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Buying a House for a Blended Family

When the step-siblings of The Brady Bunch made their TV debut in 1969, the concept of a blended family was something of a novelty. Today, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 75 percent of divorced people remarry and 65 percent of those remarriages include children. In addition, a study by Pew Research Center indicates that 16 percent of kids under the age of 18 are living in blended families.

By definition, a blended family increases the number of household members, making it unlikely that either of the current homes is suitable options. If you're buying a house for a blended family, start off on the right note with these helpful tips.

  • Get Professional Financial Advice
    In first marriages, couples are generally building a financial profile together. Couples who come together later in life have already established careers, credit histories, and tolerance for risk. Consult a financial advisor who can help create mutually compatible goals and budgets.
  • Be Realistic about Space Considerations
    What seems doable in theory often turns out to be impractical in reality. How many kids can reasonably share a bedroom? Will everyone have to stand in line to shower in a single bathroom? Give your blended family room to breathe as they become accustomed to their new living situation.
  • Choose Location Strategically
    If real estate is all about "location, location, location," that applies double to buying a house for a blended family. Instead of having only one side relocate, you may decide on a "neutral" neighborhood to put everyone on equal footing. Proximity to kids' other parents is also a vital factor in shared custody arrangements.
  • Involve the Kids
    When partners in a new relationship have children, kids may often feel they are along for the ride. They may find themselves in the middle of changes completely out of their control. Bring kids along as you view houses and solicit their input to emphasize that it's their home also. Once you've made the move, assign each child a designing "project" to put their own stamp on the new home.
  • Plan Timing Carefully
    Coordinating the process of buying a house with the sale of your existing home can be tricky enough. When you add in the sale of a second home, it becomes a real juggling act. Prepare a backup plan, such as renting out one of the homes or moving into a short-term rental, in case the timing hits a snag.

The definition of family continues expanding to include previously non-traditional forms, but the idea of home as the center of family life remains constant. Buying a house that accommodates the needs of a blended family is the first step toward creating happy memories together.


The Best Tips For Buying A Home In Your 20s (Or Early 30s)

The follow-up to the Millennial generation, the eldest members of Gen Z are aged 25 today. Research shows most of this up-and-coming cohort see buying a home as a major goal — one they plan to achieve earlier than their parents and grandparents.

Although they're an exciting new generation, Gen Z is in some ways a blast from the past. They think of homeownership as an important way to build wealth, just as their grandparents did. On the other hand, many Millennials remain wary of buying, especially among the older set.

Both older Gen Z and younger Millennials made a strong showing in the seller's market of 2021. There are many would-be buyers aged 25-35 who haven't settled on a property just yet, but their dreams are within reach. They just need to take the right steps to get there!

So, how can you buy a home in your 20s or early 30s?

Start with these tips:

  • Handle Debt with Care
    Mortgage lenders use the debt-to-income ratio as a crucial factor when deciding what loan package you qualify for – so the debt you accrue along the way makes a big difference. Always pay bills on time, and do your best to avoid taking on new debts within six months of applying for a mortgage.

  • Develop a Household Budget
    A household budget can help you save the money you need to pay off debts and accumulate a down payment, which is usually not less than 10% of a home's sale price. It will also come in handy when you need to decide whether the fixed costs associated with a given home are right for you.

  • Find the Right Real Estate Agent
    The right real estate agent is your best ally as you navigate the housing market. Remember, it's okay to talk to several agents before choosing one. An agent should help you clarify your goals and put you in touch with the right resources to make an informed decision at every fork in the road.

  • Connect with First-Time Homebuyer Programs
    First-time homebuyer programs provide buyers like you with the inside insight to make the most of the process. Check out government-backed mortgage programs such as those offered by the VA, USDA, and FHA. These often offer favorable lending terms and lower down payments.

  • Prequalify for a Mortgage
    In prequalification, you submit income information to a mortgage lender and get a firm commitment on a funding package you then have the option to use within 30 or 60 days. This empowers you to make a move on the home you want as soon as you find it, helping you be more competitive.

  • Set Your Priorities from the Start
    In general, it's a good idea for everyone who will be living in a home to set 1-3 "must-haves." This makes it easier for you to know when a home does or doesn't meet your needs. It also ensures your real estate agent can support you with listings that really work for you, potentially accelerating the process.

  • Negotiate with Care
    It won't be a seller's market forever. As buyers gain clout, it becomes easier to negotiate for better terms. Never be afraid to walk away from a home, and be wary of properties sold "as-is." A mortgage lender usually won't fund a home with serious issues, so you'll need to have it inspected anyway.

Buying a home might seem intimidating, but your real estate agent is in your corner from start to finish. Use these tips in conjunction with your agent's advice, and you will be on your road to homeownership.


Real Estate Tricks and Treats

It can be hard to tell the real estate tricks from treats, so let's clear the confusion once and for all. Here are some of the most common real estate myths, debunked: 

MYTH: "You don't need a real estate agent to buy a home."

TRUTH: Buyer agents 1) Are duty-bound to put your interests first, 2) Will ensure you stay organized (and calm!) through the buying process, and 3) Use their local knowledge and expertise to help you realize the perfect home at a price you feel great about. Why would you want to skimp on that?

MYTH: "You should start the buying process by looking at homes." 

TRUTH: It's critical to start the process by getting your financial ducks in a row. First stop? A preapproval letter from a trusted lender. You'll thank yourself later when you're able to put in that offer lightning fast.

MYTH: "You need 20% down plus closing costs to buy."

TRUTH: While 20% is ideal, most buyers don't have that amount of cash lying around. There are many loans that have down payments as low as 3.5% (or even 0%!), so ask your agent or lender what's right for you.

When it comes to buying and selling, knowledge is power. Never blindly follow the advice you've heard from the internet or your friends without talking with an experienced agent. Have other thoughts or questions about buying? Reach out to us today! 

Bossier City Office: 318.747.5411    Shreveport Office: 318.861.2461


Let's Talk About Paperwork: What You Need To Buy A Home

From securing mortgage pre-approval through your lender to closing on your new home, the process of purchasing a home involves plenty of paperwork. You can make your life much easier by being prepared. Here are some of the key documents that you may need to provide or review throughout the process of purchasing your next home.

  • Proof of Income
    In order to apply for loan pre-approval and determine how much you may be able to borrow, your lender may request a variety of documents to prove your income. These documents may include pay stubs, tax returns, bank statements, and retirement account statements.

  • Proof of Employment
    Your lender wants to know where your down payment will come from and verify that you will be able to pay your mortgage, so they will also request proof of employment. Documents required may include pay stubs, 1099s, and W-2s.

  • Debt Information
    Your lender will also want to be aware of any debts that you already owe, to ensure that you can pay those debts while also covering your mortgage. That could include information on student loans, car loans, and any other debts that you may be carrying.

  • Loan Estimate
    While it's not an indication of your loan status, the loan estimate that your lender is required to send by law provides a broad outline of the terms of your potential loan. It's helpful to have this document available when you're comparing loan terms from multiple lenders.

  • Loan Pre-Approval Letter
    Once you've provided your lender with all of the necessary documents, hopefully the next step will be receiving your pre-approval letter. While it doesn't mean that you've definitely secured the loan, this important piece of paperwork gives you a better idea of your budget.

  • Purchase Agreement
    Once you have found a home you love and negotiated with the seller, the purchase agreement outlines the terms of the agreement. You won't need to create this document, but you'll need to be familiar with it in order to know your responsibilities before closing.

  • Seller's Disclosure
    In some states, the seller is required to disclose any known issues with the home. The seller's disclosure, if required, provides important details on the home's history.

  • Inspection Report
    The home inspection report provides detailed information on the condition of the home. If the inspection reveals problems, you might decide to negotiate with the seller for repairs or for a credit at closing that reflects issues with the condition of the home.

  • Home Appraisal
    The home appraisal, which will typically be arranged by your lender, details the value of the home in the current real estate market. If the appraisal comes in significantly below your offer, you may have to pay the difference in cash or try to negotiate a lower price for the home.

  • Proof of Homeowner's Insurance
    Your lender won't commit to a loan without proof that you have home insurance, so you'll want to have that ready to go in order to secure your loan.

  • Government ID
    Sometimes, the simplest things are also the easiest to forget. You will need a government-issued ID like a driver's license or passport on closing day. Before closing, check that your ID isn't expired and that all of the information is up to date.

The exact documents you will need depend on your location and other factors. If you have any questions about exactly which documents will be needed in your market, your real estate agent should be a great source of advice.


Finding a Home Loan Right for You

Whether you're buying a home for the first time or have navigated the process before, choosing the right home loan is key to long-term financial happiness with your next home. The number of loan options available can feel daunting to sort through, but the good news is there's a loan available to suit the needs of nearly every buyer. The trick is finding the right one for you. Get started with our guide to some of the most common types of home loans and how they might fit your needs.

  • Conventional Mortgages
    Conventional mortgages rank among the most commonly used loans, and there are two types available. Conforming mortgages are backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, with maximum loan limits set by the county. Borrowing with a conforming, conventional mortgage will allow you to make a lower down payment but may require a higher interest rate than other loans. In most cases, you will be required to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) if your down payment is less than 20 percent.
  • Jumbo Mortgages
    The second type of conventional loan is a non-conforming mortgage, often referred to as a jumbo mortgage. A jumbo mortgage is typically used to purchase homes in affluent areas, where home values are higher than the limits for conforming loans. A jumbo mortgage requires excellent credit, a significant down payment, and extensive documentation to prove that the loan will fit within your finances.
  • FHA or USDA Mortgages
    There are also a variety of government-insured loans available, including FHA and USDA mortgages. FHA mortgages are a popular tool for first-time buyers because they require low down payments and are available to buyers with less-than-perfect credit. USDA loans are primarily used to purchase homes in low-income or rural areas and may not require any down payment for buyers who meet certain income limits.
  • VA Mortgages
    The final type of government-insured loan is a VA mortgage, which is available to military members (active or veteran) and their families. VA mortgages are very flexible, with low interest, no down payment needed, and no requirement to purchase PMI. These loans are generally considered a great option for military buyers because of the flexible terms and minimal requirements.
  • Fixed-rate Mortgages
    When analyzing mortgage options, it's also important to consider how your loan terms might change over time. If you want financial certainty and have the opportunity to lock in a low rate, then a fixed-rate mortgage may provide just what you're seeking. With a fixed-rate mortgage, your interest rate is locked in for the duration of the loan, with terms that usually last for 15, 20, or 30 years. It takes longer to build equity with a fixed-rate mortgage, but choosing a fixed rate allows you to budget precisely for the life of the mortgage.
  • Adjustable-rate Mortgages
    Unlike with a fixed-rate mortgage, your interest rate on an adjustable-rate mortgage can change over time based on market conditions. Some adjustable-rate mortgages will offer a low, fixed interest rate for the first few years, followed by fluctuating rates after the initial term. While adjustable-rate mortgages can offer lower interest rates to start, they also come with risks. Higher interest rates can make your payments unmanageable over time and may also make it harder to refinance if home values drop.

Choosing the right type of home loan is a big decision, so it's crucial to gather as much information as possible and seek advice from trusted advisors. By fully understanding the options available, you can make the right choice for your financial future.


How Much Home Can You Afford?

You've been dreaming day and night about it: Buying your first home. It's a thrilling prospect for everyone, especially first-time homeowners. With countless properties available online at your fingertips, it's easy to begin house hunting as soon as the idea strikes. But it's critical to determine your budget as a homebuyer before you start shopping seriously.

Determining your creditworthiness can help you learn what size mortgage you'll qualify for and lead you to a realistic homebuying budget. When you obtain a pre-approval from a mortgage lender, you'll know exactly what you can afford. Having a pre-approval letter will also make your offer more appealing to sellers. To ensure you are set for success for the homebuying journey, contact your Coldwell Banker-affiliated agent, who can connect you with a trusted loan officer.

Prior to any significant purchase, it's important to set a realistic budget, and buying a home is no exception. Do a reality check on your personal finances. Scrutinize your monthly income, expenses and debt-to-income ratio, so you can assess what funds you'll have available for a down payment and a monthly payment once you move into your new home.

Another important piece of this puzzle is your credit history. Check your current credit report for any debts you need to pay off so you're in a stronger position when it comes time to apply for a loan. The higher your credit score is, the more access you'll have to loans and lower interest rates.

Refer to a handy, online mortgage calculator to study property purchase prices. Do a quick search online and you'll find a variety of free options. In fact, many allow you to figure in important, relevant factors such as property taxes, down payment amounts, interest rates and home insurance to provide a detailed breakdown of what your monthly payments would look like.

To be really savvy, factor in related expenses such as upfront costs, closing costs and other fees you'll have prior to closing on a home. Also, budget for standard property maintenance expenses such as homeowner's insurance, taxes and repairs that may be needed in the short term after closing.

Comfort and joy in your first home start with setting realistic financial expectations ahead of time. Buying a home will likely be the biggest purchase of your life, after all.


A Young Family's Guide to Buying a Home

Many young families find themselves ready to buy a home--often for the first time. Buying a house that not only suits your own needs but also those of your child--and possibly future children--requires some planning, but the payoff is well worth it.

The following are some homebuying tips for young families:

Consider the Future
Buy a home that will not only suit your needs now but also in the future. Think about what you'll need in a home when your child is older. Consider the neighborhood and what the schools like. Is there a park nearby? Does the neighborhood have a lot of other kids that could be potential friends for your child?

Also, think about whether you'll want to add to your family in the next few years. How many bedrooms and bathrooms will you need? Could you use a bonus room to help provide a play space?

Budget Carefully
When you have a child, it can be harder to budget. Try to keep a larger cushion between your expenses and what you expect to earn in order to make sure you can handle your mortgage payments and other obligations.

For example, you or your spouse may want to reduce the number of hours you work, take a less demanding job, or quit work entirely. This will reduce your household income. Even if you keep your work schedules the same, you may have daycare costs. And whether you continue to work or change your employment situation, you'll also need to pay for everything from diapers to clothes to activities.

Make Sure Your Home is Safe for Children
A home should be a safe haven for your family, so make sure the house itself and its immediate environment area are child-friendly. Take a walk around the neighborhood to determine whether you feel safe. Do you live on a busy road, or in a quiet subdivision where your child could ride their bike? Is there a pool in your yard, and if so, are you comfortable making sure it's gated and has motion-detectors and also ensuring your child doesn't get near it if they're unsupervised? If you have a yard, is it fenced in, or will you take care of having this done yourself?

In addition, consider the inside of your home. Are there stairs, and if so, are you OK with buying and navigating your way past baby gates? And if you're buying a house that's older, make sure to have it tested for lead paint and asbestos before making a commitment.

Take Your Time
You may want to buy a home before you have your first child, but don't be in a hurry. Take your time and make sure your finances are in good shape and that you'll be able to be approved for a mortgage at a favorable interest rate.

And when you're ready to look for a home, don't settle for a house just because you're in a rush. Take your time and find a home that's right for you and your family. No home will probably include every single thing that you want, but if you're realistic, you should be able to find one that has the vast majority of attributes you're looking for.

Buying a house will help your family have a place of your own to bond and build memories. By planning, taking your time, and knowing what you're looking for, you'll find the home that's right for you.


Moving In? 9 Ways to Feel More at Home

Buying a house is one of the happiest feelings of your adult life. Although this exciting time will have you grinning from ear to ear, your first few nights in your new place can feel a little weird — almost as if you're staying at a hotel or friend's home. When you're moving in after buying a house, use these ten tips to make it feel more like home right away.

Hang Photos & Mementos
One of the fastest ways to feel at home after buying a house is to immediately hang up photographs, mementos, and other personal items. Seeing your family portraits on the walls or your décor of our favorite sports team hanging in the living room will make the space truly feel like your own.

Unpack Everything
As long as you have boxes sitting around your house, you won't 100 percent feel at home. Unpack as much as you can as fast as you can while making sure to stay organized and orderly, so you don't create a larger mess.

Let Your Children Decorate
If your children are having trouble getting comfortable in this new space, let them call the shots when it comes to setting up the house. Allow them to unpack and decorate their own rooms.

Engage All Five Senses
Feeling at home after buying a house requires engaging all five senses. Turn on your favorite music while you unpack and make sure you have plenty of natural light streaming in. Bake cookies, light candles or bring in fresh flowers to fill the space with pleasant smells. As you unpack, make sure you're wearing comfortable clothing. Don't forget to buy a few of your favorite foods to snack on while you work!

Create Comfortable Spaces
After you've unpacked, make sure you set up specific spaces to cater to your comfort. Purchase new pillows for your couches or soft sheets for your bedroom, where you can snuggle up and get comfortable in your new home.

Clean, Clean, Clean
When buying a house, it should be relatively clean when you move in, but don't underestimate the power of a deep clean. Once you give the home a thorough cleaning from top to bottom, you'll feel more comfortable in the space.

Get Rid of Old Items
Buying a house is a perfect time to say out with the old and in with the new. Take this opportunity to sell, donate, or throw away old items that you didn't love in your previous home, such as clothing, furniture, and décor. 

Decorate for the Holidays
Though it may not be high on your priority list, decorating for the upcoming holiday is a great way to feel more at home after buying a house. Whether it's the winter holidays or even the 4th of July or Valentine's Day, it is a perfect opportunity to create new family traditions. 

Take a load off! Buying a house is a huge project, and you deserve some time to enjoy all of your hard work. Settle in, kick back, and relax, knowing that you've finally found your dream home.

After buying a house, you may not feel at home right away. This is a normal feeling that will disappear as you finish unpacking and get back into your normal daily routine.


Closing Costs That Might Surprise You

Selling your home soon? As you look at your finances and list your home, it's probably tempting to focus on your potential earnings. However, every real estate transaction comes with closing costs for the buyer and the seller.

You probably already know you're responsible for the agents' commissions, but what about the rest of your closing costs?

Before selling your home, make sure you understand all the closing costs you'll be expected to cover. Here are some common costs that may surprise you:  

  1. Pro-Rated Property Taxes
    You're responsible for all property taxes up to the date of the sale. That means if you're selling in July, you need to pay your property tax for the first seven months of the year — not wait until next year to file. Make sure you're aware of the final number because you must provide this to the buyers. This is required because buyers will get a bill next year for the whole year, including the months you still owned the home.

  2. Transfer Taxes and Fees
    Real estate transactions are essentially title transfers from one owner to another. Before your sale is complete, you must pay state and county or city fees in order to process this transfer. You may also need to pay transfer taxes. While most sellers are aware that it costs money to transfer a title, many are surprised by the final percentage, which can fluctuate wildly depending on your location. Make sure you're aware of the local requirement beforehand.

  3. Title Insurance
    If you think buyers are always responsible for buying a title insurance policy, think again. Many states now require sellers to cover the new homeowner's title insurance policy. This coverage is designed to protect the mortgage lender from any future claims, and they won't approve the transaction without it. Find out now if you will be responsible for the buyer's title insurance coverage.

  4. Home Preparations
    Staging a home for market success is about more than just cleaning thoroughly and rearranging the furniture. Your real estate agent will know which services are the most valuable, especially to sellers who want to ask for more money or sell more quickly. For example, renting a storage unit will make it much easier to clear out a third of your clutter and personal possessions, leaving a more neutral and walkable space for potential buyers. Carpet cleaning, painting, lawn care, and professional photography services are also important investments for serious sellers.

Of course, your final closing costs before selling your home will depend on a lot of different factors. From zip code and loan terms to the buyers' willingness to negotiate, these factors will help you figure out just how much to set aside for closing. Understand your responsibilities and prepare yourself for every possible expense.


8 Reasons Why Real Estate is the Best Investment

Real estate has long been considered a solid investment for many reasons. It is a relatively safe and easy way for people to build wealth beginning with a small amount of money. If you are interested in investing in real estate, I'd be happy to help you find the right properties.

Here are some of the ways investing in property can help you build an investment portfolio.

1. Real estate investments can provide you with a reliable and steady cash flow. Investing in rental properties is relatively easy as expenses are predictable and if your properties remain occupied you know what to expect in terms of profit margin.

2. Real estate appreciates in value. Real estate consistently appreciates, even during economic downturns, making it one of the more reliable investments. On average, real estate in the US appreciates between 3-5% annually.

3. Real estate investments help you retire. If you have been paying on your mortgage throughout your working years, you will experience greater cash flow as you near the end of your mortgage term and the principal is paid off.

4. Real estate sales are taxed at a lower rate than other income. When you sell your property, you are taxed short- or long-term capital gains which are usually lower than income tax brackets.

5. Real estate equity can be leveraged. One of the most attractive reasons for investing in real estate is the ability to leverage your money. When you take out a mortgage to purchase property you reduce the amount of capital required. As you build up equity in the property, you borrow against the equity or refinance the original loan, freeing up cash to buy another property.

6. You have control to improve upon your asset. Unlike an investment in stock, where you have no control over how it performs, you can improve upon your real estate investment. Updating or upgrading systems, finishes, appliances, and landscaping helps build value in your investment.

7. Real estate gains taxes can be deferred. Under the 1031 exchange tax code, you can invest the gains from the sale in one property to the purchase of another property without paying taxes on the gains.

8. Real estate investments are depreciable. This is confusing, but you can legally claim a depreciation expense on an investment property even though the value of your investment property is actually appreciating. The depreciation deduction allows investors to generate a higher cash flow while reporting a lower income for tax purposes.

Ready to start building your real estate portfolio? Call us today!

Bossier City Office 318-747-5411

Shreveport Office 318-861-2461

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