New Conforming Loan Limits for 2021

LOAN LIMITS FOR FANNIE MAE AND FREDDIE MAC INCREASE TO $548,250 IN 2021, AN INCREASE FROM $510,400 IN 2020.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency has announced the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac conforming loan limits for mortgages for 2021.

Each year, the baseline conforming loan limit is adjusted accordingly with the change in the average U.S. home price. House prices during the third quarters of 2019 and 2020 have increased by 7.42 percent on average; therefore, the Federal Housing Finance Agency is increasing 2021’s maximum conforming loan limit by the same percentage. This marks the fifth year in a row that there has been a limit increase by the FHFA. The baseline loan limit has increased by $131,250 since 2016.

The limit is different in some places known as high-cost areas. These are areas in which 115 percent of the local median home value is higher than the baseline conforming loan limit. The Housing and Economic Recovery Act establishes the maximum loan limit in those areas while also setting a ceiling on that limit which is 150 percent of the baseline loan limit. The new ceiling loan limit in most high-cost areas for 2021 will be $822,375, which is 150 percent of $548,250.

Here at First Home Mortgage, we continue to provide the highest level of customer service while adhering to social distancing guidelines. Our innovative communication technologies allow us to exceed your expectations while keeping everyone as safe as possible.

If you are considering purchasing or refinancing a home, please contact one of our Loan Officers today!

Why Pre-Qualifying for a Loan is Important

In order for the loan process to run smoothly, one of the smartest things to do is get pre-qualified for a mortgage. A pre-qualification is an estimate of how much you can borrow from a lender which allows you to explore loan options specific to your financial situation. Pre-qualifying for a loan before you go home shopping helps you set a budget and strengthen your negotiating position when making an offer. Having a pre-qualification is also a good sign to the seller that you are serious and ready to buy. This is particularly important these days since it’s a seller market and homes are going quickly. Taking this step to be prepared can get you ahead of the game.

How to Pre-Qualify

Pre-qualification is a simple process that can be done at zero cost and completed online. Contact your Loan Officer to find out which documents you should prepare to complete the pre-qualification form. Once you pre-qualify successfully, you can request a letter stating how much you may be able to borrow based on the information you provided. You can share this with your real estate agent or simply tell the agent a price range based on the outcome of your pre-qualification.

Pre-qualification vs. Conditional Approval

Conditional approval requires more information and is a much more serious level of approval. Conditional approval means you will have a commitment to a specific loan program at a specific loan amount. It will also provide more information about your interest rate and monthly mortgage payment.

Before you start your journey as a home buyer, contact one of our Loan Officers to get pre-qualified!

 

Selling Your Home During Winter

Many people believe winter is the most undesirable time to sell your home, but this doesn’t have to be the case. If you know what to expect, you can have just as much success selling your home during winter than you would any other time of year. Don’t be afraid to list during wintertime.

Who’s Buying in During Winter?

In many cases, you’re likely to see more serious buyers in winter than in spring and summer where it’s more popular to look for homes even casually. There are a whole host of reasons someone may be looking to buy a home during winter, some of which come with increased urgency to find a home such as job relocations, an expiring lease, or a contract on their current home. If someone is willing to battle cold and sometimes inclement weather to see your home, it’s probably because they’re serious about buying. The weather can help your home sell faster, too; people are less likely to want to look all over town for a home when it’s cold or snowy which means they may be more likely to choose one of the first homes they see that fits their needs.

The Internet is Your Friend

Virtual listings and showings are always important but especially are during the winter months when it’s cold and gets dark earlier. This is even more so the case now in the wake of COVID-19 with fewer people venturing out. Be sure to get your home on as many listing sites as you can to increase its visibility. Make sure your listing description is thorough and engaging. Depending on scheduling, you may find most of your showings are at dusk or after dark; talk to your realtor about considering a virtual 3D walkthrough to fully showcase your home during the daytime for interested buyers.

Know How to Prepare and Stage Your Home

Prepping and staging your home for its online listings and open houses is always an important part of the selling process. There are some particulars you should keep in mind when selling during the winter months. Winter can be dreary, so let in as much light as you can. If you’re going to be holding in-person showings, ensure all walkways are cleared if it snows and be sure to keep the temperature inside warm and comfortable for visitors. When it comes to decorating for the holidays, keep it simple and tasteful; potential buyers want to envision themselves in your home year-round, not just at the holidays. Make your environment cozy and inviting; you can even consider offering coffee and hot chocolate to prospective buyers.

There’s no need to be afraid of selling your home during the winter months. If you’re preparing to sell your home, you’re probably thinking about buying, too. Contact one of our experienced Loan Officers today to learn more about financing options.

4 Easy Steps to an Organized Garage

Your garage can serve many purposes, but not if it’s full of clutter. A recent study showed that only 30% of homeowners with garages use them to store their vehicles because they are just too full! If you are ready to organize your garage, the good news is that this is a project you can tackle yourself at little to no cost to you.

Step 1: Purge Unnecessary Items

Set aside a few hours or a whole day to go through absolutely everything in your garage. Sort items into four separate piles – items to keep, items to sell, items to donate, and items to the trash. Make plans to drop off donations and sell anything you’d like to right away, so you can free up that space for your “keep” pile. Put the trash out immediately, or schedule a trash pick up or take a trip to your local dump as soon as possible if it’s too much for your regular trash service to take.

Step 2: Decide Which Keep Items Stay in The Garage

Some items should not be stored in a garage. Move anything from the list below to a safer spot in your home or yard!
Paint Cans: Extreme cold or heat can ruin the paint. It’s best to store cans in a temperature-controlled area.
Propane and Other Fuels: Experts recommend keeping this outside and away from your home since a small spark could ignite them.
Paper goods and Pet Foods: These can attract pests and small animals to your garage. They are safer when stored indoors.
Extra Refrigerator: This can be a huge energy drain in spaces that are not air-conditioned, and is better off indoors if possible.


Step 3: Make the Most of Your Storage Space

Sort your “keep” pile, such as lawn and garden, bikes or sports equipment, tools, seasonal items, etc. An organized garage starts with storing it all! Wall hooks and open shelves are an inexpensive way to add lots of extra vertical storage space in your garage. Clear or labeled bins are great for grouping and storing smaller items. Clear jars are perfect for keeping track of very small items like nuts and bolts. Wall hooks and baskets can hold all sorts of items, from bikes and hoses to flowerpots. Large items such as lawnmowers should go against walls or in corners to avoid bumping into them with your vehicle. It’s a good idea to store frequently used items closer to the garage door for easy access, while seasonal items can be stored out of the way until they are needed. The garage ceiling can be a great spot for flat, infrequently used items like sleds and beach chairs, just be sure they are placed out of the way of your garage door and high enough not to scratch the roof of your car.

Step 4: Safety Counts!

It’s a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher mounted or easily accessible in your garage, in case of emergency. A carbon monoxide detector can add additional peace of mind (even though you should never leave your car running with the garage door closed!).

You’re now ready to start on your journey to an organized garage.

Considering moving or refinancing in the near future? If so, one of our experienced Loan Officers would love to help!

How to Compete in Today’s Market

It’s a hot seller’s market these days. That means there are more buyers looking to purchase homes than there are homes for sale, giving way to some strong competition. With the pandemic, more city dwellers and renters are looking to buy resulting in bidding wars and homes selling for more than the asking price. So how are you supposed to beat out the competition? Take these tips into consideration if you’re looking to buy them!

Be proactive.

Homes may go off the market lightning fast in a seller’s market, so be ready to act fast. Research houses in your preferred neighborhood before you are ready to buy to get a feel for the market. This will help you determine what the typical price range is and how quickly homes are sold. When you are ready to purchase and have found a home, if possible, try and schedule a safe or virtual tour as soon as possible. This will give you an advantage over other buyers to put in an offer before others even see the house.

Get pre-qualified.

When buying in a competitive market, you should always be as prepared as possible. First, start by getting pre-qualified. Getting pre-qualified shows the seller you are serious and ready to buy. Having your finances in order indicates you have the means to purchase the house and won’t need to back out of the contract for financial reasons.

Make a strong offer.

Bringing your strongest offer to the table may save time by eliminating a negotiation period or bidding war. A seller may not want to deal with the hassles of negotiating, so if you present a solid offer, it may have a better chance of being accepted right away. Also, bringing your strongest offer will save you time, and probably money, by taking you out of a bidding war. Presenting an offer that is much lower than the asking price could deter the seller and they will take your offer right off the table. If you have done your due diligence, you will know the best offer to make.

Get personal.

Writing an additional letter to the seller, along with your offer letter, may help you stand out against other buyers. If you plan on making the house your forever home, write a formal letter to the seller explaining how you envision your family in the home. Maybe you see yourself cooking breakfast for your family every morning in the kitchen, or describe how you can see your kids playing in the backyard on sunny days. Adding a personal touch to your offer may give you an advantage over your competition.

It’s a tough market out there right now, but with the right mindset and game plan, you will be enjoying your new house in no time!

If you are ready to get started, contact one of our loan officers.

How to Choose a Real Estate Agent

Whether you’re buying or selling a home, your real estate agent is going to play an important role. Real estate agents perform a variety of tasks during real estate deals such as organizing the transaction, acting as a liaison between buyer and seller, and offering support to their client throughout each step of the process. With so many real estate professionals available to work with, it can be hard to know how to choose someone. Here are some tips for finding the best agent to work with.

Get Referrals

Ask friends, family, and other area homeowners you know about their past real estate agent experiences. Maybe they had an amazing experience with an agent you weren’t considering, or maybe they had a not-so-great experience with one who appears stellar on paper. Even if you consult people you know who live outside the area you’re searching, you can learn about things they did or wish they’d done differently while on their own home buying or selling journey. Talking to those who’ve actually been through the process can help you get a feel for what’s important to look for in an agent.

Do Your Research

The internet is an incredible tool when searching for just about anything, real estate agents included. A search as simple as “real estate agents [location]” or “real estate agents near me” can return many results, giving you a great place to start. Most agents at least have a page through their brokerage firm, but many have their own individual websites and social media pages. These can help you learn more about who the agent is and what kind of experience they have. Additionally, there are many sites where you can see reviews left by individuals who’ve worked with an agent in the past.

Identify What’s Most Important to You

You and your real estate needs are unique, and some real estate agents are going to be better suited to working with you than others. If you’ve never purchased a home before, you may want to seek out an agent who specializes in working with first-time homebuyers. If you’re buying an additional property, you might want an agent who specializes in investment properties. Maybe you’re relocating and want an agent who has lived and worked in the area for a long time so you know they understand the local market. If you have a particularly busy schedule, you may want someone you know is available outside normal business hours. There are countless characteristics that could be worth considering, but it really comes down to what matters most to you.

Consider Talking to a Lender First

When you speak to a lender before seeking a real estate agent, you’re able to better gauge how much you can afford. This can save you time and energy by helping your agent select homes that are truly in your budget rather than simply taking a ballpark guess and ultimately wasting time by viewing listings outside your price range. Some agents have more experience working within certain price ranges than others as well. Getting pre-qualified also shows potential agents that you’re serious about buying.

Interview Multiple Agents

In most cases, you probably aren’t going to want to go with the very first agent you come across right away. You may think you’ve found the perfect agent, only to discover they’re too busy with current clients or just aren’t the best fit for your needs. You should consider and interview several agents. Send them an email or schedule a time to talk. These interviews not only teach you more about the agents themselves but give you an idea of their preferred communication methods and level of availability. How long have they been an agent? Are they full-time or part-time? Do they have references? Have they helped buyers find homes in this area and within this price range? There are many different questions you could ask. Interviewing an agent also gives you a feel for their personality and what they’re going to be like to work with. Compare and contrast the various interviews you have to see what—and who—stands out to you.

Go With Your Gut

Once you’ve done your due diligence, the ultimate deciding factor might come down to a gut feeling. Which agent do you think is going to best serve you? It may be the one with less experience who you get along well with and can tell has a strong work ethic. At the end of the day, there’s more to a person than just their credentials, and you should consider a wide variety of factors when making your decision.

Whether you’ve already found an agent to work with or are still looking for, contact one of our experienced loan officers today to explore your mortgage options and continue on your path to homeownership.

5 Tips for Hosting Thanksgiving in Your New Home

Golden leaves and crisp air mean the holiday season is nearly upon us, and Thanksgiving is right around the corner! Hosting Thanksgiving dinner for your family and friends is always rewarding, and the good news is – it’s still completely feasible right after a move. By following these 5 tips, you’ll be ready to welcome loved ones to your new home for a fun-filled and memorable Thanksgiving.

1. Take Inventory

Moving and unpacking is a hectic process, even for the most organized homeowners. All your belongings have been boxed up and shuffled around, so it’s important to take the time to inventory your Thanksgiving stock before the big day. Be sure you know where all of the dishes, cookware, and supplies you’ll need are in your new home. Your pantry will likely have been purged before the move, so check for any spices or must-haves you need to include on your grocery list!

2. Get Cooking (or not!)

Cooking in a new kitchen is always a bit of a learning curve. Unless you happen to have the exact same appliances you had in your old home, settings and temperatures will all be just a tad different. Practicing using your new appliances beforehand is a great idea. If you’re still struggling, consider purchasing some of your dishes, or even your turkey, premade. You can also play it safe by sticking to tried and true recipes you’re already comfortable with. If your friends and family offer to bring dishes and desserts of their own – let them! It makes them feel good to contribute, and it takes some of the pressure off you.

3. Renovate within Reason

It’s natural to want to show your new home off with a houseful of friends and family coming over. That said, try to set reasonable goals for yourself when it comes to any home renovations or updates that you’re trying to accomplish before Thanksgiving. Painting a room the week before is one thing, while tearing down walls could result in half-finished results, mess, and a whole lot of stress. Try to prioritize your projects by which will have the biggest impact overall. Also, keep in mind that your guests will be spending most of their time in the kitchen, family and dining spaces on Thanksgiving Day, so these might be the best areas to focus on.

4. Add a Dash of Style

Decorating your brand-new space is one of the best parts of moving! For holiday hosting right after a move, let time and budget be your guide. There are a million beautiful ideas out there, ranging from luxe and lavish to simple and affordable. Even if you haven’t fully decorated your home yet, you can set a festive tone right as guests arrive, with a fresh seasonal wreath and doormat. Add a decked-out dining table to suit your style, and everyone will be in the mood to gather!

5. Feel the Love

Finally, try and relax! Your loved ones are there to spend the day with you, and everything doesn’t have to be perfect (or even close) for everyone to have a great time. Enjoy being thankful and making memories together, and know that everyone appreciates all the effort it takes to host for the holidays – especially after a recent move.

 

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