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10

October

Is a Mortgage Refinance Right for You?

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Are you looking to reduce your monthly mortgage payments, get a lower interest rate, convert your home equity into cash, or switch to a fixed-rate loan? Consider refinancing your home loan.

But before you jump into the refinance process, remember that everyone’s financial circumstances are different. Loan balances, interest rates, remaining months on the loan term – they all vary depending on each situation. However, there is one thing that is, and always will be, the same for everyone: math. And it’s only after you and your First Class Mortgage Consultant “do the math” that you should decide whether or not to refinance.

How does refinancing work?

Refinancing is the process of replacing an existing mortgage with a new loan. Typically, people refinance their mortgage to reduce their monthly payments, lower their interest rate, or change their loan program from an adjustable rate mortgage to a fixed-rate mortgage. Additionally, some people need access to cash to fund home renovation projects or paying off various debts and will leverage the equity in their house to obtain a cash-out refinance.

Goals for refinancing:

  • Lowering your monthly payment: With a lower monthly payment, you are free to put the savings toward other debts and other expenditures or apply those savings towards your monthly mortgage payment and pay off your loan sooner.
  • Remove private mortgage insurance (PMI). Some homeowners who have enough property appreciation or principal paid off will not be required to pay mortgage insurance which will reduce your total monthly payment.
  • Reducing the length (term) of your loan. For homeowners who took out a mortgage in the early stages of their career, a 30-year mortgage may have made the most financial sense. But for those who want to pay off their mortgage sooner, reducing the loan term can be an attractive option.
  • Switching from an adjustable-rate mortgage to a fixed-rate loan. When you have an adjustable-rate mortgage, your payment can adjust up or down as interest rates change. Switching to a fixed-rate loan with reliable and stable monthly payments can give homeowners the security of knowing that their payment will never change.
  • Using the equity in your home to take out cash. With rising home values, you may have enough equity to take out a cash-out refinance. This money can be used to finance home improvements, pay off debts or to fund large purchases.

Regardless of your goal, the actual process of refinancing works much in the same way as when you applied for your first mortgage: you’ll need to collect financial documents and submit a mortgage refinancing application before you can be approved.

Is Now the Right Time to Refinance?

Ultimately, it’s critical to crunch the numbers to see if refinancing makes sense for you. Our website has a refinance mortgage calculator designed to help you calculate what your new payment would be.

Even if you’ve been unable to refinance in the past, loan programs and rates are always changing. These changes, along with rising home values in many markets, may enable you to reduce your rate or lower your monthly payments.

But you don’t have to go at it alone! Our mortgage consultants are always ready to answer your questions and guide you along the path to a successful refinancing.

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30

September

Check Your Disaster Supplies Kit

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nov17_03Winter weather season is almost here, and the Department of Homeland Security recommends families prepare ahead to survive independently for at least 72 hours in the event of an emergency, and offers tips on creating, updating and storing supplies.

Basic disaster supplies should be stored in airtight plastic bags and placed into one or two easy-to-carry containers such as plastic bins or a duffel bag. Kits should contain:

  • One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for both drinking and sanitation
  • Non-perishable food to feed each person for three days
  • Battery-powered devices such as flashlights and a radio equipped with NOAA weather and tone alert capability; or consider a hand-crank radio
  • First aid kit
  • Dust masks
  • Personal sanitation supplies including moistened wipes, toilet paper, garbage bags and plastic ties in case public utilities are unavailable
  • Tools and equipment, like manual can openers, a wrench, pliers, a whistle, plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place if needed, local maps, backup batteries, and solar or crank chargers for cell phones

Consider unique needs your family may have beyond these basics, such as special foods and medicines or supplies for young children, seniors and pets.

If you have some warning before an emergency, a trip to the market to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables that can last unrefrigerated for about a week will provide a welcome alternative to uncooked packaged foods.

These essential items can make a difference in comfort and survival during a disaster. Visit Ready.gov for more detailed information and free resources.

Sources: Department of Homeland Security, Real Simple

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28

September

Create an Early Holiday Shopping Budget

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FCM_holidayshopping_headerIt’s the perfect time to plan your gift list and save money this holiday season. Taking just a few minutes now can save you a lot of stress, money and time.

While you might have your sites set on getting through the next major holiday, Thanksgiving, savvy shoppers are already planning for the holidays. Yes, we know thinking about holiday shopping now seems too early, but by taking just a little time now (even just an hour) can save you a lot of stress, money and time.

Are we starting to pique your interest? Read on for some tips on how to get organized and start saving:

  1. Review last year’s shopping list. Pull up last year’s shopping list and take a look at who you shopped for the previous year and how much you spent. This review can refresh your memory and kick-start your new shopping list.
  2. Create a budget. Compare last year’s budget with your current financial situation to see how much you can afford to spend this coming holiday season. Also, see what expenses are coming up and make sure you have a cushion for emergencies.
    • When creating a budget for the holidays, give yourself a spending limit for gifts and don’t forget to account for entertaining and party hosting, decorations, and travel costs.
    • Consider setting up a separate savings account, just for holiday shopping. That way you can avoid overspending.
    • For even more control over your budget, you can narrow down a budget per person on your shopping list.
  3. Download a holiday planning app. To prepare for this expensive time of year, you should start saving and planning now. There are a bunch of apps out there that will help you track your gifts, set budgets, and find the best deals.
    • Santa’s Bag (iTunes) – Input every person you’re buying for, what they want most, gifts you’ve gotten them, and your budget. Then, check off as you go and enjoy a more organized holiday.
    • The Christmas List (iTunes) – Keep track of stores where you’re doing holiday shopping, so you don’t waste money on shipping or trips out. It also lets you set a max spending budget and allocate how much to spend on who—so you stick to your financial goals. The lists you create are shareable so that you can loop someone else into the shopping plan too.
    • GiftPlanner (iTunes) – Track gifts for any event with GiftPlanner. Send gift cards straight from the app, bookmark online shopping items through a widget, and stay on top of your finances by balancing your budget.
    • Christmas Gift List (Android)  This app lets you budget, buy and manage your holiday shopping list. If you use it year to year, you can look up past gift history to make sure you don’t double up on the same gift. It’s also just a convenient tool to monitor your spending and gift list.
    • Christmas Gifts and Budget (Android): With this application, you can track gift ideas and your budget as you do your Christmas shopping.
    • Slickdeals (Both) Do you love a good deal? Get deal alerts to your phone on items you’re searching for, and displays handpicked deals from the Slickdeals team and deals from sites like Groupon and LivingSocial to make sure you don’t have to break your budget this holiday season.
  4. Prioritize your shopping. Now that you have a good start on your shopping list, you might notice there are a few gifts that are more specific than others. Your wife might be hoping for a new cashmere sweater, but your daughter has that particular new smartphone in mind – plus, she’d love it in that hard-to-find color. For gifts that will fly off the shelves early, make a priority to get these first. Of course, waiting for the week of Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday will give you the best chance of finding a deal, but you may want to keep an eye out for savings starting now. Note which gifts on your list need early attention and which ones are more generic or flexible that can wait until later.
  5. Subscribe to stores and coupon websites. Now is the perfect time to get on the email lists of the stores where you know you’ll do most of your shopping. You’ll be first to know when they have flash sales or free shipping days. You can also follow the accounts of your favorite shops on social media for exclusive sales and promotions. Subscribe to coupon and cash back websites and sign up for alerts now, and you’ll have all the best deals hitting your inbox directly – the perfect solution when you need an idea for the sibling who has everything.

See, that wasn’t too hard. Now that you spent a little time getting organized for the holidays, you can go back to enjoying fall.

Source: money.usnews.com

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14

September

9 Ways to Make Moving Day Easier

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After closing, the real fun begins; moving into your new home! And, it’s all wonderful and exciting until you start to think about how much stuff you have.

To make moving a little easier, check out the infographic below with things you can do before the moving truck arrives.

Make Move-In Easier Infographic

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11

September

July 2018 Market Update – Twins Cities Region

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July 2018

Housing price bubble chatter has increased this summer, as market observers attempt to predict the next residential real estate shift. It is too early to predict a change from higher prices and lower inventory, but the common markers that caused the last housing cooldown are present.

Wages are up but not at the same pace as home prices, leading to the kind of affordability concerns that can cause fewer sales at lower prices. At the same time, demand is still outpacing what is available for sale in many markets.

  • New Listings in the Twin Cities region increased 4.1 percent to 7,671.
  • Pending Sales were up 0.4 percent to 5,894.
  • Inventory levels fell 13.5 percent to 11,709 units.
  • Prices continued to gain traction.
  • The Median Sales Price increased 6.6 percent to $268,000.
  • Days on Market was down 17.4 percent to 38 days.
  • Sellers were encouraged as Months Supply of Homes for Sale was down 11.1 percent to 2.4 months.

Consumer spending on home goods and renovations are up, and more people are entering the workforce. Employed people spending money is good for the housing market. Meanwhile, GDP growth was 4.1% in the second quarter, the strongest showing since 2014.

Housing starts are down, but that is more reflective of low supply than anything else. With a growing economy, solid lending practices and the potential for improved inventory from new listing and building activity, market balance is more likely than a bubble.

Source: NorthstarMLS,  MINNEAPOLIS AREA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

DOWNLOAD PRINTABLE FILE HERE

MGstats_july2018

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