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So far Dennis has created 28 blog entries.

DIY: Landscaping Style

Landscaping does not need to cost thousands of dollars. Just keep that in mind while you are brainstorming ways to improve your home value.

Here are our top 5 ways to keep your lawn looking fresh and sharp, without spending  a fortune.


Flower boxes have not gone out of style

We are serious! They definitely have not. A few well-placed flower boxes hanging outside of your windows can add a beautiful pop of color. They definitely do not cost a fortune. You can purchase the planters from your local home goods store and the flowers from any nursery. While it may be surprising, the addition of something as simple as flower boxes can make your “curb appeal” that much higher.



Enough said, right? Whether it is a flower bed or a tree, edging can take your lawn to the next level. Something as simple as a clean, mulch edge all the way to a beautiful cobblestone edge around the border of your garden can make your lawn that much more appealing. Edging adds a polished “finish” to your lawn and makes it seem that much more clean to the outside eye. So even if you are trying to find a way to spruce up your front yard or make it a bit more appealing to potential buyers, edging is the key to success.

The tree bench

Trees in the front and back yard can be excellent additions to your home. But putting them to use can take your house from average to above par. Enter, the tree bench. Take a bench perfectly positioned under a tree, and turn it into a bench perfectionally positioned around a tree. Wa la- tree bench. You can enjoy the shade of the beautiful tree in your yard while also creating a unique backyard experience. Need some ideas or creative inspiration? There are so many ideas on Pinterest that you can find something that suits your preferences and needs exactly.


Fairy gardens are real

Well, they are real only if you believe they are! Creating a small fairy garden in your backyard is not only an adorable addition to your home, but an engagement factor for kids. Truthfully, a fairy garden only needs a small fairy door situated somewhere in the midst of a garden. The addition of a few “fairy” benches, a door, and a few other little props will bring your garden to life. Especially among kids (and families), these fairy gardens are a lovely addition to any home.

The overflowing flower pot

Sure, flower pots that are standing up straight can be beautiful. But there is something to be said about a flower pot, laying on its side, with flower spilling out of it. It gives your yard a finished, yet undefined look. The image that life is bursting from every inch of your yard, even though each flower pot has been purposely placed.

While these are a few of our top suggestions, there are so many creative ideas you can use to “up” your curb appeal on your own. With DIY projects on the rise, there are so many different ideas out there for your to spruce up your lawn. Regardless of whether you plan on living in your home for years to come or are thinking of selling, these DIY projects will save you money and make your home that much more appealing to the outside buyer.

Total Home Lending

Natasha Mason

DIY: Landscaping Style2020-09-28T15:14:20+00:00

Mortgages: not just for houses

If you fall into the group of people who are interested in building their home, rather than buying, that may be a question that has crossed your mind. Typically, mortgages are associated with houses. Even though you are technically starting your process by purchasing a plot of land, mortgages are still for you!


The Big Decision

Making the decision to build as opposed to buy can be a difficult one. Because, if we are being completely honest with ourselves, building is much more involved and is a much longer process than buying. But it does not necessarily mean it is more of a financial burden.

No, you do not need to know how to build your own home! But there are a few things to keep in mind before making the decision to build. Now, here are some of the “pros” of building your first home.



First- ask for a builder’s discount. When you are working with a local lumber yard or with other local suppliers, just ask for a builder’s discount. Letting them know that you are building your own home (ie- buying a substantial amount of materials) can potentially lead to a higher discount on those materials. Our recommendation? Just ask! There is never any harm in asking for a discount, right?

Now, the next “pro” for building versus buying is that you have complete control over the design. Essentially, your home can actually be the home of your dreams. Want a walkout basement? That can be arranged. A spiral staircase? Bay windows in the master bedroom? You have 100% control over the design, within reason of course. That reason, alone, is what leads many people to build a home rather than buy.

Additionally, you can create the ideal space for your lifestyle. If you have kids, you can arrange for the exact number of rooms you need. Maybe you enjoy entertaining- building will allow you to arrange for more spacious room to accommodate large groups of people. Yes, you can shape your home around your lifestyle.

Next on the list- everything is new. New air conditioner, new furnace, new flooring. Yes, new everything. That helps eliminate many of the hidden costs that occur when you are closing on a home. You won’t need to repaint the interior, refinish the front porch, replace the refrigerator. Since you will be building a home from scratch, you know when every appliance has been installed in your home. Think about this- replacing central air can cost between $2,000 and $10,000, depending on the size of your home.

Now, since everything is new, you can expect to save money each month, as well. New air conditioner means savings. Same with new furnaces, new home with insulation you can vouch for. While it may not be the best reason to build versus buy, those savings can definitely add up month after month, year after year. It is definitely just a thought to keep in mind.


Building a home is not all smiles and easy planning. There are a few cons to keep in mind before embarking on the decision to build.

The biggest thing to keep in mind is the amount of time it takes to build a home. When you buy, it can be a matter of months before you move in. Naturally, building takes significantly longer. It can be anywhere from six to twelve months before your house is built- and then you still need to move in. This is a very important thing to keep in mind when making the decision to build. Can you wait that long? If your answer is yes, you can move on to the next step in the building process.

While you are waiting to move in, you have to think about where you will live while you build. Temporary housing or renting can be extremely expensive. So your “home,” while you are building, is definitely something to keep in mind and ensure you are budgeting for before deciding to build.

The final things to keep in mind are construction loans and permits, legal agreements between you and your builder, and limitations, both financially or depending on the regulations where you are building.

Back to the final decision

Whether you are building or buying, you can still obtain a mortgage. But, you need to make the decision of whether or not building is the best method for you.

So, sit down, look at your budget, and make the final decision to either buy or build.

Either way you lean, a mortgage will still make your dream home possible.



Total Home Lending


Natasha Mason

Mortgages: not just for houses2020-09-28T15:14:20+00:00

The Art of the Downpayment

There is an art to figuring out exactly how much of a down payment you should make on a house. But don’t let the basic concept of a down payment deter you from searching for your new home.


So, what is considered an appropriate down payment?

Well, typically putting down 20% of the cost of the home will help you to avoid paying private mortgage insurance. And typically 20% is viewed as a good “average” amount to put down on a house. There is a fair amount of people out there who will encourage you or even require you to make a 20% down payment (if not more)! But that does not mean 20% is absolutely what you have to pay. If you have the 20% saved? Put it down. It will bring the amount of money you need to borrow for your mortgage significantly less.


Just because you have it, though, does not mean you need to spend it. And, yes, this does apply to down payments, too. Paying for more than 25-30% for your down payment may not be the best investment for you. Even though you may have the “cash” on hand, it is important to take other costs into consideration before you do. Those other costs range from closing costs to realtor fees to general maintenance of your home.

While it may seem like a great idea at the time, making a large down payment may not be the the ideal move for you in the future. Other options, besides making a large down payment, can be taking out a mortgage with a shorter term- so 10 years rather than 30, for example. You will ultimately pay less in interest and will have more “cash” on hand in the meantime. If you have questions about what is the best move for you, talk to one of our experienced loan officers. They can take a look at your unique situation to find what is best for you.

The Under 20 Crowd

Now, just because you don’t fall into the 20% or “more” categories doesn’t mean you can’t actually afford to buy a home. In certain areas (and in certain situations) you have the ability to put down as little as 0%. The USDA and VA loans offer 0% down, MSHDA offers 1% down, and FHA offers 3.5% down. Each of these options definitely makes purchasing a home significantly less daunting and more approachable for many buyers, especially first time buyers.

Like we mentioned before, if you are putting down less than 20%, you will be required to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI). What is it? Essentially insurance for your lender, in the event you foreclose on your home. And, as the borrower, you pay the premiums. The average cost of PMI can range from $30-$100, depending on the amount you make for your down payment. While that may seem like a lot of money to pay on top of your monthly mortgage payment, it does allow for you to purchase a home without making a huge down payment. Just think about it- 20% of a $300,000 home is $60,000. An additional amount of money each month can be called a “small-er” price to pay to buy the house of your dreams.

Now what?

The most important thing we can recommend is talking to a loan officer. Every individual situation is so unique. Not everyone can easily fit into a predefined category. The best approach is to talk about the amount you can put down, the monthly payment you can afford, the other factors in your life- with someone that has experience in the mortgage industry.

Don’t just take our word for it- we have so many happy clients (and new homeowners) who are happily living in the house of their dreams.

Total Home Lending

Natasha Mason


The Art of the Downpayment2020-09-28T15:14:20+00:00

Ready to Buy (and Sell)

We have been sharing quite a bit about first time homeowners. But what about those of you who are ready to embark on a new journey- the second (or third) home. As a current homeowner, there are a few more steps involved than just getting a mortgage and finding a house.

Yes, you got it- you also need to handle the sale of your current home.

Just showing your home (or, rather, hiring someone to manage showing your home) is more involved than it may seem. And we have a few tips for getting your home ready to sell. While you may be moving out, you want your home to look appealing for someone to move in to.

As you may be thinking, the first step is to clean. And, of course, it is. A clean home is much more appealing than one with peanut butter on the kitchen counter or a floor covered in muddy paw prints and dirt. But cleaning your home to show is a bit more involved than your ordinary Saturday morning clean up. Wipe down baseboards, clean out any cobwebs hiding in the corner. Once you’ve finished cleaning the inside, clean the outside. Clean out the gutters, pick up toys and sticks lying around. You can even wash the siding. Remember- the outside of your house is the first thing someone is going to see. If the lawn is cluttered with children’s toys, leaves from last fall and an assortment of other things, the first impression is not guaranteed to be a good one. Both inside and out, a clean home will look brighter, more appealing, and well-maintained: all things that a potential buyer wants to see as they walk through your home.


One thing that goes hand in hand with a clean home is functional appliances. Having kitchen (and other) appliances that are 100% functional will only make your home easier to sell. Think of it this way: as you’re going to buy a home, do you also want to budget out money to purchase new appliances? Even if those purchases wouldn’t happen for a year or two? Most people’s answer to that question is NO! Little updates, general maintenance and fixing issues as they arise is a great way to stay on top of the functionality of appliances.

Now, as a part of that cleaning process, it is essential to declutter. Pick up stray things lying around on tables or the floor. Put away some of the odds and ends that you love putting on display but are not essential to your daily life. There are many realtors who even state that putting away personal photos is a good idea. If there is furniture or other things that you aren’t currently using, it may be a good idea to box them up and store them in the basement. Having a decluttered home- one without every end table or countertop filled with personal items- will look well-maintained. And decluttering will also help you during the packing process! Less for you to do when it comes time to actually make the move.

Curb appeal is also something that will help with the (quick) sale of your home. But this does not need to be a large or expensive undertaking, especially since you are moving out. Freshening up the yard with new mulch, sharpening the lines of your flower beds, and even planting bright colored flowers will add a bit of life to your yard. Additionally, weeding, pulling some patio furniture out from storage, or painting the mailbox will all add to the overall “polished” look of your lawn.

While you’re working outside, don’t forget about the front door. Yes, it is the first thing people walk up to. If yours is covered in cobwebs and finger smudges, it can take away from the polished look you’ve been trying to achieve with the front lawn. Wipe it down, sweep off the porch, hang a flower pot out front. Again, this doesn’t need to be an expensive venture- just taking the time to make your home look inviting is all that you need.

Next on the list: organize, organize, organize. And, yes, we will tell you right now that it does take a little bit of time. Organize closets, countertops, drawers, and even the garage. Taking the time to organize these things will make spaces look bigger, more put together, and more polished. One tip we have learned over the years is to put like things together. So, take your bathroom counter. Buy a small basket or container to put all the little “things” you have sitting out. While technically you are still keeping things out on the counter for everyday use, it gives the appearance of being more organized and allowing for more space. And, think of it this way, you can take all of these things to your new home to help keep you organized there too.

We mentioned it before, but we will mention it again- organize the garage. Sure, everyone has a message garage. Sometimes it becomes the place where things without a place go (usually to stay for quite some time). It may be beneficial to start packing up those things in boxes. Having neatly stacked moving boxes in your garage has a much different look than piles of things sitting on a shelf or even on the ground.

One final tip- make the home look nice, open, and appealing- without too much of a personal touch. Think of your home as a big canvas. You want people to see the potential in each room for their OWN life (not yours).  By cleaning, organizing, and removing some of the clutter, you will give people that opportunity- to see themselves moving into your home.

So, yes, it does take a little bit of work to get your home ready to sell. But that extra work you put in will definitely assist in the sale of your home in the long-run. Not to mention, make it significantly easier for you to move out.

Total Home LendingBy Natasha Mason



Ready to Buy (and Sell)2020-09-28T15:14:21+00:00

Time to Talk: mortgages & divorce

You’ve made the decision to separate, but you don’t want to separate yourself from living in a house. Or you are trying to figure out what to do with the house you bought together (and the subsequent mortgage) now that you are getting divorced.

We’re here to answer a few of those questions you may have about mortgages & divorce.


As the age old saying goes: love fades but mortgages are forever

Or at least until the end of their predetermined term.

So you bought a house together and now you are trying to find a way to “divorce” the mortgage so it does not remain all your responsibility. The first and, perhaps, the most obvious is to sell the house. Depending on the housing market at the time, this may be your best option. Once the house is sold, you can pay off the mortgage and use any additional funds to put towards your new living space. This is, of course, the ideal situation.

But there are many homeowners who owe more on their home than it is actually worth (or they can actually sell it for). In this situation, a short sale may just be the way to go. While this may be a more difficult decision to make, especially because it will tarnish both of the borrower’s credit scores, it is one way to sell and put the joint debt behind you.

Let’s say those two options are out of the question. Another viable route to take is determine if one party should take assume the house payments. If one is able to afford to take over the payments on their own, they can refinance the mortgage in their own name. And, just like that, the joint debt you had together goes away (or at least remains in one party’s name).

Now, another option that many people don’t consider is renting. While not as glamorous as selling the house and being “done” with it, renting is an excellent way to make those monthly mortgage payments. At least until you owe less on your mortgage and selling is a possibility.

So, unless the two of you are going to continue living in the same house together (and continue to pay off the mortgage, also together), one of these options is going to be your best bet to get out from underneath your joint debt.

Mortgages and divorcees

Maybe you are recently divorced, been divorced for years, or are in the process of finalizing the paperwork. You’ve ended a relationship and, possibly, lost the home you were once living in. But that doesn’t have to mean you have lost a “house” forever.

The first thing to remember is… Protect your credit score! Going through a divorce, itself, is not going to damage your credit score. But while in the midst of a divorce, it can be easy to overlook bills and loan payments. Once bills are more than 30 days late creditors can report them to the local credit bureaus. And this will affect your personal credit score.

The same rules apply when you are divorced and looking to buy a home, as when you and your partner were looking to buy a home. The only difference is that, now, you have gone from a dual source of income to a single source of income and, if you are paying alimony or child support, have less money than you did before.

So, when considering purchasing a house again, it is important to consider if it is the best decision for you, at that time. And, a very good rule of thumb, do not buy a home while you are finalizing the divorce proceedings! Even if you have an unlimited source of income, there are too many “what if’s.”

Now, once the divorce has been finalized, take a good look at your finances to see if it is something you can realistically afford on your own. If your ex is still living in the home you two shared, be sure that the mortgage has been refinanced in their name. Doing so will limit the amount of debt you have in your own name, ultimately making it easier to be approved for a mortgage.

Next step? Get pre-approved! The pre-approval will allow you to know what financial framework you are working in before you start looking at homes. That way, you can shop, realistically, for the new home of your dreams. And as you are searching, don’t forget about the other “hidden fees” that can pop up along the way.

Have questions? Wondering if you can be pre-approved for a mortgage? Give us a call- we can discuss your unique situation.


Total Home Lending


Natasha Mason

Time to Talk: mortgages & divorce2020-09-28T15:14:21+00:00

So, what happens when I can’t make my mortgage payments?

We are here to have the difficult conversation with you- the one about what happens when you can no longer make your mortgage payments.

First and foremost, ignoring the problem is only going to cause further financial hardship as time goes on. While pretending the problem does not exist may seem like the preferable option, it is the option that will certainly end in foreclosure. Addressing the issue head on is going to be the most effective, even though it is quite the “sticky” topic.

So, what can you do when you can’t afford to make your monthly payments? Here are a few recommendations that can serve as a lifeboat during tough times.


Communication is key

The minute you recognize you can no longer make those payments, it is crucial that you communicate that to your lender. The longer you wait to address the issue, the less options you may have. So, communicate!

Come to the conversation prepared. Have details on why you can’t make your payments and if it is a long- or short-term concern. It is also essential to include details about your income, debt history.

Foreclosing on a home is not necessarily the “best” option for your lender. Opening up these lines of communication with them (early) will give you the opportunity to find a solution that best addresses your current situation.



While refinancing can appear great, in theory, it is important to acknowledge the other fees associated with refinancing. Let’s say you have 10-15 years left before paying off your mortgage. Refinancing could provide the opportunity to extend the life of your loan, resulting in lower payments.

This is different for each situation, for each person or family. In order to determine whether or not refinancing is the best option for you, talk to your mortgage lender. They can provide more details on your unique situation.

Ditch the house

Easier said than done. And there are two different options you have here- short sale and a deed in lieu of foreclosure.

A short sale is when the bank allows the homeowner to sell the home for less than they owe on the mortgage. This option is sometimes considered less than desirable to lenders, because they are essentially receiving LESS money back than they originally lent. But, it is an option that is less damaging to your credit score (than, say, foreclosure).

Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure gives a homeowner the opportunity to sign the deed of the house over to the bank, rather than the bank foreclosing on the home. So, here, you turn the home over to your lender so they can, in turn, sell the home.

Before deciding that either of these are the next course of action for you, we recommending talking to a housing counselor and a tax professional. They can provide more insight into the implications of taking this step.



This is definitely not the easiest thing to do. It will destroy your credit, making it hard to borrow money for multiple years.

It is still possible to declare bankruptcy and keep your home. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, borrowers are still able to keep their home, but they must have a stable plan for repaying most of their debt.

While not your first line of defence, declaring bankruptcy is definitely still an option.


Time to rent

If you do not want to give up your home, but you can no longer afford your monthly payments, one option is renting out the house. Depending on the area you live in and the demand for rental properties, this may be a viable option for you. However, it is crucial to remember that becoming a landlord is not a “simple” endeavor. But if you are able to secure a renter and a secondary location for you to live while you are renting, this may be a way to save you from foreclosure.

So, whether you are on the verge of foreclosure or you have just stumbled upon financial hardship, we recommend you talk to your lender. The sooner you can open those lines of discussion, the more options you will have at your fingertips. And each situation is unique, so while these are some of our general recommendations, your lender will have information and details specific to your situation.

Total Home Lending


Natasha Mason

So, what happens when I can’t make my mortgage payments?2020-09-28T15:14:21+00:00

Debt Management: Time to take control of your finances

For many, debt is a big, scary word with countless implications. So taking on a home mortgage can be just as daunting. But we are here to tell you… it’s manageable! Whether you are 100% debt free, have a credit card balance, or even a few student loans, getting and managing a home mortgage is possible. You just have to have the right tools and tips to get yourself on the right track.

Of course, he first step in managing your debt is to get organized. And we have a few tips to get you on the right track.


Know your debt

While it seems self-explanatory, the first step to successful debt management is to actually take a look at what you owe (and how much of it there is). So what does that mean for you? Lay out all of your loans, credit card balances, car payments. Add it up and take note! While it may be something you have been avoiding, acknowledging your debt and piecing together a “picture” of it will help you in the long run.


Organization is your friend

A great way to stay on top of your finances is to create a monthly calendar exclusively for your bills. Label the days they are due, you can even include the total of each payment. Then, hang it on the wall or the fridge. When it is present in your daily life, it will keep it fresh in your mind, reminding you to make those payments on time. Tried this and still having trouble? It may be time to consider setting up automatic payments. That way, you are guaranteed to pay on time, month after month.

Next, make a budget. List out all of your monthly expenses- bills, debt, even groceries and gas! Then, put it next to your monthly income. See exactly how much you can save, and how much extra you have to pay towards your debt. Establishing a monthly budget will help you stay on track for making your monthly payments, and help you create a larger “savings” you can fall back on.


Bills, bills, bills

You got it- the next step is to pay your bills on time. Cable, car loan, DTE, student loan. No matter what the bill is, pay it on time! It is very important to get yourself on the right track. Rumor has it that it takes 30 days to create a habit. Make it your habit to pay each of your bills on time, every month.



Any collections or call off’s should be the first to go. Throw your full force (or as much as you can manage) toward these until they are paid off in full. Once they have been paid, you can focus your attention on the principal balances of your debt.


Minimum payments

Most of us have seen that phrase- “minimum payment.” It could be in reference to your student loans, your credit card bill. Anything. Regardless of your overall balance, it is crucial to make that minimum payment! It will keep you on the right path to paying off the total balance, one month at a time.


The bill of most importance

Which debt is of the highest importance? Yes, that’s right. Which one is most crucial for you to pay off (in full) first? A good way to determine this is to take a look at your interest rates. A good rule of thumb is to pick the one with the highest rate. Now what? If your finances permit, take a little extra money each month and put it towards that debt. Even if it is just $30 more than the minimum payment. That extra money will only help you pay off the debt in full that much faster.

Another good trick to keep up your sleeve- let’s say you have a car loan with a $200 monthly payment. Once you pay off your car, take the $200 a month you were budgeting for the car loan and put it toward another debt. Since you are already budgeting that money each month, repurposing it once you have paid off your car loan will only help you pay off other debts. This is a great technique to use, especially if you have a few different sources of debt.


Rainy day fund

Earlier we mentioned how budgeting can help you save money. While creating your monthly budget, we recommend creating a separate “emergency” category you can put savings in to. Maybe you don’t have debt now. But what if you have debt in the future? Or a “rainy day” comes around? An emergency fund is a great technique to give yourself financial stability when something unexpected comes along (and anyone who owns a car knows that car issues always come at the most inconvenient times).

Our final piece of advice? Recognize that you may need help. And, if you do, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Finances can be tricky. Managing debt can be tricky, too. Even if you are in a “good place,” but you have questions about how to budget your income or manage your debt, taking to a financial advisor isn’t going to hurt.

Building the skills to manage your finances now can only assist you in the long run. So, whether you are 18 and just heading off to college, or 65 and looking forward to retirement, successfully managing debt is possible.

Don’t let the fear of a mortgage or debt keep you from pursuing the house of your dreams. Get organized and take control of your finances! Next thing you know, you’ll be sharing your financial management tips to friends and family (from the comfort of your dream home).


Total Home Lending


Natasha Mason

Debt Management: Time to take control of your finances2020-09-28T15:14:21+00:00

Demystifying Mortgage Terms

You’re a first time home buyer. Or you’re looking for your second (or third or fourth) home. Either way, there are a lot of terms thrown around in the mortgage industry. And there are probably a few you aren’t familiar with quite yet.

Well, we are here to help with that. Here are a few of the top terms you may hear throughout your mortgage process. If there’s something you still want to know, tell us! We would love to answer any questions you may have.


Let’s start with the basics: types of loans

Adjustable Rate Mortgage- this is a mortgage whose interest rate can adjust throughout the payback period based on market interest rates. Typically, there is a maximum amount the interest rate can be adjusted over the life of the loan, as well as the number of times it can be adjusted throughout one given year.

This type of mortgage features lower interest and lower payments earlier on during the loan term. Lower rates and lower payments can provide the room, financially, for a borrower to purchase a larger home while still being able to afford the monthly payments. Additionally, it allows borrowers to take advantage of falling interest rates without refinancing.

Construction Mortgage- typically a short-term loan, it is given to the borrower to pay for the construction of a new home. If you are considering buying land and building a house, this may be a great option for you to consider to assist on the financial side of building your dream home.

Fixed Rate Mortgage- this is a mortgage whose interest rate stays fixed throughout the payback period of the mortgage. The stability of these loans make budgeting, saving and planning much easier. Fixed Rate Mortgages are also simple to understand, which makes them great for first-time (or any-time) homebuyers.

Jumbo Mortgage- any mortgage that exceeds the limits set by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac is considered a jumbo mortgage. There is no government backing for these loans, so the requirements to obtain a jumbo loan are significantly higher. The “number” that makes a mortgage “jumbo” varies across the country. For instance, the minimum in Los Angeles, a more expensive housing market than Detroit, is significantly higher. To see if you qualify for a jumbo loan, talk to your loan provider.

Reverse Mortgage- this is where the equity on the house is turned into cash for the homeowner. Home equity is the portion of your property value that you actually own (you can think of it as the part of the property you have already “paid off”). There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to a reverse mortgage. Fees, your financial stability and how long you plan on staying in your home are a few things to keep in mind when pondering a reverse mortgage.

VA Mortgage- this is a government sponsored mortgage that is guaranteed by the Veteran’s Administration. It is only available to active US service members, veterans and their spouses.


Now for a few more good terms to know

P&I- Principal and Interest. This will be your normal monthly mortgage payment.

PMI- also known as private mortgage insurance. Insurance on a mortgage is generally required of borrowers who make a down payment of less than 20%. Typically, FHA Loans fall into this category and require borrowers to pay a private mortgage insurance. At a certain point during the life of the loan, some borrowers no longer need to pay a PMI.

Foreclosure- the term used to define when a borrower is unable to payback their mortgage and legal proceedings have ensued. This is a period when the lender is, legally, obtaining the title and possession of the home. Typically, houses that have been foreclosed upon are sold and, after sale, the money owed to the mortgage lender is returned to them. For more information and details on foreclosure proceedings, you can talk to your mortgage lender.

Escrow- it is an account set up by the lender to set aside money for the eventual payment of home insurance and property taxes. They are typically required when you (the borrower) are putting down less than a 20% down payment. Requirements regarding escrow accounts are dependent upon your lender.

Don’t let your home buying process be overwhelming or confusing. Talk to one of our loan officers about what options you have available to you! And if there is something you don’t fully understand, just ask. We are here to help.


Total Home Lending



Natasha Mason

Demystifying Mortgage Terms2020-09-28T15:14:21+00:00

Home Improvements (that pay off)

Remodeling. There are entire tv shows and magazines, just on this topic. It has different meanings for different people.

Many of those tv shows highlight some projects on the extreme-side, people spending thousands of dollars on a beautiful bathroom. While stunning (and something you may be dreaming about), it may not always be the most realistic remodel for the majority of homeowners.

Taking on a new project can be quite expensive, but we are here to tell you that there are some that actually pay off! Whether or not you are considering reselling right now, it is important to recognize the “resale” value of your home with its new improvements.


There are a few things to keep in mind before starting your next remodeling project.

First, the return on your investment- how often will you be using or benefiting from it? For instance, replacing your front door has a great return because it is something that is essential to your home.

Next, you should also consider the value of other houses in your neighborhood. Spending a significant amount of money to remodel your home and, in turn, significantly increasing its value may not be ideal when it comes time to sell. Even if your home is valued at a certain amount, if the rest of the houses in the neighborhood are much less, you may find it difficult to sell your home for the price you desire.

There are three final things to consider before remodeling- the housing market in your area, how soon you’ll sell after the improvements and the quality of the project you are starting. If the market is up, many buyers will be interested in spending more money for a house with a newly remodeled bathroom. When it’s down, buyers are looking for the basics- like up-to-date systems.


Make your remodeling project beneficial and painless.

Do you want to be happy once your latest project has been completed? Of course! Everyone wants to be happy with the end result. There are a few factors that will make your project that much easier. Low-maintenance is key! The more involved, the longer it takes and the more expensive it is will make the project that much more stressful. Additionally, most homeowners are happiest with projects that are good (but not necessarily the highest) quality. And, finally, projects that are energy efficient are among these top factors.


So, let’s talk about the projects themselves.

Earlier we mentioned a few projects that people will be looking for in a home, whether the marketing is up or down. And that is up-to-date systems. No flooding in the basement. The roof is new (or relatively new). Clean and updated heating/cooling. Essentially, they are looking to see if the basics have been covered. Investing in these projects is a “must do” simply because it makes your house much more appealing, regardless of the marketing. And, truthfully, when the marketing is down, buyers are generally more interested in homes with up-to-date systems and an outdated bathroom than they are in homes with outdated systems and up-to-date bathrooms.

Most home buyers know that they will have to remodel. In fact, nearly 70% of them do. If they know that money could be spent on something more cosmetic than, let’s say, a new furnace, your house immediately becomes that much more appealing.

There are two rooms in the house where you can definitely tell if money has been spent- the bathroom and the kitchen. These are two of the most basic remodeling projects and should be added to your “must do” list when the housing market is up. While they do cost the most, just remember- people spend most of their time there!

Curb appeal. Otherwise known as landscaping. This does, in fact, pay off when you are looking to sell. Imagine walking up the driveway to a house with an overgrown lawn, a few scattered trees and maybe an attempt at a flowerbed. Now, imagine walking up the driveway to a house that has clearly been well-cared for. Beautifully manicured lawn, strategically placed flowerbeds and trees. Which house would you rather look at? The majority of people are more eager to view a house that has “curb appeal.”

The final two things on the list? More space- which, of course, makes sense. Additional square footage will add value to your home when it comes time to sell. And then all the little bells and whistles. Home entertainment systems, wine cellars. The little things that aren’t expected but get people excited.


Remodeling in a way that pays off is an absolute must.

Before jumping into your next project, take a minute to think about what will be the most beneficial for your home, and your situation.

One final thing to consider? Refinancing. Talk to your lender- the money you could save by refinancing could foot the bill for your next remodeling project.


Total Home Lending


Natasha Mason

Home Improvements (that pay off)2020-09-28T15:14:21+00:00
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