Dwell shares insider tips after consulting architects, DIY home builders and shipping container experts from around the world.
You’ve decided to join the shipping container revolution. Your plans are drawn up, your site is prepared and your welding torch is ready to transform a discarded steel box into the durable, stylish and sustainable home of your dreams. Now what?
To help you get started, we asked architects, DIY home builders and shipping container experts from around the world for their insider tips on bringing home the best possible container for your building needs.
The first step, they agree, is to find a reputable distributor. “Shipping companies don’t want people calling them for one or 10 containers. They prefer to sell to dealers,” says Barry Naef, director of the ISBU Association (ISBU stands for intermodal steel building units, the term for containers used specifically for construction).
He recommends checking the extensive international list of dealers on the Eco Green Sources website. And don’t despair if you live far from the ocean. Thanks to a network of inland distribution hubs, says Naef, “there are as many [containers] in the mid-U.S. and Canada as there are at the ports, at nearly the same prices.” A dealer can help arrange for overland transport of your container via 18-wheeler truck.
Other sourcing options exist, too. In Zambia, a local NGO supplied Tokyo-based architect Mikiko Endo with old containers it had used to transport donations (she transformed them into maternity clinic housing). In Israel, architect Galit Golany purchased a refurbished container from a prefab construction company, then fixed up the turnkey unit with timber cladding, roofing, a deck and stone base.
Stephen Shoup, founder of Oakland’s building Lab, agrees that looking for a distributor that will do some basic modifications prior to sale is a good idea.
“It’s tons of fun to be standing there with a plasma cutter and a welder and be hacking into these things and pasting them back together, but if you’re encountering engineering issues, then you’re going to need licensed welders. That cost is much more controllable when done at the fabrication shop or shipyard,” says Shoup.
Another option is to purchase a container manufactured specifically for building, like the ones from Toronto-based MEKA or Silhouette Spice in Tokyo. These can be cheaply transported using existing global shipping networks, but are tailor-made to meet building codes (Japan’s are especially strict).
If you do decide to purchase a genuine seafaring container, you’ll need to keep a number of factors in mind. First is size. Although dimensions are generally standardized, your safest bet for projects that join multiple units is to purchase a single brand (perhaps one whose logo you fancy). Houston-based architect Christopher Robertson, who has designed both upscale residential and disaster-relief housing using containers, recommends choosing “high cubes” (HQ), which are about a foot taller than standard, because the smaller size can feel claustrophobic after installing insulation. Lengths vary from 8 to 53 feet, with 20 feet and 40 feet being the most common.
Whichever you choose, Robertson cautions that the costs of transportation and modification quickly add up. “There’s a real misconception that building with containers is absurdly inexpensive. Unfortunately, that’s not true at all,” he says.
Assuming you’re still hooked on the many other benefits of container construction, you’ll need to think about age and condition. Options range from virtually unscathed “one-trippers” to eight-to-10-year-old retired containers, with varying degrees of rust, dents and warping. Your choice depends on your design goals.
For Brook van der Linde, an artist who built a DIY container home with her husband in Asheville, cost and sustainability were more important than perfect condition. “Our goal was to use materials that were headed for the landfill. Our containers were constructed in 2005 so they had a good long life going to China and back,” she says.
Robertson, on the other hand, sought out one-trippers for his residential project. “They’re a little more expensive but they look a lot better,” he explains. “If they start having a lot of dings and rusts, you lose the aesthetic pleasure.”
Although a container’s history is trackable via its serial number, the best way to assess its condition is through a visual once-over prior to purchase. Arrive at the lot armed with a level to check for excessive warping and a checklist of potential problems, such as holes, dents, damaged door seals, and corrosion (a little rust is par for the course). Don’t forget to use your nose, as well. The wood flooring of most containers is treated with toxic pesticides, which you’ll need to seal or remove, and others may have been used to transport unpleasantly odiferous contents.
Finally, once you’ve made your choice, take a deep breath. The toughest — and most enjoyable — phase of building your container home is still to come.
Five good reasons to have a pro on your side throughout the process.
Buying new construction seems simple, right? Just pick out the floor plan you want, choose the perfect lot, and watch it go up. No sellers to deal with, no unexpected repairs that come up during inspection, no drawn-out negotiations. Right?
Not so fast. In any real estate transaction, it’s important to have a professional on your side, even if the process seems straightforward.
“Having your own agent provides a sense of security,” says Seattle-area homeowner Kristy Weaver, who has bought two new construction homes from two different builders. “It gives you some peace of mind, knowing that someone is looking out for your best interest.”
Peace of mind is just one benefit of having an experienced agent along for the ride. Read on for five more reasons you’ll want a local real estate agent by your side when buying a new construction home.
1. Help you find a reputable builder
“Your agent can rely on their own experience and that of their colleagues to help you find a builder you can trust,” says Portland, OR-based real estate agent Kim Ainge Payne of the Realty Trust Group. “What’s the quality of the workmanship? What kind of warranty do they offer? What’s their track record of resolving issues? Getting a clear understanding in the beginning can alleviate serious headaches down the road.”
2. Go to bat for you
The timeline for purchasing new construction is typically quite a bit longer than buying an existing home. From the first time you visit the sales center, to choosing your layout, construction, inspections, and finally closing, there are ample opportunities for things to go sideways — think construction delays, permit issues, and financing concerns. An experienced buyer’s agent can help you navigate all of these sticky situations.
3. Help you review your contract
Even if you’ve purchased a home before, the contract for new construction is a whole different animal, and an experienced agent can help you make sure you understand everything, from floor plans to earnest money requirements, deadlines for requesting changes, and timelines for completion.
“It’s crucial to have a third party who represents your interests in the transaction,” says Dmitry Yusim, a Seattle-area agent who has represented new construction buyers. “A good agent can add the proper addendums to protect you if something falls through.”
4. Assist with negotiations
Buyers’ agents know the areas where you’ll find the most wiggle room when it comes to negotiations.
“Builders are trying to keep their sales price up so that the next buyers through the door see the higher closing price,” explains agent Britt Wibmer of Windermere Real Estate in Seattle. “They’d much rather throw in closing costs or additional upgrade credits.”
5. Point you toward smart upgrade choices
Builders will offer you endless options for finishes and upgrades, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. A seasoned real estate agent can recommend the upgrades that will get you the most bang for your buck in resale value, suggest finishes that might be cheaper to do on your own, and help you avoid over-improving, which can jeopardize your appraisal before closing.
Even though a friendly sales representative will greet you with a smile the moment you walk through the door of the sales center, don’t forget that they work for the builder. Bring your own agent with you starting with your first visit — in fact, many builders require your agent to register with them from the very beginning in order for them to be involved in the process and receive their commission.
With a professional you trust by your side, you’ll rest easy knowing someone is there to protect your money, your time, and your new home.
Wondering if new construction is right for you? Search new construction listings, and get more home-buying tips and resources to help you decide.
Don't let anyone slip through the cracks.
When you’re preoccupied with important relocation-related tasks, it’s easy to forget about informing relevant people and institutions of your upcoming residential move and subsequent change of address.
But notifying specific organizations and individuals of your relocation is essential for ensuring a smooth moving process and preventing various hassles and troubles with your mail and accounts.
Here’s a checklist of the people and institutions you need to contact when moving.
Family and friends
Naturally, your relatives and close friends should be the first to know that you are about to move house. Informing them of your imminent relocation as early as possible will not only give you the chance to ask them help you move, but, if you’re moving far away, will also provide you with enough time to say a proper goodbye and plan for different ways to stay in touch despite the distance between you.
Unless you’re relocating to a different branch of your current company, you should inform your employer about your decision to move and leave your job as early as a month in advance.
This way, the company will have time to find a new person for your position, and you will be able to put all the relevant paperwork in order without any hassle.
Remember that your old boss will need your new address to send you tax documents and insurance information at the end of the year.
If you live in a rental home, you should carefully review your tenant rights and responsibilities contained in the lease agreement. You will probably be required to notify your landlord of your intentions to move out at least 30 days in advance.
You need to prepare a written notice that clearly states your move-out date and your future address. It is also a good idea to include a brief statement about the excellent condition of the rented property and to request your security deposit back.
Changing your address with the United States Postal Service should be among your top priorities when moving to a new house, as it will help you avoid many troubles and inconveniences.
To have your mail forwarded to your new place before you’ve updated your address with individual organizations and companies, you only need to fill out a change of address request at your local post office or at the USPS official website.
Online services such as 1StopMove can also help you complete this process.
To prevent service lapses and past-due bills you need to inform your service providers about your relocation plans. Arrange for the utilities at your old home to be disconnected on moving day, and have them reconnected at your new residence by the time you move in.
The utility companies you should contact when moving include electricity, gas, water, telephone, cable, Internet, domestic waste collection and other municipal services you may need.
When you move out of state, you’ll have to transfer your driver’s license and update your vehicle’s registration and insurance within quite a short time frame (10 to 30 days, depending on your new state).
It’s a good idea to visit the local office of the Department of Motor Vehicles at the earliest opportunity, inform them of your new address, and request all the relevant information about putting the required paperwork in order.
A number of government agencies should be notified when you’re moving to another state. Be sure to update your address with the local office of the Social Security Administration, the electoral register, and other relevant institutions.
The Internal Revenue Service will need your actual home address to mail your tax return, fiscal notes, and other documents. All you need to do is print out and mail in the IRS’ Change of Address form soon after your relocation.
To keep your finances in order, you must update your bank accounts and inform credit card companies, stockbrokers, and other relevant financial institutions of your new address either shortly prior to or immediately after your move.
The insurance agencies that provide your life, health, and homeowners insurance policies should have your current address on file, as should any other organizations and individuals (such as your family attorney) who have dealings with you and your family.
Medical and educational facilities
When moving to a new state, you will have to enroll your children in a new school, find a new family physician, and transfer all your academic records, medical records, and prescription medicines. To successfully complete these important tasks you need to tell your doctors, dentists, vets and other healthcare providers, as well as the educational facilities your kids are attending, about your relocation and your new address.
Subscription services and clubs
Last but not least, you need to update your address with any sports, professional, or social clubs you are involved with. You should also notify the subscriber services department of any magazines or newspapers you want to receive at your new home.
You may have to personally visit some companies or institutions to notify them of your relocation, but in most cases you will be able to change your mailing address online or with a simple phone call. Postcards, e-mails, text messages, and social network announcements are also viable methods to inform people of your new address.
Wait! Don't sign that lease just yet — a quick landlord check may change your mind
You’ve found the perfect new apartment or rental house. You love the neighborhood. Your application has been approved. You’re ready to sign on the dotted line, right?
Not so fast. How much do you know about your soon-to-be landlord, property manager or property management company?
There are lots of reasons why you should take the time to ask yourself, “Who is my landlord?” before you commit. Your rent payment is likely one of your biggest monthly expenses, and if you’re signing a lengthy lease, you should find out as much as you can about the person who owns and operates the place you’ll call home.
Check out these five easy ways to check your landlord’s reputation before signing your lease.
1. Make Google your friend
The internet has a way of quickly uncovering all kinds of misdeeds, so start with a simple Google search of your landlord’s name or property management company, as well as the property address.
Hell hath no fury like a renter scorned, so you’ll also want to peruse some of the many apartment and landlord review sites online that let tenants anonymously review their apartment complex, landlord or property management company.
2. Search public records
There’s a wealth of information about properties and landlords available via your local government agencies, and you’re usually able to check your landlord for free. Consider it your landlord background check!
Your county courthouse should have ownership records searchable by address, so you can find out the legal name of the person or company that owns the property — it may not be your landlord directly.
You can also search for code violations, foreclosure proceedings, evictions and small claims court settlements, all of which should be red flags for renters.
3. Get to know your (future) neighbors
If you’re moving into an apartment complex with multiple units, take a few minutes to walk around the grounds out of earshot of the landlord.
If you see any tenants out and about, strike up a conversation about what it’s like to live there. Ask how long they’ve lived there — renewed leases are a good sign of a positive landlord-tenant relationship. Get a few pros and cons, ask how complaints are handled, and find out if they have any gripes about management.
If you’re moving into a single-family home, ask the landlord if they’d mind you having a conversation with the current tenants.
If you don’t have access to any other tenants, find a neighborhood-specific blog or Facebook group to join. Tell people you’re thinking of moving into the area, and ask if they know anything about the property manager. In these hyperlocal groups, you’re likely to gain some invaluable insights for your landlord check.
4. Be the interviewer
Landlords ask you questions when you apply to live in their property, so why shouldn’t you ask them questions too?
Ask them how they handle repair requests. Find out if the landlord lives on-site, nearby or even in a different state. Ask how the move-in and move-out process goes. Learn more about their process for requesting entry to your unit.
They should be able to easily, clearly answer your questions and address all of your concerns.
5. Go with your gut
When in doubt, trust your instincts. If you experience any of the following:
Think twice — and keep looking.
Map out everything you need to do, week by week, until the big day.
When it comes to moving, proper organization is the defining difference between ultimate success and complete failure.
Even if you’re already an excellent organizer, you might still feel overwhelmed by the number of relocation-related tasks you have to complete before moving day — unless you find a way to bring order to the chaos.
Here’s a moving timeline that will do the trick. It will help you organize your time, prioritize your tasks, track your progress, and reduce moving stress. What’s more, you’ll never forget anything important, because your week-by-week moving checklist will remind you of what to do every single day until moving day.
Eight weeks before moving day
Organizing a safe, efficient, and trouble-free relocation requires about two months of careful planning and hard work. So, start your moving preparations about eight weeks before the big day:
Six weeks before moving day
Four weeks before moving day
Two weeks before moving day
One week before moving day
Two days before moving day
Even though most moving tasks are common for all residential moves, you can modify them to meet your personal needs and requirements. Certain aspects of your move will be unique and will require a different approach, so personalize this moving timeline checklist and make it work perfectly for you.
If you own a home, chances are this repair and maintenance safety net could come in handy.
First-time homeowners may be in for a shock when their water heater breaks on a cold winter morning, or their dishwasher starts to leak all over the new hardwood floors in the kitchen. The instinctive call to the landlord won’t work this time around. Welcome to the joys of homeownership. So, when this happens, what do you do?
Many homeowners aren’t equipped to perform even small repairs, particularly when they come at inopportune times. For some, a handy family member nearby could do the trick. Or a new home buyer may know a plumber or an electrician — but they likely won’t have a lot of time to get bids and figure out the cause of the problem, much less get it repaired.
What’s the next best thing to a landlord for a new homeowner? A home warranty.
What is a home warranty?
Much like insurance or the extended warranty you buy for your smartphone or flat screen television, a home warranty covers the costs of repairing or replacing almost any malfunctioning system in your home. It typically costs between $300 and $900 a year.
If you had a home warranty, you wouldn’t have to call around to get estimates for repairs when a problem occurs. You wouldn’t have to pay out of pocket to get the problem fixed or have equipment replaced, either.
Instead, you would just call your home warranty provider or submit a ticket online. The warranty company would call the appropriate tradespeople with whom it has made arrangements, and send someone to fix the problem, if possible, or replace the malfunctioning appliance with a brand new one. Your home warranty premium will cover the costs — though you’d probably be responsible for a co-pay of about $50 per incident.
Who should buy a home warranty?
Home warranties are particularly great for first-time Gen X/Y and Millennial home buyers who’ve been renters until now. They’re used to calling the landlord whenever there’s a problem, and a home warranty company takes over that role.
These homeowners are often working long hours, and might not have the time or energy to call around to find a plumber or an electrician to get quotes or bids, let alone wait through the noon-to-4 p.m. window for the repair person to show up.
Sometimes, it takes just one costly and unexpected system repair — and the drama associated with it — to realize the savings of a one-year home warranty.
But home warranties aren’t limited to Gen X, Gen Y or other first-time home buyers. Any owners of any age home can purchase a home warranty at any time.
If you had your home inspected, you’ll know the condition and life expectancy of many of your systems. If some systems are on the outs, you will welcome the home warranty. Many appliances and systems start to break down after 15 or 20 years, and you don’t want to deal with multiple systems falling apart at the same time.
Real estate agents often purchase a home warranty for their clients as a closing gift. If not, you can buy one on your own. Be sure to shop around to compare premiums and coverage. The older the home, the more coverage you will want.
Home warranties are also great for investors or “accidental landlords,” who don’t necessarily want to be in the business of fielding repair calls from their tenants. If you’re not an experienced real estate investor and don’t have a network of repair folks, it might be easier to pay for the home warranty. The last thing you want is a tenant without hot water calling you all day long. If you have a home warranty, you can cut right to the chase, keep tenants happy, and minimize stress.
Home warranties can save home buyers a lot of time and money — particularly in the first year of ownership, when they are short on both.
This helpful document contains a wealth of information.
Among the dozens of records that serve to inform or disclose to the buyer significant knowledge about the property, the title report is one of the most important. It documents ownership, vesting, and detail regarding anything recorded against the home, such as liens, encroachments, or easements.
The title company compiles the report from a search of county records to issue title insurance, and any liens against the property are listed as “exceptions” to a title policy.
Here are three important pieces of the title report you should review carefully.
The legal description
The legal description is everything you won’t see in any real estate agent marketing or advertising. It’s the written description of the property’s location and the boundaries of the property in relation to the nearby streets and intersections.
In the case of a condominium or planned unit development (PUD), the legal description will include the property’s interest in any common areas, exclusive or non-exclusive easements, and details on any parking or storage that conveys with the property.
Here’s an example of a legal description from a preliminary title report of a property:
“Beginning at a point on the Westerly line of Fifth Avenue, distant thereon 250 feet Southerly from the Southerly line of Balboa Street; running thence Southerly along the Westerly line of Fifth Avenue 25 feet; thence at a right angle Westerly 120 feet,” and so on.
Legalese? Absolutely. But it’s precise, and necessary.
Property taxes always show up as the primary “lien” on a title report. A property cannot be transferred to a new owner with outstanding property taxes due.
As the top lien, the report will indicate whether taxes are due or paid in full. Taxes must be settled before any debt holder gets paid.
Mortgage liens are generally listed directly below property taxes, and they’re always ordered first, second, and third. The largest lien holder generally takes first position.
When a sale closes, the liens must be paid in the order that they appear on the title report. In the case of a short sale, there are not enough proceeds from the sale to pay off the property taxes and all of the lien holders. So one or more lenders will get “shorted” by the amount they’re owed. In order for the sale to close, the lender must agree to the short payoff.
Though this list is in no way exclusive, there are a variety of other items that could show up on a title report outside of taxes and loans.
Easements. If another property owner has access to the property via an easement, it would be recorded on the title report. This stays on the report until both parties agree to remove it. The title company can pull the original easement agreement for review.
CC&Rs. In the case of a condo or PUD, there are Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs), recorded against the property. Any new buyer purchases subject to the rules and regulations documented in the CC&Rs. This is why it’s important for potential buyers to pull these from the report and review them. Once you’re the owner, you’re subject to those rules.
Restrictions, historic oversights, planning requirements. From time to time, there will be items on the preliminary title report that aren’t run of the mill. If the home is located in a historic district and therefore subject to the rules and restrictions of that community, it will show up on the title. In this case, if there are restrictions about changing the facade of a house or requirements that facade alterations comply with a local historical oversight committee led by the local planning department, a potential buyer needs to know this.
The last word
As a potential buyer, you and your agent or real estate attorney should scrutinize the preliminary title report. You want the title to be delivered as clean as possible.
If the property is subject to special items, or there are issues on the title that would affect your home-ownership, you need to know and understand them thoroughly before you close.
Thinking about buying? Be sure to include these five items in your calculations.
Homeownership may be a goal for some, but it’s not the right fit for many.
Renters account for 37 percent of all households in America — or just over 43.7 million homes, up more than 6.9 million since 2005. Even still, more than half of millennial and Gen Z renters consider buying, with 18 percent seriously considering it.
Both lifestyles afford their fair share of pros and cons. So before you meet with a real estate agent, consider these five costs homeowners pay that renters don’t — they could make you reconsider buying altogether.
1. Property taxes
As long as you own a home, you’ll pay property taxes. The typical U.S. homeowner pays $2,110 per year in property taxes, meaning they’re a significant — and ongoing — chunk of your budget.
Factor this expense into the equation from the get-go to avoid surprises down the road. The property tax rates vary among states, so try a mortgage calculator to estimate costs in your area.
2. Homeowners insurance
Homeowners insurance protects you against losses and damage to your home caused by perils such as fires, storms or burglary. It also covers legal costs if someone is injured in your home or on your property.
Homeowners insurance is almost always required in order to get a home loan. It costs an average of $35 per month for every $100,000 of your home’s value.
If you intend to purchase a condo, you’ll need a condo insurance policy — separate from traditional homeowner’s insurance — which costs an average of $100 to $400 a year.
3. Maintenance and repairs
Don’t forget about those small repairs that you won’t be calling your landlord about anymore. Notice a tear in your window screen? Can’t get your toilet to stop running? What about those burned out light bulbs in your hallway? You get the idea.
Maintenance costs can add an additional $3,021 to the typical U.S. homeowner’s annual bill. Of course, this amount increases as your home ages.
And don’t forget about repairs. Conventional water heaters last about a decade, with a new one costing you between $500 to $1,500 on average. Air conditioning units don’t typically last much longer than 15 years, and an asphalt shingle roof won’t serve you too well after 20 years.
4. HOA fees
Sure, that monthly mortgage payment seems affordable, but don’t forget to take homeowners association (HOA) fees into account.
On average, HOA fees cost anywhere from $200 to $400 per month. They usually fund perks like your fitness center, neighborhood landscaping, community pool and other common areas.
Such amenities are usually covered as a renter, but when you own your home, you’re paying for these luxuries on top of your mortgage payment.
When you’re renting, it’s common for your apartment or landlord to cover some costs. When you own your home, you’re in charge of covering it all — water, electric, gas, internet and cable.
While many factors determine how much you’ll pay for utilities — like the size of your home and the climate you live in — the typical U.S. homeowner pays $2,953 in utility costs every year.
Ultimately, renting might be more cost-effective in the end, depending on your lifestyle, location and financial situation. As long as you crunch the numbers and factor in these costs, you’ll make the right choice for your needs.
Basic preparation can make your move into a new home or temporary storage unit much more efficient. Think ahead about what supplies you’ll need on-hand through the move, and be sure your arsenal is fully stocked with the essentials. Heed this advice and take a deep breath — your belongings will be safe, sound and organized when it’s all over.
1. Boxes and permanent markers
Boxes are a lot easier to stack and organize than bags, and you can label them with bold markers for quick identification. Find boxes for free at the supermarket, or buy some at your self-storage facility. Sometimes it’s better to buy new to ensure you get sturdy construction and uniform sizing, which facilitates safer stacking and space-efficiency.
2. Packing tape
A good roll of duct tape can be a lifesaver in almost any situation. For the more aesthetically sensitive mover, clear 2-inch wide packaging tape is the perfect tool to seal your boxes. Remember, you never realize how much tape you need until you run out. Keep a couple rolls handy as back-up.
When it comes to protecting your belongings, you can never be too safe. Save newspapers as you start to plan the move, so you don’t have to go scrounging for them at the last minute. Bubble wrap is ideal for smaller precious items, while moving pads and packing blankets should be sandwiched between and wrapped around furniture and other large pieces.
4. Dolly or flat-bed cart
There’s a good chance your storage facility will have one of these on-site to use for free during move-in and move-out, but call in advance to make sure. You don’t want to have to inefficiently drag or carry heavy boxes across the parking lot, one at a time. These come in handy for DIY home moving as well, especially when you need to haul something from the farthest end of the house to the truck outside.
5. Sturdy storage lock
We’ve seen Houston storage facilities (and others nationwide) with some amazing modern security features. Despite this, a good self-storage lock should be a top investment to ensure the safety and security of your belongings. Avoid standard padlocks or combination padlocks, which are not designed to withstand a legitimate break-in attempt. Instead, choose a closed-shackle padlock or disc lock. Your facility manager can recommend the best type for their doors
Millennial veterans and military members are helping fuel the resurgence of the historic VA loan program. Last year’s 700,000-plus loans were more than double the agency’s total from five years ago.
Younger buyers in particular have flocked to these government-backed mortgages during a time of tight credit and flatlining wage growth. The VA says millennials accounted for about a third of all VA loans last year.
These low-interest loans offer qualified buyers a wealth of benefits. That’s especially true for millennial borrowers, who often have dented credit or minimal savings. This $0 down payment loan program was created to help level the playing field for those who serve our country, and it’s still doing so today.
“VA loans offer an extraordinary opportunity for veterans because of lower interest rates, lower monthly payments, no or low down payments, and no private mortgage insurance,” said Jeff London, director of the VA home loan program.
Here’s a closer look at three of the big benefits that make VA loans such a good match for millennial home buyers.
1. No down payment requirement
This renowned benefit of VA loans helps veterans purchase without having to spend years saving for a down payment. When determining affordability, qualified buyers in most of the country should know that they can purchase a home for up to $424,100 before having to factor in a down payment. That ceiling is even higher in costlier housing markets.
The average VA loan last year was for about $253,000. Getting a conventional loan for that amount often requires a down payment of at least $12,000. FHA loans require at least 3.5% down. That’s no small sum in either case, particularly for younger veterans and military families.
2. No mortgage insuranceVA buyers also don’t have to pay extra each month for mortgage insurance, a common feature of low-down-payment loans. Conventional buyers typically need to pay for private mortgage insurance unless they can put down 20%. FHA loans come with both upfront and annual mortgage insurance premiums.
For example, FHA buyers shell out an additional $140 per month for mortgage insurance on a typical $200,000 loan. That extra outlay can limit your purchasing power, as well as put a hole in your monthly budget.
Most VA buyers encounter a funding fee that goes straight to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans and military members can finance this cost over the life of their loan. Borrowers who receive compensation for a service-connected disability don’t pay it at all.
3. Flexible credit guidelinesVA loans were created to boost access to homeownership for veteran and military families. They’re naturally more flexible and forgiving when it comes to credit underwriting.
Lenders typically have lower credit score benchmarks for VA loans than for conventional mortgages. The average FICO score on a VA purchase last year was 50 points lower than the average conventional score, according to Ellie Mae.
Compared with conventional borrowers, qualified VA buyers can also bounce back faster after a bankruptcy, foreclosure, or short sale.
Despite their flexibility, VA loans have had the lowest foreclosure rate on the market for most of the past nine years. That’s due in large part to the VA’s commitment to helping veterans keep their homes.
Loan program officials can advocate on behalf of veteran homeowners and encourage lenders and mortgage servicers to offer alternatives to foreclosure.
“VA is even there to assist veterans who encounter difficulty making payments,” London said. “Last year, VA and servicers helped over 97,000 veterans avoid foreclosure. Using the VA program is a win for veterans, lenders, and taxpayers.”
More than seven decades after their introduction, VA loans are still making a big difference for veterans, military members, and their families.
“A home and its equity becomes the bedrock of their economic future,” said Curtis L. Coy, deputy undersecretary for economic opportunity at the Department of Veterans Affairs. “Money that would have typically been used for the down payment is now money in their pocket—money that can be the beginning of their savings or can be used to fix up their home. It is a win-win for the veteran and the community where they spend that money.”
This article was written by Chris Birk, director of education at Veterans United Home Loans and author of “The Book on VA Loans: An Essential Guide to Maximizing Your Home Loan Benefits.”
This article was written by Chris Birk, director of education at Veterans United Home Loans and author of “The Book on VA Loans: An Essential Guide to Maximizing Your Home Loan Benefits.”
NMLS 1907 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org) Veterans United Home Loans is not endorsed or sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs or any government agency; does not reflect DOD endorsements. Equal Opportunity Lender. 1400 Veterans United Drive, Columbia, MO, 65203.
Buying your first home is an unforgettable experience as a first-time homebuyer, and one you’ll always cherish. But the problem facing many first-time buyers today is home affordability. It’s become a major concern for first-time homebuyers entering the real estate market, especially for millennials, as rising median home prices combined with lower inventory levels across the nation are making home affordability a thing of the past. According to the National Association of Realtors, one of the major hindrance for many first-time homebuyers is student debt.
“It’s becoming very evident from this survey and our research released last month that the financial and emotional impact of repaying student debt is contributing to a delay in purchasing a home for many would-be buyers,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors.
“At a time of quickly rising rents, mortgage rates at all-time lows and increasing housing wealth, a lot of young adults in their prime buying years are struggling to enter the market and are ultimately missing out on the stability and wealth accumulation that owning a home can provide.”
Another factor hurting first-time homebuyers is credit score — which are lowest among young adults ages 18-29 year olds. A TransUnion survey revealed that nearly a third of millennials — ages 18 to 34 — would like to purchase a home within the year, but can’t because of low credit scores.
Despite the hurdles, first-time homebuyers are still making up a large portion of sales. The month of May saw first-time homebuyers making up 33 percent of existing-home sales. In the first six months of 2016, first-time homebuyers have represented on average 31 percent of existing-home sales, while a mere 11 percent of sales were investors, the lowest since 2009.
With that said, personal-finance website WalletHub has ranked the top 300 U.S. cities in terms of their attractiveness for first-time homebuyers.
Best U.S. Cities For First-Time Homebuyers
To determine the attractiveness for first-time homebuyers, WalletHub based their rankings on three key dimensions: 1.) Affordability, 2.) Real-Estate Market, and 3.) Quality of Life. The three dimensions were then evaluated using 19 relevant metrics — each metric graded on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 representing the most favorable conditions for first-time home buyers. Metric included Foreclosure rates for the real estate market ranking; housing affordability and cost of living for the affordability ranking; and weather and crime rate for the quality of life ranking. In addition, WalletHub used data from U.S. Census Bureau, the Council for Community and Economic Research, Zillow, the FBI, the Insurance Information Institute for their rankings.
The following real estate trends list provides the top 10 cities ideal for first-time homebuyers along with their overall scores and rankings in affordability, real estate market, and quality of life:
10. Lexington, Kentucky
Total Score: 62.84
Affordability Rank: 45
Real-Estate Market Rank: 57
Quality of Life Rank: 36
9. Centennial, Colorado
Total Score: 62.98
Affordability Rank: 122
Real-Estate Market Rank: 33
Quality of Life Rank: 7
8. Lincoln, Nebraska
Total Score: 63.55
Affordability Rank: 70
Real-Estate Market Rank: 43
Quality of Life Rank: 21
7. Boise, Idaho
Total Score: 63.73
Affordability Rank: 3
Real-Estate Market Rank: 87
Quality of Life Rank: 91
6. Longmont, Colorado
Total Score: 64.11
Affordability Rank: 145
Real-Estate Market Rank: 16
Quality of Life Rank: 2
5. Westminster, Colorado
Total Score: 64.31
Affordability Rank: 127
Real-Estate Market Rank: 14
Quality of Life Rank: 8
4. Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Total Score: 64.44
Affordability Rank: 17
Real-Estate Market Rank: 82
Quality of Life Rank: 47
3. Thornton, Colorado
Total Score: 65.42
Affordability Rank: 125
Real-Estate Market Rank: 22
Quality of Life Rank: 3
2. Greeley, Colorado
Total Score: 65.46
Affordability Rank: 112
Real-Estate Market Rank: 9
Quality of Life Rank: 5
1. Overland Park, Kansas
Total Score: 68.49
Affordability Rank: 58
Real-Estate Market Rank: 29
Quality of Life Rank: 11
The upward trend of our economic status has fueled drastic changes within the housing sector. Inventory shortages have resulted in escalating home values and bidding wars between investors and house hunters. Of particular interest, however, are the changes seen in subsequent rental rates. Several cities throughout the United States have experienced increased rental rates, some of which have doubled in price.
While increased rental rates have burdened tenants, investors of all types have become eager to acquire buy and hold properties. Recent activity has facilitated the development of new projects and made everything from apartment buildings to existing single-family homes a hot commodity. Increased rental rates have even caused some homeowners to move out and rent their property for additional cash yields.
According to MPF Research, San Francisco has experienced the largest surge in rental rates. As such, the Northern California city was placed atop a list with the 50 metropolitan areas that experienced the highest rent growth during the second quarter of this year. San Francisco rents increased by 7.8 percent, according to preliminary estimates by MPF Research market-research firm based in Carrollton, Texas. The following is a comprehensive list of the cities that experienced the highest increase in rental rates:
Increased rental rates have therefore made buying rental properties the latest investment trend. Opportunities for passive income have never presented themselves with such promise. Further supporting the idea of acquiring a rental property are statistics released by Trulia that acknowledged owning a home may be 44 percent cheaper than renting one.
With incentives for owning more promising than ever, now is the time to buy. However, keep an eye on local rental markets while attempting to do so. It is likely not worth the hassle, or price, to have to move from one rental property to another before buying. Increased rental rates may therefore drive many towards ownership. Investors, in particular, are searching for optimal rental properties to take advantage of the increasing rates.
The home inspection portion of the homebuying process is a crucial step toward determining whether you want to own that house. While you can’t “test-live” a home beyond buying it the same way you test drive a car, you can use this opportunity to get a feel for the place and determine if it suits your needs. Plus, perhaps most importantly, a home inspection is when you can identify any potential problems with the structure that might impact how much you’re willing to pay, or even if you decide to move on to a different location.
Partner with the right inspector
Like every other portion of the homebuying process, you should conduct research and vet the best possible choice for a home inspector. Ask for sample reports from previous clients. Make sure these are extensive and provide detailed recommendations and pictures. If you get single-page reports with vague language and no clear directions, move along to the next inspector.
In addition, locate a home inspector who has been certified. Fortune Builders noted that most reputable inspectors will be a member of one of the following:
You should attend the home inspection to familiarize yourself with your potential new property.
Even though you’re not the person who will be conducting the inspection, you will definitely want to attend it. Two sets of eyes are always better than one, and you might be able to spot something the inspector might have overlooked. Plus, this provides you the opportunity to ask any questions of the inspector on what you might need to fix. The inspection also gives you the chance to become more familiar with your potential new home as you’ll be exploring every nook and cranny in the place.
Although home inspection guidelines vary from one state to the next, the ASHI provides a “Standards of Practice” that outlines the minimum foundation of what to inspect. It’s the inspector’s job to accurately and adequately describe the basic current physical condition of the home. The point is to identify any repairs, replacement or remodeling that might be necessary.
What to keep an eye on
As you’ll be also be there, you should know what the inspector will examine. He or she will be scrutinizing both the interior and exterior components of the home, including the condition of:
Since the inspector is only examining the physical aspects of the home’s structures, there are certain things that he or she will not look into, including:
Working with a qualified home inspector can save you time and money in the long run, but it will also ensure you close the homebuying process with a thorough understanding of what you’re about to purchase.
You’re in the process of buying a home and you feel like everything is going well: you found the right house to buy, you’ve made an offer and began submitting your documentation for your mortgage – it seems like move-in day is not far away.
“An appraisal puts you one step closer to closing on a new home.”
However, there are some steps that must occur between this stage and receiving the deed and keys to your new home. One of the most important – and misunderstood – is the appraisal.
The basics of a home appraisal are simple. Once you have been fully vetted as a buyer, your home must also be assessed and determined to meet certain standards. Real estate appraisers assess the market value of a property, and if the appraised value is roughly in line with expectations, you will receive a final loan value and begin to proceed with the loan process.
The appraisal process
It’s helpful to understand how appraisers do what they do. Unlike home inspectors, who are typically checking for safety and maintenance-related items, appraisers are almost entirely concerned with market value. To determine the market value of an existing property, for example, an appraiser will usually take a look at how other similar properties have been valued in that location. Or, if a home is new and unique to the local market, he or she could determine its value based solely on construction costs. Either way, appraisers must compile a detailed report that backs up their final determination with public records, calculations and anything else used to arrive at that number. Copies of this report are made available to the buyer.
You’re in the home stretch.
The open house tour is a critical component of most real estate deals. For prospective buyers, it can be confusing to know what to do at an open house, what questions to ask or what to look for as they take a brief peek at what could become their next home.
The desire to live in an area with a top-notch school district influences many homebuyers. Most parents will do whatever it takes to ensure a great education for their children. But the reality is that you don’t need to drop a great deal of money on private schools to make sure your children are learning. And you don’t need to move to the priciest parts of the country to get into a top-rated public school.
Just head to the Chicago suburb of Aurora, IL which topped Realtor.com®’s list of the most affordable housing markets with the best elementary schools in the country. It’s also 45% more affordable than the surrounding metro area.
Schools on this list received at least an 8 out of 10 ranking by education information group GreatSchools.org in the largest 15 metros where buyers can find a home without breaking the bank. In the study, researchers looked at the monthly housing costs (mortgage payments, taxes, etc.) needed to purchase a median-priced home in all of the ZIP codes in each metro. They found that the monthly cost of owning a median-priced home in the top elementary housing markets is, on average, just 23 percent of the median household income in the ZIP. That is 41 percent less costly than the surrounding metro area. They also filtered out the ZIP codes with high crime and poverty rates, and for geographic diversity included only one ZIP code per metro.
These markets offer strong public schools and affordable homes, making them a great fit for homebuyers with elementary school-age children:
ZIP code: 60503 (outside of Chicago)
Median home list price in ZIP code: $259,900
Top schools: Homestead Elementary School (10 out of 10), Wheatlands Elementary School (8 out of 10), and Wolfs Crossing Elementary School (10 out of 10)
ZIP code: 55068 (outside of Minneapolis)
Median home list price in ZIP code: $299,900
Top schools: Shannon Park Elementary School (10 out of 10)
Huntington Woods, MI
ZIP code: 48070 (outside of Detroit)
Median home list price in ZIP code: $400,000
Top schools: Burton Elementary School (8 out of 10)
ZIP code: 85226 (outside of Phoenix)
Median home list price in ZIP code: $324,155
Top schools: Kyrene De La Mirada Leadership Academy (9 out of 10), Kyrene De La Paloma Elementary School (8 out of 10), Kyrene De Las Brisas Elementary School (9 out of 10), Kyrene del Cielo Elementary School (10 out of 10), Kyrene Traditional Academy, Sureno Campus (9 out of 10), and Paragon Science Academy (9 out of 10)
Some homebuyers might like to take matters into their own hands when they go house hunting, opting to forego using a real estate agent to help with the process. After all, the reasoning goes, if you're the person who will be living there, it seems like you should be the one seeking out what you want. Similarly, there's an assumption that eliminating seemingly extraneous people involved, such as the real estate agent, also cuts the overall associated costs and makes the home less expensive.
However, there are many advantages to working with a real estate agent when buying a house. Consider these five benefits:
It's true that anyone can buy a house without an agent's assistance. However, real estate agents bring with them years of experience and expertise, and they utilize this wisdom to get you the best deal possible. In addition to specialized training in buying and selling houses, most real estate agents are also licensed professionals and members of various industry-specific organizations. They have access to and knowledge about comparable houses, local neighborhoods and whether a particular property is over- or under-priced.
Seeking out a new house that meets your specific criteria, including price range, accommodations and amenities can be a time-consuming process. After this long search, you still need to worry about arranging viewing appointments and work out a deal with the seller's agent. All of this requires a lot of leg work, phone tag and email exchanges. A real estate agent, on the other hand, has easy access to all of this information and will serve as your personal liaison between the seller and his or her agent.
3. Negotiation skills
Even after months of market research, house hunting and reviewing your available options, you still might not find the perfect match. For instance, you might find a home that partially fits your criteria, and with a few upgrades or repairs could be perfect. Negotiating a better deal or a discount on the home's price might not necessarily be your strong suit, but it's a skill real estate agents bring to the table during the transaction. In addition, the agent will be able to identify trouble or potential issues you might not notice.
A real estate agent brings knowledgeable and experienced negotiation skills first-time homebuyers might not have.
While you might have a good idea of what kind of house you want and your price range, there are a host of other market conditions that will impact what you buy and how much you want to spend. Some of this information can be difficult to come by without access to benchmark data and other industry-specific reports.
As noted by The Balance, a real estate agent can provide you with the contextual data on market conditions to help guide your decision, such as:
Properly leveraging data on market conditions will help you not only identify the best house at the right price, it can be a significant advantage for your position during negotiations.
5. Tailoring contracts
Although most purchase contracts are fairly standard, there are conditions that can be tweaked, removed or inserted accordingly. Since real estate agents deal with these on a regular basis, they have a familiarity with when a contract should be modified to better suit your specific needs and situation, according to Forbes. This provides you with better protections and puts you in a position to meet the conditions outlined in the contract.
When you decide you want to make the move toward becoming a homeowner, one of the first things you’ll need to do is prepare yourself for the home loan application process. From getting a copy of your credit report and scanning it for errors or inaccuracies, to gathering your proof of income, there are a lot of steps involved when it comes to getting your application ready.
Follow these tips for preparing all essential documents for your loan officer.
Create a checklist
My FICO suggests making a checklist of all necessary paperwork so you can make sure you are completely prepared when you submit your application. Unfortunately, not having everything ready or submitting the wrong document can delay approval.
Reach out to your loan officer and ask for a complete list of all the paperwork needed for a specific loan product. While there might be additional documentation requested, below are some items you’ll need. Remember, these documents are not necessary to apply for a loan:
Gather personal information
In addition to proving you have the finances to support the purchase of a new home, you will also need to provide personal information to your loan officer. Identification topics include your social security number, legal status and two forms of government identification.
“Reach out to your loan officer and ask for a complete list of all the paperwork needed.”
Come in prepared
Realtor.com indicated that you will want to be able to demonstrate your financial competence and ability to manage a mortgage loan responsibly. Bring along information about whatever home you are interested in purchasing. Have a folder with everything you need as soon as you head in to speak with your loan officer.
Know who can get your paperwork
Some of the necessary paperwork can easily be retrieved. However, information about the listing you are interested in will likely need to be gathered from the real estate agent or property manager. This is why you should enlist the help of a professional who has the experience and knowledge to understand what you need and where to retrieve it.
Invest in storage now
The earlier you get a filing cabinet or other type of organization system, the better off you will be when you decide to apply for a home mortgage. When you have everything in one spot and collect essential documents, the application process will be smooth and efficient.
Becoming more informed and organized will ensure your journey toward homeownership is pleasant and exciting. In addition, having all your documents ready to go minimizes the chances of denial.
As we enter the spring home-buying season, hordes of would-be homeowners are ready to go—but there weren't enough new-home sales in the beginning of the year to quell the already strong demand.
Only about 618,000 newly constructed homes were sold in February, according to a joint report by the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That's down 0.6% from January, but up 0.5% from February 2017.
"There is plenty of room for growth," Chief Economist Danielle Hale said in a statement. "More new-home sales are needed to restore balance in the housing market. ... Today, one in every 10 homes sold is a new home, whereas in a normal market they account for one in every seven homes sold."
Currently, there aren't enough homes to go around, particularly at more affordable prices. The median price of newly constructed homes notched up to $326,800. It's up nearly 0.6% from the previous month and almost 9.7% from the same month a year ago.
That's considerably more than existing homes, which cost a median $241,700 in February, according to a recent National Association of Realtors® report. Newly constructed homes cost more than existing ones thanks to high land, labor, and materials costs. They also typically come with the latest designs, finishes, and appliances.
Only about 13% of the newly constructed homes sold in February cost less than $199,999, according to the report. The bulk of them, about 58%, were between $200,000 and $399,999. An additional 12% cost between $400,000 and $499,999, while 17% were priced at $500,000 and up.
The most new homes were sold in the South, where buyers closed on about 338,000 new homes in February. That's a 9% jump from January and a 0.6% bump from February 2017.
The region was followed by the West, where about 164,000 new homes changed hands.
This represented a 17.6% monthly drop, but a 3.1% annual increase.
Next up was the Midwest, with 79,000 sales, down 3.7% from January and 8.1% from the same month a year earlier. The Northeast had the fewest new-home sales, at just 37,000. But that was up 19.4% from the previous month and 8.8% from February 2017.
Despite a dearth of properties on the market, sales of existing homes rebounded in February, according to a recent report.
After a dip in the number of closings in December and January, about 5.54 million existing homes (which have previously been lived in) were sold in February, according to the most recent National Association of Realtors® report. That represents a 3% rise from January and a 1.1% increase from the same month a year earlier.
"Sales are being driven in the West and the South," says Chief Economist Danielle Hale. That's an indirect result of builders putting up more new residences in those regions. "Inventory is still low in those areas, but the new construction created opportunities for existing-home owners to trade up. It’s leading to faster turnover.”
Indeed, existing-home sales were up 11.4% month over month in the West. They also rose 2.4% year over year. In the South, they jumped 6.6% from January and 3.4% from the same month a year earlier.
However, sales were down in the Midwest, sliding 2.4% from the previous month to the same level as one year ago. In the Northeast, they fell 12.3% from January and 7.2% from February 2016.
Single-family homes, those stand-alone abodes that typically come with a yard out back, saw the biggest jumps. Sales were up 4.2% monthly and 1.8% annually.
But it's still too early to tell what this means for the rest of the year.
"March is where we really start to see a pickup in closings," says Hale. "And March is really the bellwether for the year as far as how the home-selling season is going to go.”
Sale prices also edged up just a little to reach $241,700 in February, according to the report. That's a 0.37% rise from January and a 5.9% jump from February 2017.
However, they were still quite a bit cheaper, by 33.6.%, than the median cost of a newly constructed home, at $323,000 in January, according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
About 53.6% of all existing homes sold in February were closed on for $250,000 or less, according to NAR. About 33.6% were between $250,000 to $500,000 and an additional 10.3% cost between $500,000 and $1 million. Only 2.5% of all sales were for $1 million or up.
“The very healthy U.S. economy and labor market are creating a sizable interest in buying a home in early 2018," Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, said in a statement. "However, even as seasonal inventory gains helped boost sales last month, home prices—especially in the West—shot up considerably. Affordability continues to be a pressing issue because new and existing housing supply is still severely subpar."
Builders recently completed the most newly constructed homes in a decade, says a recent report. Buyers can finally exhale.
About 1,319,000 homes were finished in February—the most that were completed since 2008, according to the seasonally adjusted numbers in the latest residential sales report jointly released by the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That's a 7.8% bump from January and a 13.6% jump from February 2017.
"Hitting a record level of new, finished houses should lead to an increase of more homes on the markets for buyers," says Chief Economist Danielle Hale. "It’s not going to turn from a seller's market to a buyer's market overnight, but this is a step in the right direction.”
The most new, finished homes were in the South, at 659,000 in February. That region was followed by the West, at 336,000; the Midwest, at 164,000; and the Northeast, at 160,000.
But buyers shouldn't rejoice just yet. Fewer newly constructed homes could be coming online this spring—despite the frantic demand. Builders received only 1,298,000 permits in February to put up new homes, a 5.7% drop from January, according to the report. However, it was a 6.5% rise from February 2017.
Permits are considered a good indication of how many completed new homes will hit the market in the coming months.
“There’s plenty more room to grow," says Hale. She'd like to see permits to erect single-family homes rise from 872 in February to 1 million. "It's going to be better than last year, but we're still not back" to precrisis levels.
Housing starts, which means construction that has begun but hasn't been completed, fell 7% from January to February, according to the report. It was down 4% from February of the previous year as well.
"The fall in housing starts in February is a movement in the wrong direction," Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors®, said in a statement. "The key to economic prosperity at this juncture of economic expansion is to produce more new homes. That will help with job creation and reduce the swift price appreciation in several markets."
An influx of new construction at all price points could save us from the current housing crunch, but the hefty new tariffs on imported steel announced this week by President Donald Trump, on top of a tariff on Canadian lumber imposed late last year, could make the crunch even worse—and drive up home prices.
The planned tariffs would tack on 25% to the cost of steel, used in home foundations, floors, and high-rise construction, and 10% for aluminum from foreign suppliers. The controversial tariffs would make good on Trump's campaign promise to give American producers a boost.
The administration is already levying tariffs of more than 20% against Canadian soft lumber producers. About a third of the softwood lumber used in new-home construction comes from Canada. And after devastating hurricanes in Houston and Florida and deadly wildfires in California, there is a big need for that lumber.
"Tariffs could measurably raise the cost of building materials and hinder home construction of affordable homes," Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors®, said in a statement.
Steel is used in the concrete flooring and foundations of most single-family homes. More of it is used in high-rise condo and apartment buildings, plus any dwellings over five floors. It's also used in elevator shafts, parking garages, and many stairwells.
There are alternative materials that builders can use if there is a steel shortage or if prices rise. But those newer materials are typically more expensive, says Jack Kern, director of research at Yardi Matrix, a commercial real estate data and research firm based in Santa Barbara, CA. There are also fewer construction crews trained in how to properly use those materials, Kern says.
“Anything that’s built that uses steel as a component is going to have a price increase," he says. But he doesn't expect it to be a substantial increase and expects it will fade as builders find cheaper, new materials.
That didn't stop builder trade groups from denouncing the new tariffs.
"Given that home builders are already grappling with 20% tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber and that the price of lumber and other key building materials are near record highs, this announcement by the president could not have come at a worse time," Randy Noel, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, said in a statement. "Tariffs hurt consumers and harm housing affordability."
Several modular home builders have complained to the Modular Building Institute, a trade group, about their costs going up as a result of the tariffs as well.
"This will affect our prices," says Tom Hardiman, executive director of the institute. The association has yet to do a detailed analysis on just how much pricier modular homes may be.
Not knowing how much steel and lumber will cost makes it difficult for builders to price homes, or for buyers to know just how much they'll be shelling out on their new abodes.
"It hurts home buyers," says Rick Schumacher, editor and publisher of the LBM Journal, which covers the lumber and building materials industry. "It creates uncertainty ... and any uncertainty is bad."
How can you better guarantee profits and profit margins when flipping houses today?
According to a recent media article, some real estate investors in areas of the country are finding it increasingly difficult to produce anticipated profits after flipping houses. How can you prevent this from happening to you?
Similar situations may not be uncommon today, but that does not indicate a major change in the velocity of the new housing boom or that it’s too late to get into flipping houses.
So how can you avoid falling into that boat, lower risk and enjoy better profit margins when flipping houses in today’s market?
1. Real Estate Education
Investing in your real estate education will have the biggest returns of anything you do and will keep on paying you back into eternity.
2. Lock in Your Profit When You Buy
Don’t speculate. Always buy low and lock in profit upfront. If possible, have it sold already so that you are guaranteed profits before you even write the contract.
3. Be Careful What You Put in
One of the biggest traps in flipping houses today is over improving, under improving or simply investing in the wrong improvements. Know your stuff and what the real returns on them will be.
4. Do Your Due Diligence
Don’t invest without thorough due diligence. Know your values front and back end and recognize you need more tools than just Zillow to accurately assess them.
5. Don’t Allow Appraisal Contingencies
You might want to include them when making offers to buy homes, but don’t allow them when you sell – that’s so 2001.
Have you been looking for more private mortgage money?
Great news is emerging for those real estate investors who having been searching for more capital…
Hard money and transactional lenders have been promoting their services more than ever recently and even conventional mortgage lenders and banks have begun to offer more incentives to borrowers to take out new loans.
Of course some real estate investing pros just prefer private mortgage lenders for the lower interest and fees, speed, control and ease of doing business. If that’s you then thanks to Ben Bernanke and the Fed it could be getting a lot easier for you this week.
Bloomberg reported this week that mortgage REITs are losing money, losing investors and losing returns in response to the Federal Reserve plan to buy up mortgage debt and the number of homeowners refinancing thanks to low mortgage rates and the $25 billion mortgage settlement.
Investing in mortgages may still be a great investment but giant REITs are bleeding investors due to a drop in returns and are showing investors how investing in publicly traded stocks is incredibly risky and volatile compared to direct investment in real estate, mortgage notes or private partnerships.
It doesn’t matter if you are up 99% in a day if you can lose it all tomorrow. Fortunately this isn’t an issue private lenders need to worry about with investing directly in mortgage notes or flipping houses for that matter.
According to the Bloomberg report annual dividend yields on these big home loan REITs have been around 13%. That’s not bad, and at least far out beats the S&P 500 performance.
Maybe you don’t want to giveaway those types of returns but at least you as a real estate investor can offer a much better investment vehicle which will be safer and more consistent.
Strike on this opportunity and close more private lenders. Don’t just build great presentation materials showing the strength and track record of what you are offering but contrast it with the downside of investing elsewhere too.
4 things home sellers do when pricing their homes.
Home pricing is more of a science than an art, but many homeowners price with their heartstrings instead of cold, hard data.
Smart sellers know that crunching the numbers is always the better route to an accurate home price. Here’s how they do it.
#1 They Avoid Overpricing
Homeowners often think that it’s OK to overprice at first, because — who knows? — maybe you’ll just get what you’re asking for. Although you can certainly lower an inflated price later, you’ll sacrifice a lot in the process.
Just ask Candace Talmadge. She originally listed her Lancaster, Texas, home for $129,000, but “eventually had to accept the market reality” and chop $4,000 off the price.
The home’s location proved challenging: Buyers were either turned off by the area — a lower-income neighborhood south of Dallas — or unable to afford the home.
“Sellers have to keep in mind the location,” says Talmadge. “Who are going to be the likely buyers?”
The most obvious pitfall: A house that remains on the market for months can prevent you from moving into your dream home. Already purchased that next home? You might saddle yourself with two mortgages.
“You lose a lot of time and money if you don’t price it right,” says Norma Newgent, an agent with Area Pro Realty in Tampa, Fla.
And worse: Continually lowering the price could turn off potential buyers who might start wondering just what is wrong with your home.
“Buyers are smart and educated,” says Lisa Hjorten of Marketplace Sotheby’s International Realty in Redmond, Wash. “You’re probably going to lose them.”
#2 They Don't Expect Dollar-for-Dollar Returns
It’s easy for homeowners to stumble into two common traps:
“Many homeowners think, ‘Of course my home is worth a bazillion dollars,’” says Newgent. If they put in a few thousand dollars worth of new flooring, for example, they might overestimate the upgrade’s impact on the home’s value into the tens of thousands.
Talmadge’s Texas home came with a built-in renovation trap: It was already the nicest home in the area, making it harder to sell. Major additions had inflated the square footage — and the price, according to one appraiser — without accounting for the surrounding neighborhood. That created a disconnect for buyers: Wealthier ones who might be interested in the upgraded home disliked the neighborhood, and less affluent buyers couldn’t afford the asking price.
“Don’t buy the nicest home on the block” is common real estate advice for this reason.
That’s not to say that renovations aren’t worth it. You want to enjoy your home while you’re in it, right? Smart renovations make your home more comfortable and functional but should typically reflect the neighborhood. A REALTOR® can help you understand what certain upgrades can recoup when you sell and which appeal to buyers.
Another culprit for many a mispriced home is online tools, like Zillow’s “Zestimate,” that prescribe an estimated market value based on local data.
The estimate is often wildly inaccurate. A Virginia-area real estate company, McEnearney & Associates, has compared actual sold prices with predicted online estimates for several hundred homes in the area for the past few years and concluded the predictions failed half of the time.
#3 They Use Comparable Sales (also Known as "Comps")
The best pricing strategy? Consult a real estate agent, who will use something called comps (also known as “comparable sales”) to determine the appropriate listing price. They’re not just looking at your neighbors; they’re seeking out near-identical homes with similar floor plans, square footage, and amenities that sold in the last few months.
Once they’ve assembled a list of similar homes (and the real prices buyers paid), they can make an accurate estimate of what you can expect to receive for your home. If a three-bedroom bungalow with granite countertops and a walk-out basement down the block sold for $359,000, expecting more from your own three-bedroom bungalow with granite countertops and a walk-out basement is a pipe dream.
After crunching the data, they’ll work with you to determine a fair price that’ll entice buyers. The number might be less than you hope and expect, but listing your home correctly — not idealistically — is a sure way to avoid the aches and pains of a long, drawn-out listing that just won’t sell.
#4 They Adjust the Price When Needed
Once your home is on the market, you’ll start accumulating another set of data that will serve as the ultimate price test: how buyers react.
Agent Hjorten says there’s an easy way to tell if you’ve priced too high: “If we have no showings, it’s way too high. Lots of showings and no offer means you’ve marketed well — but it’s overpriced once people get inside.”
Talmadge didn’t struggle with showings. She says a number of people were interested in the home, but not enough at the price. In the end, Talmadge sold her home for $125,000, with a $5,000 seller’s assist, a discount on the cost of the home applied directly to closing costs.
“It all boils down to location, location, location. In [another] neighborhood, our house might well have sold for well over $130,000,” Talmadge says.
When it comes to finding a buyer, pricing your home according to data — and the right data, at that — is crucial to making the sale.