Do you remember the best, state-of-the-art home tech from when you were a child? Maybe it was the next-door neighbor who had a central vacuum system throughout their house, where a hose could be found behind a tiny flap in each room, ready to clean up dust or any messes. To a 5-year-old mind, this ‘smart house’ was amazing.  

Since that central vacuum, home technology has continued to grow and develop. There are some incredibly advanced options available on the market. If you consider yourself a techie and love following the newest releases in smart phones and tablets, wearable tech, TVs, smart home speakers or gaming systems, you might be interested in learning about the latest technology for your home! 

 

The Latest in Security Upgrades 

There is a doorbell with a built-in HD video camera, microphone, and speaker. This tech allows you to check your phone to see who is knocking at your door, whether you are upstairs or out of town. Available from Nest or SkyBell HD

Terrific Temperature Control 

There are smart thermostats that allow you to remotely control the temperature in your home’s rooms and detect hot or cold spots. Options from Nest or Ecobee

For the Pet-Parent in All of Us  

If you want to check on your furry friend when you are away from home, you can install a pet camera. Some even allow you to talk to your pet through your phone app or dispense a treat to your dog or cat! 

Wi-Fi Connected Appliances 

Samsung makes an oven with wi-fi connectivity that allows you to adjust its temperature from your smart phone. They also make refrigerators with front facing touch screens and built-in cameras that allow you to see inside from your smartphone, so you always know what to buy when you’re at the grocery store! 

Smart Lighting 

The Drift Lightbulb has a setting that will slowly fade the bulb from on to off over the span of 37 minutes, which they say is the time of an average sunset. Also available from Phillips are Hue smart lights, a series of lighting options that allow you to turn your smart light bulbs on or off, dim, change their color or have an outdoor bulb range for patio mood lighting. 

The Ultimate Spa Experience 

Try a smart bathtub! This tub acts as a Bluetooth speaker to play your favorite songs when empty. When filled with water, the music creates ripples through the water, enhancing your relaxation. 

An Automated Lawn Service  

Robotic vacuum cleaners have been around for years, but have you seen a robotic lawn mower? These lawn mowers use smart shock sensor technology to avoid obstacles in your yard and returns to its charging base when it is done mowing or senses rain! 

Air Quality Control 

With spring’s arrival, many people start to think about their allergies and indoor air quality. In addition to voice or app-activated air conditioners, there are now smart air purifiers that help remove airborne allergens, mold, bacteria, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at the molecular level, from room to room. 

Wake Up to the Smell of Coffee. Every Morning, Right on Time. 

With a smart coffee maker, all you need to do is fill the water and whole or ground coffee beans, then set the app for whatever time you want your coffee to start brewing. If a latte is more your thing, smart espresso machines are available as well. Be aware though, adding the bean grinder, milk frother, and a variety of 18 different drink options can increase the price tag. 

Smart Fitness Equipment 

No, they won't do the work out for you, but the trend toward smart, in-home fitness machines could help keep you motivated! A Peloton bike or treadmill or the Mirror have subscriptions that allow you to attend virtual classes with a real instructor in the comfort of your own home. 

 

While none of these products are necessities, they sure can make your home, and your life, a bit more convenient and fun. As apps become more and more common in our daily lives, from mobile banking to food delivery, home tech will continue to follow this trend. Is there any smart home tech that you are looking forward to seeing in the future?

Posted in:General
Posted by Audra Santos on April 5th, 2019 1:02 PM

With the spring market warming up, many people are going to be filling their weekends with house hunting. But if an affordable, move-in-ready space to fall in love with can’t be found, homebuyers shouldn’t avoid fixer-uppers or older homes. With a renovation specific home loan, potential borrowers can combine the purchase price and the improvement costs into the financing in one loan. 

At Norcom, we offer several loan options for renovations: FHA 203k, Fannie Mae HomeStyle, and the VA Rehab. Below, we’ll outline what you need to know about each type of loan so you can decide which fits your needs best: 

FHA 203k Limited 

  • 50% of funds are disbursed at closing  

  • Two Draws (50% at closing and 50% upon completion of work)  

  • If the file has a HUD Consultant, the HUD Consultant will complete the final inspection; If the file does not have a HUD Consultant, the appraiser will complete the final inspection  

  • Any changes to the original work order must be submitted to Norcom for approval prior to the work being started  

  • Borrower should not pay for anything out of pocket  

  • Any request for contingency funds must be submitted to Norcom for approval prior to work starting 

  • All items on original work order must be completed prior to any contingency disbursements 

  • A 203k loan cannot be used to pay for work that the FHA deems luxuries (ex. outdoor hot tubs, saunas, barbecue pits) 

  • A 203k loan is for a primary residence and cannot be used for vacation homes or investment properties 

  • Eligible properties include single-family homes, condos in a one-to-four-unit structure, or a qualified manufactured home 

  • The 203k Limited loan caps the cost of renovations to $35,000, however there is no minimum cost of repairs 

  • Work must begin within 30 days of loan closing  

  • All work must be completed within 6 months 

 

FHA 203k Standard 

  • No money will be disbursed at closing  

  • There is a 5-draw limit, which is determined prior to closing  

  • If the file has a HUD Consultant, the HUD Consultant will complete the final inspection; If the file does not have a HUD Consultant, the appraiser will complete the final inspection 

  • Norcom requires a progress update every 30 days  

  • Contractors General Liability Insurance must be valid through project completion  

  • Any changes to the original work order must be submitted to Norcom for approval prior to work being done  

  • Borrower should not pay for anything out of pocket  

  • Any request for contingency funds must be submitted to Norcom for approval prior to work starting 

  • All items on original work order must be completed prior to any contingency disbursements 

  • A 203k loan cannot be used to pay for work that the FHA deems luxuries (ex. outdoor hot tubs, saunas, barbecue pits) 

  • A 203k loan is for a primary residence and cannot be used for vacation homes or investment properties 

  • Eligible properties include single-family homes, condos in a one-to-four-unit structure, or a qualified manufactured home  

  • The 203k Standard loan allows for a project costing more than $35,000, however total improvements must cost at least $5,000  

  • Work must begin within 30 days of loan closing  

  • All work must be completed within 6 months 

 

Fannie Mae HomeStyle 

  • No money will be disbursed at closing  

  • There is a 5-draw limit, which is determined prior to closing  

  • If the file has a HUD Consultant, the HUD Consultant will complete the final inspection; If the file does not have a HUD Consultant, the appraiser will complete the final inspection 

  • Norcom requires a progress updated every 30 days  

  • Contractors General Liability Insurance must be valid through project completion  

  • Any changes to the original work order must be submitted to Norcom for approval prior to work being done  

  • Borrower should not pay for anything out of pocket  

  • Any request for contingency funds must be submitted to Norcom for approval prior to work starting 

  • All items on original work order must be completed prior to any contingency disbursements 

  • Can be used to renovate a second home or investment property, if it is an eligible property type 

  • Work must begin within 30 days of loan closing  

  • All work must be completed within 6 months 

 

VA Rehab 

  • Borrower must qualify for a VA loan to be eligible for the VA Rehab loan  

  • 100% Financing of purchase price plus improvements  

  • No monthly MI  

  • One closing for purchase and rehabilitation  

  • Maximum improvement cost cannot exceed $35,000  

  • 15% Contingency reserve required  

  • All work needs to be completed within 90 days of closing  

  • Contractor must be approved by Norcom Mortgage  

  • Both purchase and refinance options are available  

  • Rehabilitation disbursements are made when work is complete 

 

As a future homebuyer and potential borrower, remember that you have options, especially if you’ve found a house that’s not picture perfect, but the location is exactly what you had in mind.

Posted in:General
Posted by Audra Santos on March 15th, 2019 3:49 PM

“If I don’t hear the word millennial at least 10 times a day, I think I might have lost my hearing” said Norcom’s Greg Radding on his podcast, Radding’s Rapport, at the end of February. Greg interviewed Mike Fratantoni of the Mortgage Bankers Association about the state of the mortgage market. Among other key points, they spoke about how millennial first-time homebuyers are now one of the largest drivers of the US market, and their presence will undoubtably have an impact on the mortgage industry.  

What it boils down to is in the United States, the most populous age group today are millennials. The typical first-time homebuyer is 31 or 32, so millennials looking to buy homes today are, as Fratantoni explained, “the leading edge of the wave of tremendous housing demand.” This explains why many in the industry believe the purchase market will continue to grow over the next few years. Whether we will see the demand in terms of millennial homebuyers themselves, or the potential landlords of millennial renters remains to be seen. 

One noticeable change for this age group from previous generations is that most millennials are waiting longer to begin the homebuying process. This change is due to multiple factors, including but not limited to, an increase in student loan debt. Furthermore, these homebuyers might be looking for different things in a first home than their parents or grandparents, and they’re taking their time to figure out the details! 

 

If you are looking to work with millennial first-time homebuyers, here are some points to keep in mind: 

  • Millennial borrowers value proximity to popular venues and shopping districts. 

  • One of the top factors for millennial first-time homebuyers is the quality of the local school district, whether they have a family yet or not. 

  • They are willing to put sweat into their home. Possibly due to the popularity of renovation themed tv shows, homebuyers have more confidence in buying an ‘imperfect’ home and investing in fixing it up and making it their own. 

  • Just as with news, commerce, and other fields, millennials are regularly turning to social media to help with the homebuying process. This generation relies on online reviews and recommendations to make purchasing decisions and to decide who to work with as a realtor or mortgage professional. 

  • Millennial borrowers are known for their in-depth research into a potential home before scheduling a showing or visiting an open house. 

  • Low or no down payment programs are quite popular with this group of first-time homebuyers. 

Posted in:General
Posted by Audra Santos on March 8th, 2019 1:47 PM

Do you have plans to remodel a part of your home this Spring? Consider looking into sustainable materials and energy efficient appliances. A sustainable and environmentally friendly home is not only good for the planet but can also save you money over time. 

 

  1. Make energy-efficient upgrades. 

Updating large appliances will reduce your electricity and water bills. Look for product lines that have been endorsed by the Energy Star rating as a more efficient option. Replacing older windows, doors, roofing, insulation, and HVAC systems can also lower your heating and cooling expenses in addition to making your home more efficient.  

  1. Build with repurposed items. 

Using reclaimed wood is a great sustainable practice, as it does not require deforestation. Refurbished home goods not only add charm and style to your home but are a great way to avoid cheap products made in factories. Check out local antiques shops, flea markets, or unique building supply stores. You can find anything from light fixtures (that can be rewired to use energy-efficient bulbs), drawer pulls, hooks, to larger pieces like shelves and tables. Buying pre-owned materials is a proactive way to cut renovation costs. You can find local places reselling used hardware, plumbing, cabinetry, appliances, and countertops.  

  1. Research sustainably sourced materials. 

Look for building materials, furniture, and decorative items that contain post-consumer recycled content. If choosing repurposed or recycled items is not an option, try to find materials that are sustainably sourced. For example, lumber is certified sustainably harvested by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Just like Energy Star, there are other certifications to look out for, such as GreenGuard, that indicate the level of sustainability of a material. Find such certifications here

  1. When in doubt, choose natural materials. 

A rule of thumb is that natural building materials are more durable and safest for your home. From cabinets to flooring, some building supplies are often made with formaldehyde, which emits into your home’s air, known as off-gassing, even after they’re unboxed and installed. This impacts your indoor air quality negatively. Other sealants and paints can also contain toxins called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that remain in your home and trigger health problems like migraines or asthma. When choosing the design for a kitchen remodel, it is especially important to choose safe and natural materials that will be in contact with food, like kitchen countertops. 

  1. Redesign with a classic look. 

Why? Because by choosing a classic design, you will avoid another remodel in the next ten years and avoid wasting materials. Additionally, you should be able to source classic materials locally instead of luxury or limited supply materials. Luxury items typically have a larger carbon footprint, potentially crossing oceans just to arrive at your house. By minimizing the distance any building materials need to travel, you’re helping to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions. 

 

We know it’s not reasonable to think that most homeowners can remodel their home to be completely “green.” But if you start with one choice at a time, making environmentally friendly decisions in small renovation projects, you can stay on budget, and save money in the long run. Your home will be healthier, more durable, and you will love your updated space. Plus, the earth will thank you!  

Don’t forget to research local or state tax credits or rebates offered to people who choose to make their house more energy efficient. 

 

Additional Resources 

Posted in:General
Posted by Audra Santos on March 3rd, 2019 6:30 PM

Have you caught the tidy bug yet? A new year brings a great opportunity to tidy up your living space, especially if you are looking to make a move this year!

Dealing with clutter in your home can not only ease your mind and increase your enjoyment of your living space, but it is also critical if you’re making a transition in your living arrangement.

  • If you are moving in with someone and will be combining two households worth of items, decluttering beforehand will make the final unpacking that much easier
  • If you are putting your house on the market, decluttering could be a deal maker! Many people agree that an open house should have as few personal artifacts as possible, to allow the prospective buyer a clean slate to imagine living there
  • If you are downsizing to a smaller home, decluttering will ensure the new space is not crammed with ‘stuff’
  • If you are looking for a fresh change in your home, decluttering is the least expensive and most impactful change you can make before thinking about new paint colors or furniture

 

If you are in need of some inspiration, look no further than the new Netflix special, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. If you subscribe to her method of decluttering, you can soon find yourself ridding your life of belongings that no longer spark joy. Donate clothes that haven't been worn in years, books that will never be read, VHS tapes that have no way to be watched – you get the picture!

When you do feel inspired to organize throughout your home, you may find your space in need of new storage solutions. Many stores offer deals this time of year on bins, buckets, modular shelves, etc. Check out your local or online Michaels craft store, Target, Ikea, or the Container Store.

Posted in:General
Posted by Audra Santos on January 18th, 2019 4:25 PM

Pantone Living Coral makes for a beautiful and modern accent wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Whether you’re buying, selling, or staying put, the color in a home can be very important. Even the most neutral palettes need an accent to draw your eye, or a color to define a room as ‘serene’ or ‘energetic’. We love the 2019 Color of the Year picks. Here are some of our favorites:

PANTONE: Living Coral 16-1546 [Click Here]

"An animating and life-affirming coral hue with a golden undertone that energizes and enlivens with a softer edge."

BENJAMIN MOORE: Metropolitan AF-690 [Click Here]

"A stylish gray with cool undertones."

SHERWIN WILLIAMS: Cavern Clay SW 7701 [Click Here]

"A warm terracotta color with ancient, elemental roots, Cavern Clay is a nod to midcentury modern style, but with the soul of the American Southwest, which together create the desert modern aesthetic.”

BEHR: Blueprint S470-5 [Click Here]

"An honest, approachable color that conjures up the blueprints builders rely on to bring architectural designs to life, Blueprint creates a space where you can build your own reimagined life—where awareness of what we want to build for ourselves can transform into action."

Once you’ve picked your favorite 2019 Color of the Year, venture over to the links we provided next to each color swatch to see the inspired pallets  from each of the vendors. They’ve done the hard part of picking colors to match, and your home will be so on trend!

If you are not ready to take the leap and paint an entire room in one of these color choices, here are several ways to incorporate some color in your home in 2019!Pops of blue and yellow transform a neutral room

Posted in:General
Posted by Audra Santos on January 18th, 2019 4:23 PM

Many homebuyers, both first-timers and experienced movers, have wondered whether buying an existing home or building one to their specifications is a better fit for their needs. Here’s what you need to know: 

The Upfront Costs 

Existing Home: The price of a home varies widely depending on location, square footage, condition, amenities, and other factors. 

Building a New Home: All things being equal, generally speaking, building a new home costs about $60-$70k more than buying an existing home with similar attributes. But that is not always the case. There are some instances where the cost per square foot comes out significantly less in a custom-built home than in an existing home. 

How is this possible, you ask? Consider when you build, you also have the advantage of paying for only what you want to put into the house. While an existing home may have additional perks, like hardwood floors, it may not be something that you want or are willing to pay for in a custom-build. 

Home Maintenance 

Existing Home: Older homes require more maintenance because they have more wear and tear. Some homes may even need a big-time overhaul! As with any home purchase, never skip the home inspection and understand that even with well-maintained homes, repairs are inevitable. 

Building a New Home: Maintenance on a new home is very little, and it's one of the central benefits of building a new home. Since everything from appliances to the HVAC system is new and under warranty, you'll enjoy several years of worry-free living. 

Outdoors 

Existing Home: A mature garden with large trees and well-established landscaping is a big plus of buying an existing home. Mature trees and landscaping not only add value to the property but can even help to reduce energy costs by providing shade and efficient drainage. 

Building a New Home: Professional landscaping can cost thousands plus many years to come to fruition. The benefit, however, is that you'll be able to design your outdoor space precisely to your liking. Depending on the project, you can have a custom-designed yard in two weeks or less. 

Energy Efficiency 

Existing Home: Older homes that have had little-to-no updating use more energy. Appliances that are older than ten years, single-pane windows, and poor insulation are some updates you'll want to consider if you buy an existing home. 

Building a New Home: When it comes to energy efficiency, new construction can't be beat. On average, new homes use about 21% less energy than older homes. However, this savings comes mostly from high-efficiency appliances. Meaning that if you purchase new, HE appliances for an existing home, you can save just as much money on energy with an existing home as you would with new construction. 

Appreciation 

Existing Home: With an existing home, you make your purchase with some context. You can see the home's previous sale prices, the cost of similar homes in the area, and have a good idea of what the market value of your home will be in the future. 

Building a New Home: New homes, especially those in up-and-coming neighborhoods, can be more of a gamble. Without any sale history or comparables to reference, you have very little to go on when thinking about the future value of your home. Of course, if this is your forever home, which is often the case with custom-built homes, then not having a history to predict the future may not matter. 

Whether you're buying an existing home or building a new one, they both begin the same way --getting pre-qualified. Reach out today to see which option is best-suited for you and your financial situation.

Posted in:General
Posted by Audra Santos on December 21st, 2018 4:19 PM

We often post about knowing when the time is right to buy your first home. Deciding between renting and buying can be a daunting task for many. So, if you know that the time is right for you to buy, you may now be feeling the pressure to choose whether to buy a ‘starter home’ or a ‘forever home’.

Possibly, this analogy could help: think of the first car that you purchased by yourself. Did you choose a compact sedan with good gas mileage, perfect for weekend trips and parallel parking in new cities? Or did you opt for a larger, safe SUV that can seat five with room to spare, complete with a maintenance package to keep it in great condition for many years to come? Both options are great choices, it just depends on what you are looking for, and what you are planning for your future.


You can think of a starter home as a jumping off point in homeownership. When you buy a starter home, you probably don't intend to live there for more than a few years. However, with a forever home, you'll likely plan on living there for many years - maybe even for the rest of your life! When comparing the two options, have in mind how much time you intend to live in the home, and how that fits into your goals.

Reasons to Choose a Starter Home

  • Potentially More Affordable Than a Forever Home

Condos and small houses are a favorite starter home among first-time homebuyers. A smaller house is likely to fit your budget better, and if you're single or have a small family, a one to two-bedroom home may be all you need anyway.

  • Desire to Start Investing in Your Future

You can think of a mortgage payment as an investment in your future, and with every payment, you own more and more of the house.

  • Improve Your Investment Without Commitment

If you want to help increase the value of your starter home, consider making some upgrades. The key to home improvements in starter homes is to focus on those with a reasonable return on investment. Before you gut the bathroom for a complete remodel, consider making less drastic upgrades like replacing the tile and sink. Another thing to consider when making upgrades is to choose designs and materials that will appeal to most homebuyers. You'll want to save those personal touches for your forever home!

Reasons to Choose a Forever Home

  • Have or Plan to Have a Family

Space for a growing family is one of the most common reasons to buy a forever home. A condo for a 3-person family might be okay for a while, but eventually, you'll want more space in case you add to your family. With your forever home, you can have a yard for kids to play in and a dining room large enough to entertain in.

  • You're Ready to Set Roots

It's comforting to know that you won't be moving any time soon. You can settle in, make lasting friendships with your neighbors, upgrade your home just the way you like it knowing that this is your home to do with as you please.

 

If you’re still not sure if you should buy a starter home or forever home, that's okay! The most important thing is that you get pre-approved for a home loan first.

Posted in:General
Posted by Audra Santos on November 16th, 2018 8:07 AM

For many students and professionals alike, the thought of public speaking results in sweaty palms and shaky knees. How does one overcome this fear and deliver a fantastic presentation?

First and foremost, practicing is of upmost importance. Make sure to rehearse your PowerPoint presentation or note cards several times, especially taking time to read through them aloud. You never know which word or phrase might get you tongue tied, and practicing beforehand could help prevent a mid-speech stutter.

So, if your job requires you to give presentations or talks, but you’re not a fan of public speaking, here are a few tips that could help you:

 

  • The day of your presentation, don’t over caffeinate! People might mistake coffee jitters for nerves while you're speaking. Instead, opt for a glass of water to keep your speaking voice clear.
  • If you know that there will be time for a Q&A after your presentation, prepare the answers to potential audience questions. Try delivering the presentation for a spouse or friend, taking note of any confusions they may have. This can help you manage your composure, even if you are asked a tricky question.
  • If you’re not sure where to look while speaking, focus on a friendly face in the audience. You don’t want to be looking at your note cards, or even worse, your shoes, during your whole speech! Instead, before your presentation begins, scan the audience for someone who appears to be both attentive and receptive. That way, when you look up while speaking, you can look toward them for reassurance.
  • Remember to breath. If you are rushing and just can’t seem to get seem to get your words out, try taking a full inhale and exhale after each statement. You might feel that this will make your speech take longer, but in fact, it will help the audience understand you more clearly. This may even lead to fewer questions at the end!
  • Be yourself. If you have a funny anecdote to begin your presentation, share it! People will be more likely to connect with you and pay attention to you if they feel that they know you a little.

Posted in:General
Posted by Audra Santos on November 5th, 2018 7:18 AM

At Norcom Mortgage, we pride ourselves on offering a diverse portfolio of mortgage products. Beyond the traditional offerings of FHA, USDA, Reverse, and VA loans, we also create our own, such as the NorFlex Home Loan and the Norcom Dream Home Loan. We do this because we recognize that the needs of each family and individual are different. We are now pleased to also offer the JumpStart Pre Approval Program with Rate Assurance, and share with you this product overview:

What It Is:

 

The JumpStart Pre-Approval Program with Rate Assurance allows a buyer to lock in their rate for up to 90 days while they search for the perfect home. If market rates increase during the 90 days, the buyer is guaranteed the lower rate. However, if market rates decrease, the buyer assumes the lower rate. 

Why Is It Important:

A pre-approval positions a buyer to submit a strong offer when they have found a home they want to purchase. By submitting credit information and income documentation, Norcom can provide you and your real estate agent a pre-approval letter, which shows how much you can borrow. Should it come down to your offer vs. that of another potential buyer, the seller is likely to have more confidence in you, as you have already been pre-approved. 

When Can it Be Used?

The JumpStart Pre-Approval Program with Rate Assurance is available for 30-year fixed-rate conventional, FHA, or VA loans.

Posted in:General
Posted by Audra Santos on September 27th, 2018 2:49 PM


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