Charleston Metro Area Real Estate News & Market Trends

You’ll find our blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics and home values to community happenings. That’s because we care about the community and want to help you find your place in it. Please reach out if you have any questions at all. We’d love to talk with you!

Jan. 24, 2020

Your Home Buying Checklist

2020 Homebuying Checklist

2020 Homebuying Checklist | MyKCM

Some Highlights:

  • If you’re thinking of buying a home, plan ahead and stay on the right track, starting with pre-approval.
  • Being proactive about the homebuying process will help set you up for success in each step.
  • Make sure to work with a trusted real estate professional along the way, to help guide you through the homebuying steps specific to your area.
Jan. 22, 2020

How You Can Win by Downsizing Your Home

How Buyers Can Win By Downsizing in 2020

How Buyers Can Win By Downsizing in 2020 | MyKCM

Home values have been increasing for 93 consecutive months, according to the National Association of Realtors. If you’re a homeowner, particularly one looking to downsize your living space, that’s great news, as you’ve likely built significant equity in your home.

Here’s some more good news: mortgage rates are expected to remain low throughout 2020 at an average of 3.8% for a 30-year fixed-rate loan.

The combination of leveraging your growing equity and capitalizing on low rates could make a big difference in your housing plans this year.

How to Use Your Home Equity

For move-up buyers, the typical pattern for building financial stability and wealth through homeownership works this way: you buy a house and gain equity over several years of mortgage payments and price appreciation. You then take that equity from the sale of your house to make a down payment on your next home and repeat the process.

For homeowners ready to downsize, home equity can work in a slightly different way. What you choose to do depends in part upon your goals.

According to HousingWire.com, for some, the desire to downsize may be related to retirement plans or children aging out of the home. Others may be choosing to live in a smaller home to save money or simplify their lifestyle in a space that’s easier to clean and declutter. The reasons can vary greatly and by generation.

Those who choose to put their equity toward a new home have the opportunity to make a substantial down payment or maybe even to buy their next home in cash. This is incredibly valuable if your goal is to have a minimal mortgage payment or none at all.

A local real estate professional can help you evaluate your equity and how to use it wisely. If you’re planning to downsize, keep in mind that home prices are anticipated to continue rising in 2020, which could influence your choices.

The Impact of Low Mortgage Rates

Low mortgage rates can offset price hikes, so locking in while rates are low will be key. For many downsizing homeowners, a loan with a shorter term is ideal, so the balance can be reduced more quickly.

Interest rates on 10, 15, and 20-year loans are lower than the rates on a 30-year fixed-rate loan. If you’re downsizing your housing costs, you may prefer a shorter-term loan to pay off your home faster. This way, you can save thousands in interest payments over time.

Bottom Line

If you’re planning a transition into a smaller home, the twin trends of low mortgage rates and rising home equity can kickstart or boost your plans, especially if you’re anticipating retirement soon or just want to live in a smaller home that’s easier to maintain. Let’s get together today to explore your options.

Jan. 21, 2020

2 Things Buyers Won't Give Up In A New Home

The 2 Surprising Things Home Buyers Really Want

The 2 Surprising Things Homebuyers Really Want | MyKCM

In a market where current inventory is low, it’s normal to think buyers might be willing to give up a few desirable features in their home search in order to make finding a house a little easier. Don’t be fooled, though – there’s still an interest in the market for some key upgrades. Here’s a look at the two surprising things buyers seem to be searching for in today’s market, and how they’re impacting new home builds.

Homebuyers Are Not Giving Up Their Garages

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) recently released an article showing the percentage of new single-family homes completed in 2018. The data reveals,

  • 64% of new homes offer a 2-car garage
  • 21% have a garage large enough to hold 3 or more cars
  • 7% have a 1-car garage
  • 7% do not include a garage or carport
  • 1% have a carport

The following map represents this breakdown by region:The 2 Surprising Things Homebuyers Really Want | MyKCMEvidently, a garage is something homebuyers are looking for in their searches, but that’s not all.

Homebuyers Are Not Giving Up Their Patios

Patios are on the radar for buyers as well. Community areas are often common amenities in new neighborhoods, but as it turns out, private outdoor spaces are quite desirable too. NAHB also found that,

“Of the roughly 876,000 single-family homes started in 2018, 59.4% came with patios…This is the highest the number has been since NAHB began tracking the series in 2005.”

As shown in the graph below, the number of new homes built with patios has been increasing for the past 9 years. Clearly, they’re a desirable feature for new homeowners too.The 2 Surprising Things Homebuyers Really Want | MyKCM

Bottom Line

Homebuyers are looking for garage space and outdoor patio living. If you’re a homeowner thinking of selling a house with these amenities, it appears buyers are willing to spring for those key features. Let’s get together today to determine the current value and demand for your home.

Jan. 16, 2020

Home Inventories Are Vanishing- How Does This Impact Buyers & Sellers?

Housing Inventory Vanishing: What Is the Impact on You?

Housing Inventory Vanishing: What Is the Impact on You? | MyKCM

The real estate market is expected to do very well this year as mortgage rates remain at historic lows. One challenge to the housing industry is the lack of homes available for sale. Last week, move.com released a report showing that 2020 is beginning with the lowest available housing inventory in two years. The report explains:

“Last month saw the largest year-over-year decline of housing inventory in almost three years with a dramatic 12 percent decline, pushing the number of homes for sale in the U.S. to the lowest level since January 2018.”

The report also revealed that the decline in inventory stretches across all price points, as shown in the following graph:Housing Inventory Vanishing: What Is the Impact on You? | MyKCMGeorge Ratiu, Senior Economist at realtor.com, explains how this drop in available homes for sale comes at a time when more buyers are expected to enter the market:

“The market is struggling with a large housing undersupply just as 4.8 million millennials are reaching 30-years of age in 2020, a prime age for many to purchase their first home. The significant inventory drop…is a harbinger of the continuing imbalance expected to plague this year's markets, as the number of homes for sale are poised to reach historically low levels.”

The question is: What does this mean to you?

If You’re a Buyer…

Be patient during your home search. It may take time to find a home you love. Once you do, however, be ready to move forward quickly. Get pre-approved for a mortgage, be ready to make a competitive offer from the start, and understand that a shortage in inventory could lead to the resurgence of bidding wars. Calculate just how far you’re willing to go to secure a home, if you truly love it.

If You’re a Seller…

Realize that, in some ways, you’re in the driver’s seat. When there is a shortage of an item at the same time there is a strong demand for that item, the seller of that item is in a good position to negotiate. Whether it is price, moving date, possible repairs, or anything else, you’ll be able to demand more from a potential purchaser at a time like this – especially if you have multiple interested buyers. Don’t be unreasonable, but understand you probably have the upper hand.

Bottom Line

The housing market will remain strong throughout 2020. Understand what that means to you, whether you’re buying, selling, or doing both.

Jan. 15, 2020

Homes Are More Affordable Now!

Homes Are More Affordable Today, Not Less Affordable

Homes Are More Affordable Today, Not Less Affordable | MyKCM

There’s a current narrative that owning a home today is less affordable than it has been in the past. The reason some are making this claim is because house prices have substantially increased over the last several years.

It’s not, however, just the price of a home that matters.

Homes, in most cases, are purchased with a mortgage. The current mortgage rate is a major component of the affordability equation. Mortgage rates have fallen by over a full percentage point since December 2018. Another major piece of the affordability equation is a buyer’s income. The median family income has risen by approximately 3% over the last year.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) releases a monthly Housing Affordability Index. The latest index shows that home affordability is better today than at almost any point over the last 30 years. The index determines how affordable homes are based on the following:

“A Home Affordability Index value of 100 means that a family with the median income has exactly enough income to qualify for a mortgage on a median-priced home. An index of 120 signifies that a family earning the median income has 20 percent more than the level of income needed pay the mortgage on a median-priced home, assuming a 20 percent down payment so that the monthly payment and interest will not exceed 25 percent of this level of income (qualifying income).”

The higher the index, therefore, the more affordable homes are. Here is a graph showing the index since 1990:Homes Are More Affordable Today, Not Less Affordable | MyKCMObviously, affordability was better during the housing crash when distressed properties – foreclosures and short sales – sold at major discounts (2009-2015). Outside of that period, however, homes are more affordable today than any other year since 1990, except for 2016.

The report on the index also includes a section that calculates the mortgage payment on a median priced home as a percentage of the median national income. Historically, that percentage is just above 21%. Here are the percentages since June of 2018:Homes Are More Affordable Today, Not Less Affordable | MyKCMAgain, we can see that affordability is much better today than the historical average and has been getting better over the last year and a half.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re thinking about buying your first home or moving up to the home of your dreams, don’t let the false narrative about affordability prevent you from moving forward. From an affordability standpoint, this is one of the best times to buy in the last 30 years.

Oct. 30, 2019

Homes Becoming More Affordable

How to Determine If You Can Afford to Buy a Home

How to Determine If You Can Afford to Buy a Home | MyKCM

The gap between the increase in personal income and residential real estate prices has been used to defend the concept that we are experiencing an affordability crisis in housing today.

It is true that home prices and wages are two key elements in any affordability equation. There is, however, an extremely important third component to that equation: mortgage interest rates.

Mortgage interest rates have fallen by more than a full percentage point from this time last year. Today’s rate is 3.75%; it was 4.86% at this time last year. This has dramatically increased a purchaser’s ability to afford a home.

Here are three reports validating that purchasing a home is in fact more affordable today than it was a year ago:

CoreLogic’s Typical Mortgage Payment

“Falling mortgage rates and slower home-price growth mean that many buyers this year are committing to lower mortgage payments than they would have faced for the same home last year. After rising at a double-digit annual pace in 2018, the principal-and-interest payment on the nation’s median-priced home – what we call the “typical mortgage payment”– fell year-over-year again.”  

The National Association of Realtors’ Affordability Index

“At the national level, housing affordability is up from last month and up from a year ago…All four regions saw an increase in affordability from a year ago…Payment as a percentage of income was down from a year ago.”

First American’s Real House Price Index (RHPI)

“In 2019, the dynamic duo of lower mortgage rates and rising incomes overcame the negative impact of rising house price appreciation on affordability. Indeed, affordability reached its highest point since January 2018. Focusing on nominal house price changes alone as an indication of changing affordability, or even the relationship between nominal house price growth and income growth, overlooks what matters more to potential buyers – surging house-buying power driven by the dynamic duo of mortgage rates and income growth. And, we all know from experience, you buy what you can afford to pay per month.”

Bottom Line

Though the price of homes may still be rising, the cost of purchasing a home is actually falling. If you’re thinking of buying your first home or moving up to your dream home, let’s connect so you can better understand the difference between the two.

Oct. 22, 2019

Insurance Policies Landlords Should Consider!

Many rental property owners are under the misconception that tenant insurance policies and Homeowners Association Policies cover their investment properties in the event of structural, flood or damage from a disaster.  If you do not have property owner's insurance you are exposed to significant risk!

Tenant's insurance policies only cover tenant property and belongings, as well as provide liability protection from their negligent acts or damages from tenant owned appliances, such as a washer.  Note, your homeowners policy for your personal home does not cover damages at an investment property.  Investment (rental) property insurance is generally inexpensive, but slightly more than a typical homeowner's policy.

HOA insurance policies generally only cover "studs out" protection for hazard and flood.  In addition in many states such as South Carolina, the State's Horizontal Regime Act does not require owners of condominiums to be reimbursed by the owner above for damages (for example a water leak) unless the owner has been negligent- such as not fixing a problem after repeated notices.  In addition, most HOA's do not provide reimbursements to owners for interior damage caused by a roof or window leak.

At minimum a rental property owner should carry:

1   Property Protection

Insurance policies designed for rental dwellings provide property insurance coverage for damage to the home from fire, lightning, wind, hail, ice, snow, and other types of covered incidents. Standard landlord policies typically do not cover flood damage; you will have to take out a separate flood insurance policy (see below).

It’s important to note that property protection is often referred to as “dwelling coverage” by insurance policy providers, and an HO6 Policy for condominiums and townhouses which covers "studs in" including drywall, flooring, cabinets etc.

2. Personal Property Protection

Landlord policies cover personal property left on-site for maintenance or tenant use, such as appliances and lawnmowers. Landlord policies do not cover tenant property; your tenants will need to have their own renters insurance policy to cover damaged tenant property.

Our leases require that tenants get renter’s insurance as a condition of the lease. One of the major benefits of renter’s insurance is avoiding disputes about who will replace a renter’s personal property if damage occurs.

3. Liability Protection

Landlord policies can include liability coverage. If one of your tenants or a guest gets hurt on the property, liability protection covers legal fees and medical expenses.  Remember, if an injury or damage occurs the lawyers always go after the deeper pockets!

4. Rent Loss Protection

If your property is damaged to the point where it is uninhabitable, your landlord policy will cover the lost rent and pay you the amount of money you would have made in rental income. Rent loss insurance helps you continue to make mortgage payments when a tenant cannot occupy the home.

Homes damaged by fire and water leaks can be sitting vacant for months while you are generally paying deductibles and receiving no rental income!

5. Flood Protection

Flood insurance policies are run by the federal government through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and must be purchased in addition to your landlord insurance policy. Your flood insurance policy can include coverage for the building, contents, and replacement costs. Your insurance agent can help you purchase a flood insurance policy from NFIP.

Most flood damaged homes occur in areas where floods have not occurred before and may not be in high risk areas.  It is very inexpensive coverage.  Note, most condominium and town home HOA's carry flood insurance for the building and common areas- but not the interior of your unit!

6. Acts of Nature Protection

Your dwelling coverage might be limited to certain types of damage and exclude earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes and other acts of nature that are not always covered by your standard landlord insurance policy. If you live in an area at risk for earthquakes, hurricanes, or tornadoes, talk to your provider to add additional peril protections. In Charleston we are subject to hurricanes and the city / region sits atop one of the deepest and most dangerous faults in the country!

Acts of nature protection is sometimes referred to as “acts of God” by your policy provider.  

7. Cash Value vs. Replacement Cost

When you cost out your landlord insurance policy, you need to consider cash value versus replacement cost when filing a claim.

When repairing or rebuilding damaged property, an actual cost value policy will pay you the actual cost minus the depreciation value of damaged items. For example, if you purchased an appliance for the property that gets damaged in a fire, your insurer will value the actual cost of that appliance now (with depreciation) and pay you that amount. So, if you bought a washing machine for $600 three years ago, the insurer will depreciate the value of the washing machine to reflect its current value at 3 years old and pay you that amount—not the amount it would cost to buy a new washing machine.   

Replacement value will pay you the value equal to replacing a damaged item. Compared to actual cash value, replacement value will get a new item at no out-of-pocket cost to you. If you are willing to pay the difference out of pocket, actual cost coverage will be fine. But if you would rather insurance take care of everything, replacement cost coverage is the way to go. Understandably, replacement cost coverage will cost more than actual cost coverage.

Conclusion

So there you have it- the basics for investment property owners insurance.  While you may decide not to get them all, you should at the very least obtain property, flood and liability insurance.  Our firm also requires our owners to carry such insurance and to name Charleston Metro Homes, LLC as an "additional insured".

If you have questions, contact your insurance agent or give us a call for a referral!

Sept. 12, 2019

OMG- Housing Prices Are Crashing! Not...

What Is the Probability That Home Values Sink?

What Is the Probability That Home Values Sink?| MyKCM

With the current uncertainty about the economy triggered by a potential trade war, some people are waiting to purchase their first home or move-up to their dream house because they think or hope home prices will drop over the next few years. However, the experts disagree with this perspective.

Here is a table showing the predicted levels of appreciation from six major housing sources:What Is the Probability That Home Values Sink?| MyKCMAs we can see, every source believes home prices will continue to appreciate (albeit at lower levels than we have seen over the last several years). But, not one source is calling for residential real estate values to depreciate.

Additionally, ARCH Mortgage Insurance Company in their current Housing and Mortgage Market Review revealed their latest ARCH Risk Index, which estimates the probability of home prices being lower in two years. There was not one state that even had a moderate probability of home prices lowering. In fact, 34 of the 50 states had a minimal probability.What Is the Probability That Home Values Sink?| MyKCM

Bottom Line

Those waiting for prices to fall before purchasing a home should realize that the probability of that happening anytime soon is very low. With mortgage rates already at near historic lows, now may be the time to act.

Sept. 3, 2019

5 Reasons to Sell Your House This Fall

5 Reasons to Sell This Fall

5 Reasons to Sell This Fall | MyKCM

Below are 5 compelling reasons listing your home for sale this fall makes sense.

1. Demand Is Strong

The latest Buyer Traffic Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows that buyer demand remains strong throughout the vast majority of the country. These buyers are ready, willing, and able to purchase…and are in the market right now. More often than not, in many areas of the country, multiple buyers are competing with each other to buy the same home.

Take advantage of the buyer activity currently in the market.

2. There Is Less Competition Now

Housing inventory is still under the 6-month supply that is needed for a normal market. This means that in the majority of the country, there are not enough homes for sale to satisfy the number of buyers.

Historically, a homeowner would stay an average of six years in his or her home. Since 2011, that number has hovered between nine and ten years. There is a pent-up desire for many homeowners to move as they were unable to sell over the last few years due to a negative equity situation. As home values continue to appreciate, more and more homeowners will be given the freedom to move.

Many homeowners were reluctant to list their homes over the last couple years, for fear that they would not find a home to move to. That is all changing now as more homes come to market at the higher end. The choices buyers have will continue to increase. Don’t wait until additional inventory comes to market before you decide to sell.

3. The Process Will Be Quicker

Today’s competitive environment has forced buyers to do all they can to stand out from the crowd, including getting pre-approved for their mortgage financing. This makes the entire selling process much faster and simpler, as buyers know exactly what they can afford before shopping for a home. According to Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Insights Report, the time needed to close a loan is 43 days.

4. There Will Never Be a Better Time to Move Up

If your next move will be into a premium or luxury home, now is the time to move up. There is currently ample inventory for sale at higher price ranges. This means if you're planning on selling a starter or trade-up home and moving into your dream home, you’ll be able to do that in the luxury or premium market.

According to CoreLogic, prices are projected to appreciate by 5.2% over the next year. If you’re moving to a higher-priced home, it will wind up costing you more in raw dollars (both in down payment and mortgage) if you wait.

5. It’s Time to Move on with Your Life

Look at the reason you decided to sell in the first place and determine whether it is worth waiting. Is money more important than being with family? Is money more important than having the freedom to go on with your life the way you think you should?

Only you know the answers to these questions. You have the power to take control of the situation by putting your home on the market. Perhaps the time has come for you and your family to move on and start living the life you desire.

That is what is truly important.

Aug. 6, 2019

How Much Do You Know About House Purchase Down Payments?

How Much Do You Know About Down Payments?

How Much Do You Know About Down Payments? | MyKCM

Whether you’ve owned a home before, or you’re ready to jump into homeownership for the first time, there are always a lot of questions swirling around about what is truly required for a down payment, and how to best source down payment assistance. Let’s tackle these two today.

1. How much do you really need for a down payment?

There is a long-standing misconception about down payment requirements. A survey from Fannie Mae shows only 17% of consumers know the minimum options are actually between 1 - 5% of the purchase price and 40% don’t know how much they need at all.How Much Do You Know About Down Payments? | MyKCMThere are many mortgage loans available that require as little as 3% down for first-time buyers, and some ask for only 3.5% down from repeat buyers. There are even loans available for Veterans that provide 0% down payment options too.

We’ve mentioned recently that you don’t need to come up with a 20% down payment to buy, and we’ve also shared how quickly you can save for a 3% or 10% down payment, depending on where you live. If you’re planning to put down just 3%, the research shows it may be possible in most states to have enough saved for a down payment in less than a year. That puts homeownership in a much closer reach for many potential buyers, maybe even you!

2. How can I get help with my down payment?

Regardless of the loans available, many buyers still need assistance with a down payment. The great news is, there are a lot of ways to tap into down payment assistance options. Here are just a couple of them:

Assistance from Family Members

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) said, “a third of recent first-time buyers received down payment assistance from family members.” They also mentioned, “the average net worth of those aged 75 and over stands at $264,800...They just might offer the boost the next generation needs to become homeowners.

That means one of the ways to find help with a down payment is to accept a gift from a family member. If this is an option for you, make sure you talk to your loan officer before you accept the money, to ensure you document the process the way it is required by your loan. This way, it will be received properly and you can still potentially qualify.

Down Payment Assistance Programs

The reality is, not everyone has a loved one or a family member who can provide help with a down payment. There are, however, more than 2,500 down payment assistance programs available (by local areas like city, county, or neighborhood), and some of them are even specifically for first-time buyers.

The gap, as mentioned in the same survey, is “only 23% of consumers are familiar with low down payment programs.”

That’s why it is so important to get familiar with these options by doing your homework before you plan to buy a home. Determine what is available in the area where you ultimately want to live, so you have all the details you need to take advantage of the down payment assistance option that is best for your family.

Bottom Line

If buying a home is one of your long-term goals, you may be able to get there sooner than you think by tapping into one of the many down payment assistance programs available.