Our Real Estate Blog
With rent prices shooting soaring across the country, many young Americans who were previously happy renting while they saved for a home are now turning to other options.
One common solution is a starter home. If you want to keep your monthly mortgage prices low while being able to build equity and slowly save for your “forever home.” a starter home can be a great option for first-time buyers.
When does it make sense to buy a starter home?
Buying a home means mortgage payments, home maintenance and repairs, and closing costs. However, they can also be a great introduction to the responsibilities of homeownership.
Better yet, starter homes allow you to build equity that can be used toward the down payment of your next home, something that first-time buyers often struggle with. This could help you secure a lower interest rate and avoid costly private mortgage insurance (PMI).
Sounds great, right? But when shouldn’t you buy a starter home?
It might not make sense to buy a starter home if you don’t plan on living in it at least 3-4 years. You might find that the cost of renting is less than that of your mortgage payments and closing costs if you don’t live in the home long enough to reap the rewards.
It also might not be a good idea if your family is going to outgrow a small home in the next few years for the same reasons mentioned above. That makes it all the more important to discuss your long term plans with your spouse before considering a home.
Things to look for in a starter home
1. Resale value
One of the most important aspects of your starter home should be the ability to resell it in the future. Now, there is an endless number of factors that go into the marketability of a home. Key factors include the condition of the home and keeping it well-maintained, as well as the location of the home. Buying a starter home in an area that will attract young professionals down the road is typically a good investment.
2. Small size = low price
It probably goes without saying, but finding a home with a low price, at the expense of square-footage, is most often a smart choice when it comes to starter homes.
Small homes are cheaper to buy, cheaper to heat, and cheaper to maintain. However, since housing prices are trending upward, you’ll likely still see a positive return on your investment in ~5 years time when you’re hoping to buy again.
3. Reasonable home improvements
If you can spare the time, buying a starter home that needs some work can be an excellent investment. It can be more difficult later on when you have a large family to care for and less time to focus on making improvements.
An open house enables a buyer to check out a residence in-person and determine if this home matches or exceeds his or her expectations. However, a buyer who fails to plan ahead for an open house may struggle to make the most of this opportunity.
Ultimately, there are several things you need to consider before you attend an open house, such as:
1. Your Home Must-Haves
Make a list of must-have home features – you will be glad you did. With this list in hand, you can check out a house in-person and determine if it has the features you require.
You also may want to put together a list of preferred cities and towns prior to launching a house search. This list will allow you to hone your home search – and your search for open house events – to a small group of cities and towns.
2. Your Homebuying Budget
As a homebuyer, it is crucial to optimize your time and resources as you search for your dream residence. If you enter the housing market with a budget at your disposal, you can avoid the risk of attending an open house for a residence you may be unable to afford.
To establish a homebuying budget, you should review your current finances. You may want to meet with banks and credit unions as well. And if you get pre-approved for a mortgage, you will know exactly how much you can spend on a residence when you start your house search.
3. Your Homebuying Timeline
There is no guarantee that attending one open house will help you find your dream residence. But if you maintain flexibility, you can attend a variety of open house events and boost the likelihood of discovering a residence that falls in line with your expectations.
Furthermore, you should be ready to act quickly if you attend an open house and want to buy a residence following the event. In this scenario, you should be prepared to work diligently to put together a competitive offer to purchase the home.
As you get set to attend an open house, you may want to employ a real estate agent, too. A real estate agent can keep you up to date about open house events in cities and towns where you want to reside. Plus, a real estate agent can attend an open house with you and provide plenty of homebuying tips and insights.
Let's not forget about the support a real estate agent provides once you find a house you want to purchase, either. At this point, a real estate agent will help you put together a competitive homebuying proposal. And if your offer to purchase is accepted, a real estate agent will help you finalize your house purchase.
Consider the aforementioned factors closely before you attend an open house. By doing so, you can prepare for an open house and use the opportunity to determine if a residence is right for you.
Applying for a mortgage may seem like a long, stressful process at first. Fortunately, we're here to help you take the guesswork out of submitting a mortgage application.
Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you streamline the mortgage application process.
1. Ask Questions
A bank or credit union likely will ask you to provide a wide range of information as part of the mortgage application cycle. And as you complete a mortgage application, you may have questions along the way too.
Remember, a lender is happy to help you in any way possible. If you ever have concerns or questions as you complete a mortgage application, you should reach out to a lender for expert support. That way, you can reduce the risk of potential problems down the line that otherwise could slow down the mortgage application process.
Even a single mistake on a mortgage application may prevent you from getting a mortgage. Perhaps even worse, a delayed mortgage application may force you to miss out on an opportunity to acquire your dream house. But if you reach out to a lender as you complete your mortgage application, you can gain the insights you need to quickly and effortlessly finalize the necessary documentation to obtain a mortgage.
2. Be Thorough
A mortgage application may require you to look back at your financial and employment histories and provide information that a lender will use to determine whether to approve or deny your submission. Meanwhile, you should be ready to provide a lender with any requested information to ensure a seamless application process.
As a homebuyer, it is your responsibility to include accurate information on your mortgage application. In fact, failure to do so may cause a lender to reject your mortgage application. If you allocate the necessary time and resources to dot every I and cross every T on your mortgage application, you can boost the likelihood of a fast approval.
3. Shop Around
For homebuyers, it is crucial to check out all of the mortgage options that are available. If you meet with a variety of banks and credit unions, you can review myriad mortgage options and select a mortgage that complements your finances.
Banks and credit unions generally provide a broad array of fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages. If you learn about all of the mortgage options at your disposal, you can find one that enables you to purchase your dream house without breaking your budget.
Of course, once you are approved for a mortgage and are ready to launch your house search, you may want to hire a real estate agent as well. A real estate agent will offer plenty of guidance at each stage of the homebuying journey. In addition, a real estate agent can make it easy for you to find a top-notch residence at a budget-friendly price in any housing market, at any time.
Start the mortgage application process today, and you can move one step closer to acquiring your dream residence.
Typically made in shallow depressions in the landscape, rain gardens are a great way to beautify your yard and give back to the environment. Since they contain native grasses and perennial flowers, these gardens do not have to cost much — and they are easy to build on your own. To get started, simply use this guide to explore the benefits, then follow the steps to create the rain garden of your dreams.
Rain Garden Benefits
As you survey your yard, you can likely see a few depressions that puddle up when it rains. These areas are the perfect place to build rain gardens. As you add native flowers and grasses to those depressions, their roots quickly drain and filter the runoff, pulling pollutants out before they reach the groundwater.
The plants are nourished by the rainwater, growing heartily and providing food to bees, butterflies, and other important pollinators. These pollinators can also find shelter in the rain garden, keeping them flitting across your property all through the growing season. You might even find frogs and other wildlife making their homes in these small gardens.
As all these creatures find homes in your yard, the rain garden can also protect your home from flooding during heavy rains. The plants promote up to 40 percent more drainage over typical lawn spaces, which helps keep water flowing down into the ground instead of toward your house.
How to Build a Rain Garden
When building a rain garden, you need to know your USDA plant hardiness zone and the types of native plants that thrive in your area. You can then select your favorite varieties and plan how to arrange them in your prepared space to best complement your landscape design. Here’s how to get started.
You should select about a dozen different plants in large enough quantities to fully fill out the garden space. Choose plants that are both native to your area and will happily grow together.
With your plants selected, you will need to grab some tools to prepare the space, such as:
- Spray marking chalk
Also, consider gathering up décor items, such as glass baubles and painted rocks, to personalize your garden.
Once you have all your plants and tools on hand, you can start building your rain garden by following these steps.
- Observe your yard to find the lowest points and select one for your rain garden
- Spray the marking chalk around the perimeter of the planned garden space
- Use the shovel and rake to remove the grass in the area, creating a bowl shape
- Amend your soil as needed to make it habitable for the selected plants
- Artfully arrange the plants around the garden to create a beautiful design
- Plant the grasses and flowers in the garden and generously water them
- Add your other decorative elements to personalize the space
Once you finish these seven steps, all that is left to do is watch in wonder as your garden grows and wildlife flock to their new home.