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Why Selling Now Makes Sense

by Mark Brace

Daily Real Estate News  |  April 16, 2008
Why Selling Now Makes Sense

Home owners who are reluctant to sell because prices have fallen, should do the math, and realize that the market downturn could work in their favor, say practitioners in hard-hit, but still pricey Boston.

Their reasoning may work in many other parts of the country as well.

"People are finding houses at prices they thought they'd never see again," says David W. O'Neil of Century 21 Spindler & O'Neil Associates in suburban Boston.

O’Neil points out to potential sellers that if the house a buyer covets used to be $500,000 but its price has fallen 20 percent to $400,000, it is a deal, even if the buyer’s own home also has lost 20 percent of its value.

In general, the toughest sell is people who bought about four years ago at the height of the market, says Zur Attias of The Attias Group at Barrett & Co. in Concord, Mass. But even for these home owners, selling now may make sense as long as they can at least break even.

He argues that almost everyone forgoes something, and probably several things, that he or she wanted when buying a house. For instance, the home may be in the right school district, but on a busy street. Or it may in a great neighborhood, but it's a Cape, not a Colonial. These are things Attias calls "unchangeables."

He says it’s a good time to sell if a seller can get rid of the most negative unchangeables in his current home, and replace them with better unchangeables in a new home. Once the market really turns around, the growth will be bigger in the better house, he predicts.

Real Estate buyers are usually highly focused on the purchase price of a property. This is a legitimate concern. The purchase price is one of the most important considerations in a real estate transaction. But at the same time home buyers too frequently treat interest rates as a secondary concern. Many buyers will stress over $300 or $400 in negotiations over purchase price. But when told that interest rates dropped half a point, home buyers will often respond with a shrug.

This is frequently because it is easy to understand the difference between paying 200k and 195k for a house. But it's harder to appreciate the difference between an interest rate of 6.5% and 6.0% for a house. But interest rates can have a large influence on mortgage payments. Using a mortgage calculator first let's look at the difference between the mortgage on a 200k and the mortgage on a 195k house assuming a 6.5 percent interest rate.

200k  (6.5%)  Mortgage  $1264.13 per month
195k  (6.5%)  Mortgage  $1232.53 per month

The difference ends up being $31.60 a month.

Now let's look at the difference between an interest rate of 6.5% and 6.0% on a 200k house.

200k  (6.5%)  Mortgage  1264.13 per month
200k  (6.0%)  Mortgage  1199.10 per month

The difference ends up being $65.03 a month or $780.36 a year. A simple half point drop lowered the mortgage payment by 5.4 percent.

Interest rate changes are not that uncommon. We wrote a tool that graphs mortgage rates over time based on the interest rates provided by Freddie Mac. In the middle of 2007 we saw interest rates of 6.7%. At the beginning of 2008, interest rates were down to 5.75%. What is a little more interesting is when we switch the toggle on our tool from the interest rate to the mortgage on a 200k house based on the interest rate for that date http://www.escapesomewhere.com/blogim/mortgage_rates_broker.jpg. From the middle of 2007 to the beginning of 2008, we saw a drop in the monthly mortgage payment on a 200k house drop from $1290 to $1170, a difference of 9.3 percent. This is why when buyers say they are waiting for prices to drop 5%, it might be a good idea to tell them that the actual mortgage they would get on a house has already dropped by more than 5 percent.

In light of all the mortgage issues over the last few years, it highlights why home buyers should shop around for interest rates. All too frequently home buyers will go with the first mortgage person they meet under the assumption that everyone has roughly the same rates and that a half point isn't really that big of a difference. As we have seen above, a half point can make a significant difference in someone's mortgage payment.

In summary, home buyers should still focus on price because it will always be an important part of the real estate transaction. But if home buyers start to look at interest rates more closely, they will end up with more success in their real estate purchases and lower mortgage payments.

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Contact Information

Mark Brace, Realtor, ABR, GRI, CRS, SRES, e-PRO, A
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Michigan Real Estate
3000 East Beltline NE
Grand Rapids MI 49525
Direct: (616) 447-7025
Cell: (616) 540-7705
Fax: (616) 447-7025

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