CONSIDER THIS: WHEN TO REFINANCE

Refinancing your mortgage is something most homeowners consider at least once throughout the lifespan of their home loan. It allows you to pay off your previous loan by applying for a new one that has better financial advantages. While there are many good reasons to refinance, here are five common ones.


  • Scoring a lower interest rate. The number one reason homeowners decide to refinance is to secure a lower interest rate on their mortgage. Not only does this save you money in the long run and decrease your monthly payment, but you can start building equity in your home sooner.

refinance with an improved credit score
  • Using an improved credit score. Even if interest rates have not dropped in the market, if you’ve improved your credit score over the last few years, you may be able to reduce your mortgage rate.
  • Shortening the loan’s term. If interest rates are decreasing, there is a chance you may be able to get a shorter loan term with little to no change in your monthly payment, allowing you to pay off your loan sooner.

  • Switching from an adjustable rate to a fixed rate. If you chose an adjustable-rate mortgage with great introductory rates when you initially financed your home, that rate may increase significantly over the years. By switching to a fixed rate while interest rates are low, you can protect yourself from future increases.

  • Cashing out home equity. If there is a big purchase or payment on the horizon, such as funding a wedding or going back to school, your best option may be to use the equity you’ve built in your home to borrow money at a lower cost.

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Upsizing Your Home: Read this first


Before taking the plunge to go bigger, take a moment to ask yourself these important questions.

  • First of all, why are you considering an upsize?
    • What is it that your current home isn’t fulfilling for you? Know what this is, so that you can weigh the option of updating your current property or if it’s time to move on. Also look into the bigger picture, like the kind of community you want to live in, the school district, commute to work, and your lifestyle.
  • Think realistically: What are you future goals?
    • How long do you plan to stay in the home? How might your needs change?
      • Will your family size change? Do you dream of having a certain animals? etc.
      • Buy a home that fits with your lifestyle and goals. As your local Lake Norman Realtor®, I can help you find a home that’s as unique as you are. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me to talk about your goals, plans, and expectations.
  • What can you afford, what do you WANT to afford?
    • There is a difference in what you CAN afford (are qualified for) and what you WANT to afford (the lifestyle you want to live).
      • Take a moment to reflect on your current lifestyle and budget. Buying a bigger home, could mean more financial responsibility. (maintenance costs, mortgage, insurance, etc.)
      • Do you have hobbies, vacations, charities, or other things you enjoy doing that you may have to push aside if your home costs increase? If so, is it worth it? After all, life is about making memories and having life experiences. (in my opinion)
    • Know that you can afford to move up and still maintain your lifestyle. 🙂
  • How will you use the extra space?
    • Don’t let your money go to waste. Yes, that home may have more square footage than your current home. But does that mean it’s usable space for your needs?
      • Do you really need more bedrooms? What will you do with them? Do you have a vision for the “bonus room,” or will it end up as empty space? When you think of a bigger home/yard, envision what that means for you and how you’ll use the space.
  • Should you buy first, or sell first?
    • I recommend you sell your home before purchasing a new one. However, in some situations it may make sense for you to buy before you sell. If this is the case, do your best to:
      • Know what your home will likely sell for, think realistically and count on the low end of the range to be safe.
      • Get a 90 day closing on your home purchase to allow you more time to sell and avoid the stress of being in a time crunch.
      • List your home as soon as the due diligence is over for your new home purchase.
  • Know your options, should you choose to sell your home before you buy a new one:
    • I’m sure you’ve heard, it’s a HOT seller’s market right now. This means that sellers have the upper hand. Here are some options to keep in mind allowing you time to find a new home:
      • Request a seller lease-back from the buyer. It’s important you discuss this with the buyer(s) before accepting an offer. You and the buyers can negotiate the terms of the lease back (amount of time, compensation, utilities, etc.) This allows you as the seller more time to procure a new home.
      • You may also ask for a longer closing period to give you more time to get into a new home. I would suggest waiting until due diligence is over to make an offer on another home. The reason for this is:
        • 1. It allows you to give a stronger offer (showing you have a serious offer on your home, past the due diligence period and highly likely to close).
        • 2. Gives you more peace of mind that the buyer has done their due diligence and are moving forward with the purchase. Of course, in certain circumstances the buyer can still back out of the contract after due diligence, but this doesn’t usually happen. If it does, the buyer would likely be forfeiting their earnest money deposit.

In conclusion

Know your why, your motivation for a bigger home. Is it necessary to move to fulfill your desire? Know what lifestyle you want to live, can you afford (preapproved from your lender) the upsize and maintain this lifestyle? Envision yourself in this bigger home, do you have a vision for the extra space? Or do you simply just “feel” like more space would be better? Knowing your why, will help you envision how you want your home to be. If you’ve decided that it’s time to upsize, make a game plan. Are you going to sell first, or buy first?

Reach out to me to discuss your goals, strategies, and options to get you where you want to be. 🙂 You can schedule time on my calendar here. Or feel free to call, text, or email me at anytime.

(704)951-4017 or Maranda.Christensen@exprealty.com

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TAKE 5: PREP YOUR BUDGET FOR BUYING A HOME


Choosing to enter the home buying process is likely the largest financial decision you will make in your lifetime, so it is not one that should be taken lightly. Ensuring that your other current and upcoming financial responsibilities are under control is crucial to having a smooth transaction and being able to enjoy your investment fully. These tips will help you prepare your budget for purchasing your dream home.


Calculate your monthly income. How much money is coming in every month? This is the amount that is left after taxes, health insurance, and retirement savings are taken out of your monthly salary.

Understand your current expenses. Make a list of all your current recurring expenses month to month. Don’t forget to factor in things like loan payments, gym memberships, car maintenance, groceries, self-care appointments, etc.

Determine where you can find savings. Are there any ongoing memberships or subscriptions you don’t use that can be canceled? Can you cut out your daily coffee or eating out lunch? Make these adjustments right away to start saving more.

Boost your financial standing. Before buying a home, it is recommended that you dedicate extra effort to paying off other debts and boosting your credit score. Taking these steps will help you during the loan approval process.

Don’t move finances around. Your lender will review your bank statements during the pre-approval process and then again during underwriting. Any large withdrawals or deposits may throw a red flag so try to avoid these when possible. If you can’t, make sure you have proper documentation to explain the movement of money.


If you’re looking for more advice, lenders, financial advisors, or anything real estate related. Give me a call, text, or email and I’ll get you in touch with one of my many trusted professionals. It’s my goal to go above and beyond for my clients. Contact me here.


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TAKE 5: WHAT AFFECTS PROPERTY VALUES?


Some the features that increase property values are obvious—like a remodeled bathroom, a modern kitchen, or a sought-after neighborhood. But here are a few features and circumstances you have not have realized can affect property values.


 1. The neighbors: Not every neighborhood or community has an HOA that can keep the neighbors from going overboard with decorations or neglecting to care for their home. Homes adjacent to crazy neighbors can potentially be undervalued.

 2. Trendy groceries and coffee: Recent statistics suggest that if your home is a short walk from popular grocery stores like Whole Foods or coffee chains like Starbucks, it can actually appreciate faster than the national average.

 3. Mature trees: A big beautiful tree in the front yard is enviable, and it’s not something that can be easily added to any home. Homes with mature trees tend to get a little boost in value.

 4. Parking: This isn’t too much of an issue if you live in the suburbs or in a rural area, but residents in dense cities can have real problems with parking, and homeowners might need to rent a spot just to guarantee a place to park each night. That’s why having guaranteed parking in urban areas will raise property values.

 5. The front entrance: First impressions matter to buyers—many will cross a home off their list within 10 seconds of stepping through the front door. An appealing front door, a friendly entryway, and a functioning doorbell are all necessities for getting top dollar.

For more tips, behind the scenes, Lake Norman Market Watch, and more…Follow my Instagram and/or Facebook. I love meeting new people, and especially like minded people that enjoy lifting people, not competing with the Jones’ (if you catch my reference).

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Buying a Home – Parts 2 to 4

When house hunting, determine your “must haves” and what your “would love to, but isn’t a must.”


Things to let your real estate agent know about your ideal home:

  • Price
    • Shop within your budget, the way the market is right now, I recommend you shop for homes that are about $50,000 below your ideal price point. The reason for this is because there is little inventory for the amount of qualified buyers that there are in the market. So, many homes are getting OVER asking price. This will give you some wiggle room to come in strong on your offer. Talk with your realtor about more ways you can make your offer stand out.
  • Square footage
    • Have a range here.
  • Home condition and possible need for repairs
    • Are you willing to put in some work or do you prefer turn key ready?
  • Access to public transportation
    • Do you commute for work, would you prefer to be in close proximity to bus stations and other public transport?
  • Number of bedrooms
    • Would you want an office, bonus room, exercise room?
    • Master on main?
  • Backyard/swimming pool
    • Exterior features of home
      • Size of lot
      • Garden area
      • Outdoor kitchen, etc.
  • Local entertainment options
    • Do you go to the movies a lot or love shopping?
      • How close would you like to be to shops, dining, movies?
  • Local school district ranking
    • Do you have children?
      • What kind of schools are you interested in?
        • Public schools and there ranking?
        • Charter schools?
        • Private schools?
    • Your realtor can help you locate these details so that you can make an informed decision that works for you.
  • Property/real estate taxes
    • This goes right along with the budget you set in Part 1 of buying a home.
    • Depending on the location you want to live in, this number could change drastically. Determine what amount in property taxes is too high for your budget.

Now you’ve found the home, it’s time to Make an Offer! Keep in mind that depending on the market in your area, your offer may be one of dozens of offers. Don’t get discouraged if the first offer you write isn’t accepted.

Once you have an accepted offer:

  • Congratulations, you are now UNDER CONTRACT!
    • Your Realtor® will help you with the entire process which includes things like:
  • Scheduling a Home Inspection
  • Home Appraisal (it is usually the lender that orders the appraisal, your real estate agent will keep in touch with your lender to keep things moving along)
  • Negotiate for Repairs or Credits
  • Schedule a Final Walkthrough
  • Schedule Closing on your new home with title company or real estate attorney.

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How to Buy a Home: Part 1


You’ve thought about buying a home…you’ve searched a few things and still just aren’t sure where to even start. This will likely be the most expensive purchase of your life. But, don’t get overwhelmed. I’ve broken down the home buying process into four parts. Let’s dive in.

Ok, so who am I and why should you listen to me? I’m Maranda, Realtor® with Tailored Real Estate and eXp Realty in Denver North Carolina 28037. I’ve helped buyers through the entire process of buying a home and have professionals of all things real estate by my side and eager to help.


Buying a home is nerve racking, as it should be. It will be one of the most expensive purchases in your life…

One step at a time = big results, less stress. You must start with the end in mind to know how to get there. These steps are finding out the “where” so you can find out “how”

Do you even know how much home you really can afford? Do you even know if you can get approved for a mortgage? It’s important to know this before spending your time scouring the internet for your new home.

  1. Decide Whether you’re ready to buy
    • Meaning, pre-qualify yourself before searching for a home or comparing mortgages
      • Be sure you have at least 2 years employment history – this shows lenders that you have stable and reliable income.
      • Know your debt to income ratio
        • Lenders typically like to see less than 36% and no more than 28% of your income going towards housing expenses.
      • Check your credit score – a credit score of 580 or higher is ideal. Although some loan programs allow for lower credit score.
  2. Set a budget and calculate how much house you can afford
    • Owning a home has a higher cost than renting. (yearly property taxes, maintenance costs, insurance, etc.)
    • For Simplicity: Use this calculator from Nerd Wallet to find out how much house you can afford.
  1. Start saving for your closing costs and down payment
    • Plan on saving 3-6% of home purchase price for closing costs. (*This does not include your down payment)
    • Many have the misconception that they need 20% down to buy a home and that just isn’t the case.
      • There are loan programs you may qualify for require as little as 0 (zero) down!
      • I like to advise to save at least 3.5%-6% for a down payment.

Follow my blog or Instagram so that you don’t miss out of the next 3 steps of the home buying process.

You may also get a FREE pdf copy of my home buyers guidebook now. By clicking here.

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TAKE 5: HOW TO VET AN OFFER


Many sellers may be tempted to select the highest offer they receive, but there are several other factors to consider. Here are five areas important to evaluate.


  1. Down payment. The size of the down payment should be heavily considered when comparing offers. It is often tied to the size of the loan the buyer is taking out and a larger one indicates higher financial stability.
  2. Earnest money deposit. The EMD is the sum of cash the buyer is willing to put up when the sales agreement is signed to show their high level of interest in purchasing the home. If they back out of the transaction without a good reason, the seller typical keeps it, and if the sale goes through, it typically goes towards their down payment.
  3. Contingencies. Contingencies are standard for most offers and outline the evaluations and appraisals that need to be completed before the sale is final, such as financing, appraisal, sale of current home, title, and home inspection. The fewer contingences, the higher the chance of reaching the closing table.
  4. All-cash offer. Not only does putting down an all-cash offer boost the likelihood of loan approval, but the buyer will not need an appraisal or financing contingency, reducing the chance of the sale falling through.
  5. Closing date. Consideration of the closing date differs for each seller. For example, if you have already purchased a new home, you may want to close quickly. But, if you are waiting on the money from the sale to start house hunting, you may be okay with a slower settlement.

CLOSING COSTS 101


When purchasing a home, there are several fees you have to understand and factor in to your budget before you hit the closing table. Here’s what you need to know.

What are closing costs?

Closing costs are the fees for services required to finalize your mortgage. Typically, the buyer is responsible for paying these costs unless otherwise negotiated to have the seller contribute. Fees include (but certainly are not limited to) attorney, appraisal, inspection, government taxes, title insurance, home insurance, mortgage insurance, and property taxes.

How much are closing costs?

According to NerdWallet.com, closing costs usually total about 2 to 5 percent of the home’s purchase price, and they generally vary depending on the property purchased and state you reside in. Your lender will provide you with an estimate of your closing costs following your loan approval, and although that number can change slightly, your final costs should be similar. If you would like a recommendation on lenders in North Carolina, reach out to me and I’d be happy to give you a few recommendations.

How can you reduce closing costs?

Some of the fees that fall under your closing costs can be reduced by doing ample research on lenders at the beginning of the homebuying process. Then, compare any potential discounts or deals they offer before making your choice. Additionally, you can attempt to negotiate with the seller to cover part or all of your closing costs.

Do keep in mind, asking for the seller to cover costs may weaken your offer in a seller’s market. Right now in the Lake Norman area of North Carolina and much of the nation, it is a SUPER seller’s market. Meaning, the seller has all the cards. Inventory is low and demand is high. Homes are getting 30+ showings on day 1 and nearly the same amount of offers. If you’d like to discuss more on how to make a stronger offer in a sellers market, give me a call anytime! I’m happy to talk real estate. 🙂

Can you avoid upfront closing costs?

If you think you will be unable to afford the closing costs upfront, you can opt to roll them into your loan. However, choosing this route often costs you more in the long run. At a minimum, you’ll have to pay interest on your closing costs, or depending on your lender, you may face a higher interest rate on your entire loan.


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STATE OF THE NATIONAL REAL ESTATE MARKET


Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the real estate market continues to trend upward. According to analytics firm CoreLogic, in November, home prices were up 8.2% year over year. Interestingly, Idaho (15.7%), Maine (15.4%), and Indiana (13.6%) were the states with the highest increases. Plus, this past year saw record low interest rates, which is certainly a driving factor in the current hot real estate market. While this is great news for existing homeowners, it has posed some difficulties for lower income individuals to afford homes.

One major challenge facing the industry is inventory for would-be buyers is at a 12-month low. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), inventory nationwide is down to a 2.1 month supply. This is a 30% decrease in available homes for sale from the same time period last year. Most real estate professionals consider a six-month supply of homes a healthy balance between a buyer and seller market. This low supply, or low inventory, generally indicates a strong seller’s market. NAR also reported the median days on market in December 2020 was only 16 days, further indicating that it is a strong seller’s market.

Because the real estate market is very dynamic, whether you are thinking about selling or buying, it’s more important than ever to work with an agent who understands the local market. Often, homes are sold where the seller may have netted a higher amount or there are buyers who lose out on a great home because their agent may not understand these market forces. Find an agent with knowledge and experience locally who can understand your unique needs.

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CREDIT SCORES & BUYING A HOME


Before you jump head first into searching for your dream home, you need to ensure your finances are in order. This includes reviewing and strengthening your credit. Here’s what you need to know!

Why Your Credit Score and Report Matters

As a buyer, a strong credit score and report makes you a more desirable loan candidate. When deciding to approve you for a home loan, mortgage lenders take a deep dive into past car loans, student loans, credit cards, bills, and more. They also review your history of repayment and public-record information. If their findings are positive, they will be much more likely to approve you for a loan and offer lower interest rates and better terms.

What Credit Score Do You Need

The credit score required for a loan depends on the type of mortgage you select, the size of your down payment, and your lender. According to QuickenLoans, most lenders require around a score of 620 or higher to be approved for a conventional mortgage with lower interest rates and flexible repayment periods. If a buyer would like a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan, they require a minimum score of 580 and, for a loan through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), score requirements differ depending on the private lender.

How to Improve Your Credit

Reviewed your credit score and realized it may need some work? There are ways to improve your score. These include, but are not limited to, correcting payment errors on your credit report, ensuring you make all payments on time, making micropayments in between due dates, and paying down credit cards.

To learn more, send me a quick message here. I’ll get you connected with a lender who can discuss in more detail and answer any questions you may have.