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18 Ways to Radically Upgrade Your Late-night Snack

easy snacks

You know the feeling. You’re ready to go to sleep, but you’re wide awake with hunger. Or maybe you’re craving something tasty to munch on while catching up on a Netflix season (or two), but you don’t want to wait on DoorDash.

Good thing it’s easier than you think to turn your favorite classic snacks into mini-masterpieces of culinary delight.

Scrumptious snacks you can throw together at the last minute: 18 options

All you need are a few ingredients:

1. 3-ingredient peanut butter cookies.


Even if you don’t have a ton of supplies in your pantry, you’ll most likely have everything you need to make these cookies. We’re talking peanut butter (1 cup), sugar (1 cup), and one egg.

2. Baked avocado.


This is an omega powerhouse that will keep you going for hours during the day and leave you completely “sleepy time” at night. It may seem weird, but when an avocado is baked, it’s warm and a little smoky in taste. You’re probably going to want to make more than one.

3. Banana Oreo spread.


Oh, the things you can do with Oreos. Like mashing them up in a bowl with a sliced banana and some shredded coconut and then spreading this on a toasted slice of bread for your late-night “dinner.”

4. Fancy popcorn.


Whether you use microwavable popcorn or make your own stovetop popcorn, upgrade it with savory ingredients like olive oil, salt, black pepper, and parmesan. Not into savory? Sweeten up the deal, Kettle corn-style, with melted butter, brown sugar, and marshmallows.

Ready to buy? To find out how much house you can afford, take the first step and prequalify.

5. Food truck nachos.


The smallest change can make the biggest difference when it comes to this late-night snack favorite. Take your nachos to the food truck level with black beans, salsa verde, avocado, and cotija cheese. Experiment by adding things you might not normally add to nachos: like bacon, shrimp, or brats.

6. Grilled PB, banana, & bacon sandwich.


It sounds crazy, but this delightfully sweet concoction (AKA the Elvis Sandwich) is just the thing to satisfy your cravings. First, microwave your bacon. Add a layer of peanut butter and banana to sliced bread and top with the bacon. Grill each side for about 4 minutes and let it cool. Then, dig in.

7. Grown-up grilled cheese.


You can elevate almost any grilled cheese by adding your favorite veggies, salsa, or cheese. Think about how many things you could be putting into your grilled cheese right now: sautéed mushrooms, pancetta, BBQ chicken, scrambled eggs, pesto, chives, pickles… The key is to get creative.

8. Microwavable roasted nuts.


If you roast nuts in the microwave instead of the oven, they won’t have the same rustic look, but they sure will taste good. “Toast” for 2 minutes in the microwave. Spice them up with seasonings like cayenne or black pepper. Microwave again at 30-second increments until they’re extra crunchy.

9. No-bake vegan brownie bites.


Made with a handful of ingredients, like walnuts, medjool dates, and cocoa powder, these brownie bites are easy to make and hard to resist. They take about 15 minutes to prepare, and they’re also raw and vegan.

10. Nutella & banana sushi.


Spread Nutella onto a tortilla, add a banana, and wrap up the banana in the tortilla like it’s a mini burrito. Then, make 1-inch slices. Boom — you’re done. Want to upgrade your silly dessert sushi? Add a sliver of honey to the Nutella or top each sushi slice with a dollop of whipped cream.

11. Overnight yogurt oats.


Okay, so this is really an A.M. snack, but it’s great for nighttime, too. Refrigerate uncooked oats with yogurt and milk overnight (or for the day) to make a creamy concoction that mixes well with fresh fruit, granola, coconut shavings, chia seeds, and other goodies.

12. Pizzadilla.


Turn your leftover pizza into a crispy quesadilla for a late-night snack that’s faster than you can say “fast food.” Just slice off the top of the pizza, lay it on top of a tortilla, add another tortilla on top, and warm it up on a skillet.

13. Quick apple crisp.


When you don’t have much in the house, and you want a dessert that’s quick and healthy, try this. In a saucepan at medium heat, cook down diced apples in brown sugar/butter for about 3 minutes, until the apples are soft. Then, add cinnamon and cook a bit more. Serve with whipped cream.

14. Salami & cheese roll-ups.


Just because you’re by yourself late at night doesn’t mean you can’t get sophisticated with your snacks. Roll up a savory cheese like manchego or even cream cheese with salami and, if you’re feeling extra chic, add ground mustard or those sweet cherry tomatoes that come in all the colors.

15. Spicy edamame.


Cooked edamame with salt is a solid treat for anyone who has a soft spot for the salty. But you can also try stir-frying your cooked edamame in garlic, olive oil, sesame oil, and red pepper or chili paste for a spicy, healthy treat that you’ll want to make over and over.

16. Sweet potato ‘air’ fries.


If you have an air fryer, then you have the easiest and fastest route to homemade sweet potato fries. Cut them lengthwise and then air fry at 380°F in 10-minute increments, turning regularly. You can also make them in the oven and serve with a tasty toasted marshmallow dip.

17. Tater tot waffles.


The only thing better than a waffle is a waffle made from tater tots and served as a midnight snack. Press frozen, thawed tater tots into an oiled waffle maker and wait for the magic to happen. (Estimated cooking time: about 5 minutes.)

18. Veggie chips.


You can make chips out of sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrots, and more. You can even make them in the microwave. Just slice up your veggies with a mandolin and microwave them for 3 minutes. Keep turning the chips over and microwaving for 30 seconds until they’re nice and crispy.

Like a late-night snack, we like our mortgage fast, fun, and easy

LoanFly does all three. Download our free app, prequalify in the time it takes to prep your snacks, and keep tabs on your mortgage remotely until closing day.

For educational purposes only. Please contact a qualified professional for specific guidance.

Sources are deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

4 Surprising Advantages of Selling your House in Today’s Market

sell a house

The housing market continues chugging along. The only thing that could derail it is the nationwide shortage of houses. As the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) recently reported, there are 410,000 fewer homes listed than there were just a year ago.* In order to keep up the momentum in residential real estate, more listings must become available.

Understandably, a number of homeowners have concerns about what hurdles they might face if they decide to sell a house.

Is it smart to sell a house right now? 4 major incentives

Homes.com published a new survey highlighting these worries, plus the conditions needed to help sellers feel more comfortable.

Here are the top four concerns among homeowners with a short recap of what’s really going on in today’s market:

1. Homeowners aren’t sure they can find a new home if they sell.

Leverage is the ability one party has to influence another during the negotiating process. This leverage comes from the power to offer benefits or reduce costs for the other party involved.

Homebuyers in today’s market have strong reasons to buy a house, such as:

  • Owning a home that’s their own.
  • Purchasing before housing prices rise again.
  • Locking in a historically low mortgage rate, while they can.

The demands of these buyers give sellers enormous leverage. Most homeowners already know that having this leverage allows them to sell a home at a great price. On top of that, this leverage could also help negotiate extra time to find another house.

To provide an example, if you sell your home right now, you’re giving a buyer the chance to secure today’s record-low mortgage rates. Because of this, they might be willing to return the favor and lease your home back to you for a set amount of time, until you put in an offer on a new home or build one.

In this scenario, you’re giving the homebuyer what they’re asking for, and they’re giving you the same in return. Everyone wins.

2. Homeowners aren’t sure if they’ll sell at or above asking price.

It’s a prime time to sell a house at a profit. A recent NAR study shows that bidding wars have hit a new high. The study compares last year’s first quarter to this year’s first quarter — noting that the average home received two times as many offers, rising from 2.4 to 4.8.

Bidding wars naturally cause an item’s price to increase. Bloomberg confirms that:

“For the first time ever, the average U.S. home is selling for above its list price.”

Are you hoping to sell for top dollar? Now is the optimal time to do it.

3. Homeowners aren’t sure if they’ll need to renovate to receive a competitive offer.

Remember, you have significant leverage on your side if you’re planning to sell a house today. Since inventory is so tight, many more homebuyers are opting to take on renovation projects themselves so they can nab the home they have their eye on.

As noted in a recent blog post, future owners of your home may prefer to remodel the kitchen or bathroom themselves, choosing the design that better suits their taste. If you’re selling, your time and money are likely to be better put toward minor cosmetic upgrades and necessary fixes, like touching up paint and power washing your home’s exterior.

No need to overinvest in upgrades that a buyer may decide to improve again anyway. Just ask your real estate agent which projects are worth your resources to boost your listing, without overspending.

A seller who’s worried about needing to update their home must remember that historically low levels* of housing inventory are making today’s homebuyers more forgiving.

“They delivered incredible service and made a potentially stressful process… stress-free! Even sent the closing papers to our house so we could sign and complete them at home.” – Click here to find a Cornerstone loan officer near you.

4. Homeowners aren’t sure how long it’ll take to close.

While speed certainly matters, there are two points to consider:

  • How long it takes to get a buyer interested in your house.
  • How long it takes to close on this transaction.

As NAR explains in their Existing Home Sales Report:

“Properties typically remained on the market for 18 days in March, down from 20 days in February and from 29 days in March 2020. Eighty-three percent of the homes sold in March 2021 were on the market for less than a month.”

Eighteen days is incredibly fast, making a brand-new record.

Take a look at the average days on the market for homes in every state:

sell a house

As far as time to close, cash purchases made up 23 percent of recent home sale transactions. All-cash sales are typically closed in 30 days.

For buyers taking out a mortgage, the latest Origination Insight Report from ICE Mortgage Technology confirms that:

“Time to close all loans decreased in April. The average time to close all loans fell to 51 days in April, down from 52 days in March.”

If you want to close quickly, you won’t find another time in our housing market in which the two steps of receiving an offer and closing on your house have taken this little time. Working with the right mortgage lender can also expedite your closing, potentially shaving weeks off the industry average.

Buying a house would be easy, they said. (And we agree.)

While it’s true that you need to move fast to find your dream home in today’s market, it’s also true that we can help you move faster. Connect with a local loan officer to see how seamless selling and buying a new home can be.

For educational purposes only. Please contact your qualified professional for specific guidance.

Sources deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

5 of Today’s Biggest Real Estate Myths, Busted![INFOGRAPHIC]

mortgage mistakes
Download the infographic here.

Here are the highlights:

  • When it comes to buying or selling a house right now, misconceptions abound. This makes it harder to act with confidence in our present environment.
  • But digging into five mainstream myths about today’s housing market can provide you with more clarity.
  • Along with busting these myths, it’s important to work with a skilled, local loan officer every step of the way, who can help you separate fact from fiction.

Talk about convenient. Our free LoanFly app lets you search houses, connect with a local loan officer, prequalify for a mortgage, and manage your loan docs, all in one place.

What else to know: Mortgage rates are still low — but rising

In 2021, mortgage rates have started to creep up, but compared to the averages of past decades, they remain at record lows. Nonetheless, any time mortgage rates change, it can impact the amount you’re able to borrow.

Freddie Mac predicts:

“We forecast that mortgage rates will continue to rise through the end of next year. We estimate the 30-year fixed mortgage rate will average 3.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021, rising to 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2022.”

As you prepare to buy a home – either as a first-time buyer or as a seller who is buying a new house – it’s critical to know your monthly budget and exactly how much house you can afford. (You can find this out by prequalifying.) Even when there’s a slight jump in rates, it can greatly affect your buying power, or the amount you’re able to purchase.

A median-priced home is currently estimated at $334,500. Using a $300,000 house as a simple example within this range, you can see how much a small adjustment in mortgage rates may impact your monthly P&I (principal and interest) payments.

For instance:*

  • When the fixed-rate for a mortgage is at 2.75 percent: Your monthly payment for a $300,000 house may be $1,225.
  • When the fixed-rate is 3.25 percent: Your monthly payment may rise to $1,306.
  • If the fixed-rate is 3.75 percent: Your monthly payment may rise to $1,389.
  • If the fixed-rate is 4.25 percent: Your monthly payment may rise to $1,478.

Let’s say you prequalify to buy a house and find out that you have a $1,200 to $1,250 budget for your monthly payment. As the example shows, whenever mortgage rates rise, your home loan amount must decline to maintain your monthly range. So, you might have to search for houses in a lower price bracket as rates increase if you want to stay within your budget.

This is exactly why it can be so smart to close on a mortgage — or at least lock in a rate with a lender — while mortgage rates remain low. Do this, and you’ll be able to borrow a larger amount. You’ll automatically have more buying power when purchasing a house.

Mark Fleming, First American’s Chief Economist, states:

“Monthly payments have remained manageable despite soaring home prices because of low mortgage rates. In fact, monthly payments remain below the $1,250 to $1,260 range that we saw in both fall 2018 and spring 2019, but they are on track to hit that level this spring. Although they remain low, mortgage rates have begun to increase…”

Remember, housing authorities expect rates to continue to rise moderately throughout 2021. As a buyer or seller, time is of the essence if you want to secure the most competitive rate available so you can afford your dream house.

Now you know the truth. What’s next?

Whether you’re buying or selling, reach out to a local loan officer who’s equipped to help you move quickly through the complexities of today’s housing market. Get personalized service and an affordable mortgage you feel good about.

*MBS Highway payment estimate, rounded to the nearest dollar amount. Rates listed (as of 5/20/2021) are for illustrative purposes only and are subject to change.

For educational purposes only. Please contact your qualified professional for specific guidance.

Sources deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

Could Your Tax Refund & Stimulus Savings Make Homeownership a Reality?

tax return 2020

As an American taxpayer, you could expect to get back an average tax refund of $2,925 this year, according to IRS data.* A significant number of people may also have extra savings from stimulus checks received in 2020 and 2021.

Because of the impact of the pandemic, taxpayers again have more time to file this year. The IRS has extended the tax deadline from April 15 to May 17. (Those affected by the Texas winter storms have a deadline of June 15, 2021.)

Average tax returns may make it up to 82% easier to buy

Tax returns are most often thought of as extra cash that can be put toward big-picture goals. You might be hoping to buy a house in 2021 or sell your home and trade up. If so, you may be looking at enough funds to cover some or all of your down payment.

To help supplement your tax return, stimulus savings may be a sound option. Of the households sent last year’s stimulus check, the National Bureau of Economic Research’s recent paper noted that “one-third report that they primarily saved the stimulus money.” Are you among those who’ve saved your economic impact payments? You might consider putting this toward your down payment or closing costs.

Here’s a map that shows the average projected* tax return 2021 by state:

tax return 2021

Many first-time homebuyers are still under the impression that a 20-percent down payment is required to buy a house. But mortgage programs from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) all have minimum down payment requirements as low as 3 percent. For the veterans and active duty service members who qualify, VA loans may also require no down payment.

Putting your tax refund toward your down payment can be a brilliant thing. Prequalify to find out how.

Let’s say you used this year’s tax return to begin saving for a down payment. How close would that get you to a minimum of 3-percent down?

On this map, you’ll see the percentage the average tax return covers of a 3-percent down payment, based on median home prices in that state:

tax return 2021

The higher the percentage of a state, the closer your tax return will move you toward owning a house. If you live in a state like West Virginia, for example, using your tax return 2021 to save for a down payment could get you 82-percent closer to your brand-new place.

Amazingly, even the circumstances of the past year haven’t affected Americans’ view on owning a house. In a recent realtor.com survey of prospective homebuyers, it showed that the primary reason today’s first-time buyers still want to purchase is just that: to become a homeowner.

In fact, three of the top four survey responses spoke to homeownership’s financial benefits. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said, “I want to be a homeowner.” Whereas, 33 percent stated, “I want to live in a space that I can invest in improving.” Thirty-one percent said, “I need more space.” And 22 percent stated, “I want to build equity.”

The survey also found that young homebuyers, especially, had a strong belief in homeownership. This is contrary to what experts have predicted about the millennial generation’s relationship to renting. Sixty-two percent of millennials said that their desire to become a homeowner is their number one reason for buying a house.

George Ratiu, realtor.com’s Senior Economist, explains:

“Americans, even millennials who many thought would never buy, have a strong preference for homeownership for the same reasons many generations before them have. To invest in a place of their own and in their communities, and to build a solid financial foundation for themselves and their families.”

If you too have dreams of homeownership, it’s likely that leveraging this year’s tax return can help make it happen.

Not your average mortgage lender: We can get you home faster

The short version: We bend over backward for our borrowers, moving you from contract to close at an incredibly fast pace. The long version: Because of our speedy in-house processing, exceptional attention to detail, and integration of the latest technologies (hello, LoanFly!), we’re beating the 52-day industry closing standard by several weeks.** Got your tax return handy? Learn more about our low- and no-down-payment mortgages when you prequalify.

**“Origination Insight Report.” ICE Mortgage Technology™, March 2021.

For educational purposes only. Cornerstone Home Lending, Inc. and its affiliates do not provide tax advice. Please consult your professional tax advisor for specific guidance.

Sources deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

Is Buying a Home Actually Worth it? 9 Payoffs You’ll See in the First Year

first time buyer

If you’re like most people, your home has become an even more integral part of your life in the past year. Now, it’s much more than a house. It’s also an office, a virtual classroom, and a haven that supplies protection, shelter, and stability through our global health crisis.

Today, almost 66 percent of Americans have the good fortune to own the place they call home.

As you look ahead toward what you want to achieve in the next year — and into the future — it’s a prime opportunity to delve deeper into the advantages of owning your own home. Keep reading to learn more about the many first-time buyer benefits, featuring highlights from a report shared by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR).

9 financial, non-financial & economic reasons to become a homeowner

Many people question if today’s homeowners get the same advantages as previous generations of homebuyers. It’s easy to forget, but there are many rewards of homeownership that stand the test of time. These range from economic to social to feel-good motivators, extending far beyond the financial payoffs seen as you grow your investment.

Non-financial benefits of homeownership include:

  1. Better mental health. According to the NAR report, “The personal satisfaction and sense of accomplishment achieved through homeownership can enhance psychological health, happiness, and well-being for homeowners and those around them.”
  2. Increased pride and security. For a first-time buyer, there’s peace of mind in having a place of your own. You can also update, customize, and renovate to meet your unique needs and suit your tastes.
  3. More community connection. When you own a home, you own part of a neighborhood. Becoming a homeowner gives you stronger ties to your neighbors and community and may help to increase your civic engagement.

Bring your mortgage with you anywhere. Start by downloading our app and getting prequalified.

Homeownership has plenty of social benefits, along with its financial gains. What’s really rewarding is that the social benefits that support your family can extend to your community, state, and country. Buying a home is also a smart way to invest in your future.

Financial benefits of homeownership include:

  1. Boosted savings. As a first-time buyer, you can think of your mortgage as a forced plan for savings. Every monthly payment reduces your loan principal and ups your investment.
  2. Higher net worth. A homeowner’s total net worth is 40-times that of a renter. Automatically increasing your net worth through homeownership gives you financial freedom and opportunities to invest.
  3. More security. Some of the biggest financial benefits of owning your own home include home value appreciation, rising equity, and a more stable monthly housing expense. Homeownership proves to help increase your wealth and improve your financial standing.

Every month you pay your mortgage, you’re also building your equity. This equity accumulates and can be cashed out in a few years or farther down the road to knock out debt, pay off unforeseen expenses, fund a wedding or dream vacation, or start your own business (see below). The average homeowner has gained $26,300 in equity in the past 12 months.

Economic benefits of homeownership include:

  1. Greater spending on housing. Expenditures related to housing are a strong economic driver throughout the U.S., accounting for over a sixth of our nation’s economic activity in the last 30 years.
  2. Long-term stability. Rent prices are rising in most states. A fixed monthly mortgage that’s often less or equal to a monthly rent payment (likely with today’s low rates) gives you the chance to add to your savings and to protect yourself against inflation.
  3. Support for entrepreneurship. Since homeownership works as a type of forced savings, it can spur entrepreneurial endeavors. “Owning a home enables new entrepreneurs to obtain access to credit to start or expand a business and generate new jobs by using their home as collateral for small business loans,” the NAR report also states.

In the midst of a pandemic, the housing market has been a powerful force in helping our economy recover. Homeownership helps GDP growth, encouraging an economic rebound. As NAR’s report explains, each 10-percent increase in total housing market wealth yields an extra $147 billion (approximately) in spending from consumers. This adds up to 0.8 percent of GDP, not to mention billions more in newly produced tax revenue.

Oh, the vacations you will take…

If you’re a renter dreaming of owning, this is the year to do it. Connect with a local loan officer who can help you find an affordable mortgage program with a stable monthly payment. Then start building your equity and planning your bucket list trip.

For educational purposes only. Please contact a qualified professional for specific guidance.

Sources are deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

Can You Still get a Mortgage with So-so Credit?

credit score for a mortgage

The average FICO® credit score for closed loans recently hit 753, ICE Mortgage Technology’s latest Origination Insights Report shows.* Given that lending standards have become more stringent, many homebuyers are starting to worry that they might not have credit strong enough to get approved for a mortgage.

It’s true that tighter lending standards could pose a challenge for some borrowers. But many more may be surprised to learn about the loan options that still exist for homebuyers with less-than-perfect credit.

Fact: The average credit score is on the rise

This steady climb into healthy credit is an excellent indicator of our collective financial health. As the average American’s score increases, they’re able to build a solid foundation for the future. And as more homebuyers with healthy credit enter the market, a natural spike in the average FICO® score for closed loans* is likely to follow.

This is seen in the chart below:

credit score for a mortgage

If you have a credit score under 750, it’s understandable that you might interpret this data as saying that you can’t qualify for a home loan. But this isn’t necessarily true. Though most borrowers currently have a credit score over 750, there’s more that goes into a mortgage qualification than just your score. You may be happy to know that there are still many homebuyers with lower scores who successfully buy their dream houses.

What kind of loan can your credit score qualify you for? Find out now.

Experian, a leading business and consumer credit reporting bureau, explains the credit requirements for several loan types:

  • FHA loans: “With a 3.5-percent down payment, homebuyers may be able to get an FHA loan with a 580 credit score or higher. If you can manage a 10-percent down payment, though, that minimum goes as low as 500.”
  • VA loans: “VA loans don’t technically have a minimum credit score, but lenders will typically require between 580 and 620.”
  • Conventional loans: “The most popular loan type typically comes with a 620 minimum credit score.”
  • USDA loans: “In general, lenders require a minimum credit score of 640 for a USDA loan, though some may go as low as 580.”

There’s even a no-credit score loan program, typically available for a fixed-rate mortgage without a high balance. You may be required to provide two or more non-traditional payment references, including one that’s housing-related, in order to qualify.

If you’re like many buyers, you’ve had more time to save money and build your credit as a result of sheltering in place. A late 2020 survey showed that 68 percent of younger homebuyers said that last year’s stay-at-home orders made it easier to save up for a down payment.

According to Danielle Hale, realtor.com’s Chief Economist:

“If there is any silver lining to the current economic landscape, it’s that mortgage rates are hanging around record lows… Additionally, shelter-in-place orders helped many who were fortunate enough to keep their jobs save for a down payment — one of the largest hurdles of buying a home. The combination of low rates and the opportunity to save is enabling many millennials to move up their home buying timeline.”

Undoubtedly, having a stronger credit score can open the door to more loan options and more competitive terms when you apply for a mortgage, especially when lending practices are as strict as they are now. But as you prepare to buy a house, eliminate any confusion by reaching out to a professional who knows all about the ideal range of a credit score for a mortgage.

Even if your score needs work, don’t count yourself out. With rates at historic lows, today’s housing market still has plenty of opportunities for buyers at different credit levels.

Get your free credit score in a few minutes

Download LoanFly. Prequalify in minutes. Gain instant access to your free credit report. Connect with a local loan officer who can walk you through your options.

For educational purposes only. Please contact your qualified professional for specific guidance.

Sources deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

A Must-read for Homeowners: Do You Have to Renovate Before you Sell?

selling my house

If you’re considering selling, your first step might be to begin looking into which remodeling projects may make your home more attractive to buyers. But before you sign any contracts, keep in mind that there’s something unique going on in today’s housing market.

Many more homebuyers are competing for available houses, and renovations might not be as necessary as they were to sell competitively just a few years ago.

Keep 2 things in mind if you’re planning to sell this season

It may help to know that:

1. There aren’t enough houses to meet buyer demand.

In a normal market, you’ll see a 6-month supply of homes for sale. But today, housing inventory has dropped far below this level:

  • The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) reports that there’s currently just a 2.1-month supply of available houses.
  • This means competition among homebuyers is high, and homes are selling fast.
  • The average house is staying on the market for only around 18 days — and is receiving multiple offers from motivated buyers.

Taking the time (and spending the money) to renovate before selling might cause you to miss out on this chance. It’s true that some repairs may be needed, but it’s a smart move to consult with a real estate agent to find out which improvements are important — and which might not make a difference to prospective buyers.

Homebuyers today are also more likely to tackle these renovation projects themselves, just to get the house they have their eye on. According to Home Advisor:

“When it comes to the number of home improvement projects completed, Gen Z homeowners are leading the pack, completing an average of 3.5 projects. Millennials closely follow Gen Z, taking on an average of 3.3 projects, followed by Gen X at 2.8 projects.”

Boomers completed an average of 2 projects, and the Silent Generation completed the fewest projects, on average, at 1.8 per household. Compared to 2019, millennials are spending 60-percent more on home improvement and doing on average 30-percent more projects.”

In today’s competitive market, it can be prudent to allow the future owners of your home to remodel the kitchen or bathroom as they see fit, suiting their lifestyle and tastes. Cosmetic updates, like power washing your siding or touching up a coat of paint, may be a better use of your resources when selling.

No need to over-invest in your house by making updates homebuyers may not be looking for anyway. Work with a skilled agent to help you decide exactly which projects will optimize your listing, without taking too much money or time.

Are you better off selling or cashing out on your rising equity to pay for bigger renovations? Find out now.

2. What matters most is getting a good ROI.

If you’re planning to take on a larger upgrade, you’ll want to talk with your agent. Ask how much ROI (return on your investment) a project is likely to bring and if it’s worth the price. Your home might benefit from a bathroom or kitchen renovation, roof or shingle repair, or another major fix — but certainly not all of these updates. You may be amazed to see how much interest there is in your existing house in this seller’s market.

As Hanley Wood explains:

“The 2020 Cost vs. Value report shows a predictable increase in costs for all 22 remodeling projects but a consistent dip in the perceived value of those projects at the time of home sale, as estimated by real estate professionals in more than 100 metro areas across the U.S. This results in a slight downturn on the return on investment for nearly all projects relative to the trends we saw in last year’s report.”


Home Advisor’s 2020 State of Home Spending report also finds that:

“The average household spending on home services rose to $13,138, an increase over last year’s survey results, where homeowners who did projects spent $9,081 on average in 2019.”

Before you decide to renovate, get in touch with a real estate agent and determine if it’s the most beneficial choice based on your local market and the state of your house. You may also find it helpful to contact a local loan officer and see how much home equity you’ve accumulated — and if this could be put to better use as a cash-out refinance to fund a major project or leveraged toward a larger down payment on a new house.

Right now, many sellers who are putting their homes on the market as-is are selling much quicker than expected. Making this move might yield you the biggest return. Since every home is different, consulting with your agent and your loan officer can set you up for success (and profit) when you’re ready to sell.

Love your loan as much as you love your new house

You: I’m selling my house. What should I do next? Us: Let us take it from here. Connect with a local loan officer who can help you prequalify for your next mortgage and assess your unique financial situation to find you an affordable loan that you feel good about. Reach out right now.

For educational purposes only. Please contact your qualified professional for specific guidance.

Sources are deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

4 Reasons You’re Better off Selling Your House this Spring [INFOGRAPHIC]

when is the best time to sell your house
when is the best time to sell your house
Download the infographic here.

Spring home sales should be speedier

Here’s a quick recap of why selling can be a smart move this spring:

  • Springtime normally shows an influx of buyer activity. But with rates still around record lows, homebuyer demand is even greater. It’s an ideal time for sellers to take advantage. NAR’s recent Existing Home Sales report showed that pre-spring home sales were up 23.7 percent from the year before.
  • Sellers who may have been reluctant to list in the past few years are now considering it. The fact that housing inventory is at record lows has driven up prices – and potential profits — by 14.1 percent. Increasing prices also indicate increasing home values, allowing a seller to tap into thousands of dollars in equity gains.
  • Spring is a favorable season for move-up buyers. This is especially true among millennial homeowners (now ages 25 to 40) who have a golden opportunity to trade up in 2021, “with many having owned their first homes long enough to see substantial equity gains.”

In a seller’s market — where the number of homebuyers outnumbers the number of houses for sale, as it does right now — buyers have to do whatever they can to grab a seller’s attention.

This includes getting prequalified for a mortgage early so a buyer is prepared to act before they start hunting. For sellers, this uptick in early approvals may make the selling process simpler and quicker. It can also reduce the odds of an offer falling through; sellers typically pick prequalified buyers as a stronger bet in a multi-offer scenario.

Find out more about the benefits of selling this spring.

If you’re considering selling, it can also be comforting to know that we’re not anywhere near housing bubble territory.

Compared to the bubble seen a decade before, housing demand is legitimately strong, and inventory is very limited. Back then, buyer demand was temporarily fueled by what’s been called “irrational exuberance,” but current optimism in today’s housing market is backed by data.

Mortgage lending standards are also much more stringent than they were in the boom of the mid-2000s. The Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI) now sits at 125.4 in contrast to the all-time high of 868 seen in 2006. A lower number reflects the difficulty of getting a mortgage.

Unlike 2006, housing demand in 2021 is real and not manufactured; the pandemic, and the low rates that came with it, have caused many households to rethink their need for stable housing and more functional indoor and outdoor spaces.

A conservative approach to refinancing in the past three years — again, because of lessons learned from the previous housing crisis — has helped to create unprecedented levels of home equity. Thirty-eight percent of owner-occupied homes, according to the Census Bureau, are owned without a mortgage, or “free and clear.”

Not only that, but 17.8 million residential properties in the U.S. are officially equity-rich, occurring when the combined loan amounts of these homes falls to 50 percent or less of their estimated market value. If you’re among the one in three homeowners who’s rich in equity, you’re in a prime position to sell.

Want to move even faster?

Prequalify before you list. It’s that easy. Once you find a new home you love, your loan officer will be ready and waiting to fast-track your loan to closing.

For educational purposes only. Please contact your qualified professional for specific guidance.

Sources deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

Do this First if You Want to Buy a House this Year

fed rate hike 2019

In many parts of the U.S., homebuyers searching outnumber homes available. This can quickly heat up market competition. When a market’s competitive, buyers need more leverage, or a way to stand out. One smart step to show sellers you’re serious — and to beat out other bidders — is to get prequalified before you start hunting for a house.

Right now, historically low rates, record-low housing inventory, and extra-high levels of buyer demand are putting pressure on the housing market.

Even if your local market isn’t that competitive (yet), getting prequalified for a mortgage early still has its advantages. Once you prequalify, you’ve taken the first step to buying a house. You’ll know how much you can afford. Having a clear picture of your housing budget gives you assurance. You’ll know whether or not the monthly mortgage payments on your dream home make financial sense.

Get prequalified first and gain a buyer’s advantage.

In the “My Home” section on their site, Freddie Mac spells out the perks of early prequalification:

“It’s highly recommended that everyone work with their lender to get preapproved before beginning to house hunt. Shopping with a preapproval letter in hand boosts the confidence of both you and the seller, which helps your journey run a lot smoother.”

You can narrow down a lender based on great rates; great, local service; and a great selection of mortgage programs with options to get you home weeks faster than the industry average. If you don’t already have a realtor, you can also ask your loan officer for a referral to a local agent they’ve worked successfully with.

Once you’ve picked your lender, it’s time to take the first step to buying a house. Fill out your loan application (and save time by doing it remotely). Provide your important financial information that includes your debt, credit, residential, and employment history. Then learn how much home loan you qualify for in minutes.

Borrower-generated prequalification letters are a thing. Get prequalified in 15 minutes and gain the power to instantly create your own prequalification letter to strengthen your offer on a house.*

According to Freddie Mac, there are “4 Cs” that a lender will use to determine the amount you qualify to borrow:

  1. Capacity. This reflects your present and future ability to make mortgage payments.
  2. Capital. Also called your “cash reserves,” this takes into account your funds, including savings and investments, that can be quickly sold to cash.
  3. Collateral. This is the home, or property type, you’re interested in purchasing.
  4. Credit. This is your history, and particularly your timeliness, of paying debts and monthly bills.

Getting prequalified isn’t just the first step to buying a house. It’s also the most important step you can take to look attractive to a seller by showing them you’re prepared to close the deal. After your offer is accepted, early prequalification is also likely to speed your mortgage process along.

If it’s so important, then why are so many buyers skipping this step? As a recent realtor.com survey noted**:

“Of over 2,000 active home shoppers who plan to purchase a home in the next 12 months, only 52 percent obtained a preapproval letter before beginning their home search, which means nearly half of home buyers are missing this crucial piece of paperwork.”

Prequalifying — and moving forward into full loan approval, where you’ll receive a preapproval letter — is a strategic move to make in today’s highly competitive environment. Since inventory is so limited, creating a seller’s market, competition is fierce among homebuyers. Right now, the average home is receiving more than four offers. Meaning, you may be vying for your dream house with no less than three other buyers.

Working with a lender offering a full loan approval program (also called Early Bird Approval) gives you the chance to get your finances and credit approved upfront. This “like cash” early preapproval program could also nearly double your odds of beating out other buyers.

So, not only will you grab a seller’s attention. You won’t have to deal with a bunch of paperwork after you’re under contract. As a result, your loan is likely to get funded faster.*** The seller gets their money quicker. You get into your new home sooner. Everybody wins.

With a multi-offer situation being probable, getting prequalified and having early loan approval will help separate you from the pack. Danielle Hale, realtor.com’s Chief Economist, considers** it “typically essential” to be a preapproved buyer in an active market — getting this step taken care of before you ever start looking for a house.

Whew. This part is easy and fast.

Maybe you’ve put your dreams on hold because you’re worried about your credit score and how much you’ll need for a down payment. Prequalify now, and you could be in for a pleasant surprise. Many buyers are happy to hear they can afford more than they thought and may be eligible for low/no-down-payment mortgage programs that make upfront costs even cheaper.

*During normal business hours.

***Pending appraisal and title commitment approval.

For educational purposes only. Please contact your qualified professional for specific guidance.

Sources deemed reliable but not guaranteed.


CARMLA 41DBO-95730 ; Licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the CA Residential Mortgage Lending Act

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The HLC Team

Branch Phone: 909.920.5260

 Tim Harrison: Producing Branch Manager NMLS# 170960

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For educational prusposes only. Please contact a qualified professional for specific guidance. Sources are deemed reliable but not gauaranteed.