Planning A Summer Garden

May 2
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!

Are you moving this spring to a new city or state? Perhaps you are making this move solo, with a partner or maybe with your whole family. Moving can be a very exciting time, but also comes with additional stresses. After figuring out the logistics of your mortgage, packing up your old apartment, and rerouting your mail, there is one more critical step – meeting people in your new community. This can be intimidating for many, but the more friends you make, the more your new city will start to feel like home! 

Think about the hobbies you like to participate in. Starting with an activity that is already in your comfort zone will help ease the intimidation of meeting all new faces. It is easier to strike up conversations with strangers if you already know you share the same interests.  

Here are 11 of our favorite ideas to spark interest in becoming part of your new community: 

  1. Volunteer  

Do you have a passion to give back to your community? Even in a new place, there are many ways to volunteer and meet people who share this same passion! Volunteering at a park cleanup day or the local humane society for a couple hours each week is a great way to meet likeminded locals. If you are not sure of opportunities in a new town, check out  

  1. Join an Amateur Sports Team 

Whether or not you have an athletic bone in your body, adult leagues are a great way to meet fun individuals. You may prefer to join a softball team or running club, or perhaps a more lighthearted kickball or corn-hole league. Whatever you choose, having a scheduled commitment is a great way to ensure you'll get away from your new house and all the unpacked boxes to spend time meeting new people! 

  1. Join a Gym or Fitness Studio  

If you are not so competitive but still love exercising, check out a new gym or fitness studio. If you do not want to make an on-the-spot commitment, see if your new city offers Class Pass to try multiple locations. Alternatively, check with each gym or studio to see if they offer a free or reduced-price trial period.  

  1. Go for a Run 

Sign up for a 5k or themed road race in your new hometown. Jogging on a course is a great way to discover new parts of your city, especially if the course takes you by stores and restaurants you might want to visit later. If you run on your own, be sure to do a little research beforehand to check for any neighborhoods where you might want to exercise caution. Always consider your personal safety when running in a new place. 

  1. Join a Professional Network 

If you made this move because of your career, take advantage of the momentum and join a local professional networking club! Explore BNI groups, the local Chamber of Commerce, or Young Professionals organizations. 

  1. Meetup with a Social Club  

Are you leaving behind a group of pals who regularly met over a glass of wine? See if there are any social clubs that you can join, perhaps a book club, knitting club, or hiking club. Sites such a were created specifically for the purpose of helping you find activities based on your area and interests. The opportunities are there if you look! 

  1. Find your Favorite Sports Team Fan Hangout 

For many people, moving to a new state means leaving behind convenient comrades who share the love of the favorite local sports team. If you look, you may find a bar known to support your favorite team. Come game day, you will know where to go to cheer on your team! 

  1. Join Community Facebook Groups 

Are you a social media lover? If your new town has a Facebook page or private group, request to join. This is a great resource to learn about local business offerings, upcoming events, and more. 

  1. Check Out Fun Events Such as Bar Trivia Nights  

After your big move, treat yourself with a fun night out. Check out local bars to see if they offer free events like Trivia Night. These fun gatherings are a great way to blow off steam and get to know some friendly new faces. 

  1. Go to a Food, Music or Art Festival 

Moving in the spring is great because you will be able to take advantage of the fun summertime offerings in your new city. Food Truck Festivals, outdoor movies, Farmer’s Markets, concerts and art shows are great events to attend solo or with your family.  

  1. Take a Class 

Let your move inspire you to sign up for a class you’ve been thinking about for years. Whether it is learning a new language, dance lessons or pottery classes, acquiring a new skill is an awesome way to explore your creative side and meet people who share your interests!


If you are now excited to move to a new place this spring, call one of our Loan Officers today to get pre-qualified!

Many people choose to invest in real estate as a reliable source of passive income. Most often, when someone purchases an investment property, they have one of two intentions: either to rent it out or to resell it (often called flipping a house). Both are great options and have potential for earning. In fact, many first-time buyers choose an investment property before they buy their first home! But investment properties aren't without challenges or risks. Here are five things to consider before investing in real estate:


  1. Determine the Type of Investment 

Before searching for potential investment properties, it is wise to think about what type of real estate investment to make. An investor should decide if a "flip and resell" investment or rentable property is their goal. Flipping a home involves making needed repairs and cosmetic updates to increase the home’s resale value. This option is attractive to many people because the payout of this investment occurs as soon as the property is sold. With renting, however, an investor has the benefit of building equity, using rent to pay off the home loan, and enjoying this "passive income" for as long as they own the property. Know that both options require time and money in addition to payments on the property. 

  1. Do Research 

A wise real estate investor should find out information about comparable investment properties in the area. If the plan is to resell the home, how is the market in the area? If the property requires upgrades or repairs, will the cost of repairs still allow for a profit considering the price of comparable homes? If the plan is to rent it, is the property located in an area where rental properties are in demand? 

  1. Calculate Expenses and Estimate Profits 

Well before purchasing an investment property, along with doing research, an investor will want to take an honest look at their potential expenses and profits. Being analytical about this part will help prevent making decisions based solely on emotions or “hunches.” Although the profits are certainly exciting, the risk is also high, so it’s best not to romanticize investment property ownership. 

  1. Secure a Down Payment  

Unlike primary residences where 0-3% down is possible (depending on the loan program), investment properties typically require 15-20% down. If an investor is thinking about buying an a large or multi-unit property, this can be quite a big investment from the start. Remember that 20% down does not account for the money needed to make upgrades or repairs. That’s why many investors take on partners. Which brings us to our next point... 

  1. Choose Partners Carefully 

Investing in an income-generating property with a partner can go very well and be profitable, but it can also go badly if the partnership sours. When partnering with friends or family, be careful not to blur the lines between relationship and real estate partnership. Make sure that all aspects are spelled out in a formal contract and consult legal advice before making decisions that could negatively impact the partnership. 


If you’re considering buying a home as an investment property, please contact us for guidance. Our experienced loan officers can help guide you on the best investment loan products that fit your goals.

The Modern Farmhouse is Here to Stay

Apr 9
Category | General

If you turn on HGTV or open a Good Housekeeping magazine, you are bound to hear or read about “modern farmhouses.” Is this style of home and interior design just a fad, or is it here to stay?  

Originally, farmhouses were characterized as functional and sturdy, typically situated on agricultural land. Farmhouses are beautiful in their straightforward design with little ornamentation and a focus on natural materials, solid construction, and classic colors. Other common elements of this classic style are wraparound porches, larger kitchens, a semi-open floor plan, and a centralized Great Room for family gatherings.  

In 2019 however, many homeowners desire these style elements, no matter where they live. From suburban single-family homes to city lofts, the “modern farmhouse” aesthetic has gained popularity and doesn’t seem to be budging. Why has this happened?  

According to Google Trends, the search term “modern farmhouse” started gaining popularity around 2015. Likely due to the growing viewership of shows like HGTV’s Fixer Upper and trends on Pinterest. Even large home furnishing retailers have jumped on board, creating furniture, appliance, paint colors, and more, specifically to fit a “modern farmhouse.” 


We think this trend is here to stay. Not only does this classic look evoke a home’s coziness, but it also appeals to a feeling of nostalgia for multiple generations. As a blend of both country and industrial design elements, many families feel that this style is neither masculine nor feminine, and the classic design will stand the test of time.  

While not every home or budget can accommodate a wraparound porch, some cornerstone elements of this design style can be incorporated at a more reasonable price point. Consider adapting to an open floor plans characterized by wide entryways and high ceilings or large windows or change aspects of an eat-in kitchen to include an apron sink or butcher block countertops and wide planked natural wood floors. Out with the trendy (and pricey) mirrored glass tiled backsplashes, and in with the timeless (and budget friendly) ceramic subway tiles. 

Whether you live in a housing development or on a city block, you can still incorporate and enjoy design elements of a modern farmhouse in your space. Through your paint color palette, light fixtures, flooring or furniture, you can transform your sweet home into a farmhouse oasis! If you want to get started on any of these upgrades today and are interested in refinancing to do so, please give us a call!

What's New in Home Tech?

Mar 27
Category | General

Do you remember the best, state-of-the-art home tech from when you were a child? Maybe it was the next-door neighbor who had a central vacuum system throughout their house, where a hose could be found behind a tiny flap in each room, ready to clean up dust or any messes. To a 5-year-old mind, this ‘smart house’ was amazing.  

Since that central vacuum, home technology has continued to grow and develop. There are some incredibly advanced options available on the market. If you consider yourself a techie and love following the newest releases in smart phones and tablets, wearable tech, TVs, smart home speakers or gaming systems, you might be interested in learning about the latest technology for your home! 


The Latest in Security Upgrades 

There is a doorbell with a built-in HD video camera, microphone, and speaker. This tech allows you to check your phone to see who is knocking at your door, whether you are upstairs or out of town. Available from Nest or SkyBell HD

Terrific Temperature Control 

There are smart thermostats that allow you to remotely control the temperature in your home’s rooms and detect hot or cold spots. Options from Nest or Ecobee

For the Pet-Parent in All of Us  

If you want to check on your furry friend when you are away from home, you can install a pet camera. Some even allow you to talk to your pet through your phone app or dispense a treat to your dog or cat! 

Wi-Fi Connected Appliances 

Samsung makes an oven with wi-fi connectivity that allows you to adjust its temperature from your smart phone. They also make refrigerators with front facing touch screens and built-in cameras that allow you to see inside from your smartphone, so you always know what to buy when you’re at the grocery store! 

Smart Lighting 

The Drift Lightbulb has a setting that will slowly fade the bulb from on to off over the span of 37 minutes, which they say is the time of an average sunset. Also available from Phillips are Hue smart lights, a series of lighting options that allow you to turn your smart light bulbs on or off, dim, change their color or have an outdoor bulb range for patio mood lighting. 

The Ultimate Spa Experience 

Try a smart bathtub! This tub acts as a Bluetooth speaker to play your favorite songs when empty. When filled with water, the music creates ripples through the water, enhancing your relaxation. 

An Automated Lawn Service  

Robotic vacuum cleaners have been around for years, but have you seen a robotic lawn mower? These lawn mowers use smart shock sensor technology to avoid obstacles in your yard and returns to its charging base when it is done mowing or senses rain! 

Air Quality Control 

With spring’s arrival, many people start to think about their allergies and indoor air quality. In addition to voice or app-activated air conditioners, there are now smart air purifiers that help remove airborne allergens, mold, bacteria, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at the molecular level, from room to room. 

Wake Up to the Smell of Coffee. Every Morning, Right on Time. 

With a smart coffee maker, all you need to do is fill the water and whole or ground coffee beans, then set the app for whatever time you want your coffee to start brewing. If a latte is more your thing, smart espresso machines are available as well. Be aware though, adding the bean grinder, milk frother, and a variety of 18 different drink options can increase the price tag. 

Smart Fitness Equipment 

No, they won't do the work out for you, but the trend toward smart, in-home fitness machines could help keep you motivated! A Peloton bike or treadmill or the Mirror have subscriptions that allow you to attend virtual classes with a real instructor in the comfort of your own home. 


While none of these products are necessities, they sure can make your home, and your life, a bit more convenient and fun. As apps become more and more common in our daily lives, from mobile banking to food delivery, home tech will continue to follow this trend. Is there any smart home tech that you are looking forward to seeing in the future? 

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