Eliminate The Deal-Killers!


In her year-long house hunting adventure, Brooklyn-based realtor.com writer Margaret Heidenry recently likened home shopping to dating. “I toured countless homes, and that first visit is a lot like a first date. It can be going great until you spot your personal deal breaker—like a pack of cigarettes in her purse, or white socks with sandals. Check, please!”

Deal-breaking rooms can appear anywhere in a house, and there might be more than one. Realtors can quickly list the most common offenders that make buyers cringe. Here are a few examples:

Empty rooms with echoing voices rarely entice buyers to ask for a second visit. It’s like realizing you have nothing to talk about on a date. Empty rooms make buyers question their potential uses, even if there’s a closet in the corner. The emptiness highlights flaws—like ceiling stains, windows overlooking brick walls, or peeling floor moldings. The solution? Don’t leave it empty. Stage it as something—a home office, a library, a sitting area, or a guest bedroom. Simply adding an IKEA desk, chair, area rug, lighting, and a potted plant can make a huge difference, encouraging buyers to continue their tour.

Light is essential. No one wants to walk into a dark room. Open the curtains, raise the blinds, add light fixtures—do whatever it takes to make the room feel welcoming, even if it means lightening the paint color. No one cares that it might have been your migraine sanctuary. Just do it. Adding a real plant (not a fake one) also helps, as live plants suggest there’s enough light for them to thrive.

The bathroom from hell is a major turnoff. What qualifies? Carpeted floors. Ew. Or a bathtub hidden behind a tacky shower curtain, preventing buyers from seeing its Psycho-like depths, which might reveal dirty grout, chipped porcelain, pitted fixtures, or a collection of shampoo bottles in pools of water. Realtors agree that, regardless of a house’s size or price, every woman heads straight for the bathroom to inspect the tub. They recommend either refinishing or replacing the tub. And that carpeting? Replace it with tile. Such scenes suggest future expenses to potential buyers.

Kitchens can either sell homes or drive buyers away. They are the heart of the home. Just as your homemade lasagna brings joy, buyers need a similar reaction to your kitchen. Easy fixes include clearing counters of everything, including canister sets, toasters, Nespresso machines, the Vitamix, and cookbooks, to suggest more prep space. Quick solutions with high visual impact include refacing or painting old cabinets or upgrading outdated appliances.

Other rooms and areas can also scare buyers away, such as creepy basements, cluttered entryways, purposeless formal living rooms, overstuffed closets, and Tupperware-filled cupboards.

Ask your Realtor to give you an honest assessment by pretending to be a potential buyer seeing your home for the first time. Then get to work. Be warned, though—by the time you make all these improvements, you might decide not to sell after all. It happens.

Source: TBWS

Secret Ingredient to Selling

Being open to flexibility can often be the secret ingredient to selling your house.

The idea of downsizing can feel daunting, like trying to fit your entire life into a tiny car. Yet, for those who’ve invested time and money into a large family home, the thought of moving into something smaller can seem overwhelming.

However, downsizing doesn’t erase the memories made in your old home – those family gatherings, the first steps of your children, or the grand holiday celebrations. As life evolves and your nest empties, the idea of downsizing can become more appealing. Many Americans embark on this journey, especially after retirement, seeking a simpler lifestyle, reduced housing costs, and freedom from maintenance tasks like painting and mowing.

According to Emmet Pierce’s article on downsizing for MoneyTalksNews, opting to rent can make selling your home and relocating a more straightforward decision. “Renters have the flexibility to live wherever they choose and experience life in different communities. And once your lease is up – sometimes even before – you’re free to move on.”

But whether you choose to sell and rent or buy something smaller, dealing with clutter becomes inevitable. An organization expert quoted by Pierce explains, “Retirees in large homes often find themselves using only a few rooms, while other areas collect clutter because maintaining such a vast space becomes overwhelming.” Downsizing offers liberation from unused items, providing more breathing space.

Moreover, downsizing can enhance your quality of life and reduce stress, according to aging experts. Letting go of unnecessary furniture, outdated gadgets, and unused exercise equipment can be liberating, giving you more room to relax.

Are you tired of navigating stairs daily, burdened by the constant ups and downs? Downsizing can address mobility issues, offering homes with better accessibility, enabling you to age in place comfortably.

If you miss the convenience of urban living after moving to the suburbs for a larger home, downsizing could be the answer. Transitioning to an apartment or condo in the city center brings you closer to amenities, entertainment, and even potential job opportunities, reducing the need for long commutes.

Source: MoneyTalkNews, TBWS

Is it time to buy an investment property?

Is it advisable, at the age of 25, to consider purchasing a house for rental purposes as an investment, leveraging rental income to pay off the mortgage?

Real estate has historically proven to be a lucrative investment avenue due to its potential for cash flow, particularly through rental income, and appreciation over time. While the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis saw a decline in home values, most areas have since rebounded, returning to pre-crash levels.

Before delving into rental property investment, it’s crucial to define your expectations thoroughly. This involves evaluating potential cash flow, which may occasionally be negative. Here’s a structured approach to analyzing this:

Start by researching market rental rates in your area, utilizing online resources or the rent survey typically required by lenders for appraisal purposes. Consider adjusting your gross income estimate to account for vacancy and collection losses, as well as potential expenses associated with eviction, albeit rare.

Factor in repairs and maintenance costs, acknowledging that despite the current condition of the property, these expenses are inevitable. Additionally, allocate funds for replacements, such as estimating the remaining lifespan of major components like the roof.

Expect to provide a larger down payment for a rental property compared to an owner-occupied loan. Lenders may also require reserves, typically around 6 months’ worth, although this varies. Maintaining cash reserves is prudent regardless.

Bear in mind that interest rates for investment properties are typically higher than for primary residences. Utilize spreadsheets or online calculators to calculate principal and interest payments, and estimate property taxes and hazard insurance premiums.

Subtract all negative figures—vacancy, repairs and maintenance, replacement reserves, and monthly mortgage payments (including taxes and insurance)—from the property’s gross income to determine cash flow. A positive result is ideal, while a negative one indicates a monthly deficit that needs covering. Assess whether your stable income or liquid assets are sufficient to offset this deficit.

Consider other pertinent factors:

Is your regular income stable and ample to cover potential shortfalls?
Have you set aside emergency funds for both property-related issues and personal contingencies?
Are you prepared to hold onto the property for an extended period, perhaps five years or more?
Will your job situation permit you to remain in the area? If not, budget for a property manager, typically charging around 10% of monthly rent.
Is your current living situation satisfactory? You might weigh whether purchasing your primary residence should precede investing in rental properties, given the lower cash requirements and financing costs.

I trust this guidance proves beneficial. Best of luck!

First-Time Homebuyer Advice

Best advice I would give to first-time homebuyers
I was once asked: We’re in the process of hopefully purchasing our first home, and I’m a little lost on everything that is going on. What’s the best advice you would give to first-time homebuyers?

Undoubtedly, your primary step in the home buying journey should involve securing your financing. While I acknowledge that this advice may appear biased, considering my involvement in the mortgage business, it’s a reality that the majority of today’s home buyers rely on mortgages, making this part of the process more intricate than before.

Despite the potential complexity, obtaining a mortgage today is not as insurmountable as some may portray. Recognizing your credit situation is pivotal. Lenders don’t demand perfection, but it’s crucial to be aware of your standing. Check your credit report on platforms like Free Credit Report.Com or Creditkarma for free and promptly address any errors, past-due accounts, or public records.

Collection agencies often settle for amounts less than what is reported. However, exercise caution when settling collections older than two years, as it might impact your credit score. Establishing a relationship with a reliable loan officer early on is crucial. Seek someone responsive, trustworthy, and capable of offering clear guidance.

Initiate the preapproval process with your chosen loan officer by submitting essential documents such as pay stubs, W2s, and bank statements. The Automated Underwriting System (AUS) will swiftly provide initial findings. Aim for “Approve/Eligible” or “Accept” results and inquire about a “TBD Approval” for added strength in your offer to sellers.

I hope you find this information helpful. Best of luck on your home-buying journey!

PMI or Larger Down Payment?

Determining whether it’s cheaper to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI) or to put up a larger down payment on a house depends on your specific financial situation and goals. Here are some steps to help you make an informed decision:

Calculate the cost of PMI: If your down payment is less than 20% of the home’s purchase price, your lender may require you to pay PMI. PMI costs can vary based on the loan amount, credit score, and other factors. Your lender can provide specific details on the PMI costs associated with your loan.

Assess the cost savings with a larger down payment: Compare the total cost of PMI over the time you expect to pay it (until the loan-to-value ratio reaches 78%) with the potential savings of making a larger down payment. A larger down payment means a smaller loan amount, which can result in lower monthly mortgage payments and less interest paid over the life of the loan.

Consider alternative uses for your cash: If you have the money for a larger down payment, weigh the opportunity cost of using that money for a down payment versus other financial goals. For example, paying off high-interest credit card debt or investing the money might yield higher returns compared to the savings from a larger down payment.

Factor in future home value appreciation: If you expect the value of the home to appreciate significantly in the coming years, it may impact when PMI gets automatically canceled (at 78% loan-to-value ratio). If the home appreciates rapidly, you may reach that threshold sooner, reducing the overall cost of PMI.

Evaluate your overall financial situation: Consider your long-term financial goals, current income, job stability, and other financial commitments when deciding between a larger down payment and paying PMI.

Consult with a financial advisor or mortgage professional: Seeking advice from a financial advisor or mortgage expert can help you better understand the trade-offs and make a decision that aligns with your financial objectives.

Ultimately, the decision depends on your unique circumstances and financial priorities. Whether you choose a larger down payment or opt for PMI, buying a home should fit comfortably within your budget and contribute to your overall financial well-being.

Credit or Debit?

Once, someone inquired about the benefits of using cash or credit cards, considering my assertion that I maintain a surplus over my expenditures. There are indeed advantages to both options, but some considerations need to be taken into account.

Firstly, it’s essential to recognize the fundamental differences between credit and debit cards. While both offer fraud protection, fraudulent activity on a debit card immediately withdraws money from your account, potentially leading to significant problems. On the other hand, with a credit card, disputing a charge results in an immediate credit to your account.

Personally, I settle all my credit card balances monthly, ensuring that I avoid any interest charges. This approach allows me to enjoy various rewards, such as cash back, discounts, and airline miles, essentially offering a no-cost bonus. Moreover, I utilize Quicken to download and easily monitor all my transactions.

Nevertheless, credit cards can lead to overspending due to the ease of swiping the plastic, which somehow feels less like spending real money. Consequently, when the statement arrives, many individuals opt to pay only the minimum amount, succumbing to the less painful option. Credit card companies capitalize on this aspect of human psychology, earning substantial profits each month. They also make significant income from late fees when people overlook due dates. To avoid this, I ensure that all my cards are set up for automatic minimum payments before the due date, as paying unnecessary late fees is an avoidable and wasteful expense.

I hope this explanation proves helpful!

5 tips to refinance

The Resolution you Should Keep. Refinance.

5 reasons to refinance

“Should I refinance my mortgage?”

This is one of the most common questions we help our clients answer. 

When you refinance your existing mortgage, you are essentially paying off the existing mortgage debt and replacing it with a new loan. Many of the same costs are involved in refinancing a loan as are in first−time financing.

There is an old adage in the mortgage business that states that if you can improve your interest rate by at least two percentage points, then it is a good time to refinance. While that may work as a general rule of thumb, the truth is that there are many reasons to refinance. Here are the top five we see.

1. Lower Interest Rate 

Securing a lower interest rate is one of the top reasons for refinancing. A lower rate can make a large different in your monthly payments, and save you money on the financing fees! 


2. Build Equity Faster 

If you’re in a position to make a higher monthly payment due to a salary increase or other good fortune, you may want to refinance from a 30-year loan to a short (15 or 20 year) term loan. Adjusting the term enables you to build equity faster and save a large amount of money on the interest paid over time! 


3. Change your Loan Program 

Some homeowners who start in an ARM (Adjustable Rate Mortgage) discover they’d rather switch to a more stable Fixed Rate mortgage. While an ARM may have been the more attractive loan program when you first purchased, we can compare different Fixed Rate programs to find which would save you more money. 


4. Credit Score Improvement 

If you’ve increased your credit score since you first applied, you may be in position to refinance with a lower rate with your higher score! We’ll evaluate your current loan, then compare the rates with your new score to find you the best program that’ll lower your monthly payments! 


5. Getting Cash Out 

With a Cash Out Refi you’re able to tap into the equity that you’ve built in your home. You may want to put money towards home improvements, send a child to school, or pay off other debt with the equity you’ve accrued through your mortgage.  


Before you decide to refinance, think back to when you purchased your home.

  • Did you pay points to get a lower rate?
  • Has it been long enough that you’ve made your money back?
  • Is there a pre-payment penalty on your loan?
  • What is the purpose of this refinance? 

Refinances EMPOWER you to change

the terms of your original mortgage!

All of these factors are important to consider when you’re weighing if you should refinance your home. Give us a call at 952-405-2090 to set up your FREE initial consultation. We can help you determine if now is the right time for you to refinance. 

Are you ready to resolve your refi questions?

Refinance: refinance


re·​fi·​nance | \ ˌrē-fə-ˈnan(t)s  , (ˌ)rē-ˈfī-ˌnan(t)s, ˌrē-(ˌ)fī-ˈnan(t)s \

refinanced; refinancing; refinances

Definition of refinance

to renew or reorganize the financing of something to provide for (an outstanding indebtedness) by making or obtaining another loan or a larger loan on fresh terms refinance a mortgage

Vacation Homes in High Demand!

Vacation homes increasingly in demand because of remote work trends. It’s not something you’d expect during a pandemic and recession, but numbers don’t lie…

It’s not something you’d expect during a pandemic and recession, but numbers don’t lie. According to a PRNewswire report, sales of vacation homes are soaring. According to Redfin’s report, October saw demand for second homes skyrocket 100% from a year earlier—the fourth triple-digit increase in the last five months. That outpaces the demand for primary homes.

Home sales are on the rise across the board due to record-low mortgage rates but also because of a wave of relocations during the pandemic. Demand for second homes rises to the top among more affluent Americans who work remotely, no longer need to send their kids to school in person, and are limited by travel restrictions, according to Redfin’s lead economist Taylor Marr.

“With mortgage rates at all-time lows and offices shut down across the country, the dream of having a second home outside of the city is becoming a reality for many wealthy Americans,” Marr said. “Unfortunately, at the same time, millions of less-fortunate families are behind on their mortgage or rent payments due to financial hardship brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.”

Some of these second homes may eventually turn into primary homes, as it’s not uncommon for a buyer to close a deal on a second home before putting their current house on the market. It seems resort towns across the U.S. have attracted more homebuyers. Hotspots include Lake Tahoe, Cape Cod, Palm Springs, the Jersey Shore, and Bend, OR.

Marr adds,” Even when offices reopen, folks will be able to spend more time than ever before in their second homes because many employers will continue to offer flexible remote-work policies. With workers still commuting in one or two days a week, resort towns that are near major cities will likely continue to heat up.”

Source:PRNewswire, Redfin, TBWS

Keeping your credit score STRONG!

Cards that offer miles, cashback, or some other perk aren’t offered to just anyone, but if your credit is good…

When they say “it ain’t over ’til it’s over” they must not have been talking about credit scores. Keeping your score high is just as important after you buy a home as it was before you closed escrow, so don’t go on autopilot or revert back to old habits.

According to RealtyTimes’ Jaymi Naciri, while you may have met the goal of homeownership, keeping your scores up can benefit you in several ways. For one, you can get more credit cards, including those cards offered by stores with 0 percent financing for things like furniture, appliances and outdoor fixtures with no interest for several months. But watch out. Once your happy no-interest period expires, your rate can skyrocket if you don’t pay the entire balance. Still, if you just want to buy a little time until a few more paychecks or commission checks roll in, it’s not a bad way to go, using their money instead of your own for a short time.

Cards that offer miles, cash back, or some other perk aren’t offered to just anyone, but if your credit is good, they may be knocking down your door. “If you keep your credit score high enough to snag one, you’ll love being able to rack up miles to use for travel or apply a cash back bonus to everyday expenses to keep costs down,” says Naciri.

And here is something you may have forgotten: many employers run your credit as part of the hiring process. Let your credit drop, and it could keep you from getting a new job.

On top of all this, you never know what’s going to happen to interest rates. Good credit means that when rates drop you can jump in a heartbeat if you want to refinance, sell or buy another home.

VA Loan Right for You?

Why should you use VA loan:
The VA loan is hands down the best mortgage loan there is. Here are some reasons why.

First, VA guarantees the loan for 100% of the appraised value of the property (technically, the loan is for the Notice Of Value amount, which in most cases is the same thing). This guarantee means that the lender is willing to make the loan. The loan amount for 100% financing goes as high as the maximum amount in each county.

Veteran buyers can get a loan for more than the county maximum; they just have to pay 25% of the amount above the county maximum. In pricey California, for example, a veteran could buy a home for $800,000 with a $40,963 down—roughly 5%. Which brings me to the next reason to get a VA loan:

There is no mortgage insurance. A buyer with a 700 credit score will pay about $400 per month for mortgage insurance if he puts 3% down on a conventional loan.

The rates are slightly lower in some cases. Also, underwriting standards are easier. Where conventional loans use dent-to-income ratios to qualify, VA loans use “residual income.” This looks at how much money they actually have available each month after meeting normal expenses from their take-home pay. Conventional loans are typically capped at a 45% debt ratio (or thereabouts). VA loans can many times be approved above 50% depending on the overall strength of the borrower.

When rates drop, refinancing is easy. VA loans offer a “streamline” refinance option, called an Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL). This allows the veteran borrower to reduce his or her rate with no appraisal, and very little underwriting of income. The primary criterion for approval is that the borrower has an acceptable payment history and that they are improving their position.

If a veteran wants to refinance and get cash out of his or her equity, there is no pricing adjustment for that process. A conventional loan will typically be about .25% higher in rate to get cash out.

For anyone who is a qualifying veteran, NOT getting a VA loan would be a costly mistake.

Hope this helps!