Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Waking up without coffee


One of the rituals of the American morning is coffee. People love it. Coffee makers come in all shapes and sizes. Some people search to find THE coffee makers that match their kitchen. They can be pre-set, they have alarm clocks and some will even brew just one perfect cup of the stuff that wakes them up and gets them moving.

Next to oil, coffee is the commodity that generates the most revenue worldwide. Entire industries have been built on this morning ritual. Starbuck’s corporatized the corner coffee shop, made it cool and built one of the biggest companies in the country. Coffee houses and chains sprang up after Starbuck’s initial success. In response, McDonald’s changed their coffee and started to offer gourmet coffees for the morning commute. And Dunkin’ Donuts, which sells more coffee in theU.S.than anyone, focuses its corporate advertising on the coffee, not the donuts.

Coffee, or more accurately, the caffeine in coffee, is addictive. It can also be expensive. If you find yourself with some of the symptoms of too much caffeine – jitters, heartburn or acid reflux, irritability, trouble sleeping, stack of coffeehouse receipts in your wallet – you might try these alternatives to the morning joe.

Take a cool shower

Not a COLD shower, a COOL shower. A cold shower can shock your system and there’s no sense in that. A cool shower will get the mind and body going. Try an invigorating body wash, too; something with peppermint in it.

Let there be light

Getting some light is a way to make your body realize that it’s time to get up. Getting outside in the sunshine is a great way to start the day; however, like many, you may be up before dawn. Just turn on the lights in the bedroom and the house. Dark is the enemy to waking up.

Listen to something

Set your alarm clock to your favorite radio station. Turn on the TV. Listen to an audiobook. Quiet is the enemy to waking up.

Get moving

Taking a brisk walk or jog around the neighborhood is a great way to start the day. Any exercise is beneficial. Take your dog for a walk. It benefits them just as much as it does you. Stretching, calisthenics, or yoga are also great ways to get moving in the morning.

Drink a glass of ice cold water

A glass of ice cold water, and we’re talking as cold as you can make it, will help wake you up as much as a cup of coffee will.

Don’t skip breakfast

Eating breakfast kick starts your metabolism. Make sure you get some protein and good carbohydrates. If you absolutely HATE eating breakfast, some people find that eating an apple is beneficial. The natural sugars in them give you energy. (And there is some truth to “An apple a day…”)

Try herbal tea

Hot teas may not be your bread and butter, but you probably didn’t LOVE coffee the first time you tried it, either. There are hundreds of different teas to try so you’re likely to find one that you like. Teas have great properties to help your health, too; many are high in antioxidants, which can help you fight certain types of cancer.

If you’ve tried to cut down on coffee, what’s your favorite way to start the day?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Why your down payment should be at least 20 percent


If you’re like most people, you’re planning to have a mortgage in order to pay for your house. It’s almost unavoidable to buy a home without financing.

Conventional wisdom until a couple of decades ago was that a home buyer needed to save at least 20 percent to put down on a house. Recently, though, many people have gotten away from that rule of thumb. In order to promote home ownership, some programs require much less. There are some options that offer zero down.

Simple math

For the sake of this example, the home you’re buying is $200,000. The interest rate is 4 percent. Taxes are 1.5 percent. Private mortgage insurance (more on that later) is 0.5 percent.

Rates calculated using:

Lower mortgage payments
Simple math dictates that the more you put down, the less your monthly payment will be. All things being equal, your mortgage payment drops $191 if you have 20 percent down as opposed to zero down. As a new homeowner, that will definitely help your monthly budget.

No mortgage-insurance fees
Private mortgage insurance (PMI) protects the lender in case you cannot pay the mortgage. PMI is required if your down payment is less than 20 percent in most cases. Your lender requires the fee be paid until you reach 20 percent equity in your home. Mortgage insurance can be expensive, ranging from 0.5 to 1 percent of the home's value annually.

Lower interest rate
With a larger down payment, you could qualify for lower interest rates, a fact not taken into account in the example above. Using the same example, if your interest rate dropped to 3.5 percent, your monthly mortgage payment would be $926.80 and the total interest payment would be $98,649.74. Compared to the 10 percent down payment in our example, you’d save $30,715 over the life of the loan in interest and PMI payments just by paying an extra $10,000 down.

Patience pays

As stated, the example above is simple math, but there’s nothing simple about mortgage math. Ask your REALTOR® and mortgage lender to crunch the numbers for you. Patience pays: taking the time to save money for a down payment offers solid return on investment. Over a 30-year mortgage, having a bigger down payment can save you tens of thousands of dollars on your starter home, helps you build equity faster and puts you on firmer financial footing.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Pre-qualified and pre-approved are not the same

When you’re buying a home, there is a certain chronological order in the process. Arranging for a mortgage before finding the home you want to buy seems like it would be out of order, but it is to your advantage to take this step prior to making an offer.

There are two terms with which you should be familiar: pre-qualified and pre-approved. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference.

What is pre-qualifying and why should you do it?

For pre-qualification, the mortgage professional reviews your finances, credit report and income to make an estimate of the amount for which you would qualify. After reviewing the information, the lender will issue a pre-approval certificate on company letterhead indicating that they have reviewed your finances and the amount of loan which you could qualify for.

Many lenders allow you to pre-qualify over the phone. This is good information to have, of course, because you’ll know the price range of the homes you should be looking for during your search. But remember this … it is not a guarantee of a loan. There still may be issues to resolve and the closing can take several weeks to complete.

Why pre-approval is better.

For a pre-approval, your loan application actually goes through the process of underwriting. The bank commits to lend you up to a certain amount, contingent upon the appraisal and the house qualifying for the loan.

There are two advantages associated with pre-approving for a home loan. First, it is a time saver. The closing process could be completed in one to two weeks when all you only need is an appraisal; while it can take between 30 and 45 days when you have to go through the entire loan process. Secondly, being pre-approved is attractive to sellers, particularly when they need to move quickly. If your offer is close to that of another potential buyer, being pre-approved may convince the seller to accept your offer.

If you have more questions about mortgage financing and shopping for a new home, please contact me. As your real estate professional, I am here to help with all of your home buying or selling needs.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Six Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

A house is the biggest investment that most people will ever make. The decision to buy should not be taken lightly. Any time you buy a house it can be stressful, but buying one for the first time can be daunting. Here are a few tips to make your first-home purchase go more smoothly.

1: Determine your housing budget - Making sure that you can afford a house is the first step in the process. Fannie Mae recommends that buyers spend no more than 28 percent of their income on housing costs. Don't forget to add mortgage insurance, property taxes and homeowner's association fees. Use a mortgage calculator to determine what the approximate costs will be. Make sure to ask your real estate professional about taxes and fees.

2: Know your needs before you start looking - This requires a little self-analysis and planning. Think about what's important to you and your lifestyle. It's not really that difficult to determine whether you want to live in the country, suburbs or in the city. But if you don't want to be bothered with lawn and home maintenance, opt for a condo. If you're planning a family, you probably want a house with a lot of living space. Take a look at your employment situation, too. If there's a possibility of being transferred, you'll want to buy something that is likely to sell quickly.

3: Understand the additional costs of owning a home -There's more to consider than just a monthly mortgage payment. Your budget needs to include insurance, utilities, repairs, maintenance, lawn and landscaping.

4: Read the fine print -Everything is important in a contract, so read all the clauses and fine print before committing to a mortgage. Rates can vary greatly depending upon where you go and what programs are available, so don't be afraid to shop around for the best rate. The rate in the mortgage lender’s ad isn't always what you'll pay; lenders add points, private mortgage insurance and closing costs, which add to the cost of the mortgage. It never hurts to have a lawyer look at any contract.

5: Ask for full disclosure and a home inspection -Investing in a home inspection can save you money and stress in the long run.

While most states require the seller to disclose potential problems with the property, they may not always know about the homes entire history.

6: Understand the taxes -Make sure that you know if your property taxes are rolled into your monthly mortgage payment or if you will be responsible for paying them yearly. Don't forget that you can often deduct the property taxes, points and interest paid on a mortgage. Keep all paperwork for your annual federal or state income tax return. If you use an accountant to prepare your taxes, schedule a meeting to learn more about the these types of deductions.

If you have any questions about anything involved, during the home buying process, you can rely on the knowledge and experience of a real estate professional, like me.


Friday, March 8, 2013

Advantages and disadvantages of the short sale

Over the past few years, the short sale has become a more common option for homeowners, who may be upside down in their mortgages. An alternative to foreclosure, the short sale involves homeowners making the decision to sell their property for less than what they owe on the mortgage.

This decision is a difficult one to be sure. If you find yourself in that situation, be sure to ask your real estate agent about the advantages and disadvantages of a short sale. Before making this decision, you should understand what the long-term effects of a short sale may be.


The most obvious advantage to a short sale is that it may help your credit rating by preventing a foreclosure from appearing on your credit report.

Because the mortgage lender will be compensated for the home, they are more likely to approve a short sale rather than going through the expense of a foreclosure. Short sale homes typically sell for more than a foreclosure, offering another advantage to the lender.

Opting for a short sale may allow you a bit more time to make future living arrangements. With a foreclosure, you’ll get about 30 days to vacate; you may get 90 days or more in a short sale situation.


While a short sale doesn’t appear as a foreclosure on your credit report, it will appear as a closed account, which can lower your credit rating by as much as 150 points, making it more difficult to purchase a home in the immediate future. By comparison, a foreclosure on your credit report can prevent you from qualifying for a home loan for seven years or more.

You will have to move out of your home and seek new housing - with a short sale on your credit report.

Depending on regulations in your state, the lender may require a deficiency note, which requires you to repay the amount still owed on the mortgage after the sale. This debt will almost always go on your credit report if not repaid.

There are also some tax implications to a short sale; the amount of the debt that is cancelled may be taxed.

Be sure to talk to your mortgage lender and your REALTOR about short sale options. These professionals can help you make the best decisions possible when it comes to selling your home, reestablishing your credit, and getting back on the road to homeownership as soon as possible.