Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.
One word to describe buying a home in 2021?
The price of homes in the United States appreciated 19.9% between August 2020 and August 2021, a 12-month record, according to S&P Dow Jones LLC.
Depending on whom you talk to, the market is expected to continue to stay hot through 2022, though at not quite the same rate as this past year.
So before we look forward to this year’s housing market, let’s take a look back at what we learned throughout the real estate insanity of 2021.
1. Yes, You Can Buy a House in a Seller’s Market
You’ll need to take care of a few things first, but it’s doable.
A pre-approval letter is a great way to get started, showing the seller that you can be depended on. Submitting an offer quickly and going in planning to minimize your contingencies are also good strategies.
Then, be willing to offer a generous earnest money deposit, offer above the asking price, and be willing to move quickly.
It is a seller’s market, after all, so they have the leverage. But if you’re willing to make a few sacrifices, you can land that dream home right now.
2. Mortgage Brokers Can Help You Get the Best Loan
Buying a home can be an exhausting process — and that doesn’t even take into account all the headaches that come with finding the right mortgage to go along with your major investment.
If you’d rather focus on working with your real estate agent to find the right home, then you might find a mortgage broker to be helpful. For a small commission, usually paid by the lender as a percentage of your loan, a broker can help you find the right mortgage for your needs.
They’ll do all the research, find the best options, and present you with the information. This is a great option for first-time buyers who feel overwhelmed or for really busy buyers who just don’t have the time to shop loan options. Mortgage brokers can also help buyers who have lower credit find a lender willing to work with them.
3. Home Inspections Are as Important as Ever
During a hot seller’s market, buyers may be tempted to move quickly and forego some of the standard safeguards — like the home inspection. In some cases, the seller might ask for that.
Don’t do it. That’s a giant red flag.
Your potential dream house might look pretty, with a nice fresh coat of paint and brand new hardwood floors. But a home inspection will tell you what’s going on behind the walls, under the house, on the roof, inside the HVAC units, and so many other important aspects that might not be visible at first glance.
The cost usually runs around $350 for an average-sized house and only takes a few hours. Skipping this important step could turn your dream house into a nightmare a few years later. So, we repeat: Don’t do it!
4. iBuying Is Likely Here to Stay
Want to sell your home quickly without all the hassle? If so, iBuying might be an option for you.
These iBuyers will buy your home as is, using an algorithm to determine a price at “fair market value.” You can get out of the home quickly, and move on to your new house without all the hassle that comes with staging, open houses, unexpected showings and so on.
Not all iBuying companies have had success, with Zillow stepping out of that portion of their business in 2021. But other companies, like Opendoor, Offerpad, and Redfin are still in the game and going strong.
5. Finding the Right Contractor Is Incredibly Valuable
In this insane housing market, you might just decide to stay put and turn your current home into your forever home.
If that’s the plan, then finding a good, trustworthy contractor is as important as ever. That said, you don’t just want to jump in headfirst and hire your brother-in-law because he’s a good handyman.
Do your research, get multiple quotes and estimates, be thorough with the contracts, and know their rates ahead of time. Also, make sure anyone you hire is insured and licensed. And get references from other homeowners who have used contractors that you’re considering.
Too many people skip those all-important steps and end up regretting it a few months later.
6. The 20% Down Payment Is Making a Comeback
More homeowners are realizing the value of equity in the current market, meaning the 20% down payment is becoming more of a norm.
In fact, the 100% down payment was quite the thing in 2021. In April, 25% of buyers paid cash, according to the National Association of Realtors. Of the remaining three-quarters of buyers who did finance a home, 50% made a down payment of at least 20%, the National Association of Realtors reports. The median down payment for September 2020 through February 2021 was 15.9%, according to Redfin data.
The pandemic kicked the market into gear. Combine that with historically low interest rates and wealthy home buyers looking to move, or purchase additional homes, and higher down payments are on the rise.
That doesn’t mean you have to put down 20%. It’s not a requirement. But it’s something to consider if you have the margin in your finances.
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