5 Ways Adults Can Make New Friends

When we were kids, making friends was as straightforward as marching up to a new face and asking if they wanted to play. As adults, however, forging new friendships can be a little more challenging. Here are a few things to try when you want to expand your circle of like-minded friends:

  • Join a Book Club: Look for local groups that already get together and do things you like to do (substitute “book club” for “knit night,” “jogging group,” “wine tasting,” or whatever else you enjoy). Meetup.com is a great place to start.
  • Do Volunteer Work: When you’re passionate about a cause, it’s wonderful to hang out with others who are, too. Chances are there’s a food bank, animal shelter, or library near you that has an active volunteer program.
  • Take a Class: Many community colleges have night classes on hundreds of subjects, from gardening to languages to art history. Craft shops often have regular classes, too, like embroidery or wood carving. And, of course, an exercise class at your gym is always a popular spot to meet new folks.
  • Go on An Organized Tour: There are tour operators that specialize in trips for solo travelers—and it’s not hard to bond with a fellow adventurer on the same trip. Just be sure the trip you’re taking is geared toward people traveling alone (you don’t want to end up the only single traveler in a group of couples).
  • Host a Friends-of-Friends Gathering: Invite some good friends over with the stipulation that they each bring a good friend you don’t already know. Everyone’s been vetted by someone you trust, and multiple people get to expand their friend network.

                No matter which method (or methods) you try, remember that just showing up isn’t always enough. Someone has to start talking! Be prepared to introduce yourself to people with a compliment or question to strike up a conversation about your mutual interests.

Gifts That Keep Giving

So many items end up on shelves and in drawers, collecting dust once their novelty has worn off. Next time you’d like to give a gift, consider giving something that can live on dust-free.

  • Eco-friendly, reusable items. Items like canvas shopping bags, mesh produce bags, stainless steel straws, and collapsible silicone takeaway containers can be used anytime someone goes shopping or out to dinner.
  • Charitable donation. From microfinance loan programs for small businesses in developing nations to local, grassroots projects, there are thousands of organizations trumpeting just as many issues. Find out what cause is important to the recipient of your gift and make a donation in his or her name.
  • Intangible activities or lessons. Whether it’s music lessons or yoga classes, gifting the opportunity to learn or perfect a skill gives people the chance to grow personally in a meaningful way.

Homeownership Rate on the Rise to a 6-Year High

Homeownership Rate on the Rise to a 6-Year High | Simplifying The Market

Regardless of the lack of inventory on the market, the U.S. homeownership rate has climbed to a 6-year high. The United States Census Bureau reported that it increased to 65.1% in the fourth quarter of 2019, representing the highest level in the past six years. See the graph below:
Homeownership Rate on the Rise to a 6-Year High | Simplifying The Market
This increase does not come as a surprise. According to realtor.com,

“The largest cohort of the millennial generation turns 30-years-old in 2020 and they are hitting the housing market in full force. At the end of the fourth quarter of 2019, millennials made up the largest generational segment of homebuyers, growing their share of home purchase mortgages to 48 percent.”

With so many Millennials entering a homebuying phase of life and getting into the market, the Millennial Report also explains,

“Homeownership is an even bigger goal for younger generations. Of those with savings, 41 percent of Gen Z and 40 percent of younger millennials are saving to buy a home.”

Today’s low interest rates are providing a break to new homeowners too, regardless of generation, making homeownership more desirable and achievable at the same time. Freddie Mac explains,

“The combination of very low mortgage rates, a strong economy and more positive financial market sentiment all point to home purchase demand continuing to rise over the next few months.”

The increase in homeownership rate was also represented by race and ethnicity of the householders. HousingWire explains,

“The homeownership rate for black Americans in 2019’s fourth quarter rose to 44%, a seven-year high, increasing from the record low it reached in 2019’s second quarter. The rate for Hispanic Americans was 48.1%, a two-year high, the Census data showed…The rate for white Americans was 73.7%, an eight-year high.”

See the graph below:Homeownership Rate on the Rise to a 6-Year High | Simplifying The Market

Bottom Line

If you’re considering buying a home this year, let’s get together to set a plan that will help you get one step closer to achieving your dream.

How Pricing Your Home Right Makes a Big Difference

How Pricing Your Home Right Makes a Big Difference | Simplifying The Market

Even though there’s a big buyer demand for homes in today’s low inventory market, it doesn’t mean you should price your home as high as the sky when you’re ready to sell. Here’s why making sure you price it right is key to driving the best price for the sale.

If you’ve ever watched the show “The Price Is Right,” you know the only way to win the game is to be the one to correctly guess the price of the item up for bid without going over. That means your guess must be just slightly under the retail price.

When it comes to pricing your home, setting it at or slightly below market value will increase the visibility of your listing and drive more buyers your way. This strategy actually increases the number of buyers who will see your home in their search process. Why? When potential buyers look at your listing and see a great price for a fantastic home, they’re probably going to want to take a closer look. This means more buyers are going to be excited about your house and more apt to make an offer.

When this happens, you’re more likely to set up a scenario with multiple offers, potential bidding wars, and the ability to drive a higher final sale price. At the end of the day, even when inventory is tight, pricing it right – or pricing it to sell immediately – makes a big difference.

Here’s the other thing: homeowners who make the mistake of overpricing their homes will eventually have to lower the prices anyway after they sit on the market for an extended period of time. This leaves buyers wondering if the price drops were caused by something wrong with these homes when in reality, nothing was wrong, the initial prices were just too high.

Bottom Line

If you’re thinking about selling your home this year, let’s get together so you have a professional on your side to help you properly price your home and maximize demand from the start.

Great News for Renters Who Want to Buy a Home

Great News for Renters Who Want to Buy a Home | Simplifying The Market

Rents in the United States have been skyrocketing since 2012. This has caused many renters to face a tremendous burden when juggling their housing expenses and the desire to save for a down payment at the same time. The recent stabilization of rental prices provides a great opportunity for renters to save more of their current income to put toward the purchase of a home.

Just last week the Joint Center of Housing Studies of Harvard University released the America’s Rental Housing 2020 Report. The results explain the financial challenges renters are experiencing today,

“Despite slowing demand and the continued strength of new construction, rental markets in the U.S. remain extremely tight. Vacancy rates are at decades-long lows, pushing up rents far faster than incomes. Both the number and share of cost-burdened renters are again on the rise, especially among middle-income households.”

According to the most recent Zillow Rent Index, which measures the estimated market-rate rent for all homes and apartments, the typical U.S. rent now stands at $1,600 per month. Here is a graph of how the index’s median rent values have climbed over the last eight years:Great News for Renters Who Want to Buy a Home | Simplifying The Market

Is Good News Coming?

There seems, however, to be some good news on the horizon. Four of the major rent indices are all reporting that rents are finally beginning to stabilize in all rental categories:

1. The Zillow Rent Index, linked above, only rose 2.6% over the last year.

2. RENTCafé’s research team also analyzes rent data across the 260 largest cities in the United States. The data on average rents comes directly from competitively rented, large-scale, multi-family properties (50+ units in size). Their 2019 Year-End Rent Report shows only a 3% increase in rents from last year, the slowest annual rise over the past 17 months.

3. The CoreLogic Single Family Rent Index reports on single-family only rental listing data in the Multiple Listing Service. Their latest index shows how overall year-over-year rent price increases have slowed since February 2016, when they peaked at 4.2%. They have stabilized around 3% since early 2019.

4. The Apartment List National Rent Report uses median rent statistics for recent movers taken from the Census Bureau American Community Survey. The 2020 report reveals that the year-over-year growth rate of 1.6% matches the rate at this time last year; it is just ahead of the 1.5% rate from January 2016. They also explain how “the past five years also saw stretches of notably faster rent growth. Year-over-year rent growth stood at 2.6% in January 2018, and in January 2016 it was 3.3%, more than double the current rate.”

It seems tenants are getting a breather from the rapid rent increases that have plagued them for almost a decade.

Bottom Line

Rental expenses are beginning to moderate, and at the same time, average wages are increasing. That power combination may allow renters who dream of buying a home of their own an opportunity to save more money to put toward a down payment. That’s sensational news!

Does “Aging in Place” Make the Most Sense?

Does “Aging in Place” Make the Most Sense? | Simplifying The Market

A desire among many seniors is to “age in place.”

According to the Senior Resource Guide, the term means,

“…that you will be remaining in your own home for the later years of your life; not moving into a smaller home, assisted living, or a retirement community etcetera.”

There is no doubt about it – there’s a comfort in staying in a home you’ve lived in for many years instead of moving to a totally new or unfamiliar environment. There is, however, new information that suggests this might not be the best option for everyone. The familiarity of your current home is the pro of aging in place, but the potential financial drawbacks to remodeling or renovating might actually be more costly than the long-term benefits.

A recent report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University (JCHS) titled Housing America’s Older Adults explained,

“Given their high homeownership rates, most older adults live in single-family homes. Of the 24 million homeowners age 65 and over, fully 80 percent lived in detached single-family units…The majority of these homes are now at least 40 years old and therefore may present maintenance challenges for their owners.”

If you’re in this spot, 40 years ago you may have had a growing family. For that reason, you probably purchased a 4-bedroom Colonial on a large piece of property in a child-friendly neighborhood. It was a great choice for your family, and you still love that home.

Today, your kids are likely grown and moved out, so you don’t need all of those bedrooms. Yard upkeep is probably very time consuming, too. You might be thinking about taking some equity out of your house and converting one of your bedrooms into a massive master bathroom, and maybe another room into an open-space reading nook. You might also be thinking about cutting back on lawn maintenance by installing a pool surrounded by beautiful paving stones.

It all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? For the short term, you may really enjoy the new upgrades, but you’ll still have to climb those stairs, pay to heat and cool a home that’s larger than what you need, and continue fixing all the things that start to go wrong with a 40-year-old home.

Last month, in their Retirement Report, Kiplinger addressed the point,

“Renovations are just a part of what you need to make aging in place work for you. While it’s typically less expensive to remain in your home than to pay for assisted living, that doesn’t mean it’s a slam dunk to stay put. You’ll still have a long to-do list. Just one example: You need to plan ahead for how you will manage maintenance and care—for your home, and for yourself.”

So, at some point, the time may come when you decide to sell this house anyway. That can pose a big challenge if you’ve already taken cash value out of your home and used it to do the type of remodeling we mentioned above. Realistically, you may have inadvertently lowered the value of your home by doing things like reducing the number of bedrooms. The family moving into your neighborhood is probably similar to what your family was 40 years ago. They probably have young children, need the extra bedrooms, and may be nervous about the pool.

Bottom Line

Before you spend the money to remodel or renovate your current house so you can age in place, let’s get together to determine if it is truly your best option. Making a move to a smaller home in the neighborhood might make the most sense.

How to Avoid a Gender Gap When Investing in the Housing Market

How to Avoid a Gender Gap When Investing in the Housing Market | Simplifying The Market

When buying a home, we all want to feel like we’re making the right decision, paying a fair price, and making the best investment of our lives. According to a recent gender-based study, men and women can unknowingly walk away with very different financial outcomes when the deal closes. Thankfully, if you follow some simple ways to arm yourself with the information you need to prepare in advance, you’re more likely to feel like you’ve won when the keys to your new house are in your pocket.

Kelly Shue and Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham of the Yale School of Management showed in their recent study The Gender Gap in Housing Returns, when single women invest in the housing market, they’re generally losing out compared to their male counterparts. The report explains,

“We find that single men earn one percentage point higher unlevered returns per year on housing investment relative to single women…The gender gap grows significantly larger after adjusting for mortgage borrowing: men earn 6 percentage points higher levered returns per year relative to women. Data on repeat sales reveal that women buy the same property for approximately 2% more and sell for 2% less.”

On National Public Radio (NPR), Kelly Shue elaborated by saying,

“Women are losing about $1,370 per year relative to men because they tend to buy the same house at a higher price and sell for a lower price.”

In the grand scheme of things, $1,370 a year could be as much as an entire month’s mortgage payment for many households in the United States.

How can you make sure this doesn’t happen to you?

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way for anyone, regardless of gender. Here are a few tips on how to make sure you’re prepped and ready to enter the housing market with your best foot forward.

1. Work with a Trusted Real Estate Professional

You need someone on your side who’s going to have your best interest in mind and support your unique homeownership goals. Hiring an agent who has a finger on the pulse of the market will make your buying experience an educated one. You need someone who’s going to tell you the truth, not just what they think you want to hear.

2. Understand the Homebuying Process

Know the key homebuying steps in advance, so you have the best context for how the process works from pre-approval to budgeting, inspections, and more. Have a price range in mind that you can realistically afford, too, so you’re ready to make an offer that positions you for success. Ask your agent questions along the way, and partner together so you feel confident and prepared at every turn.

3. Research the Current Market

Make sure you know the current trends and insights of the housing market as well. When you find a home that’s the perfect fit, determine what other homes are selling for in the neighborhood. These numbers can vary over time based on market conditions such as inventory, appreciation, and many other economic factors. A great agent will provide you with this information and guide you through every step from start to finish.

Bottom Line

When you have a trusted advisor on your side and you’re confident you know exactly what’s happening in the market, you’ll be in a great position to negotiate effectively. Let’s get together today to make sure you’re ready to win the homebuying deal.

Teaching Kids Responsibility

Learning how to be a responsible person starts at a young age. Here’s how you can help kids grow into responsible adults:

  1. Practice good habits. Children observe the behavior of those around them. Model responsibility as the desirable and appropriate way to act, and talk about it clearly (and kindly) when necessary.
  2. Establish routines and structure — and avoid rewards. From a young age, provide clear (but reasonable) expectations about what kids should do. Things like brushing teeth, making the bed, and getting a backpack together should just become common things they know they need to do. Don’t use rewards to build habits; simply establish these tasks as part of the routine.
  3. Be comfortable with consequences. If irresponsible behavior results in negative consequences, let the child sit with them. If you enforce the rules, they are less likely to be broken in the future.

Three Reasons Why Pre-Approval Is the First Step in the 2020 Homebuying Journey

Three Reasons Why Pre-Approval Is the First Step in the 2020 Homebuying Journey | Simplifying The Market

When the number of buyers in the housing market outnumbers the number of homes for sale, it’s called a “seller’s market.” The advantage tips toward the seller as low inventory heats up the competition among those searching for a place to call their own. This can create multiple offer scenarios and bidding wars, making it tough for buyers to land their dream homes – unless they stand out from the crowd. Here are three reasons why pre-approval should be your first step in the homebuying process.

1. Gain a Competitive Advantage

Low inventory, like we have today, means homebuyers need every advantage they can get to make a strong impression and close the deal. One of the best ways to get one step ahead of other buyers is to get pre-approved for a mortgage before you make an offer. For one, it shows the sellers you’re serious about buying a home, which is always a plus in your corner.

2. Accelerate the Homebuying Process

Pre-approval can also speed up the homebuying process, so you can move faster when you’re ready to make an offer. In a competitive arena like we have today, being ready to put your best foot forward when the time comes may be the leg-up you need to cross the finish line first and land the home of your dreams.

3. Know What You Can Borrow and Afford

Here’s the other thing: if you’re pre-approved, you also have a better sense of your budget, what you can afford, and ultimately how much you’re eligible to borrow for your mortgage. This way, you’re less apt to fall in love with a home that may be out of your reach.

Freddie Mac sets out the advantages of pre-approval in the My Home section of their website:

“It’s highly recommended that you work with your lender to get pre-approved before you begin house hunting. Pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford and can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets.”

Local real estate professionals also have relationships with lenders who can help you through this process, so partnering with a trusted advisor will be key for that introduction. Once you select a lender, you’ll need to fill out their loan application and provide them with important information regarding “your credit, debt, work history, down payment and residential history.”

Freddie Mac also describes the ‘4 Cs’ that help determine the amount you’ll be qualified to borrow:

  1. Capacity: Your current and future ability to make your payments
  2. Capital or Cash Reserves: The money, savings, and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash
  3. Collateral: The home, or type of home, that you would like to purchase
  4. Credit: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time

While there are still many additional steps you’ll need to take in the homebuying process, it’s clear why pre-approval is always the best place to begin. It’s your chance to gain the competitive edge you may need if you’re serious about owning a home.

Bottom Line

Getting started with pre-approval is a great way to begin the homebuying journey. Let’s get together today to make sure you’re on the fastest path to homeownership.