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Start up creates online platform to make building homes easier

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) Atmos wants to help simplify the dream home building process by moving it online. Their platform will help you find builders, designers, and financing options.

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Atmos homes

A start-up plans to bring together people, processes, and tools into one digital place for buyers to design and build their homes from start to finish. Co-founder and CEO of Atmos, Nicholas Donahue, grew up in a homebuilding family and always wondered what it would look like to use technology to rebuild the industry.

“Nearly everyone used to want to build a home; it was the American dream, but most people choose not to do it because of the complexity,” Donahue said, “While everything else has moved fully online, homebuilding is still the same in-person process. We are making the process simple enough that anyone can build the home of their dreams, modernizing and revitalizing the American dream.”

The way Atmos works is that they partner with local home builders that they claim to vet based on accreditation, reputation, proof (insurance + funds for construction loans), and pricing. Customers input their desired location and floor plan for the site on the platform. Atmos finds builders that best match the plan and coordinate the rest of the tasks to get the home built, including design, fixture packages, and financing. The company partners with local real estate agents to help sell a client’s existing home, or allows customers to use their own real estate agents if they prefer.

Atmos is participating in the California-based Y-Combinator accelerator, most known for launching companies like Airbnb, DoorDash and Instacart. The company has raised more than $2 million in VC seed round funding from Sam Altman of YC/ OpenAI, Adam Nash of Wealthfront, JLL Spark, and others.

According to Donahue, the rise in demand for housing in emerging cities coupled with low inventory makes building a more attractive option for buyers. He said “homeowners are converting from buying to building and when doing so are being forced to go online because of in-person restrictions. This has provided a huge opportunity for an online alternative to come into the space.”

Additionally, an increasing number of remote workers have come to envision their homes as combined office, schooling, and family spaces. In response, real estate agents report more requests for larger homes with outdoor space and dedicated offices, particularly for homes in the under $400k price range.

Atmos is currently focusing on Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte markets as they continue to refine their business model. Long-term, Donahue says the goal is to “redefine the way people live by enabling the next generation of homes and neighborhoods to exist.”

Yasmin Diallo Turk is a long-time Austinite, non-profit professional in the field of sexual and domestic violence, and graduate of both Huston-Tillotson University and the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. When not writing for AG she should be writing her dissertation but is probably just watching Netflix with her husband and 3 kids or running volunteer projects for HOPE for Senegal.

Homeownership

On the fence about buying a house? Low interest rates may change your mind

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) It’s understandable to be unsure about buying a house in COVID times, but there are some good reasons to take advantage right now.

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Buying a home seems intimidating but worth it.

If you’re on the fence about buying a house in the time of COVID, perhaps this will change your mind: For the third consecutive week, interest rates are well below 3% across the board.

Fox Business reports current fixed-rate mortgages as staying below 3% this week—like the last two weeks—with 30-year rates sitting at 2.75 percent. 20- and 15-year fixed rates are rating 2.75% and 2.125%, respectively. That’s a heck of a lot lower than rates were this time last year, and while there’s an obvious culprit with egregious downsides to thank, the fact remains that a pyrrhic thanks may indeed be in order.

Even refinancing rates are substantially lower than usual. A fixed 30-year rate is right at three percent, while rates for shorter time frames are consistently holding at below 2.8%. This proves true for the 13th week in a row, so it seems like now—like 12 weeks ago—is a good time to refinance your home for a lower rate.

While these rates may differ from what you’ll receive when looking to buy, you can generally expect lower interest rates these days—even if your credit isn’t perfect. Other factors that will impact your rate include property location and value, your income, and how much you’re able to afford for the down payment. Similarly, as long as the economy is going through a rough patch, it seems fair to expect that rates will continue to err on the side of lower than average.

As someone with an interest rate over 4% on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, it’s tempting to refinance, especially given that the process for doing so is necessarily contact-free. Even if you’re fully buying a house, though, there’s some merit to entering the market now.

It’s no secret that the economy has slowed down during the pandemic. With the majority of the population hunkering down and sheltering in place, buying a home may not be the first thing that comes to mind for most. Sure, it’s a process that is rife with risk at the moment; however, if your plans for this year included moving anyway, now is a pretty good time to apply.

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Homeownership

Getting a mortgage in 2020, what’s changed?

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) In this unexpected marketplace, here’s some advice on how to get a mortgage in 2020.

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Mortgage papers held in hands with a pen, being handed to the other hands.

Mortgages are terrifying. The idea of being committed to a payment for the next 30 years is a viscerally horrifying concept—which makes it a perfect topic to visit this season. Here is what you need to know about applying for a mortgage in the tail end of 2020.

Firstly, it’s important to understand that while mortgage rates are currently low—the last 3 weeks have seen interest rates dip well below three percent—that doesn’t mean you can expect the lowest possible rate. There are a lot of factors that play into the mortgage rate you receive: Credit, location, estimated value, and even your occupation. For this reason, you should evaluate your own eligibility so you know how “safe” you are before calling your bank.

You should also know that your credit history—while always important—will play even more of a role if you plan on buying any time soon. In the absence of other economic factors, lenders are looking much more closely at debt in comparison to income, and some lenders reserve the right to ask applicants to reduce or eliminate sources of debt before granting a loan.

Another aspect of the loan application process involves extremely timely employment checks—some of which may seem invasive. It isn’t out of the ordinary for lenders to vet applicants’ job stability, including whether or not the job will subject workers to increased risk of contracting COVID; for now, at least, a higher-risk opportunity for you might lead to a more tenuous standing in lenders’ eyes.

Finally, most experts in the loan field agree that helping your loan service help you is a crucial aspect of getting information quickly and accurately—something that is of paramount importance these days. The best way to do this is simply for you to be available to the best of your ability; the quicker you can respond with the necessary information, the faster your selected lender will be able to move you through the application process and get you a quote.

Everything feels uncertain right now, and the real estate field isn’t exempt from that feeling. By following the information here, you can cut back on your own uncertainty—and, in the process, potentially score a decent rate on a mortgage.

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Homeownership

Demand for newly built homes soars, but so is the cost of lumber

[HOMEOWNERSHIP] Many potential buyers are looking for newly built homes, but will builders be able to meet this demand with lumber prices on the rise?

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COVID-19 has had an undeniable effect on the U.S. economy. In the housing market, increased interest in single-family, new-construction homes has given builders a bright spot in the crisis. Builder confidence in this market has now reached a 35-year high, but builders are not out of the woods yet.

Potential homebuyers are showing up in hoards (figuratively speaking, we hope) this fall with a keen interest in new-construction homes. Buyers looking to take advantage of record-low interest rates are knocking on model home doors, seeking improved living arrangements with more space and functionality. The market sentiment for single-family homes is positive, but rising lumber prices are tempering home builders’ excitement for booming business.

Many white-collar workers are staring down an indefinite stretch of remote working arrangements, with some large tech companies even considering making the change to remote work permanent. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced workers to make big shifts in their everyday life. These lifestyles changes, along with low interest rates, have prompted a new wave of homebuyers.

Unfortunately for builders, the pandemic has had a much harder impact on blue-collar workers and a negative impact on supply and demand. While office workers sit on their couches and open up their laptops to Zillow, places like lumber mills and factories had no choice but to shut down during the height (if that is even past us) of the pandemic.

Many lumber mills and factories remain closed or are dealing with severe labor shortages as these blue-collar workers are disproportionately affected by the pandemic and access to adequate health care.

Prior to shutdowns, the market was not expecting this type of boom in new-construction interest from homebuyers. Builders are now seeing lumber prices rise as a result of increased demand and dwindling supplies.

Mortgage rates hit record lows in early August, and while those have risen somewhat since then, it is unlikely that rates will skyrocket anytime soon. With no end to the pandemic in sight for the U.S., potential homebuyers will keep coming and builders will just have to deal with the premium on lumber for the foreseeable future.

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