Real Estate

Dog standing in the middle of a sunny neighborhood street lined with sidewalks, trees with orange and gold fall leaves, and houses on either side. Cars are parked on either side of the street.

Finding Your Perfect Neighborhood: A Guide to Matching Your Lifestyle with Your Locale

Finding Your Perfect Neighborhood: A Guide to Matching Your Lifestyle with Your Locale 1920 1280 Your Loan Officer for Life

Key Takeaways

  • Define Your Lifestyle Needs: Make a list of must-haves like quality schools, parks, and commute options to guide your search.
  • Research Safety and Market Trends: Utilize tools like CrimeMapping, ADT Crime Maps, and Neighborhood Scout to ensure your chosen area aligns with your security expectations.
  • Visit at Different Times and Talk to Locals: Chat with potential neighbors or use the Nextdoor app to gain valuable insights about the community.

Ready to find a neighborhood that feels like it was made just for you? Finding the right community is as crucial as choosing the right house—it’s where you’ll make your morning coffee, take evening strolls, and maybe even watch your kids play. The old adage “location, location, location” still holds true. It’s about more than just streets and houses; it’s about finding a place where you’ll create lasting memories.

Whether you’re buying your first home or relocating to a new city, let’s dive into how you can find that perfect neighborhood to call home, one that fits your lifestyle to a T!

What Do You Love? Define Your Lifestyle Needs

Before you start your search, let’s identify what you need and what you want from a neighborhood. Are you looking for a quiet, family-friendly community, or are you more interested in a vibrant area with easy access to shops, restaurants, and nightlife? What does your ideal day look like? Are you hustling to a nearby coffee shop, or are you enjoying a quiet morning jog in a leafy park?

Make a list of your daily must-haves: things like school quality, nearby parks, cafes, gyms, and transportation options. This list will guide you through the house-hunting process and help you focus on neighborhoods that truly fit your criteria.

Here are a couple of great resources we love to help you check out the overall vibe of a community based against your list of must-haves:

  • AreaVibes – scores neighborhoods with a livability score that makes it easy to compare neighborhoods in a potential area quickly. Quickly see how a neighborhood scores from A-F across criteria like: Crime & Safety, Schools, Commute & Employment, Amenities, and Cost of Living.
  • Neighborhood Scout – A great tool to scope out the local real estate market, housing mix of homeowners and renters, what your neighbors are like, the employment scene and typical commute times.

Safety First: Checking Up on Neighborhood Security

Your peace of mind is priceless, so let’s make sure you feel safe and secure in your new neighborhood. Fortunately, many resources are available to help you research the safety of potential areas. Websites like CrimeReports and the National Sex Offender Public Website provide up-to-date information about crime statistics and safety concerns in different neighborhoods. Here are some links to some good resources:


Sometimes, nothing beats a good old-fashioned visit to the local police station or attending a neighborhood watch meeting to get the real scoop from the folks who live there.

Two young girls with backpacks crossing the street on their way home from school.

Education for the Kids (and Property Values for You!)

If you have little ones, the quality of local schools is probably at the top of your priority list. Websites like GreatSchools can offer insights into the local education landscape, helping you compare educational opportunities and make a smart investment in your family’s future and your financial health.

Even if you don’t have kids, living in a district with good schools can boost your property value significantly.

Commute and Connectivity: Getting From Here to There

Your daily commute can have a significant impact on your quality of life. Think about how much of your day you want to spend traveling to work or other activities. If you’re using Neighborhood Scout to scope out communities of interest, you’ll be able to see the average commute time of residents in that area. Plus, you can take advantage of Google Maps to check traffic patterns for potential commute routes at different times of the day.

If you prefer to skip the drive, look into neighborhoods that are friendly to bikers, walkers, or have good public transit. Many cities have dedicated websites that provide real-time updates on public transportation schedules and routes. It’s all about making your daily commute a breeze!

An outdoor restaurant with brick paver floor, hanging baskets of plants and quaint wooden tables set around. A small group of friends are enjoying a chat and drinks at a couple of the tables.

Amenities and Fun: What’s Around the Neighborhood?

The amenities available in a neighborhood can greatly enhance your lifestyle. Look for a community that aligns with your interests, whether it’s outdoor activities, arts and culture, or dining and entertainment. Imagine living within walking distance from a charming little bistro or just a short bike ride from a beautiful park. Explore potential neighborhoods to see what they offer in terms of shopping, dining, and recreational activities.

Plan a day trip (or a weekend if you’re looking at neighborhoods far away) and visit local shops, parks, museums, and restaurants to get a feel for the community vibe and see if it matches your lifestyle.

Real Estate Savvy: Know the Local Market

Before falling in love with a neighborhood, make sure it’s a smart buy. Getting to know the local real estate market by checking out property values, historical price trends, and the overall demand for homes in the area. You can take advantage of online tools like Zillow and Realtor.com to research a lot about the local market.

Consulting with a local real estate agent can tell you things about the feel of a neighborhood and its future growth potential that you can’t get from property value stats and help you catch the wave at just the right time.

All About Timing: Visit the Neighborhood at Different Times

Visiting a neighborhood at different times of the day and week can give you a clearer picture of what it’s like to live there. It might show a different face on a quiet morning compared to a busy evening. If you can, visit your potential new neighborhood at various times to get a well-rounded view of what it’s like living there. Does it get too noisy at night? Is it too quiet during the day?

Pay attention to traffic noise, parking availability, and the general activity level in the community. This can help you decide if the neighborhood suits your lifestyle and daily routines.

An older woman with grey hair in green pants and tshirt is leaning against a white picket fence to adjust her pantleg. She is smiling at the camera.

Neighborly Love: Chat Up Potential Neighbors

Don’t be shy—talk to potential neighbors about what it’s like to live in the area. Most people love talking about their neighborhood and can offer insights you won’t find anywhere else. They can provide firsthand accounts of what it’s like to live in the area, the pros and cons, and how the community has evolved. Plus, it’s a great way to make a few friends before you even move in!

If you aren’t quite the type to get chatty with strangers face-to-face, you could join the neighborhood on the Nextdoor app. You can read recent posts, introduce yourself, and ask your potential neighbors questions about the area through the app.

Future Forward: Development and Growth

Lastly, check out what the future holds for any area you’re considering. Future developments, infrastructure projects, or zoning changes can affect your lifestyle and the long-term value of your property. The more you know about future factors, the more confidently you’ll be able to picture your future in this new community and anticipate potential changes to your home’s value over time.

A quick visit to the local planning department can give you a heads-up on upcoming projects or changes that might affect the neighborhood. This can include new construction, commercial development, or changes to parks and public areas.

Wrapping it Up

Finding the right neighborhood isn’t just about the house—it’s about envisioning your life unfolding day by day. Whether it’s the sound of kids playing, the tranquility of a garden, or the convenience of urban living, your perfect neighborhood is out there. By taking the time to thoroughly research and explore your options, you can find a community that not only meets your needs but also enhances your day-to-day life.

Finding the perfect neighborhood isn’t just about checking boxes—it’s about finding a place where you can truly feel at home. You’re crafting your best future. Happy neighborhood hunting!

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Understanding Closing Costs: A Homebuyer’s Guide

Understanding Closing Costs: A Homebuyer’s Guide 4500 3000 Your Loan Officer for Life

Key Takeaways

  • Closing Costs Demystified: Learn exactly what closing costs entail, including lender fees, title and escrow charges, and prepaid expenses, giving you a clear picture of what to expect when finalizing your home purchase.
  • Strategies to Minimize Expenses: Discover actionable strategies and insider tips on how to potentially reduce your closing costs, from negotiating with the seller to shopping around for services and exploring lender credits.
  • Preparation Is Key: Understand the importance of budgeting for closing costs early in the homebuying process and how being prepared can save you from unexpected financial strain, ensuring a smoother transition to homeownership.

Buying a home is a milestone filled with excitement and anticipation. But beyond the search for your dream home lies the often-overlooked world of closing costs. These expenses can be a bit of a puzzle, but worry not! I’m here to guide you through this final stretch of your homebuying journey, ensuring you cross the finish line informed and ready. Let’s dive into what closing costs are, why they matter, and how you can prepare for them.

What Are Closing Costs?

Closing costs are the fees and expenses you pay to finalize your mortgage, beyond the down payment. They cover a range of services involved in the legal transfer of property and securing your loan. Think of them as the backstage crew that makes the show—your home purchase—happen. Typically, closing costs range from 2% to 5% of the home’s purchase price, a spectrum that highlights the importance of budgeting for these costs early on.

Key Players in Closing Costs

  1. Lender Fees: These are fees charged by your mortgage lender for processing and approving your loan. They can include application fees, origination fees, processing fees, and underwriting fees.
  2. Title and Escrow Charges: To ensure the property is legally transferred to you without any claims or liens, you’ll encounter title search fees, title insurance, and escrow fees.
  3. Prepaid Expenses: These are upfront costs for items paid in advance of their due date, such as property taxes, homeowners insurance, and interest that will accrue before your first mortgage payment.
  4. Third-Party Fees: These fees are paid to other parties involved in your home purchase, like appraisals, home inspections, credit reports, and attorney fees.
  5. Government Recording and Transfer Charges: Buying a home involves some paperwork at the government level, including recording fees and transfer taxes.

Why Do Closing Costs Matter?

Understanding and budgeting for closing costs are crucial steps in the home buying process. They can significantly impact the total amount you’ll need to bring to the closing table. Overlooking these costs can lead to surprises and financial strain, something we all want to avoid, especially during such a monumental life event.

How to Prepare for Closing Costs

  1. Research and Budget Early: Start by getting an estimate of what your closing costs might be early in the home buying process. Use online calculators, but remember, these are just estimates. Your lender will provide a more accurate figure with the Loan Estimate after you apply for a mortgage.
  2. Shop Around: You have the right to shop around for certain services listed on your Loan Estimate, such as title insurance and home inspections. Comparing prices can save you a significant amount of money.
  3. Negotiate with the Seller: In some markets, it’s possible to negotiate with the seller to cover some or all of your closing costs. This can be part of your offer or a negotiation point after the inspection.
  4. Look for Lender Credits: Some lenders offer credits to help offset closing costs in exchange for a higher interest rate on your loan. This can be a worthwhile trade-off, depending on your financial situation and how long you plan to stay in the home.
  5. Set Aside Savings: As you save for your down payment, also set aside funds for closing costs. Having a specific savings account for this purpose can help you track your progress and ensure you’re ready when closing day arrives.

Closing Cost Assistance Programs

For many, saving for both a down payment and closing costs can be daunting. Thankfully, there are assistance programs available to help:

  • State and Local Programs: Many states, counties, and cities offer grants or loans to help with down payments and closing costs. These programs often have income limits and other eligibility requirements.
  • Lender-Specific Programs: Some lenders offer programs designed to help with closing costs, especially for first-time homebuyers or low-to-moderate-income individuals.
  • Nonprofit Organizations: There are also nonprofit organizations that offer assistance with down payments and closing costs for qualified buyers.

Closing Day: What to Expect

When closing day finally arrives, you’ll sign a lot of paperwork, but it’s the moment you officially become a homeowner. You’ll pay your closing costs, which can be done via cashier’s check or wire transfer. Once all documents are signed and funds are distributed, the keys to your new home will be yours!

The Power of Knowledge

As with any significant financial decision, knowledge is power. Understanding closing costs empowers you to budget effectively, negotiate confidently, and navigate the homebuying process with a clear vision. Remember, every homebuyer’s journey is unique, and there are resources and professionals ready to support you along the way.

Join Our Community for More Insights

Embarking on your homebuying journey? Join our newsletter for monthly insights, tips, and real-life stories to guide you through home ownership, financial decisions, and beyond. Our community is here to support you in achieving your dreams, one step at a time.

In writing this guide, I aimed to demystify closing costs and highlight the importance of planning for these expenses. By understanding what to expect and how to prepare, you’re setting yourself up for a smoother homebuying experience. Remember, you’re not alone in this journey. Professionals, assistance programs, and communities like ours are here to support you every step of the way.

Sign up for our newsletter to stay informed and empowered as you navigate the path to home ownership. Together, we can turn the dream of owning a home into a reality.

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Claiming Your Home Journey: A Financial Blueprint for a Successful Mortgage Application

Claiming Your Home Journey: A Financial Blueprint for a Successful Mortgage Application 6228 4912 Your Loan Officer for Life

A new study from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found more loan applications were denied due to “insufficient income” in 2022 than in previous years. These denials keep renters locked out of the most valuable financial investment available to American families and keep homeowners from unlocking their hard-earned home equity. The cause behind tightening lending guidelines lies in slow wage growth, record-breaking home values, and higher monthly payments.

I want to empower you to realize your home ownership and home finance goals by revealing the blueprint to a successful mortgage application

Understanding the Mortgage Landscape

In today’s real estate world, financing requires navigating a complex and challenging mortgage landscape. Low home inventory, rising property prices, and interest rates make it harder to get approved for financing because those larger loan amounts and higher monthly payments take a bigger bite out of your paycheck. This scenario makes home financing difficult for borrowers based on their income, especially those eyeing homeownership or seeking to tap into their home equity.

One of the things that I love about the team at Milend is that they get more borrowers approved than your typical mortgage company. Everyone I work with understands that every financing story is unique, and we have special programs designed to get more borrowers qualified based on their income.

Optimizing Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI)

Debt-to-Income (DTI) ratio is calculated by comparing total monthly debt payments to their gross monthly income. Lenders use DTI to gauge the risk associated with lending to a particular individual. When applying for a new loan the Debt-to Income ratio will include the payments of the proposed new home loan added to your current debt.  It’s one of the key ingredients to whether your loan application gets approved or denied.

If you have big auto loans or credit card balances, that raises your debt load. If this sounds like you, don’t worry. Our mortgage consultants work with homeowners in this situation all the time and can craft a tailored plan to help you get financed and reduce your total debt load.

Leveraging Credit Scores for Success

Your credit history is like a financial report card, reflecting your creditworthiness to potential lenders. A higher credit score generally signifies responsible financial behavior, making lenders more likely to approve your loan application at more favorable terms.

Our team works with borrowers who have a wide range of credit scores and all of our experts take the time to find the possible financing terms for you, even if you have less-than-stellar marks on your credit history.

Assessing your Financial Readiness

Income, Debt-to-Income ratio, and Credit History are the core factors that influence whether your loan application can be approved or not. These guidelines have gotten tougher due to market and economic factors, but you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting to assess your financial readiness on your own.

Milend has a proven track record of helping more borrowers get approved for home financing. Contact one of our loan experts to get an assessment of your financial readiness for a mortgage to purchase a new home or refinance. They’ll look for programs to overcome hurdles in your income, DTI, and credit factors. If it’s not the right time, they’ll help you plan for improving your financial picture to get you approval-ready in no time!

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Guide to Owner Financing for Home Buyers

Guide to Owner Financing for Home Buyers

Guide to Owner Financing for Home Buyers 1920 1280 Your Loan Officer for Life

We’re here with another hot topic that’s been gaining interest among home shoppers – Owner Financing. I sat down with some friends this week to discuss whether they should look for listings with owner financing instead of going the traditional mortgage route. I’ll break down the ins and outs, just like I did for my friends – but the short answer is the risks aren’t close to worth the couple percentage points you’re looking to save on interest rate.

What is Owner Financing?

Owner financing is when the home seller also funds the purchase for the buyer. The seller takes the place of a traditional lender. Home buyers usually look into owner financing as a last resort when they feel they can’t finance a home any other way. It might seem like a slick solution for buyers struggling to get a mortgage, but this is one gift horse worth looking in the mouth.

Pros of Owner Financing:

Requirements are more Lax – Sellers might not require a high credit score or big down payment. That’s why it sounds attractive to buyers struggling to qualify.
PRO TIP: There are loan programs designed just for low credit borrowers, AND programs for borrowers who can’t put down a full down payment

Faster Time to Closing – With less red tape and paperwork, and more handshake, seller financing can speed up the closing process with less legal protections for the buyer.

Possiblity of Lower Interest Rates: The seller and buyer can negotiate the interest rate. Since profit on loan interest motivates seller to keep paying the mortgage, it usually isn’t any lower that what buyers could qualify for through a traditional lender. 

Cons of Owner Financing:

Balloon Payments – Many owner financing agreements include balloon payments that could result in a large lump sum due a few years into the loan, which can be financially devastating if you’re not ready for it.

Lack of Legal Protections – Traditional loans come with numerous protections for borrowers. Seller financing doesn’t offer the same security, potentially putting home buyers at risk.

High Chance of Higher Interest Rates: Since profit on loan interest motivates seller to keep paying the mortgage, it’s often similar to what buyers could qualify for through a traditional lender or even much higher. 

Owner Financing: Boom or Bust?

Owner financing can seem attractive in the face of rising interest rates, booming home prices, and ballooning down payments. But there are a lot of risks involved, and home buyers could easily find themselves in a financial nightmare and underwater. That’s why I always stress financial literacy and making smart money moves.

PRO TIP: There are loan programs designed specifically for buyers with lower credit scores or limited down payments. These loans come with the legal protections you deserve and offer a safer pathway to homeownership. Reach out to the team at Milend to discuss these alternatives and ensure that your path to homeownership is as smooth as possible.

As always, I’m here to guide you through the maze of home buying and selling. Let’s make your financial goals and homeownership dreams come true!

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A Financial Blueprint for a Successful Mortgage Application
Guide to Owner Financing for Home Buyers

Lagging Millennial Home Buyers: Just Give Them Time

Lagging Millennial Home Buyers: Just Give Them Time 1024 536 Jason Breeland

Lagging Millennial Home Buyers: Just Give Them Time

Those involved in the real estate market may have noticed some demographic changes recently. Where before real estate (and much else) revolved around baby boomers, it’s now about the millennials. And while numbers vary, there are now some 75 million of them.

According to the most recent census, millennials—those in the 18–34 age range—now represent more than 25 percent of the population and 32 percent of potential home buyers, notes a survey by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). As they age, they’ll further surpass baby boomers.

This change impacts everything from technology to the family dynamic and, of course, real estate. NAR studies show that the proportion of first-time home buyers is down for the third year in a row, despite low mortgage rates and other economic factors that suggest first-timers should be buying.  Why? A Pew Institute survey conducted in 2013 shows that millennials are living at home longer, or they and their parents may be buying homes together for cost-saving reasons. Renting—which many millennials would prefer—has become less viable in many areas as rents skyrocket and inventory drops.

Another contributing factor in the shift in the demographic of home buyers is the shift in the job market. A New York Times article from earlier this year states that many of the new jobs are appearing in urban areas, where housing is often the most expensive. And millennials like to live, work and play in cities.  At the same time, they’re having trouble finding those jobs. Credit and student debt are concerns as well, and all this is limiting the ability of the first-time millennial home buyer to save for a down payment. Conventional financing (obtaining a mortgage without requiring mortgage insurance) needs a 20 percent down payment, and credit requirements are more stringent than with Federal Housing Administration. Asset reserves are necessary. Lower down payment options (namely FHA) allow a buyer to put down as little as 3.5 percent, excluding escrow account requirements, but the cost of entry is high.

Currently, FHA requires an up-front mortgage insurance premium (which is financeable) of 1.75 percent of the amount financed; the monthly insurance premium will vary based on down payment and term of the mortgage.  Millennial buyers, however, do want to buy homes. In summer 2015, millennials made up 30 percent of buyers, according to Realtor.com chief economist Jonathon Smoke. Most of these cited family changes (marriage, kids) as their reasons for purchasing.

Give them time, says Smoke: “They should represent two-thirds of all household formations over the next five years. Job creation will favor them. Their economic opportunities are strong. And they’re planning to start families, which increases the desire to purchase a home.” Adds Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist: “The return of first-time buyers to normal levels will eventually take place in upcoming years as those living with their parents are likely to form households of their own, first as renters and then eventually as homeowners.”

Concludes Smoke: “They’re just getting started, and their sheer size will drive activity in housing for decades.”

Content provided by MiLEND, Inc. 

Your Ultimate Winter Home Preparation Guide
A Financial Blueprint for a Successful Mortgage Application
Guide to Owner Financing for Home Buyers

Understanding the Basics of Flood Insurance Coverage

Understanding the Basics of Flood Insurance Coverage 1024 536 Jason Breeland

Understanding the Basics of Flood Insurance Coverage

So, what is flood insurance, and how does it work?

It seems that almost daily, we see news coverage of one area or another that has been seriously affected by flooding, and you may be asked to obtain flood insurance, or increase the coverage you already have.

So, what is flood insurance, and how does it work? It falls to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to study areas and create flood maps, which indicate the risk of flooding and how often FEMA expects floods to occur.

Based on FEMA’s flood maps, a risk factor is determined, which will in turn dictate the type of coverage required. Homes are categorized as being in low/moderate – or high-risk areas. Premiums are then determined and policies issued through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which was established in 1968 and renewed in 2012, and is set to expire later this year.

Factors that determine risks when issuing an insurance policy include elevation of the lowest point of the structure, the number of floors, and the age of a property.  Flood insurance is always written as coverage above and beyond traditional homeowners coverage. Typical insurance policies are very specific as to what they will and won’t cover, and often situations that are remotely related to flooding, such as backed-up sewers that happen during storms, may require special riders and premiums.

According to FloodSmart.gov, the average annual premium for a flood insurance policy is $700, and premiums are paid annually, in advance.

Content provided by MiLEND, Inc. 

Your Ultimate Winter Home Preparation Guide
A Financial Blueprint for a Successful Mortgage Application
Guide to Owner Financing for Home Buyers

75 Million Millennials Are About to Shape the Future of Real Estate

75 Million Millennials Are About to Shape the Future of Real Estate 1024 536 Jason Breeland

75 Million Millennials Are About to Shape the Future of Real Estate

Bob Dylan was so right: ‘the times, they are a-changin’. And the residential real estate market is being swept right along.

While in Dylan’s day it was about the group known as baby boomers, it’s now about the millennials—more than 75 million of them. According to the most recent census, millennials now represent more than 25 percent of the population and 32 percent of potential home buyers.

That means that many of you reading this are or soon will be looking for somewhere to live. Your impact is inescapable, and here’s the upshot to date:

Studies in recent years, including one by the Pew Institute in 2013, show that a sizable proportion of 18-to-34-year-olds are still living at home. Another trend is adult children and their parents looking for accommodations together for cost-saving reasons, a recent National Association of Realtors® survey found.

But not everyone is concerned for millennials: Jonathon Smoke, chief economist of Realtor.com, is bullish on them. He reports that in summer 2015, millennials made up 30 percent of buyers, many of whom cited family changes (marriage, kids) as their reasons for purchasing.

And while credit and student debt remain concerns for potential millennial home buyers, give them time. Says Smoke: “They should represent two-thirds of all household formations over the next five years. Job creation will favor them. Their economic opportunities are strong. And they’re planning to start families, which increases the desire to purchase a home. They’re just getting started, and their sheer size will drive activity in housing for decades.”

Content provided by MiLEND, Inc. 

Your Ultimate Winter Home Preparation Guide
A Financial Blueprint for a Successful Mortgage Application
Guide to Owner Financing for Home Buyers

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