Cold Weather Hacks to Stay Warm Inside All Winter Long

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When it’s cold outside, you want to stay warm inside. Here are a few hacks to make your home warmer and cozier as we settle into whatever winter brings.

Add a rug or two. Got cold hard floors? A rug will provide some warming insulation. Even better, layering several will create a cozy barrier to keep your feet warm. Put a plush rug on a tile floor, and you’ll gladly stand up for winter.

Make your sofa snuggle-worthy. Put pillows and throw blankets on your sofa to make it a place you’re happy to snuggle on and snuggle into. Then burrow in with some tea and a good book or a good movie.

Reverse the direction of your ceiling fan blades. When you do this, the fan blades will push the hot air downwards (instead of drawing air upwards) and help keep the heat lower. This is especially important in rooms with high ceilings. How do you know your fan is spinning in reverse? When you look up your blades should be moving in a clockwise fashion.

Block a drafty window with a towel. Roll up a towel and place along the bottom of a door to stop drafts and heat leaks. Feeling crafty? Make some homemade door snakes.

Let the light shine in when it’s sunny. Open the curtains on sunny days; close them in the evenings. You want the sun to heat your home but you don’t want the cold nights to make your home drafty.

Warm your bed. Use flannel sheets and a warm down comforter to stay warm on frosty nights.

Wear your favorite warm clothes – the oversized sweater, the loose lounge pants – and don’t forget your socks. According to the Univesity of San Diego if your feet are cold, you’ll be cold. And wear slippers – in addition to wearing warm socks, keep your feet extra toasty when doing chores by wearing slippers.

Keep your oven door open after baking. Let the warm air circulate in your kitchen. This works especially well in a smaller home or kitchen, but it’s good to try no matter what size your home is.

Home alone? Keep your bathroom door open when you shower. The warm, humid air will seep out into your home.

Finally, close off rooms you’re not using. If you have an empty guest room or storage space, close the door and seal it with a draftstopper. You won’t waste money heating a room you don’t use.

Why Winter May Be the Right Time to Buy Your New Home

Daughter and Father near the Fireplace

It may be turning cold outside but fall and winter just may be the best time for you to get a hot deal on a new home. Don’t let the blues of shorter days keep you from house hunting in the fall winter. There are some good reasons that now may be the best time to buy your new home.

Fewer buyers are house hunting.
Most home buyers shop in the spring and summer, when homes pop up for sale like tulips. Because there are so many fewer buyers, winter home buyers are more likely to get a good deal on the house they want.

Lower prices.
With fewer buyers in the market, home sellers often lower prices to attract the buyers who are out there.

Sellers are motivated.
Motivated sellers may be a great thing for home buyers, as they are more willing to negotiate. When you find the house you are looking for, you may be able to negotiate on price, closing costs, repairs, and even items such as appliances or other items you want included in the sale.

Inspections may turn up more or different items in the different seasons.
You will have the opportunity to see the house at work in the winter. Gutters, windows, heating systems, etc. get put to test during the colder months. You may miss some of the curb appeal of the manicured lawn when shopping in the winter, but you’ll know if the plumbing is working at full capacity and able to handle extremes.

Don’t miss out on buying your dream home because it’s cold outside. Seize the opportunity to put the season to work for you.

FHA Loans – Great Options for First-Time Home Buyers

new beginnings

If you’re a first-time homebuyer, an FHA loan may be the right loan for you. 

An FHA loan is insured by the Federal Housing Administration and protects lenders from financial risk. Lenders have to meet certain criteria for their loans to be termed “FHA-approved,” after which the FHA backs the loans the lender issues in case a borrower defaults on the mortgage. Borrowers must also meet requirements to qualify for one of these loans.

Why are FHA loans good options for first-time homebuyers? Because other home loan programs generally have higher credit score and down payment requirements, FHA loans are a great option for first-time homebuyers who have not had as much time to save for a large down payment or meet the credit score requirements.

Of course, are some other considerations to make before jumping in. 

Additional fees as well as private mortgage insurance add to the cost of the mortgage, and you may have a higher interest rate.

If you are ready to consider an FHA loan to help you make your first move, contact Universal Lending today to get started down the path of homeownership. We’ll discuss all of your home loan options with you so you find the right loan for you. 

 

Why Do Home Loan Rates Move Up and Down?

Miniature House on A Blue Financial Graph

More now than in recent years, we are hearing the question: Why are home loan rates rising so much? 

The Federal Reserve monitors the U.S. economy and, when necessary, takes steps to address inflationary concerns to avoid economic recession. When the Fed discusses interest rates, it is primarily concerning the Fed Funds Rate, which is the rate banks use when lending money to each other overnight.

Home loan rates, on the other hand, are dictated by the trading of Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), which are a type of Bond.

At the real heart of home loan rate movement is the dual relationship between Stocks and Bonds, as they compete for the same investment dollars on a daily basis. Inflationary pressures, economic conditions and geopolitical events all influence the direction of both Stocks and Bonds.

When economic reports are weak or disappointing, investors often move their money from riskier investments like Stocks into Bonds, which are considered safer. Since home loan rates are tied to Mortgage Bonds, this helps home loan rates improve.

In contrast, strong economic news often causes investors to move their money into Stocks to take advantage of any gains. This can cause Mortgage Bonds and home loan rates to worsen.

Inflation reduces the value of fixed investments like Bonds. This means that a low inflation environment tends to be good for Mortgage Bonds and home loan rates, while high inflation can cause both to worsen.

Political turmoil or economic crises around the world can also cause investors to move their money into the safety of the Bond markets, helping Mortgage Bonds and home loan rates improve.

If you are second-guessing whether now is a good time to purchase a new home, contact us. We’ll analyze your financial situation together and create a plan that’s right for you. And if you have friends or family members considering a home purchase or refinance, please share our information with them.

Q&A about VA Loans

Military Father and Son

VA loans are $0 down payment mortgage options available to veterans, service members and select military spouses. VA loans are issued by private lenders and guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Since its inception in 1944, more than 22 million VA loans have helped veterans, active duty military personnel and their families purchase homes or refinance mortgages.

How does a VA loan compare to a traditional/conventional home mortgage? Read on.

What is the down payment?

  • VA loans: 0% down.
  • Conventional loans: Up to 20% down.

Do I have to pay mortgage insurance?

  • VA loans: VA loans do have a form of mortgage insurance, the VA Funding Fee. It is usually 3.3% and financed into the loan up front. If the borrower separated from the military with a qualifying disability, the funding fee is waived to 0%.
  • Conventional loans: If buyers do put down less than a 20% down payment, they must pay for private mortgage insurance.

Are the interest rates for VA loans competitive?

  • VA loans: The VA backing gives lenders a greater degree of safety, which means the interest rates can be more competitive than non-VA loans.
  • Conventional loans: Without government backing, banks take on more risk with conventional loans, which can result in less-competitive interest rates.

How easy is it to qualify for a VA loan?

  • VA loans: Because the loan is backed by the government, banks assume less risk and have less stringent qualification standards for VA loans, making them easier to obtain.
  • Conventional loans: Conventional loans require stricter qualification procedures that can put homeownership out of reach for some homebuyers.

Can I do a cash out refinance? 

  • VA loans: Borrowers can do a cash out refinance up to 100% of their home’s value.
  • Conventional loans: Borrowers with conventional loans must leave some equity in their home when doing a cash out refinance.

What else should I know about VA loans? 

  • VA eligibility is re-usable. A lot of people think they are only eligible for a VA loan one  time, but they are able to get VA loans more than one time.
  • You can have more than one VA loan at a time. It’s a myth that you can only have one at a time.
  • VA loans are assumable.

 You or someone you know may be the perfect fit for a VA loan. Contact a loan officer today to learn more about VA loans and other types of home loans that may be a good fit for you. 

 

You Can Take Control of Some of What Affects Your Home Loan Interest Rate

House and Percentage Symbol

Interest rates are at the top of everyone’s minds right now, especially if you are in the market for a home. But your interest rate isn’t set in stone. Several factors play into the interest rate on your loan, and you are in control of a lot of what affects it. Here are some of the things that can affect the interest rate on your home loan. Let us know if we can help you determine what your home loan may look like.

1. Credit scores
Borrowers with higher credit scores generally receive lower interest rates than borrowers with lower credit scores. Lenders use your credit scores to predict how reliable you’ll be in paying your loan. Credit scores are calculated based on the information in your credit report, which shows information about your credit history, including your loans, credit cards, and payment history. If you’re considering buying a home now or later, check your credit score and do what you can to get it as high as possible.

2. Home location
Your home loan’s interest rate may be impacted by the in which you are purchasing. Part of this could be due to the health of the housing market in your state or county. If the housing market is healthy, the lender is less likely to risk default on the loan, so the interest rate may be lower.

3. Down payment
The more money you put down on your home, the lower your interest rate will likely be. You don’t have to put down 20 percent to get a loan, but if you do, you may get a better interest rate.

If you cannot put down 20 percent or more, you will be required to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI). PMI protects the lender in the event a borrower stops paying the loan. The cost of PMI is added to the overall cost of your monthly mortgage loan payment. You may be offered a slightly lower interest rate with a down payment just under 20 percent, compared with one of 20 percent or higher. Why? You’re paying mortgage insurance, which lowers the risk for your lender.

When determining your down payment and subsequent interest rate, keep in mind the overall picture of what you are borrowing. The larger the down payment, the lower the overall cost to borrow. Getting a lower interest rate can save you money over time. But even if you find you get a slightly lower interest rate with a down payment less than 20 percent, your total cost to borrow will likely be greater since you’ll need to make the additional monthly mortgage insurance payments.

Look at the overall loan and payments, not just the interest rate, when getting a home loan.

4. Loan term
The term of your loan is how long you have to repay it. In general, shorter term loans have lower interest rates and lower overall costs, but higher monthly payments.

5. Interest rate type: fixed or adjustable
There are two general types of interest rates: fixed and adjustable. Fixed interest rates do not change over time. Adjustable rates may have an initial fixed period, after which they go up or down each period based on the market.

Your initial interest rate may be lower with an adjustable-rate loan than with a fixed rate loan, but that rate might increase significantly at a later date.

6. Loan type
There are several broad types (categories) of mortgage loans, such as conventional, FHA, USDA, and VA loans, all of which have different eligibility requirements. Interest rates can be different depending on what loan type you choose. Your lender will discuss different options with you and will help you choose the right loan to keep you and your family financially secure.

7. Discount points
Points, or discount points, lower your interest rate in exchange for an upfront fee. By paying points, you pay more upfront, but you receive a lower interest rate and therefore pay less over time. Points may be a good option if you will keep the loan for a long time. There are also tax benefits for discount points for the purchase of your primary residence. Talk to your accountant or attorney about this.

Getting a home loan is about more than just the cost of the house or the interest rate. There’s a lot to understand, and it is our privilege to help you navigate the home buying process. Please contact us if we can answer any questions.

Button Up Your House for Early Winter Prep: Cold Weather Hacks

Kids enjoy the snowfall

October is a good time to button up your house for winter. We still have days that are nice enough to get outside and take care of business, but we know that Old Man Winter will be knocking on our doors soon enough. Here are a few hacks to make winter-proofing your house easier. 

Find all the places that cold air can leak in and warm air can leak out.
And then caulk these cracks so no more air can whisper through them. Check baseboards, windows and doors, ceiling light fixtures, electrical outlets… anywhere that the outside can meet the inside. When you block drafts, you have the potential to save between 5 and 30 percent in utility bills, according to the US Department of Energy.

Here’s your hack: At night, have a friend walk outside after you turn off your lights. Have your friend shine a flashlight along doors and windows. The light will illuminate large cracks. Those are your leaks. Here’s another hack, let your neighbors know you are doing this so they don’t call the police.

Check your heating system. You’ll save money on energy bills if your heater is running efficiently. Even if you have to call in a pro on this one, it’s a good idea to have your heater looked at. If you have gas fireplaces, get someone in to check those, too. Better safe than sorry when it comes to potential carbon monoxide leaks or other dangers.

Here’s your hack: Remove all of the vent covers and wash them in sudsy water and dust the heating returns. Let the covers dry all the way before putting them back on. This is one simple way to cut down on dust in your home.

Check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide monitors. You and your family are at greater risk when batteries aren’t working in your alarms. You should check these batteries twice a year, so now is a good time.

Here’s your hack: Make it a habit to check your batteries when we move our clocks forward or backward. This weekend’s your big day, and you’ll have time as we fall back on Saturday and gain in hour!

Clean your patio furniture. Rats! It’s that time of the year. You’re not going to be lounging lawn-side for a few months. When it’s clean, find a good place in the garage or basement to store it to keep it clean.

Here’s your hack: You can scrub your plastic furniture to a pristine clean with a Brillo pad and then give it a final rinse. Not up for that? You also can power wash your furniture.

Get your home ready now so you’re not scrambling in the cold to get ready later.