With some of life's milestones, there may not be a picture-perfect time to take the plunge. But when it comes to buying your first home, the combination of good market conditions and your own financial situation can dictate timing. If you've got the credit and down payment, you'd be crazy not to buy now. Want to know why?
Rates are still low
The Federal Reserve was expected to raise rates this summer, but so far they have stayed put. There is still talk that rates could go up before the end of 2015. So what does that mean for buyers? Well, if you're a millennial, a rise in interest rates could spell bad news.
"If mortgage rates hit 6%, a third of millennials (people younger than 35 years old) wouldn't be able to afford homes as they're currently listed, according to an analysis by HouseCanary, a housing-data analytics company," said Money magazine. "Mortgages are huge loans, so a seemingly small shift in interest rates can change a borrower's monthly payment by hundreds of dollars (though going from the current 4.08% rate to 6% is in no way a small shift)."
Investopedia's example using a $215,000 home with 20 percent down (leaving a $172,000, 30-year mortgage) figures a monthly payment of $821.15 at an interest rate of four percent and $923.33 at five percent. Is that $100 a month enough to get you moving?
New low down payment loans
First-time buyers have typically gravitated toward FHA loans for their low credit score requirements and down payments of just three and one-half percent. But new loans from Fannie Mae require as little as three percent. Known as the 97% LTV (Loan To Value) loan or Conventional 97, it can be more affordable for first-time buyers because "the Conventional 97 program does not require an upfront mortgage insurance premium, and because its annual mortgage insurance rates are cheaper, too," said The Mortgage Reports.
In many market, home prices are up significantly from their lowest levels several years ago, but are still within range of many buyers. Rents, on the other hand, continue to go up, pushing household spending to new, uncomfortable, heights.
"Payments on a mortgage used to purchase a three-bedroom home were more affordable than paying rent on a similar home in 66 percent of the counties recently analyzed by RealtyTrac," said Mortgage News Daily. "Across all 285 counties analyzed, the average percentage of median household income needed to rent was 29.96 percent while the average percentage of median household income needed to buy was 29.00 percent."
When you pay rent, the entirety of your payment goes to the landlord or property owner, and all you get in return is a temporary place to stay. When you own your home, the government essentially pays you money back for your investment.
"Your biggest tax break is reflected in the house payment you make each month since, for most homeowners, the bulk of that check goes toward interest," said Bankrate. "And all that interest is deductible, unless your loan is more than $1 million."
Any points you paid on your loan are also deductible the year you paid them, as are your property taxes. "These taxes will be an annual deduction as long as you own your home," said Bankrate. "But if this is your first tax year in your house, dig out the settlement sheet you got at closing to find additional tax payment data. When the property was transferred from the seller to you, the year's tax payments were divided so that each of you paid the taxes for that portion of the tax year during which you owned the home. Your share of these taxes is fully deductible."
First-time homebuyers who put less than 20 percent down on an FHA loan will have to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). It's one of the drags of having limited cash. For the past several years, those payments have cost buyers an annual premium of 1.35% of the loan balance, but a recent change dropped the premium to 0.85%.
"This change is expected to save more than 2 million FHA homeowners about $900 a year and allow about 250,000 consumers to buy their first homes in the next three years," said Credit.com.
Remember also that your PMI may also be tax deductible, subject to a few restrictions (and remind yourself again what portion of your rent is deductible: none).