How to Choose a Home That Will Appreciate

The potential for appreciation is an important factor to consider when choosing a home to purchase. Appreciation is when the value of your home increases over time. There are many factors that contribute to home value appreciation; some of them are out of your control, but there are some that you can control or predict the impact of to a certain extent. Here are some things to think about when choosing a home that may lead to better outcomes with regards to appreciation.

Find a Valuable Property

The value of the land your home sits on certainly plays a role in determining its value. The appreciation of land is generally influenced by fewer factors than that of the buildings housed on it, so going with a home that is on a valuable piece of land can help ensure its value will remain consistent or, ideally, rise regardless of the state of the structure on it.

Location, Location, Location

This old saying hasn’t become a staple of real estate for no reason; location really does play a massive role in the desirability and, by extension, value of a home. This is particularly important to consider when selecting a home to buy because while you can change a lot about the home, you simply cannot change its location. Of course, it can be hard to nail down what exactly makes a location great. There are a whole host of factors, but some of the more notable ones are the proximity to desirable features (parks, shopping, restaurants, etc.), the quality of the school district, a quick (or at least reasonable) commute to a city, and if it is considered an “up and coming” neighborhood. You may also want to look at real estate market trends for this area to get a feel for how values have changed over time historically.

Consider a “Fixer-Upper”

If there is room for improvement in a home, the current value is often lower than it could be. So purchasing what’s considered to be a “fixer-upper” and making necessary and desirable renovations is likely to lead to a higher value and therefore a higher price tag when the time comes for you to sell. While home improvement projects aren’t cheap, another bonus is that you may be able to spend less only making the renovations you find the highest priority compared to purchasing an already-renovated state of the art home—and you may be able to secure a property in a better location and on a more valuable plot than you’d be able to if the home wasn’t in need of repairs.

Be Smart About Upgrades

When it comes to renovations and making updates to your home, you should aim to be strategic in determining what work to have done. Certain renovations are pricier than others and some are more valuable in others in terms of how they can contribute to your home’s appreciation. A few common renovations that are generally known to increase your home’s value the most include garage door replacement, kitchen remodeling, siding replacement, and window replacements.

If you are thinking about buying a new home, reach out to one of our experienced Loan Officers today to learn more about your home loan options.

What to Know Before Buying a Flipped Home

House flipping is when someone buys a home, usually for “cheap,” with the express purpose of remodeling to increase its value and sell it for a profit. As shown by the nearly countless television shows made about flipping, the final result can be very impressive, but is buying and living in a home that has been flipped right for you? Read on for things you should consider before purchasing a flipped property.

Pros

Flipped homes often utilize the trendiest design styles and come with brand new appliances. In many cases, you get the charming exterior of an older or historic home with all the comforts of modern décor and technology. As a result, most of these homes are move-in ready and there should be little to no renovation work required on your part.

Cons

While there are some risks associated with any home purchase, the risk can be greater with flipped property. The home may look great, but it’s important to make sure it’s not just smoke and mirrors. In some cases, the person doing the flipping does a good job of simply covering up and concealing issues cosmetically without really fixing the problem. When a flipper is experiencing financial and time crunches, they may be more careless even with things that are important, like electric and plumbing work. Cutting corners like this could not only cause you headaches after move-in but can even be dangerous. This can also lead to issues of compliance, and it is essential you make sure all the proper permits were obtained and that your home is up to code. Otherwise, you may end up on the hook for a lot of money and work to get the home in regulatory order.

Things to Look Out For

There are certain things you can do to identify whether a home is flipped. A good indication that it was flipped will be through the property’s history which you can view formally through the county assessor’s office records or informally through most popular online real estate listing sites. Both options give you information about the home’s sale history, and if it was bought within the last year or so, odds are it has probably been flipped.

Once you’re touring the home, whether you suspect already it is a flip or not, there are some hints that could suggest it’s a flip (of course, if it’s a good flip, many of these things will be harder to spot or non-issues). Look out for flaws in flooring. If you spot anything painted that wouldn’t normally be painted, it may be covering up other flaws. Speaking of painting, if there are paint spots where there shouldn’t be or walls look sloppy, it can be a red flag; if they’re willing to be careless with something as simple as painting, what else were they careless with? Check out cabinets, drawers, and doors to make sure they are functioning and don’t hit anything when opened. Just be on the look out for overall poor workmanship.

Ultimately, your best bet to protect yourself from buying a poorly flipped home is to seek out a competent, experienced home inspector. They will know what to look for and will be able to spot red flags that may not be obvious to the average person. You should do this regardless of whether the home is flipped or not; you never know what issues could be hiding below the surface, and an inspector is your best chance at uncovering any problems before committing to a purchase.

Are you thinking about buying a home? Contact one of our Loan Officers today to discuss your mortgage options!

First Home Mortgage Makes Scotsman Guide Top Overall Lender Ranking

Baltimore, MD — Scotsman Guide has released its annual Top Overall Lenders ranking for 2022. We are pleased to announce that out of 100 top lenders on the list, First Home Mortgage Corporation is ranked 46th nationally by total volume.

This is the eighth consecutive year First Home Mortgage has made the Top Overall Lenders list and marks a rise by one spot compared to 2021. Scotsman Guide’s Top Mortgage Lenders rankings has long been a trusted benchmark by the mortgage industry, and being ranked is a significant accomplishment signaling excellence.

The Top Overall Lenders ranking is available online and will appear in print in the June edition of Scotsman Guide.

5 Tips for a Fabulous Game Room

Creating a game room right in your own home is a great way to make the most of your space and create a fun atmosphere for making memories with family and friends. With a little forethought and planning, almost any space can become your ideal game room! Follow our tips below to get started.  

Decide What Activities You’d Like to Include 

This is a great brainstorming activity that everyone can participate in! Make a list of fun indoor games and activities you’d love to have in your game room. The list may need to be narrowed down, but it will be a good jumping off point for planning your space. Some popular options are: 

  • Arcade consoles  
  • Pinball Machines 
  • Video games 
  • Ping Pong table 
  • Air Hockey 
  • Foosball 
  • Darts 
  • Board games 
  • Poker table  
  • Shuffleboard 
  • Pool Table 
  • Indoor basketball set 

Analyze Your Space 

Now that you have a list of all the activities you might like to include in your game room, analyze the space you’re transforming to see what will fit. It’s important to take measurements, especially for larger items like a pool table or ping pong table. When measuring, be sure to include enough space to play without bumping into walls. This will help to narrow down your list and confirm which games you’ll include.  

Choose Furniture to Compliment Your Setup  

Your selected games can help you decide what furniture should go in your space. For example, a video game setup might call for sleek gaming chairs. Arcade consoles could be paired with stools. If you’re planning on hosting long card games or tournaments, providing a comfortable seating area for guests not currently playing (or just there to watch) is ideal. Think about who will be using the space, as well as what games you’re including. If pets or children will be joining in the fun, it’s a great idea to devote an area to their comfort as well. Taking measurements is equally important in this step, to ensure everything will fit into the space together. 

Bring on the Snacks!  

Refreshments are an essential part of any game night. There are plenty of ways to make drinks and snacks easily accessible while you play. Some popular items are: 

  • Mini fridge 
  • Drink cart 
  • Popcorn machine 
  • Microwave 
  • Snack basket or station 
  • Wine bar or wet bar 

As in your kitchen, it’s a good idea to ensure food is sealed properly for freshness and to avoid attracting any pests to the area. A healthy mix of sweet, salty and savory snacks is sure to please any palette. Choose easy, low-mess snacks and provide a small trash receptacle nearby to help keep things tidy.  

Decorate to Make it Your Own 

Adding eye-catching personal touches is the final step to making a game room your own! If you have a favorite sports team or another theme in mind, a basement game room can be the perfect space to go all out. If your game room is open to or directly connects to other rooms in your home, you’ll want to maintain a cohesive look. Flooring and paint that coordinates with the rest of your home also makes it easier to change up the theme or decoration when and if you decide to. Lighting is another important decorating element that your game choices will have an impact on. For example, remote controlled LED lights are a great addition behind a wall-mounted flat screen tv or around video game consoles. An attractive hanging fixture works perfectly over a pool table, but not over a ping pong table. These finishing touches will make your personalized game room shine.  

Once you’ve followed these tips and finished your space – the final step is to enjoy it! Gather with friends, family (and opponents) and get gaming!  

If you’re considering moving to a home with more space for a game room, or refinancing your current home to use your equity toward designing a game room, one of our experienced Loan Officers would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have about the process and how to get started! Please reach out today!  

5 Real Estate Scams to Watch Out For

Whether you’re buying, selling, or refinancing a property for the first time or fifth, you’re going to be balancing lots of information, paperwork, communications, and transactions. It can be easy to get overwhelmed, and unfortunately, there are individuals out there who may try to take advantage of you during real estate transactions. Below are five common real estate scams you should be aware of in order to avoid being swindled.

Wire Fraud

Arguably the most common real estate scam is wire fraud, particularly in relation to escrow. These scams generally take the form of some kind of communication, be it by phone or email (these days, it’s most commonly email), from an individual claiming to be a representative of your escrow or title company. They will give you instructions for how and where to wire the money. Wire scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their tactics; they often use fake websites and email addresses meant to mirror that of the company you are working with to make them seem legitimate. It is essential that you do not open any links you aren’t sure about and that you check with your Loan Officer to confirm any instructions you’ve received are accurate. Refer to contact information you previously received from your lender, title company, and closing agent rather than trusting what was included in the phone call or email.

Foreclosure Relief

Foreclosures are public record, and deceitful individuals may specifically target people who are in danger of losing their homes. These scammers will generally offer to stop the foreclosure process or greatly reduce mortgage payments in exchange for a large upfront payment. Once the money is received, they disappear, leaving the person who paid them in an even worse state than before; now, not only are they still facing foreclosure, but they’re out even more money. If you are facing foreclosure, you should contact your loan servicer to discuss your options. Make sure the people you seek guidance from are professionals you know you can trust; do not take the word of someone who cold calls or emails you out of the blue claiming to want to help.

Loan Flipping

Loan flipping occurs when someone (often purporting to be a lender) convinces a borrower to repeatedly refinance their mortgage, tacking on exuberant points and fees to each transaction—which usually involve borrowing even more money than the last—to the point where the borrower’s equity is greatly limited and they’re unable to keep up with loan payments. You should only refinance your home when you have done your research on the pros and cons and, with the help of a trusted mortgage professional, concluded that it is in your best interest to do so. A good lender or Loan Officer will not pressure you to do anything you are unsure about. If the person you are working with is being particularly pushy in trying to persuade you to refinance (especially if they have already done so in the past), it may be time to consider seeking another opinion.

Predatory Lending

Predatory lending can take numerous forms, but some key things to look out for are exceptionally high rates, excessive (and often hidden) fees and penalties, loan flipping, a lack of a credit check, loan packing (tacking on unnecessary additional financial products to your loan), and balloon payments (payments and fees that are delayed until later in the life of your loan).

These lenders often target at-risk borrowers such as those with low credit scores, a lack of cash, low income, and the elderly. It can sometimes be hard to tell what is and isn’t normal coming from a lender, especially when you are a first time buyer. A good way to ensure you are working with a trusted, legitimate lender is to seek out recommendations from friends and family who have been through the mortgage process before and look at online reviews. Check your lender and loan officer’s credentials to confirm they are properly licensed.

Moving Company Scams

When it’s time to move, you may seek the help of professional movers. Be wary of companies that quote prices far lower than competitors, especially if they offer a non-written estimate without seeing your home and belongings. Predatory movers may suddenly charge much more than what you were initially quoted and even demand additional money before releasing your personal property. Much like with lenders, you should do your due diligence in evaluating the merit of moving companies before hiring them in order to avoid losing your money and even your possessions.

What to Do About Scams?

If you believe you have identified or fallen victim to a scam, you can and should report it in order to hold the fraudsters accountable and hopefully prevent others from being scammed. The FTC has an online fraud report tool and the Better Business Bureau offers their “Scam Tracker” where you can not only report scams but also do research to ensure the individual or company you are working with is not fraudulent.

A great way to minimize your risk of being scammed is to work with legitimate professionals right from the outset of the mortgage process. If you are considering buying, selling, or refinancing your home, contact one of our experienced and trustworthy Loan Officers today!

5 Tips for a Greener Home Life

Celebrating and preserving the Earth starts right in your own home! In honor of Earth Day, First Home Mortgage is sharing some of our favorite habitat-healthy habits.  

Install a Rain Barrel 

Rain barrels are an easy and inexpensive way to store natural rainwater, which can be used to water your garden, lawn, and even indoor plants. Be sure the drain spout you are collecting from is clean and free of debris, and always keep the screen on top of your barrel tightly in place, to prevent any insects from breeding inside. A variety of different rain barrels can be purchased, or you can make your own! HGTV offers step-by-step instructions for an attractive DIY rain barrel here: https://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/gardens/planting-and-maintenance/how-to-make-a-rain-barrel-pictures 

Create a Compost Pile 

Composting leftover scraps reduces landfill waste and helps your garden thrive! Beginning to compost requires very few supplies. A pail for collecting your compostable waste indoors, and a composting bin, pile or tumbler for outdoors is all you need. For smaller yards, a composting tumbler is the best option because it prevents odor and insects. Some everyday items to compost include: produce trimmings (such as potato peels), coffee grounds, tea bags, grass clippings, dead leaves, and other garden waste. In time, these once worthless scraps will become nutrient rich soil to bring out the best in your lawn and garden! Find a complete guide to composting for beginners here:  https://pela.earth/blogs/news/composting-for-beginners 

Grow Your Own Herbs (and Even Veggies!) 

Herbs are small enough to thrive in any sunny window and can be grown indoors year-round. Growing your food at home is the most environmentally friendly option, provides your kitchen with the freshest possible herbs, and improves the air quality in your home. If you have outdoor space for a traditional or container garden, you can take it one step further and grow your own vegetables as well. Fully composted soil can be a major benefit to your outdoor gardens, but be sure not to use it indoors (as it will be home to many tiny organisms). While some plants are best left to seasoned gardeners, a host of vegetables are easy and low maintenance enough for beginners to grow. Not sure where to start? Find 9 Easy Vegetables to Grow for Beginners, here: https://www.lifescarousel.com/easy-vegetables-to-grow/ 

Reduce Paper Waste 

Limiting paper waste in your home is a wonderful way to reduce your environmental impact. Utilizing cloth dishtowels over paper towels and cloth napkins over paper napkins, are two easy and affordable ways to make a big difference over time. Requesting paperless billing and electronic receipts is another excellent measure to cut down on all that paper. When disposing of paper waste you can’t avoid, always opt to recycle when possible. Find a quick list of recyclable paper products and more information from the American Forest and Paper Association, here: https://www.afandpa.org/priorities/recycling/whats-recyclable 

Clean Greener 

Natural cleaning products are healthier for the environment and your home. Lemons, white vinegar, baking soda, and borax all work together in different ways to achieve the shine and fresh scent you crave. Store-bought air fresheners that are not all-natural can damage air quality, so it’s best to avoid them. Boiling cinnamon sticks is a great alternative to add some sweet scent to your space, and simmering vinegar mixed with water while cooking fish or other strongly scented foods can help absorb any unwanted odors. If you lack the time or inclination to whip up your own natural cleaners, more and more varieties are now available for purchase in stores and online. Find some quick all-natural cleaning recipes and tips here: https://kingcountygreen.com/2022/04/08/eco-friendly-tips-and-tricks-for-spring-cleaning/

First Home Mortgage takes our own steps to limit our environmental impact. Our offices utilize paperless technology and recycling, our Corporate location boasts water saving appliances and fixtures, and many employees across the company now work remote, decreasing gas consumption and transit pollution!  

If you or someone you know is looking to purchase or refinance a home, please reach out to one of our experienced and helpful Loan Officers today!

Pros and Cons of Moving to a Neighborhood with an HOA

Homeowners’ associations, or HOAs, are organizations consisting of a governing board of resident volunteers who create and enforce rules for a subdivision or planned unit development. If you buy a property within a community with an HOA, you are required to be a member which will happen automatically upon your purchasing the home. There are many varying opinions out there on HOAs, so it’s important you consider whether being part of one is right for you or not.

 

Pros

 

Shared Grounds are Maintained

Any common areas in your neighborhood, such as playgrounds and pools, are managed by the HOA. This allows you to enjoy the benefits of these shared community offerings without having to worry about any upkeep yourself. Sometimes, the HOA will even landscape the front yards of any properties, so your lawn may be taken care of—and paid for—by the HOA.

 

The Neighborhood Looks Nice

Because HOAs have rules for what you can and cannot change about your property, you don’t have to worry about any neighbors’ properties becoming eyesores. Not only does this make the neighborhood look more pleasant for residents, but it can even lead to higher home values. A 2019 study found that homes that are part of an HOA had prices that were, on average, 4% higher than similar homes not in an HOA.

 

Conflict Mediation and Resolution

If you run into any issues with neighbors, the HOA can help address the situation. If your neighbor has been playing loud music all hours of the night, has an outside dog that barks constantly, or is otherwise breaching HOA rules or acting in a problematic fashion, you can go to the HOA with your concerns and they can act as a go-between to avoid direct confrontation. This is especially helpful if you have addressed the issue directly with your neighbor and no change has been made.

 

Cons

 

Fees

HOA dues are a mandatory part of belonging to an HOA, and they may be expensive. They are sometimes collected monthly and other times annually. How high the dues largely depends on your location and the amenities offered by the HOA. Since HOA membership is compulsory when your property is within one’s jurisdiction, there is no way to get out of paying the fees. You should find out how much dues are and determine if keeping up with them will be manageable in addition to your mortgage, utilities, and other expenses.

 

Strict Guidelines

When you are part of an HOA, you agreeing to follow all rules and regulations. Some people feel that when you own a home, you should be able to do whatever you want to it, and with HOAs, that is not the case. HOAs may set guidelines for all sorts of things, from the color of house paint you use to and what you are allowed to have visible on your lawn, how tall your grass can grow and how many pets you can have. You should investigate the various guidelines set by the HOA and decide if you find them reasonable before committing to buy a property there.

 

Risk of Foreclosure

In some states, defaulting on HOA fees could lead to your home being foreclosed upon. For example, in California, if dues have not been paid in more than 12 months or the amount owed is greater than or equal to $1,800, your HOA can begin foreclosure proceedings. In other states, HOAs are at liberty to start the foreclosure process regardless of how long dues have gone unpaid or what the outstanding amount is. If you are at all concerned about your ability to keep up with HOA dues in addition to your other expenses, it is likely in your best interest not to move somewhere with an HOA to minimize your chances of foreclosure. At the very least, you should find out what laws are in place in the state you’re looking to buy in regarding HOA foreclosures so you are aware of your rights and when you may be at risk.

 

If you are considering making a move, contact one of our experienced Loan Officers today to learn more about your mortgage options!

5 Easy Ways to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

Making your home more energy efficient is not only good for the environment but also for your wallet. Small changes can make a big difference in your energy bill. Thankfully we live in a time where technology and innovation make changes much easier than in the past. We have the resources to live greener now let’s put it into practice. Here are 5 ways you can make your home more energy efficient!

 

Use Less Hot Water to Wash

Whenever possible, use warm or cold water when running your washing machine. Your machine uses a large percentage of energy just to heat the water so using less hot water in each load can add up and result in less energy and cost.

Unplug

When not in use, it’s best to unplug small appliances such as toasters, kettles, coffee pots, etc. as well as, phone and laptop chargers. A smart power cord could also be a hands-free option. A smart power cord will sense when there is no object plugged in or if the object plugged in is not in use and will then cut the energy off until it is needed.

Replace Light Bulbs

Changing out light bulbs to LED bulbs will not only save you money on your energy bill but also will last longer. LED bulbs use up to 90% less energy and can last 15 times longer.  They also produce less heat and are made of sturdier material, making them an all-around safer option.

Lower thermostat

According to www.directenergy.com, setting your home to 78F in the summer and 68F in the winter are the optimal temperatures that will keep you comfortable while saving money. Additionally, during the spring and fall when temperatures are more likely to be naturally comfortable outside, opt to turn your system off altogether and open the windows for fresh air. Another thing to keep in mind, space heaters and air conditioning window units tend to eat up a lot of energy. Turning off and unplugging these units is not only saving energy, but also important for safety.

Lights Out

Habits like turning the light off as you leave a room and opening the blinds to use natural sunlight overtime will become second nature and could add up in big way when it comes to your energy bill. Investing in smart plugs could make this even easier by automating the process. There are many smart plug options out there that allow you to control right from your phone. This will allow you to control what’s on or off while you’re not even home!

Taking all, or even a few, of these simple steps can add up over time and won’t require much up front costs. For more home maintenance tips and tricks, visit our website at www.firsthome.com/resources!

Bridge Loan Program

Buying a new home is always a big undertaking, and the current seller’s market can make the process even more challenging. With limited inventory and frequent bidding wars, buyers can feel a natural uncertainty in landing the house you want. Selling your current home before finding your next one can be even more stressful, since you’ll have such a short time to act before your current home settles and you need to move.

For homeowner’s who have equity in their current property and are interested in moving, a Bridge Loan can offer a great solution to take the pressure off while house-hunting!

First Home Mortgage’s Bridge Loan Program offers a short-term loan used to “bridge” the gap between buying your next home and selling your current home, giving buyers the power to purchase a new home before selling their current property.

The benefits of this loan program include:

  • Allowing you to place a non-contingent offer on a home before selling your current residence. This is particularly important in today’s “seller’s market”, as it makes your offer more competitive.
  • Helping you gain funds for the down payment on your next home before selling your current home (a down payment of 20% or more allows you to avoid costly PMI).
  • Avoiding the anxiety of having to find a home to purchase in the short time period after your current home sells and before settlement. With housing inventory at historic lows, and many homes receiving multiple competitive offers, it can be difficult to find your next home in such a short time frame!

Important considerations if you’re interested in this program include:

  • The Minimum/maximum bridge loan amounts are $25,000/$300,000.
  • The Maximum bridge loan amount is dependent on the equity in the current home as determined by a standard appraisal.
  • The Bridge loan is secured on the current home and repayable when the home sells.
  • Your current home must be listed for sale or under contract at the time of loan generation.
  • This program is offered in conjunction with the mortgage loan on your next property.
  • Your departing residence must be located in CT, DE, DC, FL, MD, MA, NC, RI, or VA.

Make the most of the current market with this unique loan offer and reach out today for more information! https://firsthome.com/find-loan-officer/

 

Income restrictions, minimum credit scores, and other program requirements and qualifications may apply.

Tax Season is Here! Read Our Checklist to Prepare for Your Return

If you were like many Americans who purchased a home for the first-time last year, it’s important to understand how your taxes may be affected. Here is a quick checklist of things to think about as you prepare your return:

  • Mortgage interest. You could deduct the interest you paid on your monthly payment, if your mortgage debt is under $750,000.
  • Mortgage points. If you brought your mortgage interest rate down, you could deduct that cost from your first tax filing after your purchase.
  • Property taxes. Make sure you deduct your real estate taxes. You may be eligible to deduct a total of $10,000 in state and local property taxes if you are single, a head of household, or if you’re married and filing jointly. If you are married and filing separately, you can deduct up to $5,000.
  • Mortgage insurance payments. If you put less than 20% down on your home, you are most likely paying mortgage insurance. This amount is deductible too!
  • Home office space. A lot of people are working from home now, and if you have dedicated space to conduct business, you could deduct that square footage on your taxes.
  • Waived IRA fees. If you dip into your IRA account to help with your down payment, the IRS will waive the 10% penalty for removing money early. To receive this benefit, you can take out up to $10,000.
  • Energy-saving improvements. There are tax credits available if you install certain energy-efficient equipment in your home. If you’ve added energy-efficient insulation, doors, heating and air-conditioning systems, wood stoves, water heaters, etc., you could be eligible.

Before you submit your tax return, make sure you have all your documentation organized. Gather any tax documents you received from your mortgage lender, receipts for home improvements you completed, or details about donations you made during the last year.

You still have one month until the tax filing deadline. Don’t wait to get started in case your accountant or tax filing system needs additional information. If you have any questions about any of the tax deductions mentioned above or other incentives you may be eligible for, reach out to your loan officer and they can answer any questions you may have.

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