Most of us are extra busy during the last couple months of the year —shopping, decorating and attending holiday parties. However, it’s also a time many of us reflect to set goals, make plans, and decide the fate of 2016. Other than the usual, lose weight, save more, travel, or learn a new hobby, here are some other solid ideas on how to make your 2016 a great one, especially if you’re thinking about buying a home, or if you already own a home, sprucing it up!
Are You Ready to Buy a House?
As we approach the New Year, you might be thinking it’s time to stop paying the landlord your hard-earned wages, and start moving on the path to homeownership. Well you aren’t alone! A recent survey estimated that there will be an increase in first-time homebuyers entering the market in 2016.
So what’s the first step in the home buying process?
There are lots of steps in the home buying process, but the one that will have the most impact early on, and will provide real insight on the journey to owning a home, is to get pre-approved. A pre-approval will tell you if you qualify to buy a home, and how much you can afford, basically, the dollar amount a lender is willing to let you borrow to purchase a home. All in all, this entails reaching out to a mortgage lender (hint hint, like OneTrust Home Loans), sending them some of your basic financial information such as income, assets, recent tax returns, bank statements, etc. and asking them to help you get pre-approved. You don’t have to pay ANYTHING to get pre-approved, there is absolutely no obligation, so please do not stress about this first step. If you choose to get pre-approved with a mortgage lender, you can always choose to work with someone later on if you thought the service was subpar.
Reasons to get pre-approved:
- Make the biggest investment of your life with the help of a home financing expert. It’s no secret, the loan process is intense, requiring a lot of documentation and financial strategy decisions.
- Find out if you even qualify! Don’t waste your time shopping for a home, only to find out later, you can’t afford it. Learn if you are in a position to buy, and how much you can afford.
- Work with the best. Many top real estate agents understand the power of the pre-approval, and will only work with you once you have it.
- Give yourself an edge over competing offers. Sellers also understand the power of the pre-approval, it shows you’re serious, motivated, and have the financing needed to support the offer.
- Understand your strengths and weaknesses. If you find out you aren’t quite ready to qualify for a home loan, it’s better to find out sooner than later. Credit blemishes? Low credit scores? Create a plan to improve these areas so you can buy your dream home in the future.
Why it Might Be Time to Refinance.
Have you taken a look at mortgage rates lately? Despite a recent increase thanks to the Fed, rates are seriously at all-time lows. Compare today’s rates to those of the 1980’s, and you’ll understand why you need to at least look into a home refinance.
Potential Reasons to Refinance
- Debt consolidation.
- Cash out for home improvements.
- Rate reduction to lower monthly payment.
- Increase the term of your mortgage to reduce the amount that you pay each month.
- Change from an adjustable-rate mortgage to a fixed-rate mortgage.
- Get an ARM (Adjustable Rate Mortgage) with better terms to gain longer term stability.
- Reduce the term of your mortgage to pay your home off quicker.
- In addition, you might be able to benefit from the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), which helps homeowners who don’t have equity in their home.
So moral of the story, is to as least talk to a mortgage lender (second hint of the blog) before we’re morphed back into the 1980’s. Hey, when did Star Wars first come out again?
Conduct an Energy Audit in 2016.
Winter is already upon us, so while you may have already weather- proofed your home, be sure to do an energy audit to make sure you’re saving all the dollars you can for your next vacation; paying for a vacation is way better than utilities. You can start by having a professional energy auditor do a thorough evaluation that will detect air and gas leaks and other trouble spots.
Tip: Adjusting your heating system and water heater thermostats, based on usage and other factors, can significantly lower your regular energy costs.
If you’re a handy do-it-yourselfer, visit http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/do-it-yourself-home-energy-audits
Organize Your Home.
If you are especially adventuresome, you may want to tackle that overstuffed clothes closet, crowded cabinet and cluttered garage. You can reorganize various areas of your home and discard unwanted items. Sounds simple enough but why does it seem so difficult? Here are a few tips:
- Give yourself a timetable.
- Start with one room and work on it until you’ve finished.
- Get all family members involved in the process.
- Use a shelf, storage unit or other “organizer” to ensure a more orderly arrangement of items.
- Hold a garage sale to help eliminate the excess “baggage” or donate unwanted items to charity.
- Establish guidelines for avoiding future clutter problems.
You can find more tips at http://www.hgtv.com/
Home Upgrades with a Discount!
If you’ve been considering a room addition or other home improvement projects, this is a good time to develop your plan further. Especially important is the scheduling to meet any construction deadlines. For example, if you want to have a major renovation completed in early 2016, then you’ll want to talk with an architect or planner to see what’s reasonable.
You may find that contractors and other service providers offer New Year specials or other discounts during slower periods.
And it’s your lucky day, because there are home improvement mortgages that provide homeowners the financing needed to make renovations, repairs, or improvements to their property if the changes you want to see are above and beyond the typical DIY project. (hint hint, OneTrust Home loans, enough said).
2016 is going to be an awesome year! Make New Year’s Resolutions that count! And if one of them is to share this blog with someone that may benefit from it, such as your 20-something-year-old daughter or son, or maybe your dad and mom who are looking to make some long-term financial planning decisions, you’re ending the year right, with a genuine act of kindness.
Happy New Year!