Tips For Buying A House In Wisconsin’s Competitive Seller’s Market

If youre in the market for a home in Wisconsin, be warned: it’s tough out there.

A combination of strong demand and tight inventory is leading to one of the most difficult and competitive environments in some time for buyers.

I’ve been doing this for 15 years, and this is the most competitive market I’ve ever seen in real estate, said Tina Balaka, sales director of Shorewest Realtors’ South Metro office in Greenfield. We’re seeing buyers really have to compete in order to get an accepted offer on a property that they love.

The Wisconsin Realtors Association reports record homes sales in the first quarter of 2017, and prices are heading up as well. Median home prices rose to $163,000 in March 2017, a 5.2 percent increase from the previous year.

While urban areas such asMadison and Milwaukee are hotspots for home sales, Balaka has heard of similar activity all across the state.

Buying a home right now iseven tougher if you’re in the market for your first home, said Balaka, who is also the former chairwoman of the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors.

The first time homebuyer market is incredibly competitive, because that’s your most affordable housing right now, and that’s where we’re seeing the pricing going up,she said.

And real estate experts, including Balaka, believe this trend could continue.

Based on what we’re experiencing right now, we do think we’ll still see some tightened inventory for the rest of the year, and we do see prices continuing to go up,she said.

So, if you’re still looking to buy in the coming months, what do you need to know in order to even have a chance in this market?

First off, be prepared to move quickly.

Buyers have to have their running shoes on,she said. If you’re thinking about buying a home, you almost have to consider this a part-time job.

That means scoping out properties as soon as they hit the marketand being ready to jump on them immediately.

If you like it, write an offer, she said, noting it’s likely numerous other offers from prospective buyers will come in as well. But you have to be prepared.

That means having your mortgage pre-approval letter ready, as well has having your personal finances in order.

In addition, Balaka suggested including a little extra something in your offer that may give you a leg up: a personalletter detailingwhat you love about the house, or why you’d be happy living there.

A seller looks at all of these (offers), and it’s very hard to decide at times, and it can be overwhelming, she said. Anything that a buyer can do to have just a little extra leg up …can make that little difference, to help them get that offer accepted.

But she also stressed that even then, you may not get your first choice of house.

It could be the second or third or fourth offer that you write on before you actually get the house, Balaka said. There are several buyers that are all doing the same thing, so you are competing.

That said, she encourages buyers not to force an offer, if they’re just not feeling a house.

While the search for a house can be frustrating and emotionally draining, Balaka encourages prospective buyers not to give up, and said a little bit of patience can go a long way.

If your dream for home ownership is really going to happen, it can happen, but you just have to have some patience, she said. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. The right house for you will come along.

How To Avoid PMI When Buying A Home

PMI stands for private mortgage insurance. It’s an insurance policy your lender will take out to cover a portion of the amount you borrow in case you ever default on your loan.

This means if you stop paying what you owe on your mortgage and the lender forecloses on your property and suffers a loss, the insurance company will pay out a claim to the lender.

Even though PMI protects the lender, you are the one who must pay the premiums. That’s why it’s a good idea to avoid PMI when buying a home. It’s an extra cost, and it’s not something that’s necessary to have on your mortgage.

So how do you avoid it? By taking one of these actions:

Put Down 20 Percent

The most straightforward way to avoid PMI when buying a home is to put down 20 percent when you get your mortgage. When you put down 20 percent of a home’s purchase price in cash and finance the other 80 percent with a mortgage, your loan presents less risk to the lender.

The more equity you have in a home purchase, the less risky the loan is for a lender. The risk for a lender is that you may default on your loan and the lender must foreclose on you and take the home back for sale. The lender will then sell the home and recoup from the sale proceeds the money they lent on it in the first place. If the lender is forced to foreclose and sell the home in a down market, there’s a possibility that they may not get all their money back. Considering that selling a home costs between 6-9 percent of the sales price in commissions and other expenses, just a small drop in home prices can put the lender in danger of a loss on the loan.

Learn how a home ownership investment makes it easier to buy a home.

When you put a full 20 percent down on a home, this initial equity creates a safety buffer for the lender to get their money back in the case of default. The lender doesn’t need insurance against the loss because of this buffer.

But a 20 percent down payment helps you in other ways, too. It may help you secure a better interest rate because you look like a less-risky borrower versus someone who puts down a smaller amount of cash. It means your monthly mortgage payments will be smaller since you borrowed less. And in some real estate markets where there is significant competition for listed properties, a 20 percent down offer will appear stronger than an offer with a smaller down payment, and the listing agent may be more likely to consider stronger offers.

Get a Different Type of Mortgage

Of course, coming up with 20 percent of a home’s purchase price in cash is no small feat. Sometimes it is really hard. For example, if you want to buy a home that costs $400,000, a 20 percent down payment means saving up $80,000.

You could plan to buy a home later to give yourself enough time to save up the money you need. But life doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes buying sooner rather than later is the preferred way to go, for a variety of reasons.

Or you could consider lowering your budget and looking at lower-priced homes on the market. Buying a cheaper home means you don’t have to save up as much to reach that 20 percent mark.

However, that doesn’t always work, either. If you’re in a seller’s market, a highly desirable and competitive area, or simply in a city where real estate prices are higher than average, you might have a difficult time finding a home you like, in a location you like, and home prices could rise in the meantime.

One alternative is to use a different kind of loan called a “piggyback” or “80/10/10” loan, which is basically a second loan in addition to your primary mortgage. You need to save 10 percent in cash for a down payment, and the lender will originate a second loan for an additional 10 percent.

See how a home ownership investment can double your down payment.

This type of loan allows you to finance a home and get a mortgage for 80 percent of the purchase price, without PMI.

However, that second loan is still a loan — meaning it’s more debt. It also comes with its own interest rate, which is usually higher than on the primary mortgage. And it usually needs to be paid back in 15 years, rather than 30 years. In other words, this is not necessarily more affordable than simply putting 10 percent down on a home and accepting PMI. And this type of financing is not always available.

Pay a Higher Interest Rate Instead of PMI

If you want to stick with the traditional mortgage and still avoid PMI, there is one other option. You could ask for lender-paid mortgage insurance. That means your lender would pay the mortgage insurance.

However, there is a catch. Your loan will carry a higher interest rate to cover what would have been an additional insurance premium for the coverage. The interest could be up to 0.5 percent higher. With a higher interest rate, you will pay a lot more in interest over time. Essentially, the lender is passing through the cost of PMI to you.

For that reason, this strategy doesn’t work for all borrowers. Increasing your mortgage interest rate by even half a point can cost you tens of thousands of dollars over the lifetime of a 30-year loan. And this rate hike lasts as long as your loan does, whereas PMI can typically be removed once you build at least 20 percent equity in your home.

Use a Home Ownership Investment

The efforts you take to avoid PMI when buying a home can end up costing more than the insurance premiums themselves. You need to be careful when accepting higher interest rates or taking out multiple loans to buy your home.

There is another alternative – using a home ownership investment program like Unison HomeBuyer from The way this works is will match your down payment funds.That means if you can save 10 percent of a home’s purchase price in cash, the company will contribute another 10 percent — giving you a total down payment of 20 percent.

That way, you can avoid PMI when buying a home.

The money provided by Unison isn’t a loan and there are no monthly payments or interest charges. Rather, the company invests alongside you in your home. When you eventually sell the home, Unison receives a portion of the appreciation or depreciation in the home’s price.

This is a great way to get the funds for a 20 percent down payment and avoid PMI when buying a home. And that’s without taking on more debt, paying a higher interest rate, or taking on multiple loans to purchase your home.

Image Credit: Pixabay

New Tariff on Canadian Lumber Could Make Buying a Home Even More Expensive

What do a new tariff on Canadian softwood lumber and rising US home prices have in common? More than many American home buyers might realize.

The Trump administration imposed a 20% tariff on the lumber coming from our neighbors to the north last week in a bid to help US timberproducers. But American builders rely on that wood–about a third of the softwood lumberthey use in new-home construction comes from Canada. So as builders see their costs rise, they are expected to pass them on to buyers, making an already bad housing crunch that much worse.

The National Association of Home Builders estimates builders are going to spend about $3,600 more on lumber to construct a new home. Thatwill price more than 525,000 households out of the new-home market, the group estimates.