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20 Key Steps for a Seamless Transition Into a New Home

Just recently I had a friend who purchased a new home—closing day came along and they felt as though they had all their ducks in a row, ready to sign papers and move into their new home. It was a Friday morning, they got the keys to their new home and were excited to start moving their things. Their excitement waned a bit when they realized that they’d forgotten to schedule for their electric and water to be switched over and turned on at a new address. And so, as they began the moving process they had no lights, no running water, and most importantly (considering the fact that it was July in Florida) no air conditioning.

It’s so easy, even when you are normally good at making sure everything is done and taken care of, to miss something. And one little thing that is missed in the moving process can make it incredibly difficult and steal the joy of new home ownership with the flip of a switch. And so we’ve made a checklist of the 5 most important steps to ensuring a seamless move into a new home.

1. Change Your Locks

Schedule to have the locks changed the day of closing. Although you are supposed to be given all copies of the house keys at the closing table, it is still a good idea to have the locks to your new home changed that day, just in case there are any other spare keys floating around. Your closing shouldn’t take any more than a few hours, so if you have a morning closing time, schedule to have a locksmith come in the afternoon to change your locks. You will sleep soundly that night knowing that you, and only you, have the key to your new home.

2. Change Utilities

Get the electric and water company information for your area and call ahead to schedule everything to be switched over and turned on. Don’t end up like my friends who had to move with no electricity.  It was such an inconvenient and frustrating situation that could have been altogether avoided had this been done.  Ask your realtor for the preliminary closing disclosure, which you will need to provide to the utility companies so that you can schedule to have them turn everything on in your name.  It is incredibly simple and can be done at least several days in advance.

3. Change Your Mailing Address

This seems like a pretty obvious one, though many forget to do it.  Make sure that all of your bank information, credit card bills, car insurance, etc. are all switched over to your new address. All of those documents contain quite a bit of personal and private information that you certainly wouldn’t want in the wrong hands.

4. Do A Walkthrough

Conduct a thorough walkthrough and be sure that everything looks as it did the day of inspection. Be sure that there is no new damage and that everything was in the same condition as when you last left it. Once the closing documents are signed, there is no more negotiating. You are now the sole owner of your home and are responsible for it.

5. Plan for A Deep Cleaning

Plan for a few hours of deep cleaning before beginning to move your belongings. As much as we would love it to be able to move into a spotless and immaculate home, a lot of times this is not the case. Seller’s tend to find that leaving the place empty means that they’ve done what is required of them, and so the deep cleaning doesn’t get done. Carpets aren’t vacuumed, shampooed, or steamed, floors aren’t swept and mopped, countertops aren’t wiped down. I know how frustrating it is to have to clean when you weren’t planning to. Prepare yourself for that possibility, hire a cleaner or come prepared with your own products and tools. You may be pleasantly surprised with an already clean space. If not, you are ready for anything!

6. Paint The Home Before Moving In

If you happen to have the luxury of a little bit of time before moving any belongings, plan to paint the home, or hire someone to paint, before you begin the moving process. It will be so much easier to paint without the hassle of removing things from the wall, pushing all of your furniture to the center of the room, covering everything with tarps, and so on. By taking two or three days prior to moving and getting that done, you can save yourself a world of frustration and effort.

7. Take A Thorough Inventory

Take a thorough inventory of your belongings, especially if you’re using a moving company. It may seem like a tedious and unnecessary thing to do, but at the end of the day, you most certainly won’t regret it. We are all human and we all forget things and misplace things and if you’re using a moving company, you’ll want to have a list of such things just in case something does go missing. You’ll at least have a record and know where it should be and whether or not you should be concerned.

8. Stock Up On Moving Supplies

Make sure to stock up on boxes, tape, bubble wrap, markers, and any other moving supplies. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to get things packed up and organized and not having what you need on hand. It slows the process down and puts it on hold, which no one enjoys when you are eyeballs deep in dishes with nothing to wrap them in to make sure they don’t break.

9. Make Sure Your Smoke Alarms Are Functioning Properly

Install any missing smoke alarms and make sure all have fresh batteries. You’ll definitely want to make sure that the home has the necessary smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in each room before moving into the home and sleeping there. It’s also a good idea to go ahead and put fresh batteries in all of them. After two weeks of being in my new home, the battery in my bedroom smoke detector died and the alarm went off in the middle of the night—it wasn’t a pleasant way to wake up, especially since I was still getting used to the newness of my home and sleeping there.

10. Invest In A Fire Extinguisher

No one plans to set a fire in their home, but accidents happen. To be safe, have at least one fire extinguisher that you keep in your kitchen. Store it in the pantry or under the sink. It doesn’t need to be on display, but it’s always a good idea to have one.

11. Childproof Your Home

Childproof your home as soon as possible. Obviously, this is only relevant if you have children—however, if you do and they are young, make sure one of the first things you do when moving in is to child proof. While you are absorbed moving and all that comes along with that, you don’t want your toddler to be able to shove that stray screwdriver into the uncovered outlet.

12. Keep All Of Your Receipts

If you ever do any work from home or have an office in your home, a lot of what you do could be considered tax deductible (though you should always consult an accountant before deciding what can and can’t be included). Hold onto those receipts and keep track of any and all home improvements.

13. Inspect Your Appliances

Make sure that all of your major appliances work. If you have had your major appliances moved into the home by a mover, make sure that nothing was damaged or broken in the move and that it was all installed properly. If they have potentially broken something, you will want to know as soon as possible in order to make a claim.

14. Check For Leaks

As you are getting settled into your new home and beginning to use your kitchen and bathroom sinks and the showers and tubs, pay close attention to the plumbing and pipes and keep your eyes open for signs of leaks anywhere. The sooner something like that is caught, the easier it is to fix.

15.Clean & Wipe Down Kitchen Cabinets & Drawers

The plates you eat off of and the silverware you use are all going in those cabinets. You’ve no idea how clean or unclean the inhabitants of the home were before you moved it—better safe than sorry. Take a little extra time to clean all of those nooks and crannies before putting your belongings in them.

16. Get A List Of Recommended Vendors

Get a list of recommended vendors from your Real Estate Agent. As agents, we know a lot of people and have access to a lot of different businesses that do work on homes. Simply ask for that list and you won’t have to scour the internet for hours to find a company that you think may do good work, though you don’t know much about their references. This list would have been compiled through word of mouth and those who have had good experiences with such companies.

17. Find A Good Pest Control Company

Regardless of what time of year it may be and how clean the house may seem, you want to make sure that you find and schedule a visit from a good and reputable pest control company every month. If pests don’t appear to be an issue when you move in, you’ll want to keep it that way. Prevention is so much easier than resolving a problem that developed due to lack of prevention.

18. Find The Circuit Panel & The Main Water Valve

Storms knock electricity out. Two blow dryers, a straightener, a curling iron, and an assortment of chargers all plugged into one bathroom and short circuit a room and cut the power out. Pipes burst and water gushes out. Having to figure out where to go and what button to push or valve to turn in the middle of that happening is never fun to deal with. Figuring out where all of that is ahead of time, labeling it, and familiarizing yourself with it can help keep you calm in an otherwise stressful situation.

19. Walk Your Neighborhood

Walk your neighborhood and get to know the area and your new neighbors. If you have kids or pets, be friendly and amicable and introduce yourself. Not only will new neighbors appreciate the effort, but you’ll feel more comfortable know who and what surrounds your new home. No need to bake brownies or cookies for the neighbors and knock on doors (unless you want to, then I say go for it!), but when walking by, make the effort to wave and smile and invite a conversation. Most of the time that’s all it takes to get a neighbor to stop and talk.

20. Plan A Housewarming Party

Once all is said and done and the house cleaned, painted, and organized; once all of your belongings are unpacked and there is a place for everything and everything in its place go on ahead and reward yourself with a much-deserved party. All of your friends and family will be wanting to see your new home and everything you’ve done with it. Invite your new neighbors and get to know them on a more personal level. If you care to take a more adult route, make it a “stock the bar” party and have everyone bring a bottle of their favorite adult beverage to stock your bar with. Take pride in the home you’ve purchased and the care and effort you put into making it yours!

Take care in making sure that you get the smallest of things done all the way up to the biggest of things. Some of these may seem obvious and like common sense, but when you’re going through the process and in the middle of it, things can get overlooked—even those things that would bite you in the face if it were a snake. Moving into a new home is generally stressful and frustrating and it seems as though everything that can go wrong does.

But the process is worth it—you’ve got a roof over your head and a home that you’ve put your blood, sweat, and tears into.

Enjoy it!


We’re not your typical Orlando Realtor. We’re a real estate team consisting of different talents, strengths, and backgrounds. Coming together to achieve a common goal. Helping you.

Contact:
Tania Matthews Team
info@TaniaMatthewsTeam.com
1200 Oakley Seaver Rd. Suite 109
Clermont, FL 34711
407.917.7190

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3 Ways To Chic Up Your Home With French Furniture

What in the world is Shabby Chic?

Shabby Chic is a decor style using aged furniture and other items to create a vintage look within a home. With a gently broken-in look and weathered edges, Shabby Chic furniture is the perfect balance between luxury and lived-in.

Frills and ruffles lend to a comfortable and soft space. Distressed furniture and vintage home decor bring intimacy to luxurious spaces, cozy up a large room, and utilize the nooks and crannies in your home.

For the decor enthusiast who strives to use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without, Shabby Chic is your cup of tea. Whether you prefer a terraced house in a misty London borough or a whitewashed cottage tucked into a rural hillside, this type of decor is beloved for celebrating the beauty of aging objects that transform a house into a well-loved home. It’s all about a collection of the things you love in a space you adore.

From taupe to mint green, a Shabby Chic color palette can include white, pastels, and creams. Start with a favorite neutral and work in rose quartz tones and muted greens to get a true Shabby Chic look. Add flair with pops of teal and turquoise or bold pinks and reds.

1. French Lighting

Did you know that light — or lack thereof — in your home (or anywhere else, for that matter) can have an effect on our emotions and our moods? It’s true.

And sometimes, adding a layer of light (whether it’s ambient, task, or accent lighting) can dramatically increase your home’s quality of light.

Some French style lighting fixtures to consider:

  • Chandeliers
  • Cut Glass Chandeliers
  • Contemporary Lighting
  • Lantern Lighting
  • Floorstanding Lamps
  • Table Lamps
  • Candelabras
  • Wall Lights

2. Furniture Ranges

Providing a relaxed and romantic look through the use of distressed white headboards, bedsteads, and dressers, shabby chic furniture is one of the most popular themes and styles of bedroom furniture available in today’s market.

This style of the distressed white wooden furniture helps create a vintage look while simultaneously providing all of the required functions of bedroom furniture. Perfectly complementing pale or neutral decor or providing a calming contrast with a more vibrant color scheme.

With tons of different styles, Homes Direct 365 French Furniture Range offers vintage inspired bedroom furniture to create your perfect vintage boudoir.

3. French Mirrors

Mirrors are a decorator’s best friend, and with good reason — a well-placed mirror makes the most of a room’s natural light, enhances views, opens up a small space and adds some “oomph” to a room’s decor. The key lies in pairing the right mirror with the right location to maximize its decor-uplifting potential.

Some French style mirrors to consider:

  • Decorative Mirrors
  • Overmantle Mirrors
  • Table Mirrors
  • Venetian Mirrors
  • Floorstanding Mirrors (a personal favorite)

And Now Back To You

Are you a fan of the Shabby Chic style?

Let us know in the comments.


We’re not your typical Orlando Realtor. We’re a real estate team consisting of different talents, strengths, and backgrounds. Coming together to achieve a common goal. Helping you.

Contact:
Tania Matthews Team
info@TaniaMatthewsTeam.com
1200 Oakley Seaver Rd. Suite 109
Clermont, FL 34711
407.917.7190

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Real Estate Property Scams & How To Avoid Them

Property scams and shady real estate schemes are not a thing of the past. They’re very real and often take advantage of unsuspecting home buyers. It’s important to familiarize yourself with common scams affecting the real estate industry today to protect you and your investments and to avoid them at all costs.

Online Rental Scams

With an increase of online real estate marketplaces, renters and buyers often start the new home search process online. Scammers take advantage of this trend and lift actual listings by reposting it as their own. You’ll often find these hijacked listings on Craigslist as rentals and scammers will go as far as meeting renters in person to take a cash deposit or wire money of an application that is unavoidably “denied.”

To avoid falling victim to these scams, we suggest only using reputable online platforms in which listing are verified and to be cautious if you’re ever asked to wire any money or place a cash deposit before signing any legal documents.

Deed For A Fee

After closing, home buyers will receive an official-looking letter in the mail offering to send them a certified copy of their deed for a fee. New home buyers often don’t know what to expect, and because it looks official, buyers often get suckered in and taken advantage. After closing, buyers already receive the deed to their home for free from the title company.

Renting Foreclosed Homes

The folks over at DCrealestateguru.com say “We’ve also seen a similar issue where people will rent out their foreclosed homes before it forecloses.” Unfortunately, homeowners who find themselves in a desperate situation and are facing foreclosure may list their homes on the market for rent. The homeowners collect rent as the impending eviction date draws closer, and when it finally arrives, renters are forced to relocate.

To avoid this sticky situation, do your homework. There are online resources that will show you if a home has recently been foreclosed.

Email Scams & Phishing

Another common scam that occurs quite often is when buyers receive an email notification to wire closing funds to a certain bank, when in fact, the email has actually been hijacked.

Phishing attempts against real estate agents are incredibly prevalent, and it’s important to confirm with your title company and agent of the correct amount and location before wiring any funds.

Avoid Overconfidence & Perform Due Diligence

The smartest precautions and preventative measures you can ever take is to perform due diligence and do your homework. Avoid fooling yourself into believing that it couldn’t happen to you. Because it can.

A few takeaways to remember:

  • Always avoid paying in cash or wiring money.
  • Work with a credible real estate agent.
  • Research the property and do your homework.
  • Listen to your gut.
  • Question everything.

And whenever you’re ready to enter the real estate market as a renter, buyer, or existing homeowner, be sure to keep these tips in mind and don’t let yourself be swindled or caught off-guard!

And now back to you

Have you ever found yourself in a shady situation?

Let us know in the comments.


We’re not your typical Orlando Realtor. We’re a real estate team consisting of different talents, strengths, and backgrounds. Coming together to achieve a common goal. Helping you.

Contact:
Tania Matthews Team
info@TaniaMatthewsTeam.com
1200 Oakley Seaver Rd. Suite 109
Clermont, FL 34711
407.917.7190

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FAA’s Commercial UAV Rules Are Now In Effect

aerial-photo-citris-grove-loop-winter-garden-fl-34787

The day has finally come.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s initial set of operational rules for commercial UAV flight officially goes into effect today. This initial set of rules was actually finalized back in June and essentially governs any unmanned UAV under 55 pounds that’s flown for “non-hobbyist purposes.”

This includes Realtors and Real Estate aerial drone footage.

To quickly go over these rules real quick, drones that meet these qualifications for commercial UAV flights can only operate during daylight hours, unless your drone is equipped with warning light (which most are) then you’re allowed to operate until dusk. All drones must fly within the pilot’s line of sight, makes perfect sense.

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Red, White, & Booze. The Brews & Drinks of Choice.

The 4th of July has become a staple for launching fireworks, barbecuing, and sipping alcoholic beverages. It’s the American way.

Whether it’s craft beer or hard liquor, everyone has their drink of choice. And as it turns out, each state has their preference too.

Check out the info maps below to see what poison people prefer in each state.

Beers-By-States

With no surprise, Bud Light is the American King of beers, with 33 states naming it its favorite beer. While Blue Moon, Corona, Guinness, Heineken, and Pabst Blue Ribbon all receive a participation award.

Taking home the “most unique” award, Nebraska prefers Founders Brewing Curmudgeon Old Ale and Utah prefers Polygamy Nitro Porter.

And for all the craft beer enthusiasts, check out the info map below.

Craft-Beer-By-States

Liquor By States

On the liquor side of things, 42 states named a whiskey brand as their most popular. America loves its whiskey. Tying for the number one brand is cinnamon-flavored Fireball and made-in-America Jack Daniels.

Only Maryland and Virginia drink enough vodka for it to be a top choice, while other states are an even mix of rum and tequila.

Drink responsibly this 4th of July.

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Finding The Best Deal: Self Storage Finders

Relocating to a new home, no matter where it is, can be incredibly stressful. There are so many things to think about and so many things to do.

If you’ve ever needed to find a self-storage unit,  whether you’re moving a couple miles down the road to your new home, relocating across the country to a different city, or just need to temporarily store some of your things locally until you get around to spring cleaning, Self Storage Finders makes it incredibly easy for you to compare thousands of storage facilities nationwide and to rent an affordable storage unit that meets your needs.

It’s as easy as three simple steps.

Step 1. Find a storage unit near you.

It’s as easy as providing your zip code or city and voila, thousands of units to compare and find the best deal and providing you with information like the available unit sizes, the hours of operation, prices, and any current deals.

Amenities Include:

  • RV storage
  • Wine storage
  • Mobile storage
  • Mini storage
  • Climate control
  • And even more

Step 2. Reserve the unit online.

Once you’ve found the best deal for the storage unit you need, provide some basic information and you’re all set. Just relax and you’ll be contacted to confirm your rental. How stress-free is that?

Step 3. Move in.

When it’s time to move in, simply bring your confirmation and you’ll be good to go to start hauling boxes.

How easy is that?

Check out their recent blog post featuring Winter Haven, Florida and a few of the area highlights (our favorite is LegoLand).

Winter Haven, Florida


We’re not your typical Orlando Realtor. We’re a real estate team consisting of different talents, strengths, and backgrounds. Coming together to achieve a common goal. Helping you.

Contact:
Tania Matthews Team
info@TaniaMatthewsTeam.com
1200 Oakley Seaver Rd. Suite 109
Clermont, FL 34711
407.917.7190

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Rain, Rain, Go Away. June 1st Starts Hurricane Season.

Hurricane season starts June 1st.

Being prepared is key to keeping yourself and your home safe from Mother Nature and all her might. We’ll go over essential hurricane safety tips to ensure you’re prepared if a hurricane makes landfall and know how to handle the situation.

Hurricane Safety Tips

  • Hurricane preseason preparation
  • When a hurricane watch or warning is issued
  • Before a hurricane
  • During a hurricane
  • After a hurricane

Hurricane Preseason Preparation

  • Be prepared.
  • Have a plan.
  • If you live close to the coast, know all of the evacuation routes.
  • Double check and verify your home meets the building codes for withstanding hurricanes. Having storm shutters is a good idea.
  • Make sure to keep proper tools and supplies in stock. Like a first aid kit.
  • Make sure to have plenty of batteries in stock and enough flashlights.
  • Stock up your pantry with nonperishable and canned food.

What to do when a hurricane watch or warning is issued

  • If possible, leave low-lying areas. They’re the most susceptible to flash flooding.
  • Make sure to protect your windows with storm shutters or plywood boards to protect them from any flying debris.
  • Secure outside furniture and objects by bringing them inside or tying them down.
  • Make sure to have plenty of fuel and water. It’s best to do this early before gas stations and grocers become a madhouse.
  • We can’t iterate it enough. Make sure to have enough water and food for several days.
  • If an evacuation is called for your area. It’s a good idea to do so immediately.

Before a hurricane

  • Be ready to put your preparation and plan into action if the hurricane makes landfall.
  • Pay close attention to the local weather reports on the radio, television, or online.
  • Make sure to have your house boarded up or have storm shutters in place.
  • Once again, have plenty of food and water.
  • Make sure all flashlights, lanterns, candles, matches, first aid kits, and any other supplies are readily available.
  • Have a secure room available if anything were to happen.

During a hurricane

  • Don’t go outside.
  • Stay away from the windows.
  • Stay in your secure room, safe from any falling debris.
  • Have your supplies on hand.
  • Monitor weather and civil service bulletins on the radio or tune into the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).

After a hurricane

  • Make sure that it’s definitely safe to go outside and that the hurricane has completely passed.
  • Report any downed power lines and be sure to stay away from them.
  • Use your stored food and bottled water.
  • Don’t drink from the water lines as they could have been contaminated from flooding.
  • And most of all. Be patient.

If you find yourself in a life-threatening situation, be sure to call 911 immediately.

And in the unfortunate event that your home is in need of any water damage restoration, flood damage restoration, or storm damage restoration, be sure to contact Emergency Restoration Services before any significant and permanent damage is done to your home or property.

Have any tips to add? Let us know in the comments.


We’re not your typical Orlando Realtor. We’re a real estate team consisting of different talents, strengths, and backgrounds. Coming together to achieve a common goal. Helping you.

Contact:
Tania Matthews Team
info@TaniaMatthewsTeam.com
1200 Oakley Seaver Rd. Suite 109
Clermont, FL 34711
407.917.7190

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Adjustable Rate Mortgages, 2-Step Mortgages, & Balloon Mortgages

The world of mortgages is a confusing one. Let’s see if we can shed some light on adjustable-rate mortgages or ARMs, 2-step mortgages, and balloon mortgages.

Looking for the basics of the home mortgage loan process? Check out this blog post first: Home Mortgage 101. Learning the Basics.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

Considered a tad bit riskier because payments can change significantly, an adjustable-rate mortgage or ARM is a mortgage loan in which interest rates change based on a specific schedule after a “fixed period”. In exchange for the added risk associated with an ARM, you’re rewarded with an interest rate lower than that of a 30-year fixed rate.

One-Year Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

When acquiring a one-year adjustable-rate mortgage, you essentially have a 30-year loan where the rates change every year on the anniversary of the loan. Obtaining a one-year ARM can possibly allow you to qualify for a home loan that is higher and acquire a home that is more valuable. Many homeowners with extremely large mortgages can get the one-year ARM and refinance them each year. The lower rate allows them to buy a more expensive home, and they pay a lower mortgage payment so long as interest rates do not rise.

Adjustable-rate mortgage loans are considered to be rather risky because the payment can change from year to year in significant amounts.

10/1, 5/5, 5/1, 3/3, and 3/1 Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

10/1, 5/5, 5/1, 3/3, and 3/1 ARMs are mortgages where the monthly payment and interest rate remain the same for “X/” amount of years for the first part of the mortgage and then changes every “/X” amount of years after. For example, in a 5/5 ARM the interest rate is fixed for the first 5 years and then at the beginning of the 6th year, interest rates are adjusted every 5 years.

5/25 Mortgages

Sometimes called a “30 due in 5”, a 5/25 mortgage is when monthly payments and interest rates do not change for 5 years and at the beginning of the 6th year, the interest rate is adjusted with the current interest rate for the remaining life of the loan.

2-Step Mortgages & Balloon Mortgages

A 2-step mortgage is an adjustable-rate mortgage that has the same interest rate for part of the mortgage and a different rate for the rest of the mortgage based on the current market rate. Those who chose to take the 2-step mortgage usually have plans of refinancing or moving out of the home before the period ends.

Lasting for a much shorter term and working a lot like a fixed-rate mortgage, balloon mortgages tend to have lower monthly payments because of a large payment (the balloon) at the end of the loan and because you’re primarily paying the interest for that month. Balloon mortgages are great for responsible borrowers with the intentions of selling the home before the due date of the balloon payment and are often used by investors. However, homeowners can run into big trouble if they can’t afford the balloon payment, especially if they’re required to refinance the balloon payment through the original loan lender.

Before Signing The Dotted Line

Before agreeing to any particular loan, we highly recommend you get in touch with a professional mortgage broker who can help make sense of everything. Make sure you shop around to find the best possible rate for you, as a small difference in interest rates can lead to thousands of dollars in savings over the life of the loan.

Need a reference? We’ll point you in the right direction. And if you’re interested in seeking more information on ARMs, check out this free Consumer Handbook on Adjustable-Rate Mortgages.

Looking to buy a home? We can help in that department. Get in touch with us and we’ll work out the details together.

Questions? Let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them.


We’re not your typical Orlando Realtor. We’re a real estate team consisting of different talents, strengths, and backgrounds. Coming together to achieve a common goal. Helping you.

Contact:
Tania Matthews Team
info@TaniaMatthewsTeam.com
1200 Oakley Seaver Rd. Suite 109
Clermont, FL 34711
407.917.7190

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Home Mortgage 101. Learning the Basics.

Home MortgageAs if buying a home itself wasn’t daunting enough, especially if you’re a first time home buyer. The jargon that’s thrown around in the real estate industry can make things incredibly confusing, especially when it comes to a home mortgage loan. You’re often left with a lot more questions instead of leaving with the answers you were searching for.

In order to make an educated decision about something as important as buying a home and applying for a home mortgage, it’s easier to get comfortable with the mortgage process first and understand the basics as best you can.

We’ll cover the fundamental basics of what exactly a home mortgage loan is, understanding how much house you can afford, the different types of mortgages, and how to eventually pay back your loan. Let’s see if we can shed some light on all of it.

First things first.

What Exactly Is A Mortgage?

By definition, a mortgage is a loan that is secured by property or real estate. In exchange for receiving the funds to buy a property or a home, the lender is promised that you (buyer) will pay back these funds within a certain time frame for a certain cost (the interest). This promise, the mortgage, is a legally binding contract and secures the note by giving the lender the right to have a legal claim against the borrower’s home if the borrower defaults on the terms of that note.

Essentially, you (the borrower) has possession of the property or the home, but the lender is the one who owns it until the loan is completely paid off.

Borrower – is the individual or individuals extended a loan and mortgage for the purchase of a house and/or property. The borrower is responsible for making all payments and fees associated with the loan over the life of the loan.

Lender – the finance company or bank that directly awards home loan or mortgage money to a borrower or home buyer.

Loan – money lent from a financial institution to a creditworthy borrower over a specified period and at a particular interest rate.

This is a home mortgage loan at its most fundamental level.

Moving on.

How Much House Can You Afford?

Before the house hunting process ever begins, knowing exactly how much house you can afford is always a good idea. You’ll save a lot of time in the long run by planning ahead and not looking at houses that you cannot afford, bidding on properties you can’t obtain or applying for loans that you’ll be denied on.

There are a lot of factors that lenders use to calculate and figure out how much of a mortgage payment you can afford.

Including:

  • Front-end ratio
  • Back-end ratio
  • Credit Score
  • Credit Report
  • Income
  • Down payments
  • Available Funds
  • Interest Rates
  • The Lender

Canadian, eh? If you happen to find this page, check out this page on Canadian mortgage requirements.

Front-end Ratio & Back-end Ratio

There are two ratios that lenders consider when qualifying and determining how much any person can borrow for a mortgage. The first factor or ratio is called the front-end ratio. This ratio is the percentage of the yearly gross income that is dedicated to making the mortgage (principal, interest, taxes, insurance) each month compared to the total income for each month. The back-end ratio, often known as the debt-to-income ratio calculates and determines what percentage of your income is needed to cover your payments and debts. The mortgage is included in these debts as well as car payments, student loans, child support, credit cards, and other loans.

Credit Score & Credit Report

Your credit score and credit report can play a significant role in determining how much house you can afford. This allows the lender to make a more informed decision about your home mortgage loan prequalification.

Your FICO score represents data within the credit report and includes the history of bill payments and the number of outstanding debts in comparison to your income. The higher your credit score, the better of a chance it’ll be to obtain a loan or to pre-qualify for the home mortgage you’re applying for. While on the other hand, a lower score may cause the lender to reject the mortgage application, require a larger down payment, or may result in higher interest rates.

Your FICO score and credit information can be acquired from the major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.

It’s incredibly important to keep up with your credit report and verify it’s accuracy. Unfortunately, identity theft is a huge problem and may cause issues on your credit report. You can get a copy of your credit report from each major credit bureaus for free at www.AnnualCreditReport.com

In the unfortunate event that there are any errors or issues, you can dispute them using this free guide from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

You can check out our nifty mortgage calculator to give you an idea of what kind of mortgage you can afford.

In addition, it’s also a good idea to consider your personal financial lifestyle when buying a home. Although you may be approved for a particular mortgage amount, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can actually afford the payment. There’s a lot of personal factors to consider and plenty of questions to ask yourself.

  • Are two incomes required to make ends meet and pay the bills?
  • How stable is your current job?
  • Do you have “champagne” taste?
  • Are you willing to make a lifestyle change to afford your new home?
  • Will you be making another “big” purchase anytime soon (e.g., a new car)?
  • Will there be a new addition to the family soon?

Income, Down Payments, & Available Funds

Lenders like to see steady sources of income. Avoid changing jobs or quitting before submitting a mortgage application and finishing the home buying process.

The more money you can afford to pay up front, the more likely you’ll be approved and it’ll also make for a lower loan. Of course, if you have an excellent credit history, you’re likely to be approved regardless of how much money you can afford to put down. For those with less than perfect credit, the amount of a down payment could make or break the difference between approval or rejection of the home loan. Along with a good down payment (although not necessary), it’s a good idea to have funds set aside and readily available to cover any closing costs if applicable or if something should arise. You’ll also want to avoid making any major purchases that can deplete any available funds before purchasing your new home.

Interest Rates

Although loans aren’t actually approved or denied based on interest rates, they do make a difference when determining what your monthly payments will be. It’s also possible for interest rates to change during the loan application process.

The Lender

Due diligence is an asset, and every lending institution is different. Learning the reputation and history of the lender, finding out how many mortgage applications they approve, as well as how many they deny can prove to be valuable. If the lender denies twenty percent of borrowers who apply, it’s definitely not a good sign.

Different Types of Mortgages

There are several different types of mortgages available and understanding the pros and cons between them can be helpful before you go mortgage shopping.

Conventional Mortgage Loans: Fixed-Rate Mortgages

A conventional mortgage loan is best suited for those who have good or excellent credit and usually follow fairly conservative guidelines when it comes to a borrower’s credit score, minimum down payments, and debt-to-income ratios. Consequently, you’ll need to have awesome credit to qualify for some of the best interest rates.  

The most popular and representing over 75% of all home loans, fixed-rate mortgages is when interest rates remain the same throughout the life of the loan. Fixed-rate mortgages usually come in 30, 15, or 10-year terms with the 30-year term being the most popular, although, a smaller term would build equity faster. What’s the main difference between these different terms? Basically, the longer the term the lower your monthly payment will be, but you’ll be paying more interest in the long run and vice versa.

Probably the biggest advantage of having a fixed rate mortgage is that you’ll always know the exact interest and principal payments for the entire life of the loan. If you lock into a fixed rate mortgage while interest rates are high, you can always refinance later when rates decrease.

 

Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

Considered a tad bit riskier because payments can change significantly, an adjustable-rate mortgage or ARM is a mortgage loan in which interest rates change based on a specific schedule after a “fixed period”. In exchange for the added risk associated with an ARM, you’re rewarded with an interest rate lower than that of a 30-year fixed rate.

One-Year Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

When acquiring a one-year adjustable-rate mortgage, you essentially have a 30-year loan where the rates change every year on the anniversary of the loan. Obtaining a one-year ARM can possibly allow you to qualify for a home loan that is higher and acquire a home that is more valuable. Many homeowners with extremely large mortgages can get the one-year ARM and refinance them each year. The lower rate allows them to buy a more expensive home, and they pay a lower mortgage payment so long as interest rates do not rise.

Adjustable-rate mortgage loans are considered to be rather risky because the payment can change from year to year in significant amounts.

10/1, 5/5, 5/1, 3/3, and 3/1 Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

10/1, 5/5, 5/1, 3/3, and 3/1 ARMs are mortgages where the monthly payment and interest rate remain the same for “X/” amount of years for the first part of the mortgage and then changes every “/X” amount of years after. For example, in a 5/5 ARM the interest rate is fixed for the first 5 years and then at the beginning of the 6th year, interest rates are adjusted every 5 years.

5/25 Mortgages

Sometimes called a “30 due in 5”, a 5/25 mortgage is when monthly payments and interest rates do not change for 5 years and at the beginning of the 6th year, the interest rate is adjusted with the current interest rate for the remaining life of the loan.

2-Step Mortgages & Balloon Mortgages

A 2-step mortgage is an adjustable-rate mortgage that has the same interest rate for part of the mortgage and a different rate for the rest of the mortgage based on the current market rate. Those who chose to take the 2-step mortgage usually have plans of refinancing or moving out of the home before the period ends.

Lasting for a much shorter term and working a lot like a fixed-rate mortgage, balloon mortgages tend to have lower monthly payments because of a large payment (the balloon) at the end of the loan and because you’re primarily paying the interest for that month. Balloon mortgages are great for responsible borrowers with the intentions of selling the home before the due date of the balloon payment and are often used by investors. However, homeowners can run into big trouble if they can’t afford the balloon payment, especially if they’re required to refinance the balloon payment through the original loan lender.

Before Signing The Dotted Line

Before agreeing to any particular loan, we highly recommend you get in touch with a professional mortgage broker who can help make sense of everything. Make sure you shop around to find the best possible rate for you, as a small difference in interest rates can lead to thousands of dollars in savings over the life of the loan.

Need a reference? We’ll point you in the right direction. And if you’re interested in seeking more information on ARMs, check out this free Consumer Handbook on Adjustable-Rate Mortgages.

Federal Housing Administration Home Mortgage Loans

Federal Housing Administration mortgage loans or FHA loans, usually has more flexible guidelines and standards that benefit those whose housing payments will be a pretty big chunk of their take-home pay, have a lower credit score, and home buyers with small down payments. In comparison to conventional mortgage guidelines that tend to cap debt-to-income ratios at around 45% and sometimes less, the FHA allows you up to 57% of their income on your monthly debt obligations, such as the home mortgage, HOA fees, your credit cards, and any student or car loans.

FHA loans require a minimum down payment of 3.5% and two mortgage premiums. The first is an upfront premium of 1.75% for the loan amount and is to be paid at the time of closing. The second is an annual premium varying from 0.45% on the low end and up to 0.85% on the high end, rolling into the monthly mortgage payment for the entire life of the loan. Premiums aside, you can qualify for an FHA loan with a credit score of 580 or even lower and they’re often the only option for home buyers with a high debt-to-income ratio and a less than awesome credit score.

Fun fact: the Federal Housing Administration doesn’t actually loan any money, they insure the mortgage.

Veterans Affairs Home Mortgage Loans

VA loans are available for the majority of active-duty military, veterans, National Guard, and for those in the Reserves. VA loans are also available for the spouses of military members who died during active duty or because of a service-connected disability. If you do qualify for a VA loan, you’re not required to place a down payment, however, the VA does charge an upfront funding fee of 1.25% – 3.3% depending on the loan amount which may be paid by the seller or rolled into the mortgage loan. And just like FHA loans, the VA doesn’t loan any money but guarantees the loans made by private lenders.

Fast forward a bit and now we need to know how we actually pay back this home loan.

Paying your home

Repaying A Home Mortgage Loan

Usually, your home mortgage loan is paid back in monthly installments and consists of the principal, interest, taxes, and insurance.

The principal is the repayment of the initial balance borrowed. For example, if you borrowed $250,000 to buy your home, your initial principal balance would be $250,000 and after every payment, the principal balance decreases. While the interest is the cost you pay for being allowed to borrow the money for the past month.

There are two types of insurance payments when it comes to owning a house. First, a private mortgage insurance or PMI protects the lender from any loss if their investment in case the borrower defaults, whereas hazard insurance is exactly that, protecting both the borrower and the lender from property loss from any hazard. Typically, a private mortgage insurance isn’t required if you put 20% or more as a down payment on your home. And as long as you’re not behind payments, the private mortgage insurance payments are usually automatically terminated when the loan-to-value (LTV) reaches 78% or when you reach the midway point of your loan.

And as always, Uncle Sam needs his cut – a percentage of the value of the property is paid as taxes and can vary depending on where the borrower lives and are often reassessed annually.

Before Signing The Dotted Line

Before agreeing to any particular loan, we highly recommend you get in touch with a professional mortgage broker who can help make sense of everything. You’ll also want to make sure you do some shopping around first to find the best rate possible, as a small difference in interest rates can end up being thousands of dollars in savings over the life of the loan.

Need a reference? Ask and we’ll point you in the right direction.

Looking to buy a home? We can help in that department. Get in touch with us and we’ll work out the details together.

Questions? Let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them.


We’re not your typical Orlando Realtor. We’re a real estate team consisting of different talents, strengths, and backgrounds. Coming together to achieve a common goal. Helping you.

Contact:
Tania Matthews Team
info@TaniaMatthewsTeam.com
1200 Oakley Seaver Rd. Suite 109
Clermont, FL 34711
407.917.7190

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Florida Homestead Exemption: What You’ll Need to Know.

The Florida homestead exemption is a legal system designed to protect the value of a resident’s home from property taxes, ultimately having incredible financial benefits on your property.

What are the benefits?

Florida Homestead Exemption calculation On the most fundamental level, the homestead exemption itself allows most homeowners a $25,000 deduction from their property’s assessed value, which can ultimately result in several hundred dollars in tax savings. But it doesn’t end there. If your home is worth at least $50,000 you’ll receive an additional $25,000 deduction from the assessed value of your home, although, this additional deduction does not apply to school tax levies. Additionally, if you’re over the age of 65 or have a disability you can qualify for additional homestead exemptions. However, probably the most important aspect of the Florida homestead exemption is the “Save Our Homes” amendment to the Florida Constitution. This amendment caps the future increase of the assessed value of your homestead property to 3% per year or the rate of inflation. And in many cases, you can transfer these tax savings to a new Florida property if you move. This is huge.

Which properties qualify for a Florida homestead exemption?

As of January 1st of the tax year, you must have either legal or beneficial title to the property that you’re seeking the Florida homestead exemption on and it must be your permanent residence or the permanent residence of a legal or natural dependent of yours. For example, if you’ve moved into your new Florida home in 2015, you’re all set for the 2016 tax year. But, if you’ve moved in after January 1st of 2016 you won’t qualify for the 2016 tax year, although, you can go ahead and apply for the 2017 tax year. You also can’t claim more than one homestead exemption within the state of Florida or any other residency-based exemption in another state. The county Property Appraiser can consider several factors when determining whether the property is your permanent residence. Including but not limited to:

  • Existence of a formal declaration of domicile.
  • Where your children are registered to go to school.
  • Place of employment.
  • Residency in another state.
  • Where you’re registered to vote.
  • Driver’s license address or ID card.
  • Vehicle registration.
  • Address for your federal income tax return.
  • Address on your bank statements.
  • Proof of payment of the utilities of the property.

When’s the deadline (Tax Year 2016)?

March 1st. Don’t miss it, mark your calendars.

Missed the March 1st deadline?

So you missed the March 1st on-time deadline? What now? Luckily for you, Florida law allows the Value Adjustment Board or Property Appraiser to grant late-filling homestead exemptions. So long as you qualify, you can file the petition with your Value Adjustment Board or Property Appraiser no later than 25 days after the mailing of the Notice of Proposed Property Taxes, or more commonly known as the TRIM notice which is usually mailed out in mid-August. 

When’s the late deadline (Tax Year 2016)?

September 19th. This is it. No more second chances.

Here’s how to apply.

The Florida homestead exemption applications need to be filed to the county Property Appraiser by March 1st of the tax year you’re seeking the exemption for. Filing for the Florida homestead exemption is pretty straightforward and can be done online. What you’ll need:

  • Florida Driver’s License or ID card.
  • Vehicle tag number (if you own a vehicle)
  • Voter’s registration (if you’re registered)
  • Immigration Card (if applicable)
  • Social Security Number
  • Your previous address.
  • If you’re married, you’ll also need the above information for your spouse.

To file online, click your Central Florida county below to begin the application process.

Have you been thinking about buying a home? Contact our team directly and we can help you with the home buying process. Allowing you to take full advantage of this tax benefit.


We’re not your typical Orlando Realtor. We’re a real estate team consisting of different talents, strengths, and backgrounds. Coming together to achieve a common goal. Helping you.

Contact:
1200 Oakley Seaver RD Suite 109
Clermont, FL 34711