Having a hard time finding a first home that's right for you and your wallet? Well, here's a tip – think about condominiums, or condos for short.

They're usually smaller than single-family homes, but that's exactly why they can be easier on your budget. According to the latest data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), condos are typically less expensive than single-family homes (see graph below):

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So, if you're comfortable with a smaller space and want to buy your first home this year, adding condos to your search might be easier on your wallet.

Besides giving you more options for your home search and maybe fitting your budget better, living in a condo has a bunch of other perks, too. According to Rocket Mortgage:

“From community living to walkable urban areas, condos are great options for first-time home buyers and people looking to enjoy homeownership without extensive upkeep.”

Let’s dive into a few of the draws of condos for first-time buyers from Bankrate:

Remember, your first home doesn't have to be the one you stay in forever. The important thing is to get your foot in the door as a homeowner so you can start to gain home equity. Later on, that equity can help you buy another place if you need something different.

Ultimately, owning and living in a condo is a lifestyle choice. And if it’s one that appeals to you, they could provide the added options you need in today’s market.

Bottom Line

It might be a good idea to think about condos in your home search. If you're ready to see what's out there, let's get in touch today.

If you’re a member of a younger generation, like Gen Z, you may be asking the question: will I ever be able to buy a home? And chances are, you’re worried that’s not going to be in the cards with inflation, rising home pricesmortgage rates, and more seemingly stacked against you.

While there’s no arguing this housing market is challenging for first-time homebuyers, it is still achievable, especially if you have professionals on your side.

Here are some helpful tips you may get from a pro.

1. Explore Your Options for a Down Payment

If a down payment is your #1 hurdle, you may have options to give your savings a boost. There are over 2,000 down payment assistance programs designed to make homeownership more achievable. And, that’s not the only place you may be able to get a helping hand. While it may not be an option for everyone, 49% of Gen Z homebuyers got money from loved ones that they used toward a down payment, according to LendingTree.

And chances are you won’t need to put 20% down (unless specified by your loan type or lender). So be sure to work with a trusted mortgage professional to explore your options, find out how much you’ll really need, and learn about any guidelines on getting a gift from loved ones.

2. Live with Loved Ones To Boost Your Savings

Another thing a number of Gen Z buyers are doing is ditching their rental and moving back in with friends or family. This can help cut down your housing costs so you can build your savings a whole lot faster. As Bankrate explains:

“. . . many have opted to stop renting and live with family in order to boost their savings. Thirty percent of Gen Z homebuyers move directly from their family member’s home to a home of their own, according to NAR.”

3. Cast a Broad Net for Your Search

When you’ve saved up enough, here’s how a pro will help you approach your search. Since the supply of homes for sale is still low and affordability is tight, they’ll give you strategies and avenues you may not have considered to open up your pool of options.

For example, it’s usually more affordable if you consider a rural or suburban area versus an urban one. So, while the city may be livelier and more energetic, the cost of living may be reason enough to look at something further out. And if you consider smaller homes and condos or townhouses, you’ll give yourself even more ways to break into the market. As Colby Stout, Research Analyst at Bright MLSexplains:

“Being flexible on the types of home (e.g., a condo or townhome versus a single-family home) and exploring more affordable neighborhoods is important for first-time buyers.”

4. Take a Close Look at Your Wants and Needs

And lastly, an agent can help you really think about your must-have’s and nice-to-have’s. Remember, your first home doesn’t have to be your forever home. You just need to get your foot in the door to start building equity. If you want to buy, you may find making some compromises is worth it. As Chase says:

“An open-minded approach to house-hunting may be one way for Gen Z homebuyers to maintain some edge. This could mean buying in areas that are less expensive. Differentiating needs vs. wants may help in this area as well.”

An agent will help you prioritize your list of home features and find houses that can deliver on the top ones. And they’ll be able to explain how equity can benefit you in the long run and make it possible to move into that dream home down the line.

Bottom Line

Real estate professionals have expertise on what’s working for other buyers like you. Lean on them for tips and advice along the way. As Directors Mortgage says, with that support you can make it happen:

The path to homeownership may not be a straightforward one for Gen Z, but it’s undoubtedly within reach. By adopting the right strategies, like exploring down payment assistance programs and sharing living costs with relatives, you can bring your dream of owning a home closer to reality.”

Let’s connect to get you set up for long-term success.

If one of the main reasons you’re hesitant to buy a home is because you’re worried about the upkeep, here’s some information you may find interesting on both new home construction and existing homes (a home that’s been lived in by a previous owner).

Newly Built Homes Need Less Upfront Maintenance

If you can afford it, you may find a newly built home could help ease your worries about maintenance costs. Think about it, if everything in the house is brand new, it won’t have the wear and tear you may see in an existing home – and that means it’s less likely to need repairs. As LendingTree says:

“Since the systems, appliances, roof and foundation are new, you’re less likely to pay for major or minor repairs within the first few years of homeownership. That can make a big difference for first-time homebuyers who are adjusting to owning rather than renting.”

Plus, many builders also have warranties on their homes that would cover some of the more major expenses that could pop up. As First American explains:

The new systems in your home, like plumbing, electrical, and HVAC, are typically covered for one to two years by your builder’s warranty. When something happens to these systems, you contact the builder or their warranty company.”

Existing Homes Can Still Have Great Perks

But it’s worth mentioning, that it’s not just newly built homes that can have warranties. It’s an option for existing homes too.

Your agent may be able to help you negotiate with the seller to add one as a concession on your contract. But you should know that not all sellers will be willing to do that. If they won’t, you could purchase one yourself, if you’d like to. An article from Forbes explains:

During a real estate transaction, a home warranty policy can be purchased by the buyer or the seller.”

And there are benefits for both parties when it comes to a home warranty. According to MarketWatch:

“A buyer’s home warranty benefits both buyers and sellers, as it helps the seller close the deal while providing the future homeowner with peace of mind that they’ll be covered if a system or appliance breaks down . . . Sometimes, a seller will pay for the first year of the home buyer’s warranty to sweeten the deal, but it depends on the real estate market.”

If you’re interested in a home warranty for peace of mind, lean on your agent. They’ll negotiate on your behalf to see if a seller would be willing to cover one for you. Just remember, the likelihood of a seller throwing one in depends on conditions in your local market.

So, Should I Buy New or Existing?

While the need for less upfront maintenance is a great perk for new construction, there are some things a newly built home can’t provide that an existing home can.

For example, existing homes have a lot of character and charm that’s difficult to reproduce. The quirks that come with an older home may make it feel more homey. And, existing homes usually have more developed landscaping and a well-established sense of community. So, it can feel more inviting than something that’s a blank slate, like new construction often is. Not to mention, if you go with new construction, you may have to wait for the home to finish being built based on where it is in the process. It all depends on what’s most important to you.

Bottom Line

Whether you choose a newly built or an existing home, you may be able to ease some of your concerns over maintenance with a home warranty. To weigh your options and go over what’s the top priority for you, talk to the professionals.

Are big investors really buying up all the homes today?

If you’re trying to find a house to buy, this may be something you’re wondering about. Maybe you’ve read about it or seen reels on social media saying investors buying all the homes is making it even harder to find what the average buyer is looking for. But spoiler alert – there’s a lot of misinformation out there. To clear things up, here's the scoop on what's really happening. A lot of the big investor activity is actually in the rearview mirror already.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) explains:

“Investors of all sizes spent billions of dollars buying homes during the pandemic. At the 2022 peak, they bought more than one in every four single-family homes sold, though more recently their activity has slowed as interest rates rose and supply became tighter.”

The key here is investor activity has slowed significantly, and even during the peak of investor buying, 3 out of every 4 single-family homes purchased were by regular, everyday buyers – not investors. And of the investors who bought over the past few years, most weren’t the big investors you may be hearing about. The vast majority were small mom-and-pop investors – people like your neighbors who own only a couple of homes, maybe even just their main residence and a vacation home.

But let’s focus on the giant, mega-investor firms since that's what is being talked about so frequently on social media right now. Mega investors are those who own 1,000+ properties. You may be surprised to see that, according to the Wall Street Journal, they don’t buy all that many homes (see graph below):

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This graph tells us two things. First, institutional investors were never buying a large percentage of available homes. During the peak in 2022, they bought about 2% of available single-family homes. Second, that percentage has gotten even smaller recently (so small the number rounds down to 0%).

In an effort to understand why that percentage is trending down, private lender RCN Capital asked investors about the challenges they’re facing. Here’s what Jeffrey Tesch, CEO of RCN Capital, found out:

“Investors are already facing many challenges in today’s housing market – rising prices, limited inventory, and higher financing costs.”

Understanding these challenges is important because they show big, mega investors aren’t taking over the housing market.

So, don't fall for everything you hear. They aren't snatching up all the homes and making it impossible for regular people to buy

Bottom Line

Big investors aren’t buying all the homes out there. If you've got questions about what you're hearing about the housing market, let's chat. I can help you understand what's really going on.

For over 80 years, Veterans Affairs (VA) home loans have helped millions of veterans buy their own homes. If you or someone you know has served in the military, it's important to learn about this program and its benefits.

Here are some key things to know about VA loans before buying a home.

Top Benefits of VA Home Loans

VA home loans make it easier for veterans to buy a home, and they're a great perk for those who qualify. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, some benefits include:

“. . . about 90% of VA loans are used to purchase a home with no money down.”

An article from Veterans United sums up how remarkable this loan can be:

“For the vast majority of military borrowers, VA loans represent the most powerful lending program on the market. These flexible, $0-down payment mortgages have helped more than 24 million service members become homeowners since 1944.”

Bottom Line

Owning a home is the American Dream. Veterans give a lot to protect our country, and one way to honor them is by making sure they know about VA home loans.

There’s no denying mortgage rates are having a big impact on today’s housing market. And that may leave you with some questions about whether it still makes sense to sell your house and make a move.

Here are three of the top questions you may be asking – and the data that helps answer them.

1. Should I Wait To Sell?

If you’re thinking about waiting to sell until after mortgage rates come down, here’s what you need to know. So are a ton of other people.

And while mortgage rates are still forecasted to come down later this year, if you wait for that to happen, you may be dealing with a lot more competition as other buyers and sellers jump back in too. As Bright MLS says:

“Even a modest drop in rates will bring both more buyers and more sellers into the market.”

That means if you wait it out, you’ll have to deal with things like prices rising faster and more multiple-offer scenarios when you buy your next home.

2. Are Buyers Still Out There?

But that doesn’t mean no one is moving right now. While some people are holding off, there are still plenty of buyers active today. And here’s the data to prove it.

The ShowingTime Showing Index is a measure of how frequently buyers are touring homes. The graph below uses that index to show buyer activity for March (the latest data available) over the past seven years:

You can see demand has dipped some since the ‘unicorn’ years (shown in pink). That’s in response to a lot of market factors, like higher mortgage rates, rising prices, and limited inventory. But, to really understand today’s demand, you have to compare where we are now with the last normal years in the market (2018-2019) – not the abnormal ‘unicorn’ years. 

When you focus on just the blue bars, you can get an idea of how 2024 stacks up. And that gives you a whole new perspective.

Nationally, demand is still high compared to the last normal years in the housing market (2018-2019). And that means there’s still a market for your house to sell.

3. Can I Afford To Buy My Next Home?

And if you’re worried about how you’ll afford your next move with today’s rates and prices, consider this: you probably have more equity in your current home than you realize.

Homeowners have gained record amounts of equity over the past few years. And that equity can make a big difference when you buy your next home. You may even have enough to be an all-cash buyer and avoid taking out a mortgage altogether. As Jessica Lautz, Deputy Chief Economist at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), says:

“ . . . those who have earned housing equity through home price appreciation are the current winners in today's housing market. One-third of recent home buyers did not finance their home purchase last month—the highest share in a decade. For these buyers, interest rates may be less influential in their purchase decisions.”

Bottom Line

If you’ve had these three questions on your mind and they’ve been holding you back from selling, hopefully, it helps to have this information now. A recent survey from Realtor.com shows more than 85% of potential sellers have been considering selling for over a year. That means there are a number of sellers like you who are on the fence.

But that same survey also talked to sellers who recently decided to take the plunge and list. And 79% of those recent sellers wish they’d sold sooner.

If you want to talk more about any of these questions or need more information, let’s connect.

Whether you believe in it or not, there are changes happening with climate that are noticeable today.

Climate change is impacting where people buy homes. As the experts at the National Association of Realtors (NAR) explain:

“Sixty-three percent of people who have moved since the pandemic began say they believe climate change is—or will be—an issue in the place they currently live.”

If you’re planning to move, climate change is something you might want to consider, no matter where you are. A recent study from Realtor.com helps put the growing impact climate change is having on real estate into perspective (see below):

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So, how can you be sure your investment is safe from the elements?

For starters, work with a local real estate agent to understand the likelihood of your future home being exposed to hazards like wind, floods, and wildfires. Your agent will know the area and be able to tell you about the risks you’ll most likely face.

Beyond that, there are two important factors to think about: the quality of the home you want to buy and the insurance you’ll need to protect it.

A Home Built to Last

If you’re planning to be in your home for many years, you want to know it’s going to last. One way to think ahead is to work with your real estate agent to ensure the home you buy can withstand environmental hazards. They’re up to date on the most common building and remodeling techniques—like a secondary water barrier on the roof or noncombustible, fire-resistant exterior walls—used to protect homes from the effects of climate change.

And if the home you’re interested in doesn’t have the features you’re looking for, they can help you determine what you may be able to negotiate in the contract or what work it might require in the future.

Insurance To Protect It

Once you’re confident the home you’re looking at is well built, the next step is finding out what it’s going to take to insure it. As Selma Hepp, Chief Economist at CoreLogicsays:

“. . . homeowners are going to become increasingly more aware of risks of living in some areas as it becomes prohibitively expensive or very difficult to obtain hazard insurance.”

In areas where climate risks are having a bigger impact, the right home insurance can make a big difference. And the price of that insurance is an important factor when thinking about your budget and the true cost of buying and protecting your home. Get an insurance quote early in the process because you may want to compare multiple quotes and it can take several weeks to get them.

While this may feel like a lot to consider, don’t worry. An agent can help. Your real estate agent will be your go-to resource on the homebuying process, what to look for and consider, and how climate change may affect your next home. With the right planning and an agent's expert advice, you can make this happen. Homeownership is worth it. And with a great agent by your side, you can make sure the home you find is the right fit.

Bottom Line

Climate change is an important factor to think about when buying a home. After all, your home is a huge investment, and you want to be ready for anything that might affect it. Let’s chat so you can find the perfect home.

What You Should Know About Closing Costs

What You Should Know About Closing Costs | MyKCM

Before you buy a home, it’s important to plan ahead. While most buyers consider how much they need to save for a down payment, many are surprised by the closing costs they have to pay. To ensure you aren’t caught off guard when it’s time to close on your home, you need to understand what closing costs are and how much you should budget for.

What Are Closing Costs?

People are sometimes surprised by closing costs because they don’t know what they are. According to Bankrate:

“Closing costs are the fees and expenses you must pay before becoming the legal owner of a house, condo or townhome . . . Closing costs vary depending on the purchase price of the home and how it’s being financed . . .”

In other words, your closing costs are a collection of fees and payments involved with your transaction. According to Freddie Mac, while they can vary by location and situation, closing costs typically include:

How Much Will You Need To Budget for Closing Costs?

Understanding what closing costs include is important, but knowing what you’ll need to budget to cover them is critical, too. According to the Freddie Mac article mentioned above, the costs to close are typically between 2% and 5% of the total purchase price of your home. With that in mind, here’s how you can get an idea of what you’ll need to cover your closing costs.

Let’s say you find a home you want to purchase for the median price of $366,900. Based on the 2-5% Freddie Mac estimate, your closing fees could be between roughly $7,500 and $18,500.

Keep in mind, if you’re in the market for a home above or below this price range, your closing costs will be higher or lower.

What’s the Best Way To Make Sure You’re Prepared at Closing Time?

Freddie Mac provides great advice for homebuyers, saying:

As you start your homebuying journey, take the time to get a sense of all costs involved – from your down payment to closing costs.”

Work with a team of trusted real estate professionals to understand exactly how much you’ll need to budget for closing costs. An agent can help connect you with a lender, and together your expert team can answer any questions you might have.

Bottom Line

It’s important to plan for the fees and payments you’ll be responsible for at closing. Let’s connect so I can help you feel confident throughout the process.

Are You Moving to Chicago?

Chicago is the 3rd largest metropolis in the United States, with a bustling and diverse citizenry that hail from all over the globe.  Much of the city gets it's identity from the working class families that helped to build this amazing city.  Home to the 2nd largest Polish community outside of Warsaw, European immigrants make up a large portion of some of Chicago's neighborhoods.

Many other's call Chicago now Home, you will be hard pressed to find a better melting pot for thriving.  A city that lives like New York, covers area like Los Angeles, but has a hospitality forged in the Midwest.  It's a place you can grow to LOVE!

Chicago's Cons when Moving:

1) Living in Chicago can be expensive, especially in popular neighborhoods. Housing costs, property taxes, and general living expenses can stretch budgets, impacting affordability for some residents.

2) Chicago experiences cold and snowy winters that can be challenging for those not accustomed to the climate. Winter storms and freezing temperatures can disrupt daily life and require extra preparation and patience.

3) While public transportation is excellent, Chicago's roadways can be congested during peak hours, leading to increased commute times for those who rely on cars.

4) Like many large cities, Chicago has some areas with higher crime rates. While the city has seen improvements in recent years, it's essential for residents to be aware of their surroundings and take appropriate safety precautions.

5) While the lakefront provides beautiful green spaces, certain neighborhoods might lack parks or outdoor recreational areas. Access to green spaces may vary depending on the specific area you choose to live in.

Chicago's Pros when Moving:

1) Chicago is renowned for its vibrant arts and culture scene. The city offers a many entertainment options, including theaters, museums, music venues, and festivals, ensuring there is always something to do for residents who enjoy cultural experiences.  Summer has the most vibrant life as a counter incentive to our harsh winters, if you ask any Chicagoan they will likely tell you "There ain't nothing better than Summer in Chicago!".

2) As a major economic and business center, Chicago provides ample job opportunities across various industries. The city is home to numerous Fortune 500 companies and has a diverse economy, making it attractive to professionals seeking career growth and development.  With changes to the work force switching to a "Remote model" many employers are shifting to a Hybrid model here in the city to allow employees to carry on their benefits of working from home or find better housing in the outer suburbs.

3) Chicago has an extensive public transportation system, including buses and the "L" train system, which makes it convenient to navigate the city without a car. This accessibility contributes to lower transportation expenses and less reliance on owning a personal vehicle.  If you choose to brave the expressways and drive many families can survive on the use of 1 vehicle, lowering expenses.

4) Chicago is a food lover's paradise, many know Chicago for its deep-dish pizza, hot dogs, and diverse culinary offerings. The city's dining scene REALLY ranges from Michelin 3 Star restaurants to casual eateries, satisfying a wide range of tastes and budgets.  So many cultures now call Chicago home it is hard to find food diversity that matches Chicago without going to the likes of New York City or Los Angeles.

5) Chicago's location along Lake Michigan provides residents with access to beautiful lakefront parks and beaches. The lakefront area offers opportunities for recreation, relaxation, and scenic views, providing a refreshing escape from the urban hustle. If you need to venture more into nature, Chicago also has it's Forest Preserve Parks that offer many different levels of difficulty trails for hiking, kayaking, or horseback riding, all while being withing 1-2 hours of driving from the city.

 What Neighborhoods to Consider?

The choice has to be your own, there are 77 neighborhoods that make up the Chicago Proper.  Along with some nearby Villages and the vast amount of Suburbs there has to be a great fit for you and your budget.

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