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!

March 12, 2020

Yes You Can Afford A Home!

Yes, You Can Still Afford a Home

Yes, You Can Still Afford a Home | MyKCM

The residential real estate market has come roaring out of the gates in 2020. Compared to this time last year, the number of buyers looking for a home is up 20%, and the number of home sales is up almost 10%. The increase in purchasing activity has caused home price appreciation to begin reaccelerating. Many analysts have boosted their projections for price appreciation this year.

Whenever home prices begin to increase, there’s an immediate concern about how that will impact the ability Americans have to purchase a home. That thinking is understandable. We must, however, realize that price is not the only element to the affordability equation. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, recently explained:

“When demand increases for a scarce (limited or low supply) good, prices will rise faster. The difference between houses and other goods is that we buy them with a mortgage. So, it’s not the actual price that matters, but the price relative to purchasing power.”

While home prices have risen recently, mortgage interest rates have fallen rather dramatically. At the beginning of last year, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage stood at 4.46%. Today, that number stands over a full percentage point lower.

How does a lower mortgage rate impact your monthly mortgage payment?

Michael Hyman, a research data specialist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), explained in a recent report that, even though home values have increased over the last year, the monthly cost of owning a home has decreased:

“With lower mortgage rates compared to one year ago, the payment as a percentage of income fell to 15.5%…from 17.1% a year ago.”

When purchasing a home, the price is not as important as its cost. Today, the monthly expense (cost) of purchasing the same house you could have purchased last year would be less. Or, you could purchase a more expensive home for the same monthly expense.

Fleming, looking at all aspects of the affordability equation (prices, wages, and mortgage rates), calculated the actual numbers in a recent blog post:

“Low mortgage rates and income growth triggered a 13.5% increase in house-buying power compared with a year ago.”

Since wages have increased and mortgage rates have dropped to historically low levels, this is a great time to buy your first home or move up to the home of your dreams. As Tendayi Kapfidze, Chief Economist at LendingTreerecently advised:

“If you are in a point in your life where you’re considering buying a home today, it’s a better time to buy than 10 years ago. If you can get a mortgage, you’re getting much lower interest rates, and it enables you to afford more.”

Bottom Line

Whether you’ve considered becoming a homeowner for the first time or have decided to sell your home and buy one that better suits your current lifestyle, now is a great time to get together and discuss your options.

Feb. 18, 2020

Thinking About Buying? Why A Trusted Professional Realtor On Your Side is Important!

How Trusted Professionals Make Homebuying Easier to Understand

How Trusted Professionals Make Homebuying Easier to Understand | MyKCM

In the spring, many excited buyers get ready to enter the housing market. Others continue dreaming about the homes they’d like to buy. The truth is, many potential buyers continue to dream longer than they need to, simply because they’re confused about the homebuying process. Thankfully, working with a trusted real estate professional can help ease those concerns and make the process to homeownership much easier to understand.

A recent survey conducted by Ipson and Freddie Mac reveals the confidence level of Gen Z and Millennial buyers regarding the homebuying process. The graph below shows the breakdown of the top results, clearly indicating there’s a significant portion of younger buyers who are not yet confident with some of the steps in the homebuying process.How Trusted Professionals Make Homebuying Easier to Understand | MyKCMBetween the homebuying process and the mortgage process, there are 230 possible steps in the transaction. With trusted professionals on your side, you certainly don’t have to know them all to have a successful experience.

There are many reasons why these steps can change as you move through each one. Depending on your personal circumstances, the term or your mortgage, and the type of loan you use, the path you take may need to vary. That’s why guidance and support from the experts is key.

In addition to the process itself, respondents in the survey definitely expressed concerns about understanding the types of loans available. Here are just a few of the basic loans to consider. Be sure to speak with your lender about the specifics of what will work best for you:

  • FHA: Loans guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration for first-time buyers. They generally enable qualified borrowers to enter the housing market with a lower down payment.
  • Conventional: Loans that usually require a larger down payment. Repeat buyers usually use these types of loans since they have an established credit history as well as more money from the sale of their previous home (called equity) for a bigger down payment.
  • VA: Loans available for Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces and their spouses. They are guaranteed by the Department of Veteran Affairs.
  • USDA: Loans for those living in rural and suburban areas. A qualified lender can issue a USDA home loan, and they are guaranteed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Interest rates also popped up as a common area of confusion among Gen Z and Millennial respondents in the survey. With today’s rates hovering at near historic lows, it’s a fantastic time for buyers to get more house for their money in the current market. Why? When mortgage rates are this low and wages are increasing as they are today, overall affordability increases, enabling home buyers to stretch their mortgage dollars further. It’s just another area where a trusted professional can help simplify the process and give guidance along the way.

Bottom Line

There are many possible steps in a real estate transaction, but they don’t have to be confusing. To understand your best course of action, let’s get together today to ensure you have a trusted advisor who will help you feel confident and informed at every turn.

Feb. 17, 2020

Often Overlooked Homeownership Advantages

The Overlooked Financial Advantages of Homeownership

The Overlooked Financial Advantages of Homeownership | MyKCM

There are many clear financial benefits to owning a home: increasing equity, building net worth, growing appreciation, and more. If you’re a renter, it’s never too early to make a plan for how homeownership can propel you toward a stronger future. Here’s a dive into three often-overlooked financial benefits of homeownership and how preparing for them now can steer you in the direction of greater stability, savings, and predictability.

1. You Won’t Always Have a Monthly Housing Payment

According to a recent article by the National Association of Realtors (NAR):

“If you’ve been a lifelong renter, this may sound like a foreign concept, but believe it or not, one day you won’t have a monthly housing payment. Unlike renting, you will eventually pay off your mortgage and your monthly payments will be funding other (possibly more fun) things.”

As a homeowner, someday you can eliminate the monthly payment you make on your house. That’s a huge win and a big factor in how homeownership can drive stability and savings in your life. As soon as you buy a home, your monthly housing costs will begin to work for you as forced savings, coming in the form of equity. As you build equity and grow your net worth, you can continue to reinvest those savings into your future, maybe even by buying that next dream home. The possibilities are truly endless.

2. Homeownership Is a Tax Break

One thing people who have never owned a home don’t always think about are the tax advantages of homeownership. The same piece states:

“Both the interest and property tax portion of your mortgage is a tax deduction. As long as the balance of your mortgage is less than the total price of your home, the interest is 100% deductible on your tax return.”

Whether you’re living in your first home or your fifth, it’s a huge financial advantage to have some tax relief tied to the interest you pay each year. It’s one thing you definitely don’t get when you’re renting. Be sure to work with a tax professional to get the best possible benefits on your annual return.

3. Monthly Housing Costs Are Predictable

A third item noted in the article is how monthly costs become more predictable with homeownership:

As a homeowner, your monthly costs are most likely based on a fixed-rate mortgage, which allows you to budget your finances over a long period of time, unlike the unpredictability of renting.”

With a mortgage, you can keep your monthly housing costs steady and predictable. Rental prices have been skyrocketing since 2012, and with today’s low mortgage rates, it’s a great time to get more for your money when purchasing a home. If you want to lock-in your monthly payment at a low rate and have a solid understanding of what you’re going to spend in your mortgage payment each month, buying a home may be your best bet.

Bottom Line

If you’re ready to start feeling the benefits of stability, savings, and predictability that come with owning a home, let’s get together to determine if buying a home sooner rather than later is right for 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!