Four Mortgage Misconceptions to Watch For

The process of buying a house feels like trying to finish a level on Super Mario World—one minute you’re bumping along on Yoshi and the next minute you miscalculate and sink into a bottomless pit. Here are four things to watch out for before you run out of lives.

  1. Your credit score doesn’t matter for anything other than approval. Ouch! That’s not a Koopa but it’s close—your credit score determines not just your approval but your rate. The rate you’re going to have to live with for the duration of the loan. Make sure your credit score is looking healthy using these tips. (link)
  2. Your payment is 30% of your income, next level! Not so fast. The rule that your mortgage payment should not equal more than 30% of your income is more complex than it seems. Think of it this way—there’s more to home ownership than just the mortgage payment. There are maintenance expenses, taxes and homeowner’s insurance. If you fail to calculate those expenses into this thirty percent, you will be putting yourself in a sticky financial situation.
  3. You don’t really need a down payment. While this may be factually true—you aren’t required to put down 20% –it’s not a good idea for long term financial house. If you don’t put down a down payment, you will be required to purchase private mortgage insurance, which can be a substantial extra cost in your monthly mortgage payment.
  4. A traditional 30-year mortgage is the way to go. The 30-year mortgage is certainly the most common choice for mortgages, but it may not be the best choice. If you can afford a larger monthly payment for a 15-year loan, you will end up spending a lot less money over the life of your loan. Adjustable rate mortgages can be a good option if you are in a vigorous housing market and only plan to be in a house for a few years—before the rate resets, you will have moved.

We don’t all have to fall into the bottomless pits—in many cases a good real estate and mortgage broker can help you get through these levels and rescue Princess….I mean, buy the house of your dreams.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Use That Bitcoin, Bro

 

How many cryptocurrencies would it take to buy a house in the U.S.?

If you’re sitting here still uncertain what bitcoin even truly is, it’s okay most the world doesn’t get it either. Here’s a handy definition. (link). But that doesn’t mean it’s not already being used in the housing market. Some exclusive property owners are either requiring only bitcoin or allowing bids to be placed in bitcoin.

So how much bitcoin does it cost to buy a house? Well, the current median housing price is $248,000 and as of Jan. 15, 2018, that median price is about 17.65 bitcoin.

How does this hold up nationwide?

San Francisco: $1.588 million = 113 bitcoin
Seattle: $725k = 51.6 bitcoin
Los Angeles: $583k = 41.5 bitcoin
Washington D.C.: $550K = 39 bitcoin
Phoenix: $243k = 17.3 bitcoin
Connecticut: $247k = 17.6 bitcoin
Florida: $240k = 17 bitcoin
Illinois: $185k = 13 bitcoin
Iowa: $153, 250 = 11 bitcoin
Kansas: $200, 451 = 14.3 bitcoin
Maine: $200k = 14 bitcoin
Massachusetts: $384k = 27.3 bitcoin
Michigan: $182, 761 = 13 bitcoin
Missouri: $190, 050 = 13.5 bitcoin
New Jersey: $300k = 21.4 bitcoin
New York: $254k = 18 bitcoin
Ohio: $174, 689 = 12.4 bitcoin
Texas: $213, 396 = 15.2 bitcoin
Utah: $277k = 19.7 bitcoin
Vermont: $221k = 15.7 bitcoin
Virginia: $270k = 19.2 bitcoin
Washington: $363, 200 = 26 bitcoin

 

Whether bitcoin will be the housing market currency of the future remains to be seen. Maybe by then we’ll understand what it actually is.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

7 Things To Do Before Listing Your House

 

As soon as you know you’re moving, it’s hard to look around your current home and want to do anything but future house search with a bag of chips. But paying attention to your current home can pay dividends when it comes to getting the price you want. These are seven suggestions for improving the value of your home.

 

1. Change the lighting—Each room should be well lit. A good rule of thumb is three points of light per room. For example: an overhead light, a table lamp and a task light. For inexpensive lighting options, try Target and Ikea.
2. Clear Clutter—If there’s only one thing you can do to improve the look of your home, it’s this. Now is the time to clear everything from your surfaces including books, clothes from packed closets, and everything personal from your bathroom.
3. Deep Clean—hire a company or do it yourself, but a deep clean of your home will go a long way for showing it at it’s best.
4. Speaking of the Bathroom—Replace any missing tiles, fix the caulk on the tub and sink, consider swapping out fixtures if they are dated and bringing an otherwise neutral bathroom down. Add new towels and a neutral shower curtain for finishing touches.
5. Address the Floors—No, not refinishing—but a simple clean and buff can do wonders for hardwood. If you have carpet, get them professionally steam cleaned.
6. Paint—Nothing beats the freshness of a fresh coat of soft white paint and it’s an easy way to make a house feel new.
7. Upgrade the Kitchen—Don’t worry, you can make kitchen upgrades without remolding. A fresh coat of paint, new hardware, and peel and stick wall tiles can all transform a space without costing a fortune in time or money. If you’re feeling more ambitious, there are options for resurfacing your countertops or upgrading your appliances.

 

Whatever you do, start with an honest talk with a real estate agent—who can help you focus your priorities for selling a home in your area.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Hidden Costs of Home Buying

 

Buying a house can feel a bit like a game of whack-a-mole—hit one thing down and another pops up. Here are four costs you might not anticipate in the home buying process.

 

1. The Inspection: It’s easy to remember the inspection is a hurdle to buying a home, but we often forget it’s also a financial hurdle. An inspection can cost a few hundred dollars, and doesn’t guarantee the house will pass inspection, so keep that in mind and be prepared.

2. Bringing cash to the table: Closing costs are expected, but what isn’t anticipated is how much extra cash you might need to bring to the closing table. Some lenders require you to pay a year’s taxes and mortgage upfront. And if the seller paid any expenses, you’ll be required to pay back a pro-rated amount.

3. The move: Whether you plan to move yourself or hire someone, moving can carry loads of additional costs. If hiring movers, make sure you get quotes from a few companies and ask for referrals from friends.

4. Immediate costs: It’s important to budget for the immediate costs of home ownership like changing locks, utility fees, as well as the unanticipated expenses in the first year of owning your home.

 

Set aside some savings now and you won’t have to rely on your credit card through these unanticipated expenses. The same does not apply to your next game of whack-a-mole.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Selling a City Home

 

The art of selling a quirky home, especially one in the city where real estate can be…extra quirky…is more than writing an adjective laden listing. After all, everyone knows cute means small. Instead, here are a few real solutions for common real estate quirks.

 

Low Ceilings—make sure your ceilings are white and the walls are light to draw the eye upward. The finish on molding should be matte and the same color as the ceiling. If you don’t have molding, add cove molding to elongate the wall. Floor to ceiling sheers over the windows also give a tall illusion. Low profile, minimalist furniture tops off a clean, bright look.

 

Windows that face another building (or no windows!)—if a window faces a brick or otherwise dark wall, one solution is to place a high-wattage daylight bulb behind the curtains, giving the illusion of sunlight. Another solution is the old standby of bright pops of color or white venation blinds to reflect light and obscure an unattractive view. Another option is a stained glass window or window film.

 

An awkward layout- the only solution is to rework the layout. This doesn’t mean you have to do the construction, by having your real estate agent show the potential buyers a vision of the space potential, you can sell an awkward floor plan.

 

A ground floor facing the street—The key to selling ground floor units is live plants in window boxes. The color and greenery add a garden feel to a city space. Combine with bottom up curtains that are sheer at the top and opaque at the floor, and you are covered inside and out.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Renting or Buying?

The value of home ownership has been on a roller coaster ride the last few years, and in many ways it’s like looking at the seven stories Tower of Doom TM and wondering whether it will leave you smiling or woozy for the rest of the day. Should you get on the roller coast? Or stay on the teacups? Here are three questions to ask yourself when deciding between buying a home or renting one.

Q: How long do you plan to stay?

Most questions of renting and buying come down to the question of timing. If you plan to stay in an area or a home for a long period of time, you can buy a home knowing you have plenty of time to absorb any market drops. But bringing this to concrete numbers helps most of all—compare the average home price in your area to the average rental price, calculate in a down payment for your home purchase and a 5% increase in rental prices and the numbers should tell you how long you’d need to own a home before making it the more affordable option.

Q. What are your costs?

Both renting and owning carry hidden costs that we tend to overlook when comparing. For renters you need to think of the loss of home equity and home owner tax breaks. The offset is not being responsible for home repairs. For homeowners, you’ll deal with things like homeowner’s insurances, private mortgage insurance, property taxes and maintenance.

Q. Are you “throwing money away”?

We’ve all heard it when discussing the pros and cons of renting—renting is throwing money away. But building home equity isn’t the only way to make money. If you have any doubt about your ability to keep up with the cost of home ownership, or keep up with savings, it’s better to consider renting for the near future.

When having these discussions, remember you can always talk with your agent and walk through the decision together.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Weathering Winter Indoors

The long days of winter hibernation can drag on anyone. We spend so much time indoors, from illnesses to snow days, the house you love during the summer is suddenly the thing you stalk around like an insomniac bear. Here are eight ways to make your home feel better and brighter, so you can make it to summer without going full on angry grizzly.

Add plants- even for all you black thumbs, there is a plant for you. Try succulents or cactuses. Buy grocery store flowers, even. In the cool, dry air they can last up to two weeks.

Rearrange your furniture- Try changing up the configuration of your furniture. Look at how far apart each item is. Pleasing proportions is a twenty-four inch separation for people to walk easily through and the room not to feel overcrowded.

Deep clean- get a head start on spring cleaning now. Deep cleaning can improve your mood and satisfaction with a space. Take the chance to rethink the things you own and see if you can get rid of things that might be bothering you.

Ask what you want- it can be helpful to sit about what you want from the space and what you can do to bring it into alignment with your desires.

Light- change out dark curtains, add mirrors to bounce light or rearrange to dark furniture to open up rooms.

Change colors change the hue of your home to something that gives you pleasure, or if you don’t want to repaint, try changing the accent colors with something as subtle as pillows and throws.

Eliminate noise—address all the little irritants it’s easy to ignore—the rug that creeps, the door that doesn’t open all the way, etc.—all the little things add up!

With a few tweaks any grumpy bear can make it through a long winter.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

The Must-Need Tool Kit

You. Yes you. You need a home tool kit. Even if you’ve never touched a hammer. Especially if you’ve ever used a shoe as a hammer. Here are eleven items (and their uses) to get you started.

16-ounce hammer: A solid hammer choice that anyone can use. Shoes, in fact, are terrible substitutes.
Multi-bit screwdriver: A multi-bit ratcheting screwdriver that stores all the tips in the handle is the only screwdriver you’ll need.
Level: A two-foot level will do all the jobs you’ll ever need—from hanging pictures to shelves, this size will be the most versatile.
Utility knife: Used for breaking down boxes, cutting drywall or stripping wires. A utility knife is irreplaceable.
Tape measure: Handier than using a shoe (again) as a ruler.
LED Flashlight: If the lights go out, if you need to see under the bed, really this is a no-brainer.
Rubber Mallet: A cheap tool for banging stuff back into place without hurting it.
Wrenches: Used to tighten or loosen a bolt or nut. A compact Channellock can be the perfect solution to most home problems.
Cordless Drill: The most basic of power tools for most DIY needs.
Needle-Nose Pliers: Handy for everything from electrical work to crafts, as well as everything in between, including fishing toys out of the drain.
Safety equipment: Ear protection, eye protection and a good set of deer hide gloves never hurt anyone.

Psstt…this also makes a good birthday or Christmas gift.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Three Things We’re Doing More in Our Cars

The Model T came out in 1905, and just like that, the car has been a staple in American’s lives for over 100 years. These days, the way we use cars and technology is rapidly changing.

Ride-Sharing apps have completely changed the way we use our vehicles. From using our personal vehicles as a way to make a little extra money to using ride sharing apps to take care of those pesky trips to and from the airport and around cities, ride sharing apps have drastically changed the way we use our personal vehicles.

GPS based technology continues to expand. From directions to monitoring traffic in real time, GPS continues to change our driving habits. One example of the way these programs are influencing more than the daily commute is after the earthquake in Mexico City, users of the traffic app Waze were able to search “help” in order to find open shelters.

Driving further. A lot of things influence these shifts in driving patterns, but American’s are still driving more than they ever have. According to the Department of Transportation 2017, American’s drove 1.3% more—32 billion—more miles than in 2016. 1 Where are we going? In search of food. Trips to restaurant and grocery stores are still the number one transportation motion. Some things never change.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Organize Your Kitchen in One Afternoon

 

Remember spending Saturday afternoons cleaning your bedroom as a teenager? It began as a chore and ended with a great sense of satisfaction and a new intimacy with your forgotten playlists. And going into the following week with that clean and organized room? The best. Bring that vintage feel into your kitchen in one afternoon. Get your 00’s playlist ready and let’s organize.

1. Organize by zones. Move the coffee supplies—filters, grinders, French press, coffee, tablespoon, etc—to the drawer or cabinet near where you actually make coffee. Move the spatulas and spoons and spices next to the stove. Think about how you actually use your kitchen, not how the internet thinks it’s being used, and rearrange to fit your needs. The goal is to have everything for one chore on hand, without moving.

2. Clear counters. Nothing makes a kitchen look more organized and peaceful than a cleared countertop. Anything that stays on your counters needs to be used daily—think coffee machines if you make coffee or toasters if you make toast. The only exception is that fancy stand mixer you got for your birthday, because it’s a kitchen statement piece.

3. Purge All the Things. Getting rid of possessions you don’t use but must maintain (even if to shove them aside to fit the stuff you do use inside the cupboard) can be so freeing. Now is the time to go through those wedding or housewarming gifts and decide if you’re really going to use that pasta maker or dehydrator. Don’t forget to look at the smaller things. How many measuring cups do you really need? How many mugs do you actually use? Be brutal.

4. Get creative. To organize pantry’s and inside cupboards, don’t be afraid to think beyond the kitchen. Office supplies and drawer organizers can do double duty in the kitchen. Just remember to measure your drawers before going shopping—nothing is worse than getting more stuff you don’t use.

5. Don’t forget the fridge. Even if it’s just cleaning out old condiments and wiping down the shelves and drawers, the fridge shouldn’t be forgotten—it’s a big part of a clean and organized kitchen.

The best part of a clean and organized kitchen? The results are bound to last longer than your teenage bedroom.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21