If you're considering buying or selling a home, you may have asked co-workers, friends and family for advice. But you might want to check with the professionals, because the rules of the real estate game are different today than they were 20 or even 10 years ago. Due to this monumental shift, there are lots of misconceptions about buying a home that could cost you big when it comes time to go house hunting. Here are five of the most common real estate myths.
1. You Have to Use a Real Estate Agent: If you're thinking about buying or selling a house without a real estate agent to save on commissions, it's important to understand the full impact of that decision. Buying and selling is a lot of work and there's a reason real estate agents still exist and are involved in almost all transactions. For most of us, the sale of a house represents one of the biggest financial transactions we'll ever make. It's nice to have someone there guiding you along the way. But while having an agent can be a good thing, doing it on your own is not as unimaginable as it once was. Sites like Redfin and Zillow have virtually eliminated the need for the multiple listing service and many homebuyers are finding properties for themselves before contacting a real estate agent. If you're the do-it-yourself type you might just be able to buy or sell a home on your own in today's market.
2. Buying Always Beats Renting: One reason people give for not wanting to rent is: "I don't want to pay someone else's mortgage." However, there are hidden costs that go into owning a home. The nice thing about renting is that you can always uproot and leave for a nicer place for a year or two. Or maybe you lose your job and need to downgrade for a few months before you get on your feet again. Once you buy a house, there's a lot less flexibility. Just the fees involved in buying and selling a house will make a major dent into your savings if you sell too soon after buying.
3. This House Is Special: Once you've finally found that perfect house, the inclination is to think you won't find another that you like nearly as much. There will always be another property. If something doesn't feel right or the price is too high, don't be afraid to wait for the next one. As long as you have realistic goals, no house will ever be truly one of a kind.
4. Your Credit Must Be Perfect: With the recent housing bubble came a wave of lending restrictions and loan tightening. Most people assume that they have to have stellar credit to get a loan these days, but that's not always the case. Lenders are often willing to work with buyers who have less-than-perfect credit. If you're concerned about your credit, you may want to work on your credit score before you buy; people with higher credit scores are offered the lowest interest rates on mortgages.
5. A 20 percent Down Payment Is a Must: Twenty percent used to be the magic number when it came to down payments, but it's certainly not the only option. It's possible to get a mortgage now with little or no money down. If you have a stable income but are unwilling or unable to fund a large down payment, you may still be able to buy a home.
HOMES FOR SALE IN AMERICA'S TOP TURNAROUND MARKETS:
Despite progress over the past several years, nearly half of Las Vegas homeowners are said to still be underwater on their mortgages in this Sin City, often cited as ground zero for the housing boom and bust.
As of the third quarter of 2013, the median list price at $169,900 was up 11.0 percent from $153,000 in the second quarter, and up 30.8 percent from $129,900 one year ago. In Las Vegas, the pendulum has been swinging in a positive direction long enough to qualify it for the list of top turnaround towns, ranking seventh in price increases and 12th in inventory decline. Further, the pace of decline in age of inventory -– down 23.5 percent compared to year-ago levels -– places it within the top 25 percent of markets in the country –- a clear sign of favorable momentum.
The pictured three-bedroom, two-story home on Mahogany Meadows Ave has 1,800 square feet and was built in 2005. There is a loft area, and an enclosed back patio. It is located in a guard-gated community with basketball courts, a pool and clubhouse.
Tight inventory is Boulder’s secret to landing on this quarter’s top turnaround towns list. It trimmed its inventory of homes for sale by 18.1 percent compared to the third quarter of last year and ranked seventh in the nation for declining age of inventory, as inventory is down 18.1 percent. The median list price, at $359,000, is down 12.5 percent.
Boulder’s already-thin housing supply was stretched further when heavy rains fell on the eastern slope of the Rockies in September, causing massive flooding in Boulder and El Paso counties. However, Boulder’s relative health is worth remembering, and its likely quick return to its equalized buyer-seller home buying marketplace is anticipated for later this year.
With a median list price at $344,900 in the third quarter of 2013, Boston is one of the wealthier markets in the nation. It was less seriously hampered by the housing crash of recent years, however, like many markets that suffered greatly at the hands of foreclosures, Boston has cut its inventory deeply in recent years, earning fourth place in terms of inventory reduction during the third quarter of 2013.
Affordability was a serious issue in many Boston-area communities before the housing crash and now tight inventories have helped push median sales prices up 9.5 percent year-over-year in the third quarter.
Even though they are two of the wealthiest resort areas in the country, West Palm Beach and Boca Raton have had their share of challenges during the housing crash, not to mention Florida’s struggles with foreclosures. However, the West Palm-Boca market has taken the critical first step toward recovery.
While year-on-year inventory fell 20.7 percent in the third quarter of 2013, inventory counts fell 13.3 percent from the previous quarter, a sign that sellers are responding to higher prices and soon inventories will register positive gains. More houses lagging on the market in the slower fall and winter seasons could bring prices quickly under control and see this market find its own equilibrium in pace with the rest of the country.
This three-bedroom home in the Foxwood Estates Community was totally renovated, including knocking down walls. There is also a newer roof on this 1985-built home, which sits on a corner lot.
A newcomer to the Top 10 list, Dallas is one of those markets that did not rise much during the housing boom and did not fall very far either. Its median list price is $210,000, and its path to recovery has not been very steep at all, and as a result Dallas has rebounded more easily than some markets.
Inventories rose in the third quarter of 2013 by 3.1 percent compared to the previous quarter. The seasonal inventory rise as the buying season ends could indeed have a dampening effect on prices.
Known primarily as the home of the University of Michigan, this smaller market just missed the Top 10 ranking last quarter. Ann Arbor scored in the top 20th percentile among 146 markets in three of the most critical areas: size of inventory, price gains and age of inventory. Together, these metrics almost entirely define a market’s turnaround potential. While an improving economy is part of the reason, a shrinking inventory of homes has put upward pressure on price.
This 1,312-square-foot home is listed for $190,000. In addition to the three bedrooms, it also has a three-season sun porch and a non-maintenance deck. There are even "charming glass door knobs," according to the listing.
Still down 13.8 percent this quarter compared to year-ago levels, Fort Lauderdale’s inventory shortfall has lit a fire this year under once-lagging prices. As inventories remained flat in recent months, prices in Fort Lauderdale have risen in the third quarter of 2013. The region is entering a more buyer-leaning marketplace, with reports of sellers in Fort Lauderdale offering incentives to purchase, such as seller contributions to buyers’ closing costs and allowances for upgrades and renovations.
This four-bedroom, tri-level townhome in the greater-Fort Lauderdale area, is located in Sunrise, Fla., and has a recently reduced list price of $180,000. It has a one-car garage and a balcony that overlooks a courtyard. Built in 1995, it is bank-owned.
Through the third quarter of 2013, Reno has continued to reduce inventory at a rate of 19.8 percent and prices are up 28.2 percent compared to the third quarter of 2012. The median list price is $249,900.
With declining inventory, the Reno market is now moving into a far healthier balance than it experienced this time in 2012. Achieving both this balance and healthy growth is a remarkable achievement for a market that lost a significant amount of its value in years past.
The pictured home on Glacier Meadow Drive, has an upper-level loft that can be converted into a bedroom. Built in 2010, the three-bedroom home has engineered wood floors in the living room, kitchen, dining area and hallway. There's also a great view of the mountains and the valley.
Now in second place, Santa Barbara, is now the only remaining California market on this list, compared to reports from last quarter and the year-ago quarter, which were populated by six and seven California markets, respectively.
It is also the only one on the Top 10 list that appeared in turnaround town reports for the previous quarter as well as the same period last year. It's improving due to the young age of its inventory and the noticeable decline in its inventory count, which is down by 15.9 percent.
It's median list price is also up 27.1 percent, to $697,777.
And the top turnaround town for third quarter is Detroit. Last quarter it ranked seventh in the report, and this rapid jump to No. 1 speaks volumes about its pace of acceleration. The city's descent into bankruptcy clearly did not hurt the housing market as much as might have been predicted.
However, at the end of the buying season, prices in Detroit slowed in the third quarter, falling 4.8 percent from the previous quarter, but staying at 44.3 percent above the third quarter of 2012. Equally important is Detroit’s success at trimming its for-sale inventory and the age of its inventory, down 24.5 percent and 33.9 percent respectively, year over year.
The three-bedroom home pictured is listed for $125,000, the median list price for the area. It has 1,805 square feet and was built in 1927. It still has the original hardwood flooring, but also has marble countertops in the bath, as well as a jetted tub. The basement is finished.