November 29, 2016

How Secure is Your Home?

Home security is more than leaving a light on while you're away. It's investing in the peace of mind in knowing that you have adequate fire and carbon monoxide detection, an exit plan in case of fire, and protection from intruders. Fire and carbon monoxide safety can be insured by having the proper number of detectors and by properly maintaining them, but what is the best way to protect your home from a burglar?

According to the FBI, one home is broken into every 14.6 seconds. To understand what motivates a burglar and what they look for when choosing a home to rob,
a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte examined 422 convicted offenders from North Carolina, Kentucky, and Ohio. According to the study, a majority of burglars considered the presence of alarms, outdoor cameras, and other surveillance equipment when choosing a potential. Approximately 83% of the offenders said they would attempt to determine if an alarm was present before attempting a burglary, and 60% said they would seek an alternative target.

Among those who discovered an alarm while attempting a burglary, 50% said they would discontinue the attempt, while another 31% said they would sometimes leave. Only 13% said they would always continue the attempt even after an alarm had been discovered. Other findings included that the presence of video surveillance was an effective deterrent. Nationwide Insurance reported that homes without security systems are three times more likely to be broken into. Almost one in three burglars reported entering via open windows or doors or forcing windows or doors open.

To get another perspective from those who commit the crimes, the investigative team at KGWH in Houston, Texas sent a survey to 86 inmates who were serving time for burglary in the Oregon Department of Corrections. Regarding lights on in a home, “I would drive through upper class neighborhoods looking for many things, like porch light on with all window blinds closed,” wrote one inmate. When asked if they knock before entering? Yes. All of the inmates who responded said they would knock on the front door before breaking in.

With this information, what does a homeowner do to protect themselves and their personal property?

  • Invest in a home security system. The latest trends involve the use of smart phone technology, although industry experts expect to see a rise in hacking of these systems. Research which system and provider is best for you.
  • Wait to post your vacation pics on social media until you get back home. Make sure the privacy settings on your accounts are strict.
  • Lock your doors and windows.
  • Install motion-detection lights around your home.
  • Stop mail and newspaper delivery while your gone for extended periods. 
  • Get to know your neighbors and the cars they drive. 

Some of these tips seem obvious, but according to Nationwide Insurance a high percentage of homeowners admit to at least one of these risky behaviors during the past year. We don't want you to be one of them.

November 8, 2016

Mortgage Minute: Do I Want to Buy a Home?

This is the first of a series of articles from our guest blogger, Cynthia Carr of Stearns Lending.

I am a big believer that people should be informed and educated on mortgage loans. This is the single largest purchase of your life and you only get one chance to do it right the first time. Home ownership is one of life’s major events, and it provides some unique personal and financial rewards. It can provide lasting stability and security and a great place to relax at the end of the day.

Here are a few things to consider if you’re still undecided about taking that leap:
  • Home ownership may offer you important tax benefits.
  • You’ll have the potential to build equity. This is the portion of your home that you’ve paid for, plus any rise in its value.
  • You can decorate and remodel your home to suit your personal tastes.
  • It’s a potential investment, since your home’s value may appreciate over the years.
  • You won’t have to worry about your rent going up when your lease expires, or having to move if your rental property is no longer available or affordable.
Now that we have giving you the reasons why you should consider purchasing your new home, let’s discuss the first steps. It can be overwhelming! What do I do first? Do I get a Realtor? How do I get a Realtor? Can I qualify for a mortgage? If so, what does that mean in terms of purchase price of a property? How much money do I need? If you haven’t considered these questions, you should now. This blog series is going to guide you and prepare you for home ownership and all that comes with that from those questions to the final signature on the loan documents and getting the keys to your new home.

This month we will discuss this very important step: Do I want to purchase a home?

Let’s think about that for just a second. The knee-jerk reaction is “of course I do," but in reality you have no idea how or where to start. The very first thing you should do is to find a mortgage lender. You can ask friends, family, or colleagues for the name of the lender they worked with when they purchased a home. Please know that it is important to feel informed and confident with your lender. Getting more than one option and talking to more than one lender is absolutely the right thing to do. I know, I know, I am a lender and other lenders will not be happy that I tell you to do that. The truth is that when you have your credit pulled for a mortgage within a 14-day period, it is very unlikely that your credit score will be impacted any more than if it were only one lender checking it. Do not have more than three lenders pull it because rates are rates and all lenders are very close in that area and when you have more than three options it becomes less helpful and more confusing.

Avoid online lenders. They are not familiar with all markets and central Ohio has its own quirks when it comes to who pays for what and what credits the buyer receives from the seller. You need to feel confident in your decision. You will feel like you are going to a financial therapist when you start talking to a lender. We ask questions that have always been “taboo” to talk about: How much money you make, the debts on your credit report, and how much money you have in the bank. These are all serious questions and are a requirement for your lender to know. This confidential information is not shared with anyone unless you as the borrower provide us with the permission to do so.

Let’s wrap this month’s discussion up with a final thought. Before you start house hunting, find a lender who cares about you, one you trust, and who has the knowledge to help you with purchasing the place you call home.

Cynthia is the Branch Manager at the Stearns Lending, 1900 Polaris Parkway in Columbus and can be reached at