The First Decade

The other day I was searching for my daughter’s cell phone number – which I haven’t memorized because I simply speed-dial it – and I realized it’s been years since I memorized anyone’s phone number. And this was just after I’d booked a flight online and selected my seat, and downloaded some new music into my iPod.

It occurred to me that these are just three examples of the tremendous changes that have happened just since the new millennium began. At the beginning of this decade, iTunes, YouTube and Facebook did not exist. Today, their combined daily views and downloads are in the billions.

An article in Newsweek a few months ago highlighted how much things have changed in a decade. The numbers are staggering and surprising.

    • Ten years ago, a total of 400,000 text messages were sent per day; today 4.5 billion are zinging through cyberspace every day.
    • In 2000, 12 billion emails were sent each day; today 247 billion are sent daily (many of which were in my spam filter this morning).
    • Ten years ago, about 208 billion letters were mailed through the postal system each day; today the number of letters mailed daily is less than 176 billion.

This decade has been tumultuous, to say the least. Beyond the tremendous technology-driven advances, we are still struggling with this economy. Unemployment rates are too high. Banks are still struggling. And it is heartbreaking that people have lost their homes.

Even though there is a lot of uncertainty, I remain optimistic. I am realistic enough to know that this recovery will take awhile. But recover we will.

One thing that hasn’t changed in the past decade is the resiliency of real estate over time. When you look at median single-family home prices ten years ago versus this year, you’ll see that home values have increased since 2000. This is encouraging, especially when you consider that the stock market today is the same place it was 10 years ago. For most people, their home is worth more today than when they bought it. It might be worth less than it was two or three years ago, but real estate has never been about day trading. It’s a long-term investment. And if the last 10 years, or 100 years, are any indication, we can count on growth in home values.

And that’s a good thing.

July Median Home Prices* 
2000

2010

National
$151,100
$182,600

*Source:  NWMLS

What are some of the most memorable changes for you in the past decade?

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Are You Better Off Paying Your Mortgage Earlier or Investing Your Money?

Posted in BuyingSelling, and Living by Guest Author 

Photo Credit: Rawpixel via Unsplash

Few topics cause more division among economists than the age-old debate of whether you’re better off paying off your mortgage earlier, or investing that money instead. And there’s a good reason why that debate continues; both sides make compelling arguments.

For many people, their mortgage is the largest expense they will ever incur in their lives. So if given the chance, it only makes logical sense you would want to pay it off as quickly as possible. On the other hand, a mortgage is also the cheapest money you will ever borrow, and it’s generally considered good debt. Any extra money you obtain could be definitely be put to good use elsewhere.

The reality is, however, a little less cut and clear. For some homeowners, paying off their mortgage earlier is the right answer. While for others, it would be far more advantageous to invest their money.

 

Advantages of paying off your mortgage earlier

  • You’ll pay less interest: Each time you make a mortgage payment, a portion is dedicated towards interest, and another towards principal (we’ll ignore other costs for now). Interest is calculated monthly by taking your remaining balance, the length of your amortization period, and the interest rate agreed upon with your lending institution.

If you have a $300,000 mortgage, at a 4% fixed rate over 30 years, your monthly payment would be around $1,432.25. By the time you finish paying off your mortgage, you would have paid a total of $515,609, of which $215,609 were interest.

If you wanted to lower the total amount you pay on interest, you don’t need to make a large lump sum to make a difference. If you were to increase your monthly mortgage payment to $1,632.25 (a $200 a month increase), you would be saving $50,298 in interest, and you’ll pay off your mortgage 6 years and 3 months earlier.

Though this is an oversimplified example, it shows how even a small increase in monthly payments makes a big difference in the long run.

  • Every additional dollar towards your principal has a guaranteed return on investment: Every additional payment you make towards your mortgage has a direct effect in lowering the amount you pay in interest. In fact, each additional payment is, in fact, an investment. And unlike stocks, bonds, and other investment vehicles, you are guaranteed to have a return on your investment.
  • Enforced discipline: It takes real commitment to invest your money wisely each month instead of spending it elsewhere.

 

Your monthly mortgage payments are a form of enforced discipline since you know you can’t afford to miss them. It’s far easier to set a higher monthly payment towards your mortgage and stick to it than making regular investments on your own.

Besides, once your home is completely paid off, you can dedicate a larger portion of your income towards investments, your children or grandchildren’s education, or simply cut down on your working hours.

 

Advantages of investing your money

  • A greater return on your investment: The biggest reason why you should invest your money instead comes down to a simple, green truth: there’s more money to be made in investments.

Suppose that instead of dedicating an additional $200 towards your monthly mortgage payment, you decide to invest it in a conservative index fund which tracks S&P 500’s index. You start your investment today with $200 and add an additional $200 each month for the next 30 years. By the end of the term, if the index fund had a modest yield of 5% per year, you will have earned $91,739 in interest, and the total value of your investment would be $163,939.

If you think that 5% per year is a little too optimistic, all we have to do is see the S&P 500 performance between December 2002 and December 2012, which averaged an annual yield of 7.10%.

  • A greater level of diversification: Real estate has historically been one of the safest vehicles of investment available, but it’s still subject to market forces and changes in government policies. The forces that affect the stock and bonds markets are not always the same that affect real estate, because the former are subject to their issuer’s economic performance, while property values could change due to local events.

By putting your extra money towards investments, you are diversifying your investment portfolio and spreading out your risk. If you are relying exclusively on the value of your home, you are in essence putting all your eggs in one basket.

  • Greater liquidity: Homes are a great investment, but it takes time to sell a home even in the best of circumstances. So if you need emergency funds now, it’s a lot easier to sell stocks and bonds than a home.

 

Misael Lizarraga is a real estate writer with a passion for teaching real estate concepts to first time buyers and investors. He runs realestatecontentguy.com and is a contributing writer for several leading real estate blogs in North America.

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