How to Save for a Down Payment

Do you have enough for a down payment?

You’re ready to leave your rental behind but don’t have enough down payment yet. Here’s how to start saving today to get you closer to moving into a home of your own.

Begin Saving Early

The sooner you’re able to start saving the better, especially if you’re able to invest some of your savings. The more you have saved, the more options you’ll have when looking for a home.

Follow a Budget

If you’re disciplined and able to stick to a budget, you should be able to set aside a specific amount of your paycheck to savings every month. You may have to cut expenses or seek additional income, but you will save in the long run by having lower monthly mortgage payments.

Save Windfalls of Cash

Start saving any extra money you come across. Tax returns, gifts and bonuses are perfect sources for your down payment. If you’re able to grow this money through investments, it will get you that much closer to your long-term goals.

Use Interest to Grow Your Savings

If you’re able to utilize high interest savings accounts or certificates of deposits (CD’s) you’ll automatically be putting your money to work for you. Seek out the best resources for earning more for your money.

If you’re wondering how much you need to save for a down payment, use this easy mortgage calculator

How Credit Score Information is Calculated

Calculating your credit

Your credit score affects your ability to borrow money and influences the interest you’ll pay on that loan. Most people don’t know how these scores are calculated. Here’s what you need to know.

All Credit Scores are Not the Same

People often assume their credit score is a single three-digit number. In truth each of the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, score you differently since they don’t have the exact same data. Be clear where your ratings come from when sharing your scores. 

Closing Accounts Won’t Always Boost Scores

Closing old or inactive accounts may inadvertently lower your credit score because your credit history appears shorter. If you want to simplify, close newer credit accounts first.

Paying Off a Debt Doesn’t Remove it from Your History 

Once a debt goes to collection, or you’ve established a history of late payments, your credit score is impacted even if you pay off what you owe. While your score will get a boost if you pay off an old debt, it may not be by as much as you think. The best way to increase your credit score is to make payments on time every month.

Co-signing a Loan Impacts Your Scores

When you co-sign for someone else’s loan, you are ultimately responsible for the debt. If the person you’re co-signed with does not pay, your credit score will be impacted. Determine ahead of time if the person you’re co-signing with can afford the loan and if it’s worth the risk to your own credit score.

Not sure who to trust when making decisions that could affect your credit score? Refer to a Mel Foster Co. agent for guidance.

Preparing to Buy in the Competitive Summer Housing Market

Home Buying Tips

This summer will be a competitive season in the housing market where demand will be higher than supply. If you’re planning on buying a home, here are some tips to help you prepare.

Get Your Finances in Order Ahead of Time

Before you begin looking for houses, make sure you’re financially prepared to be a homeowner. This includes doing a credit check, gathering your employment and salary history, getting a current bank statement that shows savings and checking balances, making a list of your debts and anything else that could contribute to your net worth.

Be Prepared for High Prices

If you see a house you love, chances are someone else loves it too. Many sellers are receiving multiple offers and will often receive offers close to their asking price. Be prepared for firm prices and difficult negotiations. Determine your needs vs. wants when it comes to selecting a home and be willing to compromise so you can act and make an offer quickly.

Work with a Professional Real Estate Agent

Having a real estate agent on your team can make a big difference. An experienced agent can recognize what might make or break a deal. Your agent will offer the sellers your whole package and not just an offer number, making your offer more appealing to the seller. Your agent’s ability to negotiate on your behalf gives you peace of mind that you’re getting the most out of the deal.

To contact a Mel Foster Co. agent today visit our website.

Mulching Tips to Make Your Yard Look Great

Mulching Tips

If you want your yard to look its best, mulch is a great way to highlight various parts of your landscaping. These basics will help you get started.

  1. When to Mulch

When the weather starts to warm up it’s tempting to get started right away on landscaping. But don’t put mulch down too early in the spring. Give the soil a chance to warm up. Mulching too early will slow down the warming process and may cover up perennials that have not popped up from the ground. Normally, mid to late spring is the best time to put down mulch.

  1. How Much Mulch

The exact amount of mulch to place depends on the type you’re using, but generally you want about one or two inches of mulch. The main reason to apply mulch is to prevent weed growth, but too much mulch may stunt your plant growth. If you’re trying to keep a particular area free from any plant life, you can use as much mulch as you like.

  1. Choosing the Right Mulch

Choosing the right mulch material is your choice. Mulch’s purpose is to prevent weed growth, retain water, keep temperatures consistent and beautify the landscape. The color of the mulch is usually personal preference, but recycled mulch will break down more quickly and add nutrients to the soil. Rubber mulch is more expensive initially, but does not decompose.

Want more tips for caring for the outside of your home? The Mel Foster Co. blog has hundreds of articles for homeowners.

 

Fresh Spring Cleaning Tips

Think Spring!

Spring is finally here and that means it’s once again time to do a deep clean throughout your house. Here are some ways to freshen up your home in time for summer.

  1. Declutter Every Room

Take an empty laundry basket from room to room and gather items that are out of place and return them to their correct location. If there’s anything you no longer need, this is a great opportunity to get rid of it.

  1. Put a Recycle Basket Near the Front Door

Having a place you can immediately get rid of unwanted mail, fliers or packaging will prevent this clutter from entering your home. If you’re able to keep the bin by a frequently used side entrance to your home, it’s even better because guests won’t see it.

  1. Cleaning Ceiling Fans

One of the easiest and fastest ways to clean a ceiling fan is with an old pillowcase. You place the pillowcase over the blade and slide it off. The dust will collect inside the pillowcase and you can empty it outside.

  1. Open the Windows

One of the biggest perks of spring is the warm fresh air! Don’t forget to open your windows while doing all your cleaning to get some fresh air flowing through your house. It’ll keep you energized and make your home smell great.

Spring is also the season when homes are listed for sale. If you’re ready to list, or find an agent to sell your home, now’s the time to find a Mel Foster Co. agent.

Mel Foster Co. Celebrates 2017 Achievements

Mel Foster Co. held its annual awards reception last night at the Rhythm City Casino Resort in Davenport, Iowa. Rob Fick, president and CEO, Lynsey Engels, president real estate brokerage and Marc Engels, president of Mel Foster Insurance, honored and recognized 130 award winners within the organization for their 2017 achievements.

Fick congratulated sales associates and staff on a strong year and shared with them, “Our agents and staff are some of the best in the industry and the reason for our success. We’ve just finished a very successful year and indications show 2018 will follow many of the same market trends. The economy is still robust, low interest rates continue to make home buying very affordable by historical standards, and more people are employed and in a financial position to buy a home or business.”

The commercial division, led by Thad DenHartog, continued to dominate the market. Their sales volume continued to reach record-breaking levels with a five percent increase in 2017. Mel Foster Commercial Real Estate Services was ranked number one in the Quad Cities Commercial MLS with over 42 percent of the market share volume in 2017, up 16 percent from 2016.  The next competitor had 28 percent of the commercial sales volume. Three of the company’s commercial brokers ranked in the top 5 in the Quad Cities Commercial MLS.  “We are thrilled to see our commercial division continue to hold such a strong position in the Quad City market,” said Engels.

Mel Foster Insurance continued to grow its footprint in the region and acquired Frazier & Associates of LeClaire, Iowa in 2017. The insurance division increased both total premiums written and policy count over five percent from 2016 and client base increased by 14%.  Marc Engels, president of Mel Foster Insurance, said, “We are uniquely positioned in the market as a local full-service, independent agency with specialized professionals focused on serving our clients with business risk management, employee benefits, individual/group retirement planning, and personal insurance solutions. We are proud that we added 1,283 policies in 2017 exclusive of our acquisition of Frazier & Associates. We have a 95.4% client retention rate agency-wide, which is a testament to the exceptional service we provide to our personal and business clients. We expect our growth and retention to reach new heights in 2018 in part due to the strengthening economy.”

The residential real estate sales team gave another remarkable performance in 2017 with a nine percent increase company-wide in sales volume and number of transaction sides (either listings or selling) over the previous year. All nine office locations reported an increase in sales volume with the Galesburg office leading the way with a 34 percent increase from last year. Company-wide, residential agents averaged 17 transactions in 2017, an increase of at least one per agent. The average time to get homes sold was successfully lowered from 61 days to 55 days in 2017.  In the metro Quad Cities, sale prices rose five percent in 2017 for an average sales price of $191,349 per the Quad Cities Area Realtor Association.  Eleven residential agents were in the top 10 of their respective MLS compared to nine last year.

Construction of new homes surged in 2017 as Mel Foster Co., who is the largest land developer in the Quad Cities continued to develop neighborhoods on both sides of the river. The company developed more than 165 residential lots in six different subdivisions in both Iowa and Illinois in 2017 with plans to develop over 500 lots in future additions.  Lynsey Engels, president, real estate brokerage said, “The increased demand for new construction lots is a great indicator for a strong market in 2018.  We are pleased to be positioned to meet this higher demand with a wide range of neighborhoods offering lots in multiple price ranges.”

The high numbers across all the division are the result of the tireless efforts of a dedicated team of professionals and a focused strategy to provide the best real estate and insurance experience. “This is an exciting time for everybody within Mel Foster Co. We posted the best year since the housing bubble peaked in 2008. Our success would not be possible without the hard work of every single person within each of our divisions,” Fick concluded.

In addition to another impressive year of sales growth, Mel Foster Co. welcomed 26 new agents and staff into the company in 2017. Mel Foster Co. has residential offices in Bettendorf, Clinton and Davenport, Iowa and Galesburg, Geneseo, Kewanee, Moline and Savanna, Illinois.

How to Create the Perfect Sunroom

Sunroom Elements
Creating a sunroom

The hours of daylight are starting to get shorter with the approach of fall. Soak up all the sun you can by creating a sunroom in your home with these elements.

  1. Comfortable Furniture

Your sunroom should be a second living room. Having a nice area rug or cushioned furniture is a great way to make the space more comfortable. Try to pick natural colors to go with the natural light in the room.

  1. Environmental Controls

Add a space heater or ceiling fan to your sunroom to create a comfortable temperate. And don’t forget you should run your ceiling fan in the winter to push the warm air down. Just reverse the fan’s direction for winter use. If you’re considering a larger investment, adding a fireplace will create a room you can use even when there’s snow on the ground.

  1. Privacy Shades

It’s nice to be able to see out and enjoy the view, but it’s even nicer to have an option for privacy if you want it. Shades or window treatments also keep the room cooler or warmer depending on the season and sunshine.

  1. Greenery

No sunroom is complete without plant life. Even low maintenance plants will make you feel like you’re out in nature. If you have more of a green thumb, you can put multiple types of plants with vibrant colors in your sunroom. As a transitional space between your home and the outdoors, the sunroom needs to have thriving plants.

Want more ideas for your sunroom? Check out this weekend’s open houses.

Mel Foster Co. is Local and Global

We're Local. We're Global.
We’re Local. We’re Global.

Mel Foster Co. is proud to be a member of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® (Leading RE), an organization that pairs buyers with the top real estate agencies around the globe. If you’re moving to a new city, state, or even country, Mel Foster Co. can help you find your perfect home through the LeadingRE network of agents.

The biggest benefit to buyers is starting the process with Mel Foster Co., a local, familiar company to help you take the next step to find a home in a potentially unfamiliar place. Whether you’re planning on moving for a new job or just needing a fresh start some place new, Mel Foster Co.’s relocation specialists can help you expedite the home search process. Mel Foster Co. can help you with questions about currency exchange, required documentation and any other information you need to relocate internationally.

Mel Foster Co. relocation experts will connect you with an agent who is familiar with the area you’re moving to and put you in direct contact with them. By communicating with a LeadingRE member, you’ll be starting your home search on the right track. Through LeadingRE, you can view thousands of properties around to globe, and also see what life is like in different countries. LeadingRE partners offer firsthand knowledge of multiple cities around the world and can tell you what to expect when living there. If you’re thinking of moving out of the area, contact Mel Foster Co.’s relocation department for help getting connected to your new community.

Housing Shortage Benefits Sellers

Housing Shortage Benefits Sellers
Now is the time to sell

It’s currently a seller’s market, with housing supply down significantly in the local area. The shortage of inventory is the main reason why sellers are doing so well in the current market and getting higher offers for their property. Plenty of homebuyers are demanding homes, but don’t have as many options to choose from as they did in the past. Low demand simply means higher sales prices.

In the U.S. roughly 900,000 new homes are available for sale per year, but the demand is for approximately 1.5 million homes. This shortage in the supply of homes gives sellers the advantage when putting their home on the market. Combined with low interest rates, this shortage of housing supply is causing many homes to be sold quickly and competitively, often at a higher than market value price.

Housing experts speculate the shortage will continue for at least four more years even if home construction numbers increase. The supply can’t keep up with demand now that millennials are the largest home buying group in America. The large unmet demand for housing is continuing to grow with no signs of slowing down.

Curious what your home might be worth? Click here to connect with an agent and receive a competitive market analysis.

MEL FOSTER CO. AGENTS RANKED REAL Trends AMERICA’S BEST

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Mel Foster Co. is pleased to announce that several of their agents have been named as one of America’s most productive agents as a part of REAL Trends America’s Best Real Estate Agents, the ranking report produced by REAL Trends and sponsored by The Zillow Group.

REAL Trends America’s Best Real Estate Agents ranks over 12,600 residential real estate professionals solely based on their excellence in real estate sales during calendar year 2016. All production numbers are independently verified by a third-party in order to ensure accuracy and report integrity.  “This group of highly successful real estate sales agent represents less than 1 percent of all real estate practitioners in the United States,” says Steve Murray, publisher of REAL Trends America’s Best Real Estate Agents and president of REAL Trends.

To qualify for inclusion, an individual agent must have closed at least 50 transaction sides, compared with the industry average of 8.6, or $20 million in closed sales volume in 2016. This ensures that only the best of the best are included on the prestigious list.

The rankings are complied based on survey from virtually every national branded network, many state and local associations of Realtors®, multiple listing services, all applicants from past years’ rankings, and the 1,600 largest brokerage firms in the United States.

The real estate agents are ranked in two categories:

  • Individual agent – Sales volume
  • Individual agent – Transaction sides (in each real estate transaction there are two sides that can be represented by a real estate agent; the buy side and the selling side)

For Individuals by Volume, in Iowa, two Mel Foster Co. agents ranked in the top ten:

  • Brad Boeye, Kimberly Road office, ranked #8
  • Geri Doyle, Davenport I-74 office, ranked #10

For Individuals by Sides, in Iowa, seven Mel Foster agents ranked out of 119:

  • Lucky Lang II, Davenport I-74 office, ranked #17
  • Brad Boeye, Davenport Kimberly Road office, ranked #27
  • Geri Doyle, Davenport Kimberly Road office, ranked #54
  • Mary Leslie Douglas, Clinton office, ranked #66
  • Sara Smith, Davenport I-74 office, ranked #67
  • Dan Schneckloth, Davenport I-74 office, ranked #104
  • Scott Kelling, Davenport I-74 office, ranked #115

For individuals by Sides, in Illinois, seven Mel Foster Co. agents ranked out of 267:

  • Diana Franks, Geneseo office, ranked #52
  • Paula Nabb, Moline office, ranked #155
  • Peggy Tossell, Kewanee office, ranked #170
  • Chuck Ross, Galesburg office, ranked #190
  • Sara Varner, Galesburg office, ranked #203
  • Jennifer Evans, Galesburg office, ranked #227
  • Rhianna Schroeder, Galesburg office, ranked #243

“Having our agents recognized on REAL Trends America’s Best Real Estate Agents list, shows Mel Foster Co. agents are dedicated to their industry, their business and their clients.  They are part of an elite group of real estate agents across the country,” said Lynsey Engels, Mel Foster Co.’s President Real Estate Brokerage.

 

About Mel Foster Co. Real Estate

Founded in 1921, Mel Foster Co. is a real estate leader in Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois serving Davenport, Bettendorf, Moline, Rock Island and the surrounding Quad City area. It is one of Iowa’s largest independently owned real estate companies. Mel Foster Co. Real Estate specializes in residential and commercial sales and offers services for a broader spectrum of property transactions including farm and land, land development and management, relocation and new construction. Visit www.melfosterco.com for more information.

 

About REAL Trends

REAL Trends is a privately-held, Colorado-based publishing, consulting and communications company specializing in the residential brokerage and housing industries. Recognized as the leading source of trends in the industry, REAL Trends, The Trusted Source, also publishes the REAL Trends The Thousand, as advertised in The Wall Street Journal and the REAL Trends 500, which ranks the top brokerage firms in the United States. Visit REAL Trends at www.realtrends.com.

Zillow is a registered trademark of Zillow, Inc. Trulia is a registered trademark of Trulia, LLC. These marks are used with permission.


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