home owner

Adding the 2nd Floor

Renovations. Remodeling. Home Improvement.

This can be anything from a new front door to an entirely renovated kitchen. But what about the addition of a second floor?

For many homeowners living in single-storey homes, the idea of expansion may only be possible by building up. Especially in quickly-growing cities or in already established neighborhoods, up is the only option.


The rationale

A growing family, the need for more space, or even increasing the value of the home. All excellent reasons to expand. There are a few facts to take into consideration before shooting for the stars.


Getting down to brass tax

Any renovation or remodeling project involves cost. And first and foremost, calculating the approximate cost of the project. That includes the materials, labor, design, furnishings… Not to mention heating and cooling.

The actual cost of renovation depends on the area you are living in, the average cost of labor, and the size of the renovation you are planning. Adding one bedroom and a bathroom is going to cost much less than adding four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a shared living space.

But you do not need to let this deter you from an addition to your home. Like most everything, you can take a project like this on in stages. Start by having your foundation inspected to ensure you are actually able to build up. Then begin laying the “groundwork” for your second floor. It can be as simple as the base structure, as well as the roof (to guarantee you are actually able to continue living in your home throughout the entire process).


Not the shortest undertaking

It is safe to plan on spending quite a bit of time on this project. At the very least, the project will take anywhere from 4 to 6 months. And that is if you are jumping in full-force. For many people, this project can take a bit longer, depending on how much you are able to spend month-to-month.

While, realistically, you can start the project while still living in the home, especially if you are working on a slightly tighter budget, it is safe to plan on finding another place to stay for the duration of the remodel. Especially when there will be contractors in and out of your home on a daily basis building an additional floor, there is great reason to find a place to rent short-term (or find family you can handle living with for a few months).

Benefit, benefit… And more benefit

While it may be expensive (and a bit time consuming), the addition of a second floor could, possibly, be the perfect addition to your life and, of course, your home.

The addition of another storey will definitely increase the value of your home. Extra bedrooms, bathrooms, and additional living space will definitely make your home more attractive to potential buyers. So whether you are planning on selling now or later, an addition of this magnitude will increase your home’s value significantly.

Have you ever said NO to extra space? More living space just for you. An additional bedroom for friends and family. Extra space for your growing family. Increased area for pets to roam and play. Whatever the reason, if you want a larger space and this is the road you are planning on taking, building up is well worth it.


Final tidbits for thought

It is important to come to the table prepared. Write down a list of questions you have and actually ask them. The last thing you need is to refrain from asking a question and end up regretting it later.

Lay out your budget. Have you ever planned a party without a definitive budget? And, did you go over that budget? When you don’t have a set plan for exactly how much you are able to spend, you are more likely to overextend yourself. Besides, if you have a perfect plan for how you are allocating your funds, it will make the entire process much less stressful.

Finally, you just need to pick a contractor. Ask around, do your research online. Essentially, do your research. Take your time to find someone who is best suited for your project and your needs. Just like when you are picking a mortgage lender, hand-picking the best contractor is well worth your time.

Maybe you choose to renovate. Or maybe you don’t. Either way, it is essential to weigh both the pros and the cons before you make a final decision.



Total Home Lending



Natasha Mason


Adding the 2nd Floor2020-09-28T15:14:20+00:00

Picking Your Mortgage Lender

A mortgage definitely does not fall into the “small” or “short term” category. Whether you have a 10, 15, or 30 year mortgage- you have signed yourself up for the full marathon. Yes, you are in it for the long haul.

Since you will be working directly with your mortgage lender throughout this entire period of time, it is smart to shop around and educate yourself on the best lenders available.

Not all lenders are made equally

Some lenders are known for their work with borrowers with low credit scores. Others are known for their low rates. Others are just well-known because they are one of those larger institutions. That being said, it is essential to shop around- double dip- to take a look at all of the options available to you before selecting your lender.

And it is never a bad idea to find a lender you feel comfortable with, whether is is with the rate they can offer or their focus on excellent service.


The “how to”

We have a few recommendations when it comes to selecting your mortgage lender. First and foremost, take a look at all of your options. Because there are quite a few options when it comes to mortgage lenders. There are credit unions, mortgage bankers, correspondent lenders, savings & loans, and mutual savings banks.

Credit unions are member-owned institutions that will generally offer favorable interest rates to shareholders. And many have more relaxed membership restrictions, so more people are eligible to join.

Mortgage bankers are actually bankers who work for a larger financial institution and are responsible for packaging mortgages for consideration.

Correspondent lenders typically are local mortgage companies. They have the resources to offer loans, but they do rely on larger lenders (these are companies you will most likely recognize from mainstream advertising).

Now, Savings and Loans are the foundation upon which the entire mortgage industry has been built. While they are few and far between, they are typically much smaller than your typical mortgage lender and are very involved in the surrounding community.

Finally, mutual savings banks are similar to Savings and Loans. They are community oriented, but much more competitive.

Double dipping

While it may be frowned upon with the salsa dish at parties, there is nothing wrong with looking at a few different lenders to compare rates.

Based upon your credit score, debt-to-income ratio, and a few other qualifications, different lenders will, generally speaking, offer different rates. By looking at all of your options, you will be able to effectively and efficiently decide which lender is best suited for your needs.


Our final word of advice?

Talk to actual people. Ask questions. And don’t settle. Because you are going to be working with them for the entire duration of your mortgage.



Total Home Lending



Natasha Mason

Picking Your Mortgage Lender2020-09-28T15:14:20+00:00

Your Fall-Ready Home

There are more than a handful of different ways to get your home “ready” for the fall. And that can include checking on your house’s gutters, yard clean-up, and more.

But there are a few things that definitely will not be on that list. Like ensuring your home is cozy, warm, and 100% ready for fall (in a more decorative sense). Now that the end of summer is just a few weeks away, it is time to start thinking about making the season change yourself. And we definitely don’t mean just pulling out all of the winter coats in preparation of snow.


The steps

First and foremost, the best way to convert your home from fall to summer is to pull out all of the comfortable and cozy items in your home. The best place to start is with your bedding. Yes, pull out the big comforters, the warm sheets, and the heated blankets. But that’s not all- this is the time to pull out the thicker blankets for your couch and spare rooms. Not only are they functional, by placing the thicker blankets around your home you are welcoming the change of the season and “warming” your home up for anyone who may stop by.

Now is time to pull our your fall and winter tools. There is not much need for pruning shears, gardening gloves, and the variety of other tools you have easily accessible throughout the spring and summer. And, yes, this is the opportunity to pull your shovels, rakes, ice scrapers, snow blowers… You know what we are talking about. Because there is nothing worse than digging through a pile of things in your garage in the midst of a snowstorm.

Finally, now is the opportunity to highlight the parts of your home that aren’t as essential during the summer. Let’s think: fireplace and chimney. Clean them up, hang a new photograph or art-installation above the mantle. Maybe even consider sprucing up or replacing your mantle. From a more logistical standpoint, get the chimney cleaned and start stocking up on firewood. It will help make your fall and winter nights by the fire much more enjoyable (because there is nothing like a minor chimney fire or running out of firewood to ruin a perfect evening).

100% fall ready

While you may have the perfect decorations and your home may look fall ready, it is still important to keep a few other fall upkeep tips in mind. Make sure your gutters are functioning. Check your furnace and boiler, even turn on your heat to ensure everything is working properly.

If you have a place for them, time to bring out your rubber shoe mats and fall-themed floor mats. Pull out your dishrags decorated with colored leaves. Getting ready for the change in season takes more than the typical things you absolutely need to do before colder weather hits.

For more tips, check out your friends homes, peruse Pinterest. And find the best way to get your home ready for fall!



Total Home Lending



Natasha Mason

Your Fall-Ready Home2020-09-28T15:14:20+00:00

The Big Day: Closing Day

The big day has come.

Homeowners insurance- check

Home inspection- check

Now comes the day you have been waiting for. The day you officially close on your home. If everything is in place, the day itself should be a breeze.


What exactly should you expect?

First and foremost, give yourself ample time and bring as much patience as you possibly can. One big mistake people make is not allowing enough time for the actual closing. Your lunch break may not actually be enough time to close.

Besides, if you give yourself a half day (or even a full day) for the closing, you can always take time to enjoy and celebrate your new purchase!

In addition to planning for the time out of your day, it is typically a good idea to schedule your closing close to the end of the month, but not right at the end of the month. That will allow for enough time to address any issues or concerns that may come up over the course of the closing.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a final walk through

Many buyers are often allowed to do one final walk through 24 hours before the closing. This will allow for you to see if any damage has been done to the house or property since you signed the contract. If there is something to note, this final walk through provides the opportunity to negotiate any necessary repairs.


There are a few things to bring to the table

It is extremely important to bring all the papers you have collected and accumulated over the home-buying process. That means the good faith estimate, the proof of homeowners insurance, contract, your inspection reports, and any other documents that you have sent to the bank as a proof of your mortgage.

Besides the piles of paperwork, there can also be a handful of people present at the closing. While the actual people required to be present can vary from state to state. The people involved can range from your attorney, the home seller, your mortgage lender, and, of course, you.

Yes- it is a big day

But that does not mean it needs to be stressful, chaotic, or have anything go wrong. Talk it over with your attorney (if you have one) and definitely your mortgage lender. All of the preparation will be worth it- so you can sit back, enjoy the experience, and take the keys to your new home.



Total Home Lending



Natasha Mason

The Big Day: Closing Day2020-09-28T15:14:20+00:00

Credit Dispute & A Mortgage

 I’m sure if we asked each of you, right now, to name one thing that you think can make you ineligible for a mortgage, you could each name at least two.


One of those is a credit dispute.

What exactly is a credit dispute? When you have found a discrepancy or inaccuracy on your credit report and have reported it so it can be resolved, that is a credit dispute. Essentially, you are disputing the credit score that has been provided to you by a credit bureau. And, of course, law requires credit bureaus to release accurate credit scores.



But that won’t happen to me, right? Actually, discrepancies in credit scores is much more common than people think. There was a study done in 2012 by the Federal Trade Administration that recorded one in every five Americans have some error on their credit report.

That doesn’t necessarily mean your identity has been stolen or someone has taken a credit card out in your name. It can be a simple as an incorrect address or point of contact. Regardless of how big or how small, once you have reported it, it has become a “dispute.”

And a dispute automatically means an inflation of your credit score.


It’s all about accuracy

Unfortunately, even though your score has been temporarily inflated while the dispute is being resolved, it may prevent you from getting approved for a loan. And that’s simply because lenders want an accurate representation of your credit report; the one you are giving them is subject to change.

There are just a few things to keep in mind, moving forward with your mortgage. Credit disputes are not resolved overnight. They can take months to handle. And depending on your situation, you may not actually have that kind of time.

If you are in the middle of purchasing a home or refinancing on your home, it is best to speak with a mortgage expert first. The higher interest rate, the additional costs from delaying the closing may not be worth the wait. Especially if it is a very simple dispute, such as one over an address.



We have said this before, but it is definitely true: everyone’s situation is a unique situation. In order to determine the best next steps, talk to one of our mortgage experts- they can evaluate the situation and may shed some light on the situation that would not have occurred to you otherwise.


Total Home Lending



Natasha Mason

Credit Dispute & A Mortgage2020-09-28T15:14:20+00:00

Renting vs Buying: the breakdown

You are a recent college graduate, saddled with student loans and a monthly rent payment that is much higher than you ever expected.

Or… You have been a long-time renter because you never thought you were able to afford a mortgage.

Or maybe you were a homeowner who either sold or lost their home and have been renting ever since.

To Be A Renter…

Regardless of which category you fall into, the one common factor is- you are a renter. Not an owner. And while the concept of owning a home can be quite daunting and even downright scary, it does not need to be a foreign concept. While owning a home was commonplace for the “baby boomers,” it has become much less so today. In fact, many view owning a home a huge luxury.


There is one thing to keep in mind though: what is the more financially responsible decision in the long run?

Yes. It may have been the “cheaper” option to rent, at one point. However, now it is actually significantly cheaper to go through the mortgage process… And buy a home. Here are the statistics.

The percentage of income needed to buy a median home in today’s economy is 15.8%. That doesn’t seem too high, does it? Wait for it… The percentage of income needed to afford median rent is 29.2%.

It is a significant difference. So while it does sometimes seem like renting is the cheaper option, there are many first time (or fifth time) homeowners who pay significantly less for their mortgage payment each month on an actual home, backyard included, than many people pay for a just-1,000sq ft apartment.

Is it your time?

Do you think you are ready to take the plunge? Or at the very least begin exploring your options?

The only way you will ever know what your options are, if owning a home is in your near future, is by asking. Pick up the phone. Visit us online. Either way- talk to someone about your situation to find out what ALL of your options are, before you sign on for another year on your lease.


Total Home Lending



Natasha Mason

Renting vs Buying: the breakdown2020-09-28T15:14:20+00:00

The Reverse Mortgage

If you are considering a reverse mortgage, there are a few key things to consider before taking the plunge. Like any financial undertaking, it is important to ponder these decisions.

First, we should start with what a reverse mortgage actually is. Essentially, it is a type of home loan that allows you to turn the equity you have on your home into cash. So, all of the equity you have built over the years from paying on your mortgage can become accessible funds for you to use. Typically referred to as a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), these loans do not need to be paid back until you move out of the house. And generally speaking, with a reverse mortgage, you do not have to make a monthly mortgage payment.

And for a bit of history- the first FHA-insured reverse mortgage was issued back in the late 1980’s. Generally speaking, these types of loans allow older, long-term home owners to access part of their home equity without ultimately having to move.

Now, who actually benefits from a reverse mortgage? People who do not plan to move, people who can afford the cost of maintaining their home, and people who want to access the equity on their home (whether it is to supplement their income or simply to have for one of those “rainy days”).

The longer that you have been living in your home and the older you are, typically your mortgage balance is much smaller and you have built up more equity in your home. So, life expectancy does play a factor in your reverse mortgage and how much money you will receive.


Here’s an example: Bill and Sue are both 80 years old. They do not have any plans to move and are looking for a way to supplement their monthly income. After meeting with a loan officer, they get their house appraised at $300,000. With only $35,000 left to pay on their mortgage, the available reverse loan amount available to them is about $195,000. After settlement costs, their remaining mortgage balance, and other taxes & fees, there is still a sizable amount of money left to supplement their monthly income. Even to take a small vacation.

While a reverse mortgage sounds like a great idea, they are most beneficial when you have been living in the same home for quite some time (and have been regularly paying on your home mortgage) and if you are planning on staying in the same home.

Wondering if you are in a good situation for a reverse mortgage or simply want to discuss all of your options, speak with one of our loan officers. We are happy to talk through your unique situation and find out what options are best for you.



Total Home Lending


Natasha Mason

The Reverse Mortgage2020-09-28T15:14:20+00:00

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
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