Mortgage News Matters

10 Tips for Staging Your Home to Sell

Once you’ve decided to sell your home, you’ll need to start thinking about the next step: Home Staging. Staging is the setting and arranging of your home to appeal to potential buyers.

Different than decorating, it does not convey a sense of style, rather sets the stage for others to imagine themselves living there.

It is an extremely important part of the home buying and selling process and because of that, we’ve put together a helpful list of 10 tips to successfully staging your home!

  1. Start with curb appeal.  When it comes to staging your home to sell, you must first start with curb appeal. Think – first impressions. The outside of your home is the first impression all potential buyers will have – and you want it to be a good one. There are many things that go into creating curb appeal for your home, such as repainting or repairing needed items, power washing your driveway, walkway, or sides of your home, and cleaning your gutters and roof.

    For a more exhaustive list of curb appeal tips, check out our blog on 10 Curb Appeal Tips That Will Help You Sell Your Home Faster.
  2. Depersonalize your space. With the overall goal of encouraging potential buyers to imagine themselves living in your home, it is helpful to depersonalize your space. This includes getting rid of personal photos, putting away jackets and personal clothing, and hiding common personal products that may line your bathroom counter. It may seem like these actions will make your space ‘less homey’, but only to you.

    Eliminating your personal items will make room for potential buyers to imagine their own photos hanging on the walls, their own shoes lining the front entrance, their coats hanging, and will allow them to further identify with the space.
  3. Get rid of clutter. Like depersonalizing your space, you’re going to want to dispose of all unnecessary clutter. Clearing your clutter makes your home look cleaner, bigger, brighter, and more welcoming. No one wants to walk into a mess, and clutter can be distracting from the main selling point – which is your beautiful home! Keep your décor minimal and add only what is necessary.

    Keep in mind, decluttering doesn’t mean throwing everything into a closet and shutting the door! One major selling point of a home – and one that most potential buyers will be looking for – is the closet and storage space. In fact, many real estate experts suggest keeping your closets open during a home viewing to further show off the storage space. And if it’s filled with all the clutter from the living room, it’s not a great look. Make sure as you’re decluttering, you’re throwing out or properly storing your items.
  4. Clean, clean, and then clean some more. Deep cleaning your entire home is one of the most important steps you can take when staging your home. It is easy to overlook places that you walk by every day, without thinking twice. But remember, potential buyers are looking at it for the first time and with heightened attention to detail.

    Places that are often overlooked are baseboards, pet fur on furniture and around the floor, and high places like ceiling fans or light fixtures. Make sure when you are preparing to clean, you consider every corner and look at everything through a metaphorical magnifying glass.
  5. Make any needed repairs. If there are any spots in your house in need of a paint touch-up or appliances in need of a quick fix – now is the time to make any necessary repairs.  This shows potential buyers that you take care of your belongings, which extends to your home, and provides assurance that you are not selling them a home that has been neglected in any way. This also instills trust amongst home buyers and sellers.
  6. Keep it neutral. In a similar sense to depersonalizing your space, presenting your home in a neutral color and design will generally make it more appealing to more people. Styles and colors are specific to certain taste levels, and the last thing you want to do is alienate or offend a potential buyer with something too loud or very specific. This may mean you may want to consider re-painting a certain room or wall in a more neutral color. This way, buyers can walk through the home and see a blank canvas that they can soon turn into their own.
  7. Add fresh flowers or plants. Bringing fresh flowers and plants into your space is a great way to liven up any environment while adding a bit of color. It can also bring a pleasant smell that will make your home more inviting. If you have pets or children and you are wary of bringing plants into your space, consider buying fake plants that will add life and color to your space, without making a mess or causing potential harm.
  8. Bring in the light. Brightening your home with light fixtures or window treatments is a great way to energize your space! Bringing in light often makes a home feel larger, more welcoming, and warmer. If your home is generally darker due to trees or location, consider buying more lighting and placing them throughout the space. Remember, welcoming is the feeling you want to convey in every room of your home.
  9. Consider furniture placement. Many of us arrange our furniture to our own liking, which is fine – unless you’re trying to sell your home. Industry professionals suggest pulling furniture away from walls and bringing couches and chairs into a closer seating area. This will open the room and allow for a more walkable area.

    The great thing about furniture – you can move it as many times as you’d like! Play around a bit and find what looks best for your space. Just keep in mind that you want your space to look open and welcoming, while at the same time giving off the idea of homey and cozy.
  10. Clean or refinish floors. Another area that we tend to overlook is our floors. This is one space that accumulates a lot of wear and tear and is extremely important to spend time improving the appearance of. If you have a home with mostly carpet, considering renting or purchasing a steam cleaner to eliminate stains or residue from normal everyday activity. Likewise, if you have hardwood floors, consider refinishing them so the new homeowners feel that they truly are purchasing a new home.
Mortgage News Matters

6 Common Mortgage Loan Myths

Applying for a Mortgage can often feel overwhelming, especially for first-time homebuyers who are completely new to the process. Confusing and conflicting information can leave many borrowers reluctant to even start the process at all.

In efforts to provide more clarity, we’ve debunked 6 common mortgage loan myths below!

  1. 20% down payment required. It is a common belief of many potential homebuyers, that no matter the type of loan you are applying for, you will be required to put up a 20% down payment. This information is harmful because it is not true and can deter a lot of people from even considering applying for a mortgage, who are sure they don’t have the appropriate amount of funds.

    Borrowers who are unable to come up with a 20% down payment can still be eligible for a loan when they get Private Mortgage Insurance or PMI. An added expense on your monthly payments, PMI provides protection to the lender in the case that the borrower defaults on his or her loan.  

    This type of insurance is a common requirement for some Conventional or FHA loans with down payments as low as 3-5%. Keep in mind that once you own 20% equity in your home, you can cancel your private mortgage insurance and continue to make your mortgage payments without the extra expense.
  2. Pre-qualification is the same thing as pre-approval. This common misconception is important to clear up, as both pre-qualification and pre-approval are extremely helpful to the home-buying process and both play an important role.

    Pre-qualification is an estimation of the amount of money you can borrow, based on your current finances and credit score. It provides insight as to which loan option is best for you.

    Pre-approval is a more in-depth examination of your finances, including a credit check, that results in a written commitment from your lender of the maximum amount of money they can lend you.

    For more on the benefits of getting pre-approved along with our pre-approval document checklist, visit our pre-qualification vs. pre-approval page here.
  3. Your down payment covers the closing costs. The down payment is usually one of the first expenses that a potential homebuyer will begin saving for. This makes sense because it is usually one of the largest upfront expenses you will have. However, when saving for your down payment, it is important to keep in mind that it does not cover your closing costs.

    Closing costs are a separate expense that covers your processing fees, like the appraisal and title insurance, and usually range between 3% – 6% of the total balance of your loan.

    For more information on Costs to Consider, refer to our article here.
  4. You must have perfect credit. Many people are under the impression that your credit must be perfect before even considering purchasing a new home. Though lenders are looking for borrowers with good credit scores, there are many options for those who have less than perfect credit.

    One option for borrowers who find themselves in this category is to consider applying for an FHA loan. Insured by the government, this type of loan is perfect for those who may not meet the qualification factors required for a traditional conventional loan program.

    It is also important to keep in mind that there are many steps you can take to work towards building good credit. For more on this, reference our guide on Credit Clean Up Tips.
  5. Applying for a mortgage will hurt your credit. While it is true that applying for any new type of loan or line of credit will harm your credit, it will only do so temporarily. This is the same in the case of applying for a mortgage. However, it is likely that you won’t see this temporary hit to your credit until after you’ve already been pre-approved.

    If you are trying to avoid any harm to your credit during this time, it is a good idea to refrain from opening any unnecessary lines of credit.
  6. You can’t be in debt and buy a home. If this myth were true, most homeowners would not be in their homes today. Debt, in many forms, is common amongst many Americans, whether they are in the process of paying off a student loan or currently making payments on a car. And neither of these things should stop you from owning a home.

    The important number to consider here is your debt-to-income ratio. This number shows the percentage of your monthly income that goes towards debt payments and reoccurring expenses. The higher your debt-to-income ratio, the riskier you are as a borrower. Therefore, you want a low debt-to-income ratio when applying for a mortgage loan.

    If you find yourself in a higher debt-to-income ratio category, consider paying down your debt or finding a way to generate more income. Both of these solutions will help you get started on a path towards a lower debt-to-income ratio and open more opportunities for you to buy a home.
Mortgage News Matters

10 Curb Appeal Tips to Sell Your House Faster

When preparing your home to sell, it is important to think about how to best appeal to potential buyers. How can you make them feel like they’re already home before they’ve even stepped in the front door?

From simple landscaping to touch-ups and essential upgrades, we’ve compiled a list of curb appeal tips anyone can follow before placing their home on the market.

  1. Trim shrubs, add greenery with planters and window boxes and add lights to landscaping. One of the easiest ways to add to your home’s curb appeal is by adding landscaping. This can be by trimming the shrubs, adding planters and window boxes, and lighting up your front lawn. Overgrown greenery can look uncared for and distract from the appearance of your home. Use your landscaping to create a beautiful showcase.
  2. Pressure wash EVERYTHING. A simple way to clean up the appearance of your home, walkway, porch, driveway, or balcony is to use a pressure washer. Think about it – it’s like giving your home a good wash before dressing it up. Pressure washers remove algae, grime, and mold from pretty much any surface on the outside of your home.
  3. Paint door or any spots on your house that need to be touched up and replace hardware. Some homeowners think they must repaint their entire house before putting it on the market, but it can be helpful to know that a few touch-ups go a long way. You can simply scrape a piece from the siding of your front door and bring it to any home improvement store for a color match.

    While you’re at it, make sure all the hardware around your home, from doors or windows, is polished and looking good. Though seemingly small, these simple touch-ups can change the entire look of your home.
  4. Redo/Fix up the walkway with new stones and pull weeds. Wear and tear are normal when it comes to all aspects of your home – especially when it comes to your front walkway. Over time, stones may get cracked or broken and will most likely require some repair. Another important step to grooming your front walkway is to pull up any weeds and pressure wash, if necessary.
  5. Create a welcoming entryway, upgrade the front porch light, add seating to the front porch. You want potential buyers to feel like they’re standing in front of their new home. A great way to do that is by creating a welcoming entryway that brings people together and makes them feel comfortable. Adding warm lighting, potted plants, or furniture to a front porch or entryway is a great way to create a pleasant environment.
  6. Use bold, bright colors for both painting and planting. You want to get potential buyer’s attention by making them take a closer look. A great way to do this is by bringing in bright, bold colors to your home, in the form of plants or greenery. You can also achieve this by painting your shutters, mailbox, or front door. The goal is to make your home as memorable as it is welcoming.
  7. Repair or replace your fence or mailbox. Some homeowners will tend to focus their attention on the physical house and may forget to consider other important elements of the property, which are often things potential buyers will see first. If you have a free-standing mailbox in front of your home, or a fence that needs repair, make sure to spend time attending to these special details. They are often the buyer’s first impression.
  8. Update siding; add shutters. If you haven’t done so in a while, it may be time to update your siding to create a more modern look. In addition, it can be a good idea to add shutters to your windows, which adds another small, thoughtful touch.
  9. Clean roof and gutters. It certainly isn’t glamorous work, but the time spent cleaning your roof and gutters will be well worth it when you start showing your home. Like a power wash and a good coat of paint, attending to these important areas will showcase your home in the best light possible.
  10. Fix driveway and upgrade garage doors. Another important element to focus on is your driveway. Like your walkway, it is only normal to have wear and tear to your driveway from years of use. This can be easily fixed through power washing, patching, or completely relaying. Likewise, make sure to repair or even repaint your garage doors, as these are just as important as the appearance of the front of your house.
Mortgage News Matters

How Much is Your Home Worth?

Understanding how much your home is worth is extremely valuable information for any homeowner. It can help you to better make decisions when pricing to sell or deciding whether or not to refinance.

Though some may assume you need to seek professional guidance, there are many steps you can take on your own before doing so.

To help you take these steps and determine the value of your home, we’ve put together 5 useful tools that can give you all the information you need!

  1. Use automated valuation model or AVM. An automated value model is a tool that helps determine the value of your property by looking at public records, such as local market information, price trends, and tax assessments. Leading AVM providers, such as FreddieMac, Equifax, and VeroValue can deliver this information extremely quickly and can be a major reason many homeowners choose to utilize their services.

    Keep in mind that these results are mostly accurate, however, they do not account for the property’s current condition and can be slightly off. If you’re considering using the AVM, it is important to talk with a real estate expert for more information.
  2. Get a CMA, competitive market analysis. Though not as accurate as getting an appraisal, a competitive market analysis is a great way to get a good estimation of your home’s value. Homeowners can perform their own market analysis by researching comparable properties in their area or areas like theirs. Homeowners can also receive this information easily through a real estate agent.
  3. Use the FHFA House Price Index Calculator. The FHFA House Price Index Calculator projects the value of a home in today’s market that was purchased at a specific time, based on the average appreciation of homes in the area.

    It is important to keep in mind other factors that will affect the actual value of the home, like its condition or whether major renovations need to be made, just to name a few. The calculator just provides a projection of the home’s value.
  4. Get an appraisal. One of the best ways to determine the value of your home is to get an appraisal. One thing that many homeowners might not realize is that you don’t have to be associated with a lender before ordering an appraisal on your home – you can get one at any time. Professional appraisers evaluate the market, your property, and comparable properties to create an official report.
  5. Look at comps in your neighborhood. Comps are comparable properties for houses in similar markets to yours. Homes are compared by certain factors, such as size, location, conditions, and upgrades.

    Keep in mind that you may have to adjust your findings when it comes to the major differences in homes, such as the number of bedrooms or renovations that have been made. Experts suggest finding at least three valid comps to most accurately determine your home’s market value.