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5 Things To Do To Improve Your Credit Score Before Buying a New Home

The home buying process begins long before your start looking at new home listings online. One of the first steps in the home buying process is getting a handle on your finances and understanding your credit. Here are five things to do to improve your credit score before buying a new home.

5 Things to do to Improve Your Credit Score

  1. Know what’s on your credit report.
    When was the last time you checked your credit report? If it hasn’t been in the last year, then you could be missing something that could be hurting your credit score. Every year, you can get your credit report, for free, from TransUnion, Equifax and Experian by going to annualcreditreport.com. While this doesn’t provide you with your credit score, it does show you what the lenders see.
  1. Identify and fix any errors.
    Once you’ve reviewed your credit report with a fine-toothed comb, you need to start fixing any errors. On each of the credit bureau websites there are step-by-step instructions on how to dispute errors, and your credit report will have instructions as well. When contacting the credit bureaus, keep detailed notes on what you submit to them and copies of any documents.
  1. Always be on time.
    It may seem like commonsense but if you’re looking to increase your credit score pay your bills on time every month and don’t miss a payment. Paying more than the minimum balance, even if it’s just a little more, looks good to the lenders. It also helps you pay your bills off faster.
  1. Pay off your credit cards, but don’t close them.
    Paying off your credit cards is a great way to lower your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. Every lender has different standards for DTI ratios, but according to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a DTI of 43% is, in many cases, the highest ratio a borrower can have and still qualify for a mortgage.
  1. Be smart with new and old lines of credit.
    If you are under contract to buy a new home, opening up new lines of credit or making any large charges on your current credit card can negatively alter your DTI. This makes you look risky to lenders. If you are building a new home, it can sometimes be a six-month or longer process, so be sure to plan ahead. It is recommended to wait until after closing to buy a new car, new furniture or book that all-inclusive vacation. If you have any thing that comes up before closing consult your lender. While not opening new lines of credit is important, keeping old lines of credit open is advised. These old lines of credit show your credit history and closing them could change your DTI for the worse.

Source: Forbes.com; HGTV.com

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Should A Veteran Always Use A VA Loan?

The VA loan program is a great benefit for veterans and with 21 million VA home loans it seems like a no-brainer that veterans would take advantage of this benefit. But should a veteran always use a VA loan? The answer is no, but let me explain.

There are many reasons to use the VA loan program. One of the biggest perks of this program is the no down payment. The VA does not issue the loans but they are guaranteed by the government which gives lenders confidence in issuing the loans.

  • You don’t have to have a down payment as long as your loan doesn’t exceed $417,000.
  • Lower closing costs as the VA restricts the types of closing costs a veteran can pay.
  • No monthly mortgage insurance premiums like you find with other loan programs.
  • VA loans also allow for those with higher debt ratios and lower credit scores to qualify for loans.

Now all this may make you wonder, well why wouldn’t I want to use a VA loan? Well there are a few things that may make you consider not using a VA loan.

  • If you’re buying a fixer-upper home, you won’t be able to use a VA loan as they are mainly for “move-in ready” homes.
  • While you can reuse a VA loan, you can’t get another VA loan before you pay the other one off.
  • If the home you’re buying isn’t going to be your primary residence then you’ll need to consider another loan program.
  • There is a limit on VA loan co-borrowers who are not a spouse or another veteran.
  • If you have a 20% or larger down payment it may be wise to consider not using a VA loan to avoid the VA funding fee.

So when you start your home search it would be a good idea to check into all of your home loan options. Knowing what’s available to you can save you time and money, and even if you are a veteran, you may not always want to use a VA loan.

Source: Marketwatch.com; VeteransUnited.com; Military.com

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Is Seed or Sod Better For A New Lawn?

If you want to establish a new lawn, or reestablish an old lawn, you have two basic choices: you can plant seed and sprout your own new turf, or you can buy sod and roll it out like new carpet, ready to go.

The end result should be about the same if done correctly so what are the differences between the two options?

Seed Advantages

  • Significantly lower initial cost than sod.
  • More species of grass available as seed for sun and shade.
  • Lawn develops in native soil.

Seed Disadvantages

  • Takes longer to establish a new lawn as seed must germinate.
  • Water requirements are critical during germination.
  • May require reseeding after heavy rain.
  • Ideal time of year for seeding is limited to late summer and early fall.
  • Weeds can be a problem until lawn is established, especially if seeded in spring

Sod Advantages

  • Creates an instant lawn, which can be walked on almost immediately.
  • Virtually no weeds when installed.
  • Stops soil erosion right away even on slopes.
  • Can be installed any time during the growing season.

Sod Disadvantages

  • Much higher initial cost to establish lawn.
  • Choice of species is very limited, not shade tolerant.
  • Possibility of importing problematic non-native soil.
  • Large volume of water needed initially.

Whichever way you choose to go, the quality of the seed or sod is essential to establishing a healthy lawn. Initial soil preparation is also important. If possible, get a soil test done before starting so any amendments can be added to the soil. Compost may be necessary for clay soils. Rough as well as fine grading is crucial and control of perennial weeds is necessary before seeding or sodding to prevent them from taking over your new lawn. Tilling or covering with sod will not kill perennial weeds and an initial application of a non-selective herbicide may be necessary.

Newly seeded lawns must be watered frequently, but not deeply. It’s only necessary to keep the top ½ inch of soil moist, but you don’t need to deep water initially. Once the seedlings have emerged, watering should be done deeply and less frequently. Limit heavy traffic on lawn for first year until it has become well established.

Newly sodded lawns need a good deal of water initially to keep them healthy, however they will hold up well to foot traffic and can be fertilized on a regular schedule. Beware of shrinking as weeds can grow between the sections of sod. If you decide to go with sod, it’s best to hire a professional to do the installation and insure you get fresh sod.

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Should I Buy a New Home Now or Later?

If you’re like many people, you may be asking yourself should I buy a new home now or later? While there are many things to consider when asking this question, here are a few things to get you started:

  • Are you in a good place financially?
  • Are you ready to be your own landlord?
  • Are you committed to staying in one place?

If you answered yes to these questions then you may be ready to buy a home. The next question you may ask yourself is should I buy now or later? With interest rates still at all time lows, that may sway your opinion. Maybe, knowing that Freddie Mac predicts that by January 2017 interest rates will rise to 4.5% or that CoreLogic predicts that home prices will increase by 5.5% over the next year may help make your decision to begin the home search now. If you wait until next year, that $250,000 budget you have would need to increase by $13,750 to get the same home.

Should I Buy a New Home Now or Later

If you have questions about the home buying process or what McKee Homes has to offer, contact us today and we would be happy to answer your questions.

Additional Source: Forbes.com

 

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10 Tips to Get Your Home Ready For Spring

It’s been a long cold winter with snow, ice and rain. Your house has been closed up for months and the garage is a mess. Here are 10 tips to getting your home ready for spring.

  1. Inspect and clean out gutters and downspouts
    Inspect and clean debris from gutters and downspouts. Check for signs of leaks or any loose sections. Leaky gutters can cause water damage to your home. If you are not comfortable on a ladder you may want to hire someone to do this.
  1. Inspect roofing shingles for damage
    Do a visual inspection of roofing from the ground to make sure there aren’t any loose or missing shingles from winter storms. High winds can often cause damage to your roof especially if there are trees close to the house with overhanging limbs. If necessary, hire someone to inspect and repair any damaged areas. A leaky roof can cause expensive damage to the structure and interior of the home as well as allow mold to grow inside the walls.
  1. Clean yard and inspect drainage
    Clean debris from yard and look for low areas with poor drainage, especially near the house. Spring rains can cause flooding in the yard which can cause foundation flooding and damage. Pools of water in the yard are also a breeding ground for insects such as mosquitoes. Repair any drainage issues with the yard and landscaping to make sure you don’t have any problems related to standing water or flooding.
  1. Power-wash driveway, walkways, decks and siding
    After a long winter with rain, snow and ice your driveway, walkways, decks and siding need some TLC. Rent or buy a power-washer or hire someone to clean these areas. It’s amazing how a good cleaning can make the exterior of your home look like new again. This is also a good time to clean patio furniture to get it ready for use in warmer weather.
  1. Inspect windows and doors
    Once the exterior of your home has been power-washed, take some time to inspect the windows and doors for damage. Inspect the seals and weather-stripping, the glass, and any exterior caulking and paint. Replace or repair any damaged areas and glass and re-caulk and paint as necessary. This will save money on heating and cooling your home as well as prevent water damage from leaks.
  1. Clean out the garage
    The garage can really take a beating during the cold winter months. No one wants to clean the garage when it’s cold and wet outside. Take some time to open it up and clean the inside of the garage from top to bottom. Throw away any junk or garbage that has accumulated inside the garage and put everything back in its place. Clean mud and debris off the floor from vehicles and boots and check for cracks in the concrete.
    It’s also a good time to thoroughly clean your vehicles, especially the undercarriage, to wash away any mud and salt brine that may have accumulated from driving during the winter months. If you live in an area where the roads are salted to prevent ice and snow buildup on the roads, you want to make sure to wash the residue from your vehicles so it doesn’t cause rust and other damage.
  1. Thoroughly clean and air-out home
    The first warm weekend of spring is a great time to clean the inside of your window and door glass and open them up to let fresh air in, and stale air out, of your home. It’s best to do this before the pollen gets bad later in the season so it doesn’t get inside your home while the windows are open. Months of cooking and living with the windows and doors closed can lead to dust and odor buildup inside your house. A thorough cleaning of rugs, carpets, curtains and furniture will make your home clean and fresh again.
  1. Clean out the Refrigerator
    How long has it been since you took everything out of the refrigerator and cleaned all the shelves and inside surfaces? If it’s been awhile, spring is a great time to mark that chore off the list and get rid of any science experiments that might be growing in the back of the fridge.
  1. Change your home decor
    Most people don’t have the money to change the decor of their homes with each changing season but there are low-cost ways of giving your home a fresh look inside for spring. While you are cleaning your home, think about rearranging the furniture, replacing any old damaged items and possibly doing some painting. Add some flowers and new plants and you’ll be amazed at how new and fresh your home can look on a budget.
  1. Get your garden ready
    Early spring is the time to plan your garden and start sprouting veggies and herbs in small plastic cups inside under grow lights or in a greenhouse. That way you don’t have to wait until it’s warm outside to plant and your garden gets a head start. It’s also a good time to prep the soil in the garden and put up or repair planters and trellises. Take some time to determine what you want to plant, and where, so you know exactly how to proceed when it’s time to get the garden planted.
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McKee Homes Epcon Communities

McKee Homes is currently developing over 20 communities in Eastern North Carolina, three of which are Epcon communities.

What’s an Epcon community? Epcon is a home building company offering franchises to other builders dedicated to serving the luxury, low-maintenance, ranch-style home niche for consumers looking to downsize from their existing home. The homes are specially designed with high-end features and options and built with 36″ wide doorways inside the house and easy access with no stairs between the inside and outside areas. With an Epcon home, homebuyers know they can live in the home into retirement without having to make any modifications to their home.

The Salerno floor plan

McKee Homes offers Epcon homes in The Cottages at North Ramsey in Fayetteville with all exterior home and yard maintenance taken care of by the HOA. It’s an ideal situation for busy professionals, military families and retirees who don’t want spend their free time maintaining their home’s exterior and yard.

We also offer Epcon homes in The Cottages at Carriage Creek and Carriage Glen in Anderson Creek Club where landscaping and yard maintenance is taken care of by the neighborhood association. With all the luxury amenities of a golf club community available there, it’s a real benefit to homeowners not to have to spend their weekends maintaining their yards.

Epcon Communities Franchising Inc. (Epcon) celebrates two important milestones in 2016: 20 years of franchising anchored on a rock-solid foundation of 30 years of homebuilding experience.

“Over the past 30 years, we’ve mastered the concept of low-maintenance, lifestyle housing down to a science,” says Tim Rini, Vice President of Franchising, “Population demographics indicate that we’re just now at the tip of the iceberg in terms of demand. As we celebrate these important milestones in Epcon’s history, we’re ready to meet this underserved market with fast-to-market, winning home solutions for our Franchise Builders.”

Read more about Epcon

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McKee Homes 2015 Year In Review

The New Year is upon us and continued growth is expected for the new home building industry in Eastern North Carolina. As we look toward our goals and tasks for the New Year, January is also a time of reflection on the previous year, and 2015 was a very good, and very busy year for McKee Homes.

McKee Homes passed the five year mark in 2015 and is anticipating continued growth in 2016. The McKee Homes staff has doubled in size over the last year and a half and has made Inc. Magazine’s list of 5000 fastest growing privately held companies for the last two years.

Growing a home building company is not just about selling more houses, but is also about creating better and more efficient processes to be able to handle the increased production and customer service. McKee Homes has put some great people in place to make sure it will continue to serve the Eastern North Carolina new home market with its well-designed and built homes, expert staff, knowledgeable and friendly sales team and 2-10 Home Buyers Warranty package.

In addition to being recognized by Inc. Magazine, McKee Homes made Professional Builder’s 2015 Housing Giants list at #259 in 2015, and had one of its neighborhoods awarded Best Looking Neighborhood in Fayetteville. Pat McKee, President of McKee Homes, received the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce Family-Owned Small Business of The Year award and was inducted as the 2016 President of the Fayetteville Home Builder’s Association.

McKee Homes continued its commitment of giving back in 2015 by sponsoring the Raleigh, Fayetteville, and Wilmington Walk to End Alzheimer’s as well as being involved in several local and national charities.

The 2015 Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Fayetteville, N.C. was the 5th annual Walk hosted and sponsored by McKee Homes in Fayetteville, N.C. as well as the highest attended Walk so far, raising over $90,000 to support Alzheimer’s Association® initiatives, which include Alzheimer’s care and research, and raising awareness of this devastating disease. Over the past five years, the Fayetteville Walk to End Alzheimer’s has raised over $250,000.

McKee Homes also worked with HelpingAHero.org and Mountain Real Estate Capital to build a home for a wounded veteran at Legacy Lakes in Aberdeen, N.C. The Dedication Ceremony on August 18 at which SGT (Ret.) Rivenbark and his wife, Yulia, assumed ownership of their home drew a crowd of neighbors, friends and dignitaries, including Lt. Governor Dan Forest and Congresswoman Renee Ellmers.

McKee Homes is one of the few home builders in North Carolina experienced with the Specially Adapted Housing guidelines, processes and additional inspections, required to design and construct adaptive floor plans for the physically disabled, including wounded veterans and aging retirees.

To get more information about McKee Homes and see floor plans and available properties, please visit McKeeHomesNC.com or call 910-672-7296.

Best Budget Hotels in Wilmington, NC

Planning a trip to the largest historic city in North Carolina but are not sure where to stay? Whether you are visiting on vacation or are in town for a business trip, you just may find yourself wanting to stay! While you begin dreaming about new homes in Wilmington, NC, here are several suggestions for your upcoming short-term stay.

Types of Lodging
In addition to the numerous hotels and motels around town, there are many different types of lodging available. There are condos for rental, quaint guest rooms available by the night, and suites with full kitchens for those who want to eat in occasionally. Some hotels are located on the beach while others are conveniently placed in the historic downtown. Here are four budget-friendly hotels worth considering:

Ramada Inn Conference Center
This hotel offers standard rooms in a convenient location, with affordable and competitive rates. The room includes free breakfast, with an on-site restaurant if you want to stay in for lunch or dinner.

TownePlace Suites by Marriott
The TownePlace Suites by Marriott prides itself on being friendly and welcoming, the perfect base for your Cape Fear getaway. It offers competitive rates, even over holiday weekends, and each suite includes a full kitchen with a stovetop and refrigerator. The hotel is close to downtown and includes a 24-hour on-site business center.

Beach House Inn and Suites
Although located about twenty minutes from the city, the Beach House Inn and Suites might be worth considering! The property includes a variety of suites and oceanfront rooms, with easy access to sites and events in the area.

Riverview Suites at Water Street Center
Depending on when you are traveling, you may be able to get a decent rate at the Riverview’s affiliate, the Hilton Riverside. However, staying at the Riverview might be worth it thanks to its all-suites design, complete with full kitchens so you can prepare some of your own meals. Guests at either hotel can enjoy the fitness center, heated outdoor pool, and more.

A Word to the Wise
If you are traveling for vacation, you may want to consider staying at a bed and breakfast or in a vacation rental. However, these may be more costly than a hotel for a short-term stay. Do you have flexible travel dates? If you are looking for a place to stay on a budget, consider traveling during off-peak times. Hotel rates tend to rise during the summer tourist season, so try coming a few weeks before or after. With some competitive shopping, you should be able to find the perfect place to stay within your budget.

If you decide that coastal living is for you, contact McKee Homes for more information on new construction in Wilmington, NC. Our energy-efficient homes are expertly crafted and built in the area’s most attractive, up-and-coming neighborhoods. Let us help you find your dream home.

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Fun Local Events in Wilmington, NC

Are you hoping to relocate to a friendly, arts-oriented community along the Southeast Coast? Many people are building new homes in Wilmington, NC to enjoy the city’s temperate weather and year-round festivities and events, from street fairs to flower festivals. Whether you are in the area for a few days or are considering staying long-term, here are several fun, local events to check out:

Events for Hobbyists

Are you interested in antiques, gardening, or old films? The city is home to countless small hobbyist festivals, including the:

  • Cucalorus Film Festival: This is one of the biggest events in the area, attracting more than 14,000 people from around the world to view over 200 films in historic downtown theaters. In addition to films, the festival includes kid-friendly activities, workshops, keynote speakers, and programs on dance, social justice, and more.
  • North Carolina Azalea Festival: Many locals say that it never truly feels like spring until after the North Carolina Azalea Festival, held every year in April as the flowers reach peak bloom. This five-day event, which began in 1948, includes a street fair, horse show, home and garden tours, and the crowning of the Azalea Queen, Princesses, and Belles.
  • Wine and Chocolate Festival: This much-loved weekend event includes tastings, food demonstrations, live entertainment, and more.
  • Model Railroad Show: Held in January each year, the Cape Fear Model Railroad Society Show and Sale has something for everyone! Dozens of vendors set up booths and working model train displays, with free clinics on display techniques for those interested.

Music Festivals

This coastal city attracts and celebrates music of all kinds, including these three annual events:

  • North Carolina Jazz Festival: This festival is typically held in early February, attracting big names and local musicians alike for over 35
  • Cape Fear Blues Festival: Held during the last weekend of July each year, this festival attracts local, regional, and national blues musicians. Formal concerts and more casual live performances are presented across the city in various venues.
  • Airlie Garden Concert Series: Are you more interested in hearing a mix of different styles of music? Airlie Gardens hosts two-hour concerts twice a month from May to September. Bring a blanket and picnic supper to make it a perfect evening out.

Community Events

Additional community events abound in the city, giving both tourists and locals the chance to feel at home. Here are three local gatherings worth attending:

  • Coastal Living Show: This annual, two-day event serves as a fundraiser for the local Woman’s Club and attracts vendors from across the city. Visitors can stop by over 80 booths for gifts, products, foods, and services that tell you all about life on the coast.
  • Riverfest Street Fair: Typically held in early October, this enormous street fair celebrates the city’s heritage with live performances, fireworks, food, and crafts.
  • Riverfront Farmers’ Market: Offering the very best produce and treats from local farmers and business owners, this farmers’ market is open nearly every Saturday between April and December.

The city’s annual events include additional festivals for music, seafood, flowers, and more. With so many great events year-round, you would be missing out if you chose to live anywhere else! Contact McKee Homes today for more information on new homes in Wilmington, NC.

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5 Best Restaurants in Wilmington, NC

If you are considering contacting home builders in Wilmington, NC, then you must already know some of the benefits of living in this historic, arts-oriented city. However, did you know that the area is also known for its large number of high-quality, must-try restaurants? The best places are sprinkled throughout town, from the area around the university to practically anywhere along the waterfront. As the locals say, throw a rock and you will hit a good restaurant! Here are five of our top picks:

  1. Genki Sushi
    Genki Sushi is the place to go for fresh, authentic sushi. Everything on the menu is hand-prepared or homemade, including the sauces. The restaurant offers a true Japanese taste experience, with dishes like shrimp tempura and udon noodles. Plus, the owners are candid about the menu, using pi-water for drinking and cooking, with no chemicals or MSG in sight.
  2. Nikki’s Fresh Gourmet and Sushi
    Are you looking for a top-quality menu that includes sushi as well as vegetarian and organic dishes? Nikki’s Fresh Gourmet is highly rated by locals and tourists alike. You can visit its original location on Front Street as well as its locations in the mall and near the university. Another option is Nikki’s Hibachi Steak House, featuring hibachi dining along with the restaurant’s famous sushi.
  3. Cape Fear Seafood Company
    If you prefer your fish pan-seared, grilled, or otherwise prepared, stop by the Cape Fear Seafood Company. This locally owned restaurant prides itself on offering dishes with fresh ingredients in a relaxing atmosphere. Enjoy the extensive wine list, local art on the walls, and not-to-be-missed menu.
  4. Caprice Bistro
    For a taste of Europe with French and Belgian cuisine, plan a visit to the Caprice Bistro. Stop by the upstairs lounge for drinks and hors d’oeuvres, or enjoy a meal of fresh mussels, trout, or lamb downstairs. More favorites include the French onion soup, bistro steak, and fresh pasta.
  5. Paddy’s Hollow
    If you want comfort food in a great environment, look no further than Paddy’s Hollow, a pub located in a restored cotton warehouse. The restaurant has numerous beers on tap to complement entrees including grilled salmon, shrimp po boy, and shepherd’s pie. Locals cite it as a great place to stop for dinner before going out for the night, or anytime you want a meal in a great atmosphere.

Bonus: The Peppered Cupcake
No list of great restaurants would be complete without an option for dessert! This little shop offers gourmet cupcakes crafted with unique flavor combinations. Flavors include apple crisp, bourbon black cherry and vanilla cobbler, German chocolate, maple and bacon, and crème brûlée. Their everyday menu includes seven flavors, with other varieties depending on the day.

You may not be able to try dining at all of these restaurants unless you move to the area! Contact McKee Homes, expert home builders in Wilmington, NC, for more information on finding your perfect home.