What You Should Know About Rate Locks

Mortgage rates are near all-time lows right now, but that doesn’t mean they’ll stay that way forever.

That’s where a rate lock can come in. Rate locks guarantee you a certain mortgage rate for an extended period, protecting you from the possibility of rising interest rates while you complete the homebuying process.

Are you shopping for a home? Here’s what you need to know about mortgage rate locks:

Q: What is a rate lock?
A: A rate lock guarantees your initially quoted mortgage rate for an extended period of time. Your rate can’t rise at any point during your lock period (even if market rates rise), giving you plenty of time to close the loan.

Q: How long does it last?
A: The length of a rate lock depends, though it’s usually 30, 60 or 90 days. In some cases, you may be able to pay for a longer lock period if you need more time.

Q: Why would you want to lock your rate?
A: Rate locks are smart if interest rates are very low or fluctuating. They’re also a good move if you have a unique situation — like being self-employed — and it could take a bit longer to close your loan.

Q: Are there any risks?
A: In the event market rates drop, there’s a chance your locked-in rate could be higher than what newer applicants are being quoted. You can pay for a “float down” option when you lock, which essentially means you’d get the lower market rate if they do fall.

Do you have more questions about rate locks? Are you ready to sort out your home financing? Get in touch so we can discuss your options.

Add a Touch of Warmth to Your Home

As the days get shorter and temperatures begin to drop, indoor living becomes the norm. But just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean your home’s interior has to be chilly, too!

With a little imagination — and redecoration — you can create a cozier living space and enjoy a warmer winter hibernation.

Here are four ways you can use decor to add warmth to your home:

1. Use area rugs to divide larger spaces.
Airy, open rooms with sparse furniture arrangements can often feel cold and lonely. By simply adding an area rug or two, you can break these spaces into smaller, more well-defined living areas. A corner area rug could offset a small office area, while a larger rug could tie together an informal dining area.

2. Arrange furniture to create a sense of intimacy.
Always choose and arrange furniture with the purpose of your room in mind. If your furniture is spaced too far apart, it will make conversations awkward and strained. And you wouldn’t want the furniture in your reading nook to be uncomfortable.

3. Take advantage of natural materials.
If your home boasts natural woods or exposed brick, these are elements that can be tastefully incorporated into your design plan. Imagine how a natural wooden coffee table could be used to complement vaulted ceilings with exposed wood beams.

4. Get creative with color combinations.
A touch of color can immediately impact the perception of a room. If you’re looking for a warm, autumnal feel, go with a variety of rich red and orange tones. Use throw pillows, blankets and other textured accents to make the room pop. A basket full of quilts can be both convenient and aesthetically pleasing.

Want to make a more substantial change to your home, such as installing a brand-new fireplace? Reach out to discuss your financing options.

Get Your House-Hunting Checklist

There’s a lot to consider when you’re searching for a home. You have to ask important questions: Which features are must-haves and which ones are simply desirable? How far are you willing to commute to work, grocery stores and other frequently visited places?

Some of the decisions you have to make during your home search are a little bit more fun, like which architectural styles you prefer and what fixtures and finishes you’d like to have. And it’s important to note these details.

So once you’re preapproved for a mortgage, start your search off on the right foot with a house-hunting checklist. Bring it with you while touring homes, checking things off and taking notes so you can more easily compare each option.

Get the checklist below to make your next home search go smoothly.

Click here to get your checklist.

Worry Less With This First-Timer Guide

You’re thinking of buying your first home — a place to call your own. But, like many, you don’t even know where to begin. The process of buying a home seems so complicated and expensive.

https://content.outboundengine.com/ebooks/First-Time+Homebuyers+Guide+2019.pdf

Don’t worry! We can walk through the process together, from getting your financing set up to moving in after the closing. This first-time buyers’ guide was written just for you, to help simplify one of the biggest purchases you’ll make in life.

Click the image to download the guide.

If you’d like to learn more about the homebuying process, or if you have any questions while reading the guide, please get in touch.

Should you remodel your home or move?

You love your home. You’ve made it your own and have lots of happy memories there. But maybe it no longer suits you and your family as well as it did before.

Maybe it’s too small or lacks the features you need — or you might simply want something different. Either way, it’s no longer the dream home it once was.

When this happens, you have two options: buy a new place or remodel your current one.

Not sure which is best for your situation? Here are some pros and cons of each:

Planning to make a move?
On the plus side, you get a new home that meets all your needs — and maybe even a better location. And you won’t be stuck in a construction zone for weeks or months on end.

But on the other hand, you’ll probably need to deal with selling your house and buying a new one simultaneously, which can be complicated. You’ll need the money for a down payment, closing costs and the actual move.

Think remodeling is the answer?
Advantages of remodeling include staying put and avoiding the time, cost and stress of moving. You might increase your home’s value as well, which could mean more profits if you decide to sell later.

The downside? Renovations aren’t always quick or easy. You might be surrounded by construction, contractors and materials for months. It also has its limits — you may not be able to achieve everything you want.

Though both routes have their pros and cons, the right choice depends on your budget, the real estate market and your family’s preferences. If you’re not sure, reach out for guidance. We can also discuss your financing options for a remodel or a new home.

Home Loans Don’t Have to Be Confusing

There’s nothing like walking into a house and realizing it’s the one — your dream home!

But before you go house hunting, you should get preapproved for a loan that’s just as perfect for you. Making sense of the financial language might initially seem intimidating, but it’s the first step to living that dream.

Get in touch if you’d like help answering the following questions:

15 or 30 years?
If paying off your loan sooner is important to you, a 15-year mortgage might be a good fit. These typically have a lower interest rate, but you’ll have a higher monthly payment due to the shorter loan term.

If you need (or want) a lower monthly payment, a 30-year mortgage might be better suited to your lifestyle.

Fixed or adjustable?
Fixed-rate mortgages are generally uncomplicated and have specified monthly payments that make budgeting easier. You neither save when market rates go down nor suffer when they spike.

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) typically start with lower interest rates that stay fixed for a set amount of time. Once that period ends, your rates vary at predetermined intervals.

Conventional or government?
The typical 20% down payment you’ve probably heard about is associated with conventional loans, but it isn’t a must. Your credit score, debt-to-income ratio and down payment all factor into your interest rate.

Don’t have a big down payment or excellent credit? Consider a government-backed loan. With an FHA loan, you only need a small down payment, dependent on your credit score. The VA offers mortgages with no down payment to active military, reservists, veterans and spouses. And if you’re in a rural area, you may qualify for a zero-down USDA loan.

Curious about which type of home loan will be the best fit for you? Reach out today.

Homeownership Is Within Your Reach

You love your neighborhood and you have a steady job, but there’s one thing bothering you: You’re still renting. What you really want is to find a place where you can put down some roots.

But you don’t have enough for a 20% down payment and your credit isn’t perfect, so how can you buy a home?

Good news: The home you’ve had your eye on could be yours sooner than you think. Let’s dispel some common homebuying myths:

Myth: I need a near-perfect credit score.
Fact: Having a score in the very good or exceptional range is probably going to get you better loan terms, but it’s not required.

If your credit score is considered fair or good, you will still be able to borrow. You’ll likely have a slightly higher interest rate, but you could improve your score and refinance in the future.

Myth: A 20% down payment is mandatory.
Fact: Most buyers have a lower down payment. We can discuss which loan options are fit for you.

With a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan, you may need as little as a 3.5% down payment, depending on your credit standing. Veterans and military personnel can sometimes buy a home with no down payment using a VA loan.

Myth: I’m prequalified or preapproved — I can buy a home now.
Fact: Prequalification or preapproval gives you an estimate of how much you can borrow before you start house hunting.

You’ll get a Loan Estimate after applying for a mortgage that gives you a more accurate picture of the costs and terms.

Myth: Fixed-rate loans are always better than adjustable-rate loans.
Fact: It might seem that a fixed-rate mortgage can help you plan for the future by knowing your monthly costs.

But don’t automatically discount adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs). Rates could fall, and ARMs are especially useful if you think you’ll be in the home for five years or less. Reach out to learn more.

What else do you want to know about home financing? Get in touch today if you have questions.

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.