Take Advantage of Your Home Equity: A Homeowner’s Guide

Homeownership offers many advantages over renting, including a stable living environment, predictable monthly payments, and the freedom to make modifications. Neighborhoods with high rates of homeownership have less crime and more civic engagement. Additionally, studies show that homeowners are happier and healthier than renters, and their children do better in school.1

But one of the biggest perks of homeownership is the opportunity to build wealth over time. Researchers at the Urban Institute found that homeownership is financially beneficial for most families,2 and a recent study showed that the median net worth of homeowners can be up to 80 times greater than that of renters in some areas.3

So how does purchasing a home help you build wealth? And what steps should you take to maximize the potential of your investment? Find out how to harness the power of home equity for a secure financial future.

WHAT IS HOME EQUITY?

Home equity is the difference between what your home is worth and the amount you owe on your mortgage. So, for example, if your home would currently sell for $250,000, and the remaining balance on your mortgage is $200,000, then you have $50,000 in home equity.

$250,000 (Home’s Market Value)

–   $200,000 (Mortgage Balance)

______________________________

             $50,000 (Home Equity)

The equity in your home is considered a non-liquid asset. It’s your money; but rather than sitting in a bank account, it’s providing you with a place to live. And when you factor in the potential of appreciation, an investment in real estate will likely offer a better return than any savings account available today.

 

HOW DOES HOME EQUITY BUILD WEALTH?

A mortgage payment is a type of “forced savings” for home buyers. When you make a mortgage payment each month, a portion of the money goes towards interest on your loan, and the remaining part goes towards paying off your principal, or loan balance. That means the amount of money you owe the bank is reduced every month. As your loan balance goes down, your home equity goes up.

Additionally, unlike other assets that you borrow money to purchase, the value of your home generally increases, or appreciates, over time. For example, when you pay off your car loan after five or seven years, you will own it outright. But if you try to sell it, the car will be worth much less than when you bought it. However, when you purchase a home, its value typically rises over time. So when you sell it, not only will you have grown your equity through your monthly mortgage payments, but in most cases, your home’s market value will be higher than what you originally paid. And even if you only put down 10% at the time of purchase—or pay off just a small portion of your mortgage—you get to keep 100% of the property’s appreciated value. That’s the wealth-building power of real estate.

 

WHAT CAN I DO TO GROW MY HOME’S EQUITY FASTER?

Now that you understand the benefits of building equity, you may wonder how you can speed up your rate of growth. There are two basic ways to increase the equity in your home:

  • Pay down your mortgage.

We shared earlier that your home’s equity goes up as your mortgage balance goes down. So paying down your mortgage is one way to increase the equity in your home.

Some homeowners do this by adding a little extra to their payment each month, making one additional mortgage payment per year, or making a lump-sum payment when extra money becomes available—like an annual bonus, gift, or inheritance.

Before making any extra payments, however, be sure to check with your mortgage lender about the specific terms of your loan. Some mortgages have prepayment penalties. And it’s important to ensure that if you do make additional payments, the money will be applied to your loan principal.

Another option to pay off your mortgage faster is to decrease your amortization period. For example, if you can afford the larger monthly payments, you might consider refinancing from a 30-year or 25-year mortgage to a 15-year mortgage. Not only will you grow your home equity faster, but you could also save a bundle in interest over the life of your loan.

  • Raise your home’s market value.

Boosting the market value of your property is another way to grow your home equity. While many factors that contribute to your property’s appreciation are out of your control (e.g. demographic trends or the strength of the economy) there are things you can do to increase what it’s worth.

For example, many homeowners enjoy do-it-yourself projects that can add value at a relatively low cost. Others choose to invest in larger, strategic upgrades. Keep in mind, you won’t necessarily get back every dollar you invest in your home. In fact, according to Remodeling Magazine’s latest Cost vs. Value Report, the remodeling project with the highest return on investment is a garage door replacement, which costs about $3600 and is expected to recoup 97.5% at resale. In contrast, an upscale kitchen remodel—which can cost around $130,000—averages less than a 60% return on investment.4

Of course, keeping up with routine maintenance is the most important thing you can do to protect your property’s value. Neglecting to maintain your home’s structure and systems could have a negative impact on its value—therefore reducing your home equity. So be sure to stay on top of recommended maintenance and repairs.

 

 

HOW DO I ACCESS MY HOME EQUITY IF I NEED IT?

When you put your money into a checking or savings account, it’s easy to make a withdrawal when needed. However, tapping into your home equity is a little more complicated.

The primary way homeowners access their equity is by selling their home. Many sellers will use their equity as a downpayment on a new home. Or some homeowners may choose to downsize and use the equity to supplement their income or retirement savings.

But what if you want to access the equity in your home while you’re still living in it? Maybe you want to finance a home renovation, consolidate debt, or pay for college. To do that, you will need to take out a loan using your home equity as collateral.

There are several ways to borrow against your home equity, depending on your needs and qualifications:5

  • Second Mortgage – A second mortgage, also known as a home equity loan, is structured similar to a primary mortgage. You borrow a lump-sum amount, which you are responsible for paying back—with interest—over a set period of time. Most second mortgages have a fixed interest rate and provide the borrower with a predictable monthly payment. Keep in mind, if you take out a home equity loan, you will be making monthly payments on both your primary and secondary mortgages, so budget accordingly.
  • Cash-Out Refinance – With a cash-out refinance, you refinance your primary mortgage for a higher amount than you currently owe. Then you pay off your original mortgage and keep the difference as cash. This option may be preferable to a second mortgage if you have a high interest rate on your current mortgage or prefer to make just one payment per month.
  • Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) – A home equity line of credit, or HELOC, is a revolving line of credit, similar to a credit card. It allows you to draw out money as you need it instead of taking out a lump sum all at once. A HELOC may come with a checkbook or debit card to enable easy access to funds. You will only need to make payments on the amount of money that has been drawn. Similar to a credit card, the interest rate on a HELOC is variable, so your payment each month could change depending on how much you borrow and how interest rates fluctuate.
  • Reverse Mortgage – A reverse mortgage enables qualifying seniors to borrow against the equity in their home to supplement their retirement funds. In most cases, the loan (plus interest) doesn’t need to be repaid until the homeowners sell, move, or are deceased.6

Tapping into your home equity may be a good option for some homeowners, but it’s important to do your research first. In some cases, another type of loan or financing method may offer a lower interest rate or better terms to fit your needs. And it’s important to remember that defaulting on a home equity loan could result in foreclosure. Ask us for a referral to a lender or financial adviser to find out if a home equity loan is right for you.

 

WE’RE HERE TO HELP YOU

Wherever you are in the equity-growing process, we can help. We work with buyers to find the perfect home to begin their wealth-building journey. We also offer free assistance to existing homeowners who want to know their home’s current market value to refinance or secure a home equity loan. And when you’re ready to sell, we can help you get top dollar to maximize your equity stake. Contact us today to schedule a complimentary consultation!

 

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial advice. Consult a financial professional for advice regarding your individual needs.

Sources:
1. National Association of Realtors –
https://www.nar.realtor/blogs/economists-outlook/highlights-from-social-benefits-of-homeownership-and-stable-housing
2. Urban Institute –
https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/homeownership-still-financially-better-renting
3. Census Bureau –
https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/08/gaps-in-wealth-americans-by-household-type.html
4. Remodeling Magazine –
https://www.remodeling.hw.net/cost-vs-value/2019/
5. Investopedia –
https://www.investopedia.com/mortgage/heloc/home-equity/
6. Bankrate –
https://www.bankrate.com/mortgage/reverse-mortgage-guide/

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181 Harbourside Drive | Fox Harbour NS B0K 1Y0

Welcome home to Fox Harbour! In a gated oceanfront community you will find this custom built home which offers exceptional views of the Graham Cooke designed championship golf course, Northumberland Strait, and PEI. A welcoming entry, spectacular crafted stone pillars, floor to ceiling stone fireplace, a cathedral ceiling, teak hardwood, a versatile open floor plan with an impressive great room and kitchen are what you notice at first glance. This home was built for entertaining family and friends . Endless counter space for the chef of the family, separate dining areas for formal or meals on the go, amazing screened in sun room where you can sit back and take in the fresh air. The bedrooms and bathrooms are all a great size. Lower level is almost finished and houses so much space for the extended family and future entertaining places. This community offers membership privileges and amenities including 1 golf membership, wellness pool, luxurious spa, fitness center, outdoor tennis, sports fishing, and access by the jet port or the marina.

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1528/1530/1532 Larch Street | Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 3W8

A fantastic high quality investment opportunity in the most sought after residential area in Halifax. This spacious Triplex was transformed from a single family dwelling in 2019 by MRB Contracting (renowned for their integrity, quality and highest standards). The incoming owner will be pleased to have professionals as long-term tenants who pay utilities directly and enjoy calling this place home. The current owner had no intention of selling but has moved to Western Canada, upgrades were made with the mindset of an owner-occupier. The lower unit has 1100+ sqft with 1 bedroom and a den, 1.5 baths and is very nicely appointed with a very large open concept living, dining and kitchen area with quartz counter tops and a great breakfast bar for meals on the go. The main level unit has 1400+ sqft and is very spacious with a cherry kitchen, built-in appliances, very bright eating nook, 2 large bedrooms and 2.5 baths. The third unit with over 1500+ sqft of living area offers a very bright kitchen with quartz counter tops and stainless steel appliances, 3 bedrooms and 3 baths with an ideal layout for working from home. Conveniently, all units have their own laundry facilities. The heating system was upgraded to natural gas hot water (boiler) and through which the domestic hot water is drawn. Paved driveway at the side of the home leads to the parking area which accommodates parking for 4.

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COVID-19 Update: Is Now a Good Time to Buy or Sell Real Estate?

Traditionally, spring is one of the busiest times of the year for real estate. But the coronavirus outbreak—and subsequent stay-at-home orders—led many buyers and sellers to put their moving plans on hold. In April, sales volume fell to its lowest level since 1984, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.1

However, while sales have fallen, prices have remained stable. In Canada The average home price in April was down just 1.3% from the same month last year.1 And in many metropolitan areas, prices have continued to rise. In Halifax-Dartmouth region closing slaes prices were actually up 1.1% from 2019, a promising sign for the rest of the spring/summer market! The Teranet–National Bank Composite House Price Index, which measures 11 major Canadian markets, showed home prices in April were up 5.3% from a year                                           

But given safety concerns and the current economic climate, is it prudent to jump back into the real estate market?

Before you decide, it’s important to consider where the housing market is headed, how the real estate process has changed, and your own individual needs and circumstances.

WHAT’S AHEAD FOR THE HOUSING MARKET?

In response to the economic slowdown, the Bank of Canada has slashed interest rates.3 That’s good news for homebuyers who have struggled to afford a mortgage in the past. Lower mortgage rates can bring down monthly payments or increase a buyer’s purchasing power while making it easier to qualify for a loan.

And at a recent press conference, Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz told reporters that interest rates would likely remain low for the foreseeable future. He also noted that the country is on track to meet the central bank’s “best-case scenario for recovery” as outlined in April, and he didn’t predict damage to the economy would be as “dire” as some have speculated.4

While many buyers are eager to take advantage of low mortgage rates, some wonder if recessionary pressures could drive down home prices, too. Economists at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation predict that prices will decrease over the next 12 months.5 However, many real estate industry veterans expect supply and demand fundamentals to prevent a drastic drop in home values.6

There’s been a shortage of affordable homes on the market for years, and that inventory shortage has helped to prop up prices—even as sales have slowed. That’s because supply and demand have fallen at around the same pace.7 Of course, some market segments have fared better than others. For example, demand has softened for urban condos in some areas, which has caused prices to drop. Whereas, the supply of single-family homes in many neighbourhoods has dried up, leaving eager buyers to compete for listings.7

There are certainly opportunities out in the marketplace for both buyers and sellers. But now more than ever, it’s crucial to have a professional real estate agent who understands your local market dynamics and can help you assess the best time to buy or list your home.

HOW HAS THE REAL ESTATE PROCESS CHANGED?

The safety of our clients and our team members is our top priority. That’s why we’ve developed a process for buyers and sellers that utilizes technology to minimize personal contact.

For our listings, we’re holding online open houses, offering virtual viewings, and conducting walk-through video tours. We’re also using video chat to qualify interested buyers before we book in-person showings. This enables us to promote your property to a broad audience while limiting physical foot traffic to only serious buyers.

Likewise, our buyer clients can view properties online and take virtual video tours to minimize the number of homes they step inside. Ready to visit a property in person? We can decrease surface contact by asking the seller to turn on all the lights and open doors and cabinets before your scheduled showing.

The majority of our “paperwork” is also digital. In fact, many of the legal and financial documents involved in buying and selling a home went online years ago. You can safely view and eSign contracts from your smartphone or computer.

While these new ways of conducting business may seem strange at first, keep in mind, many military clients, international buyers, and others have utilized virtual methods to buy and sell homes for years.

IS IT THE RIGHT TIME FOR ME TO MAKE A MOVE?

The reality is, there’s no “one size fits all” answer as to whether it’s a good time to buy or sell a home because everyone’s circumstances are unique. But now that you know the state of the market and what you can expect as you shop for real estate, consider the following questions:

 

Why do you want or need to move?

It’s important to consider why you want to move and if your needs may shift over the next year. For example, if you need a larger home for your growing family, your space constraints aren’t likely to go away. In fact, they could be amplified as you spend more time at home.

However, if you’re planning a move to be closer to your office, consider whether your commute could change. Some companies are rethinking their office dynamics and may encourage their employees to work remotely on a permanent basis.

 

How urgently do you need to complete your move?

If you have a new baby on the way or want to be settled before schools open in the fall, we recommend that you begin aggressively searching as soon as possible. With fewer homes on the market, it’s taking longer than usual for clients to find and purchase a home.

However, if your timeline is flexible, you may be well-positioned to score a deal. We’re seeing more highly-incentivized sellers who are willing to negotiate on terms and price. Talk to us about setting up a search so we can keep an eye out for any bargains that pop up. And get pre-qualified for a mortgage now so you’ll be ready to act quickly.

If you’re eager to sell this year, now is the time to begin prepping your home for the market. Prices could fluctuate, and experts predict a second wave of infections may necessitate another lockdown.8 If you wait, you might miss your window of opportunity.

 

How has your particular market segment been impacted?

Certain segments will weather this economic downturn better than others. It’s important to understand the market dynamics of your particular area, price point, and housing type. The truth is, broad macroeconomic projections rarely paint an accurate picture of the day-to-day market realities of a given neighbourhood.

 

How long do you plan to stay in your new home?

During times of market uncertainty, your best bet is to buy a home you can envision yourself keeping for several years. Fortunately, with decreased competition and ultra-low mortgage rates, you’ll be well-positioned to score a great deal.

 

Is your income stable?

If there’s a good chance you could lose your job, you may be better off waiting to buy a home. The exception would be if you’re planning to downsize. Moving to a less expensive home could allow you to tap into your home equity or cut down on your monthly expenses.

WHEN YOU’RE READY TO MOVE—WE’RE READY TO HELP

While uncertain market conditions may give pause to some buyers and sellers, they can actually present an opportunity for those who are willing, able, and motivated to make a move.

Your average spring season would be flooded with real estate activity. But right now, only motivated players are out in the market. That means that if you’re looking to buy, you’re in a better position to negotiate a great price. And today’s low mortgage rates could give a big boost to your purchasing power. In fact, if you’ve been priced out of the market before, this may be the perfect time to look.

If you’re ready to sell, you’ll have fewer listings to compete against in your neighbourhood and price range. But you’ll want to act quickly—a second wave of coronavirus cases could be coming later this year. Ask yourself how you will feel if you have to face another lockdown in your current home.

Let’s schedule a free virtual consultation to discuss your individual needs and circumstances. We can help you assess your options and create a plan that makes you feel both comfortable and confident during these unprecedented times.

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial advice. Consult a financial professional for advice regarding your individual needs.

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