“Of course, thanks to the house, a great many of our memories are housed, and if the house is a bit elaborate, if it has a cellar and a garret, nooks and corridors, our memories have refuges that are all the more clearly delineated. All our lives we come back to them in our daydreams.”
Gaston Bachelard, the Poetics of Space
I have been following the news about the housing market pretty closely and am pretty disappointed with some of the articles declaring a case against homeownership. I couldn’t disagree more. If anything, I see the value of homeownership: responsible financial investment, social stability and community connection as more important than ever.
I was particularly moved by the story in the Seattle Times yesterday about the Lutz family in Ballard, a family with seven adopted siblings that are helping their parents move from their family home to a smaller condo now that their children have left the nest. Though their story is far from typical, it really resonates how home is the center of family life, a place where memories are created and how houses tell the stories of the lives we build while in their shelter.
Homes do that for people. They are the places where some of our most intimate stories unfold.
Finding and creating a home is an emotional, psychological, social and financial investment. There is a lot of energy involved in finding the place to envision the future, raise a family, and perhaps retire. There is no other investment as enjoyable as your own home. Investments in gold or stocks cannot compare to the feelings about a place where you collect memories, create spaces that reflect your ideals and develop to fit your needs over time.
Beyond the emotional ties to home, a number of studies have shown that home ownership has a great impact on feelings of personal autonomy, life satisfaction and increased investment in the community. The sense of satisfaction goes beyond the ability to paint walls whatever color we want, or make improvements to our homes on our own terms. It goes deeper by improving our sense of well being. Furthermore, when we have a stake in the community we live in, we participate more, making our neighborhoods safer and healthier for all members.
Not all the news about the housing market is negative, actually there are many great articles: “in defense of home ownership”, “ten reasons to buy a home “and “a dream house after all” to name a few. But regardless of where you stand on the housing market right now, we can all likely agree that there is no place like a home.
All of our experiences of home are unique. Please share your best memories of home.
By Jennifer Calonia
Owning a home comes with its rewards — it’s an investment, a cozy haven to kick-up your feet after a long day of work, and a welcoming place to bring family and friends together. Although all of this makes homeownership fulfilling, owning a home also opens the door for unexpected (but necessary) expenses.
If you’ve suddenly been hit with a home improvement project that’s pinching your budget, like a roofing issue or heater malfunction, a personal loan might be an option to help cover the cost.
What is a personal loan?
A personal loan is an installment loan that’s typically issued by a bank, credit union or online lender. According to the Federal Reserve, the average interest rate on a two-year personal loan is 10.70% but varies depending on your credit score and other criteria. Some lenders offer repayment terms anywhere from 12 months to five years.
A benefit of using a personal loan for emergency home improvement projects is that the approval process is generally quick so you can address urgent home repairs sooner. Some online lenders can run a credit check, approve your application and send funds your way with a couple of days. The approval process for banks and credit unions, on the other hand, can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, if the lender needs additional information.
How to find a personal loan
If you’ve decided that a personal loan makes sense to fund your next home project, make sure you’re aware of these next steps.
1. Assess your budget
The last thing you need is taking out a personal loan only to realize after the fact that you can’t afford to repay it. Calculate how much you realistically need for your home improvement project, giving yourself a reasonable buffer for unforeseen repair expenses (e.g. permit fees, price changes for a specific material, etc.)
Then, tally your monthly income and financial obligations to ensure you still have enough cash on hand to keep the lights on and make monthly installments toward your loan. Using a spreadsheet or budgeting app can help you track these numbers easily.
2. Know your credit score
Generally, you need a good credit score to get approved for a personal loan. Your credit score is one of the key factors that lenders use to determine whether your application is approved, and a higher credit score results in a lower interest rate offer.
Check your credit score with the three credit bureaus to ensure there isn’t an error or suspicious activity that might inadvertently lower your credit score. For a free credit report, go to AnnualCreditReport.com to see where your credit stands before moving forward in the process.
3. Compare rates and terms
When you’ve confirmed that you have a good credit score that can get you competitive interest rates, it’s tempting to accept a loan from the first lender that approves you. But like other major purchases, it’s important to shop around.
Compare interest rates, annual percentage rates (APR), and term durations available, and read the fine print for any conditions or fees that might offset any benefits.
To start, try reaching out to your existing financial institution first to see what they can offer; sometimes credit unions, in particular, offer rate incentives for loyal members. Also, consider using a personal loan aggregator website to compare offers from multiple online lenders at once (just do your due diligence to ensure the site is legitimate).
4. Submit an application
If you’re ready to submit an application, you can either complete a form online or apply in-person, depending on your lender. Although all lenders require different information to process a loan application, some common information to prepare ahead of time include:
- Personal information
- Employment information
- Reason for the loan
- Amount you want to borrow
To minimize any delays on your end, it’s helpful to prepare copies of verification documents, such as a driver’s license, proof of address like a utility statement, information about your home and pay stubs. Your prospective lender will likely reach out to you if they need any other information to make a decision.
Although it’s always best to have emergency savings set aside for a sudden home improvement project, turning to a personal loan is a useful option when you’re pressed for funds and time. As urgent as your project might feel, however, always take the time to do your research to ensure you’re making the right move for your situation.
Jennifer Calonia is a native Los Angeles-based writer for Upstart whose goal is to help readers get excited about improving their financial health and lifestyle. Her work has been featured on Forbes, The Huffington Post, MSN Money, Business Insider, CNN Money, and Yahoo Finance. When she’s not wordsmithing, you can find her outdoors, exploring state and national parks.
Purchasing a home can be a complex endeavor for even the most well prepared home buyer. You’ve diligently saved for your down payment, followed the market, researched agents and now you are ready to make an offer on your dream home. Don’t let these 5 “Deal Breakers” come between you and your new home.
- Big Purchases on Credit. It is tempting to buy the furniture for your new home or a new car for the garage before the sale closes. Take care if you are making these purchases on credit. Large purchases on credit can have a major impact on your credit profile which effects your mortgage application. It’s a better plan to wait until after closing or pay cash for these transactions or you may be putting that furniture in a different living room than you originally picked them out for.
- Overpaying. Before your bank will approve your mortgage they will appraise the home you are purchasing. If they feel you are overpaying they are likely to decline your mortgage application. If you find yourself in this situation consult with your agent on renegotiating your offer to be more in line with the bank’s appraised value.
- Purchasing too close to Foreclosure. If you are making an offer on a house which is facing foreclosure be sure to have a closing date set before the foreclosure date. Have your agent work with the lender to structure closing before the house goes back to the bank and into foreclosure.
- IRS liens. You’ve heard the old saying “Death and Taxes”. Back taxes and liens can derail your attempts to get financing for a mortgage so be sure to have your books in order before filing your loan application.
- Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE). CLUE is a data base of insurance claims for both people and property. Your home insurance rates are determined by the information about you and the property you plan to purchase which is contained in this report. Past claims for water damage, falling trees and even dog bites from present and past owners can multiply your insurance rates. Consult your agent about the CLUE report for your future home as soon as possible once your home purchase offer is accepted.
When purchasing a home there will be challenges which you can plan for and the unexpected hurdles. By educating yourself as a consumer and choosing a well trained real estate agent you can avoid many of the pitfalls of 21st century home ownership.
What about you? Tell us if you have had any “deal breaker” experiences.
For many house hunters, a dream home isn’t complete without being a good fit for the family dog. Some might see the fenced in yard, and consider the box checked. However, if you are looking for your next home, you may want to look a little deeper to be sure the fit is right before signing on the dotted line.
It’s worth taking a little extra time to consider your pooch in a little more depth. Here is a quick checklist of considerations to be sure you find the right fit for your canine companion:
What’s in a Yard?
A fenced yard is, of course, ideal for many dog owners. It gives you the ability for off-leash play, a must for meeting the exercise needs of active breeds such as Border Collies or Labradors. But not all yards are the same. Here’s a quick checklist of what to look for:
- Check the fencing to be sure it is secure. Factor in any repair costs into the cost of the home since they will need to be addressed right away.
- Are there flower beds with potentially toxic plants that will need to be moved outside of the fenced area? Examples include many spring bulb favorites such as daffodils, tulips, and crocus, as well as some bushes such as azaleas.
- Is there a nice shady spot so your pooch can find shelter from the heat on a hot summer day?
- Is there access to water for an outdoor bath?
- Will delivery people be able to access your main entrance when the dog is outside without entering the fenced part of your yard? It is easy to overlook, but this can become a major annoyance if you do a lot of online shopping.
Indoor Space Considerations
It won’t always be a beautiful sunny day, even in your dream home. Make sure your new home will have enough space for a little indoor play on rainy days and during colder winter months. A long hallway can make a great runway for a game of fetch when getting outside just isn’t practical.
Likewise, consider the needs of aging or injured dogs. Does the layout of the home require going up and down stairs to get to the most used areas of the home? This can be a major problem for some special needs dogs, and a deal breaker for some pet owners.
Finally, most dog trainers recommend that every dog has a little space to call their own during times of stress. This may be as simple as a corner of the living room with a comfy dog bed or crate. If you have a puppy, however, a space that can be puppy-proofed and cordoned off (with appropriate flooring for potential accidents during potty training) is in order.
Go for a Walk
It may be impractical to include a dog walk for every home you look at while searching for your dream house. However, once you are down to a short list, it is time to actually take your dog on what is likely to be the daily walk route. Make sure this is a walk you would feel comfortable making every day, or even letting the kids take.
Be on the lookout for hazards: A dangerous intersection, a portion of the walk that requires walking in the road, or a neighbor who lets their dog run right up to the curb with invisible fencing (a recipe for territorial fights with leashed dogs passing by). A drive through is unlikely to reveal these walk spoiling annoyances. In addition, look for evidence of good lighting for evening or early morning walks.
Nearby Canine Amenities
If you are moving to a new part of town or relocating to a new state altogether, it is worth doing some research to find out where the pet services are located. Depending on the services you tend to use, it can make a big difference in your quality of life to be able to take advantage of nearby conveniences.
Think about what services you are likely to use most, and check on Google Maps to locate:
- Dog boutiques (particularly important if you buy specialty food)
- Grooming services
- Doggy daycare and boarding
- Pet sitting and dog walking services
- Dog-friendly restaurants (BringFido.comis a great research tool for this)
- Dog parks and dog-friendly paths for long walks
Although luxurious hardwood flooring adds a great deal of ambiance to a home, it will have the opposite effect if it gets scratched up from the nails of a rambunctious canine. Large and even medium sized dogs can easily create unsightly scars in hardwood floors that can only be fixed by a professional who will need to sand away the wood then stain and refinish it. It’s a costly fix!
Modern carpets can generally hold up to doggy traffic. However, think about where you will be coming in and out of the house with your pooch to be sure you have a place to wipe muddy paws first on rainy days. A mudroom or garage entrance can easily stow a few extra towels for the job.
Tile and high-quality laminate flooring are the most durable as both will resist scratching and are easy to clean.
Consider Pet-Friendly Condos and Planned Communities
If you have a truly pampered pooch, one way to go the extra mile is to ask your realtor about dog-friendly communities in your area. Many condominium complexes, for example, have pet services right on site. Pet grooming, pet-sitting, dog walking services, and even a fenced in dog park and/or pool is available in some areas.
Work with a Knowledgeable Realtor
Make sure to let your agent know upfront that you have a canine member of your family to consider during the house hunt. If there are certain “musts” such as a fenced yard, or proximity to veterinary services, be sure to put that on the table upfront to help your realtor find a home that works for you and your furry friend.
Sharon is the lead author at wileypup.com. She received her M.S. in Science & Technology Studies from Virginia Tech and has worked as a professional dog trainer for over 10 years.
Great news for buyers! There are more homes to choose from. It seems there is relief from the days of drastically low inventory levels.
Compared to a year ago, residential inventory levels are up:
• 9% in Northern Colorado (Larimer & Weld Counties)
• 45% in Metro Denver (wow!)
You can get many more fun facts like these plus get our predictions on the 2019 market by joining our annual Market Forecast. Just click the link below!
Do you want to find your perfect home for a fair price and make your move in a reasonable amount of time? With inventory lower than it was four months ago and buyers coming out of the woodwork to take advantage of the tax credit before it ends, you may want to think about what you can do to prepare so you’re ready to take action when the time is right for you.
We asked a few of our Windermere agents what top five pieces of advice they would give to a buyer in today’s market.
Top five by Bruce McKinnon Windermere Mukilteo
- Get pre-approved with a “known” lender.
- Learn the market. Pay attention to price per square foot, be realistic on pricing and observe short sales and foreclosures.
- Understand “showing” protocol such as scheduling viewing appointments and a respect for privacy.
- Identify your location preference. Initially focus your search there for efficient time utilization. Think about your ideal community, neighborhood and school district.
- Mini buying process overview. For example, to minimize surprises, get a five minute explanation of offer, inspection, appraisal, closing, etc. by a professional or two.
Top five by Erin Mitchell Windermere Bellevue Commons
- Work with a great agent that specializes in the area that you want to live. Meet with them prior to looking at homes to make sure you ‘fit’ each other’s personalities, they really listen to your wants and needs and that they ask you questions about what is important to you.
- Ask your agent for a good referral to a great loan officer. Call them now and get pre-approved.
- Make a top 10 list of the most important things you want in a home. If you find one that has at least eight of them, strongly consider the home.
- When you find a home that fits, your agent will run a market analysis to determine appropriate value. Value is not always price related.
- Write a good offer that includes a fair price, good terms and is realistic. If you want the house, buy it. If there is more than one offer, use an escalation clause in the offer.
Get pre-approved with a “known” Lender
Learn the market (e.g., price / sq ft, be realistic on pricing; short sale and foreclosure observations)
Understand “showing” protocol (e.g., appointments, respect for privacy)
Identify location preference (e.g., to initially focus search for efficient time utilization — community, neighborhood and school district – where possible)
Mini Buying process overview (e.g., 5 minutes – to minimize surprises — offer, inspection, appraisal, closing)
Here are two recently-announced pieces of really good news for home buyers.
• The Colorado Housing and Finance Authority recently raised the income limit for their down payment assistance program to $115,600.
Now more people can get help with a down payment.
• Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac raised their conforming loan limits so that more people can use a conforming loan and not be forced to use a ‘jumbo’ loan.
Contact us if you would like to hear how these pieces of news could help you.
Owning a home provides a sense of security, but the process of building towards homeownership can be overwhelming. There are obstacles that can get in the way of even the most diligent prospective buyer. For Zaharra Karungi, there were dozens of opportunities to see her dream of buying a home for herself and her daughter waylaid. But with hard work, a thoughtful lender, a baseball game, and a determined Windermere agent, Karungi is now a proud homeowner in Antioch, California.
Windermere agent James Quintero didn’t suspect he’d walk away with a new client when he attended “Windermere Real Estate Agent Appreciation Day” at an Oakland Athletics baseball game earlier this year. But that’s exactly what happened when he ran into mortgage lender Bret Henly who told him about someone special he was working with by the name of Zaharra Karungi.
Karungi’s pathway to homeownership was a winding one. Arriving from Uganda at the age of 25 with the goal of studying to become a nurse, Karungi began her time in the United States with next to nothing. A generous friend allowed her to stay in their walk-in closet for eight months, but Karungi brought with her little more than a few changes of clothes and basic necessities. While studying for her nursing degree, Karungi babysat and worked odd jobs to afford her continuing education, finally emerging as a certified vocational nurse in 2013. Now a single mother with a precocious 10-month-old daughter named Victoria, Karungi was in search of the next step of security in pursuing her American Dream: owning a home.
Finding herself frustrated with the agent she’d been working with, and outbid on multiple homes, Karungi was connected with Windermere agent James Quintero with the assistance of Henly. After attending an open house at an Antioch, CA, condo, Quintero helped Karungi make a well-constructed offer to the sellers. Despite two other offers, her bid was chosen. At Quintero’s behest, the sellers took extra care to ensure the home was unimpeachably safe for a 10-month-old like Victoria.
On August 9 of this year, Karungi received the keys to her new two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo – the same day that she officially gained her United States citizenship. Owning a home provides a sense of security and confidence, knowing that whatever happens, you have a refuge where you lay your head at night. For Zaharra Karungi it was a long time coming.