Archive for the ‘ Mortgages ’ Category

Is Fall the Best Time to Buy a House?


Sometimes it’s smarter to buy certain items according to the season, like sweaters near the end of winter and swimsuits in late summer. But what’s the best season for buying a house?

The answer: the fall. As temperatures cool and trees shed their leaves, enough factors break in the buyer’s favor to make it the No. 1 season for home-buying. Here’s why.

Less competition

Many home-buyers are families who want to minimize a move’s effect on their kids’ schooling. They want them to start at a new school on the first day, not midyear. And so if their spring and summer searching didn’t work out, they might well wait for the next go-round. This means fewer buyers bidding on the same houses you’re interested in and more negotiating power when you do.

Of course, this works both ways: Sellers might not want to uproot their families in the middle of the school year either. But while this brings housing inventory down, you might just find it easier to focus and pinpoint exactly what you really want in a home.

Sellers are more motivated

Spring and summer are the high seasons for home-buying: Days are longer, the weather’s nice, and open houses are well-attended. And that means sellers can sit back and be a bit choosier with offers.

But as Labor Day recedes in the rear-view mirror, sellers start to wriggle in their seats. The prospect of trying to sell during the holiday season or, more likely, waiting until the next year, is dispiriting. And so these sellers can become, in a sense, settlers — willing to reduce their prices and conditions. There is some variation by region, but overall in the U.S., prices have peaked by the end of August.

Buyers can use this increased motivation to their advantage, offering less and asking for more during negotiations.

Taxes and discounts

Buying a home costs a lot of money but comes with good tax breaks as well. The IRS allows deductions for the interest you pay on your mortgage, on the premiums you might pay for mortgage insurance, on property taxes and more, including some of these that went into your closing costs. Buying a home in the fall means seeing those tax breaks sooner, the following April.

Also, much like those motivated sellers, many homebuilders discount their inventories during this time of year to help them meet year-end sales goals.

The decision to buy requires serious consideration of where you are in life, what your goals are and how much you can afford. But if you are indeed ready, buying during the fall can be a good call. Just try to find time in between football games.

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.

10 Tips to Get a Home Ready for Sale


Preparing to sell your home can be difficult. You have to create enough ambiance so that buyers can envision themselves living there but make sure it’s not so cluttered that all they see is you. Make some changes inside and out to get top dollar for your abode.

  1. Do a drive by. If a person sees trash on the lawn or overgrown weeds, they won’t be enticed to come inside. Boost your home’s curb appeal by planting a few colorful flowers at the entrance and mow the lawn.
  2. Declutter. Most people are familiar with the deceptive clean-up strategy of stuffing all the mess under the bed or in a closet. Count on potential buyers checking closets and cupboards, and make sure they are tidy and organized.
  3. Lighten up.  Open up the blinds to allow as much natural light as possible. Consider adding extra lamps that can be dimmed for ambiance.
  4. Add accents. You don’t have to do a major renovation to make your home more appealing. Little accents such as new sink hardware and cupboard knobs can make a big difference. If you opt for a bigger project, make sure it will add value instead of detracting from it.
  5. Neutralize. While you may love a bright orange living room, it could be too much for a potential buyer. Neutralize the color scheme by painting walls white and covering up any brightly colored furniture.
  6. Put up mirrors. Replace bold artwork with mirrors to make a room look bigger and lighter. As potential buyers walk through the house, they can catch glimpses of themselves, helping them envision themselves in the home.
  7. Aromatherapy. No need to buy fancy candles or incense. On the day of a showing, simply place a couple of tablespoons of vanilla extract or other essential oil in the oven at 300 degrees. Within minutes, the home will be filled with a beautiful aroma.
  8. Feng shui. As potential buyers walk through the home, it should flow nicely. They shouldn’t be bumping into furniture. Ensure each room is spacious and has a clear purpose. If you have a room that’s an office/guest room/crafting trifecta, decide which role works best and then rearrange it for that purpose.
  9. Beautify the bathroom. Transform a bathroom into a spa. Fresh linens, bath mats and candles can make all the difference. Put the toilet seat down, and you can even fold the final sheet of the toilet paper into a fancy triangle.
  10.  Clean. Last, but not least, ensure that your house is clean for showings. Don’t forget to scrub the baseboards, remove the shower scum and dust. Consider getting carpets steam-cleaned as well.

Try walking through your home, pretending to be a potential buyer, to see what needs fixing, and then tackle those details. With a few repairs, the house will be ready for showing in no time.

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.

The Cost of Raising a Child From Cradle to Adulthood


Raising a child takes patience, understanding — and about $245,340, based on the latest estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

That’s the average cost to care for a child from birth to age 18 for a middle-income family, as calculated by the USDA in a recent report on family expenditures. The estimate excludes prenatal health care and college costs.

If you’re getting ready to have your first child, your life and your spending will change drastically. Here’s a closer look at how the cost breaks down.

Housing

Child-rearing expenses typically cost couples with two children between just over $9,000 and nearly $26,000 a year per child, depending on household income and the age of the children, according to the USDA.

The incremental cost of housing is the largest expenditure, accounting for about 30% of the cost of raising a child to adulthood, the report says. That estimate is based on the expectation that a family with children will need at least one extra bedroom. And the estimate of housing costs is conservative, the USDA says, because it does not take into consideration the desire of many parents to live in areas with better schools, for example, which tend to be more expensive.

To prepare for buying a home, you will want to have around 20% of the purchase price saved up for a down payment, although lenders do make exceptions. Consult your credit union for help with mortgage qualification.

Child care and education

The cost burden of child care and education has ballooned since 1960, when it accounted for only 2% of the typical costs of raising a child, to 18% today, according to the USDA report. That is largely due to women’s increased participation in the workforce.

To offset the cost, look into benefits such as the federal Child and Dependent Care Credit, which can reduce your taxes by up to $1,050 a year for a single child and $2,100 for two or more. Also look into alternatives to day care centers such as sharing a nanny with another family or hiring a live-in “au pair.”

If your child goes the private school route, be prepared. The average cost for private elementary school nationwide in 2014-15 was $7,331, and the average cost for private high school was almost twice that, according to PrivateSchoolReview.

For higher education, considering opening a 529 account for your child, which allows you to save for college costs with tax-free earnings and virtually no contribution limits. A Coverdell account can help you build savings for private school or college, although the benefits are more limited.

Food

As your child gets older, grocery bills will increase. Food accounts for 16% of child-rearing expenses, the USDA report says. This includes grocery shopping, dining out and school meals. To save money on food, eat as many homemade meals as you can; it’s considerably cheaper than dining out.

Health care

Your child inevitably will get sick, and even if you have insurance, it won’t cover all the costs. Out-of-pocket expenses for medical and dental services tend to rise as your children grow. Out-of-pocket health care expenses account for about 8% of the cost of raising a child in a typical household, the USDA figures. To save money, look into a health savings account or flexible spending plan, which allow you to pay for qualified health care expenses with pretax income.

Bringing a new life into the world comes with a spectrum of challenges and expenses, so be prepared with new strategies for saving money and building assets. As exciting as parenthood can be, it helps to be ready for it financially, too.

Source: NerdWallet, Inc.


Members 1st is here to help you through all of life’s most important moments and milestones. If you have any questions, please call customer service at (800) 237-7288, visit our website, or visit one of our various branch locations.

How to Choose a Real Estate Agent


As you start on the path of finding a home, having a real estate agent guide you in the process can make a difference. About 98% of buyers who used agents viewed them as a helpful source of information, according to a recent report from the National Association of Realtors, or NAR. Because an agent can help determine how much you pay for your new abode, it’s important to find one who is right for you.

Seek referrals and research associations

Start your search by asking friends and family members for recommendations. In this way, someone you trust can verify how effective and helpful the agent was.

You can also make a list of agents who sell homes in your price range and in areas where you’re looking to buy by checking online and through trusted real estate associations. Some have specialties and only work with certain clients such as first-time buyers or those looking for luxury homes. Also check for Realtors, or real estate agents who are NAR members. They follow a code of ethics in working with clients.

You can also check whether any of the agents have expired or suspended licenses by looking them up on state regulatory agency websites.

Ask the right questions

When you have a list of candidates, start interviewing agents. Consider asking them the following:

  • How long have you been in the real estate business in this area?
  • What credentials do you have?

You’ll want to find someone who has experience in your area and determine their specialties, if any. Some possible credentials include Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR) or Certified Buyer Representative (CBR), which means they have met specific qualifications and passed exams to represent a buyer at every stage of the process.

  • How many clients do you currently have?
  • Will you represent just me, or a seller, too?
  • Do you work part time or full time?

These questions can help you determine how reachable and invested an agent might be in helping you. A buyer’s agent negotiates strictly for you in a deal, as opposed to a typical real estate agent who may represent the seller, too.

  • How would you help me find a home?
  • How much do you charge?

These two responses can let you know how the agents work, what sources they use and whether there are any costs involved. A buyer’s agent typically splits the home sale commission with the listing agent, with the seller usually paying the cost of the commission. Buyers typically pay nothing for the service directly.

By the end of the conversation, you’ll want to know if you can trust this person. When agents start recommending other professionals, including lenders, you need to be able to trust those judgments.

Check their references

During the interviews, ask agents for the contact information of some of their former clients. Call these people and ask open-ended questions such as whether there was anything that the agent could’ve done better or what factors made them choose this agent. You may be able to glean some insights from them as you make your final choice.

As you select your real estate agent, remember that you don’t have to stay with the first one you choose if things don’t work out. You want the right guide to help you find the home that works for you.

Source: NerdWallet, Inc.


Whether you are buying your first home, a vacation home, are relocating or looking to refinance your existing mortgage, Members 1st has a mortgage program tailored to your needs. For more information visit our Mortgage Services web page.

Make your MOVE.


Whether you are buying your first home, a vacation home, or if you are planning to trade up, relocate, build or refinance, the process involved to get into your new home can seem overwhelming.

Follow the general steps below to gain the confidence and knowledge you need to make your dream a reality.

excited couple with keys to new home

The Beginning.
Meet with a qualified mortgage specialist before you begin looking for a new home. Get an idea as to how much home you can realistically afford and the type of financing that is available. Ask to be pre-qualified for a mortgage. Inquire about the down payment requirements, application fee, information required for the application process, inspection fees, closing costs and other miscellaneous costs such as homeowners insurance. Then, go search for your dream home!

The Financing.
Once you find the right home, your agent will assist you in writing up an offer for purchase. Work with your lender to determine which type of loan or refinancing program best fits your situation. There are many options, and an experienced lender should be able to make recommendations. Complete a full application and provide supporting documentation such as asset statements, W-2’s, paystubs and tax returns. This can be done online or in person. Once your home purchase offer is accepted, you can lock-in the interest rate for your loan. This means that if rates increase, your rate will not change. Your lender will underwrite/approve your loan, obtain an appraisal, and gather any other needed documents.

The Settlement.
We have a dedicated settlement group, called Members 1st Settlement Company, which is comprised of professionals who will take you straight through the settlement/closing process. All documents will be prepared and ready for your signature at closing. Be sure to bring your closing cost funds, identification and other requested documents. Then sign and leave with the keys to your new home!

Make the call.
Our Mortgage Services team is ready to help you. From your first hopes and dreams, to the day you walk into your new home, we are here to help. We truly provide a one-stop shopping experience for your home mortgage needs.


Call us at (800) 283-2328, ext. 6026 or visit members1st.org/products-services/mortgage-services.

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Think Spring Home Improvement


african american couple_vertical_doorway with tools_blog
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.

A life cycle of lending


piggy bank

Think of us first when you need a loan.

Members 1st Federal Credit Union has a whole suite of lending products for every stage of your life. Throughout your lifetime there are many good reasons to borrow money: for education, purchasing a new vehicle or home, or perhaps financing your business needs. We have one of the widest variety of competitively priced lending products of any financial institution in the area. As a member, when you apply for a loan, you may qualify for a discounted loan rate depending upon your Member Loyalty Reward level. Always ask what your reward level is and how that could help your loan rate.

As a locally owned credit union with no stock holders pushing to maximize profits, you are ensured low rate loan products with very little or no fees. One of the first types of lending young adults become familiar with is our student loan program, Credit Union Student Choice. This program allows student and parents to borrow money as a line of credit, which allows for deferred payments until after graduation with low rates and a competitive structure. Our Student Loan Administrator, Tiffanie DeVan, would be glad to sit down with both student and parent to discuss this option for financing your college education. You can reach Tiffanie at (800) 283-2328, ext. 6017.

Many people start their relationship with us via an auto loan. These loans may be obtained either directly from us or through our “On the Spot” vehicle loan program, which is available through any of our 250 auto dealer partners throughout Southcentral Pennsylvania. We have financing available with terms up to 84-months. Visit www.members1st.org > Products & Services > Loans or call (800) 283-2328, ext. 6040 for details.

One of the most convenient types of loan products we offer is our VISA® products. These products include our VISA® Platinum Cash Back program, which features 1% cash back on all purchases, plus 2% cash back on gas and grocery purchases. If you are having some credit issues, but still would like the convenience of a VISA® card, our new VISA® Platinum Secured Card can provide you with a VISA® card and help you re-establish credit. Contact our Card Services Department at (800) 283-2328, ext. 6040 for more details or visit www.members1st.org > Products & Services > Card Services to apply.

If you are purchasing, refinancing, or constructing a new home, our experienced mortgage experts will guide you through the process and make it as easy as possible. We offer VA, FHA, Conventional, and Construction loans, plus a PHFA first time buyer’s program with little or no money as a down payment. You can reach our mortgage specialists at (800) 283-2328, ext. 6026. To view our current rates or to apply online, visit www.members1st.org > Products & Services > Mortgage Services.

After home ownership, you may be interested in home equity loans and lines of credits to assist with making home improvements, debt consolidation, or simply to have a line of credit available for any future borrowing need. Our fixed-rate, fixed-term home equity loan program features terms up to 20 years and our Home Equity Line of Credit products have different repayment options to fit your budget. Contact our loan specialists at (800) 283-2328, ext. 6040 or visit www.members1st.org > Products & Services > Loans > Home Equity Loans & Lines of Credit for details.

If you are a business owner, we have a number of business loan programs available for capital purchases or line of credit products, which can be tailored to suit your business needs. Members 1st participates in the SBA 504 program, in addition to the US Department of Agriculture’s Business and Industry program. Visit www.members1st.org > Products & Services > Business Services to learn more about how we can help you. You may also contact our business lending experts at (800) 283-2328, ext. 5168.

If you need money, we have money to lend: Signature loans, Fresh Start loans, Share Secured loans, and Recreational Vehicle financing to name just a few. In addition, along with many of our lending products we offer our Member Value Protection coverage, which offers low cost debt protection in case of death, disability or unemployment. We are your one stop shop for all of your borrowing needs throughout your life. Stop by your nearest branch or visit us at www. members1st.org.

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