Flooring is anything but boring! The type of flooring you choose for your home contributes to your home’s aesthetic and comfort—it shouldn’t be an afterthought! If you’re debating what flooring you should use in your home, read up on these different types of flooring.

Carpet

Not a fan of having to walk on cold, hard floors? Carpeted floors are what you want! Carpets come in a rainbow of colors to coordinate with your decor, as well as various textures and densities. Common carpet types include loop pile, plush pile, frieze, Berber, and twist pile. Aside from aesthetics, the carpet’s characteristics impact its durability and care. Padding is placed under carpet during installation; choose carefully, as the padding affects the carpet’s longevity and your walking comfort. Many brands offer stain resistant carpeting, but clean up messes as soon as possible to prevent permanent stains or smells. Regular vacuuming is sufficient for regular cleaning, but have your carpets deep cleaned once a year to remove embedded dirt. Carpeting often ranges from .65 cents-$12 per square inch, making it a very affordable choice.  

Standard and Engineered Hardwood

Hardwood has an irreplaceable warmth and feel—it’s a true classic! Being made of solid wood, hardwood handles foot traffic well and can be refinished multiple times. With proper care, it can last generations. Be sure to dry dust regularly, use wood floor-friendly cleaning products, and dry well afterwards. Moisture doesn’t play well with hardwood, so avoid installing it in bathrooms and kitchens, and wipe up spills quickly. Hardwood tends to cost around $6-18 per square foot with installation, though engineered hardwood can be a good alternative.

Engineered hardwood is composed of several thin layers of wood, topped with a veneer of real hardwood. This gives you the hard-to-replicate look and feel of hardwood. If the veneer is thick enough, it can be refinished 1-2 times during its lifetime. This flooring type typically ranges from $3-11 per square foot but can be more depending on the quality. Sweep floors clean or use products designed for engineered floors. Like hardwood and laminate, don’t let water sit on the surface for long or install in humid areas.

Vinyl

For homeowners looking for durable, low-maintenance flooring that’s easy to maintain, vinyl is an excellent choice. Vinyl can be made to look like other materials, and it works well in high traffic areas or in high moisture areas. The most common forms of vinyl flooring are sheet, tile, and plank. Vinyl sheets and tiles need to be glued to the floor’s underlayment, but planks can snap together to be laid over the existing floor. Vinyl floors are either waterproof or water resistant, making cleaning a breeze. The price per square foot ranges from .50 cents to $10, depending on the type and quality. Keep in mind that vinyl isn’t the most eco-friendly option since it’s synthetic, and removing glued-on flooring is difficult. 

Stone and Ceramic Tile 

Stone and ceramic tile floors add a touch of sophistication to your home and can last for decades with the right care. Popular types of stone flooring include marble, granite, limestone, and slate. It’s compatible with every room in your home and handles foot traffic well. Because stone is porous, the surface needs to be sealed to prevent water damage. Depending on the material and location, resealing should be done every 18 months or 3-4 years. Bathroom and kitchen floors may need to be resealed more often due humidity levels. To preserve the stone’s unique characteristics and finish, use mild, non-abrasive cleaning products and clean up messes quickly. Stone is among the pricier flooring types; expect to pay $8-40 per square foot. 

Ceramic and porcelain floors are available in many shapes, colors, and patterns to give your home flair. Both materials work well in damp areas, are hygienic, and quite durable against scratches. Though they’re sturdy, they aren’t immune to damage. Tiles can crack if something extremely heavy falls on them and may chip at corners. Basic cleaning can be done with a mild solution, though it’s a good idea to scrub any grout lines every so often to prevent dinginess. While the tiles themselves don’t require sealing (most come glazed), cement-based grout should be sealed to protect the integrity of your flooring. Ceramic tiles start around $1-6 per square foot, and porcelain is about $3-9. Be aware that flooring and installation costs will be higher if you’re using nonstandard tile shapes or want an intricate layout.

Laminate

Laminate floors are a cheaper alternative to hardwood floors and feature a printed veneer over a wood composite base. At around $3-8 per square foot, it’s a great option if you want the look of hardwood on a budget. You can even install it yourself! Laminate flooring has come a long way and is more durable than in the past. When shopping for laminate, pay attention to its abrasion criteria (AC) rating. The AC rating shows how durable it is in relation to how much foot traffic it will receive. Avoid installing in areas with high humidity, as the floor can warp. Caring for laminate requires care and vigilance; never clean with a wet mop or let liquids sit too long on the surface, as it can damage the floor. Instead, use a broom or a laminate-friendly cleaning solution to maintain it. 

Flooring has come a long way to make our homes more attractive and complementary to our lives. When shopping for flooring, always keep your budget, lifestyle, home aesthetic, and the installation area in mind. Be sure to take home samples to compare quality. Well-chosen flooring is sure to enhance your home and make you love it even more!

If you want to know more about how to pay off your mortgage faster, contact one of our licensed Mortgage Loan Originators. If you are ready to begin the home buying process, click here to get started!

The Veterans Affairs (VA) loan is just one benefit military members can use as a reward for their service. Its generous terms and flexible requirements have helped numerous families achieve homeownership, but there are still things many people get wrong about the VA loan. Here are some of the most common myths about the VA loan, debunked. 

Myth: The VA loan is Only for Active-Duty Military and Veterans

You wouldn’t be wrong if you thought active-duty service members and veterans were the most prominent beneficiaries of the VA loan, but they aren’t the only populations that can use it. National Guard and Reserve members may be eligible for a VA loan if they have served six or more years or have at least 90 consecutive days of active duty, as well as an acceptable type of discharge as determined by the VA. Surviving spouses may also be able to use a VA loan if they can obtain a certificate of eligibility (COE) and meet certain conditions, like remaining unmarried at the time of application and if the Veteran died while serving or due to a service-related disability.

Myth: The VA Loan is Bad for Sellers

The VA loan has made homeownership possible for millions of military families since 1944, but there are still sellers who are wary of it. Some believe that because VA loans don’t require a down payment or private mortgage insurance (PMI), military buyers are riskier. This couldn’t be further from the truth. VA financing can fully cover the mortgage prices in many cases, and it will guarantee up to 25% of the loan in case of default. VA buyers also have more money to put towards the offer.

Another misconception is that sellers have to pay all of the buyer’s fees at closing. To maintain affordability, the VA limits homebuyers from paying certain unallowable fees. The VA states sellers have to pay for a termite inspection, real estate agent fees, brokerage fees, and buyer broker fees. There are more closing costs that VA buyers can’t pay, but that doesn’t mean the seller is obligated to pick up the tab for all of them. Lenders and agents may cover some of the unallowable fees, and buyers can negotiate with sellers to pay them. It’s important to note that sellers can’t pay more than 4% in seller’s concessions for a VA loan.

Myth: VA Loans Have No Closing Costs

Even with the cost-saving features of the VA loan, it’s not entirely a free ride. There are still closing costs, including a funding fee unique to the VA loan. The funding fee is a one-time payment that helps reduce taxpayer expense to fund the loan. The fee ranges from 1.4-3.6% of the loan amount depending on the down payment amount. Though a down payment isn’t required, the more you can contribute, the lower your fee. You can pay it upfront at closing, roll it into your mortgage, or ask the seller to pay it. For any subsequent uses of your VA loan, the funding fee can be higher if you have a down payment less than 5%. There are a few situations in which the fee may be waived, like in cases of a service-related disability or for an eligible surviving spouse. If you’re concerned about closing costs, consider asking your lender for a lender credit or negotiate with the sellers for a contribution. Again, sellers can pay up to 4% in closing costs.  

Myth: The VA Appraisal is Too Strict

The mandatory VA appraisal is another thing that makes the VA loan distinct from other loans, and many people are intimidated by it. Properties need to have an appraisal done to assess fair market value and the home’s safety and sanitary conditions. The appraisal is not the same as a home inspection, as a true inspection is more thorough. An independent appraiser will review the home against the VA’s list of minimum property requirements (MPRs). Issues appraisers will look for include exposed wiring, termite damage, and adequate drainage. If the home doesn’t meet the MRPs, the problems will need to be fixed before proceeding. Sellers and buyers should negotiate expenses. An appraisal also uses housing market data to see whether the proposed loan amount is comparable to that of similarly valued homes. Though the VA appraisal may seem tedious, it’s not much different than a standard appraisal. Homeowners who have maintained their home shouldn’t be too worried about major issues appearing.

Myth: VA Loans Can Only be Used Once

Luckily, the VA loan can be taken out multiple times as long as you have entitlement to use. Entitlement is how much the VA will guarantee the lender if you default. When you first use a VA loan, you have full entitlement. This means you can buy a home at any given price with no down payment, so long as your lender approves you for a mortgage. If you’ve fully paid off and sold your VA-financed home, your full entitlement is restored for your next purchase. It’s even possible to have more than one loan out at once if you use any remaining entitlement to buy another home. Be aware that if you’re buying with reduced entitlement, you’ll likely need a down payment.

The VA loan isn’t just a lucrative loan program, it’s a benefit you’ve earned through service. The intricacies of the loan have led to misunderstandings among military homebuyers and home sellers alike, which is why it’s crucial to work with a lender and real estate agent with a strong track record of working with VA homebuyers. 

If you have any questions about the home buying process, contact one of our licensed Mortgage Loan Originators. If you are ready to buy a home, click here to get started!

For informational purposes only. You should refer to the VA for specific guidelines regarding your eligibility.

“Amortization” might sound complex and confusing, but it’s easy to understand once you know how it works. 

What is Loan Amortization? 

Amortization is when a loan’s balance is gradually reduced through routine payments. With an amortized loan (such as a mortgage), most of the initial loan payments will go towards the interest but will increasingly go towards the principal over time until the balance is zero. An amortized repayment structure makes becoming a homeowner more accessible and beneficial. Instead of having to pay back all the money you borrowed to buy a home in one large payment, amortization lets you pay off your mortgage in manageable chunks. Another perk is that with every principal payment, you’re increasing home equity and paying down your home faster. Making extra principal payments can help you pay off your mortgage early and save money in the long run; check that doing so will not result in prepayment penalties. 

Mortgage Amortization: A Closer Look

If you were to get a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage of $290,000 at 5% interest, your monthly payment would be $1,556.78. In the first month, $1208.33 of that payment goes towards the interest, while only $348.45 is distributed to the principal. Each month afterward, a little bit more of the payment contributes to the principal. 

Source: NFM Lending, for illustrative purposes only

At 196 months, the portion that goes to your principal becomes greater than the interest portion, $783.92 versus $772.86, respectively. This shift continues for the rest of the 30-year loan term until the loan is paid off.

Source: NFM Lending, for illustrative purposes only

Most adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM) are amortizing, too. For hybrid ARMs where there’s an initial fixed-rate period, the loan follows a normal amortization schedule. Once the adjustable period begins, the loan will re-amortize each time the rate and monthly payment adjust. When you’re reviewing mortgage options with your Loan Originator, they’ll give you an amortization schedule so you can see the payment breakdown. You can also use an amortization calculator to get an estimate for a rough calculation.   

Maintaining a mortgage is a massive financial responsibility, and it takes time to pay it off. When you understand how mortgage repayment is structured, you can make better financial decisions and feel confident that you’re breaking down your loan, one payment at a time.


If you want to know more about how to pay off your mortgage faster, contact one of our licensed Mortgage Loan Originators. If you are ready to begin the home buying process, click here to get started!

You don’t have to wait for spring to put your home on the market! Winter can be a great time to sell, as buyers are more serious, and you’ll probably have less competition from other sellers. Still, it’s crucial to give your home an aesthetic advantage with staging and curb appeal. These staging tips will help you banish the cold weather blues of winter selling. 

Inside

Clean Sweep

Before you even get listing photos taken or start holding open houses, give your whole home a deep clean. A visibly dirty home will turn off buyers and make it seem like the house isn’t being maintained. Get rid of clutter that takes up space and distracts the eye. Store sentimental items like family photos or your child’s art out of sight, too. These steps are needed so that buyers can imagine living in your house. A clean and neat home is the first step to making a good impression.

Create Coziness

Creating a cozy atmosphere through staging is important year-round, but it’s essential when selling in the winter. The last thing you want is for buyers to think your home is drafty and cold—turn up the heat (literally) when staging it. For open house events, raise your thermostat thirty minutes before starting. Does your home have a fireplace? Light it up for extra warmth and a glowing ambience. Letting lots of natural light into your home is a no-brainer, but there’s less sunlight during the winter months. Illuminate your home by turning on all the lights. Adding a few throw pillows and a knit blanket over a sofa or bed will make your living areas feel more snug. Consider lighting a candle or scent diffuser to gently perfume your home during showings.

Seasonal Decor 

Incorporating seasonality into your staging can make your home feel more attractive and festive! Adding nature-inspired elements like pine boughs, pinecones, or an amaryllis plant will give your home wintery vibes. Remember that decor should be used in moderation to enhance your home rather than detract from it. Skip putting out religious holiday decorations or very sentimental items, as you don’t want your home to feel too personalized.

Outside 

Curb Appeal 

Maybe you don’t have to worry about mowing your lawn in the winter, but that doesn’t mean you should forget about creating curb appeal! Consider repainting your front door for a cheery pop of color, then hang a welcoming wreath on it. Plant some winter hardy plants (such as pansies, violas, and hellebores) in a container and place by your front door or mailbox to brighten the winter landscape. Tidy up your property by removing yard waste, trimming overgrown branches, and cleaning out the gutter. Dirt and grime may have built up on your windows during fall; take time to clean them. During open houses, provide photos of what your yard looks like in the warmer months. 

Decorations

If you’re showing your home during the holiday season, keep any outdoor decorations simple and nonreligious. Having many lighted features on your house and on the lawn can make your yard look cluttered and tacky. Just like indoor staging, outdoor staging should accentuate your home and appeal to a broad range of buyers. If you really want to put up some holiday decorations, stick to using white lights on select areas or some evergreen accents.

Clear the Way

Many people can appreciate how picturesque a snow-covered home looks, but it’s a different story when you’re trying to sell it. Keep your driveway, walkway and front stoop clear of snow and ice. Before an open house, sprinkle ice melt over crucial areas before people show up. Snow-free pathways will also look better in listing photos since nothing will be hidden under a blanket of white. Put a doormat on the inside of the entrance so guests can wipe their shoes when it’s snowing or raining. 

Selling your home in winter comes with a unique set of challenges, just like at any other time of the year. It’s important to make your winter staging preparations work with the season, not against it. By emphasizing a warm atmosphere, buyers will feel like they can enjoy your home even after winter passes.

If you have any questions about the home buying process, contact one of our licensed Mortgage Loan Originators. If you are ready to buy a home, click here to get started!

When you’re considering different home loan products, one key question you should ask yourself is whether you want a fixed-rate or an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM.) Many people become entranced by the ARM’s lower interest rates, but there’s more to them than their attractive rates. Here’s what you need to know about adjustable-rate mortgages. 

What’s an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage?

Mortgages can generally be categorized into two types: fixed-rate mortgages and adjustable-rate mortgages. As their names suggest, the interest rate for an ARM is variable and can change over the life of the loan. ARMs are appealing because of their lower starting rate and the money-saving benefits during the beginning of the loan. It’s important to be financially prepared when the rate adjusts, as no one can predict how much they will change in the future. Having an ARM can become a problem if the rate increases to a point where you can’t afford to make payments. This element of uncertainty is why ARMs typically have lower rates than fixed-rate mortgages. 

Types of ARM Loans

Hybrid

Hybrid ARMs have an initial fixed-rate period (often for 5, 7, 10, or 15 years) during which you’ll pay the same interest rate you closed on. After that period ends, your rate adjusts to whatever the current rate is for the life of the loan. The rate adjustment period can vary depending on the loan. Hybrid ARMs have an interest rate cap that limits how much the rate can increase or decrease within a certain timespan. For example, a 5/1 ARM may be structured with a 5/2/5 rate cap where after the first five years, the rate can be up to 5% higher than your initial rate in the sixth year. After that, the rate can increase up to 2% from your starting rate for the rest of the term. The last number in the rate cap indicates the maximum the rate can increase during the life of the loan, which is 5%. Make sure you understand and consider the loan’s rate cap so you know how much you could be paying. Locking in a competitive rate for the first few years gives you time to build savings, and you could save even more if the rate drops in the future. 

Interest-Only 

With interest-only ARMs, you pay a lower rate upfront and only make interest payments for a certain amount of time. Your monthly payment will be lower since you’re just paying interest. Be aware that you won’t be gaining equity since your payment isn’t going towards the principal. After the interest-only span is over, you’ll be making interest and principal payments, while being subject to an adjustable rate. Interest-only ARMs also have rate caps. Make sure you understand the repayment terms, as some loans may require a balloon payment where the entire balance is due soon after the interest-free period. 

Is it Right for You?

Though fixed-rate mortgages are perennially popular, adjustable-rate mortgages can be a good fit for some buyers. An ARM works well for people with flexible lifestyles and finances. For instance, if you have a solid level of savings, you’ll have more breathing room if rates rise significantly. This loan can also be beneficial if you expect your income to increase within the first several years of owning your home. For those who don’t expect to live in their house long (like if you have a starter home), an ARM lets you take advantage of the lower rate and build equity when it’s time to sell. If you decide later that you’d rather not deal with a varying rate, look into refinancing to a fixed-rate mortgage. 

If the higher rates of fixed-rate mortgages are keeping you from becoming a homeowner, an adjustable-rate mortgage can be a helpful alternative. Even though your rate will change every now and then, the potential savings could make having a variable rate worthwhile. 

If you have any questions about the home buying process, contact one of our licensed Mortgage Loan Originators. If you are ready to buy a home, click here to get started!

Just about everyone has debt of some sort. Debt doesn’t just affect how much money you have left at the end of the month, it also influences your credit score when you’re ready to buy a home. To learn how your outstanding balances play a role in your score, it’s important to know what revolving and fixed debt is. 

 What is Revolving Debt?

Revolving debt is when the amount you owe can vary depending on how much money you borrow. This type of debt is also special because you don’t have to pay off the full balance each month; you can pay a portion of your bill, just as long as you make the minimum payment. It goes hand in hand with revolving credit, which means you have a line of credit you can access without going through an application process each time you borrow money. The interest rates for revolving credit accounts tend to be high (in the double digits), as there’s usually nothing to serve as collateral if you default.  If you use a credit card, then you’re already familiar with revolving debt. The balance on home equity line of credit (HELOC) can also be considered revolving debt if you’re still in your draw period.

What is Fixed Debt?

Fixed debt is the opposite of revolving debt, since the amount you owe each month changes very little, if at all. Fixed debt is associated with installment credit, where you’re borrowing a set amount of money and paying it off using a repayment plan. Once you’ve been approved for the loan amount, you can’t keep borrowing money unless you apply for another loan or restructure your existing one. There’s a certain time frame where you must pay back the funds. Interest rates for installment loans are usually lower because there’s collateral to back the loan. Common examples of fixed debt include mortgages, car loans, student loans, and personal loans.

Effect on Credit Score

Revolving debt and fixed debt differ in how they’re structured, and they impact your credit score slightly differently. Most mortgage lenders use the FICO credit score model, and it is calculated using five key factors: credit utilization (35%), payment history (30%), credit history (15%), new credit inquiries (10%), and credit mix (10%). Note that credit utilization and payment history together account for over half of your score—it’s nothing to sneeze at! 

Fixed debt has a larger effect on your payment history. Even if you have a high balance on your loan, it will have a minimal effect on the credit utilization aspect of your score. Staying on top of payments will help any installment debts from bringing down your credit. On the other hand, revolving debt primarily affects both your credit usage and payment history. If you’re using a high percentage of your available credit or not making timely payments, it can cause your credit to take a hit. It’s recommended to keep your credit utilization ratio under 30% to appear less risky. Credit card accounts are notorious score damagers, so it’s important to keep them in check.  

Understanding how these types of debt can affect your credit score can allow you to be more strategic to raise your score (and reduce your debt.) Consistently having good credit habits will improve your credit health in the long run. Not having a “perfect” credit score or being debt-free shouldn’t disqualify you from becoming a homeowner. A financial advisor can guide you through debt management, and a Loan Originator can work with you to find flexible options that fit your needs. 

Disclaimer: NFM Lending is not a credit repair agency, financial advisor, or debt specialist. You should consult a financial advisor if you have any questions about your unique financial situation.

Just a few months ago, it was an intense seller’s market in many parts of the country. Now the pendulum is swinging the other way, and buyers have more ground to stand on. The market is still tight, but there’s a bright light for buyers: seller concessions are back.

What are Seller Concessions?

Seller concessions are costs that sellers offer to cover to help sell the home. Buyers can use seller concessions or seller credits as a negotiation tactic to save money, and it can be especially powerful in a populated buyer’s market. In return for receiving a concession, buyers can offer sellers incentives that ease their burden, such as offering a rent-back agreement or not asking for pricey repairs. It’s more common for sellers to offer concessions if they’re trying to sell the house quickly or are trying to get an edge over other sellers in the market. Although the goal of concessions is to make the sale more appealing to buyers, they should benefit both parties.

Types of Seller Concessions

Temporary Rate Buydowns

You can negotiate with the seller to get a lower initial interest rate through a temporary rate buydown, which allows you to save money for the first few years of your mortgage. In this scenario, the seller provides funds to be deposited in your escrow account to subsidize the loan’s interest for a limited time period. Some common types are the 2-1 and 1-0 buydown. With the 2-1 buydown, the interest rate is lowered by 2% for the first year and 1% for the second year. Afterwards, you’ll pay the full rate for the life of the loan or until you refinance. The 1-0 buydown has the same setup, but the discount period is shorter.

Closing Costs

Concessions that pay for a portion of the buyer’s closing costs are one of the most common types of seller concessions. The title search fee, origination fee, home inspection, application fee, and discount points are just some of the things that make up closing costs, which the buyer normally pays for. If conditions are favorable, it may be worth asking the seller to cover some of these expenses—closing costs are typically 3-5% of your mortgage!

Repairs

After the home inspections results are released, some buyers may be unsure about closing on a house that needs significant repairs. To keep the sale moving forward, sellers may offer concessions that will subsidize improvements after the house is sold. This strategy can be a great way to reduce the buyer’s out-pf-pocket costs for any home repairs and lets them choose their own contractors. It also prevents closing from being delayed by contractors and gives buyers peace of mind that they can afford to fix up the home. Some sellers may offer home warranties as a buyer incentive, too.

Things to Consider

Limits on Concessions

If you’re thinking you can get the seller to pay all your buyer costs, think again. Sellers are limited in how much concessions they can pay, and these restrictions are meant to prevent housing market inflation. The allowable amount will depend on the type of loan you use and some individual factors:

Conventional: If you’re buying a primary or secondary home, sellers can offer up to 3% of the mortgage price in concessions if you have less than a 10% down payment. The percentage increases to 6% if you have at least a 10-20% down payment, and 9% with a down payment over 25%.

FHA: Sellers can only pay up to 6% in concessions.

VA: Concessions cannot exceed 4% for certain closing costs, including the VA funding fee.

USDA: 6% is the limit for seller contributions.

Don’t Be Greedy

Remember, seller concessions are part of the negotiation process, which means the terms should be mutually beneficial for you and the seller. If your requests are numerous, overly expensive, or ridiculous, it could jeopardize the sale and your relationship with the sellers. The sellers may reject or counter your request; they’re not obligated to accept your proposal. Don’t let the desire to save a buck blind you from what should be your ultimate goal: closing on a home.  

Ask Your Agent

Your real estate agent is your guide and liaison during the homebuying process, so it’s essential to consult with them if you’re interested in asking for concessions. Your agent will have a better understanding of the situation and can assess whether you’re in a good position to ask for seller credits. They can also help you determine whether your requests are reasonable and will create a detailed offer letter to present to the sellers.

Both buyers and sellers can use seller concessions as a bargaining tool to get something they want out of the sale. When used strategically in the right circumstances, they can make each party feel more comfortable about the deal.

If you have any questions about the home buying process, contact one of our licensed Mortgage Loan Originators. If you are ready to buy a home, click here to get started!

Everyone knows that computers can be hacked, but homes? It’s true—house hacking is a thing, but it has nothing to do with the internet or databases. More and more people are turning to house hacking to afford homeownership, but is it right for you? 

What is House Hacking?

House hacking is an investment strategy where you buy a property to serve as your primary residence, with the intention of renting out part of it to subsidize your mortgage. You can even become a house hacker if you already own your home. The concept of house hacking isn’t exactly new, but it has recently become more popular among aspiring homeowners due to increasing housing costs.

Traditionally, house hacking involves buying a multifamily home (like a duplex) and renting out the other unit, but that’s not the only way you can get into house hacking. You can put individual rooms, entire floors, or accessory dwelling units (ADU) up for rent—there can be a lot of flexibility! Additionally, you can decide whether you want to host short or long-term renters.

The “hack” in house hacking stems from the idea that you can buy a home and make passive income from it without going through the more complex steps of purchasing a home outright as an investment property. When you buy an investment property that you don’t plan on living in, you’ll have fewer mortgage options available and usually, a larger down payment. With house hacking, your investment property is your primary residence, so you can take advantage of a conventional, FHA, or VA loan to finance your house. This method can make buying a home more affordable, especially for new homeowners.

Financial Benefits

Perhaps the most enticing part of house hacking is being able to significantly lower or even eliminate your monthly mortgage payment. The passive income generated from renting out your home will reduce your financial burden, saving you money over time. As a homeowner, you can reap all the benefits of homeownership, including property appreciation, certain tax deductions, and building home equity. In fact, building home equity with this investment strategy may be quicker than if you were the sole party making payments.

Things to Consider

Landlord Responsibilities

Homeownership means you no longer have a landlord, but house hacking means you’ll become one yourself. This type of responsibility is not for everyone. As the owner, you’ll be responsible for fixing and maintaining the property, or at least paying for repairs. The tenants you choose can make or break a house hacking venture (and your sanity), so it’s essential to vet and find candidates who are responsible and reputable. Still, you may have to have uncomfortable rent conversations with your tenants. You can hire a property manager to help with daily operations, though it will affect your total gains.

Local Limitations

Before you create a rental listing, make sure you’re allowed to rent out your house. If your neighborhood has an HOA, they may have guidelines about how you can use the property. If you’re thinking of renting out an ADU, such as a furnished basement, you need to check with your local zoning authorities, as ADUs must meet certain requirements for safety and livability.

Privacy

Just like having roommates in a rental, house hacking limits your privacy. Consider whether your lifestyle is compatible with sharing spaces with other people. Would having tenants cramp your style if you also live with a partner or have children? Of course, the amount of privacy also depends on how your home is set up; ADUs and multifamily properties will give you more privacy.

Cost Analysis

House hacking can be lucrative, but it isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. Make sure to consider the financial impact of any investment. Location is always a key factor when buying a home, and if you’re hacking your house, it will affect rental demand and how much you can reasonably charge for rent. You can use rental listing sites to gauge how much to charge for rent in your area. If you’ve found a promising property, compare your estimated mortgage payments with the total estimated rent payments. Don’t forget to factor in cost of repairs! Understand that there may be periods of vacancy, so be sure you can still cover your mortgage if you’re not bringing in full rental income.

Be sure to get pre-approved and work with a lender and real estate agent who understand the concept of house hacking. Their knowledge will be invaluable when you’re considering properties and loan types. House hacking may not be for everyone, but it can be an accessible way to make homeownership possible.

If you have questions about home equity, contact one of our licensed Mortgage Loan Originators. If you’re ready to begin the home buying process, click here to get started!

You probably already know that credit score plays an important role when buying a home, but understanding how credit affects your ability to buy a home goes beyond a simple number. Let’s breakdown some of the most common credit questions from aspiring homeowners.

Will it help my credit score to close a credit card I’m not using?

You might think closing a seldom-used credit card will improve your credit score, but this is the last thing you should do. When you close your credit card, you’re reducing your available credit, which will drive down your score. Instead, use your card for small purchases every now and then and pay it off in full. Consider designating it for minor recurring payments, such as a subscription service. Doing this will prevent the bank from closing your account for inactivity and can benefit your score since you won’t carry a balance.

What’s the difference between a FICO score and the score I get from free credit score sites?

You’ve probably seen ads for sites that let you check your credit score for free, but they don’t always paint a full picture of your credit health. If you’ve relied on the information from one of these sites, it may come as a surprise if your lender reveals a credit score that’s very different. FICO is the primary model mortgage lenders use to review your credit, but some credit sites use a totally separate model called VantageScore. Since FICO scores and VantageScores are calculated differently, there can be a sizable disparity between the numbers. For home buying purposes, it’s better to refer to your FICO score. To get your free FICO credit score, visit the Experian site.

Will it hurt my credit score to apply with other lenders?

When you find a lender to get pre-approved, they’ll perform a hard credit inquiry to get a detailed look at your credit situation. A hard credit pull will slightly decrease your score because your credit report is being accessed for application approval, but soft credit pulls (like checking your credit score) won’t affect it. The drop is usually 5-10 points, and your score will rebound in a few months if there are no negative changes to your credit. If you still aren’t sure which lender to choose, you’ll have a 3 to 4-week window where any hard mortgage credit pulls will be counted as a single inquiry and won’t further reduce your score. If your credit goes through another hard inquiry after that timeframe, it will affect your score. 

What’s the quickest way to increase my credit score?

Increasing your credit score is like working out—you won’t see the results you want overnight. The best way to improve your credit score is to establish and maintain good credit habits.

Paying bills on time may not sound like a huge deal, but payment history accounts for a whopping 35% of your FICO score! Consistently making timely payments will increase your credit score and make you seem more reliable as a borrower. Keep in mind that making the minimum payment will prevent your score from falling if you’re tight on funds, while paying it in full will have a larger impact on your credit.

Just because you’re able to pay with credit doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to use all of it at once. The percentage of how much credit you’re using in relation to available credit is called your credit utilization ratio, and it accounts for 30% of your FICO score. When you’re close to your credit limit, it hurts your score and makes you appear financially risky. Aim to keep your utilization ratio low and use around 30% of your available credit. You can determine your ratio by dividing the total credit limit of your credit cards by your total balance and multiply that number by 100.

Paying down debt is another way to improve your score. It will also reduce your debt-to-income ratio (DTI), which will increase how much you can afford for a home.  Pay special attention to debt with high interest, as it will accumulate rapidly.

I’m not planning on buying a home right now, but how can I financially prepare when I’m ready?

Even if homeownership isn’t in your immediate future, it’s never too early to put yourself in a solid financial position for when the time is right! Improving your credit worthiness will play a significant factor in being able to buy a home, but there are other areas that are important, too.

The period where you’re gearing up to buy is an ideal time to start a home savings fund. If you can put a portion of your paycheck into savings each month, the amount will grow over time. You might also want to create a budget to manage your expenses and see where you can cut back. While the “requirement” of needing 20% down to buy a home is a misconception, it’s wise to have a solid level of savings when you apply for a mortgage. In addition to reducing existing debt, avoid taking out new, unnecessary debt. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be debt-free to buy a home, but having fewer debts means a lower DTI ratio and more purchasing power.

There are numerous myths about credit out in the wild, and it’s easy to believe them if you’re unfamiliar with how credit scores work. When you have a basic understanding of best credit practices, you can be better prepared when you apply for a mortgage.

If you have any questions or want more information about loan programs, contact one of our Licensed Mortgage Loan Originators. If you are ready to begin the homebuying process, click here to get started!

NFM Lending is not a credit repair agency, financial advisor, or debt settlement company.

Purchasing a home is one of the most significant decisions you’ll make in your life, and you shouldn’t entrust that task to just any lender. You want to be sure there are real, caring people working on your loan application who know what to do. With September being National Mortgage Professional Month, we’re taking a special inside look at a few of the amazing people who make mortgages happen at NFM Lending.


Danny Allbritton, Loan Originator, NMLS#1618459

Introduce yourself and what you do at NFM.

Hello! My name is Danny Allbritton, and I have been at NFM now for about six years now. I am a Mortgage Loan Originator located in Columbus, OH, and I am currently licensed to originate mortgage loans in Ohio and Maryland and am looking to expand to many other states soon! 

What does your average day look like?

My average day consists of prioritizing all of my tasks to fit in a day. I start my day about 4-5 times a week at 4:15 am to workout at 5:00 am. Doing this has really helped me mentally prepare for what each day will throw at me. Being in sales, you can only plan your day so much before multiple impromptu events happen. I make a to-do list each night so I know what my priorities are for the next day. When I get to the office, I review my list and prepare for any meetings I have for that day. I will call new clients in the morning, as well as touch base with all my real estate partners to provide them with updates on any communication I have had with their clients. My number one job is to help more families get into their homes while alleviating as much stress as possible. Whether that be a first-time homebuyer or a repeat buyer, it brings me joy to assist in the financing process for them. On a daily basis, communication is my number one priority for my clients and real estate partners. I average 3-4 hours per day on the phone to keep everyone updated and on the same page and to keep the ball rolling. 

Matt Beard, Processor

Introduce yourself and what you do at NFM.

My name is Matt Beard, but all my work colleagues call me Matty. I started with NFM in 2016, with no mortgage or office experience. I was hired as a Junior Processor, which is a great entry level position for anyone looking to start a career in the mortgage industry.

I was extremely fortunate I had the opportunity to learn from 2 of the smartest people I know in the mortgage industry, my branch’s Sales Team Lead and Operations Manager. They are both a wealth of knowledge, and truly great people. Having great mentors really help to expedite my career growth, and I was promoted to Processor about 8 months after joining the team. Each branch has a different workflow, but for my particular branch, all the processors are contract to close. So once the contract comes over and the application is executed, we manage the file all the way through closing.

What does your average day look like?

I start my day by reviewing my top 5 priorities list, which I write down the day prior. We work in a very fast-paced environment, so it’s important to manage your priorities because new issues are always popping up, and it’s very easy for the day to get away from you. I then clear my new emails/voicemails from the day prior, which is typically in the range of 40+ emails. Not all of those will require a return action, but it’s important to get them cleared early because we want to make sure we reply to clients in a timely manner. Not to mention there’s a whole lot of new emails on the way.

Next, I like to concentrate on my approved loans so I can work on getting them back in to my Underwriter for the clear-to-close (CTC). The Underwriter’s SLA (Service Level Agreement) turn times have a 4pm cut-off, so I really like to get all my resubmissions in prior to 4pm so I no they will be reviewed the following day for CTC. I spend the last couple hours of the day working on new submissions. It’s typically a bit quieter and there are fewer interruptions, so it’s easier for me to properly review new loan files. I cannot speak for any other lenders, but for the processing position at my branch, we take the time to pre-underwrite the loan file before we submit to our Underwriting department.

NFM truly cares about each and every client. We want to put you in the best financial position possible and get you into your dream home, perfect second home, or great investment property. We are going to answer the phone when you call, and we take pride in thoroughly explaining the process and the “why” behind our documentation requests. If something comes up during the loan process and we run into a guideline issue that we cannot find a workaround on, we will help you find another lender that has more flexibility and can get you approved! We never want to lose a deal, but the most important thing is to make sure the customer is happy and that we are providing a WOW service to our clients and referral partners.

Vanita Singh, Underwriter

Introduce yourself and what you do at NFM.

I am a Level 1 Conventional Underwriter working remotely for NFM for the past year. I was in the mortgage industry many years ago as a processor and underwriter assistant. I left the business after the market crash in 2007. I spent the next few years working in risk management for an online bank and then took some time off to be a stay-at-home mom to my two boys.

What does your average day look like?

My typical workday includes reviewing at least two new loans for conditional approval. The review includes evaluating credit history, income documents, and assets. In that review, I am looking to see that the loan applicant is financially responsible and has the ability to repay the mortgage loan. I look for discrepancies or possible misrepresentation of facts. I spend some time researching information and then requesting explanations from the borrowers via their mortgage processors.

Many cases involve reading and interpreting guidelines to ensure the final approval is allowable under the rules set in place. Some situations that fall into a gray area need to be brought to senior underwriters and managers to come up with an out-of-the-box solution.

During the course of the day, I also respond to emails from processors, closers, and team leads to make sure loans get closed and funded in a timely manner. The remainder of the time is spent reviewing conditions on approved loans such as property appraisals, title work, explanations for discrepancies, additional assets, and income.

Sarah Rogers, Closer II

Introduce yourself and what you do at NFM.

My name is Sarah Rogers, and I am a Closer with NFM Core. I have been in the finance industry for 14 years, of which the past six have been in the mortgage industry as a Closer.

What does your average day look like?

On an average day, I receive multiple communications on loans, inclusive of notification a loan is clear-to-close and ready to finalize. I review each file to ensure accuracy by reviewing data, conditions, and figures to insure we have all items needed before closing. I communicate with the title company to complete the final numbers and review that we are meeting program guidelines, as well as state and federal regulations. Once NFM balances with title and agrees on the final numbers, the closing disclosure is sent to the branch for their review and approval. Once this final step is complete, the closing package is prepared and sent to the title company.


These are just some of the passionate, friendly, and hard-working people who make up NFM Lending. Throughout our many branch locations and at our corporate headquarters, there are numerous people essential to the mortgage process who care about the needs of borrowers. We hope this glimpse into the daily life these mortgage professionals has demystified what happens behind the scenes and shown how NFM strives to create a personable mortgage experience.

If you have questions about becoming a homeowner, contact one of our licensed Mortgage Loan Originators. If you’re ready to begin the home buying process, click here to get started!