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Buying your first home is a big decision; one that involves a lengthy process of saving money, building credit, and planning the next phase of your life. However, owning a home comes with one major payoff: home equity.

Simply put, home equity is the amount of your home that you’ve paid off. However, it does get more complicated when we bring in factors like the market value of your home and how it shifts over the years.

In this article, we’ll discuss home equity and what it means for you as a homeowner. This way, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect when you finally make that last payment on your home or when you decide to sell.

Home equity and market value

As I mentioned earlier, home equity is more than just the amount you’ve paid toward your mortgage. Like most markets, the housing market shifts over time.

Most homes slowly increase in value over time. In the real estate world, this increase in value is called appreciation.

However, that doesn’t mean that your home is simply going to increase in value indefinitely until you decide to sell. As you will find out (if you haven’t yet already), owning a home can be expensive. Houses age and require upgrades. If you fail to keep up with the maintenance of your home, its value can diminish.

How to build equity

The most important thing you can do to build equity is to make on-time payments to your mortgage. Making extra mortgage payments will help you build equity even faster.

One method of paying extra on your mortgage that many people are adopting is to make bi-weekly payments. Twenty-six bi-weekly payments comes out to 13 full payments per year, the equivalent of making one full extra monthly payment.

The second method of building equity is something that you have less control over: appreciation. However, if you stick to a maintenance schedule for your home and keep it in good repair, you’ll most likely benefit from appreciation over the lifespan of your mortgage.

What can I use home equity for?

The most common way to use home equity is as a down payment or full payment on your next home. First-time buyers who don’t have a 20% down payment saved often buy a starter home and then later upgrade as their family grows and their needs change. In the years that they own their first home, they build enough equity to make a full down payment on their second home, avoiding fees like mortgage insurance.

Many homeowners planning on retiring in the near future use their equity toward their retirement home, often turning a profit in the process. If you plan on downgrading for retirement and have fully paid off your mortgage, you can often use your equity to pay for your next home in cash.


A condo offers a great opportunity to enjoy a comfortable living space without the hassle of home exterior maintenance. As such, many property buyers are exploring condos in cities and towns nationwide.

However, buying a condo sometimes can be tricky, particularly for property buyers who are unfamiliar with the real estate market. Lucky for you, we're here to help take the guesswork out of purchasing a condo.

Let's take a look at three questions that condo buyers need to consider before they purchase a property.

1. Am I ready for condo life?

Owning a condo and owning a home are two very different things, and perhaps it is easy to understand why.

Like a homeowner, a condo owner has a property to call his or her own. But a condo community usually has a homeowners' association (HOA) in place that manages exterior maintenance and other tasks. This association also establishes rules and regulations that all condo owners must follow; otherwise, property owners may face fines.

Before you purchase a condo, it is paramount to prepare for condo life as much as possible. To do so, you may want to consult with friends or family members who have resided in condo communities over the years. These loved ones can share their condo living experiences with you to help you better understand what life will be like as a condo owner.

2. How much can I afford to pay for a condo?

Although you know that you'd like to purchase a condo, you still need to find out how much you can afford to pay for a property. Fortunately, banks and credit unions are available to help you determine how much you can spend on a condo.

Consult with several banks and credit unions to explore all of your home financing options. Then, you can select a mortgage that matches your expectations.

In addition, you may want to get pre-approved for a mortgage before you start your condo search. If you enter the real estate market with a budget in hand, you can narrow your condo search and speed up the property buying process.

3. Do I need to employ a real estate agent?

Ultimately, a real estate agent is a must-have for any condo buyer, at any time. This housing market professional can teach you the ins and outs of real estate and ensure that you can make an informed condo purchase.

A real estate agent strives to provide you with an outstanding condo buying experience. To accomplish this goal, he or she will work with you, learn about your condo buying goals and help you plan accordingly.

Furthermore, a real estate agent is unafraid to be honest. He or she will offer condo buying recommendations and suggestions as you check out a variety of properties. This housing market professional is happy to respond to your condo buying queries as well.

Streamline the process of buying a condo – consider the aforementioned questions, and you can move closer to acquiring an outstanding condo at an outstanding price.


After you accept a homebuyer's offer on your residence, he or she likely will complete a home inspection. Then, the homebuyer may choose to move forward with the home purchase, rescind or modify his or her offer or ask the home seller to complete home improvements.

Ultimately, a home seller is likely to have many questions following a home inspection, including:

1. What did the homebuyer discover during the home inspection?

As a home seller, it is important to do everything possible to enhance your residence before you add it to the real estate market. By doing so, you can boost your chances of generating substantial interest in your house. Plus, when a homebuyer performs a home inspection, he or she is unlikely to find any problems that may slow down the home selling process.

An informed home seller may conduct a home appraisal prior to listing his or her house on the real estate market. This appraisal enables a home seller to identify potential trouble areas within a residence and explore ways to address such problems.

If you failed to perform a home appraisal, there is no need to worry. For home sellers, it is important to see a home inspection as a learning opportunity. And if a homebuyer identifies problems with your residence during a home inspection, you should try to work with him or her to resolve these issues.

2. Should I stand my ground after a home inspection?

Be realistic after a home inspection, and you'll be able to make the best decision about how to proceed.

For example, a home seller who goes above and beyond the call of duty may address major home problems prior to listing his or her house on the real estate market. This home seller will dedicate the necessary time and resources to correct home problems and ensure a homebuyer is able to purchase a top-notch residence.

But what happens if a homebuyer identifies problems during a home inspection, despite the fact that a home seller already tried to correct various home issues?

A home seller should consider the homebuyer's inspection report findings closely. If minor home repairs are needed, he or she may be able to fix these problems to move forward with a home sale. Or, if a homebuyer is making exorbitant demands, a home seller may feel comfortable allowing the homebuyer to walk away from a home sale.

3. How should I proceed after a home inspection?

A home inspection can be stressful for both a home seller and a homebuyer. After the home inspection is completed, both parties will be better equipped than ever before to make informed decisions.

If a homebuyer encounters many problems with a residence, he or she will let the home seller know about these issues. Then, a home seller can complete assorted home repairs, offer a discounted price on a home or refuse to perform the requested home maintenance.

Working with a real estate agent is ideal for a home seller, particularly when it comes to home inspections. A real estate agent will negotiate with a homebuyer on your behalf and ensure you streamline the home selling process.


Buying a house is arguably the most expensive purchase most people will make in their lives. With real estate prices steadily rising year after year, many Americans are finding ways to save on housing.

At the same time, rent prices too are increasing, especially around metro areas where many young Americans are entering the workforce. With costs rising and wages stagnating, it can be hard to find an affordable place to live while still building equity that can be used later on down the road.

One option that many Americans are considering is the fixer-upper route. However, it takes know-how and a lot of hard work to make this method a good choice to save you money. In this article, we’ll tell you how to make certain buying a fixer upper is a good idea and what costs you can expect along the way.

Adding up the costs

Buying a house that needs work means you’ll need to spend a good amount of time calculating costs and getting quotes from professionals. Even if you’re familiar with several home maintenance tasks, there are some jobs that are safer if left to the pros. This isn’t only a matter of physical safety, however. If you start a job that you aren’t qualified to finish you could end up paying much more than if you had just hired a licensed professional to do the job in the first place.

When estimating costs for reparations and renovations, aim high. It’s better to plan for it to be more expensive and have more left over than to underestimate your projects and go over budget.

Get an inspection report

If you aren’t sure whether or not you want to go through with a deal, make sure you have an inspection contingency clause in your contract. This will enable you to back out if the home inspector makes you aware of any costs that you weren’t told about by the seller.

Don’t forget added costs

There are several closing costs you’ll be responsible for as a buyer. Make sure you keep tabs on how much you can expect to spend closing on the home. If you’re going through a mortgage lender, they are required to give you an estimate of closing costs.

Once you know the purchase price of the home and the closing costs, make sure you account for other aspects of your renovations, such as getting required permits.

Borrow wisely

If you do plan on taking out a loan to cover the cost of renovations, be smart with how you get and pay back that money. One option is the FHA 203(k) loan or renovation loan.

Renovation loans help you save on closing costs and simplify the lending process by giving you one loan that accounts for the cost of the renovations and of the home itself.


Obtaining a home loan is a must for most homebuyers. However, there is a lot to think about to ensure a homebuyer can secure a loan that matches or exceeds his or her expectations.

Some of the key questions to consider about a home loan include:

1. What is a home loan's interest rate?

It is paramount to understand a home loan's interest rate, along with any associated loan fees. That way, a homebuyer will know exactly how much he or she will be paying over the life of a home loan.

If a homebuyer chooses a fixed-rate mortgage, he or she can lock in an interest rate for the duration of a home loan. This means a homebuyer will pay the same amount each month. And in many instances, a fixed-rate mortgage can be paid off early without penalty.

On the other hand, a homebuyer may prefer an adjustable-rate mortgage. With this type of mortgage, a homebuyer may receive a lower interest rate initially that rises after a set period of time.

Compare and contrast the different home loan options and their associated interest rates. By doing so, a homebuyer can make an informed home loan decision, one that serves him or her well both now and in the future.

2. Does a home loan require a minimum down payment?

Ask a lender about whether there is a minimum down payment required as part of a home loan agreement. Typically, a homebuyer will need to pay at least a small portion of a home's price to secure a home loan, and it certainly helps to have this information available before you start evaluating available residences.

In addition, it may be worthwhile to save as much money as possible prior to starting a home search. With money at your disposal, you may be better equipped than ever before to make a large down payment, thereby reducing the amount that you'll need for a home loan. Plus, you may even be able to boost your chances of getting a favorable home loan interest rate.

3. Will I need to provide legal documents to obtain a home loan?

Lenders will require you to provide proof of your income and assets, W-2 statements and other legal documents to finalize a home loan agreement. If you stay organized and have these documents readily available, you should have no trouble providing them to a lender as needed.

Overall, the home loan application process may vary from several weeks to many months. The time it takes to secure a home loan can be stressful, and if you need extra help along the way, it never hurts to reach out to a real estate agent.

With a real estate agent at your side, you can streamline the process of buying your dream home. This housing market professional can offer expert tips throughout the homebuying journey and ensure you can discover a great house at an affordable price.

Take the guesswork out of securing a home loan – consider the aforementioned questions, and you can move one step closer to getting the financing you need to obtain your ideal residence.




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