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Mortgage Basics: Q & A

July 24, 2014

Buying a home will likely be one of the largest financial decisions you make. You may have done your research and read everything carefully but still have unanswered questions about the process. I know I did!

I get asked a lot of questions from both new and previous buyers who sometimes feel unsure about the process. To help you navigate with confidence, I’ve compiled a list of common questions about mortgage basics, along with the answers:

Q: How long does the mortgage loan process take?

A: Processing a mortgage loan typically takes between 21 and 45 days, with the average being 30 days, although timing may vary depending on circumstances. Your lender can provide an estimate of the time it will take to close your loan, which will allow you to plan accordingly. Times may vary by the type of loan you are getting.

Q: What are interest rate and APR?

A: The interest rate is the cost of borrowing money and is used to calculate the monthly payment to your lender. The lower the interest rate, the lower your monthly payment. The APR (annual percentage rate) is the interest rate plus other fees associated with your loan, including certain processing and closing fees. Because the APR includes other fees, it gives you a better idea of the true cost of the loan. Compare the APR when you’re deciding among multiple lenders, but be sure to compare the actual interest rate, as well.

Q:  What are the most common types of mortgages?

A: The two most common types are fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages.

The main features of a fixed-rate mortgage are:

  • The interest rate doesn’t change on your loan.
  • Your monthly mortgage payment (principal and interest) will always be the same amount throughout the entire term of your loan.

The main features of an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) are:

  • The interest rate changes over time. The initial interest rate term can be from one to 10 years, and that rate is generally lower than the rate on a fixed-rate loan.
  • The rate adjusts annually after the fixed-rate term, and your monthly mortgage payment may increase or decrease depending on each rate adjustment.

Q: For an ARM, what will an increase in the interest rate do to my monthly payments?

A: An adjustable-rate loan has a fixed interest rate for a predetermined length of time. Once that time is up, the rate will adjust to reflect current rates. If the rate goes up, so will your monthly payment amount. If you are interested in an ARM, there are additional questions you should ask your lender:

  • How frequently will the interest rate change?
  • What’s the maximum amount the interest rate can increase in a year?
  • Are there limits to how high interest rates can rise during the life of the loan?
  • Can interest rates ever decrease during the life of the loan?
  • What’s my monthly mortgage payment if my rates go up between 1 and 5 percent?
  • Can you share an amortization table with me that includes different scenarios?

Q: What are discount and origination points?

A: Discount points represent cash you pay upfront to lower your loan interest rate. Origination points are administrative fees your lender charges to process your loan, but they do not lower your interest rate. Both fees add to the overall cost of your loan and increase the APR. Make sure you know which kinds of “points” are included in your particular loan.

Q: What are ALL of the itemized costs associated with a home loan?

A: The multiple services required to process your loan all come with their own costs, such as:

  • Title insurance
  • Home appraisal
  • Escrow
  • Credit report
  • Recording fees
  • Legal fees

You may think that many of these associated services are free or already included, but you may be surprised, as I was, to learn that these services have their own costs. Be sure to ask your lender to itemize each service that will be required along with an estimate of the amount you will be charged to process your home loan.

Q: What do I need to know about a prepayment penalty?

A: Prepayment penalties vary by lender. Some lenders may offer lower interest rates if you accept their prepayment penalty as part of your terms. If you do accept the offer, be sure to ask under which conditions the penalties apply and the potential costs.

Q: Is there a fee to lock in an interest rate?

A: Since interest rates can fluctuate during the time it takes to process and close your loan, it makes sense to lock in your rate during that time so you don’t end up with a higher rate by the time the loan closes. Ask your lender if there’s a fee to lock in the rate and how long you can keep it locked (most rate locks are for 60 days).

Make sure you understand all the information provided to you by the lender and don’t be afraid to follow up with additional questions. The more you know about the process, the more confident you will feel about the loan that fits your needs.

Homes are Selling Fast!

 May 21, 2014




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California Median Home Prices

February 6, 2014



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Home Improvements That Pay You Back

January 15, 2014

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Budget Guide for 2014!

January 8, 2013

Start developing a 2014 budget:

Follow the 50/20/30 Rule:

-50% of your take-home pay should go to essentials like food, heat, and shelter.

-20% should go to financial priorities like retirement, debt repayments, and savings.

-30% should go to lifestyle choices like entertainment, gym fees, and shopping.


Use an online tool like LearnVest’s Money Center to setup a budget and track your spending.

Keep track, cut costs and stop overspending on everyday purchases:

-Try $0 Days. Celebrate those days when you don’t spend a dollar. Small wins help build towards larger goals!

-When it comes to groceries, plan ahead! Think about the groceries you bought in the last month, when they went to waste, and when you paid more than you should have. Then consider making a switch (like buying frozen veggies instead of fresh, if they always spoil before you use them).

Start Small & Save Big!

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Top 10 Home Improvement Tips for the New Year

December 27, 2013

If you are ready to start the New Year off with home improvement ideas in mind, you are not alone. The New Year is an excellent time to consider adding on to your home before the spring, as well as completing indoor projects while the weather is cold. Home improvements can range from upgrading existing fixtures and finishes to knocking down walls and adding on square footage. Whichever improvements you have in mind, use these 10 tips to guide you throughout the planning process.

1.)    Assess your home: Determine the current state of your home and what ideas you want to implement. Walk through your home and determine what wish list items are, and what necessity items are. A wish list item could be upgrading to granite countertops, while a necessity item could be leaky plumbing pipes that have to be replaced as soon as possible.

2.)    How long do you plan to be in your home: If you are planning on selling your home this year, your budget for improvements may be different from your neighbor who’s only lived in their home for a year. If you want to get your return on investment (ROI), ensure you upgrade the parts of your home that home buyers are interested in.

3.)    Seek out inspiration now: From magazines, to color swatches from your favorite paint store, seek out inspiration ideas now. Don’t wait until the DIY nudge strikes, and then you are trying to get ideas, pay for materials, and complete the project. The more you do ahead of time, the more stress free your project will be.

4.)    Know your budget: After the holidays, money is often tight for many home owners. Instead of getting discouraged, use the first few months of the New Year to plan your project and budget without stress. Often times money actually makes you more anxious, and delaying the money portion might help you price out materials, labor, and the time it will take to complete the project.

5.)    Ask for help early: How many do it yourself reality television shows do you see that the friends or family member do not stay or show up for the home improvement project? Start early in asking for help and what expertise area your help can provide. Seek out several “back up” friends, for the off chance that your help isn’t so helpful!

6.)    Seek out the proper permits: If you are doing a home improvement project which requires electricity, plumbing, structural or other trades that may involve permits, seek these out in advance. Hire a professional general contractor or trades person if you are unclear of what permits are required.

7.)    Be flexible: Even though you would like your new kitchen remodel done in 8 weeks, the reality is it may take 12 weeks. The same is true for budget, and resources. Try and become more flexible with your planning and factor in extra buffer time and money for your own sanity.

8.)    Communicate with your partner(s): Have a clear idea of what the project entails with your partners in the beginning. Ensure each person knows their roles, and ask them to choose what they are good at, rather than only assigning duties. This will free up finger pointing throughout the project, and take pressure off of you.

9.)    Use safety precautions: Every home improvement project involves a level of safety to ensure your home and yourself do not get hurt. Follow instructions on power tools, and seek out tutorials or advice from tool rental store associates for help, before you start your project.

10.)   Have a good time: Even though there is a serious side to home improvement, it should also be fun and rewarding. If you aren’t going to enjoy your hard work and effort, hire a professional and leave the hard work to them.

Home improvement projects can be a great way to kick off the New Year and get your home in order for the upcoming months. Follow these 10 tips to help you plan your project and gain inspiration and budgeting ideas. Believe it or not, home improvement is easier than you think with patience and fact finding before you get into your project.

Happy home improving into the New Year!


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Home Improvement Projects to Avoid

 December 17, 2013



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Why Should You Buy Now?

December 11, 2013

 Top 10 Turnaround Town

December 3, 2013



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The Most Wanted List

 November 20, 2013




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What Buyers Don't Want





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Halloween Safety





Do you know if there are any registered sex offenders living near you?

Click Here to launch the Megan's Law webpage and find out!



Buyer Optimism



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Last Minute Halloween Decorations

October 23, 2013

Creepy Spider Web 



Spooky Bats




 Happy Haunting!


Autumn Maintenance Tips

October 13, 2013

Home Exterior

Regularly clean gutters and downspouts. Make sure all drainage areas are unblocked by leaves and debris. Consider installing gutter guards to make the job a lot easier.

Use a screwdriver to probe the wood trim around windows, doors, railings and decks. Use caulk to fill the holes or completely replace the wood.

Lower humidity and cooler (not yet cold) temperatures make fall a good time to paint the exterior of your home.

Inspect your roof, or hire a licensed professional to examine your roof for wear and tear. If the shingles are curling, buckling or crackling, replace them. If you have a lot of damage, it's time to replace the entire roof. Also, check the flashing around skylights, pipes and chimneys. If you have any leaks or gaps, heavy snow and ice will find its way in.

To prevent exterior water pipes from bursting when the weather gets below freezing, turn off the valves to the exterior hose bibs. Run the water until the pipes are empty. Make sure all the water is drained from the pipes, if not; the water can freeze up and damage the pipes.


Keeping Warm

Have your wood-burning fireplace inspected, cleaned and repaired to prevent chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Wrap water pipes that run along exterior walls with heating tape. It will save energy and prevent them from freezing.

Clean and replace filters in your furnace or heating system. Contact a licensed heating contractor to inspect and service your gas heater or furnace to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Your local utility company will often provide this service for free.                          
If you use a hot water system for heating, drain the expansion tank, check the water pressure, and bleed your radiators.
Check the attic to make sure the insulation is installed properly. The vapor barrier on insulation should face down toward the living space. If it is installed incorrectly (with the vapor barrier facing up) then the insulation will trap moisture causing possible water problems. Cut slits in the vapor barrier to allow moisture to escape. To install attic insulation, unroll the insulation with the paper side out. Install small pieces of insulation between the joists on the attic floor. Be careful not to step between the joists.

Doors and Windows

The change in temperature and humidity and normal wear and tear can cause window seals to crack and shrink. Check your windows and doors inside and out for leaks and drafts. Caulk cracks or install weather stripping around windows and doors, including the garage door. Replace screens with storm windows and clean them if needed.


Fall is the perfect time to divide or move perennials. Remove dead annuals and mulch hardy perennials. Annuals typically die when temperatures drop below freezing. But perennials often appear as though they too have bitten the bullet. That's because their top growth dies back, although in most cases the root ball is hardy enough to survive even extreme temperatures, especially if it's covered with a layer of mulch.                                              

The best time to mulch perennials is after the first hard freeze. Just make sure you don't cover the crown or center of the plant, because that can lead to rot.

Clean garden tools before storing for the winter.                                                                  
Trim dead branches out the trees to prevent them from coming down and causing damage in a winter storm.

Lawn Care

Rake up the thick layers of leaves that settle on lawn surfaces. Large leaves in particular, especially when they get wet, can compact to the point where they suffocate the grass below and lead to all kinds of insect and disease problems. So it's a good idea to routinely rake or blow them off the lawn or, better yet, use a mulching mower to shred them into fine pieces.  

Put the raked leaves in the compost pile or use as a mulch. Whatever you do, don't waste fallen leaves because they're an excellent source of nutrients and organic matter. You can also add them to flower beds to put a winter blanket on your garden.

Fall is a good time to aerate your lawn; it will allow moisture and nutrients to get into the roots. When you're done, spread fertilizer then grass seed.

This will be the ideal time to sow cool-season grasses such as fescue and rye - it will give them the opportunity to germinate and develop a good root system before freezing temperatures arrive. It's also the right time to fertilize turf grasses, preferably with slow-release, all-natural fertilizer. When given adequate nutrients, turf grasses have the ability to store food in the form of carbohydrates during the winter months. That will mean a better-looking lawn come spring.

Attic Pest Control

Pests love attics because they are full of nice warm insulation for nesting, and they offer easy access to the rest of the house. With gable vents that lead into the attic it is a good idea to install a screen behind them to keep those critters out. 

Even after closing off those entryways, pests can still find a way in. The first place to check for any unwanted guests is under the kitchen cupboards and appliances.

Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors

Each fall, check carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms and put in fresh batteries. These are very important detectors to have in a home. A smoke alarm can save lives in a house fire. A carbon monoxide detector can also save lives if a home has oil or gas-burning appliances, like a furnace or water heater.Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless byproduct of burning oil or natural gas, and it can be deadly. For just a few dollars, a carbon monoxide detector will sound an alarm if the levels get too high. 

Always install carbon monoxide detectors according to manufacturer's instructions. Generally they should be installed near each potential source of carbon monoxide, and within ear shot of the living and sleeping areas.


Source:  DIY Network - Autumn Maintenance Tips

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Five Reasons You Need a Real Estate Agent

  1. A real estate transaction is complicated. In most cases, buying or selling a home requires disclosure forms, inspection reports, mortgage documents, insurance policies, deeds, and multi-page government-mandated settlement statements. A knowledgeable guide through this complexity can help you avoid delays or costly mistakes.


  2. Selling or buying a home can be time consuming. Even in a strong market, homes in our area stay on the market for an average of 10 days. And it usually takes another 30 days or so for the transaction to close after an offer is accepted.


  3. Real estate has its own language. If you don’t know a CMA from a PUD, you can understand why it’s important to work with someone who speaks that language.


  4. REALTORS® have done it before. Most people buy and sell only a few homes in a lifetime, usually with quite a few years in between each purchase. And even if you’ve done it before, laws and regulations change. That’s why having an expert on your side is critical.


  5. REALTORS® provide objectivity. Since a home often symbolizes family, rest, and security, not just four walls and roof, home selling or buying is often a very emotional undertaking. And for most people, a home is the biggest purchase they’ll ever make. Having a concerned, but objective, third party helps you keep focused on both the business and emotional issues most important to you.

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How to Improve your Credit Score

July 1, 2013

Credit scores, along with your overall income and debt, are a big factor in determining if you’ll qualify for a loan and what loan terms you’ll be able to qualify for.

  1. Check for and correct errors in your credit report. Mistakes happen, and you could be paying for someone else’s poor financial management.
  2. Pay down credit card bills. If possible, pay off the entire balance every month. However, transferring credit card debt from one card to another could lower your score.
  3. Don’t charge your credit cards to the maximum limit.
  4. Wait 12 months after credit difficulties to apply for a mortgage. You’re penalized less for problems after a year.
  5. Don’t order items for your new home you’ll buy on credit—such as appliances—until after the loan is approved. The amounts will add to your debt.
  6. Don’t open new credit card accounts before applying for a mortgage. Having too much available credit can lower your score.
  7. Shop for mortgage rates all at once. Too many credit applications can lower your score, but multiple inquiries from the same type of lender are counted as one inquiry if submitted over a short period of time.
  8. Avoid finance companies. Even if you pay the loan on time, the interest is high and it will probably be considered a sign of poor credit management.

This information is copyrighted by the Fannie Mae Foundation and is used with permission of the Fannie Mae Foundation. To obtain a complete copy of the publication, Knowing and Understanding Your Credit, visit

Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Copyright 2003. All rights reserved.


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10 Things to Do When You Arrive at Your New Home

June 24, 2013

10. Pest-proof Your New Home

If you have access to your new place a day or so before the moving van is scheduled to arrive, take that time to get a few things done around the new homestead. You could set off a bug bomb or have the exterminator come and spray. Even if you don't see any bugs, it's likely they're there, and you don't want to have to share your new digs with pests. You know it'll be more difficult to find and evacuate any critters after all your stuff arrives. And this way, you won't have to worry about your children or your pets being exposed to harsh chemicals during the bug bombing or spraying.

9. Start Fresh

Another great way to take advantage of your still-empty abode is to give it a deep clean. It could use it, especially if you've followed the pest control advice from the previous page. Cleaning the floors, baseboards and windows will never be this easy again -- you'll have unhindered access to everything. Think about it: no curtains to take down, no rugs or furniture to move. And don't stop there. You can wipe down all the countertops, shelves and drawers -- replacing shelf paper if necessary. Run a phantom load in the dishwasher and washing machine, clean out the oven if it needs it, and don't forget the refrigerator and freezer. If possible, hire a cleaning service to help you get it all done. If you aren't able to do the cleaning prior to unloading the moving van, hiring a cleaning service will be even more helpful.

8. Check Out the Local Market

Among many cultures, it's a popular custom to bring bread and salt into a new home. Essentially, it's meant to ensure that the homeowners will always have plenty to eat -- bread so that your family will never be hungry and salt so that your kitchen will be full of flavor. Whether you want to adhere to this tradition or not, it's a good idea to check out the local market and get a few staples. Between you, your family, the movers and any friends who are helping you, someone's bound to get thirsty or hungry during the move. Why not be ready with a refrigerator full of cold beverages, sandwich supplies and other snacks? And don't forget to grab some cups, napkins paper towels and toilet paper while you're at it.

7. Inspect Your Belongings

Once everything's off the truck, check your inventory list against what's actually been delivered. Has everything made it to the new place? This is where it helps to have both the inventory list and a floor plan filled out with what goes where. You can then walk through the house, room by room, and make sure that everything has arrived safe and sound. And speaking of boxes, be sure to open a few cartons of your most breakable items to make certain they survived the move. If Grandma Sophie's china and Great Uncle Claude's stemware arrived without a scratch, chances are your other stuff weathered the road trip, too.

6. Find the Essentials and Organize as You Unpack

Unless you've hired the movers to help you unpack, don't try to unpack everything at once. Sort your carefully labeled boxes so that you only have to unpack what is absolutely necessary. This gives you the time to organize your space as you go, instead of being forced to toss things randomly into cupboards and closets. Look for towels, bed linens, toiletries and other essentials. Unpack a few clothes so that you'll have something to wear over the next few days. Find the coffee maker and your favorite mug. And don't forget to find Fido's food and water dishes and a few of his favorite toys.

5. Install Window Treatments

Ideally, you planned it so that the movers will be finished unloading the truck before lunchtime, leaving you plenty of time to settle in to your new home. One key part to settling in is installing window treatments. While we're not suggesting you tackle all your windows at once, do try to dress the windows in the most essential rooms. When night falls, you don't want you, your family and all of your belongings on display for every passerby to see. Of course, if you've yet to even consider your window covering needs, head for the boxes marked "linens" -- you can always tack up a sheet or two until you have time to decide on tab-tops or Roman shades.

4. Make the Beds

While you're rooting around in the linen-filled boxes, unpack enough bedding to set up beds for everyone who is actually going to be sleeping at your house. If your friends aren't staying over, don't bother with the guest rooms -- you can take time later in the week or next week to get to that. For now, concentrate on the kids' rooms and your master suite. Make sure you find your daughter's favorite purple princess blanket and your son's flannel robot sheets; you want their first night in the new place to be a good one. And while you're at it, don't forget your husband's anti-snoring pillow.

3. Meet the Neighbors

After a few hours of unpacking, you'll need some fresh air. Grab the kids, put the pooch on a leash, and hit the street for a stroll. If you can, try to meet some neighbors while you're out for your walk around the neighborhood. If the family across the street is outside playing a game of basketball, stop by to say hello. If the couple next door is weeding their garden, take time to admire and compliment their landscaping. If you see someone else walking with his or her family or dog, pause to introduce yourself. The sooner you get to know the folks around you, the quicker your new place will start to feel like home.

2. Enjoy a Family Meal

Moving can be tiring and stressful. So, after a long day of work, take time to unwind together. There's no need to worry about a fancy, homemade meal -- especially if you haven't managed to unpack the kitchen yet. You can drive to the nearest restaurant for takeout or order something for delivery. During dinner, you can relax and make a plan for what you want to tackle next. You might want to start unpacking the kitchen, or maybe you just want to settle down in the den with some tasty sundaes and your favorite DVD. Mint chocolate chip and "Princess Bride" anyone?

1. Get Some Sleep

Not to be too redundant but … moving can be tiring and stressful. So, after you've spent the day schlepping furniture and unpacking boxes, you need a good night's rest. There's no need to stay up until 2 or 3 a.m. Those boxes aren't going anywhere, and by now, you've already unpacked the essentials. By getting an adequate amount of sleep, you'll be ready and able to get started on whatever you need to do the next day, whether it be unpacking the library, hanging all the paintings or taking the day off to explore your new town.


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