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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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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Our furry friends are a big part of our families. From setting designated feeding stations to keeping lint rollers scattered through the home, here are 4 tips to create a pet friendly home your guests and your pets will feel comfortable spending time in.

How to Create a Pet Friendly Home

Designate Feeding Stations

Creating a designated feeding station that is convenient for your pets to access but also not an eyesore for your family is key to create a pet friendly home. Choose a room such as a laundry room or mud room to stash your pet’s food and water bowls. This will keep the mess away from the entertainment areas of the home. It is important that you store food appropriately to prevent spoiling or unwanted bugs.

Conceal Toys

Yes we love buying our pets new chew toys, but we don’t necessarily love to see the toys lying around the house. If you don’t want your home to scream “crazy cat or dog person” stash pet items where they are easily accessible but not noticeable. Decorative baskets and bins are great for stashing toys and treat jars. Having a designated animal toy bin helps you keep track of the toys and tidy up your living space in an organized manner.

Vacuum/Sweep Often

In the shedding season, it’s vital to vacuum/sweep on a weekly basis (sometimes twice a week if you have a severe shedder). Be sure to vacuum the living spaces, including the couches and throw pillows. If you just aren’t a fan of sweeping, consider investing in a robotic vacuum. You can set it and forget it and maintain a hair free home.

Lint Roll

People don’t mind if you have pets, but they might mind if they leave your home with a leg full of dog hair. While vacuuming often is important, sometimes hair just finds it’s way onto the couch. Store lint rollers in a few easy to grab locations, like side table drawers, to offer to guests if they need to remove hair from their clothes.

Treat Stains Immediately

Accidents happen, and it’s ok as long as you treat stains immediately. If your animals are accident prone, consider getting a portable carpet cleaner for quick spot treatments. The last thing you want is for your guests to smell a stale scent when they sit on the couch. Get into the habit of walking through lesser-used rooms to make sure there aren’t any surprise stains setting in.

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In this series, I highlight the restaurants and food services I like to refer to my home buyers and sellers in the Pierce County area. This month I’m talking about HG Bistro.

Restaurant Recommendation Series: HG Bistro

HG Bistro is one of my favorite restaurants in the Puyallup area. Located right on Main street, you’ve likely seen this joint busy on evenings and weekends. In addition to their delicious food and superb customer service, I appreciate that they change up their menu often. Chef Arnel and his team create a featured fresh sheet every two weeks and offer by reservation only intimate wine dinners prepared by Executive Chef Arnel Gaitan. For the past 12 years HG Bistro has been known for their Happy Hour and have been voted in the top 5 of King 5’s “Best Happy Hour” for Western Washington since 2009. Recently they were honored with the #1 spot in 2015.

HG Bistro also puts a strong focus on service fresh and local dishes. They prepare their dishes from scratch by using quality fresh ingredients. They strive to use local farmers as they come available. From their kitchen to the table they are passionate about giving an exceptional culinary experience with warm and professional service for a friendly dining experience.

Here’s what others have to say about HG Bistro:

“Atmosphere was intimate enough to hold a conversation. We got a table last minute on a Friday night and the staff was very inviting and warm. The food was also very good!” – Morgan F.

“A very nice small out of the way bistro between Sumner and Puyallup. The staff is very friendly and attentive. The menu wasn’t very busy. The atmosphere was between casual and fine dining. The food was delicious. They plate the food nice and fancy, felt more fine dining. They have 2 “sides” to the restaurant, one had the decor of casual the other more upscale. I would absolutely go there again.” – Calvin W.

“My Birthday dinner pick! I was so happy with everything. Dinner amazing and the birthday dessert was incredible. Service was outstanding, very attentive staff. I tried the Pom Pom from the drink menu and loved it!” – Kristal H.

For more information on HG Bistro, visit https://www.hgbistro.com.

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Buying a home is 38% cheaper than renting a home. This is especially true if you plan on living in one space for at least seven years. As mortgage loans are more affordable now with down payment assistance and different loan options, let’s take a look at the financial benefits of owning a home.

Financial Benefits of Owning a Home

Building equity

One of the largest financial benefits of owning a home is building home equity. When you pay rent to your landlord, you’re setting aside a chunk of money that you’ll never see again. Additionally, landlords have the right to raise your monthly rent yearly, so what you pay today could differ than what you pay monthly next year. When you sign a mortgage loan, you are agreeing to the monthly payment for the life of the loan (likely 15/30 years). So, you can accurately budget your spending every month on your mortgage. When you pay your mortgage, you are building equity as you are paying off your loan. This means that unlike renting, you will see these funds applied directly toward what you own.

Tax benefits

Another one of the biggest financial benefits of owning a home is the mortgage interest deduction. Most of your monthly mortgage payments will go towards interest in your first few years of homeownership. You are able to deduct that interest from your taxes, if your loan is $1 million or less. Additionally, any taxes you pay to the government on your property are deductible from federal income tax.

No longer moving every year

Homeownership increases sustainability and stability. While moving every year from rental to rental may be necessary for your lifestyle, it is a major inconvenience and a financial and emotional burden. Renting can mean you may never know where you are going to live in a year, or how much you’ll be paying. Owning a home allows a financial and emotional investment in both your physical home and your community.

Use your home investment toward another investment

The equity that comes from paying a mortgage is what allows many individuals make future investments in the same home (refinancing, renovations), a higher-valued home (using the equity toward a down payment), a second home (using equity toward a second down payment), or additional financial goals (paying off debt, buying an RV). A home equity line of credit helps homeowners use that part of their home that’s already paid off to obtain financing for additional investments.

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In this series, I highlight the restaurants and food services I like to refer to my home buyers and sellers in the Pierce County area. This month I’m talking about Tibbitts at Fern Hill.

Restaurant Recommendation Series: Tibbitts at Fern Hill

Everyone needs to try Tibbitts at Fern Hill! Located in South Tacoma, Chef Shawn Tibbitts partners with local farmers to bring fresh ingredients directly from farm to table. Open for breakfast and lunch, Tibbitts at Fern Hill has quite the variety. From the Lobster Bomb and Southwest Frittata on his breakfast menu, to Adam’s Mushroom Bourguignon and Savor Tacoma Creperie for lunch, you’re sure to find something that will satisfy your taste buds.

Here’s what other’s have to say about their experience at Tibbitts at Fern Hill:

“He realized that we were new in the restaurant and came out and introduced himself and even asked our names. Who does that anymore? We will definitely be going back. The passion and love is in the restaurant and apparent in the food.”

“The food was so delicious. I really just want to come back for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each time they changed menus! The service was great and the chef/owner was so personable and we loved how he came out to introduce himself!! This will always be a place that we will stop by each time we visit from Alaska!! Thank you!!”

“It’s an honor to review Tibbitts @ Fern Hill. We heard about it opening on the Where to Dine in Pierce County Facebook page and decided to go there today at noon, and we ended up having the best lunch we’ve had in a long time!”

Tibbitts at Fern Hill has been recognized for various awards from #1 Farm to Table Restaurant in Tacoma to Top 5 New Restaurants of 2017 by the News Tribune to Best Chef 2018 and Best New Restaurant 2018.

For more information on Tibbitts at Fern Hill, visit their Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/TibbittsatFernHill/. Remember, tables fill up quickly so it’s best to make a reservation!

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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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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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In this series, I highlight the restaurants and food services I like to refer to my home buyers and sellers in the Pierce County area. This month I’m talking about Devine Bites.

Restaurant Recommendation Series: Devine Bites

Devine Bites is a locally owned and operated bake shop that personally deliveries to the home, office or event venue. They can create any baked goods for any occasion! They specialize in wedding cakes, cookies for baby showers/business event, cupcakes for birthday parties, and macaroons.

I’ve used Devine Bites personally for my daughter’s baby shower, as well as for my Thanksgiving pies.

Here’s what others have to say about this amazing baked goods service.

“Amazing service & products! Very professional, sweet, attentive, enthusiastic, delicious, and beautiful!! We have vowed to become repeat customers!”

“I took some custom DB cookies shaped like teeth and toothbrushes to my friend’s clinic and they were a hit!! So cute and very well done.”

“I called up Devine Bites to cater my daughter’s Sweet Sixteen birthday party. Every cupcake was professionally decorated, complete with the baby blue to match the Tiffany’s themed birthday party. I’ll definitely be going back for my future baked goods!”

Devine Bites offers over 24 flavors of cakes, fruit tarts, cake pops, chocolate covered cherries and strawberries, cupcakes, macaroons, and cookies.

To contact Devine Bites, call (253) 224-5117 or visit their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/DevineBites/

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In this series, I highlight the businesses I like to refer to my friends, family, home buyers and sellers in the Pierce County area. This month I’m talking all things home cleaning with My Cleaning Lady.

Community Recommendation Series: My Cleaning Lady

The owner of My Cleaning Lady was a stay at home mom, while raising her children. As a busy young housewife and mom, she often wondered if she really could master it all. With the laundry, sports, school, homework, and trying to keep a tidy house, there just didn’t seem to be enough time in the day to complete every task.

So, just once she hired someone else to clean her house for her. She will never forget that feeling! All she had to do was manage the kids. It took a huge load off of your task list. That is where her passion for cleaning began. She wants to continue to share that feeling with others. She loves that what she is providing essentially is time.

She cleans all rooms of the house including kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, and living areas. She has a rotating schedule, so be sure to schedule an appointment to see what services she provides.

Here’s what her clients have to say about her:

“A clean home is a happy a home! And my home is now clean and happy and I can’t thank my cleaning lady enough!”

“It is a very cute service! From logo to the service everything is Top Notch J”

“My Cleaning Lady has been cleaning our home since September. We have always been pleased with the service. She does a great job and we are happy when we come home after she’s cleaned. We highly recommend My Cleaning Lady! Thank you!”

For more information on My Cleaning Lady, visit her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/IKnowALady/

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