Is Tax Time the Right Time?

Recently, W2 forms arrived in the mail, which means it’s time to gather receipts and other needed forms to file income taxes. For many, it’s a dreaded chore. For others, a potentially hefty bill causes them to fearfully drag their feet into the preparer’s office. For some, a bit of a refund drives them to file quickly, and hopefully make wise choices on how to spend or save those extra funds.

We have good news! Right now may be the right time to boost your financial situation, and maybe even turn your dreams of homeownership into reality. Let’s explore several reasons why.

  • Refunds. For those that do receive a refund, when used wisely, it can become a long-term investment. Consider paying down consumer debt, thus improving your credit score, and obtaining a better mortgage rate. Alternatively, a refund could help with closing costs or as a partial down payment on a new home or refinance.
  • Housing market. The housing market is hot. This is good news for the homeowner who wishes to refinance. A higher assessed value can allow a homeowner to eliminate private mortgage insurance, qualify for a better loan or take cash out to pay off other debt. For homebuyers, prices are expected to steadily climb, so now is the time.
  • Convenience. This is a matter of personal convenience, but once the process of gathering financial information for taxes is complete, you may as well use those documents to begin the mortgage process before filing them away.
  • Tax cuts. There won’t be a great deal of change in your 2017 tax return, but the 2018 tax cuts will likely put more money in your pocket soon. New tax rules took effect on January 1, and employers have been asked to use new withholding tables by February 15, 2018. The Treasury Department estimates that 90% of wage earners will see an increased paycheck due to reduced withholdings. While the amount of increase varies depending on income level, Nerdwallet estimates an average raise of 1 to 2%.
  • Bonuses. In response to tax cuts, many companies have announced reinvestment into their employees. This includes AT&T, Bank of America, FedEx, Lowes, Walmart, Southwest Airlines and more. If you’re one of those fortunate employees, refer to our information above regarding refunds.
  • Tax changes that did not occur. It was feared that the mortgage interest deduction would be eliminated, but it was saved, albeit with a lower cap. The standard deduction is now significantly higher, which results in a simpler tax process and lower amount of taxable income for many. Whichever deduction option you choose, 80% of Americans will see overall lower taxes when they file their 2018 returns.

Of course, tax preparation and withholdings are quite complicated. We suggest that you visit a qualified professional to file your taxes quickly, in order to have more money in your pocket, and get prequalified to become a homeowner or refinance for a better financial future.

3 Tips for Millennials Buying Their First Home

If you’re a Millennial thinking of buying your first home you may feel like your life is starting to shift.

Maybe it seemed like your career was off to a rough start after college, with not as many jobs to choose from and nowhere near the income you were expecting. But, you made it work to your advantage. You paved your own way, started your own business, or zig-zagged your way to a promising and well paying position. And now, after years of saying you’d never be “that guy,” you are seeing the perks of owning your own home. You want to be able to make a place your own. You want to be able to tear down walls, install a ceiling mounted projector, and add that built in bookshelf under your staircase. In short, you want to own a home.

Many people in the Millennial generation are finding themselves in this situation. After years of thinking that owning a home was something they would never be able to afford, many have reached the point where a home is not only within reach, it’s something they see as an investment both in themselves and in the up-and-coming neighborhoods where they already live and work. If you’re like many Millennials, that’s something you’re excited about.

What most Millennials probably aren’t excited for though, is going through the process of getting a loan to make that long denied dream a reality. You might have had to take a lot of risks and overcome a lot of obstacles to get where you are, but we hear from many Millennials that applying for a home loan still seems intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Here are some things to help you get familiar with the process so you feel comfortable adding “owning a home” to your long list of adventures.

#1 — They aren’t going to judge you.

Probably the scariest part of getting a mortgage is the fear that you will be turned down and there will be someone sitting behind a desk laughing about all those dirty little secrets on your credit report.

Not true! Our Certified Loan Officers know what the reality of American life has meant for your generation. They understand that it hasn’t been easy and they don’t expect your job history and credit report to look the same as your parent’s generation. And trust us, we’ve pretty much seen it all, and we’re here to help not judge.

One of the reasons we’ve seen it all, and why we can offer the assistance that we do, is that mortgages are all we do. All day. Every day. You want to be working with a mortgage broker on site who is experienced, licensed, and understands your situation. This is going to be much more helpful (and less stressful) than working with someone who has no say and only passes on your paperwork to an outside broker who doesn’t know the real human you, only the you on paper.

#2 — People still qualify for loans everyday, despite what the media would have you believe.

Yes, loan requirements are more strict since the economic recession, but this is actually good news for you. It means that you are less likely to get yourself in a situation where you are over your head with a loan you can’t manage to pay.

So, this doesn’t mean that you can’t get a loan, it just means that you will need to be REASONABLE in what kind of loan, and house, you are planning to get. The days of buying a forever home are pretty much long gone. Buy a house that meets your needs now and for the next few years, and don’t stress about it being perfect. Find something that fits your budget now, and could possibly increase in value with some easy upgrades and consider the road to your dream home to be a journey with a few pit stops along the way.

#3 — Get expert advice about your loan options sooner rather than later.

No one wants to find the perfect home only to discover that it doesn’t actually fit in their budget. Knowing upfront what you can afford and what to expect out of the home buying process will make the whole experience much more enjoyable.

We know it’s anxiety inducing, but trust us, it’s better to already have a relationship with your loan officer when you start looking at homes. They can help you figure out what kind of loan you qualify for, and they may even be able to get you into special programs that you wouldn’t have known about otherwise. They’ll help you understand the pros and cons of different options BEFORE you are emotionally attached to buying a particular house, and that will help you make a smart investment. They’ll also tell you what you need to do to be prepared so that when you do find a house that is the right fit you have everything in place to make the deal happen as smoothly as possible.

Whatever you decide to do, don’t let anxiety get the best of you. If you go about it the right way buying your first home will be a fun experience and prepare you for years of smart money making decisions in the future.

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We’re here if you need to close on your dream home fast (we are, after all, the “home of the 8 Day Close”) and we can help you get the right mortgage for you even when your credit isn’t great. Call your local office, or fill out our easy on-line form, to get one of our licensed loan officers working on the right financing to get you into the home of your dreams!

Missouri: 314.839.9999
Kansas: 913.344.9999
Colorado: 303.740.9999
Illinois: 618.839.9999
California: 866.774.8999

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How to Get the Most Out of Working With a Home Inspector

You’ve found that house that just might be your dream home, but you want to be sure it isn’t a well-camouflaged money pit. That’s why you hire an inspector, right?

But a lot of home buyers, especially if it’s their first time buying a home, don’t know how to get the most value from the process of working with a home inspector. Here are some best practices for making sure you’re doing everything you can to protect yourself from future surprises.

Be there

No matter how dedicated your realtor is, and we know some really dedicated realtors, they aren’t you. If you aren’t there you can’t ask questions, if you aren’t there the inspector can’t ask you questions either. So don’t ask your realtor to oversee the inspection for you. Most realtors will do a great job, the best job anyone who isn’t YOU can do, but hearing it first hand and getting to ask follow up questions means that what you learn from having a conversation with a qualified inspector is worth far more than even the most detailed report or what your realtor will repeat to you.

Know your inspector

Do make sure you’re working with a qualified inspector. Ask about their background and experience, even request references. Also check your state’s regulations to see if the inspector is required to have a formal education and be licensed and/or bonded – in some states you’ll need to do that due diligence yourself.

Make sure you’ve already done your own inspection

It’s easy to get emotionally attached to wanting your dream home to be perfect in every way, but that can keep you from seeing problems that lie ahead. So walk through the property with open eyes and an open mind. Bring a friend along who isn’t in love with the house, but who has your best interests at heart – that second set of eyes may notice things you missed.

Going into the inspection appointment with your own checklist of questions from things that you’ve observed, working with a qualified inspector who is willing to discuss their report directly with you, and being present and attentive during the inspection process allows you the best shot at identifying and assessing potential problems and costs before you commit to the purchase.

Discovering defects doesn’t need to mean giving up your dream home, but knowing them before you commit can keep that dream from becoming a nightmare. Usually what it means is that you can get a fair idea of what kind of upgrades and repairs you’ll need to make and what kinds of costs you’re likely to incur. They say that knowledge is power, and certainly knowing what to expect when you buy a home gives you the power to make the right decision.

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Getting Turned Down for a Loan Doesn’t Have to be the End of Your Dream

There’s a lot of good advice (and some not-so-good advice) out there about what you should do before you apply for a mortgage. And sure, we appreciate your doing your homework, and your legwork, before you sit down with one of our licensed loan officers.

But here’s the downside of all that advice — it makes it sound like not getting being approved would be the modern day version of the village stocks. According to a national survey of prospective home buyers performed in early 2014, more than half of the respondents reported that they hadn’t even applied for a mortgage because they were afraid they wouldn’t qualify.

The reality is that being rejected isn’t the end of the world, or even the end of your dream. We are often able to finance people who have been turned down elsewhere. Plus, as cited in that same report, approval rates improved slightly in 2014 and as of second quarter 2015 the mortgage requirements haven’t gotten tighter in more than a year. So for many of those fearful home buyers, what’s standing between them and their next home is just old news.

They say that knowledge is power — we didn’t make that up, but we certainly agree.

Which means that the best time to talk to your loan officer is when you’re uncertain if you’re going to qualify for the house you want. We can help you get clear on what isn’t going to be a barrier, and create a plan for dealing with anything that really is in the way. Since we offer in-house financing, we can close your loan in eight days. But, if not everything is perfectly in order we’re your best advocate even if it takes months to put you in the position to be approved for your loan.

Once you have the knowledge of what you need to change you have the power to make those changes. And no article on the internet, no matter how qualified the author, can look at your personal situation and tell you what is going to be true for you.

There are no hard and fast rules for what you need to be approved. You may not need as much down as you think, your credit score may not be as low are you fear, and managing your credit to maximize your changes doesn’t mean you need to pay everything off, some debts have more impact than others. And that’s not even taking into account the special finance options like FHA that you might qualify for.

If you’ve been thinking that your dream home is still out of reach, or if the possibility of being rejected has you afraid of even having a conversation with an expert, let us help.

You can apply on line quickly and easily or give us a call.

Missouri: 314.839.9999
Kansas: 913.344.9999
Colorado: 303.740.9999

Photo: Getty Images

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3 Good Questions to Ask Before You Buy a Home (and One Funny Video)

No, we don’t think you have to be “grown up and impressive” to buy a home. (Neither do you need to be a fireman and an astronaut.)

But this hilarious video from featuring actress Elizabeth Smart had us in stitches. While it’s meant to be a farce (we think) it poses three really important questions that our licensed Loan Officers counsel clients on every day:

“Should I Rent or Buy?”

There is no one right answer. Our goal is to help people who WANT to be home owners successfully finance their dream. But we did feature an article that addresses some of the renting or buying pros and cons (and goes a little more in depth than telling you that renting is paying “some other schlub’s mortgage.”)

“What Can I Afford?”

We offer a handy dandy Mortgage Calculator that can give you some general ideas about rates and payments. But the best thing to do is to sit down with your Personal Loan Officer and talk it through. There are too many variables to trust a calculator or an inexperienced or unlicensed adviser to give you the best answer.

“What Do I Want?”

Yeah, we thought the part about getting “aligned” both with your partner and yourself was funny. But it’s also true. If you aren’t clear about what you want chances are you won’t be happy with what you get.

Ultimately, we love sharing this laugh with you (and thanks to for the inspiration.) But what we really want to do is help you make sure you’ve got those questions answered so that you can buy the home of your dreams and live happily ever after. (Wait, that’s Disney not But we’re still rooting for you being happy in your home for a long, long time.)

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