Share the Gift Of Wine This Easter with Amazing Clubs

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Wine and Easter are simply inseparable.

Wine has become part of our modern dining culture, a handy drink that can be enjoyed regularly as well as at Easter.

This Easter give the gift of wine. The Wine of the Month Club is the perfect  gift to impress any wine lover! Each month they will deliver 2 full-sized bottles of hard-to-find, premium wines from award-winning, boutique wineries across the globe.

Every wine they deliver has been carefully selected by their professional wine tasters who sample hundreds of new wines every year looking for the perfect combination of flavor, rarity and value. They take pride in discovering small, family-owned wineries before any of their competitors and only the best-of-the-best become club selections. Choose from all red, all white or a combination of both.


In Canada:

Wine of the Month Club | Canada's Most Popular Wine Club from Amazing Clubs

Should You Join the Pandemic Housing Market? A Guide for British Buyers

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, buying a home has become rather difficult in the United Kingdom. Some have put their plans on hold because of unemployment and health concerns. But this didn't stop those who could. The U.K. housing market remained open through quarantine. Many were even willing to travel farther away to view houses once lock downs were lifted.

Much like in the U.S. and Canada, the real estate sector in the U.K. remained robust despite the pandemic. In fact, average house prices rose by 8.5 percent in 2020, the highest in the U.K. since 2014. Lower benchmark rates and a tax holiday contributed to the boom. The market remained open throughout the pandemic. But does that mean you have to jump in and buy your home now?

Your Window of Opportunity

Low mortgage rates are a tempting reason to jump in. Because of the pandemic, the Bank of England (BoE) lowered the benchmark interest rates to 0.1 percent in 2020 to stimulate market activity. This means that the people who could afford it could still push through with their home buying plans. And even if you're not looking for a new home, you can remortgage to lock in lower rates. This results in affordable monthly payments and cuts down your interest costs.

Another reason is the Stamp Duty Holiday between July 2020 and March 2021. The U.K. government suspended the stamp duty taxes charged on properties below £500,000 in England and Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, the local parliaments of Scotland and Wales waived taxes on properties below £250,000. Anyone buying more expensive property only needs to pay for taxes above that amount.

In December 2020, two major lenders (Halifax and Lloyd's) also brought back low deposit mortgages for new buyers. Prospective homeowners need only a deposit (down payment) of at least 10 percent for older homes. Early in the pandemic, lenders pulled mortgages with low deposits from the market. Most lenders demanded a 15 percent minimum deposit for their mortgages.

These conditions played a role in the hot market and rising prices seen through 2020. But lender Halifax notes that this cannot last long. Demand is expected to drop a few months into 2021. The tax holiday is due to lapse by March. And with much of the U.K. economy still closed, unemployment remains high. Fewer people will be able to afford houses, and prices will drop again.

Examine Your Budget

The first thing you need to consider is your budget. Even if you're in a secure financial spot right now, it doesn't mean you can afford a mortgage. Can you afford to put in a large monthly payment into your budget? What about the associated costs of moving? Analyse the details of your budget.

Look for debts you can put on the cutting board. Credit card bills and other outstanding payments eat into your budget. Pay them off one at a time. Clearing your debts does not only free up more money for other expenses. It also helps you build savings for your deposit and improve your credit score.

Consider your deposit. A large deposit secures your mortgage application and qualifies you for lower rates. This will also help you lower your monthly payments. Moreover, a bigger deposit can help you afford a larger home. Your lender will usually approve a mortgage that's four times your annual income. Your deposit can cover the difference if the approved amount doesn't pay for the whole property.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

Get your finances in order before embarking on your home buying journey. Lenders must assess your risk profile before they approve your loan application. The riskier you appear, the less likely you'll get approved. Even if your chances of approval are high, a good impression still matters. Lenders may grant you even lower rates if you impress them.

Prospective lenders will examine your credit history and other financial documents. Your payment records reflect in your credit history. These let lenders know if you are capable of handling more debt.

You improve your credit score through on-time debt payments. Likewise, late payments and too many debts can harm your credit score. A low credit score can also affect family members if you have a joint account or act as a guarantor.

Here are a few other tips to help improve your credit score.

  • Don't be in a rush to apply for every mortgage available. Too many credit checks and rejected loan applications at once may negatively impact your credit score.
  • Look for possible errors in your credit history. Your creditors could record late payments or delinquencies that never were. Correct these and protect your financial reputation.
  • Close accounts from older credit cards based on older addresses. Lenders will look at you with suspicion if these accounts are still active.

A word for non-British buyers from North America. Your credit score, no matter how good it is, is non-transferable. This is vital if you plan on moving to the United Kingdom. You must build up a new credit score from scratch.

Choose Your Mortgage

Consider the type of mortgage you apply for. Not all mortgages fit the same purpose. Do you want regular amortising payments or lower monthly payments? How long do you plan to stay in your home? Can you commit to regular extra overpayments? These questions will determine what type of mortgage fits your long-term purpose.

Unlike in the U.S. and Canada, fixed-rate mortgages weren't always popular with British buyers. Buyers pay higher rates than other mortgages in the U.K. market to ensure their rates and monthly payments will not change soon. And the longer their fixed-rate term, the higher your APR. However, fixed-rate mortgages do provide stability. Your payments will stay identical for several years at a time, which makes them easy to plan around.

On the other hand, variable-rate mortgages are easier to apply for and often have lower upfront rates. But because their rates go up and down, your mortgage payments each month may vary. Many of these mortgages also let you overpay your mortgage without limits. If you can commit to a fixed overpayment schedule, you can save a lot of money on interest in the long run.

  • Tracker mortgages: Tracker mortgages are the most popular. These offer a base rate plus a percentage based on a rate set by the BoE. For instance, if your lender's base rate is 2 percent, and the BoE's rate is 0.1 percent, then your rate would be around 2.1 percent. This option puts a cap on how high your rate can go. Your tracker mortgage can either last through your whole amortization period or for a span of a few years.
  • Standard Variable Rate mortgages: Because of their higher rates, standard variable rate (SVR) mortgages are usually avoided. Most of the time, you would remortgage before your loan reverts to an SVR one to save money. But if you plan on moving soon or if rates are low, an SVR mortgage might be an acceptable bargain.
  • Discount mortgages: Discounted mortgages offer a lower percentage than other options. For a brief time, you pay a discounted rate lower than the lender's prevailing rate. These last for about two or five years before they revert to an SVR.
  • Offset mortgages: If you are a freelancer with a lot of savings, consider an offset mortgage. Lenders tie these mortgages to an interest-free bank account. These savings offset your mortgage balance. While you can still use this money, you can save more money by keeping it there.

Think Outside the Box

The pandemic has also changed the way people looked at housing. Those who still had jobs did them at home. If this trend continues, more people wouldn't need to live so close to their place of work. This can free you from the need to look at expensive cities for your new home. The trend can be seen in how much home prices rose across the country. Northwest England had the biggest change in prices at 11.2 percent. Greater London meanwhile had an increase of 3.5 percent. Cheaper areas have become hot new markets.

While you don't need to be so picky with locations anymore, you must consider the house you choose with care. For most new buyers, space is an important concern. The pandemic meant that many had to stay huddled in cramped homes with their families.

It's tempting to get a home with more elbow room for your family. Focus on getting a home with enough usable space that your family will be comfortable with. If you expect to work from home more often, look for a house with a home office. Avoid getting carried away. A larger home is both pricey and comes with bigger upkeep costs.

Stay Safe

Remember, we are still in a pandemic. To reduce the chances of transmission, take precautions throughout the home buying process. If you must go outside, wear the appropriate mask and observe physical distancing.

Whenever you can, schedule your initial viewings online. Your first viewing is often all you need to decide whether a home is worth considering. Host a physical viewing only when you are sure that this is the home you wish to buy. Open-house viewings are discouraged right now. Talk to your agents well in advance to ensure that the safety procedures are in place for your visit.

When you do seal the deal, consider how long the moving process will take. Make reservations to any open hotel if the process will take several days. Do most of your own packing to protect yourselves and the movers.

Other Considerations

First-time homeowners have a lot of questions on their plate. It pays to do your research and look at all your options. If you can't afford a standard mortgage or want an alternative to buying and renting, there are other options. Look at the U.K. government's Help to Buy programme for any scheme that works for you.

If your budget is tight, you might not give overpayments much thought. But if you can make them, they can save you money over the lifetime of your mortgage. Learn about your mortgage's overpayment allowances and penalties. This can help you make the most of the extra payments you're allowed.

Take It Slow

Property values can rise too much during hot markets. You might think that you'll miss out on great deals if you don't move fast enough. Both Bloomberg and Forbes warn against jumping in the home buying bandwagon. They argue that rising prices can cancel out your interest savings. Move too fast, and you end up underwater. This is where you owe more money than your house is worth, which happens when property values drop.

All real estate markets are local. And in any market there are both reasons prices may go up or fall at the same time. For example, London has seen a large influx of Hong Kong buyers, though prices for premium properties have still trended downward as some City of London workers moved abroad after Brexit and other urban dwellers preferred rural estates with more space in the face of rolling lock downs.

Even if you could afford a mortgage, resist the temptation to rush in without certainty for what you need, what your family situation will look like for years to come, and have job certainty. While you think you'd be priced out now, you could get a better deal if you waited a little longer. Instead, sit down and prepare. Pay off debts, improve your financial records, and save more. Careful planning can improve your chances of securing a mortgage with good terms. It can also help you save more money in the long run.

There is also an offset between interest rates and real estate prices. If longer-duration interest rates rise monthly mortgage payments reset higher for the same home price. This, in turn, can lead to home prices falling so that people with a similar earning power can still afford a similar monthly payment at a higher interest rate.

Today's Random Thoughts

Monday, February 22, 2021

It's been nice to have cash back on our dividend visa card.. we have used the cash back for many things over the years. When using our visa we  always pay back the money we put on it the same day we use it. Our bank used to give us our cash back at the end of the year but now we can use it any time we accumulate $25. I recently used $100 towards our new appliances.

We just bought a new fridge, stove, dishwasher and range hood since we are doing some renovating. Bought the range hood through and accidentally bought a ducted one when we needed a ductless one- but Amazon is so good for returns, that we are sending it back and have ordered the one we need. The stove was bought locally as we did some comparison shopping and got it for a good deal. The fridge and dishwasher I ordered from Best Buy - got the best prices for them and delivery even to our remote area was only $80. I plan on selling the other appliances too so that will help with getting the overall final cost down as well.

Today's Quick Tip

Sunday, February 14, 2021

When shopping online, always look for a coupon code to use before you check out. You will see before finishing your order there may be a spot to add a "promotional code". This is where you need to be diligent to see if you can find one through Google to use!

Daughter's Quilts in Library Raffle

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Since our daughter has been staying with us the last 7 months, she has been busy with sewing. She even had the library buy 3 of her quilts for a raffle! So proud of all her talent- but she didn't get it from me!

5 Ways to Cut Your Business Marketing Costs

Some smaller businesses think that a marketing strategy is something they can do without, but they’re going to be missing out on a huge amount of business because, although a lot of marketing is extremely competitive and done over the internet, a lot of it is surprisingly easy and both time and cost effective. Of course, you can easily go too far the other way and make poor marketing choices that cost a lot of money without generating many more leads or sales. This is a guide to finding the balance that’s right for your business, as well as a few marketing tricks that could drastically reduce your outgoings.

Don’t Make Rookie Mistakes

If your site doesn’t work on mobile devices then you’re missing out on the majority of online searchers, and if your site works on mobile devices but is tricky to navigate, then you might as well not bother. The mobile version of your site will have the greatest effect on your search engine ranking, so there’s no excuses for getting it wrong. Another mistake is to outsource your marketing to disreputable companies that will use invasive strategies that will enrage any potential customers. These are the don’ts that you can’t afford to overlook.

Don’t Shoot Yourself in the Foot

There are hundreds of marketing deals and promotions and cheap solutions that could turn your marketing situation around if you had a level of trust and were able to be opportunistic when you need to. For example, Adobe Spark has a free logo maker, which could be a cheap solution to what you might expect to be an expensive problem. Look out for these deals.

Link Out to Big Sites

You may be worried about sending customers away from your site, but if you direct potential customers to sites that they will find relevant and interesting then they’re going to remember that they put their trust in you by using a link you provided, and it paid off. Of course, you need somewhere to put these links. Add a blog section to your website so you have another forum to communicate with customers, and if you can’t afford to keep it regularly updated with what you’ve been up to then make content less regularly, but content that will remain relevant for a long time. Working with  SEO marketing business is always important as well.

Collaborate with Those in Your Shoes

You aren’t the only business that struggles to afford to market on a grand scale, and you shouldn’t think of your business as competing against all other local businesses. Work with non-competitive businesses in your area to find cheaper marketing solutions – for example, if you pool your resources, you could sponsor a local concert that has your branding all over it, without too much expense.

Never Stop Auditing

Don’t take anything for granted. If you’re developing a marketing strategy on a tight budget then you can’t afford to make any poor investments, so review the progress of every element of your strategy and remember you’re in charge. Cut anything that isn’t translating into more customers.

The Sweet Side of Valentine's Day

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

                             Valentine's Day Sweet Treats everyone will love!

A chocolate lover’s dream! Each month you will be sent

a full one-pound selection of delicious gourmet

chocolates from specialty confectioners around the


The chocolate experts choose only the very best, most

exquisite chocolates for the members. After all, they are

chocolate lovers, too! If you’re shopping for a serious

“chocoholic”, you’ve found the right gift!

What is Valentine's Day without chocolate, and Hotcups Canada has delicious addictive hot chocolate flavorsBased right in the middle of Winnipeg, Manitoba; they are fully equipped to ship any quantities across North America. Their range also consists of wide variety of green teas, black teas, white teas, matcha, fruit teas, floral and herbal teas. Treat yourself or a loved one with Hotcups Canada's hot chocolates!

Mrs. Fields-

Send something sweet this Valentine's Day, and make it extra special, with something from Mrs Fields. Gifts under $30, cookie cakes, and gift tins- signature cookie recipes and quality standards. Cookies and brownies, to please everyone.

** Watch for more sweet treats coming soon.

2021 Valentine's Day Gift Guide for Him

If your looking for some great gift ideas for your Valentine this year, we have some suggestions we think you may like-


Nextbase 322GW Dash Cam-

The Nextbase 322GW Dash Cam is the ultimate in connected car safety for you and your family through innovative features including Emergency SOS, Quick-Link Wi-Fi and GPS - with brilliant image recording during the day and Enhanced Night Vision in the evening, the Nextbase 322GW provides all-round protection to keep drivers safe on the road.  Enjoy $30 off your Nextbase 322GW from  2/1-2/7 (SALE PRICE $139.99, originally $169.99) to shop the perfect gift for your loved one this Valentine’s Day.

Amazing Clubs -BEER OF THE MONTH-

Looking for the perfect gift for

that beer lover on your list? With the Beer of

the Month Club, it’s easy! Each month he will be sent

12 bottles (or bottles and cans, in Canada) of premium, hard-to-find micro brews

(4 different varieties) from award-winning,

independent breweries nationwide. Plus, 

included will be the  beer lover’s newsletter full of fun facts

and information about each monthly selection.

Perfect for fathers, husbands,

groomsmen or anyone who enjoys really great


Choose from 3, 6 and 12-month memberships or

our Beer-of-the-Season Club with new selections

each Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.

**Watch this spot for more ideas coming soon!

Random Thoughts

Monday, February 8, 2021

We thought we were so lucky that the weather had been so nice not too long ago, and as the new year hit we thought wow- this is great, but the last week has been a nightmare. Just the other day it was -52 degrees C/ -61 F! Looks like we are set to have a week of this ice age type weather though. We sure do miss being down south!

Gerry had to re-do the weather stripping and frame around the door since our mobile home had shifted again. ( Note- a lot of the land in this town sits on what was old creeks and swamps. So when the weather changes, we get shifting. The addition takes the worst hit and we always end up with cracks on the walls and ceiling.) 

Since the weather also got alot colder, the battery in our truck died. With a $20 return on the old battery the new one was $180. Gerry decided to got with a mid price one rather than the cheapest one so as to be sure he got a better quality. At times we have talked about downsizing to one vehicle but in times like these where we needed that ride to the other end of town to get a battery, it's when we are glad we have two. Mine is a used car we bought for $8,000 years back. Its been paid off for a while and I plan to drive it till it dies. It's been very good to me with only one bigger $600 repair years ago. Most work it does need Gerry can do himself. I hear its got a ton of rust under it though, so we'll see how long we can keep her.

We have all our tax receipts all ready as well but have to wait we were told till February 22, when H&R Block will be accepting them. Always look forward to tax time as we usually always get a return. 

And Valentine's Day is coming quickly- Daring to Live Fully has a great list of 74 Heartfelt Ideas for your Valentine's Day Bucket list! Check it out!

Canadian Greeting Cards

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Sharon Krushel is a nature photographer, graphic artist, writer and musician in Peace River, northern Alberta. She has been collaborating with Canadian artists and photographers for the past ten years to create unique greeting cards that celebrate the beauty and culture of Canada. 

Most of the cards have the added bonus of images inside and stories on the back. Each artist is paid royalties on the sale of their cards. The 5”x7” cards are printed by Elite Lithographers in Edmonton, AB, so when you purchase Dona Bona Cards, you are supporting Canadian artists and Canadian jobs. Dona Bona is Latin for “good gift."

The website offers over 200 card designs featuring everything from northern lights to the wild horses of Alberta. You’ll find cards adorned with art by Robbie Craig in Yellowknife and wildlife photos by Famous Amos Photography in Grande Prairie. Some cards have greetings; some are waiting for your words.

Sharon says she has over 37,000 cards in her house and she loves filling orders and seeing what designs people choose. 

The cards are $4.95 each, and she gave me her super secret discount code of fdb25, which you can enter on checkout to get 25% off on orders of 10 or more cards. Shipping is free, and you can phone your order in if you prefer. 780-625-6324

Buying a Home During the Pandemic: Points to Ponder

Friday, February 5, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic did a number on the global economy. As a result, low rates prevailed to encourage people to invest and remortgage. This might be one of the few silver linings we have in the past few months. For those saving up for a home, now seems as good a time as any to jump in.

But before you hop on the home buying bandwagon, consider this. Are your finances prepared for the costs of home ownership? While it might seem like a better use of your money on the surface, look again. After all, paying rent doesn't build you equity.

There's more to buying a home than meets the eye. With a little forward planning, you can save thousands of dollars on your home.

A Wild Market describes the housing market as a wildcard in 2021. Low interest rates spurred greater demand for houses. But while more people wanted to buy houses, there weren't a lot of houses on sale. By 2020, home prices in Canada rose even faster than those in the United States. You might expect to pay a higher price for a home just to seal the deal. 

One of the biggest changes in the 2020 housing market was where people were looking. Before the pandemic, people turned toward major cities. For most of these people, this was a practical consideration. People needed to live closer to work. COVID-19 upended that old view. Social distancing favored people who lived in less dense areas. And companies switching to remote work meant that a lot of employees no longer needed to commute. 

Thus, people can now afford to look further away from cities for their new homes. This brings prospective homeowners to rural towns where properties are more affordable. Here, a family can afford a roomier home in a more secluded location. And with home prices in major cities skyrocketing, the small town life is also easier on the pocket.

But First, A Reality Check

Before you approach a lender for pre-approval, ask yourself this serious question: “Can I really afford a mortgage right now?” Just because rent is high, doesn't mean a mortgage will be cheaper. And even if you could afford it, your lender may not agree. It takes more than savings on hand to win the confidence of lenders.

Consider the full costs of buying a home. Your mortgage's principal and interest costs are just part of your monthly home expenses. Examine the property taxes and home insurance costs of the places you plan to move in. And don't just focus on your monthly bills. Make a budget for your expected maintenance costs. As a homeowner, you will be solely responsible for all the repairs and upkeep of your home.

Calculate how much of your budget can go toward all your home payments. This way, you'll know exactly what kind of house you can afford to pay for.

Bolster Your Qualifications

Fitting all that in your budget, even if you can save, is no easy task. But an honest review of your financial situation can help you plan and make room for these expenses. The changes you make can also improve your chances of securing a mortgage with good terms.

The first thing you need to look at is your total debt service (TDS) ratio. This figure measures how much of your income goes toward your monthly debt payments. Add all your minimum debt payments each month and divide them by your gross monthly income before taxes. Let's look at one example. Your total monthly debt payments equal $1,100. Meanwhile, your monthly gross is $5,000:

TDS = $1,100 / $5,000
TDS = 0.22
TDS = 22%

In this situation, you would have a 22 percent total debt service ratio. Adding more debts to the pile could make it hard for you to keep up payments. In 2020, the average Canadian debt service ratio was 14.67. This was down from 14.81 percent from the previous year. The reduced average TDS was due in part to payment deferrals and lower rates.

Your TDS ratio is a vital part of assessing your creditworthiness for a mortgage. Lenders prefer people with lower TDS ratios. They presume that people with too many debts may not have much room for a mortgage payment in their budgets. Lenders will usually approve of your mortgage if it comprises no more than 35 percent of your TDS ratio. You might still get approved, though, even if your TDS ratio was somewhat higher.

Before applying for a mortgage, it's often better to wait until you've cleared most of your debts. This rings true even if you already make a surplus. Your extra money is better spent making additional debt payments and saving for a down payment. 

Build Your Credit

Order your credit report and examine it closely. A credit report is a reflection of your creditworthiness. The records show exactly how punctual you've been with your debt repayments. If you find any errors in your report, inform your creditors immediately. Lenders will scrutinize this document to determine if you're worth lending money to.

Based on this information, credit reporting bureaus will assign you a credit score. Lenders save the best offers for people with excellent credit scores. Credit scores are one of the few times when being debt-free is a problem. Without any outstanding debts, you have no credit record and no credit score. 

This is easy to rectify if you have a lot of financial discipline. A good way to build a credit score fast is by “playing the float.” Get a credit card and use it for small transactions. Each month, pay off your entire balance before the bill is due. This way, you avoid paying interest at all! Make sure to charge only what you can afford to pay it off by the due date.

Save for Out-of-Pocket Expenses

While you improve your cash flow and credit score, save up for expenses you must pay out of pocket. Foremost among these is your down payment. It represents the part of your home's value that you must pay outright.

Down payments are an essential part of the home buying process. You must pay a minimum down payment of 5 percent to buy a home worth $500,000 and below. The bigger your down payment, the better. A down payment of 20 percent lets you bypass mortgage default insurance. Despite its name, this coverage doesn't benefit you at all! It's meant to protect your lender. That's a sum better spent on a bigger down payment.

Don't forget your other expenses like closing costs. While you can finance the closing costs into your mortgage, it will only add to the monthly payments. In general, it's better to pay for all these costs up front.

Get Your Paperwork Ready

Prepare your paperwork before you go house hunting. Your seller will be more receptive to offers if you have a mortgage pre-approved. During the qualification and pre-approval process, your lender will examine your ability to pay. Factors affecting your likelihood of approval include your income, assets, and debt level.

Your pre-approved mortgage represents the highest loan amount you can qualify for. But note that your lender may not approve this exact amount for the mortgage itself. The amount they approve will depend on the price of the property and the size of your down payment. In this case, be prepared to bargain for a smaller mortgage loan amount. To guarantee approval, choose properties from a much lower price range. 

Remember, pre-approvals have a time limit. You have until then to find a house and seal the deal. Don't forget to ask your lender how long your pre-approval will last and if you can extend it. 

Figure Out Your Housing Needs

Once you've gotten your finances sorted, it's time to set your housing budget. Stick as close to your budget as you can. Focus on meeting what you need from a home before moving on to what you want. If you have a growing family, for instance, you need ample room to accommodate the little ones as they grow up. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people found home offices are indispensable.

Choose a home that strikes a balance between cost, comfort, and location. A lot of people want a roomier house, but not everyone can afford the maintenance costs of a home that's too large.

Begin the process of house hunting by examining entire neighbourhoods. Look for the places where you'd like to live. Are the low home prices in this neighborhood justified? Is it close to schools, shops, and hospitals? If you work from home, you're in luck. You don't need to stay so close to the big city!  The home of your dreams may be a bargain in places you wouldn't have considered before.

Hunt for the Right House

House hunting can be a challenge during the pandemic. The need to social distance puts a damper on anyone's plans to make door-to-door walkthroughs. Fortunately, house seekers can take their hunts online. But the number of choices available can be overwhelming. To make the job easier, keep the process organized.

There are few alternatives to seeing the property itself in person. With that being risky, many house hunters rely on pictures. These don't always reveal everything, but they do give a first impression. A few sellers sometimes offer a video tour of the property. If a house fails to impress you on video, it's often not worth checking in real life. That said, try to attend the home inspection if you are allowed. This way, you can spot potential problem areas before you commit to buying the house.

Working with an agent might be expensive, but it can be worth it in the long run. It's important to get an agent you trust. You need someone who understands your needs and financial pressure. Don't be afraid to change agents if your current one isn't working well with you.

Finally, don't neglect your personal safety. During any trip you make to view a home, wear a mask at all times.

Moving Forward

The housing market can get really competitive when it's hot. While bidding wars are natural, they can drive up the price of a property too much. But outbidding someone can be a challenge. You don't want to be straddled with a home you paid too much for. 

Be prepared to engage in one if you can afford it, but know your limits. This way, you can still compete but won't go over your budget. Don't be afraid to walk away. You'll likely find a better, cheaper offer somewhere else.

Much like other debts, you can save on interest costs by making extra payments toward your principal. You can do this as a lump sum or in monthly increments. But before you do, be sure to know about possible prepayment privileges and penalties. The cost of going over the limit can get pretty steep.

Examine the prepayment privileges of each potential lender. Some mortgages offer more prepayment privileges in exchange for higher rates and vice versa. Choose the mortgage option that matches how often you can pay extra. There's no point in paying more interest if you can't make consistent extra payments.

It can be tempting to jump into the housing market right now. You might fear that prices can only go higher soon. Be patient. Focus on saving up for down payment and other housing costs. Be sure to shop around for different mortgage offers. A little forward planning can help you save money in the future.

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