Wait! Don’t leave for vacation until you follow these tips to secure your home

Now is about the time folks earnestly start planning their annual vacation. In fact, “More than 90% of Americans plan to travel in 2023,” according to the editors at ipx1031.com

Are you among them? Whether you plan to travel domestically or go abroad, you will be leaving behind your most prized possessions, including your home.

We’ve searched for home safety and security experts’ suggestions for you on how to ensure that you come home to a home in the same condition as when you left it.

Security should be top-of-mind

If you own smart home features, securing your home while you’ll be away will be much easier for you than for those homeowners who don’t. If you don’t own these features, consider installing some to:

  • Turn on and off the lights to give anyone watching the home the appearance you are there.
  • Use a smart plug to turn on the TV or radio for those crooks brazen enough to get close to the home.
  • Security systems, smart or otherwise, can alert neighbors or law enforcement that someone has broken in. Many feature DIY installations so you won’t have to break your vacation piggy bank to get them up and running.

Although we hear about rising crime rates from the media, the truth is that “The current burglary rate, including cases of forced entry, is 75% less than it was in the 1980s, according to Crime Data Explorer,” (Forbes.com)

The chances are good that you’ll come home to an unviolated home, but why tempt fate?

Turn your cooling system off or leave it on?

“… turn the thermostat up while away, not off,” suggests the pros at Central Heating and Air Conditioning in Northeast Ohio. They go on to recommend that you should set it seven to 10 degrees higher than you typically do.


Heat and humidity can help promote mold in the unit while it’s off. An overly hot home is also brutal on electronics and even your appliances, such as the refrigerator.

If you have a smart thermostat, it most likely has an “away” or “vacation” function you can use to ensure it is set properly.

Turn off the main water line to the home

If you’ll be away longer than a week or two, consider turning your water off. The reason for this suggestion is simply to protect the home in the event of a water leak when there is nobody around to stop it.

After turning it off at the main, turn on all the faucets to let the excess water out of the pipes.

Prevent coming home to a smelly house

If you plan on being gone for more than two weeks, you may want to consider wrapping the toilet bowls with cling wrap.

This will “… keep water from evaporating,” according to Geri Koeppel with the East Valley Tribune.

He goes on to explain that “If the toilets dry up, sewer odors may seep in and bugs may crawl up the pipes. It can also dry out the seal between the toilet and floor, which will make your toilets leak around the base.”

Speaking of stinky sewer gases, avoid coming home to a smelly refrigerator by throwing away anything that will perish before your return. Then, take out the garbage the day you are leaving.

Take these simple steps so that you can vacation with peace of mind, knowing that your home will be fine upon your return.

3 Ways to buy a home with little cash out of pocket

Millions of would-be homeowners struggle under the misconception that they can’t buy a house without having a huge down payment to give the lender. In reality, there are several ways to realize the dream of homeownership with little cash out of your pocket.

1. No down payment loans

If you are a current or former member of the United States military or the spouse of a deceased member, you may qualify for what is one of the best loan programs in the country, offered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA doesn’t grant the loan, a conventional lender will do that. Instead, the VA offers a guarantee making the lender far more likely to trust borrowers with less-than-perfect credit and no down payment.

If you qualify, you also won’t have private mortgage insurance (PMI) tacked onto the loan, saving you a significant chunk of money every month. There is a one-time VA funding fee (waived for some borrowers) that you’ll need to pay and that amount varies, according to certain conditions.

There is also no mortgage insurance requirement, which saves you money on your monthly payment.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has published an online guide to help you learn all there is to know about their home loan program.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also provides home loan programs, one that is similar to the VA loan in that it offers a guaranty to the lender and another that is a direct loan from the USDA.

Both loans have no down payment requirement. The catch is that you must buy a home in an area that the USDA considers “rural” and the home must be “modest,” meaning it contains no extra bells and whistles.

Check all eligibility requirements online at USDA.gov.

2. Low down payment loans

Most homebuyers are familiar with the home loan program offered by the Federal Housing Administration, or FHA for short. Although conventional loans make up the bulk of mortgages nationwide, the FHA-backed mortgage is the most widely used loan program by first-time homebuyers.

Down payment requirements range from 3.5 percent to 10 percent, depending on how your finances look and the lender’s requirements. You will be required to purchase PMI and, unlike a conventional loan, you must continue paying the insurance premium for the life of the loan.

If your credit score is at least 620, you agree to take homeowner classes, completely document your assets, income and debt and you can pay for PMI, you may qualify for a Fannie Mae or Freddy Mac home loan. These have a 3 percent down payment requirement

3. Down payment assistance programs

Local, state and federal agencies offer an array of down payment assistance programs. Here’s a list of just a few:

Grants – Would-be homebuyers love grants and it’s easy to see why: unlike mortgage loans, grants don’t need to be repaid. Think of them as gifts with some requirements attached. You still need to meet the program’s eligibility requirements or fulfill certain conditions to receive them.

Low-Interest Loans – For many homebuyers, a low mortgage payment can significantly improve their monthly budget. Low-interest loans are exactly what they sound like home loans with lower-than-average interest rates that deliver the benefit of a low monthly payment.

Zero-Interest, Forgivable Loans – If you plan to live in your home for a while, a forgivable loan could be a great fit. After a set number of years–usually 5, but up to 20, lenders will forgive these loans entirely. But if you move out before the forgiveness period ends, you may need to pay back some or all of the loan. Visit Security National Mortgage Company’s website for details.

If you are interested in learning more about any of these programs, give us a call. Although we aren’t mortgage professionals, we are happy to refer you to several lenders who will gladly explain the terms of these home loan programs.


The number one reason you should take more interest in your condo’s HOA

One of the most popular blog topics on our website is when we write about bargains, or how to save money in the local real estate market. So, today I searched the MLS and, sure enough, I found some somewhat low-priced condos for sale.

I looked first at how long they’ve been on the market and all of them have been sitting for quite some time. In fact, the lowest-priced condo has been on the market for almost a year.

Now why, I thought to myself, is that?

So, I sleuthed

I then looked at the photos of each condo for sale to see if there was anything there that might explain why these low-cost condos aren’t flying off the market. Aside from one with a very dated kitchen and another with a missing refrigerator I didn’t see any obvious flaws.

Then, I saw it – $270 a month in HOA fees. Now, that may not seem like a lot to some, but for someone on a tight budget who needs a starter home and a price tag that fits their budget, the HOA fees could be a deal breaker.

FHA certification is important

But, there’s another reason these condos may not be selling. When the price of single-family homes skyrocket, buyers on tight budgets often turn to condos as an alternative. Many use loans backed by FHA.

The problem here is that FHA has stringent qualifications when it comes to condos. The community must be FHA-certified for anyone to get FHA’s backing for a loan and many across the country aren’t.

In fact, “… there are more than 150,000 condominium projects in the country, but only 6.5% of them qualify for FHA financing,” according to Kim Porter, citing FHA statistics, at Credible.com.

Back to our condo with a $270-a-month fee. It just so happens that this particular community is not FHA-certified so between the high monthly HOA fees and the fact that it’s not approved for an FHA loan, the poor homeowner is having a rough time selling.

Pay attention to what your HOA is planning and doing

You may not be thinking of selling right now, but eventually you most likely will.

Most homeowners that live in managed communities (those with a homeowner association) receive a monthly or quarterly newsletter or bulletin from the HOA. Many don’t bother to read it.

If you own a condo or are planning on buying one, it’s important to be active in your Homeowners Association. Even if all you do is read the newsletter or attend the meetings, it pays to know what is going on.

For instance, if the ratio of rentals to owner-occupied units happens to increase to more than half of all units, your community will lose its FHA approval. Other FHA approval violations include:

  • Commercial use of the property is limited to 35%.
  • The association has to keep at least 10% of the budget in cash reserve, according to Porter.
  • The association must not allow fewer than 85% of the homeowners to become delinquent on their HOA dues.

Since FHA demands that recertification takes place every three years, it’s important that you ensure they’re following the rules.

The biggest problem that occurs is the first one I mentioned – too many tenants. The wise homeowner will be vigilant in monitoring the enforcement of FHA’s cap.

Yes, that’s easier said than done. But it’s important to pay attention to the future resale value of your property and the longer a home remains on the market, the less you’ll make on it. If you can’t sell it at all, it’s worthless, right?

If you want to check if a particular condo community is FHA certified, check HUD’s website.

3 things you must know about buying a newly-constructed home

Home builders are back at work! In fact, according to the Census Bureau, permits for single-family homes increased 7.6% in February over January.

This is not surprising when we take into account the demand for homes of any age and the statistics that show 60% of homebuyers “…prefer a new construction home over an existing home.”

If this includes you, we’d like to share several aspects of new-home shopping and purchasing that you may not know.

1. The new-home mortgage

Just as when you purchase a pre-owned home, you’ll need to visit a lender for mortgage pre-approval consideration. This way you’ll not only know for certain that you can get a home loan, but also the amount you’ll be receiving, which helps you avoid looking at homes that are out of your price range.

Most new-home builders have established relationships with their own  “preferred lenders.” Depending on the builder you speak with, you may feel pressured to use that particular lender.

“The builder may make it seem like you have to use their preferred lender, but you always have the option to finance your home with someone else,” according to the experts at Better Mortgage.

“It’s often in the builder’s best interest for you to partner with their preferred lender, but it may not be in yours,” they conclude.

You may, on the other hand, get a better deal with the builder’s preferred mortgage company. That’s why it pays to shop around before settling on one.

2. Get your own real estate agent

The first person you’ll meet when you visit a new-home community will most likely be the builder’s real estate agent. Even though he or she may be a very nice person and knowledgeable about the homes and the community, resist any pressure to allow the agent to represent you in your purchase.

The builder’s agent represents the seller, the builder in this case. It’s important for you to have your own representation as well.

Since a buyer’s agent costs you nothing (the builder pays the buyer’s agent commission) you have nothing to lose and lots of protection to gain by working with your own agent who is looking out for your best interests.

3. How will you deal with deciding between standard options and upgrades?

The interior of the home will come with what are known as “standard” options. You will also be offered a choice of upgrades for most of these options.

If you fell in love with the model homes, you’ll pay a pretty penny to recreate them because they’re all furnished with upgrades.

Examples of standard vs. upgrade include:

  • Standard vs. high-end cabinets
  • Neutral paint colors vs. specialty paint colors
  • Carpet vs. wood floors

Keep in mind that upgrades are going to increase the sticker price on your home. Sometime significantly so.

This is where your buyer’s agent will be extra helpful. As you tour the design center and come across an upgrade you like, ask your agent if the upgrade is worth the investment and whether you’re likely to see a return when you sell the house.

You might also consider reaching out to vendors directly because you may get these upgrades after closing for much less than what the builder would charge. It’ll be even cheaper if you’re handy and can install the updates yourself.

This said, upgrading a kitchen (or bathroom) is not an especially easy project and — let’s be honest — do you really want to move into a brand-new home and already feel like your kitchen needs renovating? In some cases, it may be worth the splurge to get the materials and appliances you really want from the outset.

To help you make up your mind, visit this blog post at Realtor.com.

We can help you navigate the new construction waters and bring you to a successful close on your brand-new home. Feel free to reach out to us.


It’s important to know who will most likely buy your starter home

Before putting your home on the market, it’s important to focus on who your likely buyer will be. Now, you don’t necessarily need a crystal ball to figure this out; statistics abound on what different types of buyers are looking for, both in a home and a neighborhood.

Then, there are the basic needs that seem to cut across all demographics. Once you have a clear picture of your likely buyer, we can better focus our marketing efforts.

The first-time buyer

Believe it or not, despite still-inflated prices and higher interest rates than we’ve grown accustomed to, the Associated Press reports that homeowners with starter homes are still experiencing multiple offers from buyers.

The buyers included many first-time buyers who accounted for 28% of home sales in March.

Naturally, if you own a starter home, you’ll want to cater to these buyers.

A dedicated laundry room tops the list of what these folks want most in a home. If your home boasts one, staging it to appeal to these buyers will have them clamoring for your home.

Consider adding shelving and other storage solutions. If space permits, a laundry-folding table will be a hit with buyers.

Don’t be surprised if baby boomers fall in love with your home

Baby boomers are large and in charge in the current market. For years their number of homebuyers was swamped by Millennials but not anymore. Nearly half of homebuyers are among the older generation.

Luckily, for home sellers who plan on staging to appeal to their target market, boomers want a lot of the same things as Millennials. This includes:

  • Laundry room
  • Hardwood floors
  • Open floor plan
  • Outdoor space

There are a few minor differences, however. Boomers crave one-level living and aren’t at all interested in a basement, Paul Emrath with the National Association of Home Builders tells Michele Lerner at NewHomeSource.com.

He goes on to claim that this cohort is looking for a patio, a “small private yard” and an outdoor kitchen.

Tip: Energy efficiency, especially when it comes to heating and cooling costs, is a homebuyer hot button, so if you’ve made any improvements in that area, they will make perfect marketing points.

The time to get the home on the market is a.s.a.p.

Now that you understand who will be attracted to your home, get it on the market as soon as you can.

What’s the rush?

Home prices may be about to plunge, according to PNC Bank’s Senior Economist, Abbey Omodunbi. She tells Yahoo Finance Live that they “… are forecasting that we are going to get a 10% decline in house prices this year.”

“There will be more of a balance in the housing market. There will be less demand and more supply. And that will contribute to the decline in house prices,” she concluded.

If you hope to get the maximum amount of profit that you can from the sale of your home, you may be disappointed if you wait too much longer.

Questions? Feel free to reach out. We’re always happy to help.


Ways to lower your house payment

Prices on almost everything consumers use are inflating, without a corresponding increase in wages. This makes for tight budgets for many Americans right now. Looking for creative ways to save on our biggest outlays every month has become almost a hobby.

Many of the folks we speak with claim that because their mortgage payment takes the biggest bite out of their budget, they’re seeking ways to pay less for the home every month.

Sounds like a big “ask,” but there actually are ways to lower that payment. Now these won’t work for everyone, but they’re worth learning about.

Your monthly mortgage payment in a nutshell

That check  you write each month to keep a roof over your head pays for the following:

  • The loan’s principal
  • Interest
  • Property taxes
  • Homeowners insurance
  • HOA fees (for some borrowers)

The principal you have no control over. The rest of the items on this, however, should be researched fully to see if you can bring down those costs.

Dump the high interest rate

Although mortgage interest rates have been on a bit of a roller coaster ride lately, they will even out (hopefully sooner than later). When they do, be ready to jump into the refinance market to snatch up a lower interest rate than you are now paying.

How much lower should you be looking for?

“Historically, the rule of thumb is that refinancing is a good idea if you can reduce your interest rate by at least 2%,” according to the Investopedia Team. “However, many lenders say 1% savings is enough of an incentive to refinance,” they add.

If you aren’t familiar with the various aspects of refinancing your mortgage, run the idea by your accountant or financial planner for warnings and tips.

Cut your tax bill

“The average American household spends $2,690 on property taxes for their homes each year,” according to John S. Kiernan, citing figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. This represents $214.17 added to your mortgage payment each month.

“There is some good news for homeowners, however” suggests Aimee Picchi at CBSNews.com.

“You can appeal your property assessment, and success means your tax bill could be lowered by hundreds to thousands of dollars,” she concludes.

Check the assessor’s bill for accuracy in the basic data regarding the home:

  • Age of the home
  • Square footage
  • Number of bedrooms and bathrooms

“An error in one of these fundamental property characteristics can significantly increase a property’s overall assessment, suggests property tax attorney Gilbert D. Davila at Property-Tax.com.

Then, check how much the assessor claims your home is worth. It should be comparable to how much you would realize if you sold your home on the open market. To find out this figure, check the sales prices of comparable homes in your area over the past six months.

We are happy to offer you a no-cost, no-obligation of your home’s current market value. Feel free to reach out to us.

For additional information on how to appeal your property tax bill, visit CBS.com and your county assessor’s website.

Are you paying too much for homeowners insurance?

The average American homeowner pays about $1,512 each year (a bit less than $126 per month) for homeowners insurance, according to ValuePenguin.com.

And, many may be paying too much, according to a Consumer Reports study. Among respondents to the survey, “About 9 percent switched insurers in the previous three years, and more than half reported finding a better price,” according to Jeff Blyskal at consumerreports.org.

He goes on to claim that homeowners “can save hundreds to more than $1,000 per year in premiums by shopping around.”

Many insurance companies use your credit score when determining your premium, so work on raising your score to get better rates.

Blyskal explains that “an insurance premium for a 45-year-old homeowner with a fair credit score would be 36 percent higher than if she had an excellent score, on average nationally. If the homeowner had a poor score instead of an excellent one, her premium would be 114 percent higher.”

Get rid of PMI

Private mortgage insurance (PMI), or Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP) if you have an FHA loan, are both a blessing and a curse. They’re a blessing because they help Americans who might not otherwise be given a mortgage to finally become homeowners.

The flipside, however, is that the premiums are tacked onto the house payment every month. With a conventional loan, PMI is removed when the homeowner obtains 20 percent equity in the home.

FHA’s MIP, however, remains for the life of the loan. But, if you’ve hit that magical 20 percent equity mark (and 80 percent loan-to-value), refinance into a conventional mortgage and you’ll do away with the MIP payment every month.

Many homeowners think that they’re stuck with the same house payment for the length of the loan. But not you; you now know about ways to lower that payment. You’re welcome!

Selling your home? Check out the 5 best home fixes for the money

A client called recently with a question that we frequently field: “We plan on putting our home up for sale next month and we’re wondering, aside from cleaning the home really well, are there any repairs that sellers commonly overlook? We want to make sure that the house is ready to sell for our price.”

Certain repairs simply must be made before putting your home on the market. A leaky roof, broken windows and an inoperable furnace aren’t going to fly with buyers. Other fixes, however, aren’t as important but they may help sell the house.

“You want to spend as little as you possibly can on the improvements that make the most sense, and ignore the ones that you’re really dreaming about because you’ll never get your money back,” Barbara Corcoran tells The Today Show.

First impressions matter

One of the best fixes you can make for the money is anything that is wrong with the home’s exterior, visible from the street. In other words, give the place some curb appeal by fixing all of the following:

  • Sagging and/or torn window and front-door screens
  • Peeling paint on railings or trim
  • Leaves, weeds in the gutters
  • Dead or dying landscaping
  • Dirty windows

Consider giving the front door a fresh coat of paint, adding a new welcome mat, new house numbers and freshening up the mailbox.

If the lawn is beyond help, installing sod will give the home’s exterior instant curb appeal. Keep in mind that “You can lay sod anytime during the growing season, although spring and early autumn are best—cool temperatures combined with occasional rain help sod quickly root,” suggests Viveka Neveln, garden editor at Better Homes and Garden.

What’s underfoot?

Unless they’re high-end and impeccably clean, it may be worth it to remove the carpets and install luxury vinyl plank flooring.


Not only has vinyl plank flooring landed at the top of the majority of young homebuyers’ wish lists, but “Homes with luxury vinyl flooring in the listing description can sell for 1.7 percent more and nearly 4 days faster than expected,” claims Terri Williams at RealSimple.com.

To put it in ROI terms, the experts at HomeAdvisor.com has “… the average homeowner paying $2,433 for vinyl …” flooring. The ROI on this project is more than $3500. 

Walls and Baseboards

New paint on the walls is an inexpensive way to completely change a room from dull and outdated to fresh and contemporary. Since you’re trying to sell your home and not prepare it for its 15 minutes of fame on HGTV, stick to neutral colors.

Now, this doesn’t mean you need to stick with the boring beige or even white. Neutral colors that are attractive on walls include different shades of gray or a gray-blue, a muted robin’s egg blue-green and some of the beige shades that lean to the color of café au lait.

Yes, they’re close to the ground and it’s easy to think that nobody notices them, but baseboards grab attention – especially if they are clean or freshly painted. Sometimes all it takes is a swipe with a Magic Eraser to remove the scuffs. If you paint the walls, don’t neglect the baseboards.

Lighten and brighten

Dim houses feel closed-in while light and bright spaces make the home look larger. There are lots of ways to fix a dark home. Open all the window coverings before a showing and wash the windows to let in as much natural light as possible.

If you’ll be marketing the home when the weather turns gloomy, consider buying new light fixtures and lamps. It may seem like an expensive undertaking but consider this: New lighting increases the home’s perceived value for buyers.

Fix plumbing problems

Leaky faucets and running toilets tell buyers two things: the home hasn’t been maintained and there may be a big repair bill down the line.

Minor plumbing repairs aren’t difficult to do yourself if you have the proper tools. Otherwise hire a plumber or handyman to fix the leaks and drips before the house goes on the market.

These are just a few minor fixes you may want to perform, before listing your home for sale. Take a walk around both the outside and the inside of your home and try to see it through a stranger’s eyes. You’ll be surprised what will catch your attention and, perhaps, make it onto your repair list.

It’s homebuying season and here’s what’s happening in the market

Yes, the housing market is confusing right now. Questions abound. Read on for some information that may help clear up some of the confusion.

The mortgage rate roller coaster

Will rates go up or down? That seems to be the question at the top of the list for homebuyers and sellers alike.

“Rates for home loans are still caught in a tug-of-war between high inflation and the Federal Reserve’s actions to restrain inflation, which often indirectly pushes long-term mortgage rates higher,” explains Robin Rothstein at Forbes.com.

The suggestion for homebuyers is to be prepared to jump into the market when there is enough of a dip in rates for them to be able to afford a home.

Ready for some forecasts from the experts?

  • Freddie Mac foresees a 6.2% rate for a 30-year mortgage by the fourth quarter of 2023.
  • A bit more optimistic is Compass U.S. president, Neda Navab. “A sustained drop [in U.S. Treasury yields] could push mortgage rates into the 5% range late in the second quarter or in the second half of 2023, but that’s definitely not guaranteed.”
  • “If inflation continues to slow down—and this is what we expect for 2023—mortgage rates may stabilize below 6% in 2023,” forecasts Nadia Evangelou, National Association of Realtors (NAR) senior economist.

When it comes to the current economy, with its multitude of moving parts, it’s wise to take any forecasts with a grain of salt. But do keep an eye on the economy if you hope to jump into the housing market quickly.

How’s the inventory of available homes looking?

The inventory of available homes dropped again and new listing activity is at all-time lows, according to Logan Mohtashami at HousingWire.com. Despite this, the homes that are on the market are selling quickly in many markets across the country.

These homes, by the way, are the turnkey style, in good condition with loads of curb appeal and in high demand. The fixers, the overpriced homes and those that aren’t appealing are sitting on the market.

In a nutshell? “Buyers can expect a shortage of well-priced, turnkey homes—and plenty of competition for the few that go up for sale,” according to Clare Trapasso at Realtor.com.

And home prices?

This seems to be the question that is top-of-mind for many buyers and sellers. The good news is that home prices dropped 12% “… to $363,000 in February from $413,800 last June,” says Dan Weil at TheStreet.com. Should we expect additional drops?

Mortgage rates can make or break a market. When they drop, markets turn “hot.” When they rise, activity slows way down; the inventory of available homes dries up and prices rise.

Here’s what the experts are forecasting when it comes to home prices:

  • “… how much further home prices dip in 2023 will likely depend on where mortgage rates go.” (Forbes)
  • “On a national basis, we expect home prices to decline about 4% both in 2023 and in 2024,” Moody’s analysts said. (The Street)
  • “By February 2024, the analysts at CoreLogic expect home prices to increase year over year by 3.7%.” (Business Insider)
  • The National Association of REALTORS predicts that home prices will be once again on the rise, beginning in the fourth quarter of 2023.

As you can see, the experts are as conflicted as the rest of us.

For buyers, the time to jump back into the market is when interest rates fit your comfort zone and before prices rise again.

The best thing you can do right now is get pre-approved for a mortgage, look into down payment assistance programs if you need help and keep an eye right here. We’ll keep you posted on what’s happening in the market.

How to buy a home after bankruptcy

The number of Americans filing for bankruptcy increased 20% this past January compared to January 2022.

There are a number of reasons for the increase, according to economists. Topping the list is the “end of pandemic funding,” but “… rising interest rates and high inflation continue to stress household budgets,” says Kristopher J. Brooks with Money Watch at CBSNews.com.

Tens of thousands of Americans went through the process, came out the other side and are chomping at the bit to buy a home. Let’s take a look at some answers to the more common questions about buying a home after bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy and your credit score

Yes, the fact that you discharged your debts in bankruptcy will end up on your credit reports and lower your credit score. In fact, your score may fall more than 200 points, according to Barry Paperno at Marketwatch.com.

“But for people in dire straits, bankruptcy is a last resort that can help them liquidate assets, discard or pay off debts, and get some financial relief.” In other words, it’s a good option if you’ve nowhere else to turn.

You are now considered a subprime borrower and will pay more for any credit that you receive, initially. To build a new credit rating, however, you will need to responsibly use credit, such as credit cards.

So, how long will this take?

The length of time it will take to purchase a new home after bankruptcy varies. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy will remain on your record for 10 years. A chapter 13, on the other hand, “… generally remains for seven years from the filing date,” claim the experts at Capitalone.com. Find out the difference between a Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy at RocketMortgage.com.

Then, there’s another waiting period, depending on the type of loan you choose.

If you used a Chapter 7 bankruptcy you’ll need to wait four years from the date the bankruptcy was discharged if you want a conventional loan.

If you will be pursuing a loan backed by the FHA or VA you’ll have a two-year wait. Chapter 13 bankruptcies are a bit different, but you’ll find the answer to your questions at the aforementioned Rocket Mortgage link.

How long you’ll wait to buy that home also depends on how much you want to pay for the mortgage. The higher your credit score, the lower the interest rate you’ll be offered. Borrowers with a FICO score of 620 to 639 pay, on average, 1.5 to 2 percent more interest on a mortgage loan than borrowers at the top of the FICO score range (760 to 850).

Once upon a time, a person that went bankrupt might have been forced to wear a basket over his head while in public, be thrown into debtor’s prison or even end up as a slave and sold at auction to the highest bidder. Although today’s penalty isn’t quite so harsh physically, it may be emotionally draining to be unable to obtain credit for an extended period of time.

Thankfully, with strategic planning, some hard work and the right lender, you will be able to purchase a home sooner rather than later.

We are not legal, mortgage or financial professionals, and the information provided in this blog post is for general education purposes only and is not intended to constitute specialist or personal advice.

Torn Between two houses: how to choose?

The home-buying process is full of decisions. From which lender and insurance agent to go with to which neighborhood to concentrate the search, it’s one long string of choices.

Occasionally, I’ll have clients that fall in love with two homes which leads to probably one of the hardest decisions they’ve ever made

One way to avoid this predicament is to get clear on exactly what everyone in the family is looking for in a home. Each person should make a wish list and then prioritize it by putting their three absolute must-haves at the top.

Then, compare lists. Anything that everyone agrees on should go on a master list – the one you’ll use when actually shopping for a home. The remaining items are those on which you’ll compromise, so be ready to do so.

Try to remove emotions from the process. Yes, I know this is easier said than done. But remember, the home is also an investment. If one home will hold its value better than the other, that’s a huge plus.

Make a list of pros and cons for both houses to help you in the decision-making process. Everyone gets input into the process so one person’s pro may be another’s con. Obviously, the pros and cons list works best for singles or couples.

Consider the neighborhood

Too many homebuyers fall in love with a home without considering the neighborhood. It’s important to investigate the area in which your future home is located. When it comes to a decision between two homes, comparing neighborhoods may just cinch the deal.

  • Check the school districts. Homes located in good school districts tend to hold their value better and sell for more than homes in poor school districts.
  • How close is each neighborhood to the conveniences you typically use? Which has a quicker commute to work?
  • How well do the neighbors care for their property?
  • Are homes in one neighborhood increasing in value faster than the other?

Check crime statistics in both neighborhoods. You can do this by calling the local law enforcement agency and there are several crime databases online, such as:

Compare the homes

This is where you’ll really need to remove your love hat and put on your business hat. Forget the gorgeous wall colors and the immaculate landscaping and look at the bare bones of each house.

If you are just planning a family, how will the house work with little ones tearing through it? If you’re downsizing, which house offers you enough space to not feel like you’re living in a shoebox but enough storage room to not have the garage packed floor to ceiling?

Compare features that can’t be changed (or can, but at a huge expense), such as the flow, the number of bathrooms and the size of whichever room you use the most.

If none of this helps you make the decision, look at both homes again and again and again if need be. Like certain movies, you may have missed something on the first viewing that you’ll catch on a subsequent one.

And do enlist your real estate agent’s assistance. Ensure he or she knows exactly what you’re looking for.

Of course, in a fast-moving real estate market, buyers don’t have the luxury to deliberate like this. Decisions are made on the fly and offers submitted at lightning speed. But in slower markets, if you find yourself torn between two houses, slow down and consider all the factors.