How to Cut Home Buying Costs

Pair of scissors cuts business expense word COSTS in half to savFor nearly all of us, buying a home represents one of the biggest financial transactions of our lifetime. There’s really nothing that compares to buying a home, since not only do we have to put up thousands of dollars of our own money but we also (usually) have to borrow much more than that.

There’s really no getting around the fact that buying a home is expensive. It takes a lot of financial discipline to save up a down payment and make the monthly payments. Along the way, there are bound to be problems that eat into your savings too. For example, everything from a new roof to a broken water heater is going to cost you. (Of course, renting can also have costly surprises such as escalating rent or being forced to move). While there’s not a whole lot you can do about some of the costs of buying a home, there are ways to reduce your out-of-pocket costs. 

Shop Around for Your Mortgage

One of the easiest ways to cut costs when buying a home is by finding a low interest loan. Get quotes from banks and credit unions so that you can compare their fees and rates. Make sure that you compare the Good Faith Estimate given to you by each financial institution. One thing to note is that you are permitted to get as many quotes as you want within a three-week period. Normally, each quote would be a separate credit check, but when you’re shopping for a mortgage, multiple quotes are considered only one inquiry on your credit reports. 

Check out First Financial Federal Credit Union’s mortgages, featuring great rates and low fees.

Rates as low as 3.375% (3.651% APR) – 15 Years.* A 15 year mortgage of $100,000 at 3.651% APR would have a monthly payment** amount of $708.76.

Rates as low as 4.375% (4.541% APR) – 30 Years.* A 30 year mortgage of $100,000 at 4.541% APR would have a monthly payment** amount of $499.29.

We also have a 10 year mortgage as well – great for refinancing! Learn more here, and apply online today.

First Financial also offers a Mortgage Rate Text Messaging Service so you can receive updates on our low Mortgage Rates straight to your mobile phone. To be a part of the program, text FIRSTRATE to 69302 and each time our Mortgage Rates change, we’ll send you a text message with the new rates.***

Negotiate With the Seller

If you’re looking to get a portion or even all of your closing costs covered, then negotiating with the seller is your best bet. Depending on the state of the real estate market in your area, you could ask for more or less. If the real estate market is struggling or the property in question has been on the market for an extended period of time you may be able to get the seller to cover your closing costs.

Article Source: http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/12/16/how-to-cut-home-buying-costs/

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Subject to credit approval.  Credit worthiness determines your APR. Available on primary residence only. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.  See Credit Union for details.

**Payment examples do not include taxes or insurance. Financing up to 80% of value of property.

***Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.

DIY Home Upgrades That Will Entice Buyers

homeimprovementLooking to improve your home with an eye on future resale value? Start with a few affordable DIY-friendly home improvement projects that will pay off and make buyers take notice:

Replace flooring. Flooring is often a cosmetic feature that can make or break a sale. Flooring, like worn-out carpet or stained tiles, can be a turn-off to buyers that see the update as a major project and barrier to a “move-in-ready” home. The promise of a future project is enough to chase away many of today’s “move-in ready” buyers. But what’s underfoot is also relatively easy to remedy. Hardwood flooring is a safe, classic and durable choice. For DIYers looking to save on costs, try easy-to-install engineered wood flooring.

Improve landscaping. When it comes to curb appeal, your landscaping can pack a powerful punch, for better or worse. While many people focus their improvement dollars indoors, don’t overlook that first impression that strikes a buyer before they even get out of the car. And you don’t need a green thumb to reap rewards. Simply maintaining a crisply mowed lawn, removing dead plants and branches and adding colorful annual flowers or shrubbery can add 7 to 15 percent to your home’s value, according to the National Association of Realtors

Upgrade lighting. You may have tolerated your dated dining room chandelier, but buyers won’t be so forgiving. Switching out light fixtures for more updated styles is a low-cost, low-commitment home upgrade. Under-cabinet lighting is another quick-fix and many home improvement stores now offer easy to install plug-in lights that deliver the look of a high-end custom kitchen, and don’t require electrical work. If you do update lighting that requires wiring, make sure you work with a licensed professional to ensure they’re safely installed.

Give your kitchen cabinetry a facelift. Buyers will always pay special attention to the kitchen (i.e. the heart of the home, and tend to be critical of outdated cabinetry). While installing new cabinets can cost tens of thousands of dollars, it’s easy to rehab existing cabinets that are in otherwise good condition. Refinish the doors, drawers and cabinet fronts with a fresh coat of paint, stain or a veneer, and install new pulls that match the finish of other kitchen fixtures. To create the feel of a modern, functional kitchen, consider retrofitting your current cabinets with pull-out drawers, organizers, and retractable trash cans.

We want to hear from you! What other DIY home improvement upgrades have you seen add to your home’s resale value? Feel free to post a comment below.

For more information and how Liberty Mutual Insurance may be able to help you save on your auto and home insurance, feel free to contact our Liberty Mutual representative, Dan Ressegiue or visit our webpage:

AgentDanielRessegiue

Daniel Ressegiue

303 West Main Street | Suite 100
Freehold, NJ 07728
732-308-3868 Ext. 50950
Daniel.Ressegiue@LibertyMutual.com
www.LibertyMutual.com/DanRessegiue

Daniel graduated from The Pennsylvania State University majoring in Psychology and business and is currently finishing an MBA at Monmouth University. During his tenure at Liberty Mutual, he has been awarded many awards including National Rookie of the year special recognition, 5 Time “Pacesetter,” Pursuit of Excellence and is a Liberty Lamplighters Club inductee. During his spare time, he enjoys staying active playing soccer, racquetball and partaking in long distance running competitions.  He is also a member of Jersey Shore Runners Club, Penn State Alumni Association, as well as SCORE, a nonprofit entity dedicated to the mentoring of small business owners. First Financial Federal Credit Union Client #38361

*Click here to view the article source provided by Liberty Mutual Insurance.

8 Outside-the-Box Ways to Find a Home

1-waiting-to-buyFinding the perfect home for your needs, wants and budget can be a challenge even when mortgage rates are low and there are plenty of properties for sale. But when fewer homes are on the market, buyers and their real estate agents must find creative ways to maneuver around the competition.

According to the National Association of Realtors, while inventory levels recently rose, the supply of non-distressed homes remains well below normal.

If low inventory makes your search a challenge, you need to be willing to think outside the box.  Here are just a few ways to do so!

#1: Set up an alert system.

“We always set up our buyers with daily automatic emails and text alerts with new listings based on their criteria from the past 24 hours,” says Russ Murray, broker/owner of Buyer’s Resource Real Estate.

“When the market is highly competitive, we’re proactively searching for new listings multiple times a day, and in the process of transitioning to a system that can give us and our clients immediate alerts when a property is listed.”

Make sure your real estate agency has a similar system in place in your area.  If not, you’ll want to specifically search for an agent who can accomplish this for you.

#2: Contact those who bought during the downturn.

Many realtors will search their database for past clients who bought when the market was down in 2008 and 2009, and will call and update them on current market conditions and ask if they’re interested in selling now that prices have increased.

#3: Target rentals.

You or your real estate agent may also contact landlords of rental properties to see if they would be interested in selling. You may never know if you don’t ask!

#4: Write a letter.

Frank Llosa, broker/owner of FranklyRealty.com, says he writes letters to homeowners in specific areas where his buyers want to live.

“About two percent of the homeowners we contact via letter – end up deciding to sell,” he says. Llosa suggests asking neighbors who are walking their dogs about potential sellers too.

“Dog walkers know everything,” he says. “They may have seen a photographer at the house or a landscaper getting a place ready to go on the market.”

#5: “Make Me Move” listings.

Buyers can search by zip code on Zillow.com for “Make Me Move” listings where homeowners who are testing the market put up an above-market price to see if buyers are interested. Llosa recommends contacting those owners to see if their price is firm or they’re willing to negotiate.

#6: Sign up on PreMLS.com.

There may be a social media group in your area for members who share information about listings before they go on the open market.  Look for these types of groups and join them, or have your agent look into a group like this as an additional option to assist you.

Llosa has seen that “some agents let buyers see a home before it goes on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and others tend to just alert people so they can see it on the first day.”

#7: FSBOs (For Sale By Owner).

A variety of websites including Zillow.com, ForSalebyOwner.com, iGoFSBO.com and Craigslist, allow you to search by zip code to find for-sale-by-owner homes. ForSalebyOwner.com has an app for smart phone users to search for homes in addition to their website too.

#8: Forget single-family homes.

Look into switching your selection from a single-family home to a townhouse, or look for a home that needs some work.  This may be easier to obtain, and you might even like it better in the long run!  Keep your options open.

If you have any questions about the home buying process, feel free to ask us!  We know it can be an intimidating process at times, and we’re here for you.  To apply for a 10, 15, or 30 year First Financial Mortgage – click here.* 

  • A 10 year mortgage of $100,000 at 3.617% APR* would have a monthly payment amount** of $988.39.
  • A 15 year mortgage of $100,000 at 3.903% APR* would have a monthly payment amount** of $721.04.
  • A 30 year mortgage of $100,000 at 4.667% APR* would have a monthly payment amount** of $506.69.

You might also want to subscribe to our Mortgage rate text message service, by texting “firstrate” to 69302.  When our Mortgage rates change, you’ll be the first to know***

Click here to view the article source by Michelle Lerner of FOX Business.

* A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.  Subject to credit approval. See Credit Union for details. 

**Payment examples do not include taxes or insurance. Financing up to 80% value of property.

***Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.

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5 Costly Home Buying Myths

Moving HouseIf you’re considering buying or selling a home, you may have asked co-workers, friends and family for advice. But you might want to check with the professionals, because the rules of the real estate game are different today than they were 20 or even 10 years ago. Due to this monumental shift, there are lots of misconceptions about buying a home that could cost you big when it comes time to go house hunting. Here are five of the most common real estate myths.

1. You Have to Use a Real Estate Agent. If you’re thinking about buying or selling a house without a real estate agent to save on commission, it’s important to understand the full impact of that decision. Buying and selling is a lot of work and there’s a reason real estate agents still exist and are involved in almost all transactions. For most of us, the sale of a house represents one of the biggest financial transactions we’ll ever make.

It’s nice to have someone there guiding you along the way. But while having an agent can be a good thing, doing it on your own is not as unimaginable as it once was. Sites like Redfin and Zillow have virtually eliminated the need for the multiple listing service and many homebuyers are finding properties for themselves before contacting a real estate agent. If you’re the do-it-yourself type, you might just be able to buy or sell a home on your own in today’s market.

2. Buying Always Beats Renting. One reason people give for not wanting to rent is: “I don’t want to pay someone else’s mortgage.” However, there are hidden costs that go into owning a home. The nice thing about renting is that you can always leave for a nicer place for a year or two. Or maybe you lose your job and need to downgrade for a few months before you get on your feet again. Once you buy a house, there’s a lot less flexibility. Just the fees involved in buying and selling a house will make a major dent into your savings if you sell too soon after buying.

3. This House Is Special. Once you’ve finally found that perfect house, the inclination is to think you won’t find another that you like nearly as much. There will always be another property. If something doesn’t feel right or the price is too high, don’t be afraid to wait for the next one. As long as you have realistic goals, no house will ever be truly one of a kind.

4. Your Credit Must Be Perfect. With the recent housing bubble, came a wave of lending restrictions and loan tightening. Most people assume that they have to have stellar credit to get a loan these days, but that’s not always the case. Lenders are often willing to work with buyers who have less-than-perfect credit. If you’re concerned about your credit, you may want to work on your credit score before you buy; people with higher credit scores are offered the lowest interest rates on mortgages.

Get your credit score in check with First Score, First Financial’s low cost, interactive session with a financial expert.  This program will help you get your credit score in check by using various “what if” scenarios.  If you need some help getting that credit score where it should be, give us a call today!

5. A 20% Down Payment is a Must. Twenty percent used to be the magic number when it came to down payments, but it’s certainly not the only option. It’s possible to get a mortgage now with little or no money down. If you have a stable income but are unwilling or unable to fund a large down payment, you may still be able to buy a home.

Apply for a 10, 15, or 30 year First Financial Mortgage today!*

A 10 year mortgage of $100,000 at 3.126% APR* would have a monthly payment amount** of $965.61.

A 15 year mortgage of $100,000 at 3.651% APR* would have a monthly payment amount** of $708.76.

A 30 year mortgage of $100,000 at 4.541% APR* would have a monthly payment amount** of $499.29.

You can also subscribe to our Mortgage rate text message service by texting “firstrate” to 69302, and receive instant notification when our mortgage rates change.***

* A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.  Subject to credit approval. See Credit Union for details.

**Payment examples do not include taxes or insurance. Financing up to 80% value of property.

***Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.

Article Source: http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/12/19/5-costly-homebuying-myths/ 

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What to Do If Your Credit Score Is Too Low For a Mortgage

first-time-home-buyer-1If you’re preparing to buy a home, you probably know that your credit score is important. Maybe you’ve already been turned down for a mortgage because of a low credit score. Or maybe you’ve recently pulled your credit report, only to realize that your credit is worse than you expected.

Don’t give up on buying a home yet! There are plenty of places to turn if your credit is too low to get a conventional mortgage. But first, you should figure out what lenders expect of your credit score, since you might be surprised to find that you may be able to buy a home with your current credit score.

What do lenders expect?

Lending requirements vary from one lender to the next, but they’ve generally become more strict since the subprime mortgage lending crisis in 2008. As a rule of thumb, though, you’ll need a FICO score of about 650 to get a conventional mortgage – and that’s on the low end.

Remember, the lower your credit score, the higher your mortgage rate is likely to be. This can have a dramatic effect on how much you pay for your home over time. So if you’re sitting on the mid-to-low end of the credit spectrum, you may want to look into some of these options, even if you qualify for a conventional mortgage.

Put More Money Down

Mortgage lenders look at a host of factors when deciding whether or not to lend you money. One of those factors is your credit score. But another factor is your down payment.

With some lenders, you may be able to offset a weak credit score with a higher down payment. With a bigger down payment, you’ll have more equity in your home, which means the lender takes less of a risk when lending to you.

If you’ve got a substantial amount of money in savings, but still have a fairly low credit score, consider applying for a mortgage with a community credit union, like First Financial. Often, these smaller entities operate under more flexible lending guidelines, so you can talk to a loan officer about your situation and maybe get a favorable result.

To speak with First Financial’s lending department, call us at 866.750.0100 option 2, and to learn more about our mortgages – click here.

Work With a Homeownership Counselor

There are some local and national nonprofits that offer homeownership counseling.

Nonprofits like these offer counseling to future homebuyers who need help raising their credit scores or navigating the homebuying process. It may take some time, but with the help of a credit and housing counselor, you can learn which steps to take to raise your credit score and apply for a home loan.

First Financial offers a free Home Buying and Mortgage seminar every year; stay tuned for the 2014 seminar calendar to mark the date! To register for our upcoming free seminars, click on the purple “Attend” icon on the bottom our website. All of our staff is here to help you, if you ever have any questions please don’t hesitate to stop into any one of our branches and see us!

Get Your Credit Score Up

You could also simply take the time to bootstrap yourself into a better credit score. Raising your score isn’t complicated, but it does take time, discipline and hard work. These steps can help get your credit score up so that you can qualify for a mortgage.

  1. Correct any errors on your report, especially late payments or collections accounts that aren’t recorded properly.
  2. Make all your payments on time. Late payments are the # 1 way to ding your credit score.
  3. Pay down revolving debt like credit cards. A high debt-to-credit ratio is another surefire way to lower your score.
  4. Wait it out. As long as you’re paying down debt and making payments on time, your credit score will eventually rise on its own.

Don’t forget to utilize all of our free online financial calculators located here and to improve your credit score, and try our low-cost, credit counseling service, First Score! For just $30 you receive a one-on-one interactive session with a First Financial expert, which simulates your credit score with various “what if” scenarios.

Once you get your credit score, First Score will tell you what you need to do to reach all of your financial goals. First Score will also tell you what actions will help you increase and decrease your credit score.

Ready to try First Score? You can email us at firstscore@firstffcu.com or call 866.750.0100, Option 2.

*Click here to view the article source by Abby Hayes of US News. 

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4 Things All Home Buyers Should Keep in Mind

Excited couple about their houseNo matter how you slice it, buying real estate is a complicated process that takes time and hard work to get right.

Whether you’re looking for your dream home or an investment property to help build your retirement nest egg, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Mortgage rates are still low.

Mortgage rates have bumped up a little lately, but they are still low by historical standards. Many people have stopped chasing their dream home or investment property because of the recent rate increases, but they’re making a huge mistake. Rates will likely head even higher over the next few years, and you’re going to kick yourself for failing to secure a fixed rate loan before those even higher rates kick in.

It sounds cliche, but real estate is buyer beware.

Your real estate agent can guide you to make a smart purchase, but it’s your job to make every decision and do all the analysis that goes along with purchasing property. You’ve got to make sure it is a smart financial move to buy the property. You’ve got to review the title documents, mortgage loan documents and disclosures, homeowners’ association documents, home inspection reports, seller disclosures, etc. Each document contains important information that you need to understand to avoid problem properties. It’s a real challenge, but you must do the hard work needed to reduce your risk.

You should never buy a property that you don’t love.

If you don’t love it, don’t buy it. Real estate is likely the most expensive and complicated purchase you will ever make. So don’t buy a property if it isn’t a great fit for what you want. Don’t buy if your attitude is “we just want to get something even though this isn’t a perfect property for us.” Note: No property is perfect — especially not at the price you’d like to pay — so be realistic when determining which property you “love.”

Shop properties for at least 4 to 12 months.

Take your time. Look at dozens of properties. Drive the areas you like during the day, night and on weekends. Talk to neighbors. You’re probably risking your entire net worth when purchasing property, so make sure you are adequately educated on what you are buying — and that takes time!

Apply for a 10, 15, or 30 year First Financial Mortgage today!*

A 10 year mortgage of $100,000 at 3.126% APR* would have a monthly payment amount** of $965.61.

A 15 year mortgage of $100,000 at 3.651% APR* would have a monthly payment amount** of $708.76.

A 30 year mortgage of $100,000 at 4.541% APR* would have a monthly payment amount** of $499.29.

You can also subscribe to our Mortgage rate text message service by texting “firstrate” to 69302, and receive instant notification when our mortgage rates change.***

* A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.  Subject to credit approval. See Credit Union for details.

**Payment examples do not include taxes or insurance. Financing up to 70% value of property.

***Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.

Article Source: http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/09/12/4-things-all-buyers-should-keep-in-mind/

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