home in serious disrepair. The costs can add up quickly, and if the home needs structural work, it could delay your move-in, causing unnecessary stress. Here are the three major categories of property condition.

Move-in ready

A move-in ready home is new, close to new, or has been recently renovated. Zillow-owned homes are move-in ready homes that have been recently renovated by a licensed contractor, and are ready for new owners to start their lives.

Minor updates

A home that needs minor updates might have cosmetic issues you’d like to change, or have some dated mechanical systems that could be updated for energy savings. Learn more about minor cosmetic details below.

Major renovation

A home that needs major repairs is usually priced lower due to the work that needs to be done. One upside to a major renovation is the opportunity to personalize the home to your tastes. Keep in mind that the return on investment for a major renovation isn’t 100%, and you risk a delayed move-in if the repairs are more extensive than anticipated.

Check condition of costly systems

No matter the condition of the home you’re buying, make sure your inspector checks to make sure major systems and mechanicals in the home are functioning properly. If issues are uncovered, you’ll want to ask the seller to either repair them before closing or offer a credit so you can fix them yourself. Look out for the following costly issues:

  • Damaged roof
  • Older furnace or HVAC system
  • Flooding, water damage or mold
  • Old insulation
  • Plumbing issues
  • Exterior cracks
  • Uneven floors

5. Don’t focus on minor cosmetic details

No house is perfect, so try not to get hung up on little imperfections. For example, don’t eliminate a home from your list just because you don’t like the interior paint color. Cosmetic changes are fairly easy and affordable to make. Don’t let the following minor issues keep you from buying a house you would otherwise love:

  • Paint
  • Hardware
  • Furnishings
  • Landscaping

When you attend showings and open houses, or even when you’re just browsing through pictures online, it’s easy to get distracted by clutter. Try not to pay too much attention to the seller’s stuff — it’ll all be removed by the time you move in. Put in the effort to picture the house as a blank canvas for all of your belongings.

6. Stick with your must-haves

There’s a big difference between wants and needs, so create two different lists when searching for a home. For instance, a shorter commute may be a must-have, but smart home features are a nice-to-have. Practicality and functionality should always take priority over the bells and whistles.

Things to consider when buying a house: needs vs. wants

For example, your list of needs might look like this.

  • Need: shorter commute
  • Need: specific number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Need: parking

Other items might fall to your list of wants, like these.

  • Want: updated kitchen
  • Want: upstairs washer and dryer
  • Want: smart home features

Source: zillow.com