Did you know hard water can negatively impact your home over time? While it's safe to drink, hard water can lead to many interior problems, which is why our real estate agents recommend addressing it as soon as possible. Hard water is common across much of the US, especially in the Midwest. As a result, it's an issue most homeowners have to contend with. Below, we'll tell you all about hard water and share some simple solutions for treating it in your home
What Is Hard Water?
While most water contains minerals, hard water contains high levels of calcium and magnesium. Water accumulates high levels of these two minerals when it streams through deposits of limestone or chalk. It's usually easy to tell if you have hard water as it often leaves a chalky film on your dishes, or it can even have a strong taste or odor. However, there are also inexpensive hard water test kits available that can tell you for sure.
How Can Hard Water Affect Your Home?
The effects of hard water range from short-term mild inconveniences to significant long-term damage. In any case, it's a good idea to address the issue right away. Here are some examples of the effects hard water can have in your home:
How Do I Treat Hard Water?
The easiest and most common way to treat hard water is with a water softener or filtration system. Some of these systems use negatively charged magnetic beads to collect calcium and magnesium particles while simultaneously allowing water to flow through. Other systems filter out calcium and magnesium from your water while pumping in sodium ions. The later types come with a separate salt tank, and the salt needs refilling periodically; however, the good news is water softener salt is usually inexpensive.
Once the process is complete, the water then flows out of the filtration system and into your home's plumbing. Water softeners range in price, but purchase and installation are usually around $1,500 on average. However, many of these gorgeous Holland homes for sale are already equipped with a water softener.
Eliminating hard water from your house can help you avoid unwanted water stains, unhealthy skin, and plumbing and appliance issues. It's definitely worth the investment. For more home maintenance tips, contact us today.
With so many of us spending summer weekends doing yard work, our real estate agents thought it'd be a great time to share some landscaping tips.
Great landscaping is both an art and a science. We know creating the perfect yard takes time and practice, and it's well worth it. Remember, beautiful landscaping can make or break your curb appeal. Therefore, learning best practices and avoiding mistakes can really help boost your property value and attract attention when it comes time to sell your home.
If you're busy working on your yard this summer, here are some common landscaping mistakes you should try to avoid:
Landscaping can be a fun summer hobby, but it's also essential for maintaining your curb appeal and home value. Contact us today for more landscaping ideas.
Planning to sell your property or refinance your mortgage this year? Our real estate agents usually recommend an appraisal as a good first step. Knowing your home's true value can ultimately help you land more money when you sell (though keep in mind, that the buyer's lender will likely require their own appraisal). An appraisal is also required if you're planning to refinance.
While the home appraisal process is actually fairly simple, it is in every homeowner's best interest to do everything possible to maximize the appraised value. Spending time on home improvement projects can help you realize a higher return. Here are some simple ways you can prepare for your appraisal.
When it comes to a home appraisal, a little extra work can go a long way towards boosting your property value. If you're planning to list your home on the market this year, contact us today.
Sports bars are the perfect place to unwind after a long week and watch the big game with friends. Michigan's best sports bars provide an atmosphere comparable to that of a live event. So if you're looking for a great spot to snack on some wings, drink with friends, and watch your team go for the win, check out our favorite sports bars in Michigan!
Featuring a wide array of food and drink—pretzel pizza with the beer cheese dip comes up frequently—and a 107-inch television backed up by 13 smaller screens to show all the gaming, Jamboozies delivers on the watching and eating. It will even round out the experience with trivia nights, karaoke, and theme events just to round it out.
It's not just the "million 60-inch plasmas" that get people coming in here-though there's no shortage of screens showing games. It's the frequent appearance of actual sports figures from broadcasters to coaches, and even former players, that pop in for a bite and a relaxing evening of sport.
The watchword of the day at Monelli's Italian Grill and Sports Bar is "versatility." Whether at the Portage or Wyoming location, Monelli's is not just a sports bar with plenty of screens—including a nice projector at the Portage location—but it's also a fully functional Italian restaurant. Pizza, pasta, burgers...all the best in sports bar and Italian food are right here to go with your sports viewing. Throw in a substantial array of live tap beers—including beer flights—and you'll have an evening on your hands.
Regarded as one of the best sports bars in Grand Rapids, the Steel Cat Bar focuses on its delivery. Featuring the first Frost Rail system Michigan has ever seen—and at last report, the only such item—a cold drink is top priority for the Steel Cat. It also boasts a Chillrite 32 tap system that serves up draft beer at exactly 32 degrees. That's amazing enough—any colder and it'd be solid—but throw in a wide array of draft options and plenty of live events and Steel Cat will deliver in a big way.
Head to Holland for the Big-E, billed as the "only true sports grill" in downtown Holland. Featuring a staggering array of televisions for game watching, a few playable games—including a claw game—for good measure, and a dizzying array of food choices, it's all about big at Big-E. Throw in such spectacles as over 80 taps of beer and a "video wall" measuring nine feet in height and Big-E will deliver big...in a big way.
Muskegon sports fans have a friend in Booyah's, a sports bar that focuses on the food first. Featuring an array of dishes from burgers and wings to ribs and perch, Booyah's is out to fill up its sports fans just as much as—potentially even more than—entertain them. Naturally, the array of flat screens showing the games off won't disappoint sports buffs, but the sheer variety of dishes on hand here will make Booyah's the match of most any restaurant around.
Michigan's capital, Lansing, plays host to Nuthouse Sports Grill, a sports bar that pushes value. Featuring regular daily specials—Tuesday, for example, features dollar-off drafts and half-off wings—alongside the normal lineup of exciting food and beverage options, the Nuthouse seeks to deliver a value that few can match. From pizza to grinders to even salads, there will almost certainly be something new at the Nuthouse every time you go in.
Leave it to Traverse City to offer up a top-notch sports bar in the State Street Grille. It's a local haven in many senses, offering an array of beers including plenty of Bells, New Holland and Petoskey as well as spirits from the Valentine Distillery and Traverse City Distillery. You'll also be able to get in on what amounts to the Monte Cristo pickle, a dill pickle wrapped in ham and Swiss cheese, then deep fried in a wonton shell. After that, the sports will almost be an afterthought.
One of the most recent additions to the sports bar space in Michigan, Carrolton Township's Merl's Tavern offers an array of choices in food and drink as well as special events. For Cinco de Mayo, Merl's brought out the Cinco de Merl combo dinner featuring beans and rice and a taco, along with $3 margaritas. Add in Team Trivia functions—always fun—and signature drink the Merlixer, which is a combination of wine and vodka along with a suite of fruit juices, and Merl's Tavern will be a great destination.
Not even the Upper Peninsula has escaped the sports bar fondness the rest of Michigan enjoys, and in Marquette lies one of Michigan's best. The 906 Sports Bar and Grill offers plenty of food and drink options, including a full bar. Throw in pool tables and keno for those who want to play rather than watch, and 13 separate televisions for those who prefer watching, and the whole waterfront is covered. Add in a special "country night" every Friday with live performances, and the 906 will deliver a top-notch value for area residents. Just to round it out, the 906 even boasts a view of the Ore Dock, one of the greatest sights in Marquette.
The 2022 housing market looks a lot like 2021: bidding wars abound, houses are getting snatched up in record time, and demand still outstrips supply.
How can home buyers succeed despite the obstacles?
Get creative, say the experts.
Following the status quo when home shopping and making an offer just won't cut it in today's market.
Read on for pro tips that can help you score a deal, outmaneuver your rivals, and achieve your homeownership dreams.
Sure, the market is tough. That's no secret. But homes sold at a record pace in 2021 – which means millions of buyers were successful in their quest.
So how did they do it? What tactics can you use to score a home when competing against many other buyers?
"If you want to own a home, and believe that homeownership is a strong financial move for you, then you must be prepared to fight for the available inventory," says Glenn Pizzolorusso, a licensed associate real estate broker with Compass in Connecticut. "Winning a multiple offer situation takes creativity today."
Jay Zigmont, a certified financial planner with Live, Learn, Plan, based in Mississippi, echoes those thoughts.
"Rising house prices require buyers to be smarter about what, where, and when they buy a home. This may require, for example, looking at smaller homes and different locations or buying with a partner to keep the house affordable," says Zigmont.
But being inventive and resourceful doesn't mean you have to go it alone.
Work closely with a trusted real estate agent, or at least a real estate attorney, who can help you devise the right approaches that can help you find and claim the right home. Once you have strong representation lined up, explore each of the following strategies.
You don't need 20% down to buy a home. In fact, many buyers can get into a home with as little as 3% or even zero down.
But saving up for a bigger down payment can help your chances of scoring a home in today's competitive market. Remember that the more money you put down, the stronger your offer appears to a seller and the more motivated they will be to accept.
If you're having trouble coming up with funds for your down payment and closing costs – or want to boost the savings your already have – try these tips:
The ability to reduce your spending depends on your current income and financial situation, of course.
But, where possible, experts recommend that you stop eating out, cancel unnecessary subscriptions, shop around for cheaper insurance, choose a less expensive grocery store, and cut out unnecessary spending as much as you can.
These might feel like sacrifices in the short term, but even small changes can make a big difference in your long–term homeownership goals.
There are thousands of down payment assistance (DPA) programs available nationwide and locally that offer grants, loans, and credits to qualified home buyers. To help find DPA programs, check out these links:
Most mortgage loan programs allow you to cover part or all of your down payment using gifted money from a loved one. Note that the donor will need to write a gift letter to the lender verifying that the funds are a gift, not a loan that needs to be repaid.
If your primary goal is to buy a home sooner rather than later, your best bet might be a low–down–payment mortgage. By lowering the down payment bar you can often buy much earlier than if you waited to save 20% down.
Conforming mortgages – the most common type of home loan – have flexible down payment requirements: You could put 3%, 5%, 10%, or 15% down if you don't have the full twenty.
"Locating an affordable property in an area you prefer is the single most important box on the list to check," says Pizzolorusso. "My advice? Find the worst house on the best street and take your time improving it into your own oasis."
Evan Rosenblum, a Realtor with JMG Realty in Los Angeles, has simple advice.
"Look for homes that you can make perfect, not homes that are perfect right now that everyone else is fighting for," he says.
Keep in mind that the prices of homes tend to decrease the further you get from a city center or other similar location. So it doesn't hurt to broaden your horizons and widen your map.
"Look for homes that are technically further away but are a short commute or near public transportation," Zigmont suggests. "You might find considerable savings by adding a bit more to your commute."
If you work from home, you can get more creative about the location.
"Living out in a country area further from a city may save you considerably, while you can still visit the city for fun occasions. Just make sure the rural location you choose has sufficient infrastructure, resources, and amenities, including broadband access," notes Zigmont.
Here's where you'll need to be extra clever and have the right timing.
"Choose a real estate agent or broker who understands game theory and valuation comparables," says Nik Shah, CEO of San Francisco–based Home.LLC. "A quality real estate agent can be the difference between closing the deal or losing it."
"Speed and simplicity will help you with your offer. In this market, you can't wait weeks or even days to put in an offer on something you love," Zigmont cautions. "Know your math going in, and then you can make informed decisions when you find the right house."
For best results, consider these suggestions:
Still no luck finding the right house or cinching a deal? Drastic times call for even more creative measures.
"Find a fixer–upper. You will be able to purchase at below–market prices and improve to above–market prices," says Pizzolorusso. "If you can take an outdated home and bring it into the modern day, you will come out far ahead when it's time to sell."
To make this strategy easier, there are special loan programs that let you finance the home purchase and repairs with a single mortgage. If you're considering the fixer–upper route, look into:
Alternatively, explore hunting for a parcel of land or infill site and constructing a new home on it.
The benefit here is that no one else will be bidding against you on your new home. And you can have it built to your exact specifications.
However, "the problem with this tactic is that building prices are still way too high to make this a wise choice in most markets. You don't want to find yourself upside down on your mortgage upon completion," Pizzolorusso continues.
Or, get a partner to come in on the deal with you as a co-borrower or co-signer on the loan, which can come in handy if you're having trouble qualifying for a mortgage loan or you're worried about affording the costs of homeownership.
"Buying a house with a friend or other person you are not married to is an option, but you need to make sure you have a good lawyer to help on the paperwork," says Zigmont.
Are you ready to get serious about buying a home in 2022?
If so, then it's time to connect with a mortgage lender and get preapproved.
Every prospective home buyer needs a preapproval to learn how much they can afford, which types of mortgage they qualify for, and how expensive their payments will be. Not to mention, your preapproval letter gives you the clout to make a serious offer on a home you love.
Your house isn't just a place to live, it's also a major investment and vehicle for accumulating wealth. While homes generally appreciate over time if you keep them in good shape, there are also things you can do to help generate an extra return when it comes time to sell. At the end of the day, investing in a more livable home is the best way to boost your sale price.
Here are some top recommendations from our real estate agents to maximize your home value:
When thinking of what repairs and upgrades can drive value, put yourself in the shoes of a buyer. Try to imagine what would make your home more comfortable, liveable, and convenient. Contact us today for more home improvement tips.
Holland State Park is well known for its enormous sandy beach on Lake Michigan and Lake Macatawa. Popular among locals and tourists alike, the beach is perfect for any beach activity you like, from sunbathing and volleyball to building sandcastles, surfing, or just relaxing. Holland State Park has two large campgrounds, a number of picnic tables, grills, and fire pits.
It also has beach volleyball courts and a small beach house. If you like to fish, the walkway and pier along the harbor channel are the best spots for it. You can also enjoy watching the passing sailboats, waiting for the sunset, or taking photos of the Big Red lighthouse. There is a concession stand if the kids get hungry from all the activities. Holland State Park Beach is one of the best things to do in Holland, Michigan.
2215 Ottawa Beach Rd, Holland, MI 49424, 616-399-9390
If you love cooking at home, the best way to eat fresh all year long is by cooking seasonally. Seasonal cooking means creating meals and menus around ingredients as they come into season. Seasonal ingredients taste delicious and are less expensive, and the best part is that you're supporting local farmers, businesses, and the community when you add them to your meal plans.
Our real estate agents are big believers in the benefits of seasonal cooking. After seeing some of the amazing kitchens in these Grand Haven homes for sale, we were inspired to create a list of seasonal cooking tips to help you improve the freshness and quality of the food you eat. Here is what we recommend:
Build Your Menu Around What's In Season
The key is to plan your meals based on what is currently in season, not necessarily what's on sale. Take the time to learn what fruits and vegetables are at their peak around Michigan. Here is a quick guide:
Don't Forget To Use Local Ingredients
Purchasing ingredients from local farmers or small businesses is the best way to know exactly what you're eating. Some local supermarkets may sell local products, or you can make a stop by some of our wonderful local farmer's markets. Don't be afraid to ask local vendors and farmers how they grow their crops.
Trust Your Eye And Try Something New
You can often recognize seasonal ingredients at the grocery store or farmer's market. Not only will they be prominently displayed, but they'll look good too. Fruit and vegetables appear bigger and brighter when they're in season. Take a stroll through the produce aisle and see what looks good.
Seasonal cooking is great for both your health and the overall community. For more tips on how to make the most out of your kitchen this year, contact us today.
Yes and no. Mortgage rates reached record lows in early 2021 and have stayed low by historical standards throughout the year even as they fluctuated. However, strong demand for homes pushed prices up and frustrated many potential homebuyers. According to the CoreLogic Case-Shiller Home Price Index, property prices rose by 18 percent between September 2020 and September 2021. Time may be running out to lock in an affordable mortgage because experts predict interest rates will continue to trend upward this year. In many areas of the country, Realtors reported intense competition for homes last year, with some properties getting dozens of offers and going into contract within days of being listed.
That reality has created inevitable concerns about buying at the peak. Home values go up over time, but there is a possibility that prices in some places have hit a plateau.
"I would be careful about buying near the top of the market, especially if I want to be in the home for only a few years," says Ken H. Johnson, a real estate economist at Florida Atlantic University and co-author of the Beracha, Hardin & Johnson Buy vs. Rent Index. "If you look to buy, bargain aggressively and be willing to walk away. Real estate most definitely is a good investment, but don't just buy now because that's what everybody else is doing."
Taking the leap to homeownership can provide a feeling of pride while boosting your long-term financial outlook, if you go in well-prepared and with your eyes open.
When thinking about buying a home, consider whether you want to put down roots or maintain flexibility with your living situation. How secure is your job, and can you comfortably budget for home repairs and maintenance on top of monthly housing payments? Are you ready to stay in one place, and do you have kids or family members to consider?
In normal times, spring is the traditional start of the home-buying season, with many listings typically hitting the market. The market still hasn't quite returned to normal since the coronavirus upended that schedule, however.. This winter should be relatively slow for buying, but with low housing inventory, it will still feel competitive compared to pre-pandemic off-seasons.
At any rate your own financial readiness is more important than the time of year. This means having your finances organized and your credit in order so that you'll be able to smoothly secure a reasonable mortgage.
In addition to a down payment, potential homebuyers should have enough money set aside to cover closing costs, which can range from 2 percent to 4 percent of the purchase price.
When budgeting for your monthly mortgage payment, factor in not only the principal amount and interest, but also property taxes, homeowners insurance, homeowners association fees (if applicable), plus private mortgage insurance if you're putting down less than 20 percent. Don't forget to set aside money for ongoing maintenance and those unexpected repairs that are bound to pop up, too.
Purchasing a home is a major decision that shouldn't be taken lightly. If you're not clear on why you want to buy a house, you could end up regretting your decision.
How to get started: Define your personal and financial goals. "Buyers should think about things like when they intend on moving, what they want in a home (such as) amenities, ideal location and how long it could take them to save for a down payment," says Edwence Georges, a sales associate with RE/MAX in Westfield, New Jersey. "These are all important to help define the goals they would like to meet."
Checking your credit score will help you determine your financing options; lenders use it (among other factors) to set your loan pricing and see if you're able to repay your mortgage. The better your credit history, the better the chances you'll have of securing financing with the best terms and rates.
How to get started: You can get your credit report and score from each of the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, for free once a year. Your bank or credit card company might offer free access to your score or credit report, too.
Setting a realistic budget for your new home will help inform what you can afford and how much your all-in costs will be.
How to get started: The purchase price isn't the whole picture. Carefully factor in other expenses to determine what you can afford.
"Buyers tend to forget to factor in other costs like (homeowners association) fees and setting money aside for maintenance costs. Just because you can afford a mortgage and a down payment doesn't mean you can afford those long-term costs after you move."
– Paige Kruger, Realtor, Founder, Signal Real Estate, Jacksonville Beach, Florida
To avoid private mortgage insurance, or PMI, you'll need to save at least 20 percent of the home's purchase price for a down payment. Some lenders offer mortgages without PMI with lower down payments, but expect to pay a higher interest rate.
How to get started: Research the down payment requirements for the loan you want so you know exactly how much you'll need. If a friend, relative or employer has offered to provide a down payment gift, initiate a conversation early on to learn how much they plan to contribute and if there's any shortfall you'll need to cover — and secure a gift letter from them well in advance, too.
Getting preapproved for a mortgage is helpful when you make an offer on a house, and it gives you a firmer handle on how much you can afford.
How to get started: Shop around with at least three lenders or a mortgage broker to increase your chances of getting a low interest rate.
Sign up for a Bankrate account to determine the right time to strike on your mortgage with our daily rate trends.
An experienced real estate agent can save you time and money by helping you find your dream home and by negotiating with the seller on your behalf.
How to get started: Contact several real estate agents and ask to meet with them for a conversation about your needs before choosing one. "Someone with knowledge of an area can also tell if your budget is realistic or not, depending on the features you desire in a home," Kruger says. "They can also point you to adjacent areas in your desired neighborhood or other types of considerations to help you find a house."
Simply viewing listing photos isn't a substitute for visiting homes in person — with appropriate precautions in the pandemic — and getting to know the neighborhood and its amenities.
How to get started: Let your real estate agent know what specific kinds of homes you want to see, or search for homes online yourself. Your agent can create your profile in the local multiple listing service (MLS), a database of homes for sale, and set up automatic searches for those that meet your criteria. You may not be able to check off everything on your home amenity wish list, so you'll want to prioritize what's most important to you aside from location.
Understanding how to make an attractive offer on a home can help increase your chances the seller will accept it, putting you one step closer to getting those coveted house keys.
How to get started: Once you find "the one," your real estate agent will help you prepare a complete offer package, including your offer price, your preapproval letter, proof of funds for a down payment (this helps in competitive markets) and terms or contingencies.
A home inspection helps you get an overall picture of the property's mechanical and structural issues. The home inspection will help you determine how to proceed with the closing process. You might need to ask the seller for repairs, or you might decide to back out of the deal if you have a contingency in the contract.
How to get started: You can get recommendations for home inspectors from your real estate agent, but also be sure to do your own homework before choosing one. Depending on your contract and state of residence, you'll generally need to complete a home inspection 10 to 14 days after you sign a purchase agreement. As a buyer, you're usually responsible for paying the home inspector, and while the fees can vary, you'll pay an average of $270 to $400, according to HomeAdvisor by Angi.
Your home inspection report may reveal major or minor issues. Major problems will likely need to be dealt with before your mortgage lender will finalize your loan, while minor issues can often wait till you take possession of the home.
How to get started: Enlist your agent's help to negotiate with the seller. Ask for the seller to either do the repairs or give you a credit at closing.
Getting final loan approval means you need to keep your finances and credit in line during underwriting. Once you're ready to close, you won't want to open new credit lines or make other major purchases until the paperwork is signed.
How to get started: Respond promptly to requests for more documentation and double-check your loan estimate to ensure all the details are correct so there are no hiccups later. You may need to submit additional paperwork as your lender completes the underwriting process, such as:
Also, avoid running up credit cards, taking out new loans or closing credit accounts. Doing any of these things can hurt your credit score or impact your debt-to-income ratio, and that can imperil your final loan approval.
A final walk-through is an opportunity to view the property before it becomes yours. This is your last chance to view the home, ask questions and address any outstanding issues before the house becomes your responsibility.
How to get started: Come with your home inspection checklist and other documents, like repair invoices and receipts for any work the owner conducted, to ensure everything was done as agreed upon and that the home is in move-in ready condition.
Once all contingencies have been met, you're happy with the final walk-through and the closing agent has given the green light to close, it's time to make it official and close on your home. In this final step, your lender will issue you a "clear to close" status on your loan.
How to get started: Three business days before your closing date, the lender will provide you with a closing disclosure that outlines all of your loan details, such as the monthly payment, loan type and term, interest rate, annual percentage rate (APR), loan fees and how much money you must bring to closing. At the closing, you (the buyer) will attend, along with your real estate agent, possibly the seller's agent, the seller, in some cases, and the closing agent, who may be a representative from the escrow or title company or a real estate attorney. This is also the time where you'll wire your closing costs and down payment, depending on the escrow company's procedures.
Once all of the paperwork has been signed, the home is officially yours and you'll get those house keys. Congratulations! Now comes the fun part: moving in and making the house your home.
There are plenty of good reasons to buy a home -- financial stability, building equity in a place of your own, and not having to follow a landlord's rules. If you're eager to buy a home in 2022, here are four important tips to help make that happen.
Home prices have soared this year due to high buyer demand and limited housing inventory. Come 2022, those circumstances could remain unchanged. It makes sense to research different neighborhoods in advance and see which ones have home prices within your financial reach.
Some buyers embark on a home search before looking at numbers. But it's better to take the opposite approach -- first figure out where you can afford to look, and then start driving out to see different homes in person. If you go the opposite route, you might fall in love with a home or town you can't afford.
Chances are, you don't have the money to buy a home outright next year. Rather, you'll probably need a mortgage. The higher your credit score is, the more likely you'll be to get approved not only for a home loan, but for an affordable interest rate as well.
You can boost your credit score in a number of ways. First, make sure to pay all of your bills on time. Next, if possible, pay off a chunk of existing credit card debt, especially if you're carrying a high balance relative to your total credit limit across all of your cards. Finally, check your credit report for errors and correct those that could be dragging your score down.
Because home values are so inflated, you should expect to pay up in 2022. And if you want to avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI), you'll need to bring a 20% down payment to the table for a conventional loan. If you don't have that much saved yet, work on boosting your cash reserves. A good way to do so is to get a side gig on top of your main job.
Though housing inventory may pick up in 2022, there's no guarantee that will happen. It could also take months for enough inventory to hit the market to satisfy buyer demand. That's why if you're aiming to buy a home next year, you'll need to prepare to duke it out with other buyers. Now is a good time to read up on different strategies for winning a bidding war.
One step worth taking in this regard is getting a mortgage pre-approval letter. That sends the message you're a serious home buyer whose finances have already been vetted. And it may prompt a seller to accept your offer over a comparable one.
Though 2022 may end up being a challenging year to buy a home, there are steps you can take to increase your chances of success. Be sure to check off these boxes if your goal is to become a homeowner over the next 12 months.
Chances are, interest rates won't stay put at multi-decade lows for much longer. That's why taking action today is crucial, whether you're wanting to refinance and cut your mortgage payment or you're ready to pull the trigger on a new home purchase.
Our expert recommends this company to find a low rate - and in fact he used them himself to refi (twice!).
Here are the main costs to consider when saving for a home:
Down payment: Your down payment requirement will depend on the type of mortgage you choose and the lender. Some conventional loans aimed at first-time home buyers with excellent credit allow as little as 3% down. But even a small down payment can be challenging to save. For example, a 3% down payment on a $300,000 home is $9,000. Use a down payment calculator to decide a goal, and then set up automatic transfers from checking to savings to get started.
Closing costs: These are the fees and expenses you pay to finalize your mortgage, and they typically range from 2% to 5% of the loan amount. You can ask the seller to pay a portion of your closing costs, and you can save on some expenses, such as home inspections, by shopping around.
Move-in expenses: You'll need some cash after the home purchase. Set some money aside for immediate home repairs, upgrades and furnishings.
" MORE: How to save money for a house
Figure out how much you can safely spend on a house before starting to shop. NerdWallet's home affordability calculator can help with setting a price range based on your income, debt, down payment, credit score and where you plan to live.
Your credit score will determine whether you qualify for a mortgage and affect the interest rate lenders will offer. Take these steps to strengthen your credit score to buy a house:
Get free copies of your credit reports from each of the three credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — and dispute any errors that could hurt your score.
Pay all your bills on time, and keep credit card balances as low as possible.
Keep current credit cards open. Closing a card will increase the portion of available credit you use, which can lower your score.
Mortgage selection tips
A variety of mortgages are available with varying down payment and eligibility requirements. Here are the main categories:
Conventional mortgages are not guaranteed by the government. Some conventional loans targeted at first-time buyers require as little as 3% down.
FHA loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration and allow down payments as low as 3.5%.
USDA loans are guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They are for rural home buyers and usually require no down payment.
VA loans are guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. They are for current and veteran military service members and usually require no down payment.
You also have options when it comes to the mortgage term. Most home buyers opt for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, which is paid off in 30 years and has an interest rate that stays the same. A 15-year loan typically has a lower interest rate than a 30-year mortgage, but the monthly payments are larger.
Many states and some cities and counties offer first-time home buyer programs, which often combine low-interest-rate mortgages with down payment assistance and closing cost assistance. Tax credits are also available through some first-time home buyer programs.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends requesting loan estimates for the same type of mortgage from multiple lenders to compare the costs, including interest rates and possible origination fees.
Lenders may offer the opportunity to buy discount points, which are fees the borrower pays upfront to lower the interest rate. Buying points can make sense if you have the money on hand and plan to stay in the home for a long time. Use a discount points calculator to decide.
A mortgage preapproval is a lender's offer to loan you a certain amount under specific terms. Having a preapproval letter shows home sellers and real estate agents that you're a serious buyer, and can give you an edge over home shoppers who haven't taken this step yet.
Apply for preapproval when you're ready to start home shopping. A lender will pull your credit and review documents to verify your income, assets and debt. Applying for preapproval from more than one lender to shop rates shouldn't hurt your credit score as long as you apply for them within a limited time frame, such as 30 days.
" MORE: Get preapproved for a mortgage
A good real estate agent will scour the market for homes that meet your needs and guide you through the negotiation and closing process. Get agent referrals from other recent home buyers. Interview at least a few agents, and request references. When speaking with potential agents, ask about their experience helping first-time home buyers in your market and how they plan to help you find a home.
Weigh the pros and cons of different types of homes, given your lifestyle and budget. A condominium or townhome may be more affordable than a single-family home, but shared walls with neighbors will mean less privacy. Don't forget to budget for homeowners association fees when shopping for condos and townhomes, or houses in planned or gated communities.
Another option to consider is buying a fixer-upper — a single-family home in need of updates or repairs. Fixer-uppers usually sell for less per square foot than move-in ready homes. However, you may need to budget extra for repairs and remodeling. Renovation mortgages finance both the home price and the cost of improvements in one loan.
Think about your long-term needs and whether a starter home or forever home will meet them best. If you plan to start or expand your family, it may make sense to buy a home with extra room to grow.
Check out potential neighborhoods thoroughly. Choose one with amenities that are important to you, and test out the commute to work during rush hour.
A lender may offer to loan you more than what is comfortably affordable, or you may feel pressure to spend outside your comfort zone to beat another buyer's offer. To avoid financial stress down the road, set a price range based on your budget, and then stick to it.
Look at properties below your price limit to give some wiggle room for bidding in a competitive market.
" MORE: How to make an offer on a house
Online 3D home tours have become more popular amid the COVID-19 pandemic. These tours let shoppers virtually walk through a home at any hour and observe details that regular photos don't catch. They don't supply all the information in-person visits do — like how the carpets smell — but they can help you narrow the list of properties to visit.
Open your senses when touring homes in person. Listen for noise, pay attention to any odors and look at the overall condition of the home inside and out. Ask about the type and age of the electrical and plumbing systems and the roof.
" MORE: How 3D home tours work
A home inspection is a thorough assessment of the structure and mechanical systems. Professional inspectors look for potential problems, so you can make an informed decision about buying the property. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Standard inspections don't test for things like radon, mold or pests. Understand what's included in the inspection and what other inspections you might need.
Make sure the inspector can get to every part of the house, such as the roof and any crawl spaces.
Traditionally the buyer attends the inspection. By following the inspector around you can get a better understanding of the home and ask questions on the spot. If you can't attend the inspection, review the inspector's report carefully and ask about anything that's unclear.
You may be able to save money by asking the seller to pay for repairs in advance or lower the price to cover the cost of repairs you'll have to make later. You may also ask the seller to pay some of the closing costs. But keep in mind that lenders may limit the portion of closing costs the seller can pay.
Your negotiating power will depend on the local market. It's tougher to drive a hard bargain when there are more buyers than homes for sale. Work with your real estate agent to understand the local market and strategize accordingly.
Your lender will require you to buy homeowners insurance before closing the deal. Home insurance covers the cost to repair or replace your home and belongings if they're damaged by an incident covered in the policy. It also provides liability insurance if you're held responsible for an injury or accident. Buy enough home insurance to cover the cost of rebuilding the home if it's destroyed.
Nothing gets our real estate agents in the holiday spirit quite like DIY holiday crafts. Holiday crafting is not only a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family, but it also is a chance to create some beautiful holiday decor that you can use to liven up your home for the holiday season. If you're looking for some creative ideas before heading out to the craft store, here are our four most popular DIY holiday craft ideas:
Before you start crafting, don't forget to set the holiday scene. Turn on some nice Christmas music, turn on all the lights, and light a fire in the fireplace. It's the perfect way to spend a chilly December afternoon.
For more tips on holiday decor, contact us today.