Nice new custom built home close to the city of New Orleans.

June 2020 saw a small decline in single-family new home sales to around 6.6% according to the National Association of Home Builders Eye on the Economy. The annualized rate fell to 676,000. Although the past several months have seen a small monthly decline, the new home sale is still 13.5% higher on a year-to-year basis from 2020.

The small decline according to some industry professionals is from the lack of inventory and the higher construction costs while other industry leaders believe it is caused due to the higher new home prices. New home prices have risen 10% since January 2020.

The new home inventory is down by 44% which is a little over 34,000 homes over the last year. Supply factors including the material, labor and lots are holding builders back. The survey also indicated that today’s buyers are not happy with housing affordability. In fact, the share of buyers who can afford less than half the homes available for sale worsened from 63% at the end of 2020 to 71% by midyear.

Although the market is still going strong, those who did not purchase during the second quarter of 2021 was due to pricing. The higher construction cost and development costs have hindered housing prices. The GDP growth for the second quarter was at a low of 6.5%. The good news is that NAHB is predicting an overall growth rate of just under 7% for the whole year. This will be the best rate seen since 1984.

This is still a good time to buy as mortgage rates are still reasonable. If you are in the market for a home, contact your local Realtor.

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During the release of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Survey of Construction (SOC) it was reported that over half (65%) of new single-family homes built in 2020 were constructed on slab foundations. The remaining accounted for 22% with a full/partial basement and 12% with a crawl space.

In fact, there is a wider gap between a slab and full/partial basement and this gap is still widening. This can be seen in the reports from previous years. In 2000 only 46% of new single home starts were built on slabs. This is not the case with new homes constructed on a basement. In 2000 36.8% were built on basements while only 22% were in 2020.

The percentages differ from region to region. New homes that were built on slab foundations were predominant in the West South Central (95.7%), followed by the South Atlantic (79.4%), next was the Pacific (97.7%) and still strong but a little under half in the Moutain Region (48.1%).

Over the past decade, most new single-family homes were built on slab foundations. Experts say this is due to the warmer climate. In the East South Central division, 43% of the new single-family homes were built on a crawl space which outnumbered the 38% that were built on slabs.

The climate in each region plays a big part in what types of foundations are used in that area. Homes that are built in colder areas must have their foundations built below the frost line. This means that the majority are built on partial or full basements. New England saw 79.8% of new homes built with full/partial basements, West North Central (77.2%), Middle Atlantic 69.5% and East North Central 54.3%.

The survey also reported the average area of a finished basement in the colder regions. In the East North Central new single-family construction homes had 1,156sq. ft., while West North Central had 998sq. ft., Middle Atlantic 921 sq. ft. and in New England 734 sq. ft. According to the survey nationwide the average finished basement area was 1,137 sq. ft. in 2020.

If you are in the market for a new home, now is a great time to buy. Check with a local Realtor who can help you with the process from start to finish.

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Nice new custom built home close to the city of New Orleans.

According to the US Census Bureau’s Survey of Construction (SOC) and information gathered by NAHB two-story homes are on the decrease. They found in 2020 the same amount of two-story homes started was equal to single-story homes.

Nationwide, the share of new homes with two or more stories fell from 52% in 2019 to 50% in 2020, while the share of new homes with one story grew from 48% to 50%.  The South region has seen the most increase in one-story homes for three straight years. One story new homes started in 2020 shows the most in West South Central with 62%. The least was in New England with 15%.

The 2020 Survey of Construction shows each region divided by new homes with a single story and new homes with two or more. The Pacific region shows 39% built were one story while 61% were two or more, Mountain showed 51% single while 49% were two or more, West North Central had 57% one story while 43% were two or more, West South Central had 62% one story with 38% two or more, East North Central showed 56% were one story while 44% were two or more, East South Central showed 61% one story and 39% two or more, the South Atlantic came in with 48% one story and 52% two or more, Middle Atlantic with 28% one story and 72% two or more, and New England with 15% one story and 85% two or more.

That means that four of these nine divisions saw the greatest newly-built homes with two or more stories. In fact, two or more story homes were seen in greater amounts in the divisions along the coasts around the country. As far as single-story homes, the Midwest and South won.

A surprising twist to the current home market that might have stemmed from the pandemic. If you are in the market for a new home, call a local Realtor in your area. A Realtor will be able to help you with your home search.

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The nice gray is a pop of color in the kitchen. The house features hardwood floors and a nice white wall.

A nice foyer with double entry doors.One of the most important parts of the home sale process is staging your home. According to industry leaders, staging your home prior to putting it on the market will not only make you more money but will also help your home sell faster.

The National Association of Realtors reported that 96% of realtors believed staging had an impact on the buyer. Here are some great tips for staging your home before you put it on the market.

Go on a Cleaning Spree

For those on a budget, this is a great way to start the process of getting your home ready to sell. Most homeowners do weekly tasks to keep their home clean like dusting and vacuuming. When getting your home ready to sell, go the extra mile by scrubbing the grout in the bathrooms, soaking faucet heads in vinegar to remove limescale buildup, clean the baseboards and deep cleaning all the remaining areas of the house.

Declutter Everything

A big room can look small and cramped when it is filled with clutter. When staging a room, remember less is more. Just think, if you declutter now, there will not be as much stuff to pack when moving.

Keep Flat Surfaces Clear

Shelves, countertops, desks and tables should be cleared. According to top professional home stagers, this is one of the top on the list.  A few decorations here and there are fine, but clean lines are a home staging staple.

Remove Personal Items

A buyer does not want to see that this home belongs to the seller. The buyer wants to be able to envision themselves in the home. Remember you want to showcase your home’s potential and keep distractions at bay. Removing family photos, knick-knacks or memorabilia that can distract potential buyers is a must.

Paint Walls with Neutral Colors

Bright or dramatic paint color can give a negative impression on buyers. In order to appeal to the widest range of buyers, repaint your walls in a neutral color. Use color schemes such as white, cream, beige or light gray. Studies show that neutral paint in homes can bring a seller an average of 107% return on investment.

Refresh with Mild Scents

Another sense that buyers use when touring a home is smell. Bad odors such as pets or cigarettes can detour buyers. If your home has been exposed to such elements over time, take baking soda and sprinkle it on soft surfaces such as carpet and furniture. You will want to leave it there overnight and then vacuum it up the next day. Another trick is to wash your windows and clean the walls with mild soap and water. Steaming cleaning your floors will also help with pet odors and stains.

Remove Evidence of Pets

Not all potential buyers are pet lovers. Pets can cause damage to the home such as scratch marks, odors and stains. If these reminders are left, it can detour many buyers from purchasing your home. A tip for pet stains is to treat them with a mixture of vinegar, water, baking soda, peroxide and detergent. If a pet has scratched hardwood floors, purchase a hardwood repair kit to fix the scratches. Just like the sellers leave when someone tours your home, the pets should also.

Let in Natural Light

When looking at home listings many always talk about the open and bright spaces. Letting in the sunlight is a free staging tip and can make a world of difference in a space. Both professional home stagers and real estate photographers believe a well-lit room is a strong selling point for those looking to purchase a home.

Choose the Right Light Bulbs

Most homes still need light fixtures to brighten the rooms. Do not use fluorescent bulbs rather use soft white bulbs that some say mimic natural light. Some homeowners often use daylight bulbs which send a blue hue into the rooms. These work well in kitchens, bathrooms and home offices.

Create More Space with Mirrors

Just like magic mirrors can give the illusion of more space in a room. In order to make your square footage “stretch,” you will need to strategically place mirrors. An example would be to take a large mirror and place it at eye level near a light source in a room. This makes the room feel bigger and more comfortable.

Upgrade the Cabinets

Dated cabinets can make your kitchen look old and run down. A way to fix this problem without breaking the bank is to transform your existing old cabinets. To do this you can add a fresh coat of paint and new hardware.

Organize the Closets

Buyers always look at how much storage space a home has. Storage space is one of the top features on the buyer’s list. A great trick to use is to organize and clean out your closets. Clear floors and neatly hung clothes can make a closet appear bigger. You want to create the feeling that there is a lot of empty space that can be used.

Rearrange Your Current Furniture

When working on a tight budget, a good solution is to work with what you already have. Make sure your floorplan and furniture create an easy flow for potential buyers to navigate. Change your furniture around to create a nice flow to each room.

Use Existing Items

As mention earlier, use what you got. If you need to purchase something on a budget a great place to find items is at estate sales, garage sales, thrift stores, antique stores, Facebook Marketplace or Etsy.

Place Decor Using the Rule of Three

A great insider tip is to group decorative pieces by three. For example take a large, medium, and small decor piece and place it next to one another on a coffee table. Another great idea is to take a tall vase and place it with two smaller candles.

Buy New Bedding

Worn bedding or mismatched bedding can mess a whole bedroom design. A well-made bed is a plus in staging a bedroom. Use neutral color bedding when staging.

Put Slipcovers on Furniture

Give your outdated or dirty sofa and throw pillows a lift. An easy way to do this is by putting slipcovers over the sofa and throw pillows. A tip is to always choose slipcovers that match the room decor. This is a much less expensive way to update a room over buying all new furniture.

Try Virtual Staging

Sometimes it is hard for buyers to envision a room when it is vacant. A vacant property can still be stage without bringing in furniture and decor. Virtual staging is a great way to stage a home on a budget. Virtual staging makes the area look really staged and can be completed by a virtual stager at $50 per photo.

These tips won’t break your bank and will help you get more bang for your buck when you sell your home. It is still wise to hire a Realtor that is experienced in selling a home in your area.

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Private soaking tub in the master bathroom that has a window above. There is a lot of natural lighting in this master bathroom.

While today’s housing market is not in the buyer’s favor, people are still purchasing homes. Most potential buyers will need a mortgage and there are many steps to this process. When deciding if this step is right for you, take into consideration the following things regarding the process.

Now may still be a good time to buy a home

This is a personal decision, there is no right or wrong time to purchase a home in general. Whether a buyer’s market or a seller’s market you should take the leap when it makes the best sense in your life. Ann Thomspon, with Bank of America, says that consumers will always want to purchase a home and need to purchase a home.

Especially with the changes we have seen in the last year due to COVID-19, our home has become our live, work and play space. People have placed a greater emphasis on the value of a home.

“A second bedroom that can be used as a home office, or an outdoor space, are now more desired, prompting many people to move or buy for the first time,” says Rick Rudman, CEO at Curbio, a home renovation technology company.

Get pre-approved ASAP

The first step before even looking at listings is to see how much home you can afford. Pre-approval is the first step to let you know what you can afford and to prove to others that you are financially able.

In the current seller’s market, a buyer needs to prove to agents and sellers that they are serious. “These days, in some markets, you need a pre-approval just to start looking at homes,” says Ann Thompson, retail sales executive of the West with Bank of America.

Prepare for bidding wars ahead of time

A seller’s market means bidding wars are inevitable. The record-low mortgage rates coupled with low inventory is causing a panic among buyers. Sellers are entertaining multiple offers, many receiving multiple all-cash offers.

“Potential buyers now should prepare themselves by discussing, with their real estate agent, how much a home is worth beforehand, so that they can go into a bidding war with the strongest offer tactics, while also knowing when to back away if the price escalates,” says Thompson.

Understand appraisal gaps

With bidding wars comes bids over the asking price. These high bids cause appraisal gaps. An appraisal gap is a disparity between the offer you put on a property and what the property is deemed to be worth by a lender.  Even if you are approved for $350,000 and you offer $350,000 on a $300,000 listing price that doesn’t mean the lender will give you the full $350,000 on the home. If the appraisal comes in at $300,000, you will have to come up with the $50,000 out of pocket.

“In this market, we are seeing a lot of appraisal gaps being written into contracts. Please be sure to understand how that works before agreeing to it,” says Shanon Schinkel, branch manager and mortgage lender at HomeTown. “Also, check with your lender before agreeing to it. Using that money for an appraisal gap can change your ability to qualify.”

Keep track of changing rates and terms

Today’s mortgage rates are beginning to rise and the historical low rates we have seen in the last year will be a thing of the past. Schinkel reports that over the last six weeks, the rates have crept up. You will want to keep track of where the rates are and where they will be going during your home buying process. Shop around for rates and terms for the best deal.

Research down payment assistance programs

This market is hard for buyers but especially challenging for new home buyers. Down payment assistant programs can help. There are programs offered through government organizations and private agencies. You will want to research all of these avenues to see if you are eligible.

“There is a shortage of houses in many markets. This is creating bidding wars, offers over asking, and appraisal gaps—houses are going quickly,” says Schinkel. “But there are still many great opportunities if you’re patient and have a great real estate agent and lender.”

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Summer is a fun time where most of us can enjoy the outdoors. When it comes to your home, you want to keep the hot summer days out. There are several things you can do to help keep cooling costs down and prevent hot-weather mishaps. Getting your home ready for the hot, humid summer days is a task every homeowner should do. According to the Good Housekeeping Institute and Trane Residential, there is a must-do summer checklist.

“Between the soaring temperatures and uptick in extreme weather, your home might have to work a lot harder this summer,” says Rachel Rothman, the institute’s chief technologist. “Plus, you want to make sure all major systems are in order before heading off on any long holidays.”

Take Care of Cooling Equipment

Many homeowners forget these important tasks, in order for your central system to work efficiently a homeowner should change the HVAC filter every 90 days. A dirty filter can send dust and dander back into your home. Worst of all a dirty filter can add stress to your HVAC system.

Your central AC system should be serviced at least once a year, preferably every season. A professional will run a range of maintenance duties that a homeowner is not able to do. Annual tune-ups will extend the life of your equipment by several years or more. A typical service will run between $100 to $300 per service.

Check the Temperature

Having a thermostat that will adjust the indoor temperature throughout the day can save tons on your utility bill. In fact, Wi-Fi-connected devices can lower cooling costs by as much as ten percent according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Keep Humidity and Air Pollutants in Check

Bugs and other pests love humidity. Moist air creates a perfect environment for dust mites, mold, and other allergens in your home. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a homeowner should keep humidity levels below 60%. The study concludes that ideally, a home should have a humidity level between 30 and 50 percent.

A stand-alone dehumidifier is a perfect tool to lower moisture levels in a small space such as a basement. If you live in a drier climate, then a humidifier can help put moisture back into your home’s air.

Be Prepared for Extreme Weather

Summer means unpredictable weather and is a high time for storms in many areas. Storms mean power outages and for this, a homeowner should look into getting a backup generator. Storms can also wreak havoc on your gutter system so make sure they are in good working order. Clean them out and make sure the water drains properly away from your home.

FEMA suggests every homeowner have an emergency kit with 72 hours worth of supplies. Each kit should include (3 gallons per person), non-perishable food, a battery-powered or hand crank radio, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first-aid kit, dust masks, a whistle to signal for help, and a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.

Be on the Lookout for Pests

Summer is the season for ticks, termites and carpenter ants. These insects love moist soil and rotting wood so make sure your gutter system is cleaned out and working properly. Keep things like mulch, firewood and dense shrubbery away from the foundation.

A good way to determine if you have any pests is to look for piles of sawdust along baseboards—a telltale sign of carpenter ants. Termites, meanwhile, like to shed their wings along windowsills, walls, and other entry points.

Make your home and its surroundings a negative space for insects such as mosquitoes and ticks. Remove all standing water from birdbaths, gardening pots or any other container around the outside of your home. Keep your grass mowed. Ticks love tall grass in shady parts of the yard.

Being a homeowner is a lot of work but well worth it. If you are in the market for a new home, contact your local Realtor.

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A rocking chair front porch that welcomes you to this home.

Buying a home is a big life decision and knowing the facts before you buy can be priceless. Many buyers are shocked when they see how much money they need upfront to purchase a home. According to Unison’s 2019 Home Affordability Report, it takes buyers across the country an average of around 14 years to save for a home downpayment.

“As a general rule of thumb, experts say you should not be spending more than 30% of your income on housing expenses,” says USA TODAY Housing and Economy reporter Swapna Venugopal. “Aside from the mortgage payment, this includes costs like mortgage interest, property taxes and maintenance.”

The price of an existing single-family home rose 18.4% to $334,500 in March 2021. Here are some things you can do to achieve your goal of saving for a downpayment.

Start with savings, income, good credit

Before you even start your home search, you need to look at your finances and understand where you stand with your financial obligations. A good thing, to begin with, is how much house can you afford with your current income, how much you have saved for a downpayment, the mortgage you can qualify for, and what the local real estate market is currently doing. There are other living expenses and costs that come with owning a home. You will have annual taxes and home maintenance to pay for.

“You should have secure employment, some savings set aside, and be able to secure a good mortgage with an excellent credit score,” says Omer Reiner, a licensed Realtor and President of FL Cash Home Buyers LLC in Florida.

In order to get good rates on a mortgage, you will need good credit. It is best to check your credit score by obtaining your credit report before you start your home search. The rule of thumb says a good score is around 670 – 739. It depends on the lender, but a score closer to 700 is ideal if you’re thinking about getting preapproved for a mortgage,” Venugopal says.

The down payment

The down payment is a big part of the deal when it comes to owning a home. The down payment is a percent of cash that you pay at the closing. Usually, you need to put at least 20% of the purchase price down upfront.

If a downpayment is a concern, some government-backed loans from FHA or USDA will allow as little as 3.5% down or no down payment. If you have to put less than 20% down, then you will also have to have private mortgage insurance (PMI). Most lenders require PMI which does increase your monthly expenses.

Mortgage terms

Just like anything else, lenders are in competition and want your business. When shopping for a mortgage, ask what the rate and closing costs are. You will want to get preapproved by a lender who will verify your income and credit. A seller is more prone to choose a buyer with a pre-approval than one without.

Get a quote from several lenders for a mortgage. Have your credit reviewed for the quotes. It would be a disappointment to be told you could get a certain rate and then be given a higher rate because of your credit score.

Closing costs

The down payment is only one part of the finances you need to bring to the table at closing. Homebuyers will have to also pay closing costs which include expenses on title insurance, attorney fees, appraisals and taxes.

A homebuyer should be prepared to pay 1% to 5% of the sale price. Remember when buying a house you should also have money set aside to cover home maintenance, repairs and upgrades.

If you are in the market for a new home, call a local Realtor who can help you through the home buying process.

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A rocking chair front porch that welcomes you to this home.

Realtor.com asks home shoppers what they would like to know about homeowners insurance and their questions were answered by Allstate insurance experts. If you are in the market for a home, you should become familiar with homeowners insurance. It is important to get good homeowners insurance and understand your policy. Here are some questions and answers below.

1. I’m a first-time home buyer. What should I consider when choosing insurance? – Cynda from Florida

Just like the home you choose, your insurance policy will fit you and your needs. A musician will be interested in protecting their musical instruments while other homeowners might want protection on their garage because of their car collections.

An insurance expert can help you set up your policy with your unique coverage. You can get a personalized quote and make sure all your needs are covered.

“Your home is one of your most valuable assets,” say the experts at Allstate. “Make sure your homeowners insurance protects you and your family in many kinds of situations involving not only your home itself but also the things you own.”

2. What are the most common types of claims? What is the claims process like? – Emily from Colorado

Prepare for the unexpected, that is why homeowners insurance is so important. Many homes get damaged from wind, hail, plumbing failures, theft, and fire. When you do have to put a claim in for damage to your home, your insurance company will work with you and answer all your questions and concerns. Your agent will help you with the process by assessing the damage and helping you recover your losses.

3. How is condo insurance different from home insurance? How can I make sure my condo insurance has the coverage I need? – Maria from Virginia

Condo insurance is different because it only covers your unit and the belongings in the unit. Usually, the condo building is insured under your condo association’s insurance policy which covers things like the boiler room, the roof, hallways and other shared spaces. Make sure to get your agent to explain what is covered. Some policies will cover the wall and floor in your specific unit.

4. Are there any surprising things that aren’t covered by a typical homeowners insurance policy? – Emily from Colorado

Surprisingly a flood and earthquake damage are not covered in a regular insurance policy. Both require a separate additional policy on top of your regular homeowners insurance. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what is covered. Things such as an outside sewer or drain might need additional coverage.

5. Does my homeowners insurance cover small damages, like a stolen bike? – Maria from Virginia

This would be under personal property coverage which usually covers theft. Make sure the stolen items are worth more than your deductible before you claim it on your insurance. If your deductible is not met your insurance will not pay for the claim. Make sure to review coverage limits with your agent who will customize your coverage to fit your needs. An agent can help you choose any additional coverage if you take note of the possessions such as sports equipment and riding lawn mowers that might need to be part of your policy.

6. What are some things homeowners can do to help lower the cost of their homeowners insurance? – Emily from Colorado

There are several things you can do to help reduce your rates. Increasing your deductible can reduce your premium payments. Bundling policies such as home and auto will give you a discount. Other ways you might get a discount are if you are a new homeowner, switch insurance providers without having a recent claim,
set up automatic payments to pay your insurance premium or are age 55+ and retired.

Remember when looking for homeowners insurance always seek a professional’s advice. Even though a policy is cheaper than another, it might not cover everything you need. Shop around and talk to a couple of insurance agents in your area for the best fit and price for you.

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According to a survey done by Fannie Mae, homeownership is highly rated by consumers. In fact, they continue to see homes as a safe, high potential investment.  The Fannie Mae Q4 2020 National Housing Survey reported that consumers believe it is just as safe to invest in a home as savings and money market accounts.

The survey found that consumers relayed that the top four financial benefits of homeownership were a better chance of saving for retirement, the best investment plan, the chance to be better off financially and the chance to build up wealth. Of these four benefits, 88% of consumers felt it gave a better chance of saving for retirement, 87% felt it was the best investment plan, 85% felt it gave them a chance to be better off financially and 85% believe homeownership presented them a chance to build up wealth.

Consumers’ opinions are right on the money so to speak. The Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances revealed that owning a home is a “clear financial benefit.” In the survey, it was reported that those who owned a home vs renting had a forty times higher net worth. As the housing market grows stronger, the gap between renters’ and homeowners’ net worth grows farther apart. Corelogic reported that the equity in homeownership grew by $26,300 over the last year which widened this gap even further.

Keeping Current Matters released data showing the gap in the net worth in every income category between homeowners and renters. For a homeowner making under $26,000 their net worth is $103,000 but a renter’s net worth is only reported at 1,000, homeowner’s making $26,000 – $46,000 their net worth is $140,000 and a renter making the same income net worth is $6,000, homeowners making $46,000 – $74,000 have a net worth of $190,000 while renters only have $11,000, homeowners making $74,000 – $127,000 have a net worth of $261,000 and renters only $34,000, homeowners making $127,000 – $192,000 have a net worth of $433,000 while renters making the same income have a net worth of $117,000 and homeowners making over $192,000 have a net worth of $1.66M while renters only $705,000.

Homeownership is a solid financial investment opportunity but should you choose to purchase a home, the best thing to do is use a local real estate professional. A Realtor can help you take the next steps towards homeownership.

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A custom white fence surrounds this custom home built by Ron Lee Homes.

The recent Quarterly Sales by Price and Financing, published by the U.S. Census Bureau, was analyzed by the National Association of Home Builders and found that conventional loans financed the largest share of new home sales since 2018.

Conventional loans in Q1 2021 were reported at 71.6%, FHA came in at 19.3%, VA loans at 5.3% and cash new home sales were 4.1%. As far as the percentage points increase from Q1 2020, conventional loans rose 2.1 percentage points and FHA-backed sales were up 1.6 percentage points. Unfortunately, VA loans decreased 2.1 percentage points and cash sales dipped 0.9 percentage points.

The four-quarter moving average (MA) of the share of new home sales backed by FHA has increased over the past two and a half years from 12.2% to 18.9%. Conventional loans however have seen a 4.4 percentage points decrease during the same period.

Even with a small increase, interest rates are still at historically low levels. The stock market returns topping 20% from Q1 2020 to Q1 2021 have played important roles in the large increase in the number conventional loan and cash purchases relative to sales financed through the FHA and VA.

Now is a great time to purchase a home with low-interest rates and in turn a great time to also sell. The national median sales price for a new home reported was $347,500 and those homes sold back by financing were $386,600.

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