June is National Homeownership Month – a time to celebrate the positive impact that owning a home has on families, neighborhoods, and communities. Home sweet home means many different things for people, but many will agree that it’s a place where they establish roots. Depending on what side of the fence you’re on – buying or selling a home – it’s important to be prepared in the current housing market.
Housing Market Forecast
So how hot is the real estate market? The pandemic has impacted nearly every aspect of our lives and real estate is no exception. According to Zillow, the average home value index for NJ now stands at $454,982. Since March 2021, home values have risen 15.9%. Let’s take a look at why.
Today’s housing market is a culmination of unique circumstances. As companies have adopted work-from-home policies, people have realized they have more flexibility to search for housing further from their location of employment and many have moved to more suburban and rural areas. The COVID-related exodus from highly populated urban areas combined with a high demand/low housing inventory and ever-changing mortgage rates have contributed to bidding wars, cash offers, and a fiercely competitive market for buyers. Medium and entry-level homes, if you can find them, are commonly selling for more than the asking price.
First, you’ll want to get all of your financial ducks in a row. Homes are selling quickly, so you’ll need to be prepared to make an offer. Here are several proactive steps you can take.
Pay down your debts – your debt-to-income ratio is a measurement that compares the amount of debt you have to your income and determines how much you can afford when it comes to mortgage payments.
Check your credit score – the better your score, the better your mortgage rates will be. If your score is on the lower side, take steps to improve it wherever possible like paying down your bills and lowering your credit utilization. At Lakeland Bank, we offer customers the ability to check their score daily using Credit Sense. Not only can you use this resource to monitor your credit score, but you also have access to your full credit report and customized tips to improve or maintain your score. Check out our credit sense tutorial below or FAQs for details on getting setup.
Know what you can afford – before you even start the home buying process, it’s critical to know how much home you can afford. This is important to help you make smarter decisions about your monthly payment comfort level.
Check mortgage options – there are many mortgage products available, fixed and variable mortgage rates, first-time homebuyer programs, and other special home loans. Our mortgage team can help you select the best option for your lifestyle.
Explore the mortgage rates – mortgage interest rates can have a significant impact on your monthly payments. Rates vary daily – check Lakeland Bank’s current mortgage rates.
Get prequalified – prequalifying for a home loan means you’re getting an estimate of what you might be able to borrow. This is usually a first step in the mortgage process and can help you determine what price range you’re in to purchase a home.
At Lakeland Bank, we make it easy to navigate the home buying process. Meet with one of our experienced mortgage representatives to discuss the programs and solutions available to you. Already completed all of these preliminary steps and found the perfect house? Apply for a mortgage online today.
The Selling Side of the Fence
Yes, it’s a seller’s market, but you still need to put your best foot forward to attract good buyers.
As buyers are forced to make quick decisions, curb appeal becomes even more important for those trying to sell their home. Outside, make sure your home is in its best condition. Spruce up the landscaping by putting down mulch and adding some new plants and flowers. Inside, fix anything that needs repairing, declutter and depersonalize the space, and consider repainting any bold and bright rooms to more neutral colors. Many home sellers consider staging their home to make it more attractive.
In a hot market, you may be thinking you can sell it on your own to make some extra money. You may be able to, but working with a real estate agent can help you position your home properly, attract qualified buyers, and since the agent does a lot of work to keep a deal on track to close, you save a lot of time.
If you’ve decided that you’re not quite ready to put your home on the market and you’d prefer to invest in home improvements, you may want to consider a home equity loan or a line of credit. We offer competitive rates for home equity loans or lines of credit and a small home improvement loan.
New Jersey is a hot real estate market and it’s not expected to cool down anytime soon. If the time is right for you to buy or sell, talk to our mortgage team today so they can guide you through the process.