Michele's Blog

It’s been nearly five years since the last summer Olympics, so people are understandably ready for some action, aren't you?! Whether you’re more of a spectator or participant, there are plenty of ways to celebrate the summer Olympics in style—especially now that gatherings have resumed. 

So dust off your TV screen and backyard games, and get ready to celebrate the summer Olympics in new and creative ways!


Party Like It’s 2021

Chances are you’ve missed Super Bowl gatherings, awards season parties, and even family get-togethers over the past 16 months. Celebrating the summer Olympics can be the perfect way to bring everyone back together!

This sort of gathering should depend on the comfort levels of you and your guests, but there are many ways to come together and celebrate the summer Olympics either in person or virtually. Rearrange furniture if you need a little more distance this year, or hold the watch party in the front or backyard, depending on your resources. 

You can also create pre-fixed snacks and meals if you’re not ready for communal dining just yet. 

Create Your Own Olympic ‘Sports’

This can go one of two ways. You can either create a modified version of the Olympic sport you’re watching—say, rhythmic gymnastics or volleyball—or you can engage in a whole new set of games. Water balloon tossing? Why not? Hot dog eating contest? Is it even summer without one? 

The sky’s the limit on what sorts of competitions you and your guests can come up with. Just be sure to keep safety in mind (fencing and diving can sound like a good idea . . . until you’re a few libations in). 

You can always raise the stakes by creating “medals” for the top-three finishers. Chocolate wrapped in shiny tinfoil or handmade crowns work great. No time to make the crowns? Get the kids in on the action! You can set up a whole craft table where the younger ones can assemble the winning medals. 

Oh, and storage crates make fabulous podiums!

Take it to Trivia

Looking for a little less action but an equal level of enthusiasm as you celebrate the summer Olympics? Not a problem! Trivia’s got you covered. You can create categories like Olympic cities, sporting events, memorable moments, Olympic rules/facts, and even life after the Olympics for some of the more famous athletes. 

If you feel like answering specific questions may be too tough, you can always turn trivia into a round of True or False. For example, instead of “name the Olympian that clinched the gold for the USA women’s gymnastics team at the Atlanta games in 1996,” you could simply ask “true or false, the USA women’s gymnastics team beat Russia for the gold at the 1996 Atlanta games during a final vault performance.” 

The same model could be used for games like “Rule or Not a Rule” where you ask people to identify whether certain statements are actual Olympic rules, or “Sport or Not a Sport,” where you have to identify whether certain sports are played at the Olympics or not. 

Like the more physical games, you can still make teams, hand out medals, and even do the podium routine. 

Watch the More Obscure Sports

Many people tune into the summer Olympics to see popular events like women’s gymnastics, diving, and track and field. But if you’re looking for a truly unique way to celebrate the summer Olympics, then look no further than the oft-overlooked sports.

Host a game-watching party for the lesser-known, but equally entertaining, Olympic sports of handball, table tennis, racewalking, or trampoline. You may not be able to pair these events with trivia contests, but they certainly warrant lively commentary and all the cheering and jeering the Olympics are known for.

Plus, many of these events can be played at home or easily modified. 

Get a Pool Going

You’ve heard of Fantasy Football, but what about Fantasy Olympics? Same concept, different athletes and sports (though football is among them)! You can also randomly draw countries and see who comes out ahead at the end of every event or at the culmination of the Olympics. 

Like a Super Bowl pool, you can also make wagers based on which countries or athletes will place. In true Vegas style, you can take this to the extreme, placing bets on who will get the first perfect score, whether the lead swimmer will beat a personal record or an Olympic record, or even which Olympian will shed the most tears on the podium. 

These pools don’t need to be for money, either. Bragging rights, cooking duties, and even cleaning patrol make great wagers. Plus, let’s face it. How much would you pay to get out of having to clean up after an Olympics-themed party? Yeah, that wager’s worth its weight in gold.

Try New Cuisine

Here’s a new way to celebrate the summer Olympics: indulge in cuisine from the various participating countries. You can assign countries to guests or have them choose out of a hat ahead of time for a watch-party potluck. They can then bring a dish with them from their assigned country. 

You can assign guests to certain categories, such as appetizers, entrees, or desserts. The cuisine can either be representative of the various countries participating in the Olympics overall, or it can be limited to the countries expected to medal in the specific events you’ll be watching.

Either way, this is a great chance to try something new and learn more about the culture and traditions of a foreign country. Be sure to create little signs near each dish that detail the country of origin, name of the dish, and even a little bit about the history or traditions surrounding this dish. 

Kids can get in on the fun too by reading a paragraph about this particular country, its legacy within the Olympics, or the cuisine itself. 

This summer is sure to be a memorable one as we come back together after so much time apart. A great way to ramp up the fun is to celebrate the summer Olympics with your friends, neighbors, and loved ones. 

We hope that whatever you do this summer, it’s met with fun, joy, and laughter. Stay safe and enjoy this wonderful season.

And if your summer involves a renovation, refinance, or move, we’re here when you need us. Unless speed walking is on. In which case, we’ll get back to you shortly . . . 

Posted by Michele Morse Reen on August 3rd, 2021 11:14 AM

Budgets are like diets…they’re difficult to stick to! Much like diets, however, putting in the hard work and short-term sacrifices can yield amazing results. Every penny counts when you’re working toward a home purchase – and that doesn’t stop once your budget is created.

Here’s how to keep your budget on track to buy a home this year: Budgeting to buy a home

Accountability is Key

You already know how to create a budget. Now, you just have to see it through. Plenty of credit cards can help you track your monthly expenses, but a spreadsheet can produce the same results. Take the budget plan you’ve already crafted and make line items for expenses like housing, entertainment, travel, etc. Then “audit” yourself at the end of every month by reviewing your spending across all of your cash purchases and debit and credit cards. Since you know you’re on a budget, your spending shouldn’t be too off base from your goals…as long as you’re spending consciously. If it is, you know you have some work to do for the next month.

Checks and Balances

Okay, so you went over budget last month on your entertainment expenses thanks to a few birthday parties and a couldn’t-miss concert. No problem. Don’t beat yourself up! The beauty of saving for a home over an entire year is that you have some wiggle room for mistakes – and we all make mistakes. To make up for it, you can scale back your spending in that category, or in multiple discretionary spending categories, the following month to even things out. If that feels like too big of a hit to absorb all at once, you could also divvy the “deduction” over multiple months, or even decrease the amount of spending in that category for the remaining 12 months to balance out that splurge.

Cash is King

An easy way to ensure you stick to your budget as you save for your first home is to use all cash, all the time. Your non-negotiable expenses, such as bills and rent, can remain on your preferred payment methods, as these expenses don’t tend to fluctuate much. However, fees associated with dining out, shopping, entertainment and any other items that distract from your long-term goal of owning a home should be paid in cash. You can do this one of two ways. You can create an all-cash envelope that has the entire discretionary monthly fund that you will utilize for all your spending, or you can create separate envelopes for your various spending categories. Once those envelopes are empty, that’s it for the month. You can make this easier by purposefully leaving your credit and debit cards at home, save for one, in case of emergencies. And, no, a double chocolate chip Frappuccino does not count as an “emergency.”

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

You may know how to budget, but does your partner? This is a critical detail that is often overlooked when more than one person is involved in a large purchase like a home. We’re so used to dividing our household roles and responsibilities that it’s easy to say “sticking to the budget is your job.” This happens for a number of reasons. Oftentimes one party is better with money, more financially savvy, maybe makes more money or is simply the more responsible one. All that is irrelevant here. Creating a budget, sticking to it and buying a home is a team operation. This savings plan will fail if everyone involved isn’t equally invested in seeing it through and making the sacrifices. We’re not saying your partner is willingly sabotaging your goal of homeownership, but without “the talk” and ensure you’re both on the same page it’s all too easy to assume this task is the other’s responsibility. Here, too, is where accountability is key. Check-in early and often. Ask how they’re doing with their new budget and whether they’re finding any aspects of it challenging, then share the same from your perspective. Owning a home is a huge responsibility, especially for two people. You’ll want to make sure you’re entering this exciting phase as a cohesive unit that’s working toward a greater goal.

Prepare for the Future by Predicting the Future

This isn’t as meta as it sounds. Preparing for the future simply means anticipating costs ahead of time, much like you did when you initially created your budget. Meal prepping on a Sunday night can result in big savings, which means you now have extra dough for that co-worker’s going-away party next Friday. Looking at the calendar and seeing your mom’s birthday is two weeks away can let you know now that you’ll need to pull back some of your spendings to ensure your mom will have a nice day and you’ll stay within your budget. We won’t lie. Sometimes preparing for the future means saying “no” or “not right now” to invitations you otherwise wouldn’t have thought twice about. It’s all part of the process, but if you have a keen sense of your social calendar and spending allotment ahead of time, it makes this whole process a lot easier.

The American Dream of owning your own home is completely achievable. With a little accountability, collaboration and creativity, anyone can save for their first home!

and tagged: homeownershipbudget
Posted by Michele Morse Reen on January 28th, 2020 5:55 PM

Now that the holidays are behind us, it’s time for many to start budgeting to purchase a home this year. Here are a few tips to get your budget on track and get you on the road to home ownership.hombuyers budgeting for a home

  • TIP 1: Get a clear picture of your finances. This is the starting point for budgeting to buy a home. If you don’t know where you’re spending (and on what) it can be hard to execute any budget. Use an online budgeting tool (there are lots available) or a simple spreadsheet and write down where every dollar goes. Be sure to go back at least 6 months to get a clear picture – even if you can’t account for every dollar in the past. Going forward be sure to keep it updated so you can see where there might be room to shore up your spending.
  • TIP 2: Reduce your monthly spending. This is everyone’s least favorite, but likely the most important. Take a look at your expenses and see where you can get rid of “extras.” Perhaps shaving off that super-premium cable package or eliminating cable all together and moving to a less expensive streaming service is an option. Do you still have a land line? Is it necessary? What about apps you downloaded but don’t use any longer? Have you researched pricing for your auto insurance lately? These are just a few of the areas to look at but looking at your spending in step 1 above can help you see where you may be spending valuable dollars you forgot about.
  • TIP 3: Practice Making a House Payment. Calculate your estimated monthly mortgage payment (we have some handy calculators here) including taxes and insurance. Take that amount, subtract your current rent obligation, and put the difference in your savings account each month. This serves two important purposes; first, you get used to that payment ahead of actually making that payment, thus reducing some of the “sticker shock” that can happen when purchasing your new home; and secondly you have a ready-made account that is building each month towards down payment and closing costs, as well as moving expenses and furniture purchases once you buy your new home.
  • TIP 4: Set up automatic transfers. An easy way to establish a savings is to set up an automatic transfer each month into your HOMEOWNERSHIP savings account. This account should be separate from other accounts and earmarked specifically for your home buying goal. You can set this up to happen for every paycheck you receive, or simply as a monthly lump sum if that works better for your budget. If you have trouble keeping your hands off savings accounts, consider setting up a separate account – even in a separate institution – that doesn’t have easy access for withdrawals. That way you’re not as tempted to dip in for something that isn’t specifically home-buying related.
  • TIP 5: Build a strong credit profile. When you’re planning to buy a home, one of the first things you must consider is your credit profile. Be sure to get a copy of your credit report (you can get a free one here), and go through it meticulously. Take this time to correct any errors, and to take a good look at your profile. You’ll be able to see where you might have made late payments (calendar those payments that are due at odd times), see what your credit make-up is (proportion owed versus credit limit) and pay down where you can, check the amount of available credit you have, and the length of your credit history. Getting new accounts (especially several close together) can hurt your profile, but sometimes getting a new account to help pay off several smaller ones at a lower rate more quickly can help boost your score in the short run.

Buying a home doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult with some advance planning and getting your finances in order is not only a good exercise to set you up for success but also a good way to get the details needed to communicate with your loan officer so they can help make your home buying dreams a reality.

Posted in:budgetPosted in:home buyerPosted in:loan
Posted by Michele Morse Reen on January 9th, 2020 9:30 PM

Summer Sprinkler Children Kids Laughing Playing Activities Budget

Summer is here, the pressure from the hectic end-of-the-year school activities has passed, and the school buses have made their way to the corporation yard for the next few months. While this is a welcomed change for many overscheduled families, this can also be a time where many of us start wondering how to maximize the time we have over summer break. Keeping the kids occupied yet still having time to enjoy relaxation and recreation together can be challenging, especially if you want to do it without spending a fortune on lavish vacations!

Here are some budget-friendly activities that everyone in the family can enjoy while getting to know your community and all it has to offer!

1. Have a summer kick-off party with the neighbors

This has become one of our favorite events every year to reconnect with our neighbors after months of hibernation! Bring a grill or two out in the cul-de-sac (or someone’s driveway if you don’t live in a court), and have everyone contribute a side to share or something to throw on the grill. The kids can dust off their bikes and create beautiful masterpieces with sidewalk chalk while the adults mingle and enjoy some great conversation.

2. Camp in your backyard

Yep, that’s right. Pitch a tent, get the sleeping bags out, build a fire in the firepit and have fun roughing it for a night!   Make smores and roast hot dogs, then wrap up the night with stories by flashlight or hide and seek in the dark. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can even cook up some bacon and eggs over the fire in the morning for breakfast.

3. Check out the local farmers' markets

Many communities have markets on the weekends, but a few also have them one evening a week. This is a great way to get the family interested and excited about trying out new foods (seriously, have they ever eaten a dragon fruit? Give it a try!). You are likely to find a wide variety of food options and live music to enjoy, and often you’ll even find a few booths set up with free kid’s activities. Bring some camp chairs or throw a blanket down and enjoy a great picnic together while you support local business and agriculture!

4. Enjoy scavenger hunts?

Take it up a notch and go geocaching as a family! Geocaching is a great opportunity to head out and explore the great outdoors together while searching for hidden treasure. You can download an app and follow clues to lead you to secret “caches” planted by others that have gone before you! Remember to bring something to add to the cache as well! It is the ultimate treasure hunt and practically free!

5. Go bowling!

Bowling has to be one of the most underrated of summer activities. It’s air-conditioned (save it for a super hot day!), fun for all ages, inexpensive, and most of the larger bowling alleys have terrific food! There are often summer bowling packages for the whole family, some even offer specific hours where kids bowl for free. Invite some friends and make a day of it… the kids will entertain each other and give the adults a chance to socialize a bit as well.

6. Plan a neighborhood bike parade

Send invites to the neighbors two weeks or so in advance and have the kids decorate their bikes or scooters and ride out around the block while the parents cheer them on!   You can use sidewalk chalk to create a “track” and offer arrows for directions to keep everyone on course, and even turn it into a potluck style block party

7. Take a hike  

Great hikes for all ages in your area can easily be found using Google. Put on your walking shoes and pack plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, and maybe even a beach towel, depending on where you’ll end up. Once you hit the trail it’s often nice to take your time - even burn up several hours of your day and provide a grand adventure! Be sure to bring a container or bag to collect treasures along the way, and don’t forget your phone in case of trail emergencies (and you’ll have a camera built in for capturing the magic)!

8. Volunteer at a local food bank or nonprofit  

We often get so buried in everyday life with school and activities and birthdays and travel that we don’t take the time to come together as a family and work towards a common goal. Every parent wants to teach the importance of giving to their children, but it’s often hard to think of ways to accomplish this. Volunteering at a local food bank is an eye-opening experience that can help show children (and us too!) about gratefulness, empathy, and kindness. Summer is a great time to do this because many of the food banks are running low on supplies and volunteers.

Contributed by Guest Blogger Laura Clavero, Regional Processing Manager

Posted by Michele Morse Reen on June 25th, 2019 4:47 PM

When you’re shopping for a home, choosing the neighborhood that works for you is just as important – possibly more important – as choosing the right home.  Knowing what you’re looking for is half the battle, and knowing where to look to get the information you need can help make your decision easier.

Here are 8 areas to consider when selecting the right neighborhood for you and your family: 

  1. Safety.  What are the crime rates in the neighborhood you’re considering? Are they on the rise or declining?  You can find a wealth of information by visiting the local police department and asking, as well as accessing local crime rate statistics at www.crimereports.com

  2. Lifestyle.  Are you interested in a more urban, suburban or rural neighborhood? Urban neighborhoods have neighbors close by in often dense housing, but offer a more “center of the action” experience.  If you don’t mind people close by, but don’t want them in your back pocket, perhaps suburban is a better fit.  Want to be off the beaten path without a neighbor in sight?  Perhaps have acreage around your home?  Rural might be the right fit for you.

  3. Commute.  In some areas, commute patterns rule the universe. Being 5 miles from your office, but 5 miles in the wrong direction, could mean a deceptively miserable commute.  You can get a calculation of commute times at https://www.google.com/maps by entering in a starting address and your work address, then selecting the time of day you expect to be driving by using the DEPART AT dropdown.  This will give you typical driving times at specific times of day.

  4. Amenities.  Having stores, restaurants and other conveniences close by can make all the difference in your ultimate satisfaction with a neighborhood. Find the stores you frequent (or similar types of those stores) and compare the locations with your new neighborhood. Want to be able to make a quick trip to a major supermarket?  Your neighborhood may be miles from the closest store.  How about a dentist or hospital or even your favorite gym?  You can search for these and other amenities by entering up the address on https://www.google.com/maps and clicking the NEARBY button just below the address.

  5. Future Development.  What are the plans for your neighborhood? Is a major redevelopment project going on in the upcoming months or years? Will this affect property values?  Traffic?  General congestion?  The local Chamber of Commerce is a great source for finding out what’s on the horizon.

  6. Jobs.  What is the job outlook for the area you’re considering?  Are there plenty of jobs currently?  Are there any plans for large companies to enter or leave the area? Even if you are gainfully employed at the moment it’s important to know what’s available in the event you decide your job isn’t working for you or your family.  The Chamber of Commerce can likely assist with this information as well.

  7. Affordability.  Is the housing market red hot in the area you’re interested in?  Or is it cool as a cucumber with plenty of available properties?  What are the property tax rates?  Are they fixed and protected, or do they fluctuate?  What is the overall cost of living index for the neighborhood?  These are all important questions, as you want to be sure you aren’t cash poor after the purchase of your home. You can compare major metropolitan areas at https://www.payscale.com/cost-of-living-calculator .

  8. Schools.  If you have (or plan to have) children, school performance will be very high on your list of criteria.  Many school districts don’t allow transfers, so knowing the ratings your neighborhood schools is critical for your own children – but also for resale even if you don’t have kids yourself.  You can find ratings, reviews and statistics on schools in any neighborhood by visiting https://www.greatschools.org .

There are many factors in choosing the right neighborhood for you, but if you take the time and do your homework you can find the right fit for you and your family.  Start by nailing down an ideal profile, then think about what you want in a home.  Write down your vision of home and share it with your real estate professional so that the homes you preview during your house hunting meet your criteria.

Posted in:General
Posted by Michele Morse Reen on March 6th, 2019 5:14 PM

You’ve heard about credit scores and know that they are considered important, but why should you care about your credit score? Your credit score is looked at for multiple reasons - sometimes by employers, landlords, your bank, but also anytime you apply for a loan, including a home loan. Understanding credit scores and how they’re calculated will help you check into and improve your own score so you can have better credit when you are ready to purchase or refinance your home.

How a Credit Score is Calculated

The most common credit score used is called your “FICO™” score, standing for Fair Isaac Corporation. FICO™ scores were first used with lenders in 1989. This score can affect how much a lender will loan you and at what interest rate. The score is calculated using information contained in your credit reports with each of the three main reporting agencies.

While the exact formula is unknown, we do know that FICO™ scores are calculated by considering five different categories. The importance of each varies as well as the factors within every category:

Payment History - Weight: 35%

Have you paid past credit accounts on time? How many accounts have late or missed payments?

Amounts Owed - Weight: 30%

How much do you owe on your credit accounts and how many accounts do you have? How much of your total available credit are you currently using?

Length of Credit History - Weight: 15%

How long have your credit accounts been established? How long has it been since you last used some of those accounts?

Credit Mix in Use - Weight: 10%

What types of credit accounts do you have? How many different types of credit accounts are you using?

New Credit - Weight: 10%

How many new accounts or recent inquiries do you have? How long has it been since you opened a new account?

These are general guidelines of what is considered and can vary from person to person according to what information is contained in their credit profile.

Credit Score Ranges

Base FICO™ scores range from 300-850. Lenders have different definitions of what range of scores are considered “good” or what scores will receive better programs and rates. In general though, this range represents what the different scores mean:

800 +:     Exceptional

740-799:  Very Good

670-739:  Good

580-669:  Fair

< 580    :  Poor

Even if your credit score is not in the good or higher range, there are still plenty of loan programs that you may qualify for. Talk to APM about our minimum credit scores for certain loans and other specialty loan programs that may be a fit for your situation.

Positively Impact Your Credit Score

Once you understand how your credit score is calculated, there are things you can do to improve your score. Here are some easy ways to make a positive impact:

  • Make all payments on time. Set reminders or have payments made automatically.
  • Create some balance in how you reduce your debt. While paying down installment debt (car, school, mortgage, etc.) will definitely boost your credit score, paying down or paying off revolving debt, such as credit cards, can cause a quick jump in your credit score. The trick is to get and keep your balances below 30% of your credit limit on each card. For faster results, attack those cards with balances closer to their respective credit limits first, as opposed to those cards with the highest debt.
  • Check for errors. Get a free copy of your credit report and look it over carefully.

Avoid Negatively Impacting Your Credit Score

Keep your credit score healthy and ready for that upcoming home purchase by avoiding anything that negatively impacts your credit score.

  • Avoid opening too many new accounts in a short amount of time. Let accounts have some aging time.
  • Avoid moving debt around to multiple cards. Focus on reducing the amount instead.
  • Do not close out a card. A sudden drop to your credit-spending power does not look good to the bureaus. You can keep it active by perhaps using it to pay a monthly utility bill.
  • Avoid “quick-fix” credit solutions. Manage credit responsibly over time and your score will improve.

Additional Resources

APM has you covered with all you need to know about your credit score and getting ready to start your homeownership journey. Check out the following for further information about credit scores:

Now that you have an understanding of how your credit score is calculated, you can take steps to get your credit in better shape. But you don’t have to wait until your credit score is exceptional to be ready to purchase a home. Contact us today!(Note: American Pacific Mortgage Corporation is not a credit repair company; this information is for information purposes only. We are not licensed credit repair specialists or counselors.)
Posted in:General
Posted by Michele Morse Reen on January 10th, 2019 10:58 AM

The holiday season is fast approaching, with big meals, family get-togethers, bright lights and holiday gifting.  As a parent, it’s often difficult to get children past their own wish list, and focused on the “giving” part of the holidays.  

Here are a few ideas that you, your children, or the entire family can do to help make the season brighter for others - and teach a lesson or two in the art of doing something good.

  1. Send a holiday card to someone stationed overseas.  Being stationed far from home during the holiday season is no picnic.  Imagine getting a heartfelt message of thanks and well wishes at mail call!  You can send a card to active service members, veterans and their families via the American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program.  Contact your local chapter for information.
  2. Start a PJ drive in your community.  Often times when families are faced with hardships, they leave a situation with the clothes on their back and not much more.  Imagine being a child in a strange place with no comforts of home.  Now imagine the idea of not even having PJ’s to sleep in.  That’s where Jaz’s Jammies comes in.  They have all the information you need to start a pajama drive in your community.
  3. Commit to a day of Random Acts of Kindness.  It doesn’t take much to brighten the day of a stranger.  Taping a few quarters to a soda machine, helping someone empty their grocery cart (and then returning the cart for them), leaving a letter in a library book for the next reader to enjoy, or writing uplifting chalk messages on the sidewalk can be just the thing someone needs on that day.
  4. Visit a nursing home.  Many elderly residents of nursing homes have no family or visitors for long stretches - if ever.  Taking an hour to visit, perhaps bringing along a tray of cookies and a favorite book is something both the residents - and your family - will never forget. 
  5. Find a new lunch buddy at school.  Finding a new lunch buddy can be scary for kids, but imagine you’re the kid without a buddy, sitting by yourself.  Encourage a “lunch buddy” day at your school where NO ONE sits alone.  You might be surprised at who you meet!

Encouraging the entire family to get involved makes for a merrier and brighter season for you, as well as the recipient of your kindness.  It just feels good to do good things!  Have small children talk about the good feeling they have in their tummies and hearts so they recognize how giving can fulfill them even more than getting!

Posted in:General
Posted by Michele Morse Reen on November 28th, 2018 2:59 PM
The holiday season can be hectic with parties, shopping, cooking, gift-giving and obligations.  You may think this season to be the worst time of the year to buy or sell a home but hold that thought.  You’d be surprised that the truth is that it’s a great time of year to attract buyers and sellers who are serious and committed to the process.  In an especially tight housing market, buyers will often kick their home shopping into high gear and take advantage of the reduced competition. We actually put in an offer on our home Thanksgiving weekend :)

Once you’ve decided to sell, you’ll likely need to do some reorganizing, cleaning and staging to set your home off in the very best light.  Holiday decor can be beautiful, yet also highly personal, so it’s necessary to keep things neutral and allow for room for the buyer to envision their own holiday gatherings (without tripping over the 35 snowmen on your front stoop).

Here are a few tips on staging during the holiday season:

Stage first. Talk to your REALTOR® about how best to stage your home.  Removing clutter and personal effects is a start but take a long look at your furnishings and artwork to ensure your home shows at its very best.  Take extra furniture to storage (don’t store in your garage - buyers will see it there and wonder why it’s not in the house) and keep clear sight lines and pathways for an open and airy feeling.

Decorate with restraint.  Having a Christmas tree or a menorah on display is fine, as long as it doesn’t take over the entire room. Small, tasteful decorations sprinkled throughout the house give the buyer a sense of what they could/would do during the holidays if they lived there.

Keep it cozy.  Subtle touches that create a holiday vibe work wonders.  A bowl of cinnamon-scented pine cones in the center of your table.  A wreath hung over the fireplace gives a sense of warmth and a wonderful evergreen smell to complete the festive feeling.

Don’t lose your palette.  Be sure your holiday decor compliments your current home’s look and feel.  If your living room is painted a beautiful blue, perhaps skipping the red garland and go with a more winter wonderland feel with silver bells and snowflakes.  If your living room is gray or taupe, going with some cranberry garland or earth-toned trimmings will work nicely.

Don’t forget the outdoors.
  Keep away from large blow-up displays or lights that pulse to the beat of Jingle Bells.  Stick with simple lights and a small display on your porch this year.

At the end of the day, you want to show your home off in its best light.  That means allowing space for the buyer to see the walls and floor without dodging huge holiday displays.   Let this holiday season be your perfect season for buying or selling your next home.

Posted in:General
Posted by Michele Morse Reen on November 7th, 2018 11:10 AM
Doctors, dentists, surgeons, veterinarians and medical students have some of the highest student loan balances, and therefore the most difficult time qualifying for a mortgage, of most any other profession. Most lenders underwrite loan transactions using a calculation for student loan payments that can work to keep these highly trained professionals out of the housing market.

A “Doctor Loan” was designed to assist these professionals in getting into a home with a low down payment, while avoiding costly PMI payments.  They’ve been around for many years, but with the renewed focus on student loan debt, they’re making a bit of a comeback. 

The advantages of using a Doctor Loan

You can get into a home faster.  A Doctor Loan takes into account a new practice, or even an employment contract, during the qualification process.  Instead of waiting for your new clinic to be up and running, and having 2 years of bank statements and tax returns, the underwriter takes your employment contract into account when calculating your income.  Most Doctor Loan guidelines require that the new position be contractually in place within 60 days of closing, so be sure to have your contract reviewed as early as possible in the loan process.

You can avoid costly PMI.  Doctor Loans typically do not require PMI for down payments under 20%, like conventional loans do.  Since PMI is expensive - and not tax deductible - this helps keep payments lower, freeing up cash to pay off other debts (such as student loans).

It’s easier to qualify.  Typically, when you qualify for a mortgage, all payments (deferred or not) are included in the debt-to-income ratio.  With a Doctor Loan, deferred student loan payments do not get wrapped into the overall debt ratios.  For medical professionals early in their careers, this can make all the difference in getting the home they need, while they’re still building their practice.

The disadvantages of a Doctor Loan

Getting in over your head.  Because you can qualify without using your student loan debt against you, it can make the overall payments difficult to manage if your practice takes awhile to get off the ground.  Additionally, those student loan payments will start up eventually, and will eat away at what disposable income you may have.

Buying a home before you’re ready.  Just because it’s faster, doesn’t always mean it’s better.  If you’re a dentist relocating for your “dream job,” buying a home to finish the picture seems like a good idea.  It’s not so great if you ultimately decide your job isn’t so dreamy - or you don’t like the new city you’ve moved to.  If you decide to relocate again, you’ll likely have to sell your home to buy a new one wherever you land.  

At American Pacific Mortgage, we have a full suite of expanded access programs for many types of borrowers.  Our Doctor Loan Program has loan amounts as high as $2,000,000 in some cases, allowing for a purchase previously out of range.  Looking to refinance an existing home loan?  We’ve got you covered - this program has guidelines for both purchase and refinance transactions.

Our priority is creating experiences that matter - for all of our home buyers and home owners.  It’s our way of saying thank you.

*with proof of 12 months deferment or forbearance.

Posted in:General
Posted by Michele Morse Reen on October 12th, 2018 11:26 AM

Looking to Buy While You Are Selling?

Buying a home is thrilling and exciting and terrifying all at once.  Add in the fact that you haven’t sold your current home, and there are many more moving parts to your transaction.  In a hot real estate market, sometimes you have to jump in and make an offer before you’re quite ready (or able) to sell your current home.  If you have a hefty savings account and income sufficient to qualify for both of your mortgages, it might not be a problem, But for millions of homeowners, this scenario requires a different solution.

First and foremost, you can consider submitting an offer with a contingency.  While this makes things easier on paper, it can affect the desirability of your offer - especially in aforementioned hot markets.  Putting your current home up for sale first can mitigate some of this risk for the seller of your new home, but there will likely still be some sort of contingency in the event your home doesn’t sell or the sale falls through.

In order to put yourself in a position of strength at the negotiating table, you’ll want your house to be sold, and all contingencies from your buyers signed off prior to submitting your offer.  Again, this is an ideal scenario, but not necessarily practical.

Enter the Bridge Loan:

A Bridge Loan is a short-term financing solution that allows you to finance two homes at once, temporarily.  Once you sell your current home, you pay off the temporary bridge loan and are left with the one mortgage on your new home.

American Pacific Mortgage offers two programs to secure your bridge financing:

  • The first is our Close with Confidence program, which is used when your current home is already pending sale, but not yet closed.  The equity from your current home is used to fund the purchase of your new home. This option can have a term as long as 3 months and can exclude the payment on your departing residence from your overall qualifications on your new home if the home is in contract.
  • The second option is our Debt Inclusive program, which doesn’t require that your departing residence is sold - only that it is listed for sale.  The term for this option can be as long as 4 months but includes all of the payments (current mortgage, bridge loan, new home) to be factored into your qualifications on your purchase.

Either way, you can get the equity out of your current home to facilitate your new home - without the seller looking askance at whether your offer is bonafide.  Add an APM approval letter and you’ve put yourself as close to a cash buyer as possible without having to actually have cash on hand for the purchase. This puts you in a much better negotiation position with the seller and takes a load of the worry out of the gymnastics required when buying and selling at the same time.

Be sure to talk to Michele about what option might work best for you, and put yourself in the driver's seat for your next home purchase.

Posted in:General
Posted by Michele Morse Reen on September 11th, 2018 12:36 PM


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