Since the number of homes for sale is low today, especially across the North Bay Area, it can feel challenging to find one that checks all your boxes. But if you know which features are absolutely essential in your next home and which ones are just nice bonuses, you can land a home that fits your needs.
Danielle Hale, Chief Economist for realtor.com, explains it like this:
“Focus on the goal you set out for yourself, like your list of must-haves and nice-to-haves and your budget, . . . Stick to that. Be persistent.”
So how do you go about creating your list of desired features? The first step is to get pre-approved for your mortgage. Pre-approval helps you better understand your budget, and that plays an important role in how you’ll craft your list. After all, you don’t want to fall in love with a home that’s too far out of reach.
Once you have a good grasp of your budget, you can begin to list all the features of a home you would like. Here’s a great way to think about them before you begin:
- Must-Haves – If a house doesn’t have these features, it won’t work for you and your lifestyle (examples: distance from work or loved ones, number of bedrooms/bathrooms, etc.).
- Nice-To-Haves – These are features that you’d love to have but can live without. Nice-To-Haves aren’t dealbreakers, but if you find a home that hits all the must-haves and some of the these, it’s a contender (examples: a second home office, garage, etc.).
- Dream State– This is where you can really think big. Again, these aren’t features you’ll need, but if you find a home in your budget that has all the must-haves, most of the nice-to-haves, and any of these, it’s a clear winner (examples: farmhouse sink, multiple walk-in closets, etc.).
Finally, once you’ve created your list and categorized it in a way that works for you, discuss it with your real estate advisor. They’ll be able to help you refine the list further, coach you through the best way to stick to it, and find a home in your area that meets your needs.
Crafting your home search checklist may seem like a small task, but it can save you time and money. It’s also one of the keys to being successful in today’s competitive market here in the Northern Bay Area. Throughout San Francisco, Marin County and Southern Sonoma County, we’re working hard to ensure our clients are as buyer ready as possible. This means getting them positioned to move quickly as soon as the right opportunity presents itself. If you’re thinking about making a purchase this year we’d love to connect so that we can work together to find a home that fits your wants and needs.
Every year, many renters ask themselves the same question: Should I continue renting, or is it time to buy a home? If you’re a renter in the Northern Bay Area, chances are you’ve asked yourself that question at least once, and it’s likely because you’ve faced an increase in your monthly housing costs over time. After all, according to Census data, rents have risen consistently for decades.
To make an informed and powerful decision, the first step is understanding what’s happening in today’s housing market so you can determine which option is the better long-term financial decision for you.
Rents Are Going Up Again This Year
Rents across the country continue to skyrocket and the Bay area is proving to be no exception to this trend. Data from realtor.com shows just how much rental prices are surging throughout the United States. The graph below highlights rental unit price increases over the past year:
If you’re a renter in Marin or Sonoma County and plan on signing a new lease, your monthly costs are likely to go up when you do so. Those rising costs can have a big impact on your financial goals, including any plans you’re making to save for a home purchase.
Homeownership Offers Stable Monthly Costs
Of course, one of the key benefits of owning your home is that you’re able to lock in and stabilize your payments for the duration of your loan. That’s not the case when you rent.
While rents are already on the rise, there’s a good chance many people will see their rental costs increase even more this year. As Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com, says:
“With rents already at a high and expected to keep going up, rental affordability will increasingly challenge many Americans in 2022. For those thinking about making the transition from renting to buying their first home, rising rents will remain a motivating factor. . . .”
So, if you’re ready to become a homeowner, waiting any longer may not make financial sense. Instead, escape the cycle of rising rents and enjoy the many benefits that come with homeownership today.
Starting your JOURNEY towards homeownership can pay off significantly this year. Our team at Journey Real Estate takes pride in understand each of our client’s unique circumstance so that we can help them personalize a winning strategy. Collectively, our team has several decades worth of experience serving San Francisco, Marin County, Sonoma County, and the greater Bay Area. We study the nuances of the Bay Area housing market and are fluent in the latest trends. If you’re thinking about purchasing a home, we’d love the opportunity to work as your trusted real estate partner.
The last 18 months changed what many buyers are looking for in a home. We saw a ton of people relocate from San Francisco to the suburbs of Marin and Sonoma Counties. If you’re wanting to stay in the same city, but your housing needs have changed, we can help guide you towards making an informed decision whether to stay and renovate or move. Recently, the American Institute of Architects released their AIA Home Design Trends Survey results for Q3 2021. The survey reveals the following:
- 70% of respondents want more outdoor living space
- 69% of respondents want a home office (48% wanted multiple offices)
- 46% of respondents want a multi-function room/flexible space
- 42% of respondents want an au pair/in-law suite
- 39% of respondents want an exercise room/yoga space
If you’re a homeowner who wants to add any of the above, you have two options: renovate your current house or buy a home that already has the spaces you desire. The decision you make could be determined by factors like:
- A possible desire to relocate
- The difference in the cost of a renovation versus a purchase
- Finding an existing home or designing a new home that has exactly what you want (versus trying to restructure the layout of your current house)
In either case, you’ll need access to capital: the funds for the renovation or the down payment your next home would require. The great news is that the money you need probably already exists in your current home in the form of equity.
Home Equity Is Skyrocketing
The record-setting increases in home prices over the last two years dramatically improved homeowners’ equity. The graph below uses data from CoreLogic to show the average home equity gain in the first quarter of the last nine years:
Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist at First American, quantifies the amount of equity homeowners gained recently:
“Remember U.S. households own nearly $35 trillion in owner-occupied real estate, just over $11 trillion in debt, and the remaining ~$24 trillion in equity. In inflation adjusted terms, homeowners in Q2 had an average of $280,000 in equity- a historic high.”
As a homeowner, the money you need to purchase the perfect home or renovate your current house may be right at your fingertips. However, waiting to make your decision may increase the cost of tapping that equity.
If you decide to renovate, you’ll need to refinance (or take out an equity loan) to access the equity. If you decide to move instead and use your equity as a down payment, you’ll still need to mortgage the remaining difference between the down payment and the cost of your next home.
Mortgage rates are forecast to increase over the next year. Waiting to leverage your equity will probably mean you’ll pay more to do so. According to the latest data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), almost 57% of current mortgage holders have a mortgage rate of 4% or below. If you’re one of those homeowners, you can keep your mortgage rate under 4% by doing it now. If you’re one of the 43% of homeowners with a mortgage rate over 4%, you may be able to do a cash-out refinance or buy a more expensive home without significantly increasing your monthly payment.
First Step: Determine the Amount of Equity in Your Home
If you’re ready to either redesign your current house or find an existing or newly constructed home that has everything you want, the first thing you need to do is determine how much equity you have in your current home. To do that, you’ll need two things:
- The current mortgage balance on your home
- The current value of your home
You can probably find the mortgage balance on your monthly mortgage statement. To find the current market value of your house, you can pay several hundreds of dollars for an appraisal, or you can contact one of our Journey Real Estate local real estate professionals who will be able to present to you, at no charge, a professional equity assessment report. We are all about empowering our clients to make well-informed decisions.
If the past 18 months have refocused your thoughts on what you want from your house, now may be the time to either renovate or make a move to the perfect home. Let’s start the conversation today.
Journey Real Estate ~ “The road best traveled!”