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Aug. 3, 2022

10 Tips to Create the Ultimate Gaming Room

10 Tips to Create the Ultimate Gaming Room

10 Tips to Create the Ultimate Gaming Room

Video games are big. Like $155 billion big. In fact, it’s estimated that 26% of the world’s population are regular video gamers across various platforms. Given these statistics, it’s likely that you or someone you know is an active video game player.

Video game rooms are a great way to help get more immersed into a game, regardless of the platform. Depending on budget and space, a gaming room can allow you to bring in more computing power, louder and fuller sound, storage for all of your accessories and decals, and can give you an excuse to use that unused room in your home. Whether you’re playing Candy Crush in your bonus room or Fortnite in your small office space, here are 10 gaming room ideas for how to create the ultimate room on any budget.

1) Bring your gaming room idea to life: pick a theme and decide on decor

Before you start purchasing products or ripping down walls, it’s important to decide on an aesthetic or theme for the gaming room. It’s your chance to embrace your favorite game, character, or genre, and manifest your room around that. If you’re using art try to choose art that compliments the game such as a boutique poster and print resource. If you’re framing, make sure the frame contrasts the art – the contrast will make it pop.

Do you like Mario? Try using a lot of reds and yellows, incorporate mushroom décor, and set up lights highlighting cool wall art and posters. Is Zelda your favorite? Focus more on greens and browns, memorabilia, and custom artwork. Fancy Call of Duty? Try embodying realistic art and camouflage colors throughout your room, and make sure your gaming setup is top tier. 

This first step is about brainstorming and being creative with your space. Choose something that you like and run with it. You want to be able to walk into your gaming room and feel inspired by simply being in your space.

2) Ensure you have a reliable internet connection

While this may sound obvious, it’s so important. Most games nowadays require an internet connection to play or at least have certain features that are unusable without one. Having a consistent connection will raise your gaming experience to the next level. 

While one gigabit (Gbps) and even 2 Gbps internet is all the rage nowadays, you don’t actually need very much internet speed to play an online video game. Most people agree that you only need a download speed of 5 Mbps or faster to enjoy the most a game has to offer. Removing the nagging worry of losing connection in the middle of a match or online chat is a huge boost to the effectiveness of your gaming room.

3) Incorporate tabletops, storage, renovation, and customization

Now that you’ve chosen a theme and have your internet all sorted, it’s time to make some larger changes and additions to your gaming room. This is the stage when you can tear down a wall, commission a custom-built desk or storage space, or purchase that desk you’ve had your eye on for months. The entire room is now yours to mold.

Desks: Your desk will likely be a centerpiece of your gaming room, so investing some extra time and money will make your room feel more like your own. There are many routes you can take depending on your space, but some common custom desk styles include:

  • Floating/wall-mounted

  • Standing/adjustable height 

  • Corner

  • Tall

  • Curved

If you have limited space, use a floating desk to allow for more storage. If you have more space, try a longer, curved desk for extra desktops and decals. If you are going the more expensive custom route, you can even incorporate many of the above styles into one unique desk. 

Other furniture options and gaming room customization ideas:

Shelving units, side tables, couches, custom display cases for your memorabilia, TV stands, and mirrors are just some of the other furniture options to consider. There are also countless room customization or renovation possibilities. Add or remove a window or wall, paint the walls, add new carpet, or do anything else your heart desires. 

It’s important that you conquer the big projects before moving on to the nitty-gritty. This process will vary widely depending on your budget, but even DIYing a floating shelf can add that extra touch of personality. 

Creating the ultimate gaming room should center around two vital components: comfort and organization. You want to select a comfortable chair with lumbar support for endless fun, and you want to ensure it’s easy to find your games and accessories. A sleek lateral open shelf cabinet allows you to store all your games and extra equipment while sticking with the aesthetic of the room.

 

4) Choose a perfect gaming seat

You’ll likely spend most of your time here between consoles and your desktop, so it should be the pinnacle of comfort and style. Spending time fidgeting or squirming trying to get comfortable only takes away from your high-level gameplay. 

There are loads of different gaming chair styles to choose from here, ranging from a standard desk chair, to a custom-fitted leather racer chair with magnetic armrests and an adjustable headrest, to a gaming armchair lounger. The main priority should be to get a good chair that will provide support throughout your gaming session. Purchase a chair that keeps you comfortable and allows you to focus for hours on end. Don’t feel the need to overstretch your budget; there are plenty of affordable options that provide comfort and longevity.

 5) Invest in quality displays

You’ll be looking at your displays for hours on end while you game, so choose carefully. There are three general choices to choose from: monitors, televisions, and projectors. Monitors benefit from their smaller size and versatility, while projection screens can enhance your experience by increasing immersion. Not only do projector screens give you a cinematic feel, but they are better for your eyes as well.

Projectors are generally best for much larger rooms and are hard to move from one room to another. TVs are the perfect option for those who like consoles and will be sitting farther away from the screen. However, since monitors tend to be the most popular, let’s take a close look at those. 

When it comes to monitors, there are four general quality aspects to take into account when choosing a monitor for your gaming room:

  • Size: This is the diagonal distance between opposite corners of the screen, i.e. a 13” laptop measures 13” from the top right of the screen to the bottom left. 

  • Resolution: This is what determines the sharpness of the image on your screen. The more pixels your screen has, i.e. 1920 x 1080, the better your resolution will be.

  • Refresh Rates: This describes the frequency that a display updates or “redraws” an onscreen image. The amount of refreshes per second is measured in Hz, i.e. a refresh rate of 144 Hz means the screen refreshes 144 times per second. The higher the better.

  • Price: Prices for monitors range from under $100 to $2000+. While the expensive monitors may look great, the lower end of the spectrum provides more than adequate quality. 

Typically, most would agree that size doesn’t matter as much as resolution or refresh rate, and most games will look great on your standard 1080p, 60Hz monitor. The newer Freesync and G-sync technologies produce better quality images, but are costly. Choose what specs fit your budget, and remember that higher numbers usually yield increasingly insignificant returns in performance.

When choosing a display, think about what type of games you play. Competitive gamers should focus on refresh rate and aim for a 120Hz or 144Hz display to stay ahead of the competition, while role-playing and story gamers should prioritize a 4K resolution for the sharpest graphics.

6) Craft your ultimate hardware setup

Are you a console fan? A desktop dueler? A VR wiz? Regardless, your gaming room needs gaming hardware. Consider a couple of options before splurging on a powerhouse setup. Style and price are also important.

Before you purchase your dream console, or before hiding them behind a cupboard, take your entire room into account. Don’t ignore the console’s or computer’s aesthetic value, and instead work them into the room. A console can be a statement piece that sits on top of a desk or TV unit. A computer can sit prominently, blending into your room’s theme. To level up your gaming room, let your hardware breathe freely.

Numbers are king when it comes to computer performance vs price. Consoles are generally fixed in their performance capabilities, but desktops and laptops can be built with specific specifications in mind. Keep an eye out for these metrics when buying a computer:

RAM/DRAM: Measured in GB, this is where short-term device memory is kept and determines how quickly a computer can function performing multiple tasks. A higher amount of RAM, e.g. 32GB, means that a computer can run multiple demanding tasks at once without reduced performance.

  • Storage: Think of this as long-term memory for your computer. Usually, a computer will have at least 256GB of storage.

  • Central Processing Unit (CPU): CPUs are made up of chips consisting of multiple cores that process most everything that runs your computer. Keep in mind that they can’t run anything on their own, and require quality RAM and storage to operate. Their power is measured in gigahertz (GHz).

  • Graphics Processing Unit (GPU): The GPU works in tandem with the CPU to accelerate computer graphics workloads. GPUs can either be built into a computer with the CPU or exist separately, allowing for customization.

  • Cooling capabilities: Demanding workloads result in the computer generating heat. Too much heat will reduce performance and can cause damage. There are a few ways to cool a computer, but the most common are air and liquid coolers.

In general, shoot for middle-of-the-road hardware. That is, unless you want to spend thousands of extra dollars to experience the pinnacle of performance and style. Pre-built computers are more expensive but more convenient. If you have the ability, customize your gaming computer to your heart’s content.

A budget of around $2800 is sufficient for purchasing a setup capable of playing any game and can accommodate streaming, VR, and video editing. For the ultimate gaming experience, consider a $4000+ RTX 3090 powered system. $1800 will provide the full gaming experience at a lower cost, although with reduced graphics capabilities.

7) Decide on a quality sound system

The audio quality that comes directly from a TV or laptop is generally poor. Adding external speakers will improve your audio exponentially. It adds dimensions to your sound that would otherwise be lost. Let’s look into some popular speaker styles.

  • Soundbars: Soundbars are the minimalist, stylish choice. The trade-off here is looks and price for sound quality relative to more traditional speaker styles. These fit easily into any gaming room.

  • Bookshelf speakers: These can be used with soundbars as an addition, or can be their own system. These typically come with more than two speakers and can provide quality surround sound. They can be rigged to provide a large gaming room with resonant sound.

  • Floorstanding speakers: These are usually large and expensive speakers with a powerful, full sound. They are heavy and obtuse, the opposite of soundbars.

Get Bluetooth speakers if possible for versatility, and try to coordinate the speaker style with your gaming room style. Many speakers have the ability to light up and can be custom-built if you’re willing to spend the extra money. 

8) Add soundproofing to your gaming room

Gaming is loud – it’s preferable that way – but you don’t want to get distracted or distract others in your home. Because of this, it’s a good idea to add soundproofing to your gaming room. Many materials and objects provide some soundproofing, but in general, it boils down to five strategies:

  • Soundproof insulation

  • Dampening seals

  • Wall panels

  • Rugs/carpeting/drapes

  • Soundproof paint

If you have the budget for it, include a mix of soundproof paint, thick doors, and custom panels to seamlessly blend strong soundproofing and interesting visuals into your gaming room. Panels and full-wall systems not only help with acoustics but also protect your walls from hits and impacts, and can be customized to your specifications. If you’re on a tighter budget, apply dampening seals on the cracks around your door/s and window/s and use a thick rug. After applying the soundproofing, this space can also double as a podcast space or music studio for you or anyone else in your home.

Whether it’s a basement or a bedroom, the right soundproofing is critically important for a gaming room. Soundproofing needs to serve two purposes: giving you the best possible audio quality inside the room while limiting noise emitting outside. Soundproof panels are a great option because they can be made from recycled materials and are easy to install. – SONOpan, soundproofing and wall modification experts.

9) Stock up on gaming room accessories

Who doesn’t like accessories? Customize your room to your heart’s content with a headset, gaming mouse, mechanical keyboard, figurines, microphones, charging ports, a gaming mouse pad, or whatever else you can think of. If you’re a streamer, make sure to grab a webcam as well. A pair of headphones can elevate any gaming room. To keep things organized, add a sleek and functional headphone stand to display your gaming headset when not in use. If you’re on a budget, just get what accessories are necessary. Anything that costs more than $150 is marginally better than a cheaper option. 

It’s all about the experience, and equipment is key. To help make you the best gamer you can be, you’ll want to find a lightweight mouse that fits your hand perfectly, a fast keyboard so you can make the right plays, and a quality headset to hear subtle sounds.

10) Incorporate lighting 

It’s time to spruce up your room and transform your space with home lighting. We aren’t talking about simple lamps and fluorescents. We’re talking about strip lighting, Bluetooth lightbulbs, backlights, custom-shaped panels, and hanging decals. Lighting can be the perfect addition to help create a gaming atmosphere. Correctly placed lighting not only creates a more aesthetically pleasing experience, it can help with eye strain too. Lighting may seem unnecessary, but it definitely adds to the aesthetic and quality of your room. These lights can also be synced up with your gaming computers, mouse, keyboard, and even headset to weave your entire room together into an RGB LED explosion.

Since all the suggested lighting uses LEDs, which consume less electricity, you’ll be able to save energy at home and avoid racking up your monthly bill. 

Although many people tend to game at night, sitting in the dark can cause headaches and eye strain. Using LED lights with a daylight color temperature can help prevent this. If you don’t want bright lights at all times, dimmable LED lights will allow you to adjust your game room aesthetic.

 

Your gaming room is your space – your home within your home. By following these 10 gaming room ideas, your room, big or small, will shine. Make it yours, regardless of budget. Above all, be sure to have fun with it.

July 29, 2022

How to Make Your Best Offer on a Home

 

How to Make Your Best Offer on a Home

 

How to Make Your Best Offer on a Home

Making the right offer is crucial when you have your eye on a home.  Offer too little, and you may get passed over for the next buyer. Offer too much, and you may need to reevaluate your budget for furnishings or upgrades. This can be one of the most challenging parts of buying a new property.  Want to make sure you have a strong offer at a price you can afford? Here’s when you might offer above, below and at the listing price.

  • At List Price: A home that's within your budget, move-in ready and comes with all the amenities you want could be worth an offer at the listing price. But you'll want to make sure there's not much competition for the property.

  • Below List Price: Does the home need serious work? If so, you may want to offer below the selling price. In this case, bidding less money could free up cash for future repairs and necessary upgrades. You can also try a lower offer if there are tons of homes listed in your area (but little demand for them). Get in touch to learn about the properties for sale in your desired neighborhood.

  • Above List Price: You may want to go beyond listing price if you're in a particularly active market or you know you're up against several buyers. Together, we can determine what other homes in the area are going for, and we'll make sure your best offer aligns with those bids.

 

Ready for a new home (and don't want to overspend)? Reach out today, and we can begin looking for a property that's perfect for you and your family.

 

July 19, 2022

6 Mortgage Tips for Single Parents





6 Mortgage Tips for Single Parents

 

6 Mortgage Tips for Single Parents

If you’re a single parent, it’s arguably more challenging to buy a home than for those in a partnership with dual incomes. Yet it’s easy to see why so many single parents are eager to purchase a house. Beyond finding a perfect kitchen and playroom, owning a home is an integral part of building a healthy financial future. And while homeownership may seem like an increasingly out-of-reach dream for single moms and dads, buying a house is definitely an achievable reality for most folks. To help inform you on this journey, we reached out to experts for tips on how to land a great mortgage as a single parent.

1. Leverage benefits

When applying for a mortgage, be sure to include any alimony and child benefit payments you receive. The most significant leverage a single parent has against lenders is their benefits. As a borrower, it’s essential to establish the capability to pay. So highlighting the monetary amount received from child benefits, tax credits, and maintenance fees is important as all of these can be taken into account.

2. Remember the 25% rule

Single parents have to carry a mortgage by themselves. With that in mind, it’s wise to leave plenty of financial wiggle room when shopping for a home. (An affordability calculator can help you determine what monthly payments you can swing.) As a single parent, there are more ‘what ifs’ to worry about, so it’s important to give the budget breathing room for emergencies and extra child care costs. They should aim for the monthly mortgage—including taxes and insurance—to be around 25% of their income. This way, there is enough to cover house costs, child costs, and still reach savings goals, such as saving for retirement and college.

3. Make a significant down payment if possible

No matter who you are or your financial and life situation, making a substantial down payment on a house will pay off. Getting a good mortgage rate can be a challenge for a single person. Making a big down payment will not only improve their chances of getting a good lender but also getting a better deal on the mortgage. It will also lower their monthly payments moving forward. Also to add, having a good credit score (740-plus is considered optimal) will improve the odds of getting a reasonable mortgage rate, because good credit lets lenders know you can keep up with financial commitments.

4. Consider specialty loans or down payment assistance

Can’t swing a large down payment? That’s OK. As a single parent, there is an opportunity to maybe be able to qualify for loans that require much less than the standard 20% down payment. A conforming, aka conventional, loan may only require a down payment as low as 3%, with a mortgage insurance add-on. One of the best loans for single parents is from the United States Department of Agriculture. The USDA loans are particularly helpful because most feature low-interest rates and do not require a down payment. The catch? You have to ensure that the property is within the USDA-eligible area. It also requires you to pay a mortgage insurance premium upfront, but it’s significantly lower than many other premiums.

And if you’re a teacher, firefighter, EMT, or member of law enforcement. the Good Neighbor Next Door program can get you up to 50% off on a foreclosed home.

5. Look for local loans

No matter what type of loan they ultimately try to secure, try to find a local lender. Working with a mortgage professional who is local to their market can be a huge asset. There are so many online platforms offering seemingly great deals, but that utilize loan officers out of the area or in call centers that may be completely out of the market. This can make sorting out market-specific details very challenging.

6. Beware of adjustable rates and multiple applications

 

The Federal Reserve may hike interest rates soon, so getting a mortgage with a fixed rate is critical. A 30-year fixed mortgage will allow a single person with kids to accurately forecast their monthly expenses. They should also watch out for prepayment penalties. These are penalties the lender would charge for selling the home within a set period of time. And beware of applying for multiple mortgages with different companies in a quest for the best offer. Each time you apply, they pull your credit, which reduces your credit score.

 

June 16, 2022

Major Household Dangers for Cats and Dogs

 

Major Household Dangers for Cats and Dogs

 

Major Household Dangers for Cats and Dogs

All pet parents want to keep their fur babies safe. So they may be shocked to learn their home can be a minefield of potential hazards that can cause severe harm or even death for their feline and canine family members. Cats and dogs are curious animals and tend to get into things, so nothing is foolproof. But there are some easy precautions that you can take to make it less likely that they will find something that they shouldn’t.

 

Most people know to keep chocolate hidden away from their pooches—it can be toxic to dogs and the APCC (Animal Poison Control Center) handles about 76 cases of chocolate exposure per day. But there’s a host of seemingly innocent items in your home that cause harm. In 2020 alone, the APCC helped more than 370,500 animals. So here’s what to keep out of paws’ reach and information on what to do if your pet is accidentally exposed to a toxin.

 

Crucial poison information

First things first: If you suspect your pet has ingested any poisonous substances, contact your veterinarian or call APCC’s hotline at 888-426-4435 immediately. You’ll need to provide your pet’s breed, age, weight, and health history, as well as what symptoms the animal is exhibiting. Symptoms of toxicity can vary depending on the hazard, amount consumed, size, and animal species.

 

Signs you may notice if your pet ingests something poisonous may be stomach upset, loss of coordination, increased or decreased urination, and seizures. All poison exposures and items cause different signs, but these are most commonly observed while others are more internal. Your vet or the APCC will ask about the product package, the strength of ingredients, and the amount your pet was exposed to, so having the product close at hand when you call is always a plus.

 

Danger No. 1: Human medicine

Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, vitamins, and supplements ranked as the top toxins in 2020 for the third year in a row, making up about 17% of APCC’s total case volume. Take all medications behind a closed door. Typically, it is recommended to take them in the bathroom with the bathroom door closed. That way if the pill is dropped, there  will be time to search for it without having to worry about your pet finding it first. Other medications to keep locked up include antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and prescriptions.

 

Danger No. 2: Edible hazards

Human foods made up 13% of 2020’s total toxicity cases at APCC, with most calls about grapes, raisins, xylitol (a sugar substitute), onions, garlic, protein powder, and snack bars. Yeast dough is another danger. When eaten, yeast can rise in a pet’s moist, warm stomach and cause a dangerous gas accumulation. Beyond being painful, this may result in a bloated stomach or even a twisted stomach, known as gastric dilatation-volvulus, a serious medical emergency. In addition, the yeast can become fermented, thereby producing alcohol within the stomach that can be absorbed into the bloodstream.

 

And of course, there’s chocolate. Chocolate, coffee, and caffeine all contain substances called methylxanthines. These compounds are stimulants. When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, and even death. Other edible dangers to keep away from your pets include alcohol, avocado, leeks, chives, and macadamia nuts.

 

Danger No. 3: Non-Edible hazards

Most homeowners have toxic items lying around their garage and home. Think items such as antifreeze, insecticides and pesticides, pool chemicals, and lawn fertilizer—all of which can be a significant hazard to your pets. Keep all pesticides and cleaners in high cabinets fortified with a childproof lock. Be aware that childproof rat poison containers are not pet-proof and that dogs especially can and will chew into them. Additionally, mice and rats will move blocks of rodent poisons. So they can end up in areas that are accessible to pets, even if they weren’t placed in areas that pets can get into initially. Non-edible items also include personal care products. Keep toothpaste, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, and fabric softener sheets out of snout’s reach.

 

Danger No. 4: Plants and flowers

Consumption of plants and flowers inside and outside the home may cause vomiting and gastrointestinal upset for dogs and cats. The APCC received 9,000 more calls in 2020 than the previous year for pet plant consumption. All plants and flowers should be kept out of reach from your pet to avoid broken glass or pottery, giving them access to potentially contaminated water. And eating that actual plant or flower, which could cause stomach upset or even be toxic. Instead, feature nontoxic plants in your home such as African violets, bamboo, roses, or spider plants.

 

Danger No. 5: Household hazards

Holiday decorations also present a danger to our furry friends. Puppies and inquisitive dogs can chew on electric cords, putting them at risk of serious burns or electric shock. Pet-proof your home just as you would childproof it for a toddler. It is  also recommended to tour the house at your pet’s level to spot and remove any potential temptations from their view.

 

June 9, 2022

What is a reverse mortgage?

What is a reverse mortgage?

What is a reverse mortgage?

A reverse mortgage is a loan based on the current paid-up value or equity in your home. Instead of making a monthly mortgage payment, your lender can use your equity to pay you a set monthly amount, provide a credit line for you to draw upon as needs arise, or pay out a lump sum to you. While gaining access to this money sounds great, it’s essential to understand how a reverse mortgage works to avoid any pitfalls.

How does a reverse mortgage work?

When you have a regular mortgage, you pay the lender every month so you can eventually own your home outright. With a reverse mortgage, you get a loan in which the lender pays you. Reverse mortgages use part of the equity in your home and convert it into payments to you. You do not need to pay back this loan until you move, sell the home, or pass away. When you (or your heirs) sell the home, the reverse mortgage loan balance is deducted from the proceeds of the sale. Any balance remaining from sale proceeds reverts to you or your heirs.

What can you pay for with a reverse mortgage? 

Here is a shortlist of expenses you can pay for with funds from a reverse mortgage:

  • Medical debt

  • Living expenses

  • Debt consolidation

  • Home improvements

  • College tuition

  • Another home purchase

  • Or, you can use it as supplemental income

There are no stated constraints for how you use the money. But that doesn’t mean you should run right out and get one. Be sure to read the pros and cons to understand if this financial tool makes sense for your situation.

How do I qualify for a reverse mortgage?

Prepare to shop around for the right type of reverse mortgage to suit your situation. If you meet all of these qualifications, a reverse mortgage might meet your needs: 

  • The primary loan holder must be age 62 or older – your spouse may be younger. 

  • You must own your home outright or have just one mortgage which you are the borrower. 

  • You’ll be required to pay off the existing mortgage using the proceeds from your reverse mortgage. 

  • The home must be your primary residence.

  • You must be current on all property taxes, homeowners’ insurance, and other mandatory legal obligations (like HOA dues).

  • You must attend a consumer information class led by a HUD-approved counselor.

  • Your home must be maintained and in good condition. 

  • The home must be a single-family home, condo, townhouse, manufactured home built after June 1976, or a multi-unit property with up to four units.

There are 3 reverse mortgage types

  • Single-purpose reverse mortgages: These are offered by some state and local government agencies and nonprofits. For a single-purpose reverse mortgage, the lender specifies how loan proceeds must be spent. For example, you may only be able to use the funds for property taxes or home repairs. This is the least expensive type of reverse mortgage, and low and moderate-income homeowners can often qualify.

  • Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs): HECMs are reverse mortgages backed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). You can use proceeds from a HECM for any purpose. This type of loan will be more expensive than a single-purpose reverse mortgage or traditional home loan, including high closing costs. If you plan to stay in your home for a long time, the upfront costs are less of an issue. 

  • Proprietary reverse mortgages: These loans are offered by private lenders. You may be able to get a larger loan from a private lender if you own a high-value home over $500,000. These loans are more expensive than single-use loans and similar to HECMs. 

How much money can you get from a reverse mortgage?

The amount of money you can access from a reverse mortgage will vary with the amount of equity you have in your home, your age, the home’s current market value, current interest rates, and the specific type of reverse mortgage. If you have another loan, lien, or outstanding balance on your home equity line of credit, you will be required to pay the outstanding balances first with any funds you received from a reverse mortgage. The obligation includes any property tax liens, or contractor, or other private liens. 

How much does a reverse mortgage cost?

The costs and terms for a single-purpose reverse mortgage and a proprietary reverse mortgage can vary. You’ll want to shop around with different agencies and mortgage lenders to find the most favorable terms. Costs for HECM loans are well-documented since the government backs such loans. However, you will not need to pay loan costs out of pocket because the costs can be covered by loan proceeds, which will reduce the net loan amount available for expenses. 

HECM costs include: 

  • Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP): This mortgage insurance guarantees that you will receive expected loan advances. You can finance the MIP as part of your loan. Initially, you will be charged 2% of the loan amount for MIP at closing. This is followed by an annual MIP equal to 0.5% of the mortgage balance over the loan’s life.

  • Third-party Charges: Third-party costs include an appraisal, title search and insurance, surveys, inspections, recording fees, mortgage taxes, credit checks, and other fees. These costs are paid at closing.

  • Origination Fee: Like any mortgage, the lender gets paid to process your loan. A lender can charge the greater of 2% of the first $200,000 of your home’s value + 1% of the amount over $200,000 or $2,500. All origination fees are capped at $6,000.

  • Servicing Fee: Service fees over the term of the loan cover services that include sending the account statements to you, paying property taxes and insurance on your behalf, and disbursing loan proceeds. If the loan has an annual adjusted interest rate or a fixed interest rate, the service fee caps $30 per month. If your interest rate adjusts monthly, the monthly service fee caps at $35. 

At loan closing, the lender deducts the first servicing fee from your available funds and then adds each monthly servicing fee to your loan balance. Alternatively, lenders may include the servicing fee in the mortgage interest rate by charging a higher rate. 

Reverse mortgage pros and cons

Pros: 

  • A reverse mortgage can give you financial options and additional income during retirement.

  • If the primary loan holder passes away, the spouse can stay in the house and continue to receive payments from the loan.  

  • You don’t have to make monthly mortgage payments.

  • Depending on the type of reverse mortgage, your funds can be used for any expense. 

  • It can be used as a way to stop or prevent foreclosure and loss of the home.

Cons: 

  • You will owe more over time due to interest on the loan.

  • You could lose your home if you don’t maintain payments for property taxes and insurance. 

  • You reduce the equity in your home because you are, in effect, lending it to yourself. 

  • The upfront cost of a reverse mortgage can be thousands of dollars. 

  • Your heirs may not be able to keep the home if they can’t afford to pay off the loan.

Is a reverse mortgage a good idea? 

 

While a reverse mortgage involves certain complications, it can be an excellent way to supplement your income during retirement, pay for medical expenses, or home improvements that allow you to age in place. As with any loan, it makes good sense to shop around for the best terms and fees. Guidance from a HECM counselor can help you make the best choice

May 26, 2022

How to get over losing out on a home

How to get over losing out on a home

How to get over losing out on a home

You had such big dreams for the two of you. You were ready to make the big commitment. You thought you’d grow old together. But then your offer on the house didn’t go through. You lost out. You won’t be buying that perfect-for-you place. You won’t be cooking in the all-white modern farmhouse-style kitchen or planting roses in the lushly sodded and fenced yard. You’re no better off than when you started, in the same digs you wanted to leave last year. When you lose out on a house you wanted, the heartbreak is real. It’s the real estate version of being ghosted right when you started scouting honeymoon spots. Here is how to deal with heartache—and all of its many symptoms—when the house that was supposed to be “it” turns out to be just another listing.

Symptom: Your head (and friends) know it was “just” a house, but your heart huuuuuurts.

Solution: Go and feel all your feels.

Don’t hold that nasty stuff in. Don’t pretend it’s no big deal. Let yourself feel everything—the disappointment, frustration, and the empty feeling of wondering what might have been. Cry it out. Scream it out. Find a punching bag and take it out. You’re mourning a lost dream. It’s legit. It’s OK to lie in a fetal position and tearfully binge watch House Hunters. Or The Hulk. You do you.

Symptom: Can’t. Stop. Refreshing. Listing.

Solution: Take some me time.

Do the one thing you wanted to do in your relationship, but didn’t. When you were house hunting, did you save every spare dollar for your down payment? And never leave town in case you missed a great listing or the chance to make an offer? It’s time for a getaway. Treat yourself. You will get a house that’s perfect for you at some point, but you need to get out of your head for a minute. Remember: when one door closes, another opens—and it’ll stay propped until you’re back from your weekend away with a few mojitos.

Symptom: You accidentally keep driving by.

Solution: Stay away from reminders.

Don’t drive by the house to see if it’s marked pending or if a moving van is in the driveway. Don’t even drive by the neighborhood or that awesome little coffee shop that was just down the street where you had already imagined yourself lounging on weekends with an espresso con panna. And take it out of your Favorites on Trulia so you don’t see it every time you log on. You don’t want to obsess over what might have been.

Symptom: You realize life before the house dream…kind of sucked.

Solution: Restock your life with people

Let’s be real for a minute and recognize that it was just one house (too soon?). Sometimes we attach ourselves to any dream that feels like a needed change. So change your world in another way. Call your friends. Reconnect with old ones. Meet (gasp!) new people. Step outside of your comfort zone and try meeting a new friend at the gym or a painting class. 

Symptom: Real talk? You regret ever seeing that damn place.

Solution: Learn from the heartache.

Anger’s fine. Totally normal. Try to see an ended relationship as a lesson, not a failure. What worked and what didn’t with that home buying process? What might help you have a better shot at success next time? Be honest. Did you go too low? Can you live with two bedrooms instead of three? Can you really afford that hot neighborhood, or are you trying to punch above your weight? It could be time to look for different traits in a house so the two of you will succeed as a couple.

Symptom: You think it’s time to get back in the house hunting game. But you also can’t even.

Solution: Get back out there.

 

When you’re ready, know that it’s okay to test the waters again. When you really start looking at just how many homes are for sale, you might start wondering how you got so fixated on just one anyway. Whether it’s setting up a search on a home search site or with your trusted agent for houses in that perfect neighborhood, or dropping by an open house you spotted online, get back in the game. Not every listing has to be perfect for you to check it out. Just look. Keep dreaming about the place you want, and “the one” will eventually open the door.

May 20, 2022

6 Tips for Buying in a Competitive Market

 6 Tips for Buying in a Competitive Market

 

6 Tips for Buying in a Competitive Market

The housing market is hot. On fire, actually—and it doesn’t seem to be dying anytime soon. This can be scary because of how tough it is to buy a home in a competitive market. 

 

1. Do Your Pre-Approval Homework

Before you even start looking at actual homes, head on over to a lender (or multiple lenders, to get different quotes) and get a pre-approval letter. We know it’s not very exciting, but it just might save you later. Don’t bother getting pre-qualified because it’s not the same thing as getting pre-approved. Pre-qualification is a quick process based only on information you provide; it isn’t verified by the lender. Pre-approval requires lenders to verify income, credit, and other important numbers that indicate how much of a home you can afford.

 

As you can imagine, a pre-approval letter holds a lot more weight with home sellers because it means a lender believes you can afford the homes you’re looking at. This piece of paper might be the thing that gets you a home instead of somebody else. If there are several offers on a property, those who don’t already have financing could be tossed out immediately.

 

2. Get The Right Agent to Help You Buy a Home in a Competitive Market

We might be a little bit biased, but it’s still true. You need a great agent to represent you when you’re planning to buy a home in a competitive market. Be sure to get recommendations from friends and family. Even online reviews can give you a good idea of who might be a wise choice, though you should always take reviews with a grain of salt. Most importantly, find an agent who specializes in the area you want to buy in. Their inside knowledge can put you on the fast track to success when you buy a home in a competitive market. (Need a Portland real estate agent? Give one of our agents a call!)

 

3. Know Exactly What You’re Looking For

You’re going to have to be ready to make big decisions fast. See a house you want? Trust us, there isn’t going to be time to think about and come back and then make an offer. Want to arrange for your grandma to see it? Want to go back and measure to see if your king-size bed will fit in the master? There isn’t going to be time for that. That said, we’d never want you to buy a house that isn’t the right fit for you. This means that you really need to narrow down what you’re looking for and why before you’re ready to make offers.

 

This will help you make quick decisions when you come across a home that might be right for you. And be sure to look at the home carefully to make sure that it’s worth what you’re planning to offer. If possible, check out homes in your desired location several months before you’re ready to buy. This will give you a good idea of the kinds of homes that are available in your area, helping you narrow down what's right for you. A realtor with local expertise can help you understand how much the kind of home you want, and in the neighborhood you want, is going to cost.

 

4. Be Faster Than Everyone Else

What about Zillow and Trulia and Realtor.com? As fun and useful as they are, these sites aren’t going to cut it when you want to buy a home in a competitive market. You need a local agent to notify you as soon as a new home is on the market, via email or some other method. Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and other sites all get their data from the local MLS. They pull data multiple times a day, but your local agent will have data instantaneously, meaning you could see a new house before anyone else. Once you’ve found your home, put in an offer right away. Have your negotiating strategies at the ready (an agent will be happy to help you figure these out in advance). Know how high you’re willing to go in a multiple offer situation. An escalation clause can automatically put your bid at $1,000 higher than any other bids—but make sure you know when to stop.

 

5. Be a Nice Buyer

Show the seller that you’re going to make life easier for them. They don’t want this home-selling thing to drag on any longer than it has to. Make sure you:

 

Schedule a home inspection right away

Offer to rent the house back to the seller once you own it (called a rent back agreement, these can be tricky, so make sure you know what you’re doing). The seller doesn’t want to be homeless and is likely going to have to buy a competitive market also

Don’t be afraid to write a letter to the seller if you feel like it will make a difference, which it can to some sellers

Last, a good agent will call the listing agent and find out what’s really important to the seller so you can put together a great offer

 

6. Think About Contingencies

Contingences are par for the course, but they may not get you very far in a competitive market. If you’re planning to sell your home before you buy this one, you’re probably not going to get very far. You also might think about forgoing a home inspection contingency, but we NEVER recommend this. You could be on the hook for thousands of dollars’ worth of repairs if something unseen is wrong with the house. An agent can help you figure out if and when it’s smart to go without contingencies in a competitive market.

 

Hang On—It’s Going to Get Bumpy

It’s better if we tell you up front that it’s going to be a bumpy ride. If you need any reassurance that it’ll all work out OK in the end, that’s what we’re here for! We’ve been through these complicated transactions many times, and we’ll do everything we can to help you through it. You’re also likely to miss out on homes a few times, and that’s OK, too. You’ll learn more about the market with each situation that doesn’t work out, and you’ll learn how to make a better offer the next time a great home comes around.

 

May 13, 2022

Found a Buyer on Your Own? Here’s Why You Still Need an Agent

 

Found a Buyer on Your Own? Here’s Why You Still Need an Agent

Found a Buyer on Your Own? Here’s Why You Still Need an Agent

 

Let’s say you’re selling your house. And before you even get a chance to snap listing photos and put it on the market, a buyer comes along. Perhaps the buyer makes you an offer you just can’t refuse. Congratulations, you just cut out many steps of the home-selling process—showings, open houses, and haggling over price.

With an offer in hand, you might be asking what commission an agent would receive if the agent were to get involved at this stage of the home-selling process. But keep in mind what may seem like a straightforward transaction between a seller and buyer once an offer is accepted is usually not all that simple. You still have a marathon to finish before getting to the closing table. We’ve broken down the home-selling process into steps to see what an agent could help you with.

 

Commissions explained

Neither federal nor state laws govern commission rates, which means commissions are fully negotiable. And negotiating the commission is between you and your agent.

To crunch some general numbers, if a home sells for $250,000 at a 6% commission, the seller’s agent would get $15,000. However, keep in mind commission rates usually vary depending on the state you live in and among brokerages. Always talk with several agents about your particular home-selling needs. Find out if and how they would want to handle the sale to a buyer found by the seller.

 

The offer

In this scenario, a buyer made you an offer and you accepted. However, it’s time to take a step back: Keep in mind verbal offers are not legally binding in real estate transactions. Agents usually supply a variety of forms such as Residential Purchase Agreements to get offers in writing. These forms vary to conform to state and local laws, and eventually become a binding sales contract. The forms are also known as a purchase agreement, an earnest money agreement, or a deposit receipt. It’s also essential that an offer contains every element needed to serve as a blueprint for the final sale.

An agent can also handle a buyer’s earnest money—usually 1% to 2% of the home’s purchase price—by depositing it in an escrow account held by a third party such as a real estate closing company, an attorney, or a title company agent. Remember, escrow protects sellers. You get to keep that money if a buyer bails on a transaction that’s underway.

 

The terms of the sale and contingencies

While it may seem the hard part is over if a seller found a buyer on their own, many obstacles can occur during the contract period that will require an agent’s skill to keep the deal together. For instance, an agent will ask if you and your buyer agree on not just the sales price but also the terms of the sale. Terms within a purchase agreement include basic information such as the names of the parties involved, the legal description of the property to be transferred, and the agreed-upon price. But terms also list crucial details such as what personal property will be included in the sale (e.g., appliances or fixtures). Leaving any terms of sale out of the purchase agreement can come back to haunt the buyer, the seller, or both.

An agent will also ensure contingencies are added to your contract. Standard contingencies include a buyer securing financing, a home inspection, repairs, and an appraisal—which is crucial to the mortgage process.

 

The closing

Remember, you need multiple legal documents for the closing, including a clean title. This step is usually done by an attorney, who collects a fee at the closing. But a real estate agent usually handles getting to the actual closing table by setting a date, coordinating everyone’s schedule, and ensuring all the needed paperwork (which is usually a mound of documents) is ready and correctly signed.

 

The bottom line

 

If a real estate professional can assist you, their compensation is a matter of negotiation between you and the agent. Hiring an agent to write the offer and guide it toward the closing table is a smart move.

 

May 12, 2022

6 Ways Home Buyers Mess Up Getting a Mortgage

6 Ways Home Buyers Mess Up Getting a Mortgage

6 Ways Home Buyers Mess Up Getting a Mortgage

Getting a mortgage is, by general consensus, the most treacherous part of buying a home. Many homebuyers said they found the mortgage experience stressful and complicated. Even lenders agree that it’s often a struggle. If you’re out to buy a home, you have to be vigilant. To clue you into the pitfalls, here are six of the most common ways people mess up getting a mortgage.

Waiting until you can make a 20% down payment

A 20% down payment is the golden number when applying for a conventional home loan, since it enables you to avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), an extra monthly fee of 0.3% to 1.15% of your total loan amount. But with mortgage rates where they are today—in a word, low—waiting for that magic 20% could be a huge mistake, since the more time passes, the higher mortgage rates and home prices may go!

All of which means it may be worth discussing your home-buying prospects with lenders right now. To get a ballpark figure of what you can afford and how your down payment affects your finances, punch your salary and other numbers into a home affordability calculator.

Meeting with only one mortgage lender

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, about half of U.S. home buyers only meet with one mortgage lender before signing up for a home loan. But these borrowers could be missing out in a big way. Why? Because lenders’ offers and interest rates vary, and even nabbing a slightly lower interest rate can save you big bucks over the long haul.

In fact, a borrower taking out a 30-year fixed rate conventional loan can get rates that vary by more than half a percent So, getting an interest rate of 4.0% instead of 4.5% on a $200,000, 30-year fixed mortgage translates into savings of approximately $60 per month, or $3,500 over the first five years.

So, to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible, meet with at least three mortgage lenders. You’ll want to start your search early (ideally, at least 60 days before you start seriously looking at homes). When you meet with each lender, get what’s called a good-faith estimate, which breaks down the terms of the mortgage, including the interest rate and fees, so that you can make an apples-to-apples comparison between offers.

Getting pre-qualified rather than pre-approved

Mortgage pre-qualification and mortgage pre-approval may sound alike, but they’re completely different. Pre-qualification entails a basic overview of a borrower’s ability to get a loan. You provide a mortgage lender with information—about your income, assets, debts, and credit—but you don’t need to produce any paperwork to back it up. In return, you’ll get a rough estimate of what size loan you can afford, but it’s by no means a guarantee that you’ll actually get approved for the loan when you go to buy a home.

Mortgage pre-approval, meanwhile, is an in-depth process that involves a lender running a credit check and verifying your income and assets. Then an underwriter does a preliminary review of your financial portfolio and, if all goes well, issues a letter of pre-approval—a written commitment for financing up to a certain loan amount.

Bottom line? If you’re serious about buying a house, you need to be pre-approved, since many sellers will accept offers only from pre-approved buyers.

Moving money around

To get pre-approved, you must show you have enough cash in reserves to afford the down payment. (Presenting your mortgage lender with bank statements is the easiest way to do this.) Nonetheless, your loan still needs to go through underwriting while you’re under contract for your loan to be approved. Because the underwriter will check to see that your finances have remained the same, the last thing you want to do is move money around while you’re in the process of buying a house. Shifting large amounts of money out or even into your accounts is a huge red flag. So if you’re in contract for a home, your money should stay put.

Applying for new lines of credit

If you apply for a new credit card or request a credit limit increase a few months before closing, watch out: Credit inquiries ding your credit score by up to five points. So, don’t let the credit inquiries add up.

Applying for multiple lines of credit while you’re buying a house can make your mortgage lender think that you’re desperate for money—a signal that could change your mortgage terms or even get you denied altogether, even if you’ve got a closing date on the books.

Changing jobs

Mortgage lenders like to see at least two years of consistent income history when pre-approving a loan. Consequently, changing jobs while you’re under contract on a property can create a big issue in the eyes of an underwriter.

 

Your best bet? Try to wait until after you’ve closed on your house to change jobs. If you’re forced to switch before closing, you should alert your loan officer immediately. Depending on the lender, you may simply need to provide a written verification of employment from your new employer that states your job status and income.

May 11, 2022

6 Potentially False Home-Selling Hopes and Dreams

 

6 Potentially False Home-Selling Hopes and Dreams

 

6 Potentially False Home-Selling Hopes and Dreams 

 

Home sellers are in a great mood these days. And who can blame them? In this seller’s market where homes go fast and for top dollar, many sellers are excited to cash in and make a killing. In many cases, they’ll succeed—yet this wild exuberance can also go overboard. Such bullish optimism could result in an uncomfortable collision with reality.

 

1. You will sell in 3 days

 

Markets across the United States are facing a shortage of homes available for sale. As a result, it’s not uncommon for homes to sell after a few days or weeks on the market. However, a number of factors must come into play. Real estate agents typically see this scenario only when a home is in a great location, is in turnkey condition, and is listed at an area’s median price point. (The national median is about $380,000.) Houses that require extensive renovation, are listed in a higher price range (read: less competition), or have quirky features may linger on the market.

 

2. You can price your home sky-high

 

Your home may be your pride and joy, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Many sellers tempted by the strong seller’s market may ignore their real estate agent’s advice, and insist upon an unrealistic number just to see if the market will bear it. One of the biggest mistakes sellers can make is going with aspirational pricing just because it is a seller’s market. Many deals get multiple offers and go at or over ask, but they almost always stem from buyers sensing some form of value. And if there is no perceived value, buyers will often stay on the sidelines, even with limited inventory.

 

3. You don’t need to make repairs or upgrades

 

Plenty of investors are willing to snap up fixer-uppers these days, but the average Joe Buyer is not in the mood to renovate. If the seller has a place that needs touch-up or decorative work, it’s usually a good idea to do it ahead of listing. Construction and renovation costs are up sharply with all the supply chain issues. Buyers can be wary of purchasing a place that they will have to do work on, especially since the money spent there needs to be fully out of pocket versus buying a move-in-ready product and having everything rolled into the mortgage. You certainly might avoid major renovations before putting your home on the market, but simple updates such as painting the interior walls and switching out the hardware on your cabinets and drawers can go a long way in landing you a buyer fast.

 

4. You can sell your home as is

 

During the past few years, “as is” has emerged as a term sellers use to indicate that any and all major and minor repairs found during a home inspection will not be addressed and/or negotiated under any circumstances. Here’s the problem with this cavalier attitude: In this hypercompetitive market, buyers are painfully aware that they can’t be picky, but that doesn’t mean they have zero standards. And let’s be honest: No matter the competition, many buyers still desire a turnkey home that won’t require a ton of work to fix up. The term “as is” can also be a red flag to buyers, as it suggests the house may have underlying issues. If there are known issues, such as a structural problem or a boiler that needs to be replaced, it’s better to disclose them upfront so all parties are aware. The fear of the unknown could keep buyers from making an offer. Additionally, when it comes to real estate, everything is negotiable. If a home lingers on the market or fails to ignite a bidding war, a seller might want to reconsider that “as is” condition of sale.

 

5. You don’t need a real estate agent

 

Perhaps you might have experience flipping some homes, or your law degree gives you the assurance to handle such a major transaction on your own. Why not post your home on real estate sites, sell it yourself, and avoid paying a commission, you might be wondering. The reality is way more difficult than what you’re imagining. You’ll need to produce high-quality photos of your home (smartphone pics aren’t going to make the grade); respond to inquiries; and schedule showings. And even after all that effort, you won’t have access to list your home on the professional multiple listing service— which means thousands of buyer’s agents won’t be sharing it with their clients. You’ll most likely end up leaving money on the table. It actually pays to work with an expert when it comes to marketing and pricing your home.

 

6. Post-sale, you can easily buy something else

 

Yes, you’ve sold your house, but where will you go? After they make a sweet profit on the sale of their home, many sellers assume they can easily buy a new home with the windfall. But not so fast. If your post-sale plans involve buying a new house, whether you’re upsizing or downsizing, you’ll find yourself in the same pool of buyers competing for homes. A real estate agent can help you through the process of selling your old home and buying a new one, so you won’t be left in a lurch.