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.

Make Your Holiday Home, Holiday Guest-Ready

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Welcome your holiday visitors with a home that is guest-ready. It’s easy to feel ready for anything when the doorbell rings by taking a few simple steps today.

Clear the clutter. For a lot of us our guest room was once our “spare room” or it is still our office. Clear the clutter from the guest room when you know you are going to have visitors. If the guest room doubles your office, put away your files and move your laptop. If you store items in the guest closet, buy some storage bins and put things in the bins to keep the closet organized and welcoming. Clear out at least half of the closet, and leave plenty of open hangers so your guests can hang their clothes and jackets right away. Make sure some of the dresser drawers are available, too. Guests are more comfortable when they have a place to store their clothes and other items so they aren’t tossed around in their room or stacked on top of their suitcase.

Have a luggage rack ready. If you simply cannot empty any drawers or make room in the closet, get a couple of inexpensive luggage racks so your guests can put their luggage on those and pull their clothes from there, without having to work from a suitcase on the floor. Put an inexpensive hook on the outside of the closet and dangle a few coat hangers on that, so your guests have a place to hang up jackets and nice clothes.

Make a guest basket. Fill up a basket with everything from travel-sized soaps to snacks to munch on after you’ve gone to bed. Include a few travel essentials: lip balm, lotion, sunscreen, a lint roller and little essentials they may not have remembered or thought to bring. If you are feeling extra welcoming, put in some fun snacks, such as granola, bite-sized candy bars or fig newtons. Include some bottles of water or a reusable water bottle or glasses in the basket or next to the basket so your guests can get water during the night without having to fumble around in the dark kitchen.

Create an online cheat sheet. Make their stay easy by creating a packet ahead of time with all of the information they’ll need, like your WiFi network name and password, so they can log on whenever they want.

  • Add soft, low-key lighting. Make sure your guest room has a lamp with soft lighting or a 3-way bulb so they can adjust the lighting. Soft lighting makes it easier to read before dozing off and makes the room feel more cozy.Use good sheets. Put nice sheets on your bed. Splurge a little on sheets and a soft blanket. If the mattress is your old one from your youth, it may be time to buy an inexpensive but new mattress that is a little less used. Make the bed look lovely with a throw blanket or pillows, but don’t go overboard on the decorations. Too many throw pillows and guests get flustered trying to make the bed the way you like it.

    Put extra pillows and blankets in the closet or on a small table or chair in the corner so your guests can be as comfy as they want.

    Provide a fan if the room gets warm, or make sure your guests know how to work the ceiling fan if there is one.

    Clear some space on top of the dresser. Don’t clutter the space with family photos or knick-knacks. Leave the space clear so your guests can put their jewelry, books, phone, etc. in a place that’s easy to see. If you do want to put something on the dresser, nothing says “welcome” more than some fresh flowers.

    Prep the bathroom, too!

  • Put out fresh towels, shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, cotton balls, cotton swabs. If your guests forget something, they’ll be glad you thought of it.
  • Make sure you leave extra toilet paper where they can see it or in the obvious cabinet. No one wants to ask for toilet paper.
  • Put out a box of tissues, as well, if you did not put one in the guest bedroom.

Early Risers?

  • Put coffee by the coffee maker or prep the coffee maker and set the timer so your guests can start their day early (or late if you’re up and out before them). Put out some fruit and muffins so guests aren’t forced to root through your cabinets if they are hungry.

It’s all about your guests. Make them feel welcome and comfortable. By following a few simple tips, you’ll be able to make sure your guest and you have the visit of a lifetime.

FHA Loans – Great Options for First-Time Home Buyers

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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?

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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.

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

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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.

You Budgeted to Buy a House – Now Budget as a New Homeowner

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Most of us budget when we want to buy a house, but budgeting after we are homeowners, that’s another story. After you’ve signed the papers and the movers have unpacked your last box, you still need to have a budget for “what’s next.” Without this, you may find yourself with some unexpected needs and no way to pay for them. Here are a few pointers. 

Account for new regular expenses
Even as a renter, you probably had some bills you’ll continue to cover as a homeowner – electricity, water, gas, internet, etc. But when you buy a home, there are new expenses to add to this list.

  • Real estate taxes and homeowners insurance: These often are included in your monthly mortgage payment. If any of these change, even if you have a fixed-interest mortgage, your payment can fluctuate from year to year because of changes in taxes and homeowners insurance premiums.
  • Homeowners association: We see a lot of HOAs in today’s home market. These fees can be as high as several hundreds dollars a month. HOA dues may be payable monthly or annually. If you pay these annually, be sure to budget for them so you have the money to cover the costs when it’s time.
  • Home maintenance and upkeep: As a homeowner, you’ll want to stay on top of maintenance. One rule of thumb is to set aside 1% – 2% of your income to cover these costs. If your home is older, you may need to plan even a little more.
  • High cost repairs: If you have high cost or high value repairs, you’ll need to have budgeted even more. A new roof, deck replacement, or other big projects like finishing a basement or covering plumbing emergencies may cost more. Plan ahead.
  • Finally, make sure you continue to build your emergency fund. Three to six months of living expenses is what most financial planners recommend you always have in a ready-to-use savings plan. This is only for emergencies, but building it up should be part of your budgeting plan.

Being a homeowner is a great thing, and with all great things comes great responsibility! Be ready for anything, homeowner! 

 

Halloween Safety Tips for Homeowners

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You’ll definitely say “boo” if you are faced with a claim to your homeowners insurance because of a Halloween accident on your property. Fortunately, there are some really easy things you can do ahead of time to make sure Halloween is a safe and fun day.

Keep your lights on. You want your visitors, including trick-or-treaters, to see clearly when they enter your property after dark to avoid injuries caused by falling. And, keeping some lights on can stop burglars, so you’ll want to do this regularly, not just on Halloween.

Create a clear path. Make sure there is nothing in the driveway or other walkways that someone may trip on. Remove lawn art and gardening equipment, and make sure all toys, flower pots/planters, etc. are put away. Little kids like to scamper. They aren’t looking for these hazards. If you have any loose steps or stones, make sure to repair those, too.

Use flameless candles. Do you like the way the dark looks with a flickering flame? Use flameless candles or battery powered lanterns. If you do use regular candles, watch them closely and keep them away from curtains that may blow into the flame. Use flameless candles in your jack-o-lanterns, too.

Put your pets in another room. Keep dogs and cats away from trick-or-treaters. They may be spooked by the extra activity, loud noises and costumes.

Set your alarm system before you leave. Halloween brings out the most mischievous so protect your home with your home alarm system. And why not use Halloween as one of the days you always check your smoke alarms, too!

Halloween’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a day that sees a lot of injuries. Don’t be caught off guard.