Alexandria, VA – Better is a digital, first homeownership company that is re-engineering the mortgage process. It helps homebuyers answer the eternal question: What is happening with the housing market, and when will it go back to normal, if ever?
Better’s services include mortgage, real estate, title, and homeowners insurance. The company launched two years ago in New York and, after much success, it launched in Virginia in March 2021. Alexandria is its top city.
From buying to borrowing to refinancing, Alexandria ranks in the top three for both purchase applications and refinance applications among Gen-X, Millennials, and Gen-Z.
According to data Better compiled from April 1, 2021, to June 30, 2021:
· Average home prices are up 10% from last year—this is above $700,000 in the Alexandria area.
· There has been an 18% increase in purchase applications in Alexandria from April 2021 to June 2021.
· There has been a 134% increase in refinance applications in Alexandria from April 2021 to June 2021.
· Alexandria ranks as the top city to purchase and refinance.
Could the pandemic be to blame for this massive increase in homeownership and housing prices? Landy Liu, Head of Insurance Products at Better, says the pandemic was undoubtedly a catalyst.
“There are three basic needs for a human: food, water, and shelter. In the time of the pandemic, people needed shelter more than ever. And the market wasn’t prepared to help,” says Liu.
The pandemic introduced working from home and virtual school. With that came a need for more space for both parents and children, coupled with financial strain. With everyone operating remotely or virtually and needing financial support, Better grew over 400%.
Better offers assistance in all aspects of the housing market. It educates, prepares, and guides clients through all aspects of the housing market and home-buying process, to find clients more space with more “bang for their buck.”
“The fact that I can play a part to help people find shelter quickly, easily, and not break their budget, is a real privilege,” says Liu.
What should a prospective homebuyer know before traversing this competitive market? Liu prioritizes four strategies when trying to buy a home today, and Communications Manager Laura Tonelli stands by these strategies.
“It seems daunting, but anyone can do it if you have the right support. That is where Better comes in,” says Tonelli.
(1) Determine your budget and stick to it. This includes mortgage, taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and any other related expenses.
(2) Lower your debt-to-income ratio (DTI). This might be even more important than your credit score (and lowering your DTI could even increase your credit score).
(3) Get pre-approved. This helps you see the types of loans available to you and it helps you apply for them, making you more competitive in the housing market.
(4) Be prepared to compete. Adjust your expectations, move quickly and confidently, and follow steps 1-3.
“Working here has been a really cool, streamlined experience,” says Tonelli. “A lot of the loan officers are Gen-Z and Millennials; they learn the market and then guide others like them through it.”
A member of Gen-Z herself, Tonelli has watched firsthand as fellow Gen-Z members adopt Liu’s strategies and successfully apply for, close on, and move into their dream homes.
What does the future of the housing market look like for Alexandria? Liu urges people to expect the amount of Gen-Z and Millennial homebuyers to continue to increase. “Virginia was recently listed as the top state for business,” says Liu, “and young workers in tech will soon flock here. Realizing they have been wasting a lot of money (and space) with renting, the two younger generations are itching to move into their first homes.”
Housing prices are up, but mortgage rates are low. So low that they are cheaper than the price of renting an apartment in most major cities. While the housing market may even out eventually, it won’t cool down soon. Better aims to ensure this won’t hinder homebuyers from owning their dream house.
Liu adds, “The goal I have, as well as the rest of our company, is to make homeownership accessible for all.”