Even if you haven’t been following real estate news, you’ve likely heard about the current sellers’ market. That’s because there’s a lot of talk about how strong market conditions are for people who want to sell their houses. But if you’re thinking about listing your house, you probably want to know: what does being in a sellers’ market really mean?
What Is a Sellers’ Market?
The latest Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows housing supply is still very low. There’s a 2-month supply of homes at the current sales pace.
Historically, a 6-month supply is necessary for a normal or neutral market where there are enough homes available for active buyers. That puts today deep in sellers’ market territory (see graph below):
What Does This Mean for You When You Sell?
When the supply of houses for sale is as low as it is right now, it’s much harder for buyers to find homes to purchase. That creates increased competition among purchasers which can lead to more bidding wars. And if buyers know they may be entering a bidding war, they’re going to do their best to submit a very attractive offer upfront. This could drive the final price of your house up.
And because mortgage rates and home prices are climbing, serious buyers are motivated to make their purchase soon, before those two things rise further. That means, if you put your house on the market while supply is still low, it will likely get a lot of attention from competitive buyers.
The current real estate market has incredible opportunities for homeowners looking to make a move. Listing your house this season means you’ll be in front of serious buyers who are ready to buy. Let’s connect so you can jumpstart the selling process.
You don’t need a real estate license to find your dream home, but it does help to become familiar with real estate jargon you might encounter during the process. When searching for a home or applying for a mortgage, you may hear your real estate agent or lender use any of the terms or acronyms below.
Keep this four-part guide handy — you’ll be fluent in the language of home buying before you know it.
Real estate terms to know when you’re searching for a home
Affordability or home affordability refers to the amount of money you can comfortably afford to spend on a home. Home affordability takes into account your income, down payment, and monthly debts. Try this affordability calculator to see how much house you might be able to afford.
Approved for short sale
A term that indicates that a homeowner’s bank has received an offer from a buyer and has determined the reduced listing price on a home meets their short sale criteria based on the seller’s circumstances and how much is owed.
Buy-rent breakeven horizon
A concrete point at which buying a home makes more financial sense than renting one.
Market conditions that exist when homes for sale outnumber buyers. Homes can sit on the market for a long time, and prices tend to drop.
Comparative market analysis (CMA)
An in-depth analysis, prepared by a real estate agent, that determines the estimated value of a home based on recently sold homes of similar condition, size, features and age that are located in the same area.
Or comparable sales, are homes in a given area that have sold within the past several months that a real estate agent uses to determine a home’s value.
Days on market (DOM)
The number of days a property listing is considered active.
The price of a home, as set by the seller.
Multiple listing service (MLS)
A database where real estate agents list properties for sale.
Market conditions that exist when buyers outnumber homes for sale. Bidding wars are common. Prices are often higher than average.
The sale of a home by an owner who owes more on the home than it’s worth. The owner’s bank must approve a lower listing price before the home can be sold.
Study these real estate terms when you’re applying for a mortgage
Adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM)
An adjustable-rate mortgage, or ARM, has an introductory interest rate that lasts a set period of time and adjusts every six months thereafter for the remaining loan term. After the set time period your interest rate will change and so will your monthly payment.
One of two debt-to-income ratios that a lender analyzes to determine a borrower’s eligibility for a home loan. The ratio compares the borrower’s monthly debt payments to gross income.
Banks, savings and loans, and credit unions. These institutions underwrite as well as set home loan pricing in-house.
Debt-to-income ratio (DTI)
A ratio that compares a home buyer’s expenses to gross income. Try this debt-to-income calculator to learn more.
One of two debt-to-income ratios that a lender analyzes to determine a borrower’s eligibility for a home loan. The ratio compares total housing cost (principal, homeowners insurance, taxes and private mortgage insurance) to gross income.
A three-page document sent to an applicant three days after they apply for a home loan. The document includes loan terms, monthly payment and closing costs.
Loan-to-value ratio (LTV)
The amount of the loan divided by the price of the house. Lenders reward lower LTV ratios.
A fee, charged by a broker or lender, to underwrite and process a home loan application. An origination fee is not a single fee. It’s a set of lender-specific fees that are part of your costs when closing a mortgage loan.
A thorough assessment of a borrower’s income, assets and other data to determine a loan amount they would qualify for. A real estate agent will request a pre-approval or pre-qualification letter before showing a buyer a home.
A basic assessment of income, assets and credit score to determine what, if any, loan programs a borrower might qualify for. A real estate agent will request a pre-approval or pre-qualification letter before showing a buyer a home.
A process a lender follows to assess a home loan applicant’s income, assets and credit, and the risk involved in offering the applicant a mortgage.
Learn these definitions before shopping for a mortgage
A home loan not guaranteed by a government agency, such as the FHA or the VA.
A certain portion of the home’s purchase price that a buyer must pay. A minimum requirement is often dictated by the loan type.
A government-sponsored enterprise chartered in 1938 to help ensure a reliable and affordable supply of mortgage funds throughout the country.
Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
A government agency created by the National Housing Act of 1934 that insures loans made by private lenders. The Federal Housing Administration is part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
A rehabilitation loan backed by the federal government that permits home buyers to finance money into a mortgage to repair, improve or upgrade a home.
Loans from private lenders that are regulated and insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). FHA loans are different from conventional loans because they can be approved for borrowers with lower credit scores and may allow for down payments as low as 3.5 percent of the total loan amount. Maximum loan amounts can vary by county.
A mortgage with principal and interest payments that remain the same throughout the life of the loan because the interest rate does not change.
A property repossessed by a bank when the owner fails to make mortgage payments.
A government agency chartered by Congress in 1970 to provide a constant source of mortgage funding for the nation’s housing markets.
One who originates, sells, and services mortgage loans and resells them to secondary mortgage lenders such as Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
A licensed professional who works on behalf of the buyer to secure financing through a bank or other lending institution.
Mortgage interest rate
The price of borrowing money. The base rate is set by the Federal Reserve and then customized per borrower, based on credit score, down payment, property type and points the buyer pays to lower the rate.
A combination of loans bundled to avoid private mortgage insurance. One loan covers 80% of the home’s value, another loan covers 10% to 15% of the home’s value, and the buyer contributes the remainder.
A prepayment penalty is a fee some lenders may charge if you pay off some or all of your mortgage early. Not all mortgages carry a prepayment penalty. Be sure to read the fine print carefully.
Prime rate is the interest rate charged by a lender to customers who are the least likely to default on their loans. The most credit-worthy customers (mainly large corporations), receive the best or lowest rate that the lender would offer any of its customers. Each lending institution sets its own prime rate. Typically, most consumers’ mortgage interest rate is going to be higher than the prime rate.
Principal, interest, property taxes and homeowners insurance (PITI)
The components of a monthly mortgage payment.
Private mortgage insurance (PMI)
A fee charged to borrowers who make a down payment that is less than 20% of the home’s value. The fee, 0.3% to 1.5% of the yearly loan amount, can be canceled in certain circumstances when the borrower reaches 20% equity.
Prepaid interest owed at closing, with one point representing 1% of the loan. Paying points, which are tax deductible, will lower the monthly mortgage payment.
Real estate terms you might hear when you’ve chosen a home
American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)
A not-for-profit professional association that sets and promotes standards for property inspections. Look for this accreditation or something similar when shopping for a home inspector.
A homeowners insurance policy that pays the replacement cost of a home, minus depreciation, should damage occur.
Fees associated with the purchase of a home that are due at the end of the sales transaction. Fees may include the appraisal, the home inspection, a title search, a pest inspection and more. Buyers should budget for an amount that is 2% to 5% of the home’s purchase price. Read more about closing costs here.
Conditions written into a home purchase contract that protect the buyer should issues arise with financing, the home inspection, etc.
A security deposit made by the buyer to assure the seller of his or her intent to purchase.
Mortgage escrow account
An account required by a lender and funded by a buyer’s mortgage payment to pay the buyer’s homeowners insurance and property taxes. A portion of your monthly payment goes into the escrow account to cover taxes and insurance. If your mortgage doesn’t have an escrow account, you may pay the property-related expenses directly.
A state in which an escrow agent is responsible for closing.
A visual evaluation performed by a licensed home inspector to look for any potential defects or items of note related to the property, building(s), and the systems in a home. Inspection occurs when the home is under contract or in escrow.
A policy that protects the structure of the home, its contents, injury to others and living expenses should damage occur. Learn more about homeowners insurance here.
A period of time (typically 30 days or more) after a buyer has made an offer on a home and a seller has accepted. During this time, the home is inspected and appraised, and the title searched for liens, etc.
Insurance that protects the buyer and lender should an individual or entity step forward with a claim that was attached to the property before the seller transferred legal ownership of the property or “title” to the buyer.
Fees imposed by the state, county or municipality on transfer of title.
A period of time (typically 30 days or more) after a buyer has made an offer on a home and a seller has accepted. During this time, the home is inspected and appraised, and the title is searched for liens, etc.
A buyer’s final inspection of a home before closing.
Words to know when you own a home
Repayment of a mortgage over the loan term through regular monthly installments of principal and interest, based on an amortization schedule. If you have made your required monthly payments, at the end of the loan term (e.g., 15 or 30 year mortgage), you will own your home.
A deed is the legal document that establishes ownership of real property, and is also used to transfer the ownership of real property to another person or entity.
A percentage of the home’s value owned by the homeowner.
Homeowners association (HOA)
The governing body of a housing development, condo or townhome complex that sets rules and regulations. They charge dues used to maintain common areas. Learn more about HOAs here.
A lien is any legal claim upon a property for a debt or a non-monetary interest in the property. A lien is a security interest that can give a creditor the right to take possession of a property secured by a loan, such as a mortgage, when the borrower defaults on the loan obligations. Most lenders will require title insurance to protect their interests should there be outstanding liens on the property securing their security interest.
Property tax exemption
A reduction in taxes based on specific criteria, such as installation of a renewable energy system or rehabilitation of a historic home.
The act of paying off one loan by obtaining another. Refinancing is generally done to secure better loan terms, such as a lower interest rate.
The government’s legal claim against property when the homeowner neglects or fails to pay a tax debt.
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There’s never been a truer statement regarding forecasting mortgage rates than the one offered last year by Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American:
“You know, the fallacy of economic forecasting is: Don’t ever try and forecast interest rates and or, more specifically, if you’re a real estate economist mortgage rates, because you will always invariably be wrong.”
Coming into this year, most experts projected mortgage rates would gradually increase and end 2022 in the high three-percent range. It’s only April, and rates have already blown past those numbers. Freddie Mac announced last week that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is already at 4.72%.
Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.com, tweeted on March 31:
“Continuing on the recent trajectory, would have mortgage rates hitting 5% within a matter of weeks. . . .”
Just five days later, on April 5, the Mortgage News Daily quoted a rate of 5.02%.
No one knows how swiftly mortgage rates will rise moving forward. However, at least to this point, they haven’t significantly impacted purchaser demand. Ali Wolf, Chief Economist at Zonda, explains:
“Mortgage rates jumped much quicker and much higher than even the most aggressive forecasts called for at the end of last year, and yet housing demand appears to be holding steady.”
Through February, home prices, the number of showings, and the number of homes receiving multiple offers all saw a substantial increase. However, much of the spike in mortgage rates occurred in March. We will not know the true impact of the increase in mortgage rates until the March housing numbers become available in early May.
Rick Sharga, EVP of Market Intelligence at ATTOM Data, recently put rising rates into context:
“Historically low mortgage rates and higher wages helped offset rising home prices over the past few years, but as home prices continue to soar and interest rates approach five percent on a 30-year fixed rate loan, more consumers are going to struggle to find a property they can comfortably afford.”
While no one knows exactly where rates are headed, experts do think they’ll continue to rise in the months ahead. In the meantime, if you’re looking to buy a home, know that rising rates do have an impact. As rates rise, it’ll cost you more when you purchase a house. If you’re ready to buy, it may make sense to do so sooner rather than later.
Mark Fleming got it right. Forecasting mortgage rates is an impossible task. However, it’s probably safe to assume the days of attaining a 3% mortgage rate are over. The question is whether that will soon be true for 4% rates as well.