4 Ways to Prepare Your Garden for Fall

We’re heading into the fall season, and that means cooler weather is on its way. This is the perfect opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors, tend to your garden and improve your home’s curb appeal — all in one fell swoop.

Are you looking forward to spending some time sprucing up your yard and preparing your garden for autumn? Be sure to add these four tasks to your to-do list before getting started:

  • Start With the Basics: Pull up weeds, dig out your annual or seasonal bulbs, and clear out any leaves, dead plants and debris. You should also spend some time tilling the soil before adding new soil and mulch.

  • Prep for the Elements: You’ll want to invest in garden covers, which help guard against pests and colder temperatures. If you have an automatic sprinkler system, be sure to adjust its schedule since you’ll need less water when it’s not as hot outside.

  • Add Fall-Friendly Plants: If you removed seasonal plants, you could replace them with some that thrive in cooler weather. Chrysanthemums are a good flower for fall, and if you’re looking to plant produce, kale and cabbage are both smart options.

  • Include a Festive Touch: For even more curb appeal, consider adding some gourds, cornstalks or pumpkins. You can also change out your colorful summer flowerpots for orange- and red-hued ones.

Do you need a loan for a landscaping makeover — or to purchase a new home? Get in touch today to learn about your financing options.

Does your home need extra protection?

You’ve just purchased insurance for your new home. But now you’re wondering if you’ll receive reimbursement if your detached workshop or beloved antique vase is damaged in a fire.

The ins and outs of homeowners insurance can be tricky, but having the right plan to protect your property and assets is essential. You can talk to your insurance agent anytime to set things straight or adjust your coverage.

Let’s go over what the typical insurance plan covers — and what it doesn’t.

  • Covered: Dwelling Protection
    This covers your home’s structure when there’s catastrophic damage caused by fire, theft and more. It should also cover separate structures like sheds, garages or workshops on your property.

    Extra: Flooding and Earth Movement
    If you live in an area that’s prone to earthquakes, flooding or landslides, you’ll need to get a separate policy to cover your home and belongings.

  • Covered: Personal Property
    This aspect of your policy refers to standard household items, like furniture or electronics, that are damaged by a covered risk.

    Extra: Endorsement or Floater
    For high-value items that exceed standard reimbursement limits, like jewelry and rare collectibles, you’ll probably want to extend your personal property coverage.

  • Covered: Liability Coverage
    If someone who doesn’t live in your home gets injured on your property, liability coverage pays for their medical bills or legal fees. It should also cover you if you (or a member of your household) damage a neighbor’s property.

    Extra: Umbrella or Excess Liability
    Think you may need more coverage than what’s provided by your standard homeowners policy? It’s a good idea to talk to your agent about this broader coverage.

Your homeowners insurance doesn’t have to be standard. You can adjust your deductibles, add on extra protection and fine-tune your coverage as your needs change.

Get in touch if you want to know more about homeownership or need an insurance agent referral.

Don’t Fall for These Credit Score Myths

Your credit score plays a vital role in your financial health. It can impact your mortgage options and determine whether you can take out a loan or secure a credit card. Your score could even affect your living arrangements since many landlords use credit checks when evaluating a new tenant.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation about credit scores — particularly what raises and lowers them.

Are you concerned about your credit score? Don’t believe these all-too-common myths:

Myth No. 1: Checking your score will hurt it.
A hard credit check will slightly reduce your score. Those generally only occur when you’re applying for a new loan or credit card. But pulling your annual credit report or checking your score through your bank is a soft check, and it won’t decrease your score.

Myth No. 2: Closing an account will help your score.
Your credit history — or how long you’ve had open accounts — plays a big part in your overall score. Because of this, closing a long-standing account can negatively impact your score, especially if you don’t have other long-term accounts in your name.

Myth No. 3: Small balances raise your credit score.
Your credit utilization rate matters: You don’t want to carry a large balance because that can lower your score. But even carrying a small balance when you could pay it off means you’re spending more on interest.

Myth No. 4: Your income influences your credit score.
Your credit score is only based on how you manage borrowed funds — things like credit cards and loans (including car, student, personal and mortgage loans).

Reach out to learn more about how your credit score impacts your options when buying a home.

5 Advantages of Owning Your Home

You’ve spent years handing over your hard-earned cash to a landlord. But what do you really have to show for it?

Life as a renter can be frustrating, as well as expensive. But is the huge financial commitment of homeownership actually a viable alternative to renting? You may be surprised to know that the answer is usually “yes.”

Purchasing a home can be more beneficial than continuing to rent. These five reasons will prove it:

  1. Cheaper Payments: With rental rates on the rise, low fixed-rate mortgage payments can be a more affordable option. And while purchasing a home could require a large deposit upfront, the chances of recovering those initial costs increase the longer you stay in the home.

  2. Tangible Value: Unlike renting, homeownership is a long-term investment that stands to provide a substantial return. Quality properties in sought-after locations tend to appreciate in value. And, as you pay down your mortgage, your home equity will increase.

  3. Community Ties: As a homeowner, you’ll be more invested in your community and have an incentive to get to know your neighbors. In fact, 30% of homeowners make friends with their neighbors — something renters are far less likely to do.

  4. Freedom: Rental properties come with rules and regulations. That often means no painting, no remodeling and — perhaps worst of all — no pets. And even if pets are allowed, you’re likely to be paying exorbitant pet deposits and monthly fees. As a homeowner, you can customize your home at will and keep your pets!

  5. Tax Benefits: While it’s true that homeownership comes with additional expenses, some of those costs might actually be tax-deductible. They may include mortgage interest, property taxes, energy-efficient updates and private mortgage insurance premiums.

And these five advantages are just the beginning — you’ll also enjoy more privacy, less noise and no more pesky landlords. So yes, homeownership can be better than renting.

Ready to become a homeowner? Get in touch for a mortgage consultation today.

4 Tips for Choosing a Real Estate Agent

Whether you’re buying or selling a home, choosing a real estate agent is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. A great agent has your best interests at heart, understands the market and works to get you the best deal. 

Finding one who fits your needs is crucial to having a great experience and getting the most for your time and money. Use these tips for choosing a real estate agent:

Interview several agents before choosing. Start with referrals and some online research, then speak to your top three picks. There are a variety of questions you should ask, but you also want to make sure you generally like and trust the person.

Check their marketing plans. How will your house get in front of the potential buyers who need to see it? Take a close look at the agent’s listings, website and social media pages to see if they’re updated regularly and with engaging content. 

Learn about their experience. Years are a good sign, but it’s not the only measure of experience and success. Do they have any special credentials? How many sales do they close every year?

Find out how they communicate. Do you prefer to text, call or email? Find an agent who can communicate using your preferred method, and ask how often you can expect to hear from them. You want someone who will keep you in the loop and be available to answer your questions as they arise. 

Are you in need of a great agent who can help guide your sale or purchase? Get in touch today for a personalized recommendation.

5 Advantages of Owning Your Home

You’ve spent years handing over your hard-earned cash to a landlord. But what do you really have to show for it?

Life as a renter can be frustrating, as well as expensive. But is the huge financial commitment of homeownership actually a viable alternative to renting? You may be surprised to know that the answer is usually “yes.”

Purchasing a home can be more beneficial than continuing to rent. These five reasons will prove it:

  1. Cheaper Payments: With rental rates on the rise, low fixed-rate mortgage payments can be a more affordable option. And while purchasing a home could require a large deposit upfront, the chances of recovering those initial costs increase the longer you stay in the home.

  2. Tangible Value: Unlike renting, homeownership is a long-term investment that stands to provide a substantial return. Quality properties in sought-after locations tend to appreciate in value. And, as you pay down your mortgage, your home equity will increase.

  3. Community Ties: As a homeowner, you’ll be more invested in your community and have an incentive to get to know your neighbors. In fact, 30% of homeowners make friends with their neighbors — something renters are far less likely to do.

  4. Freedom: Rental properties come with rules and regulations. That often means no painting, no remodeling and — perhaps worst of all — no pets. And even if pets are allowed, you’re likely to be paying exorbitant pet deposits and monthly fees. As a homeowner, you can customize your home at will and keep your pets!

  5. Tax Benefits: While it’s true that homeownership comes with additional expenses, some of those costs might actually be tax-deductible. They may include mortgage interest, property taxes, energy-efficient updates and private mortgage insurance premiums.

And these five advantages are just the beginning — you’ll also enjoy more privacy, less noise and no more pesky landlords. So yes, homeownership can be better than renting.

Ready to become a homeowner? Get in touch for a mortgage consultation today.

Buying a Home When You’re Self-Employed

While being an independent contractor, freelancer or entrepreneur can certainly be a freeing career choice, it also comes with some challenges. For instance, it can make getting a mortgage loan harder.

Without W-2s, a consistent salary and an employer to back you up, it’s harder to prove your income as a self-employed professional — let alone show you’re not a risk as a borrower.

Are you planning to buy a home or refinance while self-employed? These five tips could improve your chances of approval:

  1. Get your finances in order. You’ll need to prove your income through bank statements, invoices, profit-and-loss statements and balance sheets. Be sure they’re ready and organized before applying for your loan.

  2. Reduce your tax write-offs. Maxing out your deductions can seem smart, but when a home loan is on the line, it can actually hurt you. The more write-offs you take, the lower your income looks, meaning you seem like a riskier bet.

  3. Boost your credit score. Higher credit scores are always more appealing when it comes to getting a loan, so take time to improve yours. Pay down debts, settle any overdue accounts and ensure your credit report is accurate.

  4. Bring in a co-borrower. When you add a second borrower to the loan, their income is factored in, too. Make sure you choose a co-borrower with good credit, a low debt-to-income ratio and steady pay.

  5. Keep your work consistent. Don’t switch industries just before applying for your loan. It’s best if you’re in the same line of work for at least two years.

Getting a mortgage while self-employed certainly has its challenges, but it’s not impossible by any means. Reach out today for more home financing guidance.

Why use a local mortgage professional?

If you’re thinking about buying pretty much anything today, it’s second nature to start looking online. But purchasing a home isn’t like buying a new pair of shoes. If you want to find the best deals and services, it’s time to put down your smartphone.

When you’re ready to work with a mortgage professional, you should work with a local advocate who will take the time to get to know you and understand your interests. Here’s why it pays to take your search offline:

  1. Better Service: Working with someone locally means partnering with someone who knows the ins and outs of homebuying in your area. They can also better gauge your situation and offer you the best loan options for your unique financial situation. On the other hand, an “instant quote” online may not take the more subtle aspects of your finances into consideration; they simply match you with “cookie-cutter” plans that are notorious for offering worse terms and higher interest rates.

  2. More Stability: Online services are often less stable than local, brick-and-mortar ones. The former are usually newer and less established, which makes it more likely for them to go out of business — causing you more hassle in the long run.

  3. Personalized Attention: When you enter your information into a standard lender comparison tool, you’ll get quotes from those in their database, but that may leave out great lenders in your area. Instead of sharing your information with many people you don’t know (and receiving endless marketing calls as a result), in-person consultations will maintain your privacy and ensure that you get a quality face-to-face interaction.

Are you planning on buying a new home? Or are you ready to refinance your current place? Reach out today.

Which problems might be deal breakers?

You’ve been to so many open houses that you’re starting to feel like a real estate expert. But it paid off! You finally found your dream home and made an offer.

But the time for making big decisions isn’t over. One question you probably have is: Do I really need to pay to get an inspection?

While an inspection is not always an absolute requirement, you should get one to rule out any major issues. Not all problems are deal breakers — you’ll likely just overlook that unpainted deck or loose doorknob.

Of course, some more severe issues may crop up during the home inspection:

  • Electricity and wiring troubles can be dangerous if the electrical system is outdated. But they’re merely an inconvenience in some cases. For example, some older systems can’t accommodate the power demands of modern appliances.

  • Foundational issues are hugely problematic and can run up quite a tab. Plus a home’s age doesn’t always factor into whether or not it has a faulty foundation. If the owner refuses to fix cracks (especially horizontal ones), it may be best to walk away.

  • Problems with doors can indicate greater issues, like overexposure to water. Structural complications can also lead to defective doors.

  • Exterior caulking that has deteriorated can lead to water damage, mold and greater long-term defects in your home.

So what can you do to protect yourself from a house with these issues?
The short answer is “inspection contingency.” Make sure you have one in your contract when you make your offer — before the inspection takes place. You could make the sale contingent upon negotiating repairs or price with the seller if the inspection reveals major issues. It also gives you the ability to walk away if a deal can’t be negotiated.

Each situation will be different, and it will depend on the home, the seller and your preferences.

Have questions about financing your home purchase? Get in touch today.

Home Projects With the Highest Returns

If you’re spending time and money to renovate your house, choosing which projects are worth it should be a top priority. You want to recoup some of your costs, don’t you?

Many upgrades could improve a property’s aesthetics or make it a better fit for your family. But not all projects will increase your home’s value — and those choices might affect how much your home sells for later on.

If you’re looking for remodeling projects that will get you a return on your investment, you may want to focus on these:

  • Stone Veneer Exterior: This is the highest-ROI project you can take on. The average homeowner recoups nearly 96% of the total cost. Plus, it does wonders for your curb appeal.

  • Wooden Deck: Want a great way to get more use out of your yard? This is the perfect place to start. A wood deck could add over $10,000 to your resale value.

  • Metal Roofing: Replacing your shingled roof with metal may net you about 61% of your project cost back and add more than $24,000 to your home’s resale value. As a bonus, it could help lower your energy bill.

  • New Garage Door: Upgrade your standard old garage door for a nicer model, like a wood or paneled one. In return, you might get a whopping 94.5% of your costs back — and improve your curb appeal to boot.

  • Major Kitchen Remodel: Any amount of kitchen remodeling is good for your home’s value. But a major overhaul can add more than $40,000 to your future sales price.

Need help covering the costs of your next home improvement project? Get in touch to learn about refinancing, home equity loans and other options.