Ways to Save on Home Improvements this Fall

If you own a home, you know renovations and improvements will eventually be on the horizon. Whether it’s remodeling your home with newer appliances or prioritizing bigger fixes ahead of the colder months, all those repairs will add up – especially if you’re hiring a professional. Some home improvements are necessary for function and some help build equity down the line. No matter what’s on your to-do list, you can look to these tips for managing a home project on a budget.

Focus on building home equity

Don’t just think about saving money in the short term, consider projects that will increase your home’s value and help you avoid unexpected expenses later on. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2022 Cost vs.Value Report, home improvement projects like garage door replacements, stone veneers, window and siding replacements, and minor kitchen remodels will get you the fastest return on your investment. In New Jersey, there may also be tax benefits and incentives which certain home improvements could qualify for. Of course, there are upgrades you can make throughout your home to save money on utility bills as well.

Don’t put repairs off

We’ve all done it. Putting off an annoying repair is too easy to do – until the issue becomes a major (and expensive) problem. Even more importantly, ignoring repairs can eventually become a safety hazard. Home repairs that involve water, electricity, pests, peeling paint, cracks, and HVAC could end up costing a lot more than if you just took care of the problem initially.

Prioritize routine maintenance

Doing routine maintenance on your home is another way to save on big expenses in the long run. Preventative measures ahead of the cooler months is necessary for the safety and longevity of your home. Ahead of winter, we recommend removing leaves from your gutters, getting your chimney cleaned, installing monitoring devices on your water pipes, and clearing your dryer vents. This helps prevent damages and even house fires.

Look for home improvement loans

There are many strategies when it comes to funding your home project, like building a savings account over time. Sometimes though, there’s an emergency or unexpected expense that you might not have the savings for. That’s when a home improvement loan becomes a good option. At First Financial, we offer home improvement loans with great rates and a fixed monthly payment.*

Regardless of what your goals are or what projects you need to accomplish, the team at First Financial is here to help with financial advice, savings account options, and loan decisions. Contact us to get started, or stop into your local branch to speak with a representative today.

Want to see more articles like this? Subscribe to First Financial’s monthly newsletter for financial resources and advice.

*Available on primary residence only. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Home Improvement Loan and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth of Ocean Counties. See credit union for details. Rate will vary based off of applicant’s credit rating. Not all applicants who apply will be approved, subject to underwriting guidelines and credit approval. Lien position and appraisal valuation may affect the maximum loan amount. Not all applicants will qualify for maximum Loan to Value (LTV) ratio. It will be based off of creditworthiness, property type, occupancy, lien position, and loan amount. Rates will be affected by LTV or combined LTV if there is another lien on the property. Loan amounts over $7,500.00 will be required to give First Financial FCU a security interest in their property. Rates will vary based off of lien position and whether the loan is mortgage secured or unsecured. For mortgage secured Home Improvement loans First Financial FCU (FFFCU) will waive closing costs at inception of loan. If loan is terminated within the first 2 years of opening, closing cost waiver is revoked and are required to be paid back by member to FFFCU.

When is it Time to Downsize Your Home?

Maybe the spacious home with the white picket fence you’ve always wanted doesn’t have the same charm it used to. Between increased maintenance over the years, unused rooms, and high monthly expenses – your home may be causing more headaches than it’s worth. If any of this is resonating with you, it could be time to downsize your home.

Choosing to sell and move to a smaller home is a big and likely emotional, decision. You might have lived in the home for decades or raised your family there – that’s why it’s important to know when the time is right and what resources are available to help. Keep reading to see when you should truly consider downsizing.

Your monthly housing expenses are high

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recommends spending no more than 30% of your monthly income on housing. If you’re paying more than that, you could be qualified as “financially burdened.” This means if you’re planning on retiring anytime soon, or will have a significant drop in income, it will be even harder to keep up on bills and monthly expenses. Downsizing will allow you to have a reduced mortgage or rent, cheaper utilities, and fewer maintenance needs. If you’re able to downsize 5 to 10 years before retirement, you can use the extra cash to save for travel or other activities.

Home maintenance is overwhelming

The older your home gets, the more maintenance it will need. Minor repairs, painting, caring for the lawn, and snow removal all take time and are physically demanding. Instead of throwing more money into maintenance costs by hiring a professional, consider moving into a rent-controlled space that has maintenance included. This will take the burden off of having to keep up with home repairs so you can focus on relaxing and enjoying retirement.

Your home doesn’t fit your needs

As we get older, our mobility changes – causing us to have different needs and requirements for our day-to-day lives. Whether it’s steep stairs, bathtubs without grab bars, or large yards that are impossible to keep up with – an inaccessible home is reason enough to consider downsizing. This is especially the case if you’d also have to invest in upgrades to accommodate your needs.

Financial considerations for selling your home

Before making a financial decision, you should also consider how much downsizing would cost. While you’ll be saving money in the long run, you’ll also need to account for any costs that come with selling your current home. Not only will you need to plan for initial updates if you want a higher value on your home, but you will also have to account for real estate agent fees and closing costs.

Downsizing takes time, planning, and research. Outside of finances, there will be other factors to evaluate and our financial experts are here to help! Contact us to get started, stop into your local branch, or schedule a video chat or phone call with our loan department.

Want to see more articles like this? Subscribe to First Financial’s monthly newsletter for financial resources and advice.

 

Financial Considerations When Selling a Home

Are you considering selling your home? It’s certainly not a decision to be made lightly, especially after making such a large investment. Whether you’re downscaling, upsizing, moving to a new area, or are looking to make a profit – there are always financial considerations to be made when it comes to selling a home.

Here are some important financial factors that may determine when and if you’re ready to sell.

Your home’s worth

Before putting your house on the market, you’ll want to have an understanding of the value of your property. This can change over time, which is why the first step is to see how much your house is worth in the current housing market.

You can do this by researching real estate websites to find out how much similar homes in your area have sold for. A formal appraisal is another approach that can provide you with a more accurate number based on home sales in your community. Of course, a real estate agent can also assist in determining a listing price for your home.

How much it will cost

Finding out the value of your home is just the beginning of the selling process. Prepping your home to be sold is where things can get pricey. You’ll likely need to do a deep clean, paint, or even repair anything you’ve been waiting to fix. If you want a higher value on your home, you should plan for any home renovations ahead of time.

Outside of prepping costs, there are other fees associated with selling a home that you might not have thought of. A typical real estate agent, for example – will typically charge a commission fee of up to 6%. You should also expect to pay a closing cost of 1-3% of your house price, which includes the home inspection, appraisal, and insurance costs. Be sure to list these expected extra costs on a spreadsheet for reference as you begin the process.

The housing market

As a seller, you’ll want to evaluate the housing market to get a better idea of when is the right time to sell. Factors like interest rates on home loans can be a key indicator. Time of the year can also make an impact on if you’re able to sell and for how much. Depending on where you live, the market typically peaks in April through July with slower periods in the winter months due to the cold weather and holidays. Overall, timing definitely plays a role in how much you’re able to sell your house for.

Selling takes time, planning, and research. If done right, you’ll be able to successfully sell your home and even make a profit. Outside of finances, there will be other factors to evaluate and our financial experts are here to help. Contact us to get started, or stop into your local branch on one of our upcoming branch mortgage days to speak with a representative on-the-spot!

How to Finance Your Home Improvement Project

Whether you’re preparing to sell or are just due for an upgrade, renovating your home can help increase its value over time and keep it up to date. Financing a home improvement project, however, takes a lot of planning and consideration. Thinking ahead will save you headaches in the future, so make sure to consider these options before you start your next renovation endeavor.

Save, save, save

The safest option for financing your home improvement project is to save as much money as you can. First, determine a ballpark range of how much the project could cost total, and then make a plan to start saving. While it will take time to build up savings, you won’t have to worry about paying back a large sum of money later. So, if you’re not in a rush to get started – building your savings may be the best option.

If you want to open a savings account for your renovation project, we’re here to help!* Contact us or stop by your local branch to speak with a representative.

Consider your loan options

There are a variety of loan options out there to assist in financing your remodeling project. Here are a few to consider, all of which are available here at First Financial!

  • Home improvement loans: This type of loan is an unsecured personal loan that doesn’t need to use your home as collateral to qualify. Lenders will use your credit score to determine your interest rate and qualifications.**
  • Home equity loans: Similar to a home improvement loan, home equity loans are paid out in a lump sum that you can repay overtime in regular fixed monthly payments.***
  • Home equity line of credit (HELOC): A HELOC is a secure loan backed by your home allowing you to qualify for lower interest rates. Our HELOCs have a maximum borrow amount of $75,000 and an LTV of up to 70%, and allow you to advance from your approved credit line as you need it. ++

Use a credit card

For smaller home improvements, credit cards with a lower interest rate may be a good option, especially if you can find a card with added perks. At First Financial, we offer 4 credit card options that each have benefits like a 10-day grace period and no annual fees.+ Our Visa Platinum and Signature Cash Plus cards, for example – offer UChoose Rewards on all purchases that are redeemable for travel, merchandise, gift cards, and cash back.

If you’re still unsure what would be the best route for financing your home improvement project, you can rest assured knowing our financial experts are happy to give you advice based on your situation. Contact us to get started, or stop in to your local branch to speak with a representative today!

 

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership before opening any other account/loan. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the program. Click here to view full Rewards First program details. Some restrictions apply, contact the Credit Union for more information.

 **Available on primary residence only. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Home Improvement Loan and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth of Ocean Counties. See credit union for details. Rate will vary based off of applicant’s credit rating. Not all applicants who apply will be approved, subject to underwriting guidelines and credit approval. Lien position and appraisal valuation may affect the maximum loan amount. Not all applicants will qualify for maximum Loan to Value (LTV) ratio. It will be based off of creditworthiness, property type, occupancy, lien position, and loan amount. Rates will be affected by LTV or combined LTV if there is another lien on the property. Loan amounts over $7,500.00 will be required to give First Financial FCU a security interest in their property. Rates will vary based off of lien position and whether the loan is mortgage secured or unsecured. For mortgage secured Home Improvement loans First Financial FCU (FFFCU) will waive closing costs at inception of loan. If loan is terminated within the first 2 years of opening, closing cost waiver is revoked and are required to be paid back by member to FFFCU.

 ***First Financial FCU (FFFCU) will waive closing costs at inception of loan. If loan is terminated within the first 2 years of opening, closing cost waiver is revoked and the borrower(s) will be required to pay back closing costs in full to FFFCU. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Home Equity Loan, and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. See FFFCU for details or visit firstffcu.com for all current rates. Rates for financing up to 80% of Appraised Value less other Mortgages.

 +APR varies from 11.15% to 18% for the Visa Simply First Platinum Card and from 13.15% to 18% for the Visa Signature Cash Plus, Visa Platinum Cash Plus and Visa First Step Cards when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. These APRs are for purchases and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fees. Other fees that apply: Balance Transfer and Cash Advance Fees of 3% or $10, whichever is greater; Late Payment Fee of $29, $10 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of $29. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Visa Credit Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

++ LTV= Loan to Value Ratio. Rates will vary with the market based on Prime Rate and may change quarterly. Subject to credit approval. Available on primary or secondary homes only. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a home equity line of credit, and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. Subject to underwriting guidelines. See credit union for details. 

Looking to Buy Your First Home? Here’s Where to Start

Buying a home is one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make. However, don’t let that scare you. While purchasing a home is a big deal that will ultimately help shape your future, it’s also an excellent investment. The value of most homes increases over time and may come along with helpful tax benefits too. As a potential new homeowner, there’s a lot to learn about the home buying process and we’re here to help! Here are some useful tips for first-time home buyers.

Figure out what you can afford

Before you start house hunting, you’ll need to know what your budget is. Our loan officers can help you determine a price range through a pre-qualification process, which involves using financial information to get an estimate of the maximum mortgage you should be able to obtain. As a rule of thumb, we recommend your monthly house payment be about 30% of your total monthly gross income. Our mortgage calculator can also help you determine your monthly payments as you plan out your budget.

Make a wish list for your dream home

Now, this is the fun part! Before creating a home wish list, ask yourself, “Where do I see myself in the next 5 to 10 years or longer?” Having a vision for you and your family will help put the details of your dream home into perspective. With this in mind, you’ll need to figure out the must-haves of your ideal home, including backyard requirements, size of the home, and neighborhood. All of these factors will have an impact on the overall cost of your home and whether or not it fits your budget.

Find the right mortgage

Many lenders offer a variety of home financing options to choose from. The type of mortgage you end up using will affect what you’ll need to qualify for the loan, and how you’ll pay it back. That’s why it’s important to understand your options before making a decision.

Here are the main types of mortgages that are out there:

  • Conventional: This mortgage is a typical home loan contract between the lender and the borrower, at the lender’s risk. The borrower’s property is security, which means the lender can take your home for non-payment of the mortgage. Conventional mortgages are the most common type of mortgage loan (averaging about three quarters of U.S. mortgages).
  • FHA (Federal Housing Administration): The FHA will insure the loan for the lender against loss, in case the buyer cannot make payments. This mortgage requires the buyer to carry mortgage insurance through the FHA.
  • VA (Veterans Administration): These home loans are backed by the federal government and offered by private lenders to qualified members of the armed forces, active military personnel, veterans, or their widows.
  • Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM): The interest on an ARM may vary up or down based on the market. ARMs often offer a lower beginning interest rate. However, this rate will go up over time.
  • Fixed Rate Mortgage: The interest rate on this agreement stays the same for as long as you hold your mortgage, no matter how interest rates change in the financial markets.

When it comes to understanding your financing options, we recommend consulting with one of our mortgage experts to learn more about the mortgage process.

Work with a realtor

The home buying process is already stressful enough, so why not take some of the work off your plate? A realtor can help you save time by pre-selecting homes within your price range and requirements. Not to mention – they’ll be fully immersed in market trends, tax information, and area considerations like school districts. As you get closer to purchasing a home, they will be your go-to for handling negotiations and arranging for a home inspection and appraisal. Once you’re ready to make an offer on a home, they can help with that too.

There are many important steps to the home buying process, even after your offer has been approved. Rest assured knowing a First Financial mortgage expert is here to help you along the way, should you be looking to purchase a home in Monmouth or Ocean Counties, NJ.*

Are you ready to get started? Apply for a mortgage loan today, call our Loan Department at 732.312.1500 Option 4, or visit a First Financial branch. Also be sure to check out our home buyer’s guide to help you through the research and application process.

Happy home buying!

*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.

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.