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

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

Can Buying Your First Home Actually Hurt Your Credit?

For generations, owning a home has been considered an integral part of the American Dream. Life without a home of your own, two kids, golden retriever, and a white picket fence just didn’t make sense. Okay, that last part may be a bit of an overstatement, but the fact remains – family members and financial experts have long recommended home ownership as a sensible path to financial stability.

When done correctly, buying a house can be one of the smartest investments you’ll ever make. It will undoubtedly be one of the biggest. As a first-time home buyer, your finances will face the scrutiny of mortgage underwriters, so it’s essential to have all your economic ducks in a row before you even begin applying for a mortgage. And while a smooth financing process is reason enough to be smart with your money, financial stability can also help when your credit takes a hit for five or six months following your big purchase. Wait. What?! Yep. That’s right. Your credit score can, and probably will – drop a bit for a few months after you become a homeowner.

Great for you. Not so great for your credit. Why does buying a house – which, by all accounts, is a wise financial decision – have a negative impact on your credit? The answer isn’t as crazy as you might think. When you apply for real estate financing, mortgage companies pull your credit report to determine whether it makes sense for them to lend you money. In credit industry terms, this is known as a “hard inquiry.” Since these inquiries signal you could be incurring additional debt, they often result in a small, temporary dip in your credit score.

Fortunately, it’s relatively simple to limit the negative impact of hard inquiries. If you’re going to apply for financing with multiple mortgage lenders, do your best to conduct all of your searches within a 30-day window. Because they understand that many people shop for the best rate even though they’ll only secure a single loan, major credit bureaus structure their rating systems to account for multiple inquiries within the same one-month reporting period. While there may still be a dip in your score, grouping your credit pulls will help you minimize the damage. And don’t worry, once you start making payments on time and establishing a positive mortgage history, your credit score should bounce back to where it was before.

Experience a little short-term pain for a long-term gain. From the opportunity to build equity to the satisfying sense of home ownership, there are a variety of excellent reasons to leave the renting life behind. A temporary dip in your credit score shouldn’t scare you away. If you entered the homebuying process with your finances in order and you resist the temptation to rack up additional debt as you furnish your new home, your credit rating should be just fine in the long run. And let’s be honest, you’ll probably be so busy remembering the new route to work and rearranging your living room furniture, that six months will pass before you’ve had a chance to think about your credit score anyway.

If you’re just beginning your home search and in the Monmouth or Ocean County area, your local First Financial Federal Credit Union branch is a fantastic place to start. In addition to reviewing your current financial situation, our representatives can also help you determine how much house you can afford and which mortgage program is right for you. We may even be able to help you get prequalified, which can give you the extra leverage you need when you do find that perfect house. If you have questions about the mortgage process or don’t know how to get started, we are here for you. Contact the Loan Department at 732-312-1500, Option 4 or learn more about First Financial mortgages on our website.

*Subject to credit approval. 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 in New Jersey. See Credit Union for details. Federally insured by NCUA.

 

5 Tips for Homebuyers in a Seller’s Market

Just because it’s a seller’s market doesn’t mean buyers can’t get their dream home. It may just take a mix of pre-planning, patience, and timing.

Here are few ways buyers can fast track their way into a new home:

Have your own real estate agent.

It may be tempting to think you can get a better deal working with the listing agent. That’s not necessarily true. Neutrality among listing agents means they can’t help one side over the other. So who is there to help you?

Set a realistic budget.

When you set a budget, make sure you include more expenses than just the monthly mortgage payment, down payment, and closing costs. Have you planned for utilities, insurance, Homeowner’s Association fees, lawn care, pest control, and more? Can you still fund your emergency savings account, college for the kids, and retirement?

Figure out what you want vs. need.

Do you want to be in a specific school district? Do you need a big backyard? It may mean compromising on other home wants such as hardwood floors or stainless steel appliances, which could be addressed later. What are you willing to compromise on? Having a clear idea will help in the homebuying process.

Get preapproved.

Want to show sellers you are a serious, qualified buyer? Take the extra step to be preapproved. A preapproval letter shows a buyer’s creditworthiness and ability to get a loan by the lender. But don’t stop there. Once preapproved, buyers should shop around to find the best deal. Don’t be afraid to review the different offers and negotiate with lenders to get the one that works with your budget.

Make a fair bid.

When there is a shortage of inventory, don’t miss out on your dream home because you failed to make a strong opening offer. If you find a home you love in the right location and price range, don’t wait to make an offer or try to lowball sellers. Buyers should be ready to submit a fair offer quickly, or they may risk missing out on the home altogether.

Looking to buy a home in the Monmouth or Ocean County area? You saw our last two short financial solutions videos on the benefits of a First Financial mortgage and how First Financial works with our members’ lending needs, now check out video #3: personalized service. If you have questions about the mortgage process or don’t know how to get started, we are here for you. Contact the Loan Department at 732-312-1500, Option 4 or learn more about First Financial mortgages on our website.

*Subject to credit approval. 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 in New Jersey. See Credit Union for details. Federally insured by NCUA.

 Article Source: Myriam DiGiovanni for financialfeed.com

 

Are You Ready to Buy a Home?

The transition from renter to homebuyer is a big one. Owning your own home gives you assurance that your monthly housing costs won’t go up, (assuming you get a fixed-rate mortgage), and that your rent won’t get jacked up when you are least expecting it.

Home ownership also comes with added responsibility. When something breaks in your rental unit, it’s a quick call to the landlord to get it fixed. Homeowners are always on the hook for both making and financing any repairs.

It’s a big financial leap to becoming a homeowner. Experts recommend asking yourself these questions before you start out on the house hunt:

Do you know how much you can afford?

Take the time to calculate how much home you can afford to buy. This isn’t the time to ballpark numbers. Overcommitting to a mortgage payment can leave you house poor, meaning there’s very little money leftover at the end of the month for other things.

Add up all your spending, including current rent, food, transportation and discretionary expenses like travel, eating out and entertainment. Don’t forget to include debt like student loans and car payments. Once you know how much you have coming in and going out each month, determine a number you can afford to spend on housing.

Generally, personal finance experts recommend aiming to spend around 28% of your monthly income on housing. Getting preapproved for a loan will also help give you a sense of your housing budget. But note that just because a bank agreed to give you a loan, doesn’t mean you have to (or should) spend that much.

Do you have a down payment?

You don’t need a 20% down payment to get a mortgage loan. But putting more down can work in your favor. It can help you get better loan rates, beat out the competition in hot housing markets, and will lower the amount of interest you pay over the life of the loan.

You can get a mortgage with as little as a 3.5% down, but anything less than 20% means paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), which will increase your monthly payment.

Working to save for a large down payment shows financial responsibility and gets you used to living on a strict budget.

Will you have money left over after closing?

Your bank account shouldn’t be zero after closing. You should still have an emergency savings fund that will cover around three to six months of living expenses, on hand.

In addition to the emergency fund, it is recommended that you have six to nine months of mortgage expenses available. First-time homebuyers are typically looking at older homes because of their lower price point, and they require more work. You should have a back-up fund in savings, in case the A/C or heater goes.

Is your credit in good shape?

You want to get your credit score as high as possible when shopping for a mortgage. The higher the score, the better the lending terms and rates.

A credit score of 750 and up is generally considered excellent and will make you the most attractive borrower.

Have you paid down other debt?

Your debt-to-income ratio plays a major role in the health of your finances.

You can calculate your debt-to-income ratio by adding up all your monthly debt payments and dividing it by your gross monthly income.

The general rule of thumb is your debt should not exceed 43% of your available credit, in order to take out a mortgage.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

If you don’t plan on staying in an area for more than a couple of years, buying a house might not make financial sense.

The huge upfront investment including the price of the home, plus the added expenses like taxes, closing costs, and escrow fees, might take a while to pay off.  Be ready to make a long term commitment to a home and area, if you are taking out a mortgage.

Looking to buy a home in the Monmouth or Ocean County area? You saw our previous short video on the benefits of a First Financial mortgage last time, now check out part 2: how First Financial works with all our individual members’ lending needs. If you have questions about the mortgage process or don’t know how to get started, we are here for you. Contact the Loan Department at 732-312-1500, Option 4 or learn more about First Financial mortgages on our website.

*Subject to credit approval. 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 in New Jersey. See Credit Union for details. Federally insured by NCUA.

 Article Source: Kathryn Vasel for Money.cnn.com