Advice comes as market forces align to create challenges for would-be homebuyers
Due to a confluence of factors – rising mortgage rates, tight inventory, price increases in building supplies (especially lumber) – the nation’s homebuilders are forced to make allowances in contracts or insert a cost escalation clause to mitigate the risk. Similarly, homeowners have been driven to think more creatively about properties they may want to buy with strict timelines.
Bottom line: Building a home now requires would-be homeowners to secure additional funds to pay for the construction of their home. With the advent of the busy spring homebuying season, hope remains for both builders and homebuyers to work together, Russ Stephens of the Association of Professional Builders told Mortgage Professional America.
To enhance smooth sailing, Stephens offered his top five dos and don’ts for both parties to follow:
- Research is key: “Homebuyers should do their research before choosing a builder,” Stephens emphasized. “Don’t choose a builder based only on price.”
- Estimate your costs: “Do pay for a quotation rather than making a decision on a free estimate,” Stephens advised.
- Timing is everything: “Do be prepared to wait for your project to start construction,” he said. “Also, don’t sign a contract with a building company that does not produce a job schedule on request.”
- Ask questions: “Don’t get blindsided by builders’ lingo or other terminologies you may not understand,” Stephens urged. “If you don’t understand, do ask more questions.”
- Be prepared to negotiate: “Your home is one of your most important decisions,” he said. “Understand that you may need to negotiate around your absolute ‘musts’ and also be willing and prepared to renegotiate prior to the construction starting.”
The Association of Professional Builders is a leading business coaching service for custom home builders which Stephens serves as business strategy specialist and co-founder. In that role, Stephens is a data analysis expert who has introduced data-driven decision making to the residential construction industry.
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Stephens’ advice comes as market forces have caused a decline in homebuyer affordability, with the national median payment applied for by applicants rising 5.0% to $1,736 from $1,653 in February, according to the March report by the Mortgage Bankers Association dubbed the Purchase Applications Payment Index. The index measures how new monthly mortgage payments vary across time – relative to income – using data from MBA’s Weekly Applications Survey.
“The start of the spring homebuying season is off to a mixed start,” said Edward Seiler, MBA’s Associate vice president, Housing Economics, and executive director, Research Institute for Housing America. “The healthy labor market and robust wage gains fueled demand throughout the country in March, but rapid home-price growth and the 42-basis-point surge in mortgage rates last month slowed purchase application activity.”
A typical borrower’s principal and interest payment was $387 more than in March 2021. “Swift price-appreciation, sky-high inflation, low inventory, and mortgage rates now two percentage points higher than last year are all headwinds for the housing market in the coming months – especially for first-time buyers.”
Seiler added that MBA’s updated forecast now calls for an annual decline in existing sales, higher home prices and mortgage rates, and a smaller, but solid, 4% gain in purchase origination volume.
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An increase in MBA’s Purchase Applications Payment Index – indicative of declining borrower affordability conditions – means that the mortgage payment to income ratio (PIR) is higher due to increasing application loan amounts, rising mortgage rates, or a decrease in earnings. A decrease in the PAPI – indicative of improving borrower affordability conditions – occurs when loan application amounts decrease, mortgage rates decrease, or earnings increase.
The national Purchase Applications Payment Index increased 5.0% to 150.9 in March from 143.7 in February, meaning payments on new mortgages take up a larger share of a typical person’s income. Compared to March 2021 (122.9), the index jumped 22.8%. For borrowers applying for lower-payment mortgages (the 25th percentile), the national mortgage payment increased 3.2% to $1,129 from $1,094 in February.