What is Private Mortgage Insurance?

Purchasing a new home or property involves many aspects including purchase agreements, contracts, inspections, appraisals, closing, escrow and more. In this article, we will explain what private mortgage (PMI) is, why it is required and how you can get rid of it.

canstockphoto8505074When purchasing a home, you will likely make some form of down payment. In fact, when you make a down payment less than 20 percent, the lender requires that you carry PMI. Basically, it’s a policy that protects the lender from losing money if you end up defaulting on your loan. Lenders also require PMI when you refinance a mortgage with less than 20 percent equity.

PMI fees vary anywhere from .3 to 1.5 percent of the original loan amount per year depending on the size of the down payment and your credit score. Also, PMI premiums are tax deductible on certain years depending upon the whims of Congress. Most policies require that the borrowes pay monthly. However, borrowers also have the option of paying for mortgage insurance with a large upfront payment.

And how to get rid of it:
The lender must automatically cancel the PMI when your outstanding balance drops to 78 percent of the home’s original value. Keep track of your payments because you also can ask that the lender discontinue the mortgage insurance premiums when the balance reaches 80 percent of the original value. Although, both of these options will probably take several years.

You can speed up the cancellation two ways; however, both options require money, time and patience. First, you can make double payments on your mortgage ensuring you reach the 80 percent mark in at least half the time. Next, you can make improvements to your property and refinance at opportune moments. This option can potentially raise the original value of your home to where you already have 80 percent equity.

The Hogle ZooLights

The Hogle ZooLights return this year for its 10th anniversary more sparkly and festive than ever.canstockphoto12096205 There are more than 200 lighted animal and holiday-themed displays illuminating the zoo grounds. Start your night by checking out the crowd favorite 135-foot lighted tunnel. Then take a ride on the Conservation Carousel and stop to see Santa at Macy’s Santa Station. Top the night off with a cup of hot chocolate and some shopping at the Wild Zootique.

With family friendly fun there is something for everyone at ZooLights including nightly activities. Most evenings feature fun entertainment and activities such as ice carverings, crafts, temporary tattoos, animal biography facts and so much more. Plus, all of these activities are free with admission which is $8 for adults, $6 for children ages three to 12 and free for children two and younger.

You may also want to consider ringing in the New Year with ZooLights. They offer an early countdown to involve the kids while still getting them to bed on time. The countdown begins at 9 p.m. Children attending receive a noise maker and can countdown to 2016 with the ZooLights specially lit countdown display.

ZooLights is open from Dec. 1 -31 but closed on Christmas day. Hours of operation are 5:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 5:30 to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.


What is Earnest Money?

In a perfect world, once you found the home of your dreams, you and the owner could sign a purchase agreement, shake hands and follow with your down payment. However, in the real world, once the ink dries on your signature you will need to put money on the table to show that your intent to purchase is “earnest” or in good faith.

canstockphoto6409107The earnest money is usually deposited in the form of a personal or certified check issued to the real-estate brokerage. They require a fraction of your down payment for the earnest deposit. The deposit will then be held in an escrow account until the buyer and seller complete closing.

Many factors determine the various earnest payment amounts. The attractiveness of the sales price, the level of others interested in the home and how quickly a buyer can move from contract to closing all influence the sum a seller requests for an earnest money deposit. If everything goes as planned and the sale moves forward, your earnest money deposit applies toward the down payment.

Now that we know more about earnest money we can address some frequently asked questions.

Just how much should I pay?
Industry experts recommend that earnest money deposits remain between three to five percent of the purchase contract. Although, others argue that two percent should be the maximum. Some sellers require a flat rate without considering a percentage. Each state sets their own legal limits on the amount of earnest money allowed. Avoid paying too much and talk with a realtor today to find out the requirements in your area.

How is the deposit made?
In most markets, you aren’t required to the pay entire deposit at once. At signing, the buyer issues a check for a fraction of the deposit often ranging between $1,000 and $5,000. The remaining of the earnest deposit will then to be paid within one week to an escrow account as previously explained above.

If something goes wrong, am I out of luck?

Most purchase agreements and contracts stipulate that the seller keeps the earnest money deposit if a buyer fails to complete the purchase. Due in part to the fact the seller may face the loss of time and money due to a buyers default on the contract. Although, sometimes the seller and buyer can find a fair solution on how to distribute the earnest money deposit between them. Best case scenario the seller forfeits his claim on the deposit and returns it to the buyer minus a subtracted fee for the brokerage. Worst case scenario, you should be prepared to write the money off as a penalty for causing the seller some form of hardship.

Why Buy Christmas Gifts Now

Christmas is only a month away—can you believe it? This year, save yourself the stress and don’t wait until the last minute to start your shopping. Even if you enjoy the hussle and bussle of Black Friday and everything else, there are some benefits of getting your shopping on.canstockphoto5027780

Need some reasons not to wait to start your Christmas shopping? Check out these 3 top tips—

  • Selection. When you wait to start shopping, you lower your chances of having a wide selection (and sizes) available. In addition, by starting early in your Christmas shipping, you avoid the craziness of the holiday shopping and fighting over items that are becoming scarce.
  • Budgeting. By starting your holiday shopping now, you have time to look at your budget and make adjustments to ensure you’re not going over your budget. This also allows you to save up additional money so you don’t end up going into debt over Christmas.
  • Travel. No one likes driving in the snow. During this time of year, you never know what Mother Nature will do. Avoid the stress of driving on slick, icy roads by getting ahead start now.

How do you shop for the holidays? Do you prefer waiting until the last minute or getting everything bought early? Share your thoughts and comments with us below.

Trick-or-Treating Safety Tips

This is a fun time of year, for children and adults alike. As we move closer to Halloween, many kids are preparing for a fun night of dressing up into their favorite characters and trick-or-treating. Although this is a night of excitement and spooky thrills, it is important to stay safe. This year, keep everyone safe and have a great time with these tips.

canstockphoto229719291. Plan and be mindful of your surroundings. Before heading out, plan your route so you don’t end up going too far from home. The last thing you want to do is find yourself far from home when your legs are exhausted from all that walking. Also, while you’re out, be mindful of your surroundings, staying on the sidewalks and crossing the street at street corners or at crosswalks.

2. Wear comfortable shoes. Because you’re going to be out and about, it’s important to make sure you’re wearing comfortable, well-fitting shoes. Avoid wearing heels, sandals, and anything that can end up hurting your feet early on in the night.

3. Stay visible and avoid dark clothing. While you’re out trick-or-treating make sure kids are well-lit and visible. Put reflective tape on costumes, carry glow sticks or a flashlight, and wear light, visible clothing so people, particularly drivers, can see kids crossing the street.

4. Avoid masks. Masks can prevent kids from seeing well and can make it difficult to breathe. Instead, paint your child’s face so they can still have the effect of wearing a mask, but can see and breathe with ease.

5. Check your child’s candy before they eat it. Before your children dig into their candy, go through the candy and throw out anything that is not in it’s original wrapper, has been opened, or looks like it’s been tampered with in any way.

Want some more tips for making this Halloween safe and enjoyable? Check out these great tips. What do you love most about Halloween? Share your stories with us below.



7 Tips to Prepare Your Home for Fall

Fall brings such beautiful orange, yellow and red foliage. It’s easy to forget that colder temperatures and unpredictable weather conditions lie just around the corner. Following are seven steps to help you ready your home for the coming season.

  1. Clean the Gutterscanstockphoto22273101
    You will want to clear your gutters of leaves and other debris. Make sure to clear your drainpipe and downspouts as well to prevent clogging. If you experience below freezing temperatures during the winter months, you will need to drain and weather proof all outdoor faucets.
  2. Clean the Fireplace and chimney
    If your house has a fireplace and chimney, you should clear out the ash and charred wood. Hire a professional to clean the chimney itself. Request that the professional checks the damper within the chimney. You will want to ensure that is tightly closed to prevent drafts.
  3. Get a heating inspection
    You can start by checking your home’s vents to insure they aren’t blocked by furniture, carpet, curtains or other obstructions. The cents and filters also need a good dusting and cleaning. Next, make an appointment with a professional for your annual HVAC check-up to ensure your heating system runs smoothly all winter long.
  4. Store AC units
    You want to unplug, take down and store all removable window air conditioning units. Your central air unit may also need winterizing. Make sure to dust and clean the units before covering or storing them.
  5. Inspect for drafts
    Locating and taking care of drafts early in the season will ensure that you stay warm, save energy and reduce your heating bills throughout the season. Start by examining windows and doors for cracks. Seal anything that you find to prevent drafts.
  6. Install storm windows
    First, remove, clean and store any removable screens on your windows. Next, replace the screens with storm windows. The storm windows help prevent costly air leaks and drafts for a fraction of the cost of replacement windows.
  7. Inspect the water heater
    Readying your water heater is one the best ways to prepare for the colder months. Start by draining the water heater and then clearing out any debris that has settled within the tank. You also can have your water heater inspected by a professional to ensure it’s in good working order.

Move or Improve?

Is your family outgrowing your current house? Are the quirks you once found charming not so intriguing anymore? Should you move or improve? Several factors come into play when deciding to upgrade your home. It’s time to remodel or move if the following are true:


  1. You can afford it
    Many smaller DIY projects are quite inexpensive. However, larger and more complex projects like rewiring or tearing down walls will likely need to be contracted out. This not only takes time, but money as well. Make sure you can afford to make the necessary improvements.
  2. You Just Don’t have the space you need
    Improving the layout of your current home can make a once cramped space seem open and inviting. A remodel also provides opportunities to add extra storage. And if you’re really in love with your current location you can add more square footage by building an addition to the home.
  3. New layout improves quality of life
    A new layout not only feels like a more spacious home, but can improve your lifestyle as well. The very popular open floor plans allow for awesome entertaining opportunities. Gone are the days of everyone separating into either the kitchen or the living room. Now, everyone at the family gathering can be involved and included.


  1. Your finances are in good shape
    Just like remodeling, moving into a new home can be costly. First, you will make sure your finances are in tip-top shape in order to get the best possible financing and rates. Lenders strive to keep your debt-to-income ratio at or below 40 percent. This means that you will want to pay off any small and even some large debts before starting the buying process.
  2. You loathe your daily commute
    Studies show that your daily commute may be sucking the happiness out of you. Many cited that the “worst thing they do all day” is there morning commute. If you haven’t got used to it yet, you probably never will. It might just be time to move closer to work and avoid a lengthy commute all together.
  3. You want a better neighborhood with a quieter street
    We have all heard before that it is all about the location. And it’s true. Maybe you are sick of your neighbor’s dog barking all day and night. May be you just want to live on a nice street or be closer to work and school. Whatever the case, moving to the right location can change your life.

Selling Your Home: Autumn vs Spring

When it comes to selling your home, which season is better? Autumn or Spring? There are many opinions or theories out there, but evidence is pointing towards Spring.


According to a recent study by Zillow, on average, homes put on the market between May 1 to May 15 sold 18 days faster than those homes put on market after. In addition, homes put on the market at that time sold for a little more money.

Some other important factors to know about selling your home in the Spring:

  • Less inventory. Because some people feel they shouldn’t list their property under the possible threat of snow and ice, many wait to put their homes on the market. However, if you’re home is the only one on the market in your area (or one of the few) there is a better chance that you’ll have more interest on your home.
  • Job relocations. People tend to get relocated around the New Year (first quarter) which means there is a higher demand for homes for sale. If you’re home is on the market during this time, you not only have a greater chance of selling your home faster and at your asking price.
  • Higher listing price. Stats show homes sell at a slightly higher price in the winter and early spring months. This is for three reasons, 1) agents tend to be more adamant about pricing the home at the right price, 2) you’re more likely to receive an offer that is too good to pass up, and 3) interest rates tend to go up in the spring so buyers tend to be more willing to pay the higher price.

As you move forward to preparing to sell your home, your real estate agent can help you determine the best price for you home, answer all your questions, and support you as you move through the process of selling your home.

Ready to sell? Give us a call today!

Renting vs. Buying

canstockphoto18207640Have you been going back and forth about buying a home? Perhaps you’re happy renting and not sure what the benefits are of owning a home are. Or, perhaps you’re not sure you can afford to buy a home. Whatever is holding you back from homeownership, here are some factors to consider about why buying a home is the better option.

Mortgage vs. Rent. A lot of people shy away from buying a home because of the mortgage payment. For some, the uncertainty of ‘can I afford a home’ is holding them back towards homeownership. If you’re someone who isn’t sure if they can afford a home, why not take a moment to talk with your loan officer or mortgage lender. Just because you get pre-approved doesn’t mean you’re obligated to purchase a home. But the more information you have going in the better you can make a decision that moves you closer to homeownership.

Something else to consider, if you’re renting, each payment you make to your landlord is paying their mortgage. Why not get your money to work for you and start building equity?

Home Decor & Landscape. When you rent, you have less freedom to paint walls, change out light fixtures, replace flooring, and so on. Buying a home, gives you more freedom to paint walls and replace anything you don’t like. For those who enjoy working out in the yard, owning a home allows you to have your own yard where you have the freedom to plant trees, bushes, and flowers. This is great because it allows you to allow your creative juices flowing in a way that renting won’t allow.

Pride of Ownership. When you buy a home, there is a sense of pride that comes with being a homeowner—a feeling you don’t get when you’re renting. Buying home gives you something that is yours, something you can take pride in, and gives you a sense of community.

If you’ve been holding off buying a home, why wait any longer? With so many homes on the market, now is the time to start moving forward towards homeownership.

We are ready to help you take the next step so give us a call today! We are here to answer all your questions.

7 National Parks to Visit Before Summer Ends

Adventure is just around the corner in Utah. With plenty of attractions to see, activities to do and places to go, Utah offers non-stop fun. That said, summer gets busy with work, family gatherings and outings with friends. Here is a list of seven national parks to visit before the frost settles.


1. Visit the Super Six: Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Goblin Valley National
Parks along with the San Rafael Swell and Swasey’s Beach. This awesome excursion allows you to see multiple national parks and two geographical features. San Rafael Swell is a 75 by 40 miles giant dome-shaped anticline. Infrequent, powerful flash floods shaped this area into the sedimentary rocks, valleys, canyons, gorges, mesas and buttes you see today. Swasey’s Beach located just north of Green River provides the perfect place to cool off while touring the rest of the Super Six. A white sandy beach shaded by cottonwood trees and refreshing water make this beach the perfect spot for families to play.

2. Monument Valley
Located within 27,000 miles of Navajo Indian Reservation, Monument Valley is known for its picturesque red mesas, buttes and surrounding desserts. This Navajo Tribal Park has been in numerous films and commercials. The famous Valley Drive consists of a 17-mile self-drive dirt road complete with several pullout areas for viewing the spectacular scenery, famous sights and formations. Visit the Monument Valley Visitor Center For more information and guided tours.

3. Zion National Park
Utah’s first national park provides an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and a rich geological history. The gorgeous sandstone cliffs exposing the red, pink and cream canyon entices people from all over the country. You can enjoy a large variety of unique plant and animal life while you are backpacking, biking, canyoneering, climbing, horseback riding, boating or bird watching through this natural wonderland.

4. Dinosaur National Monument
Numerous Jurassic period fossils have been discovered at Dinosaur National Monument. In fact, visitors can see fossils embedded in the wall of Carnegie Quarry. This cross-section of mountains, rivers and desert is perfect for exploring, hiking, rafting and camping.

5. Golden Spike National Historic Site
To the north of the Great Salt Lake lies the point where the first transcontinental railroad formed. The Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads joined at the Golden Spike National Historic Site on May 10, 1869 when the last spike also called the “Golden Spike” was ceremonially driven in. The Visitor Center helps illustrate the importance of the railroad in opening up and exploring the west.

6. Bryce Canyon
This national park is known for its hoodoos. Wind and water eroded odd-shaped rock pillars over time. Filled with a variety of hiking trails with easy, moderate and strenuous options, the park allows you to spend as much or as little time in the park as you want. You can even go horseback riding along some of the trails and go camping with your family and friends. Stargaze on one of the guided moonlight hikes.

7. Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
One of the less crowded national parks in Utah, the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument provides a sense of remoteness and tranquility. You can drive for miles down paved and dirt roads without ever seeing another car. However, you will see plenty of beautiful scenery mixed with canyons, arches, hills, waterfalls, forest and scrubland.