Category Archives: Reporter

4 Ways to Improve Your Chance of Getting a Mortgage

Mortgage talk is HOT on everyone’s minds right now –  especially in the midst of the spring and summer buying season. Homes rarely stay on the market for long if they’re a hot buy — so here’s how to jump start your likelihood of getting a mortgage, so you can get the home of your dreams faster!

  1. Financial Literacy: Shopping for a MortgageCheck your credit report. Make sure everything on your credit report is accurate, and dispute anything that’s incorrect. Make sure you pay down any debt you have, and don’t rush to close old accounts. According to Realtor.com, 15% of your credit score is due to overall account length. The longer you’ve had a certain credit account open, and as long as that account is intact, it’s wise to keep it open.
  2. Get pre-approved for a mortgage loan. Getting pre-approved may not guarantee you a home loan, but it will help you get an “in” with your lender to show that you are capable of being fiscally responsible and are serious about buying a home.
  3. Don’t apply for new credit shortly after applying for a mortgage. This could affect your score, and down the road, lead to rejection of getting a mortgage. Lenders will see every time that you have applied for credit, and your even searching for it can register a ding on your credit file.
  4. Decide on the right type of mortgage. According to Realtor.com, the type of home you want, as well as assistance you’ll need, will help decide what type of loan you’re eligible for. If you’re a veteran, you could consider a Department of Veterans Affairs loan.  If you’re a first-time homebuyer, the FHA could help you out, and provide you with a 3.5% down payment. Daily Finance recommends to get your paperwork together. Your lender will want to see proof of income, assets, credit documents, and any other important documents showing you make what you say you make, and that you are who you say you are.

Have questions? Reach out to a local mortgage lender or ask an experienced Realtor for referrals. Happy Hunting!

 

Important Factors to Consider When Downsizing Your Home

Are you considering downsizing – or rightsizing – your current home to accommodate your changing needs? Maybe your kids have left for college, you have more space than you want to maintain, or perhaps you and your spouse are tired of caring for a large yard. Here are some important factors to consider as you consider downsizing your current home.

Important Factors to Consider When Downsizing or Rightsizing Your HomeAccording to Realtor.com, the first thing to consider is how much money downsizing will actually save you. You might be surprised to learn that downsizing does not always save money, so it’s critical to evaluate your expenses carefully. For example, if you downsize your home but move to a more expensive part of town, your bills may actually increase.

The same might be true if you’re moving into an older home which may have an outdated heating or electrical system. Will making repairs or replacements in an older home cost you more than staying where you are? To help make this decision easier, trying using a downsizing calculator to help figure out how moving will affect your finances.

Next, take a look at why you’re downsizing. Do you want to move just so you can save some extra money month to month? Have your kids left for college, or moved out on their own? Do you want to live in a condo to save time on lawn maintenance, or are you tired of climbing the stairs because of health concerns? All of these are valid reasons for wanting to move.

HGTV offers some important questions to ask yourself when you’re considering downsizing. For example, will you miss important things about having a more spacious home? How will different life scenarios pan out if you live in a smaller home? Take a look at your options to see if downsizing is really the right option for you. Will the cost of selling your current home cover the cost of buying your newer, smaller home?

You might also have to get rid of or replace things that you have come to know and love over the time that you’ve lived in a larger home. Know how small you’re willing to go with your home, and make decisions about personal belongings accordingly.

Like any other housing decision, you also need to take in common lifestyle and convenience factors. Will your home have what you need and what you want in it? Is it in a neighborhood you feel comfortable living in? Will you have enough space to live comfortably? Are the services and amenities you access regularly nearby? How much “stuff” will you have to part with if you move?

There are many factors to consider when downsizing or rightsizing. Think through all of them carefully before making your decision. Can’t quite decide? Discuss the choices with your family and consult an experienced Realtor® who specializes in rightsizing. They’ll be able to talk you through the decision more objectively. Good luck!

 

5 Tips for Staging Your Home Like a Pro

According to Realtor.com, staged homes sell 88% faster, and for 20% more, compared to homes where sellers left their belongings in place. Thinking about selling your home this spring? Follow these tips to stage your home professionally. It’s easier – and less expensive – than you think!

  1. 5 Tips for Staging Your Home Like a ProClear out the clutter! No one likes a messy or disorganized home, especially someone trying to envision themselves in your space. Put away knickknacks, personal photos, stacks of mail and magazines.Have more furniture than you need? Move it to another room or store it out of the way in an attic, garage or storage facilities. In other words, if it doesn’t need to be there, toss it, donate it or store it.
  2. Rearrange furniture and home décor. Give your home a fresh, new look without spending a dime by pulling furniture away from the walls, moving rugs and wall hangings around, and reimagining your home’s look with small adjustments here and there. Hanging curtain rods higher can give the illusion of higher ceilings.
  3. Depersonalize your home. Sure, having your family photos and past awards and recognitions on display makes your family feel warm and fuzzy, but it’s hard for some buyers to picture living in a home they can’t see themselves in. Tuck the photos and acknowledgments away.
  4. Go neutral. Paint the walls a neutral color so buyers won’t have to immediately paint their new home. Using neutral when decorating can make spaces appear bigger. Save your favorite bold colors for accent pieces (e.g., lamps, pillows, wall hangings, rugs) that will go with you when you move.
  5. Revive your home’s curb appeal. If your home has dead flowers, dirty windows, chipped paint, or the landscaping needs some TLC, make time to give it a fresh appearance before showing your home. Power wash the outside of your home, add a fresh coat of paint to your mailbox and front door, and replace dead plants from last season with fresh flowers and greenery to make your home inviting from the street.

No time to stage your home? No problem. Ask your Realtor® to recommend someone. She may have staging experience or work with someone who’s a pro! Good luck and have fun.

[Thanks to HGTV and Realtor.com for the inspiration for this post!]

 

10 Tips to Ensure a Smooth Home Move

Whether you are moving across town or across the country, you want to be sure you pack carefully and efficiently. Here are some great packing tips, compliments of Two Men and a Truck.

  1. 10 Tips for a Smooth Home MovePack items from the same room in the same set of boxes. For example, put all items from your master bedroom into one set of boxes. This will make it easier to unpack later.
  2. Label each box on the top and the side with the name of the room it goes in (e.g., living room, kitchen, master bath, etc.), and mark it FRAGILE for delicate and breakable items like glasses, picture frames and dishes. If it is something you’ll need fairly soon, mark it accordingly – NEED – so it makes its way to the designated spot.
  3. Use brand new boxes that are sturdy. Liquor stores are a great resource for small and medium boxes with dividers. Warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club often have extra boxes too, and your local moving company will have boxes and other moving supplies available for purchase.
  4. Tape boxes with packing tape, not duct tape or masking tape.
  5. Do not use printed newspaper for wrapping fine china or crystal. Instead, use unprinted paper, available at your moving supply store.
  6. Pack heavier items in small boxes, like books and dishes.
  7. When packing dishes, pack the dishes facing upward. Wrap each piece individually with padding in between items. Ideally, use specialized, divided boxes available at your moving supply store.
  8. Pack boxes with moving essentials – soap, paper towel, cleaner, toilet paper, extra clothes, towels, snacks, bottled water – last. These items should go in your car or be the last on (and first off) the moving truck.
  9. Pack important documents like health records, insurance policies and passports in one box that you can keep with you or put with your moving essentials box. These documents can be difficult to replace, so make it easy on yourself by knowing where they are at all times.
  10. If you have to disassemble furniture or appliances to move them, keep all of the individual parts (screws, legs, etc.) together in a labeled, airtight bag. This is also helpful for curtain rods and tie-backs. Keep all the pieces together.

Financial Literacy: What is Private Mortgage Insurance?

This is our third blog post to celebrate National Financial Literacy Month and to help put (or keep) you on the road to financial success.

New Mortgage Disclosure Laws: What You Need To KnowWhen buying a home, some lenders require a down payment of 20% of the home’s purchase price. However, many lenders offer loans with less than 20% down, even as low as 5% on a conventional mortgage. There is a catch though. If you put less than 20% down on your new home, your lender will usually require you to purchase Private Mortgage Insurance or PMI.

So what exactly is PMI? I’m glad you asked! PMI is an additional amount you pay along with your monthly mortgage payment that guarantees to protect the lender if you fail to pay your mortgage. Typically, PMI will raise your monthly mortgage payment, unless you make a one-time upfront payment for the PMI at closing.

When shopping for a mortgage lender or broker (see last week’s post), be sure to ask what each lender requires for a minimum down payment, and ask what special home loan programs might be available to you, such as an FHA or VA loan. If your lender requires PMI for your situation, ask what the total cost of the insurance is and how much it will increase your monthly payment when the PMI is included or what a one-time premium would be.

Your Realtor® or lender should be able to answer any questions you might have, but here is a handy online resource, compliments of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that can also help.

 

Financial Literacy: Shopping for a Mortgage

This is our second blog post to celebrate National Financial Literacy Month and to help put (or keep) you on the road to financial success.

Shopping for a new home is such an exciting process – touring other homes, imagining yourself and your family living in them, having choices of different styles and vintages, etc. Shopping for a mortgage, however, isn’t as much fun, but it is important that you know what’s out there and what your rights are.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers these tips:

  1. Financial Literacy: Shopping for a MortgageCompare lenders and brokers. You can get a mortgage through a broker who represents multiple lenders or you can get a mortgage directly through a financial institution like a commercial bank, mortgage company or credit union. According to the FTC, some lenders are both lenders and brokers, and you want to know which you are dealing with because brokers usually get paid a fee for their services in addition to a loan origination fee and other fees. Compare several lenders and brokers and the various loan options and fees before choosing who you want to work with. Referrals from friends, family and your Realtor® are a good place to start.
  2. Get all relevant costs from your broker or lender, including
    • Current mortgage interest rates. Ask if the rates quoted are the lowest rates of the week.
    • Fixed or adjustable rates. If the rates are adjustable, ask about the terms of the loan, including the index the rate is tied to, how often the rate can be adjusted, and if there is a cap on how high it can go.
    • The loan’s annual percentage rate (APR). The APR factors in the interest rate, points, broker fees and other charges, expressed as a yearly rate.
    • Ask the lender or broker to quote current points as a dollar figure. Usually, the more points you pay, the lower your interest rate.
    • Ask the lender what fees you’ll have to pay including loan origination fees, underwriting, broker fees and closing costs.
    • Down payment and private mortgage insurance. Ask what percentage of a down payment is required and if you’ll be required to pay private mortgage insurance for down payments less than 20%.
  3. Negotiate the best deal. Mortgage lenders and brokers often have latitude in rates and fees, so you want to negotiate the best deal possible for your home loan. Ask each to provide you with a written quote, and once you’ve selected the best home loan for your situation, ask if you can lock in that deal, assuming you are in that stage of the home buying process. An experienced Realtor® can explain these steps to you if you have questions or need support.
  4. Fair Lending is required. The Equality Credit Opportunity Act prohibits lenders from discriminating against credit applications in any aspect of a credit transaction on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, whether or all or part of the applicant’s income comes from a public assistance program, or whether the applicant has in good faith exercised a right under the Consumer Credit Protection Act. In addition, the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in residential real estate transactions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin. A consumer cannot be refused a loan based on these characteristics, charged more for a loan, or offered less favorable terms based on such characteristics.
  5. Shop, Compare and Negotiate, even if you have credit problems. Even if you have minor credit problems or have extenuating circumstances, you are in a position to negotiate loan terms, including interest rate and fees. Explain your situation and any credit history problems up front. It is also a good idea to get a copy of your credit report before shopping for a home. You can get a free copy annually at AnnualCreditReport.com.

You can find more information about shopping for a mortgage, including a glossary of terms, on the FTC website.

 

Financial Literacy: Setting Financial Priorities

April is National Financial Literacy Month, so we’ll be posting information throughout the month on our blog and social media channels to help you make smart money decisions as you plan for your future.

How Credit Affects Your Home Buying AbilityLet’s start by talking about setting financial priorities. Whether you are just starting out or are an adult with a long-established credit history, it is important to set – and periodically review – your financial priorities. Money Management International recommends a three-tiered system of priorities:

  • First priority debts cover your basic needs and include your monthly rent or mortgage payment, taxes, insurance, auto loans, utilities and food.
  • Second priority debts include secured loans like a car loan.
  • Third priority debts are credit cards, medical bills and unsecured creditors.

Keep in mind that everyone’s financial priorities will be different, and that all financial priorities should be addressed, whether they are first or third priorities. For example, let’s say your hours at work have been reduced, so your income is temporarily lower than usual. You still need to pay your third priority debts, but perhaps you can contact your creditors to see if you can lower your payments until your income returns to normal. Being honest and working with your creditors is always better than ignoring them or waiting for things to get better.

To help you set your own financial priorities and to make smart financial choices, use this handy worksheet. Good luck!

 

5 Commonly Asked Questions from First Time-Homebuyers

5 Commonly Asked Questions from First Time-HomebuyersWith 11 years as a Realtor® and 30 years of related industry experience, I’ve heard just about every question you can imagine from first-time homebuyers. Here are some of the most common questions I get along with the answers. I hope you find them helpful.

Why should I buy a home instead of rent?

A home is a long-term investment that gives you secure long-term housing and financial security. When you pay rent, that money goes to pay your landlord’s mortgage. When you make a mortgage payment, however, you are putting money toward your future. You can deduct the cost of mortgage loan interest, as well as property taxes, from your federal income taxes and, in some states, from your state taxes. You’ll also have something that’s yours and that reflects you and your personal style.

How much do I need for a down payment on a home?

A down payment on a home is a percentage of the home’s purchase price that you pay up front. Ideally, you should plan on a down payment of 20%, but depending on a variety of factors, you may qualify for a loan with as little as 3% down. For a conventional loan, if you are putting less than 20% down, your lender may require private mortgage insurance (PMI) which will increase your mortgage payments. The more you put down, the less your monthly mortgage will be. Also, remember that your down payment is not the only amount of up-front cash you’ll need to buy a home. There will be other expenses including closing costs to budget for.

Can I qualify for a mortgage if I don’t have a lot of money for a down payment or closing costs or poor credit?

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) offers a variety of loan programs to help homebuyers with less-than-ideal circumstances. Learn more here. Click here for more information from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) including advice on buying a home and credit issues.

How do I find the right real estate agent?

I always recommend that prospective homebuyers work with a Realtor® rather than a real estate agent. While Realtors® and agents hold the same state licenses, a Realtor® adheres to the National Association of Realtor’s Code of Ethics and often has additional education. Read more about the differences between Realtors® and real estate agents here. To find the right Realtor®, ask friends and family for referrals and schedule an appointment with a couple of them to get to know them.

You’ll also want to visit their website, see what homes they’ve helped buy and sell recently, and what special qualifications they have, such as continuing education, special certifications or industry awards. Ask about their marketing plan, information about the current market where you plan to buy a home, and see if their communication style complements or conflicts with your own. When you’ve found a good fit, you’ll know!

How do I find a lender?

There are many entities that provide mortgage loans – traditional banks, credit unions, savings and loans, private mortgage companies and government-approved lenders. You can work directly with a lender, or work with a mortgage broker who will charge a fee to help you shop for the mortgage that best meets your needs. To choose the best option, I recommend you get referrals from family and friends and from your Realtor®. Then choose a few lenders to talk to. Ask what mortgage options they can offer, the price range of fees, time line to close, interest rates, etc.

In future posts, we’ll address other commonly asked questions.

 

Local Resources for Your Move to Kent, Washington

Welcome to Kent, WashingtonWhether you are moving from another county or across the country, you’ll need to know how to reach local schools, utilities and other city services.

Here is a handy list of resources you’ll find helpful during your move to Kent, Washington:

Schools

Kent School District

Green River Community College

Government

City of Kent, Washington

King County, Washington

Kent Police

Kent Fire Dept. Regional Fire Authority

Emergency Management

Utilities

City of Kent – Water, sewer and storm drainage

PSE – Electricity

Republic Services – Trash Removal and Recycling

Soos Creek Water & Sewer

Water District #111, King County

Xfinity – Cable and Interet

DISH Satellite TV

Transportation

King County Metro Transit

Link Light Rail and Sounder Train

Washington State Dept. of Transportation

Shopping, Entertainment, Sports & Recreation

Kent Station

Downtown Kent

ShoWare Center

Visit Kent

Kent Parks, Recreation and Community Services

Seattle Thunderbirds

Seattle Mist

Seattle Ravens

Tacoma Stars

Kent Valley Ice Centre

Media & News

Seattle Times

Kent Reporter

iLoveKent.net

KIRO7

KOMO4

KING5

Q13FOX

KentTV21

Miscellaneous

Moving – Two Men and a Truck

Cleaning – Diana’s Cleaning Service

Home Décor – Pugerudes

Home Maintenance & Repairs – All Phase Maintenance

House Painting – Coldfire Paint

 

 

 

 

 

 

Save Money at Home with These 10 DIY Home Hacks

Save Money with these 10 DIY Home HacksEveryone likes to save money, especially on expensive home-related projects. With these DIY home hacks, inspired by This Old House, you can save time, money and energy! Here are 10 of our favorite home hacks.

  1. Closing closet doors reduces the square footage your home must heat and cool. Cost: $0. Approximate savings: $50 per year.
  2. Turn down the temperature on your hot water to 120 or 110 degrees. Cost: $0. Approximate savings: $30 or more per year.
  3. Install a dimmer switch and use energy-efficient halogen bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs. It will cost about $10 per switch and $5 per bulb. Approximate savings: about $20 per fixture over 3 years.
  4. Use a microwave to make meals instead of your stove. A microwave consumes about half the power of a stove. Cost: $0. Savings: $40 or more per year.
  5. Insulate hot-water lines using pre-formed foam tubes. Cost: $0.29 to $0.35 per foot of insulation. Approximate savings: $50 per year on your energy bill.
  6. Put your computer to sleep. When you aren’t using your computer, put it in sleep mode manually or adjust the setting on your computer to do it automatically after 10 minutes. Cost: $0. Approximate savings: up to $75 per year off your electric bill. (Bonus tip: laptops use less energy than a desktop PC.)
  7. Plant deciduous (leafy) trees on the south, west or east side of your home. When the tree matures, it will provide natural shade and cooling for your home. Cost: $25 to $70, depending on the species and age of the tree you purchase. Approximate savings: $120 per year on cooling costs once the tree reaches maturity.
  8. Install ceiling fans in living areas (e.g., bedroom, living room, family room, etc.) A ceiling fan can help keep your home cool in the summer, but running it at low speed and clockwise can also help keep your home warmer in the winter. Cost: $30 to $300 at Home Depot. Approximate savings: up to $100 a year.
  9. Buy home-related products in the office season to get the best prices: firewood in the spring, grill, lawn furniture and lawn equipment in the fall, etc. Cost: Varies. Approximate savings: Varies.
  10. Perform annual maintenance on your furnace and air conditioning unit, including professional maintenance and DIY maintenance like replacing furnace filters on schedule. Routine upkeep can help you save energy and money. Cost: Varies. Approximate savings: Varies.

Thanks to Josh Garskof of This Old House magazine for these great DIY home hacks. See the original article for more ideas to save time, money and energy at home.