Tag Archives: First-Time Home Buyers

Mortgages Made Easy: How to Choose the Right Home Loan

Key Takeaways:

  • As mortgage rates continue hovering near historic lows, many potential buyers are eager to make a move—but it can be hard to know which type of loan is best.
  • There are dozens of different mortgage options available today, and some even have low down payment or credit score requirements. This can help a variety of buyers finally achieve their real estate goals. 
  • Need help finding a lender or choosing the right mortgage for your needs? We’d be more than happy to offer a few recommendations.

Home Financing 101: The Most Common Types of Mortgages

Let’s face it—understanding mortgages can be the most complicated part of buying a home. Even experienced buyers sometimes have trouble deciding between lenders or shopping around for the best interest rate. And because there are so many options, it can be difficult to track down the mortgage that best meets your needs.

There are a variety of factors you should consider before committing to a loan, such as your income, debt, financial history, and how long you plan on staying in your new home. But if you play your cards right, you could end up scoring a great deal. Here are some of the most popular types of mortgages, as well as their pros and cons.

Fixed-rate mortgage

Mortgage scrabble tiles

A fixed-rate mortgage is the most basic and reliable type of home loan you can get. Your interest rate and monthly payment will stay the same for the entire duration of the mortgage, and you’ll likely have to put at least 20% down and have an established financial history to get approved.

Typically, fixed-rate mortgages are broken down into 15- or 30-year terms. If you want predictability and don’t plan on moving for a while, this is probably the best option for you.

Adjustable-rate mortgage

house, coin stacks, and clock

Unlike their fixed-rate counterparts, adjustable-rate mortgages offer the initial benefit of a lower rate and down payment. However, ARMs fluctuate with the market, which means your interest rate and monthly payments could increase or decrease over time.

While there is more risk involved with an adjustable-rate mortgage, it can be worth it if you plan on living in your home for a shorter period of time. Generally, ARMs have a capped introductory interest rate for the first few years, which can save you quite a bit of money compared to a fixed-rate loan.

VA loans

Member of the military

If you or your spouse are an active, retired, or veteran member of the military, you could be eligible for a VA loan. Backed by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, this unique type of mortgage lets you buy a home with little to no down payment or mortgage insurance.

Because VA loans are guaranteed (but not financed) by the government, they do have stricter requirements than other mortgages. The loan can only be used towards a primary residence, and the house you intend to buy has to meet minimum property requirements. This means you’ll have to undergo additional inspections and appraisals. 

FHA loans

Couple moving in

Backed by the Federal Housing Administration, the FHA loan is designed for first-time or lower-income buyers. While most mortgages typically require a down payment of 20% or more, the FHA loan allows buyers to put down as little as 3.5%; that equals out to around $9,000 for a $250,000 house.

FHA loans come with a fixed interest rate and can offer a path to homeownership for buyers who don’t have enough saved for a traditional loan. However, you will be required to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI) every month, which typically costs around 1% of your total loan amount. It’s also important to remember that the government does not issue your loan—you’ll still have to shop around for the right FHA-approved lender.

USDA loans

Farmland

The USDA loan is a government-sponsored mortgage program that targets buyers in more rural areas. While the USDA does have stricter credit and income requirements than the FHA, they’ll fund up to 100% of the purchase price for an eligible home. That means you won’t have to put any money down, and you may even enjoy a lower-than-average interest rate. 

Additionally, USDA loans require mortgage insurance, and you won’t be approved if your debt-to-income ratio exceeds 41%. Before applying, you should also check the USDA’s eligibility map to see if your area qualifies for the program. 

Other loans

House on a calculator

This is hardly an exhaustive list of all the mortgages used by today’s home buyers! Depending on your financial situation, you could qualify for a more niche loan, such as a balloon mortgage, bridge loan, or jumbo loan. Many banks, lenders, and state governments also have their own programs or incentives that are worth exploring. You can even combine different types of loans to create a financing plan that’s tailored to your needs.

If you don’t have time to research all of your options, it might be beneficial to work with a mortgage broker or ask your agent for recommendations. They’ll have the knowledge to guide you in the right direction!

Want to Learn More About Mortgages?

If you’re in the market for a new home, we’d love to discuss your financing options or recommend some top-rated lenders. Contact us today to learn the ins and outs of the home buying process, from finding a loan to finally getting the keys to your new place. We look forward to helping you start your next chapter!

Buyer Beware: 6 Red Flags That Could Spell Trouble for Homebuyers

Picture this: you’ve found a seemingly perfect home in just the right neighborhood. It has every single one of your must-haves, plenty of space, and even all of the features you want. But on the tour, your agent spots a few big problems, like a crack in the foundation or signs of water damage. Should you walk away from what seems like your dream house?

Unless you’re looking to tackle a fixer-upper, you may want to proceed with caution if you run into any of these red flags during a showing.

Watch Out for These 6 Red Flags During a Showing

As you tour homes, it’s important to remember that a seller may not always disclose (or know) the whole truth about their house. If you ever have any questions about a home’s condition, make sure to ask your agent. They’ll often be able to spot problems that you may not see yourself, and they can also help you decide whether or not a certain issue is a dealbreaker. 

And even though a property may appear well-maintained, there could be some lingering imperfections that aren’t visible to an untrained eye—here are a few examples.

Foundation issues

Foundation crack

A faulty foundation is one of the biggest and costliest problems you can encounter in a home. If you spot any foundation cracks (both outside or inside) bigger than one third of an inch, it could mean a property has major structural defects.

Other signs of potential foundation issues include sticking doors, gaps around window frames, or sagging floors.

Outdated electric and plumbing systems

Tools and electrical supplies

A leaky faucet or ungrounded outlet may seem like a quick fix, but they could signal a much larger problem. If you’re touring an older home, have your agent ask about the age of the plumbing and electrical wiring. It’s essential (and expensive) to bring these systems up to code to prevent potential floods or fires.

An old roof

Old roof shingles

Typically, roofs should be replaced every 12 to 15 years. So if you notice some missing or curling shingles, it could mean that a home’s roof has reached the end of its lifespan. If you’re not sure about a roof’s age, be sure to ask your agent—they can get in touch with the seller’s agent for more information.

Water damage

Water damage on a ceiling

Take a look at a home’s ceiling and floors—do you see any dark spots? If so, this could be a sign of water damage, which is often a pricey fix. Be sure to check out a home’s drainage situation, too. A yard that isn’t properly graded could cause water to seep inside after a heavy rainstorm.

Homes that have basements are more prone to leaks than those that don’t, so don’t forget to head downstairs to look for water damage!

Unwelcome critters

Mouse trap

Bugs, mice, and other pests can spell big trouble for a house, especially if the infestation is widespread. Termites in particular should be a huge red flag, as they can destroy a home’s entire structure before being detected.

If you see an overwhelming number of critters wandering around during your tour, you may want to move on right away. You should also check for mud tubes, hollow or rotting wood, and bug droppings, as these are common indications of termites.

Unpleasant odors

Spraying air freshener

Notice a less-than-pleasant scent during a showing? These aromas could be signs of mold, mildew, water damage, pests, improper ventilation, and countless other issues. You should also be wary if a seller seems to be covering up smells with heavily scented candles or air fresheners.

Bottom line: Always have a home inspection

Home inspection report

Even if you don’t spot any of these problems, it’s always best to have an inspection after your offer is accepted. A qualified inspector can spot problems both large and small and will provide a detailed report of everything that needs to be fixed.

From there, you can try to renegotiate the price of the home with the seller or ask them to complete the repairs. However, if a home is being sold “as-is,” you may be stuck doing the work yourself. 

Thinking About Buying Your Next Home?

When it comes to finding the right home, it pays to have an expert agent on your side to handle all the details. Give us a call today to learn more about the premier services we offer to our buyers. We’d be more than happy to answer any of your real estate questions, and we can also help you sell your current home, too!

4 Tips to Ace Your First Home Purchase

If you ask a homeowner what it was like to buy their first home, they’ll probably mention a few things they’d change if they could do it all again. While it’s impossible to know everything about the home-buying process beforehand, you can still prepare yourself for what lies ahead—and figure out how to avoid some potential pitfalls. Not sure where to begin? Here are some key pointers to keep in mind before starting your search.

You’re Buying More Than a House

Neighborhood

We all know the phrase “love at first sight,” and it can certainly apply to homes, too! Even if you step inside a home and instantly fall in love, it’s crucial to step back and consider the whole picture before making a purchase.

When you buy your first property, you’re investing in more than just four walls. It’s worth paying attention to things like a home’s location, neighborhood, and physical condition, too. Even if you find that open concept kitchen you’ve been dreaming of, it might not be the right fit if it’s in the wrong community or if the rest of the house requires out-of-budget repairs. It’s best to stay realistic and listen to your agent’s (and home inspector’s) advice. Remember, this is likely one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make, so spend your money wisely!

Down Payments Are Different for Everyone

Piggy bank and house figure

So many would-be buyers are scared of homeownership for one reason: the down payment. Traditionally, you’d put down around 20% on a home and spend anywhere from 10 to 30 years paying your lender back. However, you actually have more flexibility than you might expect. 

Depending on your credit history, location, and occupation, you could be eligible for loans that require as little as 0% down. However, making a larger down payment means you’ll pay less interest to your lender in the long run. Be sure to shop around for the right fit and reach out to your agent with any questions—they’re always available to help you out. 

Prepare for Extra Expenses

House fund coin jar

Homeownership often comes with unexpected expenses, especially right after you move in. When you’re setting a budget for your big purchase, consider adding some wiggle room to allow for any additional and long term costs. You don’t want to realize that you can’t afford your home after you’ve purchased it!

Wondering what kinds of expenses can come up? Inspections, homeowner’s insurance, prepaid taxes and other various closing costs, HOA dues, and repairs are just a few possibilities. You’ll pay for some of these before or at the closing, but certain recurring costs will have to be factored into your monthly budget. 

Get Pre-Approved Before You Start Searching

Tax forms with phone and coffee cup

Once you’ve made the decision to buy, it’s tempting to start looking at listings right away. However, you might want to press pause and complete an essential step before you start scheduling showings. Getting pre-approved for your loan will show sellers and agents that you’re serious about buying—and it can tell you exactly how much you can afford to spend.

Ready to start the pre-approval process? First, you’ll want to get your finances in order and shop around for the right lender. Be sure to have all of your important documents on hand, such as your W-2 tax form, paystubs, and social security card. Most lenders allow you to apply online, and within a few business days, you’ll know whether you’ve been approved or not, as well as the conditions of the loan. 

Are You a First-Time Buyer?

Buying your first home is a big deal, and it’s important to have the right agent by your side throughout the process. If you’re ready to start your search, feel free to reach out to us with any questions. We can’t wait to help jumpstart your journey to homeownership!

Here are 4 Tricks to Choosing a Neighborhood You’ll Love!

Aerial shot of neighborhood

If you’re thinking about buying a home, you’ve probably heard, “location, location, location!” on repeat. Finding the perfect city or town is one thing, but you’ll need to take it a step further. The right neighborhood matters more than you think, so before you start your search, we have some tips to help you find the perfect spot!

Do Your Research

Man exploring neighborhoods on tablet

Before you start driving through prospective neighborhoods, you’ll want to do some research at home first. Finding the right place to live can be time-consuming, but some quick online searches can help narrow down your options. Many agents also spotlight certain neighborhoods on their website and tend to offer more in-depth guides—as well as more listings and home-buying tips.

After doing your initial research, you’ve probably narrowed your list down to a few neighborhoods. Now it’s time to delve deeper and look at these places by the numbers. It’s worth looking at stats like crime rate, HOA fees, and average property taxes. You might want to start your search with sites like Neighborhood Scout and City-Data—these sites give you localized data on demographics, schools, and more.

Scope Out What’s Around

Man researching on laptop

While the actual neighborhood might seem perfect, what’s around matters a lot, too. Remember, you’re buying more than just a home—you’re finding a new place to thrive. If you’re looking for convenience, a community far-removed from amenities you love might not work. Be sure to take your commute into account, as well as the driving distance to places you go all the time.

School districts also play a big factor in which area you choose, especially for your kids. Even if you don’t have children, home prices in good districts are consistently higher than others, so it’s still something you should take into account. Want the inside scoop? Compare options by looking up which schools serve a community and exploring their ratings on sites like Niche.com.    

Take a Stroll

Couple walking around a downtown area

Now it’s time for some field research! Once you’ve picked some neighborhoods that seem like a good fit, go do some exploring—you’ll want to do more than just drive around, though. Get out of the car and take a stroll during different times of the day! This is a fantastic way to meet potential neighbors and see the condition of homes. 

You’ll want to ask yourself some crucial questions during each visit. How well do residents maintain their homes? Do you see a lot of people outside, or does everyone seem to keep to themselves? Is there any common space or amenities you’ll want to use? This is the best way to picture yourself living in an area before actually committing to a home.

Narrow Down Your Options

Person listing out pros and cons in  a notebook.

If you don’t have a clear winner in your head after you visit each community, it’s time to down and weigh the pros and cons. You should also evaluate the market—there might not be a home for sale that suits your needs in the neighborhood you love, so consider all of your options. 

If you have any other questions, be sure to reach out to a real estate professional. They’ll use their expertise to help you make an informed decision, and can also show you spots you might have missed!

Ready to Find the Neighborhood of Your Dreams?

Two women discussing real estate.

No matter where you are in your home search, we’d love to help make the process easier. We’ve got you covered, whether you’re still searching for the right community or are ready to look at homes. Give us a call today so we can chat—we can’t wait to be your local experts!

Is a Home Inspection Really Necessary? Why You Shouldn’t Skip This Important Step

Picture this: you’ve finally found the home of your dreams. It’s got all the features you’ve been searching for, and it’s in the perfect neighborhood. There can’t possibly be anything wrong with it…right? 

Though technically optional, a home inspection is highly recommended by most realtors, as it can save you thousands of dollars—or even prevent you from making a costly mistake all together. Here are some reasons why you need a home inspection before you move in—even if you don’t see anything wrong on the surface.

You Could Avoid Expensive Repairs

Person making repairs with an electric drill.

This is probably the biggest advantage of a home inspection. Certain problems can cost thousands to fix and may not be immediately visible. Wondering what kind of issues a home inspector can find and how much they’ll cost? Here are some of the biggest issues uncovered during home inspections (and typical costs to fix):

HVAC replacement: $4,000 – $12,000

Leaky roof: $300 – $2,000 for basic repair, $4,000 – $20,000+ for advanced repair

Foundation issues: $4,000 – $10,000

A great home inspector will fully sweep the home and point out any problems or potential issues. If there are any big-ticket expenses, you may want to reevaluate your purchase.

You’ll Protect Your Wallet

Person calculating expenses and creating a graph.

Buying a home is one of the biggest investments you can make, and a good investment will generate more capital than what you initially paid. While a well-maintained home in a prime location can be a fantastic investment, expensive repairs can turn it into a financial disaster.

Once you have an inspection report detailing all of the issues with the home, you can evaluate the cost of repairs to determine if it’s a good deal. If you aren’t satisfied, you can walk away without losing much money.

You Gain a Negotiation Tool

People with laptop exchanging a folder.

While not all properties will require major repairs, even new construction homes may have issues you’ll want to take care of before moving in. You can use your inspection report as a negotiation tool to potentially lower the price of the home. 

There are a few directions you can go from here. One option is to ask for money off of the price of the home so you can complete the repairs yourself. On the flip side, you can also ask the sellers to make the fixes as a condition of the sale. Either way, you’ll be saving yourself money in the long run. 

You Get the Full Picture 

Roof of red house with window.

While you may be in love with a home, it’s hard to know what potential issues to look for if you’re not a licensed professional. Think of a home inspection like a check-up, and the home inspector like a doctor—it’s the perfect opportunity to learn about the health of a home, from the roof down to the foundation. 

The inspector can diagnose all kinds of problems and tell you what needs to be fixed (and for how much). After the inspection, you’ll be handed a comprehensive report that gives you a full picture of the home’s condition, allowing you a more realistic look at the details that you might not have noticed before. 

Ready to Buy Your Next Home?

Buying a home can be a difficult decision, so make sure you have the tools you need to make a well-informed decision. For tips on smooth sailing during the buying process, give us a call so we can chat. We’ve got the resources you need to make the right choice.

Haven’t started the buying process yet? Check out our specialized search tool to find the home of your dreams, and let us know when you’re ready to get started.

Mortgage 101: What To Know Before You Apply

Everybody loves talking about mortgages. They’re fun, easy to understand, and a great icebreaker, right?….Wrong. Thanks to their lengthy process, technical jargon, and confusing options, mortgages have a bit of an intimidating reputation—but it doesn’t have to be that way!

If you’re in the process of buying a new home and dreading the mortgage application process, here’s what you need to know to keep things running smoothly. 

Know How Much You Can Spend

A person holding up money.

If you’re feeling antsy about getting started and want a general idea of how much loan you might qualify for, consider the 28/36 rule, or the Debt-to-Income ratio—AKA what most lenders use to help calculate your mortgage. 

Essentially, the 28/36 rule means that your monthly mortgage payment shouldn’t be more than 28% of your gross income. Additionally, your outstanding debts—like mortgage, car loans, student loans—shouldn’t account for more than 36% of your gross income.

Get Your Finances in Order

Statistics on a laptop.

Not seeing the numbers you were hoping for after calculating your Debt-to-Income ratio? Then, hopefully, you’ve given yourself a little time to shift things in your favor. Paying off loans, improving your credit score, avoiding big purchases—these will all help you change those numbers. 

Of course, completing those tasks is a little harder to do in practice than in theory, so you may have to take a look at your budget and see where you can cut out some extras—at least temporarily!

What You’ll Need to Apply

Paperwork.

In the weeks before you plan on applying for a mortgage, you should start collecting all of the documents you need. Since a lender will be telling you exactly how much money they’re willing to loan, they’ll need a comprehensive understanding of your finances beforehand. Start gathering things like:

  • W2s/tax returns
  • Photo ID
  • Your two most recent pay stubs
  • Current and prior addresses
  • Asset information (retirement funds, 401(k), stocks and bonds, other investments) 
  • Gift letters

Depending on the lender you choose, you may need additional documents, so consider calling in to double-check beforehand. 

Find the Right Mortgage

Three women pointing at a laptop.

Once it’s time to start thinking more concretely about applying for a mortgage, you have several options to consider. While all the mortgage options out there could easily fill a whole blog post on their own, here’s a quick rundown to give you a general idea:

  • Conventional/Fixed-rate:  The interest rate of a fixed-rate loan won’t change over time, making it a popular choice for its predictability. Conventional loans typically require a 20% down payment or mortgage insurance for smaller down payments.
  • Adjustable-rate: The interest rate of adjustable-rate mortgage will fluctuate over time, sometimes lower than fixed-rate, sometimes higher. There is a cap in place so the rate doesn’t get too out of control, but ARMs are typically more popular with those who plan to refinance.
  • FHA: If you are struggling to come up with a down payment, you may have options with an FHA mortgage. Provided by the Federal Housing Administration, these loans come with a low down payment requirement and built-in mortgage insurance.
  • USDA: Live in a rural area? Then check out your USDA eligibility! A surprising amount of areas qualify for USDA loans, even if you aren’t living in the countryside. Plus, USDA loans don’t require a down payment and offer lower insurance premiums.

These aren’t the only options you’ll have, just the most common. If none of these sound right or you aren’t sure which to choose, just ask your lender!

Choose the Right Lender

When it comes time to decide who to work with, you’ll have to do your research. Each lender is different, meaning they’ll likely offer you different rates, charges, and loan options. 

Luckily, we’ve been working in real estate around the area for years, so we know exactly which lenders are right for which buyers. If you need a few suggestions before you kick off your search, just let us know! 

Still Have Questions?

That’s okay—we get it. Applying for mortgage is confusing and challenging, especially if it’s your first time. If you have any questions about the process, we’re here to help. 

Ready to start looking at a few homes in your price range? We can help with that, too! Check out our specialized search tool to narrow down your options, and give us a call to start seeing a few in person!

The Four Most Common Red Flags to Look for During Your Walkthrough

A new home is a big financial investment. Not only will you likely be pouring a lot of your savings into the purchase, but you’ll also be choosing a place to call home for years to come. The last thing you want is to spend all of that time and money only to discover a costly maintenance or structural issue.

Even though you’ll get a professional inspection done, there are certain red flags that you should specifically be looking out for during the first walkthrough. By recognizing these problem areas right away, you can put emphasis on them during the inspection. Save yourself time, money,  and stress, and know these major home-buying warning signs.

Foundational Flaws

A vase of flowers in front of a cracked window.

It’s not like you can pull the house up from the ground and get a closer look at the foundation, so how do you tell if there are any issues? A few surefire signs of a faulty foundation include sloping floors, swinging and sticking doors, visible cracks above window frames, and cabinets separating from the walls.

Faulty foundations can go on to cause major damage in the home, and like most problems, the longer it goes unrepaired, the worse it will get. Minor cracks will only cost around $500, while major repairs could total up to $10,000. These are expenses you don’t want—and shouldn’t have—to get saddled with, so keep an eye out during the walkthrough and get a professional opinion from the inspection.

Signs of Amateur Repairs

A man patching up a wall.

Lots of homeowners choose to DIY repairs for a variety of reasons, from budget issues to scheduling conflicts. If they know what they’re doing (or the project is something relatively simple), then there shouldn’t be any issues. But if they, say, looked up a video tutorial on how to wire electricity to a new outlet—having never done electrical work before—then you might have some problems down the road. 

Even small things that seem unimportant, like light switches wired to the wrong lights, leaky faucets, or shoddy tiling work, can be signs of larger problems elsewhere in the home. If you run into things like this, then you might ask your home inspector to take a deeper look into other areas of the house that have been recently repaired.

Concealed Damage

A half-painted wall.

Speaking of amateur repairs, some problems might seem a little too big (or expensive) to fix. That’s when homeowners might try to cover it up instead of paying for repairs. For example: a fresh coat of paint is to be expected in many homes on the market. But if the paint only covers a small section of the wall or is dotted around the ceiling, that could mean the owner is trying to hide water damage. Depending on how extensive the damage is, it will cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to repair. And if it sneaks past the inspection, it could be on your dime. 

In the same vein, things like candles and air fresheners are also expected during showings. But if you notice that the scents are a little too strong, then the sellers could be trying to cover up mold or mildew odors, smelly pets, or damage from smoking. A home is a huge investment, so don’t be afraid to really look into that dry wall and make sure it’s mold-free.

Roofs in Disrepair

The roof of a house.

Remember those spots of fresh paint? If you notice those in a house, then there’s a pretty good chance that the water is coming from the roof. Other major signs of a damaged roof include curling or missing shingles, signs of buckling, discoloration or stains, and leaning or loose chimneys and gutters. 

While a home inspector will likely check the roof, if you notice any of the above signs, you may want to ask for an extra in-depth look. After all, roof repairs can cost anywhere from $200 to several thousand dollars, so even though the roof is out of sight, always keep it in mind. 

Need Some Help Searching?

Buying a home is a huge investment, and you want to make sure you’re spending your money wisely. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the walk through process, don’t worry—we’re here to help. Not only can we point out any issues we see with the home right away, but we can also recommend top inspectors and help with negotiations for repairs.

Explore a few more of the home-buying resources we have to offer, and give us a call when you’re ready to see a few homes!

The 5 Most Important Things to Do After Buying a Home

So, you bought a house. First of all, congratulations! The search is over, no more weekends filled with open houses and showings, and you can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Phew.

But your work isn’t quite done yet. Once you buy a house, there are a few things that need to happen before and after move-in day. Check out our list of to-dos, and get prepared for what comes after closing—trust us, your future self will thank you.

Do a Deep Clean

A vacuum.

When you first buy your home, there won’t be any heavy dressers blocking off corners, couches and beds to clean under, or stacks of boxes covered in cobwebs in the attic. Your house will never be this empty again—well, until you sell it, that is—so take advantage of the wide-open space.

Whether you want to hire professional cleaners or DIY, you should pour some serious TLC into your new house. Dust, vacuum, mop, scrub, polish—look up a few cleaning checklists for inspiration—and put in some elbow grease.

Change Your Address

A painted mailbox.

This process will be a little tedious, but it has to be done. First, you should fill out a change of address form from your post office, so any mail sent to your old address will get forwarded to your new one—although these days you can even complete the process online!

Next, get in touch with credit card companies, your cell phone provider, and anyone else who will need to continue sending you bills. Big fan of online shopping? The last thing you want is for your package to get dropped off at your old house, so be sure to update your Amazon info, as well.

Set Up Utilities & Security

A door with various locks.

Running water, electricity, internet…all things you probably want working when you move in, right? If you already have a provider, you’ll need to communicate the change address to them, stop service to your old address, and set up a date for service to continue at your new address.

While you’re getting things installed, you should also consider setting up a security system. These days you’ll have plenty of affordable and high-tech options, so be sure to browse what’s available. At the very least, consider changing your locks, since old copies of the keys from the past owners could still be floating around.

Keep Your Documents Organized

Once you’ve closed on your home, you’re going to have a lot of important documents to keep track of, and moving is going throw everything into chaos (although hopefully organized chaos) for a bit. As soon as you’ve closed and before you move in, collect all of the documents you used for your mortgage loan, as well as any copies of closing papers.

You never know when you might need some of them again, so invest in a secure storage system to keep them organized and around at all times.

Say Hi to the Neighbors

People talking in a group outside of a home.

Even if you’re a little shy, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself to the neighbors once you move in. After all, close neighbors can help with anything from lending you an extra cup of sugar to watching your pets while you’re out of town.

You don’t have to organize a mixer or bake cookies for everyone, but just saying hello while you’re out and about can go a long way in establishing those important relationships.

Ready to Buy Your Dream Home?

Now that you know what to do after you’ve closed, let’s get started with your home search! From guiding you around the area to helping you navigate your mortgage options, our team is here to help you reach your real estate goals—and answer all of your questions along the way.

If you’re ready to get started or have a few questions, just give us a call today!

The Top Tax Deductions & Credits for Homeowners in 2019

Taxes are confusing, which is why many people in the U.S. choose to hire an expert to do their taxes for them. After all, there are so many numbers to know, forms to have ready, records of income and expenses, W-4s, 1099s, 380-Ts—we could’ve just made that last one up, and there’s no way of knowing!

Even though taxes might be complicated, they (sometimes) have a few perks. And if you own a home, those perks could mean a major bonus on your return. If you’re thinking of buying a home before next year’s taxes are due, here’s everything you need to know about how making a home purchase can affect your returns.

A calculator app on an iPhone.

Deductions vs. Credit

Before we kick off the fun stuff, it’s important to know a little jargon—namely, the difference between a deduction and a credit.

When it comes to credits, think of them like tax-related coupons that reduce your dollar-for-dollar total. A few major tax credits include child tax credits, adoption credits, education or retirement credits, or credits for energy efficient homes and cars. Depending on the credits you qualify for, you could get anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars taken off of your tax liability.

Deductions are a little different: they reduce your taxable income, which can then adjust the total that you owe. Claiming certain deductions means that that part of your income is exempt from being taxed. Knowing which deductions to claim is key when filing, especially for homeowners.

Tax Benefits for Homeowners

Buying a home is expensive, but when it comes to tax time, here are the ways you can make some of that money back.

Various tax documents.

Mortgage Interest

One of the reasons that taxes for homeowners are so confusing is because they tend to change based on federal standards. Over the past few years, the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act pretty drastically altered the tax benefits for home ownership.

The most important change to know this year has to do with mortgage-related deductions. Previously, the tax deduction for home mortgages was limited to interest paid on $1 million debt for jointly filing married couples and single filers and $500,000 for married couples filing separately. Now, the numbers look more like $750,000 for the former and $500,000 for the latter. Additionally, interest paid during closing can also be counted towards this number.

Property & State Taxes

Did you know that the amount you pay in property taxes, state income taxes, and local sales tax is also deductible? If you pay property taxes through escrow, your lender will need to get the amount for you on your 1098 form, otherwise you should be able to find it in your personal records. The latest tax laws have instituted a cap at $10,000, but every little bit counts!

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

Believe it or not, tax deductions on PMI are a hotly contested subject. Until recently, buyers were able to deduct the payments they made on Private Mortgage Insurance, but as of 2017, that ability expired. If you did buy your home before 2017, then your yearly income will determine how much you can deduct.

There’s no timeline on when deductions for PMI could return, but, unfortunately, if you’re a more recent home-buyer with these payments, those perks aren’t currently available.

Credits

We talked a little bit earlier about the difference between deductions and credits, so what sort of credits can you get as a homeowner? One of the biggest tax credits that homeowners can cash in on is having energy-efficient homes. In fact, if you installed geothermal heat or solar energy, you could be entitled to credit for up to 30% of the installation fee.

Other energy-efficient features, like storm doors and added insulation, can net you a few hundred dollars in credit, as well.

A person holding several one hundred dollar bills.

Tax-Free Profits

While many parts of the tax law have changed in the past few years, one aspect has stayed the same: tax-free profits. Selling your home not only means a big profit after the sale, but a large portion of the money you make won’t even get taxed—meaning you get to pocket more.

Married homeowners who sell their homes won’t have to pay capital gain taxes on up to $500,000 from the sale, while single filers can keep half of that as non-taxable income.

While there are some guidelines—like the home must have been a primary residence for at least two of the past five years—it’s a big plus when it comes to selling.

Want to Explore More of the Benefits of Home-Owning?

Believe it or not, there are a lot more benefits to owning a home than tax deductions. If you need help navigating the ins and outs of the home-buying and home-owning process, our team is here to help. With years of local experience and real estate know-how, we have the skills and resources necessary for home-buying and selling success.

Ready to learn more? Just give us a call.

Saving up for a New Home? Here Are All the Costs You Need to Know

Once you’ve found the perfect home and secured the loan, all that’s left to do is start chipping away at those mortgage payments…right? In actuality, there are a handful of other, often-overlooked expenses that come with buying a home, but as long as you know what you’re getting into, they’re plenty manageable.

Take a look at our comprehensive list of all the costs of buying a home.

One-Time Payments & Closing Costs

A person holding up keys to a house.

Closing Costs

For buyers, closing costs are typically low and range from 2-5% of your purchase price. A lot of these costs are one-time expenses, and totals can vary from state-to-state.

If you want a better idea of what closing costs could be for you, check out this helpful guide on the average payments for each state.

Miscellaneous Fees

There are quite a bit of one-time fees bundled into your closing costs, but most of them are pretty inexpensive. Some of the most common expenses include the home inspection, appraisal, credit report, deed recording, land survey, notary fees, title insurance, and document prep fees.

Recurring Payments

A woman and a child counting coins.

Mortgage Payments

Mortgage payments are the most obvious cost when buying a home. These are your predictable, monthly payments decided by both the final price of your home and your down payment—in addition to a few other bundled costs. A larger down payment means a smaller mortgage payment, and it’s a good idea to pay this off quickly, since it will accumulate interest.

Property Taxes

Property tax payments don’t go towards just one thing—they actually cover quite a bit, like road construction, community maintenance, public works, and local government salaries. The exact amount you’ll pay in property tax is calculated by the county based on your home’s value, and the rates tend to rise and fall over time. Many buyers pay their property taxes through an escrow account set up by the lender.

Homeowner’s Insurance

It’s better to have insurance and not need it than need insurance and not have it, so homeowner’s insurance is pretty crucial to home owning. While it’s almost always required when you get a mortgage and then bundled into your monthly payments, be sure to double-check that you’re covered.

Private Mortgage Insurance

If you can’t afford a 20% down payment on your home, you’ll have to pay PMI as a way to ensure that the lender won’t go under if you default on your loan. You don’t have to pay PMI forever—it ends once you pay off 78% or more of the principal amount—but until then, expect to pay up to 2% of your loan amount annually.

HOA Fees

Moving to a neighborhood with an HOA? Your dues can range anywhere from under a hundred dollars to over a thousand, but they come with perks like landscaping and exterior maintenance, and some even include added benefits like swimming pools and fitness centers. Not all neighborhoods have an HOA, but your agent can tell you what your payments will be if yours does.

Utilities

Lastly, utility fees can come as a surprise to new homeowners who are used to renting. Depending on the size of your home, you can expect to pay a few hundred dollars per month for water, electricity, heating and cooling, and trash services. If you’re curious what your utility bills might look like, just ask your agent, and they can likely secure a few statements from the past owners.

Ready to Make an Offer?

A man and a woman sitting on a couch with a dog and a cat.

When it comes to buying a home, the most important thing you can do is be prepared. While there are a handful of costs to keep in mind, the satisfaction of calling a place your own is well-worth it in the end.

Are you ready to get started on your home-buying journey? With years of professional and local experience, our team knows all about navigating the expenses that come with buying. Give us a call today to get a better idea of your costs, and let’s get started!