Want To Buy A Home? Here’s How You Can Save Your Own Down Payment

Want To Buy A Home? Here's How You Can Save Your Own Down PaymentBurdensome student loan debt and a penchant for purchasing new electronics by 20- and 30-somethings can make saving up for a down payment on a home seem impossible. But Millennials and other potential home buyers may be surprised to discover that previous generations had money-saving challenges of their own.

Consider for a moment that many of our valued elders did not have the level of opportunity to attend college and earn a high-paying job. Look further back and you may realize that the Greatest Generation suffered through the Great Depression only to fight World War II.

Somehow, these outstanding Americans found a way to save money and become homeowners. So can you. By employing these money management techniques, you can cull together a down payment and still enjoy the latest gizmo.

Do The Math On Savings

It doesn’t make a great deal of sense to mindlessly squirrel money away without a comprehensive savings plan.

First steps should include discussing your pre-approval limit with a mortgage professional. By knowing your mortgage threshold, you will be able to work backwards and calculate a down payment amount.

One tried-and-true savings approach remains the 20-30-50 financial disbursement method. Structure your spending so that 20 percent of your earnings are going directly into debt reduction or savings. Approximately 30 percent should cover rent and the other 50 percent can be allotted for incidentals.

Make certain the 20 percent consistently finds its mark each month. Once you have cleared out the debt and are going full-bore on saving for a down payment, it can be motivating to watch your goal become a reality.

Eliminate High-Interest Debt

According to reports, the average American carried upwards of $6,375 in credit card debt during 2017. Folks, that is simply too much to effectively save money for a home down payment.

The high interest rates everyday people incur from credit card debt remains a significant impediment to saving money. If you have several cards with high balances, there is no quick fix to this problem. It will fall on you to be disciplined and methodical about paying them off.

Start with the card that charges the highest interest rate and work diligently to eliminate its balance entirely. Once you clear out the worst interest-rate offender, move on to the second worst. As these debts fall, you will have an opening to shuffle funds into your down payment savings account. We call that winning.

Pick Up Part-Time Gigs

The down payment effort can be accelerated by creating an additional revenue stream.

A few years back, the idea of the “gig economy” was trending. Stringing together a series of short-term and part-time jobs was considered cool. Although the so-called gig economy may have been the byproduct of a business sluggishness, such is no longer the case.

These days, unemployment is at record lows and employers are chomping at the bit to hire people. Consider picking up a few hours each week doing something you enjoy. It could entail anything from bartending to working as a coffee house barista. Make it fun and make certain the money goes only toward your home down payment. Talk about a win-win.

With strategic financial planning, people of all walks of life can earn the American homeownership dream. It’s time to stop thinking about the generational obstacles. Adapt, overcome and make it happen.

Your trusted mortgage professional is just the expert you need to guide you through all of your home financing options.

Creative Storage Tips When Downsizing Your Home

Creative Storage Tips When Downsizing Your HomeDownsizing at any stage of life can offer multiple benefits. Less square footage may come with a smaller price tag and usually means less space to clean. However, when downsizing a home, there’s usually the question of what to do with everything. That’s when creative storage ideas become essential.

Before Downsizing, Take Stock

Before selecting the best storage options, it’s important to first take stock of all personal items, from furniture to clothing, kitchen gadgets, and keepsakes. Sort into items to keep, donate, discard, and place in long-term storage. Long-term storage may mean investing in a self-storage unit to hold things like seasonal decor. Less stuff can mean less storage space needed in a smaller home.

Maximize Closet Space

It doesn’t need to be a walk-in closet to have the capacity to store an array of personal items. Maximize any closet’s storage space with a few tricks. Install a second tier hanging rod and rely on an expandable shoe rack to keep the floor clutter-free. Reduce the number of hangers used by layering outfits on a single hanger — blouse, sweater, and necklace or dress shirt, tie, and jacket. Store seasonal clothing, linens, and pillows in space-saver bags that remove bulk.

Rely On Under-the-Bed Storage

Even in homes with expansive square footage, under the bed often is an under-utilized space. Shoes, books, and other items are shoved out-of-sight, collecting dust and remaining unorganized. When downsizing, every space should have a purpose. Depending on the bed height, consider flat storage boxes ideal for clothing, blankets, and other items. Storage boxes with rollers can make it easy to access and act like an additional set of drawers.

Choose Space-Saving Furniture

The popularity of tiny houses and the number of people downsizing has created a boom of innovative space-saving furniture options. For the living room there are ottomans that open to reveal storage space for pillows, blankets, or video cases. Consider a couch with built-in drawers that slide out. In the bedroom, there are multiple bed choices that have built-in drawers and storage, perfect if the room doesn’t have dresser space.

Open Shelves Provide Functionality Plus Style

Whether in the kitchen, bedroom, or main living area, open shelves offer great functionality in a smaller space while providing style to the home’s decor. Use them as storage for books, collections, and artwork. They’re ideal when there isn’t space for large bookcases or a coffee table. In the kitchen, open shelves can hold everything from dishes to glassware and potted herbs.

Whether you are looking to buy a smaller home or make modifications to your current home, your trusted home mortgage professional can help you navigate all of your financing opportunities.

 

Plant Now For Spring Beauty

Plant Now For Spring BeautyWhile the weather is still pleasant this fall, it can be a good idea to plan ahead for early spring blooms. Trim shrubbery, plant bulbs, install new edging or add whimsical garden accessories to assure that when spring rolls around you’ll have something attractive to look at. Getting creative now will boost your spirits when winter seems to last longer than it should!

Whether you want to beautify for your own enjoyment or spruce up your yard with the intention of listing a home for sale come spring, get a headstart on your goals by taking time now to plan for spring.

Plant Early Spring Flowering Bulbs

If you want a profusion of color in your early spring garden, now is the time to plan for it. Most flowering bulbs require ample in-ground time in order to thrive, so it’s always wise to check with a local nursery before purchasing specific varieties of bulbs. Gardening success depends on adapting to local conditions.

Seek out a qualified expert if you have little experience, and then plan to experiment until your garden grows just the way you want it to. In most areas, the first flowers to bloom include crocus and daffodils, as well as some varieties of tulips.

Plan Your Planting Beds

Depending on your locale, fall can also be a good time to plant new trees and and perennial shrubs. Again, it pays to ask questions and to plan ahead. Even if it’s not the optimal planting season, direct your efforts towards defining planting beds, soil preparation, and various hardscape elements.

Cooler weather brings with it the chance to do some of the “heavy lifting” of landscape design: install brick or stone walkways, dry riverbeds, low stone walls, or decks and patios. By completing these tasks now, when spring arrives you’ll be able to concentrate on the fun parts of landscaping.

Plant an Edible Garden

Growing edible plants is a new trend: Not only are they generally easy to maintain, but the “fruits of your labor” are just as good to eat as they are to look at. A simple 4×4 raised bed garden can supply a wonderful variety of produce throughout the growing season and you’d be surprised as how they help create unique landscape appeal.

Some of the best crops for fall planting include cabbage, kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts and carrots. Even if you don’t eat them, they add a unique dimension to the landscape. Use showy cabbage along a garden path, and plant some carrots among heavier shrubs to create a lighter border.

Just remember that all growing things need a bit of tending to look their best. So be willing to spend a bit of time regularly in the garden — your plants will benefit from the attention, and you’re sure to enjoy it as well!

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

Myths About Buying A Vacation Home

Myths About Buying A Vacation HomeAre you thinking about buying a vacation home? Maybe owning two homes is part of your retirement dream. Maybe you’d like to have a second home in your favorite holiday locale.

If you are thinking about taking this step, you might have talked to family and friends about it. Unfortunately, many people give well-intentioned, yet poor advice when it comes to buying a vacation home. Here are some myths — and the truth — about buying a second home straight from leading real estate experts.

You Can Buy A Vacation Home With No Money Down

You have probably seen advertisements about buying a vacation home with no money down. However, this is simply not the case and those advertisements are misleading. Unlike buying a first home, you will need a sizable down payment to purchase a second home.

The minimum amount down that you will need to buy a second home is 10 percent. In order to qualify for the lowest down payment, it would also have to be a single family residence and not an investment property.

So, if you plan to use it as a vacation rental, then you will need more money down – usually at least 20 percent due to the property being considered an investment property.

Renting Out Your Vacation Home Is Easy

Sites like VBRO, HomeAway and Airbnb have made renting out vacation rentals much easier. However, renting out a vacation or second home is not as simple as it seems. While renting out your vacation home is a great opportunity, you must run it like a business.

And remember, there are more expenses than just the mortgage payment and possibly HOA dues. Utility payments and amenities like internet and television services add to the monthly expenses and are desirable features to prospective renters.

Take some time with your trusted real estate professional and pencil out the total costs of maintenance. Then you will have a great idea of what it will take in rent to cover the costs.

You Don’t Have To Worry About Your Vacation Home When You Are Not There

Many people think that they can buy a vacation home and then forget about it when they are not using it. This is simply not the case. Vacation homes are often targets for thieves, so you’ll have to plan for a way to protect your home when you are not there.

Fortunately, the newer smart alarm systems make it easy to monitor a property from anywhere. Many smart home systems also include flood detection monitors so that you can be immediately notified if you have a water leak.

Owning a vacation home can be a very rewarding investment and a great addition to your long term financial plan. Once again, take your time and get your trusted real estate and mortgage financing professional involved to help you make the best decision possible.

 

4 Top Sustainable Home Trends

4 Top Sustainable Home TrendsThe emergence of sustainable energy and products have solidified the go-green movement. Solar energy and electric cars are just the tip of the iceberg.

The impact of products on the environment has become a significant measure about their value. Those same principles are also being applied to homes. Smart homes and energy efficiency have a direct correlation to home values and listing prices. That’s why homeowners and home builders alike have an eye toward sustainable trends. These are some of the top-ranked home trends.

1: Durability Matters

After the catastrophic weather that damaged and destroyed homes in Florida and the Gulf states, “resiliency” has emerged as a key sustainability term. Contractors and home designers are including materials that stand up to extreme weather. These materials also consider toxicity levels, with the most non-toxic being among the more favorable. The storms will come, but how properties resist them and impact the environment afterwards are important sustainability trends.

2: Natural Light Keeps Trending

The use of sustainable solar energy has prompted many to go directly to the source. Large skylights and windows allow natural light to warm homes and reduce the need for electric lighting. Natural light also helps stave off Seasonal Affective Disorder during shorter winter days. Simply put, incorporating natural light resources is a trend that builds off of solar energy thinking.

3: Water Filtration Systems

It’s no secret that municipal water supplies have been compromised on occasion. This trend that started ramping up in 2017 continues to have legs as homeowners are securing water purity. In terms of sustainability, homeowners with water filtration systems have been utilizing them as a method to reduce the amount of bottled waters they purchase. Above and beyond the cost-saving benefits, the reduction in unsustainable plastics is helping to protect the environment.

4: Electric-Only Homes

The high carbon emissions from fossil fuels has motivated environmentally conscious Americans to turn to wind and solar. These days, improved energy storage from high-capacity lithium batteries has opened the door for homes to go all-electric. This appears to be an emerging trend that could pick up additional steam as energy storage technology moves forward. Electric-only homes could be a major step in allowing average homeowners to get off the grid. This trend is not only sustainable for the environment, it lessens the monthly impact on wallets.

Living in the technology era means that change can occur rapidly, and green-friendly homeowners may want to stay up to date on the latest sustainable home trends. They could improve home values going forward.

Whether you are in the market for an eco-friendly home or want to make improvements to your existing home, contact your trusted mortgage professional to explore all of your financing options.

3 Generations Top Housing Market Trends

3 Generations Top Housing Market TrendsHistorians like to say that those who do not learn the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them. In the real estate industry, the chances of that happening are slim because agents and other professionals follow market trends closely.

That being said, a careful examination of 2017 market trends and other factors can help highlight where the housing market is headed. Consider these top trends when deciding about whether to buy or sell a property.

Millennials Scooping Up Homes

According to resources such as Zillow, the low inventory and emergence of Millennials in the home-buying market helped break records last year. Millennials comprised upwards of 34 percent of the market and about two-thirds of them were reportedly first-time home buyers.

Given the shortage of entry-level homes for this demographic, 2018 and 2019 should have them in the driver’s seat in terms of buying trends. Although home prices are expected to rise in the single digits during the foreseeable future, the second wave of Millennial home buyers are likely to take a big bite of listed properties.

As this group moves into their mid-30s, expectations are that last year’s 34 percent turns into about 43 percent of homes purchased. Millennials appear to be setting the pace.

Gen Z Home Buyers Expect Smarter Homes

Consider those born between 1995 and 2001 are adults or on the cusp of becoming adults. The front end of Generation Z is graduating college and looking for starter homes. This group is bound and determined to be different and they were basically weaned on technology.

Tech-friendly kitchens, lights and home-integrated devices have been trending and this demographic is likely to make them a priority when buying a home. Homeowners who are considering updating to a so-called “Smart Home” could be rewarded with resale value once Gen Z enters their collective mid-30s. Smart homes are trending and could go vertical with Gen Z buyers.

Generation X Returns From Great Recession

The housing crisis of 2007-09 put upwards of 10 million Americans out of their homes. Forced into foreclosure and bankruptcy, the financial aftermath of that catastrophe is coming to an end.

Those that filed for bankruptcy during the crash are in position to put their rebuilt credit to work. According to reports, approximately 1.5 million people could become eligible to re-enter the housing market in 2019.

A large portion of these potential returning homebuyers fall into the Gen X age group. They are likely to be savvier than the first time out. Many of these 50-somethings are expected to be frugal and cautious value buyers that could target properties that are traditionally considered starter homes. Regardless of how the trend plays out, Gen X is coming to a housing market near you.

If these emerging trends indicate anything, it’s that the shortage of homes on the market will only get tighter. Several large emerging demographics and returning buyers are going to speed an already fast-selling market. The trending idea may be to buy a home in today’s market and save money.

Contact us for a pre-approval and get started looking for the house of your dreams!

Home Buying: Repair Requests After A Home Inspection

Home Buying Repair Requests After A Home InspectionThe perfect home has been found, the one in the right neighborhood with the right amount of bedrooms and bathrooms. The home inspection is complete, but a few issues have been found. At this point, a home buyer has decisions to make.

What Repair Requests Can Be Made After a Home Inspection?

Structural defects found during a home inspection are the responsibility of the seller and must be fixed. In addition, Realtor.com states that the following must also be repaired by the seller:

  • Water penetration such as mold or wet basement/crawlspace
  • Any code and safety violations like unstable decking or missing handrails

Cosmetic issues like bold paint choices or peeling paint, nail holes, and other normal wear-and-tear are the responsibility of the buyer, not seller.

Additional Repairs To Request 

Home buyers do have the option of requesting repairs they believe are the seller’s responsibility. These often go beyond obvious structural issues like a sinking foundation or mold in the basement.

Additional repairs that home buyers may request include but are not limited to:

  • Replacing pipes with leaks
  • Replacing galvanized pipes due to lead contaminant, low water pressure, and leaks
  • Upgrading electrical wiring in a home built before 1960
  • Fixing cracked window(s)
  • Installing new HVAC and/or water heater

Sellers may be willing to replace old sewer lines known as “tar paper” pipes. These “tar paper” pipes are called Orangeburg sewer pipes and often found in older homes. On average, this older type of sewer pipe has a 50-year life span. However, as it ages, it can begin to disintegrate with tree roots penetrating the material. A home buyer can hire a plumbing professional who specializes in sewer pipes to inspect the system as part of the overall home inspection.

There may be additional issues that the seller is not required to fix, but that leave the buyer unhappy. When this happens, it can be possible for the buyer to request a repair credit be added to the final contract. Typically, this works best when the repair or issue has a potential cost of more than $500.

Qualified Home Inspection

Repair requests made by the home buyer, whether major or minor, usually are more credible when done in conjunction with a qualified home inspection. Not every state requires home inspectors to have specific certifications or even licensing, so it’s essential to work with real estate agent to select a qualified professional. A qualified and independent home inspector is the buyer’s responsibility. This inspector should have established credentials and belong to trade association, versus a friend or family member that “knows houses”.

Home buying can be an overwhelming experience, but knowing which repairs to request the seller to fix after the home inspection, is one less item to worry about. Timely and open communication with your trusted mortgage professional throughout the process can help to ensure a smooth and successful home buying experience.

Surprising Things That Can Derail A Closing

Surprising Things That Can Derail A ClosingOnce you and the seller have negotiated an offer and you’ve been pre-approved for a mortgage, you might think that you are in the clear as far as your closing goes. However, that is not always the case. Many surprising things can put a halt to closing. Some may ultimately stop the closing altogether while others could simply cause a delay.

Here are a few unexpected things that can derail a real estate closing:

A Job Promotion 

While you might know that changing employers is one way to interfere with the closing, another deal-breaker can be switching positions with your current employer. If you are a salaried employee and switch to a non-salary commission job, for instance, you could be looking at a problem when it comes to closing on a house.

Whenever you have any change in employment, even if it is with the same employer, most lenders will require a two-year history. A new job title could be a problem at closing — even if the new position pays more money. In some cases, the lender might not be able to include the income from your new job. If so, you could quickly end up not being qualified for the loan.

Therefore, it’s best to avoid any change in employment until after closing even if it is with the same company. Talk with your mortgage finance professional regarding your personal circumstances before making any employment changes.

Last-Minute Requests for Documents

It is easy to assume that lenders will already have all the documents that they need by closing, but that is not necessarily the case. Lenders can become overwhelmed with work, especially during a hot real estate market. Lenders will sometimes realize that they need more information last-minute.

They might ask for a canceled check, copies of your rental agreement, current pay stubs or other items. If you don’t have the documentation handy, it could cause your closing to be delayed or even completely canceled if you can’t produce the requested information.

To avoid this situation, make sure that you consistently communicate with your lender throughout the loan process.

A Delayed Transfer 

You will most likely need cash at closing. If you are relying on your bank to transfer funds right before closing, then you might be shocked if the transfer falls through at the last minute. Bugs in the bank’s system or other issues could affect the transmission.

Therefore, make sure you time your transfer to reach you or your closing agent a couple of days before closing.

Closing on a mortgage is something that you don’t want to derail. Avoiding the above mistakes will help ensure a hassle-free closing transaction.

From pre-approval to closing, remember that you can count on your trusted mortgage professional to remain committed to your success throughout the entire home buying process.

Home Updates That Make Good Multi-Generational Sense

Home Updates That Make Good Multi-Generational SenseMulti-generational households and the growing preference on the part of many retirees toward “aging in place”have altered home design in recent years. Interiors are more open, more functional and more adaptable that they were even a decade ago. Spaces tend to be less formal; living space is better integrated with work space like the kitchen, and rooms tend to serve more than once purpose, both for quiet pursuits and for family gatherings.

Universal Design

Home design has gained a new dimension — planning for the future and for a changing lifestyle. Universal design features and amenities that were once off the radar are now very much the focus. Even younger buyers are tuned in to accessibility concerns. Wider doors and hallways, easy to navigate stairs or single-level living, doorless and curbless showers, motion-activated faucets and lighting — these are just a sampling of what may soon become mainstream in American homes.

Add the popularity of home automation and connectivity, and today’s home is uniquely suited for all ages. If you’re thinking of remodeling an existing home, some of these features are well worth the extra cost. Not only do they offer living options, but they also promise great ROI should you wish to sell.

The New Face Of Home

If you are currently looking for a home to buy, view the existing floor plan with an eye toward modifications that would make it more accessible and multi-generation-friendly. Consider the possibility that you might someday share the home with aging parents or with grown children and grandchildren.

Integrated “apartments”with separate entrances, “granny pods”or separate guest houses, dual master bedrooms, and “au pair”quarters are just some of the ways to offer future flexibility. They are common across the country, but also across price ranges, as sensible and cost-effective alternatives to home health care or retirement housing.

Renovate For The Future

Renovations that reflect the changing face of family life are always good choices for return on investment in remodeling. Because the traditional family is no longer the norm, any home that offers such options is desirable. If you have questions about what features are important to buyers in a specific market, speak to a real estate professional about trends that go beyond energy savings and sustainability.

No matter what choices you make about a home update, rely on professional advice and insist on reliable contractors. There is no substitute for quality materials and first-class work. Whether you’re adding space or rearranging it, planning for your future in the home or hoping to appeal to the right buyer, spending a lot or a little, you won’t go wrong with universal design features. Aging is, after all, a reality that we all face sooner or later.

 

Smart Technology or Home Automation: What’s the Difference?

Smart Technology or Home Automation: What's the Difference?Is it worth it to add smart appliances or automated features if you’re selling a home? Just how much connectivity do buyers want? And what exactly do the terms refer to in terms of home updates.

Although smart homes and home automation are sometimes used interchangeably, they actually refer to two basically different concepts about how appliances and home systems can operate. Then there is the need for “connectivity,” adding another dimension to any discussion of futuristic home features.

Home Automation

According to a Texas-based Direct Energy blog, home automation has a long history, beginning with the first labor-saving devices that operated with electrical current. “Automatic” washing machines and hot water heaters certainly made life easier at the time, a time long before wireless technology and integrated home entertainment systems.That may be simplistic, but the truth is that any device that operates without human intervention can be termed automatic.

Today, however, automation commonly refers to home features that are controlled by computer, or that can be set to operate in specific ways: motion-detected lighting, robotic floor cleaners, dishwashers and ovens with delay settings, and the wide range of room monitors, security cameras and voice or motion-controlled devices.

Smart Technology

Computers introduced American homes to smart technology and the Internet of Things. Today, almost every home has several “smart” devices, even if they are simple ones.

Case in point: A programmable thermostat, common sensor-operated smoke detectors, and a backyard irrigation system with a timer control can be termed smart devices, albeit maybe only “elementary” smart.

Today, most smart technology is also controllable by wireless remote device. But the true definition of smart is any product that incorporates sensors or data storage, microprocessors or controls that allow autonomous operation. An internal operating system is employed to assure that the product operates as programmed, either through user interface or initial setup. Modern smart technology allows for broad integration of devices, in effect creating a “genius” network.

Connectivity

The third piece of the technology puzzle is connectivity. Both home automation and smart technology can be “connected,” for greater flexibility and integration, but it’s not necessary. And, just because homeowners can change a setting via smart phone or battery-operated remote doesn’t necessarily make an automatic appliance or home product smart.

Connected products interact with one another over a network; the network collects and shares data, and is designed to monitor and allow some degree of control over the functioning of network-connected products or systems.

For instance, a smart home with sophisticated lighting controls might automatically sense lower light levels at dusk, triggering an adjustment to window shades and turning on both interior and exterior lighting.

Confused? Actually, there’s no real need to be. No matter what you call them, the home features that make living better are all desirable!