What You’ll Wish You Knew

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In the rush and excitement to find the perfect home and make it yours, there are some things best learned beforehand rather than through hindsight. Here are some suggestions from first-time homebuyers that would have made the entire process less challenging.

Know where you stand.

If you plan to buy a home, even if it’s a couple years out, you need to assess your current creditworthiness so that you can move the needle to improve your credit score. Making sure that your credit reports show the correct information is not something to leave to chance.

  • Order your credit reports from each of the three major reporting agencies (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian).
  • Review all the entries carefully. Sometimes, credit card accounts have different names on the credit report than on your card, so review your statements to match up accounts with their identifiers.
  • If you find mistakes, request a review with the credit agency. All three have error mitigation instructions on their websites. Follow the instructions carefully.
  • Review any slow pays and rearrange your payment schedules so that you’re up-to-date and on-time for everything.

Create your budget.

While this doesn’t work for everyone, a good rule of thumb is to keep your home price within two and a half times your annual income. That means if you make $80,000 per year, set your budget at $200,000 or less. If your income calculation includes dual partners or spouses, but you intend to add children to the household, consider how you might eliminate that second income. If you calculate your purchase based on one income your budget is more secure.

Determine your down payment.

First-time homebuyers typically qualify for FHA loans with just a 3.5% down payment. Others may be eligible for VA, USDA or Conventional 97 LTV programs too. But with less paid down, your mortgage payments increase because the loan is higher and includes the added cost of Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). If you can put more down to get a better rate and reduce your mortgage payment, consider it. Conventional loans usually ask for a 20% down payment, but you’ll often get better interest rates and lower payments.

Decide on a loan term.

A fix-rate mortgage for 30 years is the norm, but not the only option. You can find loan terms for 8 or 15 years too. If an adjustable rate works for you in the short term, you’ll find those as well, but if you choose an adjustable-rate only because you couldn’t otherwise afford the home, you might want to wait or adjust your budget.

Get pre-approval from your lender.

Your bank looks at all your income, assets, credit history and other aspects. Getting the lender to give you an informal approval helps you determine if you’ll be able to borrow a specified amount of money to buy a home. Use the numbers your lender gives you to refine your budget.

When you’re ready, find a buyer’s agent to represent you in your home search and let the games begin.

Reduce Allergens in Your HVAC System

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According to a report by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, more than 25 million people in the US live with asthma. The most common type is allergic asthma. With that in mind, improving the quality of air in your home is an important consideration. When the air quality in your home is good, it can reduce common symptoms like shortness of breath, red eyes, and wheezing.

Allergens in your home like pollen, pest droppings, dust mites, and pet dander often aggravate asthma symptoms. HVAC systems are built to filter these allergens but if the system is not optimized, it could do more harm than good. 

Here are four basic but effective ways to allergy-proof your HVAC system:

Schedule annual maintenance

Schedule a visit with a licensed professional every year to ensure your HVAC system is running clean and efficient. Ensure the service call includes replacing air filters and cleaning ductwork.

Clean or replace your HVAC filters

A typical HVAC filter should be deep cleaned every two to three months. A HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter does not need to be cleaned as often, upgrade to save some maintenance time. Generally, a filter must get rid of at least 99.97% of the contaminants in the air to acquire a HEPA rating. If you choose a HEPA filter, select one with a MERV rating of at least 10. MERV ratings grade the quality of the air filtration on a scale from 1 (lowest) to 20 (highest). The higher the score, then the more satisfying the quality of the air. 

Run your HVAC system regularly

Run your HVAC system for at least 30 minutes each day to help with air circulation. The air conditioner moves air in your home by bringing in the fresh outdoor air. If you own a smart thermostat, consider programming your system to run at a specific time and duration.

Install a UV light near your HVAC evaporator

An HVAC contractor can help you install a UV light close to your system’s evaporator. A UV light can control mold growth and other bio-organisms that might be present in your HVAC unit.

For more effective ways on how to allergy-proof your HVAC system, contact a professional HVAC contractor. Let your professional real estate agent know if you’ve optimized your HVAC system for allergen control.