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!

Buying Still Cheaper Than Renting

Expensive Apartments/Condos photograph

Even in light of rising home prices, Trulia‘s October 2016 “Rent vs. Buy Report” successfully argues that owning your home with a conventional 30-year fixed rate mortgage costs less than renting in major US metros, even in high priced areas like Honolulu, HI (which sees 17.4% cost reduction over renting). The highest difference was 53.2% in Miami, FL and West Palm Beach, FL.

Nationally, the average was an impressive 37.7% cost reduction.

It’s a Game of Pace

Even while home prices are appreciating nation-wide, interest rates have remained so low that the pricing increase has not approached matching rental inflation.

Prices would have to appreciate 23% in Honolulu, HI, to over 45% in Ventura County, CA before renting, at current rates, becomes less expensive than buying. On the other side, rates would have to approach 9.1%, which would be a 145% increase over the current average of 3.7%, for renting to be financially more attractive than buying. (We have not seen rates like those since January 1995, according to Freddie Mac)

Consider also the Family Wealth aspect of home ownership, coupled with ownership being closely tied to the American Dream, and the reduced out-of-pocket cost of owning over renting, and it might make one wonder if the benefits of renting are really worth it.

The Takeaway

Buying a home makes sense socially and financially. If you are one of the many renters out there who would like to evaluate your ability to buy this year, meet with a local real estate professional who can help you find your dream home.

The numbers are clear. It makes good financial sense to be a homeowner. Let’s not forget the slice of the American Dream that comes with it! If you are interested in taking advantage of the benefits of home ownership, but aren’t sure where to start, call or contact me today! 

The post Buying Still Cheaper Than Renting appeared first on Benchmark.

Want To Achieve Your Goals In 2016? There’s An App For That!

There is a big difference between having a goal and achieving it. As you plan out what you’d like to achieve next year, try enlisting the help of technology to stay on track. photo_807

GoalsOnTrack guides you through a goal-setting process and helps you create the action plan. The app then helps track your changing habits and completed tasks for a fully visual guide to success. Free for iPhone, iPads, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7*.

LifeTick offers coordinated goal setting and tracking functions to help families, educators, small businesses or any group that wants to accomplish something together. Available for iPhone, Android and iPad. Free for individuals with limited functions, or pricing from $14 per month for groups*.

Habit List helps you build great lifetime habits (eating right, drinking more water, exercising regularly) by tracking your “streaks,” or how many times you complete a task in a row. Schedule the habits you want; then get reminders that keep you on track. $3.99 for iPhone*.

Coach.me begins with the premise that goals are easier to achieve with accountability. Choose goals and the type of coaching you require—advice, motivation or prompting—and be held accountable through crowdsourcing. You can hire a coach, get help and encouragement from other users, and set up reminders to push you toward success. Free for iPhone, Android and web*.

irunurun is the perfect app for those with a competitive streak. After you input the action or habit you want to track, assign it a point value. Try to achieve 100 points each week. Build an accountability team by inviting friends, family or colleagues to any action you choose. Free for individuals on iPhone and iPad. Prices from $49 per month for groups*.

Whatever you aspire to do in the year ahead, don’t go it alone. Pick one of the applications above and let technology carry some of the burden. Here’s wishing you the very best of everything in the upcoming year!

*Prices and availability offered at time of writing.

Source: Entrepreneur

Be A Yard Sale Success Story

Spring and summer are the best seasons for holding a yard sale. It’s a great way to declutter your house, get ready for a future move, or put a little extra cash in your pocket. But simply throwing out a few signs doesn’t mean it will be a success. Instead use these 10 tips to help ensure your yard sale is a winner: sidebar_860

Cater to early birds. Start your yard sale earlier than other yard sales in your area so shoppers will begin their shopping day with you. This gives you an excuse to keep your prices higher, too.

Check your calendar. Don’t schedule your yard sale on a holiday weekend or during a local fair, festival or large sporting event.

Take a rain check. If it rains, consider taking down your signs and rescheduling so you can maximize traffic on the day of your sale.

Scope out competition. Before your own yard sale, visit other sales in your neighborhood to get an idea of typical prices.

Position properly. Place all of your items (except extra large items) on tables so shoppers don’t have to bend.

Testing, testing. If you plan to sell electrical items, have an outlet and extension cord handy so you can show shoppers that the items work.

Grease the wheels. If you want to sell larger ticket items, look for those items in a local circular and then attach the ad to your item so shoppers can see that they are getting a great deal.

Suits you, sir! If you have a variety of items that men would like, place them on their own table. If married couples stop by your sale, both parties will enjoy looking.

Go viral. Advertise your sale ahead of time in your local newspaper classified section, on community boards at your local food stores and on Craigslist.

Give a hoot. Wait until the morning of your yard sale to hang signs in your neighborhood, and make sure you take them down that day to avoid any fines from your homeowners association or your town. You don’t want to have to use all the cash you earn to pay a fine!

Remember, a successful sale is also a safe sale. Keep money in a pouch around your waist instead of in a cash box (which could easily get stolen while you are helping others). Don’t take any chances by accepting checks, and never allow strangers inside your home to use the bathroom or telephone.

Benchmark Colorado

Sweet and Savory Mother’s Day Breakfast

 

Sweet and Savory Mother's Day Breakfast  - By Kirk Leins

Ready to rock a monumental Mom’s Day breakfast? Here’s a tasty read by Kirk Leins just for you and just in time for Mother’s Day. Bon appetit!

This Mother’s Day, don’t make your mom choose between sweet or savory—spoil her with both! Skip the long lines (and pricey) restaurant brunches with these delicious home recipes for French Toast and Maple Glazed Bacon. Whether you serve her breakfast in bed or at the table, it’s the perfect way to tell her you love her. She deserves it!

French Toast
(Serves 4)

  • 8 slices of artisanal or bakery bread (recommended: challah, brioche or egg bread) cut into 1 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon orange liqueur (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3-4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Powdered sugar

The night before:

Place bread slices onto a baking sheet and loosely cover with clean towels. Keep out on the countertop overnight. By doing this, you’re prepping the bread to be slightly stale by morning.

In a bowl combine eggs, half-and-half, honey, orange liqueur, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Whisk well and transfer to a sealable container. Seal and refrigerate overnight.

The morning of:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Remove egg mixture from the refrigerator and transfer into a shallow dish. Soak both sides of each bread slice in the egg mixture, for at least 15 to 20 seconds per side. Transfer the soaked bread slices to a baking sheet and allow to sit for two minutes.

Meanwhile, melt one tablespoon of butter in a nonstick skillet placed over a medium flame. Place two slices of bread in the skillet and fry for 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Transfer to a clean baking sheet and place in the preheated oven for 5 minutes before serving. Repeat this process with the remaining slices of bread.

Dust with powdered sugar. Serve with syrup, jam or whipped cream.

Maple Glazed Bacon
(Serves 4)

  • 12 slices of quality, thick-cut bacon
  • Maple syrup
  • Crushed red pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange bacon slices on the sheet and place in oven.

Once bacon is 3/4 of the way cooked (about 7 minutes), remove the baking sheet from the oven. Using a pastry brush, apply a light coating of maple syrup to the top of each slice of bacon.

Variation: For an extra kick, sprinkle a desired amount of crushed red pepper to each slice and return the sheet pan to the oven.

Continue cooking bacon to the desired degree of crispiness. Remove baking sheet from oven and transfer cooked bacon to a clean plate. Allow the bacon to rest for a few minutes before serving.

Kirk Leins has been cooking his entire life. No stranger to professional kitchens, he currently devotes most of his time to cooking instruction, food writing, and producing television. Kirk also provides his services as a personal chef in and around the Los Angeles area. He has made several TV appearances on both the national and local level, and is the Executive Chef for YOU Magazine. Sign up for Kirk’s free newsletter and cooking blog atwww.NoTimeToCook.com.

Article courtesy of Platinum Marketing and YOU Magazine

Spring Heats Up Housing

According to a late February analysis in the Wall Street Journal, homebuilders are reporting that sales of newly built homes so far this year are going gangbusters.

But sales of existing homes are more lukewarm. Why the difference?333

A simple reason could be that new-home figures are tracked on a more current basis, reporting numbers from orders in more recent weeks, versus existing home sales which often have a full month of lag time since they are tracked by the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index.

Analysts also claim that there is simply less available inventory of existing homes, which has helped the new construction market.

Meanwhile, pending sales, an indicator of future closed sales, rose 1.7 percent from December to January, and are now 8.4 percent higher than the same time one year ago. January marked the fifth straight month of year-over-year gains, and the gains are increasing.

“Contract activity is convincingly up compared to a year ago despite comparable inventory levels,” said the National Association of REALTORS® chief economist Lawrence Yun. “The difference this year is the positive factors supporting stronger sales, such as slightly improving credit conditions, more jobs and slower price growth.”

A March CoreLogic report also showed that January home prices rose nearly 6 percent from a year ago. In 2013, investors were blamed for pushing prices upward, but it has been suggested that prices are rising again due simply to a lack of inventory in markets large and small across the nation. This news could result in a very competitive housing season for homebuyers.

Freddie Mac is also expecting 2015 to be the best year for home sales and new construction since 2007, according to its March 2015 U.S. Economic and Housing Market Outlook. Freddie Mac cited an improving job market, rising rents and expanded credit availability as some reasons for its positive outlook.

The Bottom Line

Low rates and new home inventory make for an exciting housing season. If you have any questions regarding housing or know of friends, family or colleagues who wish to discuss buying or refinancing a home, please contact me today.

Housing Optimism For Spring

With home loan rates falling for four straight weeks early this year, prospective homebuyers had an easier time purchasing new homes. Low rates also prompted a spike in refinance applications from many Americans pursuing lower monthly payments, which will help free up extra cash to spend or save.

sidebar_839According to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), purchase applications are 3 percent higher than a year ago, with most of the gains coming from Federal Housing Administration (FHA) financing. Government-insured FHA loans provide low down payment and rate options and are typically sought after by first-time buyers.

A strong January Jobs Report also showed Non-farm Payrolls growing, and that many Americans have returned to the job search pool.

Builders Optimistic for Spring

Construction on new homes continues to grow; even though January’s numbers slipped slightly from December, they were up nineteen percent from a year ago. Builders began construction on 1.01 million new houses and apartments in 2014, the most in nine years and 8.8 percent more than in 2013, according to a January CoreLogic report.

At the end of December, builders had 218,000 homes listed for sale that were either under construction or completed, 17.2 percent up from a year earlier, according to Commerce Department data released in early January. The data indicated that builders are optimistic about the upcoming spring housing season, which can be seen from their commitment to building speculative, or “spec” homes. Spec homes are newly constructed homes built in the anticipation of buyers to sign purchase contracts.

According to a realtor.com report, last year’s total at 435,000 for new-home sales was an increase of only 1.4 percent from the 2013 total, and stands at roughly 58 percent of the annual average since 2000.

The spring selling season typically starts after the Super Bowl and hits its stride around March and April.

The Bottom Line

Low rates, new homes and demand for first-time home loans make this an exciting time for home loan activity. If you have any questions regarding housing or know of friends, family or colleagues who wish to discuss buying or refinancing a home, please get in touch.

Important Reasons To Have A Proper Home Inspection

There’s a whole lot to learn when buying one’s first home, an investment that can bring joy, but sometimes, grief. A competent real estate agent can assist in locating those homes that meet the home buyer’s needs and can advise on factors such as market value of the home and neighborhood services. The agent will help the buyer through the negotiation and purchase process. But the buyer should take responsibility to make sure that the steps below are taken.

Home Inspection Contingency Included in Purchase Offer

At the point where the buyer finds a home and decides to make an offer, the contract should be written contingent on an acceptable inspection. If serious issues are found, the buyer has the options of requesting certain items to be fixed, to be compensated for the costs of repair, for a lower purchase price or to cancel the contract. Without this contingency, the buyer is bound to the contract without these options and may suffer huge costs.

Selecting the Home Inspector

Reputable and successful home inspectors may be recommended by the real estate agent or friends. The buyer should talk with prospective inspectors and ask for references. Another indication of competency is an affiliation with professional groups such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) or the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI).Buying_Your_First_Home_Heres_Why_Youll_Need_to_Ensure_You_Have_a_Proper_Home_Inspection

Inspecting the Home

There are potentially many problems in homes that are not visible to the eye. The home buyer that engages a professional home inspector can be assured that major problems will be identified. As an added value, by accompanying the home inspector and asking questions, the first-time buyer can learn about proper maintenance and of possible problems that will not go into the report.

What Will the Home Inspector Do?

The home inspector examines the entire home, both outside and inside, and checks for safety, defects, replacement or repair needs, and potential problems that should be monitored closely. The inspector will then produce a report covering the findings. The inspection generally takes two to three hours and costs between $200 and $500.

What Will Be Inspected?

External inspections will cover the roof, exterior walls, foundation, grading, garage, and may include sprinklers, lawn, porch lights, walkways and driveways as well. Interior inspections will examine the plumbing and electrical systems, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), the water heater, kitchen appliances, laundry room, fire safety and bathrooms.

Taking this optional step of completing a home inspection, even with a new home, will be well worth the time and additional cost. It will provide a basis on which to make a more realistic offer and give the buyer the peace of mind of having in-depth knowledge about the house being purchased.

Benchmark Colorado

Chocolate: All About That Taste

This pair of chocolate desserts is so easy and inexpensive to make, that you can bake both for your sidebar_489sweetie this Valentine’s Day. Or, make them your new impressive go-to’s for birthdays, bake sales, dinner parties, late night snacks or for when the fridge is bare and you need the taste of chocolate—now. Both are also easily modified for vegans by substituting almond, soy or rice milk in lieu of regular dairy milk, and vegan chocolate instead of regular chocolate.

Chocolate Pie
Serves 8 to 12

1 12.3-ounce package of extra firm, silken tofu
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons milk (substitution: almond, rice or soy milk)
1 pinch sea salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup (or to taste)
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips (semi-sweet)
1 easy graham cracker crust, recipe to follow

Easy Graham Cracker Crust

12 graham cracker sheets
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup melted coconut oil

Crust: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the crackers and sugar in a food processor and pulse to combine. Drizzle in the coconut oil and pulse a few more times, until the crust holds together (you can also mix the crust with your hands). Press the crust firmly into a pie pan, and bake for eight to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow crust to cool.

Mixture: Transfer the tofu, vanilla, milk, sea salt and maple syrup to a food processor or blender and blend well. Melt the chips over a double boiler and add them to the tofu mix. Blend again.

Assembly: Pour chocolate filling into the piecrust pan and let it set in the fridge for at least three hours. Slice and serve.

Amazon Chocolate Cake
Serves 6 to 8

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons neutral oil (like corn, canola or vegetable)
1 cup cold water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon cider or white vinegar
Powdered sugar (optional, for dusting)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar and salt. Sift. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, water, vanilla and vinegar. Whisk together the wet and dry mixtures. If lumpy, whisk until smooth, or pour through a strainer into a bowl and break up the lumps by pressing them through the strainer. Mix again, and pour into a greased 9-inch round cake pan. Tap the edge of the pan against the edge of the counter several times to pop any air bubbles. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top springs back when pressed gently. Cool completely before removing from the pan and dusting with powdered sugar or frosting if desired.

Sources: Adapted from Gena Hamshaw, Café Beaujolais and Food52.com