Mortgage 101: What To Know Before You Apply

Everybody loves talking about mortgages. They’re fun, easy to understand, and a great icebreaker, right?….Wrong. Thanks to their lengthy process, technical jargon, and confusing options, mortgages have a bit of an intimidating reputation—but it doesn’t have to be that way!

If you’re in the process of buying a new home and dreading the mortgage application process, here’s what you need to know to keep things running smoothly. 

Know How Much You Can Spend

A person holding up money.

If you’re feeling antsy about getting started and want a general idea of how much loan you might qualify for, consider the 28/36 rule, or the Debt-to-Income ratio—AKA what most lenders use to help calculate your mortgage. 

Essentially, the 28/36 rule means that your monthly mortgage payment shouldn’t be more than 28% of your gross income. Additionally, your outstanding debts—like mortgage, car loans, student loans—shouldn’t account for more than 36% of your gross income.

Get Your Finances in Order

Statistics on a laptop.

Not seeing the numbers you were hoping for after calculating your Debt-to-Income ratio? Then, hopefully, you’ve given yourself a little time to shift things in your favor. Paying off loans, improving your credit score, avoiding big purchases—these will all help you change those numbers. 

Of course, completing those tasks is a little harder to do in practice than in theory, so you may have to take a look at your budget and see where you can cut out some extras—at least temporarily!

What You’ll Need to Apply

Paperwork.

In the weeks before you plan on applying for a mortgage, you should start collecting all of the documents you need. Since a lender will be telling you exactly how much money they’re willing to loan, they’ll need a comprehensive understanding of your finances beforehand. Start gathering things like:

  • W2s/tax returns
  • Photo ID
  • Your two most recent pay stubs
  • Current and prior addresses
  • Asset information (retirement funds, 401(k), stocks and bonds, other investments) 
  • Gift letters

Depending on the lender you choose, you may need additional documents, so consider calling in to double-check beforehand. 

Find the Right Mortgage

Three women pointing at a laptop.

Once it’s time to start thinking more concretely about applying for a mortgage, you have several options to consider. While all the mortgage options out there could easily fill a whole blog post on their own, here’s a quick rundown to give you a general idea:

  • Conventional/Fixed-rate:  The interest rate of a fixed-rate loan won’t change over time, making it a popular choice for its predictability. Conventional loans typically require a 20% down payment or mortgage insurance for smaller down payments.
  • Adjustable-rate: The interest rate of adjustable-rate mortgage will fluctuate over time, sometimes lower than fixed-rate, sometimes higher. There is a cap in place so the rate doesn’t get too out of control, but ARMs are typically more popular with those who plan to refinance.
  • FHA: If you are struggling to come up with a down payment, you may have options with an FHA mortgage. Provided by the Federal Housing Administration, these loans come with a low down payment requirement and built-in mortgage insurance.
  • USDA: Live in a rural area? Then check out your USDA eligibility! A surprising amount of areas qualify for USDA loans, even if you aren’t living in the countryside. Plus, USDA loans don’t require a down payment and offer lower insurance premiums.

These aren’t the only options you’ll have, just the most common. If none of these sound right or you aren’t sure which to choose, just ask your lender!

Choose the Right Lender

When it comes time to decide who to work with, you’ll have to do your research. Each lender is different, meaning they’ll likely offer you different rates, charges, and loan options. 

Luckily, we’ve been working in real estate around the area for years, so we know exactly which lenders are right for which buyers. If you need a few suggestions before you kick off your search, just let us know! 

Still Have Questions?

That’s okay—we get it. Applying for mortgage is confusing and challenging, especially if it’s your first time. If you have any questions about the process, we’re here to help. 

Ready to start looking at a few homes in your price range? We can help with that, too! Check out our specialized search tool to narrow down your options, and give us a call to start seeing a few in person!

The 5 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your Home

If you’re gearing up to sell your home, you’ve probably read tons of articles all about what you should be doing…but what about what you shouldn’t be doing? After all, selling your home is a huge financial decision, and a misstep could mean losing out on your hard-earned profit. 

Don’t let something as easy to fix as not staging or pricing incorrectly throw off the success of your sale! Here are the top five mistakes to avoid when selling your home. 

Setting an Unrealistic Price

A man looking at his laptop.

It might come as a surprise, but pricing a home is tricky. Not only do you have to take into account what homes around yours have recently sold for (or, in other words, what buyers are willing to pay), but you also need to know how to value any updates and improvements you’ve made. Plus, you want your home to be priced so that it pops up in as many online searches as possible. When it comes to finding that magic number, sellers’ emotions often cloud the ability to accurately price a home. 

So you’ll just use an automatic estimator, and that’ll take care of things, right? Well, only if you’re okay with using outdated data and not taking into account any upgrades you’ve made. The best way to get a price that guarantees you’ll maximize your investment? Enlisting the help of an experienced local agent. 

Ignoring Major Repairs (or Making the Wrong Ones)

A man fixing a sink.

During the inspection process, your home will be reviewed with a fine-tooth comb. Any things you’ve been avoiding, like leaky faucets, outdated water heaters, or water damage in the ceilings, will be noted and shared with buyers. Additionally, if there are any major necessary repairs that you didn’t disclose ahead of time, you could find yourself in serious legal trouble—or with a cancelled sale on your hands.

Limiting Showings & Failing to Stage

An iPad sitting on a coffee table in a living room.

You’re selling your home, but you want to sell it on your terms. You don’t want to have showings every weekend or on short notice, and you don’t want to have to rearrange furniture or remove decor for staging. While changing your home or lifestyle to accommodate buyers might seem like a major hassle, being inflexible is only going to hurt you in the long run.

Buyers are going to want to see your home, sometimes more than once, and it needs to be looking its best if you want to get serious (and competitive) offers. In fact, staged homes have been shown to sell almost 90% faster and for a 20% higher profit than non-staged homes!

Letting Your Emotions Get in the Way

A woman and a child playing on a tablet.

You’ve made a lot of memories in your home, and the space likely holds indescribable value to you. So hearing people walk through the house and point out all of the flaws—then not make an offer—can be draining. A good rule of thumb for selling? Think of the process as a business transaction, and think of yourself as a salesperson, not a homeowner. Creating that divide will not only improve your emotional state, but it’ll also help you see exactly how your home can be better than it is.

Not Hiring an Agent

People meeting at a table.

Thinking of listing For Sale by Owner to avoid agent commission fees? In reality, selling FSBO can actually COST you money in the long run;. according to a 2016 study by the National Association of Realtors®, the average price for a FSBO home was around $185,000—which is $60,000 less than the average price of a home listed by an agent ($245,000). 

Aside from pricing, there’s a lot more that an agent can help you with. They’ll come up with a marketing plan for your home, suggest personalized staging strategies, conduct open houses and showings for you, and guide you through any problems or roadblocks along the way, all of which will take a load of work and stress off of your shoulders. 

Ready to List Your Home?

Feeling a little intimidated by the home-selling process? Don’t worry—we’re here to help! Not only can we give you a few more pointers on what you should and shouldn’t do, but we’ll also be around to guide you through every aspect of the sale, from listing to showings to closing. 

Ready to learn a little more about what it takes to sell for top dollar? Just give our team a call to get started! 

The Best Places to Cool Off Around the Main Line Area This Summer

Ah, summertime around the Main Line: warm rays, blue skies, and hot temperatures. While we do enjoy all of the sunshine that comes with the season, sometimes you need a little relief. Luckily, the area has plenty of swimming holes, pools, and lakes perfect for cooling off!

Whether you’re willing to take a quick trip out of the city or prefer to stay close to home, here are a few of our favorite swimming spots around the Main Line.

Bellmawr Lake

A dock at a lake.

Located just 16 minutes outside of Philadelphia, Bellmawr Lake is one of the most popular swimming spots around the city thanks to its convenient location and affordable admission fee. In addition to the lake itself, there’s also a soft white-sand beach, beach volleyball courts, a water slide, horseshoes, and picnic shelters.

An added bonus: You can also grab a drink at the on-site beach bar, and enjoy a game of mini golf once you dry off!

Atsion Recreation Area

A man grilling by a lake.

Another short trip from Philadelphia (just 45 minutes away), the Atsion Recreation Area is home to Atsion Lake, a 100-acre body of water surrounded by beautiful sandy beaches. In addition to swimming in the lake, you can also rent canoes and kayaks from nearby Pinelands Adventure or hike around the two trails around the waterfront.

Feel free to pack a picnic and some cool drinks, and use the picnic pavilions and grills to enjoy some lunch. Other amenities around the area include playgrounds, athletic fields, and a concession stand. Be sure to get there before the park reaches capacity!

Clementon Park & Splash World

A girl in a water slide.

Part theme park, part water park, wholly fun—Clementon Park and Splash World is just outside of Philadelphia and offers tons of attractions to fill up your weekends. The water park has three different thrill ride slides, a giant wave pool. a lazy river, river rapids rafting, and a kids’ zone.

Since daily admission includes access to both the theme park and water park, why not hit up the rides after you dry off? From roller coasters to ferris wheels and everything in between, you’ll find plenty of rides for all ages.

Dilworth Park Fountain

People running through a fountain.

Located in the heart of the city, the Dilworth Park Fountain features a thin layer of water constantly replenished by three-foot-high bursts of water, interspersed throughout the large expanse of pavement.

The city uses rainwater collected on-site to keep the fountain filled, making it a fairly self-sufficient system. If you’re walking around the city and working up a sweat, then the Dilworth Park Fountain is the perfect place to get your feet wet and cool off!

Find Your Home around the Main Line

No matter the season, life around the Main Line is truly one-of-a-kind. If you’re thinking of buying a home here, take a look at our in-depth community guides to learn more, browse our buying resources, and use our specialized search tool to narrow down your options.

Once you’re ready to get started, just give our team a call!

The Four Most Common Red Flags to Look for During Your Walkthrough

A new home is a big financial investment. Not only will you likely be pouring a lot of your savings into the purchase, but you’ll also be choosing a place to call home for years to come. The last thing you want is to spend all of that time and money only to discover a costly maintenance or structural issue.

Even though you’ll get a professional inspection done, there are certain red flags that you should specifically be looking out for during the first walkthrough. By recognizing these problem areas right away, you can put emphasis on them during the inspection. Save yourself time, money,  and stress, and know these major home-buying warning signs.

Foundational Flaws

A vase of flowers in front of a cracked window.

It’s not like you can pull the house up from the ground and get a closer look at the foundation, so how do you tell if there are any issues? A few surefire signs of a faulty foundation include sloping floors, swinging and sticking doors, visible cracks above window frames, and cabinets separating from the walls.

Faulty foundations can go on to cause major damage in the home, and like most problems, the longer it goes unrepaired, the worse it will get. Minor cracks will only cost around $500, while major repairs could total up to $10,000. These are expenses you don’t want—and shouldn’t have—to get saddled with, so keep an eye out during the walkthrough and get a professional opinion from the inspection.

Signs of Amateur Repairs

A man patching up a wall.

Lots of homeowners choose to DIY repairs for a variety of reasons, from budget issues to scheduling conflicts. If they know what they’re doing (or the project is something relatively simple), then there shouldn’t be any issues. But if they, say, looked up a video tutorial on how to wire electricity to a new outlet—having never done electrical work before—then you might have some problems down the road. 

Even small things that seem unimportant, like light switches wired to the wrong lights, leaky faucets, or shoddy tiling work, can be signs of larger problems elsewhere in the home. If you run into things like this, then you might ask your home inspector to take a deeper look into other areas of the house that have been recently repaired.

Concealed Damage

A half-painted wall.

Speaking of amateur repairs, some problems might seem a little too big (or expensive) to fix. That’s when homeowners might try to cover it up instead of paying for repairs. For example: a fresh coat of paint is to be expected in many homes on the market. But if the paint only covers a small section of the wall or is dotted around the ceiling, that could mean the owner is trying to hide water damage. Depending on how extensive the damage is, it will cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to repair. And if it sneaks past the inspection, it could be on your dime. 

In the same vein, things like candles and air fresheners are also expected during showings. But if you notice that the scents are a little too strong, then the sellers could be trying to cover up mold or mildew odors, smelly pets, or damage from smoking. A home is a huge investment, so don’t be afraid to really look into that dry wall and make sure it’s mold-free.

Roofs in Disrepair

The roof of a house.

Remember those spots of fresh paint? If you notice those in a house, then there’s a pretty good chance that the water is coming from the roof. Other major signs of a damaged roof include curling or missing shingles, signs of buckling, discoloration or stains, and leaning or loose chimneys and gutters. 

While a home inspector will likely check the roof, if you notice any of the above signs, you may want to ask for an extra in-depth look. After all, roof repairs can cost anywhere from $200 to several thousand dollars, so even though the roof is out of sight, always keep it in mind. 

Need Some Help Searching?

Buying a home is a huge investment, and you want to make sure you’re spending your money wisely. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the walk through process, don’t worry—we’re here to help. Not only can we point out any issues we see with the home right away, but we can also recommend top inspectors and help with negotiations for repairs.

Explore a few more of the home-buying resources we have to offer, and give us a call when you’re ready to see a few homes!

Celebrate Independence Day around the Main Line with These 4th of July Events

The Main Line and Philadelphia area played a pretty important part in America’s history…so Fourth of July around here is kind of a big deal! From parades and festivals to food and fireworks, the communities around the Main Line are pulling out all the stops for Independence Day.

Still looking for holiday plans—or wondering how many celebrations you can visit in one day? Check out our highlights!

Wawa Welcome America

A crowd of people at a concert.

When: June 29th – July 4th

Where: Various locations

What: Wawa Welcome America is a huge, multi-day festival featuring free concerts, outdoor movie screenings, free museum admission, community block parties, multiple fireworks shows, and more. It all concludes on the night of the 4th, with fireworks and live performances from artists like Jennifer Hudson and Meghan Trainor!

Narberth Fourth of July Celebration

When: July 4th, 10am

Where: Narberth Playground

What: The biggest yearly celebration in Narberth—and maybe even the biggest Fourth of July event on the Main Line—the town hosts a day full of activity. The morning starts off with a baby parade, sports contests and games, and a pie eating contest. Then, after a little break, things resume around 7pm with live music and fireworks!

July 4th in Phoenixville

Fireworks in the sky.

When: July 4th, 9:15pm

Where: Friendship Field, Fillmore & Franklin Avenue, or Reservoir Park

What: This year marks the 20th anniversary of Phoenixville’s Fourth of July celebration, where you can expect a dazzling fireworks show and on-site vendors (water ice, fries, and other tasty treats will be available).

Patriots in the Park

When: July 4th, 11am

Where: Valley Forge

What: Valley Forge was the site of a major encampment of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, and the Patriots in the Park event is all about celebrating and remembering that history. Throughout the afternoon, you can enjoy tons of crafts and activities, live demonstrations, guided tours, and more—not to mention a pop-up beer garden!

Garrett Hill-Rosemont July 4th Parade

A man with his daughter on his shoulders.

When: July 4th, 10:45am

Where: Conestoga Rd & Williams Rd

What: Bryn Mawr’s most popular Independence Day event, the Garrett Hill-Rosemont Parade will feature bikes, floats, special characters, and more. After the parade, there will be festivities in Clem Macrone Park, including live entertainment, inflatables and rides, kids’ activities, and food and drink vendors.

Tredyffrin Township’s 4th of July Celebration

When: July 4th, 7:15pm

Where: Wilson Farm Park

What: Over in Wayne, the Chester County Band will be playing a set of lively patriotic music, followed up by a brilliant fireworks show at dusk. Attendees are encouraged to bring picnic blankets and chairs, as well as their own food and drinks—although there will be vendors on-site!

Celebrate on the Main Line

There are plenty of reasons to find your home in a Main Line community, and the passionate and active community is certainly one of them! No matter the year or season, you’ll always find something exciting happening on the community calendar.

If you’re interested in buying a home on the Main Line, take some time to explore our community guides, browse our buying resources, and use our specialized search tool to narrow down your options. Once you’re ready to get started, just give us a call!

A New Kind of Home Buyer: Tips for Marketing Your Home to Millennials

A young millennial couple standing in front of the home they've just purchased.

Millennials get a lot of flack, but they’re an important part of the real estate market. In fact, they make up the largest generational percentage of home buyers right now!

So, if you’re planning on selling your home soon, it’s important to keep the average millennial home buyer in mind. This generation is unlike any that’s come before it, and the way they buy everything (from laundry detergent to life insurance) is unique.

When it comes to catching the eye of the discerning millennial home buyer, here’s what you need to do:

Create a Strong Internet Presence

It goes without saying that millennials rely on the Internet for, well, everything. This isn’t unusual: the Internet makes every kind of shopping easier and more accessible.

As such, giving your home an effective online presence is key. It needs to be easy to find via the most popular home-buying networks, and it has to look great no matter the screen size. After all, more home buyers than ever before are using their smartphones to find their dream home.

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Professional Listing Photos

A beautiful modern kitchen.

Because millennials rely on the Internet to search homes for sale, your home’s photos have to stand out in a big way. After all, with the right photographer even the smallest home can look like a palace.

So, don’t skimp on this expense! Great photos could be the difference between a home selling within hours, and a home languishing on the market for months.

Show How Your Home Will Improve their Lifestyle

Millennials are looking for homes that will improve their lifestyles and be close to wherever they need to be during the week. As you market your home online, be sure you’re highlighting both its features and location in your listing description.

Tell an exciting story of how much better their life will be once they buy your home! Craft your listing description to carefully touch on all the best parts of your home and its surroundings, and let buyers know exactly why they need to buy it.

Know What Millennials are Looking for in a Home

A pair of hands typing on a smart phone.

So, what are millennials looking for anyway? Market research finds that millennial buyers are attracted to affordable homes with eco-friendly and smart features. If your home has any green features or environmentally friendly add-ons, you’ll definitely want to highlight them.

In addition, if you’ve outfitted your home to accommodate any smart features that use technology—like a Nest thermostat or other Smart Home appliances—be sure to mention that in your listing description and social media promotion.

Use a Pro to Market Your Home

The easiest way to market your home to millennials? Work with a real estate specialist who understands this unique market—and how to best target real estate’s next generation of buyers.

Give us a call today for more information about selling your home to millennials!