Are Common Myths Holding You Back from Buying a Home?

(StatePoint) Aspirations of home ownership is strong for America’s families, yet findings from the fifth annual America at Home survey from NeighborWorks America indicate several perceived barriers to home ownership among the majority of consumers.pexels-photo-106399.jpeg

Findings from the survey, which consisted of 1,000 U.S. adults and 500 millennials include many misconceptions about what it takes to buy a home:

  • The average millennial mistakenly thinks the minimum required down payment is 21.6 percent.
  • Approximately 73 percent of all consumers and 62 percent of millennials said they were not aware of or are unsure about down payment assistance programs in their communities for middle-income home buyers.
  • Seventy percent of adults feel they don’t have enough money saved for a down payment.

Experts believe that confusion about down payment requirements and lack of awareness about assistance programs are holding back many people from pursuing homeownership. “Before deciding if owning a home is right for you, take time to understand your down payment options, and separate myths from facts,” says Freddie Mac Vice President, Danny Gardner.

For example, the average down payment among first-time home buyers in 2016 was just 6 percent and, for repeat buyers, just 14 percent. What’s more, mortgage options, such as Freddie Mac’s Home Possible Mortgages, make it possible for qualified borrowers to put down as little as 3 percent.

If your down payment is less than 20 percent with a conventional loan, you’ll have to pay private mortgage insurance, an added insurance policy that protects the lender if you are unable to pay your mortgage. However, mortgage rates — despite their rise in recent years — remain at historic lows, providing you with a significant advantage.

There are also millions of dollars available for down payment assistance. A great place to start is right where you live. Many state, county, and city governments provide financial assistance for people in their communities who are well qualified and ready for home ownership.

To help demystify down payments and the home buying process, free tools and resources are available at myhome.freddiemac.com.

Don’t let misconceptions hold you back from pursuing home ownership. Check out the facts to learn how much home you can afford.

Is it time for you to make your move?  Email me at kim.fiore@century21.com  to get started.

How Much Home Can You Afford this Spring?

How Much Home Can You Afford this Spring?

Factors to Consider

house dream(StatePoint) The chicken or the egg? Which came first continues to fuel philosophical debates. But when it comes to buying a home, experts are pretty clear about the proper order of things — agreeing you should fit your mortgage to your finances, not to a house.

“Before you even start your search for a home this spring, it’s crucial to know how much you can afford to pay each month,” says Freddie Mac Senior Vice President, Christina Boyle, who stresses that there are a few important things to keep in mind as you calculate this figure.

Start by getting a handle on your finances. What do you earn? What do you spend? How much do you have in savings? Answering these questions will help you better understand how much home you can afford. Make a budget and use free online tools and calculators to determine how much you can afford.

Remember that your monthly expenses go beyond mortgage payments, so leave some room in your budget. Whether it’s a new roof or a leaking faucet, homeownership can mean unexpected expenses. Be prepared to pay for such items, as needed. General maintenance, combined with utilities (an expense that can vary by home depending on its size and other factors), are added expenses to consider. Some neighborhoods also have homeowners’ association fees to cover the cost of upkeep of common spaces.

Your lifestyle can also help you assess whether a particular home is right for you and your budget. Location is key in determining what you can afford. Some points to consider are whether you want to live in a suburban or urban setting, whether you need to be near specific schools and public transportation, and the potential length of your commute. These factors can affect the cost of a home and you should determine your priorities in advance of home and mortgage hunting.

Remember, getting pre–approved can help you act fast and make a confident offer, so talk to your lender now before you start shopping.

A full rundown on all things home buying, including free tools and resources, is available at myhome.freddiemac.com.

This spring, be sure to prepare yourself for the home buying experience by being well-informed and aware of what you can afford.

Is it time for you to make your move?  Email me at kim.fiore@century21.com  to get started.

How to Find the Right Home Mortgage So You Don’t Overpay

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(StatePoint) Ample bedrooms and bathrooms? Check. A roomy kitchen? Check. A nice-sized backyard, storage space in the attic and just the right amount of curb appeal? Check, check and check.

Once you’ve found your perfect home, the next step is finding the right mortgage — which can sometimes feel like you’re competing in a contact sport, being blindsided by confusing requests or financial surprises as you go through the application process.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 63.7 percent of Americans own their home. But getting there wasn’t necessarily easy. A 2017 NerdWallet survey reports that 42 percent of homeowners felt the home-buying process was stressful, a third said it was complicated, and 21 percent found it intimidating.

To help make you a mortgage all-star, Ally Home has created “The Mortgage Playbook,” a free, easy-to-read resource. Authored by members of the Ally Home Team, a dedicated group of loan experts, the “Playbook” features four sections that cover the entire field — from a getting-started game plan to approval and closing on a mortgage. It also breaks down confusing financial terms, helping applicants avoid pain during the home buying process.

To help you prepare for your mortgage game day, here are three top tips from the experts at Ally:

• Maximize your financial fitness. There are five steps consumers should take to improve their “financial fitness” before applying for a mortgage. These include demonstrating stable employment, managing debt, paying down credit accounts, accumulating assets like savings or retirement accounts to boost credit histories, and reviewing (and correcting, if necessary) your credit reports.

• Know your numbers. Borrowers can take advantage of free online tools, such as the Affordability Calculator available at Ally.com, to determine how much house they can afford. Using two pieces of data — monthly income and monthly debt — a borrower can quickly calculate their debt-to-income ratio. In most instances, this ratio should not exceed 43 percent, meaning your monthly mortgage payment and other debt obligations (car loan, school loan, credit card payments) should not comprise more than 43 percent of your gross monthly income.

• Know what type of mortgage is best for you. One of the biggest decisions borrowers make is whether to get a fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgage. When interest rates are low, a fixed-rate mortgage may be the better option. But if interest rates are higher, an adjustable rate mortgage could make sense because its lower initial rate means lower monthly payments for a specific time period (usually five, seven or 10 years) before the rate could change.

For more valuable tips, visit ally.com/docs/bank/ally-home-playbook to download the complete “Mortgage Playbook.” This free resource was created by Ally Home, whose mortgage products are offered by Ally Bank, Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender.

Just like you wouldn’t hit the field without training and preparation, don’t head into the home buying process without the right knowledge. Leverage free resources that can help you be prepared.

 

6 Home Decor Trends to Make a Style Statement

 

Picture1(StatePoint) Is your home decor starting to feel a bit stale? Spruce up your interiors with some of the hottest home design trends for 2018 — from customized cozy to natural textures to retro touches.

Here are some stylish ways to incorporate new trends, from one of the nation’s most sought-after celebrity interior designers, Taniya Nayak.

1. Create an Oasis: Make your home a tropical escape all year long. Add floral or banana leaf accents to form a staycation-worthy “at-home paradise” no matter the temperature. Nayak suggests pairing pops of metallic gold with plush greens and crisp white to build a look that is sophisticated, yet fun and exotic.

2. Keep it Simple: In 2018, Nayak encourages DIYers to “go big or go home…in the simplest way imaginable.” An easy way to accomplish this is to paint your baseboards, trim or window mullions a dramatic contrasting color, like black against a white wall, for an effortless, yet powerful effect. And when it comes to achieving clean, sharp paint lines, one of Nayak’s vital, go-to tools is a premium painter’s tape, like FrogTape brand painter’s tape that delivers the sharpest paint lines possible. Treated with patented PaintBlock Technology, FrogTape is a fool-proof way to get professional-looking results and eliminate the need for touch-ups.

3. Incorporate Natural Touches: This trend is all about nature’s textures — think wood grain, geodes or ocean waves. One way to incorporate this look is to combine earthy tones like browns, beiges and deep blues with vibrant neon colors to generate the effect of the northern lights around the home.

4. Get Back to the Future: Give what’s old a modern, futuristic update to achieve this trend. Try painting a vintage chair with a pop of color, like the Sherwin-Williams 2018 color of the year, Oceanside, a combination of rich blue with jewel-toned green. This creates an eye-catching masterpiece that seamlessly integrates into both retro and modern home decor. Introducing bright colors to antiques produces a beautiful new spin on a classic look.

5. Design it with Love: What’s “in” in home design this year? Creating warm and cozy spaces that are customized just for you. This is the true essence of DIY. Painting an accent wall in a pastel color, like lavender, will set a relaxed and comforting tone in the room. From there, add personal pieces like a soft woven blanket, a macramé wall hanging or ivory plates on a wall to transform any room to “your” room.

6. Embrace New England Prep: This style embraces the timeless combination of crisp white linens and navy blues, but what really gives a room an authentic New England vibe is the addition of camel-colored leather decor accents. Nayak recommends adding monogrammed pillows to a leather accent chair, or whitewashing your brick fireplace to create a look that never goes out of style.

Visit FrogTape.com for more trend information and inspiration.

Get started on your home projects now so you can enjoy your refreshed decor all year long.

3 Mini-Makeover Ideas to Refresh a Room

(StatePoint) Looking to bring new energy to a space? Hoping to update that outdated décor?  These easy tips can help you revitalize any space in your home with minimal time and effort — utilizing color, accessories, accents and more.ab8e9dae

A New Color Scheme

Looking at the same wall color day after day can be uninspiring. Consider a new color scheme to change the dynamic of your space. Blue hues are shown to create a calming, tranquil effect, making them the perfect choice for a baby’s nursery or spa-like bathroom.

Pastels are also a fun way to stimulate the same soft, calming effect of blue, and their less saturated nature creates a unique twist.

Color is also a great way to explore new looks. Both coastal and farmhouse styles are easy to accomplish through a neutral color palette, giving you plenty of opportunities to incorporate your unique style accents.

Find a Focal Point

When choosing a design aesthetic, many find inspiration from an accessory, like a piece of artwork or textile. However, highly functional objects that feature great design can also serve as your muse. One such example is a ceiling fan. Its elevated, and often central location, can serve as a stylish focal point, while enhancing comfort.

Whether you decide to incorporate a fan that blends into the existing style or opt for a statement piece, the addition can help put a new spin on your room. Consider stylish, yet timeless options, such as the Hepburn from Hunter Fan Company. Its mid-century, modern flair is complemented by light and airy colors, combined with a brass finish.

Accessories and Accents

Revamp a tired space with new and inexpensive accessories. A new duvet cover, vibrant pillows, or a statement floor rug can help to refresh a room without a high price tag. Adding in mixed metal items can add texture to an otherwise boring countertop, while positioning items in groups of threes can create a visually pleasing setup.

Go shopping in your own home. You can also switch things up by using objects from around the house, to make a space new again. Decorating a built-in bookshelf with jars, candles, pottery and those favorite items you just can’t find the right place for, can make your room feel new without having to purchase anything at all.

More design tips and inspiration can be found at hunterfan.com/inspiration.

Updating a room doesn’t need to cost a fortune or take months to complete. Mini-makeovers that focus on smaller details can make all the difference.

 

5 Easy Ways to Update Your Home Office for Greater Productivity

c32d42d0(StatePoint) If you work from home, you likely spend a lot of time in your home office, which makes it’s design just as important as the rest of your home. If it’s not up to par, it’s time to bring new life to the space.

A few easy updates will help you feel more comfortable and inspire you towards greater productivity.

1. Let in light. Update your window treatment to maximize natural light and get more direct sunshine, and swap out drab lamps for eye-catching fixtures that offer brighter light. Make sure your office is a well-lit place where you can see what you’re doing without straining your eyes.

2. Update your tools. Having up-to-date tools makes working in your home office that much more efficient and enjoyable. Swap out older tech with newer tools offering the latest advancements, such as Casio’s HR-170RC next generation compact printing calculator. It has a host of features, including two-color printing (red/black), a tax calculation function, a clock/calendar and a power adapter.

3. Decorate. Ditch the bare walls and add an interesting focal point — whether it’s a tapestry, cool shelving or an art print that matches your interests and inspires you creatively.

4. Go green. It is said that certain plants and flowers can promote health at home. Add some plants or fresh cut flowers to your home office to reap the benefits.

5. Get organized. Flight clutter and make important items and documents easier to locate with organizational tools like filing cabinets, folders and bins. A clean and tidy work zone will help you to feel more on top of your work, and may encourage you to form other great habits.

5 Rules for a More Organized Home in the New Year

(StatePoint) After the hectic holidays, it’s no surprise that many people commit to getting better organized in the new year. eb166683

There are plenty of reasons why people obsess over organization and resolve to master it year after year. Household items become easier to find. Rooms all of a sudden seem bigger and more welcoming. Each walk past a tidy linen closet — where there was once an avalanche waiting to spill forward — comes with a small sense of accomplishment. Whether you’re after smarter storage or looking to cut clutter, successful resolutions begin with a thoughtful approach.

 

Think Small

While it’s fun to dream about a large-scale routine reset, smaller sustainable actions are key to lasting change. Take it one room or even one drawer at a time to keep momentum positive and to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Doing so also allows you to focus, leading to more creative solutions for taking advantage of under-utilized areas. For example, you may find using over-the door organizers a great way to free up space in home offices and craft rooms.

Say “No” to Clutter

Everyone has items they keep around for no real reason that aren’t particularly meaningful and don’t serve a purpose. Being able to objectively identify these items makes everything easier.

Paring down possessions doesn’t have to be painful. That cardinal shaped cookie jar that you’ve always been on the fence about? It would make an incredibly thoughtful “just because” gift for an ornithology-obsessed aunt. Often, less can literally be more: Consignment shops and eBay make it easy to turn four or five pieces of furniture you “kind of like” into one piece you absolutely love.

Store Décor Wisely

Everyone loves holiday decorating. Taking down decorations afterward… not so much. It’s difficult to preserve items in a haphazard collection of cardboard boxes, plastic bags and mismatched bins, all crammed into the corner of a garage or basement. Stepping up storage containers can make a big difference. For a wide selection of storage solutions specifically designed for holiday décor, check out Improvements, which offers everything from ornament and gift wrap organizers to wreath and garland storage bags.

Keep a Place for Everything

Nobody likes wasting time gathering or searching. Make storage more convenient and efficient by streamlining. Items frequently used together should be kept together, from coffee supplies to vehicle maintenance tools.

Make a Plan

Create a schedule so nothing is overlooked. Knowing which project is next gives you time to prepare and purchase any storage items you might need. When scheduling, designate specific rooms and spaces for certain seasons. For example, the first warm days of spring are made for cleaning out the shed or garage.

More organizational inspiration can be found by visiting improvementscatalog.com.

Successful resolutions are essentially new habits that become part of a lifestyle. Deliberately choosing to incorporate small acts of organization on a daily basis will pay off tremendously throughout the year.

 

Entertaining at Home

The holidays are here and holiday-holidays-brown-christmas-6300entertaining at home is a great way to get together with friends and family. Going out to dinner or events is fun, but there is something special about hosting at home.

Try these five simple tips from Century 21 to set your home up for entertaining.

1. Put appetizers on the coffee table: When the party starts you’ll be busy greeting guests. Put appetizers like a cheese plate, crackers, and olives out on your coffee table so guests can munch and mingle.

2. Set up a buffet table: Serving people adds an extra task to your entertaining to-do list. Push a side table against a wall or use your kitchen island to set up a buffet table so people can serve themselves. People may enjoy being able to set their portion sizes and food choices, plus it will leave you with more time with your guests — and less time in the kitchen.

3. Set up a beverage bar: If you have a bar cart, set up all your beverages in one place. If you don’t have a bar cart, assemble everything on a large side table.

4. Rearrange the furniture: Rearrange your living room couches and chairs so they are conducive for chatting. If you’re short on furniture, bring chairs from the dining room or kitchen into the living room while people enjoy hors d’oeuvres.

5. Delight in the details: Little details like fresh flowers, candles, and place settings can make the evening even more special. Have fun designing the table aesthetic by curating your cutlery, china, serving ware, and napkin choices.

 

These tips may make entertaining at home more enjoyable! Call some friends and invite them over to your place.

Keep Your House Cooler This Summer Without Air Conditioning

In 2017 most of us are making an effort to live a greener lifestyle. We also love to save money! Lisa Kaplan Gordon writing for Houselogic.com shares some great tips to keep our house cooler this summer

Want summer comfort but hate the AC? Follow these tips on how to keep your house cool without frosty air conditioning.

You don’t have to switch on the air conditioner to get a big chill this summer.

These tips will help you keep your house cool without AC, which will save energy (and avoid AC wars with your family.

Block That Sun!

When sunlight enters your house, it turns into heat. You’ll keep your house cooler if you reduce solar heat gain by keeping sunlight out. Close the drapes: Line them with light-colored fabric that reflects the sun, and close them during the hottest part of the day. Let them pillow onto the floor to block air movement. Add awnings: Install them on south- and west-facing windows to reduce solar heat gain by up to 77%, says the U.S. Department of Energy. Make your own by tacking up sheets outside your windows and draping the ends over a railing or lawn chair. Install shutters: Interior and exterior shutters not only reduce heat gain and loss, but they also add security and protect against bad weather. Interior shutters with adjustable slats let you control how much sun you let in. Apply high-reflectivity window film: Install energy-saving window films on east- and west-facing windows, which will keep you cool in summer, but let in warming sun in the winter. Mirror-like films are more effective than colored transparent films.

Open Those Windows

Be sure to open windows when the outside temperature is lower than the inside. Cool air helps lower the temps of everything — walls, floors, furniture — that will absorb heat as temps rise, helping inside air say cooler longer. To create cross-ventilation, open windows on opposite sides of the house. Good ventilation helps reduce VOCs and prevents mold.

Fire Up Fans

Portable fans: At night, place fans in open windows to move cool air. In the day, put fans where you feel their cooling breezes (moving air evaporates perspiration and lowers your body temperature). To get extra cool, place glasses or bowls of ice water in front of fans, which will chill the moving air. Ceiling fans: For maximum cooling effect, make sure ceiling fans spin in the direction that pushes air down, rather than sucks it up. Be sure to turn off fans when you’re not in the room, because fan motors give off heat, too. Whole house fans: A whole-house fan ($1,000 to $1,600, including install) exhausts hot inside air out through roof vents. Make sure your windows are open when you run a whole-house fan.

Power Down Appliances

You’ll save money and reduce heat output by turning off appliances you’re not using, particularly your computer and television. Powering down multiple appliances is easier if you connect them to the same power strip. Don’t use heat- and steam-generating appliances — ranges, ovens, washers, dryers — during the hottest part of the day. In fact, take advantage of the heat by drying clothes outside on a line.

Plant Trees and Vines

These green house-coolers shade your home’s exterior and keep sunlight out of windows. Plant them by west-facing walls, where the sun is strongest. Deciduous trees, which leaf out in spring and drop leaves in fall, are best because they provide shade in summer, then let in sun when temperatures drop in autumn. Select trees that are native to your area, which have a better chance of surviving. When planting, determine the height, canopy width, and root spread of the mature tree and plant accordingly. Climbing vines, such as ivy and Virginia creeper, also are good outside insulators. To prevent vine rootlets or tendrils from compromising your siding, grow them on trellises or wires about 6 inches away from the house. Speaking of shade, here are smart, inexpensive ideas for shading your patio. Want more tips for staying cool this summer? Substitute CFL and LED bulbs for hotter incandescent lights. Also, try insulating your garage door to prevent heat buildup.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

You can Protect Yourself from Cyber Attacks

The news has been filled with reports about a global ransomware attack “Wannacry”. Ransomware is a malicious software program that takes over your computer and locks you out until you pay a ransom to gain access to your files.  There are several ways to protect yourself from this hack and others like it.

  • Update your Operating System – Microsoft and Apple regularly send out Windows and IOS updates to guard against the latest computer viruses and malware. Be sure to run updates as soon as you get them. You can also set your device to automatically update.
    • If you have an older Windows XP device that no longer receives updates, Microsoft issued an operating system  patch this week.  You can read about it and download it in this blog post from Microsoft.
  • Backup your files.  Make copies of any important files and pictures you store on your computer.  Flash drives are very inexpensive and easy to use.
  • Be very careful with email especially when there are links.  Don’t open attachments or click on links in emails even if it is from someone you know.  Check with the sender first to be sure it is really from them.  If you hover over the top of the sender’s email address you can see if it is real.  Email addresses can be “spoofed”  and if you read carefully you will see they are just a bit different than the correct one.

Although nothing is foolproof, regularly following these steps will help  guard your computer and your information from this and future cyber attacks.