How Student Loan Debt Impacts Homeownership for Millennials

A recent report by Freddie Mac looks at the how student loan debt impacts homeownership for millennials.

“The low home ownership rate among millennials is still something of a puzzle—it cannot be explained solely by the increase in student loan debt,” says Sean Becketti, chief economist, Freddie Mac.

“However, student debt plays a role—higher balances are associated with a lower probability of home ownership at every level of college and graduate education.”

Data confirms that not all student debt is created equal. Students who attended schools with less-certain educational benefits have not fared well. Borrowers who did not complete their studies have fared worst of all. These groups are likely to continue to affect the pattern of homeownership among millennials.

Moreover, a recent change in Federal Housing Administration policy will make it more difficult for some student loan borrowers to qualify for a mortgage.

If you have questions about how your student loan or any other debt impacts homeownership, contact me.

I also recommend that any first-time homebuyers, or anyone with questions about the homebuying process consider taking a free homebuyers class offered by Credit Counseling of Arkansas.

Save $1,000 By the Holidays

Ideally you should be working on your holiday savings throughout the year, but sometimes that doesn’t work. With these changes, you should be able to save $1,000  by the savings

Of course, how much you can actually save depends on your specific situation and which moves you make. Still, these examples show that you can save a grand in just two months with a few simple budget adjustments—whether you need the money for holiday spending or other financial goals.

Reshop Your Auto Insurance

The cost of car insurance can vary greatly for each driver, and you’re likely paying more than necessary. Make sure you’re getting the best deal possible by comparing plans from different insurers using tools from, InsWeb or Nerdwallet.

Eat At Home

Brown-bag your lunch and trade restaurant dinner dates for romantic nights this fall to cut those meal costs by two-thirds or more. This could save on average $233 per month.

Drive Less

Leave your car in the garage on workdays throughout the fall to cut daily costs on parking, gas, tolls and even the occasional ticket. Cycling, public transportation or car pooling are money-saving options.

Cut the Cord

You don’t need to pay for cable to enjoy watching television. Most of your favorite shows are likely available online or through streaming services for little to no cost.

Make Your Home LOOK Expensive

We each want our home to look like it could be featured in a design magazine. However, accomplishing that look can be daunting, until now. There are 6 inexpensive steps you can take to make your home look expensive.


This is something that I tell my clients when they are putting their home on the market. You may love your collections and knicknacks and completely understand your pile filing system. But that clutter communicates chaos to others. Edit your collections, and use organization systems like those from Ikea above to find a way to display or store in an organized way.

Eliminate grunge

Once or twice a year deep clean to keep your home looking luxurious. A little elbow grease focused on baseboards, ceiling fans, windows, floors will upgrade the overall look of your home.

Add or rearrange lighting

Lighting is a great way to make a home look expensive, but it doesn’t really cost that much. Use light to define spaces, separate rooms, make a small space look grand or a large space cozy. Consider using warm-colored light bulbs to make a home look luxe.

Upgrade your hardware

This can change the look of a room in a day and cost very little. If you have a larger budget, consider updating your faucets or maybe even your countertops.


There’s no easier way to make an old home look expensive than by painting. You don’t have to stop at your walls either. Add color to your front door, window trims or even your ceiling and floors.

Decor details

Consider creating vignettes – combining decor items like vases, frames and objects to add visual interest to an otherwise bland area. Don’t do this everywhere. Pick one or two locations that need some sprucing up.

Inexpensive Upgrades That Will Make Your House Feel New

As the weather warms up, we all start our spring cleaning, organizing and sprucing up. Here are 6 inexpensive upgrades you can make to make your home feel like new.

New hardware

Swapping out cabinet hardware, drawer pulls or handles, is a quick way to give a room a facelift and a little bit of personality.

Small paint jobs

You don’t have to repaint throughout your home to make a difference. Look at changing the color of your front door, kitchen cabinets, trim, built ins or even consider adding an accent wall. Most of these wouldn’t require a full gallon of paint (between $15 and $30) or more than a day to complete.

Upgrade a light fixturePhoto Apr 17, 5 16 27 PM

Light fixtures can be expensive, but if you are only replacing one, the expense can be manageable. We recently did this in our kitchen. We were never happy with the ceiling light that was selected by the builder. So we added a 3-pendant light to give a little drama to the area. Total cost was about $75, but the area looks much better and we use it much more now.

Organize a problem areaPhoto Apr 17, 5 23 34 PM

This is another change that can make a huge difference in both the function and the look of an area. We recently reorganized our pantry, which was a dark area with items just shoved on a shelf. It was hard to find anything, so we didn’t work to keep it organized. We added 2 shelves and some light, and the area is so much more functional now. Total investment was about $75.

Keyless entry pad

This is relatively easy to do now, and costs about $100. Not only does it keep you every being locked out (as long as you remember the code), but guests will be able to let themselves in. That’s much safer than hiding a key.

Fresh mulch

Yes you can landscape, and paint trim and build a patio – but for the money simply adding mulch to your flower beds gives you the most bang for your bucks. At $6 a bag, your biggest investment is the time it take to put out the mulch.

If you have questions about the impact your home improvement projects have on your home value, contact My NWA Realtor. I’d be happy evaluate your home based on comps in your neighborhood.

Make a Small Bathroom Feel Larger

You can make your small bathroom feel larger by focusing on clever storage solutions and go bold with color and accents. Here are a few tips:

Step 1: Deal with storage

First, make sure you’ve pared down extra toiletries and items that you don’t need to store in your already-cramped restroom. Next, you’ll need to find the right containers and storage space for them.

Anything you’ve had more than a year, toss. Items you use less than once a week, you can put into a closet or other storage area.

Under-sink storage

Expandable, under-the-sink organizers help double your storage space where it counts.

Storage furniture won’t fit in a small bathroom, so it’s smart to maximize your wall space to help keep things off the sink and floor.

Put a single towel rack behind the door or a nice metal train rack mounted on the wall above the toilet so you have a place to hang fresh towels and used ones.

One word of caution on those towel racks and hooks: Don’t overdo it, and limit the amount of towels to the absolute bare minimum. For a powder room, just a hand towel will do. For a full bathroom, two to three towels, max.

Step 2: Go bold with color

Just because your bathroom is a small doesn’t mean it can’t pack a stylish punch. This can be accomplished with wallpaper or accent paint.

Decorative wallpaperDecorative wallpaper

Susie Kurkowski

If you plan to paint the ceiling, choose a shade that’s slightly lighter than the wall color by mixing the primary color with white paint. The reason? Ceilings tend to catch the shadows in a room, so a lighter color tricks the eye into thinking the space is a little bigger.

There’s one rule: Go for light and bright colors in the bath. Lighter shades make it easier to see while you’re shaving or putting on makeup. Also, some of those wild colors you love might cast an odd pallor on your face in subpar lighting.

Step 3: Light it up

Stay far away from fluorescent lightbulbs in the bathroom. Halogen or xenon bulbs are the best options near the vanity, ideally on either side of the mirror over the sink. Otherwise, ceiling pendants or recessed lighting are your best friends. Try a plug-in pendant in front of a sliding mirror vanity or just to the side of a mirror cabinet that opens for an easy DIY design.

Step 4: Play with accents

Feel free to be creative in small guest bathrooms. Hang a brightly framed or fun-shaped mirror over the vanity. If you don’t have the dough to spend on a high-end mirror, you’ll find plenty of great options at your local home improvement store.

Resist the urge to decorate with potpourri bowls or fake floral arrangements that attract dust and add clutter to your sink space. Sleek-looking canisters for your cotton balls and swabs, along with one piece of eye-catching artwork, are all you need in a small bathroom.

Buying and Selling a Home at the Same Time

In an ideal world, you’d buy a new home, move, and then deal with the turmoil of selling. But for most people, that’s just not possible for both financial and logistic reasons. So if buying and selling a house at the same time is your only option, here’s what you need to know to make sure both processes go as smoothly as possible.

Know the market first

Before you start make sure you have a solid understanding of the housing market in your area (and the area where you’re planning to buy). Is the market weighted toward buyers or sellers? I can help you with this.

This information will help us fully strategize the best plan of action.

Also, you’ll want to hire an appraiser and price your old home fairly. Two extra months on the market because you couldn’t humble yourself to lower the price means two months you’ll be paying double mortgages.

Plan your schedule carefully

Should you buy first, then sell—or vice versa? Selling first makes getting a mortgage easier, but it also means you’ll need to find a temporary place to live. Buying first means moving will be easier, but it also skews your debt-to-income ratio, making it harder to qualify for a new mortgage—not to mention the difficulty of juggling two monthly house payments.

When determining whether you should sell or buy first, think beyond “How can I make the move as easy as possible?” Instead ask: “Can I handle two mortgages? What if my home sells for less than its listing?”

Whichever option you choose, make sure you’re prepared to accept the consequences: having to store your stuff and rent temporarily, or undergoing the financial burdens of dual mortgages.

… but don’t rely on timing

Remember, you’re not the only party in this equation. For every seller there’s a buyer, for every buyer a seller. While things might appear to be working smoothly when viewing your master plan from above, that doesn’t take into account the varibilities of other people. Closings are rife with delays. Your buyers might have difficulty securing their mortgage; your home inspector may bring up issues that need to be fixed

So even if you’ve planned to sell your home first and are prepared to rent while buying, know that even the best-laid plans go awry—and you might end up juggling both mortgages. Preparing yourself for this possibility ahead of time will ensure a smooth transition.

Know your financial solutions

For those who choose to sell first, the process is relatively straightforward other than the additional cost of a rental between homes. However, there is the option of a rent-back agreement, where you negotiate with the lenders and buyers to be able to remain in the property for a maximum of 60 to 90 days—often in exchange for a lower selling price or rent paid to the buyers. This can relieve some of the pressure of finding a new home, giving you additional time to house hunt.

But if you’re buying first, talk to me about ways to decrease your financial burden and risk. Here are the two most popular options for buyers:

Contract contingency: Buyers can request that their new home purchase be dependent on the successful sale of their old home. If you’re looking in a competitive market, this may not be a good option; however, if the seller of your intended home has had difficulty attracting interest, this may be a good deal for all parties involved—assuming you can convince them that your home will sell quickly.

Bridge loans: Bridge financing allows you to own two homes simultaneously if you don’t have deep pockets for a second down payment. This option is especially attractive if you’d planned to sell your home first and use the proceeds to buy the second. It functions as a short-term loan, intended to be repaid upon the sale of your original house.

Don’t let fear rush you

If your home has sold but you haven’t found a new place to live, don’t let anxiety push you toward a bad decision. It is best to plan on a short-term rental from the start so you don’t feel stressed or pushed into something.

Found the perfect home right on schedule? That’s great. But don’t feel like you have to compromise on things that are important to you just because you need to find a home. Conversely, don’t accept a bid that you feel is too low just because your finances are strained by two mortgages. If you have a temporary apartment set up, you’re less likely to compromise.

Certainly, selling and buying a house simultaneously will be stressful—but I can help you carefully consider and plan for the hurdles and help reduce the stress.

Do You Really Need a Realtor?

People ask me all they time if they really need a realtor to buy or sell their home. My wife and I even had that discussion when we were looking for our first house. Hey, it’s a valid question. But there are definite benefits in working with a real estate professional.

Here’s just some of the services that I offer to my clients.

I shop properties online with full access to the industry’s MLS listing system. That goes beyond just looking a listings. I also research neighborhoods, comps and even the sales history of a property for my clients.

I hit the road and see properties in person before I show them to my clients. That helps me become familiar with the property, its benefits and its challenges so that  I can point that out when you see see it.

I invest in marketing for my clients. Remember, I don’t get paid until your real estate deal closes. So I am committed enough to my clients to invest in open houses and marketing knowing that it will all pay off, for you and for me, in the end.

I’m there to help my clients, even through the sometimes bumpy real estate transaction.

As a general rule of thumb, for every hour an agent spends in your presence, he or she will spend an average of nine hours out of eyesight working on your behalf.

Let me help you find your dream home in NWA!


Lower Your Home Insurance Costs

There are some simple steps you can take to lower your home insurance costs.

Shop around

You can’t buy a home without purchasing insurance first, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with the insurance provider you’re currently with. Make sure you compare different companies and find the best deal. Check consumer guides, ask friends and neighbors and search online insurance quote services, which will give you an idea of price ranges and tell you which companies have the lowest prices.

Bundle your insurance

Many insurance companies will offer discounts if you package multiple policies, such as your car, boat and home insurance. On average, one can save 5 to 15 percent.

Safety first

Installing carbon monoxide detectors, smoke detectors and alarm systems can reduce your monthly bill, but you need to let your insurance agent know about any changes you make. Also, ask your insurance agent what steps you can take to make your home more resistant to natural disasters. You may be able to save on your premiums by adding storm shutters, reinforcing your roof or buying stronger roofing materials.

Increase your deductible

By raising your deductible, your monthly costs can decrease as much as 5 to 10 percent.

Rethink value

It’s not necessary to insure a house for the amount it was purchased for. Even if your house were to completely burn down, you’d still have the land, so consider that when deciding the total amount you need to insure. A good insurance agent will be able to help you calculate the proper replacement cost of the house.

It’s also wise to talk with your real estate agent and see if they have any thoughts on how to lower the cost.

Winter Landscaping Can Help Sell Your House Quickly

Winter landscaping can help sell your house quickly, but you have to know how to make your home stand out from all those other sad, cold houses on the block. Here are some easy solutions to improve the appearance of your snow-covered yard this winter.

Maintenance Matters

To achieve a winter wonderland of a yard, the most important ingredient is some good old-fashioned sweat equity. If the leaves are still falling, get out your rake; if it’s winter, make sure to neatly shovel your sidewalks, porch, and driveway. And don’t neglect your bushes and shrubs during the cold months—pruning them occasionally gives the landscape a well-kept look.

Your beds may not be filled with flowers, but that doesn’t mean they should look dreary. While adding mulch won’t help plants grow when the ground is frozen, it will give your garden a visual makeover and help you catch a buyer’s eye.

Add some color and greenery

There are a number of hardy plants that can survive the winter. Some require forethought—shrubs such as the vibrant, red flowering quince need to be planted no later than fall, and the imposing boxwood requires time for growing and shaping. But others, such as Christmas greens, can be found at your local nursery and do well potted on porches.

If you have these on hand, you can also use them to make quick arrangements for the inside of your home.

Shine some light on it

As the days get shorter, lighting up your home’s exterior becomes more important. Start with path lighting—which helps with navigation—and build up your lighting scheme to highlight your home’s best features.

Spotlight obvious focal points, and add small lighting at the bottom of your water features or showstopper trees such as the Japanese maple.

Make your house look like a postcard, and it can sell even during the snowiest winter. Whether you are looking to buy or sell in any season, give me a call.

5 Ways to Quickly Raise a Down Payment


Of course the best way to come up with a down payment is to save for it. But what if you happen upon your dream home? Here are 5 ways to quickly raise a down payment, as well as the pros and cons of these options.

Continue reading 5 Ways to Quickly Raise a Down Payment