Now that the stress of finding a new home is coming to a close, it’s time to think about move out day logistics. You may have started placing things in categorical pikes, but it’s time to do the dirty work on moving out and cleaning your old home. Here are 5 tips for packing like a pro for a smooth move out day.

Tips for a Smooth Move Out Day

Secure Your Transportation

Just like securing a reservation at a dinner restaurant, it’s important that you reserve your moving truck days before your need it. The last thing you wantis to be stranded with a home full of stuff, not able to be moved to your new home. Make sure to secure the right size of truck, and gather your move out day team. It’s best if you have a few helpers at all parts of the move out process as 7 at the beginning and 0 at the end can leave you some difficult work when you’re the most worn out.

Pack Like a Professional

Packing your items in boxes can help maximize room in your moving truck, and ensure that your valuables have another layer of protection. Additionally, when packing your boxes, be sure to pack the books and other heavy boxes on the bottom of the truck so you don’t risk your fragile boxes being smashed. You will want to make sure you bubble wrap al of your china, dishes, and other valuables. Finally, be sure your reinforce all your boxes with tape so the items inside stay safe during the move. Packing like a professional will ensure a smooth move out day.

Stay Organized

The best way to stay organized throughout the move out process is to label your boxes as you put them in the truck. By taking an extra one minute per box to label the category of the items inside, you could save your self a lot of time and effort on the other end. You don’t want to have to search through every single box just to find a cereal bowl. Additionally, if you number your boxes, you can easily tell if one goes missing. This help s you keep peace of mind when you have a lot of helpers.

Keep an Easy to Reach Box

When the packing gets going, it’s easy to get caught in the frenzy of throwing everything into boxes and putting them in the truck. To save yourself a lot of time and effort n move out day, place your everyday essentials in and easy to reach box. These essentials can include toilet paper, phone charger, water bottle, pen, paper, etc. This way you can easily grab these items without having to open a bunch of boxes.

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It’s true that anyone can shop for a house, without formally signing on with a real estate agent. But, unless you have time to make home shopping your part time job, an agent will help match you with a compatible property much faster. Here are 4 benefits of using a real estate agent as you search for a new home.

4 Benefits of Using a Real Estate Agent

Expert in the Field

For most large projects, you feel more confident in reaching the end goal with a solid and hard working team. When you hire a real estate agent, they are in your corner 100% of the time. Remember, this is their job, and they have dealt with many situations similar to your in the past. Additionally, real estate agents are able to use their resources to find solutions for you if they don’t have the answer right away. Using a real estate agent will give you the confidence and peace of mind that everything that needs to happen is happening.

Pricing Pro

Most agents can set a price on a home the minute they walk in the door. If they have a lot of expertise in a market, they know how well a neighborhood holds its value too. Agents have the experience to know whether a house is overpriced or underpriced, and can give you the best advice accordingly. An agent will have such a good idea of what you’re looking for so that he/she won’t even waste your time touring houses that won’t work for you. Additionally, real estate agents are market experts, so they know market trends, and can help direct you in the most beneficial direction for you and your wants/needs for your new home.

Trusted Vendor Recommendations

A big part of buying a home is having a home inspector come out to look at it before you buy it. This helps protect you from having to pay for any large fixes that are found along the inspection, or gives you leverage for negotiating a lower sale price. Using a real estate agent opens up their recommendations for home inspectors and other vendors needed along the way. Wouldn’t you feel the most comfortable hiring someone who comes highly recommended?

Negotiation

One of the top benefits of using a real estate agent is negotiation. It’s uncomfortable to negotiate, especially as a first time home buyer.. So let your agent take care of all of that! Having an agent write the requests objectively and forward them to the seller, saves you from getting emotional about the deal. It’s best to let your agent take the heat in difficult negotiations so you don’t get upset about the property, or say something you wish you hadn’t.

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It wasn’t so long ago that everyone thought millennials would never buy homes. With overwhelming student debt, an inadequate savings account, and average credit scores, millennials were often looked over as a prominent home buying generation. But, in 2021, millennials have passed up baby boomers and Gen Xers for the sixth year in a row! If you aspire to be one of the many millennial homebuyers in 2021, here are four things to make that dream come true.

Tips For Millennial Homebuyers

Pay off Major Debts

One of the largest hurdles for millennial homebuyers is student loans. Over 44 million Americans are paying off student loan debt. Since buying a home is likely the most expensive investment you’ll ever make, it’s best to be as close to debt free as you can. If paying off your loans is not possible in the next decade, then it’s best to get on a budget and manage your monthly payments, seeing how much room you’ll have for an incoming mortgage payment as well as a down payment. A mortgage lender can tell you how to get on track with your payments before buying a home.

Down Payments

Most of us don’t pay cash for our first home, so buying a home requires a down payment. Having a strong down payment can help lower your interest rate as well as pay off your entire mortgage faster. While 10-20% down is ideal, some loan types – such as FHA – require as little as 3.5% down. The catch with a lower down payment is the additional requirement of mortgage insurance added to your monthly mortgage payment. If you feel overwhelmed saving for a down payment, you’re not alone. Some millennials need more than seven years to save for a down payment, so don’t feel bad if it takes time.

Affordable House in a Seller’s Market

A big challenge millennial homebuyers face is the rising value of homes. It’s best to be patient and to not give in to the temptation to stretch your dollars and buy a home that’s out of your price range. No home is worth sacrificing your retirement or your kid’s college fund! That’s why it’s best to find an affordable house in a seller’s market. It may require some renovation, but at least you won’t be struggling to make your mortgage payment each month.

Know the Buying Process

One of the best things you can do as a millennial homebuyer is to get familiar with the buying process. Working with experts who know what they’re doing (agent, lender) will likely result in a seamless process that’s enjoyable and exciting for you and for them! Remember, a good agent and lender is more concerned about your bank account, not theirs. Being confident and knowledgeable about the home buying process will help you move faster on the road to closing on a home.

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Credit score is a large part in buying a home and improving your score could mean qualifying for lower interest rates and better terms. Unfortunately, most people only think about credit repair when it matters and are not proactive in repairing it ahead of time. Here are 4 simple steps to repair your credit score so you can qualify for the best home with the lowest rate.

4 Simple Steps to Repair Your Credit Score

Review your credit reports

The first step in repairing your score is examining it. The credit bureaus are required to give you a free copy of your credit report once a year, you just need to request it. Another way to check is to use a free online tool that gives you a breakdown of your scores. Using these tools you can see the areas of your credit in which you are excelling and the areas which could use some improvement.

Increase credit limits

Credit card utilization holds a lot of weight in determining your score and therefore increasing your limits is one of the best steps to repair your credit score. Generally speaking, carrying a balance of 50% of your available credit to will negatively impact your score. And maxing out your cards will definitely hurt your overall score. If you owe $2,500 on a card with a $5,000 limit, and you increase your credit limit to $7,500, your score will improve immediately. This drops your utilization percentage down which helps your overall score.

Pay down outstanding balances

Decreasing your percentage of available credit can make a significant impact on your score. Similar to increasing your credit limit, paying down outstanding balances helps your credit card utilization percentage. Paying off balances may be tough as a short-term improvement to increase your score, but it should be a long-term financial goal. Over time your credit score will increase and you won’t pay as much interest.

Pay off high interest “new” cards first

Since age of credit matters to your credit score and interest rates matter to your bank account, it’s a smart financial move to pay off high interest new cards first. Paying off high interest cards will help you save money over time since you will be saving the interest on those payments. And paying off new cards first will help increase the average length of credit, which will help your score. Using the saved money from these cards toward paying off other account will help you continue to lift your score (snowball effect), without really changing your spending mindset.

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A large part of what makes a house a home is the neighborhood that surround the house. Amid the excitement of searching for the perfect house for you and your family, don’t forget to pay attention to its surroundings. After all, a neighborhood you love, may be worth sacrificing an extra bathroom or white cabinets. Here are 4 tips to finding the perfect Western Washington Neighborhood.

Tips to Finding the Perfect Western Washington Neighborhood

Note Your Most Frequent Stops

Make a list of all the places you visit on the regular so you know how far the western Washington neighborhood would be from your frequently traveled locations. These places include your gym, church, grocery store, relative’s house, or shopping mall. For each neighborhood you’re considering moving to, list how many miles and how many minutes it would take to drive there. The gas money alone may steer you toward a closer neighborhood. The last thing you want is to regret purchasing a house because it’s too far from your amenities.

School District

Even if you don’t have school age children, buying. A home in a Western Washington neighborhood within a good school district will lift the overall neighborhood safety as well as make your home easier to resell in the future. If you do have school age children, visit each school the home in question is zoned for and make sure it’s to your liking. It’s frequently difficult to opt in to a certain district if you are out of bounds, so make sure you’re setting up your kids for success.

Take a Stroll

Before signing your closing paperwork, make sure to walk round the community on a weekend. Are there a lot of families out and about doing the same thing? Or are most people sticking indoors with the blinds shut? Are people friendly who you pass? Are the parks and common areas well taken care of? Answering these questions will give you a good idea of the sense of community and can also be an indicator of safety. You want to know what to expect when you move into your new home.

Trust Your Gut

The Western Washington neighborhood may be safe and in a good school district, but none of that matters if you don’t feel comfortable there. Can you see yourself spending time on the front porch? Do you see yourself building lasting relationships with your neighbors? Do you think your kids will get along with the neighborhood kids? Your neighborhood can have a huge impact on your daily life. It’s worth the time and effort to research, to make sure you’re moving into the perfect place for you and your family.

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The VA home loan offers some unbeatable benefits for active military members and veterans. From $0 down, to no mortgage insurance, to relaxed credit requirements, the VA home loan is definitely worth exploring while searching for a home. Here are the top 4 benefits of the VA home loan.

Top Benefits of the VA Home Loan

$0 Down Payment

The down payment is typically the most challenging hurdle for prospective home buyers, especially first-time home buyers. Qualified veterans can obtain a VA home loan without making any down payment at all. Compared to Conventional and FHA home loans, this translates to significant savings upfront. Conventional home loans typically require at least 10 if not 20 percent down, while FHA home loans require at least 3.5 percent down. The amazing benefit of being able to purchase a home with $0 down is that veterans get to fulfill the American Dream without having to spend years saving up for a down payment.

No Mortgage Insurance

A lot of first-time home buyers are going with an FHA loan since the down payment required is 3.5% (as opposed to the conventional 10 or 20 percent). The down side to paying 3.5% down is that it comes with mortgage insurance of a few hundred dollars a month (depending on the loan amount). The VA home loan doesn’t require monthly mortgage insurance. Skipping the monthly mortgage insurance will help veteran home buyers save hundreds of dollars per month.

Low Interest Rates

Typically, the VA home loan offer the lowest interest rate of all loan types. Since the VA guarantees a portion of every VA loan, financial institutions can offer lower interest rates than other loan types (0.5 to 1 percent lower than conventional rates). On a 30 year $250,000 loans, the difference between paying 4 percent and 4.75 percent equates to $40,000 in savings over the life of the loan. This is one of the top benefits of the VA Home Loan.

Flexible Credit Requirements

Veterans don’t need a perfect score to secure home financing. In fact, the flexibility of credit score allows more veterans to secure a home loan than if they went with a conventional loan. Some lenders allow scores as low as 580 which is significantly lower than the 620 minimum score for other loan types. The flexibility of credit requirements allows veterans to buy a home faster as they don’t need to spend years on credit repair.

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The Seattle-Tacoma housing market continues to be attractive for home buyers. However, you need to consider if now is the right time for you to jump into home ownership. Just because your friends and family all own homes, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a financially smart decision for you to. Here are 4 signs you’re ready to buy a home.

4 Signs You’re Ready to Buy a Home

No more debt

One of the top signs you’re ready to buy a home is that you no longer have debt. You have eliminated credit card debt as well as your car payment and you’re now banking more each month. The extra cash flow that is no longer going toward your monthly debt can cover home owner expenses such as property tax, homeowner’s insurance, repairs, and furnishings. Considering the down payment is the top hurdle for most home buyers, the extra cash can cover that expense as well.

Credit score

If you’ve been watching your credit report and taking actions to improve your score, now could be the time to buy a home. Since your credit score is one of the most important factors in qualifying for a home loan, a higher score could land you a higher loan amount. With a higher credit score comes a lower interest rate, which ultimately means a lower monthly mortgage payment and less money over time.

Thought about all the monthly expenses

With owning a home comes many monthly expenses outside of your mortgage. Utilities, property taxes, HOA fees, and insurance bills are all costs you have to budget for. If you have done the research to include a ballpark estimate of all of these expenses and you’re comfortable with the outflow, it’s one of the best signs you are ready to buy a home.

Ready to settle down

Unless you’re in the house flipping business, your home is a long term investment. It’s best to plan to stay in a home for at least five years. If you’re just starting a family and need a certain number of bedrooms and outdoor space, it may be a wise decision to look into buying a home since renting an apartment of that size could cost as much or more. Additionally, if you have dreams of making your house a home, with personalized renovations and décor, owning a home may be right for you.

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In the last two decades, real estate has outperformed the stock market at a ratio of 2:1. Real estate has continuously been ranked as the best way to invest money not needed for more than 10 years. So why aren’t more people taking advantage? Here are the 5 top reasons to invest in real estate.

5 Reasons to Invest in Real Estate

Immediate cash flow

Once you buy a property and rent it out, you are receiving cash flow within that first month, and every money after that. If you buy in a hot market, you’re able to use the cash flow to pay back that mortgage as well as use the additional funds for repairs, paying a property management company, or any other house related expense.

Appreciation

While appreciation is largely dependent on property, location and economy, the bottom line is that the US population is growing and the need for housing continues to increase. By way of supply and demand, your home’s value will increase over time. For example, since the inventory of homes in Western Washington is in a shortage, buyers will be willing to pay more for your home since there isn’t much competition.

Equity

If you make paying off your mortgage a priority, the amount of equity – or the amount of house you actually own – grows quickly. If you pay more toward your principal, choose shorter loan terms, and focus on home improvements, you can speed up the pay off process. By paying more toward your principal, the faster your build equity, even if your home is appreciating slowly. By choosing shorter loan terms, you are eliminating the interest rate for the years you aren’t paying a mortgage. For example, a 15 year mortgage is more per month, but over time you actually save a significant amount since you aren’t paying interest on the last 15 years. Finally, by focusing on home improvements, you increase the value of your home and narrow the gap between how much it’s worth, and how much you owe.

Tax breaks

Investing in real estate can come with tax breaks, which makes this one of the top reasons to invest in real estate. Mortgage interest, operating costs, property taxes, and insurance are among the areas you’re able to deduct from your taxes. You’re sending less money to the IRS, and increasing your cash flow.

You don’t have to be the landlord

If you buy an investment property with the idea of just wanting the monthly income without doing the maintenance, a property management company can help you. When you hire a property management company, they can take calls about leaky faucets and drafty windows. Yes you’ll be receiving less monthly income since you’ll have to pay the property management company, but you’ll have much less to worry about. This is an especially good idea for those who buy a rental out of state.

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When you’re looking to finance something (a car, home, furniture, etc.) the odds are pretty high that the lender will do a credit check. But what does that mean and does that affect your score? Here’s what you need to know about your credit report and the differences between hard and soft credit checks.

What Are Soft Credit Checks?

Your credit report is one of the most important aspects of buying a home. It will tell the lender how much debt you carry and whether you’ve ever foreclosed on a home. It also includes some information such as name, address, and social security number. Your credit score is determined by taking into account all the information provided by your credit report. The higher your credit score, the lower the interest rates available to you.

Do Credit Checks Affect Your Credit Score?

Yes, hard credit checks could potentially lower you credit score a few points. Losing those few points may not seem like a big deal, but when you’re aiming to buy a home with the highest score, every point counts. No one wants to see that their score could have been improved by something as small as a credit inquiry.

Soft Credit Checks

Fortunately there’s a way for lenders to see your score without it hitting your credit score. This process involves a lender to get a general assessment of how credit worthy you will be going forward. If everything looks good, you can move to get pre-qualified with a lender and indicates that your score is favorable and you have a pretty good chance of getting approved for a loan.

By using a soft credit check, lenders can likely tell if a borrower is approved for credit before they do a hard pull. This helps eliminate an unnecessary hard inquiry. Another perk of soft credit checks is that you can pull a general score at anytime using free online credit monitoring apps. Many of these services also alert you if something suspicious happens on your credit report so you can take action immediately. Additionally, these apps break down areas of strength and areas of opportunity with your score. It will let you know if credit utilization could use some improvement, and if you have already hit your max hard inquiry count for this year. Frequently checking your score with one of the apps can help you improve your score to help prepare you to buy a home.

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The down payment is often the largest hurdle first time home buyers face. Whether you’re going the FHA route and can put as low as 3.5% down, or you’re going the conventional loan route with 20% down, saving for a down payment can take some time. Here are 4 simple everyday ways to save for a down payment.

4 Simple Ways to Save for a Down Payment

Make a budget and stick with it

The number one way to save for a down payment is to create a budget. It’s hard to monitor your finances if you don’t know where you and your family stands. Take some time to review all your expenses every month and see the areas where you are over spending. For a lot of people, dining out can cost hundreds of dollars a week, whereas meal prepping at the grocery store could be a couple hundred dollars a month. Once you are aware of how much you spend in each area, make a budget and hold yourself accountable to sticking to it. Weekly checkpoints are a great way to keep yourself on track.

But first, coffee

Coffee is a huge part of how people function, so it’s hard to think about how coffee can actually cost you hundreds a month. If you pick up a coffee from your local coffee shop every morning, you could be spending $5 a day, for 30 days a month. This means you are allocating $150 a month just to coffee. And this doesn’t even include the days you go back for your afternoon pick me up. Think about buying coffee ground from the grocery store and making your own morning coffee. Also, a lot of workplaces offer coffee in the cafeteria for a subsidized cost or even free, so relying on that for afternoons can also help keep the cost low. Remember, saving doesn’t mean you have to get rid of things all together, it just challenges you to find different approaches.

Manage subscriptions

When you get to the point where you don’t even know what you’re subscribed to anymore, you’re likely spending too much on monthly subscriptions. Go through all your monthly and yearly subscriptions and get rid of services you don’t benefit from. For example, if you find yourself subscribed to multiple music streaming services, pick your favorite one and get rid of the other. These services can give you back $10-20 a month!

Sell items

Selling unwanted items can make you hundreds of dollars a month, while cleaning out your home! One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, truly. So go through your basement and see what you can sell. A helpful tip is if you plan to sell seasonal items, do so about a month before the season/holiday. This catches folks who are looking for that exact item, instead of catching people after the holiday hits and it’s not the front of their mind.

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