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Posted by Heidi Mahoney on 2/19/2018

Aside from your realtor, your lender will be one of the people that you work the most closely with when you’re buying a home. Before you even sign on with a lender, there’s a few questions that you should ask. Don’t feel pressure from a certain lender before you understand what their areas of expertise are. You don’t want to end up with homebuyer’s remorse because you didn’t do the right research before you signed the deal on a home.   


Can You Tell Me About Programs For First Time Homebuyers? 


There are so many great programs for first-time homebuyers. If the lender you choose can’t help you with these programs, maybe this isn’t the right lender for you. If your lender lacks knowledge in the areas that you need, you probably want to shop around.


How Can You Help Me Qualify For The Loan I Need?


Many times, loans have very specific qualifications that you need to meet. Even if you think you might not meet those requirements due to things like a low amount of down payment or a job change, your lender can often help you to find the details in your situation to help you qualify for a loan. For example, you may have recently changed jobs, but if you have stayed in the same field, your lender can help you to explain these circumstances so that you can still qualify for the loan. 


Are There Downpayment Assistance Programs Available?


There are also many programs and loan types available to help buyers get a home with less than a 20% downpayment. Some loans offer good interest rates with less than a 20% downpayment. There are also many grants and downpayment assistance plans available. It’s important to ask questions to know the right information for your loan circumstances.


What Fees Do You Charge?


Some lenders do charge an array of fees. You don’t want to sign on with a lender and then close on the loan, only to find out that you’re knee-deep in fees in addition to all of the closing costs that you have to pay along with the home purchase. 


How Will You Communicate With Me


Just like your Realtor, it’s important that your lender communicates with you in a timely manner. Buying a home requires that documents and offers are in on time to secure your home. Don’t let anything fall through the cracks by hiring people on your home search that may lapse in their communication with important information.




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Posted by Heidi Mahoney on 2/12/2018

When it comes to finding a place for you and your family to live, there have never been more options available than today. Banks and property owners have made living arrangements available and accessible to people of any lifestyle; whether you plan on staying in a home for just six months, or for the rest of your life.

It isn’t always easy, though, to determine which option is best for you. In this article, we’ll break down the financial and lifestyle characteristics of the four most common living situations: condominiums, townhouses, apartments, or owning your own home.

Condo living

Condominiums are a type of community living. But, they’re more than just an apartment that you own. Most condos are attached; meaning they’re not separated by yards and driveways. Some, however, are detached. One thing that is true for all condos, however, are the common areas throughout the development. This can include things like a park, yards, gyms, pools, or lounges and cafes. The best part about those amenities? You don’t have to worry about their upkeep.

So, since you own the condo, who pays for the common areas? Odds are, you’ll be paying a monthly fee or a homeowners association fee to upkeep the amenities your condo came with. Expect higher fees for better amenities and prime real estate location.

What about maintenance? Since you own the condo, you’re responsible for much of the interior maintenance, such as appliances. However, outdoor issues like roofing or siding are usually the responsibility of the homeowners association or property manager.

Condos are ideal for people who are somewhat committed to an area, and who want independence over their home without having to take care of all the landscaping.

Townhouses

Townhouses are in many ways the opposite of condos. They are often rented but they look like single family homes, complete with a driveway and front yard. There are also typically homeowners association fees for townhouses, but they can be significantly less since there are fewer amenities in a townhouse living environment.

Depending on your long-term plans, you can either rent or buy townhouses. Renting is usually a better choice for inhabitants who don’t plan on staying in the residence for more than a couple of years.

Homeownership

If what you truly seek in a home is independence and privacy then traditional homeownership might be the best option for you. If you own a home outright and don’t have to answer to a homeowners association, you get to choose what you do with your yard. There are of course, some limits to this, like getting additions approved by zoning boards, or trampolines signed off by your insurance company.

Financially, homes can be a good asset. They typically increase in value and allow you to build equity. You might also find them more financially dependable; rents can increase year after year, but your monthly mortgage payments typically won’t unless you choose to refinance.

Ultimately, buying a home is going to benefit you more the longer you stay there. So, if you plan on moving for work in the next few years, you might be better off renting.





Posted by Heidi Mahoney on 2/5/2018

As a first time home buyer, you may feel like a fish out of water when it comes to the process of getting a home. If you’re ready to buy your first home, there’s some key mistakes that you should avoid. 


You Think That You Don’t Need Help From A Professional


So many homebuyers think that they can save themselves a few dollars by avoiding working with a realtor. This is a big mistake. Realtors are a valuable resource for buyers and will help you throughout the process of purchasing a home. Realtors can help guide buyers step-by-step while providing assistance with things like negotiations and making sure all of the paperwork gets from point A to point B. You’ll also need other professionals involved in this process of home buying including lawyers and loan officers. Having these people on your team protects you and gives you a backing of knowledge that you wouldn’t otherwise have. 


Don’t Skip Pre-Approval


Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is key before you even start to search for a house. The pre-approval letter is a great resource in helping you land the home of your dreams. If you’re going up against other bids on a home, your bid will be seen as more serious if you have been pre-approved. Getting a pre-approval lets sellers know that you’re serious about the whole process of buying a home and are ready to make the financial commitment. 


Know The Costs Associated With Buying A Home


Just because you have the monthly income to pay a mortgage doesn't mean you’re financially ready to buy a home. There’s a few things that need to be in place before you can even commit to buying a home. First, you’ll need to make sure your credit score is up to par. Next, you’ll need to have enough saved up for a down payment. Without a down payment of at east 20% of the purchase price of a home, you’ll need to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI). There’s plenty of other costs that you’ll need cash on hand for when it comes to buying a home. This includes home insurance, home inspections, closing costs, property taxes, HOA fees, and maintenance. In other words, there needs to be some wiggle room in your budget for all of the extra costs that go into closing on a home and maintaining a home. 



Don’t Completely Deplete Your Savings


Just because you have been saving up for years to buy a home, doesn’t mean you need to completely deplete your savings in one pass. If you lack an emergency fund, you’re not buying a home with a responsible financial cushion. While you’ll probably take out a good chunk of savings in order to purchase the home, you need a bit more. Experts say that you need about 3-6 months of expenses saved up in case of the event of illness, job loss, or other emergency. Hence the name “emergency fund.”





Posted by Heidi Mahoney on 1/29/2018

As a home seller, it is important to keep your house show-ready. By doing so, you can ensure your residence will look great, regardless of when a homebuyer wants to see it.

Ultimately, home staging can make a world of difference for any home seller, at any time. And with the right home staging advice, a home seller can learn what it takes to maintain a house's appearance both inside and out.

When it comes to last-minute home staging, here are three tips that every home seller needs to consider.

1. Illuminate your residence

Open up the shades and let sunlight into your residence – you'll be glad you did. By taking a few minutes to ensure that the shades are open, you can illuminate your residence and transform an ordinary home interior into a dazzling one.

In addition, turn on lights throughout your residence. This will enable you to brighten up each room in your home, thereby increasing the likelihood that homebuyers can see the true beauty of your entire house.

2. Wipe down bathroom and kitchen counters and sinks

Let's face it – messy counters and sinks are eyesores that no homebuyer wants to see. Fortunately, wiping down bathroom and kitchen counters and sinks is a fast, easy way to help your house stand out in homebuyers' eyes.

Keep paper towels or washcloths and a general-purpose cleaner near bathroom and kitchen counters. That way, you can wipe down these surfaces without having to search far and wide to find various home cleaning essentials.

Also, don't forget to remove clutter from in and around a bathroom or kitchen sink. Whether it's dishes in the kitchen sink or leftover toothpaste in the bathroom sink, it pays to be thorough as you complete last-minute preparations for a home showing.

3. Check for odors in your home

Pungent smells that come from a refrigerator or other areas may impact how a homebuyer perceives your house. Thus, you'll want to do a quick odor check as part of your last-minute home staging routine.

Empty any garbage cans as needed. This will allow you to eliminate nasty odors that may be coming from garbage cans.

Furthermore, feel free to use scented candles to deal with tough smells. If you decide to use scented candles, however, make sure the odors that they provide are not too overwhelming.

If you need any extra assistance as you get your house ready for a home showing, don't hesitate to reach out to your real estate agent as well.

Typically, your real estate agent can offer expert advice throughout the home selling journey. He or she will make it easy for you to prep for home showings and stage your home properly. As a result, your real estate agent can increase your chances of receiving the best price for your residence.

As the clock ticks closer to a home showing, there's no need to worry. Use the aforementioned tips, and a home seller can get a house show-ready in a matter of minutes.





Posted by Heidi Mahoney on 1/22/2018

Many first time home buyers go into the market looking for the home of their dreams. They picture a house filled with their favorite furniture, illuminated by plenty of natural lighting, and highlighted by bright and cheery wall colors. While it's good to have aspirations for your new home, it's also important to remember that the house you're buying is essentially a box. Sure, you'll put plenty of nice things in that box, but ultimately you want to make sure it's a sturdy box that's in good shape before thinking about the contents. When shopping for a new home, here are some things you shouldn't let influence your decision.

Walls and carpets

It can be off-putting when you go and view a home and the walls are covered in antiquated wallpaper or painted a color you can't stomach. It can also be hard to ignore, since the walls make up such a large, visible portion of the house. Instead, try to envision the room with the walls painted the colors you would use. If a home has a carpet that looks straight out of the 70s it can definitely be a distraction and give you trepidations about the house. However, just like walls, this is a relatively simple fix if you have the budget for it. Imagine how the room would look with hardwood floors, tile, or a carpet that's more to your liking.

An unkempt yard

The first thing you see when arriving at a house is the yard and driveway. Maybe the grass hasn't been mown in a while, the mulch is looking faded and there are weeds growing up along the walkway. These are all aesthetic problems that can be easily and, if planned correctly, inexpensively fixed. A good rule is to determine if the parts of the yard you dislike can be cleaned up in a few afternoons or if they would require a lot of time and money.

It feels like someone else's home

Viewing a home can be awkward. If the seller still lives in the home you might feel like you're intruding. In some cases, they could even be at home while you're viewing the house. As you walk through the home, be sure to remind yourself that if you lived here the picture frames would have your family photos in them instead. Similarly, if the seller has (to put it nicely) a "different" taste in decoration it can seem distracting and off putting. Fortunately, they'll have to take all their decorations with them when they move--even that wall mounted deer head in the living room.

Decide based on these factors instead

Now that we've talked about the things to ignore, here are the details you should look for when shopping for a new home.
  • Size. The size of the home, the rooms, the yard, and the driveway will all be a huge factor in your decision.
  • Architecture. Take note of how the home was built and if there are certain architectural aspects that you love or hate.
  • Windows and lighting. Natural lighting is an oft overlooked feature that really enhances the atmosphere of a home.
  • Plumbing and electrical. Make sure you're happy with the condition of the home's HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems because these will be time consuming and expensive upgrades.
  • Kitchen and bathroom features. Look for a home that has the kitchen and bathroom design elements you love, the space you need, and the features you desire (appliances, shower type, sink type, etc.)




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