Even though they may creep up at any moment, it’s nonetheless a fact that interest rates on home loans are at historic lows, with a 30-year fixed-rate home loan still hovering around 4%.
Another reason home buyers are lucky is that rents are going up, up, up! (This, on the other hand, is a reason not to be thankful if you’re a renter.) In fact, rents outpaced home values in 20 of the 35 biggest housing markets in 2015. What’s more, according to the 2015 Rent.com Rental Market Report, 88% of property managers raised their rent in the past 12 months, and an 8% hike is predicted for 2016.
For the first time in years, prices that have been climbing steadily upward are stabilizing, restoring a level playing field that helps buyers drive a harder bargain with sellers, even in heated markets.“Local markets vary, but generally we are experiencing a cooling period,” says Postilio. “At this moment, buyers have the opportunity to capitalize on this.”
The biggest obstacle that prevents renters from becoming homeowners is pulling together a down payment. But today, that chunk of change can be smaller, thanks to a variety of programs to help home buyers. For instance, the new Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Home Possible Advantage Program allows for a 3% down payment for credit scores as low as 620.
If you do decide to put less than 20% down on a home, you are then required to have mortgage insurance (basically in case you default). A workaround to handle this, however, is to take out a loan from the Federal Housing Administration—a government mortgage insurer that backs loans with down payments as low as 3.5% and credit scores as low as 580. The fees are way down from 1.35% to 0.85% of the mortgage balance, meaning your monthly mortgage total will be significantly lower if you fund it this way. In fact, the FHA predicts this 37% annual premium cut will bring 250,000 first-time buyers into the market. Why not be one of them?
Tax laws continue to favor homeowners, so you’re not just buying a place to live—you’re getting a tax break! The biggest one is that unless your home loan is more than $1 million, you can deduct all the monthly interest you are paying on that loan. Homeowners may also deduct certain home-related expenses and home property taxes.