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.

First-Time Home Buyers

As interest rates are starting to come down, it’s a great time to be looking to purchase your first home. Consider these top ten reasons why being a first-time home buyer is great.

Build Equity

Building equity means investing in something you own rather than paying money each month on rent without owning the property. When you make monthly mortgage payments on the property you own, you own more and more each month. In the future when you sell your first home, you’ll have money left over after paying off the mortgage that can be used as a down payment for your next home. Your money works for you when you pay a mortgage rather than rent.

More Privacy

A home is more private than renting an apartment and sharing a bedroom wall with a neighbor you don’t know

Find A Smaller Starter Home

Begin small. A home with less square footage usually means a smaller mortgage and smaller utility bills. When it’s time to sell that first home, you can use the money you get from the sale to buy a larger or higher-priced home,

Establish Credit

Getting a mortgage loan at a young age can help you establish a solid credit history, which means a good credit score and ample financial opportunities down the road.

A First Home Is Not A Forever Home

According to the United States Census Bureau, the average person will move as many as 11.7 times. So don’t stress to find the perfect home the first time around. Look for a home that is best for now.

Remodel As You Go

Make your house a home. Freshen the landscape to add curb appeal. Swap out the windows for more energy-efficient versions. Add a deck to expand your outdoor living space. Projects like these will increase property value while personalizing your home.

The Yard

Imagine the possibilities. Space for the dog to run. Your own vegetable or flower garden. Naps outside in the hammock. Room for a firepit. A spot for the family snowman.

Tax Incentives

Homeownership has several potential tax benefits that might lower your tax burden and increase your annual refund.

Feeling Of Achievement

Homeownership is an accomplishment that is worth the time and energy required to plan and succeed.

You Can Refinance Later

Interest rates are constantly changing. If interest rates go down in the future, you can swap your higher rate for something more favorable. Sometimes, you can keep your monthly payment the same but dramatically reduce the years left on your mortgage. Don’t feel stuck with today’s interest rate for the next 30 years.

Find more tips for buyers.

Mel Foster Co. Agent Receives REALTOR® Honor

Lynsey Engels, President, Real Estate Brokerage at Mel Foster Co. Inc. is pleased to announce that Leanna Trees of their Bettendorf office was recognized by the Quad City Area REALTORS® during their Annual Holiday Party and Installation of Officers held on December 1st.  Congratulations to Leanna for receiving the Rookie of the Year Award, which is designed to bring credit and recognition to an individual during their first two years as a REALTOR® member and who takes an active role in the Quad City Area REALTORS®.

Leanna serves on the QCAR Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and the Professionalism Committee.  She will also join the Board of Directors serving as a 2-year Director starting next month.  In addition to being a member of the Quad City Area REALTORS®, she is also a member of the Iowa Association of REALTOR® and the National Association of REALTORS®. 

Engels expresses, “Leanna’s dedication over the last 18 months has been commendable, making her truly worthy of this recognition.  We are delighted to have her as a valuable member of the Mel Foster Co. team and cannot wait to see her real estate career explode.  This award demonstrates that Mel Foster Co. is not only an excellent starting point in real estate but also an ideal place for long-term career growth.”

Selling Your Home

It’s always a good idea to have a thorough list of what you can do to get your home ready to sell. Get prepared so you’re organized and can make the most of your free time now.

Find An Agent Right For You

Meet with a few different Mel Foster Co. agents to start. Grab a cup of coffee and do short interviews until you find an agent you click with. The agent will help ensure your home is priced right for sale and can promote your home through a variety of online marketing tools. They will guide you through the necessary paperwork and represent you during the negotiations for finalizing an accepted offer.

Navigate through the variety of Fake Patek watches to find the one that matches your taste and financial comfort.

Plan To Do The Work

Before you list your house, make sure it’s in the condition buyers expect. Investing some time and money before listing is a wise investment. Spend your energy on completing tasks like these to get the home ready:

  • Consider a pre-listing inspection to focus your to-do list
  • Have professional photos taken to use online
  • Do a deep clean, especially in the garage and main living areas
  • Hire someone to fix the leaky sink or uneven door if you can’t do it yourself
  • Apply a fresh coat of paint on walls in high-traffic areas

It’s All In The Presentation

First impressions matter when selling a home. The first few seconds of viewing a home set the tone for buyers. And since you get only one chance to make a first impression, make the most of your time boosting curb appeal. Tidy up your landscaping by trimming shrubbery and adding another layer of fresh mulch. Ensure your front walkway is clear of debris and peppered with seasonal accents or flowers so it’s welcoming. Take the time to clean the windows and replace the lightbulbs on your outdoor lighting so things sparkle and look fresh.

Find more tips for sellers.

Set The Stage For Top Dollar Returns

Set up your home for sales success. Staging your home can help buyers visualize how space can be used with furniture and make the house more attractive to potential buyers. Try these five staging tips when preparing to sell.

Eliminate Clutter

No one likes clutter, especially when looking at a home. The disorder could turn potential buyers away as they see the home as messy and in need of more storage. Instead, get rid of unnecessary items in storage areas, cabinets, on shelving, and table decorations. Depersonalize the area so buyers can visualize their belongings in the home.

Rethink Furniture Placement

When staging your home, the furniture placement makes a difference. Enable space for potential buyers to easily move throughout the home’s rooms and configure the furniture to make the area seem bigger and the most functional. Removing unnecessary furniture that makes the space seem more cluttered (as mentioned above) can allow for different furniture reconfigurations.

Add Funcational Office Space

Dedicated office space has become a necessity for many home buyers. Having an office space set up can help buyers visualize the use of the office space and check off a box on their must-have list. Or create an area in a guest bedroom or a corner of a room to stage an office.

Show Off Storage

Having ample storage is one thing that many home buyers search for when looking at a house for sale. People want space to store all their items, so showing how various areas can be utilized for maximum storage potential throughout the home is key. However, ensure these storage spaces are organized to appeal more to the buyers.

More Lighting

Great lighting is vital to making a home look warm and welcoming. When staging a house, ensure that the natural light from the outside can flow into the inside spaces. In every room of the home, a variety of lighting options should be turned on, such as lamps and overhead lights, to make the rooms as bright and inviting for buyers.

Find more selling tips.

Mel Foster Co. Celebrates 2022 Achievements

Mel Foster Co. celebrated 2022 at its annual awards event on January 26, 2023. Lynsey Engels, president of real estate brokerage, Marc Engels, president of Mel Foster Insurance, and Rob Fick, president and CEO, collectively honored 109 award winners for their 2022 achievements and released the company’s year-end results.

Mel Foster Insurance, a locally owned and operated independent insurance agency, had another successful year in a challenging insurance market. With insurance rates rising across the region, the agency was able to capitalize on their numerous financially stable insurance company partners to bring insurance solutions to clients. Agency President Marc Engels commented, “The insurance industry continues to see record catastrophic weather events, nuclear liability verdicts, and unprecedented social inflation, affecting premiums for all insurance consumers. Our people and our long-term relationships in the insurance marketplace make us uniquely positioned to find competitive rates while providing professional and local service.”

In an evolving insurance market, the commercial property and casualty department experienced year-over-year growth of 8.9%. Overall, the insurance division saw increased revenue of 6%, and direct written premium was up 5.9%. Mr. Engels said, “I am proud of our entire team for the outstanding service provided throughout the year, which allowed us to retain 98% of our clients in 2022! We appreciate the confidence clients have in us as we recognize we would not be here without their continued business.”  

“In 2023, we will continue to make financial investments in training and professional development for our employees. We will work diligently to be a trusted independent agency in the Quad Cities region that delivers a great insurance experience,” said Mr. Engels.  

As one of the largest land developers in the Quad Cities and surrounding areas, Mel Foster Co. sold 24 residential lots in six subdivisions in 2022. To keep up with the demand, the company has 103 developed residential lots available in inventory for home buyers wishing to build their dream home. In addition to the already developed residential lots, Mel Foster Co. has four additional subdivisions final platted and ready to be developed.  Mel Foster Co. residential agents sold 69 new construction homes or condos in 2022 and the average new construction sales price in 2022 was $455,994, up from $452,734 last year.

Mel Foster Commercial Real Estate Services, led by Thad DenHartog, had over $75 million in commercial real estate sales, down 8.7% from last year. Two of the company’s commercial brokers ranked in the top 10 of the Quad Cities Commercial MLS. Ms. Engels said, “Even with the changing marketplace, the Quad Cities commercial real estate industry saw an increase in interest from outside investors. Despite rising inflation, fears of a recession and supply chain disruptions, the demand for industrial space was still high.”

Nationally and locally, residential real estate continued to experience a lack of inventory and rising interest rates sidelined some buyers and sellers in the year’s second half. Mel Foster Co. had a 5% decline in volume from 2021. The average sales price for the company was up 9.57% from 2022 at $213,588, and the number of days on the market dropped to 27 compared to 37 in 2021.

Ms. Engels stated, “The first half of the year was similar to 2021. Buyers experienced strong home prices, limited inventory, and a relatively fast-moving environment. As interest rates increased, inflation skyrocketed, and inventory remained tight, the market changed in the last half of the year. Our agents still successfully closed deals with those challenges.” On average, Mel Foster Co.’s agents closed 13.5 transactions (buy or sell) in 2022, which is higher than the national average according to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR).

Across the eight residential office locations within Mel Foster Co., the company had a combined 11 agents in the top 10 of their respective residential MLS. Ten agents were named on RealTrends America’s Best Real Estate Professionals list, which honors the finest real estate agents from across the country.

The website, MelFosterCo.com was named one of the leading real estate websites in the nation. The website was recognized for its community section by the real estate industry publication RealTrends Website Rankings, which highlights the top real estate websites across the country in six total categories in an annual brokerage website ranking. A team of technical experts specializing in website design, structure, and functionality analyzes the sites. Mel Foster Co. earned the 2022 Top Workplaces in the USA and Top Workplaces in Iowa, a partnership with The Des Moines Register and Energage.

Fick welcomed 17 new agents/staff and congratulated five other agents/staff on their retirements during the awards. Twenty-two agents were recognized for volunteering on real estate association committees or boards at the local, state, or national level. Forty-one agents and staff were thanked for their years of service with the company, totaling 660 years of combined service. Across all three company divisions, the median years of service among staff/agents is 13.5 years. This number is nearly double what other companies experience, according to NAR. Fick commented, “Our years of service marker indicates that our agents, producers, and staff have collectively created a culture that I am proud of.  We invest in new technology and new products to help our agents and producers find success at Mel Foster Co. We are always seeking talented professionals to join our team.”

Throughout its 100-year history, Mel Foster Co. has prioritized giving back to the communities it serves.

Mel Foster Co. continued its Think.Buy.Be.Local campaign in 2022. In support of this initiative, the company raised money to support local families by participating in the River Bend Foodbank Community Hunger Drive. Mel Foster Co. supported multiple families in need over the holidays, made and delivered baskets to seniors, partnered with WQAD for a school supply drive, held a blood drive with ImpactLIfe, donated to Quad City Animal Welfare Center through a partnership with WHBF, and collected toys and money for Toys for Tots. Mel Foster Co. agents and staff supported over 160 local businesses during Small Business Week, a 62% increase from last year. The company partnered with local breweries and coffee shops in its communities by providing its agents and staff with branded Mel Foster Co. growlers for a complimentary fill on the company at those establishments. The company is also the three-peat defending champion of the Quad-City Times Bix 7 Brady Street Corporate Sponsor Challenge. Ms. Engels stated, “It’s a privilege to work with our staff and agents with opportunities to give back and support local businesses.”

Engels closed the awards by thanking the agents and staff for their continued perseverance, loyalty, and commitment to clients. “We don’t know what challenges 2023 will bring, but our dedicated professionals will be ready to serve our communities.”

For a complete list of award winners, visit https://www.melfosterco.com/agent-achievements

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

Spring offers a chance to refresh and try something new.

Plant a tree.

Consider local events when planning your April community involvement and activities.

Dress for Success’ Recycle the Runway at River Center in Davenport

April 12

5:30-9:00pm

Wine Festival Preview Dinner in Rogalski Center at St. Ambrose in Davenport

April 14

6:00-10:00pm

Muscatine Symphony Orchestra at Central Middle School in Muscatine

April 14

7:30pm-11:00pm

Midwest Corvettes Spring Rally at Isle Casino Hotel in Bettendorf

April 15

8:00am-12:00pm

Women’s Health & Lifestyle Fair at River Center in Davenport

April 21

8:00am-4:00pm

Quad-City Audubon Field Trip at Crow Creek Park in Bettendorf

April 21

7:30am-11:00am

Earth Day Volunteer Landscape Work Day at Hauberg Civic Center in Rock Island

April 22

10:00am-3:00pm

Celebrate Arbor Day at Moline Garden Center in Moline

April 27

3:00-4:00pm

 

 

 

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.


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