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Financial Tools

3 Financial Tools To Help Get Your Finances On Track To Buy A Home


If your finances aren’t perfect, that doesn’t mean you can’t buy a home. There are millions of people who struggle with debt, building their savings, or less-than-perfect credit. But by taking control of their finances, they’re able to pay down their debts, increase their credit score, pad their savings and buy the house of their dreams.

And in today’s technology-heavy world of “there’s an app for that”, it’s never been easier to take that control back and make your finances work for you and your goals. Here are 3 financial tools to help get your finances on track to buy a home:

1. Mint

Mint is the crème de la crème of the budgeting app world. Mint makes it easy to get a clear picture of where your money is going, identify opportunities for savings, and reel in your spending to set yourself up to buy a home in the near future.

Mint works by connecting the app to all of your accounts; you can connect everything from your checking account, savings account, credit card accounts, investment accounts… literally any financial account you have, you can sync with Mint. Mint then pulls in all the data from each account, tracks all your transactions, and puts together a budget based on your spending.

Mint is great because it allows you to visually see where your money is going; the app creates various charts to illustrate where your money is going and can be a reality check of where you’re spending too much, like on food and entertainment. You can set limits for how much you want to spend on each category and Mint will notify you when you’re approaching your limits.

As a bonus, Mint also lets you know when you have bills coming up, so it’s a great way to make sure you’re making your payments on time.

Mint is available for both iOS and Android devices.

2. DebtTracker Pro

If you’re struggling with a high amount of debt, a debt-tracking app can help you get a handle on your debt and develop a strategy for paying it down before you buy your home.

Debt Tracker Pro tracks all of your debt and allows you to implement different strategies to pay off your debt in a way that makes sense for your current financial information. Once you sync your accounts with Debt Tracker Pro, you can view your current balances, your payment history, and your total debts. Depending on your payback strategy, Debt Tracker Pro will automatically recommend a payment amount for each of your accounts each month. And as you make your payments, you can easily view the percentage of your debt you’ve paid down total and on each card, which can be a huge motivator.

DebtTracker Pro will also send you alerts letting you know when each payment is due and will even auto-adjust the payment date if it falls on a weekend, helping you to avoid unnecessary late fees.

DebtTracker Pro is currently available for iOS devices.

3. Acorns

If you’re struggling to build your savings and investments, you’ll definitely want to check out Acorns. Acorns is an investment app that uses a “round up” strategy to invest money in a way that you won’t even notice it’s missing.

For every transaction that you make, whether it’s through your checking account or your credit cards, Acorns automatically rounds your transaction up to the nearest dollar (so, if you made a purchase for $27.16, Acorns would round that number up to an even $28). Then, it takes the difference and invests it (so, in the previous example, $.84). While these investments seem minimal, when you compound them over every purchase that you make, they add up – quickly.

There are a variety of options when it comes to how Acorns invests your money, and they make recommendations based on your income, net worth, and risk tolerance. Just be sure you choose an option that will allow you to pull from the account without any fees or penalties when you’re ready to take your investment and purchase your dream home.

Acorns is currently available for iOS and Android devices.

Getting your finances in order and on track to buy a home isn’t necessarily easy, but it’s certainly not impossible. With some commitment, dedication, and the right support, you can take control of your finances and work towards your dream of home ownership. And the three apps highlighted above will just get you one step closer to that dream.

Signs It’s Time To Downsize

For many people, a large, sprawling home is part of the American Dream. But with additional space comes bigger utility bills and oodles of upkeep. Depending on your lifestyle, you may suddenly find yourself with more house than you actually need or want.

While the thought of moving to a modest home can be daunting, you don’t need to sell off all your belongings and join the tiny home craze to downsize effectively. Also, as you shed square footage, you’ll find that you gain a range of benefits that make a big difference to some homeowners.

Wondering if it might be time to look for a smaller abode? Ask yourself these seven questions and you’ll have your answer.

Is routine maintenance taking up too much of your time?

If you find that your weekends suddenly slip away as you attempt to keep up with your landscaping or just maintain your home’s interior, you may be ready for a little less housework. Sure, you could hire someone to take care of these tasks for you, but that’s less money in your wallet.

Do you have too much house?

Are there some rooms in your home that you don’t enter for days at a time? Even if you’re not using them, you’re still paying to heat or cool them. (And did we mention dust and vacuum them as well?) Unless you’re planning to try your hand at AirBNB and rent out a room or two, you may want to think about downsizing.

Are your house-related expenses eating away at your savings?

If your income has shrunk due to retirement or an unforeseen unemployment, you don’t want to have to tap into your savings each month just to make ends meet. A smaller house will require less maintenance while lowering your utility bills. You can also consider downsizing in an area where the cost of living is lower so your overall expenses will decrease.

Has your home appreciated substantially?

Are homes in your ‘hood fetching top dollar? This could be the time to lock in your profit and
add that windfall to your retirement savings. Or, spend a little and see the world beyond your picket fence. Vacationing is easier when you leave behind a smaller home — especially one like a condo or townhouse where outdoor maintenance is handled for you.

Are you feeling isolated?

If the kids have moved away and your neighbors have also downsized, you may feel like you’re the last man standing on your block. If the only person you recognize in your area is your mail carrier and that leaves you feeling isolated, it may be time to plan a move to a place where you’ll see some familiar faces.

Has your lifestyle changed?

Even if you once loved the majesty of your two-story entryway, if the thought of climbing 28 stairs to get to your bedroom now leaves you wanting to sleep on the couch in the living room, it’s time to move. As many homeowners get older, they seek the ease and convenience of one-level living. If your house has become too large for you to comfortably and safely maneuver, make a change.

Are you sick of having too much stuff?

Whether you’re looking to explore the minimalist lifestyle or just wondering when and how you’ve accumulated so much stuff, you may want to consider streamlining your belongings. Holding a garage or estate sale is a great first step when thinking about downsizing. Organizations looking for donations abound online, with many offering free pickup and removal. Living in a tighter space forces you to really take stock of each item you allow through the door. Though it seems counterintuitive, having a smaller home may force you to really stay organized and not let clutter dominate your dwelling.

Ready to find a cozier home? Give us a call. 

5 Reasons Your Agent Wants You Pre-Approved Before Showing You Homes


Ever had an agent deny to show you a home because you weren’t pre-approved for a mortgage? It’s not because they’re mean, or they don’t value your business… it’s actually because they’re looking out for your best interests.

Let’s face it, shopping for a home before getting pre-approved for a mortgage is like walking into a grocery store without a wallet. You may have the desire to buy, but you lack the ability. Let’s cover some basics…

What is a mortgage pre-approval?

In a nutshell, a mortgage pre-approval is written assurance from a lender or broker that you’re able to borrow money to purchase a home up to a certain amount. It’s based on the income, employment and asset documentation you supply at the time of application, in conjunction with your credit history. So let’s look at the 6 reasons you should get pre-approved.

1. It carries more weight than a “pre-qualification”.

pre-approval differs from a pre-qualification. With the former, the lender has actually checked your credit and verified your documentation to approve a specific loan amount (usually for a particular time period such as 30, 60 or 90 days). A pre-qualification can be useful as an estimate of how much you can afford to spend on your home, but it’s a less accurate indicator of your ability to purchase. A pre-approval always carries more weight.

2. You’ll know how much house you can afford.

Getting pre-approved before you begin house hunting allows you to know how much house you can realistically afford. Knowing this narrows down the options and makes the selection process more efficient. Not to mention, it protects you from the unpleasant surprise of realizing the home you fell in love with doesn’t fit your budget.

3. It adds clout to your offer.

In many markets, homes attract more than one offer. If the sellers are weighing one offer against another, they may lean towards the one accompanied by a pre-approval letter. That’s because pre-approvals instill confidence that the buyer is financially capable of purchasing their home.

4. It could increase your negotiating power.

In addition to strengthening your offer when compared to buyers who haven’t taken this step, getting pre-approved may give you the upper-hand when negotiating the price. If the homeowner is eager to sell, they may be more willing to accept a lower offer from someone they’ve been assured is financially capable of purchasing their home.

5. It saves time.

Obtaining a mortgage is a lengthy process. Getting pre-approved ahead of time shortens the time between contract to close — this way you’re ready to proceed with finalizing the mortgage once you’ve found the home you want to purchase.


New Report: 61% of First-time Buyers Made a Down Payment of 6% or Less

New Report: 61% of First-time Buyers Made a Down Payment of 6% or Less

One of the biggest hurdles that potential buyers have to overcome on the road to homeownership is saving for a down payment. Traditionally, you needed a 20% down payment in order to secure a loan and purchase a property. And for many people dreaming of buying property, this large up-front investment put homeownership out of their reach.

But times have changed. Depending on your creditworthiness, you might not need a 20% down payment to purchase a home. In fact, in some cases you don’t even need a 10% down payment. According to the National Association of Realtors’ Realtors Confidence® Index, 61% of first-time buyers in 2017 made a down payment of 6% or less.

Low-down-payment mortgage options, like FHA loans, are making the possibility of homeownership a reality for a new generation of potential homeowners who have the financial means to manage their mortgage payments but don’t have the ability to stash away 20% of the total cost before making a purchase. 

If you’ve been putting off homeownership because you’re worried your savings account can’t support a hefty down payment, start talking to lenders. Even if you don’t have any money to put towards a down payment, the possibility of owning a home is within your reach. Contact us, we would love to put you in your dream home.  

As Renting Becomes More and More Unaffordable, Homeownership Is On The Rise

When people think “affordable housing,” they typically think of renting. However, that’s no longer the case. According to’s most recent Market Outlook Report (from September 2017), rents rose year-over-year in an astonishing 78% of counties across the US. In fact, renting has become so unaffordable, it’s officially become more expensive than homeownership. According to a recent study by Zillow, homeownership is more affordable than renting in the majority of metro markets across the US.

This unexpected shift in affordability is steering people away from renting and straight into their own homes. According to a recent article from, the homeownership rate in the US rose year-over-year for the fifth consecutive quarter in April 2018 to 64.2%. The country also lost 286,000 renter households, which is the fourth consecutive quarter of year-over-year declines. 

If you’re still a renter, the time to transition to homeownership is now. Rents are continuing to rise, and if you continue to rent, you’re throwing away money that could be better spent on owning your own home—and building your wealth in the process. Contact us; we will step you through the home buying process.



Traditional vs. Non-Traditional Financing

Younger Generation of Home Buyers Turning To Non-Traditional Loans In Record Numbers

The vast majority of people buying homes are financing their purchase through a loan. According to the Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report from the National Association of Realtors®, 88% of buyers finance their home purchase. And when you look at the younger generation of buyers, that number jumps to a whopping 98%. And that younger generation of buyers? They’re exploring non-traditional lending options in record numbers.

According to the report, only 55% of buyers under the age of 37 used a traditional loan to finance their home—meaning nearly half purchase a home using non-traditional financing options.

Perhaps the biggest reason behind the upward trend in younger buyers exploring non-traditional loans is lower down payments. While traditional loans typically require a 20% down payment, non-traditional loans require much less. And because saving for a down payment is a major obstacle for younger buyers (according to the report, 24% of buyers aged 37 or under listed it as the most difficult part of the home buying process), loans that require less of an upfront investment are much more appealing.

The Takeaway If you’re a younger buyer thinking about purchasing a home, there’s a reason your peers are exploring non-traditional loan options. Consider your options to see what works for you. You might want to consider doing the same. 

Bankruptcy and Purchasing a Home

Dealing with a Past Bankruptcy? You Can Still Buy A Home—And Sooner Than You Might Think

In the past 6 years, more than 5 million Americans have filed for bankruptcy. And while many people believe that filing for bankruptcy causes long-term financial ruin and will keep them from ever being able to purchase a home, it turns out that might not be the case.

According to "The Cost of Bankruptcy", a recent study from Lending Tree within a year, 43% of people with a bankruptcy on their record are able to get their credit score to 640 or higher, which is the credit level typically necessary to qualify for a mortgage. Within two years of filing bankruptcy, that number jumps to 65% and at five years, 75% of people who filed bankruptcy have a FICO score of 640 or above.

Now, if you have a bankruptcy on file and a credit score on the lower end of the qualifying spectrum, you're likely to pay higher interest rates. But if you can get your score up, your bankruptcy is unlikely to have a major impact on your loan. According to the study, people with a credit score between 720 and 739 who applied for a mortgage three years after filing for bankruptcy were offered similar interest rates to those without a bankruptcy on their credit file.

If you have a bankruptcy on your credit file, buying a home is still possible. Focus on raising your credit score and you might be able to make your dream of homeownership a reality sooner than you ever thought possible. Contact us, for  more information regarding resources to help you navigate your credit score. 

Housing Inventory Outlook

Total Housing Inventory Rises 4.1% From December


It’s been a tough market out there for buyers. According to the recent Housing Shortage Report from, the United States is in the midst of its worst housing inventory shortage in over two decades.

But it looks like that might be changing.

According to the National Association of Realtors most recent Existing Home Sales Report, total housing inventory rose 4.1% from December to January, with 1.52 million homes for sale across the country. This is still lower inventory than January of last year, but it’s a positive sign that the end of the housing shortage may be in sight.

Most experts predict mid-to-late 2018 should see major changes in the number of homes on the market. According to a recent article from’s economics team, the second half of the year will see a major increase in inventory flooding the market thanks to new construction—which is great news for buyers.

The Takeaway

The low inventory markets across the country have been experiencing has been a real challenge for buyers. But thankfully, it looks like the coming year is going to be a much friendlier environment for buyers looking to purchase a home.

Tips for Selling Your Home

Sold! A First Timer’s Checklist For Selling Your Home


As a homeowner, the selling process can be an overwhelming experience – especially for first timers. Since they’ve never been through the experience of selling a home, many homeowners feel a bit lost as to what they need to do before they can pass their keys over to the next owners.

But not to worry! Here’s a checklist that covers all the essentials for homeowners getting ready to sell their first property:

Sprucing Things Up

Before homeowners list their home, they will want to handle any minor fixes that might keep them from getting top dollar for their property and spruce things up to make the home more attractive to potential buyers.

While every home is different, some areas that homeowners will want to revamp before listing their home include:


Painting is a relatively easy and inexpensive fix, but it can really make a difference in how a home presents. Before listing, homeowners should plan to refresh both the exterior and interior paint.

It also helps to use neutral colors when repainting a house that’s about to go on the market. Bold colors can be off-putting or distracting to potential buyers. Using neutral colors like white, beige, or gray, will help potential buyers see the property, not the paint.


The first thing potential buyers will notice when viewing a home is the landscaping. If the yard is in shambles or there are human-sized weeds sprouting from every corner, it can be a deal breaker.

Investing in landscaping upgrades will add to a property’s curb appeal and can help land a higher selling price. If the outdoor area hasn’t been landscaped, adding flowers, small trees and greenery can go a long way. If the property already has a garden, cleaning the area up (including raking, pruning and adding additional plants to fill in any visible gaps) will suffice.

Cosmetic Repairs

If there are minor and/or inexpensive repairs that need to be done to the property, it can be helpful for the homeowners to take care of them prior to listing. Small repairs, like steam cleaning the carpets or fixing a leaky shower, are quick, easy and inexpensive fixes, but can make a big difference when showing the home.

While homeowners will want to leave more major repairs and remodels for the potential buyers, cleaning up small problems will yield big results when they put their home on the market.


It’s important for homeowners to stage their home in a way that’s appealing to potential buyers. Staging can either be done with the help of a professional organizer and decorator or independently, but proper staging should include:

  • Decluttering the home
  • Removing any personal items
  • Reorganizing, rearranging and/or removing furniture to make the home feel more open and spacious
  • Thoroughly cleaning the home
  • Arranging the home to highlight the property’s best features (for example, pulling back curtains to showcase a gorgeous view or moving any furniture that blocks interesting architectural details)
  • Adding decorative items to enhance the space

Staging a home in a way that appeals to buyers can have a huge impact on the selling process. 

Choosing An Agent

Once the property is ready to be shown to potential buyers, it’s time to find an agent.

Choosing the right real estate agent is HUGELY important, particularly for first time sellers. Having the right real estate agent representing the property can mean the difference between a quick, painless and positive selling process and a long, drawn out nightmare.

When choosing a real estate homeowners should consider:

Does this agent specialize in this type of property and in this area?

Whenever possible, homeowners should work with an agent who possesses a wealth of knowledge and experience selling the type of property they’re looking to sell within their market.

Different types of properties and different markets have different nuances, and working with an agent who understands those nuances can help homeowners sell their home quicker and for a higher price than working with an agent who isn’t as knowledgeable.

What’s the agent’s track record?

One of the best predictors of future success is past success. When choosing a real estate agent, homeowners should ask what their track record of success is. How many homes have they sold in the past year? What’s the average time their properties stay on their market? What percentage of their deals come in at the asking price or above?

Understanding a real estate agent’s past performance can help homeowners understand what they might expect during the selling process and helps to set up proper expectations for both the homeowners and the agent.

What’s the agent’s plan for selling the property?

Homeowners should also ask what their agent’s plan is for selling the property. What marketing channels will they leverage to make sure the property gets in front of the right people? How aggressively do they plan to market the property? What’s their backup plan should they not be successful with their typical marketing strategies?

It’s an agent’s job to sell a property, but there are many ways to do that. Homeowners will want to find out upfront what their agent’s plan is to make sure it’s in line with what they’re looking for.

Selling a property can be overwhelming for first time sellers. But by following the steps in this checklist, homeowners can take the necessary steps to selling their home quickly, easily and with as little stress as possible.


Reasons to Buy Now

Home Prices Predicted To Rise Nearly 5% By January 2019


According to the most recent CoreLogic Home Price Insights Report, housing prices across the nation are expected to rise a total of 4.8% between January 2018 and January 2019.  According to CoreLogic’s predictions, a home that’s listed for $350,000 today will cost you $366,800 in January 2019—a change of $16,800 in just 12 months.

And not only are homes getting more expensive, but so are mortgages; according to a recent report from Freddie Mac, mortgage interest rates are predicted to rise a full percentage point by the end of the year (from 3.9% for a 30-yr fixed-rate mortgage at the end of 2017 to 4.9% by the end of 2018). 

The Takeaway 

Between the rising housing costs and increased interest rates, you can end up paying tens of thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) more for the same home at the end of 2018 than you would today. So, if you’re thinking about purchasing a home, you need to act sooner rather than later to secure the best deal.

Ready to Buy? Give us a call.

Laurie Crites | 785-375-9272 | Contact Me
339 West 6th St - Junction City, KS 66441
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