Let’s face it; of everything on your to-do list, spring cleaning probably isn’t the most exciting. But with warmer temperatures and a new year ahead of you, spring is a great opportunity to clean up, organize, and refresh your home. Use these spring cleaning tips to get your home looking its best.
Windows – Wash your windows on a cloudy day as the sun will dry up your cleaning solution too quickly and cause streaks. Use microfiber cloths or a squeegee and chemical-free cleaning products to avoid attracting dust with chemical-based cleaners.
Wood – Cleaning hardwood floors or wood fixtures depends on the surface. Use an oil-soap wood cleaner, wax, or polish on wood surfaces to keep them clean and looking new. Damp mop your hardwood floors to get rid of grime and dirt that has built up over time. Be sure to wipe up excess liquid so it doesn’t damage your floors.
Other Surfaces – Your spring cleaning project should include surfaces you might not think about every day. Scrub your walls, baseboards, and door frames with a sponge, warm water, and dish soap.
Power washing – Power washing the exterior of your home will not only improve its curb appeal, but also helps prevent mold and mildew. Wear appropriate protective gear and stay clear of other people and animals. If you aren’t comfortable using a power washer, consider hiring a professional.
Paint – Updating your home’s exterior paint can prolong the life of your siding and update the look of your home. Re-painting your house is just one of many ways to improve your home’s value.
Gutters – A clogged gutter can cause thousands of dollars worth of water damage to your house, so it’s important to clean them at least once a year. Use a small shovel to remove leaves and dirt, then use a hose to rinse them out. Investing in a gutter cover is another way to prevent clogged gutters.
Donate it – Take a day to go through your home and put aside unwanted and gently used clothes, toys, and household items to donate. Keep an itemized list for tax purposes. Be sure to check out the donation guidelines for each charity you choose.
Trash it – Discard any unwanted items that are broken, damaged, or stained. These items should not be donated.
Organize it – Maybe you have household items you want to keep, but find them taking up a lot of space. Spend some time re-organizing so you can easily access these items when needed. There are plenty of innovative storage tips to help you get organized without spending a lot of money.
Spring cleaning might seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Take on one project at a time and recruit friends or family members to help you out. We promise it will be worth it once all is said and done!
This blog was originally published in April 2015 and has been updated to reflect current trends.
When starting the homebuying process as an individual buyer, there are some unique aspects you’ll face that don’t require as much attention from co-borrowers. While it might seem intimidating, all you need to do is spend a little extra time preparing. These 5 tips for single home buyers will lead to a smooth homebuying experience.
1. Affordability: When buying a home with a co-borrower, there’s usually two sources of income to cover a down payment, mortgage, and other bills. As a single buyer, you must be able to cover costs on your own. Take into consideration every possible expense—maintenance fees, HOAs, utilities, an emergency fund—when deciding on a budget. It’s important to make sure you’ll be comfortable in affording the home you choose. Consider saving more money than if you were to buy a home with a co-borrower. Doing so will provide peace of mind in knowing you can afford your home. For ideas on how to save money for a down payment, click here.
2. Maintenance: While you need to factor fees into your budget, maintenance might require more attention than expected. As the sole homeowner, you’ll be the one to take care of your home. Be confident in knowing you can maintain the home you choose.
4. Choosing a Home: You don’t have to go through the home purchasing process on your own. Single buyers, especially first-time buyers, might feel overwhelmed or have skewed judgement from excitement. Take a family member or trusted friend along when house hunting for a second opinion or to be a voice of reason. They only want what is best for you, so they’ll make sure the home you buy is perfect for you.
5. Thinking ahead: Buying a home is best as a long-term investment, but keep an eye on what your future may hold. Down the road you could find a partner, or your job might need you to relocate. The resale value of the property might be something you should seriously consider. Just because it’s only you right now doesn’t mean the addition of a partner or child is out of the question. It could be worth it to think about going bigger now, even if it is just a spare room. The extra space could come in handy—but only if the addition fits comfortably within your set budget.
The bottom line is simply to do your homework. Thoroughly research what you can afford that leaves you some wiggle room. Talk to your family and friends about their experiences with homeownership, especially if they did so on their own. Realtors are also there to provide information, give their advice, and to answer questions you may have.
If you are looking to buy a home, the process may seem overwhelming. Planning well in advance can save you time, money, and stress. Whether you’re ready to start preparing or just wondering about the home buying process, we’ve created a list of important steps to lead to a smooth home purchase:
18 months before your home purchase
Check your credit score: Each of the credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and Trans Union – offer one free credit report a year. Check your report for any errors and dispute them if you find any. This free credit report does not include your actual credit score; a payment is usually required to see your FICO score. Check your score, and if necessary, meet with a financial advisor to improve them. To secure the best interest rates, you’ll want a score over 700. To request a free credit report or for more information, click here.
Downsize living expenses: Eliminate as many monthly debt payments as possible. Doing so will only increase your borrowing capacity. Pay off and consolidate as much of your consumer debt (credit cards, student loans, auto loans, etc.) as you can prior to applying for a home loan.
Consider where you want to live: This is an important factor you’ll face when it comes to preparing to buy a home. The location you decide on will impact the type of home you choose, cost of living, the social scene, and even access to public transportation. Take into consideration everything that is important to you in a new location. Make sure you can see yourself living there for years to come.
Create a budget and savings plan: Now that you have an idea of where you want to live, you can make a budget. Determine how much you will have left after all your monthly expenses for mortgage payments, homeowners’ insurance, home repairs, and other housing-related expenses. See how much properties are selling for in your ideal location. This will give you an idea of how much you will need to save for a down payment. It’s a good idea to have saved at least 3-5% of the sales price of a home in your price range. For example, if you want to buy a $300,000 home, plan to save about $9,000-$15,000. Regardless of your budget, it’s never too early to start saving!
12 months before your home purchase
Meet with a lender: It is best to learn how the mortgage process works early on, especially for first-time buyers. Your lender is there to ensure you have all the information you need. Even if you have gone through the home buying process before, be sure to ask your lender for a checklist of items to take care of ahead of a home purchase.
Learn the market: Now is the time to hire a real estate agent.* Your lender should have some suggestions of realtors if you don’t know where to start. Your agent is there to represent you and will provide you with vital information about the market. Ask your agent if they can set you up with email notifications of new houses that hit the market in your budget or preferred neighborhood. Even though you are not necessarily pulling the trigger yet, when it is time you will know what your home buying power is and exactly where you want to move to. Keep in mind that you’ll be working with your agent for a while, so make sure you choose someone you trust. For more information about choosing a real estate agent, click here.
Gather your documents: The lender will typically require two years of information. While this can be a tedious process, it is vital. To stay organized, create a secure folder on your computer to save all your pay stubs and bank statements, in addition to tax returns and W-2 forms.
6 months before your home purchase
Learn how to break your lease: Your current lease might not end when you are ready to move into your new home, so it is important to find out your break lease terms and month to month terms with your current landlord. Having some flexibility on your lease is helpful and knowing your exact parameters can take off some of the pressure. That way you are aware of and prepared for any fees or having to find a new tenant.
Learn the tax implications of buying**: Owning a home may considerably lower your taxable income. This typically allows you to claim less on your withholdings. Be sure you know what changes will occur so you know what to expect when tax season comes around. For more information about how home ownership will affect your taxes, click here.
Simulate a mortgage payment: To make sure you’ll be able to afford having a larger monthly living expense, live as though you are already paying your budgeted mortgage payment. For example, if your rent is $1,500 and you can afford $2,000, pretend you are currently paying $2,000. See how this impacts your normal budget so, if needed, you can make adjustments.
Send your lender updated documents: Keep your documents updated! The home buying process takes time and it is likely you’ll have a document or two to add or change. If a new tax return was filed or a new W-2 was given, be sure to send these items to your lender as soon as possible.
3 months before your home purchase
Know your buying power: When you are very close to buying, you should know your numbers to get to the most important part of buying a house—your mortgage amount. You’ll need to provide your lender with numbers such as how much you have for a down payment, your debt-to-income ratio, and your assets in order to get pre-approved. Once your lender has these numbers, they will pull your credit and identify the loan type and amount that you qualify for. Once you know what your price range is you can finally start looking at houses.
Look closely at houses: At this point you may be able to officially begin the home buying process. If you love something that you see online or that you drive by, contact your agent to arrange a visit. Take full advantage of the visit by taking note of what you like and dislike. Do you like the neighborhood? Is it conveniently located to places of interest? What is the traffic like? Touring will also allow you to get a feel for what kind of house you can expect to find in your price range. Be prepared to tour a lot of houses! It can take a while before you find the place you want to call home.
* NFM Lending is not affiliated with any real estate companies. You are entitled to shop around for the best lender/real estate company for you.
** NFM Lending is not a Financial Advisor or Tax Consultant. Please make sure to consult your own Financial Advisor or Tax Consultant regarding the use of your personal tax refund.
If you are a homeowner, you may have considered refinancing your current mortgage. Refinancing can offer many advantages to help you meet your financial goals. If you are just starting to look into refinancing, or have been thinking about it for a while, here are three benefits that you should consider.
Lower Interest Rate
It may be possible to obtain a lower interest rate by refinancing your current mortgage loan.* A lower interest rate means that your monthly mortgage payments would be lower. This could save you money monthly or you could make payments directly to the principal of your loan, allowing you to build your home equity quicker and reducing your interest. A lower interest rate is the most popular reason that homeowners choose to refinance.
Cash Out Your Home Equity
You can take advantage of the equity you have built in your home with a cash-out refinance. To take advantage of this, you would refinance your current mortgage for more than the amount you owe, and keep the extra money. For example, if you owe $150,000 on a home worth $250,000, you have $100,000 worth of equity in your home. You could refinance your home for $175,000, and receive a check for the $25,000 difference. You could use this money for home improvements and remodeling, or any other household needs you may have.
Change Your Loan Type or Term
Another refinancing option is to shorten your loan term, so you pay your home off in less time. For example, you might switch from a 30-year loan to a 20-year loan. This would allow you to build equity faster, and pay off your loan in less time, with the same (or marginally higher) monthly payments. If you have an adjustable-rate or interest-only loan, you may be able to refinance to a fixed-rate loan product that may save you money over the life of your loan, and may allow you to build equity.
*Refinancing an existing loan may result in the total finance charges being higher over the life of the loan.
Preparing to purchase a home is an exciting time. It is also one of the most important financial decisions you will make in your life. So, as you prepare to take this step, it’s important to do as much research as possible. These tips and strategies will help you ensure a smooth, successful home buying experience.
Get Pre-qualified – A pre-qualification is the process by which a lender reviews your credit and other financial information to determine your eligibility for financing. Not only will this give you a good idea of how much house you can afford, but it will also put sellers at ease. Sellers and Realtors will be more comfortable working with a buyer who has been pre-qualified, because it increases the likelihood that the buyer can get financed quickly.
Hire a Realtor – With a transaction as important as this one, having a professional on your side is a must. The right Realtor can walk you through the home buying process, tell you what you need to know about the neighborhoods you’re interested in, and help you develop a winning strategy when it’s time to put an offer down or win a bid. To learn more about choosing a Realtor, click here.
Stick to Houses in Your Price Range – It may be tempting to look at houses outside of your budget, but it’s better to house hunt within your means. Looking at houses that are in your price range, or even slightly below it, will allow you some flexibility if there is a bidding war, and increase your likelihood of getting financing.
Make a Checklist – Decide ahead of time which home features are most important to you, and make a checklist to take with you when you view homes. Categorize the items on your checklist into essentials and non-essentials. Having a checklist can help you put aside emotional impulses, and choose the home that meets your needs.
Be Flexible – A checklist is important. On the flip side, however, it’s important to know which features you can live without, or add once you purchase your home. You may not find a home with every single item on your checklist; but if some items on your list are negotiable, you may find a home that’s even better than the one you imagined. Check out this list of common buyer turnoffs that don’t have to be deal-breakers.
The home buying process can be stressful, but it should also be enjoyable. By being prepared, and having the right professionals at your side, you can find your dream home, and make this an experience to remember. If you are ready to get started on the path to home ownership, talk to one of our licensed mortgage loan originators today.
LINTHICUM, MD, March 16, 2015 —NFM Lending is excited to announce it will be sponsoring a free Lunch and Learn seminar titled “Better Homes for a Better Community.” The seminar will be held on Saturday, April 11, 2015, at Windsor Park Children’s School located at 2601 North Rolling Road, Windsor Mill, MD 21244, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Refreshments will be provided, and attendance will be on a first-come, first-served basis.
NFM Lending’s General Counsel, LaTasha Rowe, and Mortgage Loan Originator, Jeremy Poling (NMLS #726269), will be speaking at this event and answering any questions the attendees may have.
For more information about the seminar, please contact:
Director of Bigger and Better Business, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
Staff Accountant, NFM Lending
About NFM Lending
NFM Lending (formerly NFM, Inc.) is a mortgage lending company currently licensed in 28 states across the U.S. The company was founded in Baltimore, Maryland in 1998. They attribute their success in the mortgage industry to their steadfast commitment to customers and the community. NFM Lending has firmly planted itself in the home loan marketplace as “America’s Common Sense Residential Mortgage Lender.”
About Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. was founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C., on January 9, 1914, by three young African-American male students. The Founders, Honorable A. Langston Taylor, Honorable Leonard F. Morse, and Honorable Charles I. Brown, wanted to organize a Greek letter fraternity that would truly exemplify the ideals of brotherhood, scholarship, and service.
Some interesting news broke last Thursday. President Barack Obama announced plans for the FHA (Federal Housing Administration) to take steps to reduce the annual insurance premium for new borrowers. This will potentially drastically change the way upcoming years of home buying looks like. The plan is estimated to be enacted on January 26th, 2015. This is one way in which the White House is attempting to establish a firm footing in the area of housing (in response to the housing crisis).
With the new reduction plan, one can expect the following:
Annual premiums being reduced by half of a percent (1.35% to 0.85%)
Over two million FHA homeowners saving (on average) $900 a year
An easier environment in which to purchase homes over the next few years
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro stated the following in regard to the policy adjustment:
“This action will make homeownership more affordable for over 2 million Americans in the next three years. By bringing our premiums down, we’re helping folks lift themselves up so they can open new doors of opportunity and strengthen their financial futures.”
It shall be interesting to see where this decision takes the housing industry in the upcoming years. Most certainly, it will make a change in the dynamics of the process and hopefully make buying a home easier.