Home Buying and Financing

First-time homebuyers often feel at a financial disadvantage when considering buying a home. Homeownership can seem daunting, whether it’s not having the money for a down payment, student loans and other monetary limitations or securing a reasonable interest rate on a mortgage. The good news is historical data regarding interest rates provides a favorable outlook for borrowers, and first-time buyers can take advantage of several benefits when buying a first home.

Interest Rates Over Time

Interest rates go up and down over time. Data collected over time indicates that interest rates today are about the same as 20 years ago. And rates are less than half what they were 40 years ago. How does knowing this help? Buyers shouldn’t feel stuck with today’s interest rate for the life of a mortgage. Rates will change, and buyers can make changes then, too. 

Refinancing Options

Since interest rates fluctuate regularly, buyers can consider refinancing when the time is right. Buyers can swap the higher mortgage rate for something more favorable if interest rates go down. This may mean a monthly payment stays the same, but the years left on the mortgage could be dramatically reduced. 

First-Time Buyer Benefits

There are a variety of government and state-funded programs that can help pave the way for first-time buyers. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the following qualify as first-time home buyers:

  • A person who has not owned their principal residence for at least three years
  • A single parent who previously co-owned a home while married
  • A homemaker who once owned with a spouse but no longer receives financial support from that spouse
  • A person who has only owned a residence not affixed to a permanent foundation, such as a mobile or trailer home

Several programs make homeownership more affordable for eligible buyers by including lower interest mortgage rates or lower down payment requirements.

  • First-time homebuyer programs for students – Available if you recently graduated from college.
  • Energy-efficient mortgages (EEM) – This type of mortgage allows you to tack the cost of energy-efficient upgrades (think new insulation, a more efficient HVAC system or double-pane windows) onto your primary loan without requiring a larger down payment.
  • First-time homebuyer programs by state – Each state operates a housing finance authority (HFA) that encourages homeownership, among other responsibilities. 
  • Habitat For Humanity – If your annual income is 60 percent or less of the median income in your area, you might qualify for Habitat for Humanity’s homeownership program. Along with not exceeding the income threshold, you’ll need to contribute sweat equity​​ to help build the home or a home for another applicant to qualify.

Find more tips for buyers.

Getting Kids Involved In Your Home Search.

Involving your kids

Children are becoming more and more involved in the search for real estate, especially as children wait longer to leave the nest and complete their education. Depending on the age of your children, they can use technology to find homes for sale or even be an integral part of determining how much house you can afford.

Mel Foster Co. lists all home for sale, from every listing company, at www.melfosterco.com. Your kids can help you filter by price, bedrooms and other options that are important to you.

The free Mel Foster Co. app can be downloaded to find all homes for sale around a particular location. Once you have the app downloaded to your phone or tablet, your tech-savvy child can launch the Foster Finder to activate your device’s camera and GPS to identify listings while you drive. It’s a fun way to get kids involved on the drive home from school or a friend’s house. And having a helper while you drive is the safe way to search on the go.

Children of all ages can benefit from the financial lessons that go along with buying a house. Searching within a budget is an easy lesson for younger children while budgeting for expenses like homeowners insurance, taxes, inspections and closing costs is a valuable exercise for older children who may soon be buying their first home.

Make your home search a family affair and involve your kids at an age appropriate level.

Supporting Our Hunger

Student Hunger Drive
Supporting our Hungry

Mel Foster Co. is proud to participate again in the Student Hunger Drive Corporate Challenge.  The competition kicks off today and runs thru February 27.

Each Mel Foster Co. office is conducting an internal food drive by collecting donations of money and/or canned food items for the Student Hunger Drive.  For last year’s corporate challenge, Mel Foster Co. received the Bronze Award for Division B collecting 37.25 pounds per employee and their insurance division won the internal drive.

“Supporting those in need is what being a community partner is all about”, says Lynsey Engels, President of Brokerage Division of Mel Foster Co.  She added, “Mel Foster Co. is proud to continue our tradition of supporting the Student Hunger Drive, and our agents and staff look forward to helping create awareness in the fight against hunger in our area.”

Start A New Winter Tradition.

Start a new winter tradition.
Start a new winter tradition.

Are you a snowbird? Do you “fly south” for the winter? Why continue to rent, especially if you find yourself returning to the same place year after year. Try using Mel Foster Co.’s free relocation services to help you find and purchase a second home in your favorite winter destination. Our vast network of contacts will help you find an agent wherever you spend your winter.

Here are just a few things that we offer:

  • Help you find an agent in another state
  • Provide cost of living comparisons
  • Help you find a mortgage company

While you’re basking in the sun in your winter get-away town, thoroughly survey your favorite neighborhoods. How’s the traffic when the population is at its winter peak? Are stores or restaurants more crowded at certain times of the day? This information will give you an idea of what to expect during winters to come.

Ask your agent about renting out your winter home in the months that you’re away to generate more disposable income. If you pick the right property, it may pay for itself.

Contact a relocation specialist and start making connections in your winter community.

Where Gen Y Buyers Can Find A Diamond In The Rough.

Are you a Gen Y buyer?
Are you a Gen Y buyer?

When shopping for a home, check out transitional city neighborhoods that might just be on the verge of revitalization. You might find a great price or a really unique home that’s in the middle of the action. There are several reasons why you should consider all of your options when searching for your new home.

Urban neighborhoods are home to coffee shops and corner stores. Boutiques and other quirky shops can add the character you might be missing in a traditional suburban setting.

Young couples or singles, who aren’t ready to give up a thriving nightlife, are often drawn to downtown lofts, converted warehouse spaces or even upper floors of shops and restaurants. Living downtown may give you more opportunities to make friends who are your age.

Many times, living in an urban area gives you easier access to public transportation that could significantly reduce your annual transportation budget, if you’re fortunate enough to no longer need the use of a car.

Farmer’s markets and food co-ops are also becoming very popular in urban areas. With access to organic and farm fresh food, your health and wallet could be thanking you. Another point of consideration is that living in densely populated areas gives you the potential for exposure to other ethnic groups and cultures. New and interesting food and customs could become just another perk of your new neighborhood.

Downtown homes or lofts are often smaller than homes out in the burbs. This means less to clean, a smaller yard or maybe no yard to mow, and your utility bill may be smaller in a smaller home. You have your whole life to move out to the suburbs. Look around your downtown for the hot spots that fit your budget and style.

Count on a Mel Foster Co. agent to help you identify up and coming neighborhoods and the programs that may make homeownership more affordable to you. Find an agent at your local office.

Mel Foster REALTORS® Receive Honors

Mel Foster Co. agents were honored by the Quad Cities Area REALTOR® Association during their Annual Holiday Party and Installation of Officers held on December 5th. Congratulation to Dave Maubach of the Bettendorf office, Scott Kelling of the Davenport  I-74 office, and Herb Thompson of the Moline office.

Dave Maubach, REALTOR®

Dave Maubach was named REALTOR® of the Year Award for his exceptional real estate services.  Dave started his career in real estate with Mel Foster Co. almost 20 years ago in 1995.  He is licensed in Iowa & Illinois.  He is a Member of the Quad City Area REALTOR® Association, Iowa Association of REALTORS®, Illinois Association of REALTORS®, the National Association of REALTORS® and the Quad Cities Builders & Remodelers Association.  Dave is a current board member of the Quad City Area REALTOR® Association.   He is a past board member of the Neighborhood Housing Services, mentor at Big Brothers Big Sisters and volunteered his time for Davenport Youth Baseball for many years.

Scott Kelling
Scott Kelling, REALTOR®

Scott Kelling received the prominent REALTOR® Emeritus Status by the National Association of REALTORS®. The REALTOR® Emeritus Status is for a REALTOR® with a cumulative period of 40 years in one or more local Association of REALTORS®.

Scott is licensed in Iowa with 40 years of real estate experience and all of those with Mel Foster Co.  He received Mel Foster Co.’s Iowa REALTOR® of the Year in 2010. He is a Member of the Quad City REALTOR® Association, the Iowa Association of REALTORS®, the National Association of REALTORS®, Quad City Chamber of Commerce and American Political Science Association.

He earned his master Degree from Vanderbilt University and served on the City of Davenport Plan and Zoning Commission, was past Director of the Davenport Chamber of Commerce, past President of the Great Davenport Board of REALTORS®, and a veteran of the United States Army.

Herb Thompson
Herb Thompson, REALTOR®

Herb Thompson received the prominent REALTOR® Emeritus Status by the National Association of REALTORS®. The REALTOR® Emeritus Status is for a REALTOR® with a cumulative period of 40 years in one or more local Association of REALTORS®.

Herb has over 40 years of real estate experience, 26 years at Mel Foster Co., and is licensed in Illinois and Iowa.  He is a Member of the Quad City REALTOR® Association, Illinois Association of REALTORS®, and the National Association of REALTORS®.  Herb served as President of the Rock Island County Board of REALTORS® in 1986 and received REALTOR® of the Year award in 1987.

Since 1980, Herb has been a member of the Moline Rotary.  He is a past Board member and past president of the YMCA, Salvation Army Board Member, High School Teacher and Coach for 22 years, and a Veteran of United States Air Force.

Turn A Vacation Rental Into Your Second Home.

Turn a vacation rental into a second home!
Turn a vacation rental into a second home!

Vacation home sales are on the rise, with many people buying for a vacation home to use now and retire to later.

Second home buyers tend to be in their 40s and 50s, are still working, have children who are starting their own families and no obligations to care for aging parents. They are using their vacation home as a meeting place to gather everyone during holidays or other significant family holidays.

When the home isn’t being used, it generates rental income. In some locations, the rental fees can completely cover the mortgage, taxes and fees of homeownership, giving you a vacation home for free that can eventually become your second home in retirement.

Purchasing a vacation home where you’d eventually like to retire allows you to establish community ties for a smooth transition into retirement later. It’s also a great trial run. It gives you a glimpse into where you might want to spend your golden years before the time arrives and you have to make a firm commitment.

There are also financial benefits to owning a second home. First is the appreciation that will happen over time, especially if you purchase in a popular resort area. However even modest appreciation over time is acceptable given all the benefits of second home ownership.

Mel Foster Co.’s relocation division has connections to help you find a second home anywhere in the world. Contact a relocation specialist at 800-367-1134.

Get Your Finances In Order.

Getting your finances in order
Getting your finances in order

One of the smartest things you can do before buying a home is getting yourself pre-qualified. By getting pre-qualified, you’ll get an idea of what your mortgage might cost, ahead of time. This can help you prepare your budget, set your expectations and strengthen your confidence to negotiate when you’re ready to make an offer.

What is pre-qualification?

Pre-qualification gives you an estimate of what you could potentially borrow. It is based on information you give on your income, assets and credit. Many times a pre-qualification can be done online and is offered by many lenders at little to no cost. It is however just an estimation, and not a guarantee of any type of loan.

Why get pre-qualified?

Once you know how much of a monthly payment you are able to afford, and you’ve figured out a budget for yourself, a pre-qualification will allow you to estimate a loan option to fit your needs. You’ll also have a better idea of which homes you can afford during your search.

What documentation do I need in order to get pre-qualified?

You will need proof of income, this could include recent pay stubs, or W-2 statements from the past two years. You should also bring a copy of your tax return for the past two years, as well as proof of any alimony or additional income. You’ll also want to bring proof of your assets, including bank account statements to show you have the money for a potential down payment. Don’t forget your driver’s license and social security card, as the lender will need these to access your credit report.

Pre-qualification can help you be fully prepared to purchase that home you’ve been eyeing. You can get a head start by using the mortgage calculators to determine your monthly payment, figure out how much home you can afford and make a decision about renting versus buying.

An Older Home As A Green Alternative.

Older Home as Green Alternative
Older Home as Green Alternative

Call it recycling on a grand scale. Homebuyers who want their purchase to be more environmentally friendly are turning to older homes instead of building new. In fact, architect Carl Elefante coined the phrase, “the greenest building is the one that is already built.” What he meant by that is that environmental resources that would be used to build a building’s replacement are often times spared by restoring or repurposing an existing structure.

Did you know that it can take up to 80 years for a new, energy-efficient building to overcome the energy and climate change impacts caused during the construction process? Building reuse offers significant environmental savings when compared to the energy consumption of demolition and new construction.

Older buildings constructed prior to reliance on mechanical heating, cooling and lighting systems utilize what nature offers as part of their design. This can help reduce your energy use, helping you save on heating and cooling your home.

Go green and consider purchasing an older home that just needs a little TLC. Use the option to search by Year Built by clicking here to find a home you can recycle.

Relocating To The Quad Cities.

Moving to our area?
Moving to our area?

You landed that new job in the Quad Cities, but now what do you do to find a home? Mel Foster Co. offers free relocation services that can help you explore neighborhoods, schools and cities that are a match for your criteria.

Your agent can help you pinpoint options that are near your new job or the amenities you most desire. Do you want riverfront? A large wooded property a few minutes from town? A renovated loft style condo without any yard work? The Quad Cities is such a diverse area, it’s easy to find a match, no matter how specific your needs seem.

Many of the area’s largest employers count on Mel Foster Co. relocation specialists to welcome new hires or transferees to the Quad Cities. Deere and Company, ALCOA and Thomson Prison employees have all used the free relocation services to get acquainted with their new town.

Getting started is easy. Click here for an overview of free relocation services or call 800-367-1134.


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