MONEY real estate

The Surprising Way to Snag a House in a Bidding War

couple taking keys to house
Getty Images

Bidding wars are back. Here's how to win.

Homes are selling faster, and getting more multiple offers and bids above the asking price than just before the financial crises, new research shows. Yet with the typical home still selling for less than it did in 2006, it is difficult to call this a bubble.

Some 28% of homes this year and last year sold within two weeks of being put on the market, up from just 19% pre-recession, according to a survey from Coldwell Banker Real Estate. Meanwhile, 47% of recent home sales saw multiple offers, vs. 42% pre-recession; and 27% got offers above the asking price, vs. 25% preceding the recession.

This data, however, may be somewhat misleading. For starters, the median home nationally sold for $219,400 in April, up 9% from the year earlier and a robust 42% from the market bottom in 2011-2012. But that remains shy of the $230,400 median price reached in July 2006, and after the sharp bounce back price gains now seem to be leveling off, says Budge Huskey, CEO of Coldwell Banker Real Estate.

And most of the heated activity is taking place in desirable neighborhoods, where obstacles to new construction put a premium on existing homes. The bidding wars generally are occurring on move-in-ready homes that are priced to sell. “The vast majority of markets around the country reflect more balanced inventories and rates of appreciation which have decelerated from the pace of the last two years,” Huskey says.

Still, in many ways this is a seller’s market, fueled in part by rising interest rates. Mortgage rates remain low at just above 4% for a 30-year fixed rate. But the trend has been up since January, and many expect rates to continue climbing. That brings in buyers from the sidelines that want to act before the cost of money goes higher.

Even if sellers fail to entice an offer above the asking price, they may take advantage of the conditions and be exceptionally choosey about a buyer. Just 46% of sellers take the first offer they get, down from 59% during the recession, the survey shows. A record 36% of sellers since 2013 say they chose a buyer based on emotion in addition to their ability to pay—up from 19% pre-recession.

Keep that in mind if you are buying. A downsizing baby boomer may not get the price they had counted on before the recession. But they may want to be sure the house where they raised their kids goes to a family they like. “It’s increasingly common for buyers in competitive situations to provide extensive information on why they would prove the perfect owners and neighbors,” Huskey says.

 

MONEY buying a home

More Parents Are Helping Their Millennial Kids Buy Homes

three generations outside home
Chad Springer—Getty Images

17% are helping with everything from down payments to letting their kids move back home to save money.

Many millennials have been hit with hard economic times. The Great Recession, housing crisis, and diminished job options hit many millennials before they could even get established in a career and start to build up the funds necessary to purchase a home.

While the economy is slowly recovering, too many millennials are still unable to afford a home without assistance — and their parents are increasingly stepping up to fill the void. A recent survey by loanDepot shows that 17% of the parents of millennial children (defined here as between ages 18-35) expect to help their children buy a home within the next five years. That’s an increase of over 30% compared to the previous five years, when 13% of parents expected to provide home-buying assistance.

Parental assistance ranges from down payment contributions to allowing children to move back into their homes — and there’s an unusually large increase in those willing to welcome their children back home.

One-third of respondents said they would allow their children to stay home to save money for a home purchase, up from 11% in the previous five-year period. Meanwhile, another 22% of respondents would allow their children to move back home straightaway, compared to 8% in the previous five-year period. In total, over half of the parents expect their millennial children to either live with them indefinitely or until they can save up enough money for a down payment.

The majority of financial help will be from down-payment contributions. Half of respondents plan to help with down payments, with 8% of respondents paying at least 90% of the down payment. That support is down from the previous five-year period, where 65% of respondents covered some down payment costs and 20% covered at least 90% of the costs.

More parents are willing to pay other expenses so their children can save money for a home (30% as opposed to 25% over the past five years), with 18% focusing on excessive student loan debt burdens (compared to 11% in the past). Around 20% of parents are willing to help with closing costs, and the same percentage of respondents is willing to co-sign a mortgage loan with their children. That is about the same percentage of willing co-signers as in the past.

Where do parents get the money? The overwhelming source is from savings accounts. A little over two-thirds expect to draw from their savings to help their children, slightly down from 72% over the last five years. Meanwhile, twice as many parents as in the past five years expect to use funds from refinancing their own home (up to 8% from 4%), acquiring an unsecured personal loan (up to 8% from 3%), or borrowing from their 401(k) program (up to 4% from 2%).

Millennial children are looking at this help as a responsibility to be repaid. While 68% of the parents consider future assistance as a gift, only 29% of millennials agree. (Of course, if the support is down payment, it has to be acknowledged as a gift in order to qualify for a loan.)

If you are one of these parents helping your millennial children, we applaud your efforts — but please make sure you don’t harm your retirement account or other retirement assets in the process. You don’t have as much time to recover from a large financial setback and your children may not be in a position to help you at the right time. Help as you can, but not more than you should.

 

MONEY home prices

This Is America’s Biggest, Priciest New Home

Construction continues at a home being built by Nile Niami, a film producer and speculative residential developer, in this aerial photograph taken in Bel Air, California, U.S., on Monday, May 18, 2015. Niami, who hopes to sell the house for a record $500 million, is pouring concrete in L.A.s Bel Air neighborhood for a compound with a 74,000-square-foot (6,900-square-meter) main residence and three smaller homes, according to city records.
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg via Getty Images Construction continues at a home being built by Nile Niami, a film producer and speculative residential developer, in this aerial photograph taken in Bel Air, California.

An insane mansion is rising in Bel Air.

When the Los Angeles Business Journal reported last summer that work had gotten under way on a megamansion construction project in Bel Air, Calif., the property was expected to measure around 85,000 square feet, including a 70,000-square-foot main house. The New York Times wrote about the NIMBY issues being raised by property last December, when the expected listing price was estimated at $150 million.

These numbers are enormous, astronomical, absurd—hard for the average person to fathom, let alone afford. Yet apparently, these figures were on the low side.

The latest on the property, as reported by Bloomberg News, has it that the compound will exceed 100,000 square footage of living space, including a 74,000-square-foot main residence and three smaller houses on the four-acre property. If this turns out to be true, the Bel Air property would trump the notorious 90,000-square-foot estate in Orlando featured in the documentary The Queen of Versailles for the title of America’s largest recently built home. (The White House, by the way, is a mere 55,000 square feet.)

What’s more, the developer, film producer and speculative real estate investor Nile Niami, says that $150 million is chump change. He plans on putting the property on the market for the more fitting sum of $500 million. Bear in mind that the most expensive price ever paid for a home was $221 million for a London penthouse in 2011, and that no home in the U.S. is currently listed for more than $200 million.

In any event, what does one get in a Bel Air megamansion that measures potentially 100,000 square feet and costs potentially $500 million? Here are some of the key figures:

• 30-car garage
• 5,000-square-foot master bedroom
• 4 swimming pools, including a 180-foot infinity pool
• 1 “jellyfish room” with glass fish tanks on three sides
• 45-seat IMAX-style home theater
• 360-degree views of the Pacific Ocean, Beverly Hills, downtown L.A.
• 74,000-square-foot main mansion
• 100,000+ total square feet on property’s four homes
• 8,500-square-foot private nightclub inside the mansion
• 40,000 cubic yards of earth to be removed for construction
• $500 million expected listing price

MONEY home prices

10 States With the Least Affordable Homes

Diamond Head, Oahu, Hawaii
Carl Shaneff—agefotostock Diamond Head, Oahu, Hawaii

A new study shows where in the U.S. home prices are the most out of whack with income.

In most parts of the country, a family with a median household income should—ideally—be able to afford a median-priced home in that area. In fact, an analysis of county-level data from RealtyTrac showed that a monthly payment on a median-priced home was more affordable than fair-market rent on a three-bedroom unit in 76% of counties studied, making buying a home the more economical choice for many Americans.

Of course, there’s a lot more at play when determining if you can afford a house than looking at your paycheck and the rental market—buying a house often requires a home loan, which can be tougher to come by if you don’t have good credit. At the same time, a good credit score will only get you so far in the home-buying process, because if housing in your area is exceptionally expensive, even a median household income may not get you much house. (This calculator can show you how much house you can afford.)

To determine the states where housing is least affordable, the Corporation for Enterprise Development divided the state’s median housing value by the median family income in that state, according to 2013 Census data. A breakdown of all 50 states and the District of Columbia is available through its Assets & Opportunity Scorecard tool. Here are the states with the least affordable homes.

10. (tie) Rhode Island

2013 median housing value: $232,300
2013 median household income: $55,902
Ratio of median housing value to median income: 4.2

10. (tie) Vermont

2013 median housing value: $218,300
2013 median household income: $52,578
Ratio of housing value to income: 4.2

8. Washington

2013 median housing value: $250,800
2013 median household income: $58,405
Ratio of housing value to income: 4.3

7. New Jersey

2013 median housing value: $307,700
2013 median household income: $70,165
Ratio of housing value to income: 4.4

6. Oregon

2013 median housing value: $229,700
2013 median household income: $50,251
Ratio of housing value to income: 4.6

5. New York

2013 median housing value: $277,600
2013 median household income: $57,369
Ratio of housing value to income: 4.8

4. Massachusetts

2013 median housing value: $327,200
2013 median household income: $66,768
Ratio of housing value to income: 4.9

3. California

2013 median housing value: $373,100
2013 median household income: $60,190
Ratio of housing value to income: 6.2

2. District of Columbia

2013 median housing value: $470,500
2013 median household income: $67,572
Ratio of housing value to income: 7

1. Hawaii

2013 median housing value: $500,000
2013 median household income: $68,020
Ratio of housing value to income: 7.4

Those are some eye-popping figures, especially if you’re from the other end of the spectrum, like Iowa or Michigan, where the median home price is just 2.4 times the median income in those states. Places like Hawaii, D.C. and California are significant outliers, though.

Nationwide, the median-priced home ($173,900) is 3.3 times the median household income ($52,250), but homeownership remains out of reach for many Americans. Homeownership rates are at their lowest level in more than two decades, partially due to tight credit in the mortgage market. To have the best chance at getting a home loan, borrowers need to focus on improving their credit standing (you can track your credit scores for free on Credit.com) and paying down debt, so they can prove their ability to repay a home loan.

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

MONEY home prices

15 Insanely Expensive Homes on the Market This Spring

It's finally beginning to feel like spring, and that marks the start of home shopping season. We've teamed up with real estate website Zillow for a peek into the most expensive listings in 15 U.S. cities.

MONEY renting

These Are the Most—And Least—Affordable Places to Rent

Fieldston Historic District, Riverdale, Bronx, New York
Alamy Fieldston Historic District, Riverdale, Bronx, New York

A New York City borough is the least affordable—but it's not the one you're thinking of.

It’s no secret that renting has become more expensive in recent years. Now, new data a from housing data firm RealtyTrac lets us know exactly where in the country renting is most and least affordable.

In order to find out which areas are easiest on the typical renter’s wallet, RealtyTrac crunched the numbers on 461 counties across the U.S. with a population of at least 100,000 and sufficient data available, to determine the percentage of the local median household income that gets eaten up by the “fair market” rent (set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) on a three bedroom property.

The Bronx, in New York City, where fair-market rent takes up a whopping 69% of median income, ranks as the least affordable county in the nation—a result of the borough’s extremely low median income and relatively high rents.

San Francisco, Brooklyn (Kings County, New York), and Philadelphia, are also high on the list, each taking up around 48% of the typical household salary in rent payments.

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On the other end of the spectrum, Delaware County, Ohio, was ranked as the most affordable city for renters, with fair-market rents costing just 14% of the median household income. Delaware was closely followed by Williamson County, Tennessee; Hamilton County, Indiana; and Fort Bend County, Texas.

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RealtyTrac also notes that renting is generally more expensive than buying a house. The firm found monthly ownership costs of a median-priced home—including mortgage payments, property taxes, and home and mortgage insurance, assuming a 10% down payment—account, on average, for just 24% of the median income. Fair-market rents, by comparison, averaged 28% of the typical household income. Overall, RealtyTrac found house payments were more affordable than fair-market rents in 76% of the counties it analyzed.

“From a pure affordability standpoint, renters who have saved enough to make a 10% down payment are better off buying in the majority of markets across the country,” said RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist.

That said, Blomquist warned, “Keep in mind that in some markets buying may be more affordable than renting, but that doesn’t mean buying is truly affordable by traditional standards.” He added, “In those markets renters are stuck between a rock and hard place when it comes to deciding whether to buy or continue renting.”

MONEY home prices

The Surprising Thing That Will Boost Your Home’s Value

Starbucks coffee shop, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
John Greim—LightRocket via Getty Images

New research finds that a Starbucks opening in the neighborhood helps local property values.

When searching for a new home, buyers usually consider the usual suspects: square footage, number of bedrooms, amount of sunlight.

Vanessa Pappas had another factor in mind as well: coffee shop proximity.

When Pappas and partner C.C. Hirsch recently closed on a three-bedroom property in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, it didn’t hurt that her favorite macchiato place was only a half-block away.

“Coffee is important,” says Pappas, 36, global head of audience development for YouTube. “It’s our daily ritual, and we always go to see our friends who work there. It makes us feel like part of the neighborhood.”

It turns out that easy access to quality java has broader implications. Call it the Starbucks Effect: Proximity to a local coffee shop has a very real, and positive, effect on home values, new data shows.

“We looked for certain markers for where homes appreciated faster than others,” says Stan Humphries, chief economist at real estate marketplace Zillow and co-author (with chief executive Spencer Rascoff) of the book The New Rules of Real Estate.

“Coffee houses emerged early on as a big predictor of future home value. Within a quarter mile, close enough to smell the coffee brewing, that ring appreciates faster than rings further out,” Humphries says.

How much faster? Over 17 years tabulated by Zillow, leading up to 2014, homes adjacent to the local Starbucks almost doubled in value, up by 96%. Those further out appreciated by 65% over the same period.

And apparently not all coffee shops are created equal. Zillow researchers compared homes near Starbucks locations to those near Dunkin Donuts.

Dunkin Donuts-adjacent properties also outperformed the wider market, rising 80% over 17 years, but they lagged those in the shadow of Starbucks.

Of course, there is a chicken-or-egg question here: Are coffee shops causing a boost in home values, or are the popular chains merely locating in promising neighborhoods that are already on the upswing?

Humphries’ discovery: Within the first few years of opening, Starbucks locations are actively helping local home values. After that, the outperformance of the broader market tends to diminish.

Whole Foods Effect

The coffee shop is hardly the only symbol of neighborhood gentrification. Researchers have found other amenities can have an even more powerful effect on home values.

Nearby specialty grocers, for instance, can lead to a 17.5% home-price premium, according to Portland, Oregon-based real estate consultancy Johnson Economics. That compares to a more modest 4.5% for coffee shops.

In that sense the Starbucks Effect might be more accurately be termed the Whole Foods Effect, according to the firm’s principal, Jerry Johnson, referring to the natural food supermarket chain.

Also significantly affecting nearby home prices, according to the Johnson Economics study: cinemas, wine shops, and garden stores.

Given Starbucks’ massive resources, it is perhaps not surprising that the Seattle-based chain is adept at picking out promising spots. After all, the company employs entire teams of professionals devoted to pinpointing optimal locations.

“Where we choose to locate our stores is as important as how we design them,” says Michael Malanga, Starbucks’ senior vice president of store development.

For potential homebuyers, it’s like heading into an exam with the answer key. Assuming that significant market research has gone into every store opening, buyers can piggyback on those positive conclusions.

“There are substantial resources spent by Starbucks headquarters to figure this stuff out and find where the best locations are going to be,” says Zillow’s Humphries. “So for homebuyers, you can essentially draft off the work that Starbucks has already done for you.”

As for YouTube’s Pappas, she’s not a fan of Starbucks. She prefers her local Brooklyn spot—Krupa Grocery. But she isn’t surprised that coffee shops turn out to be a reliable predictor of home-price appreciation.

“Especially in New York City, you want to be able to walk to everything,” says Pappas. “Having a coffee shop within eyesight is a big plus.”

MONEY Housing Market

Why More Home Buyers May Be Trading Up to Bigger Digs This Spring

fish jumping into bigger fishtank
Phil Ashley—Getty Images

A tight inventory of houses for sale has been stymying buyers who want to trade up. That could change soon.

Joe and Debbie Valerio, a couple in their 60s, put their Westport, Conn., home of more than 20 years on the market because it was getting too big for them.

When they found a nearby condo they loved, they pounced. That set off a chain reaction allowing Peter and Leah Baiocco, a couple in their 30s, the ability to trade up.

The Baioccos lived a few miles away, contemplating a future move to a bigger home once kids came along. With favorable economic conditions, they jumped at the chance to buy the Valerios’ $2.7 million house last April. After renting it out for nearly a year, the Baioccos’ starter house in Fairfield, Conn. is on the market for $739,000.

This seemingly simple sequence of events is still relatively rare in the U.S. housing recovery. Despite an improving economy and rock-bottom rates, inventory of available homes is inconsistent. Anything more than a trickle of listings sends prices down, causing sellers to pull their homes off the market.

Then prices go up again because competition gets fierce, and sellers re-emerge. As a result, a bustle of trade-up activity is expected for this spring’s selling season, before conditions change again.

“I think a lot of people have made a lot of money in the stock market the last few years. People who want to enjoy a luxury home, now is the time. Everyone has more cash available to them,” says Ken Barber, a real estate agent in Wellesley, Mass.

Other positive signs: new single-family housing starts are at a high since 2008, according to the Commerce Department’s latest report.

Also, fewer homeowners are renting out their homes to delay selling them, down to 35% in 2014 from 39% in 2013, according to Redfin, a real-estate brokerage.

And more consumers have positive equity. Last spring, 19% of homeowners in Redfin markets (such as Atlanta and Philadelphia) had low or negative equity. That was down to 11% in November. Nela Richardson, Redfin’s chief economist, expects it to hit 8% by March 2015.

Even better for buyers, interest rates are near-historic lows below 4%. “The question of staying versus leaving is shifting. For people who were afraid to leave their mortgage because they thought it was the best they’re ever going to get, now there is another good mortgage around the corner,” Richardson says.

Those trading up in 2015 should hit a sweet spot of selling near the top but not buying at the top, says Margaret Wilcox, an agent from agent in Glastonbury, Conn., for William Raveis.

Wilcox says a client couple recently traded up from a $500,000 house to a $1 million home. They did not get quite the price they wanted for the sale of their old home, but they got a discount of nearly $300,000 on their new purchase, Wilcox says.

There are a few red flags for buyers and sellers. Seller confidence is still low, with just 35% of sellers thinking now was a good time to sell, versus 48% the previous year, according to Redfin.

Keith Jurow, a housing market analyst who writes the Capital Preservation Real Estate Report, is something of a doomsayer and thinks talk of a housing recovery “is phony and only an illusion,” he says.

Given the number of mortgages originated between 2004 and 2010, he feels that too many of the people who would like to trade up still have little or no equity in their homes and are not prepared to do a sale below their purchase price.

“Unless you bring more cash to the table, you can’t trade up,” Jurow says.

Also, foreboding makes some people want to act now. They do not want to be the family that missed their chance, adds Bob Walters, chief economist for Quicken Loans. “People won’t delay forever,” he says.

The Valerios and the Baioccos have only happy thoughts about their real estate choices. They love their new homes.

“In our mind, it’s the house we’re going to be in forever,” says Peter Baiocco.

MONEY real estate

Obama Cuts Mortgage Insurance Premiums to Help Low-Income Home Buyers

aerial view of subdivision
David Sucsy

The changes will save borrowers an average of nearly $1,000 a year.

The White House announced on Wednesday plans to reduce government mortgage insurance premiums in an effort to make homeownership more affordable for low-income buyers. President Obama is scheduled to talk about the policy in a speech Thursday in Phoenix, Arizona.

In the announcement, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro said the Federal Housing Administration would slash insurance fees by more than a third, from 1.35% of the loan amount down to .85 percent. The FHA had a 30% share of the mortgage insurance market in the third quarter of 2014, according to Bloomberg.

Mortgage insurance, required of FHA borrowers, is meant to protect the lenders in case of default by allowing them to recoup some of their losses.

Over the next three years, the FHA projects the rate drop will allow 2 million borrowers to save an average of $900 a year when they purchase or refinance a home. The agency also estimates these savings will encourage 250,000 first-time buyers to enter the market.

The move marks a trend of recent policy changes meant to help low-income Americans get into the housing market. In December, mortgage providers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced that certain first-time buyers could now qualify for a loan with a down payment of just 3 percent of the home’s value.

Taken together, today’s announcement and lower down payment requirements should make the housing market far friendlier for the economically disadvantaged. However, David Stevens, CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association, told CNBC that the effect of the new policy may not spur an especially large increase in home buying.

“I think the marginal impact on sales will be small because potential buyers make the decision to purchase based on trigger events, such as a new job, marriage, kids, etc,” Stevens told the network. “Changes in affordability only impact how much home they can buy.”

While Democrats have been supportive of policies that aid low-income and new homebuyers, Republicans are concerned that lower insurance premiums could put the government at risk if borrowers once again default in large numbers. The FHA has previously required billions in taxpayer assistance, and while the agency is no longer losing money, its capital requirements will not meet the legal limit until 2016.

Find more answers to your home-buying questions in Money 101:
What mortgage is right for me?
How to I get the best rate on a mortgage?
What are the steps in a home purchase?

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