Buying New Construction? These Upgrades Will Deliver The Most Value

When you buy a new construction home, you can go with the baseline design, or you can invest in upgrades to customize your home.

But the question is—which upgrades are actually worth the investment?

recent article from realtor.com outlined the most valuable builder upgrades buyers should consider for their new construction homes, including:

  • Energy-efficient upgrades. Energy-efficient upgrades (like Energy Star windows or a smart thermostat) offer significant savings on utility bills—so consider investing in the upgrade while your home is being built to save money in the long run.
  • Kitchen upgrades. Kitchen upgrades can be pricey. But if you love to cook, investing in those upgrades during construction (for example, upgraded appliances, a kitchen island, or a pantry) can significantly change how you experience the space—and add value and enjoyment to the space for years to come.
  • Bathroom upgrades. Renovating a bathroom can be a long, disruptive, and expensive process—so if you’re buying a new construction house, make sure to install the bathroom upgrades (like upgraded flooring, tile, or bathtub) from the get-go.

Homeowners Should Have Some “Fear of Missing Out” on This Market

If you’ve been thinking about selling and hesitating or simply waiting, you may want to start thinking about how you’ll feel if you miss out on the best time to sell your house in a long time. You never know when (or if) conditions will be like this in the real estate market again.

It’s been a sellers’ market for quite some time now, and with rates going up significantly and home prices still historically high, there’s a lot of chatter about whether or not there’s a real estate “bubble” that’s about to pop. In particular, The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas recently warned about the potential of a housing bubble and how buyers’ “fear of missing out” (FOMO) is making it worse.

On the other hand, a recent survey revealed that home buyers are still hopeful and feel that it will still be a good time to buy a home in the next three months.

That’s despite the fact that even though there have been signs and reports about the market slowing, according to this Realtor Magazine article, as of March sellers have still been:

  • Receiving an average of 5 offers on their home
  • Selling for above list price over 57% of the time
  • And 87% of listing sold in less than a month

Much of that may very well be fueled by buyers’ FOMO, but it can’t and won’t last forever. That’s how the real estate market works—it goes up, then it goes down, and then back up again in cycles. So even if you “miss out” on this moment in history, there will certainly be a time when home values are this high, or even higher.

But will there be such a combination of high values, low inventory, historically low rates, and high demand? And when will it happen? How will you feel if you “miss out” now?

Those are questions you need to ask yourself if you’ve been toying with the idea of selling your house.

The Takeaway:

Don’t be fueled by fear of missing out, but definitely think about how it would affect you if you did, because the market’s still in your favor…for now at least. If you’re going to sell in the next few years, now is as good a time as any to take advantage of the fact that buyers are still hopeful, offers are plentiful and over asking price, and homes are selling quickly.

Low Mortgage Rates + High Home Values: Should You Tap Into Your Home Equity Right Now?

Low Mortgage Rates + High Home Values: Should You Tap Into Your Home Equity Right Now?

If you own a home, there’s a good chance you’re sitting on a nice chunk of equity. According to this report from Black Knight, the average homeowner got a $48,000 bump in their home value, raising the average equity to $185,000 in 2021.

Considering mortgage rates are still historically low, and home values are high, it can be tempting to tap into your home like it’s an ATM. With hints of rates going up, and values potentially coming down, it can be even more tempting to rush and pull equity out of your house.

Before you do, consider whether or not you should. Take a look at some reasons to tap into your equity, and some reasons not to pull money out of your house:

Good Reasons

  • Home improvements
  • College costs (if the rate is lower than student loan rates you can obtain)
  • Debt consolidation (if you manage credit well and can use it to lower your payments)
  • Emergency expenses
  • Wedding expenses
  • Business expenses

Not So Good Reasons

  • Vacations
  • Buy a car
  • Risky investments (like “hot” stock tips you read online)
  • Pay off credit cards (if it is a recurring problem)

If you determine it makes sense to turn your equity into cash, you have a few options:

Cash-out Refinance

This type of loan allows you to refinance your home for a higher amount than you currently owe, and take the difference in cash. For instance, you owe $100,000, take out a $150,000 loan, and get $50,000 cash. This can be a great option if your current mortgage is at a rate that is higher than current rates, or you have paid down your original loan substantially over time.

Home Equity Loan

These are a second mortgage on your home, usually at a higher rate than the first. Lenders may also be a bit more careful about how much they will lend, since these take second position to your original mortgage if the home is foreclosed on.

Home Equity Line of Credit

These are commonly referred to as a “HELOC.” They’re also a second mortgage, but in the form of a revolving line of credit, much like a credit card. The rate is often variable and fluctuates with changes in the market, but you can find some that are fixed-rate.

The Takeaway:

The current market conditions are favorable for tapping into your home equity if you have a good amount of it. If you decide to do so, just make sure it’s for a good reason. Try not to take out too much equity. Maintaining 20% equity is an ideal benchmark — taking into consideration that values could also drop a bit in the near future — so be safe when estimating how much you’re taking out.

No matter what your reason, only do so if you know you can handle the payments and it won’t put your hard-earned equity and home at risk. And, as always, make sure to seek the advice of your financial advisor, estate planner, and / or real estate agent before turning the equity in your home into cash.

Being a Landlord Is About to Start Paying off Big Time

Being a landlord hasn’t been easy over the past couple of years. Not that it’s ever entirely easy, but local and federal pandemic mandates and eviction moratorium made it harder to even collect rents, let alone raise them.

But according to recent survey data highlighted in this Realtor Magazine article, landlords plan to substantially raise rents this year, and all signs point to tenants being willing and able to pay higher rents.

Here’s a look at how much surveyed landlords are planning on increasing rents by in the coming year:

  • 38% plan on increasing by 5% or less
  • 45% plan on a 5-10% increase
  • 9% are planning on a 10-15% bump
  • 5% are seeking a 15-20% hike in rent
  • 3% are asking for an increase of 20% or more

The amount your market and tenants will be able to bear has to be taken into consideration, but overall the article cites that 82% of renters have not missed a payment in the past 12 months, showing that the majority of tenants are able to pay regularly and stay current. Seventy-seven percent state that they do not anticipate missing a payment in the next three months to a year.

Coupled with low supply of houses for sale (especially in the entry-level markets) and rising interest rates, demand for rentals should be high.

The Takeaway:

If you’ve struggled to collect rents and pay your mortgage over the past few years, and are thinking about selling your rental property, you may want to reconsider. If you can, hold on to your rental property and raise your rents as much as the local market will bear.

If you haven’t been struggling, but you’ve been hesitant (or unable) to raise rents in the past couple of years, consider raising the rent as leases come up for renewal, or when accepting a new tenant.

And if you haven’t already invested in rental property, now may be the time to buy one, before rents are raised which will increase the market value and cost to buy one.