With April Fool’s Day rapidly approaching, what better time to discuss foolish money mistakes? We make lots of them, from budgeting errors to tax mistakes to investment blunders and everything in between. So, let’s start with these five — as they pertain to housing:
Granted, some of us can’t buy a home because we don’t have good credit and can’t get financing. Many others, though, are stubbornly waiting for prices to drop further. Timing the market, as such, is problematic because a housing bottom is only going to become apparent after the fact. Are you so risk-adverse that you’re missing the big picture here? Home affordability is off the charts right now (Nationwide, home values are down 24% below their 2007 peak), and mortgage rates, while they have been ticking up lately (See next item.), remain at historic lows. It’s a combination you don’t see often.
2. Fixating on home prices only
We can’t emphasize this enough: prices are just one factor in how much a home will cost per month. Mortgage rates are the other. While still below where they were a year ago, rates are starting to rise as the economy improves. In fact, they recently topped 4%. That’s up from 3.88% just two weeks ago, and is the highest level since late October. Some economists say rates are likely to keep rising throughout 2012 and into 2013, so even if home prices keep dropping, higher mortgage rates could counteract that, closing your window of opportunity.
3. Not knowing your credit score
This number is readily accessible so if you’re in the market for a loan, find out where you stand! To get your FICO score (a score used by most lenders), go to myfico.com ($19.95). Other (free) options include creditkarma.com, creditsesame.com, and quizzle.com. Or, use Zillow’s credit score estimator (free).
4. Failing to research loan options
A survey by Zillow Mortgage Marketplace shows that borrowers are spending twice as much researching a car purchase as they are home loans – five hours versus ten, respectively, even though the average cost of a home is about five times more than the average costs of a car. Really now.
5. Overlooking savings of doing a refinance
An estimated 14 million creditworthy Americans, reluctant to refinance for any number of reasons, are overpaying their mortgages by an average of $471/month. By refinancing, these homeowners could save nearly $57,000 over 10 years. Want to see how much you could save first-hand? Try the refinance calculators on Zillow, or use the Zillow Mortgage Marketplace Android App (also available on iPhone). The numbers will likely inspire you to take action!
Vera Gibbons is a financial journalist based in New York City and is a contributor to Zillow Blog. Connect with her at http://veragibbons.com/.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.