RE/MAX Advantage I



Posted by Mark Consolmagno Michelle Curran Team on 4/1/2020

The US government has been helping Americans achieve their goal of homeownership for decades. Through programs offered by the Federal Housing Authority, the USDA, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, millions of Americans have been able to afford a home who would have otherwise struggled.

The focus of today’s post is one such service: loans offered through the USDA Rural Development program.

If you’re hoping to buy a home in the near future but are worried about being able to save up enough for a down payment or build your credit score in time, USDA loans could be a viable option.

Let’s take a look at some of the common questions people have about USDA loans:

Do I have to live in the middle of nowhere to get a USDA loan?

The short answer is “no.” rural development loan eligibility for your area is laid out on a map provided by the USDA. Most of the suburbs outside of major cities, as well as nearly all rural areas, are covered by the rural development program.

Can I qualify for a USDA loan if I’ve previously owned a home?

Yes. You may be eligible for a loan as long as you’re not the current owner of a home that was purchased through the rural development program. So, for example, if you own a home financed through the USDA and wanted to buy a second home and rent out the first one, you wouldn’t be able to finance your second home through the USDA.

How does the USDA loan guarantee work?

When you buy a home, a lender asks you to make a down payment. If you don’t have a down payment, the government (USDA, VA, or FHA) insures the down payment on your home rather than you paying it up front.

Will I have to pay mortgage insurance?

Unlike other subsidized loans, rural development loans require a “guarantee fee” rather than PMI (private mortgage insurance). The guarantee fee is 1% the total mortgage amount and this can typically be financed into the loan (so you don’t have to pay up front). In addition to the guarantee fee, USDA loans also charge an annual premium for the lifetime of a loan.

What are the qualifications for a USDA loan?

To find full eligibility information, complete the survey on the USDA’s eligibility website to find out if you qualify. However, the general qualifications are:

  • U.S. citizenship

  • Buying a home in a qualifying area

  • 24 months of income history

  • A credit score of 640 or higher for streamlined processing

  • Income high enough so that your monthly payments do not exceed 29% of your monthly earnings

What is the direct loan program?

The USDA really offers multiple urban development loans. The guarantee program, for which most single families utilize, and the direct loan program. Direct loans are designed for families who have the greatest need. You can also find out if you’re eligible for a direct loan by filling out the questionnaire on their website.







Posted by Mark Consolmagno Michelle Curran Team on 3/25/2020

If you want to buy a house, it helps to plan ahead as much as possible. That way, you can increase the likelihood of a fast, seamless homebuying journey.

Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you prepare to enter the housing market, and ultimately, ensure that you can enjoy a speedy homebuying experience.

1. Focus on Specific Cities and Towns

Consider what you want to find in your dream house. Then, you can fine-tune your dream home criteria and narrow your house search.

For example, if you prefer small town living to life in the big city, you may want to search for houses in various towns in your state of choice. Or, if you want to buy a house near your office in the city, you can browse residences in or near the city itself.

Differentiating your dream home must-haves and wants can make a world of difference too. Because if you know exactly what you want to find in your ideal residence, you can streamline your house search and accelerate the homebuying journey.

2. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

The process of filling out a mortgage application and getting approval from a bank or credit union can be long and arduous. And if you submit an offer a house without financing in hand, you may face a time crunch to get a mortgage as well.

When it comes to home financing, it pays to be proactive. If you start searching for a mortgage today, you may be able to save time down the line.

For instance, if you meet with a bank or credit union, you can learn about a variety of mortgage options. Next, you can select a mortgage that matches your needs, and this mortgage will allow you to enter the housing market with a budget. With this budget at your disposal, you can narrow your search to houses that fall within your price range.

3. Employ a Real Estate Agent

Let's face it – few homebuyers have the necessary time and resources to conduct a comprehensive home search. Luckily, real estate agents are available to help you discover your dream house in no time at all.

A real estate agent will learn about your homebuying goals and find out what you want from your dream house. With this information, a real estate agent can provide you with details about houses that fulfill your criteria.

Furthermore, a real estate agent is a housing market expert who will do everything possible to help you buy a high-quality residence. He or she will teach you about the housing market and provide extensive insights into real estate patterns and trends. Also, a real estate agent is happy to respond to your homebuying concerns and questions at any time.

For those who want to buy a house, there is no need to wait to enter the housing market. Instead, use the aforementioned tips, and you can reap the benefits of a quick, stress-free homebuying experience.




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Posted by Mark Consolmagno Michelle Curran Team on 3/18/2020

Your credit score can play a major role in your ability to get the financing that you need to buy a house. As such, you'll want to do everything possible to improve your credit score before you enter the real estate market.

Now, let's take a look at three quick, easy ways to boost your credit score.

1. Pay Off Debt As Quickly As Possible

Get a copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). You are entitled to one free copy of your credit report annually from each credit reporting bureau, and you should take advantage of this perk so that you can learn about your outstanding debt.

If you have lots of outstanding debt, you'll want to start paying this off as quickly as possible. Because the less debt that you have, the more likely it becomes that you can get a favorable mortgage from a credit union or bank.

Don't wait to begin paying off outstanding debt. If you pay off even a small portion of your outstanding debt regularly, you can move closer to getting the financing that you need to acquire a terrific house.

2. Avoid New Credit Cards

A low credit score can be worrisome, and it may cause you to consider a variety of options to manage outstanding debt. However, if your credit score is low, there is no need to take out additional credit cards.

New credit cards may seem like viable short-term options to help you cover various expenses while you pay off assorted outstanding debt. But these cards are unlikely to help you resolve the biggest problem – paying off your outstanding debt to bolster your credit score.

Instead of signing up for new credit cards, it often helps to cut back on non-essential bills. For instance, if you don't need cable, you may be able to eliminate this expense and use the money that you save to pay off outstanding debt. Or, if you have first-rate items that you don't need, you may want to sell these items and use the profits to pay off myriad bills.

3. Keep Your Credit Card Balances Low

Once you have paid off your outstanding debt, you'll want to keep your credit card balances low.

It often helps to have one credit card that you can use in emergencies. If you keep one credit card and get rid of any others, you may be better equipped than ever before to maintain a high credit score.

Lastly, if you require additional assistance as you prepare to kick off a home search, you may want to work with a real estate agent. This housing market professional can help you narrow your home search to residences that fall within a specific price range. That way, you can avoid the risk of spending too much to acquire a house.

Increase your credit score – use the aforementioned tips, and you can raise your credit score before you launch a home search.





Posted by Mark Consolmagno Michelle Curran Team on 3/11/2020

Photo by Vivint Solar from Pexels

When your pocketbook determines you can’t afford a new, energy-efficient home, you can still satisfy your preferences by upgrading an older house. Try these options for improving energy efficiency in your home.

  1. Apply for the FHA’s Energy-Efficient Mortgage program. With an EEM, you can finance an already energy-efficient home or use funds for certified home improvements that promote responsible energy use. Contact your lender to see if your state participates in this federal program.

  2. Ask your utility provider for an energy audit. Most utilities offer this as a free service to customers. They’ll check for leakage around doors and windows, outlets and vent pipes and make suggestions for improvement, repair or replacement.

  3. Have your home inspector check your attic spaces. You'll gain knowledge about how deep your insulation should be to keep your house warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

  4. Hire an HVAC professional to inspect your furnace and air conditioning, ductwork, and airflow. If your ducts need cleaning, employ a service to handle that. Not only will you have improved circulation, but you'll also reduce allergens, and lower your energy costs.

  5. Trade out traditional toilets for low-flow models. Add aerators and flow restrictors to faucets and showerheads to reduce water consumption.

  6. Install solar-operated power vents to your attic to expel heat in the summer. Consider a solar-powered water heater too. And, if your roof can handle it, install solar panels to boost your electrical power. Many states offer rebates for solar panel installation, so check to see what’s available in your area.

  7. Install a programmable thermostat to help you conserve energy when you are away from home.

If you have a larger improvement budget, consider big-ticket items such as a geothermal heat pump, a residential wind turbine, or a fuel cell. You’ll find that on-going tax credits for these items can save you money over the years. If your municipal codes allow it, add a roof garden or mini-ecosystem to cover your existing roof. These systems retain moisture and insulate your home from heat or cold.

Your property specialist can help you determine which homes lend themselves to these upgrades. They'll introduce you to mortgage lenders that specialize in energy-efficient loan products.





Posted by Mark Consolmagno Michelle Curran Team on 3/4/2020

Looking to add your home to the real estate market? Ultimately, you'll want to do everything you can to maximize the value of your residence.

For home sellers, getting the best price for a residence may seem virtually impossible at times. Fortunately, we're here to help you plan ahead so you can get the best price for your house as soon as it hits the market.

Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you optimize the value of your residence, regardless of the current real estate market's conditions.

1. Examine the Housing Market

When it comes to the real estate market, it is important to understand how your residence stacks up against the competition.

Collect housing market data to learn about the real estate sector. Then, you can establish a "competitive" price for your home and boost your chances of a quick home sale.

Typically, home sellers should look at the prices of currently available residences in their cities and towns. This will enable home sellers to understand the local real estate market and establish a price range for houses that are similar to their own.

Don't forget to review the prices of recently sold houses as well. With this housing market data in hand, home sellers can find out whether they are about to enter a seller's or buyer's market.

2. Complete a Home Appraisal

Let's face it – what your home is worth today is unlikely to match what you initially paid for your residence. If you have completed a wide range of home upgrades over the years, the value of your residence may have increased. Or, if you failed to maintain your house's interior and exterior, your residence's value may have fallen.

A home appraisal will enable you to learn about your house's strengths and weaknesses. This assessment is performed by a professional property inspector who will take a close look at your house's interior and exterior. After the assessment is finished, the property inspector will provide you with a report that can help you price your house appropriately.

If you want to boost your home's value after a home appraisal, you can always complete various home interior and exterior improvement projects. That way, you can enhance your house both inside and out and move closer to maximizing the value of your home.

3. Consult with a Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent is a difference-maker for home sellers, and for good reason. This housing market professional will do everything possible to help you prep your house and ensure you can receive the best price for it – without exception.

Usually, a real estate agent will set up home showings and open houses, negotiate with homebuyers on your behalf and much more. He or she will even provide honest, unbiased home selling recommendations to ensure you can streamline the home selling journey.

Don't leave anything to chance as you get ready to add your house to the real estate market. Use these tips, and you should have no trouble getting the best price for your house.




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Mark Consolmagno Michelle Curran Team
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