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Buying a Home? What’s Happening in Today’s Real Estate Market

Written by Ilyce Glink on August 1, 2013 in Real Estate  |   56 comments

Buying a home is a major decision, and it can feel like a gamble. If you buy now, will real estate prices plummet? Will mortgage rates fall? Or is now the perfect time to snag the home of your dreams? On June 19, at Equifax’s…

Buying a home, real estate, mortgageBuying a home is a major decision, and it can feel like a gamble. If you buy now, will real estate prices plummet? Will mortgage rates fall? Or is now the perfect time to snag the home of your dreams?

On June 19, at Equifax’s “Is Now the Time to Buy a Home?” webinar, Steve Cook, Amy Crews Cutts, and I discussed what homebuyers need to know about today’s real estate market.

Mortgage interest rates are rising, but remain low.

We are seeing mortgage interest rates slowly start to rise. They are hovering around 4 percent, nearly two-thirds of a percentage point higher than last month.

But according to Amy Crews Cutts, chief economist for Equifax, today’s interest rates are the best you’ll get, and 4 percent is still very low. “They could go lower, but don’t bet on it,” Cutts said.

Right now, the Federal Reserve is pumping $85 billion into the economy each month by purchasing $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities and $45 billion in longer-term U.S. securities. This quantitative easing is keeping a lid on interest rates. When the Fed takes its foot off the accelerator, rates will go up. Just how much they will go up, however, remains a mystery.

“It’s hard to guess when the market will bottom out, but we are years off from seeing interest rates rise to 6 percent,” Cutts said.

If you have an interest rate of 4 percent or lower, you may want to lock in that low rate before it goes up again.

Inventory and seasonal demand are impacting home prices.

According to Steve Cook, former vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Realtors and Equifax Finance Blog contributor, a tight inventory of homes is plaguing housing markets across the country.

“Homes aren’t there for people to buy,” Cook said. “There are bidding wars in parts of the country because of the lack of inventory.”

It appears home prices are starting to rise, too—but these gains are mostly seasonal. Everyone is in a rush to buy and sell in the warmer months, driving up prices. There can be up to a 3 percent price difference between homes sold in the summer and winter.

“There is double the amount of inventory in the fall and winter months,” Cook said. This increase in inventory means many sellers must price their homes competitively to make them attractive to buyers.

Is now the time to buy a home?

Things are looking up: Mortgage rates are low despite recent gains, and new data shows the inventory of homes on the market is starting to increase—all good news for buyers.

“What we are seeing is a staircase recovery,” Cook said. “There is a significant increase in progress right now, but it won’t happen all at once. There will be periods of falling and rising homes prices. In the next year we will see more progress fall off but also an increase of inventory, and it will be a better situation for buyers.”

If you’re looking to buy now, pay attention to housing price trends and inventory in the area in which you are looking to buy. “If inventories are rising, wait until the fall and winter months to buy so sellers are willing to negotiate,” Cook said.

Still, getting approved for a mortgage is a hurdle that many of today’s buyers must overcome.

According to Cook, “40 percent of people who apply for a residential mortgage are turned down today.”

If you have a credit score below 700, start looking for homes that are priced lower than you initially planned. In doing so, Cutts said, you will be much more attractive to lenders.

Whether you’re ready to buy now or plan to wait a few months to see if prices drop, be sure to do your research. By understanding your local real estate market and what it takes to get a mortgage today, you will have a better chance of closing on your dream home.

Ilyce Glink is the author of ten books, including the bestselling 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask. Her nationally syndicated column, “Real Estate Matters,” appears in more than 125 newspapers and Websites, and her online “Ask Ilyce” columns are read by hundreds of thousands of people every month. She is a top-rated radio host on WSB Radio in Atlanta, the Home Equity blogger at CBS MoneyWatch.com, host of the Internet program “Expert Real Estate Tips,” managing editor of the Equifax Personal Finance Blog, and publisher of ThinkGlink.com.

56 comments

  1. Christi Durham says:

    What is the highest credit rating you can obtain? That is my goal to get the best.

    Thanks, Christi

  2. SML says:

    How often is the report information updated? I know that some of the debt info in todays report is 3 weeks old!!

    • Anonymous says:

      If you’re curious about when your debt-to-credit ratio gets reported from a credit card company, you can call them up and ask. Amex claims to submit to the agencies on the day your statement posts.

      • Mike S. - Cincinnati says:

        I know I monitor my score(s) constantly and check my creditors updates. I have an AMEX card and see those updates every billing cycle. This also applies to my Wells Fargo accounts. The credit balances are updating every month. Don’t expect a daily update, only at the close of the billing or payment cycle.

        • Mike says:

          I concurr, I’ve been pulling my credit report daily for 2 years. I can confirm, from the usage of 6 different credit cards, that they all update your balance within a day or 2 of the close of your billing period. Therefore, you can carry your cards maxed out 90% all month long if you want. As long as you pay it way down to almost zero (preferably a day before) the due date, it will not have a negative affect your credit to debt ratio. Another way to put it is, when they report your “OK” payment to the reporting agencies, they also report your balance as of that date.

  3. mapathome says:

    Ive working with all 3 reporting companies and each says 4 weeks. If you call and submit a dispute they do update faster in my case 2 were around 2 weeks

    • scrwdbyefx says:

      Well then you’re lucky! I disputed a CC account (with Equifax) because the balance was incorrect, on Equifax only mind you, and it has now been almost two months!!! The balance has updated yet the dispute remains and EFX refuses to remove it even though I’ve asked them to multiple times. I wouldn’t dispute any item with this company if I planned on getting a mortgage within the next year.

  4. Anonymous says:

    how do I get my final credit score based on all 3 bureaus to help me determine where I’m at credit wise before applying for a mortgate?

  5. Jen says:

    How often do you update the scores on here. my last update was in July on her and my credit score went up 25 point on Creditkarma.com why hasn’t it updated on here?

  6. Leslie Guzman says:

    Hi, I would like to obtain a home loan, I will be first time buyer. Witch score do you recommended? Thanks

  7. A. Eskin says:

    I’ve heard that the credit report and score that a lender gets when doing an inquiry is not the same one that we get on ourselves, and the scores they see can differ by quite alot of points. Is that true?

    • Melissa T says:

      Yes, I just had that happen to me. My transunion score was the closest one but equifax score and experian were considerably less than the score that I could see (more than 40 points). The lender said they have a different scoring system specifically designed for mortgage loans.

    • Anonymous says:

      yes this is true based off ofpersonal info

  8. Anonymous says:

    Why would all disputes need to be cleared before a mortgage lender approves one for a loan?

    • FedHead says:

      I don’t know the EXACT reason, but, if they didn’t do it that way, then a person could dispute everything negative and not have it count against them.

  9. Anonymous says:

    My present home of 30 years was paid for with cash. We are in process of building another home that will be paid for with cash. I have excellent credit but only 786. The reason my score is not at 850 is because there are no mortgage payment records. This doesn’t seem fair because I’m very careful with how much credit I use and that my payments are paid on time.
    I would like my score to be 850. Is there anything I can do to make this happen?

    • Cynthia English says:

      I am having the exact same question. No debt. Pay all bills on time. Why is my credit score not 850? Is it because I just moved back to the US 3 years ago ? I hope someone from Equifax answers this question.

    • EFX Moderator, KB says:

      Great questions. You can build a more positive credit report if you open more lines of credit. While it is certainly not recommended to take on debt you don’t need, you may want to try opening a retail, gas, or low-interest credit card. Keep in mind that this credit card isn’t for buying things you can’t afford; it’s about building a positive credit history. Charge only small amounts that you can easily pay off at the end of the month. Here is a link with more information on how to improve your credit score and creditworthiness: http://blog.equifax.com/credit/improve-your-credit-score-and-creditworthiness/ Best of luck.

  10. Jonahwhale says:

    So my score jumped from 600 to 665 after 4 out of 7 disputes resolved favorably. I just checked my Experian score and it is 554. Some items on Experian show that a dispute is in progress but I did not initiate the dispute with them. Do they get transferred from credit bureau to credit bureau? I sill had another 3 disputes I had to do them myself. Can someone answer how does the information get shared among credit bureaus? thanks.

  11. Nhadrummer says:

    What is the minimum credit score one can have for a VA loan?

    • Anonymous says:

      according to the people i spoke with at usaa 620 is the minimum but most people are having a hard time getting aproved if they are below 660

      • Anonymous says:

        This is true the VA loan thingy is strange. I thght it was 620 minimum also, but at least a 640 is what most are asking for.

    • EFX Moderator, KB says:

      Nhadrummer, good question. It’s hard to give you an exact number because is depends on various factors. Lenders will look at your income, your credit history, how many properties you own, etc. Consider talking to a mortgage broker to review your current credit. Here is a link with information on how qualified veterans are eligible to take advantage of a VA Loan: http://blog.equifax.com/real-estate/zero-down-home-loan-options/

  12. Luke says:

    Why is Transunion reporting all three of my credit scores at more than 100 points higher than Equifax is reporting all three of my scores?

    • EFX Moderator, KB says:

      Luke, that’s a good question.

      Your credit scores are determined by a variety of factors, including the number of accounts you have, the types of accounts, your available credit, your payment history, and the length of your credit history.

      Individual credit-reporting agencies use different scoring models, so even if they each have the same information about you, their calculators may reach different results.

      Here is a link with more information: http://blog.equifax.com/credit/why-are-my-three-credit-scores-different/

  13. Lisa says:

    What kind of credit score should you have for a mortgage loan?

  14. Mushelle says:

    Credit score requirements depend on the companies.. Each company has a different score calculation and different score requirements.. One company may require a 640.. Another may require a 740.. Your best option would be to call the companies you’re looking to apply with and seeing what they have as a minimum then pull a copy of your credit report at http://www.annualcreditreport.com(this is entirely free)if you have not already done so in the past year to make sure there are no inaccuracies and then calling the reporting agency and ordering a score($7.95 for Equifax)to see how you stand.. Even though the mortgage companies will be using a modified score, it still gives you an idea of around where your score would be.

  15. Stephen says:

    What credit score do creditors use when determining credit worthiness? FICO, PLUS or other methodology?

  16. Lorna says:

    I am a Equifax premier member. I check my credit report and score periodically to ensure I maintain a healthy credit/financial foundation. I recently leased a vehicle and was surprised, shocked and disappointed to learn the credit score provided to the dealer was ten points (LESS) than the score I viewed in my credit file on the same day. I asked the finance manager about the disparity and showed him a copy of the report I printed earlier that day. He stated, not verbatim, that a different algorithm is used when purchasing/leasing a vehicle. Is that true? If so, why doesn’t Equifax include this on credit reports. Maintaining an excellent credit score requires diligence. I am personally proud of my achievement. -10 points was unexpected and disheartening but worse it negatively impacts the qualifying interest rate.

    • A.Bravv says:

      I understand your frustration .. However, with such great credit history as you stated on file, most AUTO LENDERS will make the exception to give the better tier rate .. I myself , was a finance manager for 9 years – I would know…. Unless things have changed I find it quite odd that they didn’t try – Unless they were banking on the rate or ( SPREAD) WHICH IS COMMISION IN THEIR POCKET.. Of course, this is providing your credit SCORE is A+/B+ .

  17. Michelle @ needs help! says:

    Will someone please help me!! Does anyone here know which score a mortgage company looks at? Do you know what the FICO score needs to be?

  18. Sandy says:

    Your score needs to be at least 630.

  19. Bill says:

    How do I stop auto inquiries. apparently banks check on there own to make offers and im getting “the number of inquiries have adversely affected the credit score”

  20. A. Bravv says:

    I check my credit report and it shows : 0 NEGATIVE ACCOUNTS AND 0 COLLECTIONS.. Yet I have a collection agency calling in regards to an ” OLD ACCOUNT?” Should I dispute this or what else should I do ? Any help , I appreciate it …

    • Nancy says:

      Do not give them any information. I would ask them to prove that you are responsible for the debt. If they can not do that, they need to stop contacting you. I have heard of this happening before. Some people use it to scam others out of money.

  21. Joe says:

    If you dispute and get items deleted on Equifax does that report to the other credit company’s as well or do I have to redo for all of them ?

    • EFX Moderator_KB says:

      Joe, great question. If you find an inaccuracy with one credit reporting agency, you may want to get your credit file from the other two credit agencies to see if their files contain the same error:

      Experian: http://www.experian.com
      TransUnion: http://www.transunion.com

      After you’ve corrected an error with one CRA, the other agencies should receive the corrected information in the near future. However, for prompt correction, we recommend you contact the other two agencies individually to dispute the error. You may also contact your creditor directly to dispute inaccurate information. Click here to learn more details about how to dispute an error on your credit report. I hope this helps and thanks for posting.

  22. jeff.c says:

    Me and my wife are trying to purchase our first home together. We are trying to get approved for a modular home the company is American Homes their asking for a credit score of a minimum of 580. Now my wife’s fico score is a 620 but mine is a 567 they referred me to a credit repair company where I’m going through as we speak. I paid the credit repair company $500 to repair my credit now I have been going through this repair for about 6 mos now and my fico score has not changed one bit now they have gotten several items deleted off 2 of the credit bureau’s but 1 bureau actually added several items to my credit. Now I have on my own disputed items on my credit reports in the past and believe it I had items deleted just by the dispute process when I check out my credit reports on annual credit reports. I just want to know am I waisting my time and money with this credit repair company or does it look better to a mortgage company or bank when applying for a home loan? Can someone please help me out on what to do in this situation thanks.

    • Atlanta J3 says:

      Your using the wrong credit repair company. The few we have dealt with only take about 90 days to be complete and your scores goes up actually every month. You get alerts (if your signed up with equifax) each time your score changes.

  23. Lee & Patty says:

    My wife & I are looking to buy a retirement home/condo in SW Florida. I NEVER pay asking price but the Realtor is telling us properties are selling for 90-95% of asking price. Our buying range is $300-$375K …..How do we BUY in a market like this? WE WELCOME YOUR THOUGHTS

  24. Angela says:

    I’ve recently paid off all my debts from my divorce, and I’m wondering approximatly how much would my score increase on a monthly basis? I know everyone’s credit is different, but I cant seem to find a ballpark number.

  25. Sharon says:

    I have 2 small collections showing on my report. If I pay these will it change my score? Will the collection still show on my report? If so, how long will it take for it to drop off? Thanks

    • Anonymous says:

      If you want to pay them, talk to the companies and ask for a pay to delete. If you don’t, they will show as collections for the next seven years with a balance of $0

  26. Elise says:

    I recently had my credit checked for a new mortgage loan and the credit score they received from Equifax and experian was much lower than what I see when I check it. Why is this and is there anything I can do to raise those scores?

    • EFX Moderator_KB says:

      Elise, lenders and credit reporting agencies use different models to calculate a credit score. The credit file at one bureau may differ from the next because creditors may choose to only report to one, two or all three bureaus. The models used to create scores are based on these potentially varied credit files. In addition, credit scores can vary often, sometimes daily based on information reported into the credit file.

  27. Dee says:

    I am interested in buying a home, but when i was young i made some stupid decision that now i am paying for now. My credit is poor. If i have some things on my report that is still open, will paying those things off raise my credit score?? i am really just trying to figure out how do i get those things off or paid in full so my credit score goes up?? Help Please!!

    • EFX Moderator_KB says:

      Dee, thanks for posting. Bad credit can happen to good people, but luckily there are ways you could get your creditworthiness and credit score in shape over time. There are no quick fixes, but you may be able reestablish your creditworthiness and your credit capacity over time by improving your creditworthy behavior. Paying off debts that have been charged off or collection accounts will likely improve your score. Paying bills on time and not using too much of your available credit is also helpful; the guideline is 30-35% of your available credit limit. I hope this helps.

  28. sjsdeb1 says:

    why is Equifax so slow in updating reports I had a false credit claim on my reports the other 2 reporting agencies took it off the same day they were notified by the collection agency that it was a mistake , it is 3 days after Equifax also got the same info and they still show it on my report , I would think they could get sued for false reporting when they have got new information


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