When it comes to residential real estate, age is often overlooked. Well, more accurately, old age is often overlooked in favor of news and programs geared toward first time home buyers in Illinois and elsewhere, who are typically on the younger side of the spectrum. However, if news out of the construction market is any indication, older Americans are helping to drive the housing recovery.
Data from the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index shows that confidence in senior housing has been on the rise for quite some time. Not only did the index rise 19 points over the past year for the over 55 single family housing market, reaching 46, first quarter data shows that this is the highest level the senior housing index has reached since the inception of the survey in 2008. What’s more, this marks the sixth consecutive quarter for year-over-year improvements.
“Builders and developers for the 55 plus housing sector continue to report increased optimism in the market,” said Robert Karen, chairman of NAHB’s 50+ Housing Council. “We are seeing an increase in consumer demand for homes and communities that are designed to address the specific needs of the mature homebuyer.”
Builder sentiment regarding future sales is also positive, with the index for expected sales over the next six months increasing by 21 points to 53. Fortunately, there’s also good news for the older Americans forecast to purchase these properties.
Program helps retired homebuyers
While becoming a retiree comes with many perks, a limited income isn’t one of them. Buying a home in Illinois is ideal for older Americans who wish to take advantage of ultra-low mortgage rates, but not having a high, steady income that employment can provide creates a challenge. However, according to Christina Boyle, vice president and interim head of single-family sales & relationship management at Freddie Mac, retirement doesn’t have to mean the end of homebuying.
“A little-known change in Freddie Mac’s rules could be a big help to qualifying retiring Baby Boomers and other savvy homebuyers who have limited incomes, but substantial financial assets, for a low-rate conforming, conventional mortgage,” Boyle writes for Freddie Mac’s Executive Perspectives Blog. “The change lets lenders use a significant portion of a borrower’s eligible financial assets to determine whether they qualify for a Freddie Mac mortgage. Although it took effect in the spring of 2011, word has apparently been slow to spread judging by the calls we field from inquiring borrowers and housing professionals.”
Freddie Mac guidelines allow individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and 401(k)s, lump-sum retirement account distributions and proceeds from the sale of a borrower’s business to be used as determining factors in whether an individual is eligible for a home loan.
There are, of course, some rules. Firstly, the assets in an IRA or 401(K) must be in a fully-vested retirement account that is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service. Also, these financial assets must be entirely accessible to the borrower. This means there must not be a withdrawal penalty, and the assets must not already be being used as a source of income.
In addition to Freddie Mac already allowing a lender to issue a home loan using a borrower’s dividends, interest payments, trust distributions and Social Security payments as determining factors, older homebuyers have more options than ever when it comes to obtaining financing for a home purchase.