Tag Archive for: Life Outside of Loans

Service Scholarship Winner, Ashton Olson

Ashton Olson chosen as 2024 Service Scholarship Winner

In 2020 Michigan Mortgage introduced the Service Scholarship with the goal of recognizing High School Seniors who shared the dreams of pursuing a career in service.

Careers in service include:

  • Military
  • Teachers & Educators
  • Government & Politics
  • Police
  • Firefighters
  • First Responders
  • Doctors & Nurses

For 2024, we received dozens of applicants and reviewed each one closely. We learned about each students’ goals and aspirations, community service they completed, impacts they made in West Michigan, and how they plan to give back to those that need it most.

Service Scholarship Winner, Ashton OlsonAfter much consideration, Michigan Mortgage is pleased to announce Ashton Olson, a 2024 Fruitport High School graduate, as a winner of this year’s Michigan Mortgage Service Scholarship.

She said the following in his application.

“Service means to me, helping, giving back, and supporting people or communities in need. Giving my time and effort to support those who need help.”

Ashton is an excellent student, a natural reader and is motivated and driven by the high expectations she sets for herself. When faced with adversity, she’s the first to step in and help those around her.

We were told that she is a kind, caring, responsible leader that embodies what a great role model would be for the young ladies in our community.

Ashton is headed to Grand Valley State University in the fall. Her long-term career goal is to become a health and physical education teacher.

“Being a health and physical education teacher is important to me because children need to know how to take care of their bodies and be healthy,” Ashton said. “I love sports and I hope to encourage kids to do so as well!”

Congratulations, Ashton! We can’t wait to watch you change the world!

Image of a piggy bank

How to Save Money for a House

How do you save for a house? Saving for a house is a significant financial goal that requires strategic planning and discipline. Remember, consistency and patience are key when working towards such a substantial investment. With dedication and strategic financial planning, saving for a home can become much more manageable.

What Do I Need to Save For?

When saving for a house, you will want to save for several expenses before buying a house. These expenses may include:

  • Down Payment: The down payment is a significant initial expense when purchasing a home. It is typically a percentage (usually 0%-20%) of the total cost of the house and is paid upfront.
  • Closing Costs: Closing costs encompass various fees and expenses, including loan origination fees, appraisal fees, title insurance, and attorney fees. These costs are typically around 2% to 6% of the home’s purchase price.
  • Moving Expenses: When budgeting for a new home, it’s crucial to consider the expenses associated with moving. This includes hiring movers, purchasing packing supplies, and transportation costs. These expenses can add up quickly, so it’s essential to budget for them accordingly.
  • Additional Expenses: These may include home maintenance and repairs, new furniture or appliances, homeowner’s insurance, and property taxes.

Setting Your Savings Goal

Calculate Your Target Amount

When saving for a house, it’s crucial to have a specific target in mind. Start by calculating the total amount you will need for your home purchase. Consider the down payment, closing costs, and potential renovations or furnishings. Research average home prices in your desired area to get a realistic idea of how much you may need to save.

Determine Your Timeline

After determining your target amount, set a realistic timeline for reaching your savings goal. Consider how much you can save each month and calculate how long it will take to reach your target. Be mindful of external factors such as the housing market and potential changes in your financial situation.

Creating a Budget

Track Your Expenses

Start by tracking all of your expenses for a few months. This will give you a clear picture of where your money is going. Use a budgeting app or spreadsheet to monitor your spending. Categorize your expenses to see where you are allocating the most funds. Be thorough and include all expenses, no matter how small they seem.

Identify Areas to Cut Back

Once you have a comprehensive view of your spending, identify areas where you can cut back. Look for non-essential expenses that can be reduced or eliminated. This could include dining out less frequently, finding cheaper alternatives for entertainment, or reducing unnecessary subscriptions.

Taking Advantage of Homebuyer Programs

When saving for a house, explore the various homebuyer programs available to help you. Researching first-time buyer programs is a great starting point. These programs are often tailored to provide financial support and guidance for individuals purchasing their first home. By taking the time to understand these programs’ eligibility criteria and benefits, prospective homebuyers can gain valuable insights into how to make the most of these offerings.

Research First-Time Buyer Programs

Exploring first-time buyer programs can uncover various options to facilitate the homebuying journey. These programs may offer benefits such as lower down payments, reduced interest rates, or assistance with closing costs.

Look Into Down Payment Assistance

Down payment assistance programs are another avenue to consider when saving for a house. These programs can provide financial support by offering grants or low-interest loans to help cover the initial down payment required for purchasing a home.

Exploring Low Down Payment Options at Mortgage 1

Buying a home doesn’t have to be overwhelming, especially when it comes to the down payment. Many potential homebuyers assume they need a large sum of money upfront, but that’s not necessarily the case. Several low-down payment options can help you start your homeownership journey without breaking the bank.

Maximizing Your Income

Look for Sources of Additional Income

Taking on a side hustle or freelancing can be an effective way to boost your income. Whether creating and selling crafts on platforms like Etsy, driving for a ride-sharing service, or offering your skills on freelance websites, the options are diverse.

Negotiate a Raise

Negotiating a raise with your current employer can significantly impact your ability to save for a house. Start by researching the market rate for your position to support your case. Demonstrate your value to the company by highlighting your contributions and accomplishments. Approach the conversation confidently and professionally, emphasizing your commitment to the company’s success.

Image showing the interior of an update living room

Tips for Winterizing Your Home

Winterizing your house will make it warm and cozy while also saving you money on heating bills.

Here are tips within reach of most homeowners.

  • Seal Air Leaks: Air leaks can also contribute to heat loss in your home. To locate air leaks, walk around your home on a windy day and feel for drafts. Seal these leaks with caulk, spray foam, or weather stripping.
  • Change Direction of Ceiling Fans: If you have ceiling fans, turn the rotation to clockwise to circulate the warmer that collects at the top of the room. According to The Daily Green, you can save 10% on your heating costs.
  • Insulate Ductwork and Water Pipes: Ductwork insulation ensures that air traveling through the duct system will stay at the desired temperature and won’t “leak” out. Insulating your water pipes does the same thing.
  • Add Weather Stripping to Garage Door: Your garage door can also be a source of heat loss. Adding weather stripping will reduce air leaks.
  • Insulate Windows and Doors: Windows and doors are the biggest sources of heat loss in your home. To prevent this, consider installing weather stripping and caulking around windows and doors to keep the cold air out.
  • Install Storm Windows: If your home has single-pane windows, consider installing storm windows or covers to add an extra layer of insulation.
  • Change Your Furnace Filter: A furnace is just a blower and changing its filter is the most important thing homeowners can do to keep their home warm and dust free. Also be sure to keep the furnace free of debris.
  • Install a Programmable Thermostat: A programmable thermostat can help you save money on your energy bill by automatically adjusting the temperature in your home based on your schedule.

How a Realtor Can Help You Sell Your Home

Selling a home can be a daunting and complex task, but it doesn’t have to be when you have the right partner by your side.

Hiring a professional Realtor can make all the difference in the world when it comes to selling your home efficiently and at the best possible price. In this blog post, we’ll explore the many ways a Realtor can assist you throughout the home-selling process.

Pricing Expertise

One of the most crucial aspects of selling a home is setting the right price. Overpricing can deter potential buyers, while underpricing can mean leaving money on the table. Realtors have access to comprehensive market data and can conduct a comparative market analysis (CMA) to determine the optimal price for your home. This ensures your property is competitively priced to attract the right buyers.

Marketing Mastery

Realtors are skilled marketers who know how to showcase your home’s best features. They have access to professional photography, virtual tours, and marketing materials that can make your home stand out online and in print. Their marketing efforts extend to multiple listing services (MLS), social media, and real estate websites, increasing your home’s visibility to potential buyers.

Negotiation Skills

Negotiating a real estate deal can be challenging, but Realtors are experts in this field. They can represent your interests and negotiate on your behalf to secure the best possible price and terms. Their experience and knowledge of market conditions are invaluable during negotiations, ensuring you get a fair deal.

Legal Guidance

Real estate transactions come with a myriad of legal paperwork and potential pitfalls. Realtors are well-versed in the legal aspects of selling a home and can guide you through the process, ensuring all contracts and disclosures are completed accurately and in compliance with local laws and regulations.

Market Insights

Realtors are market experts who stay up-to-date with local real estate trends and conditions. They can provide valuable insights into market dynamics, helping you make informed decisions throughout the selling process.

Hiring a Realtor is a wise investment when selling your home. Their expertise, market knowledge, and network of industry connections can make the process smoother, faster, and more profitable. From pricing your home right to negotiating the best deal and handling the complex paperwork, Realtors are indispensable partners in your home-selling journey.

So, when it’s time to sell your home, don’t hesitate to enlist the services of a professional Realtor to guide you every step of the way.

Job Change

Embracing the Journey: Unveiling the Hidden Treasures of Homeownership for Millennials

In a world where experiences often overshadow possessions, Millennials have been hailed as the generation that prioritizes adventure and exploration over material things. However, there’s one treasure that should not be overlooked on the path of life – homeownership. While renting might seem like the flexible choice, owning a home brings forth a trove of benefits that can enrich your life and secure your future.

Let’s embark on a journey to uncover the remarkable advantages that homeownership can offer.

1. Building Equity: Crafting Your Financial Legacy

Picture this: with each mortgage payment you make, you’re not just covering living expenses, but you’re also steadily building equity – a share of ownership in your home. This is like putting money into your own piggy bank, rather than someone else’s. As the value of your property appreciates over time, so does your wealth. This newfound financial foundation can provide you with a safety net during tough times or serve as a launching pad for pursuing other dreams, such as starting a business or further education.

2. Rooted in Stability: Creating a Haven of Your Own

As wanderers at heart, Millennials might fear the sense of being tied down. However, owning a home can provide the stability needed to flourish. A permanent address brings with it a strong sense of community, giving you the opportunity to forge deeper connections with neighbors and create lasting memories. Your home becomes a canvas where you can express yourself, whether it’s through personalizing the interior design or cultivating a vibrant garden. This feeling of belonging can ground you in a fast-paced world and provide a retreat from life’s whirlwinds.

3. Investment in the Future: Your Personal Retirement Plan

Retirement might seem distant, but the choices you make today will shape your tomorrows. By investing in homeownership, you’re essentially creating a personal retirement plan. As you continue making mortgage payments, you’re building a nest egg that can secure your golden years. Imagine living comfortably in your own space, free from the worry of rising rent or the constraints of limited housing options. Your home could even become an asset that generates rental income or appreciates in value, providing financial support well into retirement.

4. Freedom to Innovate: The Canvas for Your Dreams

One of the most liberating aspects of owning a home is the creative freedom it grants you. Unlike renting, where your modifications are often limited, homeownership lets you shape your living space according to your vision. From tearing down walls to create an open-concept layout to designing an eco-friendly oasis, your home becomes a reflection of your personality and aspirations. This level of control can empower you to craft a living environment that nurtures your growth and fosters a sense of fulfillment.

5. Tax Benefits: A Silver Lining

Let’s talk about the financial perks. Homeownership offers tax benefits that can put a little extra padding in your wallet. Depending on your country’s tax laws, mortgage interest, property taxes, and even some home improvement expenses might be eligible for deductions. These deductions can potentially lower your overall tax liability, allowing you to keep more of your hard-earned money. It’s like a reward for investing in both your present and your future.

Homeownership is a journey that goes beyond bricks and mortar. It’s about creating a foundation for your financial well-being, establishing a haven of stability, investing in your retirement, pursuing your dreams, and even enjoying some financial advantages along the way. So, Millennials, as you continue to embrace the world with open arms, remember that having a place to call your own can be one of the most fulfilling adventures of all. Your home is not just a house; it’s a steppingstone towards the life you envision.

Alex Lee

Alex Lee Chosen as 2023 Michigan Mortgage Service Scholarship Winner

In 2020 Michigan Mortgage introduced the Service Scholarship with the goal of recognizing High School Seniors who shared the dreams of pursuing a career in service.

Careers in service include:

  • Military
  • Teachers & Educators
  • Government & Politics
  • Police
  • Firefighters
  • First Responders
  • Doctors & Nurses

For 2023, we received dozens of applicants and reviewed each one closely. We learned about each students’ goals and aspirations, community service they completed, impacts they made in West Michigan, and how they plan to give back to those that need it most.

We assembled a Scholarship Committee to select our 2023 winners. Two West Michigan graduates will receive $1,000 to further their education.

Alex LeeAfter much consideration, Michigan Mortgage is pleased to announce Alex Lee, a 2023 Spring Lake High School graduate, as a winner of this year’s Michigan Mortgage Service Scholarship.

He said the following in his application.

“The word service to me means, assisting someone or a group of people. I see it as a lifelong dedication and commitment to helping others to a better life, to high rising standards. I believe service is not just t an act of doing something, it is more than that. Service is a genuine act of wanting to help benefit the well-being of others.”

“I hope to give back to the community that made me the person I am today and in the future. Whether that’s donating, volunteering, shopping locally, or supporting small businesses. I absolutely love my community and where I live, and if one day I get the opportunity to start my own local business, I know one hundred percent that I can greatly impact our community. I also want to make sure that our schools and education system are effective and caring to our students. At the end of the day, those students are the next generation, and with proper guidance in the classroom, I believe that we could achieve something that this community has never seen.”

Alex is headed to Hillsdale College in the fall. His long-term career goal is to become a high school teacher and athletic director.

“My career goal is to become a high-school athletic director. I have been blessed with enjoying a successful high school career as a player in both football and lacrosse. Throughout high school, I have observed the work that our athletic director did to help grow all of our programs at every level, including at the middle school and elementary school levels. I want to pursue this career goal so that I can provide the same opportunities to students that I was able to have during high school.”

“I am very thankful and grateful for receiving this scholarship from Michigan Mortgage,” he said. “This scholarship will have a major impact on my studies as it will provide me with the additional drive to work hard and succeed in my studies at Hillsdale College.”

Congratulations, Alex! We wish you continued success!

Jaley Schultz Recognized as 2023 Service Scholarship Winner

In 2020 Michigan Mortgage introduced the Service Scholarships with the goal of recognizing High School Seniors who shared the dreams of pursuing a career in service.

Careers in service include:

  • Military
  • Teachers & Educators
  • Government & Politics
  • Police
  • Firefighters
  • First Responders
  • Doctors & Nurses

For 2023, we received dozens of applicants and reviewed each one closely. We learned about each students’ goals and aspirations, community service they completed, impacts they made in West Michigan, and how they plan to give back to those that need it most.

Our Scholarship Committee selected two West Michigan graduates that will receive $1,000 to further their education.

After much consideration, Michigan Mortgage is pleased to announce Jaley Schultz, 2023 North Muskegon High School graduate, as this year’s winner of the Michigan Mortgage Service Scholarship.

Jaley said the following in her application.

“To me, service is about sacrificing your own needs and prioritizing the needs of others. Service is beautiful because those who aim to serve others aren’t searching for anything in return, acts of service are purely motivated by putting others before yourself. I have been a member of the Rotary Interact Club at my school since my freshman year, and this year, I have the privilege of being the president. Interact has taught me a variety of lessons and ideals regarding service, but my favorite is our club’s motto: ‘service above self.’ I feel that this quote embodies everything that I want to work toward in life. From my role as a daughter, friend, and student to my future career in the medical field, I will forever aim to epitomize ‘service above self.”

Jaley plans to attend the University of Michigan this fall. Her long-term career goal is to become a doctor or physician assistant, potentially specializing in pediatrics or obstetrics.

“I have been interested in the medical field for as long as I can remember,” Jaley said. “It perfectly combines my love for science and my passion for helping others. I have also grown up with many little cousins, which is the primary reason for my interest in pediatrics/obstetrics.”

“It is widely known that, for my desired career path, there are many steps to accomplish before you can officially enter the workforce,” she expressed. “Between undergraduate education, medical/PA school, and low-paying entry level positions, costs add up quickly. With the help of this scholarship, I can start off on the right track and focus more on my studies than on financial stressors.”

Congratulations, Jaley! We wish you continued success in your future endeavors.

Harbor Hospice

Hometown Highlights: Harbor Hospice

Harbor Hospice is much more than a place.

They are devoted to giving each family a gift when they need it most… quality of life for their patients when they are facing life’s greatest challenge.

For over 40 years, Harbor Hospice has been serving the greater Muskegon area with so much compassion and love as they focus on patient’s emotional and physical well-being.

Harbor HospiceMost of us have a loved one who has had the thoughtful and heartfelt care of Hospice.

Dame Cicily Saunders, founder of the first modern hospice summed up the mission of hospice:

“You matter because of who you are. You matter to the last moment of your life, and we will do all we can, not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die.”

Here are a few things you might not know about our local Harbor Hospice.

  • Camp Courage, funded by Harbor Hospice, gives children that have lost a loved one, the opportunity to attend an amazing two-night camp! While at camp, the kids have all kinds of fun activities sprinkled in with master social workers that provide emotional support. For 21 years, this camp has been making a difference to up to 40 campers each summer.
  • The Cooking for One program gives 12 participants the opportunity to work with Chef Char to learn to cook for one. Participants have two nights of cooking instruction and learn to better manage their lives after suffering the loss of a loved one.
  • Hospice provides 13 months of bereavement to those individuals that have lost a loved one. They receive quarterly phone calls, opportunities for group meetings, and mailings. It is important to Hospice to provide support for caregivers and family managing the loss of a loved one.

All three of these programs are funded by local fundraising efforts. If you would like to support these programs what can you do?

Buy a ticket to one of their fundraising events, give a donation, like Harbor Hospice on Facebook, learn about being a corporate sponsor or sign up for their newsletter.

Make sure you go to www.harborhospicemi.org to learn more about their services. There are many myths around what Harbor Hospice does, when actually they provide many services that most of us are not aware of.

The Salvation Army

Hometown Highlights: The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army is an organization dedicated to doing the most good they can in the communities they serve.

We had the pleasure of spending time with Grand Haven’s Major, Heather Holman, to learn more about the amazing things they do to provide assistance, support and hope to those in need of resources in our community. Over 100 years, they have been meeting the needs of our community with the love of Jesus Christ, without discrimination.

The Salvation ArmyOffering temporary housing, emergency social services, Youth, Men’s and Women’s ministries, and the pathway to Hope, they strive to work with individuals and families to give them the tools to get through hardships and difficult times.

The housing program offers temporary housing to families who are struggling with homelessness. This program is a faith-based emergency housing program which provides a safe and secure living arrangement while empowering families as they strive to find a positive housing destination through support, encouragement, and case management.

They provide the following emergency social services.

  • DHHS Assistance
  • Financial Assistance
  • Food Assistance
  • Seasonal Programs for Students
  • Winter Coat Closet
  • Vital Document Assistance

The goal through their Pathway of Hope is to help families overcome barriers like unemployment, unstable housing, and a lack of education by breaking the cycle of crisis and vulnerability, leading families down a path toward increased stability.

With the renovation and addition, the Salvation Army has added a gymnasium to continue its community outreach. There are pickleball drop-in times as well as basketball drop ins.

If you would like more information, would like to donate, or to find out about volunteer opportunities go to centralusa.salvationarmy.org/grandhaven.

Old Technology

Tips to Maintain a Good Credit Score

If you’re in the market for a new home, your credit score will determine whether or not you’re eligible. Your score will determine the loan program you qualify for and your interest rate. Your credit score may be the single most important asset you have.

You spend years building your score – here are a few tips to help you maintain it.

  1. Make your payments on time. According to experts, a large portion of your credit score (35 percent, to be exact) is calculated based on payment history. Making your payments on time (within 30 days of the due date), every time can greatly impact your score. This includes credit card bills or any loans you may have, such as auto loans or student loans, your rent, utilities, phone bill and so on.

Consider setting up autopay when it’s available so you don’t run the risk of missing payments.

  1. Keep your balances low. 30%. That’s the magic number! As soon as your credit card balance exceeds 30% of your credit limit, your credit score will decrease. Your score will continue to decrease until you bring your balance below the threshold.

Experts recommend that you pay off your entire balance every month. We know that’s not always realistic, but you should always at least make the minimum payment.

  1. Be cautious when opening new accounts. According to Experian, “Each application can lead to a hard inquiry, which may hurt your scores a little, but inquiries can add up and have a compounding effect on your credit scores. Opening a new account will also decrease your average age of accounts, and that could also hurt your scores.”

There is one exception to this rule. If you’re shopping for a new car or home, it’s OK to shop around and have multiple lenders pull your credit. If these credit pulls occur during the same time frame, they are often ignored by credit bureaus.

  1. Check your credit score regularly. If you practice tips 1 – 3 but forget to do #4, you’re setting yourself up for possible risk. Mistakes are known to happen, and reporting errors can have a negative impact on your score. If someone steals your identity and opens a new line of credit in your name, how will you know if you don’t regularly monitor your score?

You are entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies. Click here to order your free reports.

If you find a credit reporting error, dispute the mistakes with the appropriate credit reporting agency and your score may improve.

If you have additional questions about your credit score, give us a call! We’re happy to help in any way we can.