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.

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.

Is it time to look for a new home?

A lot has changed since the beginning of the year. Big events went virtual, social interactions have been limited and many of us have spent much more time in the house than we ever could have imagined.

These changes might even have you eyeing a new home purchase — either for financial reasons or to better suit the new normal.

Are you questioning whether your current home still meets your needs? Here are just a few reasons you might consider a new place:

  • You need more (or less) space. If you have college-age kids or elderly parents staying with you, you may have felt cramped at home in recent weeks. Or have you noticed that entire rooms go unused for months? It may be time to upgrade or downsize if your needs have changed.

  • Your work-from-home arrangement will continue. Are you going to work remotely for the foreseeable future? The kitchen table may cut it for now, but eventually you’ll probably need a dedicated home office — something to consider if you’re house hunting.

  • You’re spending more time outdoors. Maybe you find yourself craving the sunshine a little more than usual lately. If so, you might want to look at properties with a bigger yard, a patio, a pool or other outdoor amenities.

  • You want more convenience. Want to minimize the effort of running your household? Investing in a smart home might be a wise move. Hands-free faucets, smart thermostats and locks controlled with an app are just a few of the conveniences you might find.

If any of these apply to you, get in touch so you can get preapproved and start your next home search.

New Recipes to Keep Meals Interesting

If you’ve found yourself with more time on your hands, you might be looking to try some new recipes. And as a plus, cooking and baking allow you to take advantage of all your home’s kitchen has to offer.

Don’t think of yourself as a home chef just yet? That’s okay — there are recipes for every skill level, and you can even be a little creative with ingredients for many of them.

So, if you’re looking to try a range of breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert foods, look no further.

For Breakfast:

  • Want a healthy option, but have limited ingredients? This list features breakfast ideas that only use five ingredients each. Banana breakfast bars, anyone?
  • Maybe you have oatmeal but you’re afraid you’ll get sick of eating it day after day. With this collection of recipes, use oats for sweet or savory meals, like no-bread French toast or oatmeal with poached eggs and goat cheese.
  • No eggs? No problem. These breakfasts rely (mostly) on long-lasting pantry staples — plus, most of them will keep in the fridge or freezer. Try the farinata or chia pudding.

For Lunch or Dinner:

  • How full were the shelves last time you went to the grocery store? If your answer is “not very,” then these easy recipes will be right up your alley. From root beer pulled pork to black bean tostadas, there’s something for everyone.
  • If you’re looking for more ways to use what’s in your pantry, this list will come in handy. These inexpensive meals include sweet chili chicken stir-fry bowls and rosemary garlic white bean soup.
  • Your fridge, freezer and pantry are well-stocked, but you still don’t know what you want to make. Maybe you’d enjoy some toasted garlic-butter shrimp or roasted broccoli pesto pasta. If not, check out the rest of the recipes that made this list.

For Dessert:

  • The easier the better, right? This list of quick dessert recipes will have you treating yourself in no time, whether you’re making peanut butter cookies, pumpkin cannoli or another option.
  • Dessert should be comforting. Why not try to make some slow-cooker cherry cobbler or a mug brownie from this list of recipes that will warm you up?
  • If you’re ready to show off your skills on social media, what better way to do it than with some puff pastries? Cream cheese fruit danishes and almond croissants look — and taste — great.

Could refinancing save you money?

If you’re a homeowner, you might think that all the recent talk of low mortgage rates doesn’t affect you. But that isn’t true — they may be your key to savings.

Even if you had a sizable down payment or received a competitive interest rate at the time, refinancing your home now could mean saving thousands over the life of your loan. Ask yourself these four questions before making up your mind:

  1. Have your finances improved? If you have a better financial profile now than when you bought your home, you may be able to make a larger monthly payment with a lower interest rate, speeding up your mortgage repayment. If your credit score has improved or you have a higher income, this applies to you.

  2. How much have interest rates dropped? Mortgage rates fluctuate with changes in the economy. You may be able to obtain a more cost-effective mortgage today than when you first purchased the property, even if rates have only dropped by a percentage point.

  3. How much will refinancing cost? The process will likely cost you a percentage of the amount you borrow. Remember the application and appraisal fees when you bought your home? They apply here too. Another thing to consider: If your home interest payment is a tax deduction, a decrease in your interest amount could lower that deduction.

  4. How much longer will you be in the home? If you’re not planning to stay in your current home very long, and therefore won’t need to pay off the mortgage, refinancing shouldn’t be your top priority. Spending the time and money on that process won’t pay off like it would if you stay in your home for another 10 years or more.

Are you ready to refinance? Do you have specific questions about your situation? Reach out today.