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Advice for first-time home buyers
Buying a home for the first-time can be overwhelming if you aren’t prepared. We know this firsthand, so we asked some of Georgia’s Own to give advice to first-time homebuyers. What we wish we had known before buying a home:
You actually need more money than the cost of the house (earnest money, closing costs, etc.). I didn’t think they were actually going to cash the earnest money check. – Will M.
The most important thing about a home is not how it looks. If the size, space and location will be right for you five or ten years down the road, the rest can be fixed. – Laura S.
Be available at all times to do whatever’s asked of you, and quickly! The process can be stressful, so be prepared. – Eve Y.
I wish I had known I could add funds to our loan for renovations. It would have been helpful to know beforehand. – Kaye E.
Look in all of the cabinets and closets. Not to snoop out what they have, but to get a better idea of the condition of the home. – Rebecca M.
Purchase at a lower price than your budget so you can get the repairs done your way. Don’t trust the sellers to get the repairs done completely or the way you’d have them done. – Cassie W.
Set up bi-weekly payments from the very beginning! It’ll help so much in the long run and is not something anyone told us. – Kristin H.
I wish someone had let us know how property taxes can vary greatly by county! – Abby C.
Be sure to look beyond just your mortgage payment when considering whether you can afford it. Houses will need repairs. – Kaitlyn R.
Have an emergency fund! Our septic tank flooded not long after moving in. I wasn’t prepared for the headache or cost involved with fixing it. – Andy C.
With a house comes maintenance and upkeep. Budget for those extra expenses and stay on top of routine upkeep to prevent major issues down the road. – Becky B.
Get a home inspection during the due diligence time frame and request the sellers fix anything beforehand, especially anything major. – Alex Q.
There are lots of costs leading up to the purchase. Be prepared for those extra costs and fees. – Grace H.
Jumbo loans 101: Do you need one?
If you’ve never heard of a jumbo loan, it might sound like something you would find in a cartoon movie. But jumbo loans are very real and have gained popularity over the last few years. For the novices in the jumbo loan game, or if you just need a refresher, we’ve compiled some info you need to know before considering a jumbo loan, plus some pros and cons to know before you borrow.
What is a jumbo loan?
A jumbo loan, or a jumbo mortgage, is a type of financing that lends more than the amount of a conventional conforming loan, according to the limits set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, or FHFA (the maximum loan amount is $510,400 in most counties as of 2020). You may also hear this referred to as a non-conforming conventional loan. While a conventional conforming loan is backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, jumbo loans are a horse of a different color in the finance world and are not guaranteed or securitized for lenders.
Why would I want a jumbo loan?
Typically, jumbo loans are used for instances like purchasing an expensive real estate property, purchasing a home in a highly competitive market, or purchasing real estate or a residence in an area that is generally more expensive to buy in, like New York City or San Francisco. Essentially, a jumbo loan allows you to borrow more than you would get with a conventional conforming loan.
What’s the catch?
A jumbo loan sounds almost too good to be true. While many people find that a jumbo loan is a great fit for them, it’s important to understand the commitment involved and the financial implications of taking out such a large loan. Let’s look at some pros and cons of jumbo loans.
More money: As we stated above, the whole point of a jumbo loan is to get more money. If you qualify for a jumbo loan, you will be borrowing more money to buy what you want to purchase. Depending on your goals, this could continue to create a profit for you in the long run – for instance, if you were using the jumbo loan to buy real estate in a prime location that you could then rent out for more money.
Low down payment: For your conventional conforming loans, you can be required to put down at least 20% of the loan amount as a down payment. But a jumbo loan usually only asks for 10% as a down payment, sometimes even going as low as 5%. This means more savings for you up front.
More choices: Flexibility is the name of the game for jumbo loans. You can find one that is fixed over 30 years, or you can find one with an adjustable rate. Due to the nature of jumbo loans and what they are typically used for, it is easier and more common for lenders to tailor the loan to your needs, instead of you borrowing money on terms that are created for a demographic that doesn’t apply to you.
More money: Yes, we realize this is also listed in the “Pros” section. But the jumbo loan is just that – a jumbo loan, meaning you need to be able to repay a jumbo amount of money. This type of loan often even requires you to put aside 12 months of your mortgage payment in savings to ensure that you won’t fall behind on payments.
More work: You will need a high credit score to secure a jumbo loan. It isn’t enough to pay most of your bills on time – you need to have a FICO score of at least 660, and, failing that, be prepared to make a larger down payment. If you think a jumbo loan is in your future, go ahead and start taking steps to improve your credit score.
High income requirements: Most lenders are going to approve jumbo loans for people who have a high annual income. Since they do not have the FHFA backing these loans, they want to ensure that their loan to you can be repaid. This means looking closely at your income, as well as your other financial assets and your loan repayment history. So, again, if you think you will need a jumbo loan to make your real estate dreams a reality, it’s time to lay the groundwork by growing your assets now.
So is a jumbo loan right for you? That’s for you to decide. But if you are still unsure, we always recommend consulting with a mortgage professional who can help you understand exactly what a jumbo loan means for your individual situation. A jumbo loan takes a lot of consideration, so begin researching your options as you plan for your financial future.
How low will they go—is now the time to refinance?
The uncertainty of living during a pandemic brings a lot of questions with it, especially in regards to financial decisions. For instance, deciding whether now is the right time to refinance your house may be a source of stress for you. But don’t worry – we have some thoughts on how you can decide if now is the time to refinance:
You probably learned about the Great Depression while you were in school. But, if you take a closer look at history, you will see that the economy is less like a straight line and more like the path of a yo-yo as it ebbs and flows. Living in one of the low points is never ideal, but rest assured that even in leaner times, refinancing is still possible.
Looking at the Present
So you know what has happened before – now it’s time to look at your current situation. What do you hope to accomplish through refinancing your home? Are you looking for a lower interest rate, or do you hope to adjust the terms of your mortgage? Knowing your goals will allow you to move forward with a plan.
Looking to the Future
Is the house you’re in the one you plan to stay in for the next few years? In other words, will you really benefit from refinancing your home? Look for the “break-even” point on your mortgage options to see if the new payments will make sense for the amount of time you plan to stay in your current home.
Decide if You’re Ready
Your mother probably once asked you if you would do something wrong just because your friends were doing it. The same concept applies here – just because interest rates are low, or because you have seen friends successfully refinance their homes, does not mean it’s the right time for you. Take the time to decide if this is the best step for your current circumstances.
Research the Process
If you have never refinanced before, the process will feel a lot like buying your home for the first time. But it’s still a good idea to research the steps you will need to take and what types of materials you may need to have available, like loan documents or other paperwork. There are multiple resources out there to help you find the information you need.
Find an Expert
Your questions don’t have to go unanswered – talk to someone, like your accountant, about the questions you have and what you can expect from the refinancing process. Someone who is already familiar with your current financial situation will have better insight on what you can handle.
Look for the Signs
Just as you might keep track of deals that car dealerships are offering, it’s a good idea to keep your finger on the pulse of economic developments. For example, while you can’t gauge whether refinancing is the right step for you based off low interest rates alone, seeing those rates go down means you are more likely to get a better rate if you refinance.
Check Your Credit Score
Times are tough, and if your credit has taken a hit since you last refinanced your homes, you may not be able to take advantage of all the options available to you through refinancing. Be sure to check your credit score before refinancing (which we recommend you do regularly anyway) to keep track of any changes.
Consider Your Job Stability
Just like when you bought your home, refinancing factors in a steady income. If you are not sure whether your job will be around in a few months, or if you will be working steady hours, you may want to wait until you are settled into more reliable employment.
Take the Plunge
If you think this is the right time to refinance, then don’t wait – go ahead and start the process. It may take several months to finish your refinancing, so the sooner you can make the decision, the sooner you can enjoy your lowered interest or shortened mortgage term.
Only you can decide if the time is right to refinance, so do your research and consider all of your options. It may not be the right time for you, and that’s okay. If it is, go ahead and take that first step.
Four reasons to consider a mortgage from a credit union
The housing market is booming, and as home sales continue to increase, so does the demand for housing. Pending home sales have climbed 27% year over year, and new listings of houses for sale have increased by 6% within the last year, according to Redfin. Choosing where to acquire a mortgage is a crucial decision—it’s vital to find a mortgage that works best for you and your needs, and where you’ll find the best rate, so you can save money in the long run. If you’re in the market for a home, consider these four reasons to obtain a mortgage from a credit union.
A credit union is a not-for-profit financial institution that is owned by its members rather than shareholders, so it’s able to return profits to and invest in members. That’s why credit unions can typically offer lower rates on loans. As of June 2020, a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage with a credit union has an average APR of 3.43%, according to the National Credit Union Association. However, a mortgage with the same terms but from a bank has an average APR of 3.52% higher. Even though the difference is small, it still helps you save money in the long run.
For example, if you purchased a home for $300,000 with an APR of 3.43%, your monthly payments would be $1,335. If you buy the same house but had an APR of 3.52%, your monthly payments would be $1,350. You would save more than $5,000 in interest throughout your mortgage period. Dozens of factors determine your APR and providing a loan, so the best way to know what rate you qualify for is to contact the financial institution directly for a quote.
There are dozens of costs and fees associated with acquiring a mortgage—closing costs, origination fees, vendor fees, and other processing costs. Credit unions prioritize helping people over turning a profit. So, when you obtain a mortgage with a credit union, origination fees and processing costs are often reduced. These reduced fees can save you thousands of dollars.
Less likely to sell your loan
Lenders typically sell a mortgage for two reasons: they need to open more lines of credit to lend money to other borrowers, and they make money from the sale. Usually, having your mortgage sold isn’t a big deal. However, when your mortgage is sold, this can sometimes result in confusion regarding where you should make your payment. If your payment is made to the wrong institution, you could incur late fees. Credit unions don’t typically sell their mortgages because their ultimate concern is to preserve the relationship between the institution and the member. Banks, however, are more likely to sell your loan. Even though credit unions don’t often sell their mortgages, it’s best to refer to your contract just to be sure.
Credit unions are often more attuned to their members’ necessities, so they tend to offer a personalized experience. They normally serve a select area, so they’re able to focus on what specifically will benefit its members or how they can help when members are in need. For example, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many credit unions helped members alleviate financial burdens by providing mortgage forbearances or deferments. Credit unions are dedicated to preserving the relationship between its members and ensuring their best interest is served. Plus, it’s easier to receive services through an institution with which you have a relationship.
If you’re not a member, you can easily obtain membership to a credit union. At Georgia’s Own, there are a few simple ways you can become a member. If you meet the requirements and are approved, all you need is a $5 deposit to establish your membership, which represents your share in the Credit Union. Requirements at other institutions vary.
If you’re purchasing a home, consider Georgia’s Own for all of your financing needs. We offer low rates, up to 100% financing, a program for first-time home buyers, and more—we even provide refinancing. Ready to start making memories in your dream home? Click here to learn more about our mortgage options or apply today.
Six things to do if you’re preparing to sell your house
Selling a house is stressful. There just isn’t any way to sugarcoat it. But there are steps you can take to make the process a little easier – and a little more successful. Here are six things you need to do if you are about to put your house on the market.
1. Fix it up
That loose stair that you’re used to skipping every day or those holes in the wall behind the couch that resulted from an ill-fated indoor skateboarding incident are great examples of things you will want to address before you take any further steps to sell your home.
Even things that don’t pose a physical danger, like the peeling paint on your front door, still need to be worked on if you want your home to sell. Speaking of paint, now is the time to turn your neons into grays – if you have a lot of brightly painted rooms, consider painting them a more neutral color. Yes, people should look past things like paint color, but they often don’t, and it could make or break your success story with selling your house.
Okay, don’t literally try to become invisible – what we mean is that you and the personal touches in your home should not be the most obvious thing a potential buyer sees. It may sound a little harsh, but the goal is to help the buyer feel as though they can make their own home in your house, which is hard to do if you have monogrammed throw pillows covering every inch of the couch.
You don’t have to go through your hallways and take down every single photo, but, at least when you know there will be a showing, try to make your home more neutral all around.
3. Keep it Clean
If you have kids and/or pets, you know how difficult it can be to clean your home in a moment’s notice after a realtor contacts you about a showing. If possible, try to schedule showings in advance, rather than having people stop by anytime. However, since you don’t want to miss an opportunity to show off your house to a potential buyer, you should also try to keep your house “showing-worthy” as much as possible.
You can even practice with your family – assign everyone a specific job, and then give them a signal to start cleaning. See how quickly you can get it done, and soon you will all be pros.
4. Take a Walk on the Wild Side
And by “wild side,” we mean your yard. You may be so used to the out-of-control hedges by your mailbox that you don’t even notice them anymore. But a buyer will definitely notice. Ask a friend or neighbor to walk around your yard and point out some areas that may need a little TLC before you put your house on the market.
Addressing the details outside of your home is just as important as addressing the details inside of your home. Keep the yard mowed, pull the weeds, and give your house the royal treatment to help others see its full potential.
5. Practice Some Feng Shui
Your house is set up to perfectly suit you and your family, which makes sense. However, one size does not fit all when it comes to furniture preferences. Take a look at your current living room arrangement, for example – are there any “bottleneck” areas that disrupt the flow of movement through your home? What about the couch and chairs – do they allow for conversation and group gatherings?
Even if you don’t use your home for these things, interested buyers might, so showing them how they can make this house work for them as well as it has worked for you is important.
6. Be Flexible
Everyone has their own opinion about what looks good, right? So you may spend three hours painting a room a neutral color, only to be told the house looks too plain. You may pull up weeds all weekend and learn that someone thinks your yard is too bare. The truth is, you can’t please everyone, so don’t take every piece of feedback from potential buyers to heart.
If you receive the same feedback over and over again, it would be wise to give it serious consideration. But if one person thinks your kitchen is too small, too dated, too blue, or not blue enough, remember that sometimes your house just won’t be a fit for everyone.
The right buyer is out there – if you put the work in on the front end, you and your family can reap the rewards down the line. Give your house its best chance to be seen for all its beauty, and consult your realtor for any other ideas they have seen work for their clients.
If you’re in the market for a new home, consider Georgia’s Own for all your mortgage needs. With low rates and fees, plus a variety of mortgage products, we’re here to help you in your home buying process. Click here to learn more about how Georgia’s Own can help get you into the home of your dreams.
Buying vs. renting: What’s the best move?
Many people make the decision daily on whether they want to buy or rent a home—however, it’s a choice that is not to be taken lightly. Like everything, there are various advantages and disadvantages to buying or renting a home. We’re here to break down those pros and cons to help make your decision process a little simpler.
Buying a home
Acquiring a home has numerous advantages that aren’t provided when it comes to renting. First, the financial benefits: when you purchase a home, you build equity. If the value of your home increases, then you have the opportunity to cash in on that value if you eventually sell. Also, there are potential tax benefits—if you choose to itemize deductions, you can itemize your mortgage interest when you file your tax return and thus cut your tax bill. Not only that, if you have a fixed-rate mortgage, you won’t need to worry about the rising cost of rent.
In addition to the financial perks, there are other substantial benefits. When you purchase a home, it’s truly yours. You don’t have a landlord to answer to, which means you don’t need to worry about seeking permission for home upgrades—you’re free to make all the renovations you desire. You also eliminate the possibility of your landlord selling the home and having to quickly scour for a new place.
Lastly, there are some intangible benefits. When you buy a home, you feel a sense of pride and accomplishment—you’ve finally achieved your lifelong goal of buying a home. While there is a sense of pride in being able to pay your rent and bills, finally reaching your goal of purchasing a home is an entirely different feeling. There is also a sense of belonging and stability. You now have a place you can truly call home for years to come.
Despite some of the amazing pros of purchasing a home, there are a few downsides to ponder. The most glaring drawback: it’s expensive. Let’s face it—buying a home costs a ton of money. Between closing costs, home inspections, and possible repairs, it can become egregious. It’s also a considerable amount of money upfront—a typical down payment is around 20% of the home’s cost. For example, if you are attempting to secure a home that costs $200,000, that would require a $40,000 down payment.
Another downside—when you own a home, repairs are solely your responsibility. From a new roof to broken air conditioning, there is an exorbitant number of things to be taken care of. Some things like fire, wind, or hail are covered by homeowner’s insurance. On a case by case basis, water damage is sometimes covered. However, the cost of home repairs can add up quickly and rapidly deplete your bank account.
Lastly, there is always potential to lose money if your home value declines. The environment, amenities, seasons, and maintenance are determinants of your home’s value. Bad schools, poor roads, or neighbors who neglect their property’s appearance are all factors that could drastically decrease the value of your home.
There are copious benefits when it comes to renting, like extreme flexibility. If you needed to quit your job, pack up, and move across the country, it’s more manageable to get out of a lease agreement than sell your home. Even if you wanted to move across the city, you have the freedom to do so, practically hassle-free.
Renting can also be significantly more affordable. It requires fewer upfront costs, aside from a security deposit, which is a fraction of what you’d spend on a down payment for a home. You also forego property taxes, which saves a notable chunk of money. You’re also not responsible for maintenance or repairs. All of those combined make your monthly payments more predictable—you’re not scrambling at the last minute for unforeseen costs.
While there are advantages when it comes to renting, like anything, there are also downfalls. One downside: your landlord can raise the rent, which could potentially cost you more in the long-run, compared to a fixed-rate mortgage. Factoring in the spiraling cost of rent is a tremendous thing to consider—according to CNBC, rents are rising at the fastest pace in two years. There are also no tax benefits, and there is no ability to establish equity. Various restrictions also apply when it comes to upgrades—most landlords won’t permit you to paint walls, install new appliances, or remodel. There is limited freedom on what you can change.
Deciding to purchase or rent a home is an enormous decision, and it’s not cut and dry either. There are various factors to think about when you’re questioning if you should continue renting or choose to make the big leap and acquire your own home. It’s critical to think about how long you want to stay in your home, how much money you have for unforeseen expenses, as well as if you’re carrying any debt. At the end of the day, it’s about you, your needs, and what works best for your lifestyle.