8 Curb Appeal Tips for Selling Your Home Fast

8 Curb Appeal Tips for Selling Your Home Fast

From small touches such as new lighting to larger efforts such as tiling the porch or stoop, creating curb appeal is one of the best investments you can make to resell your home fast.

Here are eight ideas to maximize curb your appeal.

Landscaping Is Critical For The First Impression

  • Cut Back Trees and Shrubs. Landscaping should enhance your house, not overwhelm it. Trimming can bring impressive results. If you don’t have a steady hand, leave it to a professional or handy relative.
  • Manicure Your Lawn. A freshly mowed lawn is a must the week before a showing. Be sure to trim and edge it for a finished look that increases your curb appeal. 
  • Plant Some Color. If the weather permits, flowering plants are a cheap way to brighten the walkway leading up to your front door. It also gives the home a fresh vibe. Adding fresh mulch to your flower beds is a great quick fix, even in colder weather.

Don’t Forget Your Home’s Exterior

  • Paint the House.If you can’t afford to paint the whole house and the exterior paint is in good condition, consider retouching the trim. The gives your home a sense of newness. If the exterior colors are outdated, painting the home should be a budget priority.
  • Clean the Roof and Gutters. If anything is likely to attract a buyer’s attention, it’s clogged gutters, tree branches brushing the roof and algae growth. If you’re in a drier climate, make sure you don’t have obvious roof damage or missing tiles. If you need to replace the roof, it’s better to get it over with. Chances are, you’ll make up the money with a faster sale at a higher price. 
  • Clean the Walks and Driveway. Pressure wash patios, drives and walkways. Put fresh sealant on black-top driveways for a like-new boost to one of the areas buyers notice first.

Spruce Up The Outdoor Areas

  • Make Outdoor Living Space Inviting: Take steps to make porches, patios and decks clean and inviting. This might include repairing wood decks and restaining them. If you can replace old furniture, it’s a great investment that you can take with you when you go. 
  • Stage the Yard: Just as you stage the inside of the home, it’s important to declutter and depersonalize your outside living area. You can leave furniture in neutral colors so that the buyer can imagine themselves in the space. However, bikes, kids’ toys and the rusted grill need to be stored out of site. 

These basic ideas go a long way toward improving the curb appeal of your home. In return, you may be very happy with the positive effects on the sale of your home.

Be sure to take steps ahead of time to secure your financing for your next home purchase. A great place to start is setting up an appointment with your trusted home mortgage professional.

12 Ways to Lower Your Monthly Utility Bills

12 Ways to Lower Your Monthly Utility Bills

According to the US Department of Energy, the average American household paid $111.67 each month for utilities in 2017. With some research and a few DIY projects, property owners can reduce those energy costs without sacrificing comfort or convenience.

Establish Energy Friendly Habits

Reduce energy waste to see an immediate change in your utility payments.

  • Before bed, walk around your home. Make sure you turn off all lights, televisions, computers, and other plugged-in devices.
  • In the colder months, close the doors to unused spaces to save big on heating bills.
  • Dial down the heat before bed. Invest in extra blankets and cozy pajamas to keep warm without blasting the furnace.

Small habits can add up to big savings.

Incorporate DIY Solutions

These easy projects improve insulation so your interior stays comfortable without HVAC overuse.

  • Use weather stripping to seal off drafty windows.
  • Install door sweeps on all exterior doors to prevent outdoor air from compromising your indoor temperature.
  • Install a programmable thermostat. Many models allow you to automatically adjust temperatures throughout the day.

It doesn’t take a large investment of time or money to positively impact your utility bills.

Install Energy Efficient Appliances

Upgrading your appliances is a simple way to reduce energy waste.

  • Install a solar-powered water heater to eliminate the cost of hot water.
  • Replace your light bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) or LED versions.
  • Invest in an Energy Star rated washer and dryer to save money on your electric and water bills.

As a bonus, your new appliances improve the look and feel of your space.

Attend To Administrative Tasks

Pay attention to what you’re paying for. Small details can cost you big dollars.

  • Review your billing statements at least once every 3 months. Notice any changes in usage, rate, and fees.
  • Talk to your utility company about average payments. This option allows you to pay a flat rate rather than fluctuating per-use charges.
  • Install a Smart Meter to ensure accurate usage reporting.

Practice due diligence to protect your wallet from unnecessary charges.

You don’t have to make drastic changes to your lifestyle to control utility costs. Incorporate these easy fixes to bring down your monthly obligations without emptying your wallet.

If you feel like the time is right to upgrade your home’s energy efficiency, it may also be time to access some of your home equity to help you with expenses. Meeting with your trusted home mortgage professional is the first step to finding out about your best financing options.

The Economics Of Going Green For Home Sales

The Economics Of Going Green For Home Sales

Earth Day is celebrated each year in April to remind us all of the benefits of ecologically-sound living that is more in harmony with Mother Earth. There is quite a bit of positive news when it comes to going “green.” There are significant benefits for home sales.

Green homes may sell faster and for higher prices. Many people are willing to pay more for a green home in order to receive the long-term benefits of the savings on utility costs.

The Numbers Are Very Appealing

AHS reports many encouraging statistics. The estimates are about one-third of the real estate market for single family homes in 2016 was for green homes. The National Association of Builders says that 90% of home buyers consider looking for energy-efficient green homes to be a high priority when shopping for a home.

About 61% are willing to pay up to $5,000 more for a home that as low utility bills because of its green design. The Earth Advantage Study concluded that a green home, which is certified sells for up to 35% more than non-certified home.

The Green Value Proposition

Lawdepot reports that for every dollar that the utility bill is reduced for a home, the average resale value increases from 15 up to 20 dollars.

Here are some cost-effective investments that improve a home’s resale value:

  • Energy-Efficient Windows and Doors: Old, leaky windows and doors are horrible energy-wasters. Upgrade windows and doors to drastically lower energy costs. This also dramatically improves a home’s curb appeal. In terms of resale value, the return on investment is up to 100% over the cost of the installation.
  • LEED Certification: A home that has a LEED certification for energy-efficiency can sell for up to 35% more than a non-certified home.
  • Insulation: Upgrading attic insulation with high-performance blown fiberglass returns about 17% over the cost of the installation.
  • Solar Energy System: Solar energy installations return about 97% of the cost upon resale according to a study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Depending on the tax incentives and how much was saved on utility bills before the home is sold, there is typically a net positive financial benefit to a homeowner for installing a solar energy system. Moreover, these homes continue to operate normally in a grid-down emergency, which is a big selling point.

Conclusion

Going green, in these suggested ways, helps maximize a home’s resale value. This is helpful for the environment and makes excellent financial sense. Green homes are very attractive to potential buyers, especially in areas that typically have high monthly utility bills.

If going green is a priority to you, be sure to discuss energy efficient incentives and home improvement loans with your trusted mortgage professional.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 22nd, 2019

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 22nd, 2019

Last week’s economic news included readings on home builder confidence in housing market conditions and Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits issued. Weekly readings on mortgage ratees and first-time jobless claims were also released.

NAHB Housing Market Index: Builder Confidence Rises One Point in April

Home Builder Confidence readings posted by the National Association of Home Builders held steady for April and rose one point overall. Component readings for the NAHB Housing Market Index were mixed; builder confidence in current housing market conditions rose one point to an index reading of 69, but builder confidence in housing market conditions in the next six months fell one point to 62.

Home builder confidence in potential buyer traffic rose three points to 47. NAHB Housing Market index readings above 50 indicate that most builders view market conditions as positive, but the reading for buyer traffic seldom rises above 50.

Housing Starts and Building Permits Issued Fall Short of Expectations in March

Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits issued in March were lower than in February and fell short of analyst expectations. Housing starts were reported at a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.139 million starts. Analysts expected housing starts at an annual rate of 1,225 billion starts based on February’s reading of 1.142 million starts.

Builders continued to experience headwinds including higher materials costs, shortages of buildable lots and a lack of skilled labor. Analysts cited disparities between new housing developments, which tend to favor luxury homes and the need for affordable housing.

Exclusionary zoning and neighborhood politics can block construction of affordable housing in desirable areas; legal and zoning constraints prevent builders from producing enough affordable homes to meet demand. Housing starts year-to-date were 9.70 percent lower than for the same period in 2018.

Fewer building permits were issued in March than in February. 1.269 million permits were issued on a seasonally adjusted annual basis as compared to expectations of 1.300 million permits issued and February’s reading of 1.291 million permits issued.

Mortgage Rates Rise as New Jobless Claims Fall

Mortgage rates were higher last week as average rates for fixed rate mortgages rose. 30-year mortgage rates averaged five basis points higher at 4.17 percent. Rates for 15-year fixed rate mortgages averaged two basis points higher at 3.62 percent.  

Mortgage rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged two basis points lower at 3.78 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.30 percent 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims fell by 5000 new claims to 192,000 initial claims; this was significantly lower than 204,000 new claims expected.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on sales of new and pre-owned homes and consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and initial jobless claims will also be released.

Home Maintenance Tips: How to Organize Your Garage

Home Maintenance Tips How to Organize Your Garage

Perhaps you plan to sell your home in the next few months or years. Keeping your garage organized can save time and ensure that you have storage space when you need it most.

Get Your Purge On!

Clear out the garage and separate items into categories: keep, trash, donate and recycle. If you get rid of 50 percent of your stuff, you’re doing great. The more you can get rid of up front, the less you have to organize! And if you haven’t used it in years, why would you need to keep it around?

Create Zones

Map out space with masking tape, starting with where your vehicles go. Mask out where you can put heavy-duty shelves for tools, sports equipment and other stored items. Also, you can maximize storage by building cabinets or shelving from floor to ceiling.

Buying clear bins in various sizes and interlocking shapes helps you stay organized. When you store like items together, it’s much easier to find them, especially if everything is properly labeled.

Think strategically. If your garage doubles as a workshop, include space for a workbench. If you bike every day, hang your wheels on the wall near the garage door. Additionally, remember to include garbage and recycling bins near the door for easy access.

Organizational Supplies
With the zones mapped, it’s time to get organized. For example, store shovels, rakes and brooms in a large trashcan. Meanwhile, sporting equipment such as bats, balls, skateboards and protective pads can go into larger bins, on shelves or inside lockers. Pegboards provide a versatile way to hang tools you use the most.

A cabinet that locks protects children and pets from hazardous materials like chemicals, paint and cleaning supplies. Meanwhile, constructing long open shelves of wood or metal gives you plenty of support for heavy storage bins, while a rolling cabinet lets you move craft supplies or gardening implements.

Storing Small Stuff

What can you do with screws, nails, hooks, nuts and myriad small items on a limited budget? Repurposed glass containers or mason jars let you see contents clearly while recycling. Use tin cans for screwdrivers and paint brushes.

Once your garage is neat and clean, you may find yourself spending more time there. You might even have enough room for a home office or craft corner. A well-planned organizational strategy helps you keep it that way.

If you are interested in buying a new property or refinancing your current property, be sure to contact your trusted home mortgage professional.

How to Get a First Time Home Buyer FHA Loan

first time home buyer fha loan

Are you looking to own your part of the American dream? Want to have a place to call your own?

About 32% of all residential sales in 2016 were first-time home buyers.

Buying a home is a huge step in life. As a first-time home buyer, chances are you’ve already started the search for your perfect house. But before you can purchase a home, you’ll need a lender.

One loan to consider is the first time home buyer FHA loan. FHA loans are attractive because of the low down-payment requirement. These loans also offer more flexible qualification requirements.

Want to apply and get approved for the first time home buyer FHA loan? If so, keep reading! We’ll cover 3 tips that will increase your chances of getting approved.

1. Know What’s Affordable

As a buyer, your mantra should be to buy a home that’s financial comfortable for you. While you may want a huge home with a lot of land, being strapped for cash because of your mortgage payment isn’t ideal.

With FHA financing, your mortgage payment cannot be more than 31% of your monthly income.

Before you start shopping, know what you can afford. Use a mortgage payment calculator to combine your existing expenses with a home payment.

When determining your price point, ensure you have money to set aside. As a homeowner, there’s always the risk of appliances breaking. Your monthly budget should allow you to set money aside in an emergency fund.

2. Know & Improve Your Credit Score

As with any mortgage loan, your credit score impacts interest rates. It will also impact down payment percentages as well as loan amount.

FHA loans can be approved with a down payment as low as 3.5%. But, to get approved for this percentage, your credit needs to be above 580. A score of 579 and below requires a down payment of 10% or more.

Before applying for an FHA loan, be sure that your credit is in good standing. To maintain or improve your credit score:

  • Pay down credit card balances
  • Pay bills on time
  • Fix any errors
  • Clear up any collection accounts

Once you’ve applied for a loan, you’ll want to avoid applying for any other loans or lines of credit. Otherwise, your score will drop.

3. Save Towards a Down Payment

With the first time home buyer FHA loan, you’ll need to come to the table with a down payment. The amount will depend on the total cost of the home as well as the approved percentage.

As an FHA borrower, you can use various funds as part of your down payment. For example, you can use money from your savings account. Aside from your own money, you can also use funds from:

  • A state or local grant
  • Cash gifted from a family member or close friend
  • A charitable organization

With gifted funds, a letter must be provided. The letter has to state that there is no expectation of repayment. The letter must also disclose the nature of the relationship.

First Time Home Buyer FHA Loan: Wrap Up

The FHA first time home buyer loan is an attractive option. To best position yourself to get approved, follow the tips above.

Of course, you don’t want to go through the home buying process on your own. You’ll need a real estate agent to show homes. You’ll also need a lender who can help you throughout the mortgage loan process.

If you want a committed team of mortgage professionals, look no further than Benchmark Mortgage.

We’re experienced in FHA loans as well as VA, USDA, and conventional loans. As a first-time home buyer, we know how confusing the process can be.

Our team will make home buying easy!

Now’s your chance to start your American dream. Contact our team today to discuss your needs.

How to Pay off a Mortgage in 10 Years

how to pay off a mortgage in 10 years

Purchasing a home is an exciting part of life. But, home ownership means taking on a lot of debt.

About 80% of home buyers choose a 30-year fixed rate loan. While 15-year loans are available, expanding the term of the loan means smaller monthly payments.

But, what most people don’t realize is that the longer the loan, the more interest you pay.

If you purchase a home for $250,000 with a 4.5 interest rate, you’ll pay more than $206,000 towards interest. As a homeowner, you want to pay your mortgage off as quickly as possible.

Looking for tips on how to pay off a mortgage in 10 years? If so, you’ve come to the right place!

Continue reading for tips to paying off your mortgage quickly.

1. Purchase Wisely

The first step to paying off your mortgage early is to make a wise purchase.

Buying a home shouldn’t put you in a financial bind. Your mortgage should take up no more than 28% of your total monthly take home.

Set yourself up for success by buying a home that fits into your budget. Otherwise, the chances of paying off your mortgage early are slim.

2. Pay More Than the Minimum Monthly Payment

Your monthly payment is determined by the total loan amount as well as the interest rate. Other costs can also be wrapped into the mortgage including:

When making your payment, be sure to put extra money towards the principal amount. This money will go towards the loan without any going towards interest or escrow.

The extra principal amount will depend on the total value of the loan.

If you purchase a home at $200,000, you’ll want to put at least an extra $1,000 towards principal.

3. Pay Down Smaller Debts

If you’re wondering how to pay off a mortgage in 10 years, start focusing on other debt.

Chances are you pay other loans each month. If you have a car loan or credit card debt, pay them off quickly.

By paying off other loans, you’ll have more money to put towards your mortgage.

4. Cut Costs

To pay off your mortgage early, you’ll need to cut costs where possible.

Take a look at your spending habits. What services can you do without for a little while? Where can you spend less or not at all?

The average American spends more than $1,200 on cable each year. But this is just one way to save money. You can also:

  • Avoid eating out and cook all meals at home
  • Reduce cell phone bill
  • Spend less on clothing and shoes
  • Eliminate consumable habits like drinking and smoking

By cutting costs, the money you save can be put towards your principal mortgage balance.

How to Pay Off a Mortgage in 10 Years: Wrap Up

Paying off your mortgage early seems like a daunting task. But, with a little financial planning, you can achieve your goal.

The key is to set a budget, create a plan, and stick to it!

If you have any questions about mortgage loans or home buying, you’ll want to talk to a professional.

At Benchmark Mortgage, we have the expertise needed to guide you in the right direction. Contact our team today.

5 Secrets to Getting a Mortgage After Bankruptcy

mortgage after bankruptcy

If you’ve had to file for bankruptcy, you know how much of a toll it takes on your financial reputation. It can seem impossible to rebuild your credibility, and it’s easy to feel like you’d need a miracle to buy a new home.

The good news? You can still become a homeowner even if you’ve had to file for bankruptcy in the past. You just have to learn how.

We’ve put together 5 secrets to getting a mortgage after bankruptcy.

1. Wait

No matter what you filed under, you’re going to have to be patient before you can apply for another mortgage after bankruptcy.

The length of time you’ll have to wait varies. The most common period of time is around two years, which usually applies to anyone who filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

If you filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, though, you’ll have to play the waiting game for 3 to 5 years instead.

2. Open New Credit Accounts

While you’re waiting, you can work towards making yourself a good investment for a bank or lender.

Step one should be to start rebuilding your credit score. It took a hit after you applied for bankruptcy, so you’ll need to build it back up before filling out any new applications.

It might seem counterintuitive to open new lines of credit, but you need to resurrect your credit score. While you’re at it, make sure you’re paying all of your bills on time and saving money for a down payment.

3. You Can Still Get An FHA Loan

An FHA loan is a great option for people who are applying for a mortgage after bankruptcy. Since it’s financed by the government, the restrictions aren’t nearly as strict as they are for a conventional loan.

It doesn’t require perfect credit, which makes it a perfect option in this situation. Plus, non-conventional credit like paying your rent on time will work in your favor.

If you haven’t been able to save a lot of money, don’t worry. With FHA loans, you only need to put 3.5% down.

4. Find A Conventional Mortgage With Low Money Down

One downside of FHA loans is that their interest rates tend to be a little bit higher. If that’s something you want to avoid, you can still apply for conventional mortgages.

Your credit has to be better to do this, but in some cases you can find conventional mortgage loans with low interest rates and low money down.

5. Apply For A USDA Loan In Rural Areas

If you’re looking to live in a rural community and don’t make a lot of money — think low-income or lower middle class — you can apply for a USDA loan.

If you can’t qualify for other loans, this option doesn’t require a lot of money down and is low-interest. In some cases, you might not even have to wait the full two years. That varies from person to person, though, so be sure to check what the guidelines are for your situation.

Are You Ready to Finance Your New Mortgage After Bankruptcy?

Our team of mortgage consultants is ready to help you navigate through this confusing process. Get in touch today to find out how we can help you bounce back and secure a mortgage for the house of your dreams.

5 Essential Facts About USDA Home Loans

usda home loans

Buying a home or getting a mortgage loan may feel like it’s becoming increasingly harder as the years pass. Because of this, if you’re branching out, you may want to consider USDA home loans.

USDA loans come with their own sets of qualifications and are usually geared for rural or low-income buyers. However, there are a number of benefits to taking out this type of loan. Let’s take a deeper dive and explore 5 of those benefits!

Purpose

The purpose of USDA home loans is literally to assist low-to-moderate income buyers in rural areas in purchasing a home.

When you don’t have a lot of money, sometimes it can seem like actually owning a home is a pipe dream. USDA home loans help give people who aren’t wealthy a chance at affording a home.

This can help promote prosperity, according to the US Department of Agriculture. USDA loans exist to promote happiness, harmony, and improve the quality of life.

Types

There are two types of USDA loans: direct and guaranteed. Direct loans have more requirements to use. Your property has to qualify as “modest in size” for your area, and it cannot have a market value that exceeds your loan limit. There are also limitations put on your home itself.

Direct loans are aimed at low-income families, so the requirements can be strict.

Guaranteed loans are similar, but they open a few more doors and aren’t quite as strict.

Qualifications

Direct and guaranteed loans have different sets of qualifications. To qualify for a direct loan, you must not own a home. You also must not be able to obtain a loan elsewhere, and you have to legally be able to handle a loan.

If you’ve been suspended from participating in federal programs, you will not be able to apply.

Guaranteed home loans have income-eligibility requirements. To get a guaranteed loan, you must also be a US citizen or otherwise qualified, and you need to be able to pay your credit obligations in a decent amount of time.

Down-payments

The great thing about USDA home loans is that they don’t require a down payment.

If you’re a qualified borrower and have been approved for the loan, there’s no down-payment required. This can wind up saving you thousands in home-buying costs and upfront expenses.

Insurance

USDA loans do not have private mortgage insurance, also known as PMI. Instead, your USDA loan will have a premium for your mortgage insurance wrapped up in the cost.

Typically, this is about 2% of your entire loan cost. However, it’s also not a separate payment, and it’s included in the cost of your loan.

USDA home loans: the right choice

USDA loans are a great choice for people looking to purchase in rural areas. Additionally, if you’re a low-to-moderate income homebuyer, it’s very likely that you qualify for one of these loans.

A USDA loan can help you save thousands of dollars in homebuying expenses because they don’t require down payments. However, you do need to make sure that you qualify.

If you have questions regarding home loans and the home buying process, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

3 Helpful Benefits For First Time Home Buyers

benefits for first time home buyersDid you know a number of benefits for first time home buyers exist today?

Buying your first home is an exciting, important, and sometimes stressful process. For first time home buyers, special benefits sweeten the deal and encourage sales.

The term first-time buyer refers to individuals who’ve not purchased a home in 3 years. Most first-time buyers range from 18-34 years old, however bounce-back come in all ages.

Whichever category you fit into, you might not know about the benefits available to you. In this article, we’ll go over some of the benefits for first time home buyers.

Mortgage Interest Deductions

Tax rates favor homeowners. In fact, home ownership is often thought of as a shelter from taxes.

For many, the mortgage tax deduction benefit overshadows the intangible benefits, like pride in owning a home.

How can you qualify? Your mortgage balance must not exceed the cost of your new home. Mortgage interest proves deductible on your tax returns. This is a great benefit because interest is the largest part of a mortgage payment.

Property Tax Deductions

Property taxes for your first home are deductible for income tax purposes as dictated by the Internal Revenue Service. Vacation homes can also benefit from this tax deduction.

Capital Assets

Most people consider their first home a starter home. When you decide to move, you’ll benefit from gaining capital assets.

How does this work?

If the profit you make on your home is more than what is allotted for any tax exclusion, the profit is considered a capital asset. These profits receive special tax treatment.

Even if you profit from the sale of your home, the taxable portion of that profit remains small.

Use Your Mortgage To Build Equity

Each month that you pay your mortgage, you not only pay interest, you also pay the principal balance of the loan. The more of this you pay off, the more equity in your home you secure. This means more ownership for you.

Your Home Appreciates

The real estate market is volatile. It occurs in cycles.

Across the board, homeowners see their investment as a safeguard against inflation of the market.

First Time Homebuyer Loans

First time homebuyer loans come with low down payments, reduced interest, and limited fees. They’re offered to first time home buyers through the Federal Housing Administration.

This type of loan acts as a benefit for first time home buyers because of its minimal restrictions. Consider a first time home buyer loan a large down payment is out of reach, you cannot meet high-interest payments and fees, or your credit score is low.

All of these factors make these loans too good to miss out on for many buyers.

Benefits For First Time Home Buyers in 2017

As you can see, many tangible benefits for first time home buyers exist today. From tax deductions to an easier loan process, buying a home offers more than pride in ownership.

Starting your first home search? Contact us today to learn more about mortgage loans that work for you!