Renting vs. Owning – What’s the Right Move?

There are many reasons why people may choose to rent rather than own a home. Some renters simply like the idea of living in a temporary place as they are still unsure if they want to settle down there permanently, while others want to avoid the many expenses of home ownership.

However, the major downside to renting is that you’re giving money to your landlord every month – money that you’ll unfortunately never get back and it won’t help you build equity.

In contrast, paying for a mortgage each month may be costly, but will slowly reduce your home loan balance over time. You’ll also get to own the house, which is an incredibly valuable asset nowadays.

If you’re deciding if you should continue renting or if now would be the best time to start owning a home, then you’ve come to the right place. With the way rent continues to increase each year, you might find the latter option is better for you.

Rent Prices Continue to Increase

According to a report by Realtor.com, the official website of the National Association of Realtors – the median rent amount in the 50 biggest metro areas was $1,575 per month. The data suggests that rent amounts rose by 8.1% from the previous year, translating to an extra $118 to pay each month.

Realtor.com also revealed that rent amounts for all unit sizes are currently at an all-time high. Renting a studio apartment increased by 4%, while 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom apartments saw an 8% and 10.2% rise in rent, respectively.

Is Renting Still a Good Idea?

If you aren’t yet sure if you want to settle down, then continuing to rent might be a good idea until you can map out your future a bit more. Many people are still not sure whether they want to move out or stay due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, so if you’re not yet ready to make such a permanent move – that’s quite understandable.

However, for those who are interested in acquiring a place they can own – waiting for the lease to expire and looking for a house to buy could be the ideal move. This way, you can start investing your money toward a valuable asset that will have your name in the title.

To help you decide if now would be a good time to buy a home, you should consider the following questions:

  • Do I have the money to make a down payment?
  • Is my credit score acceptable enough to apply for a mortgage loan?
  • Do I have any debt and, if so – how much more can I afford?

It’s important to ask yourself these questions before purchasing a property.

Conclusion

The cost of renting a place to live continues to increase every year, which makes it more and more impractical to continue doing so. If you believe that now is the right time to own a home, then you might consider applying for a mortgage. When you buy a home, you’ll often be able to save money in the long run that would have otherwise been used on rent (which doesn’t provide you with any equity or a long-term investment).

At First Financial, we can help you get pre-approved for a mortgage so you can know right away if owning a home is the right move for you.*

Contact us today with any questions or visit our website to learn more.

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history and are for qualified borrowers. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. Higher rates may apply depending on terms of loan and credit worthiness. Available on primary residence only. The Interest Rates, Annual Percentage Rate (APR), and fees are based on current market rates, are for informational purposes only. Mortgage insurance may be required depending on loan guidelines. This is not a credit decision or a commitment to lend. If mortgage insurance is required, the mortgage insurance premium could increase the APR and the monthly mortgage payment. See Credit Union for details. 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. 

Tips for Buying a Home in the Current Housing Market

If you are currently in the market for a home, you are probably well aware that the nationwide housing inventory is at a record low, and the shortage is causing a problem for many prospective buyers. The current market can even create problems for sellers, because sellers still need to live somewhere after they sell their home. Between bidding wars, cash purchases, and low available inventory – here are a few strategies to help you navigate the current housing market.

Know where you stand. Being aware of your credit score, borrowing power, and housing budget is the key to security in today’s market. Sit down with your lender, financial planner, or real estate agent to talk about realistically, what can you afford. It’s especially important to know exactly how high you can go in a bidding war, because homes are often selling above value and at record speed.

Get expert advice. A real estate agent familiar with the current housing market conditions can advise you when homes you’re looking at are priced too high, and provide tips and leads you normally wouldn’t be able to get on your own. Agents who are familiar with your target neighborhood may know of possible pocket listings too – homeowners who may want to sell without putting their house on the market. In these instances, you may be able to get a home before the competition ever finds out.

Be first in line. The competition is definitely heating up these days. If you want a home badly enough, you’ll have to be ready to put in an offer as soon as the home is listed. Even if the seller decides to let the public bid on their home, if you’re prepared – you’ll get a chance to tour the home as soon as it’s listed if your buyer’s agent is active in the local area, and be one of the first bids in.

Get pre-qualified by your lender before you shop. Having pre-qualification paperwork to present when you place your offer is impressive to a seller and will get you a step ahead of the process in normal market conditions. In today’s market, having proof that you can afford the home you are bidding on is the bare minimum. Right now being pre-approved for a certain amount is very important in terms of competing offers. You’ll also want to be sure you can provide proof of where the down payment is coming from too.

Show that you want it, but don’t get too caught up in a bidding war. It’s tempting to keep placing higher counter offers if you’re outbid on a house that you love, but don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Stick to your budget and it’s okay to bow out if bids increase drastically above value. You can also send a letter to the owner as well. This tactic frequently works. Sellers are often emotionally attached to their homes and memories they’ve made in it, so it may help your offer get selected by letting them know just how much the home would mean to you and your family.

In the end, you may just have to be patient and try not to get discouraged. You don’t want to get stuck with a mortgage you can’t afford either, and eventually – the housing market will normalize again. When that does happen, you’ll be happy you held out for a home you could comfortably afford.

When you’re ready to take that leap – come talk to First Financial. Take advantage of our great mortgage and refinance rates, easy application process, and we’ll help you get pre-qualified before you shop.* Give our lenders a call, they’ll be happy to answer your questions with no commitment required!

*Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history and are for qualified borrowers. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. Higher rates may apply depending on terms of loan and credit worthiness. Available on primary residence only. The Interest Rates, Annual Percentage Rate (APR), and fees are based on current market rates, are for informational purposes only. Mortgage insurance may be required depending on loan guidelines. This is not a credit decision or a commitment to lend. If mortgage insurance is required, the mortgage insurance premium could increase the APR and the monthly mortgage payment. See Credit Union for details. 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.

Article Source: Moneyning.com

Questions to Ask Before Deciding to Refinance Your Mortgage

With the mortgage market the way it has been lately, have you been thinking about refinancing? Before you make an appointment with your lender, take the time to ask yourself the following five questions. This will help you decide if refinancing is a good idea or if it might turn into a financial problem down the road.

Why do you want to refinance?

Many borrowers contemplate refinancing to extend their loan for another 30 years to reduce their monthly mortgage payment. Another group who might want to refinance are those who bought their homes under an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM). These mortgage loans have an initial period of a fixed interest rate and then a floating rate that changes based on market conditions, so it’s sometimes best to refinance before that initial rate is set to fluctuate in an effort to manage the monthly mortgage bill. By refinancing, an ARM borrower will be able to either change to a fixed rate mortgage or extend their initial fixed rate.

How will you know if this is the right choice for you? Ask yourself if the benefit of a lower interest rate mortgage and possible lower monthly payments will be worth the cost after closing fees are added in. Closing costs can sometimes be upwards of 2% of the total loan amount, so you’ll need to do some math and figure out how long it might take you to pay that back and if refinancing is worth it.

How long will you stay in the house?

If you might be moving within the next few years, it most likely won’t make sense financially to refinance. Here’s an example: You’d like to refinance your $250,000 mortgage and you’ll pay 2% in closing costs. That’s $5,000 you have to make up so that the refinance process worth the effort. If your monthly mortgage payment is only reduced by $200, it would take you two years to make up the closing costs alone – and that’s not even factoring in that the mortgage has been extended out another 30 years.

If you plan to stay in your current home for years to come, then refinancing would most likely make sense over the long run. If you don’t think you will be in your current home in the next couple years, it might be best to hold off on refinancing for now.

How much equity do you have in your home?

If you still owe more than 80% of your home’s value, refinancing probably won’t make financial sense for you. If you currently have home equity loans, you will also need to pay them down before you look into refinancing. Otherwise, your rate and payment will be affected and most likely won’t be as low as it could possibly be – which would defeat the purpose of refinancing.

On the other hand, it’s a smart idea to refinance if you put less than 20% down when you bought the home and you now qualify to take out a mortgage with 20% or more in home equity built up. This would happen as you pay down the mortgage over the years, or due to home appreciation. When you have 20% or more in home equity, you will also eliminate your private mortgage insurance (PMI) payment. Refinancing with enough home equity can eliminate this monthly fee altogether!

How is your credit score?

If your credit score decreased since your original mortgage, refinancing would not be a good idea. A dip in credit will affect the rate you will qualify for or you may not even qualify at all. If your credit score isn’t the greatest, wait to build it back up before applying to refinance your mortgage.

Are you trying to get out of debt?

For those facing large credit card debt or medical bills, refinancing with a cash-out option (where you borrow more than the amount of your mortgage and take the extra in cash), may seem like a great idea. Technically, you can use the lower interest rate funds from the refinance to pay off your higher rate interest bills, and pay off your debt.

However, this usually only works for those who are disciplined, have adequate income to continue to pay off the debt, and fell on hard times temporarily. Even if you don’t run up your credit cards ever again, you are potentially spreading this new obligation to 30 years by adding it onto your new mortgage. You might have a smaller monthly payment, but if it takes you the full 30 years to pay off the refinanced mortgage – you’ll owe 30 years of interest built in as well. This is definitely something to consider and you’ll want to really do your research before you consider the cash-out refinance option.

In the end, not everyone will benefit from refinancing their mortgage. If you are considering it, be sure to answer the five questions above to know if refinancing is the right financial step for you. Questions about refinancing? Contact the Loan Department at First Financial, and we’ll help you decide between your options with personalized service.*

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history and are for qualified borrowers. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. Higher rates may apply depending on terms of loan and credit worthiness. Available on primary residence only. The Interest Rates, Annual Percentage Rate (APR), and fees are based on current market rates, are for informational purposes only, are subject to change without notice and may be adjusted based on several factors including, but not limited to, property location, loan amount, loan type, occupancy, property type, loan to value, debt to income ratios, FICO credit scores, refinance with cash out and other variables. Mortgage insurance may be required depending on loan guidelines. This is not a credit decision or a commitment to lend. If mortgage insurance is required, the mortgage insurance premium could increase the APR and the monthly mortgage payment. See Credit Union for details. 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. 

Article Source: Moneyning.com

Should You Refinance Your Mortgage?

When is it a good idea to refinance your mortgage? Refinancing may not be the best solution for everyone, but for some – it could save a great deal of money in the long run.

Here are three reasons to consider refinancing and weigh out your options and costs:

You could lower your monthly mortgage payment. When you bought your home, you were given an interest rate that was determined by your credit score (as well as other factors, but your credit score played a big part). If your credit wasn’t great at the time, you probably didn’t get the best possible mortgage rate. If you’ve made improvements to your credit score and it’s been a little bit since you purchased your home, it’s possible that you could now get a lower rate which would also mean a lower monthly mortgage payment and more money in your bank account every month.

You’re looking to sell in the near future. With a cash out refinance option, your new mortgage would be more than what you owe on your home. This could be useful if you’re looking to increase your home’s value. Making additions or upgrades to your home may also be a good idea if you’re looking to sell in the next couple years. However, keep in mind that you’ll need to pay closing costs again – so be sure to calculate all your potential expenses to see if this option makes financial sense for you.

You could save more money over time. If you’re currently paying on a 30 year mortgage with a higher interest rate, it may be worth your time to try and get a lower rate on a 15 year mortgage, especially if you have no plans on moving in the next several years. Your monthly payment will be higher by refinancing to a 15 year mortgage, but depending on your new rate – you may end up saving yourself more money long term. This is another scenario that you will need to break out the calculator and determine if this is the best option.

Questions about refinancing and if this might be the best option for you? Contact the Loan Department at First Financial, and we’ll help you decide between your options with personalized service.

APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history and are for qualified borrowers. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. Higher rates may apply depending on terms of loan and credit worthiness. Available on primary residence only. The Interest Rates, Annual Percentage Rate (APR), and fees are based on current market rates, are for informational purposes only, are subject to change without notice and may be adjusted based on several factors including, but not limited to, property location, loan amount, loan type, occupancy, property type, loan to value, debt to income ratios, FICO credit scores, refinance with cash out and other variables. Mortgage insurance may be required depending on loan guidelines. This is not a credit decision or a commitment to lend. If mortgage insurance is required, the mortgage insurance premium could increase the APR and the monthly mortgage payment. See Credit Union for details. 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. 

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

Tips for First Time Home Buyers

Even if you’re not a first time home buyer, looking for and financing a home can be stressful. When you don’t know where to begin or what to do, it can be even more stressful – especially because it probably will be the biggest purchase of your life. Check out these tips for first time homebuyers to get the most out of your home buying experience and keep it as painless as possible.

Determine how much house you can afford and get preapproved.

When you’re ready to look for your first home, it’s important to know how much home you can afford. This will narrow down your home search and will give you a realistic view of the types of homes you can buy inside of your price range. You will also avoid the temptation to purchase a home where you’ll struggle to make the payments.

Save up for a down payment. 

With such a big purchase, having a down payment to invest in your home is important. A good rule of thumb for a down payment is to save 20% of your mortgage. For instance, if you have a $100,000 mortgage, your target down payment is $20,000.

If 20% of your mortgage doesn’t seem feasible, there are other options out there for first time homebuyers that will allow you to save and invest a smaller amount into your mortgage. If you’re wondering how much you need to save to achieve your desired payment, check out one of our mortgage calculators for reference.

Pay off as much debt as possible.

One of the factors that will determine your creditworthiness is your debt-to-income ratio. A debt-to-income ratio measures the total amount of debt you’re paying off each month compared to the amount of income you’re bringing in within the same period. If the amount of debt you’re paying off is considerably more than your income, this will negatively impact your credit score. In turn, this will hurt your chances of being preapproved for and financing a mortgage.

Try to avoid inquiries on your credit report.

When you’re looking to finance your first home, one item that first time homebuyers seem to overlook is avoiding new lines of credit. For instance, getting a new cell phone, adding on television service, or even setting up a utility account will all affect your credit score and your credit inquiries.

Before you buy a house, your focus should be on maintaining and improving your credit score while saving as much as possible for a down payment and avoid building new avenues of credit.

Buying your first home is no easy feat. When you finance your home with First Financial, we’re with you every step of the way and you’ll be well on your way to opening the door to your new home! Contact us today to learn more about the mortgage process, and check out our educational guidebook to happy homeownership.

APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history and are for qualified borrowers. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. Higher rates may apply depending on terms of loan and credit worthiness. Available on primary residence only. The Interest Rates, Annual Percentage Rate (APR), and fees are based on current market rates, are for informational purposes only, are subject to change without notice and may be adjusted based on several factors including, but not limited to, property location, loan amount, loan type, occupancy, property type, loan to value, debt to income ratios, FICO credit scores, refinance with cash out and other variables. Mortgage insurance may be required depending on loan guidelines. This is not a credit decision or a commitment to lend. If mortgage insurance is required, the mortgage insurance premium could increase the APR and the monthly mortgage payment. See Credit Union for details. 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. NMLS CU ID: 685814

 

10 Tips for Selling Your House Fast and at Top Dollar

When you’re trying to sell your house, you want to do it as quickly as possible. But did you realize you only have six seconds? Your house may be on the market longer than that, but that’s not what we’re talking about. Homebuyers generally make their purchase decisions based on first impressions, and real estate experts estimate those impressions are formed within the first six seconds—three from the curb and three from the entryway.

If you’re going to win over a prospective buyer, you’ll have to get their attention quickly to convince them that your house is their next home. Yes, location is key. And yes, price matters too. With a few strategic preparations, you can make your property as attractive and inviting as possible. By doing so, you’ll set it up to sell sooner rather than later.

10 Ways to Prepare Your Home to Sell ASAP

1. Think like a buyer.
It can be tempting to present your home in a way that highlights the aspects you like the most. The problem with this approach is that your favorites are just that—your Potential buyers won’t be looking at your house through the lens of nostalgia. Help them see your home as a blank slate where they can form their own identity.

2. Focus on curb appeal.
It’s incredible what a tidy lawn and freshly mulched flower beds can do for a house. Most buyers will drive by your property before deciding whether or not to take a closer look. A house that looks welcoming from the street stands a much better chance of selling quickly.

3. Freshen up your front door.
If curb appeal is a friendly invitation, a freshly painted front door is a cheery welcome. Every buyer who looks at your home will most likely enter through the front door, so giving it a new coat of paint can cover up any scuffs and dings that have shown up over time. This small step will help the house look livable—not lived in.

4. Make basic repairs.
If you’ve lived in your home for any amount of time, there are probably a few problems you’ve learned to live with. Chipped paint, missing fence boards, leaky kitchen faucets, flickering lightbulbs, etc. These are just a few of the minor inconveniences that you might overlook on a daily basis. They’re also the little details that could make your house less attractive to a buyer. Make the simple fixes – you’ll be glad you did.

5. Stay neutral.
If you personalized your house by using vibrant colors in each room, it might be a good idea to repaint. While you might love bold colors, there’s no guarantee the next owner will. Painting the walls in neutral colors will let potential buyers observe the overall house without getting hung up on whether or not they like the colors you chose.

6. Make it less “you.”
While we’re focused on the interior, make a special effort to remove decorations and knick-knacks that reflect your personal tastes and identity. No matter how friendly and familiar they may be, family photos will make buyers feel like their visiting someone else’s house. You want them to feel like they’re spending time in their own.

7. Clean and declutter.
You don’t have to channel your inner Marie Kondo, but clearing clutter will not only make the house look cleaner, it will make it feel bigger. And when it comes to cleanliness, there’s no such thing as too clean. When you think things are finally clean enough, go over them once more. Buyers will notice.

8. Use some common scents.
It goes without saying (or at least it should) that you should do your very best to eliminate offensive smells like pets, dirty laundry, or cooking odors. If you want to increase your chances of selling your house, go a step beyond deodorizing and introduce a pleasant scent. Candles, essential oils, and fresh baked cookies can do a wonderful job of creating a welcoming environment for house hunters.

9. Stage strategically.
If you can’t afford to hire a professional real estate stager, you can still arrange each room to highlight your home’s top features. While each room matters, pay particular attention to the family room, the master bedroom, and the kitchen. These are the three rooms where the new owners will spend most of their time, so staging them well is a small task that can make a big difference.

10. Hire a real estate agent.
If you want to sell your home as quickly as possible, enlisting the help of a professional is a smart way to accomplish your goal. Experienced realtors know the local market, and their expertise can help you sell your house faster and for more money. Selling a home on your own might sound like a good idea, but when you consider that a real estate agent can handle the marketing, negotiations, and legal details, their commission can be money that’s well spent.

Potential home buyers want to walk through a house that feels exciting and new. They also want it to feel like home. Following the tips listed above can help you give them exactly what they’re looking for. And the faster you make that happen, the sooner those buyers will give you what you want—a house with a SOLD sign in the yard.

Have you recently sold your home and now need a mortgage on a new home? If you live, work, worship, volunteer, or attend school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in NJ – we’re sure we’ve got a mortgage product that will meet your needs!* Learn more on our website, and if you’re ready to get preapproved or have questions about the mortgage process – give us a call at 732.312.1500, Option 4. We’re happy to help you finance your dream home!

 *APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history and are for qualified borrowers. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. Higher rates may apply depending on terms of loan and credit worthiness. Available on primary residence only. The Interest Rates, Annual Percentage Rate (APR), and fees are based on current market rates, are for informational purposes only, are subject to change without notice and may be adjusted based on several factors including, but not limited to, property location, loan amount, loan type, occupancy, property type, loan to value, debt to income ratios, FICO credit scores, refinance with cash out and other variables. Mortgage insurance may be required depending on loan guidelines. This is not a credit decision or a commitment to lend. If mortgage insurance is required, the mortgage insurance premium could increase the APR and the monthly mortgage payment. See Credit Union for details. 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. Federally insured by NCUA. ​NMLS CU ID: 685814