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5 Things People Look For When Moving to a New City

If you plan on moving soon, you may find your home in a new city. While there is no doubt that moving to a new city will be an adjustment, prioritizing what’s important to you and your family can help make the decision much easier. Consider these 5 factors as you evaluate your options.

 

School Districts and Schools

If you are a parent, moving to a new city may also mean choosing a new school district for your children. Education can be a huge consideration in your family’s search for a new place to call home. 

 

Jobs

Moving to a new city may also mean moving to a new career. When relocating, job availability is an important consideration. How is the job market for your field of work in your new home town? Of course, a new career or job opportunity may be the very reason for moving.

 

Accessibility

Access to healthcare, transportation, entertainment, and cafes or restaurants can make a location more livable. Moving to a city that gives you accessibility to a thriving culture, convenience, and basic amenities can help support a more satisfying rhythm of life.

 

Cost of Living

Being in a new location, your new cost of living most likely won’t be the same. Finding a location with a comparable or reduced cost of living is a priority for many Americans who plan to move. Research eligible destinations before making a final decision to ensure that you can afford to live in your new home town and aren’t caught by surprise on arrival.

 

Climate

Your environment matters, which is why weather is often part of the decision-making process when families move to a new location. If you can’t imagine yourself living in a particular climate, you may want to look for a new home in an area with more preferable conditions. If you are sensitive, consider other environmental factors, like allergens, humidity, heat, and pollution.

If you are looking to move, find your Benchmark branch, and call today. If you’re looking to buy, call, message me, or apply now! If you’re looking to buy, contact us or apply now! We would be happy to help you discover homeownership in your new city.

Summer Water Conservation Tips For Your Home and Garden

Being our most important natural resource, conservation of fresh water is a universal responsibility. Here are four simple ways that you may be able to reduce your fresh water footprint and save on your water bill.

 

Use Less On Lawn Care

Did you know that nearly 60% of a person’s water consumption may be used on lawn and garden care?* Having a great lawn can really keep your home looking its best, but are you giving yours too much love? By just watering at the right time of day, you can prevent evaporation, with means the water sprayed is actually held in the soil to keep your plants and lawn watered throughout the day. It is recommended to water early in the morning, and to avoid watering during windy weather. It also makes sense to limit the amount of time spent watering, and during rainy seasons, it isn’t necessary to water every day. By cutting down on just a few minutes of watering, you’ll save money on utilities, several gallons of water, and your garden will still look stunning!

* http://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/water-conservation-tips/

 

 

Mulch Is Soil’s Best Friend

By adding a layer of mulch, you prevent evaporation, keeping soil is kept moist for longer. Not only is mulch water efficient, but it contributes by adding visual contrast to landscaping. Since it comes in a variety of materials and colors, you can also choose a color to accent your house and landscape. Synthetic mulch and wood mulch are the two most popular kinds. Synthetic mulch made from recycled products last for many years, and are a popular choice for playgrounds. Natural wood mulch will need to be replenished annually as it breaks down, improving soil by adding organic matter and slow release compost. If your garden has a lot of water runoff, which mulch is important since some wood mulches can wash away more easily than synthetic (rubber) mulch. Many homeowners prefer wood chips because of their natural look and tendency to stay grounded on windy days.* As wonderful as mulch is, there is another way to be water smart in the garden. You can also use rain barrels to collect rainwater, which is free of chlorine, plus a little added nitrogen picked up in the atmosphere on its way down. Every drop counts!

* http://homeguides.sfgate.com/comparison-between-rubber-mulch-wood-chips-51700.html

 

Water For Washing

Do you enjoy a relaxing bath at the end of a long day? Did you know that it takes ~70 gallons of water plus the energy required to heat it? Showers are a great water smart alternative since they don’t use nearly as much water, especially with a low flow shower head.*

This goes for washing dishes, too. Typically, water usage for washing dishes isn’t very high, but every little bit adds up. A completely full dishwasher prevents the need to hand wash every dish individually, with the following rinse in the kitchen sink. Modern automatic dishwashers are designed to be efficient and use a minimal amount of water.* Not to mention the time and energy it saves!

* http://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/water-conservation-tips/

 

Drinking Water

Since bottled water is transported great distances before it is consumed, it is better to avoid it when possible. Many bottled water companies also use a reverse osmosis system to produce their products. Even though Reverse Osmosis (RO) is a popular option for taste and quality, the bigger picture effects on conservation may be surprising. For every gallon purified by RO, four gallons (up to 12) are wasted. By using an inline or gravity water filter, you only use the water you drink, and no water is wasted. Most vendors offer water filters at a reasonable price with many only needing to be replaced once every six months or more. Other kinds of water wise treatments include UV filters, Alkaline Water Ionizers, and others. By finding what works best for you, you can keep your lifestyle and help conserve our most important natural resource.

* http://www.softwaterfiltration.com/water-filters/

4 Tips to Save for Your Child’s College Tuition

Do you have children or grandchildren? If you do, you are likely considering their higher education opportunities long before they have similar thoughts of their own. If trends are any indicator, the cost of four year and two year universities continue to rise every year. As the cost of college increases, planning and investing in your child’s future now becomes even more important.

 

1. Take Advantage of Merit Based Scholarships

Some families don’t fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid because they believe their income is too high for their child to qualify. No matter your income, it is worth filling out. Most colleges offer aid based on high school academic achievements (merit). If you don’t fill out the form, you cannot  be considered for those scholarships.  You can apply by visiting https://fafsa.ed.gov and clicking “Start A New FAFSA.”

 

2. Choose an Investment Program

A 529 college savings plan is named after Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code. This type of plan allows you to steadily grow a designated account that is designated for college tuition and other college costs. As long as the money is used appropriately, the state-sponsored investment plan gets special tax benefits. The money invested in a 529 grows tax free and is also tax free to spend on college expenses such as tuition, books, and fees. Even if you aren’t certain that your child will attend college, it’s still a good investment because you can change the recipient of the money. A grandchild, sibling, nephew, niece, or even you can use that money for education. In some states, the money in a mature 529 account can even be withdrawn for uses other than college.

 

3. Enroll in Rewards Programs

Some credit cards offer a percentage back when you shop and buy gas. If you swipe a card when you dine out, a using a card with a rewards program would give you some of that money back monthly or quarterly. Although these programs typically award a very small percentage of the purchase, this money can be invested into a designated college savings account or a 529 plan. When the new graduate in your life is ready to begin their higher education, you’ll be thankful for every penny saved.

 

4. Ask for College Fund Contributions Instead of Socks

Tired of birthday gifts or holiday gift that seem unnecessary? Instead of asking friends and family to buy your child toys, ask them to contribute to a college tuition savings account. Many states offer tax deductions for financing a college account, even if the child is not your own.

 

Plan Ahead

While it may be unrealistic to work one’s way through college like in decades past, all hope is not lost. Like all investment strategies, your biggest ally is time. With the right strategy and an early start, a debt free education really is possible.

Setting the Benchmark

We set the Benchmark by our dedication to our five core values. These values extend beyond mere talking points; they are our way of life.

 

Relationships 

In the mortgage business, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of each individual loan. With Benchmark, it is never only about the transaction. We keep the focus on our local community and the relationship with our client. Building and maintaining relationships always comes first. All other things are secondary. The individuals that make up the Benchmark family were thoughtfully and strategically selected to make a difference in their communities.

 

Positive Attitude

Attitudes are contagious. We want ours to be the difference between a good experience and an excellent experience for our clients.
The Benchmark culture thrives because of the great attitude each team member holds. In a world with so many unknowns, we have each made the conscious decision to conduct ourselves with a positive attitude at all times, in all areas of our lives.

 

Dynamic

In an industry that is so rapidly changing, Benchmark thrives because of our adaptability, creativity, innovation, marketability, and courage. It’s not enough to keep up. Instead, our strategy is to always stay ahead by constantly asking ourselves ‘how can we take this a step further’? Our dynamic approach has driven our success from the beginning.

 

Excellence

Benchmark has a record of standing out since 1999, because of our dedication to going the extra mile. It has never been enough to simply ‘do things well.’ We strive to do all things exceptionally well. When there’s a need, Benchmark seeks the best way to fill it.

In 2012, Chief Visionary Officer and Cofounder of Benchmark Mortgage, Stewart Hunter saw a pressing need to care for our veterans. For 6 years, as of writing, Benchmark has sponsored Boot’n & Shoot’n, a fundraiser that benefits veterans and their families by providing scholarships to the Brain Treatment Foundation and Third Option. All Benchmark branches come together annually to raise money for the men and women who have served our country. Boot’n & Shoot’n is our way of giving back and making sure that we stay focused on what really matters: people taking care of people.

 

Success

Success is how we ensure that we are headed in the right direction. It is achieved when the Benchmark passion aligns with each of our core values. Thinking past the ‘now’ is our strength. We are constantly evaluating our success based on current performance and how we can excel in the future.

What Pet Owners Should Know Right Now About Buying A Home

What Role Do Pets Play?

61% of U.S. households have a pet or have future plans to get one.
99% of owners feel that their pet is part of the family.
81% of Americans say that their pets play a role in their housing decision.
19% of Americans say they would consider moving for their pet.*
12% percent have moved for their pet.*
*would consider moving, or have moved total: 32%

Housing Demand

With 99% of owners feeling that their pet is part of the family, all pet owners would likely take notice of pet friendly features of a home. Considering that more than half of American households have pets or plan to get one, pet friendly features are a good way to add extra appeal to the majority of families if you are not looking for your “forever home”.

House Or Home

When buying a home, not only is there no pet fee, but it’s also a great idea to highlight what you think makes a home “pet friendly” in order to help with your decision! To get you started, here are some suggestions:

  • What kind of flooring does it have?
  • How much room will your pet(s) have to roam?
  • How easy will it be to keep it clean?
  • How walkable is the neighborhood?
  • Is there a dog park nearby?

These are just a few examples.

Top 3 things pet owners look for in a home

  1. Fenced-in backyard
  2. Dog-friendly areas nearby
  3. Close to pet stores and veterinarian offices

Keep outdoor spaces and location in mind when shopping for your next home. If you need help getting started, find your branch call todaycontact us today!

All data sourced from National Association of REALTORS Research Department’s February 13, 2017 report: “Animal House: Remodeling Impact” (https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/reports/2017/2017-remodeling-impact-animals-in-homes-02-13-2017.pdf)

Rent or Buy? 4 Things to Consider

Housing Cost Control

When your current lease ends, your landlord will probably raise your rent. Does the new rent fit your expected housing costs? If not, you will be left planning your next move with short notice. A fixed rate mortgage payment may never change, while the ever-rising rent will continue its ascent. [see Top 5 Financial Reasons To Buy Now]

 

Location Control

If you rent, you can be told to move at any time, as property ownership or assigned use can change at the whim of your landlord. Once again, you could be making an unplanned move in short order. Wouldn’t you like to be in control of where you live, and for how long?

 

Family Wealth Security

A rented space cannot be imparted to your descendants. The idea of Home carries a wealth of memories for friends and family, and renters miss the opportunity to leave their home and its legacy for loved ones. It also gives them the above benefits, or leverage for other uses or needs.

 

Timely Repairs

Whether you rent or buy, it’s a guarantee that things are going to break. As a renter, you’re at the mercy of property management or your landlord because you don’t have the luxury of managing your own timely home repairs. If you’ve ever been made to wait for repairs, you may have thought you would be better off if you were allowed to handle the job yourself. In your own home, you can act immediately, and upgrade, if that’s what you want. Hiring a professional to make repairs, asking a friend, or even fixing it yourself are all available options.

No more cold showers while the maintenance man is on vacation. It’s in your hands now.

 

Is Owning Right For You?

If you’re ready to discover whether homeownership is right for you, find your Benchmark branch, and call today. contact us contact me today. It would be my our pleasure to help you get started.

Top 5 Financial Reasons To Buy Now


 

Increasing Prices 

Over the last year, home prices have increased by 7.1%, according to CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index (HPI) report.  Over the next year, the HPI also predicts that prices will continue to rise at a rate of 4.9%. Clearly, we are long past the dip in home pricing. Home values are expected to continue to appreciate for years to come. In short, waiting no longer makes sense.

 

Anticipated Rising Mortgage Interest Rates 

The Primary Mortgage Market Survey published by Freddie Mac shows that interest rates for a 30-year mortgage have drifted around 4%. Experts predict that rates will rise over the next year. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the National Association of Realtors project that rates will increase by this time next year. An increase in rates is likely to cause your potential monthly mortgage payment to rise if you plan buy your next home.

 

Either Pay Yourself or Pay Your Landlord

Some renters who are uncomfortable with the obligation of a mortgage have not yet purchased a home. The reality is that unless you are living rent-free, every rent payment you make is paying your landlord’s mortgage. As a homeowner, your mortgage payment can be considered ‘forced savings’ in that it builds equity in your home that you can use to your advantage later in life. As long as you continue to rent, you will continue to build equity… for your landlord. When you buy a home, the advantage in housing payments is yours. For more on this, read Millionaire Tells Millennials To Buy A Home, published in January.

 

Rent Control

A fixed rate mortgage payment will not increase over the life of the loan. Rent, on the other hand, will likely continue its historic path. See the graph above from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers: Rent of primary residence, retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CUUR0000SEHA.

In short, buying a home can help you take control of your housing costs.

 

It Might Be The Right Time To Act

The cost of a home is determined by (1)the price of the home, and (2)the current mortgage rate. It appears that both are on the rise. But what if they stagnated? Would you wait? Consider the real reason you are buying and decide if you think it is worth waiting.

Whether you want to have a great place for your children to grow up, the choice to keep pets and room for them to roam, you want your family to be safer, or you just want to have control over renovations, now may be the time to buy. If the right thing for you and your family is to purchase a home this year, buying sooner rather than later could result in significant savings.

If you decide that you are ready to act, find your loan officer and applyapply now.

collage with "EXCELLENCE IS OUR BENCHMARK" overlayed

We Have Your Back – The Benchmark Way

With Benchmark, you’re never alone. We know that getting a mortgage can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Our family is here to walk you through the process of getting you home. In the last part of this series, we gave you an overview of what it takes to buy a home. In today’s post, we give a deeper view into the heart of our approach to long term advocacy for our clients.

From applying for a mortgage through closing on your new home, Benchmark has your back. Welcome to,

The Benchmark Way.

yacht sails in the wind

Loan Creation

Getting a mortgage shouldn’t cause you to worry or make you stress. We want you to be confident and at ease.

After first talking with your loan officer, your loan is created to match you with the perfect loan for your goals. Are you afraid of being left alone with the burden of managing your loan? No need to worry; our work isn’t over at closing.

 

binoculars on a granite shelf with a view of the sunrise

Market Watch

We understand the importance of a low rate. Wouldn’t you like to be notified at the first sign of any potential benefit? With minute-by-minute access to market rates, we accurately monitor the market in relation to your specific loan.

This includes staying ahead of rate changes by tracking hourly and daily mortgage-backed securities(MBS) movement, with the ability to chart progress in 5-minute intervals. Significant movement triggers custom alerts on a each affected loan for potential benefits. There is no time like the present.

 

little girl sitting with on a large padded armchair with her young dog

Beyond the Technical

Reaching out to our clients when there is an opportunity to save money is just one part of what we call our “Lifetime Loan” experience. While wee take pride in having the right tools to monitor the market as it relates to your loan, our main focus is not the transaction. We are dedicated to building real, lasting relationships. To us, business is not just business; business is personal.

 

alarm clock on a teak table in broad daylight

Yearly Reviews

In addition to our real time market analysis, we also perform an in-depth yearly review of your mortgage. Our clients get a forecast of what we foresee the future markets and rates to look like, and provide a unique personal action plan for you.

You are kept in-the-know and up-to-date on any potential changes that may be beneficial for your loan. By keeping your options our priority, we strive to make sure you get the most out of your mortgage.

 

collage of happy benchmark clients and text reading "Benchmark brings you home"

Benchmark Does It Better

If you only remember one thing, let it be this: Benchmark has your back.

If you ever have any questions or concerns regarding your loan, no matter if it’s been a few days, or several years since closing, please feel free to reach out to us for help. After all, our company is built on relationships.

When you choose Benchmark, you have an advocate for life.

Are You Ready?

If you are ready to begin the process, find your loan officergive me a call or contact mechoose your loan officer or contact us today.

collage of happy benchmark clients and text reading "Benchmark brings you home"

The Benchmark Way – Buying A Home

With Benchmark, you’re never alone. We know that getting a mortgage can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Our family is here to walk you through the process of getting you home. In next part, we will give a deeper view into the heart of our approach to long term care of our clients.

From applying for a mortgage through closing on your new home, Benchmark has your back. Welcome to,

The Benchmark Way.

The Process

Contact Your Lender

Before you get started with a mortgage, you’ll want to find your loan officergive me a call or contact mechoose your loan officer or contact us today. Your Benchmark lender is a licensed mortgage professional who understands exactly what it takes to match you with the best possible loan to match your goals. It’s important to note, no loan will ever be the same.

photo of typing on a laptop keyboard

Get Pre-Approved

Getting pre-approved is the first major step towards purchasing your new home. To get pre-approved, we verify your information and documents to determine how much you are able to borrow towards your new home. This will strengthen any offer you decide to make on a home.

Get a Real Estate Agent

Having a good real estate agent can greatly enhance your home-buying experience. They can help match you to the home you may not have even known you wanted, and are your best advocate in negotiating your offer. Through our relationships, your Benchmark lender may be able to make a great referral for you.

For some tips on choosing one one your own, we have a great article for you: Find A Great Real Estate Agent The Easy Way.

photograph of front door to a home with wysteria vines and purple flowers in front of brick facade

Find Your New Home

Knowing your price range and desired location(s) will help your real estate agent with your search. Once you have your home in sight, move FAST. Contact your agent, and let your Benchmark lender know about your find!

photograph of brass well-worn pen nib

Sign The Contract

Whether the Contract is completed by your realtor or by yourself, its completion will get you one step closer to your new home. As soon as the offer is accepted and the contract is signed by all parties, please communicate your new home’s address to your lender. Then we will be able to start assembling your Loan Estimate.

Your Loan Estimate

Your Benchmark lender will send you a loan estimate. The loan estimate will give you a general overview of your loan and estimated costs.

collage with "EXCELLENCE IS OUR BENCHMARK" overlayed

The Benchmark Magic

This is where The Benchmark Way of lending wins the race. Our team of underwriters and processors will be working hard to make sure we have what we need from you to close your loan on time. So, sit back and relax… We are ordering your appraisal, getting documents from Title, and everything in between to complete your loan.

Final Approval

This is our favorite part of theprocess! Our underwriters have looked over all of the documents and have given their seal of approval. At this point, you’re almost home!

Closing Time!

The closing date will be set*, and the documents** will be ready to be signed. Get your pen ready, because we will need for you to sign on lots of lines! After everything is signed, the keys are yours. Welcome Home!


*Clear to Close: This simply means that all conditions of your loan have been met, and the loan underwriter has given the blessing to release instructions to your title company for the closing. If  you are buying a home this is your goal.
**Closing Disclosure: All lenders are required to provide your Closing Disclosure three business days before your scheduled closing. Use these days wisely! Double-check that all of the details are correct. If something looks different from what you expected, ask me why, and let’s get it sorted ASAP. NOW is the time to resolve problems. If the explanation you get isn’t enough, just keep asking questions.

collage of happy benchmark clients and text reading "Benchmark brings you home"