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 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. 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 sellers 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.

5 Fun & Easy Ideas to Make the Most of Your Home During Quarantine

With so many of us enjoying plenty of extra hours in our homes right now, it’s an ideal time to tackle some small but impactful projects to maintain and improve your space. We’ve compiled a list of our 5 favorite ideas, that all require minimal supplies to accomplish!

1. Organize!

This may not be the most exciting task for everyone to tackle, but organizing and reducing clutter makes your home more functional and enjoyable now and in the future.

Some common hotspots include kitchen drawers and cabinets, bedroom closets, home offices, and other frequently used areas. Cutting through clutter and putting everything in its place can be a time-consuming process, but the finished results are well worth it! Find some inspiring before and after pics here!

2. Plant a Kitchen Herb Garden

An indoor herb garden is a beginner-level gardening project that reaps big rewards. Indoor plants help clean the air in your home, and fresh herbs are delicious to cook with! You can get creative with containers and use items you already have. Teacups and teapots are an attractive option, but even Tupperware works! Find a list of popular kitchen garden herbs here!

3. Rearrange Your Furniture – Or Go All Out and Refinish it.

Simply shifting the items you already have in a room can transform it. This can help relieve the boredom of spending so much time in the same place. Try a few different layouts and pick the one you like best. If you get tired of your new arrangement, change it up again!  If you want to impact your look up even more, this is also a good time to refinish any furniture that needs it, or that you’d rather have in a different color!

4. Paint! Paint! Paint!

Touch up paint anywhere that needs it – from walls and ceilings to baseboards to cabinets. Try out an accent wall or new front door color for some extra punch! Check out baseboard painting tips here!

5. Switch Things Up

Change out the photos in your wall frames, update your air vent covers, or swap out your cabinet and drawer knobs for something different. These changes take a bit of time but don’t require anything more than a screwdriver!

Making the most of your extra time at home with easy projects can help pass the time, ease the monotony and boost your enjoyment of your home!

We’re all practicing social distancing at First Home Mortgage, but with today’s range of communication technology our loan officers can still offer you personalized service while keeping everyone safe. If you have questions about purchasing or refinancing a home, contact one of our experienced loan officers today!

DTI Ratio: What it Means for Your Mortgage, and 5 Ways to Improve it!

What Does DTI Ratio Mean for your Mortgage?

Debt to income ratio is a calculation of the percentage of your monthly debt payments, compared with your gross (pretax) monthly income. Monthly debt payments include mortgage payments, car payments, and any other minimum loan or card payments. Living expenses like gas, groceries, and utilities are not included.

Debt to income ratio is an important factor in qualifying for mortgages and other loans. The ideal DTI ratio for a mortgage is 36% or below. If your DTI ratio is too high, you may not qualify for the home loan you want. The lower the ratio – the better!

5 Ways to Lower Your DTI Ratio

  1. Pay off Debts Ahead of Time. Paying off a debt means you’re no longer paying a monthly bill on it. Paying off smaller debts first, or debts with a high payment compared to their balance is recommended to get the best results.

 

  1. Refinance larger loans over a longer period of time. This would apply to large loans such as student loans. You can extend the length of the loan to reduce your minimum monthly payments, which will also reduce your DTI ratio. Just keep in mind that repaying a loan over a longer period can result in more interest paid over the life of the loan.

 

  1. Transfer credit card debt to a lower interest card. There are often credit card offers available with an introductory period of lower or no interest. You can transfer existing debt to a low or no interest card in order to reduce your minimum monthly payment and the total amount paid over time! At the end of the promotional period, you can always transfer again to a lower interest card!

 

  1. Look for ways to increase your monthly income. With the world of Etsy and YouTube channels, there are plenty of ways to earn extra income in addition to your monthly income. If you have a specific hobby or craft to share, it can gain you extra funds every month.

 

  1. Consider a 401k loan. You can take funds out of your 401k to pay off debt, and then repay the loan over time at zero interest. You will however need to pay taxes on the 401k loan amount. This can save a substantial amount on a high interest loan. Just be sure to repay the 401k loan to yourself as soon as possible to keep your retirement savings on track!

Reducing your DTI improves your overall budget, can help your credit score, and puts you in the right position to purchase a home you can comfortably afford. If you have any questions about your DTI in regard to purchasing or refinancing a home, please contact one of our experienced loan officers today!

10 Tips for Working from Home

1. Develop Morning and Evening Routines

Working from home can be a major adjustment when you’re used to going into an office every day. To help embrace your new normal, develop a morning routine that sets you up for success, and an end of the workday routine to help send a signal to your brain that the day is done. This adds structure to your week and replaces some of your familiar office habits that you may miss. Popular recommendations for a morning routine are to enjoy a healthy breakfast, get some exercise, and get yourself ready. Some experts suggest it boosts productivity to get dressed as though you’re actually going into the office. When your workday is done, a brief relaxing activity like a game or some leisure reading can transition you out of work mode.

2. Create a Dedicated Workspace

It’s important to have a workspace that works for you, both practically and mentally. A designated space that’s relatively peaceful and quiet is the best way to go. Be sure to set up everything you’ll need to do your job, and since you’ll be spending lots of time there, make it as comfortable and convenient as you can!

3. Establish Dedicated Hours

Some jobs have more set hours, particularly positions where we need to be available to clients and partners during regular office hours. Others can be more flexible. In either case, a set work schedule is considered good practice for working from home. It provides you with a structure similar to what you’re used to, makes it easy to keep track of your time, and helps to keep the boundaries between your work and home life in place.

4. Don’t Forget Lunch and Breaks

Just as you would in the office – be sure to take your lunch and some occasional breaks! Setting alarms to remind yourself can be helpful.

5. Squeeze in Stretching and Exercise

Getting up to walk around and stretch periodically is always important at a desk job, but it can be even more important when working from home. This is because your home desk setup may not be as ergonomic as your office desk and chair. Experts particularly recommend spinal twists and neck stretches to protect your back and posture.

6. Find Some Outside Time

Get some fresh air during lunch and breaks, and as part of your morning routine when possible. It’s important to get out of the house so you don’t feel too cooped up!

7. Focus on Communication

Working from home means you aren’t getting face to face time with your colleagues. This makes communication more important than ever. Stay in touch about projects you’re working on, and call or video into meetings when it makes sense. Multiple sources suggest it’s important to be extra positive in remote communication, since quick texts and emails can be interpreted different ways by the reader. Break out the emojis and exclamation points!

8. Set Work Life Boundaries

A whole new set of “coworkers” can come along with working from home. Setting boundaries for your little ones and furry friends can keep you from feeling frazzled while you’re getting things done. On the flip side, just because you always have access to your work doesn’t mean you should work all the time! Try to maintain the work-life balance you’re used to.

9. Manage Sound to Avoid Distractions

Too much noise can be distracting, and so can too little! If you have to work in a noisy area, sound canceling headphones are a worthwhile investment. If silence is getting to you when you’re used to the hum of a busy office, try playing quiet music or turning the TV on at a low volume.

10. Do What Works for You!

Most importantly, tailor your work from home experience to what works best for you! While working from home can be challenging, there are plenty of benefits to balance that out. Find a space and schedule that makes you happy and productive, and live your best work from home life!

We’re all practicing social distancing at First Home Mortgage, but with today’s range of communication technology our loan officers can still offer you personalized service while keeping everyone safe. If you have questions about purchasing or refinancing a home, contact one of our experienced loan officers today!

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