End of Summer To-Do List

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Summer 2016, we are sad to see you go!

Just as soon as it came in, summer is sadly already on its way out. That is why we’re bringing you every last thing you need to squeeze in before the first leaves fall and the kids go back to school. See below for your end of summer to-do list!

Hit the Road

If you haven’t had time for a summer getaway, don’t fret. August is a great time to squeeze in a last minute road trip with your family or friends! Take a much needed break from your regular day to day life, pack up the car, choose a destination and go.

Be Brave

Get out of your comfort zone and do something you’ve never done before like skydiving or waterskiing to help make summer 2016 more memorable!

Throw an End of Summer Bash

Now that all the parties from the 4th of July have died down a bit, it’s time to get together with family & friends one last time to celebrate a great summer had and great year to come!

Have a Garage Sale

If you haven’t had time to participate in your neighborhood’s annual garage sale, take a weekend to have one of your own! That way, you can clear out old, unwanted items and prepare your home for the new season to come.

Catch a Flick

Still haven’t had a chance to catch the must see summer blockbuster that everyone’s been talking about? Head to the movies! Better yet, head to a local outdoor theater to enjoy your movie on a warm summer night.

Camp Out Under the Stars

Whether you pack everything up and head to a campsite far away or lay out a sleeping bag in your back yard, now is a great time to fit in one last summer camp out!

Enjoy some Sun & Fun

If you haven’t had a chance to yet, now is the time to enjoy the last of the warm weather at your local beach or pool. Don’t forget the SPF!

Volunteer

Summer is a great time to help those in need around your community! Take a day or weekend before the season ends to help out at your local church, park, food shelter, etc.

Challenge Yourself

Why not finally set yourself up to achieve goals you had at the start of summer? Sign up for a run, read that novel, learn a new language, whatever it may be, set your goal and go for it!

Spend Time with Loved Ones

Before everyone is busy again with the hustle & bustle of a new school year, weekend activities, and holidays, it is important to set extra time aside to spend with those you love and care about.

The Home Buying Process: A Marathon, Not a Sprint

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The Olympic Games Rio 2016 are in full swing and so is the summer 2016 real estate market!  If you’ve thrown yourself into the ring called “the home buying process” this season, then you already know that it can be hard to keep up, stay on track and make it all the way to the end.

If you’ve already been through the home buying process, than you know that all the hard work and dedication is worth it to hold your gold medal, AKA your new brass house keys, in your hands when all is said and done!

One thing to remember if you are currently going through, or are at the starting line to begin the process, is that buying a home is a marathon, not a sprint.

Follow these checkpoints along the way to help you successfully achieve your gold: the home of your dreams.

Checkpoint 1: Get Pre-Approved

Submit your application and the documents needed to verify your income, assets, and debts, including thirty days of recent paystubs, last two years of W-2s, and two recent bank statements.

Checkpoint 2: Home Search and Offer

Your Realtor will help you find the perfect home and write up an offer letter to the seller, which details the price you are offering to pay for a property and any applicable conditions.

Checkpoint 3: Purchase Agreement

Your Realtor will write up the contract for you and the seller to sign. A deposit is generally required. This agreement will outline all of the required dates, deadlines, and contingencies.

Checkpoint 4: Home Inspection

If the offer is accepted, a home inspection is next. Home inspections are not required, but highly recommended. A home inspector will look for any issues or violations with the property.

Checkpoint 5: Application and Disclosures

Your loan officer will have you review and sign a number of documents and disclosures, including your mortgage application and a Good Faith Estimate, which details the estimated costs of financing.

Checkpoint 6: Appraisal and Title

An appraisal (an estimate or property value) will be ordered and provided to the underwriting team. Your loan officer will select a title company to research the property title.

Checkpoint 7: Homeowners Insurance

Proof of insurance is required prior to closing. Your first year’s premium must be paid in full. Have your insurance agent contact your loan officer to ensure they receive the proper insurance binder.

Checkpoint 8: Final Approval

Underwriting will review all the documentation necessary to approve your mortgage loan additional verifications may be necessary at this point. If all of the documentation is acceptable, you will be clear to close.

Checkpoint 9: Closing Disclosure

You will get a final breakdown of all costs and money required at closing. For closing, you will need government issued identification and a certified check to pay closing costs.

Checkpoint 10: Your Loan Closing!

It’s closing time! Did you bring your government issued identification? Do you have a certified check to cover closing costs? During the closing, a representative from the title company will review all the loan documents with you. They will get signatures from both you and the seller. After all money is distributed, the deed will then be recorded with you as the new owner of record!

Rest assured you are not on this journey alone. Your loan officer will be with you every step of the way and will be able to answer any questions that arise.

10 Ways to Protect Your Home While on Vacation

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From booking travel arrangements to packing, a lot of preparation goes into planning a vacation. One thing many people overlook, though, is preparing their home for what may happen after they leave. When you go out of town, especially for an extended period of time, ensuring your home is safe from possible intruders or other incidents should be a priority. Aside from checking that all of your doors and windows are locked, there are many other precautions you can take to protect your home. Here are some tips to help keep your home safe while you’re away.

  1. Give friends spare keys

Give a set of keys to a trusted friend or relative in case of an emergency. If you have any spare keys outside under a flower pot, door mat, or any other hiding spot, move them inside while you’re away.

  1. Don’t advertise your vacation on social media

When you advertise your vacation on social media, your home becomes a target. You may think there is no need to worry since you are just sharing the information with friends. However, your friends are not the only ones that can see your posts on social media. Posts can reach friends of friends or even complete strangers if you do not have the proper privacy settings. These people may not be so trustworthy. Save the sharing until you are back from vacation.

  1. Set lamps and radios on timers to avoid looking vacant

A home that is noticeably dark for multiple days is a clue that you and/or your family are on vacation. Give the illusion that someone is home by putting lamps and radios on programmable timers.

  1. Have a friend check on your house frequently

Since you have already given someone spare keys in case of emergency, have the same friend come over to check on your home frequently while you are away. Ask them to check for signs of home or property damage or signs of a break-in. Have them care for any pets that are still in the home. Request that they bring in the mail if you do not suspend your mail service. By having someone maintain a presence at your home, it will help give the appearance that you are home.

  1. Turn down the heat or turn up the air

Setting your thermostat at a lower temperature during the winter, or a higher temperature during the summer can significantly reduce your heating and cooling costs while you are away. You can even use this trick while you are at work every day to save money on your monthly energy bill!

  1. Advertise home security with signs

If you have a security system, post signs outside to signify your home is protected. Burglars are less likely to approach a home if they know there is a risk of setting off an alarm.

  1. Stow valuables in a safe place

Hide valuable items in a safe place. Be cautious about using a small safe; it could be a target if it is small enough for the thief to walk off with. Consider getting a safe deposit box at your bank to store your valuables.

  1. Unplug and switch off electronics

Reduce the chances of an electrical fire by turning off and unplugging non-essential electronics. Many electronics will still use energy even if they are turned off. Therefore, you will also save money on energy costs by unplugging your electronics.

  1. Cover garage windows

If you have windows in your garage, invest in some curtains to cover them. If someone can clearly see there is a missing car or two from the garage, it could increase the chances of a break-in.

  1. Park an extra car in your driveway

Parking an extra car in your driveway lets people know that someone is home. Whether they think it is just a visitor or the resident’s car, if there is one parked out in the driveway, it can be a red flag for a burglar.

 

You should spend your vacation relaxing and enjoying time with your family, not stressing out about your home security. Give yourself peace of mind while you’re away by taking these precautions before you leave.

5 Remodeling Projects that Pay Off

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Whether you’re selling your home in the near future or just looking for an upgrade to help increase your home’s value, here are 5 remodeling projects that will pay off.

Create a Backyard Oasis

When it comes to updating your home, taking care of the backyard is just as important as taking care of the inside of your home. The backyard is an important and convenient place to spend time with family and entertain friends and can be updated in various ways depending on budget. Adding a deck, planting flower beds, building a firepit or purchasing new patio furniture can go a long way to transforming your backyard into your very own oasis.

Upgrade the Heart of the Home

As they say, the kitchen is the heart of the home and should not be overlooked when it comes to remodeling and upgrading your home. The kitchen is where the family gathers and spends a great deal of time, so if there is one place to truly invest, this is it. If your budget permits, purchasing new appliances and countertops can transform the space, however, you can also DIY your way to a new kitchen by painting your cabinets or adding a backsplash.

Beautify your Bathroom

Upgrading your bathroom is similar to upgrading your kitchen in the sense that it can be done regardless of how large or small your budget is. You’d be surprised what a can of paint, a new shower curtain and matching towels can do to give your bathroom a whole different look! If it does fit in your budget, though, consider adding new light fixtures or even a new shower.

Wow in the Entryway

The entryway is the first impression guests or future buyers get when they walk into your home which is why it is an important area that cannot be ignored. Your entryway not only includes the indoor, but the outdoor area as well meaning it begins with your front door and front porch. If yours is outdated, try a fresh coat of paint or even purchase a new door which as proven to provide a great return on investment in the long run.

Replace Outdated Windows

If you’ve purchased an older home you fell in love with or have been in your home for many years, it may be time to replace outdated windows with newer, more energy efficient ones. Newer windows can save you a lot of money on your energy bills and although it is an expensive investment, overtime will pay you back in the long wrong. If you’re selling your home, this is also a major plus for potential buyers.

If you’d like to renovate your home but are struggling to find the means to do so, you may want to consider looking into our renovation loan options or cash-out refinancing! Contact me to discuss your options today.

Now is the Time to Buy that Vacation Home…

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Do you dream about owning a vacation home? If so, there may never be a better time than now!

Purchasing a second home is not a decision to be taken lightly, but if it is something you’ve always wanted, the means for making that dream come true are not as difficult as you might think. Here are some financing options you can explore to get you one step closer to owning that retreat you’ve always wanted…

Conventional Financing

Purchasing and financing a second home is a little different than purchasing a primary home. Some of the low down payment programs are not available, but with conforming loans, as little as 10% down can get you started.

Cash-Out Financing

Are you thinking about a cabin in the woods, a summer cottage, ski or golf course condo? Unique properties may have appeal, yet they may also need non-conventional financing. IF you can, using equity from a primary home via refinancing can be a smart solution that also provides you with “cash buyer” status

Rental Income

You should never purchase a vacation home if you’re dependent on rentals to make it work. However, if you are willing to hire a manager and don’t mind sharing your retreat, the income can be a great subsidy.

Tax Benefits and Appreciation

You should always check with your tax pro first, but owning a second home can still carry tax advantages that serve to reduce the actual cost of owning. Appreciation is never guaranteed, yet over time, value increases can reward you handsomely for decisions made today.

If you think you are ready to finally purchase that second home you’ve always dreamed about and would like to find out more, please contact me today. I’d love to help identify the best way to help you reach your goal!

All About FHA & VA Loan Programs

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With mortgage rates still low, now is a great time to buy! There are many different loan options out there today that make buying a home achievable, and it is important to understand your options throughout the home buying process. Continuing our discussion on government loans from last week (see our USDA Q&A with Inlanta Branch Manager Laura Leonhard), we want to take some time to discuss your options with FHA & VA loan programs.

FHA Mortgage Loans          

The FHA, or Federal Housing Administration, offers a low down payment option that can help low income or first time homebuyers purchase a home. Since the Federal Housing Administration insures your mortgage, individual lenders may be more willing to give you loan terms that make it easier for you to qualify. To qualify, you must have proof of steady employment and clear CAIVRS, which is the government’s Credit Alert Interactive Verification Reporting system, to qualify. CAIVRS is a database of those who have defaulted on government loans, owe back taxes, or have other federal debt. If you are on this list, you will not be able to receive the loan unless you can get your report cleared.

Compared to other loan programs, FHA has lower credit score requirements. It does, however, require a minimum score of 580 to qualify for a low down payment. If you are concerned about your credit score, consult your loan officer to find out if you might still qualify. These loans can also have a lower down payment requirement than a conventional loan. Conventional guidelines call for two months of asset reserves at closing, meaning two months of mortgage payments, including taxes and property insurance. FHA has no reserve requirements which means less money spent at the closing table.

Not only can closing costs be paid for by the seller, but the down payment of an FHA loan can also be gifted to the homebuyer. This has become a trend for buyers who are getting married and prefer that their gifts go towards a down payment on a home rather than a wedding registry. If you are getting a gift for your down payment, make sure you document it by getting a gift letter from the person you receive the gift from and be able to document any large deposits to your bank account. This will be required when your application is looked at by an underwriter.

It is important to note that FHA loans can only be used towards the purchase of a primary residence, so if you are looking to purchase a second home or vacation home, you will need to look at other programs. In addition to FHA purchase loans, other FHA options include streamlined and cash-out refinancing, as well as FHA 203k rehabilitation loans, which allow you to combine renovations and the purchase of your home into one loan.

VA Loans

If you have served our country, you may qualify for a VA loan. These loans are available for active, non-active, and retired Army, Air Force, Marine, Navy, National Guard, and Coast Guard vets who meet the established service requirements. To qualify, the veteran must have served on active duty and have a discharge other than dishonorable after a minimum of 90 days of service during wartime or a minimum or 181 continuous days during peacetime. There is a two-year requirement if the veteran enlisted and began service after September 7, 1980 or was an officer and began service after October 16, 1981. There is six-year requirement for National Guards and reservists with certain criteria and there are specific rules concerning the eligibility of surviving spouses.

VA loans offer many great benefits to veterans that are worth looking into eligibility for. These benefits include:

  • No Down Payment
  • No monthly mortgage insurance (PMI)
  • Gift Funds are acceptable for closing costs
  • No Cash reserves requirement
  • A variety of terms or loan types available
  • Available for purchase and refinance
  • Reduced costs for disabled veterans
  • Seller can pay closing costs
  • Seller pays for any required repairs
  • No pre-payment penalty

Both of these programs can offer many great benefits to qualified borrowers. If you think one of these programs would be a good match for you, contact me to get pre-approved today!

Your Summer Home Maintenance Checklist

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We are officially one month into the summer and while you may have been busy working on home improvement projects the past few months, it’s important to remember the little maintenance duties that need to be done around the house come each season, too.

Here is your handy indoor & outdoor maintenance checklist to ensure your home is in tip top shape this summer.

INDOOR

  • Change or clean heating, ventilating and air conditioning filters
  • Check your home’s smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Consult manufacturer to determine if your furnace needs filter changes
  • Clean kitchen appliances inside and out, including refrigerator coils
  • Clean drains
  • Drain or flush water heater
  • Inspect home for possible insect/rodent problems

OUTDOOR

  • Deep clean your outdoor grill’s interior and exterior
  • Inspect your deck for any signs of rotting or loose nails
  • Slide open crawl space vents at the exterior foundation of your home
  • Prune trees and shrubs
  • Remove lint from dryer exhaust vent with long flexible brush
  • Uncover central air conditioner and install window air conditioners
  • Refill cracks on walkway or driveway