The 2-Step Rule to Buying a Home

Purchasing a home is a big step in anyone’s life, especially a first time homebuyer. The high mortgage rates and the up and down housing market is not helping. Rachel Cruze, a personal finance expert says the two-step rule is what you need to use to be a successful home buyer.

She says the first step is to get rid of all of your debt. Once this is accomplished, you need to have a savings built up of up to three to six months in case of an emergency.

“My husband and I followed the formula. I know that’s really hard for a lot of people because of student loans, and the obvious debt that the average American racks up. But when you have no debts and your income is all yours….it puts you in a completely different spot financially,” says Cruze.

It can be a challenge to get out of debt and then build an emergency fund on top of that. This can take time, but it still needs to be done before you decide to buy a home. Most Americans have some sort of debt, in fact, 35% have credit card debt according to a Bankrate survey done in January 2023. A whopping 43.5 million have federal student loans and 51% say they have not purchased a home due to their student debt.

A trick to accomplish this is called cash sfuffing which means you spend only money that you have in cash. “That means you start your budget with whatever your paycheck number is, and you give every dollar a place to go, down to zero,” explains Jasmine Taylor who used the strategy to pay off debt.

Many who are in the market to purchase a home, have enough of a struggle in saving for the down payment. According to the National Association of Realtors, 29% of first-time homebuyers say saving for the downpayment is the most challenging part of the homebuying process.

“When you own a home, you know very quickly that it’s really expensive,” says Cruze. “It’s everything from washers and dryers to heating and air. I mean, we had two ice machines that went out….. We got the bill and I was like, What? For an ice machine? That’s how much it costs?”

“It takes a level of maturity just to look at the facts and say, OK, regardless of how I feel, regardless of how frustrated and annoyed I am, here is where we are financially and here are the numbers that have to work for us. It may not be the home that you could have gotten four years ago, but this is the home you can have today,” says Cruze.

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Tips for Choosing Window Treatments

There are tons of different kinds of window treatments so it can be inundating to try and choose the right one. You not only want products that look good but also function in the right space. According to professionals the right window treatments can transform a room that feels too glary into one with soft, welcoming light and privacy when you need it. Here are six things to consider when choosing the right window treatments for you.

1. Insulation and Sun Protection

Did you know that around 30% of your home’s heating and cooling energy seeps out through the windows? This means that function is very important when it comes to energy efficiency. A perfect option is a shade with a honeycomb structure which will trap air keeping the room warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

2. Operating System

Motorized window treatments are very convenient. With motorized window treatments, you can adjust shade levels from a remote or an app. You can set timers for your shades to come up in the morning at a certain time and go down at a certain time in the evening.

3. Window Shape and Size

Measure twice and purchase once. You will want to measure your windows for the exact width, height, and depth. Windows are not just square or rectangular shapes but come in all different shapes and sizes. Shutters can be made to fit shapes like circles, arches and French doors while cellular shades can be made to fit triangles and trapezoids. For sliding doors roller panels, shutters and sheers are perfect for them.

4. Privacy and Light Control

Every person wants the best opacity for their needs. Sometimes you want a soft light or sometimes you want room darkening options. Shades such as cellular shades can offer both. You can control your shades to go sheer or room-darkening.

5. Room Conditions

Each room has its own environment so you want a window treatment material that is specific for the room’s environment. If you are putting a window treatment in a bathroom, it will need to be able to resist heat and humidity. A good product that will hold up against shower steam is faux wooden blinds.

6. Maintenance

You want to always carefully read the car instructions for your new window treatments. Blinds, shades and shutters will need to be dusted on a regular basis. These products can be cleaned with your vacuum cleaner. If you have delicate window treatments, you will need a professional to clean them.

Remember you want to choose a window treatment that fits you and your home’s style and architecture. If you have a transitional home, then your best choices are Roman shutters and blinds. Some stores such as Hunter Douglas have a federal tax credit on many of their energy-efficient shades.

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Builders’ Incentives During the Home Shortage

Currently, the US is in a housing crisis due to the shortage of listings. According to CNN,  there are only 1.08 million existing homes on the market, and the affordability of a single-family home is at its lowest level in several decades. One bid to close the estimated 3.8 million unit deficit in housing is by building new, single-family homes — but some are not for sale, they’re for rent.

Builders are using this new segment called “build for rent” (BFR) or “build to rent” (BTR) to their advantage. These homes are built primarily in suburban areas where there are good schools and low crime rates. The majority are built in Texas, California, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia. According to the National Rental Home Council and Yardi Matrix, the average rent for a BFR/BTR home is $2,039.

“What is driving the growth of BFR is the affordability problem,” said David Howard, CEO of the National Rental Home Council, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the single-family rental home industry. “With interest rates at levels we haven’t seen in years, housing affordability continues to be a challenge for many families. People are waiting for interest rates to come down. There is an appeal and broad-based demand to live in a single-family home, even as a renter.”

“When people think of build for rent, they think of a house,” Ben Miller, CEO of Fundrise said. “But that house is in a community of 100 to 200 homes. You want it to be like a multifamily apartment building: People like having a fitness center, pool and amenities, but with space for their kids and pets.”

Homeownership is still the biggest wealth generator in the US. There are people who still want to build equity in a home. There are also those who do not have the means to purchase a home but want to live in a house in a community.

“People keep moving to the Sun Belt. Where are they going to live? They are going to live in houses, I think,” said Miller. “It is a competition between houses and apartments, not between owning and build for rent.”

“We thought people would want smaller homes,” said Miller. “But they want the bigger home. They don’t want the starter home.”

“A four-bedroom home with the master downstairs on a quarter-acre lot that is walkable to schools? That’s the American Dream! And if you can’t own it, renting it is the next best thing,” said Bruce McNeilage, CEO of Kinloch Partners.

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Top Reasons Why Its Time To Buy

Professionals in the industry say that the current housing marketing is the best time to buy a home. If you rent and are thinking about buying, now is the time. Owning a home vs renting is extremely beneficial. Rocket Homes℠ CEO Doug Seabolt gives five ways owning a home is beneficial.

1. As home prices climb, buying a home builds wealth.

Owning a home is not just a place for you to live but is also an investment. As your home value appreciates, so does your equity. If purchased a home for $200,000 and it has appreciated to $300,000, the money you will earn when you sell your home is the equity which is $100,000.

“One of the single biggest benefits of homeownership is it builds wealth,” Seabolt said. “A recent study released by the National Association of REALTORS® showed that homeowners over the last 10 years have built a net worth of about 40 times that of non-homeowners through the appreciation of home values.”

2. Homeownership protects against rising rent.

Renting can wreak havoc on a budget in today’s market. Why? The rent prices are on the rise so it is difficult to know what your rent will be when your lease runs out. If you own a home, your monthly payment remains steady.

“It’s easy for home buyers to fixate on the interest rate while deciding if this is a good time to buy a home, but the best number to keep in mind while budgeting is the overall monthly mortgage payment,” Seabolt explained.

3. Promotional offers help put a down payment within reach.

A down payment can be a factor for some renters making the leap to homeownership. For example, Rocket Mortgage and Rocket Homes offer a program called BUY+, which helps people buy homes because you could get up to $10,000 toward closing costs from Rocket Mortgage. So, don’t assume that buying a home is out of reach – you may just need to spend more time exploring your options!

4. Homeowners may be able to benefit from tax deductions.

You can reduce your tax liability with tax benefits given to homeowners. Home mortgage interest or property taxes can be deducted. Remember it’s important to consult an accountant to better understand the specific limits or exceptions that may apply, these benefits can add up significantly over time, providing valuable savings that can help offset some of the costs of being a homeowner.

5. No landlord means more opportunities to showcase your style.

You can’t just go in as a tenant and repaint a landlord’s property. Some landlords will give you permission to do this such as paint, but you will more than likely have to paint it back to the original color. When you own a property, it is yours and you can decorate and showcase your style the way you want to.

“It’s yours!” Seabolt said. “If you want to put green shag carpet on the walls, do it – they’re your walls! While it might not be advisable, you and you alone make the decision of what to do with your home.”

Although those in the industry say it is a good time to purchase a home, this does not mean it is the best time for you. It will depend on your current circumstances and the phase you are in in life.

“The bottom line is, the best time to buy a home is when someone is financially and emotionally ready for the experience,” Seabolt said.

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