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Top Tips for Buying a Home Right Now

By Mary Heerwald | June 22, 2023

Buying a home is a significant milestone and a major financial commitment. Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or experienced in the real estate market, the process can be both exciting and overwhelming. To ensure a smooth and successful home-buying experience, it’s crucial to be prepared and informed. We’re here to take a look at the top tips to help you get ready to buy a home, guide you through the process and empower you to make the best decisions for your personal situation. Establish Your Budget: Before embarking on your home-buying journey, it’s essential to determine your budget. Evaluate your financial situation, including your income, expenses, and existing debt. Consider consulting a mortgage lender to get pre-approved for a loan. This will provide a clear understanding of how much you can afford and prevent you from falling in love with a property that is beyond your means. Define Your Needs and Wants: Create a list of your priorities and requirements for your future home. Distinguish between your “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves.” Consider factors such as location, house or lot size, number of bedrooms, amenities, and proximity to schools, workplaces, and transportation. Having a clear vision of your needs will help you narrow down your options and streamline the search process. It also helps to take a look at things like flood zones to make sure you’re…

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Budgeting for Summer Fun With the Kids in Your Life

By Mary Heerwald | May 31, 2023

Whether you have your own children, nieces and nephews, grandchildren, or other kiddos in your life, summer can be an expensive season. Day care, camps, travel, summer classes and entertainment are just a few of the costs that need to be planned for. Here are a few of the tips from the experts (cue parents!) to alleviate some of the financial stress and maintain the fun vibes of summertime. Research shows that kids learn the most about money matters from watching their parents. Including them in your budgeting process takes the mystery out of how much it costs to enjoy the summer. As you know, it doesn’t just magically get funded! A good exercise is to ask your kids to write down how much they think it costs to go on vacation or go to camp. Then spend some time walking through a budget that includes all expenses. Start by asking them to list categories for the budget. This might include clothes for camp, gas costs for traveling, air fare, eating out, or movie tickets and other entertainment. Don’t forget the little items that add up like sunscreen, sunglasses, and snacks. Once you have identified the categories, it’s time to involve your young adults in the research to get the best deals and discounts. Is that cheaper airfare worth it if the schedule requires you…

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Understanding Annual Escrow Changes and Your Mortgage Payment

By Mary Heerwald | April 10, 2023

  An escrow account is set up by your mortgage servicer to cover certain property-related expenses, like your property taxes, homeowner’s insurance premiums, and other charges related to your loan. Part of your monthly mortgage payment goes into this account over the course of the year. How mortgage lenders handle escrow accounts is regulated by a federal agency called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Why are you being contacted about your escrow account? Every year, lenders who service mortgage loans have to conduct an analysis of escrow accounts — and the CFPB mandates that every servicer must use the same method in analyzing escrow accounts. This analysis is done to ensure enough funds are collected by borrowers to pay upcoming insurance premiums, property taxes and fees. The borrower is then sent details about this annual review, and any resulting changes to their monthly escrow payment for the upcoming 12 months. Big changes in property values affect state taxes, which can result in more significant changes to your escrow payments. How does your escrow analysis affect you? Mortgage lenders require a minimum account balance – also known as a “cushion” – in escrow. These reserve funds are meant to cover unanticipated charges. Every year, lenders compare expected escrow account disbursements over the coming 12 months to show a projected escrow balance for this period of…

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