Truths About the Reality of Home Improvements

There’s nothing wrong with reality television. From The Real Housewives of Atlanta/Beverly Hills/Dallas/New York (take your pick) to The Bachelor, reality television provides us with an endless supply of guilty pleasures that help us escape the reality of our daily lives. This can cause a problem when we start to define our reality by the “reality” we see on TV. When it comes to realty shows focusing on home improvements, it’s helpful if we are clear about what’s real and what isn’t. That’s why we’re sharing a few truths about the reality of home improvements.

Time Frames. The home transformations we see on television range from half an hour to a full hour. Within that time, you see them buy the home, work through demo day, purchase all the needed materials, remodel the home, decorate the new space and then do the reveal. You barely have time to finish your snack of pita chips and hummus before it’s all complete. The truth is, depending on the scale, home improvements can take weeks, months to even years. Between contractors, crew, weather and permits (see the next point), several factors contribute to the timeline. Knowing this helps you set proper expectations.

Permit, Shermit. Many projects demonstrated on home improvement reality shows require permits. Adding rooms and major landscaping (among many other jobs) are governed by local governments. The truth is this important (and legal) step often is glossed over. Aside from the fact that this is required, it is also can add time to the project. Keeping this reality in mind can correct and adjust expectations.

Go Big. If the entire house itself isn’t being flipped, then often the show will show a complete renovation of a few rooms like the kitchen, master bathroom and living room. The truth is many times all that work isn’t required. You’ll know the needs of your home best, but recognize what needs true renovation work. There’s no need to invest in completely redoing the bones of your kitchen if simply updating the cabinets will garner the same return. You may find the rooms you think need major work can have minor tweaks. No need to work on several rooms if you don’t recoup your costs. Whatever you decide, you’ll want to feel as though the time and financial investment will pay off in the end.

DYI = NBD. The home improvement show may show you step by step how they did a certain project. It may look easy. You may think that Do It Yourself is No Big Deal. The truth is some jobs require a professional. Those you see accomplishing great things on the reality home improvement shows frequently have behind-the-scenes coaches to give them guidance and a helpful hand. You can save yourself time, frustration and more money in repairs if you start with those who are trained and knowledgeable about what is needed.

Bottom Line. During the course of the show, the program might share an overall budget or display how much some material costs, but that information should be taken with a grain of salt. The truth is the expenses you see may not be market prices. For television shows, many vendors and suppliers will cut deals with the production company for a little publicity on the program. Discounted price on the material? Sure! Free labor? No problem! Before trying to recreate what you see on television, take time to craft a budget that includes everything at actual costs. Getting quotes from vendors can help. When you come up with your initial bottom line, per the advice from experts, include an additional 20% to cover unexpected costs.

What You See Is What You Get. The big reveal moment is what we all love. The tears of the happy and deserving homeowners remind us there’s good in the world. The truth is the furniture, paintings and décor you see filling the home often is removed after the cameras stop rolling. The final staging looks beautiful, but by the time the show airs, the homeowners may be watching it while they sit on their old sofa.

We still love these home improvement reality shows. They create gorgeous homes and can spark some creative ideas. But even though the show might fall in the “reality” category, that doesn’t mean it’s all entirely true. Know the differences, and you can venture into the world of renovation with a clear mind.

You can contact The Crosby Team at First Choice Loan Services Inc. to help you learn more about the renovation programs we have that can make renovation ideas a true reality!

Dave Lewis
Senior Vice President, Renovation

Four Keys to Holiday Travel

Grandmother’s pumpkin pie. Aunt Lou’s home-baked rolls. PeePaw’s snoring. There are just certain things that make the holidays complete. Without them, the celebrations aren’t the same. That’s why so many families travel during this time of year. Hoping that you and your family have the most enjoyable season possible, we’ve provided the four keys to holiday travel.


•If you’re flying and still haven’t purchased your airline ticket, try to fly non-stop. It might cost you few bucks more, but it can save you hours (and if you miss the connection, perhaps a full day). If you can’t avoid the connection then try to allow ample time to get to your next flight. With tricky winter weather and large traveling crowds, you will be grateful to walk through the airport instead of having to run.
•Save important phone numbers in your phone. Include phone numbers for your hotel, car rental location and all family members you’re visiting in your phone for easy access.
•Know your route. If you’re driving, know your planned roads and highways ahead time. Check for any construction that might cause a detour. If you’re flying, check out the airports, especially if you do have a connection. While you may not read how to use the life vest, you can look at the material in most seat back pockets and see where your gate is located and trams you may need to use to get here in your connecting airport.


•Like the song says, “What a Difference a Day Makes.” Use whatever flexibility you may have and see what a difference in costs arriving/departing a day early/later makes. You could see the small change make a big difference in the costs. Most travel sites such as Orbitz and Expedia make checking for surrounding dates easy so you can easily see what the cost difference is.
•Remember, traveling is like Big Brother. “Expect the unexpected.” Traffic jams, long lines, oversleeping, rest stops… the reasons are bountiful. Schedule for delays to prevent frustrations when they arrive.


•You know what’s not fun? Packing. You know what’s less fun than that? Re-packing at the airport when you try to get your bag under the weight limit to avoid a charge. Believe me, I know. Before you declare yourself done with the task of packing, weigh your back and compare it with the weight limit posted on the airline website. If you’re over, try redistributing some your items from one bag to another so that you aren’t charged a ‘heavy bag’ fee. Keep in mind, if you’re going to be receiving gifts at your destination, leave space for them in your trip there.
•Speaking of gifts, if you plan on giving gifts (after all, it’s better than receiving, they say), consider shipping your presents. This can help you lower the weight of the bag and avoid the fee. Plus, it leaves more room for your personal items. If you will be packing your gifts you’re bringing for others, wait to wrap them until you arrive at your destination. Otherwise, paper is torn, bows are crushed… it’s a whole thing. Easily packable gift bags are the way to go.


•Getting from Point A to Point B during the holidays can be rough. The planning, the timing, the packing, the crowds, the weather… it’s a lot. Through it all, if you can remember why you’re making the trip, every potential obstacle will be worth it. The key is to be able to relax so that you can be your best self for those with whom you’re celebrating the holidays.

And, in those moments that are the most challenging, think about tasting that pumpkin pie!

Chad Peterson
Senior Vice President, Communications

Five Ways to Save Money This Holiday Season

Your neighbors may still have their jack o’ lanterns still on their front porch, but Halloween has come and gone. That means one thing: the holidays are officially here. Before you start lugging the decorations from the basement or attic, now is the perfect time to consider five ways to save money this holiday season.

1.Be Like Santa. I don’t mean gain a lot of weight, grow a beard and wear a lot of red. Be like Santa in the way he makes a list. Consider the people in your life. This includes family, friends, co-workers, your children’s teachers, hosts of holiday parties… Don’t forget those who provide you regular services throughout the year like building doormen, house cleaners, yard care givers. (Geez, that list gets long, doesn’t it?) From those people, who do you need to buy gifts for? Who would it be best to give a gift card? Who would appreciate kind thoughts expressed in a greeting card? Who would be happy with homemade cookies or a baked holiday treat? What we consider a gift may not be the exact same of what another considers a gift. Decide what you believe needs to be done based specifically on that individual.
2.Buy By the Numbers. Come on… we’re a mortgage company. You knew we’d get to budgeting at some point, and here it is: Set a budget. It’ll be hard to gauge how much you’ve spent and saved if you don’t write down a budget. You can approach is various ways. You can start with a total amount you want to spend and then divvy it up among those who appear on your list. Or, you can go through each person on your list, place an amount you’d like to spend on them and add it all up; from there, you can see if the total works for you or if you need to decrease the amount for a person or two. In your budget, be sure to include other little items like wrapping paper, tape and bows… plus shipping (for those loved ones far away).
3.Resist Temptation. On that list of those you are buying gifts for, here’s a hard one: leave yourself off of it. Once you get in that shopping zone, I know it can be hard. You see that sweater, so you go ahead and try it on. And, of course, you look amazing in it. What are you going to do — *not* buy it? Exactly. You’re not. Your budget will go much further if you avoid these impulse buys. If you want that sweater, why not take a picture of it and send the information to a loved one. They could probably use the idea of what to buy you, and you’ll help them get you something that you love. While you’re at it, consider even your regular small impulse purchases. Cutting out those fancy daily coffees add up and can save you a considerable amount. Once the holidays are over and the gifts are all purchased and paid for, you can return to the habit.
4.Dig Deep. Before you spend a lot of time driving around (and money on gas), hop online and look into your potential gift purchases. What stores are running good sales on those items? If ordering online, is free shipping an option? To help you find better deals faster, consider using tools such as the ShopSavvy app which allows you to scan the bar code of an item to find nearby competitive prices. Also, pay attention to your emails. They may feel just like spam, but many stores will send emails that offer discounts on merchandise to their frequent customers. Lastly, be sure to mark your calendar. Don’t ignore the deals that are often offered every year on days like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Timing is a big part of the savings.
5.Be Creative. As we are reminded year after year, there’s more than one way to serve cranberries. In the same way, there’s more than one way to give gifts and celebrate the season. If your family hasn’t gotten too large for each person to buy the other a gift, consider Secret Santas and draw names from a hat. If you want to be sure the children have a gift-filled holiday, the names in the hat could all be over a specific age. Another option in lieu of gifts would be to donate to the person’s favorite charity. This can help fix costs, save time on shopping, and costs of wrapping or shipping. Another way to save would be to think about new holiday traditions that are free. Other than some gas and mileage, driving around to look at holiday lights is free. Many churches and local schools offer free holiday concerts. Spend an evening creating your own holiday cards to mail to family and friends. Plenty of options allow you to spend great quality holiday time together without requiring much money.

We know we said “five” tips, but since it’s the season of giving, here’s one more…

Get Started. The sooner you start your holiday shopping, the better. Making some of the holiday gift purchases now will help you spread out the time it takes to pay them off versus having all the gift charges hit you at once. Also, waiting until the last minute can add pressure and contribute to bad choices (both in terms of finances and taste). Without the pressure that comes from procrastinating, you’ll have the time to find the better deals and find the perfect gifts for your loved ones. Plus, once you knock out the shopping “to do” list, your more free and open to fully enjoy the holidays.

While we hope this helps you have a little more jingle in your pocket, more importantly, we hope you enjoy this time of year for all that it means. May all the lists, budgets and shopping not distract you from the joy the season brings.

Is Your House Haunted?

A recent survey found that over 60 percent of Americans believe they have seen a ghost. Four in ten believe their pet has seen one, too. In addition, one in three people believe that have lived in or stayed in a house that is haunted. The top response to seeing a ghost? Scream and run away. (Sounds sensible to me.) Is your house haunted?

Would you buy a house you believe to be haunted? Last year, released the results of another haunted house survey, in which a third of those surveyed said they’d live in a haunted house. Of course, people wanted something in exchange, with 40 percent saying they’d need a price reduction, 35 percent wanting a better neighborhood, 32 percent needing more square footage, and 29 percent requiring more bedrooms.

There’s more than one way your home can be haunted. Forget about ghosts, poltergeists and things that go bump in the night. Here are a few horrors that could make your dream home into a nightmare (on Elm or any other street).

Neighbors. Maybe you enjoy thrash metal remixes. Perhaps a symphony of incessantly barking dogs is your idea of heaven on earth. Is there a rundown property that has streams of visitors at odd hours? If you are looking for a new home, check out the neighborhood. Don’t just visit during the day. Drive through the area at night, with your car windows open. Go on different days at different times. You may find that the rundown house is simply an elderly person who could use some neighborly help. The impromptu concerts are teenagers in a garage who shut it down promptly at 9 pm. The dogs? That could be a deal-breaker.

Zoning. You’ve found a home with an amazing view. Or you’ve found a home in a quiet wooded area. Before you commit, you’d better find out what can happen to “your” view or “your” woods. Talk to your Realtor® to find out if there’s anything on the horizon, like a new shopping development or a high-rise building. Don’t stop there. Go to the city or county planning department and understand the zoning for the area. Are you buying in a mixed-use neighborhood? That could mean shops, bars and restaurants, which you could love or hate, depending on your point of view. Are you in an historic preservation district? That could seriously restrict any remodeling, from fence height to exterior paint colors. Is the quaint 2-lane road scheduled to become a 4-lane highway? Be sure you know what’s on the drawing board before you buy.

Pests. Shhh! What’s that noise? It could be the whisper of a passing ghost, or the patter of tiny mouse feet. Those little piles of sawdust might be the remains of a woodworking project but they could be the leavings of an industrious termite colony. The bathroom ceiling could be a Goth art project or black mold. If you’re buying a home, you need a thorough home inspection. If it turns up any questionable results, go a step further and bring in a specialty inspector. If you’ve been living in your home for a while and you start to notice odd noises or something that doesn’t look right, don’t wait too long to find out what’s going on. Those dripping walls could be a leaky roof, or something sweeter.

This week, no matter what you believe, a variety of strange creatures may haunt your house, especially on the 31st. Don’t be afraid. There’s a surefire way to rid yourself of the terror. Give them individually wrapped Snickers® and they’ll leave you in peace. Until next year.

Nicki Davis
Senior Vice President | Credit

September 2018 Housing Market Recap

September existing home sales fell after August sales were flat. Prices increased again, as they have for over 6 and a half years. The pace of sales was slower than it was in August, but still faster than a year ago. Sales slowed across all four major regions, and overall housing inventory is up from the previous September. Do these small changes in the September 2018 Housing Market Recap signal that the market finally changing direction?

September existing home sales fell 3.4 percent from August, and were 4.1 percent lower than September 2017, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) September Existing Home Sales Report, released October 19th.

Inventory fell from August to September, but increased year-over-year. At the current sales pace, the supply of unsold inventory was 4.4 months, up from 4.2 months a year ago.

Home prices continued to increase year-over-year. The median price of existing homes sold in September was $258,100, an increase of 4.2 percent from September 2017 ($247,600). We’ve now reached 79 consecutive months of year-over-year increases.

Days on the market (DOM) were up from August, moving from 29 to 32. A year ago, homes typically stayed on the market for 34 days, so the sales pace is slightly higher year-over-year.

According to NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun, “There is a clear shift in the market with another month of rising inventory on a year over year basis, though seasonal factors are leading to a third straight month of declining inventory,” said Yun. “Homes will take a bit longer to sell compared to the super-heated fast pace seen earlier this year.”

Regional trends show little variation. Sales were flat or down, and prices were up across all regions. The Midwest saw no drop in sales from August, followed by the Northeast (2.9 percent), West (3.6 percent) and South (5.4 percent). Prices rose year-over-year in every region, with the Northeast and West tied at 4.1 percent. Prices in the South rose 3 percent, and in the Midwest by 1.9 percent. Midland, TX remained at the top of the hottest metro areas list (measured by days on the market/listing views per property). The rest of the Top 10 are Fort Wayne, IN, Odessa, TX, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH, Columbus, OH, Colorado Springs, CO, San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA, Janesville-Beloit, WI, Boise City, ID, and Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN.

What does this mean if you’re buying or selling? Buyers may have more choices, depending on the local market. Sellers may find it takes a little longer to sell, but the market is still in their favor. While this report shows national and regional trends, things may be different in your area. Real estate is local and personal. Work with an experienced and trusted Crosby Team Realtor® partner who knows your market, and get your financing lined up first by talking to The Crosby Team at First Choice Loan Services Inc.

September 2018 NAR Infographic Snapshot

Timothy M. Sheahan, Jr.
Executive Vice President | Secondary Marketing

Buying a foreclosure? Do your homework!

It’s a tempting proposition: A deeply discounted home in a neighborhood you like. Buying a foreclosure can be a great opportunity, but proceed with caution. There are many pitfalls that can turn your dream deal into an everlasting headache. If you are buying a foreclosure? Do your homework! Here are some things to think about before you take the plunge.

What Is A Foreclosure? There are three classes of sale that people commonly refer to as a foreclosure: a pre-foreclosure/short sale, a foreclosure, and a bank-owned property/real estate owned (REO). Each one presents an opportunity for buyers, although in the pre-foreclosure stage the current owners still have the option to make loan payments and stop further proceedings. If they decide to sell, and the lender agrees, the home will sell for less than the amount due on the current mortgage. The lender takes a loss, or is “shorted” on the sale. In a foreclosure situation, the property will be sold at auction. You’ll need to be prepared to pay cash – financing may not be an option – and you may not be able to have a professional home inspection. If the property doesn’t sell, it becomes bank-owned. You’ll be able to finance the home and have an inspection, but you will have to meet very strict contractual deadlines to close the purchase.

Know The Market. How will you know if you’re getting a good deal if you don’t know what other homes are selling for in the area? Do your online research. You can use sites like Zillow, Trulia and to compare listing prices and see price estimates. (Not all states disclose property sale prices so you may not be able to see what buyers actually paid.) On some sites, you can enter the search term “foreclosures” and find properties in this category.

It’s Going To Cost How Much? A foreclosure may look like a great bargain, but remember you will have expenses that can range from major structural repairs to cosmetic improvements. If you buy a foreclosure for $150,000, spend several months and another $100,000 renovating it, and the average price for a home in the neighborhood is $200,000, it may not be such a deal. Know what you can afford, set a budget and stick to it.

Expert Help. With what you’ve read so far, you’ll probably agree that you need all the expert help you can get to make this purchase work. Your team should include a lender, a Realtor®, and a home inspector. Depending on the circumstances, you may want to add a pest inspector or a well-water testing company, and other professionals as needed.

Lender. First things first. Start with a lender. No matter if you are making a conventional home purchase or following the foreclosure path, you need to know how much you can afford and what loan options are available. Even if you think you are going to pay cash at an auction, talk to a mortgage loan originator. Circumstances can change rapidly and you’ll want to be ready. Furthermore, you can show your Realtor® that you are a serious buyer – see the next point!

Realtor®. This is not the time to go it alone. You need to work with a real estate professional who understands foreclosures. Foreclosure specialists will not only know what’s on the market now, they’ll probably know what’s coming. How do you find a Realtor® who understands foreclosures? Go back to your internet search and see whose names pop up in association with foreclosure listings. As a plus, they’ll have recommendations for contractors and other tradespeople you’ll need to fix up the home.

Inspect, Inspect, Inspect. You can’t expect someone who is losing their home to focus on home maintenance. In addition, the property you’re looking at may have been vacant for months, or even years. Don’t take any chances. You’re buying the home on an as-is basis, which means the seller isn’t responsible for broken pipes, a leaky roof, or black mold. Spend the money on a home inspection so you know what’s wrong, and can decide if it’s worth fixing. (The inspector can’t tell you what repairs will cost, but armed with the inspection you can talk to contractors and get a better idea of the expenses you’re facing.) Need to find a certified inspector? Start here.

Title. Be aware that buying “as-is” can extend to the property title. Title may not be clear (property indisputably owned by the seller) when you buy, and issues, such as unpaid property taxes or HOA dues, could take months to resolve. Consult with a real estate attorney or title company before you buy to find out what you can do to protect your interest.

It may take more than one try to secure a foreclosure. Stay positive and keep looking if you don’t get the first one – or two – or three that interest you. Don’t be afraid to walk away, either. Whether you are buying it to live in, rent, or flip, it has to be the right choice for you.

Joe Baio
Senior Vice President | Collateral Services

The Truth About Investment Properties

You purchased your dream home. All the pictures are hanging in precise alignment, the rooms are painted the perfect colors and now you can sit back and relax. But, wait… what’s that? You’ve been bitten! Bitten by the property bug. Like people who get one tattoo and then just want “one more,” the idea of purchasing another house is enticing. Not one to be your new home… you love what you have… but maybe one to rent or lease or use for platforms like or (or as we call them “non-owner occupied”). Before you start the home buying process all over again, be sure you know the truth about investment properties.

Truth: Patience Proceeds Profits.
You need to prepare yourself for what lies ahead. You likely have gone through the mortgage process before, so you can predict to go through a similar experience – with some variations. Before doing too much planning on what you may do with the potential income from the investment property, it’s best to be pre-approved. Every home loan transaction is different. Purchasing an investment property could have different requirements you didn’t encounter before. You can ask RJ Crosby, your lender for life, what those differences may be.

Truth: Research Required.
Before making a commitment of owning an investment property, be sure you know you’re ready for (or even able to take) the adventure. As when you purchased your home, you’ll want to consider the neighborhood and the home’s proximity to various community features. If you plan to use your investment home for short-term rentals, you may want to view homes near your city’s tourist attractions. If you’re targeting more long-term renters who have children, then you might want to consider nearby schools and parks. Also, investigate both the long- and short-term rental market in your city, specifically in the neighborhoods of homes you’re visiting. Is it saturated? Would you be able to charge the rental pricing you hoped for? Is a full home the way to go or is a condo or duplex more manageable and marketable where you are? Above everything else, you’ll want to ensure whatever community, building or development where the property is located allows for the home to be used in this manner. Conduct your own due diligence to ensure renting your property is allowed, checking with the condominium/community development guidelines and city ordinances.

Truth: Extra Expenses.
Even when you do close on the investment property, there is likely work to do. Rarely do you buy a home in perfect condition that is ready to rent or lease immediately. Some work may be merely cosmetic while other projects might require larger scale renovations. While investment properties can provide additional income, they typically are not a “get rich quick” type of situation. You’ll also have an additional mortgage payment. This can be off-set when renters occupy the property, but before that time and in between renters, those payments are still there. Then, the hot water heaters breaks or the roof leaks or the air conditioner breaks down. Just like in your primary residence, unexpected updates and maintenance is needed. When those instances occur, the responsibility is yours. Also, while security deposits may help cover repairs needed after your renters vacate the property, handling the logistics of having them made is on your “to do” list.

Truth: Marketing Mindset.
Renters come and go. The length of their stay varies on the agreement with your renters and how you use the property (short-term versus long-term). With this in mind, what tools do you have to use to market your investment property? Just like selling a home, curb appeal and professional photographs go a long way in helping others see themselves comfortable in your investment property – whether for a year-long lease or a weekend. Platforms that help promote short-term rental properties often have systems in place to market your investment home as well as vet out potential renters. For long-term rental properties, property management companies can help market your investment home and also help deal with supervise some of those necessary maintenance repairs mentioned earlier. Either way, your mind often needs to be set on making sure the home is occupied if you hope to profit from the investment, and that requires making sure people know about it.

It is true that investment properties can potentially prove to be a lucrative purchase. Going into this venture with blinders off and realistic expectations could help the experience be smoother than you imagined. The Crosby Team at First Choice Loan Services can answer whatever questions you may have about the process.

Bill Keezer
Senior Vice President | National Loan Solutions

Living in the Golden Years

As time passes, your home collects a lifetime of memories. Marks on door frames to track changes in height… retouched paint where a “young artist” took to the wall with a crayon… the window that annually frames the family Christmas tree… You could tell a story about every inch of your house. Also, as the years go by, a time arrives when starting stories in a smaller home or living situation makes more sense. Here are just a few option when you’re living in the Golden Years.


When your children are grown and living on their own, downsizing, or as we like to say, “rightsizing” your home can be a logical step. All the space of your current home may seem unnecessary. Finding a smaller house, condominium or town home could be a great adjustment. A smaller home can be more easily managed, often requiring less time to clean. They also tend to be less demanding of your utilities, thereby saving you some money. Money can also be saved since smaller living situations require less furniture and décor. In a condominium or town home, you may have to get accustomed to sharing a wall and other common outside areas, but the benefits could make it all worth it. Besides, your new neighbors close by could be your new best friends!

Multigenerational Living

It is very common now for homes to be built or renovated to accommodate multiple generations living. A section of the home can be designed almost as an independent apartment with a separate kitchen and entrance. Tangible benefits include saving costs of a completely separate home as well as sharing expenses for utilities and groceries. Intangible benefits are many. There’s peace of mind that additional care and help can be given as the older generation ages. Grandparents can enjoy more time with their grandchildren while maintaining their independence. Parents can have easy access to eager and loving babysitters. Perhaps best of all, grandchildren can know and learn more from their grandparents and carry on family traditions for many more generations.

Senior Adult Communities

Over the years, not only have more senior adult communities been built, they have evolved into active and exciting places to live. When considering rightsizing, you may prefer to live around other senior adults and share in social interactions with those from a similar time. If you are looking into this option, here are a few good things to consider:

1.What ages are invited to live in the community? Age is just a number, but sometimes that number makes a difference. Some communities open up to residents starting at 50 years old. Find out the average age of the residents and gauge your comfort level. Would you want to be an 80-year old in a community with the average age of 55 (or vice versa)?

2.What do you have in common with the residents? As you already know, just because you’re the same age as someone else doesn’t mean they’re your kind of people. Age says nothing about common interests. When looking at a senior adult community, consider if there is one built around a common interest and/or profession with which you are connected. You could make fast friends with built in conversation starters.

3.How will you stay active? One good way to determine if you’re a fit with a senior adult community is to look at the recreational programs. How active are they? Do they fit your lifestyle? There’s a big difference between playing tennis and playing bridge. Also, what outings are planned and available? Typically, communities near college campuses have quick and easy access to the university’s theater, art shows, concerts, and scholarly speeches. The world is still out there, so how will you participate in it?

4.What about your special visitors? Nothing quite brings joy to a heart like a visit with the grandparents. How is this community set up for your very important visitors? Is there a pool or playground nearby? Does the community have a cap or limit on the number of nights visitors are allowed? If unlimited visits are important to you, be sure you choose a community that has no restrictions.

5.Are there any hidden charges? Be sure you understand your full monthly payments and dues and verify everything it includes or doesn’t include. There may be an on-property gym but are special classes like yoga extra? Senior living often means living on a fixed income so ensuring there are no hidden fees or charges is vitally important for you to live comfortably.

6.Can you age in place in the community you choose? Depending on if and when you decide to move to a senior adult community, how long could you realistically live there? What services are available to those in more need? You may be running 5 miles a day and driving all over town presently. What if a day comes when those are no longer options for you? Does the community provide help for those in need of more assistance? It might be something to consider when thinking long term for yourself.

Wherever you decide to live your golden years, choose the place and situation that’s best for you! You deserve it! The Crosby Team at First Choice Loan Services is here to help you rightsize just right!

Five Ways to Maximize your House Hunting Time

The kids are back in school. Between that, their extracurricular activities and outside clubs, it probably feels you’re in your car more than in your home. Plus, you still have meals to prepare, groceries to buy and laundry to do. OH – and then there’s your job. Time is precious. When you are looking for a new home, combined with all that, it can be hard to do it all. That’s why we wanted to share these five ways to maximize your house hunting time.

1. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage. You may think, “Wait… I’m just looking for a house. I don’t want to start all that yet. Besides, this is a blog for a mortgage company so of course you’d say that.” Okay, well, true – we are a mortgage company, but we’re not the only ones who think this is one of the best uses of your time in the house hunting process. Getting pre-approved for a mortgage will let you know which homes are in your price range. This will help you avoid spending time viewing homes that do not fit in your budget. Being pre-approved by a mortgage lender can also help provide strength to your offer. When sellers receive multiple offers, those with the backing of a pre-approval from a reputable mortgage lender tend to be taken more seriously.

2. Choose an Exceptional Realtor®. I wouldn’t do my own dental work. I wouldn’t cut my own hair (the little that’s left). And, I wouldn’t act as my own real estate agent. For jobs that are out of my realm of expertise, I trust those who are experts in their fields. A well-seasoned Realtor® will have familiarity with the local market, knowing the benefits and drawback of the various neighborhoods as well as which properties are fresh on the market. They’ll also be able to guide you on comparable and realistic pricing expectations. They do this every day, so they’ll provide up to date and valuable information that only a professional in the real estate industry can.

3. Know What You Want. How many bedrooms do you need? How many bathrooms will you require? Do you want a pool (or a backyard that provides the option for one)? How many stories do you want? Where in the city do you want to be located? Hundreds of questions pop up when you are deciding on your next home. Thankfully, you have the answers! Sit down and make a list of what you require and what is optional. Distinguish between your needs and your wants. Know your non-negotiable features. Provide this list to your Realtor® who will be able to narrow down the list of options even more so that when it comes time to view the different homes, you’re sure to see only the ones that check off the list.

4. Plan Your Path. On the days that you do view homes with your Realtor®, look at a map and plan the order of the homes you’ll see. There’s no need to go from one end of town to another and then back again. See them in an order that makes sense. Also keep in mind the time of day and potential traffic that might hit certain areas of town. School zones and five o’clock traffic could eat up time in between. Consider seeing the newly listed homes first; they may be gone before you know it. As part of the plan, build in time to return to the ones that stand out to you. A second look may be all you need to decide it’s your first choice!

5. Take Good Notes. Whatever will help you remember, do that. After seeing the third or fourth house, they might start to blend together a bit. In your head, you might remember a room connected to a different home or place the house in a different neighborhood. Write things down. Give the homes nicknames like on some of the popular shows on HGTV. Use your smart phone to take good notes and pictures. Consider also just filming your walkthrough so that the layout is more clear to you and you can hear your initial reactions to what you see. Use whatever tools you have to help keep your options clear in your mind.

The world is a busy place, and when you have a move looming, it gets even busier. These few steps can help you move navigate your house hunting journey a bit quicker. When you’re ready to start with #1, contact us at First Choice Loan Services. We’ve love to help you on your exciting journey home!

Chad Peterson
Senior Vice President | Communications

How to Avoid Closing Day Surprises

This is it! The big day has arrived. You have almost completed the home buying and home loan process. Today’s the day you sign your final papers, get your keys and…uh-oh. Those are two words you do not want to hear on closing day. What should you do to keep your closing on track? And maybe more importantly, what shouldn’t you do? Here are a few thoughts on how to avoid closing day surprises.

No New Credit. You saw the greatest deal on a TV that would be perfect for your new family room, and the store will cut the price even more if you open a store credit account. Stop. Do not proceed. Your lender will pull your credit shortly before closing, and if you open a new account (even if you don’t charge anything right away), or add major debt to existing credit cards, your debt-to-income ratio may change to the extent that you will no longer qualify for your loan. This rule applies to co-signing a loan, too. Don’t let anyone other than your lender check your credit until after closing.

Keep Credit Accounts Open. This one is going to sound counterintuitive, so stay with me. You might think that you could improve your credit score by closing a little-used account, but’s that’s not the case. Here’s why: Part of your credit score is based on the length of time you’ve had credit. If you close that old department store account because you never use it, and it’s the account you’ve maintained for 10 years, guess what? Your credit score could go down, affecting your loan. Think status quo – no changes while your loan is in process.

Don’t Change Jobs Or Compensation Type. Getting a home loan and changing jobs do not go together. Lenders want to see a stable employment history. You’re borrowing a lot of money; the lender wants to know that you can repay it. Changing companies or changing the way you are compensated (salary to commission, for example) at the same company can cause problems and delays. If you get an amazing offer or your employer says your compensation method must change, talk to your mortgage loan originator right away.

Funds At The Ready. If you will need cash to close, be sure those funds are available well in advance of closing. You will need to either wire the money to the title company or present a cashier’s check at closing. No personal checks and no cash. If you’re not sure of the exact amount but you want to be certain that your wire arrives in time or you have adequate time to get your cashier’s check, take more than you think you’ll need. You’ll receive a refund after closing.

You Know Who I Am. Be prepared to show ID at the closing. Make sure to ask what form(s) of identification will be required to sign your documents.

That Big PayPal Deposit. Your lender may need to see your most recent bank, savings or brokerage account statements close to your closing date. If you have a large, unexplained deposit, it will put the brakes on your loan. Lenders have to know where your money is coming from – it’s a Federal banking regulation. One borrower almost failed to close because he sold an expensive bicycle he wasn’t using and deposited the proceeds. If you’re expecting any deposits outside of your usual run of business, talk to your mortgage loan originator in advance.

I Can Close In Paris, Right? Maybe. What you can do and who can act for you varies across the country. Don’t assume that you can give someone your power of attorney to sign your closing documents. In one case, a borrower who worked abroad had two choices for his refinance: Close at the nearest US Consulate and pay a small fortune to a notary, or fly home. He decided to fly home, with the added bonus of seeing his family. In another instance (in a different state), a couple buying a home gave her mom power of attorney and she closed for them while they were out of the country. Always check well in advance.

Buying a home (or refinancing) is exciting, but don’t get carried away. Talk to The Crosby Team at First Choice Loan Services Inc. before you make any changes that could affect your loan. And think of all the fun you’ll have after you close!

Anna Maria Lepore
Senior Vice President | Closing & Funding