What to Ask a Mortgage Lender Before You Sign Anything

Looking at homes for sale can be the fun part of buying a house. The real work comes when you’re picking a mortgage lender that can give you the best loan for your circumstances.

After detailing your income, expenses, down payment and a monthly mortgage you can afford, a lender will run a credit check and should be able to tell you the best options for the interest rate and loan product.

Here are some questions to ask as you comparison shop for a lender:

What’s the interest rate?
This will be based on your loan and credit score, and determines your monthly payment. The lower the interest rate, the lower the payment. Improving your credit score can help lower the interest rate you qualify for.

Fixed rate or ARM?
Fixed-rate loans have the same interest rate for the life of the loan, from 10 to 30 years. Interest rates on adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, change after an initial period, such as a year, and then at regular intervals.

Ask how often an ARM rate will change, the index its tied to, and what the cap is on the interest rate during one period and the life of the loan. Make sure you can afford the higher rate. An ARM will have a lower interest rate than a fixed-rate loan, and can be a good idea if you’re not planning on living in the home for long.

How much is the monthly mortgage?
Answering the first two questions will get you to this answer. It’s a number you should already have in mind before looking for a house, and should be an amount you can afford.

Be sure to include other monthly costs, including insurance, taxes and, if required, private mortgage insurance, or PMI. This insurance is often needed if you don’t have a 20 percent down payment and is meant to protect the mortgage company if you default on the loan.

Any fees?
One-time fees called “points” are due at closing and each point paid will lower your interest rate by 1 percent. Another option is to not pay any closing costs upfront and to have them rolled into the loan in exchange for a higher interest rate.

If you want to lock in the interest rate and points for a certain amount of time in case rates go up, you may have to pay a fee.

Also ask if there are fees for making extra mortgage payments so you can pay off the principal amount early. Some loans don’t have prepayment penalties, but some do.

A lender should be able to help you find the best home loan for your finances. Just be sure not to sign a contract with them until you’re satisfied you’re getting the best deal with the best mortgage lender you can find.

I hope you found this information helpful. Please contact me for all your real estate information needs today!


I have sold a property at D 7514 Jerez Ct in Carlsbad

I have sold a property at D 7514 Jerez Ct in Carlsbad. See details here

Beautifully remodeled throughout and bursting with character, this is an immaculate Carlsbad home that anyone would be proud to call their own! Enter inside its spacious layout to discover an array of fine elements on display, from the solid bamboo hardwood flooring to the main gathering areas bathed in brilliant natural light. Your living and dining rooms offer a generously sized open plan design with a striking stone fireplace in the corner for extra warmth and ambiance. High-end and stylish easy-glide folding doors open to an expansive front balcony, ideal for relaxing in the sun. Take a seat at the kitchen's breakfast bar while the avid chef enjoys creating magic with state-of-the-art Bertazzoni appliances.


10 Tips for Living Large While Going Small

With rent rising and family sizes decreasing, millennials have started to opt for smaller alternatives when it comes to real estate. Maybe the trend came from IKEA showrooms, the micro-housing wave, or simply from growing accustomed to sharing apartments with one too many people. The fact remains: people may want to pay for smaller, but they still want to live as large as possible.

The goal is to avoid creating a highly congested space. Thankfully, experts like author and real estate professional Matt Parker have done the homework for us. Learn to make the most of your small space by following these tips from Parker:

  1. Rooms with high ceilings, 9 ft. or taller, help make small square-footage spaces feel large. In many cases, liking or disliking a home has to do with ceiling height.
  2. Add custom bookshelves high on one wall in a room. This creates a “spacer” for your eye, drawing your glance up and making the room appear larger.
  3. Use large paintings in small rooms, one wall only, and you will be amazed how much bigger they feel, says Parker.
  4. Follow this rule: If you haven’t used it in a year, sell or donate it. Parker recently did this, and removed about 25% of his family’s clutter.
  5. When it comes to clothes, consider quality over quantity. According to Parker, folks in Los Angeles often hire a wardrobe assistant who helps them pick four perfect outfits per quarter. “Buy really nice clothes, that are really trendy, in small batches, then immediately get rid of them,” he explains. “What a win/win from a fashion/lifestyle standpoint!”
  6. Use a stand-up desk instead of a sit-down desk. Sit-down desks occupy about 100 square feet, explains Parker.
  7. In small rooms, install a very large custom mantle. This lends a sense of grandeur to a small space.
  8. To make small rooms feel more spacious, decorate with light colors: gray, white, light blues, light yellow, light green, and stick to the same color palette throughout the room.
  9. Large floor rugs make rooms feel much bigger.
  10. Parker also advises against buying huge wholesale quantities of food. Instead, buy one week’s worth of healthy, fresh food each week. You will feel better, and look better, like your home!

“I am recommending people buy nicer things, enjoy them more, and live better lives. I am not indicating to stop consuming or become a hermit. Simply be decisive about what you love and eliminate the rest! You will not believe the sense of peace, and style,” adds Parker.

As you can see, the trick to living large in a small space is to not be afraid to let go. Freeing up space usually taken up by clutter allows you to enjoy things you actually like. That’s what makes the transition worth it. Well, that and all the extra cash you’ll be saving!

Matt Parker is the author of ‘Real Estate Smart: The New Home Buying Guide and Real Estate Agent Talks.’ Parker works entirely paperless and happily lives in a 560 square-foot home with his wife, where he prioritizes living, not clutter.


Choose Mortgage Over Rent and Own a Home

House prices come with a lot of digits, but that shouldn’t scare you away from buying a home. A mortgage—as opposed to rent—allows you to slowly purchase your home over time. So, instead of paying rent and helping somebody else pay their mortgage, why not invest in your own property?

According to the InCharge Institute of America, there are many benefits to homeownership. Here are some reasons why paying a mortgage and owning your own home is better than paying rent for a temporary living space:

  • The property you purchase now will most likely be worth more in the future.
  • With fixed-rate mortgages, you can rely on the predictability of monthly costs.
  • You have greater privacy and freedom to make your home your own, since there is no landlord overseeing the property.

Of course, owning a home and taking on a mortgage is a big responsibility. The InCharge Institute advises that you take the following into consideration before embarking on homeownership:

  • You will bear the responsibility for maintenance of your home, including repairs that can range from inexpensive to complex and costly.
  • Owning a home is a long-term financial commitment.
  • Take other costs into consideration, such as the down payment, closing costs and moving expenses.
  • Your mortgage payment may be higher than what you currently pay in rent, so make sure you can afford the increase.

In comparison, renting comes with additional costs, as well, such as security payments and damage fees you may incur.

While it is true that purchasing a home can be initially more costly, it can also work to your advantage, functioning as a savings program you can’t quit on. If you will be residing long-term in the same area, then you might as well be turning those monthly payments into property ownership. If this sounds like an investment you’re ready to take on, it might be time to go house hunting.


A handyman can help with a range of home remodeling projects. Derek Christian, owner of the Handyman Connection in Blue Ash, Ohio, offers some of the trends he’s noticing with remodels:

1. Airbnb-friendly spaces

“We are seeing a big trend toward consumers, especially younger first-time home buyers, creating a second rentable space in their home,” Christian says. These projects may include creating a second lavish owner’s suite, sometimes with its own separate entrance. Also, homeowners are looking to add accessory dwelling units as another rental possibility or turn a basement into a rental apartment, Christian notes.

2. Composite decks

These have been growing in popularity for several years. “With the price of wood tripling during the pandemic, composite decks went from being more expensive to now less expensive than traditional wood decks,” Christian says. “The price of plywood has come down since the pandemic, but we have not had a single request for a new wood deck since 2020.”

Decking with chairs and plant
Photo credit: Ronstik/Getty Images

3. Lighting upgrades

“There are so many choices of dramatic accent lights now, from pendants to Edison bulbs and LEDs,” Christian says. “These enable all kinds of unique shapes. Consumers are adding dramatic accent lights throughout their home.”

4. Free-standing soaker tubs

“We’re getting more requests to add these in to replace the built-in tubs,” Christian says. Often, he says, the free-standing soaker tub will have a chandelier above it to help create a more luxurious, spa-like bathroom. 

5. Smart-home tech

“The smart home is not here all the way yet, but we are seeing many smaller changes taking hold on that front,” Christian says. “Nearly every remodel we do comes with the request for at least a few sockets with built-in USB charging ports.” Also, in the bathroom for fan/light replacements, consumers increasingly are selecting ones with built-in LED lights that change color as well as have Bluetooth-enabled speakers.


Packing 101: Tips and Tricks to Help Make Moving Day a Breeze

So you’ve decided to make the big move, and now it’s time to put everything in boxes. First you think big-picture (furniture), and then you think small-picture and realize you own much more than you ever imaged. Packing can be a daunting task, but with some extra legwork at the beginning, your unpacking can become a walk in the park.

Labeling Hacks
The worst thing about packing is that once all the boxes are in the truck, there’s no remembering what went where. There are several techniques you can put in place, like numbering your boxes to make sure none go missing, indicating which room the boxes are supposed to go to, or color-coding them to indicate their contents—anything that helps you identify the contents and the destination of your boxes is a go.

Make sure that every box is packed as efficiently as possible. For example, plates are better off stacked vertically, and make sure heavy objects like books are packed in something with handles. As for all your baskets and suitcases? Put them all to good use by turning them into more packing boxes. Label cords, or take pictures of the cord setup to make sure you remember what goes where. Pack highly fragile or valuable items to take with you, and make sure to have a bag prepared with all of the things you will need upon arrival. (Don’t leave your shampoo in one of the countless moving boxes!)

Movers vs. Friends
While it is a great money-saver to have your friends help you pack up everything, if you have many valuables, it might be a better option to go ahead and pay the movers. A lot of moving companies are liable for anything that is broken or damaged, so you’ll be able to get reimbursed if anything gets damaged. And while your friends may commit to helping you, emergencies or other eventualities may result in a moving day no-show. A moving company will always have back-up, even if your originally scheduled movers call in sick.

Get in the Right Mentality
Moving has everything to do with being in the right mindset. To achieve that, you first have to make sure you get a good night’s rest. Once you’re well rested, make the commitment to move everything out in one day. Know that loading the truck will take longer than you anticipated, and that things will not pan out exactly as you planned them. Instead, be ready to think creatively as situations arise. Find comfort in the thought that once this day is over, you will be moved into your new house!


Roadmap to Financial Freedom: Smaller Spaces and Smart Home Choices

Many individuals are beginning to identify with minimalism, as rising costs in real estate have generated a need for creativity…at least when it comes to living space. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates, it costs 32 cents per month to maintain any given square foot. That means that an additional 54% of your mortgage payment goes toward maintenance. Sounds a little extreme, doesn’t it?

Fortunately, there are several ways to tackle this problem, and they have everything to do with purchasing smaller spaces and being smart about their set-up. Author and real estate professional Matt Parker shares that, “Living smaller is not only going to become mandatory (increased building costs, increased real estate values); it is emotionally freeing, and socially conscious. The recommendation is not to stop buying real estate; it’s to create spaces that supplement your health, loving relationships, financial future and your only precious resource: your time.”

Parker offers the following recommendations to increase wealth by cutting back on home expenses:

  1. Minimize warehouse-sized shopping. Studies show we can’t tell if bigger packages are actually cheaper because we have no reference for them. Additionally, you will end up wasting or over-consuming large quantities (and enjoying them less).
  2. If you can swing it, 15- to 20-year loan amortizations can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  3. Install motion-sensing light switches in your rooms to cut back on your electric bill.
  4. Planting small trees in your yard has been proven to drop summer temperatures by approximately 15 degrees, and raise them similarly in the winter, especially once the vegetation is lush and sufficiently-sized.
  5. Get a professional wardrobe assistant several times a year, buy great outfits, and use an app like Letgo or Listia to “off” old clothes. Stop buying random clothes you won’t wear and save money in the process.
  6. Connect with real estate agents who have lots of listings. “In any given month, we have thousands of dollars of furniture and home dressings to give away for free,” says Parker.
  7. Eat whatever you want, in exactly the amounts you need. Buy the right amount, and don’t engage in a stockpile method of storing food that requires refrigeration and storage containers.
  8. Eliminate landline phones.
  9. Establish a lifestyle budget that forces you to create cash accounts for: vacations, cars, investments and doctor’s bills. What would an extra $500 be worth in 30 years invested in a tech stock versus a refrigerator with glowing ice receptacles?

According to Parker, financial freedom isn’t about not buying and consuming the things you enjoy, but, rather, prioritizing them over things that appear to be necessities, but really aren’t.

Matt Parker is the author of “Real Estate Smart: The New Home Buying Guide and Real Estate Agent Talks.” Parker works entirely paperless and happily lives in a 560 square-foot home with his wife, where he prioritizes living, not clutter.


Homeowners Insurance: Know What's Covered

If you plan to lead a conventional life, odds are you will need insurance. You’ll need health insurance, car insurance, and eventually home insurance. The latter is often the most perplexing since we have no prior experience with it as we do with health insurance.

What exactly is home insurance and how bullet-proof is your coverage? For starters, home insurance, in theory, provides you with financial protection against disasters. These disasters can involve your home, the contents of your home, or any liabilities within your property that could lead to a lawsuit…like when your dog bites the pizza delivery guy.

However, home insurance doesn’t mean your home’s invincible. Unless you’ve purchased specialized insurance, it can’t protect you against floods, nuclear war, earthquakes, or poor maintenance. Don’t slack off with your home’s upkeep—negligence does not go over well in insurance court.

The most common scenario with homeowners insurance, however, involves receiving some sort of compensation for damage to your property and its contents. For when the time comes, it is important to know how compensation is calculated. The insurance company will either pay for the repair, or you can get cash value. However, while you might have paid $500 for your grill, the insurance company will pay you back whatever the grill is currently worth, usually a lesser value.

Homeowners insurance is an expense you can’t avoid. And while it might feel daunting at first, there’s comfort in knowing that you’re protected against most calamities.


3 Best Practices for Selling Your House This Year

A new year brings with it the opportunity for new experiences. If that resonates with you because you’re considering making a move, you’re likely juggling a mix of excitement over your next home and a sense of attachment to your current one.

A great way to ease some of those emotions and ensure you’re feeling confident in your decision is to keep these three best practices in mind.

1. Price Your Home Right

The housing market shifted in 2022 as mortgage rates rose, buyer demand eased, and the number of homes for sale grew. As a seller, you’ll want to recognize things are different now and price your house appropriately based on where the market is today. Greg McBride, Chief Financial Analyst at Bankrateexplains:

“Price your home realistically. This isn’t the housing market of April or May, so buyer traffic will be substantially slower, but appropriately priced homes are still selling quickly.”

If you price your house too high, you run the risk of deterring buyers. And if you go too low, you’re leaving money on the table. An experienced real estate agent can help determine what your ideal asking price should be.

2. Keep Your Emotions in Check

Today, homeowners are living in their houses longer. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), since 1985, the average time a homeowner has owned their home has increased from 5 to 10 years (see graph below):

3 Best Practices for Selling Your House This Year | MyKCM

This is several years longer than what used to be the historical norm. The side effect, however, is when you stay in one place for so long, you may get even more emotionally attached to your space. If it’s the first home you bought or the house where your loved ones grew up, it very likely means something extra special to you. Every room has memories, and it’s hard to detach from the sentimental value.

For some homeowners, that makes it even harder to negotiate and separate the emotional value of the house from fair market price. That’s why you need a real estate professional to help you with the negotiations along the way.

3. Stage Your Home Properly

While you may love your decor and how you’ve customized your home over the years, not all buyers will feel the same way about your design. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you focus on your home’s first impression so it appeals to as many buyers as possible. As NAR says:

“Staging is the art of preparing a home to appeal to the greatest number of potential buyers in your market. The right arrangements can move you into a higher price-point and help buyers fall in love the moment they walk through the door.”

Buyers want to envision themselves in the space so it truly feels like it could be their own. They need to see themselves inside with their furniture and keepsakes – not your pictures and decorations. A real estate professional can help you with tips to get your house ready to sell.


There are a number of important things to consider when it comes to investing in real estate, and having the right mindset can be an important factor in your success. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

-It's important to be patient and to be willing to put in the time and effort to research and evaluate potential investment opportunities.

-It can be helpful to have a long-term perspective, as real estate investing often requires a significant commitment of time and resources.

-It's important to be realistic about the potential risks and rewards of real estate investing, and to be prepared for the possibility that you may not always see an immediate return on your investment.

-It can be helpful to be open to learning and adapting, as the real estate market can change over time.

-It's important to be financially responsible and to manage your investments in a way that is consistent with your overall financial goals and risk tolerance.

Overall, the key is to approach real estate investing with a balanced and well-informed mindset, and to be willing to put in the work and effort required to succeed.


If you’re selling a home, there may be some outdated design elements holding your sale back. As styles change over the decades, outdated styles seem to stand out to buyers looking for updated homes. Certain design elements can also call too much attention to the age of your home. If you’ve updated certain parts of the home but have left these design elements behind, it may be time to reconsider.

Consider these five design elements that are making your home look dated and how to upgrade them for the sale of your home.

Colorful Carpeting

While bright-colored carpets were once all the rage, carpet is not a primary choice for flooring in new homes built today. Wall-to-wall carpet, especially in colors, is often a turn-off to prospective home buyers. While carpet is still used in bedrooms, most living spaces today use hardwood or vinyl flooring options instead. Wood or laminate floors with a creative rug are a much more modern alternative to colorful carpeting.

Popcorn Ceilings

Another trend that has been phased out is popcorn ceilings. These textured types of ceilings scream “outdated”. Not only are they visually unappealing, but they also have a bad reputation for storing mold. If preparing your home for resale, consider scraping the texture off of your ceilings for an updated look. Popcorn ceilings can be a turn-off for buyers looking for a turnkey home.

Mirrored Walls

Mirrored walls in any room in your home must go! These were common design elements used in the 80s to help rooms feel more spacious. Mirrors are still a great way to jazz up a room, but not using an entire wall worth. Consider removing these for standard walls to help your home sell. Luckily, this is a pretty simple fix.

White Kitchen Appliances

A white fridge, microwave, and other kitchen appliances instantly make the room feel outdated. White kitchen appliances are now replaced with stainless steel appliances for a more modern and upscale look. Black appliances can also have the same effect, yet not quite to the same extent as white kitchen appliances.

Glass Block Bathroom Windows

Glass block bathroom windows were intended to allow natural light into bathrooms. The frosted nature of these is helpful for privacy in bathrooms, however, the style as a whole is quite outdated. Many modern bathrooms have skylights instead, another way to allow natural light into the bathroom. Skip the frosted glass if you’re looking for an updated bathroom look.

Refreshing your Home

Whether you simply want to remove outdated looks from your home or are preparing to sell, these five design elements have to go! Colorful carpeting, popcorn ceilings, mirrored walls, white kitchen appliances, and glass block bathroom windows are all trends that are no longer in style. Instead, use the replacement designs mentioned throughout this article to help refresh your home and rid your rooms of outdated designs. Small changes can make a big difference!


Today’s Housing Market Is Nothing Like 15 Years Ago

There’s no doubt today’s housing market is very different than the frenzied one from the past couple of years. In the second half of 2022, there was a dramatic shift in real estate, and it caused many people to make comparisons to the 2008 housing crisis. While there may be a few similarities, when looking at key variables now compared to the last housing cycle, there are significant differences.

In the latest Real Estate Forecast Summit, Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), drew the comparisons below between today’s housing market and the previous cycle:

Today’s Housing Market Is Nothing Like 15 Years Ago | MyKCM

Looking at the facts, it’s clear: today is very different than the housing market of 15 years ago.

There’s Opportunity in Real Estate Today

And in today’s market, with inventory rising and less competition from other buyers, there’s opportunity right now. According to David Stevens, former Assistant Secretary of Housing:

“So be advised…this may be the one and only window for the next few years to get into a buyer’s market. And remember…as the Federal Reserve data shows…home prices only go up and always recover from recessions no matter how mild or severe. Long term homeowners should view this market…right now…as a unique buying opportunity.”

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