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Are You Ready for Home Ownership? Find Out by Answering These 4 Questions

Are You Ready for Home Ownership? Find Out by Answering These 4 QuestionsHave you been dreaming about a larger, roomier or more luxurious living space? Or perhaps just want to experience the joy of owning your own home and building your net worth instead of renting? Let’s explore a few questions that can help to answer whether or not you’re ready for a new lifestyle as a homeowner.

Can You Realistically Afford To Buy A Home?

The first consideration to make is a financial one: can you afford it? Buying in a home is a significant financial investment. In most cases you’ll need to manage monthly mortgage payments for many years. The good news: owning a home is a more affordable than you might think. If you’re already a stable renter then you’re most of the way there.

Do You Have Your Down Payment Saved Up?

If you’re confident that monthly payments are no problem, then the next step is saving up enough to cover your down payment. This is a lump-sum investment that you make when you buy the home. Typically your down payment is around 20 percent of the home’s cost, but there are assistance programs which can reduce this further.

Do You Know What Type Of Home You Need?

Once you’ve cleared all of the financial hurdles, you will next need to decide exactly what kind of home you need. If you’re a single young professional, a condo or apartment might be the perfect starter home from which you can upgrade later. Or you might prefer something more rural which comes with more yard space, perfect for pets.

Are You Ready To Set Down Some Roots?

Finally, it’s worth taking some time to decide whether or not you’re ready to emotionally and physically invest in your local community. Is your career stable enough that you won’t be moving for at least a few years? What about that of your partner or spouse? If you don’t already, do you envision having children in the future? All of these are considerations that will help you choose the right neighborhood.

When you are ready, our professional mortgage team is here to help you finance the home of your dreams.

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Existing Home Sales Slowed by a Lack of Listings [INFOGRAPHIC]

Existing Home Sales Slowed by a Lack of Listings [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying the Market

Some Highlights:

  • The inventory of existing homes for sale has dropped year-over-year for the last 29 consecutive months and is now at a 3.9-month supply.
  • Existing home sales are currently at an annual pace of 5.48 million, the highest pace since June of this year, but down 0.9% from October 2016.
  • NAR’s Chief Economist, Lawrence Yun, had this to say: “While the housing market gained a little more momentum last month, sales are still below year ago levels because low inventory is limiting choices for prospective buyers and keeping price growth elevated.”

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16 Reasons Why Your Website is Slow & Doesn’t Rank Well on Google [Infographic]

Does your website take ages to load? Is your slow website causing a high bounce rate and poor ranking on Google?

DesignMantic share 16 reasons why your website is so slow in this infographic.

There are a couple of items on the list I’ll touch upon first.

With the use of large images becoming more widespread its important you optimise them. I’d recommend a WordPress plugin called WP Smush Pro for this.

And, if you haven’t enabled GZIP compression I’d recommend another WordPress plugin called Hummingbird. This will also minify your files giving you an extra speed boost.

Hope the infographic helps!

 

The post 16 Reasons Why Your Website is Slow & Doesn’t Rank Well on Google [Infographic] appeared first on Red Website Design Blog.

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Are Thanksgiving Blue Laws Good (Or Bad) For Retailers?

Leaving aside the debate over whether or not it’s unkind for retailers to make people work on a day like Thanksgiving, it’s worth noting the potential impact on business at the start of the crucial holiday shopping season.

In a comparison of states that impose “Blue Laws” preventing sales on Thanksgiving Day versus ones that leave that decision up to store owners, Foursquare data indicates that retailers in the former category appeared to be placed at a disadvantage. (It’s worth noting that New York was excluded from Foursquare’s look at 2016 retail data and that most of the Blue Laws states were in New England, which tends to have harsher weather at this time of year than other parts of the country.)

“While the three Thanksgiving Blue Law states [Maine, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts] saw an average foot traffic lift of 23 percent over the Thanksgiving weekend (Thursday through Sunday) in 2016 compared to a baseline weekend — the rest of the Northeast (Vermont, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New Jersey) with no legal restrictions saw a greater average foot traffic lift of 35 percent the same year,” Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck said in a blog post. “This showed us that retail performance over the full weekend was significantly higher in states that allow shopping on Thanksgiving Day.”

Pent-Up Demand, Missed Opportunity

Foursquare’s data, which looked at explicit check-ins (from its Swarm app) and passive visits (from both its Flagship discovery app and Swarm over Thanksgiving weekend 2016) indicated that “shopping between the hours of midnight and 3 a.m. accounts for only 3 percent of the total US foot traffic to the top 500 retailers on Black Friday.”

But in a sign of the pent-up demand for deals, the store traffic in those same middle-of-the-night hours reached as high as 14 percent in Maine, followed by 9 percent lift in visits in Massachusetts, and 5 percent in Maine.

“We found another, even stronger indicator that these shoppers are highly motivated; in New Hampshire, 29 percent of retail traffic on Thanksgiving Day is made up by visitors from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maine (a significantly higher proportion than an average Thursday),” Glueck said.

But pent-up demand is easily satisfied, as New Hampshire’s Blue Law State neighbors can attest: 60 percent of these same visitors did not make Black Friday shopping visits the following day back in their home state retail stores.

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9 Social Media Trends That Will Take Charge in 2018 [Infographic]

Are you considering where to dedicate your time and effort on social media in 2018? Want to know the likely trends you’ll need to invest more into?

Filmora share their predictions for social media in 2018 in this infographic.

Here are the key points:

  • Increased usage of video marketing
  • The expansion of live streaming
  • Increase in ephemeral content
  • The rise of augmented reality
  • A shift in focus to Generation Z
  • Increased investment in influencer marketing
  • More mobile-ready content
  • Increased brand participation ion messaging platforms

Check out the infographic for more detail.

 

The post 9 Social Media Trends That Will Take Charge in 2018 [Infographic] appeared first on Red Website Design Blog.

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Four Pieces of Mortgage ‘Advice’ That You Should Take With the Proverbial Grain of Salt

Four Pieces of Mortgage 'Advice' That You Should Take With the Proverbial Grain of SaltAre you in the market for a new home? If you have been talking to friends and family or researching online, you have likely come across quite a bit of mortgage-related advice. As with anything, there is low-quality advice out there which is essential to avoid. In today’s blog post we will share four pieces of mortgage-related advice that you should take with the proverbial ‘grain of salt.’

#1: Only Get A Mortgage From Your Bank

Have you heard that you should only get a mortgage from the major bank that you use regularly? Many people believe that working with a large bank that you have a history with provides advantages, but this is not always the case. The right advice here is to seek out a mortgage lender offering products that fit your current and future financial needs.

#2: Always Take The Lowest Interest Rate

The next piece of advice you might hear is to always take the mortgage product with the lowest interest rate. As you may know, rates vary based on a wide range of factors. Taking the lowest rate might mean that you miss out on some favorable mortgage terms. It is best to trust your mortgage professional to provide you with some options here.

Don’t forget that, over time, you will be able to refinance your mortgage if rates move in a way that is advantageous for you. So you can feel safe in choosing the right mortgage now and adjust later.

#3: Always Borrow As Much As You Can

Another questionable piece of mortgage advice is to always borrow as much as you possibly can. Keep in mind that a mortgage is a loan and that you are required to pay it back. The amount you borrow should be in line with your needs and financial goals.

#4: Don’t Bother With A Pre-Approval

Finally, you may have heard it suggested that you can avoid the mortgage pre-approval process. While it is possible, this is not a good idea. Many home sellers will require proof of your pre-approval before they will commit to selling their home. If there are other buyers trying to bid on that home, they are more likely to win the bid if they can prove their finances are in order. When you are ready to buy, a pre-approval can help.

These are just a few of the many bad pieces of mortgage advice that you might hear in conversation or read online. When you are ready to discuss your mortgage options with the experts, give our professional team a call. We would be happy to share our insight and experience to help you choose the best mortgage.

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Bubble Alert! Is it Getting Too Easy to Get a Mortgage?

Bubble Alert! Is it Getting Too Easy to Get a Mortgage? | Simplifying The Market

There is little doubt that it is easier to get a home mortgage today than it was last year. The Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI), published by the Mortgage Bankers Association, shows that mortgage credit has become more available in each of the last several years. In fact, in just the last year:

  • More buyers are putting less than 20% down to purchase a home
  • The average credit score on closed mortgages is lower
  • More low-down-payment programs have been introduced

This has some people worrying that we are returning to the lax lending standards which led to the boom and bust that real estate experienced ten years ago. Let’s alleviate some of that concern.

The graph below shows the MCAI going back to the boom years of 2004-2005. The higher the graph line, the easier it was to get a mortgage.

Bubble Alert! Is it Getting Too Easy to Get a Mortgage? | Simplifying The Market

 

As you can see, lending standards were much more lenient from 2004 to 2007. Though it has gradually become easier to get a mortgage since 2011, we are nowhere near the lenient standards during the boom.

The Urban Institute also publishes a Home Credit Availability Index (HCAI). According to the Institute, the HCAI:

“Measures the percentage of home purchase loans that are likely to default—that is, go unpaid for more than 90 days past their due date. A lower HCAI indicates that lenders are unwilling to tolerate defaults and are imposing tighter lending standards, making it harder to get a loan. A higher HCAI indicates … it is easier to get a loan.”

Here is a graph showing their findings:

Bubble Alert! Is it Getting Too Easy to Get a Mortgage? | Simplifying The Market

Again, today’s lending standards are nowhere near the levels of the boom years. As a matter of fact, they are more stringent than they were even before the boom.

Bottom Line

It is getting easier to gain financing for a home purchase. However, we are not seeing the irresponsible lending that caused the housing crisis.

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What Were the most important Local SEO Trends In 2017?

Unlike any year in recent memory, 2017 has generated more dramatic changes for brick-and-mortar businesses seeking to manage their discoverability and engagement strategies when it comes via search.

Search consultancy Local SEO Guide looked at 200-plus search ranking factors in 150 cities covering keywords, website landing pages, reviews, citations, photos, link profiles, and more, and found that businesses are making consumer connections differently than previously.

The report, 2017 Local SEO Ranking Factors, surveyed search performance, noting that reviews are becoming much more important versus traditional SEO drivers such as citations and listings. (That said, “inconsistent” citations and listings are a major issue that local businesses ignore at their peril, according to CDK Global, an integrated marketing company focused automotive dealers across 27,000 retail locations in over 100 countries.)

Overall, as businesses examine their SEO strategies for the holiday season, we’ve noted that retailers have remained challenged by search.

For example, SMBs generally have been shifting SEO and advertising towards greater spending on social media marketing, perhaps de-emphasizing search in the rush to expand efforts across Facebook/Instagram and Snapchat.

“Many of our clients still view social and search as totally separate marketing strategies,” Josh Markham, SVP of Digital Media Products at local marketing platform ReachLocal, has told GeoMarketing. “We believe local businesses should be viewing their marketing efforts comprehensively (not as silos) so they can understand which programs work best together. When businesses rely on only one marketing tactic, they are likely missing out on consumers in a different phases of their buying journey. In addition, consumers have different preferences for consuming information, so the combined effort is more effective than a singular effort.”

For the most part, the changes impacting search are determined by an obvious player, notes Andrew Shotland, founder and CEO of Local SEO Guide.

“The data suggests that Google, while attempting to shift to more engagement-based and locally relevant factors for its Local algorithm, is still susceptible to the traditional organic SEO tactics,” Shotland says. “The immaturity of the Local algorithm combined with the power of a focused SEO effort can yield outsized benefits for smart location-marketers. This study illustrates the foundational building blocks of a Local SEO campaign with the goal of helping marketers prioritize their investments in tactics that will move the needle.”

We caught up with Dan Leibson, Local SEO, VP of Search for Local SEO Guide, to get deeper look into the company’s findings and what the implications are in 2018 for local businesses and search.

GeoMarketing: What were the most important local SEO trends in 2017?

Dan Leibson: I think the most important thing we noticed in the 2017 Local SEO Ranking Factors study was the continued movement towards non-traditional local rankings factors. Traditionally, things like citations have played an overwhelmingly large part of ranking in Google’s local search results, though now that seems to be shifting largely to traditional organic ranking factors — like links —  and newer factors, like reviews.

In terms of whether Google has shifted away from “traditional” local signal, what kinds of new signals are emerging? And how meaningful is the shift for local businesses?

Most importantly, I think that it means that local businesses need to focus on SEO holistically. This means having a solid organic search strategy, and also working on a review strategy. Both of these will return dividends for most location based businesses.

What is “Google My Business (GMB) spam?”

I’ve actually written a bit about this. Well, most of the “spam” people talk about on GMB isn’t actually spam. Google and some local SEO’s have taken to calling Google My Business profiles that violate Google’s Guidelines as spam. I’m not a fan of this at all, spam is generally black-hat or illegal tactics, not things that are basic terms of service violations. This type of “spam” is akin to jailbreaking or unlocking a cell phone.

How important is GMB for local businesses versus offerings from Facebook and other platforms?

Google is almost exclusively the only game in town. While Yelp does have a commanding second place position in some markets (major metro) and some verticals (hospitality/retail/service) they are far from being a true competitor to Google. Facebook has a lot of potential in the space, and make starts and stops of really going after local discovery, but again don’t have the kind of across the board adoption of Google search (at least in local).

Are local search marketers embracing voice-activation via Alexa, Okay Google, Siri, Cortana, Bixby?

I think marketing technologists are embracing voice-activation because they see the potential in the future. Right now though, there really isn’t much to do.

What are you expecting (and what would you like) to see more of — or less of — in the local search space in 2018?

With the recent relaunch of Facebook’s local product, it’s setting the stage for a really interesting year. Other than that, I would expect marketers to continue to market voice search. It also wouldn’t surprise me to see some pivots & consolidation in the local tools market, as the dominance of a few key players (like Yext) will likely cause some companies with competitive products to re-evaluate their long term plans. [Full disclosure: Yext is GeoMarketing’s parent company. More details on that relationship here]

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58 Web Design Stats to Guide Your 2018 Strategy [Infographic]

Are you considering a new website for your business in 2018? Need some facts and figures to help you create your design and website marketing strategy?

Vendasta share 58 stats you need to know in this infographic.

Here are a couple of standout facts:

  • 29% of small businesses do not have a website
  • 92% of small businesses predict they will have a website by the end of 2018

Is 2018 the year you get your small business online?

Check out the infographic for more, make sure you click to enlarge.

 

The post 58 Web Design Stats to Guide Your 2018 Strategy [Infographic] appeared first on Red Website Design Blog.

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3 Ways That a Reverse Mortgage Can Transform Your Retirement

3 Ways That a Reverse Mortgage Can Transform Your RetirementAre you a retired individual looking for ways to increase your financial security? If so, you may have heard of a home equity conversion mortgage, more commonly known as a reverse mortgage. Used correctly, this is one of the most effective financial products for retirees who own their home.

Let’s explore three ways that a reverse mortgage can help to transform a dull retirement into one filled with excitement.

It’s All About Flexibility

The primary benefit that one receives with a reverse mortgage is financial flexibility. It is an excellent way to tap into the equity that has built up in your home over time without having to sell the house and move out. Moreover, unlike a traditional home loan, the payment terms are far more flexible. In many cases, payments are not required until you are ready to leave the home permanently.

An Extra Source Of Income

Is your lifestyle starting to suffer because you do not have a regular salary coming in for you and your partner? Regardless of how much you have saved in 401-k and other retirement accounts, losing that regular monthly income can be depressing.

The good news: a reverse mortgage can help to change that. The funds you receive can be used however you want. You can invest in renovations for your home, take a nice vacation, invest in the stock market or simply leave it in your bank account. It is a helpful ‘bridge’ income source that will ensure that you have no trouble taking care of life’s many expenses.

A Contingency Fund, Just ‘In Case’

Finally, a reverse mortgage can be an excellent contingency fund. If you take this out as a line of credit, the money will be available if and when they are needed. Many retired individuals lack a financial ‘safety net’ and end up suffering due to unexpected health or other costs. With a reverse mortgage, you can sleep soundly knowing that emergency cash is there if needed.

As you can see, taking advantage of a reverse mortgage can be the catalyst that helps take your retirement to the next level. To learn more about these unique financial products, contact our professional mortgage team today. We are happy to share how a reverse mortgage can benefit you and your family.

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