Donna Moy-Bruno's Blog
Trying to understand what that home description is all about? Whether you're new to the housing market or newly returned, you'll find terms used to describe homes that you might not recognize. Or, you may not understand what they truly mean in context. The word walkable, for instance, shouldn't apply to a home at all, should it? After all, houses can't just get up and walk away.
Defining the real [estate] meaning
In real estate and urban parlance, a walkable neighborhood might refer to a community where services such as grocery and other shops, restaurants, bars, parks, and other recreation areas are reachable on foot within a 10-to-15 minute timeframe.
In another area, walkable might mean that public transportation to urban areas is within walking distance. In this case, the neighborhood itself may not hold the services but does support its being in reach via bus or train access.
Still, other definitions of walkable mean that the community has lighted footpaths, sidewalks, urban (or suburban) trails and other means by which residents may walk for exercise or recreation. Or, that the community provides opportunities and programs for residents to walk.
Breaking down “walkable” themes
With all the various definitions in use, a Harvard study published these themes as most important to walkability.
Environmental dimensions adding to walkability:
- Traversable: environments with the physical conditions—sidewalks, trails, footpaths—to allow traverse from one place to another without difficulty.
- Compact: where the distance between places is relatively short.
- Safe: lower crime rates, lighted pathways, marked and controlled crosswalks, and additional safety features add to the safe walkability of a neighborhood.
- Physically enticing: settings with full accessibility to pedestrians that include landscaping, signage, benches, shade trees, pathways, street lights, and views.
Outcome dimensions of walkability
- Social: a location with lively shopping and dining areas, typically mixed-use live/work situations and the friendly people that live, work, or visit there.
- Transportation: is the perception that both social equality (age, income, disability) and environmental preservation are sustainable via public transit.
- Exercise-inducing: forced exercise due to proximity to work, transportation, or services, or the lack of suitable parking that goes with living in a more urban area.
Designing for walkability
- Measurable: the neighborhood design or redevelopment includes walkability as a quantifiable outcome based on specific indicators.
- Holistic: in this case, walkability references communities of improved urban living with slower pace built in, scaled for human health and happiness, devised to promote interaction.
None of these is definitive, but if you’re looking for a neighborhood that defines “walkable” for you, check the walk score website, which measures over 100 aspects of walkability, and talk to your local real estate professional about what works for you.
Credit plays an important role in your ability to secure a home loan and to qualify for a low-interest mortgage. However, many first-time homebuyers aren’t aren’t sure about the exact relationship between credit scores and mortgages.
This doesn’t come as much of a surprise considering the many factors that go into your credit score and into your lender’s decision to approve you for a mortgage. So, in this article, we’re going to cover three commonly asked questions that homebuyers have about credit scores and how they’re used by mortgage lenders to determine your eligibility for a home loan.
Will my credit score go down if I check my credit report?
If you’re thinking of buying a home in the near future, one of the first things you’ll want to do is check your credit. However, if you’ve heard that some credit inquiries briefly lower your credit score you might be hesitant to find out.
This common misconception stems from the fact that taking out new lines of credit results in a temporary decrease in your credit score. The difference between checking your credit and a credit inquiry is simple: a credit check you can access for free online through a service like Credit Karma, whereas a credit inquiry is performed by a lender or creditor with whom you’ve applied for credit.
In short, checking your credit score online won’t affect your score. In fact, the major credit bureaus are required to allow you to check your credit for free once per year.
Can I get a loan with low credit?
Increasing your credit score is a lengthy process that requires careful financial management. Many people who have had difficulties paying off bills, loans, and credit cards will have to rebuild their credit. Or, if you’re young and don’t have a diverse history of credit payments, you’ll be starting from scratch to build your score.
If you’re hoping to get an FHA (first-time homeowner loan), the lowest your score can be is 580. However, that doesn’t mean you should always take a loan with a low credit score. When you don’t have a good credit history, lenders will seek other ways to guarantees their investment. This comes in the form of higher interest rates or PMI (private mortgage insurance) which you’ll have to pay on top of your monthly home insurance and mortgage payments.
Will applying for a home loan affect my credit?
Simply stated, yes. However, applying for a loan or get preapproved is considered a credit inquiry and won’t leave any lasting negative on your credit score. Making several inquiries within a short period of time, however, can significantly lower your score, so choose your inquiries wisely. And, be sure to monitor your credit score on a monthly basis so you have an idea of where you stand along the road to applying for a home loan.
Deciding to pay off your mortgage can be a confusing decision to make. You might be wondering about how you would take care of other financial debts or emergencies should they arise. Deciding to pay or not to pay off your mortgage early should be a decision made by you. The economic circumstances around you should determine this decision at the time.
It is tempting to continue paying for a mortgage in bits because of the benefits homeowners enjoy. As a homeowner though, there are situations when you find yourself considering the ‘paying down' option. Before you make such a financial decision though, you should speak to your financial advisor and be certain it's the best decision to make.
Pay off your mortgage early under any of these circumstances listed below:
So many people plan for retirement—it's a period when you want to be as comfortable as possible. Taking steps and putting things in place before you retire is one of the best financial decisions anyone can make. While making your retirement plan, it's advisable you consider paying off on your mortgage. The reason behind this is as soon as you come into retirement, your steady monthly inflow reduces (most of the time). You may have more available time on your hands to go on vacation and treat yourself out. Having the thought of mortgage payments over your head at this period might be a burden. Pay off the mortgage before retirement and reduce what you must worry about when you retire.
When you come into a significant amount of cash
When you get a large cash amount, and you have settled all your bills and taken out some for investment, if you still have enough left, it's advisable to use it to pay off your mortgage. Using an inheritance or insurance payout against your mortgage is useful, you might not get another opportunity to pay down that mortgage. However, your mortgage may have early liquidation fees which you have to consider. Where there is none, there's a higher incentive to pay off part or all of it.
Possible increase in the interest rate
The fear of an increased interest rate on an adjustable mortgage would make you consider paying off your mortgage especially if it's at a period when you can afford the money.
If you just happen to be the kind of person who is not risk inclined and would rather have one investment as opposed to having several investments that might yield more increase, it's better you pay off your home's mortgage as soon as you can.
Minimal tax benefit
A lot of the time people drag their feet as regards paying off the mortgage early because of the tax advantage they enjoy from having a mortgage. If your tax benefit is minimal or none — meaning you are not benefiting from a tax deduction for mortgage interest — it's advisable that you pay off your mortgage.
Paying off your mortgage is a personal choice that involves you looking at your whole financial picture to determine if it will be a wise decision. Speak to your financial planner for more insight.
All communities have increases and decreases in population, demographics, and times when several (or very few) homes are on the market. Sometimes, it's merely that the stars aligned for several homeowners at the same time. Once in a while, because the market is particularly hot, many of the owners hope to cash in on the rising prices. In a few cases, however, it is a BIG. RED. FLAG.
Proceed with caution.
Getting in early to a neighborhood that is on the cusp of gentrifying—of becoming that trendy place where everybody wants to live—can be a savvy move for personal homebuyers and investment purchases. But just because the neighborhood next door made the transition doesn’t always mean this one is next up.
If you can purchase several homes in the neighborhood, you can try to force the upward change, but if you’re buying your first family home, take heed of a few signs that a community has headed down instead of up.
Lots of homes for sale.
As noted above, sometimes it’s just a fluke that several homes go on the market at once. Other times, it is because some community event triggered it. This event could be a school district redistricting so that students no longer qualify to go to the school they planned for, an increase in a local tax, because the water/sewer lines need upgrading but the city isn't budging, or an increase in homeowner association dues.
Speaking of homeowner associations, sometimes it's not the dues, it's just the restrictive rules. If all the houses look identical; if the color palette seems to be within one or two hues; if the turf is all the same grass, the neighborhood might have a super-controlling association. While many folks are fine with tightly-defined rules, you'll want to know going in so that your dreams of a minty-green paint over all that red brick aren't dashed on the rocks of the rulebook and covenants.
If the school district is moving the lines, it's important to know before you invest. The changes might be in your favor, in which case: get right in there and make your move. But if you had old information on where your kids would qualify to go, you need to know.
In older neighborhoods, an aging population may be in transition out. If so, that might signal the perfect time for younger families to move in, upgrade, update, and upscale the homes into this decade. One way for you to know for sure is to speak to people that know. Talk to the neighbors when you go to that open house. Drive along the streets at the end of the workday to see who is coming and going. Stop by in the morning for a look at how many kids are heading to the school bus stop.
Your local real estate specialist pays attention to trends and can tell you how many homes have sold within the last few years, so use their expertise before making the leap.