An Insider’s Look at Mortgage Closing Costs and How to Minimize the Amount You’ll Pay

When buying a new home, you may be focused on finding a mort program that has a down payment requirement that is manageable for you. However, some home buyers will overlook the costs that they are responsible for at closing. These costs can vary, but it is common for home buyers to pay between two to three percent of the loan amount in closing costs, if not more. This can be a hefty sum of money that you will need to budget for. The good news is that there are some steps that you can take to keep these costs to a minimum.

Shop For a Title Insurance Company

There are numerous fees that will be listed on your closing statement, but one of the highest fees is the title company charge. The title charges vary from company to company. Most lenders and real estate agents have preferred title companies that they want to work with, but you typically have the ability to shop around and compare the fees. You simply have to inquire what the lender’s or real estate agent’s preferred title company is and what the fees are. Then, you can shop around to find a better deal.

Consider Your Escrows

Another large expense on your closing statement will be the prepaid taxes and insurance as well as the escrows for these amounts. One idea is to ask your lender to waive escrows. This request is not always granted, but it can drastically reduce the amount of money you need to pay for out of your pocket at closing. You can also shop around for a better deal on property insurance to lower your escrow expense.

Ask the Seller to Pay for Closing Costs

While you are ultimately responsible for many of the closing costs, you may be able to structure your sales contract so that the seller pays for some or all of the costs. This is generally something that may be negotiated at the time the original offer is made, but you could also submit a revision request to the contract through your real estate agent.

Understanding what the closing costs are and which costs can be negotiated or shopped around for is important. You can also look at how gifts from the seller or other parties can be used to reduce your out of pocket expenses when buying a new home.


Should You Pay Off Your Mortgage Early? Maybe Not…

The secure feeling of owning your home outright, without monthly payments over your head, seems like the ultimate goal in home-ownership, right? With your mortgage paid off, you can finally breath free…or can you? An informative article in The Fiscal Times presents a few things to consider before you decide to pay off your mortgage early.

The money you spend on paying off your mortgage may be better spent on paying down other debts you might have, especially those with higher interest rates. At this point, mortgage rates are still low (the average 30-year fixed loan is at about 4.2%), while the national credit card interest rate is much higher (national average APR is 14.92%). The article also points out that credit card debt interest is not tax deductible, but your mortgage interest is.

It’s also a good idea to contribute the maximum amount to your retirement plan before paying off your mortgage. If you’re still working, put those extra earnings into your IRA or 401(k) before you consider putting that money towards paying off your mortgage.

While prepayment penalties are less common than they used to be, it’s important to make sure you won’t be penalized for paying off your mortgage early. Don’t miss any of the fine print!

Consider other important investments in your and your children’s future. Once you’ve worked towards reducing your credit card debt and contributing to your retirement, look into college savings plans and other tax-free investments. If you’d like to learn more about investments that might be right for you and your family, contact me at any time. I’m here to answer any questions you may have and provide clear and concise information to help you move forward with a smart investment and other financial planning.



Top Reasons Why Americans Move

MovingI recently came across this informative article presenting the Top 9 Reasons Why People Move to a New Home. Here are a few of the most common reasons why people move…are you on this list?

Relationship Changes

A very common reason why people move to a new home is that there has been a change in their relationship. Whether that change is moving in with a significant other, getting married, or divorced, it’s time for a new home!

Job Changes

car highwayTired of your long commute in standstill traffic? You’re not alone. Another common reason why people move is to be closer to a new job and cut down on their gas usage.

A New Environment

6dc2c9d88ef9d4ef9e5d756c2b7880fcThere’s nothing like a fresh start, and for some people, moving to a new home provides them with a way to reboot. Some may be seeking the excitement of the big city, looking for a nice suburb to raise their kids, or in need of a new place to get away from it all in a rural setting.

Financial Changes

Those experiencing unfortunate financial difficulties often have no choice but to find to a new, smaller home to help cut back on expenses. On the other hand, individuals with recently acquired funds may be seeking an upgrade or a second home.


retirementOlder people may be looking for a home in which they can retire that will meet their changing physical needs as they age. For example, one may wish to move from a two-story to a single-story home or may be seeking to get rid of some land or a farm that requires too much physical labor.

NorthStar Moving put together this interesting infographic displaying the most common reasons why people move:infographic

In my years of experience as a mortgage lender, I have worked with many individuals that have moved for each of these reasons and many others. If you’re thinking of moving to a new home, for whatever reason, please contact me to discuss your lending options.

Weekend Projects to Increase Your Home’s Value

Recently, MSN Real Estate posted an article about small tasks you can complete for $300 or less to improve your home’s value. Here are a few projects from the article that would be easy to tackle this weekend!

1. Make over your cabinets

Kitchen cabinets are often one of potential home buyers’ biggest objections. Instead of refacing or replacing your cabinets to make them look more presentable, give them a clean, updated look with some new paint. Go for a light, neutral color for most kitchens. If you’re lucky enough to have a kitchen that has tons of natural light, you could opt for a darker color like a chocolate brown or black. New hardware is the next step: this is an accent that home buyers definitely notice. Find modern and simple pulls and avoid glaringly shiny finishes, glass or decorations. A simple brushed nickel is a modern and neutral choice.

2. Create an impression of extra rooms

outdoor seating

Take advantage of the extra spaces in your home to showcase potential living spaces. Get rid of clutter in the basement and garage and add some appropriate lighting and shelving to create a space where one could work on crafts, hobbies or household projects. Take this same idea to the outdoors and create a backyard seating area or gardening workshop.

3. Get those floors cleaned

clean floors

Since it’s best to let the buyer make decisions about replacing floors, you can at least make sure the existing floors are spic and span. Rent a steam cleaner for carpets and buff/polish hardwood.

4. Tidy up the front yard

No matter the time of year, a few quick updates will entice buyers from the street view of your home. Clean or replace the mailbox, put up new street numbers, clean the storm door and windows and touch up chipped paint.

5. Patch and paint

Patch and Paint

A fresh coat of paint can make a huge difference in your home. This is not the time too experiment, so don’t try out accent colors or walls. Use a satin wash of one or two neutral colors that will flow from room to room.

A good realtor will have additional ideas to entice prospective home buyers…If you’re looking to sell your home, contact me for a referral!

Increase Your Home’s Curb Appeal with these Tips

A house’s curb appeal plays a major role in determining its value. If you’re trying to sell your home or just looking to spruce it up a bit, here’s some great tips for increasing its curb appeal!

curb appeal 2Take a Step Back

First things first, it’s recommended that you begin by viewing your home as a potential buyer. Get out a pad and pencil and take critical notes. Get in your car and drive by slowly both during the day and night to really get an idea of what you’re working with. Also pay attention to other homes as you’re driving: what catches your eye? Make notes of both positive and negative aspects. Consider having a friend or family member also take a look and make notes..they may see something you’ve missed.

Frame the Entrycurb appeal

Curb appeal experts all agree: the best way to add instant value to a home is a great entryway. A well-lit path not only increases security, but it adds depth and drama and highlights your home’s landscaping, even in the dark. An inviting and interesting front door is also key to increasing curb appeal. Consider painting your front door a bright color, like red, and make sure any metal fixtures are polished and shine brightly. Symmetry is also key, so install two stylish, lantern-style fixtures and coordinated urns with identical plants in them.

Matching Plants

Add color and cheerfulness with porch containers, window boxes, and flower beds all around your home. Pre-planted containers are very affordable and gardening is something that millions enjoy and find very rewarding. It’s important that plants and pots match the style and location of your home, so be sure to do your homework before purchasing any flowers, shrubs, or trees. Creative and thoughtful outdoor landscapes really set a home apart from the rest.curb appeal 4

Use these tips to see quick increases in your home’s curb appeal. There’s really simple steps you can take to really up the value of your home.

For more advice on increasing your home’s value, contact me today to get a list of reliable realtors. I can’t wait to hear from you!



Top 5 (Easy) Home Improvements that make a big difference

quirky_pivot_power_1We’re sort of in this in-between part of the year. It’s not quite warm enough to get outside and get something done, but the spring thaw hasn’t hit to spur some motivation, either. We just need something to “do” that is easy and will create results quickly.
1. Decide to cut your energy bill. I saw a television report one time about a family who plugged everything in their house into surge protectors. Before they left the house, went to bed, etc. they turned each one of them off (vs. actually unplugging everything which would take more time). They saved around $2,000 in just the first year. Appliances pull electricity even when they’re not on, so this is something simple that will directly impact your finances in a big way.
2. Organize your garage. Back the cars out, close the door, and get started. Spring/Summer will be here before you know it and it’s no fun to spend the first few days of warmer weather doing this. Be sure to dispose of things that need disposed of in a safe way, but other than that, I highly recommend figuring a system that will work for you. So… for one family I know, they hang everything on the walls using the Rubbermaid system: strollers, rakes, shovels, etc.
3. Get rid of toys (or extra clutter). Kids need less than we think. Spring consignment season is just around the corner or donating them is a great way to start checking off deductions for those of you who own your home. Clearing clutter for some reason makes them more apt to play with the toys that are left.
4. Make your home safer. This one won’t bring about immediate results—unless you have a fire today, but it will give you the peace of mind you deserve. Check carbon monoxide detectors and fire alarm batteries. In addition, have your furnace serviced if you haven’t in the last year.
5. <strong> Finish a project. The only way to make this happen is to actually make a list of what needs to be done and then do it. Checking off the “honey-do’s” BEFORE it gets warm outside will leave you time to relax/enjoy when it finally does get warm.

Are you in need of fast answers and reliable service related to a mortgage? Call us today: 913.396.4448.

Unique Gifts for 2013 Holiday Shopping

holiday giftsMore stuff tends to clutter a home and might not really be appreciated by the person getting the gift. Think outside the box this year and do something unexpected. Our ideas below will either save time, money, or space for the ones you love and the last one will provide a gift that is sure to have delight the older people in your life.

Give the gift of safe, simple, quick, and green cleaning with Norwex microfiber cloths. Using just tap water and the Norwex Enviro Cloth, you can clean your entire home.

Meal Planning Sites
Once-a-month meals,, etc. These are low cost sites that will save money and for larger gifts could be purchased a full year in advance.

This is a great service for families and single people alike. Just about everyone finds something to love.
Know of someone who wants to acquire a new skill in the new year? This site is packed full of awesome tutorials for almost anyone.

Gift Cards
If they have meaning, they are great gifts! Think of something you know the person does often and write a fun note to go with it.

Food of the Month Club

These clubs will send different assortments of seasonal food to the recipients door for year-round enjoyment.

Digital Photo Frame
Find one that will upload from facebook photos or will upload directly from your smart phone to give others instant access to your photos.

Life Story
Know how to write? Even if you don’t do it well, you’ll be glad you did this… Get started recording the life story of an elderly parent/grandparent. While it may not be a tangible gift, they will love the idea of having their legacy on file for years to come.

Are you in need of fast answers and reliable service related to a mortgage? Call us today: 913.396.4448.

Home Heating Tips

homeheatefficientOh Baby, it’s cold outside!! Heating your home efficiently is one big thing on all of our minds these days. Here are some ideas to help save money and keep “the Mrs.” warm at the same time.
1. On sunny days, take advantage of the sun to bring in heat. Adjust blinds so they are open and tilted toward the ceiling—but be sure to close the blinds at sundown.
2. Set your ceiling fan in the reverse position, on low. When radiant heat enters your home from the windows aimed upward, the fan will help circulate warm air all around the room.
3. Have your heater serviced and change the filter if you’ve not already this month. This is one of those things that if you don’t do it, you could be really sorry. Carbon Monoxide poisoning is a big issue in cold weather—keep yourself and your family safe.
4. Humidifiers can also improve health issues like dry sinuses, while saving energy. Since moist air holds heat, you may feel more comfortable and lower your normal heat setting due to the increased comfort.
5. Fireplaces can waste a lot of energy, as they pull warm air out of the house through the chimney. Make sure the damper is closed when you’re not using your fireplace. Installing glass doors can also help keep heat in your home when the fireplace is not in use.
6. Don’t lose heated air through exhaust fans. Use them sparingly and turn them off when not in use during colder weather as they pull heated air out of your house.

Are you in need of fast answers and reliable service related to a mortgage? Call us today: 913.396.4448.

How to Host Guests for the Holidays

houseguestMany of us will have family and friends visiting this year. Most of us don’t have 10 bedrooms with bathrooms attached to put them in, either, so thinking ahead to some of the logistics will be key to enjoying the extra company vs. running to get them things while at your home.
1. Think of the things you do every day like showering, drinking coffee and sleeping. Each of these things might take some forethought on the part of you (the host) to help your guest accomplish. Do you have enough beds/sheets/pillows? Is there a bathroom near where your guests will sleep? Does it have enough towels? Do you have enough coffee mugs? Do you need to purchase creamer for their coffe? Many of these questions are simple, but setting out the towels, extra toilet paper, coffee mugs, and bath soap will make things easier when they arrive.
2. Dietary restrictions. So many of us are eating special diets these days, but if you’re only visiting with these family/friends a few times a year you might not know this about them. Be sure to ask if there are special things they will need to eat when they visit.
3. Make a plan—you can write it out if you want to, but bearing in mind when they will arrive, what meals you will need to have ready (or reservations if you’re eating out)is important. Taking them somewhere fun that is only in KC might be a neat way to start the visit.
4. Are they planning to shop when they get here. While this is less important to smaller town friends/family these days due to the popularity of internet shopping, be sure to ask if they have special stores they’d like to hit while they’re in town.
5. Last, but not least, de-clutter. Take all unnecessary furniture or breakable things to the basement to store them. You will be amazed how quickly your house fills up with a few extra bodies. The house will feel bigger and have less visual stimuli and fewer shelves to bump into.

Are you in need of fast answers and reliable service related to a mortgage? Call us today: 913.396.4448.

Home Value Killers

Sabrina Soto from HGTV has been in the home décor industry a long time and knows what sells/what won’t. She believes that if you’re going to stay in your home indefinitely, you should do what makes you happy, but if you’re planning to sell in the next 5 years you should really think before you make changes. She has listed out the top five home value killers… check them out:

Converting bedrooms into other spaces: If potential homebuyers “see it’s a four-bedroom house, they want to go to the open house and see four bedrooms. You have to take the guesswork out,” says Soto. If you do convert a room, there’s one feature you should absolutely never mess with. Watch the video to find out what that is.

Hot tubs: Soto thinks inheriting someone else’s hot tub is a turn-off — and she’s not alone. “You’d be surprised how many potential buyers find them to be a little gross.” And once a hot tub is installed, it’s not an easy feature to remove from a deck or backyard.

Colored trim and textured walls: It seems like any potential homebuyer would see these features and know they can easily paint over them, but not so fast, says Soto. “I would much rather paint walls than trim any day — it’s a beast of a job,” she says. And textured walls are “a mess to sand down and remove. The fad is over anyway, so just let it go.” If you feel your trim is outdated, see the video for Soto’s tips on what to do.

Children’s theme bedrooms: Spending hundreds of dollars on a mural for your child’s wall is throwing money away. Not only will they outgrow it in a matter of years, but “you’re never going to get that money back when you sell, so just keep it neutral,” posits Soto.

Too much landscaping: Conventional wisdom says you want your yard to look as nice as possible, but heed Soto’s warning: you want to “keep up with the Joneses — but don’t exceed them.” To a potential buyer, gorgeous, overdone landscaping screams high-maintenance.

Are you in need of fast answers and reliable service related to a mortgage? Call us today: 913.396.4448.