Webinar: Go beyond the basics of home buying 

Is the goal of owning your home in your future? We’ll go beyond the mortgage with financial tips to help you prepare for the home of your dreams.

Tags: Banking basics, Goals, Home buying
Published: July 01, 2021

In this webinar, you’ll discover some helpful tips on the process of purchasing a home. 

 

View video transcript

Good afternoon, and welcome to today's webinar, Beyond the Basics of Home Buying. My name is Michelle Graff, and I'll be moderating today's session, compliments of U.S. Bank. Before we get started, I'll go over a few housekeeping items.

All participants have been placed on listen-only mode to prevent any background noise. Today's webinar features PowerPoint and polls. We will not post a live Q&A session today. Please book your appointment with a banker at USBank.com/book if you have additional questions following today's presentation.

Please share your feedback with us directly using the post-session survey. This WebEx conference will be recorded. If you object to this recording, you must disconnect from the conference line at this time. This recording will be posted to USBank.com/financialIQ in the next week. I'm turning on the recording now.

We'll start with a poll. Please use the radio buttons on the right side of the WebEx screen to answer, what do you think of when you think of buying a home? Is buying a home just a dream right now? Are you thinking of purchasing a home in the next one to two years?

Maybe you're ready to take the step, but wondering where to start. Or perhaps you feel like you understand the ins and outs of home buying. Choose the option that best applies to you. You'll have a couple more moments to take the poll. While we tally the results, I'll pass it to our presenters. Take it away, Marta.

Thank you, Michelle. So hello, everyone. My name is Marta Depczynska. And I am one of the Goals Coaches here at U.S. Bank. And a little bit about myself is that I received my bachelor's in criminal justice with a minor in psychology from Roosevelt University in Chicago.

And I began my career journey first as a rehabilitation counselor, and then transitioned into a higher education enrollment advisor, and found my way back to becoming a certified rehabilitation counselor when I relocated to Vegas. And helping people that want to improve their life is something that I've always been passionate about. And throughout my career, it has provided me with expertise and knowledge to help guide people towards their desired happiness and passion in life.

As a rehabilitation counselor, I've assisted people in changing their behaviors and negative outlook as well as helping them improve their quality of life by helping them improve and gain the necessary tools and resources necessary to stay on track. As a higher education enrollment advisor, I guided students as they created and maintained positive habits to help them achieve their long-term goals.

And now, as a Goals Coach with U.S. Bank, I combine my experiences to assist clients with studying their long-term or short-term goals as well as helping them get an action plan to achieve their most important goals, as well as being a motivating accountability partner to help people stay on track and not get discouraged or distracted.

Sean, how about yourself?

All right, thank you, Marta. It's an honor to be presenting alongside you today. My name is Shawn Mingus. And as a regional sales manager for U.S. Bank, I lead a team of residential mortgage loan officers that offer financing in all 50 states.

From the day I entered the mortgage business in 1992, I've always striven to deliver a highly personal mortgage experience for my clients. I believe the right mix of empathy and command presence ensures the best possible outcome for our customers every time. Today, I'm honored to teach and inspire others about the things that I've mastered in the business. And now, I want to hear Marcia's very inspiring story. Marcia.

Thanks, Shawn. My name is Marsha Brown. I have a multifaceted career history that allows me to serve the community that I live in, and bring my sharpened skills and experience to help inspire and empower others. My diverse career path and lived experience has allowed me to build a wealth of knowledge, focusing on advocacy for resilience, job creation, and enhancing self-sufficiency programs.

My experience with this topic began the Thanksgiving weekend when my son, a passenger in a car, was struck by a drunk driver. He suffered severe muscle and nerve damage, and needed full-time support. As a small business owner, I closed the business and became a full-time caregiver until we had no more money.

After about eight months, I found myself not able to pay rent. As I searched for temporary shelter for my family, my son and daughter began living with their friends, and I lived in my car, until I secured shelter for all of us at Warren Village transitional housing. I then completed as many life skill classes as possible and began advocating for those experiencing homelessness.

I moved into Denver Housing Authority public housing and continued participating in advocating for programs offered to residents. My second year living in public housing, I was appointed by Mayor of Denver as a board commissioner for Denver Housing Authority. I then used those tools and knowledge to build my credit score, secure career position, with the City and County of Denver, and purchased my home in Denver.

Currently, I serve as an appointed strategic advisor for the Department of Housing Stability. And as an alumni board member for Warren Village transitional housing, I am honored to be the recipient of both the Martin Luther King Jr. Business Award, and the Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award for my continued advocacy for families and communities. As a former board commissioner for Denver Housing Authority, I received knowledge from other states and local government housing programs that impact community. I am currently a homeowner, and I enjoy sharing my hope and inspiration to champion others.

Yay. I really love that story, Marsha. Thank you so much for sharing. So whether you're just starting to learn more about the home buying process or you're already an expert, one thing that is true is, buying can be intimidating, and there are a lot of myths about it. So today, we hope to break those myths down and share some helpful information and tips for wherever you are in your home buying journey, so if home buying is something that you want to do in your future, it can happen. So Shawn, share with us some myths.

Thank you. A common myth I hear is people believing they must have 20% down payment, which is absolutely not true. There are plenty of mortgage options with lower down payment options. And I'll share more about a few of these options later in the presentation.

Another thing that I hear people think is that they must have a 30-year mortgage. A lot of times when people buy a home, they are planning on living there forever. There are loan options that give flexibility for a shorter-term loan. And lastly, it's also common for people to believe that they must have a perfect credit score in order to buy a home.

While it's true that a better credit score will give you more options, or potentially qualify you for a higher loan or a lower interest rate, your credit does not need to be perfect to eventually own a home. And the good news-- even if your credit score isn't where you'd like it to be today, there are ways you can improve it, which we'll touch on later. Marta?

Yeah. And I always myself thought that I needed a perfect credit score to purchase a home, so that was a myth that definitely was reversed for myself. So as a Goals Coach, I talk to a lot of people with a goal of one day buying a home. And many people think that getting a loan for a house is out of reach, especially if they have student loans.

And although it may seem overwhelming to add on more debt, purchasing a home may assist with building equity. And that equity can eventually be used to pay off high interest rates like student loans, any personal loans, or credit cards, if you choose to do so in the long run. And it's also a misconception that home buying is always more expensive than renting.

It is, though, more important-- not more, but it is important to understand and keep in mind that home buying can be more expensive than renting. Home ownership comes with extra costs and responsibilities, such as maintaining and repairs. But if you plan to budget and plan ahead, you can aim to keep that home ownership cost within your financial limits.

So make sure that you're prepared with a budget. And make a plan and prepare for any unexpected events, because unfortunately, unexpected things always happen, But if you stay prepared, you won't have to get prepared. Marsha?

That's absolutely right, Marta. Thank you. Sometimes, people believe that only wealthy people can buy a home. However, there are loan options, grants, and housing options that make home buying a possibility for a large range of budgets. Marta?

Yes. I love that as well. Another misconception is that your first home must be your dream house, right? We all dream of whatever we dream of, and sometimes in coaching sessions, people focus on their first home being that amazing first house. But that can be a later goal. Focus on what you can afford, and then you can save for your future dream home later down the line. Marsha.

Right. Oh my goodness. When I started the search for my home, I thought there were limited options for communities that I could purchase a home in. When I started my search, people were adamant that I could not purchase a home in Denver. Now, I have a home in Denver. As I kept searching, I found grants and programs and partnerships that help me with more than just financial assistance. You are not limited to certain areas or communities.

Yup. Thanks, Marsha. And now, we're going to share the results from the poll. So we asked, when you think of buying a home, what do you think of? And it looks like B was the winner. I'll probably buy a home in the next one to two years. I'm going to pass it back to Marsha to keep going in this wonderful presentation.

Thank you. Thank you. Wow. That is so exciting. The journey to buying a home is different for everyone. I know some of the people joining us eventually want to buy a home but aren't ready to take the steps just yet. Today, we'll review some steps you can take now to prepare for when you're eventually ready to buy a home.

Maybe buying a home is in your near future, and you want to research options. We'll go over some things to consider while you research. What about when you're ready to start looking for a home? We'll go over a few important things to keep in mind as you begin your search. And for when you're ready to buy, we'll talk through a few important things to be aware of as you start the process. Marta.

Thank you, Marsha. I definitely can relate to a lot of you on this call as far as preparing to buy a home in the future. I definitely like the convenience of being able to call a maintenance man or woman and have them fix whatever it is that needs to be fixed. But you know, sometimes we have to challenge ourselves and get that home, if that's something that we truly want to do.

So if buying a home is something that you're planning to do in the future, there are things you can do now, so that we feel prepared and secure when you're ready to take that step. And so the first thing that's really important is identifying your why. And so knowing the why behind your goal of wanting to purchase a home is an important first step in the home buying process.

Some people want to purchase a home so that they can grow their family. Some people want to purchase a home to be closer to their family, friends, or work. Or some people want to purchase a home to gain independence, or simply because they don't want to rent anymore. So that way, knowing your why is important for a few reasons.

First of all, it helps with making sure that you're making the right long-term decision when purchasing that home. And secondly, this can help keep you committed to the goal and more willing to take the necessary steps to accomplish that goal. So for example, if your why is because you want to grow your family, you might be more committed to fixing your credit or paying down some of your old debt, following up with a mortgage loan officer, and more of keeping your eye on the prize-- so OK, why do I really want to do this?

It's also important to research the costs. Consider all of the costs of home ownership. There are upfront costs, like a down payment and monthly mortgage and utility payments. But there are also other costs associated with home ownership as well. And as opposed to a landlord coming to fix that leaky sink or a broken down water heater, those are now going to be costs that you're going to have to prepare for.

Home ownership may come with another new responsibility like yard work. And so you want to research the costs associated with this-- lawn mower, shovels, rakes, fertilizers. And also, when you get a home, you'll want to, I'm assuming, paint it, decorate it, and make it your own. And so you want to research those costs, so that you can prepare for that as well.

And the more you research, the more prepared and confident you're going to be when you actually purchase a home and different expenses arise. And also, last but not least, you want to conserve your credit score, right? Although you don't need a perfect credit store, you still want to make sure that you are confident about your credit score.

So if home ownership is a goal of yours, which assumably if you're on this call, you're thinking about it-- so building your credit is a great way to feel prepared and increase your options when it's time to purchase a home. And if you confirm your credit score and it's lower than you'd like it to be, don't stress. Because now, you're ahead of the ball game and have time to start building your credit, so that it can be where you would like it to be. Shawn, tell us some more.

Absolutely, Marta. If your credit score isn't where you want to be, like what Martin said, the idea of building it may seem intimidating. You can efficiently increase your credit score through small changes like paying bills on time, not maxing out credit cards, not taking on any new loans or opening any new credit cards leading up to buying a home, and more. Improving your credit score can help you get a lower interest rate on your home, so it's important, obviously.

So here's a pro tip for you. How credit and credit scores work is not always common sense. Therefore, it's vital that you talk with a mortgage lender or banker to learn how the rules work. And let me give you an example.

Oftentimes, when somebody pays off a credit card, they think it's best to cut the card up and close it out. That's not intuitive at all. It's actually the opposite. That's hurting your credit. It's better to leave that credit card open. It's OK to cut it up, or maybe put it in your safe.

Definitely don't carry it in your wallet or purse. But do not close out a credit card. By closing that credit card out, it actually hurts your credit, and here's why. Having three or four credit cards with, say, $1,000 limit, and not using it, shows you have discipline. It shows that you're not maxing your credit cards out, and that will raise your credit score.

So keep that in mind, that things are not always intuitive or common sense when it comes to credit scores. Just make sure you talk with an expert. To learn more, you can view the recording of our March webinar entitled, Overlooked Tips for Credit Wellness, which is all about improving your credit score. You can find a recording of this webinar on Financial IQ. Marta.

Thank you for that, Shawn. And if anyone else on this call has ever cut up a credit card, you're definitely not alone. I am guilty of that myself. So another knowledge tip there.

So ultimately, starting to save, budgeting, and planning-- wherever you are in the process, it's always a good time to start saving, budgeting, and planning. A higher down payment could mean possibly lower monthly payments, which I'm sure we would all love to have-- those lower monthly payments-- when we purchase a home.

So with some budgeting tips, during goals coaching sessions, when someone has a financial goal, we start by looking into some budgeting and feeding tips to get started. And so here are some tips that I give to my clients. First, create a budget with realistic targets.

There are plenty of budget templates out there. So make sure that you're creating a budget that's realistic for you and your life. Also, you want to underestimate how much you'd like for your home to be.

And so this is going to allow you to still afford a home that you may find above your budget and allow for some wiggle room when searching for a home. It may also assist in finding a home below your ideal limit, and provide an additional budget for any upgrades, furnishing, or any updates that you may want to do to the home. And also, deciding a budget prior to looking for a home-- how much is the home that you can afford, and how much can you comfortably save for?

You don't want to cut out groceries or food, just so you can purchase a home. But it is also important to reduce expenses. Find out what you can cut out, but not food. You still want to eat food, right?

So a good place to start looking is subscriptions. Printing out your last two to three monthly bank statements can be extremely helpful. And highlighting where you can do some-- where you have done some unnecessary impulsive spending. And that way, you have a visualization of where you can improve your spending and what areas you can be a little bit more conscious of, where you might be spending some unnecessary money. Shawn, tell us some more.

Yeah, and the last one is paying down debt, which is hot topic and can be, kind of, emotional. So it's important we talk about it nonetheless. Leading up to a big purchase like buying a home is always great. It's always great to focus on paying down debt that you have.

So where to start? First off, locate all your debt, and make sure you're not behind on any payments or have anything in collections. It's very important to show you are responsible and can keep up with your payments, especially when trying to show you can afford a home.

Make sure you catch up on any lingering debt before saving for a home. Paying down debt is very important. It's a very important first step in preparing you to purchase a home.

Also, don't purchase a car or take out a loan before buying a home, as I had mentioned a few moments ago. Purchasing a car in the same year you may be wanting to purchase a home will increase your-- what's called debt ratio, which is one of the mortgage speaks for how much of your debt is, compared to your income. And it may be discouraging to some lenders if you take out a loan right before applying for a mortgage, that you may not be able to maintain your home payments.

So it is best to consult again with your banker, your mortgage loan officer, with these two goals. If you're wanting to accomplish both of these things, buying a car and a house in the same year, make sure you talk to a professional before doing that. Here's a tip for you in paying off debt-- how to pay off credit cards.

There's something called the snowball effect. And the idea is, if you have five credit cards-- this might not be intuitive or common sense, but it's best to pay off the balances that are the smallest, even if they carry a higher interest rate. And here's the thought. When you pay off a smaller balance credit card, you free up that cash for that minimum payment on that credit card or whatever you're paying on that credit card, and apply it to the next smallest balance.

You pay that credit card off. You now have more money to pay off that next credit card. It creates a snowball effect. It also gives us a sense of accomplishment. Every card I've paid off in the past, I celebrate. I'm like, yay, I'm making progress.

And it's good for us to see that we're making small wins in something that's as frustrating as paying off debt. So start with the smallest credit cards first. Take those payments that you were paying on the smaller credit cards, and apply them to the next largest card, and the next, and the next. And don't stop until you're all done.

One last tip, don't ever use more than 40% of your available limit on any credit card right before you're running a credit report or buying a home. 40% is a magic number for credit scores. So for example, if you have a $10,000 limit, you should never charge more than $4,000 or carry a balance of more than 40%, or $4,000 in that example, before applying for a loan or running a credit score.

As you start to have more debt on that card, it will drive your credit score down. Just the tip on that. So let's see. We're going back here to Marta.

Yes. Thank you, Shawn. I know credit cards can actually to be a slippery slope. But as long as you manage them correctly or you start paying them down, then it's all about the actions that you're taking to get to where you want to be.

So some saving tips-- so once you create your budget, now you want to develop a plan to save some more money. So one great tip is disable one-click spending. So a super simple trick that I recommend to people looking to save is to disable that one-click spending.

Smartphones have gotten very smart over the years by allowing us to save our credit card and debit card information into our desired websites like Amazon. So you may find new dishes that you want for your home and go to Amazon, and end up purchasing all the decorations for your home. And so I know a lot of us probably look at Amazon like a sibling at this point. I know I do.

And so it's, kind of, like, hey, well, I have to help fund my child. But by disabling one-click funding, it provides an extra step before purchasing. Therefore, you have to think twice whether you really need it in that moment or not.

Also, you want to prioritize your needs versus your wants. Sometimes, these two can become blurred when we have heightened emotions or we're excited. However, needs are essential items required for life, including the food that I mentioned earlier, a home, a working heater, air conditioning. Wants include a car, stereo system, designer clothing. Make sure that your needs are taken care of before considering your wants.

Last but not least-- definitely not least-- planning ahead. So that's going to include automatic transfers towards your home goal on the day that you get paid. So this is helpful, because it's automatic. You don't have to think about it.

The money's going to get transferred into your account that you're saving in, and you don't have to think about it. It's just going to go in there and be transferred on the day that you get paid. And that's a very big action set that can be taken if you're serious about saving for a home, and you definitely have to celebrate the small wins along the way. So every time you save some money, celebrate.

That's great. Thank you, Marta. OK. Now, it's important to learn more about the options that you have as a future home buyer. Exciting. First off, get prequalified or preapproved -- two different things, all in the same track. Prequalification is a starting point where you state your income, and your lender will give you an approximate number that you may qualify to borrow.

Preapproval, on the other hand, is the full application process, where they ask all the questions, they verify your income, they get your credit score, and they gather all the documents. And there'll be way more documents than you ever thought-- lots of documents. So here's a tip.

While prequalification number is informative, keep in mind, how much you may qualify to borrow is often more than how much you really want to spend on your new home and still have money left over for other important things in your life, like furniture, or the things that Marta talked about-- rakes, shovels, lawn mowers, all that fun stuff decorating your home. So I would just share with you this.

There's no right or wrong here. Some people eat macaroni and cheese, and some people eat steak. If you have a macaroni and cheese diet, you might want to spend more on your house on a monthly payment.

If you eat steak and like to go out to dinner and maybe travel and maybe have more of a social life, then maybe you want to spend less on your house so that you have money left over. So there is no right or wrong. That's why it's so important, as Marta said, to do a budget, so that you leave enough money for groceries, spending, travel, all the things that maybe you did before you were a homeowner.

So make sure you keep that in mind-- not necessarily what you qualify for is what you should spend. So set a ceiling. What can you afford? I always used to ask my customers, what is your maximum payment that you can afford? And then, I would hold them accountable to that.

So how much do you want to spend on a home? Question. Look at your current budget, and now, figure out what you're willing to spend on a house when we take those other things into account-- your lifestyle, for example. But make sure you still have plenty of money left over for your essentials, for unexpected payments, and money to allow you to still have some fun in life.

Lastly, research what types of loans and grant options are available, and talk to your lender, banker, et cetera, to make sure, like Marsha did, where she found options that helped her by her first home, which is so inspiring. All right. Next slide.

So there are many loan options you can choose from, and here are just a few. First off, fixed rate mortgages-- for this option, the monthly principal and interest payments stay the same for the entire life of the loan, whether it's 15, 20, or 30 years. This is great for you if you plan to stay in your home for several years.

An adjustable rate mortgage has a fixed interest rate for a set period of time. But then, those interest rates will increase or decrease after that fixed period of time. This is a great option if you plan to move in a few years.

Third, an FHA loan has flexible low down payment options and potentially lower credit scores that they allow. Lastly, as a veteran, this one is near and dear to me. The Veterans Administration Loan has low to no down payment options. In addition to this list, there are other options for loans as well as options for grants to help with home buying.

So here's a tip for you as well. And Marta mentioned this earlier. It's important to review your why and the goals you wish to accomplish when considering a loan that fits your needs. For example, if your goal is to buy a home, and in several years, maybe convert it to a rental or a second home, that would potentially lead to a different loan program versus a person intending on keeping that home as their primary residence for many years to come.

Or if you plan to buy a home like a fixer-upper and sell the property when it's complete, that would potentially lead to a different loan that meets your needs. Therefore, I highly encourage you again to be totally upfront with your mortgage lender or banker, so that they can best guide you when selecting a loan program.

Research loan types, ask questions, and understand what's best for you, just like Marsha did. This will help you feel empowered when it comes time to choose which one best fits your needs. Then, when it's time, talk to someone who is an expert, and see what you're qualified for. Marsha, back to you.

Thank you, Shawn. My goodness. You and Marta are just like champion team. My home buying journey research-- the researching all my options for loans and grants was very empowering, like you just mentioned. That empowering process really helped me.

When I first reached out to a lender that I was referred to, they told me I had work to do on my credit. I'd worked on building my credit for almost a year, and my credit score was much higher. However, when I went to get preapproved, the amount was significantly less. It was less than what I thought I would be at.

That's when I started to do research with my options. I looked into different loan options, grant funding, and more, and started to understand a bit more about what I qualify for. When I brought these options back to the lender, my preapproved amount nearly doubled. Just like you said, Shawn, the education and research of all of my options was extremely empowering to me, and enabled me to make the best decision for myself.

Next slide. When you feel prepared, it's time to start looking. Once you feel prepared and ready to look, contact the lender first, and then a real estate agent. Ask for referrals from people you trust and that understand your needs.

You are not obligated to select your friend's real estate agent. Pick a real estate agent that works well with you. Find a real estate agent that understands you. Real estate agents have different focuses. Find out what they're aligned-- are they aligned with you or in making the process more enjoyable for you?

I switched real estate agents to find one that better understood my specific situation and my needs. I knew my new real estate agent was the right fit for me, because she understood my lender and my funding requirements. She understood what was important to me and what I wanted, while holding a reality check point at every milestone in the process.

My first real estate agent told me I couldn't afford what I wanted. But the new real estate agent helped me find the options that matched my priorities. She explained that I might have to give up certain things at the end, but I stayed within my budget.

Define your must-haves and your wants, as Marta suggested, and stick to that. When I was searching for a home, having a garage was not as important as having a second bathroom. While the garage was a want, I was willing to compromise on the garage if a home had a second bathroom.

Knowing what my must-haves and wants were helped me to stay focused and assured that I was looking for a home that would fit my needs while staying within my budget. This is an important one to me. Research the location.

Oh, man, a home may be perfect, but make sure it's a location you'll enjoy living in just as much. Looking at the neighborhood and, if necessary, the school district-- visit the neighborhood during the evenings and weekends. Check out what the drive to work would be like so you know that it fits your commute needs, and you won't be sick after a week. Marta.

Yes, thank you for that, Marsha. For me, that's a hard battle between a bathroom and a garage. But you know, I will definitely probably put that bathroom in the garage. But definitely some great tips here.

So ultimately, when you are looking for this home, there are quite a few things to keep in mind when you're starting to look for the home. When it comes to location, there are a lot of people that want to spend more time with their family, and being closer to work allows less of a commute time and more time with your family. And if you have a partner, it's also important to make sure that you guys are on the same page with your must-haves, wants, and the location.

It's very normal to have different ideas of what's essential and what's not. So make sure that you talk through everything and make compromises when necessary. A good start to finding common ground is making separate must-have lists. And that way, your best shot at compromise is to find out what you and your spouse have in common.

So if you haven't figured out what you guys have in common by now, then that's a great time to figure out what you guys like. So for example, if you're a couple looking to start a family and need an extra room in the house, or you enjoy cooking, so the kitchen needs to be updated. Do you need space for an outdoor garden, because you have a passion for growing your own fruits and vegetables?

It can be helpful to come up with three must-haves and absolute non-negotiables, and then come together and figure out, OK, what do we have in common here? And so Shawn is now going to tell us about what are some best practices when you're ready to purchase a home.

Thank you, Marta. Yeah, now, the fun part. It's time to buy. So first off, make sure you have a trusted contact who can answer your questions. Like what Marsha said, she kept searching until she found the right team that could support her.

This could be a real estate agent. It could be a lender. It could be a friend or family member. Home buying can be intimidating. In fact, it is intimidating, especially if it's your first time. Have someone that you can trust as you go through the process.

So here's a tip for you. Ensure your trusted contact has experience in real estate and mortgage lending. According to real-life studies, the average person will own three homes in their lifetime. Now, compare that to a real estate agent or a mortgage lender or banker who potentially has hundreds if not thousands of transactions under their belt. So rely on someone who has experience, versus opinions.

Secondly, learn how to make an offer and negotiate. Your real estate agent will definitely help here. They can help you make an informed decision as you go through this step. Learn key terms, such as closing costs, inspection, contingencies, and many more. It's like a foreign language.

So be patient. And after you hear the word several times, it'll start to sink in. But it's important that what they mean, so that you have an idea of what you will and will not include in your offer. When it comes time to negotiate, make sure you don't get caught up in the moment and accept a counteroffer that puts you above your budget as we talked about earlier.

You should set that budget and stay firm on that, and potentially share that with your banker, so that they will hold you accountable to that. So before purchasing, ensure you've shared your maximum budget with your mortgage lender and your banker, so they hold you accountable, as I said. Very, very important-- I cannot say that enough.

And then, lastly, as you're getting ready to make the offer, make sure you're monitoring the market. Are homes selling fast? Are they selling for above asking price? So another tip-- time on the market matters. If a house has only been on the market for a few days, the seller is less likely to give you any sort of a price break or discount.

So let's talk about monitoring the market. We don't expect you to be an expert, but it is important that you, kind of, know some of these terms, and you do have something that you can read, maybe on a daily or weekly basis. Their various tools you can monitor the market.

Redfin is a great resource that collects a lot of data. And in the Redfin article entitled, "Housing Market Update," there are a few interesting takeaways if you're looking to buy a home soon. There are a few extremely interesting takeaways about the market right now, according to Redfin.

So first off, currently, the sales price of homes is at an all-time high. That's great if you're a homeowner, maybe not great if you're a buyer. But it is what it is. The sales price of homes increased 20% from 2020 to $347,500.

Homes are also on the market for a shorter time, as I said earlier, than they have been since 2012. Homes that sold during April 2021 were on the market for a median of 20 days. That's not very long. It's like half of what it normally is, which is down from 16 days from April of 2020.

Homes are continuing to sell above their list price. In fact, during April of 2021, at an all-time high, 46% of homes that sold were more than their list price. It's good to have this information so you go into it with the right expectations. This is 19 percentage points above where it was a year ago in April.

One last tip-- nationwide, there is a shortage of houses for sale. There are more buyers than homes for sale. And this is creating situations where multiple buyers are competing for the same home. And this is in large part creating an increase in home prices. Home prices are going up because of that.

More buyers than sellers drives the price up. So this underscores why it's so important that you've taken all the steps we've talked about before you write an offer. So these are just a few takeaways from the article from Redfin.

When you're looking to buy a home, use resources like this to keep an eye on the market. What is happening in your market? This way, you'll be prepared when it's time to start searching to make an offer. Marta.

Great information there, Shawn. So now, you're budgeting, you saved, you're eating either your macaroni and cheese or steak, and now, it's time to furnish your home. So the key to furnishing your house is being patient. Not everything needs to be painted and furnished all at once.

When you do furnish your home, keep in mind that not every piece of furniture needs to be brand new. And it's also important to keep in mind that home furnishing all depends on your personal preference. So your neighbor may prefer the inside of their homes to look like the Versace mansion while you enjoy thrifting, antique shopping, and doing it all yourself.

It's not a matter of competition but patience, planning, and staying within your budget. Also, as you prepare to purchase a home, remember that no home is perfect. Maybe a home doesn't have something that you really wanted, but the home has the major things that you need.

So it's likely that a home will hit every major need and want. So make sure that you decide what your non-negotiables are and what things can compromise on. So a best practice for what is a nonnegotiable is ranking your priorities.

What is most important to your needs? Do you prefer a beautiful chandelier, or blinds to have some privacy? So start with a priority list, and then plan from there. Marsha, how about you?

Oh, that is so awesome. Great, Marta. When I purchased my home, I shopped with Habitat for Humanity, the Goodwill, Arc Thrift Stores for all sorts of cost-effective items. I found lamps and lighting fixtures, paint and window treatments. I also asked friends for recommendations for a handyman. I found that keeping my commitment to my financial health was more important than new picture frames.

Another tip for after you buy is to make a plan to prepare for unexpected expenses. I would recommend having a savings just for maintenance, and maybe having $500 to $1,000 in it, or whatever works best for your budget. That way, when you have to buy anything from a new shovel to a new sink, you're prepared and have the funds to make those purchases without a headache. Shawn?

Thank you, Marsha. By the way, I still like macaroni and cheese. But in my older years, I liked to add a little lobster to it. So anyway, so last thing-- keep an eye on the market for opportunities to refinance down the road. While you don't have to be actively thinking about refinancing, it can be a helpful tool to keep in mind. Because refinancing can help lower your interest rates so that your monthly payment goes down, too.

So here's a tip. It's great to have a mortgage lender or banker that you've built a trust-based relationship with, even after you're closing on your home loan. Oftentimes, by the time you hear about interest rates dropping, it might be too late. Because it moves like the stock market. It can be very sudden, and it can move very quickly up or down. So make sure you have a great relationship with a mortgage lender or banker, and that will increase your chances of being able to take advantage if, in fact, rates do drop.

[INAUDIBLE] cheese and lobster-- I never knew that it could sound so fancy. But OK, nice. I like that idea. So getting back on track, each path to home ownership is different. There is no one-size-fits-all plan for everyone. Starting off on the right foot by saving, budgeting, and planning can help you feel more confident and secure when you're ready to buy a home.

And so a great tip is, don't get too emotionally attached to where you're going to spend less, again, on those groceries to purchase a home. Plan ahead and start saving early, so you can be prepared for when you do find your ideal home. Shawn.

Absolutely. Great advice. Research your options, and define what you're looking for. There are plenty of options that you have on the financial side to get where you want to go. Find the mortgage loan that's right for you, as we've talked about. When you're ready, you can reach out to a lender.

So again, a tip-- I've said this several times, but can't repeat it enough. Have a great relationship with a banker or mortgage lender that you trust. It's probably the most important aspect in ensuring you're properly researching your options. Mortgage lending is like speaking another language and can be-- in fact, it is-- very intimidating.

I once had a customer who was the dean of a physics department of a large university, and told me in the application he was intimidated by the process. I didn't take physics in high school or college, but I know it's like the hardest subject. So if he was having difficulty understanding it, we shouldn't feel so bad. You can research online, but oftentimes, it takes an experienced lender to translate mortgage speak into words that make sense for you. Marsha.

Great analogy, Shawn. You know, I connected with helpful resources. This was key for my experience while looking for my home. I completed a home buyer's class. I talked with advocates for updates on new first-time buyers programs and any kind of assistance that was available.

One tip I used was, I used this time to create a journal, to help you stay focused. Pace yourself, as Marta said. This is not a rental. This will be your home. Think, long-term investment, and not temporary updates.

Be on the watch for programs and partnerships to help with additional supportive programs and resources. Share your plans with your lender and real estate agent. Transparency was key for me in making sure I got the home that fit my wants, needs, and my budget. Marta.

Yeah. Perfect. Definitely the main keys and tips is, budgeting, saving, and planning ahead. So if you would like some one-on-one guidance, U.S. Bank does offer one-on-one goals coaching at no cost. And so goal coaching is a great way to get started on your journey towards your credit wellness.

So we start the process by discovering and prioritizing your goals. What do you want out of your life? What are your goals for homeownership? So your coach can also assist with identifying habits and actions to help you reach your goals.

So it doesn't only have to be homeownership. So Goal Coaches-- we cannot give financial advice or recommend products, but we can connect you to a banker to explore your options. So to book an appointment, you can scan your phone over the QR code on your screen, or you can go to the link below, which is the USBank.com/exploremygoals. And that way, you can either meet with myself or any of the other coaches.

Great. U.S. Bank really has a mortgage offer. You can take a 1/4 percentage off your first mortgage loan amount and deduct it from your closing costs, up to a maximum of $1,000. So visit USBank.com/mortgage to find mortgage loan officers near you. Sorry about that. And next slide. Marta?

Yeah. Thank you. So as Michelle mentioned earlier, today's presentation is a compliment of U.S. Bank. So you have the opportunity to enter to win $1,000 cash prize at complimentsofusbank.com. So it's as easy as answering your name, email address, and the event code, HOMEBUYING.

And while you're there, send an e-compliment card to your friends or family so they have a chance to win the cash prize, too. And you can also share it on social media, using the wonderful hashtag of #complimentsofUSbank.

All right. You ask, and we've got the answers. We received fantastic questions during the registration process that we'll address today. If you still have questions following today's session, please book your appointment with a banker at USbank.com/book. Our first question is from Melissa. She asks, what is the quickest and most efficient way to build credit? Marta, would you mind answering this one for us?

Yes, definitely. So there's no magical way to build your credit when you're being efficient and making sure that you're getting your credit to where you want it to be. So just make sure that you're paying your bills on time, making frequent and additional payments if you're capable of doing so. And check your credit report and see any errors that you may notice, as well as keep up with all your open credit cards-- the ones that you haven't cut up, as Shawn mentioned earlier. And if you're interested in learning more about building your credit, I encourage you all to check out the recording of our March webinar called, Overlooked Tips for Credit Wellness.

Our next question is from Emil. He asks, I bought my house seven years ago, and my rate is 4.5% for 30 years. I see interest rates are down. Is this a good time to refinance my home? Shawn, can you share your thoughts on this one for us?

Absolutely. Your interest rate is only one of several factors when considering refinancing. Other factors include how long you will keep the home, and how much the upfront closing costs are when refinancing. So for example, if you plan to sell your home in the next few years, you might not recoup the upfront closing costs charge when refinancing.

So essentially, you're going backwards on your mortgage obligation, even though you've lowered your interest rate or monthly payment. Also, it's best if you can achieve more than one goal when you're refinancing. So for example, if you're able to lower your interest rate and reduce the number of years to pay off your mortgage, you've accomplished two goals.

Or if you lower your interest rate, lower your payment, and potentially borrow some extra money out of your mortgage to pay off credit cards or other higher interest rate debts, you've now accomplished three goals. So it's critical that you talk with a mortgage professional in order to determine if refinancing makes sense for you.

And last but not least, our last question is from V. And they asked, what are the best steps to take when planning for a home purchase? Marsha, can you share some ideas with us?

Absolutely. Decide if you want to purchase a home and why. You know, do your research on your current finances to see how much you're comfortable with paying on a mortgage, as Marta had mentioned through this session. Start saving with your purchase. Start saving for your purchase, and make sure you do not open any new credit accounts or make new purchases, as Shawn suggested.

Start contacting local organizations for home buying resources, classes, funding supports, and recommendations. You certainly can look for a lender and a real estate agent that would join your team to support you on your journey of homeownership. Be true to yourself. And if not now, and now is not the time, that's OK, too. Work on it, and you will succeed in homeownership.

Thank you. Thank you for joining today's presentation. Please use your phone camera to register for the next webinar, Smart Habits and Behaviors to Achieve Financial Wellness on August 26 at 1:00 PM Central Time.

As a reminder, we'll post the recording from today's presentation at USBank.com/WellnessWebinars in the next week. And remember to provide us with your feedback in the post-event survey following the session. Thank you, and thank you to our presenters. This concludes our webinar, and we hope you have a wonderful afternoon. 

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