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New Year’s Resolutions for Homeowners

by The Hat Team


The holidays are winding down and the new year is upon us. Chances are you are thinking about some personal goals you would like to achieve in 2019, but if you are a homeowner, you might want to add some resolutions to your list regarding your home.  Here are some homeowner resolutions for you to consider in 2019:

  1. Do a HOME INVENTORY and put together a DISASTER KIT for your home.  You never know when disaster may strike, and while it’s no fun to think about, it’s important to be prepared.  Include your home inventory and financial documents in your disaster kit so that you will be ready should the unthinkable happen.  Make sure that your kit is stored in a fireproof, safe place that will be easily accessible if you need it.
     
  2. Think about getting a HOME WARRANTY.  If your appliances are nearing the end of their life cycles, a home warranty could possibly help prevent high costs for replacements.  Just be sure you do your research and read customer reviews regarding different home warranty options.  And always read the fine print so that you don’t get blindsided by exclusions.
     
  3. Thoroughly examine your HOMEOWNER'S INSURANCE You likely got a standard homeowner’s insurance policy to satisfy the lender when you purchased the home, but that does not assure that you are adequately covered. Each policy has unique coverage options and exclusions that you may not be aware of.  Look it over and find out what it does and does not cover and then decide if it is adequate for you or if you need to purchase a different one.
     
  4. Make saving for an emergency a priority.  Sometimes homeowners are blindsided by unforeseen expenses.  An EMERGENCY SAVINGS FUND can be a life saver when that happens!  Think of it as a safety net for your home.  An idea emergency fund will be able to cover several months of expenses.  Don’t let that overwhelm you.   You have to start somewhere.  Just start setting aside a small portion of your income each month and before you know it, you will have a sizeable savings for emergencies.
     
  5. Start building your equity. If you financed your home mortgage, it will be years before you own your home outright.  But there are ways to BUILD EQUITY  faster, which will enable you to enjoy the benefits of homeownership sooner.  Home equity is a valuable asset that can be used to pay for things like home improvements or student loans. 6 Ways to Build Home Equity (and Savings) Faster

If you are not a homeowner yet, but would like to become one in 2019, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals help you find the perfect home!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: success.com

Don’t Be Afraid to Pursue the Dream of Home Ownership!

by The Hat Team

The idea of purchasing your first home is exciting, but can also feel overwhelming.  Before starting your home search, you need to figure out how much you can afford.  If you’ve been hesitant to move forward because you’re afraid you won’t have enough cash for a down payment or that you won’t qualify for a loan, you shouldn’t despair.  There are programs available that can help you!  So, stop padding your landlord’s pockets and take advantage of programs that will assist you in making a sound financial investment in a home of your own.

The Alabama Housing Finance Authority has two programs designed to assist people with purchasing homes:

1.Step Up - Step Up is a homeownership program designed specifically for moderate-income home buyers who can afford a mortgage, but need help with the down payment.  With this program, the money for the down payment is secured by a 10-year second mortgage and is combined with a 30-year, fixed-rate first mortgage.  Since the loans are serviced by ServiSolutions, a division of AHFA, homeowners have only one check to write each month.  Program participants must complete a homebuyer education course to qualify…a small price to pay to become a homeowner!  People who earn less than $97,300 are eligible for the Step Up program, regardless of household size or location.

Step Up+ is a new, temporary program that was just announced by the AHFA in June, 2017.  This mortgage enhancement will pay the upfront split private mortgage insurance premium (up to $1,500) for homebuyers who earn less than 80% of the area median income.  This way, homebuyers will pay a lower monthly premium as part of their mortgage payment. Information and qualifications:

  • HFA Preferred conventional loans only
  • 3% down payment assistance available through Step Up
  • For new or existing homes in Alabama
  • Homebuyers must have a credit score of 620 or higher
  • Must complete homeownership education course
  • Must apply for loan through a participating lender
  • Private mortgage insurance will be underwritten by Genworth or ARCH (no delegated options)

All Step Up+ loans must close by September 30, 2017.

The Step Up program’s standard $97,300 household income limits will NOT apply for Step Up+.

For more information, contact a participating lender.

2.Mortgage Credit Certificates - The Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) program gives homebuyers another savings option.  MCCs are available with conventional fixed-rate, FHA, VA, Rural Development and privately insured mortgages.  Applications are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis by a statewide network of participating lenders.  Participants must meet federally established income and sales price limits.

MCCs provide a tax credit to reduce the amount of federal taxes owed by a percentage               of the annual mortgage interest paid each year.  The remaining annual interest may be claimed as a mortgage interest deduction on the homebuyer’s federal tax return.

Qualified homebuyers pay lower federal income taxes or benefit from immediate savings by updating the withholdings on their W-4 form.  MCCs may be paired with AHFA’s Step Up program or any other 30-year, fixed rate, amortizing mortgage offered by a participating lender.

Mortgage credit rates are based on the loan amount:

  • 20% MCC for loans of $150,001 or greater; no cap
  • 30% MCC for loans of $100,001 to $150,000; $2,000 per year cap
  • 50% MCC for loans of $100,000 or less; $2,000 per year cap

The real estate professionals at Homes for Sale in Montgomery Alabama can explain these programs to you and answer any questions that you have.  Contact them and start your home search today!

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/First-Time-Home-Buyers-and-Unexpected-Expenses

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Apartment-Hunting-for-College-Graduates

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Home-Buying-Made-Easy

First Time Home Buyers and Unexpected Expenses

by The Hat Team

Buying your first home is exciting.  After getting approved for a mortgage loan, working with a professional REALTOR and finding your dream home, it’s time to settle in and start enjoying your new digs.  Then BAM!  The shock of an unexpected expense slaps you in the face.  Don’t let that happen to you.  Being informed about the possible expenses of being a homeowner will not make spending the money any more fun, but at least you will be prepared.  Here are some ancillary costs of homeownership that you should be aware of:

  • CLOSING COSTS - When closing on your mortgage you will be presented with a long list of costs: mortgage taxes, lender application fees, attorney’s fees, title insurance, recording fees and any potential real estate tax reimbursements if the seller has paid them up front.  Altogether, closing costs are an average of 2 to 5 percent of the total cost of the home.  They will vary state to state.  Closing cost information for Alabama can be found here.
  • HOME MAINTENANCE - Now that you are a homeowner, you are solely responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of your property.  Everything from yard work to cleaning; pressure washing to clearing the gutters…it’s all in your hands and on your dime.  Oh…and fixing things.  Yeah.  When the AC isn’t working or there is a leaky faucet, you will be footing the bill for repairs.  This all sounds a bit scary, but the key is to be prepared.  Go into your home purchase knowing that you will likely be spending about 1% of the purchase price of your home on maintenance annually.
  • PROPERTY TAXES - Property taxes vary by state and can also vary based on city, ordinance, and even specific house.  You can utilize a Property Tax Calculator to get an idea of what your taxes will be when planning for your expenses.
  • UTILITIES - If you’re coming from a rental where your utilities were included with the rent, you may not have considered how much you will need to set aside to pay for electricity, gas, water and sewage costs.  Added to internet, cable and phone bills, it can be quite a chunk of change.  Planning for utility costs is crucial to making sure you can afford to live in a home of your own.
  • HOMEOWNER’S INSURANCE - When you get a mortgage, you must get homeowner's insurance as well.  Be sure to do your homework and shop around for the best possible price.  You can get discounts for things like security systems, working from home or bundling coverage for your home with your auto insurance policy.  Educate yourself on what your insurance policy covers so that you’re not left disappointed when you have to pay for something you thought would be taken care of.

Don’t let these expenses scare you off from purchasing a home.  Again, the key is to be aware of them going in so that you won’t be caught unawares when they come up.

 

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/3-Mistakes-First-Time-Buyers-Make-and-How-to-Avoid-Them

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Home-Buying-Made-Easy

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/4-Common-Real-Estate-Myths-Debunked

3 Mistakes First-Time Buyers Make (and How to Avoid Them)

by The Hat Team

There are a few mistakes that many first-time home buyers make. Here are three of the most common mistakes and how you can avoid them when purchasing your first home.

Mistake #1: Assuming your credit is good.

The information in your credit report determines whether you can get a loan — and how much interest you will have to pay – so it pays to be certain your credit reports are accurate.

Check your credit reports for free from all three credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to make sure everything is correct. If you find errors, contact both the credit reporting company and the information provider (the person, company or organization that provided information about you to a credit reporting company) involved in the errors and ask them to fix the credit report errors.

Mistake #2: Getting pre-qualified, not pre-approved, for a loan.

It’s far better to be pre-approved for a loan than to be pre-qualified. Here’s why…

With pre-qualification, your lender does a preliminary evaluation of your ability to pay for a home and gives an estimate of the mortgage amount they’ll give you. The lender does not verify the information you provide.

Mistake #3: Allowing emotions to influence your decisions.

Buying a home is an investment. It needs to be treated as any other investment. You don’t buy stocks because they are pretty and you shouldn’t pick your home that way either. Make sure the home you buy fits your needs and allows you room to grow over the next few years. As with any sound investment, time is the key to a good return.

If you are a first-time home buyer, I would be happy to help you find (and get the best price for) your first home.

Courtesy of Montgomery AL Real Estate Expert Sandra Nickel.   

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