Lehigh Valley Real Estate and Community News

April 11, 2024

Don’t Let Your Student Loans Delay Your Homeownership Plans

Don’t Let Your Student Loans Delay Your Homeownership Plans




If you have student loans and want to buy a home, you might have questions about how your debt affects your plans. Do you have to wait until you’ve paid off those loans before you can buy your first home? Or is it possible you could still qualify for a home loan even with that debt? Here’s a look at the latest information so you have the answers you need.

Bankrate article explains:

Roughly 60 percent of U.S. adults who have held student loan debt have put off making important financial decisions due to that debt . . . For Gen Z and millennial borrowers alone, that number rises to 70 percent.”

This includes one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll ever make, buying a home. But you should know, even with student loans, waiting to buy a home may not be necessary. While everyone’s situation is unique, your goal may be more within your reach than you realize. Here’s why. 

Can You Qualify for a Home Loan if You Have Student Loans?

According to an annual report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 38% of first-time buyers had student loan debt and the typical amount was $30,000.

That means other people in a similar situation were able to qualify for and buy a home even though they also had student loans. And you may be able to do the same, especially if you have a steady source of income. As an article from Bankrate says:

“. . . you can have student loans and a mortgage at the same time. . . . If you have student loans and want a mortgage, there are multiple home loan programs you might qualify for . . .”

The key takeaway is, for many people, homeownership is achievable even with student loans. 

You don’t have to figure this out on your own. The best way to make a decision about your goals and next steps is to talk to the professionals. A trusted lender can walk you through your options based on your situation, and share what’s worked for other buyers.

Bottom Line

Lots of other people with student loan debt are able to buy their own homes. Talk to a lender to go over your options and see how close you are to reaching your goal.

Posted in Buying a Home
March 27, 2024

Single Women Are Embracing Homeownership

Single Women Are Embracing Homeownership




In today's housing market, more and more single women are becoming homeowners. According to data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 19% of all homebuyers are single women, while only 10% are single men.

If you're a single woman trying to buy your first home, this should be encouraging. It means other people are making their dreams a reality – so you can too.

Why Homeownership Matters to So Many Women

For many single women, buying a home isn't just about having a place to live—it's also a smart way to invest for the future. Homes usually increase in value over time, so they’re a great way to build equity and overall net worth. Ksenia Potapov, Economist at First Americansays:

“. . . single women are increasingly pursuing homeownership and reaping its wealth creation benefits.”

The financial security and independence homeownership provides can be life-changing. And when you factor in the personal motivations behind buying a home, that impact becomes even clearer.

The same report from NAR shares the top reasons single women are buying a home right now, and the reality is, they’re not all financial (see chart below):

a blue and white diagram with white text

 

If any of these reasons resonate with you, maybe it’s time for you to buy too.

Work with a Trusted Real Estate Agent

If you’re a single woman looking to buy a home, it is possible, even in today’s housing market. You’ll just want to be sure you have a great real estate agent by your side.

Talk about what your goals are and why homeownership is so important to you. That way your agent can keep what’s critical for you up front as they guide you through the buying process. They’ll help you find the right home for your needs and advocate for you during negotiations. Together, you can make your dream of homeownership a reality.

Bottom Line

Homeownership is life-changing no matter who you are. Let's connect today to talk about your goals in the housing market.

Posted in Buying a Home
March 10, 2024

The Spring Market Is a Sweet Spot if You’re Looking To Sell [INFOGRAPHIC]

The Spring Market Is a Sweet Spot if You’re Looking To Sell [INFOGRAPHIC]




a screenshot of a phone

Some Highlights

  • Wondering if now’s a good time to sell your house? Based on how many homes are on the market, there are two big reasons why this spring is looking so good for sellers.
  • Thanks to an uptick in inventory over last year, you’ve got more options for your next home. But there are still fewer homes for sale than there’d normally be, meaning your house should stand out and get a lot of attention from buyers.
  • If you want to sell your house, this spring is the sweet spot. When you’re ready, let’s chat to get the ball rolling.
March 10, 2024

The Benefits of Downsizing When You Retire

The Benefits of Downsizing When You Retire




If you’re taking a look at your expenses as you retire, saving money where you can has a lot of appeal. One long-standing, popular way to do that is by downsizing to a smaller home.

When you think about cutting down on your spending, odds are you think of frequent purchases, like groceries and other goods. But when you downsize your house, you often end up downsizing the bills that come with it, like your mortgage payment, energy costs, and maintenance requirements. Realtor.com shares:

“A smaller home typically means lower bills and less upkeep. Then there’s the potential windfall that comes from selling your larger home and buying something smaller.”

That windfall is thanks to your home equity. If you’ve been in your house for a while, odds are you’ve built up a considerable amount of equity. And that equity is something you can use to help you buy a home that better fits your needs today. Daniel Hunt, CFA at Morgan Stanleyexplains:

Home equity can be a significant source of wealth for retirees, often representing a large portion of their net worth. . . . Retirement planning can be complex, but your home equity shouldn't be overlooked.”

And when you’re ready to use that equity to fuel your next move, your real estate agent will be your guide through every step of the process. That includes setting the right price for your current house when you sell, finding the home that best fits your evolving needs, and understanding what you can afford at today’s mortgage rate.

What This Means for You

If you’re thinking about downsizing, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do the original reasons I bought my current house still stand, or have my needs changed since then?
  • Do I really need and want the space I have right now, or could somewhere smaller be a better fit?
  • What are my housing expenses right now, and how much do I want to try to save by downsizing?

Then, meet with a real estate agent to get an answer to this one: What are my options in the market right now? A local real estate agent can walk you through how much equity you have in your house and how it positions you to win when you downsize.

Bottom Line

Want to save money in retirement? Consider downsizing – it could really help you out. When you’re ready, let’s connect about your goals in the housing market this year.

Feb. 21, 2024

Strategic Tips for Buying Your First Home

Strategic Tips for Buying Your First Home




Buying your first home is a big, exciting step and a major milestone that has the power to improve your life. As a first-time homebuyer, it's a dream you can make come true, but there are some hurdles you'll need to overcome in today’s housing market – specifically the limited supply of homes for sale and ongoing affordability challenges.

So, if you're ready, willing, and able to buy your first home, here are three tips to help you turn your dream into a reality.

Save Money with First-Time Homebuyer Programs                                       

Paying the initial costs of homeownership, like your down payment and closing costs, can feel a bit daunting. But there are many assistance programs for first-time homebuyers that can help you get a loan with little or no money upfront. According to Bankrate:

“. . . you might qualify for a first-time homebuyer loan or assistance. First-time buyer loans typically have more flexible requirements, such as a lower down payment and credit score. Many help buyers with closing costs and the down payment through grants and low-interest loans.

To find out more, talk to your state's housing authority or check out websites like Down Payment Resource.

Expand Your Options by Looking at Condos and Townhomes

Right now, there aren’t enough homes for sale for everyone who wants to buy one. That’s pushing home prices up and making affordability tight for buyers. One way to deal with that issue and find a home right now is to consider condos and townhomes. Realtor.com explains:

For many newbies, it might just be a matter of making a shift toward something they can better afford—like a condo or townhome. These lower-cost homes have historically been a stepping stone for buyers looking for a less expensive alternative to a single-family home.”

One reason why they may be more affordable is because they’re often smaller. But they still give you the chance to get your foot in the door and achieve your goal of owning a home and building equity. And that equity can help fuel your move into a larger home later on if you decide you need something bigger in the future. Hannah Jones, Senior Economic Analyst at Realtor.comsays:

Condos can help prospective homebuyers who perhaps have a smaller budget, but who are really determined to get a foothold in the market and start to accumulate some equity. It can be a really great entry point.”

Consider Pooling Your Resources To Buy a Multi-Generational Home

Another way to break into the market is by purchasing a home with friends or loved ones. That way you can split the cost of things like the mortgage and bills, to make it easier to afford a home. According to Money.com:

“Buying a home with another person has some obvious advantages in the mortgage department. With two incomes in the mix, buyers can likely qualify for a larger mortgage — a big help in today’s high-cost market.

Bottom Line

By exploring first-time homebuyer assistance, condos, townhomes, and multi-generational living, it can be easier to find and buy your first home. When you’re ready, let’s connect.

Posted in Buying a Home
Feb. 9, 2024

Why Pre-Approval Is Even More Important This Year

Why Pre-Approval Is Even More Important This Year




On the road to becoming a homeowner? If so, you may have heard the term pre-approval get tossed around. Let’s break down what it is and why it’s important if you’re looking to buy a home in 2024.

What Pre-Approval Is

As part of the homebuying process, your lender will look at your finances to figure out what they’re willing to loan you. According to Investopedia, this includes things like your W-2, tax returns, credit score, bank statements, and more.

From there, they’ll give you a pre-approval letter to help you understand how much money you can borrow. Freddie Mac explains it like this:

A pre-approval is an indication from your lender that they are willing to lend you a certain amount of money to buy your future home. . . . Keep in mind that the loan amount in the pre-approval letter is the lender’s maximum offer. Ultimately, you should only borrow an amount you are comfortable repaying.”

Now, that last piece is especially important. While home affordability is getting better, it’s still tight. So, getting a good idea of what you can borrow can help you really wrap your head around the financial side of things. It doesn’t mean you should borrow the full amount. It just tells you what you can borrow from that lender.

This sets you up to make an informed decision about your numbers. That way you’re able to tailor your home search to what you’re actually comfortable with budget-wise and can act fast when you find a home you love.

Why Pre-Approval Is So Important in 2024

If you want to buy a home this year, there’s another reason you’re going to want to be sure you’re working with a trusted lender to make this a priority.

While more homes are being listed for sale, the overall number of available homes is still below the norm. At the same time, the recent downward trend in mortgage rates compared to last year is bringing more buyers back into the market. That imbalance of more demand than supply creates a bit of a tug-of-war for you.

It means you’ll likely find you have more competition from other buyers as more and more people who were sitting on the sidelines when mortgage rates were higher decide to jump back in. But pre-approval can help with that too.

Pre-approval shows sellers you mean business because you’ve already undergone a credit and financial check. As Greg McBride, Chief Financial Analyst at Bankrate, says:

“Preapproval carries more weight because it means lenders have actually done more than a cursory review of your credit and your finances, but have instead reviewed your pay stubs, tax returns and bank statements. A preapproval means you’ve cleared the hurdles necessary to be approved for a mortgage up to a certain dollar amount.”

Sellers love that because that makes it more likely the sale will move forward without unexpected delays or issues. And if you may be competing with another buyer to land your dream home, why wouldn’t you do this to help stack the deck in your favor?

Bottom Line

If you’re looking to buy a home in 2024, know that getting pre-approved is going to be a key piece of the puzzle. With lower mortgage rates bringing more buyers back into the market, this can help you make a strong offer that stands out from the crowd.

Posted in Buying a Home
Feb. 9, 2024

Winning Plays for Buying a Home in Today’s Market

Winning Plays for Buying a Home in Today’s Market [INFOGRAPHIC]




Some Highlights

 

Posted in Buying a Home
Oct. 31, 2023

Upgrading to an Energy-Efficient Home: Everything You Should Know

ENERGY EFFICIENT HOME

 

In today’s world, as homeowners become increasingly conscious of their carbon footprint and the rising energy costs, the move towards energy-efficient homes is more prevalent than ever. An energy-efficient home not only reduces your energy bills but also minimizes environmental impact, creating a win-win for both your wallet and the planet. If you’re considering making the switch, here’s everything you need to know.

What is an Energy-Efficient Home?

An energy-efficient home is designed to reduce unnecessary energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and decrease its demand for non-renewable resources. This means the house will be more comfortable, have lower energy bills, and contribute to a sustainable future.

 

Benefits of an Energy-Efficient Home

  • Cost Savings: One of the most immediate benefits homeowners notice after upgrading is the decrease in utility bills. With improved insulation, efficient appliances, and smarter systems, you use less energy, resulting in significant savings over time.
  • Environmental Impact: Energy-efficient homes contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a leading factor in global climate change. By using less energy sourced from fossil fuels, we can significantly decrease our carbon footprint.
  • Increased Home Value: Studies have shown that homes with energy-efficient features and certifications often have a higher resale value and are more attractive to potential buyers.
  • Enhanced Comfort: With better insulation and efficient heating and cooling systems, your home can maintain a more consistent temperature throughout the year, enhancing overall comfort.

Steps to Upgrade to an Energy-Efficient Home

  • Home Energy Audit: Start with a professional energy audit. An auditor will assess your home and identify areas where energy is wasted and suggest improvements.
  • Seal and Insulate: Ensure your home is well-insulated to prevent heat loss in winters and keep the home cool during summers. Seal gaps around doors, windows, and other openings.
  • Upgrade Appliances: Switch to ENERGY STAR rated appliances, which use up to 50% less energy than their non-efficient counterparts.
  • Install Efficient Heating and Cooling Systems: Old HVAC systems can be energy hogs. Consider upgrading to a modern, energy-efficient system or explore alternatives like geothermal heating.
  • Switch to LED Lighting: LED bulbs consume significantly less energy than incandescent bulbs and have a much longer lifespan.
  • Install Solar Panels: Solar panels can reduce or even eliminate your electricity bills. With the cost of solar installation decreasing, it’s becoming an increasingly viable option for homeowners.
  • Water Efficiency: Install low-flow showerheads, faucets, and toilets. Consider a tankless water heater or a solar water heating system.
  • Smart Home Technology: Incorporate smart thermostats, lights, and power strips that can adapt and operate based on your usage patterns, further reducing energy consumption.

Challenges and Considerations

  • Upfront Costs: While there’s potential for significant savings in the long run, the initial investment required for some energy-efficient upgrades can be substantial. It’s essential to consider the ROI and how long it might take to recoup the initial outlay.
  • Research and Quality: Not all energy-efficient products are created equal. It’s vital to do thorough research and ensure that you’re investing in quality products that offer genuine energy savings.
  • Local Regulations: Some areas might have regulations or restrictions on certain types of energy upgrades, especially for historical homes or specific neighborhoods. Always check with local authorities before embarking on significant alterations.

In conclusion, upgrading to an energy-efficient home is a commendable decision that offers a multitude of benefits. Not only will you save on energy bills and enjoy a more comfortable living space, but you’ll also be playing a part in preserving the environment for future generations. As with any significant home improvement, it’s essential to do your research, plan carefully, and consult with professionals to ensure your upgrades are successful and beneficial in the long run.

Posted in Buying a Home
Oct. 16, 2023

What Is a 3-2-1 Mortgage Buydown and how does it work?

What Is a 3-2-1 Mortgage Buydown and how does it work?

 

As a real estate agent, one of my primary roles is to ensure my clients are well-informed about the various mortgage options available to them. While many people are familiar with traditional fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages, there’s another type of mortgage that’s worth considering if you’re looking to buy a home: the 3-2-1 mortgage buydown.

 

A 3-2-1 mortgage buydown is a financial strategy used by homebuyers to lower their monthly mortgage payments during the first three years of their loan. This is especially appealing to those who expect their income to rise in the coming years and are looking for temporary relief from high monthly payments.

How Does a 3-2-1 Mortgage Buydown Work?

The numbers “3-2-1” in a 3-2-1 buydown refer to the amount of interest reduction a buyer receives over a three-year period. Here’s a breakdown:

 

  • Year 1: The interest rate on the mortgage is reduced by 3 percentage points lower than the agreed-upon rate.
  • Year 2: The interest rate is 2 percentage points lower than the standard rate.
  • Year 3: The interest rate is 1 percentage point lower than the standard rate.

From the fourth year onwards, the interest rate reverts to the original agreed-upon rate, and the homeowner continues to pay this rate for the remainder of the loan.

For example, if you’ve secured a loan with an interest rate of 6%, with a 3-2-1 buydown, your interest rate for the first year would be 3% (6% – 3%). In the second year, it would be 4% (6% – 2%), and in the third year, it would be 5% (6% – 1%). Starting from the fourth year, the interest rate would return to 6%.

Benefits of a 3-2-1 Mortgage Buydown

 

  • Lower Initial Payments: One of the main attractions of a 3-2-1 buydown is the ability to enjoy significantly lower mortgage payments during the initial years of homeownership. This can be especially beneficial for buyers who are stretching their budgets to purchase a home and expect their financial situation to improve in the near future.
  • Flexibility: This type of buydown can serve as a cushion for homeowners who foresee a rise in their income or those who might be anticipating significant expenses in the initial years, such as home improvements or starting a family.

Considerations Before Opting for a 3-2-1 Buydown

  • Upfront Cost: To get the reduced rates, the buyer or the builder/seller usually has to pay an upfront fee to the lender. This means that while you’ll save money on your monthly payments in the early years, there’s a cost involved to get those savings.
  • Temporary Savings: It’s essential to remember that the savings from a buydown are temporary. After the first three years, the mortgage payment will increase to reflect the original interest rate.

In conclusion, a 3-2-1 mortgage buydown can be an excellent tool for homebuyers looking for temporary relief from high monthly payments. It’s essential, however, to weigh the benefits against the costs and to consider your long-term financial situation. As always, it’s wise to consult with a mortgage professional or financial advisor to determine if a 3-2-1 buydown is right for you.

Posted in Buying a Home
Aug. 22, 2023

The Road to a Successful Open House

The Road to a Successful Open House: Your Home Prep Guide

 

open house 

 

As a real estate agent, I’ve hosted countless open houses and witnessed firsthand how preparation can drastically affect the success of your home-selling endeavor. Today, I aim to share my expertise with you, drawing back the curtain to reveal the often under-appreciated art of staging a successful open house.

 

Presentation is Key

The phrase, “first impressions last,” holds particularly true in real estate. When potential buyers step into your home, they are envisioning a lifestyle, their future in your home. Therefore, effective staging can turn a standard open house into a memorable experience.

 

Declutter

Start with decluttering. Remove personal items like family photos or collectibles. This allows potential buyers to imagine their own lives in the house rather than feeling like they’re intruding into yours.

 

Minor Repairs and Upgrades

While a fresh coat of paint can freshen up spaces, don’t neglect those minor repairs that you may have overlooked over the years. Address small things that might distract or deter potential buyers.

 

Highlight the Best Features

Every house has its charm. Whether it’s a cozy reading nook, a fireplace, or a stunning view, make sure these features are highlighted. Rearrange furniture or add lighting to make these areas more prominent.

 

Boost the Curb Appeal

The exterior of your home is the first thing potential buyers see. Maintain your lawn, trim shrubs, plant flowers, or simply add a welcoming doormat.

 

Create a Pleasant Ambience

Ensure that all rooms are bright and well-lit, and use natural light where possible. Pleasant, subtle fragrances can also add to the overall positive experience. Consider baking cookies just before the open house or using an essential oil diffuser.

 

Marketing Strategy

Promote your open house widely, using social media, local advertisements, and your realtor’s network. Include high-quality photos and highlight the unique features of your home.

Preparing your home for an open house is not just about the physical appearance. It’s about creating an environment where potential buyers can see themselves, their futures unfolding in the spaces you’ve nurtured. By investing time and effort in the preparation stage, you significantly increase the chances of a successful open house and, ultimately, a satisfactory sale.

Remember, every home has a story to tell. Your task is to set the stage so that story can unfold seamlessly in the minds of your potential buyers.

By following these simple steps, you’re not just preparing for an open house—you’re welcoming potential buyers into their future home.

Posted in Selling Your Home