There are many different kinds of mortgage loans available in today’s market. How do you know which one is right for you? Your financial institution will have the most up-to-date rates and information regarding specifics for you, but if your dip into the home-buying pool has just started, here is some helpful information about the 2 most common types of mortgage loans: FHA and Conventional.
Conventional loans are issued by a bank or mortgage lender (usually a bank) and your interest rate (variable) is dependent upon your credit score and history. Your income and banking history are also taken into account for your pre-approval amount and ultimately what you will be allowed to borrow. Your interest rate can range anywhere from 3.49% to 3.62 for a 30 year fixed (not variable) mortgage. The less time it takes you to pay it off, the higher interest rate is usually going to be. a conventional 15 year mortgage can range anywhere from 3.87% to 4.12%. Down payment for Conventional loans usually doesn’t falter far from 10%. You will need to verify income with pay stubs as well as bank statements. Pay stubs usually go back about 6 months, bank statements around 2 years. They want to be sure you’ve got a good history with your bank account(s), and rightfully so as only .36% of mortgages went into foreclosure last year. Most banks offer some sort of payment deferment if you do run into financial trouble, they don’t want to foreclose on you! They want to help! If your credit is above 640 and you’ve got a good employment and bank history, you should try for a Conventional mortgage, as even a 1% difference in a mortgage rate means about $30,000 over the course of a 30 year loan.
FHA loans are backed by the Federal Housing Administration and are actually still issued as mortgages from a financial institution, but they’re guaranteed through the FHA. That means if you default on the loan, the FHA will step in and pay the bank on your behalf. You may still be foreclosed on, but the bank will be protected. And the foreclosure procedures are much more lenient than with a Conventional mortgage, which basically means they will do anything and everything they can to get you back on track to avoid a foreclosure. FHA loans also require a lower credit score and potentially a lower down payment. If your credit score is between 500-579, you will still be required to have 10% down, but a credit score of 580 and above qualifies you for only 3.5% down! Although you may get a break on a down payment, FHA loans are always fixed and the rate is almost always higher than that of a Conventional loan. Rates as of today on a 30 year mortgage are 4.969%, but for a 15 year mortgage, they are 3.997%. If you’re in a position to afford a 15 year over a 30 year mortgage, it will ultimately save you tens of thousands of dollars. FHA loans also require much more strict inspection requirements, although you will have the chance to fix them (or have the seller fix them!) but EVERYTHING must be up to code by closing date, no exceptions. If you’re interested in the requirements, this article can explain further.
Bottom Line: If your credit score allows, try for a Conventional loan. If not, FHA is there for borrowers who need it! Either way, buying a home is the quintessential adult thing to do and it’s closer than you think.
It’s been a long couple of days, and it seems to be getting more and more scary to leave the house. Being stuck inside is hard, throwing kids into the mix makes it a much different challenge! Kids these days need constant entertainment and getting creative is half the battle. Here are a few suggestions to keep everyone from going crazy…
- Hide and Seek: I know it may sound silly, but if you play your cards right, you can take 20 minutes to find them if you want!
- Glow Sticks: The sun is staying out longer so a glow stick dance party could be just the ticket to earlier bed times! Throw them in the tub and turn off the lights for bath time. Plus, you can get like, a thousand glow sticks for $5.
- Scavenger Hunt: again, the creativity really is key here. Try to make them solve riddles or problems to get the next clues. Make sure the surprise at the end is sweet! Cookies, brownies, etc.
- Build a Fort: take all the pillows, chairs, and blankets you can find. Make a maze out of an entire room! Guaranteed to invoke feelings of childhood nostalgia.
- Coloring Contest: Depending on age and competitive nature of your children, this can also be an hours-long distraction. And you can find a billion pictures to color on the internet.
- Tik Tok: Ask your kids…..and suddenly it’s dinner time!
- Board Games: I know you’ve got a stack in your closet 🙃🙃
- Card Games: Teach your kids cribbage like your grandma taught you. Also guaranteed nostalgia.
- Bored Jar: Write down 100 things to do, from doing 50 jumping jacks to vacuuming the stairs to picking snacks and a movie. Every time a child says they’re bored, voila!
- Indoor camp out: Most everyone owns a tent. Bust out the s’mores for this! Pitch the tent by the TV for an ultimate “Drive-In” experience! Snacks. Snacks. Snacks.
- Teach them how to make chocolate chip cookies from scratch: It’s a much needed skill, and it ends in chocolate chip cookies 🥰
- Play chess: It’s scientifically proven to increase brain activity and your kids probably won’t ever beat you!
Moving sucks. There, I said it. Nobody wants to pay a moving company, especially your husband. He can move that washer and dryer HIMSELF! (No he can’t) If you’re going to give in and pay someone to move everything, I would suggest a local moving company. But if you’re like most of us, that’s just not in the financial cards, especially after buying a new home. I’m outlining some tips to make the tremendous task of moving a little less strenuous, and maybe even a little fun.
- Use the rule of three. Try to count how many boxes you think you’ll need, then multiply that number by 3! That’s how many boxes you’ll need.
- Use smaller boxes. They are SO MUCH EASIER TO CARRY! Your husband will thank me.
- Pack up the fine china first. Using newspaper or bubble wrap, carefully pack up all the dishes, pots, pans, cups, basically everything in the kitchen that you hardly ever use. Then, even if you don’t get around to putting those boxes away immediately, you won’t really miss them.
- PURGE!!! Anything you don’t need, donate or throw it away. If you’re that attached to it, take a picture of it to remember it by.
- Don’t ask your friends. I know this seems like the EXACT scenario where your friends would come in handy, but everyone with a truck knows how annoying that age-old “Will you help me move?” request is.
- You’re going to make a mess. Don’t get overwhelmed by the mess, this is bound to happen when you’re moving literally everything you own.
Selling a home can be STRESS-ful, but once it’s done, what a relief! If you’re thinking of selling, contact one of our agents today! And in the process of selling, here are a few tips to help your property sell quickly and smoothly.
- Stage your photos. When you list a property, photos are a buyer’s first impression. The first impression is the only impression. No dirty dishes or visible mess. Make sure you take photos during the day to showcase the natural light in your house, more and more people are turning their thumbs green! Try to de-personalize, everyone has different taste and yours might deter someone else. It’s harder for buyers to imagine themselves in a house with a lot of deco that’s not to their liking. Try to take photos in spring or summer, sometimes winter photos can be unappealing. Clean all your rooms, vacuum if necessary. Everyone loves vacuum lines! Plus a clean room usually makes it look bigger. Hide the pet stuff. I KNOW, I can’t believe not everyone loves cats as much as me!!
- Make it smell good. Smell is the closest sense to memory so when a place smells good, you literally remember it better. Everyone’s house has a smell and if you don’t know what yours is, ask a friend to come over and help. Some rooms may be a little smellier than others. Wax melts are super cheap and they really do the trick. Use the same scent on every floor, mixing can be dangerous! (Do lemon and sandalwood smell good together? I don’t know!) You can also use essential oils on your air filter or car fresheners on vents to circulate any scent you like throughout the whole house. Take some orange and lemon peels, freeze them in ice trays with water, and put them down your garbage disposal. You can also boil those peels for a fresh scent! If you have pet odor or mildew smell, you’re going to need to get rid of that and not just mask it with scentsy wax, that sometimes makes the odors more pronounced. Find where it’s coming from (pet stains, litter box, mold under the sink, etc.) and fix it.
- Include a Home Warranty. This will really put your buyer at ease, and it’s relatively cheap. You’re really offering peace of mind and buying a house is definitely scary! Your agent will have all the information on available plans.
- Have your own inspection done. This really shows honesty and transparency. Buyers are able to have their own inspection done, which they should. But offering this information upfront is an easy way to gain trust.
- The price is right. Depending on the market, if you’re expecting multiple offers, asking less than market value can usually bring multiple bids, sometimes above market value! If that doesn’t bring the buyers to the yard like you expected, remember you don’t have to accept any offer you don’t like! And you can always raise the price.
- Be honest with your agent. They have the same goal as you: Sell!! Trying to hide a termite infestation or some structural issues is only going to backfire. If you’re not comfortable with something, tell them! They are here for YOU!!
When selling a house, it’s important to stage it so people feel comfortable when they’re in it. Personally, I love bold colors. My living room is Navy Blue and my dining room is very Green. Obviously not everyone shares my love of colors, especially on walls that everyone who visits will see (and judge). Non-neutrals are harder to color coordinate with decor and furniture, too. Let’s look at the best color for each room in your house.
- Kitchen- Warmer colors are said to increase appetite (red, blue, yellow, green) but white and grey are safer. Behr paint actually has a Paint your Place feature on their website to help you visualize any color in any space. Here are a few suggestions for the kitchen: Silver Bullet Halatian Natural Almond Half Sea Fog Morning Zen
- Bathroom- This room should look clean at all times, that’s why an off-white or a lighter taupe or beige is a safe bet. White Veil Burnished Clay Statuesque
- Bedroom- Lavender, Pale Blue and Soft Grey are the top 3 colors for a soothing and peaceful bedroom. I’m not a fan of pastels, but these 3 are pretty muted: So Blue-Berry Permafrost Hush
- Living Room- If you have an open concept living/dining/kitchen area, one color is best to tie them all together, and what are top 3 colors for living areas? If you said Muted blue, grey and beige, you’re right!! Neutrals really are the best way to capture all the possibilities for potential buyers. It’s also easier to imagine other colors over a light grey wall than a bright green wall. Here are some more neutral options: Silver Mine Sandstone Cliff Rain Dance
Here is a great article about DIY Painting like a Pro to motivate you this Monday!!
Pro Tip: If you clean and organize your home during Winter, when Spring gets here you won’t have to do it! Plus, who wants to be stuck inside cleaning when the birds start chirping and the sun starts shining past 4 o’clock?! Not I. So! Without further ado, here are the best (100% FREE!) tips for cleaning and de-cluttering your home today.
- Get rid of things you don’t use! Your local shelter will take all that stuff off your hands and give it to people who need it, assuming it’s in usable condition. An easy way to decide whether or not you need something is if you’ve used it in the last year. With your clothes, you can turn all the hangers around backwards and whenever you wear something, turn the hanger back and after a year, you’ll see just how much you don’t really wear!
- No Junk Drawers. Drawers are so easy to stuff things in. Out of sight out of mind, right? Try using a drawer organizer, or put a non-slip liner in and use small decorative bowls and plates!
- Always work from Top to Bottom. Clean ceiling fans and ceilings first, it will prevent you from having to dust or clean things twice. Vacuum last, and always use a HEPA filter.
- Wipe Everything Down. Walls, windows, kitchen cabinets, shower tile, appliances, TV’s, try one of these household cleaners.
- Wash (or Dry) everything. Wash the bedding, the extra blankets, the curtains if labels allow, throw the pillows in the dryer for 15 minutes. Sprinkle some baking soda on your bare mattress and vacuum it up after 15 minutes. I promise you’ll sleep better tonight.
- Set Limits! Nobody needs forty-two different size screws and throw that magazine away, you’re not going to read it. Let your space allow for limits, if you can’t find a place for it that’s practical, get rid of it.
Every year I am more and more flabbergasted by my ancestors’ choice to settle in such horrid and cold conditions. Did they not know Texas was there? *Sigh* Maybe someday I’ll write blogs about the best sunscreen to use year-round or how to plant a garden in mid-December. But until I can move south (As South as I possibly can, perhaps the Yucatan Peninsula, I bet it’s never snowed there) I’ll share with you a few tips for Driving in this icy, messy, blizzard-y weather.
- First and foremost, Defensive Driving. Be aware of your surroundings, use your peripherals, mirrors and other eyes in the vehicle. Watch out for other vehicles that have maybe lost control or seem to be sliding.
- Keep your distance. The only accident I’ve ever been in (knock on wood) was a rear-end collision because someone behind me was following too close and the street was icy. Experts say (what constitutes an expert in winter driving? I would like to put my name in the bowl!) you should leave at least FOUR car lengths between you and the car in front of you if possible. This should give you plenty of room to stop short, if need be.
- Correct yourself correct. If tragedy strike and you DO start to slide, RELEASE THE GAS OR BRAKE PEDAL! I know your first instinct will be to brake; RESIST!!! Another instinctual movement would be to turn left if you’re sliding right. WRONG. Turn about a half a crank of the wheel in the same direction you’re sliding. This may not be necessary, though, as letting off the brake will usually work.
- Don’t stop if you don’t have to. If you’re driving slow enough you can probably avoid most stops, short of red lights or trains….do trains run in the snow?! I don’t know!
- AWD. All Wheel Drive. That means all 4 of your tires are working simultaneously toward the same goal, thus obviously making it much easier for your vehicle to get around, especially in snow and ice. Most Crossovers and SUVs come with 4 Wheel Drive built-in, but if you’re in the market for something less “macho”, AWD is standard in almost every Subaru ever built. Bonus: Subaru makes pretty stylin’ station wagons, and who doesn’t love those??
- Stay Home. This becomes increasingly hard the older I get. I just want to go to the grocery store without risking frostbite on my fingers! But honestly, if you’re scared to drive, just don’t. You’re not only putting yourself at risk, but other drivers and passengers, too. Plus, you can pretty much get ANYTHING delivered nowadays. Even Wal-Mart delivers. And like everyone’s grandma used to say, Better Safe Than Sorry!
First of all, I would like to remind you the difference between a tax deduction and a tax credit. A tax deduction cuts the amount of income you’re taxed on, and a credit cuts your tax bill directly. Now that we’ve got that figured out, let’s look at the top tax deductions most people can use:
- Business Expenses – If you’re running a business, there are certain expenses you can write off, just click that link!
- Student Loan Interest – Who doesn’t have these nowadays?! If you paid off a certain amount and have an AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) under a certain amount, you may be able to deduct up to $2,500 of that interest! Check this link to see if your payments qualify.
- Mortgage Interest – How. Exciting! Note that you will have to itemize your deductions if you want to write this interest off. You can’t claim the standard deduction. You can actually write off the interest you pay on the first $750,000 of your mortgage ($375,000 if married and filing separately) if you purchased your home between December 16, 2017 and January 1, 2026. If you bought your home previous to that date, you can deduct the interest you paid on up to $1 million ($500,000 if married filing separately) of your mortgage.
- Medical and Dental Expenses – You will also have to itemize your deductions in order to write off these expenses, but if they exceed 10% of your AGI, they are deductible! And almost ALL medical and dental expenses fall under this category. Check right here to see what you can and can’t write off.
- Charitable Contributions – It literally pays to give back! Again, you’re going to have to itemize your deductions for this one. Almost every penny you have donated can be deducted. You will need proof of these from whomever you donated to, so make sure you get receipts! You can find more information on this deduction right here.
- Traditional IRA Contributions – You don’t have to itemize your deductions for this one, which makes everything so much easier. If you’ve saved money in a traditional IRA you may be able to deduct up to $6,000 ($7,000 if you’re over 50 years of age) and also have an AGI under a certain amount. Click here to see your limits.
- HSA Contributions – If you had a Health Savings Account in 2019, you may be able to deduct what you put in. Here is a great article about HSA’s and the write offs.
Friendly Reminder that the deadline to file your taxes is April 15, 2020! Hopefully these deductions will make it a little easier to do!
“Back in my day, kids played outside!”
“We didn’t have any screens to stare at when we were kids.”
We all have our feelings about “kids these days” and their technology, but it’s not going anywhere. Computers are only advancing and every generation will rely on it more and more. So, most kids already have a PlayStation, an XBox, an iPad, an iPhone, a smart watch, something to keep them connected. For those who think “What could I possibly get the kid who has everything?”, here are a few ideas that don’t require anything but your time (and a little bit of money)!
- Concert Tickets – Because live music is always awesome. Sharing a concert with kids is such an awesome experience, especially their first one. Click here to find concerts in your area!
- A Vacation – Kids need a break, too! (The Grand Canyon, Black Hills, Disney World, )
- Music Lessons – Music has been scientifically proven to enhance pretty much every part of brain development in children. If you’re not sure which instrument, piano is a pretty safe choice!
- Gardening Gear – Kids love to be independent and what better way to teach that than growing a live plant, bonus if you plant food! Depending on where you live, you may have to save this for spring, but self-sustainability is the gift that keeps on giving! Try this Indoor Herb Garden Starter Kit.
- Memberships – Your local children’s museum, zoo or activity center usually has yearly memberships available.
- A Subscription Box – Get a new box every month! There are so many different kinds, here are a few ideas:
Kiwi Crate (for crafty kids)
KidStir (for Chefs of all ages)
Tinker Crate (for STEM)
Green Kid Crafts (for hands-on Science experiments!)
Whatever you decide to get the awesome child in our life, remember that the time you spend with them is priceless. Happy Holidays.
A fire is always a tragedy, and a fire during the holidays is even worse. The holidays bring about a lot of hazards including plugging a bunch of lights into one surge protector (think Ellen Griswold checking the PLETHORA of plugs in the garage trying to figure out why Clark’s lights aren’t working). Real Christmas trees also raise concerns since watering them is a MUST if you don’t want your tree going up in flames. Here is a quick list to stay safe this Holiday Season!
- Keep trees away from candles, fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources (Fake and Real trees are both flammable!)
- If you have a real tree, water it DAILY!
- Check holiday lights for fraying, bare spots, gaps in the insulation or excessive kinking in the wire
- Turn off all lights and decorations when not in use
- No more than 2 sets of lights should be plugged in to the same outlet
- Keep your lights from dangling where your pets could chew on them
- Keep potential poisonous plants away from pets and kids (Holly, Mistletoe, Amaryllis, Jerusalem Cherry)
- When preparing meals, wash your hands, utensils, sink and anything else that touches raw meat
- Heat all leftovers to at least 165 degrees
- Refrigerate hot and cold leftovers within 2 hours of being served
- Designate a Sober Driver
- Don’t put your travel plans on social media (burglars exist in the cold, too!)
- Clean your Chimney (because how else is Santa supposed to get in??)
The Holidays are stressful, hopefully these tips will save you any unnecessary headaches this Season.