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

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

Refinancing: is it right for you?

Refinancing. That’s a term you regularly hear thrown around in the mortgage industry.

It is, in fact, exactly what it sounds like- replacing your current mortgage with a new one. While there are a variety of reasons that lead people to refinance, these are some of the most common:

The first is to lower your interest rate. If you took your mortgage during a time where interest rates were slightly higher, choosing to refinance could, ultimately, save you thousands of dollars. This type of refinance is typically referred to as rate-and-term refinancing. You refinance the remaining balance on your mortgage for a lower interest rate and a term (or number of years it will take to repay) you can afford.

The second reason to refinance is to convert an adjustable rate loan to a fixed rate loan. Just like it sounds, an adjustable rate loan has an interest rate that fluctuates based on market conditions. So, when interest rates are low, converting your loan to a fixed rate loan secures that low interest rate for the remaining duration of your mortgage.

The third is a way to “free up” cash. Typically referred to as cash-out refinancing, this entails taking out a new loan for a greater amount than your previous balance. You can then take the difference in cash or even use it to pay off other forms of debt.

Other reasons to refinance are to eliminate FHA loan insurance or even to settle a divorce.

The potential benefits seem pretty obvious. Lower interest rates means less money paid over the life of the loan. It even means you could lower your monthly mortgage payments. Having additional cash on hand. All of these benefits are compelling.


To refinance or not to refinance

Refinancing, however, is not for everyone. There are a variety of other factors that contribute to the entire refinancing process. The length of your loan, the amount of money you owe, even the amount of time you plan on staying in that particular home.

Both the length of your loan and the amount of money you owe can directly affect the additional costs to refinance. These “hidden costs” are important to factor into your decision to refinance (or to keep your current loan). Cost of a house appraisal, loan origination fee, plus a variety of other costs for filing documents, purchasing title insurance and even fees for your new mortgage application.


Time to break out your calculator

Before you take the plunge, take a minute to crunch the numbers. Is refinancing something you can afford, at this time? And, will you ultimately save money over the duration of your loan?

The goal is to not only “break even,” but to do so in a time frame that is affordable and beneficial to you. Essentially, how long it will take for the refinance to pay for itself. For example, you have $2,000 in costs to refinance, but you are saving $100 in your monthly payments. In that situation, you will “break even” after 20 months of payments.


What now?

Are you considering refinancing? Take a look at your current mortgage and financial situation. You can even discuss the benefits of refinancing with one of our loan officers. In doing so, you can determine whether or not refinancing is the smartest move for you (at least for now).



By Natasha Mason

Refinancing: is it right for you?2020-09-28T15:14:21+00:00

Higher Interest Rates & Home Buying

…what you need to know with increased rates right around the corner

Maybe you’ve been keeping up on economic news. Maybe you haven’t. Either way, one of the most discussed financial news stories this fall is about the Federal Reserve Bank (or the Fed) raising their interest rates.


Let’s start with the basics

The Fed sets a benchmark interest rate that, essentially, establishes how much it costs banks and other lenders to loan money. After the economic crash in the early 2000’s, the Fed lowered their benchmark rate to infuse more money into the economy. A lower rate means it is easier to lend, and subsequently borrow, money.

The result? A higher availability of “cash” in the hands of consumers and business owners. The lower the Fed’s benchmark rate, the lower your interest rate, as a consumer, will be.

So, the purpose of lowering the benchmark rate is to, ideally, stimulate the economy. The low rate set by the Fed nearly 7 years ago has assisted in the resurgence of the housing market, as well as the U.S. economy in general.

In December of last year, the Fed did raise their rate for the first time in 7 years to 0.50% with the intention to raise rates multiple times throughout 2016. The economy, however, has not been growing at the rate Fed officials initially anticipated. Consequently, the Fed has not raised their rates at all this past year, keeping their benchmark rate at 0.50%.

Why is this important to discuss right now, then? Well, the Fed will be raising that rate again, and soon. Fed officials will be meeting again, this month, to discuss raising their rate. Even if it does not happen in December, it is fairly certain they will be raising their rate in early 2017.


Now what does that mean for you?

You may be thinking- a 0.50% to 1% increase in the Fed’s benchmark interest rate isn’t that much. And, to some extent, you are correct. But how that number translates to your interest rates is much different.

Currently, the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage is at approximately 4% with the Fed’s benchmark rate is at 0.50%. When the Fed raises their rate, even by just 0.50%, the translation to your “real” interest rate is much more dramatic.


So, let’s talk implications

For simplicity’s sake, let’s say the Fed increases their benchmark rate and, as a result, the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage jumps from 4% to 5%.

*these numbers were chosen to provide a concrete example of how increased interest rates can affect your overall mortgage payment

Now, let’s say you are looking at a $100,000 mortgage, with a monthly payment of $500. At a 4% interest rate, you are looking at paying approximately $2,000 in interest per year- totaling at $72,000 after 30 years. At a 5% interest rate, with the exact same mortgage and monthly payment, you are looking at paying approximately $3,120 in interest per year- totaling at $93,000 after 30 years.

That’s a difference of $30,000. Even though interest rates may have only increased by 1%, you are paying significantly more over the life of your mortgage.


You can still buy a house

…You just need to be aware of how a higher interest rate will affect your situation. The $100,000 home you were initially looking at may be a little too much “house” for you to afford. If your paying an additional $30,000 in interest over the life of your loan, it may take that house out of your price range.

On the other hand, if you can still afford the $100,000 home, it is essential to recognize that you will be paying more over the life of your mortgage with an increased interest rate.

If you are planning on buying in 2017, factor an increased interest rate into your plans and your budget. The last thing you need is a surprise (especially one of that magnitude) as you are trying to finalize a purchase.


Considering refinancing?

Now is the time! Talk to your lender, get your paperwork in and secure a lower interest rate immediately. For refinancing options, you should contact your lender so they can provide specific details for your situation.



by Natasha Mason

Higher Interest Rates & Home Buying2020-09-28T15:14:21+00:00
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