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4 Things to Do Before Buying a Home


As exciting as it is to buy a home, the lead-up can be a dizzying experience, especially for first-time buyers. But don’t fret. Breaking down the process into smaller steps can help ease your anxieties. Here’s a look at the kinds of questions you’ll want to ask yourself, as well as a few other practical tips.

Judge readiness for responsibility

Although the thought of home-ownership is generally a pleasant one, the reality can be much more stressful. That’s why it’s crucial to ask yourself whether you’re really ready for the hassles of buying and owning a home. Gone will be the days when you could simply call the landlord to fix a leaky faucet. Those chores will become your responsibility once you own your castle.

You’ll also want to think about how long you plan on living in the home you’re interested in, which will help determine the best mortgage for you. A fixed rate loan offers predictability: Once you take out your mortgage, your monthly payment will not change until you pay off the loan or refinance. An adjustable rate mortgage typically offers a lower starting interest rate if you plan to sell in a few years.

Determine what you can afford

Use a mortgage calculator to figure out how much home you can afford. It’s one of the most important steps to take. To start, think about your down payment, as well as the transaction costs. Although experts recommend having 20% of the price for a down payment, you may be able to put down as little as 3%, assuming your credit score is good and you’re willing to accept a higher interest rate and pay for private mortgage insurance, or PMI. To give you a better sense of what you might owe, consider that the median sales price of an existing home was about $270,000 in 2018. So 20% down amounts to $54,000.

Don’t forget the transaction costs, which can amount to 5% of the price, to cover things such as appraisal, title search and lawyer’s fees. When coming up with a home-ownership budget, factor in the monthly mortgage payment, maintenance costs and energy bills.

Clean up your credit

If you’re applying for a mortgage, you’ll want to clean up your credit to get the best possible interest rate on your loan. To lock in the best ones, shoot for a credit score of 700 or above. Over the course of a 30-year mortgage, higher rates stemming from a low rating when you borrowed can cost you thousands of extra dollars.

For starters, reduce your debt as much as possible. That includes slashing your credit card debt as well as any remaining student loans. To see what else needs fixing, order a copy of your credit report.

Stick with your current job

Financial planners agree that people should spend 28% or less of their gross monthly income on housing payments. The key to that, of course, is having a job. If you’re in between work, lenders are likely to view you as a greater risk when it comes to making mortgage payments. As such, the months leading up to purchasing a home are definitely not the time to make a sudden job or career change.

There’s little denying that the process of buying a home can be stressful. In fact, that may serve as good preparation for some of the hassles related to actually owning a home. In both cases, though, the benefits of home-ownership tend to outweigh the occasional headaches.

Source: NerdWallet, Inc.


Members 1st is here to help you through all of life’s most important moments and milestones. For more information about buying a home, visit our Mortgage Services website.

Think Spring Home Improvement


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We’re dangerously close to March and if you’re like most people in Southcentral PA you have had enough of this winter weather. You’re looking to get outside and start enjoying some sunshine and some warmer weather, right?

It’s the time of year to start thinking about rediscovering the outside world and if you’re a homeowner, that rediscovery should include some annual springtime home maintenance. As the days hopefully get nicer, you may want to spend some time on the following so you don’t end up with costly repairs or damages later on:

Inspect your roof – Look for any water damage, missing shingles or related defects. A leaky roof can add up to a whole host of issues inside and out.

Clean your gutters – Clogged gutters are a recipe for disaster. They can break off, cause leaks and more.

Check your HVAC filters – Now is a great time to clean or replace your filters which you should be doing more than once a year anyway. Dirty filters cause your HVAC systems to work harder which means higher heating and cooling bills. And, let’s face it, if the motor blows on your system, then you end up with yet another costly repair.

Dryer vents – Dirty, clogged dryer vents lead to one thing – fires. The lint trap on your dryer doesn’t catch every fuzzy. Make sure you’re cleaning them out with your vacuum. Clean dryer vents help your dryer run more efficiently.

The washer – Check all of your washing machine’s hoses for cracks. Cracked hoses end up causing leaks. Leaks mean you’re going to get water all over the place – either as one big flooded floor or you could end up with a slow drip you’re unaware of that seeps down between your floor and subflooring and the next thing you know, you have an issue with rotting wood and extra repairs.

Window screens – Gently scrub your window screens, patch holes or replace them.

Decks, driveways, fences and more – These these don’t clean themselves, even when it rains. You may need to power-wash, repair, paint, stain and so on to keep them looking extra spiffy.

Cracks – Check for cracks in concrete, wood, and so on. Fill ’em up. Seal cracks around windows and doors, your pipes, bathtub and so on.

Paint – Peeling, chipped, cracked paint just doesn’t look good. Touch up painting is an easy fix.

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors – If you don’t have them, get some. If you do have them, change the batteries. Do this more than one time a year. You cannot underestimate the power of these inexpensive alarms and how much impact they can have in saving your life or the lives of your loved ones and pets. Invest in some fire extinguishers as well and know how to use them.

The frig – Vacuum your refrigerator coils to keep them nice and clean. If they’re covered in layers of dust, they’ll work harder, and you’ll have a higher electric bill. Clean them often. And while you’re at it, give the inside and outside of the refrigerator a good cleaning and disinfecting.

Prepare your power tools – Sharpen your lawn mower blades and check all of your other tools like chainsaws, trimmers, etc. so that they can run as efficiently as possible.

Reduce heating & cooling bills – Consider shades, shutters or other window treatments such as curtains that keep heat out and cool air in.

Check your homeowner’s or renter’s policy – Now is a great time to review your coverage. If you’d like a free quote to compare your current policy give our Insurance Services department a call.

Need help financing a home improvement project? Check out our home equity loan.

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