10 Obstacles to Avoid when Closing on Your Home Loan

It takes some time to close even the most straightforward of home loans. These tips offer insight for avoiding pitfalls in between application and closing, so you can help make your loan process as quick and easy as possible!

1. Buying Large Items

Avoid buying things like cars, boats, or other high-end items. Purchases like these can alter your debt-to-income ratio or amount of reserves and may impede your home loan qualification or delay your loan closing. It’s best to wait, review your budget after closing, and make any large purchases you can comfortably afford at that time.

2. Job Change

Quitting your job or changing jobs can have an impact on your home loan qualification. If you plan to make a move to a new position or company, try and hold off until after closing if possible. Most employers will be understanding your need to wait.

3. Credit Change

Avoid opening or closing credit lines. Opening new cards create hard inquiries on your credit report, and closing credit lines may increase your credit utilization. Either one of these could lower your credit score and potentially change your interest rate or home loan qualification.

4. Banking

Avoid changing bank accounts. Underwriters often need bank statements and records in order to approve your loan. Changing banks can mean needing to provide all new statements, and can delay closing.

5. Ignore Questions

Answer all questions from your loan officer. Your loan officer is gathering information and documentation from you that is vital to your home loan closing. Ignoring requests from your loan officer or loan processor could cause closing delays.

6. Delinquencies

Do not pay bills late. Even one late payment can have a major impact on your credit score, and even after the payment has been made it still takes time for your score to rebound. This change in your credit score could have a negative impact on your rates or home loan approval, so it’s very important to be extra vigilant and avoid any late payments prior to closing.

7. Credit Checks

Do not let anyone other than your loan officer run a credit check on you. Many credit checks create hard inquiries on your credit report, which can lower your overall credit score. This can alter your rates and home loan qualification, so it is best to avoid any credit checks until after your home loan has closed.

8. Loans

Do not sign or cosign a loan. Obligating yourself to a different loan prior to closing affects your debt to income ratio. Even cosigning for someone else means you are still liable for the payments on this other loan. The best-case scenario is that your loan officer will need additional documentation for you regarding this new loan, which could delay closing. The worst case is that this new loan would negatively impact your debt to income ratio to the point where you no longer qualify for your home loan!

9. Avoid Large Deposits (Other than your paycheck)

Mortgage Companies are required by federal law to look into large deposits, so any unusual large bank deposits often need a written explanation and this could delay your home loan closing.

10. Payday

Do not take an advance on your salary. This can alter your payment schedule which might hinder your home loan approval.

From application to closing, our entire team at First Home Mortgage will be working our hardest to ensure the best customer service and smoothest process for each and every one of our clients! If you or someone you know is looking to purchase or refinance a home, contact one of our experienced loan officers today!

Moving Checklist

Making the move to your new home can be a dream come true! Follow this moving checklist to keep the process as smooth and seamless as possible. You’ll be all settled into your new space in no time!

Moving Checklist – Two Months Prior to Moving: Organize and Purge

Go through each room in your home and decide what to keep and what to get rid of. Having to pack and move items can be a great incentive to let go! Set these items aside for donations or selling. Yard sales are a great idea if you want to make a few bucks to get rid of bulkier items. Also, take note and label any items that will need special packing or insurance.

Research Home Moving Companies

Getting estimates from multiple different home moving companies is a worthwhile time investment. On-site estimates are the most accurate. It’s best to get your estimate in writing(or email), and be sure it has a USDOT (U.S. Department of Transportation) number on it. Due to the current pandemic, most companies are offering virtual moving estimates. You can walk them through your space, they will ask you questions during the walkthrough, while you can let them know what is and isn’t coming on your move. They will provide the same quote as if they went to you on-site.

Start a Home Moving Binder

This a great place to keep track of all your estimates and notes on all the items you’ll be moving. This can include, but not limited too: moving checklist, moving budget spreadsheet, utilities, moving company information.

Collect School Records

If you have children and are moving to a different school district, contact their current school and arrange for their records to be sent over to their new school. You can even put these records into your moving binder to better manage all your paperwork.

Moving Checklist – One Month Before Your Move: Choose Your Moving Company

Select your moving company and get your finalized contract with your dates and other details.

Start Packing

Pack any items that aren’t being used frequently and any off-season items to make things easier on moving day. Clearly label each box with its contents and which room it goes in. Separate any valuables to take with you in your personal vehicle on moving day.

Notify Necessary Parties

It’s a good idea to alert all the following ahead of your move: your banks, brokerage firms, your employer’s human resources department, magazine and newspapers you subscribe to, credit card companies, insurance, and utility companies. If the cable and internet provider you currently use are not available where you are moving, make sure to find a new company that offers the features you want and need.

Forward Medical Records

If you are moving to a new location with a new primary care physician, have your doctor forward your medical records to your new office.

Moving Checklist – Two Weeks Before: Arrange A Few Days Off for Moving Day

If you aren’t moving during a weekend, you’ll want to make sure you have a full day off work to get everything done.

Get your vehicle checked

Make sure your car is all tuned up for the trip! This is especially important if you are moving a long way.

Contact the Moving Company

Reconfirm your arrangements to be safe.

Moving Checklist – One Week Before: Refill your Prescriptions

Get any regular prescriptions refilled prior to your move so you won’t immediately have to worry about having them filled at a new pharmacy

Moving Checklist – A Few Days Before: Pack your suitcases

Try and have all of your packing done a few days before your move, and pack suitcases with a few days of clothes for your entire family so you will be prepared while you unpack at your new house!

Moving Day! : Verify your movers

Make sure the number on the moving truck matches the USDOT number on your contract.

Inventory

Keep a copy of your signed inventory list once everything has been unloaded.

Now it’s time to enjoy your new home and unpack your labeled boxes that are already in the correct rooms – at your own pace since you already have the prescriptions and clothes you need for now! Congratulations and enjoy!

If you are moving during the pandemic, check out this blog post for even more tips and tricks.

Are you looking to purchase a home? Contact one of our experienced loan officers today!

Source: https://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/organizing/moving/moving-checklist

15 Tips to Reduce Your Utility Bills

Life can get expensive, and some costs will always be outside of our control. Read on for 15 tips to reduce your utility bills and save some serious green!

1. Check the seals on all your windows, doors, and appliances.

Drafty doors and windows make your thermostat work harder all year round. Poor seals on your appliances do double damage since the fridge or oven will have to work harder to maintain their internal temperatures,  while the cool and hot air escaping will also have an impact on the overall temperature of your home. Sealing everything up saves energy and money.

2. Fix leaky ductwork and change your air filter.

Just as windows and doors can let hot and cool air seep out, so can the ductwork for your heating and cooling systems. Check to make sure there are no leaks, and repair any you find. This lets your system run with optimal efficiency and saves valuable wasted energy. An old filter can also reduce the effectiveness of your heat and air conditioning, costing you unnecessary cash. AC pros recommend replacing your air filter every 45-90 days.

3. Give your thermostat a nudge.

Setting your thermostat back when you’re away from home can offer some seriously valuable savings without impacting your comfort. Smart thermostats have programmable schedules that will do the work for you! Also consider light bedsheets in summer and extra blankets in winter, so that you can save a few degrees overnight and still sleep soundly.

4. Adjust your fridge and freezer temperature.

Setting your refrigerator to 38 degrees and your freezer to between 0 and 5 degrees keeps your food fresh, without making the appliance work any harder than it needs to. Setting them any colder is considered unnecessary and ups your utility bill. A packed freezer and fridge help to lower costs even more since the frozen and cooled foods help keep things chilly!

5. Take shorter showers.

Taking just two minutes off your shower time saves about 5 gallons of water every time you wash. This can make a big difference in your water costs throughout the course of a year, especially if you have multiple people in your home and everyone commits and makes the cut!

6. Replace your showerhead.

Can’t shorten your shower time? Try a low-flow energy-efficient showerhead instead. These can save up to 2,700 gallons of water a year! Combining tips 5 and 6 will make for even more savings.

7. Don’t wash clothes in hot water.

Sticking to warm and cold washing machine cycles can save up to 50% of the energy cost of your washer. Be sure to pre-treat stains so everything still comes out looking great!

8. Fix leaky faucets.

Leaky faucets and toilets can end up costing a fortune on your water bill. Regularly check to ensure you have no leaks so that you don’t miss one and end up surprised with a higher than normal utility bill!

9. Adjust the temperature on your water heater.

Lowering the setting on your water heater to 120 degrees versus 130 degrees can save 10% of the energy cost! Turn the water heater to the lowest setting when you’re out of town for even more efficiency.

10. Purchase energy-efficient appliances.

Energy Star-labeled appliances come in a wide variety of price ranges and options, and they can save tons in energy costs over the lifetime of the appliance. If you’re shopping for something new – look for energy efficiency first.

11. Ask about discounted rates.

Some energy providers offer discounted rates during off-peak times. Call your provider to find out if they offer this, and if so try doing your laundry and dishes on off-peak times.

12. Swap out your lightbulbs.

Changing just five of your most frequently used lightbulbs to compact fluorescent or LED Energy Star bulbs can save up to $75 a year. Swap out all the bulbs in your home for an even larger impact.

13. Install dimmer switches.

Dimmer switches aren’t just aesthetically desirable, dimming the lights to suit your mood saves valuable energy as well.

14. Use smart power strips.

This tip is more important than ever with so many of us working from home! Many electronics in our home still use energy when we aren’t using them. Smart Power strips completely cut power to electronics when they aren’t in use, stopping the trickle of wasted energy. The savings can really add up over time!

15. Do an energy audit.

Many utility providers offer home energy audits. These audits can uncover ways your home is wasting energy and give you a personalized plan to correct the problems. Some come at a cost, while some are free! Contact your energy provider to ask about scheduling an audit and see what you can save.

Reducing your utility bills may make a big difference in your budget, and so may reduce your mortgage payment. Contact one of our experienced loan officers today to find out if refinancing your home to help reduce your mortgage payment is the right decision for you*!

*Refinancing your current mortgage loan could result in the total finance charge being higher over the life of the loan.

Source: https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/finance/how-to-save-money-on-your-electric-bill

 

5 Tips to Make the Most of Thanksgiving 2020

1 Decorate and dress up to make the day feel special, even
if you’re celebrating with a smaller group or by yourself
this year.

2 Relax and watch the Macy’s Day Parade. It will look a
bit different this year with no crowds, but the tradition
continues nonetheless!

3 Try outdoor dining and activities as a safer way to gather
with friends and family. Picnic tables and cornhole might
just become new holiday favorites.

4 Adjust your Menu. With many of us having much smaller
gatherings than usual this year, it’s a great time to take it easy and
keep the meal simple. On the other hand, it’s also an opportunity
to test out fun new recipes in smaller batches!

5 Use Facetime and Zoom to “party” with your friends and
relatives who are out of town and may not be able to travel this
year.

Source: https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/thanksgiving-ideas/g34450121/quarantine-thanksgiving-ideas/

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!

5 Tips for a Safe & Spooky 2020 Halloween

1. Choose Outdoor over Indoor Activities

The CDC recommends outdoor over indoor activities as a safer alternative to indoor activities this Halloween. Some popular safe suggestions are pumpkin patches without hayrides, outdoor costume parades, reduced contact trick or treating, and small outdoor gatherings. Indoor costume parties and haunted houses are considered to put you and guests at a higher risk of sharing germs.

2. Plan for Social Distancing

While outdoor events are certainly safer, it’s still important to practice social distancing as much as possible. If you are visiting a pumpkin patch, try and leave space between your party and others. If you or your children are participating in a costume parade, make sure each contestant stays 6 feet apart. The same goes for any small gatherings you may attend or host. The CDC recommends even greater distance for any events scary enough to get guests screaming, as this could potentially send germs flying even further. For trick or treating, setting out treat bags or candy bowls for children is a great option to spread joy while keeping your distance to prevent the spread of germs!

3. Mask Up!

Halloween is a time when both fun and frightening masks are already common! The CDC suggests that decorative masks are not a safe substitute for medical masks and that a medical mask should still be worn in any sort of public space, and for trick or treating, even if it’s underneath a costume.

4. Keep Sanitizing

When out and about for holiday fun, remember to wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer after making contact with surfaces. This is particularly important when visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where others may have touched produce right before you, and if you are going to the door and knocking or touching doorbells. The good news is that candy is not thought to be a high-risk factor for the spread of COVID, so parents don’t need to worry about disinfecting it all once they get their little ghouls and goblins back home!

5. Stay Local

The CDC recommends staying within your own local community as much as possible this year, to prevent possibly spreading COVID between different areas. We are also all advised to take our local directives into account and base our activities around the prevalence of outbreaks in our areas. Someone in an area with no known incidences, for example, has a wider range of safe activity options than a person in a highly impacted area. Some extra cautious suggestions for Halloween fun are yard decorating, virtual costume parties or contests, pinatas at home or scavenger hunts distanced around neighborhoods, and a good old-fashioned pumpkin carving or scarecrow making.

Whatever your situation looks like this Halloween, we can all still honor traditions and make spirited holiday magic while keeping ourselves, loved ones, and communities safe. Wishing everyone a safe, fun, and very Happy Halloween, from First Home to your home! Find more information on current CDC guidelines here.

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!

Home Office Small Space Solutions

Many of us  are now working remotely, and finding the space for an office in your home can seem daunting. Fortunately, even the smallest of areas can be transformed into functional and attractive workspaces! Find your inspiration with these unique creative options for a small space.

 

Closet Conversion

Remove a door from a closet and build or place a desk inside. You can use shelving to maximize your storage space, and use sliding doors or panels to hide any clutter for a crisp clean look. Painting the inside of the closet a different color than the rest of the room helps designate the space. Source: http://www.naptimedecorator.net/diy/the-closet-to-office-aka-cloffice-makeover/

Popup Workspace

If you want the freedom to set and break down easily, a popup workspace can be your best solution. Keeping portable work essentials all together allow you to easily relocate from your kitchen, to a coffee table, or to bedroom as needed. It’s a good idea to still ensure you have ergonomic seating if you will be working in the same place for a long period of time. Source: https://www.popsugar.com/home/popsugar-editor-at-home-offices-47352752

Corner Nook

Almost any corner of your home can fit a small desk and chair. Explore options to see which area of your home will work best for you. You can even purchase or build a corner shaped desk if you find your space is particularly tight. Source: https://justagirlandherblog.com/a-cozy-office-nook/

Many of us at First Home Mortgage are working from home as well. Our experienced Loan Officers are utilizing the latest communications technology to provide the highest level of customer service to our clients while keeping everyone safe. If you have any questions about purchasing or refinancing, please contact a loan officer today!

Photo credit: Betsy Goldbold

When is the right time to buy your first home?

Purchasing your first home is an exciting adventure with plenty of benefits. Homeownership can provide valuable tax breaks and offers an opportunity to build equity rather than spending rent money with no potential return. It is also an important personal and long-term financial decision, so it makes sense to prepare ahead of time and be sure you are ready.

Consider Your Income

Stable income is a vital factor in qualifying for a home loan. Even if you are in a non-traditional career, keep track of all your monthly income. This will help you and your lender to determine how much home you can comfortably afford. When planning a new budget, take all of your monthly bills into account as well as any additional maintenance and living expenses you’ll have in your new home.

Think About Your Lifestyle in the Next 5 Years

Are you planning on staying at the same place of work, or seeking a different career that might cause you to move? Are you considering sharing your space with a partner or having children in the near future? Purchasing a home is a major investment that involves certain costs, so if you think you’ll be moving or need a larger home soon, it might make sense to wait until you can buy something you’ll be living in longer. An exception to this is purchasing a home you plan to fix up and add equity to, in which case you could still move without a loss.

Learn About Where You Are Planning to Buy

Knowing which areas or neighborhoods you want to live in can help you narrow your home search. You may already be familiar with where you want to live, which makes the process easier. If you are relocating and planning to purchase somewhere new, it is good practice to tour the area you are planning to move to and learn as much about it as you can ahead of time.

Review Your Credit

Building your credit score up to a healthy level can help you obtain the best possible interest rate on your home. Paying down your debt and utilizing other methods to boost your score before purchasing a home can lead to significant long-term savings. That said, there are programs available for borrowers with a range of credit scores, so if you are unsure about your score a Loan Officer can advise you on your options.

Plan for Your Down Payment

The traditional 20% down payment is no longer the only feasible choice. There are several programs that may allow borrowers to pay little or no money out of pocket at the time of closing. Review how much of your savings you can put towards a down payment, and talk to an experienced loan officer about different loan programs to learn which is the best fit for you.

Feel Free to Ask Questions

Realtors and Loan Officers are all about customer service and building client relationships. They are happy to speak with you and answer your questions. Even if you are unsure whether now is the right time for you to buy, reaching out for advice from experienced professionals can give you peace of mind and a solid plan of action if you decide to wait.

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!

Low Housing Inventory Leads to an Increase in Bidding Wars

Many changes are facing home buyers currently house hunting during the Coronavirus pandemic – most notably housing inventory. State and county restrictions directed towards protecting our health have led to new methods of interacting with realtors, loan officers, and home sellers. Virtual tours and meetings abound, and open houses are limited and require additional precautions. One of the most surprising impacts, however, is the very real shortage of available homes on the market. While demand for homes has declined, supply has declined much more drastically, leading to an unprecedented percentage of bidding wars.

According to Bloomberg, roughly 40% of homes received multiple offers, with the number jumping to 60% in some major cities. Bidding wars are most common in entry-level homes and decline in homes priced over $1 million.

A CNBC article states that home listings nationwide were down 29% in May compared to this time last year. This is thought to be due to the seller’s concerns over having others tour their home during the pandemic. Even with limited options on the market, many home buyers are seeing this as an opportune time to move, as mortgage interest rates continue to hit historic lows. Some experts also conjecture that increased time at home due to the pandemic restrictions are causing people to look for properties with more interior and exterior living space, driving even more buyers to the market.

In these conditions, it is more important than ever to work with experienced professionals to help find the right home and loan for you. It is important to know as soon as new properties become available so that you can have the chance to view them and decide if you want to put in an offer before they sell. Acting quickly on a home you want to purchase is imperative right now and becoming pre-qualified before house hunting can allow you to get your offer in on your dream home as soon as you find it.

To learn more about your loan options and discuss pre-qualification, please contact one of our experienced loan officers today!

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-05-20/bidding-wars-are-back-even-in-housing-market-stung-by-pandemic
https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/20/coronavirus-bidding-wars-in-a-pandemic-housing-is-heating-up-fast.html

5 Tips for Moving During a Pandemic

Packing up and moving to a new home can feel overwhelming, but during the current global pandemic this feeling can be heightened with extra precautions to consider. Follow these 5 tips to make your move feel as safe as possible.

1. Decide whether to use a moving company

With all of us trying to limit social contact, and states placing restrictions on gatherings, it’s not the best time to rally all of your family and friends for a moving party. Moving everything yourself or with just a couple of helpers is doable, and arguably the safest option overall. However, if you have a lot of large items to move, limited time, or simply don’t feel able to do it yourself, it may be worthwhile to use a moving company. Most states consider movers to be essential, allowing you to lean on those moving companies in your area. Be sure to ask what safety precautions the company is taking to limit contact, and if there are any different procedures they need you to follow.

2. Clean your home before moving day

Thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting your home while packing and before moving helps prevent bringing germs into your new place. It’s also an important measure to help protect your family, friends, or movers who are in your home and handling your boxes and furniture. Cleaning companies may be available in your area, but again be sure to use caution when planning to have additional people in your home.

3. Keep social distancing guidelines in mind

Keep CDC guidelines in mind while moving, particularly if individuals outside of your immediate family are involved. Wearing masks, maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from others, washing your hands frequently and avoiding touching your face are all great practices to keep everyone safe during your move.

4. Clean and disinfect your new home before unpacking

Ideally, the prior owners would have already cleaned and disinfected it for you, but in times like these it’s best to be sure! Thoroughly clean and disinfect using CDC recommended cleaning products before moving items into your new home or hire a cleaning company to do it for you.

5. Wipe down boxes before unpacking

Moving companies will often unpack items for you, but some homeowners are choosing to skip that step to limit the potential spread of germs. If you choose to unpack items yourself, wipe down the boxes with disinfectant wipes before opening them. Another option is to leave boxes in your new garage or basement for a few days if possible, until they are past the point where germs could survive on the surfaces.

Following these moving tips can help give you peace of mind, knowing that you’ve done everything possible to keep yourself and those around you safe. If you have any questions about moving or refinancing now or in the future, please contact one of our experienced loan officers today!

How Much Home Can You Afford?

Whether you are ready to achieve the dream of home ownership for the first time, or are selling your current home and making the move to a new property, understanding how much you can comfortably afford to spend on your new house is key.

Important factors to consider are your down payment, and the total monthly cost of your proposed mortgage in relation to your monthly income.

Your down payment is the money you plan to put towards your home purchase up front. A larger down payment reduces the amount of your loan, and some loan programs require a certain percentage of your homes value be made in an initial down payment. However, there are specific low and no down payment loan programs available in some areas for qualified borrowers.

The most common recommendation for spending on your home is that the total monthly cost should not exceed 28% of your gross (pre-tax) monthly income. Many experts also recommend that your total monthly loan payments, including car and credit card payments, should not exceed 36% of your gross monthly income. This is a middle of the road approach, meaning that some experts recommend higher or lower percentages. It is possible to qualify for a home loan with higher percentages, so keep your overall financial picture in mind when coming to a decision on how much to spend.

Understanding the total monthly cost of your home requires factoring in the sale price, mortgage loan interest rate, property taxes, and any mortgage insurance or homeowner’s association fees. While there are many mortgage payment calculators available online, a loan officer can provide you with the most accurate payment estimate.

If you have any questions about home affordability or available low and no down payment programs, reach out to one of our loan officers today! We are utilizing a variety of communication technologies to continue providing exceptional service to our clients while maintaining social distancing.

Connect With Us