Crystal's Blog Corner

When You’re Forced to Move...


If you are forced to move from a home you love for reasons beyond affordability, take care that you don’t become your own worst enemy during the forced decision-making involved.

When a move is dictated by reasons beyond money, the major mental shift required may get pushed aside by a natural urge to perpetuate the beloved home and its lifestyle whatever the cost, financially or to long-term goals.

Don’t be surprised if you feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to start and how to proceed.

The emotional turmoil and stress of having to move out of a home you love because of health problems, relationship reversals, or both, can make clear thinking a challenge and could turn you into your own worst enemy:

• Having to suddenly find a new place to live because of permanent injuries, a medical crisis, or relationship collapse can feel like an assault or a violation. Your reaction to this disruption can distract you from major issues at hand. Trouble sleeping and upset of normal routines can compound stress and undermine decision making. Aim to maintain your wellness practices and welcome the support of others. You’ll benefit from efforts to stay strong.
• “The major mental shift required” involves letting go of dreams of preserving the status quo. Reproducing the current home is usually not a possible or practical goal. The trauma of the unexpected health crisis or the unwelcome reality of a relationship ending may make clear thinking about future work or lifestyle preferences very challenging. This distress is compounded by the move itself. It’s tough to face new challenges for life, work, and other changing realities head-on. Would it help to ask yourself, “How can I make good come of this change?”
• Will the pressure of significant disruption of your life combine with being ejected into the rental or buying market at a time that is not favorable to you? If you are home shopping when there’s a shortage of practical property options or when prices are on a steady rise, you may have some serious strategizing to do. Reach out to the right experienced real estate professional and you’ll find the move more palatable.

Time is essential to absorb new considerations related to dramatic lifestyle change, but you may not have much time to decide on a new home and all that entails:

• Can you gain “time to think” by making a temporary or short-term move? Is it physically and financially feasible for you to relocate and then take time to carefully investigate your housing and future options? What short-term housing alternatives are practical and open to you, based on your immediate needs?
• Since this move is caused by circumstances new to you, count on the expertise of professionals to gain time for yourself. Depending on what’s the driving force behind your move, you may benefit from consulting professionals who work with issues related to your move and to the housing options available. Real estate, legal, and financial professionals are usually familiar with the issues related to family break-up and mobility change. If you’re adapting to medical challenges, you’ll probably find support through doctors, nurses, and community services.  

What is your principal criterion in deciding on a new home?

Once limitations dictated by affordability are established, buying or renting a home can focus on one or more main issues, depending on your priorities. In what is probably a very emotional time, the focus can be on short-term reactions when the emphasis should be on long-term comfort and flexibility.

Your immediate and long-term choices may be very different from those you expected to face at this stage of life. For instance, a medical crisis that results in limited mobility or the required use of a wheelchair or other mobile devices may dictate a move from a house, condominium unit, or an apartment that is not barrier-free or wheelchair accessible. A significant health change like this may also determine which locations will be more practical and which amenities would be beneficial.

Try zeroing in on the following top three issues to clarify your essential and preferred priorities and practicalities when choosing your next residence when you must move:

#1. Location and its local community

Your new neighborhood could enrich your life, perhaps in ways, the current one hasn’t. How can your life be improved by the local connections you could make? Will you have a car, be dependent on public transportation, or prefer living within a village-style shopping area? If you’ll have less mobility in the future, the neighborhood you choose may be even more important. Location, the key real-estate element, remains a significant deciding factor for convenience, community, and quality of life regardless of why you’re moving.

#2. Personal space essentials and "love to haves"

Joy at home will provide you with energy to brave your new world. Don’t underestimate the value of finding “loveable” elements in your new space. Sunlight, views, outside space, gardens, welcoming communal areas...what would give you pleasure?

#3. Amenities and accessible facilities

Take a close look at amenities before you let them add value to a housing option. An accessible therapeutic pool may be a significant benefit, but a pool you can’t get in and out of just adds cost or monthly fees. Having a grocery store on-site or near-by may be a plus, but online grocery ordering and delivery may reduce that importance for you. What would you like to have just outside your door? What would entice you out of your space to enjoy your new world?

Take a deep breath. Focus on making decisions based on reason, not on frustration or disappointment. Concentrate on the directions that matter when faced with forced change: Onward & Upward!


Add Luxury to Your Home with These 7 Affordable Hacks


Expensive homes tend to sell better and seem more attractive to people overall. There is no denying that people love luxurious touches that speak of elegance and impeccable taste, but is it possible to achieve this under a certain budget? Yes! There are numerous affordable ways to make your home seem more expensive than it truly is! Keep on reading and find out what tips industry experts shared with us to give your home an extra layer of opulence under a budget.

Go by the Quality of Fixtures and Finishes

Expensive homes are nearly flawless! You’ll know how expensive something is by how solid and seamless the craftsmanship is. You can apply this in your home by really discerning between quality finishes and subpar ones. You need to learn how to pick out fixtures that are timeless, classy, and well-made. Remember that an overlook of luxury can be achieved by paying attention to the small details.

Less is More

It is easy to go overboard and think that the more luxury touches you add, the more expensive your house may seem to everyone. This is a common mistake. Try to add luxurious details sparingly. Remember that you want timeless elegance, not gaudiness and tackiness. Stay with classical pieces that age well so you won’t have to spend a lot of money on future renovations.

Quality Flooring

You don’t have to fully carpet your home or buy expensive marble for flooring. The key is to choose well-made and timeless materials that require little to almost no upkeep. If you really like the look of marble floors, you can opt for marble pattern ceramic tiles for a lot less. Glazed ceramic tile is particularly great for high traffic areas such as the kitchen or the mudroom.

Use the Midas Touch

If used sparingly, good gold paint can mimic gold leaf and can serve as an inexpensive yet elegant detail in your home. Try to use it for design details that are above eye level to give you that golden look without breaking the bank.

Keep Backgrounds Neutral

To make sure that the luxury details you add will truly stand out, try to keep your backgrounds simple and neutral. For example, if you’ll be using a rare stone for a bathroom’s countertop, try not to have a mural or install wallpaper in the same bathroom. You want your luxury finishes to shine so make sure that they have room to do so.

Speak with Carpets and Rugs

A beautiful large rug for the hall and perhaps faux fur rugs for some bedroom will go a long way in making your home feel cozier and a lot more expensive.

Stay on Color, Be Adventurous with Texture

Play with textures to add richness to space without veering off your color palette. By doing this, you’ll also hide small flaws and have an easier time maintaining your home.


What Is a Home Renovation Loan and Should You Think About One?


For many homebuyers, a picture-perfect, move-in ready home is the dream. For others, a project house they can get for a discount and then put their personal stamp on is too good to pass up. The problem with many of these “project houses,” though: coming up with the money to complete the projects. 

Once you’re depleted your savings to gather the funds for your down payment and closing costs, there may not be much left over to knock down that wall between the kitchen and living room, redo the counters and cabinets, and put in new hardwood flooring. Add in the costs of new furniture and hiring movers, and it could be years before you’re finally ready to make those improvements. 

This is where a home renovation loan can help. 

What is a home renovation loan?

Although they are growing in popularity, home renovation loans are not anywhere near as prevalent as FHA loans for first-time buyers. “According to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), first-time homebuyers account for more than 75 percent of FHA home purchases,” said FHA Handbook

But maybe they should be.

After all, a home renovation loan can scratch a few different itches:

1. It feeds into that tempting renovation craze, offering an opportunity to redo a home with funds that are tied into your loan. 
2. It allows buyers who can’t afford a move-in home, or who are making offers and losing out on those homes, to purchase something that is likely more affordable.
3. It gives buyers a chance to build equity quickly.

Here’s how it works. Renovation loans bundle funds for the home purchase and renovation. There are a few different options from which to choose. Here are the most popular:

Fannie Mae’s HomeStyle Renovation loan—"The Fannie Mae HomeStyle loan is a single-close loan that includes the cost of home repairs in the overall loan amount,” said ValuePenguin. “This loan can be used for repairs that an appraiser requires, or for changes the homeowner wants to make, and it can be used to pay for both structural and cosmetic repairs.”

The Fannie Mae HomeStyle Renovation mortgage requires a 5% down payment and is open to investors, as well. “With a down payment of less than 25%, you’ll need a credit score of at least 680,” said “If your debt-to-income ratio is higher than 36% but less than or equal to 45%, your credit score needs to be 700 or higher.” The funds can be used for repairs, renovations, or energy improvements. “The only restriction is that the changes must be permanently affixed to the property and add value.”

FHA 203(k)—Similar to the HomeStyle loan, this option is government-backed and has lower credit score requirements. Keep in mind that FHA loans require mortgage insurance premiums if you have less than a 20% down payment, which can raise your monthly payment. The FHA also requires the borrower to pay an upfront fee, which will make your initial out-of-pocket costs higher.  

There are two different FHA 203(k) loan options:

• Full Loan—The Full Loan “is intended for a primary residence that needs serious or significant repairs.”
• Streamline Loan—This can be used for smaller repairs and caps out at $35,000.

FHA’s 203(k) loan “requires a minimum credit score of 500 with a down payment of at least 10%; a credit score of 580 or higher allows a down payment of 3.5%,” said MarketWatch. “These loans can’t be used for work that the FHA deems a luxury, such as installing a swimming pool.”


Single Home Ownership is at Record Levels. Is it for You?


There was a time when buying a home as a single person was nearly unheard of. But that is changing. Actually, it already has. 

According to the National Association of Realtors, single individuals made up 25% of home sales in 2019. A whopping 17% of that 25% were single female buyers, many of them older. However, new data shows that single homebuying may be an even more substantial number.

“The share of U.S. homeowners who are single hit a record 38.4% in 2018, the latest data available, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by Haus,” said USA Today. “The trend largely reflects the rapid growth in the portion of Americans who are single. It also highlights an improving economy and job market and the willingness of buyers to set up households in untraditional ways to overcome sharply rising housing costs.”

Filter the single homebuying trend down to millennials and the number is even more eye-popping. “At a time when a lot of young adults are postponing marriage, the number of Americans buying a house on a single income is substantial,” said Investopedia. Ellie Mae says that “as many as 47% of millennial homebuyers last year were unmarried.”

If you’re considering buying while single, here are a few things to think about.

How much can you really afford?

Those who don’t even consider the possibility of buying a house as a single person may be waiting because they want to be more settled in their life first—married, starting a family, in a job with a solid trajectory, etc. But many people may also think they need more money set aside for a down payment or more income to support a monthly mortgage payment than they actually do. 

According to NerdWallet, “Most lenders require that you'll spend less than 28% of your pretax income on housing and 36% on total debt payments. If you spend 25% of your income on housing and 40% on total debt payments, they'll consider the higher number and the amount you can qualify for will be lower as a result.” 

When you break down those numbers, it may be that you’re already at or above that percentage with rent—especially if you’re in a market where it’s escalating quickly. This new report from Apartment List shows that rent is up 1.7% over last year. This is a modest increase and rent growth is lagging “behind the growth in average hourly earnings,” they said. However, when renters are paying top dollar for a place that isn’t even theirs, and that will likely continue to become more expensive, it creates instability while excluding them from the advantage of equity growth.

Are you prepared for an emergency?

According to experts, qualifying for a mortgage as a single person shouldn’t be any more difficult than it would be if you were married, as long as you have the credit, income, and employment history necessary to get approved for your loan. The main challenge of homeownership on a single income is the potential of job loss or some other financial hardship that could put your home at risk. On two incomes, it might be easier to absorb a financial hit. This makes a substantial emergency fund even more crucial.

“While the size of your emergency fund will vary depending on your lifestyle, monthly costs, income, and dependents, the rule of thumb is to put away at least three to six months’ worth of expenses,” said Wells Fargo.

Look to your friends

Just because you’re single doesn’t mean you have to live alone—or even buy alone. “Many singles team up with partners or friends,” said USA Today. “Unmarried couples made up 9% of home purchases last year, up from 8% in 2018, according to a NAR survey. ‘Other’ arrangements, such as roommates, comprised 3% of purchases in 2019, up from 2%. In some cases, both occupants own the home. In others, one owns while the other pays rent or contributes to household expenses.”


10 Things To Do Before Applying For A Home Loan


There are a few things you can be doing before applying for a loan.

1. Check your credit rating
Take a look at what the external world sees as your credibility in terms of finance and the ability to pay off any debts. There are a number of ways you can go online to see what your current credit rating is and to try to reduce the number.

2. Pay off any credit card debts
Make sure you pay off any outstanding credit card debts or loans that will inflate your credit rating. Ensure you pay them off in a timely manner because this will crop up in any checks that a mortgage broker will carry out before deciding whether to loan you any money.

3. Limit credit card usage
Prior to submitting your application for a home loan, revisit your budget and limit the use of your credit card or cards.

4. Do not take out other loans
The focus should be on demonstrating your creditworthiness to a home loan specialist and not overextending your budget. Avoid taking out other loans that could impact on your ability to meet the requirements of a lending specialist and get you into further debt.

5. Ensure a good employment record
If you are thinking about changing jobs or careers, try to remain in employment for at least 6 months, prior to taking out a home loan. You are demonstrating that you have a good track record and would be a viable person to lend a sum of money to, so now is not the time to think about leaving a secure position and setting up your own start-up company. Put that on hold until you have sorted out a steady income stream to repay back any money lent to you.

6. Start a Savings scheme
If you haven’t already, open up a savings scheme before making your application. Do a little research to see what amount of savings will be enough to secure you a deposit on the property of your choice.

7. Be realistic
Especially if you are a first-time buyer, you need to be clear about the type of property you can afford when first entering the property ladder. Starting with a small apartment may be more feasible than setting your sights on a 4-bedroom family home with adjoining granny flat. If unsure about what is affordable, check out the advice online with a reputable mortgage broker as they will have the expertise and knowledge about the local property market to help find the right loan for you and your budget.

8. Research loan companies
You need to work with a lending specialist you can trust and who provides the best loan package to suit your requirements. Do a little research online, as well as speak to friends and family about the right people to approach. A reputable lending specialist will ensure they provide you will all the right information in a transparent way. Check them out online to see if they provide a free online calculator so you can see if you are viable for a loan and also how much your repayment costs would be.

9. Organize and update your documentation
Get all your documentation including bank statements and tax accounts in order. Not only will it make it easier for the loan company to review and approve, but it demonstrates that you have a practical handle on your finances. Any missing accounts will only slow down or reduce the chances of a successful loan.

10. Review other sources of income
Finally, check out any other sources of income such as help from parents or family as anything that demonstrates your creditworthiness can only be useful for a home loan specialist when it comes to approving a loan.


Easy Curb Appeal Updates For 2020


Does curb appeal matter if you are trying to flip a house? Yes, it does! Research claims that buyers can decide if they would be willing to buy a house within the first eight seconds of seeing the property. What will potential homebuyers see in the first eight seconds after driving up to your property? If you’re listing a house soon and want to see immediate interest, give the below tips a try in order to update your curb appeal and get your home sold fast.

Tidy Up The Yard

You may not have the time or the money to invest in brand new landscaping, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make the yard look clean. You can buy mulch in bulk at Home Depot for cheap. Having mulch is the easiest way to transform your yard and make it look neat and fresh. Plant some new flowers in pots placed near your front door, and add a new welcome mat. Finally, Mow the lawn and trim branches.

Clear The Pathways

It's simple enough to get out the hose and spray away all leaves from sidewalks and walkways. Large piles of leaves in the backyard and front can be a turnoff to potential homebuyers because it may make them think that the yard is hard to take care of or that the home is unkempt.

Paint or Power Wash?

Take a walk around your home and inspect the exterior. Do you notice any peeling or chipped paint? It may be time to consider repainting the exterior. Check the walkways, windows, and smaller details that are looking drab. A fast power wash can help transform these areas without costing a fortune. You can easily rent a power washer if you don’t have one.

Add Color

Consider updating your front door for a fresh, new look. Add a pop of color by painting your front door if you don’t have the funds to update the whole house with fresh paint. A new entry can return between 75–100% of your investment. Follow the above tips for some easy curb appeal fixes to sell your home quickly in 2020. Good luck!


Moving Down: Eight Things You Need to Know


People move down for all kinds of reasons, but the most common is financial. If you’ve made the choice to trade your place in for less space, you may think dealing with less square footage will be the biggest change. But there’s a lot more to it than that. Here are eight things you need to know about moving down. 

You might need to downsize your furniture, too.

What’s one of the first things we say when we tour a new home: “Our furniture would fit perfectly in here.” But if you’re downsizing, that might not be the case. You may have fewer rooms to furnish, and the proportions of the rooms you do have might be smaller. 

If you’re looking for a smaller place for financial reasons, you’re probably not keen on spending money on new furniture. Be sure to measure your large pieces and take those measurements with you when touring homes. If it comes down to a couple of homes you’re considering, maybe the one with the larger living room that can accommodate your sectional gets the edge.

You may have to compromise less with new construction.

New homes today are built to feel more open and maximize storage. If you’re worried about going smaller, look to new construction. 

Your bills may go down.

If you’re trying to save money, the fact that a smaller home will presumably not only cost you less for your mortgage but also your ongoing bills is great news. If you can get a handle on how much your utilities will be (This is a good thing to ask your real estate agent, who can then reach out to the seller’s agent), you might even be able to use the presumed savings to boost your buying power…or to sock money away every month.

You may also save time.

Less square footage means less to clean and maintain! If you also have a smaller outdoor area, mowing and yard work will also be easier, allowing you to spend that leftover time pursuing other activities and interests. 

You may have some tough decisions to make.

City or suburbs. Attached or single-family. Long commute or not. When your homebuying plans are dictated by budget, the decision-making process can be challenging. Written pro-con lists can be tremendously helpful in helping you sort out your feelings. But make sure to be brutally honest with yourself. If you’re leaning toward a move to the suburbs and you’ve written off how grueling a long commute can be, you may be in for a rude awakening.

Other people may have to compromise, too.

“No room for guests: Hosting a huge holiday dinner might be out of the question in a smaller home,” said The Balance. “Out-of-town guests might need to stay at a hotel when they come to visit.”

There may be a mourning period.

People often tend to embrace the IDEA of moving down before they really embrace the reality. The idea of less square footage might be acceptable if it saves you money…but the reality of less space often feels like a loss.

It’s OK to see it that way. Anytime there’s a big life change, we need time to adjust. Give yourself time to mourn the loss of the home you’re leaving. It may make the transition easier.

See the upside.  

“While your home lifestyle varies from your neighbors, many homeowners agree that smaller homes enable the family to bond and work together as opposed to large and spread out floor plan homes,” said Freshome. “Smaller homes create an environment where family members and roommates get organized and can compromise over living arrangements, sharing closets, and making a small home feel cozy instead of cramped. Instead of looking at a smaller home as a down-grade, look at it as a way to a happier domicile.”


Looking to Buy a Home This Year? Credit Score Changes Could Make It More Challenging.


First-time homebuyers are often surprised to learn they can qualify for a mortgage, especially if they don’t have great credit. But, changes to the way FICO measures credit scores are set to make it more difficult for many people to qualify. If you’re looking to buy a home this year, or anytime thereafter, here’s what you need to know.

What is the new scoring system?

“Fair Isaac Corp., commonly known as FICO®, has built a new suite of scoring models that will be available from all three credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) to lenders by the end of 2020,” said Experian. “The new models will treat late payments and debt more severely, but will also now consider historical information about your credit card balances and payment amounts. Your FICO® Score will likely change as a result.”

Just how could this impact borrowers? Consumers with high FICO scores who continue to manage their finances well may actually see an increase in their scores. “This change will create greater separation in the 600s,” said Forbes. “If you are in the lower 600s and struggling to make payments on time, there is a chance your score can go down further. If you are in the high 600s and making payments on time and trending toward lower debt levels, your score could actually increase.”

Joanne Gaskin, vice president of scores and analytics at FICO, told NPR that, “About 40 million Americans are likely to see their credit scores drop by 20 points or more, and an equal number should go up by as much.”

What’s NOT changing

The five main factors that FICO has long used in its scoring models will remain. They are payment history, dollar amount owed, age of credit history, credit mix, and new credit accounts. However, the new FICO scoring system “expands into new territory, with the goal of giving lenders a more precise assessment of your credit risk,” said Experian. “It considers your trended data.”

What is trended data?

Trended data offers a closer look at your financial picture over the last 24 months, specifically focusing on how you have managed your existing accounts. Trended data has not typically been shown to lenders for the purpose of qualifying home buyers…until now. 

How will this change impact your score

“Those with scores below 600 who continue to miss payments or have blemishes on their credit will see even larger declines in their scores,” said REALTOR Magazine. “FICO…will soon start more harshly penalizing the scores of consumers who have rising debt levels or who fall behind on loan payments. The company will also flag certain consumers who sign up for personal loans, which is a growing area of debt.”

With these new changes, it’s more important than ever to be diligent about protecting your credit. Would-be homebuyers will want to:

Pay your bills on time—This has always been important but is even more critical now. Late payments have always been a red flag for lenders, but they may be even more harshly penalized once the new program is in place. “Delinquencies will hurt scores more” now, said Experian. “The impact of late payments is more pronounced than with prior FICO® Score versions. This means consumers who miss payments are likely to experience a more severe drop in their credit scores” under this new model. 

Pay down credit card balances—According to FICO, borrowers should “keep revolving debt below 30% of their available credit so that they don’t see a larger impact on their credit score,” said REALTOR. 

Get current—“Pull your credit reports and make sure that nothing has fallen through the cracks like a small medical bill,” said Forbes. “Catching up on those payments may show a positive trend.”

Avoid personal loans—"The scores will weigh personal loans more heavily, the Wall Street Journal reported, in order to penalize borrowers who consolidate debt with personal loans and then go on to rack up more debt,” said MarketWatch.

Don’t cancel your credit cards. Closing accounts can actually hurt your score. “When it comes to credit cards, it can help to hold on to older accounts for a long time,” said NPR. “Doing that gives consumers more established credit history.”


Real Estate to LOVE?


LOVE—the ubiquitous word in February—represents a good place for buyers and sellers to start when clarifying their real estate goals for 2020.

“What do I want to LOVE about the real estate in my near future?” is a great starting question for buyers and sellers.

1. The answer is not merely the shopping list of decor and amenity “must-haves” that buyers crave nor the list of repeat “must-haves” that sellers want to reproduce in their next home.
2. The answer should go beyond the trite “I love it” expression applied liberally, and often with little thought, to everything from mid-century-modern decor to a stainless steel or marble finish. This over-used phrase is so much part of everyday speech that it has lost its deeper, discerning meaning.
3. The answer—to be genuinely valuable in your real estate search—should include deep feelings about how you want to feel while living in your new home and how this emotional state will enhance valued aspects of your life. The answer lies, not in physical features, but in lifestyle benefits.

Scientist Louis Pasteur reaches out with a clear view of possible 21st-Century... that "Chance favors the prepared mind" can be a rock-solid guide for confident real estate decision making:

Be prepared to act when “luck” strikes:

You’ll find “luck” appears more often and it is easier to act on when you are prepared with relevant, practical knowledge. That is, the more you understand about real estate, the more likely you’ll have “good luck” in achieving true Love with your next home. That preparation includes learning about the type of housing, amenities, and location that will fall within your budget, as well as discovering how real estate transactions work.

Use a highly-competent, locally-knowledgeable real estate professional—“the matchmaker” to help you act in your own best interest regarding every detail of the search, decision making, and the resulting transaction.

Or, plunge in and tackle the research yourself. Either way, understanding what you are buying and how the related financial and legal processes can work in your favor will turn your love affair with your home into a long-term relationship, not a disillusioned break-up.

Be ready to respond quickly when opportunity knocks:

This is not encouragement to act in haste or to jump in before you understand what the property or the transaction involves. “Respond quickly” means having the confidence not to second-guess yourself after each decision. Buying real estate involves a lot of time-pressured decisions, so getting out of your own way by ending second-guessing is an important, solid step forward.

Clarify exactly what lifestyle changes you want to achieve—that Love, the deep connection you want with your new home, separate from the trappings of “must-haves.” Understand your objectives, your financial strength, and your limitations. Then, you’ve armed yourself with specific, practical, undeniably-powerful criteria for confident decision making.

Be decisive when fortune calls:

Once you’ve learned how to quickly and thoroughly research essential elements of a property or have engaged with a real estate professional who can help you achieve this, you’re on solid ground. You’ll be confident you understand what you are getting into—good, bad, and indifferent—before you act. This represents a productive mix of practical knowledge like window placement and interior traffic flow and acknowledgment of long-term benefits that matter to you and those you’ll share the home with.

We are what we think, what we believe. That's "the box" that can limit our view of what the future might hold. A committed professional can expand your horizon of possibilities. This confidence may lead you to consider a different style of home or interior decor because the location or size of the property offers you a stand-out investment opportunity that will transport you to that Love reality.

Because each piece of real estate is unique, separating your deep buying intentions from your must-have shopping list will enable you to fully evaluate the potential of a property that may vary from the usual cookie-cutter offering.

Is your buying vision based on trending Instagram photos and videos or current superficial “Keeping up with the Jones” demands? Or, are you guided by Love—how you feel about “home” as a place to belong, share experiences, and gain the courage to face the outside world?

The apparent simplicity of using your Love of what the new home will contribute to your life does not mean that identifying emotional connections is necessarily easy for everyone. The level of personal commitment involved in applying the Love criteria to hopes and dreams may require efforts like discussions with family members or some soul searching. Are you prepared to make personal investments like these in your future?

Doing nothing is a decision, too, perhaps not the best one, but a decision to be lived with none the less. Concentrate buying decisions on features like stainless-steel appliances, kitchen islands, and master bedroom ensuites and the result may not be the long-term Love many want and expect when buying a home.


How to Save Money on Closing Costs


When it comes to buying your first home, are there two words that are more unpleasant and unwelcome than “down payment?” How about “closing costs?” That’s because first-time buyers are often surprised by this expense, or at least confused about how much they will need to pay. 

Additionally, buyers may not understand that some of the fees under the closing costs umbrella are not set in stone. Yes, there are ways to save money on closing costs. We’re breaking down the potential savings. 

What are closing costs?

First, it’s important to understand the role closing costs play in your mortgage—especially because we’re not talking about a measly amount. Closing costs can range from 2–6% of the total cost of your loan. So, on a $250,000 loan, that’s $5,000–$15,000. Having to come up with that amount of money after scrimping and saving for a down payment can be a crushing blow.

“The term ‘closing costs’ includes a variety of expenses above the purchase price of your property, such as fees for an attorney, a title search, title insurance, taxes, lender costs, and some upfront housing expenses such as homeowners insurance,” said U.S. News & World Report

Shop around

There are a number of items on a loan estimate that can vary in cost depending on the lender. It behooves you to reach out to more than one to find the best option. And remember this: You may think the winner is the one who is offering the lowest rate, but that’s not always the case. It could be that some of the fees are higher with another lender, making the loan less attractive.

Compare your loan estimates

Lenders are required to provide you with an itemized loan estimate within three business days from the date you apply for a mortgage. So now it’s time to compare and contrast your estimates. 

“The Loan Estimate lets you comparison shop between companies’ total costs and also dig into specific fees once you’ve chosen a lender,” said NerdWallet. “You need the legally binding Loan Estimate to compare costs, not the ‘closing costs worksheet’ or a ‘fee itemization’ that some lenders offer,” Erik Martin, president of Total Mortgage, a national mortgage company based in Milford, Connecticut, told them.

Know what you can negotiate

Page 2 of the loan estimate has a section called “services you can shop for,” said Bankrate. It includes the pest inspection, survey, and “title fees, like title search, insurance binder, and settlement agent. These are services you can find on your own or use what the lender provides. If you shop around, you might be able to find something cheaper.”

And then there are the lender fees. “Lender fees are fees charged by banks and other financial institutions for processing and funding a loan,” said LendingTree. “They can include application fees, attorney fees, recording fees, underwriting fees and more.” While you may not be able to eliminate these fees, you may be able to negotiate with the lender to lower them. 

Close late in the month

Can you control the date of your closing? This is something to discuss with your lender because there are potential savings for a late-in-the-month closing. “Prepaid interest is one of the fees that come into play when buying or refinancing a home,” said HSH. “Closing toward the end of the month can save on prepaid interest. For example, if you close on July 11, you'll have to pay for 20 days of interest. On a $200,000 loan with a 4.5% mortgage rate, that's almost $500. By closing on July 30, you'll only pay interest for July 30 and 31. Using the same loan amount and interest rate, two days of interest is only $49.”

Ask for the seller to pay your closing costs

There is no requirement that states that the buyer has to be the one who pays the closing costs. It may be possible, depending on the type of market you’re in, to get the seller to pay at least part of the costs. 

Some loans also allow you to roll part or all of the closing costs into your mortgage, which will raise your monthly payment some but save you from having to come out of pocket. 

Other things to look out for

Certain types of loans will have separate costs involved like an upfront mortgage insurance premium of 1.75% for FHA loans or a VA funding fee as high as 3.6%. These are not negotiable fees, but they may help you determine which loan is right for you and how much of a down payment you want to come up with. Remember that, for FHA and most conventional loans, you will also pay a monthly mortgage insurance premium. 

All told, you can “save hundreds of dollars, even thousands, by understanding how you to save on closing costs,” said HSH. “That money could be better spent going into your home, as opposed to on your home loan.”


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