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Could Refinancing Save You Money?

If you’re a homeowner, you might think that all the recent talk of low mortgage rates doesn’t affect you. But that isn’t true — they may be your key to savings.

Even if you had a sizable down payment or received a competitive interest rate at the time, refinancing your home now could mean saving thousands over the life of your loan. Ask yourself these four questions before making up your mind:Have your finances improved? If you have a better financial profile now than when you bought your home, you may be able to make a larger monthly payment with a lower interest rate, speeding up your mortgage repayment. If your credit score has improved or you have a higher income, this applies to you.

How much have interest rates dropped? 

Mortgage rates fluctuate with changes in the economy. You may be able to obtain a more cost-effective mortgage today than when you first purchased the property, even if rates have only dropped by a percentage point.

How much will refinancing cost? 

The process will likely cost you a percentage of the amount you borrow. Remember the application and appraisal fees when you bought your home? They apply here too. Another thing to consider: If your home interest payment is a tax deduction, a decrease in your interest amount could lower that deduction.

How much longer will you be in the home? 

If you’re not planning to stay in your current home very long, and therefore won’t need to pay off the mortgage, refinancing shouldn’t be your top priority. Spending the time and money on that process won’t pay off like it would if you stay in your home for another 10 years or more.

Are you ready to refinance? Do you have specific questions about your situation? Reach out today.

Which Home Inspection Problems Might Be Deal Breakers?

You’ve been to so many open houses that you’re starting to feel like a real estate expert. But it paid off! You finally found your dream home and made an offer.

But the time for making big decisions isn’t over. One question you probably have is: Do I really need to pay to get a home inspection?

While a home inspection is not always an absolute requirement, you should get one to rule out any major issues. Not all problems are deal breakers — you’ll likely just overlook that unpainted deck or loose doorknob.

Of course, some more severe issues may crop up during the home inspection:

  • Electricity and wiring troubles can be dangerous if the electrical system is outdated. But they’re merely an inconvenience in some cases. For example, some older systems can’t accommodate the power demands of modern appliances.
  • Foundational issues are hugely problematic and can run up quite a tab. Plus a home’s age doesn’t always factor into whether or not it has a faulty foundation. If the owner refuses to fix cracks (especially horizontal ones), it may be best to walk away.
  • Problems with doors can indicate greater issues, like overexposure to water. Structural complications can also lead to defective doors.
  • Exterior caulking that has deteriorated can lead to water damage, mold and greater long-term defects in your home.

So what can you do to protect yourself from a house with these issues?
The short answer is “inspection contingency.” Make sure you have one in your contract when you make your offer — before the inspection takes place. You could make the sale contingent upon negotiating repairs or price with the seller if the inspection reveals major issues. It also gives you the ability to walk away if a deal can’t be negotiated.

Each situation will be different, and it will depend on the home, the seller and your preferences.

Have questions about financing your home purchase? Get in touch today.

4 Tips to Master Working From Home

Like many people, you may find yourself working from home these days. And if you’ve never done remote work — or if you’ve always chosen to work in a quiet coffee shop or your local library — you might find yourself looking for ways to make it, well, work.

In addition to setting up a perfect space for your workflow, you want to make sure that you can limit distractions and focus on actually getting your to-do list done. How?

Find a spot that’s comfortable and clean.

If you don’t have a dedicated home office, that’s okay. A dining table, kitchen counter or other surfaces can become a workspace with little effort. Just be sure that whatever space you choose gives you a bit of room to spread out and isn’t cluttered with things.

Disconnect from chores and entertainment.

It may be tempting to constantly check social media, watch TV or get a load of laundry done. But if you’re going to stay in a productive mindset, you should make your job your priority during the hours you’re signed on.

Stick to a daily routine.

Speaking of work hours, make sure you set some. If you have an “aha moment” at 9 p.m., feel free to jot it down. But generally try to go to bed, wake up and work on roughly the same schedule each day. It will make it easier for you to keep a work-life balance, even as your whole day is spent at home.

Take plenty of breaks.

If you were in an office or other workplace, you’d surely get up for walks, snacks and conversation. Working remotely shouldn’t change that. Breaks and physical activity are still essential during work hours, so don’t neglect them.

If there’s any way I can be of help to you during this time, please get in touch.

New Recipes to Keep Meals Interesting

If you’ve found yourself with more time on your hands, you might be looking to try some new recipes. And as a plus, cooking and baking allow you to take advantage of all your home’s kitchen has to offer.

Don’t think of yourself as a home chef just yet? That’s okay — there are recipes for every skill level, and you can even be a little creative with ingredients for many of them.

So, if you’re looking to try a range of breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert foods, look no further.

For Breakfast:

  • Want a healthy option, but have limited ingredients? This list features breakfast ideas that only use five ingredients each. Banana breakfast bars, anyone?
  • Maybe you have oatmeal but you’re afraid you’ll get sick of eating it day after day. With this collection of recipes, use oats for sweet or savory meals, like no-bread French toast or oatmeal with poached eggs and goat cheese.
  • No eggs? No problem. These breakfasts rely (mostly) on long-lasting pantry staples — plus, most of them will keep in the fridge or freezer. Try the farinata or chia pudding.

For Lunch or Dinner:

  • How full were the shelves last time you went to the grocery store? If your answer is “not very,” then these easy recipes will be right up your alley. From root beer pulled pork to black bean tostadas, there’s something for everyone.
  • If you’re looking for more ways to use what’s in your pantry, this list will come in handy. These inexpensive meals include sweet chili chicken stir-fry bowls and rosemary garlic white bean soup.
  • Your fridge, freezer and pantry are well-stocked, but you still don’t know what you want to make. Maybe you’d enjoy some toasted garlic-butter shrimp or roasted broccoli pesto pasta. If not, check out the rest of the recipes that made this list.

For Dessert:

  • The easier the better, right? This list of quick dessert recipes will have you treating yourself in no time, whether you’re making peanut butter cookies, pumpkin cannoli or another option.
  • Dessert should be comforting. Why not try to make some slow-cooker cherry cobbler or a mug brownie from this list of recipes that will warm you up?
  • If you’re ready to show off your skills on social media, what better way to do it than with some puff pastries? Cream cheese fruit danishes and almond croissants look — and taste — great.

To read more, click here.

Don’t Skip Your Mortgage Payment. There’s Help If You Need It.

Let’s set the record straight first—there’s no such thing as “skipping” a mortgage payment.  

The recently announced mortgage payment relief through the CARES Act provides mortgage forbearance for those who have lost a job or are suffering financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic and whose loan is federally owned or backed by a federal agency. 

Reach out using the contact info on your loan statement to determine what help may be available to you. It’s vital that you discuss the options based on your situation. If assistance is available, be sure to get your agreement in writing.  

Please Remember: 

A forbearance is not a holiday. A forbearance allows you to pause or reduce your payments for a limited time. Deferred payments may be due in full at the end of the forbearance period. Sometimes, these payments may be stretched over a short time period or perhaps added to the end of your loan term. 

If you have an escrow account, 
deferring payments will mean you will also have to make up the shortage as part of your repayment plan.The CARES Act intends to prevent negative impacts to your credit if you undertake a forbearance for your government backed loan. However, changes to reporting between servicers and credit agencies may not occur seamlessly. If you do pursue a forbearance, you will need to monitor your credit report to catch and report any errors. 

Think it through. 
A forbearance is not forgiveness. It does not eliminate payments; it only delays them. If you have emergency savings, available lines of credit or other means to pay, these may be better options to get you through these difficult times.
We cannot help you with forbearance arrangements directly, but we’re here for you if have questions or would like further guidance. Reach out if you need us.

5 Fun Ways to Keep Your Family Busy

Most of us aren’t used to spending nearly all of our time in the same place — and staying home day after day has us doing just that. We’re feeling bored, frustrated and, in many cases, a little bit stir-crazy.

While streaming shows and movies is one way to pass the time, what should you do if you want to spend your hours on something more engaging? Here are some ideas to keep your family busy: 

  • Play some games. Video games, board games and card games are all great family-friendly options during this time. You can even create new games to spice things up.
  • Get creative in the kitchen. Teach the kids some of your family’s time-tested recipes, or whip up something you’ve never tried before. Don’t hesitate to spend a little extra time getting the presentation right — then share photos online.
  • Refresh the house. Now is the perfect time to clean out closets, organize cupboards or do those repairs and home improvement projects you’ve been putting off. If you want to get outdoors, plant a garden or up your curb appeal with a freshly painted front door.
  • Start on a new craft. Get into a creative mindset by painting, drawing, folding origami or even molding clay. Cross-stitch and 3D modeling are also fun ways to pass the time and make something new.
  • Plug in your headphones. Spend some time discovering new music, listening to podcasts, or even trying out books on tape. These are great entertainment options when you’re exercising or doing housework.

Get in touch if you have questions about financing repairs and home improvements.

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How Has the Home Appraisal Process Changed?

If you’re looking to buy a home this season — or thinking about refinancing — you may be wondering how things have changed to in recent months.

Many routine activities, including parts of the home financing process, look a little different now due to social distancing and other safety guidelines.

Getting a home appraisal is one such step that you may be curious about. Whether you’re moving up, downsizing or refinancing, we have answers to your home appraisal questions and more:

Q: What is a home appraisal?

A: Typically, it’s a process in which a licensed professional assesses the home and learns as much as they can. Then, they compare it to nearby homes that have recently sold. The appraiser’s job is to gauge the home’s value based on the property and data from the community.

Q: How are home appraisals being conducted right now?

A: Many appraisers are doing desktop and drive-by appraisals. The former means that they’re doing research based on local data, comparable sales and other recent appraisals. The latter involves the appraiser literally driving by the home to look at its exterior and the surrounding neighborhood. In both cases, they might also ask for videos and photos of the home’s interior if they’re unable to visit in person.

Q: When should I get a home appraisal?

A: The process of verifying a home’s value begins after you sign a contract to purchase or refinance it. The home appraisal is generally scheduled for you. It would normally happen within the first few days after all parties agree to the terms of the home’s purchase, but it may be postponed in some cases due to social distancing guidelines.

Q: How much does a home appraisal cost?

A: The cost depends on various factors, including the property size and the type of home. Most often, an appraisal is a few hundred dollars, which is typically wrapped up into closing costs.

Please reach out to our team if you have questions about any part of the homebuying and home appraisal process.

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Is It Time to Look for a New Home?

A lot has changed since the beginning of the year. Big events went virtual, social interactions have been limited and many of us have spent much more time in the house than we ever could have imagined.

These changes might even have you eyeing a new home purchase — either for financial reasons or to better suit the new normal.

Are you questioning whether your current home still meets your needs? Here are just a few reasons you might consider a new place:

  • You need more (or less) space. If you have college-age kids or elderly parents staying with you, you may have felt cramped at home in recent weeks. Or have you noticed that entire rooms go unused for months? It may be time to upgrade or downsize if your needs have changed.
  • Your work-from-home arrangement will continue. Are you going to work remotely for the foreseeable future? The kitchen table may cut it for now, but eventually you’ll probably need a dedicated home office — something to consider if you’re house hunting.
  • You’re spending more time outdoors. Maybe you find yourself craving the sunshine a little more than usual lately. If so, you might want to look at properties with a bigger yard, a patio, a pool or other outdoor amenities.
  • You want more convenience. Want to minimize the effort of running your household? Investing in a smart home might be a wise move. Hands-free faucets, smart thermostats and locks controlled with an app are just a few of the conveniences you might find.

If any of these apply to you, get in touch so you can get preapproved and start your next home search.

Read more here.

How to Buy a Home When Self Employed

While being an independent contractor, freelancer or entrepreneur can certainly be a freeing career choice, it also comes with some challenges. For instance, being self-employed can make it harder to buy a home.

Without W-2s, a consistent salary and an employer to back you up, it’s harder to prove your income as a self-employed professional — let alone show you’re not a risk as a borrower.

Are you planning to buy a home or refinance while self-employed? These five tips could improve your chances of approval:

  1. Get your finances in order. You’ll need to prove your income through bank statements, invoices, profit-and-loss statements and balance sheets. Be sure they’re ready and organized before applying for your loan.
  2. Reduce your tax write-offs. Maxing out your deductions can seem smart, but when a home loan is on the line, it can actually hurt you. The more write-offs you take, the lower your income looks, meaning you seem like a riskier bet.
  3. Boost your credit score. Higher credit scores are always more appealing when it comes to getting a loan, so take time to improve yours. Pay down debts, settle any overdue accounts and ensure your credit report is accurate.
  4. Bring in a co-borrower. When you add a second borrower to the loan, their income is factored in, too. Make sure you choose a co-borrower with good credit, a low debt-to-income ratio and steady pay.
  5. Keep your work consistent. Don’t switch industries just before applying for your loan. It’s best if you’re in the same line of work for at least two years.

Getting a mortgage while self-employed certainly has its challenges, but it’s not impossible by any means. Reach out today for more home financing guidance.

Read more here…

Home Projects With the Highest Returns

If you’re spending time and money to renovate your house, choosing which home projects are worth it should be a top priority. You want to recoup some of your costs, don’t you?

Many upgrades could improve a property’s aesthetics or make it a better fit for your family. But not all projects will increase your home’s value — and those choices might affect how much your home sells for later on.

If you’re looking for remodeling projects that will get you a return on your investment, you may want to focus on these:

  • Stone Veneer Exterior: This is the highest-ROI project you can take on. The average homeowner recoups nearly 96% of the total cost. Plus, it does wonders for your curb appeal.
  • Wooden Deck: Want a great way to get more use out of your yard? This is the perfect place to start. A wood deck could add over $10,000 to your resale value.
  • Metal Roofing: Replacing your shingled roof with metal may net you about 61% of your project cost back and add more than $24,000 to your home’s resale value. As a bonus, it could help lower your energy bill.
  • New Garage Door: Upgrade your standard old garage door for a nicer model, like a wood or paneled one. In return, you might get a whopping 94.5% of your costs back — and improve your curb appeal to boot.
  • Major Kitchen Remodel: Any amount of kitchen remodeling is good for your home’s value. But a major overhaul can add more than $40,000 to your future sales price.

Need help covering the costs of your next home improvement project? Get in touch with us to learn about refinancing, home equity loans and other options.

Read more here.