Crystal's Blog Corner

Why This Might Be the Time to Buy a Condo


Is a condo in the cards for you? Or have you crossed it off your list because it’s too hard to get a decent loan? We have some good news. 

New guidelines from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) means more homebuyers may be eligible for a government-backed mortgage. That could mean a lower down payment and easier qualifying than what is required for conventional loans for condos. 

“The federal agency released new guidelines Wednesday for the types of mortgages it will insure at condominiums,” said the Los Angeles Times. “Just 6.5% of the 150,000 condominium developments in the United States were previously eligible for FHA-backed mortgages. But the FHA will start backing mortgages for individual units and will have greater flexibility to react to changes in market conditions.”

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), “The changes, many of which NAR has championed for over a decade, should yield thousands of new homeownership opportunities and help alleviate affordability restraints impacting markets across the country.”

Condos are often a more affordable option than single-family homes, which is what can make them so attractive to first-time buyers. The low-maintenance level is also an important factor. Because condos typically have homeowner’s associations (HOA), front-yard maintenance is usually taken care of, and there are generally no yards to worry about. 

Some homebuyers look at HOAs as negative because of what they consider to be strict rules governing what they can and can’t do, and also because of the fees. But, the truth is that most master-planned communities today have HOAs, which means the same rules and fees will apply. 

“HOA fees typically can range from about $200 to $300 a month; other factors may contribute to how much the fee will be, like your location, unit size and available amenities,” said Magnify Money. Monthly condo association fees can go as high as $700 or more, also depending on the amenities and services provided.”

You’ll definitely want to do a strict comparison between any condo you’re considering and a single-family home. It may turn out that you can get more for your money with a home that’s not in a planned community and therefore doesn’t have fees. Or, the converse may be true. Even with HOA fees, a condo may be the better buy simply from an affordability standpoint, but also because it's newer, has more space, or is in a better location. 


Which Type of Loan Is Best? We’re Doing an Apples-To-Apples Comparison.

Which Type of Loan Is Best? We’re Doing an Apples-To-Apples Comparison.

FHA. 30-year conventional. 15-year term. With so many loan options out there, how do you know which is best? There is not one across-the-board winner because everyone’s situation is different. But there are pros and cons of each that might make one loan work better for you. We’re comparing and contrasting some of the most popular options to help you make the best choice when buying a house. 

30-year fixed-rate conventional

This is a 30-year loan with rates that are fixed every month. These loans follow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines and are not backed by the government like FHA loans.

Pro: With set payments, there’s no need to worry about rising rates. Loans are available for a range of buyers, with options like HomeReady and Conventional 97 that offer as little as 3% down. Also, there is no upfront mortgage insurance fee like you have on FHA loans.  

Con: You have to pay PMI if you put less than 20% down. There also may be higher credit score requirements than FHA loans.  

15-year fixed-rate 

A 15-year fixed-rate option also has fixed rates for the life of the loan. If you’re the type who wants to pay your home off more quickly, this could be a good choice.

Pro: You pay far less interest over the life of the loan and pay off your home in half the time. 

Con: Monthly payments are higher.


FHA loans are federally insured, which is why down payment and credit score requirements are more relaxed. 

Pro: FHA loans require as little as 3.5% down. Credit score requirements are also lower than conventional loans. You can typically qualify for a loan with a 3.5% down payment at a 580 score, and may be able to get a loan with a score as low as 500 if you have 10% down. 

Con: You’ll have to pay mortgage interest, which you can’t get rid of unless you refinance. FHA loans also come with an upfront mortgage insurance fee.


“An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) is a type of mortgage in which the interest rate applied on the outstanding balance varies throughout the life of the loan,” said Investopedia. “Normally, the initial interest rate is fixed for a period of time, after which it resets periodically, often every year or even monthly. The interest rate resets based on a benchmark or index plus an additional spread, called an ARM margin.”

Pro: Rates are often lower during the introductory or fixed period than what a borrower can get with a fixed-rate loan, making homeownership more affordable initially. 

Con: Once the ARM gets past the fixed period, monthly payments can skyrocket, leaving owners unprepared and possibly in danger of defaulting. 

USDA loans 

Looking to buy in a rural area? You may qualify for a USDA loan. USDA-eligible homes may also be located in some suburban areas. You can check eligibility on their website.  

 Pros: USDA loans offer low or even no down payments and low-interest rates. Rates can be as low as 1% with subsidies on direct loans.

Cons: Household income is capped and a mortgage insurance premium is required for down payments under 20%.

VA loans

Veterans Administration (VA) loans help military members and veterans purchase homes.

Pro: VA loans tend to have the lowest average interest rates, and loans are available with no down payment. In addition, there is “no monthly mortgage insurance premiums or PMI to pay,” according to

Con: They’re not available to the general public, and veterans must meet a list of conditions



How to Avoid the Top 3 Emotional Mistakes Most Sellers Make



Transitioning a principal residence is an emotional, financial and physical challenge. While the journey is different for everyone, the home transition process is the same and needs to be anchored in hope, humility, and humor.

Be warned… as most Realtors® know, when it comes to life’s major stressors, selling a home and moving, even once, lands in the top 5, along with death, divorce, illness, and loss of a job. The good news for sellers is that you can rely on a good Realtor to help you through but understand you must also help yourself. I refer to it as “emotional ivy”. Like English ivy clinging to brick, your “emotional ivy” – the way you’ve made your house a home throughout the years – is so pervasive that it affects every decision you make about the upcoming move. You’ll have to rip the “ivy” out of every nook and cranny and off each surface to which it clings and that’s not easy.

The top 3 emotional mistakes most sellers make as they get ready to list are:

1. Not being able to let go of personal items.

Some of us refuse to let go of our things, even if we really don’t want them or use them. We look at some items and think “work of art”, while someone else thinks “garage sale”. According to the LA Times, most households in America have over 300,000 things stored in them and many people also rent off-site storage units filled with more stuff. Bottom line: we are all treasure hunters and ultimately you are the decision-maker on what to keep or let go, but one thing I know for sure is the BUYER doesn’t care about any of it. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your house is the exception to the rule and a buyer will look past your things.

2. Not removing your personal footprint.

Remember, it’s important to remove personal photos, tombstones, diplomas, and the like because all that does distracts the buyer.

3. Not understanding what the BUYER values.

The buyer wants the ability to move in and do nothing for one year. Think white, beige or light grey walls, with white trim and ceilings. New carpet and floors in pristine condition. Here is a simple key to understanding the buyer: they will walk through and give themselves less than 10 minutes to decide if this could be “it”. Many will only devote four to five minutes and make a snap decision – yes or no. This means they will fly through the rooms in a minute or two and if they are distracted and a few things seem odd or cause them to pause, you have lost their attention. You do not want to leave the impression that it’s too big a “project” for them to consider or pay for.

Remember, touch everything you own once. Clean and sort the entire house and remove your personal footprint. Our “stuff” produces a great amount of stress, anxiety, and expense when we try to pack, store and move it. A smart seller will realize they have four choices when it comes to every item in the home:

1. Pack it
2. Sell it
3. Donate it
4. Dump it

Procrastination and delayed decision-making is not a strategy. Remember that you are staging your home to sell while packing for your move at the same time.

Read more about how to Brace for Impact in my book: SMART MOVES: How to Save Time and Money While Transitioning Your Home and Life. Be A Smart Mover!


Six Creative Ways to Drum up Interest in Your Home


Six Creative Ways to Drum up Interest in Your Home

A perfectly updated home at the right price in a highly coveted neighborhood may sell right away, but what about the rest of the homes that hit the market? You should be able to depend on a well-connected, experienced real estate agent to create a solid marketing plan, network with fellow agents, and hold open houses. But is there something you might be able to do to help get your home sold? There sure is.

Organize a block party

If you live in a neighborhood where everyone knows each other, fantastic! Get everyone together on the street and offer to serve drinks or dessert in your house so you can make sure everyone comes on in. If you’re not super friendly with them, a block party is a great way to get to know the neighbors you’ll soon be leaving—and maybe uncover someone who’s interesting in finding a new place in the same neighborhood.

Have an estate sale

A garage sale may attract mainly ultra-bargain shoppers, but an estate sale…that’s another story. Not only do you have an opportunity to sell some of the items you don’t intend to take with you to your next home, but you may find a potential buyer, too. If you don’t have enough items to sell, enlist a few neighbors. They might be more than willing to haul over their old sideboard and china set for a chance to get it sold with minimal effort.

Show off the goods

Have a newly renovated kitchen you want to show off? Nine out of 10 property purchases are decided by women, so invite the neighborhood moms over for wine and hors d’oeuvres. You never know who will fall in love with your kitchen island and decide they need to move.

Let your neighbors know on Nextdoor

Depending on how your neighborhood Nextdoor is run, your post may be flagged and taken down. But, before that happens, you just might be able to zero in on a prospect or two—before you even list your home for sale!

Rent a gaming truck

For a couple of hundred bucks, you can rent a gaming truck to park in your neighborhood. Invite all the moms to hang out inside with you, where they can ooh and ahh over your home while the kids are occupied and having fun in the truck.

Ask your neighbors to put the word out

Turning your neighbors into an extension of your real estate agent’s marketing team is easy. After all, they care about who their future neighbor will be, right?


5 Basic Tips to Make Small Bedroom Look and Feel Amazing


According to home experts, the popularity of the small bedroom keeps increasing today. It’s because the minimalist decorating style becomes everyone’s favorite when it comes to a trendy home.

However, to create a small bedroom which looks admirable and feel comfortable is not that easy. You have to deal with the limited space in placing the furniture, décor items, and accessories inside. Moreover, choosing the colors, patterns, and texture to decorate a small bedroom is not as easy as when you have a huge space.

Some simple basic tips to decorate a small bedroom below will totally open your mind.

Choosing the Colors

The very first thing to keep in mind is how the overall look of your bedroom will look like which strongly relates to the main color of the room. Color has a huge impact in creating the atmosphere of your small bedroom.

The most popular option to colorize a small bedroom is neutral shades like white and grey. Those kinds of color will give a bright and calming impression which will not make a small bedroom look too intimidating or stuffy.

Light it Up

When you have a small bedroom, the light becomes an essential key to make it look and feel inviting. Besides those lighting fixtures, installing a huge window can add another lighting source that lets the sunlight in. Moreover, a window also creates an airy atmosphere by letting the air circulate properly.

If it’s not possible for you to install a window, you can use the glass ceiling which can light up the room when the sun shines so bright. In addition, a mirror will also reflect the light and create a wider impression.

Adding the Furniture

Nowadays, you can easily find some bedroom furniture which is specifically designed for a small bedroom. They can fit a small bedroom very well and provide great comfort for you. Moreover, you can also find such furniture with very low price tags. Check out this Cheap Bedroom Furniture Sets Under 500article to find some tempting products to buy

Providing the Storage

You can’t really place a big closet or wardrobe inside a small bedroom. Therefore, you have to trick it by using multifunction furniture. Pick a bed frame that comes with built-in drawers or a headboard which also works as the shelves.

Make a Statement

Choose one element of the room to become the main focal point which grabs the most attention. For instance, you can hang a big wall art with vibrant color on one side of the walls. A single focal point is enough to enhance the attractiveness of a small bedroom.

Well, those are some tips that you can keep in mind when you are about to decorate your small bedroom. Though it’s not really easy to decorate, a small bedroom is definitely a good option for you who love the minimalist concept and simplicity.

SOURCE: REALTY TIMES-  by Rebecca Prisca

How to Improve the Appeal of Your Home



Whether you are planning on selling your home, renting it out, or just want to impress people coming over, there are certain things that need to be done to brighten up your home. Your home does not need a complete makeover but there are certain things that you can do to help your home look its absolute best. 


This can be done all by yourself if you enjoy home renovations projects or you can hire someone to do it for you if you feel like you just do not have time for extra house projects. 

Below are 5 things to consider when making your home the best it can be:

Color Palette

Color is a little thing that can make a really big difference. If your house is smaller and it is painted in dark colors your rooms may feel more cramped than they really seem. This does not mean that you have to whitewash the whole house but it does mean you should be mindful of the dark colors that you use. 


Walls are not the only thing that you have to worry about when choosing colors from a color palette. There are also furniture colors and bedding covers that will make a difference in your home. If your bedroom has white walls and white decor, a red bedspread can really pop and be a wonderful accent to that room. 

Inside of Your Home

There are two rooms that will majorly improve the value of your home and those are your bathroom and your kitchen. This is helpful if you are planning on selling your house and want to increase the value of your home. These are also important rooms because they are rooms that are important to the house as a whole. 


Also, focus on the interior design of your home and see what can be changed. Adding crowning and baseboards to your home is something simple that really improves the look of any room and makes it feel nicer. Curtains, rugs, and furniture can all be swapped out for new things to boost the room and make it feel comfortable and friendly. 

Outside Your Home

Yes, this part of your home is important because the outside of your home is what people see when they first arrive. Make sure that your yard is nice, it doesn’t have to be pristine but it should be mowed and look decent. 


You may need to redo the siding of your house if it is older and falling apart. Another good place to check is the shingles and roof and make sure that it is up to date and there are not any loose shingles that can easily fly off.  


If your lights are out of date, it may be time to get some new lights. This can include outdoor lighting which can increase security or it can also include indoor lighting to really make the house look as amazing as it really is. Most people are not too comfortable dealing with electrical things, so find a trusted electrician who can help you make your dream lighting a reality. 


Selling your home does not have to be something that takes forever or is super stressful. With the right decisions and the right research, you are sure to sell your home in the right amount of time. What are some things you do when getting ready to sell a house? Comment below to start the conversation!


5 Signs That Your Home Needs a New Roof


How often do you think about your roof? Most consider their home’s roof to be a permanent fixture that doesn’t require any attention. Although roofs are designed to last for a long time, they do need regular maintenance now and again. Eventually, they might need to be replaced altogether.

If you’re wondering when to call a professional and get a new roof, check out these five warning signs that it’s time to renovate.

Your Roof Appears Saggy or Droopy

A roof that dips or has sagging spots could have trapped moisture or rotting boards. The most obvious signs of decay will be at the lowest points, so you will most likely be able to spot it from the ground.

Roof rot is hard to repair, especially if it’s gone undetected and untreated for years. In these cases, you may be better off replacing the roof altogether than spending thousands making costly repairs.

Light Slips into Your Attic

Check your home’s attic for light slipping through the ceiling. If light makes its way inside through the eaves, then your roof is probably leaky and needs patchwork. Old roofs are prone to developing this problem as they age, and many homeowners decide that it’s more effective to replace their dated roof than repair it.

A leaky roof can also cause mold growth in your attic, which attracts pests and poses major health risks to you and your family. Contacting a roofing company if you suspect you have a leaky roof is imperative to preventing damages and health problems.

Your Home is Drafty

A roof that needs replacing will have plenty of cracks and openings that cause excessive heat loss. Your home may always have a draft, especially during the winter. You may also notice that you have to run your air conditioner or heater constantly to keep the temperature balanced.

Drafts can also be caused by a faulty HVAC system or poor insulation, but many homes that need a new roof are prone to them as well.

You Notice Cracked and Peeling Shingles

Weather damage and age can cause parts of your roof to crack, peel and break. If you notice these, you should have a professional make repairs ASAP. In some cases, waiting too long can lead to permanent damage that requires a replacement.

Your Roof is Over 20 Years Old

Like most things, roofs wear out with time. Older homes are subject to more structural problems, especially if they have not been well-maintained. If your home is over 20 years old, chances are that you may be due for an upgrade.

Make sure that you compare several local roofing companies and get a free estimate before you make any major decisions. A new roof is an expensive investment, so you’ll want to make sure that you can trust the people who are installing it. It never hurts to get a second opinion, and many roofing companies will send out a technician to check out your roof and fill you in on what’s going on for free.


Easy Ways to Make Some Extra Cash for Your Down Payment


With mortgage rates low and home prices coming down in some key areas across the country, more and more people are considering making the transition to homeownership. But while they may be ready emotionally and circumstantially, how about financially? 

Being able to buy a home now or having to hit pause often comes down to how much money you have saved for a down payment and closing costs. If your savings account is a little light, there are several easy ways you can pump it up to get you over the hump.

Get a side hustle as a driver

With companies like Lyft and Uber, it’s never been easier to make a little money on the side. “Uber claims that their drivers take home $25 per hour and Lyft claims that drivers can earn as much as $35 per hour,” said Ridester.

Sell some stuff

You can always go the garage sale route, but beware that while you may make some decent money cumulatively, bargain-seekers will be looking for major deals, which can mean selling that $200 dress for a dollar. Put it on Craigslist, eBay, or Facebook Marketplace instead for a better upside. 

Have any designer bags, belts, or clothes you no longer need? There are several sites that can help you turn them into dollars.

Play with doggies

Sites like have made it easy to find a dog walker or dog sitter, or to BE a dog walker or dog sitter. Pet sitting is a huge growth industry, and that means there is a substantial need for this type of service. 

The best part is you get to hang out with dogs and get paid for it. “If you love animals and would like a way to earn some extra money on the side, pet sitting might just be the perfect fit for you,” said The Simple Dollar. “After all, no extensive training or certifications are required. The main qualifications to be a pet sitter are simply loving animals, being reliable, and caring for them in a safe, loving environment.”

According to the site, “Sitters that treat Rover like a part-time job and take two or three dogs for two weeks out of the month earn an average of $1,000 per month. Meanwhile, those that treat Rover like a full-time job, working 4 weeks out of the month and taking 2-3 dogs at a time, earn an average of $3,300/month.”


Maybe people are more of your thing. Offer your babysitting services on Nextdoor or register on The average hourly rate across the country is $13.49 per hour; this may not be as much as you make at your full-time job, but, as supplemental income for a few hours here and there, it can add up. 

Turn on the fan

While a ceiling fan won’t lower the temperature in your home, it circulates the air to make space feel more comfortable. That means you can give your air conditioning a break to save a few bucks. Every little bit helps!

Comparison shop for car insurance

Are you the type that sticks with the same company year after year and doesn’t think twice about looking around? (We’re guilty of that over here, too). It could be costing you money. 

“Insurance companies are always competing to win your business, but if you turn a blind eye and keep the same policy in place for a long period of time, your rates might have increased,” said Your PennySaver. “By checking rates, drivers saved an average of $531 per year with a new policy.”

You can load in some basic info here and get multiple quotes. 

Go through your bank statements with a fine-tooth comb

When you really look at your expenditures, you’re sure to find a bunch of ways to save money, like cutting back on eating out and limiting your Starbucks runs, for starters. You may also find some surprises in there, like gym memberships or subscriptions you thought you had canceled but are being charged for every month. 


How to Find the Home of your Dreams


What Home Means to You

Ask anyone about having space that is special to them, and you will receive the following answer: Home. Everyone wants a place that is theirs and theirs alone; a haven a place to get away from the everyday hustle and bustle of life. A true definition of home is whatever you consider being a safe place for you and your family. A place where you and your family can relax and be yourselves.

Well, finding that dream home can be exciting and scary at the same time. But for the most part, it is exciting to have the opportunity to look at different locations, styles, and types of homes during your search. Remember this will be the most costly and monumental decision you will make in your entire life. This is why it can be scary, so to make the searching and buying process easier there are some simple tips to consider to make the process smoother.

Budget - Its Importance to Finding Your Home

Since this will be a major financial purchase for you and your family, it makes sense to plan out a budget for this expense. Consider not only the cost of your new home but also other utilities and bills that come along with owning a home. If you are a first-time buyer, you may want to consider things like upkeep of the yard, homeowner's insurance, homeowners association fees, etc. These are bills that are not common to apartment dwellers but for a homeowner, it is a much-needed expense.

When planning your budget, make sure that you are not just thinking of the here and now. Make sure that you plan for the future; unlike living in an apartment, homeowners have to take care of repairs themselves. So make sure that your budget includes incidentals that may occur. Always make sure that you are budgeting for a home you can afford, making sure your income will cover the monthly cost without placing you in a bind. A good rule of thumb is to have savings set aside to cover you and your family's expenses for up to three months.

What's Important to You in a Home

Now that you have a budget, the next step is to consider what is important in the design or style of your dream home. This is where you think of things that your home must have versus what you want it to have. Are the aesthetics of your home important to you or general space? Should it have solar panels, a garage, more than 3 bedrooms, and how many bathrooms? All of these are great things to think about before starting your home search. If you are a growing family, then space is important to you. This is typically when you can make a list of non-negotiable and negotiable items for buying your home.

The Big Picture - Your Dream Home

When looking for your dream home, you should think of the big picture. Not only are you purchasing a home, but you are also taking on the community where the home is listed. It is important to step back and look at the overall and not just the home itself. Sometimes you may find the perfect house, but the location and the community is not as desirable. Take time out to do your due diligence and find out everything about the community, such as the schools, security, and etc.

Above all, keep an open mind and enjoy the task of looking for that dream home. If you keep an open mind and enjoy the process, it will be less stressful. Remember this is supposed to be a joyful event in your life and a chance to have a niche in the world that is all yours. Finding your dream home is no longer a fantasy; it is a reality that you made come true.


Should You Rent or Buy Your Home?


To enjoy a beautiful home, you'll have to pay, and there are two basic ways to get a home, of course: renting and buying. When you buy a home, it's yours — but you'll most likely have to take out a huge loan to do it, and you'll be on the hook for all kinds of maintenance tasks and other burdens and expenses. Renting, on the other hand, has challenges of its own: You'll have limited power to alter and improve your space, and you'll leave your rent payments behind when you move out, taking no value from the real estate you helped fund for however many years. Both renting and buying have their pros and cons, but which is better?

The case for buying your home

The conventional wisdom on the renting-versus-buying debate is simple: Buying is better. That's an oversimplification, of course, but the traditional logic leans in this direction. The reason that buying a home is often considered to be the wiser choice lies in the difference between rent and mortgage payments. To buy a nice home, you'll almost certainly need to take out a home loan. That means you'll be paying every month, much as you would with rent. But while rent goes in your landlord's pocket, mortgage payments go toward your debt on your home. Eventually, you may pay the whole mortgage off; at that point, you won't have to make monthly payments anymore. And if you ever move and sell your home, you'll likely get much of the value of your mortgage payments back. In short, a home you buy is a store of value, and that means that mortgage payments can contribute to your net worth in a way that rent payments never can. If you're lucky, your home may even increase in value over the years. 

The case for renting your home

With all of these points in favor of buying, why would you ever rent a home? The case for renting instead of buying hinges on two things: the down payment and closing costs. When you buy a home, you don't just start paying a mortgage. First, you have to put some cash in as a down payment — often 20 percent of the home's cost. That's a big chunk of change, and if you don't have enough, renting may be your only real option.

The down payment is a judgment call, but the closing costs argument against buying is pretty basic. The idea is this: When you buy a house, you pay a big chunk of change to cover one-time closing costs. Collectively, these costs can be as high as 5 percent of the value of the mortgage. So the decision on whether or not to buy a home often comes down to the question of how long you'll be staying there. Moving soon? Then you should rent. Settling down? It's often better to buy. Other reasons to rent include high costs associated with taxes and maintenance. As always, do the math in your specific situation. 

SOURCE: Realty Times-Harris Johnston

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