Aloha, thanks for checking out the Hawaii Property Advisor Blog.  Blog topics will be Hawaii Real Estate Topics, Hawaii Community Overviews, as well as various Videos on Hawaii Real Estate.

Dec. 5, 2022

Prioritizing Your Wants and Needs as a Homebuyer in Today’s Market

Prioritizing Your Wants and Needs as a Homebuyer in Today’s Market

There’s no denying mortgage rates are higher now than they were last year. And if you’re thinking about buying a home, this may be top of mind for you. That’s because those higher rates impact how much it costs to borrow money for your home loan. As you set out to make a purchase this winter, you’ll need to be strategic so you can find a home that meets your needs and budget.

Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com, explains:

“The key to making a good decision in this challenging housing market is to be laser focused on what you need now and in the years ahead, . . . Another key point is to avoid stretching your budget, as tempting as it may be given the diminished purchasing power.”

In other words, it’s important to be mindful of what’s a necessity and what’s a nice-to-have when searching for a home. And the best way to understand this is to put together a list of desired features for your home search.

The first step? Get pre-approved for a mortgage. Pre-approval helps you better understand what you can borrow for your home loan, and that plays an important role in how you’ll craft your list. After all, you don’t want to fall in love with a home that’s out of reach. Once you have a good grasp of your budget, you can begin to list (and prioritize) all the features of a home you would like.

Here’s a great way to think about them before you begin:

  • Must-Haves – If a house doesn’t have these features, it won’t work for you and your lifestyle (examples: distance from work or loved ones, number of bedrooms/bathrooms, etc.).
  • Nice-To-Haves – These are features that you’d love to have but can live without. Nice-To-Haves aren’t dealbreakers, but if you find a home that hits all the must-haves and some of the these, it’s a contender (examples: a second home office, a garage, etc.).
  • Dream State – This is where you can really think big. Again, these aren’t features you’ll need, but if you find a home in your budget that has all the must-haves, most of the nice-to-haves, and any of these, it’s a clear winner (examples: farmhouse sink, multiple walk-in closets, etc.).

Finally, once you’ve created your list and categorized it in a way that works for you, discuss it with your real estate advisor. They’ll be able to help you refine the list further, coach you through the best way to stick to it, and find a home in your area that meets your needs.

Bottom Line

Putting together your list of necessary features for your next home might seem like a small task, but it’s a crucial first step on your homebuying journey today. If you’re ready to find a home that fits your needs, let’s connect.

Posted in Blog
Nov. 28, 2022

Mortgage Rates Will Come Down, It’s Just a Matter of Time

Mortgage Rates Will Come Down, It’s Just a Matter of Time

This past year, rising mortgage rates have slowed the red-hot housing market. Over the past nine months, we’ve seen fewer homes sold than the previous month as home price growth has slowed. All of this is due to the fact that the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate has doubled this year, severely limiting homebuying power for consumers. And, this month, the average rate for financing a home briefly rose over 7% before coming back down into the high 6% range. But we’re starting to see a hint of what mortgage interest rates could look like next year.

Inflation Is the Enemy of Long-Term Interest Rates

As long as inflation is high, we’ll see higher mortgage rates. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen indications that inflation may be cooling, giving us a glimpse into what may happen in the future. The mortgage market is eagerly awaiting positive news on inflation. As Ali Wolf, Chief Economist at Zondasays:

The housing market is expected to face continued uncertainty heading into 2023 as consumers, financial markets, and policymakers work through their respective challenges in today’s economy. . . . we are watching for any additional stability in the MBS market, signs of cooling inflation, and/or less aggressive Federal Reserve action to give us confidence that mortgage rates are past their peak.”

What Does This Mean for the Future of Mortgage Rates?

As we get through the inflation battle and start to see that coming down, we should expect mortgage rates to follow. We’ve seen nods of this over the past couple of weeks. As the Federal Reserve works to bring inflation down, mortgage rates will come down as well. Bill McBride from Calculated Risk says:

My current view is inflation will ease quicker than the Fed currently expects.”

As we look toward next year, we certainly hope he’s right.

Bottom Line

Mortgage rates will come down – it’s just a matter of time. The hope is we continue to see more positive news on inflation, and that’ll bring mortgage rates down. This will give prospective homebuyers more buying power and lead to more homeowners throughout the country.

Posted in Blog
Nov. 21, 2022

Top Questions About Selling Your Home This Winter

Top Questions About Selling Your Home This Winter

There’s no denying the housing market is undergoing a shift this season, and that may leave you with some questions about whether it still makes sense to sell your house. Here are three of the top questions you may be asking – and the data that helps answer them – so you can make a confident decision.

1. Should I Wait To Sell?

Even though the supply of homes for sale has increased in 2022, inventory is still low overall. That means it’s still a sellers’ market. The graph below helps put the inventory growth into perspective. Using data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), it shows just how far off we are from flipping to a buyers’ market:

Top Questions About Selling Your Home This Winter | MyKCM

While buyers have regained some negotiation power as inventory has grown, you haven’t missed your window to sell. Your house could still stand out since inventory is low, especially if you list now while other sellers hold off until after the holiday rush and the start of the new year.

2. Are Buyers Still Out There?

If you’re thinking of selling your house but are hesitant because you’re worried buyer demand has disappeared in the face of higher mortgage rates, know that isn’t the case for everyone. While demand has eased this year, millennials are still looking for homes. As an article in Forbes explains:

At about 80 million strong, millennials currently make up the largest share of homebuyers (43%) in the U.S., according to a recent National Association of Realtors (NAR) report. Simply due to their numbers and eagerness to become homeowners, this cohort is quite literally shaping the next frontier of the homebuying process. Once known as the ‘rent generation,’ millennials have proven to be savvy buyers who are quite nimble in their quest to own real estate. In fact, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say they are the key to the overall health and stability of the current housing industry.”

While the millennial generation has been dubbed the renter generation, that namesake may not be appropriate anymore. Millennials, the largest generation, are actually a significant driving force for buyer demand in the housing market today. If you’re wondering if buyers are still out there, know that there are still people who are searching for a home to buy today. And your house may be exactly what they’re looking for.

3. Can I Afford To Buy My Next Home?

If current market conditions have you worried about how you’ll afford your next move, consider this: you may have more equity in your current home than you realize.

Homeowners have gained significant equity over the past few years and that equity can make a big difference in the affordability equation, especially with mortgage rates higher now than they were last year. According to Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American:

“. . . homeowners, in aggregate, have historically high levels of home equity. For some of those equity-rich homeowners, that means moving and taking on a higher mortgage rate isn’t a huge deal—especially if they are moving to a more affordable city.” 

Bottom Line

If you’re thinking about selling your house this season, let’s connect so you have the expert insights you need to make the best possible move today.

Posted in Blog
Nov. 14, 2022

Home Equity: A Source of Strength for Homeowners Today

Home Equity: A Source of Strength for Homeowners Today

Experts agree there’s no chance of a large-scale foreclosure crisis like we saw back in 2008, and that’s good news for the housing market. As Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, says:

“. . . don’t expect a housing bust like the mid-2000s, as lending standards in this housing cycle have been much tighter and homeowners have historically high levels of home equity, so there likely won’t be a surge in foreclosures.”

Data from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) helps tell this story. It shows the overall percentage of homeowners at risk is decreasing significantly with time (see graph below):

Home Equity: A Source of Strength for Homeowners Today | MyKCMBut even though the volume of homeowners at risk is very low, there is still a small percentage of homeowners who may be coming face to face with foreclosure as a possibility today. If you’re facing difficulties yourself, it can help to understand your options. It starts with knowing what foreclosure is. Investopedia defines it like this:

Typically, default is triggered when a borrower misses a specific number of monthly payments . . . Foreclosure is the legal process by which a lender attempts to recover the amount owed on a defaulted loan by taking ownership of and selling the mortgaged property.

The good news is there are alternatives available to help you avoid going through the foreclosure process, including:

  • Reinstatement
  • Loan modification
  • Deed-in-lieu of foreclosure
  • Short sale

But before you go down any of those paths, it’s worth seeing if you have enough equity in your home to sell it and protect your investment.

You May Be Able To Use Your Equity To Sell Your House

Equity is the difference between what you owe on the home and its market value based on factors like price appreciation.

In today’s real estate market, many homeowners have far more equity in their homes than they realize due to the home price appreciation we’ve seen over the past few years. According to CoreLogic:

“The total average equity per borrower has now reached almost $300,000, the highest in the data series.”

So, what does that mean for you? If you’ve lived in your house for at least a few years or more, chances are your home’s value, and your equity, has risen dramatically. In addition, the mortgage payments you’ve made during that time chipped away at the balance of your loan. If your home’s current value is higher than what you still owe on your loan, you may be able to use that increase to your advantage.

Rick Sharga, Executive VP of Market Intelligence at ATTOM Dataexplains how equity can help:

“Very few of the properties entering the foreclosure process have reverted to the lender at the end of the foreclosure. . . We believe that this may be an indication that borrowers are leveraging their equity and selling their homes rather than risking the loss of their equity in a foreclosure auction.”

Lean on Experts To Explore Your Options

To find out how much equity you have, work with a local real estate professional. They can give you an estimate of what your house could sell for based on recent sales of similar homes in your area. You may be able to sell your house to avoid foreclosure.

If you find out you have to pursue other options, your agent can help with that too. They’ll be able to connect you with other professionals in the industry, like housing counselors, who can look into your unique situation and offer advice on next steps if selling isn’t your best alternative.

Bottom Line

If you’re a homeowner facing hardship, let’s connect so you have an expert on your side to explore your options and see if you can sell your house to avoid foreclosure.

Posted in Blog
Nov. 7, 2022

Key Factors Affecting Home Affordability Today

Key Factors Affecting Home Affordability Today

Every time there’s a news segment about the housing market, we hear about the affordability challenges buyers are facing today. Those headlines are focused on how much mortgage rates have climbed this year. And while it’s true rates have risen dramatically, it’s important to remember they aren’t the only factor in the affordability equation.

Here are three measures used to establish home affordability: home pricesmortgage rates, and wages. Let’s look closely at each one.

1. Mortgage Rates

This is the factor most people are focused on when they talk about homebuying conditions today. So far, current rates are almost four full percentage points higher than they were at the beginning of the year. As Len Kiefer, Deputy Chief Economist at Freddie Mac, explains:

“U.S. 30-year fixed mortgage rates have increased 3.83 percentage points since the end of last year. That's the biggest year-to-date increase in rates in over 50 years.”

That increase in mortgage rates is impacting how much it costs to finance a home purchase, creating a challenge for many buyers that’s pricing some out of the market. While the current global uncertainty makes it difficult to project where mortgage rates will go in the future, experts do say that rates will likely remain high as long as inflation does.

2. Home Prices

The second factor at play is home prices. Home prices have made headlines over the past few years because they skyrocketed during the pandemic. Now, the most recent Home Price Index from S&P Case-Shiller shows home values continued to decelerate for a fifth consecutive month (shown in green in the graph below):

Key Factors Affecting Home Affordability Today | MyKCM

This deceleration is happening because higher mortgage rates are moderating demand, and as a result, easing the buyer competition and bidding wars that previously drove prices up.

What’s worth noting though, is how much higher home prices still are than they were before the pandemic (shown in blue in the graph above). Even now, we have a long way to go to get to more normal levels of home price appreciation, which is historically closer to 4%. When both mortgage rates and home prices are high, affordability and your purchasing power become a greater challenge.

But while prices are still elevated in many markets, some areas are seeing slight declines. It all depends on your local market. For insight into what’s happening in your area, reach out to a trusted real estate professional.

3. Wages

The one big, positive component in the affordability equation is the increase in American wages. The graph below uses data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to show how wages have grown over time. This year is no exception.

Key Factors Affecting Home Affordability Today | MyKCM

As the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports:

Median weekly earnings of the nation's 120.2 million full-time wage and salary workers were $1,070 in the third quarter of 2022 (not seasonally adjusted), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported…This was 6.9 percent higher than a year earlier

So, when you think about affordability, remember the full picture includes more than just mortgage rates. Home prices and wages need to be factored in as well. Because wages have been rising, they’re a big reason why serious buyers are still purchasing homes this year.

If you have questions or want to learn more, reach out to a trusted advisor who can explain how all of these variables work together and what’s happening in your area. As Leslie Rouda Smith, President of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), says:

Buying or selling a home involves a series of requirements and variables, and it's important to have someone in your corner from start to finish to make the process as smooth as possible… and objectivity to deliver trusted expertise to consumers in every U.S. ZIP code.”

Bottom Line

To learn more, let’s connect today and make sure you have a trusted lender so you’re able to make an informed decision if you’re planning to buy or sell a home right now.

Posted in Blog
Oct. 31, 2022

Taking the Fear out of Saving for a Home

Taking the Fear out of Saving for a Home

If you’re planning to buy a home, knowing what to budget for and how to save may sound scary at first. But it doesn’t have to be. One way to take the fear out of budgeting is understanding some of the costs you might encounter.  And to do that, turn to trusted real estate professionals. They can help you plan your finances and prepare your budget.

Here are just a few costs experts say you can expect.

1. Down Payment

Saving for your down payment is likely top of mind as you set out to buy a home. But do you know how much you’ll need to save? While each situation is different, there’s a common misconception that putting 20% down toward your purchase is required. An article from the Mortgage Reports explains why that’s not always the case:

“The idea that you have to put 20% down on a house is a myth. . . . The right amount depends on your current savings and your home buying goals.”

To understand your options, partner with a trusted real estate professional to go over the various loan types, down payment assistance programs, and what each one requires.

2. Closing Costs

Make sure you also budget for closing costs, which are a collection of fees and payments made to the various people involved in your transaction. Bankrate explains:

Closing costs are the fees you pay when finalizing a real estate transaction, whether you’re refinancing a mortgage or buying a new home. These costs can amount to 2 to 5 percent of the mortgage so it’s important to be financially prepared for this expense.”

The best way to understand what you’ll need at the closing table is to work with a trusted lender. They can provide you with answers to the questions you might have.

3. Earnest Money Deposit

If you want to cover all your bases, you can also consider saving for an earnest money deposit (EMD). An EMD is money you pay as a show of good faith when you make an offer on a house. According to realtor.com, it’s usually between 1% and 2% of the total home price.

This deposit works like a credit. It’s not an added expense – it’s paying a portion of your costs upfront. You’re using some of the money you already saved for your purchase to show the seller you’re committed and serious about their house. Realtor.com describes how it works as part of your sale:

It tells the real estate seller you’re in earnest as a buyer, . . . . Assuming that all goes well and the buyer’s good-faith offer is accepted by the seller, the earnest money funds go toward the down payment and closing costs. In effect, earnest money is just paying more of the down payment and closing costs upfront.”

Keep in mind, an EMD isn’t required, and it doesn’t guarantee your offer will be accepted. It’s important to work with a real estate advisor to understand what’s best for your situation and any specific requirements in your area. They’ll help you determine what moves you should make in the homebuying process to have the greatest success.

Bottom Line

Budgeting for your home purchase doesn’t have to be scary. Let’s connect so you’ll have an expert on your side to answer any questions you have along the way.

Posted in Blog
Oct. 24, 2022

Pre-Approval Is a Critical First Step on Your Homebuying Journey

Pre-Approval Is a Critical First Step on Your Homebuying Journey

If you’re planning to buy a home this year, one of the first steps on your journey is getting pre-approved. Especially in today’s market when mortgage rates are higher than they were just a few months ago, getting a mortgage pre-approval can be a game changer. Here’s why.

What Is Pre-Approval?

To better understand why pre-approval is key, it’s important to know what pre-approval is. The Mortgage Reports explains it like this:

“When you’re ready to take the leap into homeownership, your first step is mortgage preapproval. . . . A mortgage preapproval is when a lender determines you’re qualified for a home loan. Your preapproval letter shows the maximum loan amount you’re approved for (your home buying budget), as well as the specific interest rate and loan term you can expect.

As part of the pre-approval process, a lender will look at your finances to determine what they’d be willing to loan you. From there, your lender will give you a pre-approval letter to help you understand your true price range and how much money you can borrow. That can make it easier when you set out to search for homes because you’ll know your overall numbers. And with mortgage rates rising and impacting affordability, a solid understanding of your numbers is even more important.

Pre-Approval Can Signal You’re a Serious Buyer

Another added benefit is that pre-approval lets the seller know you’re qualified to buy their house. A recent article from realtor.com notes:

". . . getting pre-approved can actually improve your chances of falling into the sellers’ good graces, and you’ll want to get it done as early as you possibly can in the home-buying process."

Even though bidding wars are easing this year as the market shifts, preapproval is still an important part of making a strong offer. It can help a seller feel more confident because it shows you’re serious about their home and that you’re a qualified buyer.

Bottom Line

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is critical. It helps you better understand what you can borrow and shows sellers you’re serious about purchasing their home. Connect with a local real estate professional and a trusted lender so you have the tools you need to succeed as a homebuyer in today’s market.

Posted in Blog
Oct. 17, 2022

Perspective Matters When Selling Your House Today

Perspective Matters When Selling Your House Today

Does the latest news about the housing market have you questioning your plans to sell your house? If so, perspective is key. Here are some of the ways a trusted real estate professional can explain the shift that’s happening today and why it’s still a sellers’ market even during the cooldown.

Fewer Homes for Sale than Pre-Pandemic

While the supply of homes available for sale has increased this year compared to last, we’re still nowhere near what’s considered a balanced market. A recent article from Calculated Risk helps put this year’s increased inventory into context (see graph below):

Perspective Matters When Selling Your House Today | MyKCM

It shows supply this year has surpassed 2021 levels by over 30%. But the further back you look, the more you’ll understand the big picture. Compared to 2020, we’re just barely above the level of inventory we saw then. And if you go all the way back to 2019, the last normal year in real estate, we’re roughly 40% below the housing supply we had at that time.

Why does this matter to you? When inventory is low, there is still demand for your house because there just aren’t enough homes available for sale.

Homes Are Still Selling Faster Than More Normal Years

And while homes aren’t selling as quickly as they did a few months ago, the average number of days on the market is still well below pre-pandemic norms – in large part because inventory is so low. The graph below uses data from the Realtors’ Confidence Index by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to illustrate this trend:

Perspective Matters When Selling Your House Today | MyKCM

As the graph shows, the pre-pandemic numbers (shown in blue) are higher than the numbers we saw during the pandemic (shown in green). That’s because the average days on the market started to decrease as homes sold at record pace during the pandemic. Most recently, due to the cooldown in the housing market, the average days on the market have started to tick back up slightly (shown in orange) but are still far below the pre-pandemic norm.

What does this mean for you? While it may not be as fast as it was a couple of months ago, homes are still selling much faster than they did in more normal, pre-pandemic years. And if you price it right, your home could still go under contract quickly.

Buyer Demand Has Moderated and Is Now in Line with More Typical Years

Buyer demand has softened this year in response to rising mortgage rates. But again, perspective is key. Getting 3-5 offers like sellers did during the pandemic isn’t the norm. The graph below uses data from NAR going back to 2018 to help tell the story of this shift over time (see graph below):

Perspective Matters When Selling Your House Today | MyKCM

Prior to the pandemic, it was typical for homes sold to see roughly 2-2.5 offers (shown in blue). As the market heated up during the pandemic, the average number of offers skyrocketed as record-low mortgage rates drove up demand (shown in green). But most recently, the number of offers on homes sold today (shown in orange) has started to return to pre-pandemic levels as the market cools from the frenzy.

What’s the takeaway for you? Buyer demand has moderated from the pandemic peak, but it hasn’t disappeared. The buyers are still out there, and if you price your house at current market value, you’ll still be able sell your house today.

Bottom Line

If you have questions about selling your house in today’s housing market, let’s connect. That way you have context around what’s happening now, so you’re up to date on what you can expect when you’re ready to move.

Posted in Blog
Oct. 10, 2022

Saving for a Down Payment? Here’s What You Should Know.

Saving for a Down Payment? Here’s What You Should Know.

As you set out to buy a home, saving for a down payment is likely top of mind. But you may still have questions about the process, including how much to save and where to start.

If that sounds like you, your down payment could be more in reach than you originally thought. Here’s why.

The 20% Down Payment Myth

If you believe you have to put 20% down on a home, you may have based your goal on a common misconception. Freddie Mac explains:

“. . . nearly a third of prospective homebuyers think they need a down payment of 20% or more to buy a home. This myth remains one of the largest perceived barriers to achieving homeownership.”

Unless it’s specified by your loan type or lender, it’s typically not required to put 20% down. According to the latest Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the median down payment hasn’t been over 20% since 2005. There are even loan types, like FHA loans, with down payments as low as 3.5%, as well as options like VA loans and USDA loans with no down payment requirements for qualified applicants.

This is good news for you because it means you could be closer to your homebuying dream than you realize. For more information, turn to a trusted lender.

Down Payment Assistance Programs Can Be a Game Changer

A professional will be able to show you other options that could help you get closer to your down payment goal. According to latest Homeownership Program Index from downpaymentresource.com, there are over 2,000 homebuyer assistance programs in the U.S., and the majority are intended to help with down payments.

A recent article explains why programs like these are helpful:

These resources can immediately build your home buying power and help you take action sooner than you thought possible.”

And if you’re wondering if you have to be a first-time buyer to qualify for these programs, that’s not always the case. According to an article from downpaymentresource.com:

“It is a common misconception that homebuyer assistance is only available to first-time homebuyers, however, 38% of homebuyer assistance programs in Q1 2022 did not have a first-time homebuyer requirement.

There are also location and profession-based programs you could qualify for as well.

Bottom Line

Saving for your down payment is an important first step on your homebuying journey. Let’s connect today and make sure you have a trusted lender to help explore your options.

Posted in Blog
Oct. 3, 2022

How To Prep Your House for Sale This Fall

How To Prep Your House for Sale This Fall

Today’s housing market is different than it was just a few months ago. And if you’re thinking about selling your house, that may leave you wondering what you need to do differently as a result. The answer is simple. Taking the time upfront to prep your house appropriately and create a solid plan can help bring in the greatest return on your investment.

Here are a few simple tips to make sure you maximize the sale of your house this fall.

1. Price It Right

One of the first things buyers will notice is the price of your house. That’s because the price sends a message to home shoppers. Pricing your house too high to begin with could put you at a disadvantage by discouraging buyers from making an offer. On the flip side, pricing your house too low may make buyers worry there’s some underlying issue or something wrong with the home.

Your goal in pricing your house is to gain the attention of prospective buyers and get them to make an offer. And with price growth and buyer demand moderating, as well as a greater supply of homes available for sale, pricing your home appropriately for where the market is today has become more important than ever before.

But how do you know that perfect number? Pricing your house isn’t a guessing game. It takes skill and expertise. Work with a trusted real estate advisor to determine the current market value for your home.

2. Keep It Clean

It may sound simple but keeping your house clean is another key to making sure it gets the attention it deserves. As realtor.com says in the Home Selling Checklist:

When selling your home, it’s important to keep everything tidy for buyers, and you never know when a buyer is going to want to schedule a last-minute tour.”

Before each buyer visits, assess your space and determine what needs your attention. Wash the dishes, make the beds, and put away any clutter. Doing these simple things can reduce potential distractions for buyers.

For more tips, check out this checklist for preparing your house for sale. Ultimately an agent is your best resource for tailored advice, but this list can help get you started.

3. Help Buyers Feel at Home

Finally, it’s important for buyers to see all the possible ways they can make your house their next home. An easy first step to create this blank canvas is removing personal items, like pictures, awards, and sentimental belongings. It’s also a good idea to remove any excess furniture to help the rooms feel bigger and make sure there’s ample space for touring buyers to stand and look at the layout.

If you’re unsure what should be packed away and what can stay, consult your trusted real estate advisor. Spending the time on this step can pay off in the long run. As a recent article from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) explains:

Staging is the art of preparing a home to appeal to the greatest number of potential buyers in your market. The right arrangements can move you into a higher price-point and help buyers fall in love the moment they walk through the door.”

Bottom Line

Selling a house requires prep work and expertise. If you’re looking to sell your house this season, let’s connect so you have advice on how to get it ready to list, how to help it stand out in today’s shifting market, and more.

Posted in Blog