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Steps on How to Improve Your Credit Before You Buy

Improve those three figures to better position yourself for securing a home loan.

Although you may have saved up for a down payment on a new house, if you have an average credit score, you may have a hard time qualifying for a mortgage and buying the home of your dreams. The good news is that there is a lot that you can do to improve your score. Check out these tips for a much better chance of getting approved and locking in an affordable interest rate.

Pay Off Your Credit Cards

Think about it. You’re trying to prove to a lender that you can have a reasonable amount of debt, but pay it off in time. If you miss a payment, even if it was an honest mistake, it could significantly impact your credit score. Ensure that you pay bills as soon as they come in the mail, or set up an auto charge on your account so that the money is always deducted from your account before the deadline. Don’t forget to do this on all of your debt, including credit cards, student loans, and auto loans.

Review Your Credit Report

Get a free credit report, observing each report closely for any mistakes or discrepancies. Mistakes do happen and you don’t want to be the last to know. If you do spot a mistake, resolve it right away.

Don’t Take on Any More Debt

Even though you may want new furniture for your new home and a sparkling new car for the driveway, it’s best to hold off on acquiring any more debt until you’ve landed a mortgage. You want your credit report to look as clean as possible when you send in your application, and many new inquiries may raise red flags for lenders.

Contact Dean Rathbun when you’re looking to secure the right mortgage for your needs. We work with your credit score and financial picture to ensure that you lock in the right home loan to land that house of your dreams. Give us a call to get started.

Home Features Buyers Will Pay More For

Is it worth investing in features that could land your home a ‘Sold’ sign?

Homeowners are sometimes hesitant to upgrade when it’s time to sell. It’s understandable, since they don’t intend to live there much longer, and the home remodeling efforts only increase home values by 64 percent of the average project’s costs. But it’s time for sellers to think again. The cost of a few simple upgrades isn’t necessarily wasted money.

To make the most of your remodeling budget, focus on features that more buyers really want to see and may even pay more for.

Exterior Lighting

Illuminating a well-manicured lawn with warm exterior lighting can help to grab potential buyers’ attention before they even set foot in the front door. What’s more, exterior lighting also serves as an added safety feature for your home, especially if lights above entryways are motion-sensor lights.

Energy Efficiencies

These days, everyone is eco-conscious, and many are looking for ‘green’ homes that have energy efficient appliances and windows. Buyers are most impressed with Energy-Star qualified choices that in no way limit their comfort. Energy-Star qualified windows have unique properties that reduce undesirable heat gain and loss in the home.

Fresh Carpet

Few things are as vile as an old carpet that is worn, has strong odors, and is peeling away from the floorboards. In a busy home, it doesn’t take long for a new carpet to look shabby. While more and more buyers prefer wood floors throughout, carpeting in the bedroom is great as long as it is in good condition. If not, it’s a deal breaker.

Eat-In Kitchen

An eat-in kitchen is a must-have for many buyers, especially families with children. It’s a space that’s ideal for families rushed in the morning and relaxed in the evening. To create this, you may need to remove a wall for a small table, but this can be relatively inexpensive.

 Smarter Storage

While open floor plans are getting more popular, the amount of storage needed becomes ever more important. It’s critical to have the right amount of out-of-sight storage for kitchen items, along with flexible spaces that homeowners can adapt to their needs, such as wine storage or a workstation.

When you need help obtaining a smart mortgage, contact Dean Rathbun. We can help you determine the right plan of action for your real estate needs.

Renters: Should You Break a Lease to Buy Your Home?

Renters, when is it right to break a lease?

One of the advantages of renting versus owning a home is that you’re not burdened with the task of trying to sell the property if you move. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can just walk away from a lease agreement before it’s set to expire without facing some kind of penalty. Even so, if you’re a renter looking to move onto the property market, sometimes a home is too good to pass up, causing you to consider breaking your lease. Here are some tips for doing it the right way.

Check Out Your Rental Agreement

Before you hand in your notice, you need to look over your lease to see what you’re responsible for if you leave ahead of schedule. For example, your landlord may require you to pay the remaining rent for the rest of the lease term in full, or at least hand over a certain percentage of what’s owed. You may also lose your security deposit.

Let Your Landlord Know Early

Telling your landlord, you need to move may not be the most pleasant conversation, but it’s still one you need to have. If you have a solid reason for having to relocate, don’t hesitate to clue them in. What’s more, if you’re in a good relationship with your landlord, he/she may be willing to look for a new tenant while you work on moving out. The more notice you can give, the more time they will have to find someone to take your place. In some states, landlords are required to make a reasonable effort to re-rent the property, so it’s to your benefit to show you’re trying to make it as easy as possible for them.

Tell Your Realtor

Your realtor is there to look out for you. Often, your realtor can fill the property with a new tenant in order to make moving into your new home a smooth and seamless transition – without any more financial burdens than necessary. Talk to your realtor to let them know you are eager to buy and move from your rented accommodation.

Be Aware of the Consequences

Packing up and leaving in the middle of the night is an absolute no-no. You open the door to a civil lawsuit if they decide to sue you for the outstanding rent balance owned on the lease. If they win, you could be in big financial trouble. Not only that, but your landlord could report you to the credit bureaus. This mark could stay on your report for up to seven years!

When in doubt, ask a professional for advice. Contact Dean Rathbun when it comes time to finding the perfect plan of action to buy your home. We are happy to help you.

Why Fall is a Great Time to Buy

The autumnal season is an ideal time to find your perfect property.

Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice cookies, pumpkin spice bagels. Autumn is truly upon us. While this is great news for pumpkin spice fans, it’s also a great time for homebuyers. In the housing market, autumn tends to favor the buyers over the sellers, making it an ideal time to land your dream home.

Read on to see the three reasons why fall is a great time to buy a home!

Less competition. Many people make major transitions during the summer. For families with children out of school, summer is the ideal time to move, as doing so during the school year can be difficult. Many buyers want to be all settled in before the series of fall and winter holidays begin. As a result, once autumn hits, you see the desire to move drop, resulting in fewer homebuyers. In turn, fewer buyers mean fewer offers for sellers, so you have greater ability to negotiate.

Eager sellers. For the same reasons that so many people look to purchase homes in the summer, many try to sell homes during the summer. Like buyers, sellers are seeking to make a big transition as well. Eager to move to make it into their new home before the holidays and to stop paying two mortgages, sellers are more motivated during this time. Once again, your ability to negotiate increases.

Agent availability. With fewer buyers, agents can spend more time with their autumn customers. They will spend more time searching for the best available homes on the market so that you experience the best possible service. Fall is an excellent time to utilize a real estate agent.

Contact Dean Rathbun when it comes time to finding the perfect plan of action to buy your home. We are happy to help you.

Red Flags to Look For During a Home Inspection

With the help of your home inspector and your own observation skills, check out these red flags to look for when buying a home.

Buying a home is an action-filled task. The process will pull at your heartstrings, challenge your patience, and impact your personal finances. Home inspections are an effective tool in locating issues with the property. It is a check of the house’s structural and mechanical condition, from the roof down to the foundation. It may also test for the presence of radon gas and wood-destroying insects. If the inspection uncovers significant issues, the buyer may be able to walk away from the deal.

Be aware of these signs that could signal trouble with the house.

Electrical Issues

An old electrical system can be a major fire hazard and expensive to update, and you want to ensure that the wiring is up to current code to protect your home and family. Be on the lookout for threats like outlets that don’t have the modern ground fault interrupter (GFI), aluminum wiring, overloaded plugs, and wiring that looks like it’s amateur work.

Faulty Foundation

A cracked or crumbling foundation calls for attention and repair, with costs ranging from moderate to extremely expensive. If you shop for older homes, there may be a possibility that the entire foundation needs to be replaced.

Mold

This is an issue that most people think is caused by an old, damp house, however, it can sprout because the home is too energy-efficient. The airtight envelope of many newer homes restricts air movement, forcing mold to grow. Even though most molds are allergens rather than toxins, you should still have a specialist examine the problem and provide remediation if needed.

Worn-Out Roofing

The whole point of a home is to keep a roof over your head. If the roof is faulty, you could be in store for some major issues and repair bills. Depending on the size and materials, a new roof could cost you well into the thousands.

Poor Drainage

Drainage issues can lead to wood rot, wet basements, wet crawlspaces, and major mold growth. While problems are usually corrected by replacing gutters and repairing roof slates, it’s important to note if this is a major issue.

The bottom line is that you should always have your home inspected professionally before you make an offer. When selling a home, it’s important to address these issues now before it hinders a home sale!

Contact Dean Rathbun when it comes time to finding the perfect plan of action to buy your home. We are happy to help you.

5 Reasons to Use a Real Estate Agent

Should you try to sell your home alone? In such a market, rely on a professional.

Real estate is a big deal. For many Americans, a home is the most expensive purchase that they’ll make in their lifetime. It’s a serious transaction with significant financial and emotional considerations. To keep a level head, it’s essential that you obtain proper representation.

What’s so crucial about using a real estate agent? Below, we give you five reasons why you should give your local agent a call today!

They are experts. Selling a home usually requires dozens of forms, reports, disclosures, and technical documents. An expert will guide you through the paperwork, avoiding delays or costly mistakes.

They have information. From local information on utilities, zoning, schools, and more, real estate agents can give you the rundown of what you need to know. They have objective information about each property, which helps you to determine if the property has what you need.

They have experience. Home sales are big and can be complicated and lengthy. Experienced agents in the business can deter you from red flags and errors. Instead, their experience gives them a leg up on the local area’s property market.

They have negotiation power. There are many factors up for discussion in a deal. A real estate agent will look at every angle from your perspective while crafting a purchase agreement that allows you the flexibility that you need.

They help you find your home. Real estate agents know that a home is much more than just a house. They keep your needs and requirements in mind when looking for houses, ensuring that you don’t waste time looking at homes that don’t have a third bedroom for your little one on the way.

Contact Dean Rathbun when it comes time to finding the perfect plan of action to buy your home. We are happy to help you.

How to Survive a Home Showing as a Seller

Make a plan for the best way to sell your home.

Those last-minute panic-cleaning skills you’ve developed for in-law visits may not do you much good when months of home showing are on your horizon. Unless you’ve already found the perfect new home and moved in, you’ll need to develop a long-term strategy for how to survive living in your home while trying to sell it. If you aren’t prepared, it can cause quite an upheaval in your daily life. Here’s how to get organized.

Start Packing
Once your home is on the market, get a head start on cleaning, de-cluttering, and packing up your belongings. Now that fall is here, it’s unlikely you’ll need heavy-duty summer gear for much longer, so pack it up and move it out. Consider investing in a short-term storage unit to store packed boxes and unneeded items until moving day.

Stash Away Your Personal Belongings
You want to ensure that the buyer sees themselves in the house, so that means getting rid of personal items such as photographs, financial documents, computers, medicine, jewelry, and more. Aim to keep your house in a constant state of looking like a showroom.

Get Ready For Showings
Talk to your agent about how showings will be handled, and be upfront with any requests you have. This could include scheduling showings during certain times of the day, or giving you an hour’s notice before potential buyers come by. Make a checklist for what you’ll need to do to leave the house in showing-condition, such as turning on basement lights, opening curtains, and tidying up pet or child toys.

Hire a Pro
The best thing that you can do to survive your home sale is to enlist the help of a professional real estate agent. He or she can tell you what to expect and help you navigate through each step of the journey. Working with an agent will help ensure that you sell your home as quickly and as easily as possible!

Buying a home is no small feat, so it pays to have a trusted, experienced professional on your side! Contact Dean Rathbun when it comes time to finding the perfect plan of action to buy your home. We are happy to help you.

What You Should Know About the Basics of a Mortgage

Mortgage basics 101.

Everyone knows that unless you’re sitting on a pile of cash, you’ll need to secure a mortgage in order to purchase a home.  There are essentially three items a mortgage lender considers when getting preapproved for a mortgage: Credit, Income, and Assets. In simpler terms, you could call it the CIA of your finances.

Credit is very important to a lender as it represents whether or not a potential borrower pays their bills on time and how much outstanding debt one owes.

As part of the credit check, a lender will factor in your credit score, particularly for a FNMA or Freddie Mac loan. Your credit score is commonly known as your FICO score. Typically, a FICO score of 740 and above will allow you to obtain the best interest rates possible. Some loan programs, such as VA, do not have a FICO score requirement. Many lenders have minimum FICO requirements, typically around a 620 FICO.

Income is another piece to the puzzle. There are so many different sources of income, including a typical W-2 wage earner, commission income, bonus income, self-employment income, interest and dividend income, rental income, stock options, trust, disability, social security, IRA, 401k, etc.

A mortgage professional will discover your source of income that can be used for qualifying. The rule of thumb is to have a 2-year history of income. For example, if someone is in sales and is paid primarily commission income, the sales person would have to show a two-year earning history of commission income and average it over two years. There are many variances, so it is best to speak with a mortgage professional to determine the income that can be used in your situation.

When evaluating your income, a lender considers your debt-to-income ratio. This ratio is calculated by adding up all of your monthly credit debt and your proposed mortgage payment, and dividing this by your GROSS monthly income. The standard debt to income ratio is 43 percent. There are some variances with different loan programs and automated underwriting systems, but a 43 percent DTI is a good guide to consider.

Assets are the final piece to the equation. It is important for lenders to understand where your money is coming from for the down payment and reserves you will have left over after you close on your home. The assets must be verified. Money under the mattress is not an acceptable source of funds.

Some sources of assets include savings, stocks, bonds, the sale of an asset such as a car, trust funds, or a gift. Certain programs require that the down payment comes from the borrower while other programs will allow 100 percent gift funds to be used.

In addition to the down payment, some loan programs will require reserves after closing. Retirement accounts are often acceptable sources of reserves.

By evaluating your credit, income, and assets, a lender can determine how much home you can afford to purchase.

Remember, these are basic guidelines and speaking with a mortgage professional is highly recommended. Contact Dean Rathbun when it comes time to finding the perfect plan of action to buy your home. We are happy to help you.

Green Home Cleaning Solutions to Adopt

Keep your home sparkling and benefit the planet with these green cleaning solutions.

Raised on the standard home cleaning products, many of us don’t think twice about what’s actually in them. When we see a smudge on the glass, we reach for the closest glass cleaner we have, typically Windex. Little do we know, these cleaning products are loaded with chemicals that can be extremely toxic.

Whether you’re preparing your new home or performing your daily cleaning, there are natural, everyday ingredients that you can turn into cleaning products! Skip the harsh chemicals, the toxic fumes, and dangerous ingredients for these simple, effective, and natural substitutes.

Wood Polish

  • The go-to: Pledge
    Full of hydrocarbons, this furniture polish can cause dizziness, labored breathing, stomach ache, and other symptoms if ingested!
  • The green cleaning solution: dish soap, lemon oil, and water.
    This brings out the luster of your wood tables!

Glass Cleaner

  • The go to: Windex
    While this is a common solution for cleaning your windows, Windex contains ammonium hydroxide, a chemical that can irritate your eyes. This can be dangerous and harmful if inhaled.
  • The green cleaning solution: vinegar and water.
    Use this on windows and glass surfaces with this mixture of natural ingredients will result in the same streak-free shine of Windex fame – without the ammonia!

Bathtub Cleaner

  • The go-to: Comet
    This contains over 100 chemical ingredients – enough said!
  • The green cleaning solutions: baking soda, vinegar, and liquid soap.
    This carcinogen-free scrub cuts through tough soap scum and grime.

With all of these products already in your home, cleaning has never been more natural, affordable, and effective.

To keep on top of your household cleaning and maintenance, protect your home in the best way possible! Contact Dean Rathbun when it comes time to finding the perfect plan of action to buy your home. We are happy to help you.

Important Questions You Should Ask Your Lender Before Securing Your Mortgage

A little research to compare your options for a mortgage can help you get the best mortgage rate.

Use the power of choice to call two different lenders to apply for a mortgage—they may give you a different interest rate, and you can use this to your advantage. Even though information like your credit score and salary is set, financial institutions can interpret this information differently. And that can mean scoring a lower interest rate merely because of your choice in lender. Many borrowers don’t compare interest rates before selecting their mortgage, which possibly ends up costing them many years of a debt-free life. When you’re comparing lenders, here are a few questions to ask.

Will the size of my down payment impact the interest rate or fees on the loan? 

If you put down less than 20 percent when you apply for a mortgage and buy a home, you’ll likely end up having to pay for private mortgage insurance. Be sure to understand the minimum down payment and how it can affect the rest of your fees.

Are points included in the quote? 

A quote with an interest rate from your mortgage lender may or may not include points. Points are fees that you can pay to your lender when you decide on a home in exchange for a lower interest rate.

How can I lock the interest rate? 

When you get quotes for your interest rate, you need to ask how you can lock that quoted rate. If you wait too long between getting the quote and actually applying for the mortgage, the rate the lender gave you may expire, leading you to pay more in interest down the road. By locking in a rate, you’ll get what you budgeted for and can avoid having to ask for another quote with a potentially higher rate.

There is no such thing as a stupid question, especially when it’s something as important as the mortgage that’ll be with you for years. Contact Dean Rathbun when it comes time to finding the perfect plan of action to buy your home. We are happy to help you.