What will you do with your HELOC?

Your house isn’t just a home. It’s an investment.

And with home values on the rise, a Home Equity Line of Credit— or HELOC, for short, might be the perfect way to put your home’s equity to work for you.

A HELOC is a line of credit, issued to you, based on the equity you have in your home. What can you do with a HELOC? Whatever you want! It’s your HELOC and your choice. And right now, you can get a HELOC from UCCU with no fees and a fixed, low rate you can lock in for ten years.

Here are three of the most common ways homeowners utilize lines of credit or HELOCs to maximize the growing equity in their homes:

DEBT CONSOLIDATION

A HELOC is a great way to consolidate and save money on higher interest loans, such as credit cards, and get out of debt faster. Simply lock in a low rate on a HELOC from UCCU and then use your HELOC to pay off your other loans, starting with loans with the highest interest rates.

With your new, low rate, you’ll save money during the entire life of your loan. And having your debt consolidated into one payment makes life easier.

REMODELS AND REPAIRS

From transforming the house you have into the home you want, to simply making those repairs you haven’t gotten around to yet (or haven’t been able to afford), a HELOC is your opportunity to put your home’s equity back into your home, which can both improve your house and possibly raise its value even higher.

RAINY DAYS

Many homeowners open HELOCs and never use them. That’s the beauty of a HELOC. You’re never required to use or spend one cent of it. Having a HELOC means having the security and peace of mind of knowing you have a line of credit ready for a rainy day… even if that day never comes.

OPEN YOUR HELOC AND LOCK IN YOUR LOW RATE FOR 10 YEARS

To open a HELOC, just visit uccu.com or stop by any UCCU branch. We’ll not only provide you with the lowest rate possible on a HELOC, we’ll lock in that low rate for ten years and we won’t charge you any closing fees. You’ll simply have a fixed line of credit, ready and waiting, for you to use – or not use – however you see fit.

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4 Ways to Bring Your Dream Kitchen to Life

A kitchen remodel or makeover not only adds value to your home, it will almost feel like you’ve got a new home. Here’s 4 ways to bring your dream kitchen to life. 

1.) Know your budget 

First, sit down and crunch some numbers. 

  • With $5,000, you can spring for a fresh coat of paint, replace faucets, pick up a new light fixture and spruce up the area with some modern accessories.
  • With $15,000, you can also buy a new appliance or two, replace your countertops and install new, budget-friendly cabinets.

If you’re planning on spending more, you might be able to redo your entire kitchen. When determining how much to spend, remember that recently remodeled kitchens return between 80 and 105% of their cost when a home is sold.

2.) Choose your cabinets

These are your cabinet options:

  • Cabinets with wood panels and solid wood frames are sturdy, budget-friendly and fashionable.
  • Porcelain-tile cabinets are a fantastic new option that look almost exactly like wood for half the price.
  • Laminate is your cheapest option for cabinets. It’s durable, easy to clean and comes in a variety of colors and patterns.
  • Refinish the outside of your cabinets instead of replacing them for a new look that doesn’t bust your budget.

3.) Make a splash

Replacing your sink’s faucet, bowl or hardware can modernize your kitchen without costing much.

Brushed nickel is the most popular choice for faucets right now, largely due to its durability. The least expensive faucet finish is chrome, while brass is another long-lasting, economical choice.

If you’re replacing your sink’s bowl as well, there are three main styles to consider:

  • Farmhouse bowls are super-large and deep. On the flip side, their large size means they often require a customized base cabinet for installation.
  • Top-mount bowls have a “drop-in” rim that keeps the sink in place. This makes installation simple, but creates a prime place for dirt to gather.
  • Undermount sinks are trendy and look sleek, but can take double the installation time.  

4.) Choose your countertops

The trending countertop choices are granite, quartz and stone. These materials are beautiful, easy to maintain and can last for years. If you need something more budget-friendly, you might want to go with ceramic tile. It’s durable, comes in almost any imaginable color, and is a fraction of the price of stone.

Another great option is laminate. It’s easy to install and is also available in many patterns and colors.  Lastly, consider going with solid wood. You can have it sanded and treated to give it an extra long life, and it will give your kitchen a warm finish.

Longing for an upgrade and short on savings or cashflow? You can still have your dream kitchen. Call, click, or stop by UCCU today to learn about our Personal Loans, Home Equity Loans and Home Equity Lines of Credit.  

Your Turn: Have you recently remodeled your kitchen?  Tell us what money saving options worked for you in the comments!

 

 SOURCES:

https://www.marthastewart.com/1083498/7-steps-your-dream-kitchen

https://www.hgtv.com/design/rooms/kitchens/how-to-get-a-to-die-for-kitchen-without-killing-your-budget

https://clark.com/homes-real-estate/budget-diy-kitchen-remodel-for-less-than-15000

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Why do I need to get preapproved for a loan?

Q: I’m in the market for a new home, and everyone I talk to, from friends to financial advisors, suggests I get preapproved for a mortgage before I start house hunting. Why is this so important?

A: You’re actually on the receiving end of great advice! When looking to take out a large loan, whether it’s for purchasing a home or buying a car, having that preapproval in hand before you start your search is crucial.

Depending upon the type of loan, the process of getting preapproved for a loan can take time. The lender will begin by asking for your financial history and other personal information. If you have a co-borrower, the lender will need this information about them as well.

You’ll be asked to provide your Social Security Number (SSN) and for permission to allow the lender to access your credit report. If the information you provide is satisfactory, as is your credit report, the lender will begin constructing the details of your loan. When they have determined how large of a loan you will be eligible for, they will grant you a preapproval letter. The letter will also detail your estimated interest rate on the loan, though that will sometimes also depend upon the specifics of your purchase, such as the year and condition of a car or appraisal on a home.

Having your preapproval letter will shorten the loan process significantly when you’re actually ready to take out the loan. However, that is only a small benefit of getting preapproved before you start “shopping.”

Here are some other advantages of getting preapproved for a loan:

1.) You’ll know what you can afford

Your preapproval will tell you exactly what you can afford. This way, you’ll avoid being disappointed later when you have your heart set on a certain home only to be told you can’t swing it financially. Knowing how large a loan you’ll qualify for will simplify your search and get you into your new home or car sooner.

Be sure to calculate other monthly costs, such as property taxes, home insurance and increased auto insurance rates when determining the actual amount of money you’ll need to shell out each month.

2.) Don’t get taken for a ride

Picture this scene at a car dealership:

Salesperson: So, you’re here to buy a new car! What are you looking for?

You: Well, I want something with a smooth ride and –

Salesperson: Got it. And how much of a monthly payment can you afford?

You: Weeelll, I think I can swing up to $200 a month, but I’d rather something closer to $150 if you —

Salesperson: Step right this way please! Let me show our new line of Camrys at just $205 a month! They have the most luxurious feel and the ride is smooth as butter!

What happened here is, quite simply, a salesperson looking to make the most money out of a customer. When you’re unsure about how much you can spend, the dealer will capitalize on your uncertainty and try to sell you a car that just barely skims the maximum amount you’ve decided you can afford.

Also, when you name a monthly payment you can manage, the dealer will work with that number instead of talking about the price of the car. They may try to inflate the payment with charges and fees just because they fit within your named payment amount.

In contrast, when you show up at the dealer with a preapproval in hand, the salesman will have to show you cars with price tags that fit within your loan amount.

Don’t get taken for a ride; get your preapproval before you set foot in the dealer shop!

3.) Be taken seriously

A car dealer will take you a lot more seriously when you wave that preapproval in their face, since having that information in hand shows you’re ready to buy.

When purchasing a home, the same rule holds true. A realtor will be able to assist you more efficiently when you know exactly how much house you can afford. They may also give you better service since you’re showing that you’re serious about buying a home. In fact, many realtors refuse to show homes to buyers who don’t have a preapproval in hand.

4.) Know you have financing you can trust

When you show up at the car dealership with a preapproval from your credit union, you know the deal is in your best interest. Many auto shops have access to several financing options and they’re almost always going to put customers into financing options that are in their own wallet’s best interests.

5.) Purchase your dream home

A preapproval makes you a valuable customer. It also helps you stand out from the pack. If you’re looking to buy a home in a competitive market, you may be competing with several other buyers for the same house. Having your preapproval will give you a leg up on bidding wars. A seller will be more eager to work with someone who’s already started the mortgage process. You can end your search sooner with a preapproval!

In the market for a new home or car? Don’t forget to call, click, or stop by UCCU to hear about our fantastic rates on mortgage and auto loans!

Your Turn: Based on your own experience, why do you think it’s important to get preapproved for a loan? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
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The Essential Moving Checklist

Getting ready to move? Here’s a checklist you can use to make sure you’re prepared.

3 Weeks Before Move

  • Set up a “move” file or folder
  • Set up a “move” calendar
  • Hold a garage sale
  • Collect financial, tax, and employment documentation needed for your loan
  • Donate un-needed furniture to charity
  • Contact insurance companies to update addresses and/or transfer policies (life, auto, homeowners)

2 Weeks Before Move

  • Arrange cut-off dates for utility companies (telephone, gas, electricity, water, garbage, cable television)
  • Prepare new address or moving notifications for friends and relatives
  • Request change of address kit from post office
  • Check out voter registration for the new area

1 Week Before Move

  • Label items you will need to access easily and place them in a separate room or closet
  • Tend to outdoor items and furniture: water hoses, propane tank from BBQ grill, gas and oil from lawnmowers
  • Properly discard all aerosols, paint, oils, and other flammable or toxic chemicals
  • Arrange new utility services at your new home

Moving Day

  • Remember, items packed last will be unloaded first
  • Conduct a final review of the house including attic, stairwells, closets, cupboards, storage, garage, and behind doors
  • Relax and enjoy your new home

Take the stress out of moving by being organized! Please get in touch with UCCU Mortgages if you have any questions about your home financing!

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Nest: save on utility bills right from your pocket

The skinny:

Nest is a smart thermostat. It allows you to control the temperature of your home right from your smartphone. Within about a week, Nest learns your habits and adjusts to your preferred temperatures.

Who’s it for? Anyone who wants to save money on their heating and cooling bills. Nest automatically lowers the temperature when you go to bed and shuts off when no one is home. The average user saves 10-12% on their heating bills and 15% on cooling bills.

Nest is also great for people who own vacation homes. If you see a big temperature drop coming, but you’re at your full-time residence, you can turn the heat on at your second home so your pipes don’t freeze.

What platforms? iOS and Android

Cost? The app is free. The device itself costs about $250, depending on the retailer. If you need professional installation, it costs between $99-250.

We seem to run our lives from our smartphones, and now we can run our thermostats that way, too. Nest is connected to your Wi-Fi, which allows you to control it from your smartphone.

But the best thing about the Nest thermostat is its intuitiveness. You don’t have to use the app to turn the heat on before you get home from work. You can skip having that moment of panic while on vacation when you realize you left your air conditioner running. Nest knows the rhythms of your life and adjusts accordingly. It knows what time you come home from work and knows if nobody’s home so it makes appropriate changes for you. Plus, you can make adjustments using the app if you need to do that.

Nest comes with some great additional features. You can look at your energy history to see how much you are using. Daily reports show how much energy you’re saving and give tips on how to use less to save even more on your bill. When you’re choosing temperature settings, you’ll see a leaf symbol when you’ve chosen one that saves energy.

You got a great rate on your mortgage with Utah Community Credit Union. Save even more money by installing Nest!

Your Turn: What energy-saving methods do you use in your home? Let us know!

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6 Buyer Tips for Hot Housing Markets

Couple outside new home

The housing market is heating up! For buyers, this may lead to submitting multiple offers or a potential bidding war. If you or someone you know is in the market to buy a home, here are six ways to give your offer the best chance for seller acceptance, especially when the competition is stiff:

Get preapproved: Go through the process to be pre-approved so you know your purchase ability, and have a strong cover letter prepared for your seller.

Don’t lowball: When making offers, try to be first and don’t lowball. Being first to the negotiating table plants you in the seller’s mind. But when listings are scarce, lowball offers are a losing strategy.

Opt for an escalation clause: In a hot market you can opt for an escalation clause in your offer that tells the seller you will beat any offer exceeding your bid by $1,000, up to a maximum amount of your choosing.

Perform inspections upfront: It may cost a few hundred dollars, but having an inspection performed upfront shows your’re serious. And when you make an offer without contingencies, sellers pay attention.

Tell them you love it: Ask you agent to deliver a letter listing the reasons why this house is perfect for your family (include pictures and be specific).

Don’t overpay: Do your research on the market by reviewing comparable property sales prices, schools, and online reviews for local businesses. Chat with your potential neighbors as well to get a wealth of information as well as a possible inside scoop.

What other tips do you have for navigating a hot housing market? Leave your tips in the comments!

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6 Ways to Declutter Your Countertops

If you find yourself short on counter space, these six inventive tips can help you organize and maximize any counter in the house:

  1. On the wall: Take a look around your walls, particularly walls where cabinet spaces end. Wall-mounted corner shelves or receptacles near workspaces can give everything a lift.
  2. Drawer decisions: More organized drawers can help clear counter clutter. And drawer organizers aren’t just for tableware! Find solutions for everything from kitchen doodads, to that bulky butcher’s block of knives, to spice racks that fit inside drawers.
  3. Tool time: Save even more drawer space by moving spatulas, whisks, and other tools with handles onto a wall-mounted towel bar with “S” hooks.
  4. Think inside the box…or basket: Natural fiber boxes and baskets can consolidate space for groups of items, like measuring cups and spoons or lotions and styling products, while adding that designer touch. Or use them in cabinets to neatly organize space.
  5. Charging chamber: mount a plug strip to the inside of a drawer to keep those electronics powered-up and out of sight.
  6. Paper pusher: If paper is your problem, try using a wall-pocket organization system with multiple cubbies. Don’t forget to create a system for managing the flow. For example, one cubby might be for bills that need immediate attention, another might be for interesting things to read.

One of the biggest keys to cut clutter is frequently taking stock of what you don’t use regularly. Ask yourself if you really use it, and if not, don’t be afraid to minimize and donate?

Your turn: What do you do to keep clutter down in your house? Comment below to contribute!

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What Causes Home Loan Rates to Move Up and Down?

The Federal Reserve (Fed) monitors the U.S. economy and, when necessary, takes steps to address inflationary concerns to avoid economic recession. When the Fed discusses interest rates, it is primarily concerning the Fed Funds Rate, which is the rate banks use when lending money to each other overnight.

Home loan rates, on the other hand, are dictated by the trading of Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS or Mortgage Bonds), which are a type of bond.

At the real heart of home loan rate movement is the dual relationship between Stocks and Bonds, as they compete for the same investment dollars on a daily basis. Inflationary pressures, economic conditions, and geopolitical events all influence the direction of Stocks and Bonds.

When economic reports are weak or disappointing, investors often move their money from riskier investments like Stocks into Bonds, which are considered safer. Since home loan rates are tied into Mortgage Bonds, this helps home loan rates improve and go down.

In contrast, strong economic news often causes investors to move their money into Stocks to take advantage of any gains. This can cause Mortgage Bonds and home loan rates to worsen, or in other words, the home loan rates go up.

Inflation also plays a role as it reduces the value of fixed investments like Bonds. This means that a low inflation environment tends to be good for Mortgage Bonds and home loan rates (think lower rates), while high inflation can cause both to worsen (think high rates).

Political turmoil or economic crises around the world can also cause investors to move their money into the safety of the Bond markets, helping Mortgage Bonds and home loan rates improve.

If you’re trying to decide if now is a good time to purchase a new home, visit with our Mortgage Center or call your neighborhood mortgage expert! We’ll analyze your financial situation together and create a plan that’s right for you.

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Rising Interest Rates: What Do They Mean For You?

Home

If you read financial headlines, you’ve no doubt seen the news that the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates. These headlines can be accompanied with all sorts of hyperbole about the end of the stock market, the boom of bonds or any of a dozen other possible predictions. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when there’s this much information and so much of it is conflicting. Let’s set the record straight on what rising prime interest rates mean for you and your:

  • Adjustable-rate Mortgage
  • Portfolio
  • Savings
  • Debt

The prime interest rate is the rate that the Federal Reserve charges financial institutions to borrow from it. It influences a lot of other financial prices. Many of these are only of concern to investment bankers, professional investors and other economic enthusiasts. Here are some key ways the prime rate hikes can affect you!

1.) Get out of your ARM

Many people opted for adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) when interest rates were historically low. These mortgages often have much better rates for an introductory period, usually five years, before they adjust to a new rate. That new rate is determined in large part by the rate the Federal Reserve charges.

The Federal Reserve is planning to continue to increase interest rates as the economy continues to improve. This means the rate on your ARM may go up as well. Worse yet, the rising rates could make your monthly mortgage payment unpredictable, putting you in a bit of a budget bind. Fortunately, you can refinance your mortgage into a fixed-rate loan and take advantage of still-low interest rates. You may still be able to secure a low rate on a 10-, 15- or 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. As interest rates continue to rise, your fixed-rate mortgage will stay the same, meaning your savings will increase as time goes on.

2.) Balance your portfolio

The historically low interest rates over the past six years have done wonders for the stock market. Because companies could borrow at affordable rates, they could expand rapidly. That expansion fuels growth in stock prices.

As interest rates rise, that credit availability will decrease. Companies will find it more difficult to expand, and their growth will slow. This slowing of growth may lead to a decline in stock prices.

However, as interest rates rise, bond rates will also increase. That will lead to an increase in their price as more investors chase those rates. Individual investors need to ensure their portfolios are properly balanced to take advantage of changing market conditions. Speaking to a financial adviser to ensure your assets are where they need to be will help keep your investments growing at a healthy rate.

3.) Save more

The Federal Reserve interest rate also affects the rates that financial institutions are able to offer account holders. As it becomes more expensive to borrow from other institutions, it’s more profitable for those institutions to “borrow” from their members in the form of certificates and savings accounts. As interest rates continue to rise, it’ll be increasingly more profitable to sock your money away in an interest-bearing account.

If you’ve been putting off opening a certificate or increasing the deposits in your share account, now is an excellent time to consider it. With a 12- or 24-month certificate, you can take advantage of rising interest rates while still leaving yourself the flexibility to re-invest once interest rates rise again.

4.) Refinance your debt

The service charges on several kinds of debt are tied to the prime rate. Notably, credit cards and private student loan rates may increase as the prime rate continues to climb. That makes now a great time to think about refinancing.

Take advantage of currently low interest rates with several strategies. A home equity line of credit can help bundle your high-interest, unsecured debt with your low-interest mortgage. A personal loan for refinancing can also help secure a better interest rate. Other options exist, and the sooner you speak with a debt counselor or other financial professional, the better off you’ll be.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the financial terminology surrounding news events like rate hikes. That’s why it’s best to have an advocate in your corner to help you figure out what to make of a changing economic landscape. Utah community Credit Union can do just that. Call, click or stop by to speak to a member services representative about how you can take advantage of this opportunity and put yourself on the path to financial wellness.

Find your nearest UCCU location here: http://www.uccu.com/home/uccu/locations

Your Turn: Got questions about rising interest rates? Leave your questions in the comments. Or, if you’ve got a handle on all things economic, share your wisdom with others!

Sources:

http://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/consumers/2017/01/19/bit-bit-rising-interest-rates-making-impact/96560462/
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/18/your-money/increases-in-interest-rates-on-savings-accounts-remain-slow-to-materialize.html?_r=0
http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2016/12/28/what-2017-may-mean-your-personal-finances/95736736/

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First Time Home Buyer Seminars

Snowy house

UCCU has always valued our stance on inspiring smart decisions! To educate our members on the home-buying process and better prepare you for homeownership, our mortgage department is hosting First Time Home Buyer Seminars monthly through 2017! This is a great way to learn what to look for, what to expect, and where to start when buying a home.

So if you’re considering buying a home sooner or later, sign up for this course. It’s just one of many ways we are helping to inspire smart decisions!

To sign up for the course go to www.uccu.com/seminars.

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