Four Steps to Create the Home Inventory You Need If Disaster Strikes

Posted on 22 January, 2018 at 19:35 Comments comments (24)

Four Steps to Create the Home Inventory You Need If Disaster Strikes

After a fire, flood or other disaster, your insurance claim needs to list all items that are lost or damaged. Having a home inventory makes this easy—and speeds up the process.

Step 1. Decide between photos and video. Photos need to be labeled with the item’s description and cost—but some smartphones and digital cameras let you add this when saving. With video, you can just say this info while shooting. Apps are also available.

Step 2. Walk through your home, shoot and describe (or write down) the contents. Turn on all lights and open all cabinets, drawers and closets. Count clothing by category—10 shirts, 6 sweaters, etc. Collect receipts, record serial numbers. Ask your insurance agent if jewelry and collectibles need special coverage. Don’t forget pictures, mirrors, ceiling fixtures, basement, attic, garage and off-site storage.

Step 3. Store your inventory in an online storage account or on an external drive kept with paper documents safely off premises.

Step 4. Update the inventory with new purchases.

When you’re ready to give your contents a new home or refinance for an upgrade or lower rate, please text, email or call us any time.  (469) 363-3298

Contracts & New Lines of Credit

Posted on 19 December, 2017 at 14:10 Comments comments (1)

Ever heard of credit card churning? It’s when a person opens a credit card to take advantage of an offered bonus savings and then closes the account instead of using it long-term. The savings you get from that first purchase (or the free travel miles, or whatever offer) is tempting. Who wouldn’t want to save 20% or get 10,000 bonus travel miles? The only thing is, opening these lines of credit can lower your credit score. And if you are in the process of getting a mortgage, these new lines of credit can have some serious impact on your home-buying.

When my husband and I were purchasing our home, we contacted a cable television provider about getting service in our new house. It didn’t seem like a big deal until Team Neal contacted us after the credit inquiry showed up on our profile. We had to sign an affidavit promising that we had not taken on new debt. It didn’t affect our closing, but if something as simple as television service can affect the mortgage process, imagine the impact that buying a new car (or other major purchase) can have. 

Whenever someone applies for a credit card, the issuer checks their credit before giving approval, something known as a “hard inquiry.” Every hard inquiry can lower your credit score by a few points. This can effect your mortgage because getting a home loan is a complex process. There are many factors that are taken into consideration when getting approved for a home loan: employment, income, and credit score, just to name a few. Your lender will also determine your income to debt ratio and you want your financial situation to look as good as it can so that you can get the best mortgage terms possible. You also want to keep your financial situation solid in the time that passes between getting approved for your mortgage and closing, which can sometimes last a month or more.

Here are some other things to keep in mind during the mortgage process: Making big credit changes can keep your loan from closing or delay it. Do not take out new loans or open new credit card accounts. Do not charge a large amount on your credit cards.

Mortgage lenders calculate how much you can afford to borrow with equations that rely heavily on your credit profile and score. If you open a credit card during your mortgage process, your credit score may go down, which can complicate or delay your mortgage. If you are in the process of getting a home loan or planning to get one in the near future, don’t enter into any financial contracts (like credit cards or loans) without first talking to your mortgage professional. If you have any questions or concerns, Team Neal will guide you through the mortgage process to ensure that you are taking the right steps to get the best loan options for your individual or family’s circumstances.

Ten Things You Need for Home Repair Emergencies

Posted on 6 December, 2017 at 21:55 Comments comments (0)

10 things you need for home repair emergencies

Fire Extinguishers. By the time firefighters arrive, it’s usually too late to save things. Fire extinguishers can prevent fires from spreading, saving property and even lives. Put one in the kitchen, garage and on every floor.

Lights with Fresh Batteries. Keep flashlights and lanterns in every room.

Tarps. Severe weather can damage windows and roofs. Tarps stop rain and debris from entering.

Clear Plastic Sheeting. Not as strong as tarps, but good for furniture, and over windows.

Duct Tape. Great for everything from cracked glass to cracked pipes.

Nails and Screws. Have a good supply in lots of sizes.

Plumbing Fittings. Ask your plumber what fittings you need to close damaged pipes.

Spare Parts for Appliances. Ask your appliance repair service what parts are useful to have on hand.

Tools. Adjustable wrenches, claw hammer, screwdrivers, pry bar, tape measure, hand drill.

Extension Cords. Have different sizes to reach areas where power may be cut off.

Please text, email or call us any time for information about financing a home purchase, or refinancing for a lower rate or for upgrades.  (469) 363-3298 

Mortgage rates are still near historically low, so don’t wait to contact us about today’s excellent options.

5 Practical Steps to Save for a Down Payment

Posted on 10 November, 2017 at 8:20 Comments comments (3)

Five Practical Steps to Save for a Down Payment

Determine how much you’ll need. Down payments generally range from 3% to 20% of your home’s purchase price, and the rest is your mortgage amount. So, contact us to find out the mortgage amount you qualify for. We’ll then explain your down payment options, so you can decide which option best fits your needs.

Calculate what you need to save monthly. Target when you’d like to purchase, which tells you how many months you have to save. If you’ve already set money aside, subtract that from the down payment amount. Divide this number by the number of months until purchase, and that’s what you’ll need to save monthly.

Open a separate savings account that automatically transfers from your checking account the monthly amount you need to save.

Track your spending. Carefully look at your credit card bills and checkbook to see where you can cut back non-essential expenditures, such as movies and meals out.

Trim recurring expenses. Shop for lower costs for cell phones, cable TV, internet, utilities, car, home, health insurance, etc.

For more down payment advice, and any other information about financing a home purchase, or refinancing to lower your rate or fund improvements, please text, email or call us. (469) 363-3298

Understanding the Process

Posted on 23 October, 2017 at 22:00 Comments comments (0)

The mortgage process is complex. There are many pieces that must come together when securing finances to purchase a house: income, insurance, appraisals, inspections, credit scores, to name just a few. Each piece comes together like a jigsaw puzzle to complete a home loan. And, like a puzzle, if just one piece is missing, the entire process is incomplete.

The first step of the mortgage process is completing your loan application. In addition to preliminary disclosures and information about the current interest rate, you’ll be given a list of documents that your mortgage team needs to begin your pre-approval process. Then comes the loan set-up. This is where third-party documentation like your home appraisal and title search is ordered. Before your loan can progress, a loan processor puts everything together to send to underwriting for approval. An underwriter reviews and evaluates all of your documents to determine if it is a good idea to loan you money for a particular house. If something is missing or incomplete, the underwriter will send your application back and you’ll have to work with your loan processor to fix or resolve any issues. Things can be delayed if something has been overlooked or forgotten by your mortgage team.

Once your loan application gets approval from the underwriter, the final loan papers are sent to the title company. The title company prepares a settlement statement that includes the final amount of money needed to close on the house. A good mortgage team will make sure that there are no surprises at closing and that everything falls into place at the right time.

Throughout the mortgage process, things occur sequentially and many of the steps are dependent on the thing before. Your mortgage team acts as a coordinator of each piece to help ensure that everything is falling into place and getting done. If something is missing or incomplete, your mortgage (and therefore your move-in date) can be delayed. It is critical that your mortgage team stay on top of things as your loan progresses. No one wants to have their closing date delayed because of an oversight or paperwork error. Getting a mortgage is a complex process and you can trust the professionals at Team Neal to be reliable and keep you informed about each step of the process. 


Posted on 4 October, 2017 at 22:40 Comments comments (1597)

Acronyms are everywhere and in every profession. I’ve worked as an educator for nearly fifteen years and every school year we get brand new, cleverly-abbreviated terms: STAAR, TAKS, NCLB, TAAS (I bet you remember that one if you went to school in Texas in the 90s). The mortgage process is no different. When you begin to discuss loan types and options with your mortgage team, you’ll start to hear so many abbreviations that you just might begin to feel like you’re texting a teenager: FHA, FICO, MI. OMG, WTH?

During the home-buying process, the first acronym you’ll probably encounter is FICO. This refers to your credit score, something that is pretty critical when buying a house. I’ve written quite a bit about credit scores and repair; for more information, read some of my earlier posts.

FHA and VA are two acronyms that refer to loan types. FHA stands for Federal Housing Administration and is a mortgage program that is managed by HUD (there’s another one!). HUD stands for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a part of the federal government. VA is a loan program for members of the military (U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs). There are also USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) loans for rural borrowers. 

When considering mortgage options, there are also loan types with acronyms. ARMs (Adjustable Rate Mortgage loans) have changing interest rates (as opposed to fixed-rate loans). MI (Mortgage Insurance) is another term that may come into play when you’re purchasing a house. 

If all this confuses you, consider yourself normal. The experts at Team Neal can answer all of your questions and walk you through every step of the process to help you make the best and most informed decisions about your mortgage. If you’re considering purchasing a house, give them a call and they can tailor a mortgage that is right for you. And they’ll do this while answering any questions that come up along the way.

Professional and Confidential

Posted on 22 September, 2017 at 14:25 Comments comments (2002)

What do a priest, therapist, and mortgage professional all have in common? Confidentiality. You can tell your priest and therapist anything (except that you are going to hurt someone or yourself) and they are ethically bound to keep it between you and them.

When you apply for a mortgage, it feels like you are getting very personal with your lender. Your mortgage agent will ask questions about your finances that you’re probably not used to being asked. Not the kind of stuff that friends casually discuss. Your mortgage agent will need to know details about your life because they are brokering a loan worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. But don’t worry-- the information you share with them is private. They will not share it, sell it, or (if you’re like me and have made some not-so-smart credit decisions in the past) judge you. They objectively look at your financial position and use the information to make an informed judgement about what kind of loan is best for you, how much of a mortgage payment you can support, and other details of what is quite possibly the biggest purchase you’ve ever made.

So what can you expect to be asked? First off, you’ll need to give information about your employment and income. Your mortgage team will need to know where you work and how much money you make, as well as how long you’ve been at that job and how steady the income is (salary? commission?). If your income is commission based or irregular, Team Neal is expert at tailoring a loan for you. When my family made a cross-country move a couple of years ago, we needed to purchase a house but we were both starting new jobs as teachers in the local school district. This complicated our mortgage process, but Team Neal was able to evaluate our circumstances and get us into our new home without any complications.

You’ll also need to discuss your debts. What debts do you have and how much are your monthly payments for automobiles, credit cards, etc.? Team Neal will use this information to determine a debt-to-income ratio that will inform their loan tailoring process. There will also be questions about savings and assets, and you’ll be required to provide copies of bank and brokerage statements. Finally, there will be questions about why you’re buying a home, how you’re going to use it (residence, rental, etc.) and how much money you plan on putting down. It is important to be forthright and honest so that your mortgage professional can determine the best loan for your needs. 

Are you Pre-Qualified?

Posted on 11 August, 2017 at 11:30 Comments comments (0)

Shopping is fun and shopping for a house is no exception. Driving around neighborhoods, searching local listings online, and looking at interior photographs are all great ways to become informed about the real estate offerings in your area. But when you get ready to seriously shop for a home with the intent to purchase, your selection process needs to be precise so that you don’t fall in love with a house that is outside of your budget. 

That’s where pre-qualification comes in. It is the first step in purchasing a house, something to do even before you contact a realtor. In fact, some realtors won’t even show you a house if you aren’t pre-qualified. The process is fairly simple (think income, assets, debts) and allows a mortgage company to determine the maximum amount of money they’ll loan you so that you’ll know what homes are within your budget. Once a lender pre-qualifies you, you will get a letter that provides your realtor with this information to help facilitate the home selection process.

Being pre-qualified also enables you to make an offer on a house so that when you do find the house of your dreams, you’ll be ready. Oftentimes, the seller looks at the pre-qualification letter to decide whether or not they want to accept the offer. In a hot market where sellers receive multiple offers on a house, the terms of the loan outlined in the letter and the mortgage company that issued it are often taken into account when deciding which offer to accept. Sellers want to ensure that the sale isn’t going to fall through because of the buyer’s financing and a strong pre-qualification letter is a good way to show the seller that you are serious.

The mortgage experts at Team Neal can walk you through the pre-qualification process. There will be some paperwork and they will ask for information about your income and expenses to evaluate what amount will work with your budget. Then they will take the information you provide and use it to get an idea of how much money a bank will loan you for a house. This will help you narrow your search and be ready to make an offer when you do find the house that’s perfect for you.

Choosing a Lender

Posted on 26 July, 2017 at 8:15 Comments comments (501)

I shudder to think about the first time I purchased a house. I was no more than twenty-one years old, in my first marriage, and remarkably uneducated about the world of finance. My now-ex-husband and I drove by a development one day, decided to stop, and ended up signing a contract for a house. (I do not recommend making such a large, life-changing purchase on a whim. This was pretty much our MO-- it’s not surprising that this marriage self-destructed.) The house was nice enough, but neither of us knew the first thing about home purchasing or ownership.


After the nice saleslady talked us into signing a contract on the yet-to-be-built home of our dreams, she told us that we would get a discount if we used one of their in-house lenders. A discount? On a house? Sign us up! We knew nothing of the terms of the loan. Words like “points” didn’t mean a thing to us. We were buying our first home and this lender was making it happen. As I mentioned earlier, we didn’t do a very good job of thinking long-term. What a mistake!

Fast-forward seventeen years to today. If I see a pair of shoes that I want, I put in the research looking for coupons, watching the sales, cross referencing the price with other stores (the internet makes it so easy!). Buying a home is quite possibly the biggest purchase that you and your family will ever make. It’s definitely worth the time and consideration to shop around and understand your mortgage. I know, I know-- it can be confusing. Shoes, sales tax, percentages off of retail isn’t that complex. A mortgage is incredibly complex. That’s why you need a good mortgage agent who will take the time to answer your questions and custom-tailor your mortgage to fit your needs. It doesn’t cost any more to go this route; in fact, it will more than likely save you money in the long term.

One day not too long ago, I was having lunch with one of my very good friends. We’ve known each other since Kindergarten and have gone through all the major phases of our lives together. She and her husband were in the process of buying a new home for their family and she was telling her frustrations. It was stressful enough finding the perfect house and getting a reasonable offer accepted, she was telling me. Now they were having issues with their lender-- he wouldn’t return their calls, their closing date kept getting pushed back, and they had lots of unanswered questions. I told her that she should give Team Neal a try. “Can I even change lenders this far in the process?” she asked. I told her to give them a call and find out.

After taking to Team Neal, my friend called me and told me how happy she was with their services. Their closing date was moved up and their monthly mortgage payment was going to be over $200 less than her original lender had told her. Team Neal used their “boutique” mortgage services to customize a mortgage for my friend’s family’s needs. Rather than just plug numbers into a formula (something a lot of lenders do), Team Neal takes the time to figure out what works best for each of their individual clients’ needs. And that makes all the difference.

Ditching the Apartment

Posted on 13 June, 2017 at 17:40 Comments comments (20)

Living in an apartment used to be fun-- no unexpected maintenance costs, no yard work, a little bitty space to keep clean. When I was in college and just venturing out on my own, the idea of my own personal space apart from my parents was something that I aspired for. An apartment meant independence and offered a community to live in among other independent people like me. It was great.

But then I met a guy (who is now my husband) and we started thinking about the future. We started thinking long-term: children, pets, even school zoning. Suddenly apartment living wasn’t so attractive. We wanted more: a house in a good neighborhood with a good yard and friendly neighbors. American dream type stuff.

Could we even buy a house? After a not-so-well-thought-out marriage at nineteen years old that ultimately ended in a divorce and financial ruin, my credit was not so shining. My soon-to-be husband had no credit: something almost equally as bad. Would a bank trust us with a hundred-thousand of their dollars to buy a house with? We are both college-educated professionals with good, stable incomes, but we assumed that our past experiences (or lack thereof) with credit would mean that we were doomed to live in an apartment forever.

In spite of our misgivings about ever being able to purchase a house, I decided to make a phone call to a mortgage team. The worst they could do was confirm my fears, right? Boy was I wrong. To this day, I am so glad that I made that one phone call because it put us on the path to homeownership.

While we weren’t able to buy a house right away, the mortgage representative put us on a plan to get our credit into shape so that we could one day buy a house. While we weren’t able to buy a house that month or even that year, the tips and information that I learned put us on the right path. Under the guidance of a mortgage professional, I learned how to rebuild my credit, budget our money, and make sound financial decisions so that we could one day purchase and own a home.

We ditched the apartments for about twelve years now. Home ownership is the best. Sure, there’s the occasional unexpected expense like when our water heater died last month, but that’s okay because it sure beats living in an apartment. If you’re unsure about whether or not you can buy a home, I encourage you to make the phone call. Find a good mortgage representative that will take the time to help you. I recommend Team Neal in North Texas. That’s who put us on the right path and we’ve trusted them since I made that phone call twelve years ago.