MONEY buying a home

Rupert Murdoch Wants to Sell You Your Next Home

News Corp. has acquired Move Inc., putting Murdoch's business in the thick of the online listings war.

UPDATE—3:28 P.M.

Home buyers take note, your next house could come courtesy of the Murdoch empire. On Tuesday, the Australian billionaire’s News Corp announced it was buying Move Inc., the real estate listings company that owns Move.com, Realtor.com, and other online listings websites, for $950 million.

While Move is hardly the market leader among listing websites—competitors Trulia and Zillow account for 71% of traffic to ComScore’s real estate category—it long claimed to be the most accurate. Thanks to an agreement with the National Association of Realtors, the company’s sites have partnerships with more than 800 multiple listings services, which provide real estate listing information as soon as a home comes on the market. Zillow and Trulia have previously been dinged for out-of-date information, and Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff raised eyebrows when he appeared to suggest that fixing stale listings wasn’t one of the company’s top priorities. (Zillow has stressed that the CEO’s statement was taken out of context, and emphasized their constant effort to improve listings.)

But despite Move’s data advantage, and recent ad campaigns stressing its superior accuracy, taking on Trulia and Zillow has been an uphill battle. That battle became even more difficult in July, when Zillow purchased Trulia for $3.5 billion, creating an online real estate behemoth. News Corp’s entrance into the market may finally give Move the marketing muscle to fight back. News Corp. CEO Robert Thomson signalled the company’s dedication to Move’s business, stating that the acquisition would make “online real estate a powerful pillar of our portfolio.” He also indicated the company will strongly support Move’s brand. “We intend to use our media platforms and compelling content to turbo-charge traffic growth and create the most successful real estate website in the U.S.,” said Thomson.

A News Corp-powered Move might ultimately be a boon for homebuyers by reducing Zillow/Trulia’s hold on the online listings market. When Zillow’s purchase of Trulia was first announced, some worried the new company would have more leverage to charge real estate agents higher advertising fees, and that this charge might be passed on to the consumer. More robust competition may give agents more options for online advertising and reduce Zillow/Trulia’s bargaining power. However, other experts believe the News Corp. acquisition will have little real effect on consumers. Jonathan Miller, CEO of Miller Samuel Inc, told MONEY the Move acquisition is unlikely to be felt by your average house hunter.

“I think what you’re seeing is [the housing market] improve,” said Miller. “There’s more focus on the housing sector, there’s a lot of cross branding opportunities with News Corp. and their holdings with real estate, but I don’t see it having any real impact on transactions. I don’t think the consumer is going to see this.”

MONEY buying a home

The Surprising Feature Millennials Insist on When Buying a Home

Century 21 CEO Richard Davidson explains what young, single home buyers value in a new house.

MONEY home improvement

Historic Homes For Sale For As Little As $1

These three houses, featured recently in This Old House magazine, can still be had for rock bottom prices, but plan to spend thousands to overhaul them. If no buyer saves the structures, they may face demolition or are at risk of deteriorating beyond repair.

For the full gallery of homes for sale, plus featured houses that have been saved by buyers and structures that were demolished, click here for the original post on thisoldhouse.com.

MONEY home prices

Slowing Price Gains Reveal Little Exuberance for Homes

140826_REA_HousePricesSlow
Dimitri Vervitsiotis—Getty Images

Looking ahead, the rate of home price growth may slow even further, especially if mortgage rates increase.

While housing prices continue to rise, the rate of that growth nationally slowed in June, according to a leading gauge of the real estate market.

The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices showed that home prices throughout the country increased 6.2% since last year. Meanwhile, separate indexes that track 10 and 20 large U.S. cities showed gains of 8.1% during the same time period.

Though decent, those gains were a far cry from the double-digit growth in home prices late last year. Moreover, all three indexes showed deceleration from the prior month, and every city measured experienced lower year-over-year price growth.

“Home price gains continue to ease as they have since last fall,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “For the first time since February 2008, all cities showed lower annual rates than the previous month. Other housing indicators — starts, existing home sales and builders’ sentiment — are positive. Taken together, these point to a more normal housing sector.”

Blitzer also cautioned that an increase in interest rates, which Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen hinted at last week, may mean further deceleration if they lead to higher mortgage rates.

“Bargain basement mortgage rates won’t continue forever,” he said. “Recent improvements in the labor markets and comments from Fed chair Janet Yellen and others hint that interest rates could rise as soon as the first quarter of 2015. Rising mortgage rates won’t send housing into a tailspin, but will further dampen price gains.”

To be sure, home prices are still going up across the board. All cities reported higher prices for the third consecutive month, and price growth in markets such as Dallas and Denver has continued unabated.

Nationally, average home prices in June are back to Spring, 2005 levels. But city composites are still roughly 17% down from their peak prices in June/July of 2006.

MONEY buying a home

Why Millennials Should Wait to Buy a Home

For all the benefits of home ownership, many drawbacks exist as well. Make sure the negatives won't outweigh the positives for you.

Buying your first home is an exciting time, given the dozens of financial and lifestyle benefits that come with owning the roof you sleep under. What’s more, interest rates are still low, hitting 4.3% for a 30-year fixed loan this month, making it a good time to borrow money. According to the latest Trulia survey, 68% of Millennials are in the market for a home priced at $200,000 or lower.

Purchasing a place isn’t necessarily the right move for everyone, though. Despite all of the positives of home ownership, there are some very compelling reasons not to rush into a mortgage right now. Here are seven.

You Lose Flexibility

Home ownership provides stability, but that may not always be a good thing when you are in your career-building years. If you are looking for a promotion, an advance, or job change, you may have to relocate to get to that next level. You need to have the ability to move on short notice, maybe even as fast as 30 to 60 days. Having to sell your home quickly could force you to offer it up at a bargain price, in addition to incurring thousands of dollars of closing costs. Sellers typically pay their realtors six percent of the selling price.

There’s No Room For Baby

Millennials are in the prime years for starting families. You may not have one now, but there’s a good chance that will change in the near future. While that cozy home or downtown condo may sound ideal now, you’ll likely feel different as a party of three. After all, pregnancies as well as the first few months of a newborn are stressful enough. Having to find a larger place to live, sell your house and pack your belongings with a due date looming- or a newborn- can be unbearably stressful and costly. It may even put you in the red.

Moving Within Five Years Will Cost You

If for any reason you think you may not be able to stay in your home for five to seven years, you should not buy. It will be cheaper to rent. The rule of thumb used to be seven years, but now that the housing market is stabilizing, that timeline has shifted slightly. With only moderate market appreciation, it will generally take five years for you to recoup the many thousands of buying, selling, and carrying costs. Keep in mind that in the first years of your mortgage, you won’t be building up too much equity. Banks charge a hefty portion of your interest upfront, with very little going to your principal in the first few years.

Small Down Payments Bring Added Risk

If you don’t have enough money saved for a traditional down payment, don’t buy a house right now. I am a big proponent of 20% down. That is not always feasible for most Millennials starting out, and it is lot of money to have saved up. But, unfortunately, it is the safest, most conservative approach to home ownership. If you can’t bank on Mom and Dad for a leg up on the down payment, then think about saving for a few more years.

You Carry Too Much Debt

You can’t overlook your student loans, car loans, and any other debt you have accumulated. Consider paying it down first, particularly credit card debt. Not only can a home purchase slow your debt reduction plan-likely costing you more in interest- banks will not be willing to approve you for a loan if your debt payments eat up a significant share of your income.

Your Job Security is Shaky

First, purchasing a home with today’s new qualified loan standards requires some consistent job history. When you’re in the early stages of your career, there may be jumps and gaps in your resume, which can make getting approved for a mortgage a challenge. What’s more, job situations can change overnight. Once you own a place, losing a job, suffering periods of unemployment, and living on a lower income are not as easily weathered. You may even need to accept a new job with a lower salary, but your housing costs will remain the same. You won’t be able to quickly downsize, and want to avoid needing to sell out of financial desperation.

You’ll End Up Cash Poor

Buying a home often leaves cash poor. After you come up with the down payment, the closing costs, and any renovation that you need to make prior to moving in, your bank account likely looks depleted. Having few dollars to your name is likely not the way you want to start living the ‘American Dream.’ Thus delay buying until you make sure you will have enough cash leftover to weather a job loss, an unexpected emergency, or even a health issue that could impact your earning power. You don’t want to end up house rich, cash poor and nothing to rely on in an emergency. Life happens.

 

More from Trulia:

Top 10 U.S. Metros with the Highest Private School Enrollment

8 Ways to Make Your Home Offer Stand Out

6 Signs a Home is “The One”

 

Michael Corbett is Trulia‘s real estate and lifestyle expert. He hosts NBC’s EXTRA’s Mansions and Millionaires and has authored three books on real estate, including Before You Buy!

MONEY buying a home

Turns Out Millennials Are Buying Homes. But Another Key Group Isn’t

Contrary to what you may think, twentysomethings are becoming homeowners. It's middle-aged folks that are forgoing it.

The latest Census data shows homeownership is still falling for young adults, and the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that the share of first-time home-buyers is slipping. While the housing market is clearly improving, with four of the five key indicators of the housing recovery from our Housing Barometer at least halfway back to normal, it looks like the recovery is happening even without much improvement in first-time homeownership.

Not so fast. The official homeownership rate published by the Census gives a misleading picture of homeownership trends. In fact, homeownership among young adults is both on the rise and not too far off from where demographics say it should be.

The “true” homeownership rate disagrees with the published homeownership rate, and shows that homeownership among young adults increased between 2012 and 2013 after hitting bottom in 2012. Once we adjust for the huge demographic shifts among young adults – far fewer young adults are married or have kids than two or three decades ago – homeownership in 2013 was roughly at late-1990s levels. That means that the demographic shifts among young adults account for the entire decline in homeownership for 18-34 year-olds over the last 20 years. In other words, if the late 1990s can be considered relatively normal, than today’s lower homeownership rate for young adults might be the new normal, thanks to demographic changes.

But that doesn’t mean all’s well. There may be longer-term damage to homeownership from the recession – but to the middle-aged, not millennials. Homeownership among 35-54 year-olds is lower today than before the housing bubble, even after accounting for demographic shifts.

Is Today’s Millennial Homeownership Rate the New Normal?

The demographics of 18-34 year-olds have changed dramatically over the past 30 years, between 1983 and 2013, such as:

  • The percent married fell from 47% to 30%
  • The percent living with their own children fell from 39% to 29%
  • The percent non-Hispanic white fell from 78% to 57%

Each of these demographic shifts is a headwind for homeownership. Young people who are married, have children, or are non-Hispanic white are more likely to own a home than young people who aren’t.

One way to quantify the total effect of these demographic factors on homeownership is to predict what might have happened to homeownership with these demographic shifts if none of the changes in behaviors or circumstances that evolved during the bubble, recession, and recovery took place.

Turns out that although the share of young adults who actually own a home remains considerably lower today (even with the uptick in 2013) than at any time since 1983, it is roughly at late 1990s levels after taking demographic shifts into account. Unless those long-term demographic trends reverse, there might be little room for young-adult homeownership to increase. You’d have to ignore demographic trends that pre-date the bubble to believe that young-adult homeownership will eventually return to its unadjusted pre-bubble levels.

This also implies that there probably hasn’t been a huge shift in millennials’ attitudes toward homeownership, either, since today’s millennials are roughly as likely to own homes as people with similar demographics two decades ago.

Worry Instead About Middle-Aged Homeownership

Here’s the surprise: it’s the middle-aged, not millennials, whose homeownership rate today looks lower than before the bubble. Using the same demographic-baseline analysis, the 2013 homeownership rate for 35-54 year-olds is below the “demographic baseline” (which barely budged over the past 20 years for this age group). Furthermore, homeownership for the middle-aged has not yet begun to turn around as of 2013, unlike for millennials.

Whereas the 2013 homeownership rate for millennials, after adjusting for demographics, is at 1997 levels, the 2013 demographics-adjusted homeownership rate for the middle-aged is at its lowest level in at least two decades (and probably in almost four decades).

And that’s the point: the rise and fall of homeownership during the housing bubble and bust is about people who are middle-aged today. The millennial generation was still in their early 20s or younger in the mid-2000s – too young to have bought during the bubble and then to have suffered a foreclosure: Only the oldest among the 18-34 year-old group in 2013 would have been of home-buying age during the bubble.

Turning more millennials into homeowners, therefore, may not be the missing piece of the housing recovery after all. Long-term demographic changes mean that homeownership among young adults is roughly where it should be. The real missing homeowners are the middle-aged.

To see the full article, including the analysis and charts, click here.

To read more from Jed Kolko of Trulia, click here.

Related:
MONEY 101 Should I rent or buy?
MONEY 101 What should I do before I buy a home?

MONEY home prices

These Places Have the Best Housing Bargains in the Country

Scioto River and Columbus, Ohio skyline at dusk.
Columbus, Ohio, skyline at dusk. VisionsofAmerica/Joe Sohm—Getty Images

As the market tries to adjust to a post-recession world, there are plenty of deals to be had. But there are also plenty of markets where housing is more unaffordable than ever.

With housing price growth slowing down nationwide, and a gradually improving economy, many Americans who’ve been waiting to make a decision on a home are wondering if it’s time to buy or sell.

Here’s some data that might help with those decisions: A new study by RealtyTrac determined which housing markets are more and less affordable relative to their historical averages. The real estate data firm computed the numbers by determining what percentage of an area’s median income would be needed to make payments on a median-priced home in over 1,000 counties, and then compared that to the county’s historical price-to-income ratio over the past 14 years.

So which areas are looking like a bargain? RealtyTrac identified 66 counties with a combined population of 16 million (about 5% of the total survey area’s population) where home prices are lower than historical averages and the unemployment rate was 5% or lower—well below the national unemployment rate of about 6.2%.

This, according to RealtyTrac, is the best way to measure affordability because many markets with cheap housing don’t have quality jobs to offer to new residents. Some undiscovered markets are “undiscovered for good reason because their economies are struggling,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “A good example of that is Detroit. Affordability alone isn’t an indication that a market is a good one to buy in or invest in.”

The study found Columbus, Ohio; Oklahoma City; Tulsa; Akron, Ohio; Omaha; Greenville, S.C.; and Des Moines, Iowa, are among the markets with an advantageous combination of employment and affordable housing.

Courtesy of RealtyTrac

Why is housing in these areas undervalued? Basically, the overall real estate market is still recovering from the recession, and prices have yet to adjust in certain markets as investors are slow to discover lesser-known areas with strong economic growth. This pro-buyer environment might not last much longer, though. Blomquist says there’s been an uptick of institutional investor purchasing in Columbus, which means prices are set to rise in the near future.

There’s good news for prospective sellers as well. Prices in over one-third of the counties surveyed are less affordable than their historical averages, suggesting homes there may be over-valued. These cities include San Francisco; Portland, Oregon; Austin; San Antonio; Houston; and Atlanta.

Courtesy of RealtyTrac

Should sellers jump at the high prices? If you’re a homeowner in one of these markets, a lot of things are going your way. As prices rise, institutional investors are rushing to invest in these markets, inflating values even further. But there’s also a lack of supply because builders are still reluctant to start new construction.

“It’s a sellers market still [in these areas] because you have a combination of strong demand from this new breed of buyers and low supply because builders are very hesitant,” says Blomquist. “If you’re a seller, you’re not competing against too many others and you have a long liner of buyers.”

However, he cautions that for sellers looking to buy another home in the same market, less affordable home prices may be a double-edged sword. “The catch-22 is if you’re trying to buy too — if that’s the case, then it’s not a great market to buy in.”

MONEY buying a home

How to Tell the Fixer-Uppers From the Flops

You want to buy a home, but you don’t want to pay 20% more for a brand new home with all the bells and whistles already built in. It just so happens that you’re pretty handy and are willing to trade in some ‘sweat equity’ for a great deal on a house that just needs a little TLC. Buying a place that needs some upgrades is a tried and true formula for getting more house for your money. However, not all “fixers” are the same, and not all of them are going to be right one for you.

There are houses for sale and in need of repair on every other block. How do you know which one is a potential money maker for you? Most properties that are fixers generally fall into one of these three categories- including the one you want to run far, far away from:

1. The Cosmetic Fixer

This is the house that just needs a bit of clean up. The sale price is discounted slightly because the sellers and their agent know that there is work to be done. For whatever reason, the sellers didn’t want to invest anymore time or money in the house prior to sale. Things like new paint, carpet, countertops, lighting, landscaping and a few new appliances will give this cosmetic fixer the face lift it needs. A few dozen trips to the home improvement store should do it!

1. The Downright Ugly Fixer

It may be downright ugly, but it is beautiful to you! It has all the right things wrong with it. This is the fixer that needs more extensive repair and remodeling work than the ‘Cosmetic Fixer’ mentioned above. If you can see its potential beauty, and are willing to commit to the work, you will get the deal that others miss.

Some hallmarks of a ‘downright ugly fixer:’

  • No Current Curb Appeal: It’s easy to create with fresh front door paint, new house numbers, mailbox, flowering plants and fresh landscaping
  • Great Bones In Bad Shape: Good construction and architectural lines that have been underutilized or un-accentuated
  • Dark Interiors Cloaked In Ugly Decor: These turn off other buyers, but this is gone as soon as the moving vans pull away with the seller’s possessions
  • Outdated Kitchens: Upgrading your kitchen will be one of the biggest expenses, however, it gives you the biggest return on your dollar
  • Outdated Bathrooms: There are so many great options for bathroom upgrades now at your local home improvement store. You may need to bring in a plumber and tile guy but it will be worth the effort.
  • A House With Pets, Smokers Or Other Bad Smells: Nasty smells aplenty turn off other home shoppers, but a revamp of carpets and drapes and new paint will usually take care of that smelly issue.
  • Leaks In The Roof & A Water-Stained Ceiling: These can really turn away potential buyers – but you will most likely be putting on a new roof, so that will usually eliminate the source of the problem
  • Lots Of Small Rooms, Creating A Choppy Or Claustrophobic Feeling: Look for potential to remove a non-load bearing wall that could open up a kitchen to a living room or den, giving you that all desirable open floor plan.

3. The Fixer Tear Down

When I say ‘a house with the wrong things wrong’, this is the one I mean. This “tear down” house with “broken bones” is the money pit you must run from. If a house has major structural, geological, or severe foundation or environmental problems, you don’t want it. I repeart – you don’t want it. Even if you get the house on the cheap, some problems never go away and are sometimes impossible to fix, no matter how much money you throw at them. This is a Pandora’s Box you do not want to open, because you will never see that money back.

Some telltale signs of a ‘tear down:’

  • Structural Problems That Are Beyond Repair Economically
  • Major shifting due to poor foundation work
  • Unsolvable drainage issues and flooding of the basement
  • Illegal room additions that appear to be not to code, especially bathrooms
  • Major fire, earthquake or flood damage
  • An unstable hillside near the house or slipping or shifting due to soil erosion or flooding
  • Overwhelming asbestos or severe mold issues

More from Trulia:
9 Things to Look For When Touring An Open House
The Pros and Cons of Buying a Newly Built Home
The 10 Most Costly Home Selling Mistakes – And How To Avoid Them

Michael Corbett is Trulia‘s real estate and lifestyle expert. He hosts NBC’s EXTRA’s Mansions and Millionaires and has authored three books on real estate, including Before You Buy!

MONEY mortgages

Getting a Mortgage Is Growing Easier

A new report shows credit is more available for homebuyers- even for the self-employed, a group that has previously had trouble securing loans.

Being approved for a mortgage has gotten a little easier for consumers with good credit, according to a recent report from the Federal Reserve. The bad news is that standards are still tighter than pre-recession levels, and banks won’t be further loosening them for a while.

The July report, which surveys senior loan officers about their banks’ lending practices, shows almost one-fourth—23.9%—of all banks eased their credit standards in the last three months for borrowers with solid credit and incomes. According to the Wall Street Journal, this is the largest such action by lenders since the financial crisis.

Keith Gumbinger, vice president at mortgage research firm HSH, says that while loans can still be difficult for some consumers to get, banks are approving borrowers with slightly lower credit scores. Previously, Gumbinger says, banks required a FICO score of about 640 to approve a loan backed by the Federal Housing Administration, called an FHA loan. Now applicants with scores as low as 600 are getting the green light.

In July Wells Fargo lowered the minimum credit score needed for a jumbo loan to 700, down from 720, according to Reuters. Jumbo mortgages are generally necessary for consumers who need to borrow more than $417,000. Most banks have stricter requirements for jumbos than they do for smaller loans.

What’s behind the easing? In short, banks are becoming less paranoid. Technically, the government will underwrite FHA loans given to those with credit scores as low as 580. However, banks are reluctant to lend to borrowers with such low scores because a certain number of defaults will cause the feds to pull their backing. As a result, many lenders require FICO scores above those minimums, or other additional requirements—collectively known as “overlays”—to make sure that doesn’t happen.

What’s more, in recent months housing prices have been going up. “If you’re a lender and you make a loan to someone when home prices are rising, and [the loan] fails, well then congratulations,” Gumbinger jokes.

One group benefitting from the changes is the self-employed, who tend to have fluctuating incomes. Since the housing crash, this group has found it extremely difficult to get credit because their unconventional or inconsistent income streams failed to meet the Qualified Mortgage standard that protects banks in case a loan goes south. As a result, lenders willing to give out non-QM loans had been demanding down payments as high as 35%, even from borrowers with a relatively high FICO score. Gumbinger says lenders are now more willing to look for other positive qualities, like a large number of assets or equities, or a higher credit score, instead of asking for huge sums of money up front.

The loosening is good for prospective homebuyers who previously may have just missed most banks’ credit cut-off. What’s not good is there’s not much room to go from here in terms of lowering credit standards further. Banks theoretically have wide latitude to change requirements, and as housing prices go up they may loosen them further, but the primary determinant of who can get a loan are the credit limits set by government mortgage backers who securitize most of the mortgage industry.

Those limits are set by politicians, not bankers, and asking the voting public to allow less dependable mortgages is not exactly an easy sell, especially since bad loans helped cause the financial crisis.

“You’re the head of the [Federal Housing Finance Agency], you lost billions and recovered billions, do you go stand before the American people and say in order to save the housing market we need riskier loans?” asks Gumbinger. “You may not want to put the American taxpayer at risk.”

Related: MONEY 101’s How to Get the Best Rate on a Mortgage

Related: MONEY 101’s How to Improve your Credit Score

MONEY Millennials

The 15 Most Affordable Cities for Millennials

Greeting Card from Augusta, Georgia. ca. 1943
Universal Images Group (Lake County Discovery Museum)—Alamy

Finding an affordable place to live is one of the biggest challenges for millennials. This list should make it easier.

Last week, we told you about the 15 most expensive cities for millennials to live in based on a recent study by RealtyTrac. This week, we bring you the other side of the story: the 15 areas that are the most affordable, and the most attractive, to young people.

To quickly review how this list came to be, RealtyTrac ranked counties with at least 100,000 people by the percentage of median income one needs to spend in order to make a median housing payment or pay an average rent bill on a three-bedroom property. To make sure these cities are actually places young people would want to live, the company only included areas where millennials make up at least 24% of the population, and where the percentage of millennials has increased over the past six years.

So which area wins the most-affordable crown? It depends if you’re renting or buying. As is often the case, renting is significantly more expensive than making payments on purchased property. The best county for buyers—Richmond County, Georgia, which includes the city of Augusta—will cost an owner 10% less of their median income than if they were renting in Bossier Parish, Louisiana, the most affordable area for leasing.

For renters, Bossier Parish, home to Bossier City, will cost about 20% of the area’s median income. Average rent on a three-bedroom is a paltry $943. There aren’t as many familiar names on this list as its less affordable cousin, but some relatively major cities do make an appearance. Dane County, ranked ninth, includes Madison, Wisconsin; a beautiful city that also houses one of the nation’s top universities. Franklin County, home to to Columbus, Ohio, also offers a great city for millennials to live. Minneapolis, Minnesota’s Hennepin County even squeaks in at number 14.

Those willing to purchase a home are going to see a very different ranking. While Baltimore and Philadelphia are some of the least affordable places to rent, they’re actually one of the more affordable cities for buyers. Philadelphia County and Baltimore City rank 5th and 6th respectively, and payments will cost buyers around 14% of their area’s median income. Other highlights are Milwaukee, Minnesota, which comes in 9th, and Columbus’s Franklin County, which makes another, more highly ranked appearance.

Want the whole list? Here it is:

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