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After a chilly winter and a rainy spring, many people cannot wait to break out their grills and tidy up their patios for fun weekend BBQs! Whether your barbeque hang out spot is a raised deck, your yard, an apartment rooftop, or a fully functional outdoor kitchen, these tips can help everyone make their space more inviting and enjoyable for gatherings all summer.

Add weatherproof furnishings:

  • Gone are the days when “patio furniture” means wobbly, white plastic chairs. The market has expanded to include so many weather proof options from dining sets to "zero gravity” lounge chairs. Outdoor furniture also experiences a lot more wear and tear than indoor counterparts. High-quality pieces should either be brought into a shed or garage in extreme weather or secured and covered with heavy-duty tarps.
  • Design an inviting, natural space by hanging outdoor grade string lights overhead. Solar-powered path and garden lights also help guests avoid stepping in newly planted flowers or veggie patches once the sun goes down!

Create shade:

  • If you want to shade a picnic table, go with a classic patio umbrella. As assortment of colors are available to match your outdoor décor. Be sure to always collapse your umbrella at the end of the party though, as these can easily blow away in a windy storm!
  • If you want to invite shade over a larger area, opt for a rectangular or triangular “sail shade.” This unique way to cover your space can be secured to any structure, such as fences, trees, roofs, or posts, to provide shade underneath.
  • A pergola can be a beautiful addition to a back yard or patio and, with some convenient climbing vines to block out the sun's rays, makes a comfortable shaded area to enjoy.

Keep bugs away:

  • Add ambiance and keep bugs away with homemade bug-repellant luminaries. Fill an empty mason jar with a couple slices each of lemon and lime and a couple sprigs of rosemary. Fill the jar with water and top with a floating candle. Placing these luminaries around your BBQ will keep your guests happy!
  • Decorate with lavender and basil plants. They give off aromas that naturally repel insects.
  • Provide bug spray options for guests to apply if the mosquitoes decide to join the party despite all your defenses!

Don’t forget the drinks:

  • If you don’t have a cooler large enough for your get-together, fill a wheelbarrow with ice and your favorite bottled or canned drinks!
  • Tap a watermelon keg! If you carve out a watermelon to fill with your favorite juice or adult beverage, you can install in a keg tap right into the rind of the melon. Consider using some of the watermelon itself to make a frosty, melon-flavored punch.

Try a delicious new recipe:

Have fun!

  • Lawn games such as cornhole and giant Jenga are great for kids, as well as parents. There’s nothing like a healthy competition to keep your party going into the wee hours of the night!
  • For a quieter evening BBQ, host an outdoor movie. Ask guests to bring blankets and lawn chairs to settle in for a single or double-feature! Tie it all together by incorporating the theme of the movie into your BBQ décor and food choices.

If you’re dreaming of a new home with the perfect backyard grilling spot, talk to your loan officer today to pre-qualify and see how much you could qualify for. Your best summer yet could be just one conversation away with Norcom Mortgage.


Where is the BEST place to live?

May 9
3:02
PM
Category | General

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re looking to move this year, we found a fantastic, helpful tool that could help you make decisions about where it is best to live. Niche.com released its 2019 ‘top lists’ for places to live in the US. The 2019 rankings from Niche provide “a comprehensive assessment of the overall livability of an area. This grade takes into account several key factors of a location, including the quality of local schools, crime rates, housing trends, employment statistics, and access to amenities in an attempt to measure the overall quality of an area.” 

Aren’t you curious which is the top-ranking neighborhood in the whole country for 2019? That coveted spot goes to the Bluemont neighborhood in Arlington, Virginia!   

When searching Niche’s data, you can take advantage of narrowing your results by the following categories: 

• Best Places to Live (#1 is Bluemont neighborhood in Arlington, Virginia

• Best for Families (#1 is Long Grove, Illinois

• Most Diverse (#1 is Upper Laurel neighborhood in Oakland, California

• Best to Buy a House (#1 is Rose Creek neighborhood in Fargo, North Dakota

• Cost of Living (#1 is Brackettville, Texas

• Best Public Schools (#1 is Long Grove, Illinois

• Best for Young Professionals (#1 is Mission Bay neighborhood in San Francisco, California

• Best for Retirees (#1 is Pelican Bay, Florida

• Healthiest (#1 is Berkeley, California

• Outdoor Activities (#1 is Portland, Oregon

Another great feature of this tool allows you to save neighborhoods, towns or cities to “your list”, keeping track of any results that appeal to you. Say for example, you have a new job, but it requires a move to Oregon. Use Niche to find the best location matches your priorities for your new living area and save them to your list. Then, you can compare selected neighborhoods or cities to see what average home prices are and what current residents have to say about their home town.  

Finally, the next step is to call your Norcom Loan Officer to talk to them about getting pre-qualified!


Planning A Summer Garden

May 2
1:04
PM
Category | General

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you started your summer garden planning? If you love the idea of having an herb box, veggie patch or a cutting flower garden to enjoy this summer, it is essential to start prepping now! 

A few questions to get you started: 

  1. Where do you live?  

Within the 50 states, a range of plant hardiness zones help gardeners determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location. The first step in planning your garden is to determine your ‘grow zone’ based on this map. It will not only help advise you on what to plant, but also when to plant it! Based on geographical location, think about when the last frost date in your area occurred, how much sun exposure your land gets every day, and how much water access you have. 

  1. How much space do you have?  

Do you have an established garden plot, or will you need to create one in your yard? Do you want to commit to removing an area of lawn to establish your garden, or do you want to pursue a more organized look with raised beds? Alternatively, if your home does not have yard space, you could plant in elevated garden containers or pots. Start small, so your time, money, and water investments are conservative. When considering how much space you have, also think about where the desired plot is located, in full sun, partial sun, or shade? Is it close enough for your water hose to reach and small enough that you (or your partner and family) can manage the maintenance and harvesting? 

  1. Do you have a plan?  

This is the fun part! Choose the herbs, veggies, fruits, flowers, and root vegetables you would like to grow. If you are unsure of your choices, speak to someone at a local garden center and ask what fares well in your grow zone. Keep in mind that all plants have different requirements for soil, fertilization, sun exposure, watering, soil pH, and more.  

Additional tips: 

  1. Crop rotation – If you have planted a garden in past years, switch up the crops you grow this summer. Planting different crops in alternating years keeps your soil nutrient rich. 

  1. Companion planting – Just like humans, plants like to have companions! My grandma always planted marigolds between her tomato plants to help deter insects or disease. There are many other ‘companions’ that work well to help keep bugs or grubs at bay when planted together. 

Starting from scratch: 

If this is your first attempt at planting a garden, try to have fun with it! You don’t need to install fancy irrigation systems or a dozen different crop varieties. Start small and enjoy the fruits of your labor, literally! 

  1. A raised bed is a great way to ease into gardening for many homeowners. It requires a basic setup/installation, needs less maintenance, and can give your yard a more organized look. You can purchase a raised-bed kit at a home improvement or garden center store. Usually consisting of lumber (do not use pressure treated), corner posts or caps, and some type of material (cardboard or thick layers of newspaper can also work) to lay down to deter grass and weeds from growing up into the bed, a raised bed should usually be 12-24 inches tall. A taller bed can help with plants that have deeper root systems. 

  1. A garden planter is also a great option for folks with little or no yard space. You can purchase a waist-height planter box in a variety of sizes and materials to sit in a sunny spot on your patio or even the side of your driveway. This option is also great for people who may have back issues and prefer not to bend over to reach all their crops. Lettuces, flowers, and many vegetables do well in this style planter.  

  1. If you are in a city and are limited to potted plants on a stoop or window boxes, there are still options for you! Maybe you won’t be able to harvest corn, but you can try your hand at herbs, lettuces, peppers, or even garlic and carrots in a deeper pot. 

Last tip: 

But very important: contain your mint! The idea of homemade mojitos or watermelon mint salads sounds enticing but plan carefully when planting your mint! This low-maintenance herb is invasive and can easily spread throughout a garden. Plant your mint in a contained area, or else you will soon have to quit your job to become a full-time mint farmer!


Are you moving this spring to a new city or state? Perhaps you are making this move solo, with a partner or maybe with your whole family. Moving can be a very exciting time, but also comes with additional stresses. After figuring out the logistics of your mortgage, packing up your old apartment, and rerouting your mail, there is one more critical step – meeting people in your new community. This can be intimidating for many, but the more friends you make, the more your new city will start to feel like home! 

Think about the hobbies you like to participate in. Starting with an activity that is already in your comfort zone will help ease the intimidation of meeting all new faces. It is easier to strike up conversations with strangers if you already know you share the same interests.  

Here are 11 of our favorite ideas to spark interest in becoming part of your new community: 

  1. Volunteer  

Do you have a passion to give back to your community? Even in a new place, there are many ways to volunteer and meet people who share this same passion! Volunteering at a park cleanup day or the local humane society for a couple hours each week is a great way to meet likeminded locals. If you are not sure of opportunities in a new town, check out www.volunteermatch.org.  

  1. Join an Amateur Sports Team 

Whether or not you have an athletic bone in your body, adult leagues are a great way to meet fun individuals. You may prefer to join a softball team or running club, or perhaps a more lighthearted kickball or corn-hole league. Whatever you choose, having a scheduled commitment is a great way to ensure you'll get away from your new house and all the unpacked boxes to spend time meeting new people! 

  1. Join a Gym or Fitness Studio  

If you are not so competitive but still love exercising, check out a new gym or fitness studio. If you do not want to make an on-the-spot commitment, see if your new city offers Class Pass to try multiple locations. Alternatively, check with each gym or studio to see if they offer a free or reduced-price trial period.  

  1. Go for a Run 

Sign up for a 5k or themed road race in your new hometown. Jogging on a course is a great way to discover new parts of your city, especially if the course takes you by stores and restaurants you might want to visit later. If you run on your own, be sure to do a little research beforehand to check for any neighborhoods where you might want to exercise caution. Always consider your personal safety when running in a new place. 

  1. Join a Professional Network 

If you made this move because of your career, take advantage of the momentum and join a local professional networking club! Explore BNI groups, the local Chamber of Commerce, or Young Professionals organizations. 

  1. Meetup with a Social Club  

Are you leaving behind a group of pals who regularly met over a glass of wine? See if there are any social clubs that you can join, perhaps a book club, knitting club, or hiking club. Sites such a Meetup.com were created specifically for the purpose of helping you find activities based on your area and interests. The opportunities are there if you look! 

  1. Find your Favorite Sports Team Fan Hangout 

For many people, moving to a new state means leaving behind convenient comrades who share the love of the favorite local sports team. If you look, you may find a bar known to support your favorite team. Come game day, you will know where to go to cheer on your team! 

  1. Join Community Facebook Groups 

Are you a social media lover? If your new town has a Facebook page or private group, request to join. This is a great resource to learn about local business offerings, upcoming events, and more. 

  1. Check Out Fun Events Such as Bar Trivia Nights  

After your big move, treat yourself with a fun night out. Check out local bars to see if they offer free events like Trivia Night. These fun gatherings are a great way to blow off steam and get to know some friendly new faces. 

  1. Go to a Food, Music or Art Festival 

Moving in the spring is great because you will be able to take advantage of the fun summertime offerings in your new city. Food Truck Festivals, outdoor movies, Farmer’s Markets, concerts and art shows are great events to attend solo or with your family.  

  1. Take a Class 

Let your move inspire you to sign up for a class you’ve been thinking about for years. Whether it is learning a new language, dance lessons or pottery classes, acquiring a new skill is an awesome way to explore your creative side and meet people who share your interests!

 

If you are now excited to move to a new place this spring, call one of our Loan Officers today to get pre-qualified!


Many people choose to invest in real estate as a reliable source of passive income. Most often, when someone purchases an investment property, they have one of two intentions: either to rent it out or to resell it (often called flipping a house). Both are great options and have potential for earning. In fact, many first-time buyers choose an investment property before they buy their first home! But investment properties aren't without challenges or risks. Here are five things to consider before investing in real estate:

 

  1. Determine the Type of Investment 

Before searching for potential investment properties, it is wise to think about what type of real estate investment to make. An investor should decide if a "flip and resell" investment or rentable property is their goal. Flipping a home involves making needed repairs and cosmetic updates to increase the home’s resale value. This option is attractive to many people because the payout of this investment occurs as soon as the property is sold. With renting, however, an investor has the benefit of building equity, using rent to pay off the home loan, and enjoying this "passive income" for as long as they own the property. Know that both options require time and money in addition to payments on the property. 

  1. Do Research 

A wise real estate investor should find out information about comparable investment properties in the area. If the plan is to resell the home, how is the market in the area? If the property requires upgrades or repairs, will the cost of repairs still allow for a profit considering the price of comparable homes? If the plan is to rent it, is the property located in an area where rental properties are in demand? 

  1. Calculate Expenses and Estimate Profits 

Well before purchasing an investment property, along with doing research, an investor will want to take an honest look at their potential expenses and profits. Being analytical about this part will help prevent making decisions based solely on emotions or “hunches.” Although the profits are certainly exciting, the risk is also high, so it’s best not to romanticize investment property ownership. 

  1. Secure a Down Payment  

Unlike primary residences where 0-3% down is possible (depending on the loan program), investment properties typically require 15-20% down. If an investor is thinking about buying an a large or multi-unit property, this can be quite a big investment from the start. Remember that 20% down does not account for the money needed to make upgrades or repairs. That’s why many investors take on partners. Which brings us to our next point... 

  1. Choose Partners Carefully 

Investing in an income-generating property with a partner can go very well and be profitable, but it can also go badly if the partnership sours. When partnering with friends or family, be careful not to blur the lines between relationship and real estate partnership. Make sure that all aspects are spelled out in a formal contract and consult legal advice before making decisions that could negatively impact the partnership. 

 

If you’re considering buying a home as an investment property, please contact us for guidance. Our experienced loan officers can help guide you on the best investment loan products that fit your goals.


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