High Interest Rates, Low-Stress Homebuying: A Comprehensive Guide
Posted: December 20th, 2023
Post-Pandemic Interest Rates Keep Climbing
The U.S. housing market has been volatile for the last three years, and the Brevard County housing market, in particular, has seen some intense changes. The pandemic sent our economy into a tailspin, with new home construction and home sales coming to a halt at the beginning of 2020 while uncertainty reigned supreme. However, according to Bankrate.com, that slowdown didn’t last long; by the end of 2020, we entered a white-hot sellers’ market with median prices skyrocketing and interest rates following suit.
As we near the end of 2023, interest rates have reached 7%, the highest recorded value since 2000. This excessive figure is unsurprisingly turning potential buyers away from the closing table. Many current homeowners are deciding to stay in their current homes so they don’t have to give up the mortgage rates they secured in previous years. With the odds seemingly stacked against you, you may wonder if it’s a good idea even to consider buying a home.
While it will come with a unique set of challenges, it’s entirely possible to buy a home in today’s housing market. You may even reap some attractive benefits if you buy a house now. Current forecasts do indicate potential decreases in the future, but the market has historically been volatile; it’s best to go into your home search with an understanding of current market conditions rather than trying to predict the future.
Why You Should Buy a Home Now
If you’re on the fence about looking for a home, here are a few reasons why you should go ahead and do it:
You may be able to secure a better price
Since so many potential buyers are putting their home searches on hold until interest rates drop, there is less competition between buyers in the market. Here in Brevard County, inventory levels have increased by about 30% year over year, according to the Space Coast MLS; closed sales have decreased this year, while the number of new listings has increased. This gives buyers more options to peruse–and gives sellers more reason to offer incentives and more favorable terms.
Of course, every market is unique in regards to how prices tend to fluctuate. Your best bet is to work with a local buyers’ agent who can keep an eye out for price reductions in neighborhoods you like. You may have to be patient, but if you start your search now, you may find a great deal before too long.
There may be less risk involved
At the height of the pandemic, buyers scooped up available properties at breakneck speeds. Many shortened their closing times by foregoing inspections, and some even bought homes sight unseen, relying on their real estate agents to give them virtual walkthroughs before making an offer. Now that the mania has calmed, buyers have more time to be cautious and thorough in the closing process.
Opting out of protective contingencies may be more attractive to sellers, but it leaves buyers vulnerable to expensive hidden home repairs and lost escrow deposits if they decide to back out on the deal. In our current market conditions, you have more leverage to include the contingencies you need to stay protected through the purchase process.
The housing market remains unpredictable
The housing market has shifted in unexpected ways over the past few years, and experts predict that it will remain largely unpredictable for at least a little while longer. While there’s always the chance that you may get better rates in the future, what happens if rates continue to climb as you wait?
Consider the condition of the housing market in 2020 and early 2021–many people were outpaced and outbid on homes they were interested in, leaving them stranded. When interest rates do drop, we are sure to see an uptick in interested buyers, which means that you could find yourself stuck once again. What’s more, the sooner you make your home purchase, the sooner you start building equity, which means that you’ll earn more buying power in the future.
How to Simplify the Buying Process When Rates are High
There are several tactics and programs you can use to make your home purchase less daunting in current market conditions, including:
Try house hacking
“House hacking” has taken the world of real estate by storm over the past few years. While the principles of house hacking–using part of your home as a rental or otherwise income-generating property–are not new, more homeowners are searching for ways to pad their incomes in the face of widespread inflation.
You can approach your upcoming home purchase with the goal of finding a property that easily lends itself to house hacking. Look for homes with upstairs lofts, detached garages, and mother-in-law suites that will provide space for future renters. You can even rent out your spare room as an AirBnB if it suits your lifestyle.
If you aren’t comfortable with hosting people at your home, there are plenty of other ways to earn income from your property. You can convert your garage into a workshop for hire, or a storage space for people who need it. Options are abundant, so do your research and you’re sure to find an opportunity that works for you.
Consider buying a fixer-upper
This option isn’t for everyone, but it is a great choice for people with a little know-how and a lot of patience. Fixer-uppers come with some of the lowest price tags on the market, so you’ll have a manageable mortgage payment and a little extra cash to transform the house into your dream home.
When you’re searching for a good fixer-upper, pay attention to the location. After all, you can spruce up a house, but you can’t pick it up and move it to a different lot. Your trusted real estate agent will be able to guide you to the right location to give you a good return on your investment. And remember: expect the unexpected when it comes to fixer-uppers. Make sure you have enough padding in your budget that you’ll be able to stay comfortable if any mishaps occur.
Research homebuyer assistance programs
The government offers plenty of homebuyer assistance programs, especially for first-time homebuyers. The federal government offers several assistance programs for home loans and homeownership assistance. Brevard County offers down-payment assistance for qualified first-time home buyers. Contact your local Housing and Human Services department to learn about programs you may be eligible for.
Pay down debt before house hunting
One of the first steps in the home buying process is pre-qualifying for a mortgage to show sellers you can make a serious offer. During pre-qualification, your selected lender will account for all your debt payments, including things like student loans, car payments, credit cards, and so on. If you have a little time before you begin your home search, it’s a good idea to try and pay down your high-interest debt as much as possible.
Work With a Trusted Real Estate Agent
Today’s high mortgage rates may seem intimidating, but don’t let that stop you from searching for your dream home. Work with a trusted real estate professional to navigate the intricacies of the current market. To learn more about homes for sale in Brevard County, call Ellingson Properties at 321-750-7050 today.