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First-Time Home Buyer Tips – Mistakes to Avoid


Buying a home is a thrilling experience. Avoid these common mistakes when you are purchasing a home for the first time:

Not Understanding the Buying Process
Instead of jumping in and buying a home right away, it is best to first understand the entire home-buying process. When you make an offer on a home, it should be based on facts. Do not put faith in online value information. Talk to your real estate agent first before looking at homes.

Not Preparing To Buy A Home
In order to purchase a home, you need to save for a down payment, inspection, appraisal, closing costs as well as moving costs. Your debt-to-income ratio is one of the first things lenders look at when assessing how well you can afford mortgage payments.

Not Buying in the Right Location 
Location is one of the most important factors in buying a home. Some buyers make the mistake of finding a “dream” home in a location that is not well suited to their needs. Purchasing a home is a long-term commitment. It is best to determine a location first and then look for homes for sale in that area.

Not Budgeting Correctly
When buying a home you do not want to overextend your budget. You want your new home to be a joy and not a burden. Remember, in addition to what the home costs, there will be other recurring expenses such as property taxes, mortgage insurance, home maintenance, homeowner’s insurance and utilities.

Buying with Your Emotions
It is best to purchase a home based on facts and not emotions. In brisk real estate markets, it can be disheartening when you lose a home to someone who has made a stronger offer on a home. You need to focus on the fact that there will be another home for sale that meets your needs.

Long-Term Purchase
Buying a home is a long-term commitment and you cannot expect a home’s value to appreciate quickly in just a few years. Will you be happy in your home’s location years down the road? Will the size of the home you are purchasing meet your needs for years to come?

Skipping the Home Inspection
A professional home inspection is important. Your inspector can detect problems in the home that might be too costly for you to tackle. Your home is an investment and you want to make sure it is sound one.

5 Ways You Didn’t Know You Could Save for a Down Payment

One of the biggest misconceptions of homebuying? The 20% down payment. Here’s how to buy a home with a lot less down.


Buying your first home conjures up all kinds of warm and fuzzy emotions: pride, joy, contentment. But before you get to the good stuff, you’ve got to cobble together a down payment, a daunting sum if you follow the textbook advice to squirrel away 20% of a home’s cost.

Here are five creative ways to build your down payment nest egg faster than you may have ever imagined.

1.  Crowdsource Your Dream Home

You may have heard of people using sites like Kickstarter to fund creative projects like short films and concert tours. Well, who says you can’t crowdsource your first home? Forget the traditional registry, the fine china, and the 16-speed blender. Use sites like Feather the Nest and Hatch My House to raise your down payment. Hatch My House says it’s helped Americans raise more than $2 million for down payments.

2.  Ask the Seller to Help (Really!)

When sellers want to a get a deal done quickly, they might be willing to assist buyers with the closing costs. Fewer closing costs = more money you can apply toward your deposit.

“They’re called seller concessions,” says Ray Rodriguez, regional mortgage sales manager for the New York metro area at TD Bank. Talk with your real estate agent. She might help you negotiate for something like 2% of the overall sales price in concessions to help with the closing costs.

There are limits on concessions depending on the type of mortgage you get. For FHA mortgages, the cap is 6% of the sale price. For Fannie Mae-guaranteed loans, the caps vary between 3% and 9%, depending on the ratio between how much you put down and the amount you finance. Individual banks have varying caps on concessions.

No matter where they net out, concessions must be part of the purchase contract.

Related: New Law Protects You from Surprise Closing Costs

3.  Look into Government Options

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, offers a number of homeownership programs, including assistance with down payment and closing costs. These are typically available for people who meet particular income or location requirements. HUD has a list of links by state that direct you to the appropriate page for information about your state.

HUD offers help based on profession as well. If you’re a law enforcement officer, firefighter, teacher, or EMT, you may be eligible under its Good Neighbor Next Door Sales Program for a 50% discount on a house’s HUD-appraised value in “revitalization areas.” Those areas are designated by Congress for  homeownership opportunities. And if you qualify for an FHA-insured mortgage under this program, the down payment is only $100; you can even finance the closing costs.

For veterans, the VA will guarantee part of a home loan through commercial lenders. Often, there’s no down payment or private mortgage insurance required, and the program helps borrowers secure a competitive interest rate.

Some cities also offer homeownership help. “The city of Hartford has the HouseHartford Program that gives down payment assistance and closing cost assistance,” says Matthew Carbray, a certified financial planner with Ridgeline Financial Partners and Carbray Staunton Financial Planners in Avon, Conn. The program partners with lenders, real estate attorneys, and homebuyer counseling agencies and has helped 1,200 low-income families.

4.  Check with Your Employer

Employer Assisted Housing (EAH) programs help connect low- to moderate-income workers with down payment assistance through their employer. In Pennsylvania, if you work for a participating EAH employer, you can apply for a loan of up to $8,000 for down payment and closing cost assistance. The loan is interest-free and borrowers have 10 years to pay it back. Washington University in St. Louis offers forgivable loans to qualified employees who want to purchase housing in specific city neighborhoods. University employees receive the lesser of 5% of the purchase price or $6,000 toward down payment or closing costs.

Ask the human resources or benefits personnel at your employer if the company is part of an EAH program.

5.  Take Advantage of Special Lender Programs

Finally, many lenders offer programs to help people buy a home with a small down payment. “I would say that the biggest misconception [of homebuying] is that you need 20% for the down payment of a house,” says Rodriguez. “There are a lot of programs out there that need a total of 3% or 3.5% down.”

FHA mortgages, for example, can require as little as 3.5%. But bear in mind that there are both upfront and monthly mortgage insurance payments. “The mortgage insurance could add another $300 to your monthly mortgage payment,” Rodriguez says.

Some lender programs go even further. TD Bank, for example, offers a 3% down payment with no mortgage insurance program, and other banks may have similar offerings. “Check with your regional bank,” Rodriguez says. “Maybe they have their own first-time buyer program.”

Not so daunting after all, is it? There’s actually a lot of help available to many first-time buyers who want to achieve their homeownership dreams. All you need to do is a little research — and start peeking at those home listings!



4 Genius Yard Upgrades Even a Klutz Can Crush

If the letters “DIY” strike fear in your soul, these easy outdoor projects are for you. Did we mention they’re really, really easy?

You don’t need to be the host of an extreme home makeover show to build an amazing backyard. In fact, the transformative projects below are easy enough for even the klutziest home improvement newbie to complete. Just don’t be shocked when the Johnsons appear at your door with hot dog buns in hand, begging to throw a cookout at your place.

1. No-Blow Outdoor Curtains

When Cara Daniel of “The Project Addict” blog spied a neighbor’s unruly outdoor curtains, she hacked some for her porch that could withstand a gusty Tornado Alley afternoon without upending a glass of lemonade or ensnaring an unsuspecting guest.

She found the sweet spot by slipping conduit pipes through the curtain tabs up top and a hem at the bottom, and securing the pipes with wires (taut, but not too tight). Daniel did all the hard work of dreaming up the curtains, so a DIY newbie can definitely recreate the project, which uses easy-to-find materials like washers and camping stakes.

Upkeep has been equally simple thanks to her sturdy choice of fabric. “The marine fabric is better than outdoor fabric that I bought,” says Daniel. The easy-to-wash choice has kept the curtains looking picturesque after five years of use.

2. Shutter Privacy Fence


No fence? No problem! Daune Pitman of the “Cottage in the Oaks” blog MacGyvered an attractive privacy feature from a friend’s pile of discarded shutters. The $0 price wasn’t the only thing that made the material desirable for an outdoor nook’s privacy screen, though. “They were tall,” says Pitman, “could easily be attached to posts, had the vents — which allows air to flow through — and didn’t weigh too much.”

After nailing the shutters to four-by-fours cemented into the ground (an easy task with a store-bought bag of pre-mixed cement), the nook-facing side got a charming French-blue facelift and the back a coating of foliage-matching bark brown paint. With just five materials needed and seven simple steps (and the seventh is, “Sit and listen to birdsong while sipping your coffee!” by the way), the project has earned Pitman lots of luxuriating in the new outdoor spot.

3. PVC Pipe Pergola

Suburbanite Monica Mangin of the site “East Coast Creative” jumped at the chance to rehab a client’s neglected urban patio. The redo’s showstopper was a cleverly conceived PVC pergola decked with industrial-style lights, built on-site, and installed on the top of three patio walls. She was inspired by traditional wood pergolas, but wanted an easier material.

“A lot of mason jar light fixtures were trending,” says Mangin. “I liked the look of that but wanted to turn it a little more industrial.” PVC pipe — with rebar inside as an anchor — won out for its ease on the DIYer and wallet. Could it get any easier?

A simple coat of hammered metallic outdoor spray paint gave the pipe a pricier look, and industrial-strength zip ties kept the string of dimmable, Edison bulb-style lights in place. Although the project doesn’t take much time or skill, Mangin recommends recruiting two friends to help. Have one hold each end of the pergola while the third secures the lights with zip ties. Overall, it’s a dinner party-friendly cinch that’s surpassed the one-year mark.

4. Solar Light Hose Guards


Topping the list of Sad Gardening Ironies is when the hose you’ve lugged out to help your landscaping stay lush mows over a bed of delicate flowers you just planted. Lynda Makara of the blog “Home of Happy Art” prevented future mishaps with a simple hack that also ended up being a charming addition to her yard.

She created her own garden hose guard — with a stylish twist. Makara used rebar to stake down simple, budget-friendly solar lights. The DIY part entailed trashing their original plastic stakes (they weren’t strong enough to hold a hose in place), hammering 24-inch pieces of rebar into the ground, and slipping a light over each piece.

Those sturdy posts could handle even the most unwieldy of hoses, protecting Makara’s garden beds and putting a lovely spotlight on them post-dusk. Plus, the little light fixtures have some serious longevity.

“The rebar is maintenance free,” says Makara. “I have had to replace some of the batteries in the solar lights, but I think that’s pretty normal.”

It doesn’t get much easier than hammering a stake into the ground. Although Makara suggests straightening the rebar with a level, that’s about as technical as it gets to create a more functional, flowering garden.


ELIZABETH LILLYis the associate online editor for “This Old House” magazine, where she’s written about paint colors, chicken coops, and nearly every home improvement project in between. She uses her New York City apartment as a laboratory for executing her latest DIY ideas.ELIZABETH LILLYis the associate online editor for “This Old House” magazine, where she’s written about paint colors, chicken coops, and nearly every home improvement project in between. She uses her New York City apartment as a laboratory for executing her latest DIY ideas.

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Northern Kentucky Home Sales Top One Billion in Sales Volume in 2015

growth in construction

The Northern Kentucky Association of Realtors reports residential home sales for 2015 with over $1 billion in sales volume. This is the first year since 2006 that sales exceeded one billion dollars.

December 2015 vs December 2014

  • 31.94% Increase in home sales units (536 vs 407)
  • 1.70% Increase in average home sale price ($162,381 vs $159,662)
  • 5.03% Increase in median sale price ($140,000 vs $133,299)
  • 34.19% Increase in sales volume
  • 73 days average days on market (vs 81 average days on market in 2014)

January – December 2015 vs January – December 2014

  • 6.40% Increase in home sales units (6,336 vs 5,955)
  • 5.73% Increase in average home sale price ($164,309 vs $155,404)
  • 6.42% Increase in median sale price ($142,500 vs $133,900)
  • 12.49% Increase in sales volume ($1,041,059,486 vs $925,429,315)
  • 73 days average days on market (vs 80 average days on market in 2014)

Look for homes for sale here! It’s a great time to sell a home and purchase a new one. Home values are rising and mortgage interest rates are still low.

Contact me today!


Statistics courtesy of Northern Kentucky Association of Realtors Home Sales Report, December 2015

Article and image courtesy of Sibcy Cline News

New Kenton Co Down Payment Assistance Program

WHOA! Are you thinking of buying a home in Kenton County! Don’t wait.

$15,000 down payment assistance, forgivable after 5 years (so live in your home 5 years and you’ve gotten $15,000 FREE). Fine print: can’t have owned a home in the past 3 years and must earn less than $124,600.

The money starts flowing January 20, 2016 but you can go under contract now and just need to close after that date.

This money will run out! If you were thinking of buying in spring, think again and contact me so we can find you a house NOW!



Kentucky Housing Corporation HHF DAP (for Kenton County only) 

HHF DAP Down Payment Assistance – Program Guidelines:           

     Closing date on or after January 20, 2016    

     $15,000.00 Second Mortgage          

     Forgivable Second Mortgage if lived in property for 5yrs

     0% interest rate        

     No home ownership interest in the last 3yrs.  

     Purchase price max $294,000.00         

     $124,600 max income limits

     New and Existing Properties in Kenton County

     Home Buyer Education required  


Contact me today! 





Cincinnati Preservation Association Logo

Cincinnati Preservation Association Presents:

‘Restore Your Wood Windows’

September 12, 2015, 9:00 am

John Hauck House, 812 Dayton St, Cincinnati, OH 45214

On Saturday, September 12 at 9 am, Cincinnati Preservation will present “Restore Your Wood Windows”: the latest in the “Old House Maintenance” series. The program will take place at the historic John Hauck House, 812 Dayton Street, West End

Cincinnati Preservation Association - WindowPreserve historic character, conserve energy, save money: repair and restore your historic wood windows!  Learn the basics of wood window repair including how to re-rope weights in double-hung sash, replace broken glass, and reglaze sash. Improve the efficiency of your windows with weatherstripping and appropriate storm windows.  And find out how to make worn windows good as new with epoxy consolidants. Afterward, tour the Hauck House to see the latest discoveries in the restoration of the exquisite Victorian murals.

Original wood windows are important to the character of historic buildings. Most are built of old-growth wood and will last for many years if properly cared for.  When parts wear out, they can be repaired or replaced. Replacement windows, while heavily marketed, typically have a short life span and can’t be repaired. So, when high-performance units quit performing, they end up in a landfill.

Featured presenter will be multiple-award-winning restoration contractor Ken Hughes of Decorative Restorations. Ken has over two decades’ experience in the field and has worked on some of Cincinnati’s greatest historic homes. Ken is supervising the ongoing restoration of the Hauck House, which includes repairing the original wood windows and doors.

Admission to “Restore Your Wood Windows” is free to CPA members and students, $15.00 for guests. Reservations are required: 513-721-4506,  Parking is available along Dayton, Linn and Baymiller streets.

Founded in 1964, Cincinnati Preservation is a nonprofit organization working to save historic sites, buildings and neighborhoods through education, advocacy and technical support.