Best Loans for First Time Homebuyers

by Sara Seeger 7. October 2014

First Time Homebuyer

You've decided to purchase your first house - congratulations! You’ve hired a real estate agent and a few weeks later you find your dream home. Now you need to get the loan process started, so you research and choose a lender and before you know it you are in their office filling out papers and talking numbers.

This is the part where you will likely have numerous choices on which loan program works for you. Some programs have mortgage insurance, while others do not. Some programs require greater down payments, while others require less money down. How do you decide which program fits your needs as a first time homebuyer? Read below to sort through three of the most popular home loans.

1) Conventional

A conventional loan is what is sometimes known as a “traditional” loan. It is not guaranteed or insured by any government agency. Conventional loans do require a down payment, typically 5 percent or more. These home loans are often insured by private mortgage insurance if the down payment is less than 20 percent of the value of the property being financed. However, PMI (private mortgage insurance) can “drop off” when the loan balance is scheduled to reach 78 percent of the original value of the home. So PMI won’t have to be with the borrower forever with a conventional loan.

2) FHA

An FHA 203(b) home loan is a very popular first time home buyer loan option. This type of loan is insured by the Federal Government, and lenders are able to provide a borrower with competitive interest rates as a result. Credit score and credit requirements are generally more lenient than they are for a conventional loan. An FHA loan only requires a 3.5 percent down payment, which is the smallest amount down of any loan program, except a VA loan. However, FHA loans also require mortgage insurance, which will never drop off unless you refinance out of an FHA loan.

3) VA

In 1944, the U.S. government created a military loan guaranty program to initially help returning service members purchase homes. Since then, the program has helped more than 20 million veterans and their families with an affordable home financing situation. The VA loan has distinct advantages over traditional mortgages, such as requiring no down payment, competitive interest rates, and no mortgage insurance. However, you must meet eligibility requirements to qualify for a VA home loan. If you are active military or veteran, a VA home loan may be the right solution for your first time home buying needs.

As you can see, there are a variety of loan choices to consider when purchasing your first home. It is important to speak with your loan specialist about all of your potential options and find a loan program that fits your particular situation the best.

Smart Ways to Save on Your Wedding

by Sara Seeger 2. October 2014

Wedding Proposal

Weddings are expensive, it's a fact. If you've come across our recent wedding infographic, you've seen how much a wedding in Maryland costs on average (after you have recovered from the price shock). Don’t worry grooms and brides-to-be! There are ways to cut costs on your dream day without sacrificing the most important aspects of your wedding.

The Date

Consider scheduling your wedding in an off-peak time, such as November or most of January through March. Where there is less competition for dates, there is more negotiating power. Day of the week is also important, as Saturdays tend to be the most popular and thus more expensive. Ask about rates for Friday or Sunday evening weddings.

The Venue

Contemplate choosing a nontraditional venue. Dedicated wedding reception halls or country clubs can be expensive. Renting a park, garden, or restaurant could save you some serious dough.

The Food

The more choices, the more expense. Cut out the traditional “guest choice” of an entrée and try a combination plate. By serving everyone the same meal you are able to cut down on the cost of food automatically. Fewer different ingredients, fewer costs. Another way to cut down on food is to host a daytime reception. It is always cheaper to serve brunch or lunch than dinner.

The Liquor

Most reception sites charge for every bottle opened. Offering a limited bar can save you huge bucks on your wedding day. A fun way to have a limited bar, without depriving guests of their favorite drinks, is to create “signature” drinks, which are a series of signature cocktails, that use one type of liquor, that guests can enjoy. Then, stock up on a few other beer and wine options for guests who don’t drink liquor.

The Photographer

Photographers usually offer packages based on the number of hours they work. Instead of booking a photographer for the entire day, take candid shots of the groups getting ready before the ceremony. You can also cut your cake earlier in the reception to allow that to be the last events the photographer shoots. Candid photographs from guests can supplement reception and dance photos. Another way to cut costs is to hire a photography student for your wedding. Be sure you check out his/her portfolio beforehand, but hiring an experienced student instead of a large photography company or professional could cut your photography bill in half.

The Invites, Programs and Favors

DIY! Take advantage of your aunt’s thrifty yard sale tactics and your bridesmaid’s Photoshop skills. Anything you can make yourself becomes a fun, shared effort and can save a lot. From designing invitations and programs, to creating your own centerpieces or favors (see our Pinterest board for ideas!), you can save a bundle of money doing things yourself.

If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

4 Financial Mistakes Newlyweds Make

Infographic: Average Cost of a Maryland Wedding

You're Engaged, Yay! Now What? Wedding Planning!

Infographic: Are Maryland Private Schools Worth the Price Tag?

by Sara Seeger 23. July 2014

All parents want to give their children the best education possible, and many believe that private grade schools and high schools provide the best opportunities. But as the average cost of private schools continue to rise, people are asking themselves, is the price tag worth it?

Are Private Schools Worth the Price Tag?

If you found this infographic useful, be sure to check out these other related articles:

Fun Ways to Teach Kids about Money

Has Anyone Seen My $200 Million?

Debt to Income Ratio: What It Is and How It Helps (or Hurts) Your Chances of Getting a Loan



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