U.S. household net worth surged to a fresh record in the second quarter as Americans enjoyed an ebullient stock market and the largest-ever increase in the value of their real estate holdings.
Household net worth increased by $5.8 trillion, or 4.3%, to $141.7 trillion in the second quarter, a Federal Reserve report out Thursday showed. The advance included a $3.5 trillion gain in the value of equities and a $1.2 trillion improvement in real estate held by households.
Stocks have surged to record highs, and low borrowing costs have supported a flurry of home buying — and ultimately home price appreciation. The figures highlight how the massive support provided by the government and the Fed has bolstered Americans’ wealth.
Equity shares as a percent of total household assets rose in the second quarter to almost 29.5%, up from 25.6% in 2019, the Fed’s report showed.
But not everyone is benefiting from those wealth gains. A large share of Americans are not invested in the stock market, and for many renters, the sharp rise in housing prices pushed the reality of owning a home further out of reach.
Net private savings grew at an annualized pace of almost $2.9 trillion in the second quarter after a $4.8 trillion surge in the prior quarter — a product of federal stimulus efforts. Excess savings have been a key driver of consumer spending, including last quarter, where consumer outlays jumped at one of the fastest paces on record.
Business debt outstanding increased by $63.2 billion from the prior quarter, or at an 1.4% annualized rate, in the April to June period to a total of nearly $18 trillion.
Federal debt outstanding increased $578.8 billion, or an annualized 9.6%, to $24.7 trillion. Government debt has swelled during the pandemic, as policy makers stepped in to ease the economic impact of the health crisis on people and businesses with trillions of dollars of support.
The government is currently on track to default on its financial obligations without congressional approval to raise the statutory limit on U.S. debt.Consumer credit outstanding not including mortgage debt rose by $91.2 billion in the second quarter.
One of the most dreadful things in the world is a single serving of nigiri sushi so large that it doesn’t fit into your mouth in a single bite. Yet it exists in abundance — the norm rather than the exception.
The sushi at the Rebel Omakase in Laguna Beach is the opposite of dreadful. Cutting a small slice of raw fish takes a lot more skill and precision than carving off a large hunk, and the skill behind the counter here is undeniable. The chef/owner is Jordan Nakasone, who worked for years under the watchful eye of Kimiyasu Enya at the highly regarded Sushi Enya in downtown L.A.’s Little Tokyo. He apprenticed briefly in Japan before that.
Scallop with salmon roe at Rebel Omakase in Laguna Beach (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Sashimi at Rebel Omakase in Laguna Beach (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Kasugodai, or young sea bream, at Rebel Omakase in Laguna Beach (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Steamed fish in miso soup at Rebel Omakase in Laguna Beach (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Tempura vegetables and crab at Rebel Omakase in Laguna Beach (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Suzuki, or sea bass, at Rebel Omakase in Laguna Beach (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Tai snapper at Rebel Omakase in Laguna Beach (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Aji, or Spanish mackerel, at Rebel Omakase in Laguna Beach (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Kohada, or gizzard shad, at Rebel Omakase in Laguna Beach (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Kuruma ebi, or tiger shrimp, at Rebel Omakase in Laguna Beach (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Seared and smoked wagyu beef at Rebel Omakase in Laguna Beach (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Hand roll with scallop, tuna toro, sea urchin and fresh truffle at Rebel Omakase in Laguna Beach (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)
While Rebel Omakase has been open for only a couple of months, it is already on track to become one of the more important sushi concepts in Orange County. The restaurant occupies the space on Forest Avenue that previously housed Central. The old horseshoe-shaped bar in the middle of the dining room has been repurposed as a modernist sushi counter. The entire restaurant has been stripped naked and exfoliated of any extraneous design elements. The minimalist aesthetic is beautifully serene. Service is highly poised and polished, bordering on reverential. Seating is limited to only a dozen or so people a night for now, a fraction of the space’s actual capacity.
Nakasone focuses exclusively on omakase, that Japanese tradition of putting yourself in the hands of the chef. In this case that translates to about 19 different pieces of seafood and wagyu beef. Nineteen “courses” might sound like a lot. But when a chef understands how to properly cut fish, as Nakasone does, 19 selections isn’t overwhelming. Each piece is an elegant mouthful, never a choking hazard.
The menu borrows ideas from kaiseki — showcasing a range of techniques, presentations and seasonalities — without getting bogged down in the strict rigors of kaiseki’s precise order of procession. My meal begins with a platter of bluefin tuna and sea bass sashimi, cold and glistening, followed immediately with a cup of hot clear soup flavored with some sort of mushroom. It has a calming effect, more like tea than soup.
The middle of the meal is filled with cooked dishes, each one a single bite or sometimes two. Or in the case of tempura, several bites, including a tiny river crab the size a Brazil nut and twice as crunchy. The courses of cooked fish are fine, but perhaps overcooked? Raw fish is certainly the highlight: bluefin, sea bass, snapper, kampachi, scallop, sea bream… all exquisite.
It has often been said that sushi chefs judge each other by their kohada, or gizzard shad, a tricky little fish to serve. More gizzard shad are probably used by humans as bait to catch other fish than are actually eaten as sushi. Like sardines or anchovies, their flavor is intense, their skin iridescent, the flesh extremely oily. The practice among Japanese chefs has always been to cure the shad with salt or brine, then wash or even soak the fish with fermented rice wine or vinegar before crafting it into sushi. Every chef develops a highly personal formula, which can take years, or even a lifetime, to perfect. Nakasone’s kohada tastes mildly of vinegar with a savory, smoothing undercurrent of dashi broth. It is one of the creamiest kohada I have ever tasted. (That’s a compliment.)
For $200 per person (before drinks, tax or tip), I had hoped for more revelations, to taste something unusual and surprising or even rebellious that I’ve never tried before. But there are no big surprises, just solid talent. While the quality of fish here is well above average, the range is fairly standard — approaching parity with, say, Omakase by Gino but still trailing light years behind Hana re.
But notice has been served. Rebel Omakase is an emerging force to be reckoned with.
Where: 361 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach
When: Dinner only, Tuesday-Sunday by reservation only
It’s a tough time to be a homebuying hopeful. Sellers rule this market, and potential buyers are battling with one another over a high-priced handful of homes. Buying a home is a weighty, long-term decision, and buying right now could lead to long-term regrets.
Roughly two-thirds (67%) of Americans who recently purchased their home say they have regrets, according to an August NerdWallet survey conducted online by The Harris Poll among 450 homeowners who bought their home in the past five years.
There are many reasons a buyer might regret their home purchase or aspects of it. And in 2021, even more than in the past five years as a whole, the risk of buyer’s remorse is high. The heavily tilted seller’s market means most buyers are making sacrifices in order to successfully close on a home. Understanding the risks inherent in buying now can help either avoid future regrets or postpone the purchase until the stakes are lower.
Here are four potential regret traps of the current market and how to guard against them.
1. Rushing decisions in a frenetic real estate market
Homebuying shouldn’t be rushed. But buying a house now is a frantic endeavor. Buyers are seeing homes hit the market and go under contract before they can even schedule a showing. Over the past five years, homes have typically been on the market for 41 days. As of July 2021, they’re available for 18 days, according to data from real estate brokerage Redfin, which measures days on market as the time between a home being listed and it moving to pending or off-market. The speed at which homes enter and exit the market has been accelerating since June 2020.
Regret-busting tip: Potential buyers must act fast, but when the pressure is on to move quickly in a decision as weighty as homebuying, you need a game plan. Before jumping into the market, organize your budget and your wish list. Get specific: Know which features you’re willing to compromise on and what’s out of bounds in regards to sales price. Making decisions such as “Do we really need a third bedroom?” or “Can we afford another $50,000?” on the fly is risky, at best. Know how you’ll answer those questions before you begin.
2. Sacrificing big just to snap up something
The supply of homes being offered for sale is paltry, so buyers are unlikely to find one that satisfies their wish list. Being flexible is a must in this market, but sacrificing too much could leave you with a home that’s a far cry from the one you envisioned.
The number of homes on the market has fallen by about 55% from September 2019, when it last peaked, according to residential listing data from Realtor.com. In March and April this year, inventory fell below half a million active listings after a three-year average of 1.3 million from 2017 through the end of 2019.
Regret-busting tip: What’s more important to you: buying a home or buying a home that checks off most items on your wish list? If the former, you may be successful in this market. However, if you have your heart set on a specific home type in a specific neighborhood, you may want to wait until there are more listings to choose from.
3. Competing with a win-at-all-costs attitude
Competition is brutal for the limited number of homes, and sellers are fielding multiple attractive offers. The average number of offers on sold homes peaked at just over 5 in April this year, and while it has fallen back down to 4.5, that’s still two more offers than homeowners typically saw in the pre-pandemic market, according to data from the National Association of Realtors.
Waiving contingencies, upping their offer price, writing love letters to sellers — buyers are having to work harder than ever to make their offer stand out from the rest. And even when they do all these things, they may be up against an unusual number of potential buyers making all-cash offers.
When pitted against an all-cash offer for asking price or above, buyers who must borrow might try to entice the seller by taking dangerous risks, like forgoing a home inspection. But 10% of homeowners who have purchased in the past five years regret not getting a pre-purchase home inspection, and 13% of these recent buyers say they regret discovering their home had significant problems in need of repair, according to the new NerdWallet survey.
Regret-busting tip: Winning isn’t everything. Don’t let the competition pressure you into forgoing important protections or going over budget. Know before you make an offer how far you’re willing to take it. Make an agreement with yourself, your partner or your real estate agent that you’ll be willing to walk away at a certain threshold — whether it’s a dollar amount in a bidding war or problems uncovered at inspection — and then get used to the idea that you may have to walk away from several homes before you ultimately close on one.
4. Stretching the budget to the breaking point
While low mortgage rates save buyers considerably over the life of a home loan, they can’t always make up for a too-high sales price. Hot competition on a limited supply is propelling prices up, which is bound to push some buyers past a reasonable budget.
Five years ago, in July 2016, homes were selling for $245,100, or $278,100 in today’s dollars, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. Now, the typical sales price is $360,000, nearly $82,000 more. Incomes have not kept up.
What this means is a buyer’s money won’t go as far today. Add to that the ongoing costs of homeownership, and it’s clear how quickly home buyers can get in over their heads.
Regret-busting tip: Your money won’t go as far in the current high-priced market, and that’s important to understand before you begin house hunting. But don’t let sticker shock distract you from other cost considerations. Mortgage payments (including interest and taxes), homeowners insurance, homeowners association dues and repair and maintenance expenses all play into the total cost of homeownership — and 15% of homeowners who purchased within the past five years say they regret underestimating these costs, according to the survey. When settling on a budget for the purchase price of your new home, factor in ongoing homeownership costs so you’re not caught off guard once you’ve moved in. Struggling to keep up with these persistent financial obligations can stifle the initial joy of your new purchase.
Survey methodology and additional graphic available in the original article, published at NerdWallet.
Think Michelin is all about fine dining from pricey menus? Think again. The Michelin Guide has a tradition of honoring restaurants that provide good value and its California edition announced Bib Gourmand recipients today, Sept. 22.
There are 45 thrifty newcomers to choose from, even in upscale communities in Orange County, where six restaurants received recognition. Southern California’s list ranged from pit barbecue to Pakistani cuisine.
“Bib Gourmand restaurants offer a full menu of a starter, main course and dessert, making it possible to order two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for around $40 or less (tax and gratuity not included),” read an announcement released to the media.
The Michelin Guide California edition has announced Bib Gourmand recipients which laud restaurants that provide good value. There are 45 thrifty newcomers to the list including Chaak in Tustin. (Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)
The Michelin Guide California edition has announced Bib Gourmand recipients which laud restaurants that provide good value. There are 45 thrifty newcomers to the list including Chifa in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jarod Wong, courtesy of Chifa)
The Michelin Guide California edition has announced Bib Gourmand recipients which laud restaurants that provide good value. There are 45 thrifty newcomers to the list including Fable & Spirit. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)
The Michelin Guide California edition has announced Bib Gourmand recipients which laud restaurants that provide good value. There are 45 thrifty newcomers to the list including Chifa in Los Angeles. (Photo by Danielle Adams, courtesy of Chifa)
The Michelin Guide California edition has announced Bib Gourmand recipients which laud restaurants that provide good value. There are 45 thrifty newcomers to the list including Chaak in Tustin. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)
The Michelin Guide California edition has announced Bib Gourmand recipients which laud restaurants that provide good value. There are 45 thrifty newcomers to the list including Heritage Barbecue in San Juan Capistrano. Daniel and Brenda Castillo, owners of Heritage Barbecue, with their son Daniel Jr., are shown between the twin offset 1,000 gallon smokers outside their restaurant in San Juan Capistrano on Friday, April 30, 2021. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)
The Michelin Guide California edition has announced Bib Gourmand recipients which laud restaurants that provide good value. There are 45 thrifty newcomers to the list including Oliver’s Osteria in Laguna Beach. Squid-ink cappellacci stuffed with salmon and chives at Oliver’s Osteria in Laguna Beach. (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)
The Michelin Guide California edition has announced Bib Gourmand recipients which laud restaurants that provide good value. There are 45 thrifty newcomers to the list including Oliver’s Osteria in Laguna Beach. Squid-ink cappellacci stuffed with salmon and chives at Oliver’s Osteria in Laguna Beach. The dining room at Oliver’s Osteria in Laguna Beach. (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)
The Michelin Guide California edition has announced Bib Gourmand recipients which laud restaurants that provide good value. There are 45 thrifty newcomers to the list including Morning Glory in San Diego. (Photo by Shannon Patrick, courtesy of Morning Glory)
The Michelin Guide California edition has announced Bib Gourmand recipients which laud restaurants that provide good value. There are 45 thrifty newcomers to the list including Pho 79 in Garden Grove. Little Saigon restaurant Pho 79 in Garden Grove on Wednesday, January 30, 2019 Pho 79 is the first Orange County restaurant to win a prestigious James Beard Foundation award. The restaurant is located at 9941 Hazard Avenue in Garden Grove. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)
The Michelin Guide California edition has announced Bib Gourmand recipients which laud restaurants that provide good value. There are 45 thrifty newcomers to the list including Pho 79 in Garden Grove. Mai Tran, a member of the family who owns Pho 79 holds a bowl of Pho at the restaurant in Garden Grove on Wednesday, January 30, 2019. Pho 79, in Little Saigon, is the first Orange County restaurant to win a prestigious James Beard Foundation award. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)
The Michelin Guide California edition has announced Bib Gourmand recipients which laud restaurants that provide good value. There are 45 thrifty newcomers to the list including Khan Saab in Fullerton. (Photo by Imran Mookhi, courtesy of Khan Saab)
The Michelin Guide California edition has announced Bib Gourmand recipients which laud restaurants that provide good value. There are 45 thrifty newcomers to the list including One of Orange County’s only two Michelin-starred restaurants, Taco Maria displays its award at the restaurant in Costa Mesa. Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Although this designation does not come with a star, local restaurateurs were thrilled to be chosen.
“Our aim was to open a restaurant that represented how we eat at home, with honest ingredients, with the care and attention of you coming to eat at our home,” said Humberto Leon, Chief Marketing Officer and an owner of Chifa in Los Angeles. “To be part of this group is mind blowing.”
“Chefs work their whole lives to have some sort of recognition from Michelin,” said Daniel Castillo, pitmaster and a founder of Heritage Barbecue in San Juan Capistrano. He explained that his executive chef, Nicholas Echaore, is very aware of the process, having worked in Napa, Las Vegas and Martha’s Vineyard but this was unexpected for the staff which includes in-house butcher Lennon Gunter. “I think it’s kind of cool because barbecue restaurants don’t normally get recognition from Michelin. So, we as a team, me and Nicholas and Lennon, are very honored,” Castillo said.
“I truly can’t ask for more than this recognition, as it is the highest caliber of restaurant ratings,” said Chef Imran “Ali” Moohki, of Khan Saab in Fullerton, who distributed free meals during the height of the pandemic.
Last year, because so many restaurants were closed and restricted, the Michelin Guide California edition awarded no stars but a virtual gala in October honored sustainability in the industry and highlighted outstanding restaurants deemed “new discoveries.”
This year Michelin has been pre-announcing restaurants that will receive “new additions” designations and some of these received Bib Gourmand titles. Stars will be announced on Tuesday, Sept. 28.
“By revealing some of the new additions made by our inspectors throughout the year, we enhance our digital tools to further strengthen the ties that bind us to food lovers,” Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin guides said in a message about the new additions on its website. The new selections will also be available on the Michelin Guide iOS and Android app.
In 2019, Michelin made a glamorous entrance into inspecting the entire state with its first Michelin Guide California, announced at a splashy seaside gala in Huntington Beach.
Michelin uses the same standards for reviewing restaurants whether they are in Manhattan Beach or Manhattan. “We use exactly the same methodology and to ensure the value of our ratings; we also make inspectors travel a lot,” Poullennec, told the Register in 2019, adding that international inspectors were required to visit California.
Here’s a list of the new Bib Gourmand recipients along with some notes from the inspectors.
Bee Taqueria, Los Angeles
This casual taqueria with serious focus and creative style arrives courtesy of the talented chef Alex Carrasco. Tacos, ceviche and tostadas reign supreme on the menu, which draws culinary inspiration from the chef’s childhood in Mexico City.
Chifa, Los Angeles
Chifa is the term used by Peruvians to refer to “Chinese restaurant.” The succinct menu pulls from family recipes and childhood memories to pack in flavor at every twist and turn.
Colapasta, Santa Monica
Nestled into a breezy locale just a few blocks from the Pacific, this modern trattoria packs a big culinary punch, thanks largely to the considerable talents of chef Stefano De Lorenzo.
Jiang Nan Spring, Alhambra
This spot’s Shanghainese focus makes it a valuable addition to the San Gabriel Valley. Sweet vinegars and fresh seafood figure prominently, most apparent in plates like an irresistible platter of tilapia fried in a tempura-like batter flavored with seaweed.
Kazan, Beverly Hills
The name is Japanese for “volcano” and conveniently, this soba-focused spot blows the lid off its competitors. The menu offers many a choice, including a vegetarian option, but the #7 (lamb in lava) is a clear winner.
Konbi, Los Angeles
Konbi is the brainchild of chefs Nick Montgomery and Akira Akuto, who present a unique menu of Japanese sandwiches, product-focused small plates and Proustian pastries.
La Azteca, Los Angeles
This modest counter-service operation has been serving hefty burritos in East L.A. for many years now. Flour tortillas are made in-house every day in full view of the dining room and boast a kind of richness and chew that others don’t.
Luscious Dumplings, Monrovia
It’s hard to order poorly at this delightful retreat. The menu is concise, with half of the items dedicated to the eponymous specialty.
Tumbi, Santa Monica
Just a block from the bustle of the Santa Monica Promenade, Tumbi feels worlds away, offering inventive Indian cooking in an industrial-chic setting.
WoodSpoon, Los Angeles
It’s clear that hospitality runs through the veins of chef and owner, Natalia Pereira, who originally hails from Brazil. The cozy dining room is lined with framed photographs and wine bottles. The chef’s careful and skilled hand is also evident in her food, which tastes of pure passion.
Chaak Kitchen, Tustin
The team behind these stoves swimmingly brings the vibrant smoke-and-spice-focused cuisine of the Yucatán Peninsula to life.
Fable & Spirit, Newport Beach
The room is packed with an unmistakable hum of happy diners diving into delicious pub grub. You’ll want to order the Guinness brown bread, which is an absolute delight, especially paired with plump P.E.I. mussels bathed in a thyme butter.
Heritage Barbecue, San Juan Capistrano
Punctuality is of the essence as everyone is here, early and eager, for chef and owner Daniel Castillo’s food. His creations draw inspiration from central Texas, so when that sweet scent of California white oak gets going, find yourself transported on a riotous journey, starting with slices of glistening brisket.
Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen, Fullerton
Originally from Pakistan, chef Imran “Ali” Mookhi displays a certain deftness with spices, flavors, and in his handling of red meat at this South Asian gem.
Oliver’s Osteria Mare e Monti, Laguna Beach
Set just minutes from the Pacific Coast Highway, this Italian gem makes a delightful sight. Chef Erik De Marchi’s menu has something for everyone. He takes a range of familiar dishes and enhances them with an authentic flair.
Pho 79, Garden Grove
If you are no stranger to the slurp, then Pho 79 is likely already on your circuit. After all, this place is an institution. Opened in the early ’80s, it’s widely considered to ladle some of the best and most praiseworthy pho in Southern California.
If you’re trying to break into the housing market right now, you may find that your down payment fund isn’t going as far as you thought it would. Record-breaking rises in home prices mean the targets you set to save, say, 20 percent of your expected home purchase price may no longer cut it.
Here’s what you need to know about what’s going on in the housing market and what your options are for how to proceed.
Why home prices are likely rising faster than your down payment savings
It all comes down to a few factors: limited housing supply and a huge number of motivated buyers are putting pressure on housing prices. Low mortgage rates mean most buyers can afford to borrow more than they otherwise would, which is turning up the pressure even more, and inflation is pushing buying costs up for pretty much everything across the board.
Sellers are rejoicing, but for buyers (low mortgage rates aside) it can be tough terrain to navigate.
“This last year has been brutal, particularly for the first-time homebuyer market,” says Matt Woods, co-founder and CEO of SOLD.com.
Most experts agree that the pandemic has led to a tough market for buyers, but there are signs that things may finally be cooling off. At any rate, this nearly straight-up trajectory for home prices seems fairly unsustainable.
“I think about my four kids, how on earth will my four kids ever be homeowners if this is the conundrum they’re dealing with?” Woods says.
What you can do if your down payment savings aren’t keeping up
There are essentially three ways you can respond if your dream home — or even a barely adequate home — is out of reach.
1. Wait out the home sale market, beef up your down payment
Probably the easiest option — because it’s essentially passive — is to just wait for the market to cool down more. Doing that can give you the opportunity to boost your savings, and you may even see home prices come down a little in your area, which means your funds will go farther.
Keep in mind, there are no absolute guarantees in real estate because market conditions are always changing, but if you can’t afford to buy now, it’s probably not a good time to dive in.
“The biggest thing to start with is just to make the decision on whether now is the right decision in terms of buying the home,” says Robert Heck, vice president of mortgage at Morty. “If you have flexibility and time, the options there are a bit more widespread.”
Focus your affordability calculations on your monthly expenses, not necessarily the overall sale price, he says.
“This home appreciation phase is waning,” Woods added. If you choose to wait it out you can use the time to invest money in higher-yield — and, admittedly, higher risk — funds to boost your savings more quickly.
“Putting money under your mattress isn’t going to help,” he says. “If you’re parking it in the safest place, you can count on it not helping and not growing. If you’re leveraging the investment opportunities that are out there, the market’s been kind.”
Because the investment market is so hot right now, you may even be able to boost your savings quickly with some higher-risk options. But let’s be clear that money you need in one to three years is not best-suited for riskier investments. That said, if you can stand more risk, consider investing some of your down payment money in:
—Stocks, which are arguably the most traditional investment tool and can produce big yields quickly if you buy the right ones at the right time.
—Cryptocurrency, which is kind of having a moment in the investment sphere right now. Keep in mind that crypto valuations have been a bit of a rollercoaster, so you could majorly boost your savings, or lose your shirt.
You should speak to your financial advisor about your investment options. Other short-term, high yield products may be available, but you’ll want to decide what works for you with someone who really knows your situation.
2. Alter your home search punch list
Another option is to change your housing wish list. Everyone wants to get the best possible house in the nicest and most convenient neighborhood they can afford, but if you can be a little more flexible about exactly where to land, it could help you get into a home faster and more affordably.
“The American dream is this grandiose, ‘got to go own my forever home right now,’ ” Woods says. “My advice is starter homes are great and maybe you need to be as humble as you can possibly swallow just to get into the game.”
Being comfortable with a starter home, or agreeing to look in a broader geographical area will open up more options and may let you look at places where your savings will perform a little better.
“Trying not to get caught up in the exuberance of buying the home, chasing the offer,” Heck says. “Slowing down is important here.”
3. Tap a housing assistance program or go for a nontraditional approach
You might be able to benefit from homebuyer assistance grants or some upstart companies that offer novel ways of getting you into a mortgage.
Woods says companies like Unison help folks get into homes by essentially paying all-cash on their behalf and working out the mortgage once the person has moved in. Others strike up equity-sharing arrangements where they contribute to your down payment and then take a larger percentage than a traditional lender when you eventually refinance or sell.
Plus, Woods added, you can always go the “strike a deal with your rich uncle” route, if it’s available to you.
“There are so many different paths you can go down, so try to verse yourself in as many of those as possible,” Heck says. Doing your research will help you chart the best course for your own situation.
More traditional routes for down payment assistance include:
—FHA loans, which can be secured with as little as 3.5 percent down.
—VA loans, which can be a great deal for active or retired members of the military and their families
—Local and national first-time homebuyer programs
Also keep in mind that many lenders will allow you to secure a loan with less than 20 percent down. You may have to pay for private mortgage insurance until you build up more equity, but if you can afford the extra monthly cost you’ll still be able to get into a home if your offer is competitive.
Working with a knowledgeable real estate agent remains crucial
In this ultra-competitive market, having a knowledgeable agent as a guide is key. Most sellers receive multiple offers, many of which may be above the asking price, so it’s important to make sure you work with someone who really understands the market where you’re looking and can help you make your offer as strong as possible, even if prices are higher than you were expecting.
A good buyer’s agent will also be able to help you figure out how to tailor your search and will be able to adapt if you change what you’re looking for as you rationalize your budget.
With home prices being pushed up rapidly by multiple compounding factors, it’s a tough market for buyers. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s impossible to buy; it just may take a little extra strategizing. Or, you could take a pause and come back when the market has cooled down a bit more.