Finding the best home loan

When it comes time to look into mortgages it pays to search as many avenues as possible.

  • Gather information: All loans require basic information so it makes sense to gather the documents etc. for the preapproval process. This includes banking, checking, savings, investment information; debt obligations – credit cards, car loans, student loans child support, etc.; two years of tax returns – W-2s, 1099s, etc,; employer and salary and employer information; down payment information.
  • What kind of loan: Fixed rate, adjustable-rate loan (ARM), Federal Housing Administration (FHA), VA loan, Other (USDA Rural Development loan. Bridge loan, etc.
  • Investigate lenders: Big banks, neighborhood banks, credit unions, savings and loans, online mortgage lenders, provate lenders
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Cutting FHA insurance premiums for first-time buyers?

The US House of Representatives has approved a bill that cut the cost of upfront mortgage insurance fees on FHA (Federal Housing Administration) loans for first-time home buyers. The bill still has to pass the Senate.

The bill states that first-time buyers who attend a housing counseling program can qualify for a 25 basis point discount on FHA mortgage insurance loans.

The idea is to improve the financial literacy of first-time buyers and has the support of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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The stress of selling a home

It is said that selling a home is one of modern life’s most stressful experiences – often cites as second only to a relationship break-up. And the stress seems especially severe for millennials and baby boomers with 36 percent saying the experience left them in tears.

In a recent Zillow survey, 70 percent stressed over setting the right price, 69 percent worried about the time frame, and 65 percent were concerned that the deal would fall through.

Of course, selling a home is often accompanied at the same time with buying a home which only increases the pressure. A full 70 percent of those surveyed admitted that they mistimed the process with the sale of their home taking longer than expected.

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Is it time to refinance?

According to a recent analysis by Black Knight, approximately 5.9 million homeowners nationwide could reduce their mortgage payments by refinancing. Earlier in the year, 30-year fixed rates fell below 4 percent and now average around 3.94 percent.

Black Knight estimates that the savings to be about $271 per month for the average borrower.

Of course, the lower interest rates mean homes are currently a bit more affordable as the average monthly payment on a median-priced home – assuming a 20 percent down payment – has fallen nearly 6 percent in the last half year.

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Regrets? Homeowners have a few…

A recent survey by Zillow reports that, while most buyers have regrets about some aspect of the home buying experience, 92 percent are happy that they bought and are no longer renting. Whereas over half of buyers are first-time buyers it’s not surprising that there were aspects of the process for which they were not adequately prepared.

The largest regret by 36 percent of the respondents was unexpected repairs or maintenance. Size of the home was also mentioned – twice; with too big cited by 11 percent and too small by 21 percent. 18 percent said they didn’t like their neighbors.

The majority of first-time buyers felt rushed throughout the process and didn’t take adequate time to check out the neighborhood or the commute and chose poor mortgage options.

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Before buying a condo

Buying a condo is like buying a house – only different! While you won’t have to be concerned about maintenance – that’s the Association’s job – you should be concerned about the Association. Some things to look out for:

  • How is the Association run? What are their procedures for repairs and complaints? How many on the board?
  • How much is in cash reserves? If not high enough, condo owners could be hit with a special assessment in an emergency?
  • What is the delinquency rate of condo owners who don’t pay? Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and FHA do not approve condominiums with the delinquency rate above 15%.
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Remodeling just got more expensive

The recent round of new tariffs is likely to result in a 7-8 percent increase in remodeling costs according to industry experts.

Products such as lighting, countertops, laminates etc. are commonly produced in China and the new tariffs will increase from 10 percent to 25 percent.

The National Association of Home Builders anticipates that many remodeling projects will be put off or delayed. Many contractors say that projects are already being scaled back.

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High tech upgrades on a budget

Smart homes are here to stay but if you live in an older home and have a tight budget there are still plenty of ways to add useful devices to your home.

  • Voice commands: Devices such as Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Home and Amazon Echo Dot can perform tasks such as playing music, making phone calls and searching the net.
  • Smart security camera: More than a convenience, today’s security cameras are more affordable and can deliver 360-degree coverage in HD.
  • WiFi smart power strip: A great way to control and charge your smart devices from phones to TVs to laptops.
  • Streaming sticks: Connected to your HDMI port on your smart TV, streaming sticks such as Roku let you watch movies and TV episodes as well as Netflix, YouTube and more.
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When to renovate – and when not to

The prospect of renovating or remodeling a home can be exciting but it’s often wise to take a step back and consider it thoroughly. Sometimes it’s more prudent to wait and sometimes it’s wiser to postpone it indefinitely – if not completely.

First of all, consider the expense. It’s almost guaranteed that a big project will cost more than the the original estimate, especially if contractors are involved. If you’re looking to significantly increase the value of your home, make sure the return will justify the expense.

Secondly, projects are going to be disrupting. Just how long is it going to take to put in that new flooring? Of course, the complexity of the project will determine how long it will take, but take the time to consider how long life will be turned upside down.

Finally, it all comes down to: is it worth it? Unless the answer is an unequivocable YES then why not wait and consider the ramifications more thoroughly.

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The value of a roof replacement

When thinking of selling their home, a homeowner will add a coat of paint, spruce up the yard and even update some appliances. But there is potentially no greater impact to a home’s value than the roof.

  1. A faulty roof can be a deal killer. Because of the expense and hassle involved, most buyers will walk away from a potential deal because of roofing issues.
  2. Roofing problems can lower the value of a home. If problems come out in the buyer’s home inspection, roofing issues will result in either lowering the price of the home or replacing the roof prior to the sale going through.
  3. A new roof is a major selling point. Knowing that the roof is new – especially on an older point – alleviates a buyer’s worries and assures them they won’t have to worry about this problem for years to come.
  4. A new roof can enhance curb appeal. Certainly an old roof with shingles missing will hurt curb appeal – even online listings – but a new roof can make a home look well-cared for.
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