As we exit the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans are on the move. Remote work opportunities, childcare challenges, and a lot of time to reflect have changed what home means to many folks. The premium on at-home office space and big backyards has caused home prices in many suburban markets to jump. And now that major cities are exiting lockdown, lower prices in urban markets are creating fantastic opportunities for folks who want a bit more hustle and bustle in their post-pandemic lives.
Answering these four questions will help you decide if you’re considering the right move at the right time for the right reasons – and at the right price.
- Why do I want to move?
After being locked up at home for the better part of a year, everyone is a little sick of their house. But looking for a change of scenery might not necessarily be the best reason to dive into this challenging housing market. There are less permanent and less expensive ways to see the world, such as ramping up your travel schedule. If you're tired of working at your kitchen table, you might get tired of working in a spare bedroom too. Renting shared office space closer to home might help you set some stronger boundaries and be more productive.
On the other hand, if being untethered from your employer's home base means you can finally move to your favorite city, or if your growing family has outgrown your home, then it might be time for an upgrade.
- Am I ready for a fight?
Just about anywhere you're shopping right now, demand for homes is exceeding supply. Competition is particularly fierce in places like Florida and Texas that don't have state income taxes, smaller cities, suburbs, and vacation destinations.
Under normal circumstances, buying a home can be as demanding as having a second job. In this red-hot market, you really need to do your homework and be prepared to act fast.
- Am I preapproved?
Many sellers are fielding multiple competitive offers shortly after listing their homes. They're not going to sit around and wait for you to get all your paperwork squared away.
Before you even start browsing Zillow, let’s discuss how this fits into your financial plan and get you connected with a lender. A preapproval letter could put you in the fast lane once you've found that dream home.
Of course, the "fast lane" can still be pokey when you're buying a house. Once your offer is accepted, it's time to work with your banker to underwrite your mortgage. You can get a head start on this step if you organize all your relevant financial information, such as tax returns, bank statements, pay stubs, and a letter from your employer confirming you have a job.
- How much can I really afford to put down?
First-time buyers beware: all those programs with low down payment requirements could put your mortgage underwater if the housing market cools in a hurry. In this market, a higher down payment makes your offer look more solid to sellers. You also might have some extra leverage to negotiate with lenders if you’re shopping for the best mortgage rate.
However, when folks start budgeting big for major purchases, they often eye the money that they have set aside in emergency and retirement savings accounts. While we do want you to get the best life possible with the money you have, ask yourself:
- Is this move an emergency?
- How much will it cost me to move and furnish this new home?
- Am I willing to alter or even jeopardize my retirement vision to buy this home?
- How long will it take me to top off my savings accounts again?
- If I lose my job tomorrow, will I able to pay at least six months of my bills?
Tying together money issues with lifestyle issues is at the heart of our Return on Life process. Let’s talk about how the pandemic affected your view of home, where you and your family want to start the next stage of your lives, and how we can help you get your best return on life.