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Apple and Amazon would like us to believe that for any question we have, a quick “hey Siri” or “Alexa” will unveil a perfect and concise answer. That may be true if you are asking about the weather or to turn on music, but what if your question is something like “What is the difference between a mortgage pre-approval and pre-qualification?” or “What credit score do I need to have?” and “What is my down payment requirement?" These questions require asking someone with much more experience; you need to talk to a loan officer! 

It turns out, most American consumers feel under-educated about the mortgage process, according to a Fannie Mae survey* released this month. Some common questions surrounding homebuying are about credit scores, down payments, debt-to-income ratio, and homebuyer assistance programs. 

Fannie Mae reports: 

“Although the usage of online sources of mortgage information is becoming more common among consumers, they still:  

  • Overestimate the minimum credit score necessary to qualify for a mortgage;  

  • Overestimate the minimum down payment necessary to qualify for a mortgage; and  

  • Remain unfamiliar with low down payment programs.” 

What does this mean? Fannie Mae says that misperceptions about the mortgage process could be holding potential homeowners back. People who would like to own a home assume it is not a possibility for them, despite being at a qualifying level. 

Norcom Mortgage wants everyone looking into the homebuying process to know that we are available to answer all questions! Please reach out to your loan officer or call 1-855-Norcom1 to speak to an experienced professional about your situation. You may already qualify, or we will share the steps you can take to make your dream of homeownership become a reality! 

 

*See the full survey at Fannie Mae Housing Survey Results - Consumer Understanding Research.


There is a lot to think about when planning a move. Not only do you have to think about the style of the house and the number of bedrooms, but a smart homebuyer must also consider whether the neighborhood meets their needs. Do you want to live in a tight-knit community where everyone knows each other by name and your next-door neighbor would lend you a cup of sugar in a pinch? Or do you desire a more secluded neighborhood where everyone minds their own business?

There is no such thing as a perfect neighborhood and every zip code has pros and cons. You might love a house, but if it’s in a troublesome area, it may have a negative impact on your day-to-day life, as well as the resale value of the home. We’ve outlined several red flags below to be aware of while checking out a potential new neighborhood.

1. Too many houses on the market?

A neighborhood with an abundance of homes for sale indicates there may be something causing homeowners to leave. It could be something about the neighborhood itself, such as social issues like increased crime or falling school ratings, or gentrification of the area raising living costs and reducing affordable housing options. Alternatively, there could be many houses up for sale because of the homes themselves. If a neighborhood was developed all around the same time period and the homes appear very similar, it could be evidence that the houses were constructed by the same builder. Therefore, the homes will age at the same rate and may run into similar repair issues. Multiple homes for sale in this type of development could indicate they were built with poor quality. Think about this when wandering through a potential neighborhood!

2. Are the homes and yards in good condition?

A well-maintained property is a sign that homeowners care about where they live. It doesn’t matter if the homes on the street are 1,500 square feet or 10,000, it is obvious to see when a community cares about their neighborhood and its perception. If you feel that all the other homes on a street are in disrepair and the yards are dead or overgrown, you may want to avoid moving into this area. It’s likely that a neighborhood such as this may lead to falling home values as well, so think about your investment before making a purchase.

3. Less-than-stellar school ratings?

Have you taken a look at ratings of the surrounding schools? Just like the previous red flag, you can tell a lot about a potential neighborhood by looking at the nearby schools. A shrinking school system may suggest an aging population, or it could signify school quality and the community’s attitude toward public services in general. If you have children or are thinking of starting a family, you will want to pay special attention to school ratings online or ask on community social media pages.

4. Where are all the people?

If you attend an open house in the neighborhood where you are thinking of moving, take note of how many people are out and about. Did you see any kids playing in a yard or residents spending time on their front porch? This could demonstrate the culture of the neighborhood, or it could indicate that residents do not feel safe spending time outside in this area.

5. How are the streets and sidewalks?

It is common for residential streets to have some potholes or crumbling sidewalks in areas, especially if your region experiences harsh seasons. However, an excess of infrastructure issues could indicate a town or city is lagging in public services. If house hunting in the spring or summer, you won’t necessarily know how the town will maintain the roads in the middle of winter. If a street light goes out and you call the city works department, will they see to a repair, or neglect this neighborhood? See if you can talk to any potential neighbors to ask these questions.

 

If you are relocating, remember to look beyond just the house, and evaluate a neighborhood as a whole. Check for the red flags on this list, and if the neighborhood passes the test, it could be great for your next home! Call your loan officer today to get pre-approved for the home, and neighborhood, of your dreams!


How to Have a Successful Tag Sale

May 30
12:22
PM
Category | General

We’ve written before about decluttering your home. Why not take the stuff you no longer have use for and try to sell it? A tag sale (or garage or yard sale, depending on your location) can seem like a lot of work to set up but turning your extraneous items into spending money makes it worthwhile! Plus, you’ll know that your old belongings are going to a new home instead of a dumpster. Follow these tips to help run a successful tag sale: 

Pick a Date 

Pick a date well in advance to allow for advertising your sale. Typically, an early morning start on a Saturday works well. 

Coordinate with Neighbors  

Reach out to your neighbors a few weeks in advance to see if anyone else on your street is interested in hosting a tag sale. Coordinating all sales for the same day or weekend is a great way to increase the turnout for everyone involved. 

Check on Town Permits 

Some towns may require advanced notice or a permit to hold a tag sale. Check your town/city government website or give the clerk a quick call to see if this is required in your area. 

Have Weather Plans 

Consider where you plan on holding your tag sale. If it is outside, you’ll want to think about having two dates for your sale, either on consecutive days or consecutive weekends. This gives you some flexibility if there is poor weather on day one. However, if you have a large barn, garage or pop-up canopy tent, you may have more flexibility regarding the weather.  

Advertise on Facebook 

Use the power of Facebook’s social network! You can make a post or event for your tag sale, as well as create a listing in Facebook’s Marketplace. Also, if you belong to any town or community groups, be sure to post your tag sale details on each one. 

Use Price Tags? 

This is a point of contention among many people who have had a tag sale. Here are some pros, cons, and our advice for the best method. 

  • Adding price stickers 

  • Pro: shoppers may prefer to know your asking price on each item without approaching to ask 

  • Pro: knowing an item’s price could result in multiple shoppers creating a “bidding war” over a desirable item, offering to pay over the written amount 

  • Con: it can be time consuming, especially if you have many smaller items for sale 

  • Not adding price stickers 

  • Pro: less set up work 

  • Pro: shoppers may offer to pay more than what you would expect to make on an item 

  • Con: people are more likely to try to bundle multiple items into one offer price which may come out to less than you are hoping for 

  • Our recommendation: Don’t put price stickers on each item, but do keep a master list of all the items for sale (with a short description if there are multiples) and your desired price. This gives you the upper hand as the seller when fielding offers on a particular item and helps you to determine if you should accept or reject the offer price. 

Clean Your Items 

The items you are trying to sell should be considered “move-in-ready" for any potential buyer. Remove dust that has settled, wipe off smudges, and check that any furniture drawers are empty. If you are selling upholstered furniture, give it a gentle clean and make sure it is free of any odors. 

 

After your tag sale ends, you’ll have a good bundle of cash that you can use to treat yourself to a refreshing iced tea, or perhaps use what you have earned to start the savings for your next down payment. Reach out to your Norcom loan officer today to talk about pre-approval and learn what you’ll need to save for your next dream home, now with less clutter!


Where is the BEST place to live?

May 9
3:02
PM
Category | General

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re looking to move this year, we found a fantastic, helpful tool that could help you make decisions about where it is best to live. Niche.com released its 2019 ‘top lists’ for places to live in the US. The 2019 rankings from Niche provide “a comprehensive assessment of the overall livability of an area. This grade takes into account several key factors of a location, including the quality of local schools, crime rates, housing trends, employment statistics, and access to amenities in an attempt to measure the overall quality of an area.” 

Aren’t you curious which is the top-ranking neighborhood in the whole country for 2019? That coveted spot goes to the Bluemont neighborhood in Arlington, Virginia!   

When searching Niche’s data, you can take advantage of narrowing your results by the following categories: 

• Best Places to Live (#1 is Bluemont neighborhood in Arlington, Virginia

• Best for Families (#1 is Long Grove, Illinois

• Most Diverse (#1 is Upper Laurel neighborhood in Oakland, California

• Best to Buy a House (#1 is Rose Creek neighborhood in Fargo, North Dakota

• Cost of Living (#1 is Brackettville, Texas

• Best Public Schools (#1 is Long Grove, Illinois

• Best for Young Professionals (#1 is Mission Bay neighborhood in San Francisco, California

• Best for Retirees (#1 is Pelican Bay, Florida

• Healthiest (#1 is Berkeley, California

• Outdoor Activities (#1 is Portland, Oregon

Another great feature of this tool allows you to save neighborhoods, towns or cities to “your list”, keeping track of any results that appeal to you. Say for example, you have a new job, but it requires a move to Oregon. Use Niche to find the best location matches your priorities for your new living area and save them to your list. Then, you can compare selected neighborhoods or cities to see what average home prices are and what current residents have to say about their home town.  

Finally, the next step is to call your Norcom Loan Officer to talk to them about getting pre-qualified!


Planning A Summer Garden

May 2
1:04
PM
Category | General

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you started your summer garden planning? If you love the idea of having an herb box, veggie patch or a cutting flower garden to enjoy this summer, it is essential to start prepping now! 

A few questions to get you started: 

  1. Where do you live?  

Within the 50 states, a range of plant hardiness zones help gardeners determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location. The first step in planning your garden is to determine your ‘grow zone’ based on this map. It will not only help advise you on what to plant, but also when to plant it! Based on geographical location, think about when the last frost date in your area occurred, how much sun exposure your land gets every day, and how much water access you have. 

  1. How much space do you have?  

Do you have an established garden plot, or will you need to create one in your yard? Do you want to commit to removing an area of lawn to establish your garden, or do you want to pursue a more organized look with raised beds? Alternatively, if your home does not have yard space, you could plant in elevated garden containers or pots. Start small, so your time, money, and water investments are conservative. When considering how much space you have, also think about where the desired plot is located, in full sun, partial sun, or shade? Is it close enough for your water hose to reach and small enough that you (or your partner and family) can manage the maintenance and harvesting? 

  1. Do you have a plan?  

This is the fun part! Choose the herbs, veggies, fruits, flowers, and root vegetables you would like to grow. If you are unsure of your choices, speak to someone at a local garden center and ask what fares well in your grow zone. Keep in mind that all plants have different requirements for soil, fertilization, sun exposure, watering, soil pH, and more.  

Additional tips: 

  1. Crop rotation – If you have planted a garden in past years, switch up the crops you grow this summer. Planting different crops in alternating years keeps your soil nutrient rich. 

  1. Companion planting – Just like humans, plants like to have companions! My grandma always planted marigolds between her tomato plants to help deter insects or disease. There are many other ‘companions’ that work well to help keep bugs or grubs at bay when planted together. 

Starting from scratch: 

If this is your first attempt at planting a garden, try to have fun with it! You don’t need to install fancy irrigation systems or a dozen different crop varieties. Start small and enjoy the fruits of your labor, literally! 

  1. A raised bed is a great way to ease into gardening for many homeowners. It requires a basic setup/installation, needs less maintenance, and can give your yard a more organized look. You can purchase a raised-bed kit at a home improvement or garden center store. Usually consisting of lumber (do not use pressure treated), corner posts or caps, and some type of material (cardboard or thick layers of newspaper can also work) to lay down to deter grass and weeds from growing up into the bed, a raised bed should usually be 12-24 inches tall. A taller bed can help with plants that have deeper root systems. 

  1. A garden planter is also a great option for folks with little or no yard space. You can purchase a waist-height planter box in a variety of sizes and materials to sit in a sunny spot on your patio or even the side of your driveway. This option is also great for people who may have back issues and prefer not to bend over to reach all their crops. Lettuces, flowers, and many vegetables do well in this style planter.  

  1. If you are in a city and are limited to potted plants on a stoop or window boxes, there are still options for you! Maybe you won’t be able to harvest corn, but you can try your hand at herbs, lettuces, peppers, or even garlic and carrots in a deeper pot. 

Last tip: 

But very important: contain your mint! The idea of homemade mojitos or watermelon mint salads sounds enticing but plan carefully when planting your mint! This low-maintenance herb is invasive and can easily spread throughout a garden. Plant your mint in a contained area, or else you will soon have to quit your job to become a full-time mint farmer!


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