Savings Strategies Every First-Time Homebuyer Needs To Know


If homeownership is on your goal sheet for your future, you’re probably working on your savings. And a big priority is making sure you’ve got a plan in place for things like your closing costsdown payment, and more.

Here are a few strategies that can help speed up that process.

Budget and Track Your Expenses: To start, create a detailed budget that tracks the money you’ve got coming in and the money going out. This’ll give you a better look at your finances as a whole.

Cut Down on Unnecessary Spending: Now that you have your budget sheet done and you know how you’re spending your money, look for any line items that aren’t absolutely essential. If you cut down on those, you can re-allocate that cash toward buying a home. Even the little things can add up. As the National Association of Realtors (NAR) says:

“The majority of first-time buyers did make financial sacrifices to purchase a home. For those who did, the most common sacrifices buyers reported were cutting spending on luxury goods, entertainment, and clothes.”

Automate Your Savings: Once you know how much you want to set aside for your homebuying budget, look for ways to make it easy. If you have to transfer money manually, you may forget to do it. But getting some automatic transfers set up helps drive consistency and removes the temptation to spend it elsewhere. Realtor.com explains:

“If you’re struggling to put enough money away because of the constant temptations to blow your paycheck, consider automating the process. Ask your employer if you can have your paycheck deposited into multiple accounts—if so, instruct it to send a certain percentage of your salary directly into your savings account. Or go through your bank . . .”

Lean into Any Side Hustles You Have: Do you have a gig you do (or have done before) to net some extra cash? Taking on part-time work, freelance jobs, or picking up a side hustle can help give your savings a boost.

Put any Unexpected Cash To Good Use: If you get any sudden windfalls, like a tax refund, bonus, inheritance, or cash gift from family, put it toward your house fund.

By using these strategies and focusing on your savings over time, you can make sure you’re well on the path to having what you need to buy your first home. As Ramsey Solutions says:

“Budgeting shows your money who’s in charge (that’s you). It gives you the power to tell your money where to go instead of having to wonder where it went. It’s how you make any money goals happen—like saving for a down payment.”

Bottom Line

If you need more strategies for getting ready to buy, let’s connect.

How VA Loans Can Help You Buy a Home

How VA Loans Can Help You Buy a Home

For over 80 years, Veterans Affairs (VA) home loans have helped millions of veterans buy their own homes. If you or someone you know has served in the military, it’s important to learn about this program and its benefits.

Here are some key things to know about VA loans before buying a home.

Top Benefits of VA Home Loans

VA home loans make it easier for veterans to buy a home, and they’re a great perk for those who qualify. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, some benefits include:

  • Options for No Down Payment: Qualified borrowers can often purchase a home with no down payment. That’s a huge weight lifted when you’re trying to save for a home. The Associated Press says:

“. . . about 90% of VA loans are used to purchase a home with no money down.”

  • Don’t Require Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI): Many other loans with down payments under 20% require PMI. VA loans do not, which means veterans can save on their monthly housing costs.
  • Limited Closing Costs: There are limits on the types of closing costs you pay when you qualify for a VA home loan. So, more money stays in your pocket when it’s time to seal the deal.

An article from Veterans United sums up how remarkable this loan can be:

“For the vast majority of military borrowers, VA loans represent the most powerful lending program on the market. These flexible, $0-down payment mortgages have helped more than 24 million service members become homeowners since 1944.”

Bottom Line

Owning a home is the American Dream. Veterans give a lot to protect our country, and one way to honor them is by making sure they know about VA home loans.

Ways To Use Your Tax Refund If You Want To Buy a Home

Have you been saving up to buy a home this year? If so, you know there are a number of expenses involved – from your down payment to closing costs. But did you also know your tax refund can help you pay for some of these expenses? As Credit Karma explains:

“If one of your goals is to stop renting and buy a home, you’ll need to save up for closing costs and a down payment on the mortgage. A tax refund can give you a start on the road to homeownership. If you’ve already started to save, your tax refund could move you down the road faster.”

While how much money you may get in a tax refund is going to vary, it can be encouraging to have a general idea of what’s possible. Here’s what CNET has to say about the average increase people are seeing this year:

The average refund size is up by 6.1%, from $2,903 for 2023’s tax season through March 24, to $3,081 for this season through March 22.”

Sounds great, right? Remember, your number is going to be different. But if you do get a refund, here are a few examples of how you can use it when buying a home. According to Freddie Mac:

  • Saving for a down payment – One of the biggest barriers to homeownership is setting aside enough money for a down payment. You could reach your savings goal even faster by using your tax refund to help.
  • Paying for closing costs – Closing costs cover some of the payments you’ll make at closing. They’re generally between 2% and 5% of the total purchase price of the home. You could direct your tax refund toward these closing costs.
  • Lowering your mortgage rate – Your lender might give you the option to buy down your mortgage rate. If affordability is tight for you at today’s rates and home prices, this option may be worth exploring. If you qualify for this option, you could pay upfront to have a lower rate on your mortgage.

The best way to get ready to buy a home is to work with a team of trusted real estate professionals who understand the process and what you’ll need to do to be ready to buy.

Bottom Line

Your tax refund can help you reach your savings goal for buying a home. Let’s talk about what you’re looking for, because your home may be more within reach than you think.

4 Tips To Make Your Strongest Offer on a Home

4 Tips To Make Your Strongest Offer on a Home

Are you thinking about buying a home soon? If so, you should know today’s market is competitive in many areas because the number of homes for sale is still low – and that’s leading to multiple-offer scenarios. And moving into the peak homebuying season this spring, this is only expected to ramp up more.

Remember these four tips to make your best offer.

1. Partner with a Real Estate Agent

Rely on a real estate agent who can support your goals. As PODS notes:

“Making an offer on a home without an agent is certainly possible, but having a pro by your side gives you a massive advantage in figuring out what to offer on a house.”

Agents are local market experts. They know what’s worked for other buyers in your area and what sellers may be looking for. That advice can be game changing when you’re deciding what offer to bring to the table.

2. Understand Your Budget

Knowing your numbers is even more important right now. The best way to understand your budget is to work with a lender so you can get pre-approved for a home loan. Doing so helps you be more financially confident and shows sellers you’re serious. That gives you a competitive edge. As Investopedia says:

“. . . sellers have an advantage because of intense buyer demand and a limited number of homes for sale; they may be less likely to consider offers without pre-approval letters.”

3. Make a Strong, but Fair Offer

It’s only natural to want the best deal you can get on a home, especially when affordability is tight. However, submitting an offer that’s too low does have some risks. You don’t want to make an offer that’ll be tossed out as soon as it’s received just to see if it sticks. As Realtor.com explains:

“. . . an offer price that’s significantly lower than the listing price, is often rejected by sellers who feel insulted . . . Most listing agents try to get their sellers to at least enter negotiations with buyers, to counteroffer with a number a little closer to the list price. However, if a seller is offended by a buyer or isn’t taking the buyer seriously, there’s not much you, or the real estate agent, can do.”

The expertise your agent brings to this part of the process will help you stay competitive and find a price that’s fair to you and the seller.

4. Trust Your Agent During Negotiations

After you submit your offer, the seller may decide to counter it. When negotiating, it’s smart to understand what matters to the seller. Once you do, being as flexible as you can on things like moving dates or the condition of the house can make your offer more attractive.

Your real estate agent is your partner in navigating these details. Trust them to lead you through negotiations and help you figure out the best plan. As an article from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) explains:

“There are many factors up for discussion in any real estate transaction—from price to repairs to possession date. A real estate professional who’s representing you will look at the transaction from your perspective, helping you negotiate a purchase agreement that meets your needs . . .” 

Bottom Line

In today’s competitive market, let’s work together to find you a home you love and craft a strong offer that stands out. 

Home Equity Can Be a Game Changer When You Sell

Home Equity Can Be a Game Changer When You Sell

Are you on the fence about selling your house? While affordability is improving this year, it’s still tight. And that may be on your mind. But understanding your home equity could be the key to making your decision easier. An article from Bankrate explains:

Home equity is the difference between your home’s value and the amount you still owe on your mortgage. It represents the paid-off portion of your home.

You’ll start off with a certain level of equity when you make your down payment to buy the home, then continue to build equity as you pay down your mortgage. You’ll also build equity over time as your home’s value increases.”

Think of equity as a simple math equation. It’s the value of your home now minus what you owe on your mortgage. And guess what? Recently, your equity has probably grown more than you think.

In the past few years, home prices skyrocketed, which means your home’s value – and your equity – likely shot up, too. So, you may have more equity than you realize.

How To Make the Most of Your Home Equity Right Now

If you’re thinking about moving, the equity you have in your home could be a big help. According to CoreLogic:

“. . . the average U.S. homeowner with a mortgage still has more than $300,000 in equity . . .”

Clearly, homeowners have a lot of equity right now. And the latest data from the Census and ATTOM shows over two-thirds of homeowners have either completely paid off their mortgages (shown in green in the chart below) or have at least 50% equity (shown in blue in the chart below):

That means roughly 70% have a tremendous amount of equity right now.

After you sell your house, you can use your equity to help you buy your next home. Here’s how:

  • Be an all-cash buyer: If you’ve been living in your current home for a long time, you might have enough equity to buy your next home without having to take out a loan. If that’s the case, you won’t need to borrow any money or worry about mortgage ratesInvestopedia states:

“You may want to pay cash for your home if you’re shopping in a competitive housing market, or if you’d like to save money on mortgage interest. It could help you close a deal and beat out other buyers.

  • Make a larger down payment: Your equity could also be used toward your next down payment. It might even be enough to let you put a larger amount down, so you won’t have to borrow as much money. The Mortgage Reports explains:

Borrowers who put down more money typically receive better interest rates from lenders. This is due to the fact that a larger down payment lowers the lender’s risk because the borrower has more equity in the home from the beginning.”

The Easy Way To Find Out How Much Equity You Have

To find out how much equity you have in your home, ask a real estate agent you trust for a Professional Equity Assessment Report (PEAR). 

Bottom Line

Planning a move? Your home equity can really help you out. Let’s connect to see how much equity you have and how it can help with your next home.

Why You May Want to Seriously Consider a Newly Built Home

Why You May Want To Seriously Consider a Newly Built Home

Are you putting off your plans to sell because you’re worried you won’t be able to find a home you like when you move? If so, it may be time to consider a newly built home and the benefits that come with one. Here’s why.

Near-Record Percentage of New Home Inventory

Newly built homes are becoming an increasingly significant part of today’s housing inventory. According to the most recent report from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB):

Newly built homes available for sale accounted for 31% of total homes available for sale in November, compared to an approximate 12% historical average.”

That means the percentage of the total homes available to buy that are newly built is well over two times higher than the norm. And even more new homes are on the way.

Recent data from the Census shows there’s been an uptick in both housing starts (where builders break ground on more new homes) and housing completions (homes where construction just wrapped).

And while some people may worry builders are building too many homes, that isn’t a concern – if anything, the recent increase is really good news. As Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), explains:

“Even more home building will be needed with the housing shortage persisting in most markets . . . Another 30% rise in home construction can easily be absorbed in the marketplace . . .”

How This Helps You 

Since the supply of existing homes for sale is still low right now, the increase of new-home construction can be a game changer because it gives you more options for your search.

Picture yourself in a home that’s new from the ground up: new appliances, fresh paint, fewer maintenance needs because everything is new, and so much more. Doesn’t that sound nice?

And it may be more within reach than you ever imagined. In addition, some builders are offering things like mortgage rate buy-downs for homebuyers right now. This can help offset today’s affordability challenges while also getting you into your dream home. In a recent article, Patrick Duffy, Senior Real Estate Economist at U.S. News, explains:

“Builders have been using mortgage interest rate buydowns for many years as a sales incentive whenever interest rates are relatively high, . . .Today more builders are offering rate buydowns for the entirety of the loan, allowing buyers to finance more home for the same payment amount.”

Just remember, the process of buying from a builder is different from buying from a home seller, so it’s important to partner with a trusted real estate agent who knows the local market. They’ll be your go-to resource for coordinating with the builder, reviewing contracts, and more.

Bottom Line

If you’re trying to sell so you can make a move but you’re having a hard time finding a home you like, let’s connect. That way you have a local expert to help you explore all of your options, including the newly built homes in our area.

3 Keys To Hitting Your Homeownership Goals in 2024

3 Keys To Hitting Your Homeownership Goals in 2024

If buying or selling a home is your goal for 2024, it’s important to understand today’s housing market, know your why, and work with industry experts to bring your homeownership vision for the new year into focus.

Over the last year, the economy had a big impact on the housing market, and likely on your wallet too. That’s why it’s critical to have a clear picture of not just the market today, but also on what you want out of it when you buy or sell a home. Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at Realtor.comexplains:

The key to making a good decision in this challenging housing market is to be laser focused on what you need now and in the years ahead, so that you can stay in your home long enough that buying is a sound financial decision.

Here are a few things to think through as you define your goals for 2024.

1. Know Your Why

You’re dreaming about making a move for a reason – what is it? No matter what’s happening in the market, there are still many compelling reasons to buy a home today. Your needs may have changed in a way your current house can’t address, or you could be ready to step into homeownership for the first time. Use your why and your motivation as a guidepost in partnership with an expert advisor to make sure your move gives you a lasting sense of accomplishment.

2. Figure Out What Your Next Home Needs To Look Like

You know you want to move, but how would you describe your dream home? The number of homes for sale has grown recently, and that could mean more options to choose from when you buy. But overall housing supply is still lower than more normal years in the market, so you’ll have to work closely with a pro to find what you’re looking for. Just be sure to keep your budget in mind as you balance your wants and needs. The better you understand what’s essential and where you can be flexible, the easier it will be to find a home that’s right for you.

3. Determine if You’re Ready To Buy

Getting clear on your budget and available savings is essential before you get too far into the process. Partnering with a local agent and a lender early is the best way to make sure you’re in a good position to buy. This could include planning how much to save for a down payment, getting pre-approved for a home loan, and assessing your current home equity if you’re selling your existing house.

A Professional Will Guide You Through Every Step of the Process

Buying or selling a home takes expertise to navigate. If that feels a bit overwhelming, that’s normal. Don’t let uncertainty hold you back from your goals this year. A trusted expert will help you bridge that gap and give you the facts and advice you need about today’s housing market.

Bottom Line

Let’s connect to plan how to make your homeownership dreams a reality in 2024.

What You Need To Know About Down Payments

What You Need To Know About Down Payments [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some Highlights

  • If you want to buy a home, you may not need as much for your down payment as you think.
  • There are various loan options for qualified buyers with down payments as low as 3.5% or even no down payment requirement. There are also thousands of programs available to help homebuyers with their down payments.
  • With the right resources, your down payment may be more within reach than you realize. To learn more about your options, let’s connect.

How VA Loans Can Help Make Homeownership Dreams Come True

How VA Loans Can Help Make Homeownership Dreams Come True

For more than 79 years, Veterans Affairs (VA) home loans have helped millions of veterans buy their own homes. If you or someone you care about has served in the military, it’s essential to learn about this program and its advantages.

Here are some important things to know about VA loans before you buy a home.

The Many Advantages of VA Home Loans

VA home loans provide a pathway to homeownership for those who have served our nation, and they’re a great benefit for buyers who qualify. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs:

  • Options for No Down Payment: Qualified borrowers can often purchase a home with no down payment. That’s a huge weight lifted when you’re trying to save for a home.
  • Limited Closing Costs: There are limits on the types of closing costs you pay when you qualify for a VA home loan. So, more money stays in your pocket when it’s time to seal the deal.
  • Don’t Require Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI): Many other loans with down payments under 20% require PMI. VA loans do not, which means veterans can save on their monthly housing costs.

A recent article from Veterans United sums up just how impactful this loan option can be:

“For the vast majority of military borrowers, VA loans represent the most powerful lending program on the market. These flexible, $0-down payment mortgages have helped more than 24 million service members become homeowners since 1944.”

Bottom Line

Owning a home is the American Dream. Veterans sacrifice a lot to protect our country, and one way we can show our appreciation is by making sure they know all the benefits of VA home loans. Thank you for your service.

The Perks of Selling Your House When Inventory Is Low

The Perks of Selling Your House When Inventory Is Low

When it comes to selling your house, you’re probably trying to juggle the current market conditions and your own needs as you plan your move.

One thing that may be working in your favor is how few homes there are for sale right now. Here’s what you need to know about the current inventory situation and what it means for you.

The Supply of Homes for Sale Is Far Below the Norm

When you’re selling something, it helps if what you’re selling is in demand, but is also in low supply. Why? That makes it even more desirable since there’s not enough to go around. That’s exactly what’s happening in the housing market today. There are more buyers looking to buy than there are homes for sale.

To tell the story of just how low inventory is, here’s the latest information on active listings, or homes available for sale. The graph below uses data from Realtor.com to show how many active listings there were in September of this year compared to what’s more typical in the market.

As you can see in the graph, if you look at the last normal years for the market (shown in the blue bars) versus the latest numbers for this year (shown in the red bar), it’s clear inventory is still far lower than the norm.

What That Means for You

Buyers have fewer choices now than they did in more typical years. And that’s why you could still see some great perks if you sell today. Because there aren’t enough homes to go around, homes that are priced right are still selling fast and the average seller is getting multiple offers from eager buyers. Based on the latest data from the Confidence Index from the National Association of Realtors (NAR):

  • 69% of homes sold in less than a month.
  • 2.6 offers: the average number of offers on recently sold homes.

An article from Realtor.com also explains how the limited number of houses for sale benefits you if you’re selling:

“. . . homes spent two weeks less on the market this past month than they did in the average September from 2017 to 2019 . . . as still-limited supply spurs homebuyers to act quickly . . .”

Bottom Line

Because the supply of homes for sale is so low, buyers desperately want more options – and your house may be just what they’re looking for. Let’s connect to get your house listed at the right price for today’s market. You could still see it sell quickly and potentially get multiple offers.