Happy young homeowner holding keys

Celebrating National Homeownership Month

Marni Pauley Tristin Meidinger

Written by Marni Pauley (left) and Tristin Meidinger (right), Real Estate Loan Officers from Miles City

June is National Homeownership month. Here at Stockman we celebrate the benefits that owning a home have for individuals, neighborhoods and communities across Montana. First time home buyers have a number of opportunities with assistance and educational programs made available through local, state, and federal programs. Saving to buy your first home may come with hurdles that seem difficult to overcome. Without the help of experts, it can be a bit daunting to get started. Working with our team of Real Estate Loan Officers, new home buyers will have the peace of mind that they are in very capable hands throughout the buying process.

In 1997, Montana became the first state to pass a bill creating a first-time homebuyer savings account program. Since that time, there have been numerous programs developed to help the newest generation of homebuyers pursue the American Dream of homeownership!

Homeownership: Couple working with real estate agent

We’d like to share a little bit of information about some of these programs aimed at helping you become a homeowner:

First-Time Home Buyer Savings Account

A person can establish a first-time home buyer savings account to assist with the cost of purchasing their first single-family home in Montana. Up to $3,000 of contributions per individual (Up to $6,000 for those married, filing jointly) may be excluded for tax purposes each year, up to 10 years. The interest and other income earned on the account are not taxable if the funds are used to pay eligible expenses.

Examples of eligible expenses include:

  • Down payment
  • Closing costs
  • Points
  • Realtor’s fees
  • Appraisal costs
  • Home inspections
  • Loan origination fees

The important thing to note about these accounts is that the funds must be used to pay for eligible expenses within 10 years of opening the account.

Matched Savings Account Programs (IDA)

A matched savings account program, also referred to as Individual Development Account, is an asset building tool designed to enable individuals to save money for things such as buying a home, paying for post-secondary education or training, and starting or expanding a small business.

In Montana, we are very fortunate to have access to matched savings accounts through programs such as Savings for Tomorrow (available to residents within select counties) and Home$tart. If you are interested in learning more, visit with one of our Stockman Bank lenders about what types of programs are available in your area.

NeighborWorks Montana

The mission of NeighborWorks Montana is to create opportunities for individuals to live in affordable homes in strong communities. NeighborWorks Montana offers several programs to assist qualified borrowers with the down payment and closing costs associated with purchasing a single family home. Contact one of our Stockman Bank lenders to find out more about qualifying for one of these programs.

Montana Housing

Montana Housing is passionate about collaborating with their partners to make sure Montana’s families and communities have attainable, affordable, accessible and sustainable homes. They offer several programs to homebuyers that include affordable loan programs, down payment assistance programs, and homebuyer education counseling.

Homeownership: Happy young homeowner holding keys

In addition to the programs listed above, it’s important to mention that there are also several loan programs available to homebuyers that offer low down payment options. We recommend visiting with a Stockman Bank lender about the various loan programs available in your area. Homeownership continues to be a cornerstone of wealth for many to invest in their future and achieve the American Dream.

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VA Loan Application

VA Loans and More: Helping Veterans Pick the Right Home Loan

Becky Pederson - Missoula

Becky Pederson
Mortgage Loan Officer in Missoula
NMLS #1115389

What do you think about when you hear VA (Veterans Administration) loan? For me, it’s a way to help out fellow Veterans.

I feel greatly humbled to be in a position where I’m able to help veterans, like myself, achieve the goal of homeownership. Whenever I’m helping a fellow veteran, I like to let them know about all the home financing options available for them to consider. They’re often surprised to learn there are more resources and options available for Veterans wanting to buy a home than just a VA loan.

Benefits of VA Loan Programs

The benefit of VA loan programs is they don’t require a down payment or mortgage insurance.

The funding fee associated with VA loans is dependent on whether a Veteran receives monthly disability from the VA, and if so, the interest rate on your loan program may be even lower. But wait! There are more home financing options available!

Montana Housing offers several wonderful programs to help out first time home buyers.

The Montana Veterans’ Home loan Program offers a low rate home loan program for Veterans in addition to the down payment assistance programs they offer.  https://housing.mt.gov/HBVHLP

One of my favorite grants available for Veterans to use is the Dream Makers Grant. The grant provides a 2:1 match of your savings. This means if you save up to $2,500, the grant will match it with $5,000. You could have a total of $7,500 to use as a down payment for a new home! https://penfedfoundation.org/apply-for-assistance/dream-makers/

There are several more programs available for Veterans, but there is no need to feel overwhelmed when buying a new home or refinancing. Stockman Bank has a team of home lending officers ready to simplify the process, and make home buying or refinancing less stressful and more rewarding.

VA Loan Application

Now that you have an idea of what is out there, here are a couple helpful tips about VA loans:

1) When applying for a VA loan, you’re going to need your DD214, member copy 4.

I always thought that I would never lose my DD214, but I did. So, if you don’t have it, you will have to request one from the VA. This can take up to 4 weeks depending on where you have to get it.  https://www.va.gov/records/get-military-service-records/

2) Find out if you are eligible for a VA loan. Work with someone who understands the ins and outs of the VA home loan process. There are certain things you will need to know before you begin shopping for a home.

I strongly believe being a homeowner improves the quality of life for anyone. Being a homeowner improves your overall financial well-being, and provides a sense of belonging and structure. Your home is a place where you can make it your own.

If you are looking to buy or refinance a home, contact us to help you get started on the road to home ownership today!

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Front porch of house with flowers

Curb Appeal – A First Step When Selling Your Home

This is the time of year when the housing market heats up just like the weather. If you are selling your home, one of the best ways to attract buyers is to draw people in when they first arrive. This is known as curb appeal.

Our lenders offer some great tips on ways to attract interest in your home. After all, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression!


Everette Cornwell

Everette Cornwell
Real Estate Loan Officer, Great Falls
NMLS ID# 794613

A few tips from Everette.

Add a Fresh Coat of Paint

Depending on your budget, painting the exterior of your home can give you a lot of bang for your buck. If your home has old wood siding, it regularly needs the protection of a new coat of paint. If your home was built before 1978, when lead paint was banned for residential use, you may want test your home’s exterior for lead paint. Regular maintenance can extend the life of your home’s paint, such as washing the exterior of your home using a mix of water and phosphate-free cleanser, caulking joints, and touching up blisters or peels before they spread.

Covered porch with stairs

Update your Walkway

Broken, cracked, or uneven concrete sidewalks are not an uncommon sight for homes built 30-50 years ago. Troublesome tree roots can disturb and buckle walkways, as well as encroach on your plumbing and irrigation. Some people opt to replace their concrete walkways with products like interlocking pavers since these can be reinstalled without showing signs of disruption. Maintain your current concrete walkway by pressure washing and removing any weeds or grasses that have grown in between the cracks.


Monica Waters

Monica Waters
Real Estate Loan Officer, Sidney
NMLS# 181589

A few tips from Monica.

Add Symmetry

Add symmetrical structures around your home, such as light fixtures along your walkway, or potted plants on either side of your entryway or garage. Symmetry is not only pleasing to the eye, it’s a quick and easy way to boost curb appeal for your home.

Front door symmetry

Makeover your Mailbox

Is your mailbox in need of being repaired or replaced? Make sure your mailbox is visible and the door to your mailbox closes all the way so mail does not fly away.  From a design perspective, your mailbox should complement your home’s exterior. If your mailbox is located near the front of your property, dress it up by painting the post and surrounding it with colorful flowers.


Kristen McLaughlin
Kristen McLaughlin
Real Estate Loan Officer, Helena
NMLS #1746704

A few tips from Kristen.

Emphasize the Entryway

The front door should be the focal point of your home’s exterior. You can draw attention to your entryway, and make it feel more inviting, by painting your front door a rich color, updating door hardware (such as adding a keyless entry lock), adding a new knocker or updating the light fixture outside your home. If you have a front porch, make sure it’s freshly painted, repaired, clean and nicely furnished. You can also add a welcome mat if you don’t already have one. Another important feature to pay attention to is to make sure the house numbers of your address are visible, not covered by trees or shrubs, and well-it at night. This will help visitors and potential buyers to easily find your home.

Front porch of house with flowers

Replace your Gutters

Gutters are an important feature of your home since they direct water away from your home’s exterior.

Keep an eye out for warning signs that your gutter system needs to be cleaned, repaired or replaced. Repair any cracks or splits in your gutter system because water will not only damage the gutters further, but it can also damage the fascia boards behind the gutters, the shingles above the gutters, and the foundation below. Cleaning your gutters a few times a year will enhance the longevity of your system.

A home’s exterior deserves just as much time and attention to detail as the interior does. Improving and maintaining the look of your home can increase the value of your home and improve the chance of quickly selling your home. From fresh paint to adding colorful plants, these tips for updating the exterior of your home can be accomplished by just about any homeowner, with little stress on your budget if you do most of the work yourself.

Happy spring! Happy home selling!

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Welcome Home Mat on Front Porch

Investing in Real Estate as Part of your Retirement Plan

Kim Tomljenovich

Kim Tomljenovich
Loan Officer at Billings Grand Avenue

Retirement can seem like a long way off for many people, but it is amazing how fast time flies. At this stage in my career, I am picturing what my retirement will look like. When should a person think about retirement and plan for it? As a real estate lender, I know that one of the most accessible ways a person can invest for retirement is in real estate. You have to pay to live somewhere anyway, right?

Net Worth of Renters vs. Homeowners

In a recent study by Keeping Current Matters, a real estate consulting firm, they compiled information from the Federal Reserve on the net worth difference of renters and homeowners.

Every three years, the Federal Reserve conducts their Survey of Consumer Finances in which they collect data across all economic and social groups. Their latest survey data, covering 2013-2016 was recently released.

The study revealed that the median net worth of a homeowner was $231,400 – a 15% increase since 2013. At the same time, the median net worth of renters decreased by 5% ($5,200 today compared to $5,500 in 2013).” 1

Buy or Rent?

If you purchase a home before the age of 36 and have a 30 year mortgage, then potentially you could have it paid off by retirement – which will allow you to live without monthly mortgage payments upon retirement. Then, if you wanted to live elsewhere, you could sell the house and purchase another home paying cash – still not having a mortgage and potentially (if purchasing a home for less) could keep some cash for yourself.

Of course there are pros and cons to owning a home.

I’ve heard remarks about rising interest rates and rising house prices. Yes, there is market fluctuation and we do not know what rates will do or what housing prices will do at any given time. However, I still believe owning a home is a wise investment and a person should jump in when they can. If the interest rates drop during the ownership, you can always refinance (at a shorter term to pay off sooner) or if interest rates rise we will help you find the best solution for your mortgage.

I often hear from renters how they’d love to paint or update some things in their home. However, they won’t because they don’t own it and it doesn’t make sense to invest in someone else’s house. When you own it, you can “invest” in your home with improvements to enjoy as well as increase the value.

When should you not buy a house?

I believe if you don’t know where you want to live or you know for certain that you will be moving within the year, it may not be a good thing to purchase a home. In my life, I have owned seven houses and one commercial building and made money with all but one house.

Buying your first home doesn’t have to be overwhelming. My advice is to seek out an experienced home mortgage loan officer who will educate you and help with every step of the process. I am proud to be part of Stockman’s team of experienced loan officers. We can help find the right home loan for you.

The Right Home for You

Investing in the home that you live in is one way to help set yourself up for retirement. I like to think of my home as an investment toward my retirement goals and hope to own it “free and clear” when that time comes.

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References:

  1. https://www.keepingcurrentmatters.com/2018/08/20/the-net-worth-of-a-homeowner-is-44x-greater-than-a-renter/
Love and Money Scale

Love and Money

By Shannon O’Hare – Real Estate Loan Officer and Ron Culver-VP Real Estate Market Manager – Bozeman

Shannon O'Hare - Bozeman Ron Culver - Bozeman

 

According to the Beatles, “All You Need is Love.” While that may be right, it is possible for love and money to work together! Yes, the relationship between love and money can be complicated and different for everyone. On the one hand, there are people who absolutely love money. That relationship can be fraught with peril if a healthy perspective isn’t maintained. Then there are those who might trade in all their money to find love; be that love for another or love for life. Montana has many examples of people who left big money careers elsewhere to move here and find a new love of life and happiness in this beautiful place we all call home.

Love and Money Scale

One of the fascinating similarities between love and money can be found in having it versus sharing it.

For example, having love is wonderful; sharing it with another can be life-altering. Likewise, having money is good, but sharing it with those you love can be rewarding. That may be as simple as buying a cup of hot cocoa for someone on a cold winter day. The protagonist of Charles Dickens’ tale “The Christmas Carol” personifies this when Ebenezer Scrooge discovers the joy in sharing wealth far exceeds the joy of hoarding his millions.

10 Dollar Bill in a Heart Shape

As we take on a new year with new opportunities and new goals, how can we share our love and/or money with those closest to us?

We have a recommendation. A new home!

After all, home is where the heart is! Also, few things in life build wealth better than owning a home. And few places in life are better suited to foster the love of friends and family than the comfort of a home. The dream of homeownership is one that we strive to bring to fruition for our friends and customers. There is nothing better than coming home after a day on the slopes with Montana’s famous Cold Smoke or hiking in the pristine wilderness alongside one of our state’s many mountain lakes. It makes it all worth every penny.

Blue house in snow with icicles

If you think homeownership is not within your reach, think again! Traditional home-buying is often achieved with spouses pooling their resources, but did you know that you can buy a home with loved ones other than spouses? Friends, business partners, siblings or just about anyone you want to share the investment, can buy a home together. Or you can create all of your own love by forging ahead on your own!

Knowledge

We have had the opportunity to develop and learn a number of strategies to help people get into homes over many years that we would love to pass on to you. After all, knowledge that isn’t shared is like love that isn’t shared… it might never reach its full potential.

Having an heirloom like a home, or the potential equity that comes with homeownership to pass on to your loved ones is something to be proud of long-term.

We know that buying a home (or even refinancing the one you have) can be intimidating to even a seasoned home owner. As with many things in life, the first step to overcoming a stressful topic is simply having a better understanding of it. Talking to someone about money, credit scores, or even a budget can go a long way. Your local Stockman mortgage lender is available to have that conversation, without pressure, to transact business.

CLICK HERE to start a conversation with one of our mortgage professionals today. Let us help you open the door to your new home.

Stockman Bank Disclosure - 440094

Property Taxes

Property Taxes – WHAT?

Jason Edmister

Jason Edmister,
Real Estate Loan Officer / AVP

Post written by Jason Edmister
Real Estate Loan Officer / AVP    

Congratulations! You’ve decided to purchase a home!

There’s nothing more exciting than buying a home, especially when it’s your first home. There’s also much to consider.

What type and size of house do you want and in what neighborhood? How much can you afford? What about a down payment? And, what are the property taxes?

Property taxes – what?

Yes, you read it correctly. No one likes talking about taxes, but it’s an important consideration when you’re exploring the purchase of a home.

What are property taxes?

Collected by the local government, property taxes are usually based on the value of a property, including land. The money generally funds education, road and highway construction, public servants such as law enforcement and fire services, as well as other services that benefit the community.

Knowing and understanding what the property taxes will be on a house is important because, if you escrow the property taxes, it becomes part of your monthly house payment. (With an escrow account, funds are set aside to make payments for your homeowner’s insurance and your property taxes.)

In addition, property taxes can rise based on a reassessment of value after a home is purchased.

How do you find property tax information?

Property taxes are public domain so you can view the taxes assessed to any home either by:

(1) accessing the county treasurer’s website and locating the tax bill utilizing such services as Tyler Technologies or whatever database used by the county to which the property is located.

(2)  If the specific county does not report the tax assessments online, then you may need to acquire the information directly from the county treasurer/assessor’s office.

Property Taxes It’s important to note that property taxes can be a bit tricky as the current assessment may be lower due to Tax Relief Programs, such as the current owner’s veteran status or an elderly credit.

In other words, what you see may be a tax bill that is less than the tax bill that you will receive.

Please have your real estate professional review the current property taxes and look at the Tax Relief programs in the county to see if any pertain to you.

Once you purchase the home, the county will most likely reach out to you to attain information regarding your purchase. This information will be used to update the assessment of your property.

If you feel the assessment is too high, you can appeal, so please read your assessment letter and contact your county assessor to start the process if that is the case.

Each county may use different formulas to assess your taxes and your assessment letter shows you the breakdown of your tax bill.

The best way to find your county tax assessment is to simply Google your county name and property tax. Another site that can be helpful is https://svc.mt.gov/dor/property.

Become aware and knowledgeable of legislation and proposals that affect your property taxes such as school levies and bonds. If it affects your property taxes, you have the right to vote.

Last thing to remember…

If your mortgage loan contains an escrow account set aside to collect for property taxes and most likely home insurance (hazard insurance) as well, you will still receive the property tax statement from the county. Your mortgage servicer also receives a copy as well.

Please remember that it’s included in your monthly payment so the mortgage servicer will pay it. In the rare circumstance you receive a delinquency notice, contact your mortgage servicer immediately.

Buying and owning a home is fun and exciting. But we know, at times, it can feel confusing and complex too.

At Stockman Bank, our goal is to make the process simple and easy.  Our real estate lending officers are ready to guide you, step by step, through the process – including a review of property taxes!

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Fall Home Maintenance: Building Equity in Your Home

Michael Mitchell

Michael Mitchell

Post written by Michael Mitchell, Real Estate Loan Officer

As I was preparing to write my first-ever blog, I began researching what a blog is and how to structure it.

Then, as I was throwing my dog his ball last night, I figured I would just write down my own home maintenance issues and see how they might apply to others. Here goes!

Clean your gutters!

Gutters are those things attached to your roof that are supposed to provide safe passage for rainwater and melting snow down a fun little water slide and out into your yard!

I was lazy last fall and didn’t bother cleaning mine out. Well, to my surprise, that was not a good idea! Therefore, this Spring during one of the worst rain storms in recent memory, my gutters looked like Niagara Falls running off the roof of my home.

So there I was standing on a 10-foot metal ladder in the middle of a torrential downpour dodging lightning strikes while I scooped clumps of dirt, leaves, and tree branches out of the plugged gutters.

Not fun, but if I hadn’t braved the elements, my basement would have flooded for sure.

Clean your gutters!

Maintain your deck!

Our deck got pretty beat up in some of the past few hailstorms and I didn’t bother to do anything about it because we plan on replacing it “someday”.

Well, someday never comes and every winter I cuss under my breath each time my snow shovel slams into all a nail heads sticking up. Oh and let’s not forget about all the paint peeling up with the ice & snow… and the dry rot getting worse with every rising sun.

Maintain your deck!

Hand tools for fixing old Deck

Seal cracks and holes!

For the past five years, we’ve dealt with a massive spider invasion. Our home literally felt like the house in the movie Arachnophobia. I was ready to burn the house down!

It was becoming a nightly ritual to just cruise through the entire house with a shoe in one hand and a rolled up newspaper in the other smashing bugs. Then, last Fall I decided to take some time and find the actual problem.

There were several gaps around water and gas lines. Doors weren’t sealed properly, and the crawl space vents had holes in them. I fixed all that and haven’t seen a spider inside since.

Seal those entry points!

Home Maintenance

Fall maintenance not only saves you from lightning strikes and spider bites, but it also helps you build equity or at least maintain the equity you have built up in your home.

Spend a couple fewer Saturdays on the couch watching the Cats win while the Griz lose and a few more days outside working on your home. This will save you from a costly flooded basement, a complete deck replacement, or pest infestation.

Happy fall 2018!  Go Cats!

The views expressed in this blog concerning the MSU Bobcats and the UM Grizzlies reflect the views of the author, not Stockman Bank. We understand rivalries and remain neutral on the subject of the Cats and Griz. We support and cheer on all collegiate teams throughout the state, as well as all our high school, middle school, grade school, kindergarten, and club teams. Whew!

The Stockman Difference

Carol Holman

Carol Holman

By Carol Holman, AVP, Real Estate Loan Officer

I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to make wishes and dreams come true!

Many of us make career choices with no expectation of making a difference in a person or family’s life.

But not me –  I’m blessed to be in a profession where I get to make a difference by simply listening to people who come to me for a mortgage loan.

Ultimately, I can help them make their dreams of homeownership come true.  There’s a lot to be said for the “human touch” and as a mortgage lender, I’m a huge proponent of face-to-face service with customers.

We wouldn’t go to a machine to have our teeth cleaned or to have surgery. We expect the human connection to get the service and care we deserve.

So why would we use technology as the only means to get a home mortgage, and to trust one of the biggest financial decisions in our lives to a non-human?

Is it to save money?  The old adage is “time is money”, but a bad mortgage can last much longer than possibly saving a few dollars.

Using a lender who has a personal interest in the community where they live is important as they understand the housing market. Loans are done for the right reason, for you and your family to get a long-term place to call home, not just a house.

I put my heart and soul into what I do!  I’m able to give my clients the attention they need to not only get through the loan process but more importantly to UNDERSTAND what they’re doing and WHY.

The internet connection just isn’t the same as the human connection.

Blue fence with white flowersSure you can get a loan from a variety of lenders or mortgage brokers through the internet.

But remember, the internet doesn’t know you from anyone else; you’re truly just a number.

Homebuyers, whether a first-time homebuyer or repeat homebuyer, deserve personal attention only a local lender can give them.

This is a very personal event and to do it with no face-to-face connection can result in a less-than-stellar outcome.

I feel like I’ve lived an accomplished life in my years of working with people to make the best decision for them and their future life as a homeowner.

It’s a proud career I’ve chosen and I love coming to work every day knowing that today I will make a difference in someone’s life.

Families will smile and celebrate their new home. Memories will grow along with their family and, as time passes, those memories will be remembered in pictures of the family celebrating life in THEIR own home.

Buying a home is one of the biggest events in our lives. The decision isn’t to be taken lightly. But when you work with an experienced and caring lender, you can count on getting the attention you deserve, and your questions answered timely and accurately.

The human touch is alive and well in the world of home mortgages here at Stockman Bank, and I’m proud to be a part of it!

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