5 Important Benefits Of Downsizing Your Home

5 Important Benefits Of Downsizing Your Home

After the children are all grown and moved out, the family home often feels excessively large and empty. If you’re in this stage of life, you may be wondering if you should downsize like so many others, or stay put. Downsizing may be the best option, depending on your lifestyle.

Here are five benefits of downsizing for you to consider.

1. Less Clutter

When you move into a smaller home, you’ll have the opportunity to get rid of many possessions that you no longer need. Whether it’s sporting goods or knick knacks, you’ll be able to either sell the items, give them away to kids and grandkids or donate them to a charitable organization. Your new home won’t have as much space, so this decluttering process is almost mandatory.

2. Lower Utility Bills

A smaller home means lower energy usage and lower utility bills. It’s likely that you’ll have fewer lights on the rooms, less square footage to heat and cool. You may also incur less water usage, since you may have fewer bathrooms and less lawn to irrigate. So, not only will you likely have a lower mortgage payment when you downsize, it will probably also take less money to run the home.

3. More Free Time

A smaller home means that it will likely take less time to maintain, too. There’s less to clean inside and a smaller house to maintain on the exterior of the home. This equates to much more time for you to do the things that you want to do instead of the things that you have to do.

4. Easier To Get Around

Downsizing usually makes it easier to get around the home. Many people who downsize opt for a single-floor home rather than a two-story home, so they can avoid having stairs in the home. Living on one floor is often easier as people age and climbing stairs becomes more cumbersome.

5. More Sustainable Living

A smaller home means a smaller carbon footprint. For people who are earth-conscious, a smaller home affords the chance to play their part in helping by living a more environmentally sustainable life.

Remember, downsizing doesn’t mean living with less. For many people who have already downsized, the process has infused their life with more opportunities to live a fuller existence by getting rid of space and possessions they didn’t really need anymore.

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

Innovative Home Security Technology

Innovative Home Security Technology

For market value and the comfort of a home’s occupants, home security is just as important as energy-efficiency. Innovation in smart home technology focuses on both of these areas.

Here are some tips about things a homeowner can do to make a home more secure and a few pitfalls to look out for, which may not be obvious.

Smart View Doorbell

No matter how reinforced the front door of a home is, it is not secure if it is opened by someone inside without first knowing who is there. Additionally, smart doorbells allow the homeowner to view the front of their home using a smartphone application, even when they are not home.

These systems use motion sensors and video cameras. When someone approaches the front door, the motion sensors trigger and the camera captures the images of what is happening. The smartphone application notifies the homeowner that there is physical activity at the front door.

It may be a neighbor’s cat passing by or a burglar trying to steal a package or attempt a break in. The homeowner can trigger a response through some systems to send a security guard to the premises or has the option to call law enforcement.

Biometric Door Locks

Biometric door locks use fingerprints, iris (eye) scans, and/or facial recognition along with passwords to control who is authorized to enter a home. These systems improve door security and eliminate any problems caused by lost keys or unauthorized duplication of keys.

Improved Remote Garage Door Opener

These are convenient systems, especially when driving up to a home in bad weather and not wanting to get out to open the garage door. They do expose the home to vulnerabilities because the wireless signal that triggers their operations is hackable.

The newest systems use a password-protected system with a two-part security authorization that includes entering a password and responding to a text message sent to the homeowner’s smartphone. The wireless communications of the most innovative systems are encrypted, which makes them impenetrable to hacking.

Automatic Lighting

Smart home lighting can turn on and off automatically. This is useful to save energy and turn things off when a room is not in use. It is also useful to give the appearance that the home is in use even when the occupants are away. Lights and television sets can be turned off and on in the home, based on a pre-determined schedule as if done by occupants, which discourages burglars.

Remote Home Monitoring

Many systems exist that allow a homeowner to remotely monitor a home. “Nanny” cams allow parents to use a smartphone application to view their baby at home when in the care of a babysitter. Other systems allow viewing the entire home.

Be cautious when implementing wireless systems. It is very important to use point-to-point encryption technology to protect the wireless transmission from hacking. It is critical to understand that having a wireless view of the interior of the home creates a security risk if hacked by unauthorized users. As an alternative, the home can be hard-wired (not use a wireless signal) and encryption used to send data to the homeowner’s smartphone.

Summary

Improved home security is a value-added thing to have for a property to protect the occupants and may also improve the home’s resale value. Just be careful not to create new security vulnerabilities by using systems with unprotected wireless communications.

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

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – July 15th, 2019

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – July 15th, 2019

Last week’s economic releases included reports on inflation, core inflation and minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee Meeting held June 18 and 19. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims were also released.

Inflation Rate Rises, but Grows at Lowest Pace in Four Months

June’s Consumer Price Index reported the lowest rate of inflation in four months with a year-over-year rate of 1.60 percent growth as compared to May’s year-over-year inflation rate of 1.80 percent. Fuel prices were lower, which helped balance rising costs of rent, clothing and autos. Analysts said that falling inflation rates would be a primary reason why the Fed is likely to cut its key interest rate range later this month.

Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy sectors, rose 0.30 percent in June and surpassed expectations of 0.20 percent growth and May’s 0.10 percent growth rate.

Federal Reserve policymakers base their decisions  on the Fed’s dual mandate of maintaining maximum employment and economic growth, which is benchmarked at 2.00 percent annual inflation. FOMC members repeatedly state their commitment to reviewing domestic and global economic news and willingness to adjust Fed policy according to changing economic conditions and current events.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims

Freddie Mac  reported little change in average mortgage rates last week; Rates for 30-year fixed rate mortgages were unchanged at 3.75 percent; rates for 15-year fixed rate mortgages rose four basis points on average to 3.22 percent. The average rate for 5/1 adjustable mortgages rose one basis point to 3.40 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Initial jobless claims fell by 13,000 claims to 209,000 claims filed and was lower than the expected reading of 221,000 new claims filed.  The July 4 holiday likely impacted the number of initial claims filed.

Whats Next

This week’s scheduled economic news includes the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, Commerce Department readings on housing starts and building permits issued and a report on consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

Rent-To-Own Opportunities For Those With Bad Credit

Rent-To-Own Opportunities For Those With Bad Credit

For those who have less than a stellar credit history; yet, who still want to have their own home, a rent-to-own option is worth considering. A rent-to-own (RTO) agreement is a hybrid between buying a home and renting a home.

Usually, RTO deals require a significant down payment that applies towards the home purchase. An RTO tenant/buyer gets the option to buy the home for a certain price at some date in the future. The down payment is lost if a tenant/buyer does not go forward with the home purchase.

Another common characteristic of RTO deals is that a portion of the rent applies to the home purchase.

The Pros Of Rent-To-Own Deals

The significant down payment on an RTO deal is usually more than would be required as a security deposit for a lease agreement on a home of a similar type. This down payment gives the home seller/landlord the financial security needed to let a person occupy the home even if they have a bad credit history.

In some cases, the party offering an RTO sale does not even bother to run a credit history check on the RTO buyer.

The seller/landlord gets to keep the down payment no matter what happens. Usually, a person putting down a significant amount is a good tenant in spite of having bad credit. Having money invested in the property gives the tenant/buyer a strong incentive to take better care of the property than if renting or leasing.

Another advantage for the tenant/buyer is the ability to lock in a home purchase price for a sales transaction completed far in the future.

Typical RTO deals last for two years or longer, with the average being five years. This gives the tenant/buyer time to improve credit records and to qualify for the financing needed to consummate the home purchase.

The Cons Of Rent-To-Own Deals

If property values go down in the area where the home is, the value of the RTO deal can suffer. A few years later, the home may not be worth the price for buying it that is in the RTO agreement.

If any life circumstances change, the tenant/buyer may lose the down payment by having to forgo purchasing the property. If the tenant/buyer does not consummate the purchase they lose the down payment plus any portion of the rent applied to reduce the purchase price.

The tenant/buyer in the RTO transaction typically has to take on full responsibility for the home after they occupy it. This is an advantage for the seller/landlord but a disadvantage for the tenant/buyer who becomes responsible for all the maintenance, repairs, and upkeep of the property.

Summary

Rent-to-own deals are quite popular and effective for both sides in the deal under certain circumstances. Certainly for those that have a poor credit history an RTO deal is a convenient way to reduce the waste of paying rent and gain some potentially valuable home ownership instead.

Please consider meeting with your trusted real estate and mortgage professionals to discuss your options before entering into a risky financial agreement.

How To Turn A “Dumb” Home Into A Smart Home

How To Turn A Dumb Home Into A Smart Home

Having a “smart home” is a trend that is popular. What does it actually mean? Smart home technology improves energy-efficiency, increases security, and creates more convenience for the home’s occupants.

Innovative smart home technology improves with the deployment of the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G wireless broadband, and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) programming. Many things that an owner and/or occupant of a home needs or wants may be done for them by smart home technology.

Energy-Efficiency

Green energy systems include installing energy-efficient windows and perhaps solar panels along with battery storage. Moreover, by managing micro-zones within a home, money is saved by not wasting it on heating or cooling when not needed.

Management of temperature control is possible with smart home technology that allows the heating and air-conditioning system to direct hot or cold air to the rooms that need it, only when occupied. These systems turn off the zone when the room is not in use.

Advanced systems learn the occupant’s typical home-use patterns and anticipate them. For example, if a person comes home around the same time each day, the house prepares the rooms for that person in advance of their arrival.

Advanced systems link vehicles with the home. For example, the climate control system may receive the GS location of the vehicle over the IoT. Then, the AI software of the house can determine the distance the car is from the home and the direction it is traveling. The AI guesses if the person is driving home and adjusts the home accordingly.

Increased Security

This is one of the best reasons to install smart home technology. Increased security may help to reduce risks of burglary, home invasion, and damage caused by unavoidable disasters.

Home security may use biometrics, such as facial recognition, fingerprints, iris scans, and others, to authorize entry for specific people and prevent unauthorized intruders.

Video surveillance of the property, inside and out, keeps a record of what is happening. Innovation in AI detects camera images that are not appropriate, such as someone trying to break into the home and alert the homeowners as well as law enforcement.

Alarms trigger for many things such as a break-in of a door or window or someone coming to the front porch to steal a delivered package.

Sensors, which are much more sophisticated than a basic smoke alarm, may warn of smoke, fire, natural gas leaks, carbon monoxide levels in a garage, and even plumbing problems. With nanny cams, monitoring of babies and children is helpful for their safety.

Convenience

Smart Home technology can respond to the occupants’ use automatically or be manually chosen. For example, the coffee maker can turn on automatically in the morning to have the perfect brew ready for those who wake up. The dog door can be unlocked from bed for the dog to go outside in the morning.

A real-time inventory, using the barcodes of foodstuffs, automates the re-ordering of regularly used items when depleted.

The car can be started remotely and warmed up or cool before the driver and passengers enter it. During wintertime, entry steps can be heated to melt ice and snow just in time for people’s arrival. A hot tub can be turned on remotely so that it is fully heated up and ready for use when the owner’s come home.

Summary

There are so many innovations in smart technology already available and more on the way. Homeowners who invest in this smart technology may not only get to enjoy their home more, they may save on energy bills, and might also get a higher resale value for the “smart” home when selling it. It’s worth considering.

If you are in the market for a new property or interested in refinancing, please contact us today.

Pros And Cons Of Installing A Pet Door

Pros And Cons Of Installing A Pet Door

If you’ve just moved into your new home and you have a pet, you may be thinking of installing a pet door. A pet door is a permanent door feature that is cut into the bottom third of an entry door. Before making a permanent alteration to your door, consider the pros and cons of installing a pet door.

Pro: Your Pet Can Come And Go As Needed

A pet door could cut down on indoor pet accidents if that’s a problem you’ve had to deal with in the past. This is especially convenient if you get home late to let the dog out, or if they have a temporary gastric illness that requires more frequent outings.

Con: An Unwanted Visitor Could Get Inside

Pet doors are designed to give egress to pets, but your pet door might give indoor access to an unwanted animal. It’s not common, but it does occur, particularly in areas where wildlife is abundant.

Pro: You Could Do Without A Litter Box

Cats can be trained to go outdoors instead of using a litter box. With a pet door, you can dispense with the odorous litter box entirely, knowing your cat will always be able to take care of business outside.

Con: It’s Something Else You Must Remember To Lock

Most pet doors have a locking mechanism for times when you need to secure the home, such as at night. But this is just one more thing you’ll have to remember to do, along with setting the alarm and locking windows. And, the more you have to remember, the more you could forget.

Pro: Better Energy Efficiency

Anyone with pets knows that they can ask to go out and come back in numerous times per day. Every time you open the door you’re letting hot air in, cooled air out, or vice versa. With a pet door, your conditioned air stays in the home much better because there’s a smaller opening, and less time spent with the door open.

Con: New Homebuyers Might Not Want It

If you ever sell your home, the new homebuyers might see a pet door as a negative. Since a quality new door costs around $500, they could ask for a price discount on the home purchase.

A pet door can be a huge convenience, but there are some drawbacks as you can see. However, depending on your view (and the opinion of your pet!) the pros may outweigh the cons.

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

Simple Tips To Pay Off A Home Mortgage Loan Faster

It is a major life decision to buy a home and yet many do not consider how much they will pay on the interest over the life of the loan. All they usually think about is if they can afford to pay the monthly mortgage payments.

It is helpful to learn how different loan structures impact the amount of money wasted on the interest paid for a home loan. Here is a comparison of different loan lengths and payment options to show some helpful ways to reduce the total interest paid.

Standard 30-Year Fixed Mortgage

For a buyer who has a good credit history, purchasing a median-priced home with a significant down payment usually helps get the best mortgage financing. A standard 30-year mortgage on a home requires 360 monthly payments to pay off the loan.

The total cost of the loan includes paying back the principal amount borrowed and all the interest. Over 30 years, the total interest paid can be as much as one-third or more of the principal amount borrowed, depending on the loan interest rate.

Standard 15-Year Fixed Mortgage

Comparing a standard 30-year fixed mortgage with a standard 15-year mortgage shows a surprising result. The differences are that the length of the loan term is less and the monthly mortgage payments are higher. A standard 15-year mortgage on a home requires 180 monthly payments to pay off the loan.

The shorter loan period may reduce the total interest paid to less than one-half of a 30-year mortgage, depending on the loan interest rate. The savings can be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Payment Techniques That Save Money

Simple Tips To Pay Off A Home Mortgage Loan Faster

A simple way to save money is to pay an extra monthly payment each year and ask the lender to apply the extra payment to reduce the principal amount owed. On a 30-year mortgage, the loan pay-off date is more than two and one-half years sooner, reducing the total interest paid by about 10% percent.

A smaller savings amount is possible without even needing to pay more, just by paying more frequently. Instead of paying a mortgage once per month, make arrangements with the lender to pay half the monthly mortgage payment twice per month. The amount the lender receives monthly, in the two payments, totals the same amount that the lender would receive in one payment.

This technique works because there is a daily calculation of mortgage interest. By making payments more frequently, there are fewer days of use for some of the loaned funds. This tiny change in periodic repayments can be a nice way to save a few thousand extra dollars over the life of a loan.

In addition, since there are 26 two-week periods in one year, you’re getting an extra payment in over the longer months in the year. So you’re paying the equivalent of 13 monthly payments instead of 12. You might not feel it as much since you’re likely making more money in the longer months as well.

If you’d like to do this strategy and the lender won’t accept bi-weekly payments, then just divide the principal and interest portion of your mortgage payment by 12 and add that amount to each regular monthly payment. You’ll save a ton of interest over the life of the loan!

Summary

Think about interest paid as money that could have a better purpose. Choosing a shorter loan period for a home mortgage and increasing the mortgage payment frequency are important things to consider for the savings that they can produce.

Be sure to consult with your trusted home mortgage professional for answers to all of your financing related questions.

Home Staging Tip – Urban Gardening in Small Spaces

Home Staging Tip - Urban Gardening in Small Spaces

Home staging means getting a home ready for sale with the goal to maximize the sale price and close a sale as fast as possible. Some home staging tasks are very dreary, like having to get the place sparkling clean. That is really not fun work. It may be better, if it is affordable, for the homeowner to hire professionals to do that grunt work.

Another part of home staging is really fun and even can start long before putting a home on the market for sale. Children like to participate in this as well. It is creating an urban garden.

Urban Garden

An urban garden fits in anywhere. The idea is to create space for plants to thrive even if there is no backyard or in-ground growing opportunities. Here are some easy ways to achieve this:

  • Window Planter Boxes: Any window that gets sunlight can have a window box. Install these boxes on the inside or on the outside of the window depending on the climate. These are perfect places to have flowers add color that is attractive. Transplant low-cost flowering plants into window boxes. Using this strategy, window boxes stay full of flowers, which are constantly in bloom.
  • Big Pots: Decorative large pots are a great thing to use to create a garden space. Strawberry pots made of clay are popular things to put on a balcony or a porch. Flower pots that line the walkway to the front door add to a home’s curb appeal.
  • Roof Gardens: For townhouses without a backyard, balcony, or a patio, there may only be an urban garden space available on a roof. If there is a good view as well, this is a real plus. Be sure to have a nice picnic table to sit around and enjoy the area.
  • Herbs: Herb gardens are very easy to start. Herbs of many kinds can grow in simple planters. One added advantage is, if growing aromatic herbs, they put a pleasant smell in the air.

Summary

Besides growing flowers, urban gardens may also provide fresh herbs and vegetables to eat. Many things are really easy to grow, such as the herb basil, and they add a nice flavor to a meal.

Start with a small herb garden. If you have children, get them involved. Soon, it will be so much fun growing plants that your house will fill with color, nice smells, and good things to eat.

If you are in the market for a new home or interested in refinancing your current property, be sure to contact your trusted home mortgage professional to discuss current financing options.

Renovations That Improve Resale Value And Those That Don’t

Renovations That Improve Resale Value And Those That Don't

Those who want to renovate a home usually do this to make it more spacious, improve its condition, and to add amenities. However, it is also important to consider if the renovation has the potential to add value to a home.

Unless the plan is to live in the same place for life, there is a strong likelihood that, at some point, the home will go on the market for sale. It is nice if it sells for a high price and there is some profit for the seller in the transaction.

It is not the amount spent on renovations that is the key consideration. In fact, spending a lot of money making certain renovations may not improve the sales price, when the home sells. This guide helps decide between renovations that add value and ones that do not add value.

Renovations That Add Value

Renovations that add value are those things that almost everybody wants, which include:

  • Upgraded Kitchen: Having a professional-style cooking area and all the appliances with matching stainless steel-finishes creates an attractive upgraded kitchen. Many appreciate having an island area in the center for use as a working area when cooking large meals that doubles as an eating area for breakfast.
  • Luxurious Master Bedroom and Bathroom: Homes with a large master bedroom with big windows and a king-sized bed usually sell for a top price. If the master bathroom has a large renovated bathroom with a big tub, then this is a plus.
  • Extra Bedroom: Having another bedroom puts a home in a higher-valued category.
  • Lots of Closet Space: Many think that adding an extra bedroom is sufficient; however, adding extra closet space is also a great idea, especially when adding walk-in closets with his/hers vanity areas that are accessible from the master bedroom.
  • Green Systems: Solar energy systems that reduce the monthly utility bill are desirable. Energy-efficient windows are also attractive.
  • Smart Home Systems: These systems offer computer control of the home for energy efficiency, security, and convenience for the occupants.

Renovations That Do Not Add Value

  • Carpeting: Carpet colors are a matter of personal taste. If the carpet is not brand-new or thoroughly cleaned, it will lower the interest in the home. It is better to have nicely-finished wood or tile flooring with rugs strategically placed to create different usage areas. Offer to sell the rugs for their value with the home or to take them away.
  • Excessive Front Yard Decorations: There are a few homes that have so many garden gnomes in the front yard that adding another one is nearly impossible. Avoid this because not everybody appreciates this style.
  • Swimming Pools: For many, this is potentially negative. The cost of building a new, in-ground, swimming pool is not usually an amount recouped in the selling price. Some like pools; however, many others do not like the idea of continual maintenance and monthly expenses. Families with young children may see pools as very dangerous.
  • Bright-Orange Exterior Paint: It is not surprising to learn that most people do not like houses painted this color and other garish colors. Even if the paint is new, they do not usually sell for a higher price.

Summary

In general, in order to add value with renovations, do the things that most people appreciate. Complete the project for a budget to add to the purchase price of the home that will not exceed the average market value of a home of a similar type.

Homeowners who follow this general rule, get to enjoy the renovations and get their money back, perhaps with some profit, when the home sells.

If you are in the market for a new home or considering renovating your current property, be sure to contact your trusted home mortgage professional to discuss current financing options.

Want to Make A Richer Life? Take Time To Make Time

Want to Make A Richer Life? Take Time To Make Time

Many who are financially sound got that way by being skilled at accumulating wealth. The question is, did they also accumulate quality of life? Working all the time to build wealth, while at the same time lacking happy experiences with those who are important, is not creating a rich life.

Here are some ideas to promote both a healthy and wealthy lifestyle.

Time Budget

For those who already do a decent job at managing their finances by using a budget, congratulations for doing half of the planning well. In order to have a fully-satisfying life, the other budget that is needed is a time management budget.

Allocate time on a weekly basis to all the other things that are important, which, in addition to money-making efforts, may include:

  • Personal Growth and Development: Examples in this category include daily meditation, yoga practice, and self-help classes.
  • Quality Family Time and Time with Pets: This category is less about the things to do and more about who does them together. Take time to sit with kids and play with them. Walk the dog or use a laser light on the wall to play with the cat.
  • Community Service: Make an effort to spend at least one hour each week doing some community service. This is a “pay-it-forward” way to keep everything in perspective and develop an attitude of gratitude.
  • Stress Relief: Find a way to release anger and frustration in a healthier way, such as going to a gym and working out with a punching bag.

Make More Time

Time is actually more precious than money. The best practice strategy is looking for the possibilities to create more passive income that requires money investment to produce a positive result but little or no time to make it happen. Creating passive-income streams by investing in real estate is a way to achieve wealth, while also creating free time.

Delegate And Outsource

Make a list of the little annoying things that take the most time. Find a way to delegate some of those tasks to others. Consider using the help of freelancers to outsource things that are time-consuming and can be done more efficiently by others.

Let A REALTOR® Do The Work

If there is some investment capital available to work with, find a real estate agent that becomes an integral part of the long-term business strategy. Make an investment plan together and let your agent find the properties that qualify for the strategy. Be happy paying the agent commission for a property acquisition that meets the investment criteria.

Success Creates More Success

Rewarding others who bring valuable deals that create passive income usually improves the results. If possible, start young, be patient, and, step-by-step, build up a valuable real estate portfolio. The life goal is to eventually create enough passive income, which requires so little time that most of the time can be spent playing with pets along with the grandkids. That is the meaning of true wealth.

If you are in the market for a new home or interested in refinancing your current property, be sure to contact your trusted home mortgage professional to discuss current financing options.