Restoring A Patio On A Budget: 3 Simple Tips

Restoring A Patio On A Budget: 3 Simple TipsThere are lots of homeowners who are looking at their patio and are not satisfied with what they see. This is where it is important to think about ways to bring that patio back to life. Whether this means entertaining friends or simply relaxing with a cocktail and a book, there are a few easy ways to bring a patio back to life.

1. Target The Pests

There are lots of pests that like to make their homes in the patio. This might include debris that is brought in by the wind, critters that like to dig underneath the patio, or even kids’ toys. There are ways to prevent critters from making their homes in the patio. Simply place pine cones in the nearby area. This is far easier than using mulch. As for the kids’ toys, that sounds more like a parenting issue!

2. Add A Splash Of Color

One of the easiest tips that can bring a patio back to life is adding a splash of color. Instead of going with the boring brown patio, add some plants to bring some green to the porch. Then, throw in some colored furniture. Finish it off with a colorful umbrella and the patio will look like new!

3. Build A Fire Pit

Finally, those who want to host a party need to have a fire pit. A fire pit is one of the best ways to draw attention away from the patio itself. A mini fire pit acts as the focal point of the room while adding a bit more fun (and function) to the patio itself. This is a great place to roast a few hot dogs, make some smores, and host a party! Adding a fire pit to the patio is one of the top ways to take a sad patio and bring it back to life once again.

Restore An Old Patio With These Tips

A patio is meant to be a place where family members and friends come together to enjoy each other’s company. In order to bring a patio back to life, think about putting these tips to use. This will make the patio functional once again, making the porch the place to be.

Comparing An Online And Offline Home Loan Application

Comparing An Online And Offline Home Loan ApplicationThe internet has changed how many people shop for a home and one of the most important issues that people will face is whether to fill out a home loan application online or offline.

While there is something to be said for going to the loan officer in person and filling out the application with the help of a professional, some people might find the online option to be more convenient. With this in mind, it is important to compare some of the ways in which an online versus an offline home application might be different.

The Eligibility Process

While the most exciting part of shopping for a home is traveling around and looking at the different options, people need to know how expensive of a home they can afford. With the online process, people can fill out the application process online and immediately see how big of a loan they can afford with the help of the home loan provider.

There are simple tools online, such as a loan eligibility calculator. In contrast, going to the office of the loan provider might require detailed discussions that could lead to a denial. This would end up being a waste of time. In this manner, the online process is faster.

The Documentation Required

The documentation process is also much easier online. When someone applies for a home loan online, it is easy to upload the required documents for review later. This might include the application form, proof of identity, proof of address, and more. Home loan providers will list all of the required documents on the site with ease. When it comes to applying in the offline world, this requires people to physically carry all of this information to the office. People run the risk of losing important documents in transit along the way.

The Application Process

Finally, even the process of applying for a loan itself is much easier when people can do this online. It is easy to register on the website, fill out the application, and submit the documents. Often, the turnaround time is much shorter as well. These are a few of the biggest reasons why the online application process is growing in popularity.

A Bidding War Is Taking Place Among Homebuyers

A Bidding War Is Taking Place Among HomebuyersWhile businesses have fallen on hard times during the past few months, there are signs that the economy is going to start to recover quickly. This could mean that homebuyers are entering the market again as well.

With summer being a historically hot time for homebuyers all over the country, there are a lot of experts saying that buyers need to get ready for a bidding war.

There are not a lot of homes on the market right now, as sellers are still a bit reluctant to put their homes back on the market with the economy just starting its recovery process.

The end result is that there is a disconnect between supply and demand. This imbalance is causing home prices to climb upward as homebuyers get into a bidding war.

Homebuyers Might Be Surprised

Many homebuyers are surprised that prices are actually rising instead of falling. When the last recession hit, home prices actually fell significantly. This is because mortgage defaults were the cause of the last recession, which is why home prices fell so dramatically.

The cause of this economic downturn is different. Due to a limited supply of homes, this is leading to more competition among homebuyers. This leads to more competition, handfuls of offers for a single home, and a bidding war. In order to find the right home, there are a few tips that homebuyers need to keep in mind.

Put Forth A More Competitive Offer

Those who are looking for a home right now need to place themselves in a position to compete against multiple offers from other homebuyers. Some of the most important tips to follow include:

  • Hire a local expert who understands the state of the market right now who can help homebuyers find the right home. Right now, the real estate market is not normal. It takes an expert to understand the ins and outs of buying a home in this market.
  • Get pre-approved from the market to make sure the offer looks serious to the seller. Those who get pre-approved from a lender will demonstrate a strong desire to buy, pushing their offer to the top.

There are ways to put forth a competitive offer even in this challenging real estate market.

Should You Buy A Home Warranty?

Should You Buy A Home Warranty?When you buy a new house, the first thing you want to do is protect your investment. You already have property insurance. Should you also buy a home warranty?

What Is A Home Warranty?

A home warranty is not the same thing as insurance. Home warranties are service contracts. If a covered item breaks down and it is covered in the terms of the warranty, the home warranty company will pay to fix or replace that item.

What is Covered Under A Home Warranty?

Every home warranty contract is different but generally, a home warranty may cover items like major kitchen appliances, HVAC components, sump pump, in-home sauna or spa tub, and/or ceiling and exhaust fans.

Often, a homeowner can get an extended warranty contract that covers items like the washer and dryer, garage door opener, septic system and swimming pool components.

Understand The Costs

A basic home warranty costs between $350 and $500 annually, depending on what coverage you get. However, if something does break, you will also be on the hook for incidentals like service call fees or a deductible.

Know The Benefits

There are considerable benefits to having a home warranty contract in place, especially when something expensive breaks down, like a furnace. There is a lot of peace of mind knowing that you will be able to quickly get something fixed in your home.

You Might Already Be Covered

Your homeowner’s insurance policy might cover some of the same things that are covered with a home warranty. So you could be paying for duplicate coverage on some items. However, your homeowner’s insurance likely will not cover a dishwasher that needs to be replaced or a fridge that suddenly goes out.

There Are Alternatives

Finally, before you pay for a home warranty, remember that there are alternatives. For example, most HVAC companies offer financing options to buy a new furnace. Most appliance stores also offer financing on major purchases like refrigerators and dishwashers. You could save your $500 or so a year and put it in a savings account for a rainy day instead of gambling that you might have a major repair or purchase that year.

There are pros and cons to home warranty plans. Just be sure you fully understand both sides of the issue before you sign on the dotted line.

 

The Basics Of A Mortgage

The Basics Of A MortgageThe vast majority of people who are interested in buying a home are not going to be able to pay cash for the home. Even for those who can buy a home in cash, they often would rather take out a loan to avoid pulling money out of their investments where they would have to pay capital gains taxes.

Those who take out a loan to buy a home will apply for something called a mortgage.

Simply put, a mortgage is a loan that someone uses to buy a home. Mortgages are very specific to the real estate industry; however, they are similar to other loans. People borrow money to cover the difference between the down payment and the cost of the house.

Then, they pay back the loan over a specified period of time with interest. For those who are buying a home, it is important to understand the basics of a mortgage.

Qualifying For A Mortgage

First, anyone buying a home has to qualify for a mortgage. Most lenders will have a set of criteria they use to approve someone for a loan. Some of the factors include:

  • Many borrowers will have to meet a minimum credit score which lenders see as a reflection of someone’s ability to pay back a loan on time
  • Lenders will also need to see that someone has a proof of income (or proof of assets) so that they know the individual can afford to pay back the loan
  • Finally, lenders will also want to see what other debts someone is carrying such as a car loan, student loans, or credit card debts

The lender is taking on risk by providing a mortgage to someone. They want to make sure the borrower is going to reliably pay the loan back.

The Terms Of The Mortgage

Once someone has been approved for a loan, they need to figure out what the terms of the mortgage will be. Some of the variables include:

  • The length of the loan
  • The size of the monthly payments
  • The total amount of the loan
  • The down payment required for the loan
  • The interest rate on the mortgage
  • The presence (or absence) of private mortgage insurance, or PMI

It is critical for everyone to talk with an experienced professional to make sure they understand the terms of the mortgage.

Routine Maintenance Of Various Systems In Your Home

Routine Maintenance Of Various Systems In Your HomeWhen you are a first-time homeowner, learning about your property can feel overwhelming. There are a number of systems in your home that require routine maintenance. Knowing when to have system serviced will help keep your home running smoothly. From the plumbing in your home, to the heating and cooling, understand that each system may need routine maintenance from time to time. 

Your Heating And Cooling System

To maintain comfortable air temperatures in your home, it’s important to keep your heating and cooling system up-to-date. If you have a whole home system, it should be serviced once before the heating season and once before the cooling season. When you get filters changed, and your system serviced, you are less likely to have to deal with emergency repairs. In addition, your HVAC system will run more efficiently.

When You Have A Septic System

Waste water leaves your home either through the town sewer system or through a septic tank. If you have a septic system on your property, you need to have the system serviced every other year. Check the records of your septic system to see when it was serviced previously.

Address Plumbing Issues

A leaky faucet is a localized problem, while discovering that all of the drains in your home are draining slowly is systemic. You need to repair small leaks to avoid wasting water in your home, while systemic problems must be addressed by a professional. If your drains aren’t working correctly, you may have a block in your main sewer line. Know where the main shut off valve is for the water coming in to your home in case of an emergency.

Electrical Needs In Your Home

Your home has an intricate electrical system that is controlled by an electrical panel usually located in your basement. When a circuit trips, you will need to reset the circuit breaker. If your home consistently has problems with a specific circuit, you’ll want to have the circuit checked by an electrician to see if it is overloaded.

It’s exciting to own a home for the first time. Once you understand the various systems in your home, it becomes easier to take care of your property. With good maintenance, you can help avoid emergency repairs to your home. Your heating and cooling will be more efficient, and you won’t run in to problems with your septic system if you have one. If there is something you don’t understand in your home, call a professional to get the problem looked at.

Credit 101: Improving Your Score

Credit Rating ScoreIf you’re worried about your bad credit, you’ll want to do everything in your power to improve your rating as quickly as possible – especially if you are looking to purchase a home in the near future. Furthermore, improving your credit rating can give you access to better interest rates on mortgages or even help you get that job you’re after.

IMPORTANT! If you are currently involved in a home loan transaction, speak with your trusted mortgage lender before taking any action regarding your credit!

So how can you boost your FICO score quickly and easily? Here’s what you need to know.

Get Your Credit Report And Dispute Any Errors

Because credit reporting agencies don’t always keep 100% perfect records,  there’s a good chance that your report contains at least one error. One recent FTC study found that 25% of consumers have an error on their credit report. Furthermore, in 5% of cases, the mistakes were actually severe enough to impact the loan terms that borrowers were able to negotiate.

You can get your annual credit report from all three credit reporting agencies for free. Carefully read it. If you see any errors – if your name is misspelled, if they have the wrong address on file, if there are late/unpaid charges that you didn’t make – you can dispute the items in question.

Try Maintaining A Lower Utilization Ratio

Your debt-to-credit ratio (also known as your utilization ratio) is one of the more important factors that determine your credit score. It measures the outstanding balance on your accounts in relation to the total credit available to you.  Lenders can then assess your capacity to take on new debt.

If this number goes beyond 30 percent, you’ll start to see your credit score drop. Ideally, you should aim for a utilization ratio below 10 percent. This will prove to your lender that you can responsibly pay for the credit you use.

Have Recurring Bills? Automate Your Payments

A great way to boost your credit score can be as simple as automating your monthly payments. Whether it’s your mortgage, credit card, or student loan, a pre-authorized monthly payment will ensure that everything gets paid on time. Most of all, it will help give you a great credit history.

Your FICO score is a number that determines your eligibility for mortgages and other loans. These are general tips to help with your credit score and improve the overall reporting of your credit.

Call us today to learn about what kind of a mortgage your credit score can afford you.

Benchmark Mortgage

3 Things That Determine Your Mortgage Interest Rate

Minimum FHA Mortgage Credit Scores Are Falling: Here's What You Need to KnowWhen you begin shopping for a home mortgage, you may be drawn to advertisements for ultra-low interest rates. These may be rates that seem too good to be true. However, in many cases, you may be unpleasantly surprised and even disheartened to learn that you do not qualify for the advertised rate. You can structure your loan in a more advantageous way by learning more about the factors that influence your interest rate.

Your Credit Rating

One of the most important factors that influence an interest rate is your credit score. Lenders have different credit score requirements, but most have a tiered rating system. Excellent credit scores qualify for the best interest rate, and good credit scores may qualify for a slightly higher rate. Because of this, consider learning more about your credit score. Take the time to correct any errors that may be resulting in a lower score.

The Amount Of Your Down Payment

In addition, the amount of your down payment will also play a role in your interest rate. The desired down payment may vary from lender to lender, but as a rule of thumb, the best interest rates are given to those who have at least 20% to put down on the property This does not include subordinate or secondary financing. If you are applying for a higher loan-to-value loan, you may expect a higher interest rate.

The Total Loan Amount Requested

In addition, the total loan amount will also influence the rate. There are different loan programs available but one of the biggest differences in residential loans is for very large loan amounts. The qualification for a jumbo loan will vary for different markets. These loans qualify for different rates than conventional loans with a smaller loan amount.

While you can use advertised interest rates to get a fair idea about the rate you may qualify for, the only real way to determine your mortgage rate will be to apply for a loan and to get pre-qualified. Contact your local mortgage lender today to request more information about today’s rates and to begin your pre-qualification process.

Benchmark Mortgage

Thinking of Buying a Second Home? Assess Your Finances First

The decision to buy a second home may be made for a number of reasons. For example, you may have a destination where you and your family love to visit, and you may be ready to settle into your own space in this location. You may be considering the tax benefits associated with a second home. And you may even have plans to live in the home as your primary residence after you retire.

While there are numerous benefits associated with the purchase of your second home, there are concerns about how affordable it will be for you to manage the additional expense of another mortgage payment.

Consider All Of The New Expenses Related To The Purchase

A second mortgage payment can be a rather major expense to take on, but it is not the only expense related to buying the new property. In order to ensure that the mortgage payment is affordable, you need to ensure that all aspects of secondary home ownership work within your budget.

For example, consider HOA dues, repairs and maintenance expenses, property taxes, insurance, and cleaning or lawn care service since you will not be available to handle these chores on a regular basis. If you can comfortably take on all of these expenses, you may make your purchase with confidence.

Increase Your Emergency Savings Account Balance

While your current budget may easily accommodate the new mortgage payment and the related expenses, the unfortunate truth is that your income or expenses may not remain static in the future. You may suffer from unemployment or a serious illness that reduces your income. You may have extra expenses due to a car accident or severe damage to a home.

These are just a few of the many things that can happen. It’s important that you have an adequate cash reserve in your emergency savings account that allows you to pay for all of your expenses for at least several months. Because your expenses will increase substantially with your new mortgage payment, you may need to increase your emergency savings account balance.

For more information, speak with your mortgage professional to get a quote for your new mortgage payment and interest rate.

Benchmark Mortgage

Why Your ‘Debt-to-Income Ratio’ Number Matters When Obtaining a Mortgage

If you are looking to buy a home, you may want to consider shopping for a loan first. Having your financing squared away ahead of time can make it easier to be taken seriously by buyers and help move along the closing process. For those who are looking to get a mortgage soon, keep in mind that the Debt-to-Income ratio of the borrower plays a huge role in the approval of your mortgage application.

What is a Debt-to-Income Ratio?

A debt-to-income ratio is the percentage of monthly debt payments compared to the amount of gross income that a person earns each month. Your gross monthly income is typically the amount of money you earn before taxes and other deductions are taken out. If a person’s monthly gross income is $2,000 a month and they have monthly debt payments of $1000 each month, that person would have a DTI of 50 percent. The lower the DTI the better. 43 percent is in most cases the highest DTI that potential borrowers can have and still get approved for a mortgage.

What Debt Do Lenders Review?

The good news for borrowers is that lenders will disregard some debt when calculating a borrower’s DTI. For example, utilities, cable, phone and health insurance premium would not be considered as part of your DTI. What lenders will look at are any installment loan obligations such as auto loans or student loans as well as any revolving debt payments such as credit cards or a home equity line of credit.In some cases, a lender will disregard an installment loan debt if the loan is projected to be paid off in the next 10-12 months.

What Is Considered Income?

Almost any source of income that can be verified will be counted as income on a mortgage application. Wage income is considered as part of a borrower’s monthly qualifying income. Self-employed individuals can use their net profit as income when applying for a mortgage, however, many lenders will average income in the current year with income from previous years. In addition, those who receive alimony, investment income or money from a pension or social security should make sure to include those figures in their monthly income as well when applying for a loan.

How Much Debt Is Too Much Debt?

Many lenders prefer to only offer loans to those who have a debt-to-income ratio of 43 percent or lower. Talking to a lender prior to starting the mortgage application process may help a borrower determine if his or her chosen lender offers such leeway.

A borrower’s DTI ratio can be the biggest factor when a lender decides whether to approve a mortgage application. Those who wish to increase their odds of loan approval may decide to lower their DTI by either increasing their income or lowering their debt. This may make it easier for the lender and the underwriter to justify making a loan to the borrower. For more information, contact your local mortgage professional today.

Benchmark Mortgage