Key Questions About Down Payments

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Down payments can be a challenge to navigate, even for experienced home buyers. 

How much do you need to put down? Do current market conditions change anything for you? Even the most basic questions aren’t always easy to answer.

Whether you’re thinking of buying soon or planning ahead for a purchase in 2022, now is a good time to clear up any uncertainties and come up with the right strategy for your household. 

Take a look at these frequently asked questions, and reach out if you need a helping hand.

How much should your down payment be?

The minimum down payment depends on what type of mortgage loan you’re getting. Some loans (conventional and FHA mortgages) require 3 to 3.5%, while others (VA and USDA loans) require zero. Your credit score will also play a role in some cases. 

Is a large down payment always better? 

It depends on your budget and goals. A big down payment will mean a smaller monthly payment and fewer interest costs in the long run. If it eats into your emergency savings or puts you in dire financial straits, though, it’s probably not the best move.

What should you consider when setting your goal amount? 

You’ll want to look at the price range you’re shopping in, your budget and the types of loans you’re eligible for. Talking to an experienced loan officer can help you get an accurate idea of what to expect.

Do you have to come up with all of it on your own? 

Many loan programs allow “gift” funds, which means money given to you by your parents or another family member. You’ll just need a letter stating that the funds are a gift, not a loan, before you can use them.

Need help finding your next home? Get in touch today.

Prep your Home for Winter

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Winter is fast approaching, and if you’re a homeowner, that usually means now’s the time to tackle key maintenance tasks — at least if you want to ensure a warm and comfortable season.

There are appliances to check, inspections to complete and exterior tasks to do. 

Are you ready for the incoming colder months? Want to make sure your home is too? Here are five steps to take ahead of the winter months. 

  • Weatherproof your doors and windows. Cracks and gaps can let in cold air. Reseal old caulking and fill in any holes, splits or openings you find.
  • Get a roof inspection. Replace any damaged or missing shingles. Also make sure your roof is protected from leaks that could result in moisture- or mold-related problems.
  • Tend to your yard. Heavy storms can weigh down branches, causing them to fall on your roof or car. Check that all trees and foliage are cared for and well-trimmed.
  • Insulate your attic, pipes and walls. Better insulation can mean lower energy bills and a more comfortable home. Take some time to evaluate yours, and consider adding extra if needed. 
  • Check the water heater. Make sure your water heater is operating effectively and efficiently. You might also want to flush the system to remove any sediment that may be at the bottom of the tank.

Completing this essential winter maintenance can set your family up for a cozy, relaxing season at home. It’ll also help you identify any potential issues before they have a chance to turn into costly repairs. To learn more home upkeep tips, reach out today.

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Boost Your Curb Appeal

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Great curb appeal can make a big difference when selling a home. Not only can it make your property stand out from the competition, but it could also bring in higher offers.

An attractive house can also be a benefit even if you’re aren’t planning to sell right now. After all, who doesn’t want to take pride in their home while keeping it in excellent condition?

Do you want to boost your home’s curb appeal without spending a lot of time or money? Take a look at these budget-friendly ideas:

1. Freshen up your door. You don’t have to replace your door to give it a makeover. Try a new coat of paint, new address numbers, upgraded hardware or even just a decorative welcome mat. A brassy kick plate can be nice, too.

2. Update your mailbox. Still stuck with that old aluminum mailbox up front? Upgrade to brick or another stylish look. You can also paint the old box a new color or replace the pole if it’s rusted.

3. Make the porch more inviting. If your front porch looks a little bland, add a sitting area with chairs and a rug or install a bench swing. Potted plants and warm lighting also go a long way.

4. Clean up the exterior. Power-wash the brick and siding, give your shutters a new coat of paint, and fix any holes or stains on the driveway. You’d be surprised what a little deep cleaning can do. 

5. Outline your garden. Add a new layer of mulch and install pavers around the outside of each garden area. They make the yard really pop — even without flowers or other foliage.

Planning to list your house soon? Just want to check in? Reach out today.

Home Features Buyers Are Looking For

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The housing market typically slows down in the fall, so if you’re thinking of selling in the near future, it may take a little more effort to stand out from the crowd.

Knowing what buyers want and making a few smart updates can help make your home more marketable and improve your selling price.

Are you considering a home sale soon? Here’s what potential buyers might be looking for this fall:

Safety Features

You might consider upgrading your garage door, adding an alarm system or repairing your fence. Anything that improves the safety and security of your home is an automatic value-add.

Energy-Efficient Enhancements

Making your home more energy-efficient has a two-fold benefit: It helps the environment and cuts down on utility bills. Most buyers are happy to pay extra for both.

Plenty of Storage 

Storage space is always worth a premium. If you can, find ways to add additional storage to your property before listing it, maybe with a set of garage shelves, a closet system or a more streamlined pantry.

Functional Fun

Can you make your home more enjoyable? This might mean adding an outdoor kitchen, building a theater room or installing a small fire pit in the backyard. As we’ve learned over the last several months, outdoor areas are practically essential.

Health-Forward Add-ons 

Homes equipped with no-touch faucets, mudrooms, air filtration systems and other health and comfort-focused items are sure to align with modern buyers’ needs. 

Of course, it’s always important to keep up with your home’s general maintenance and perform any major repairs that may be necessary as well. 

Need more guidance about selling your home? Get in touch today.

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5 Fall Maintenance Tasks

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Your home is a huge investment — an investment you’ll want to protect for the long haul.

That means proper maintenance is key. Completing a few seasonal chores can help you extend the life span of your home while also cutting down on repair and renovation costs.

Want to make sure you’re keeping your home in tiptop condition? Then don’t skip these five must-do fall maintenance tasks:

Check for (and seal) air leaks around windows and doors. Leaks in these areas can make it hard to control your home’s climate and, as winter approaches, that could mean sky-high heating and gas bills. It could also make your home pretty uncomfortable year-round.

Clean out the gutters. When gutters get clogged with leaves and debris, water can’t drain properly. This might lead to standing water on your roof or eaves, which can cause significant and costly damage over time.

Inspect your roof. At the very least, your roof needs an annual inspection. Even small leaks or missing shingles can cause big problems like water damage, mold, mildew and more.

Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. These vital safety devices should always be in good working condition. Put them in test mode and make sure they’re all functioning properly. Batteries will usually need to be replaced every six months to a year.

Have your furnace inspected. If you heat your home with a gas-powered furnace, you’ll want the unit inspected at least once per year. Furnaces can pose serious fire and safety hazards if they’re not functioning properly.

It won’t take long to check these tasks off your list, and the payoff is well worth the effort.

Considering buying a new home? Have questions about your home’s value? Get in touch today.

Buying a Fixer-Upper? Things to Know

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In today’s busy market, many home buyers have found themselves weighing options they would normally pass by.

One of the more common compromises is to consider a home that needs some work.

On the plus side, fixer-uppers often come with lower prices, less competition and a lower-pressure sale on the whole. Still, they’re not without challenges.

Are you considering a fixer-upper? Here are five things to think about first.

1. You may need an alternative mortgage program. If you want to finance the home purchase and the renovations and repairs the property needs, you might consider loans like the FHA 203(k) loan or the Fannie Mae HomeStyle loan. Your loan officer can help you choose the best option for your purchase.

2. There may be appraisal and inspection issues. If the home is in disrepair, you might face challenges with your inspection or appraisal. This is especially true if you’re using an FHA, USDA or VA loan, as properties must meet strict requirements with these programs.

3. You should have a backup living space. You might not want to end your lease or sell your existing home just yet. If the property needs serious repairs or renovations, you’ll probably need to live off-site until they’re complete.

4. You may want to bring a contractor along when you tour the home. This will help you gauge what repairs might be necessary and how much they’ll likely cost.

5. Be prepared for problems below the surface. Not all issues will be visible in a fixer-upper. There may be major problems lurking below the surface (like mold or termites, for example) that won’t crop up until later. Make sure you leave wiggle room in your budget to account for these potential surprises. 

Fixer-uppers are just one of the many options you have when buying a home. Have questions or need more help with your home-buying journey? Reach out today.

Make the Most of Your Home Equity

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Home equity is a powerful thing.

As you pay off your mortgage, your equity — or the stake in the home you actually own — increases. And the more equity you build, the more you stand to gain when you sell.

But even if you aren’t planning to sell your property, equity can be used in a few different ways. Consider these four possibilities if you’d like to make the most of what you have.

Make Renovations

With a home equity loan or line of credit (HELOC), you can turn your stake in your home into money that you can use for renovations, repairs or any other cost you might be facing.

Buy a New Home

Taking out a home equity loan or other product may give you the money you need to buy a vacation home or investment property. You could also sell your existing home, turn a profit and use those funds toward your next place.

Pay Off Debt

If you have high-interest credit card debts, personal loans or car loans, you might consider using a home equity loan or cash-out refinance to pay them off. This essentially rolls those balances into your new loan (and mortgages tend to have lower interest rates than other loans or credit lines).

Use It Toward Retirement

Equity also makes a great nest egg. Once you retire, you have the option to sell your home, downsize and use the profits your equity gave you to boost your income.

Do you want to learn more about home equity? Are you looking to buy or sell a home? Reach out today for assistance.

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Prep for a Successful Home Sale

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Are you thinking about selling your home? 

Supply is low and demand is high right now, which means many sellers are seeing quick turnarounds and healthy profits.

Still, despite the hot market, selling a home isn’t easy. If you want the experience to be as smooth as possible, prepping early and enlisting help are key. 

Want to make sure you’re primed for a fast and profitable home sale? Here’s what you can do:

Focus on curb appeal. Curb appeal can make a huge difference, so spend time painting the shutters, power-washing the exterior and tidying up the landscaping to make sure your home catches buyers’ eyes.

Declutter and clean. Pare down your belongings and get the house looking cleaner than ever. You want it to be pristine for any listing photos and videos.

Have an exit plan. Showings can be tricky, especially if you have kids or pets. Make sure you have a plan for how you’ll keep the home clean, and know where you’ll go when a showing is scheduled.

Know your next steps. Where will you go after you sell? In a hot market, it may be hard to find a home to buy right away. Make sure you have a backup plan, like a friend’s house or a rental you can use in the meantime.

Prep for the costs. Selling isn’t free. You’ll need to budget for things like repairs, upgrades, staging costs and commissions. If you’re buying a new home, you’ll have additional costs, too.

Do you need help with your sale or want to find out how much your home is worth? Reach out today.

Fun (and Useful) Summer Home Trends

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Summer is a great time to improve your home’s exterior. 

And whether you’re interested in enjoying your space a little more or you want to boost your home’s value, it makes sense to find inspiration by taking a look at what other homeowners are doing.

Are you thinking about updating your yard or patio this summer? Here are five popular trends to consider trying for yourself.

Install a workout or play area. Make the most of your property by building a swing set or sandbox, adding a horseshoe pit or investing in a small climbing wall or some gym equipment that the whole family can use. 

Build a front yard social spot. Want a casual outdoor spot that’s welcoming to your friends and neighbors? Think about setting up a social area in the front yard — one with benches, swings and comfortable places to sit and chat.

Focus on backyard entertainment. For more private gatherings, focus on guest-friendly features in the backyard. Movie screens, fire pits and hot tubs are a few popular options. 

Add an outdoor kitchen. Love to cook? Just want to eat alfresco? Install an outdoor pizza oven or invest in a smoker or grill. Be sure to set up a roomy (and durable) dining area, too.

Plant a vegetable or herb garden. It’s never too late to improve your landscaping with something functional. Consider planting a few of your family’s favorite veggies or herbs in a small garden out back.

Need some guidance on potential upgrades that can improve your home’s value? Thinking about a new property purchase instead? Get in touch today.

Common Renovation Mistakes to Avoid

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When the market is competitive, many homeowners opt to renovate their properties rather than sell or buy.

This can be a smart move for many reasons, but as you know, home projects can often end up being expensive and time-consuming.

Don’t want to make a costly mistake or even regret a renovation altogether? Take a look at these four common missteps — and find out how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Choosing the Wrong Project 

Ultimately, you want your upgrades to increase your home value and deliver a return on your investment when you eventually sell. You also want to use your precious time wisely. When selecting a project, make sure you choose one that isn’t more trouble than it’s worth.

Mistake #2: Going Too Big

You don’t have to completely redo your kitchen or bathroom to make a big impact. Could you simply repaint the cabinets or replace the fixtures instead? Try to consider low-cost, low-effort alternatives that could deliver a similar result to what you’re aiming for. 

Mistake #3: Trying to DIY Something You Shouldn’t

You can tackle some projects yourself, but if it requires specialized skills like plumbing, electrical work or structural updates, you’re better off leaving it to the pros. DIY work is typically best reserved for small-scale renovations like painting or landscaping. 

Mistake #4: Failing to Budget Properly

Make sure you have a plan to avoid the most common budgeting problems. These include underestimating your costs, not saving enough before starting your work, and failing to have a good buffer set aside in case of surprises. 

Considering buying new instead of renovating? Get in touch today.

Working With an Agent Is So Important

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HGTV and home renovation shows may be entertaining, but they’re not always accurate. In particular, most of them skip over the important ways real estate agents can help homeowners.

In the real world, agents play a huge role in home purchases, sales and even flips.

Are you planning to make a real estate move this year? Here are just a few of the ways an agent can help make the experience a success.

Experience and Local Knowledge

Agents know how to draw up your contracts, handle the paperwork and save you valuable time (which is vital in today’s busy market). We also have on-the-ground knowledge of the local market, which can help you better evaluate properties, make offers and negotiate pricing.

Negotiation Skills and Key Partners

Experienced agents also know how to negotiate successfully and can leverage inspection results, sales reports and other data to get you the best bang for your buck — whether you’re buying or selling.

Working with an agent also provides access to deep professional networks, which comes in handy when it’s time to find an inspector, contractor, financial adviser, mortgage lender, real estate attorney and other partners on your journey.

The Bottom Line

Finally, agents know all about home values — as well as what features, amenities and styles can increase your property value down the line. 

There’s no need to navigate a stressful, complex and high-stakes process alone when you could have a knowledgeable and compassionate agent working on your behalf.

Do you want help with your next home sale, purchase or fix-and-flip? Get in touch today.

Build a Next-Level Backyard Playground

Backyard playgrounds have become a big-ticket item for many families. Keeping kids safely at home but also giving them a place to play outside is essential. And if you’re not looking for a basic swing set, what can you build to take your playground to the next level? Here are a few ideas.

A Climbing Wall

Climbing gyms are big business for adults, so why not instill the love of climbing in your kids early on? You don’t need a complicated or high climbing wall for the little ones, but using similar hand- and footholds on a short, slanted wall will give your kids a great place to play.

Tall Towers

Kids love being up high, so building a taller tower will give them the feeling they’re craving. Keep in mind that tall is relative. A 5-foot tower will feel like a skyscraper to a child. Keep them safe and accessible.

Bridges

Who didn’t want a system of treehouses with connecting rope bridges when they were a kid? Now’s your chance to make that dream come true for your children. Building simple bridges can be easy, especially if you buy premade kits.

Fast Slides

What’s better than a tower with bridges? A quick escape with a fast slide. Kids love slides, and adults love them too. Include a fast slide in your play palace to add a safe but adrenaline-pushing zoom for your kids to enjoy.

An Outdoor Getaway

Your playground doesn’t have to be just a swing set or a jungle gym. Kids also love forts and treehouses, so you can combine the concepts and create a next-level play area for your children. Your yard will become the place all the kids want to hang out.

Do you want a great yard to build your dream play-set? Call us to find out more today.

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Easy Ways to Improve Your Bathroom

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Remodeling your bathroom can be a great investment. It immediately makes your home more usable and enjoyable, and in the long term, an upgrade could increase your home’s value by thousands of dollars.

And a remodel doesn’t have to be a time-consuming or costly event. There are quite a few small, low-cost projects that can offer a big impact. 

Thinking about updating a bathroom? Here are a few projects you might want to consider.

Improve the Lighting

Sometimes changing out a fixture or installing a different type of lighting can make all the difference. You can even upgrade to smart bulbs for extra value and convenience. 

Add Some Storage

Who doesn’t need more storage? Whether it’s adding an extra medicine cabinet above the toilet or shelves to the closet, every bathroom can be enhanced with a little extra storage space.

Update Countertops and Fixtures

Changing out the hardware can make a big difference. That might mean swapping countertop materials, changing out drawer pulls or installing new doorknobs and faucets.

Add a Pop of Color

You don’t need to paint the whole room, but a pop of color in an alcove or built-in shelving unit can quickly improve the space. You could even do a patterned wallpaper if it fits with your aesthetic.

Upgrade the Shower or Tub

Could you add seating or built-in storage to your shower? Jacuzzi jets to your tub? A floor-level door for accessibility? It’s the details that matter.

One more thing: If you do opt to update your bathroom, don’t skimp on the planning. Have a budget in place, carefully vet your contractors, and avoid DIYing anything you’re not entirely confident about.

Do you have questions about your home’s value? Reach out today.

Summer Home Trends

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Summer is a great time to improve your home’s exterior. 

And whether you’re interested in enjoying your space a little more or you want to boost your home’s value, it makes sense to find inspiration by taking a look at what other homeowners are doing.

Are you thinking about updating your yard or patio this summer? Here are five popular trends to consider trying for yourself.

Install a workout or play area. Make the most of your property by building a swing set or sandbox, adding a horseshoe pit or investing in a small climbing wall or some gym equipment that the whole family can use. 

Build a front yard social spot. Want a casual outdoor spot that’s welcoming to your friends and neighbors? Think about setting up a social area in the front yard — one with benches, swings and comfortable places to sit and chat.

Focus on backyard entertainment. For more private gatherings, focus on guest-friendly features in the backyard. Movie screens, fire pits and hot tubs are a few popular options. 

Add an outdoor kitchen. Love to cook? Just want to eat alfresco? Install an outdoor pizza oven or invest in a smoker or grill. Be sure to set up a roomy (and durable) dining area, too.

Plant a vegetable or herb garden. It’s never too late to improve your landscaping with something functional. Consider planting a few of your family’s favorite veggies or herbs in a small garden out back.

Need some guidance on potential upgrades that can improve your home’s value? Thinking about a new property purchase instead? Get in touch today.

Posted in Events Life Listings Stuff Technology by Being BOB. No Comments

Building a Home Wish List

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Whether you’re thinking of buying a home soon or months down the road, you’ll need a carefully considered wish list when the time comes to start your search.

Identifying your needs and wants will help you narrow your options and make your home buying journey — which we all know can be stressful —  as smooth and efficient as possible.

Are you ready to put together your dream home wish list? Here’s what to consider.

Think about what you like (and don’t like) about your current home. Be sure to consider size, number of bedrooms, layout and individual features and amenities.

Consider the location. What’s important for your future neighborhood? Good schools? Proximity to work, parks or the airport? You might even name a few communities you already know you like, but be sure to keep an open mind (you might find a gem where you least expect it).

Separate the must-haves from the nice-to-haves. Must-haves are features you can’t live without — maybe things like a garage, three bedrooms or a fenced yard. Nice-to-haves could be details like a walk-in closet, stainless steel appliances or a finished attic.

Zero in on your budget. You need to know what you can afford monthly (for your mortgage and for bills and maintenance costs), as well as what you can put toward a down payment and closing costs.

Consult your family. If you’re going to share the house with your spouse, kids or other family members, sit down and talk through these points together. Everyone should be on the same page before making such a large investment.

Perfecting your wish list before you need it can help your eventual home purchase go more quickly and easily. 

Need some help creating your list or finding properties that match what you’re looking for? Get in touch today.

Today’s Busy Real Estate Market

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You’re probably well aware that the real estate market is more competitive than ever (due to low inventory, among other things).

Still, it’s not a bad time to buy a house. Mortgage rates are low, home values are on the rise and, in many cases, buying is still more affordable than renting.

Are you considering purchasing a house in today’s fast-paced market? Here are five tips that can help.

Get preapproved. Applying for a mortgage preapproval is critical in a competitive market. Not only can it give you a good price range to shop in, but it can also help sellers feel more confident in your offers (and maybe even choose yours over others).

Be flexible. If you can be flexible on your closing date or willing to waive a contingency or two, it will often work in your favor. Sellers are looking for the easiest, most lucrative sale in most cases. We can discuss what makes sense for you when the time comes. 

Make a decent earnest money deposit. Earnest money deposits are “good faith” deposits that indicate how serious you are about a home purchase. If the seller accepts your offer and you don’t follow through with the deal, they keep that cash.

Be prepared to bid more than the asking price. Consider searching in a lower-than-maximum price range so that you have room to bid upward if necessary. In many cases, you’ll need to increase your bid to compete with other buyers, so maxing out your budget from the start probably isn’t the best strategy.

Be patient (but stay alert). In the current conditions, you may not find what you’re looking for immediately. On the other hand, things could start moving quickly at any time. To find success, remember that communication and flexibility are key.

It can be challenging to buy a house in today’s market — but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Reach out today if you need assistance.

Proper Care for a Perfect Deck

How often do you use your deck? Do you host parties with wine or cocktails? Do you have birthday gatherings for a dozen or more small children? Do you serve dinner for your family when the weather is nice? However it is used, every homeowner who takes advantage of their deck must maintain it to ensure that it stays safe and comfortable or many years.

The following guide will help with proper care.

Keep It Clean and Dry

Your deck, when properly built, will last a very long time with just simple maintenance. Most important, you need to keep it clean and dry. Yes, it will be exposed to weather and that’s okay, but try to limit prolonged exposure. Regular sweeping of your deck to rid it of debris will generally be sufficient.

Winterize Your Deck

Of course, winter will be a time of prolonged exposure, so it’s best to winterize your deck before you expect inclement weather. Inspect your deck to make sure handrails are secure, no screws are loose and boards are not damaged. Clean the deck with a bleach-free cleaner or mild soap and water. To keep your deck dry during the winter, treat it with a water repellent.

Select the Perfect Wood

The type of wood you choose for your deck will also affect its life span. The three most common types of wood are redwood, cedar and pressure-treated wood. If you bought a home that already has a deck, inspect it to understand the kind of wood used and how to protect it. Some decks are built using engineered wood, and they may require less general maintenance.

To ensure you can enjoy your deck for as long as you own your home, contact us today.

Questions About Closing Costs

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If you’re getting ready to buy a home, you’re probably focused on saving as much as you can for the down payment. But don’t forget: You’ll need to cover closing costs, too. 

To create a realistic home buying plan, make sure you factor in this additional upfront expense so that you can set yourself up for success.

Are you eyeing a home purchase in the near future? Here’s what you need to know about closing costs:

What are closing costs? 

Closing costs include several fees, including those associated with originating, processing and underwriting your loan, recording the transaction with your county, appraising your home and more. Taxes and insurance are also part of these expenses. 

When do you pay them? 

Closing costs are paid on closing day, once your loan is ready to be finalized. You’ll also pay your down payment at this time.

How much are closing costs? 

The exact amount you’ll pay will depend on various factors, including your location, loan amount, lender and more, but you can generally expect to pay somewhere between 2% and 5% of your total mortgage balance.

Are there ways to reduce closing costs? 

You can reduce your closing costs by shopping around for your lender and title company, asking the seller to contribute, or, in some cases, negotiating with your lender.

Selling a house comes with closing costs, too, so make sure you’re prepared if you’ll need to sell a property before buying your new one. 

Ready to start your home search? Get in touch today.