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Take Inventory of Your Belongings Before a Disaster Strikes

As a homeowner, your abode is your pride and joy, and considering how hard you’ve worked to get to this point, how couldn’t it be? After spending countless months—let’s be honest, years—decorating and curating your home, you want to be sure everything is accounted for in case a disaster occurs. Surprisingly, only around half of homeowners have a home inventory, based on a poll from the Insurance Information Institute. This rate has stayed rather stagnant over the past decade, and it’s time for that to change.

Disasters don’t give us a warning. Without a home inventory, you would have to file every single one of your possessions immediately after experiencing something truly awful. Not to mention any forgotten items will be gone forever. Public insurance adjuster David Moore offers some insight when sharing, “You can lose thousands of dollars because you didn’t include everything.”

Documenting all of your belongings certainly may seem like an intimidating undertaking, but with the right assistance and resources it can be totally manageable. As of March 2019, natural catastrophes caused an estimated $52.3 billion in losses in the U.S. With only half of Americans proactively taking inventory, that is a lot of sentimental possessions being unaccounted for. So, if you’re wondering if it’s worth it to make a home inventory list—the answer is yes.

Sure, you may have a good idea of what you own, but are you aware of the value of all your assets? It can be difficult to put a price on everything you have accumulated over your lifetime, which is exactly why documenting everything is so essential to be fairly reimbursed if you suffer losses from any natural or man-made disasters. A woman who lost her home after the devastating Tubbs Fire, Alice Plichcik, shares, “You don’t realize how much you have lost until you try to replace everything.”

Here are six steps to help make the process of inventorying your belongings as easy as possible.

1. Handle One Room at a Time

 Baby steps are key here. On the bright side, this process may give you the push you need to declutter a bit. When beginning to take inventory, choose one room or a section of your house at a time. Starting this process is the biggest step, so take your time! Try focusing on one area of your home a day, or even a week, to make it seem less stressful and overwhelming in the long run.

2. Start with Bigger Items and Work Your Way to Smaller Items

As cherished as your bookshelves and crammed closets are, starting with your more expensive and larger items will make this task more tolerable. Your big ticket items will need the most amount of attention and time, so it’s best to get those out of the way first so the remaining items seem more approachable to catalogue.

natural disaster

3. Organize Your List by Category

Keeping this list organized is crucial. It is hard to comprehend how many items you own until you’re writing them down and all of a sudden your list has reached page 20. In order to keep this inventory document as organized as possible, try listing your valuables by categories such as electronics, furniture, etc.

4. Get a Little Help from Your Phone

 You’re not alone here, and becomes very clear when you start to look into the variety of apps created to help homeowners take inventory of their belongings. If you’re looking to speed things up, give Encircle a try. With this app you’ll focus on one room at a time by quickly snapping some photos of your space and then going back to add details on individual items. Another noteworthy app is Nest Egg, which will cost you $4 for the full version, but is well worth it. While it will take you longer to enter in all of the details of your things, it offers benefits such as giving you a heads up that a warranty is nearing expiration, or that something on loan is due back soon. Both of these apps, and most that are offered, are password protected so there is no need to fear your private information getting out.

5. Use Photo +/ Video

A video is actually an excellent option if you are worried about how tedious this process will be. Taking a detailed video of each room in your home will help jog your memory if there is anything you’ve missed. Additional details such as serial numbers and/or model numbers for expensive pieces is important to jot down but a video is a great start, or alternatively you could take a more in depth video and get a close-up shot of these details on your items. If you hung onto a receipt for an item, you can even get that on the video as well to be reimbursed for the exact price. Many insurance companies accept this type of recording during a claim—some even prefer it. If you’re choosing this route, just double check that your insurance company accepts a video, like State Farm does for example. Photos are also very helpful in keeping things cohesive when putting together a list. Many apps previously mentioned allow you to insert photos along with the details of the object to help keep things organized.

inventory

6. Keep a Copy (Somewhere Safe!)

One advantage to using an app or a Google Doc rather than a list is that it is secure in the cloud or your drive. If making a list on another program on your computer, be sure to put a copy on an external hard drive and keep it in a safe spot.

Life happens, and unfortunately, disasters do as well. If you’re responsible and proactive when it comes to your beloved possessions, then there is no reason to live in fear of potential damage. Whether you’ve lived in your home for 50 years or are just beginning your homeownership journey, you can start your home inventory list today and prepare for your future. As the director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America, Robert Hunter, says, “The whole idea of insurance is to make you whole, not under-pay you or over-pay you.” Your home inventory is something you will continue to work on as you obtain more belongings. Once you get started, the rest will come easily. Anytime you splurge on a new electronic, or upgrade a worn out appliance, just be sure to update your list so you’re always prepared for the worst. Don’t put off a task now that you’ll certainly regret later.

Live Better for Less in Up-and-Coming Cincinnati

If you’ve been pondering taking on the midwestern lifestyle while still enjoying the lively and hip ABC’s of the city, then take a one-way trip to Cincinnati. Within the past few years, this city has climbed the charts and made its way onto everyone’s radar; both millennials and families are flocking to this bustling city, and with good reason. While the city’s population suffered a bit in the early 2000’s, it is making its way back up each year. In 2018, 12,249 millennials moved to the Queen City and families are equally attracted to Cincinnati considering its strong job market, good school system, and low cost of living.

Cincinnati’s historic Over-the-Rhine district, now has a streetcar that allows quick and easy access from neighboring towns to downtown, while offering a fun and unique mode of transportation. If you’re looking to stay active Red Bike, the cities shared bicycle system similar to Citi Bike, has over 50 stations in the metro area. The district’s thriving art and bar scene has also expanded rapidly with a handful of new performing arts venues, community driven events, breweries, and restaurants. If you’re a fan of beautiful parks, impressive bridges, and scenic views of the river, your Cincinnati vacation will quickly involve a lot of home browsing and job searching.

“Over the next 35 years, the city is going to see a 10% growth.”

 It’s rather clear by now that where millennials flock to sets the momentum for that area’s future.  As a SmartAsset report states, “Where millennials decide to move has enormous impact on local markets, from the cost of a mortgage to whether or not you will be able to find a good avocado toast in your neighborhood.” Pew Research Center supports this information as well, when estimating there are around 71 million millennials in the States and they’re expected to surpass the number of baby boomers in 2019. With the huge influx of millennials in Cincinnati, it’s clear that the growth of the city is staying at a steady pace. Tomasz Stepinski, a professor of space exploration and geography at the University of Cincinnati, explains that he mostly sees urban growth in the area. Over the next 35 years, the city is going to see a 10% growth. In other words, there will be about 200,000 new people in the area.

Downtown Cincinnati

With population growth comes an abundance of conveniences and that is proven in Cincinnati, as U.S. News says, “Although Cincinnati is often perceived as a sleepy Midwestern metro area, residents benefit from a wealth of amenities, including museums, professional sports teams and a wide selection of restaurants.” The list of venues, galleries, and restaurants in the Queen City is extensive, and new businesses are popping up overnight. Between The Contemporary Arts Center, 1c Museum Hotel Cincinnati, and 5th Street Gallery, you’ll have a day packed full of inspiring art. The influx of immigrants during the late 19th century encouraged the city to become culturally diverse which manifested quickly into the city’s food scene. So once hunger strikes, indulge in one of the many restaurants the city has to offer such as Japanese Gastropub and sushi bar, Kaze, lively Italian-European restaurant The Mercer, and classic Cincinnatian restaurant, Revolution Rotisserie. Last but not least, line up for the coveted Graeter’s Ice Cream as a night-cap.

The Cincinnati Region is a national hub for employment in careers ranging from hospitality to biohealth and is certainly on the rise. With nearly 10 Fortune 500 companies based out of the city, it’s almost hard not to find a job. Not to mention Cincinnati’s startup growth rate is among the fastest in the Midwest. If you have a million dollar idea you’ve been holding onto, this city may be the perfect place to make moves, especially with the low cost of living to support you as you flourish. With a medium home price of $130,000 alongside a very low average commute time of 24.5 minutes, you’re bound to keep your finances up as well as your happiness. The Cincinnati Region’s real estate market is 40% lower than the national average, so what’s stopping you from buying a home in this up and coming city? As The Cincinnati Experience says, “Live better for less in the Cincinnati Region.”

The Cincinnati Region’s real estate market is 40% lower than the national average, so what’s stopping you from buying a home in this up and coming city?”

We’ve established the growing millennial population in the city, but families are settling down in the region as well, which in part has to do with the excellent school system. The city’s school district ranks among the nation’s top 10. Indian Hill Exempted Village School District in particular ranks as the number one school district in the region and is known for weaving creativity and learning with facilities that are continually improving. Whether you have a crowded dinner table of children or are thinking of starting a family, Cincinnati is a leading place for your kids to receive an education. With a small student to teacher ratio, thriving sports programs, a variety of extracurriculars, and high enrollment growth, there is something for every student.

Whether you’re a midwesterner at heart or thinking of slowing life down in the middle of the country, Cincinnati is the perfect balance between city and country. Say goodbye to your overpriced mortgage, your long commute time and say hello to your new home in Ohio. Have your belly ready to indulge in delicacies such as goetta, a pan-fried patty similar to sausage, catch a Cincinnati Reds game, and simply relish in the carefree lifestyle this midwestern up and coming city has to offer.

North Dakota Has Plenty of Hidden Opportunities for Potential Homeowners

Often unassuming and hidden on the map, North Dakota has a lot more to offer than meets the eye. Nearly 90% of the state’s land area—39.1 million acres—is ranches and farms, meaning this is an ideal place for agritourism and is prosperous with job opportunities.

It is home to more wildlife refuges than any other state, as well as the dazzling Lake Sakakawea which has more shoreline than the California Pacific Coast. North Dakota is also the number one producer of honey in the nation, has one of the shortest average commute times in the country, a collection of the world’s largest scrap metal sculptures (stretched along a 32-mile span appropriately called the Enchanted Highway), and is home to the world-renowned Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

North Dakota Agriculture

“North Dakota has a lot more to offer than meets the eye.”

North Dakota doesn’t only offer beautiful surroundings and environmentally conscious organizations, but this state also has a low cost of living, high quality of life, and is a budget-friendly option for your next home.

There are handfuls of programs that not only assist families in finding an affordable home, but also a fruitful career. It comes as no surprise that the Peace Garden State has been among the top five greatest places to live in the U.S for the past couple of years.

North Dakota

With pristine air quality, water quality, a young median age, and a community in which only about 30% of the residents express that they worry about money (based on a Gallup survey), this peaceful state is the sanctuary your family will fall in love with and happily plant roots.

Finally, the Roughrider State has an unemployment rate of only 2.6%, the 4th lowest in the country, as well as a median household income of $61,843, higher than the United States median income. These numbers paint a comfortable picture of the quality of life in ND.

Here’s Why Alaska May Be the Next Frontier for Homeowners

Alaska’s dedicated environmentalists are changing the game when it comes to their home state’s future. The gorgeous Frontier State’s upcoming years are looking bright, both literally and figuratively. Between the growing business of solar energy, the development of viable ocean businesses, wildlife and public land protection, a high median household income, and a community that doesn’t hesitate to lend a helping hand, Alaska could be the perfect place to call home. If you’ve ever caught yourself daydreaming of enjoying a morning cup of coffee surrounded by mountain peaks and rivers–look no further than the Land of the Midnight Sun when purchasing your next home.

During the winter months, energy bills can certainly be high in Alaska, but there’s a reason this state is often referred to as the Land of the Midnight Sun; during the Spring and Summer months, Alaska receives more sunlight than any other state and most areas in the world. In the State’s most northern areas, like Barrow, for example, the sun doesn’t set for nearly three months.

Both the University of Alaska Center for Economic Development and the University of Alaska Anchorage Business Enterprise Institute report that renewable technologies that are profligate in the Lower 48 often make financial sense in Alaska, and solar power falls into that category. Alaska Center for Energy and Power research professor Dr. Erin Whitney explains, “A lot of people think solar power and Alaska, or anywhere in the Arctic, don’t go together, but the truth of the matter is, we do have a viable solar resource up here.” The many misconceptions aren’t surprising, considering Alaska sits on the Arctic it’s fair to assume sunlight isn’t a common visitor to the state. Although, through proper education, these fallacies about solar energy can be resolved. There are more than twelve hours of daylight between Spring and Fall, which surely surpasses what many would estimate.

“The business of solar energy is rapidly gaining popularity all over the world, and Alaska is following suit.”

The founder and CEO of Arctic Solar Ventures, Stephen Trimble, states “In the winter, production in December and January is only about 10 percent of a peak summer month, and that also happens to be the time we have snow on our rooftops as well…so what you lose by snow coverage isn’t a lot,” making this a really beneficial energy solution. The business of solar energy is rapidly gaining popularity all over the world, and Alaska is following suit. Within just the last couple of years, Alaska has seen a huge increase in solar panel installation requests.

A huge source of the state’s economy is built around oceans, which comes as no surprise. Alaska has more coastline than all of the U.S. states’ combined, approximately 6,640 miles, which doesn’t even include the Aleutian Islands that bring the total to over 47,000 miles of coastline. This easy access to the oceans has helped to build the Alaskan economy. You can thank Alaskan fisherman for your salmon dinners, as they provide nearly two-thirds of the nation’s annual seafood harvest. This year is off to a good start says Doug Bowen of Alaska Boats and Permits, who shares that they’re as busy as they’ve ever been in the last 20 years and that “boat sales are doing well and between IFQs and permit sales, we’ve got a busy year going.” The forecast this year is over 213 million fish, an 85% increase over 2018, which explains the increase in salmon permits.

Experts believe the blue economy is the future of Alaska’s economic stability, and active groups such as the Alaska Ocean Cluster, are pushing to inform Alaskans of the many resources available in their state. One program they offer, OTIS, brings together 20 Alaskans with differing experiences and expertise to determine challenges in ocean industries, brainstorm solutions, and then develop a product that addresses that challenge. As Alaska transitions from primarily exporting natural resources and raw goods to the development of viable ocean businesses, the state’s economy will flourish. Booming industries such as coastal tourism and energy are settled in place, but the potential for advancing mariculture, marine biotechnology, and other ocean industries is overwhelming.

Alaska

The beauty of Alaska stays intact thanks to various organizations that are dedicated to preserving wildlife and protecting lands and waters. Alaska contains 365.5 million acres of land and 28.8 million acres of waters. Currently, around 88% of the state is in public ownership and many of said areas are untouched to protect their natural features including fish and wildlife habitats. These protected lands and waters also provide freedom for hunting, trapping, fishing, gathering wild resources, photography, and help to preserve Alaska’s lifestyles and economic opportunities.

Witnessing the genuine commitment from conservationists and the community is powerful and truly shows the heart of Alaska. To live in a society that has so much pride and respect for their land, with no selfish agenda, is extremely refreshing. There are citywide cleanup weeks compiled entirely of volunteers. The Anchorage Chamber of Commerce has been sponsoring Annual Cleanup Week for 51 years and has collected millions of pounds of trash from roadways, creeks, and neighborhoods. After the hard work is done, the friendliness of Anchorage residents shines with celebratory picnics and barbecues.

“Witnessing the genuine commitment from conservationists and the community is powerful and truly shows the heart of Alaska.”

The driven residents of Alaska hold a median household income of $73,181 as of 2017, ranking one of the highest in the country. The state also ranks number 2 in the 2019 Best States rankings for its Gini index, in other words, Alaska has some of the strongest income equality among households. The oil industry accounts for more than 110,000 jobs, which is ⅓ of Alaska jobs. The industry also accounts for around ½ of the overall economy when the spending of state revenues from oil production is factored in. Essentially, without oil, Alaska’s economy would be cut in half. Other industries that are runner up to oil and gas are tourism (attracting over 1.1 million visitors annually), fishing, timber, mining, and agriculture; a little something for everyone. In addition to thriving industries, some Alaskan areas have extremely diverse populations. For example, a northeast Anchorage neighborhood Mountain View has the most diverse census tract in all of America according to University of Alaska sociology professor Chad Farrell.

Alaska

With a driven, spirited, and self-motivated public, Alaska is the ideal place to settle down and buy a home. If you pride yourself in your home, family, and wellbeing, the Last Frontier may be calling your name. Simplify your life by neighboring yourself with surreal sights, the finest seafood, endless outdoor activities, the Northern Lights, and maybe you’ll even get behind the muktuk and akutaq delicacies. Being outside and breathing in the fresh air is a cultural precedence in Alaska, and who can’t get behind that mantra?

Alaska may be the only state in the U.S that allows you to explore where no human foot has touched before, climb unscathed mountains, and see glaciers bigger than most states. There’s no chance you’ll ever get bored, considering Texas could fit inside Alaska twice, there will always be new areas to delve into and friendly hands to shake. Whether you’re planning to invest in your first home or third, take a trip to Alaska and you most likely won’t need a return ticket.

8 Signs It’s Time to Become a Homeowner

If you’ve been renting homes for close to a decade now, you’re most likely tired of the monthly expenses that are essentially being thrown out the window. Imagine having a home to call your own: a yard to host Summer barbeques, renovating your kitchen without someone else’s approval, and most importantly no more rent checks. Becoming a homeowner is a big decision, so you want to make sure it’s right for you. If you’re on the fence, we have 8 signs that it may just be time to take the plunge into homeownership. 

1. You have a good credit score

This is one of the most important factors when it comes to becoming a homeowner. In order to even take the first step towards homeownership, you’ll need to have a strong credit score. A good FICO credit score is typically about 670. With a score in this range, lenders will view you as low risk for defaulting on loans, which makes you a great candidate for a mortgage. Not to mention the mortgage pricing you’ll receive will directly impact the monthly payments you’ll be making for the life of the loan. As CEO of Growella (now known as HomeBuyer), Dan Green, straightforwardly explains, “If your credit score is not optimal, you’ll pay more for a mortgage…your credit score today will have a huge impact on the homes you’re looking at and can afford. It may be sensible to wait to buy and work on your credit.”

If your credit score still needs some help—don’t fret! One in three Americans have a credit score below 670, so you’re not alone. Start by checking on your credit with a free credit report. Take some time to work on improving your score by making your credit card payments on time, avoid opening new credit lines (unless you’re working towards establishing a credit history), and don’t let your balances exceed 30% of your maximum credit limits.

2. You have enough money for a down payment

The majority of home sales require a down payment. Your loan type will play a huge factor in the requirements when it comes to your down payment, but that payment can range from 5% to 30% of the cost of your new home. There are many programs and FHA loans that assist new qualifying buyers when it comes to these costs, although having the ability to put down more on your home can increase your odds of being approved for a loan and further help you to lock down better interest rates. The Sr. VP of Mortgage Lending at Navy Federal Credit Union shares, “It is, therefore, critically important to factor into your budget the source of your down payment.” With the slew of lenders, nonprofits, and agencies that provide financing options and assistance programs to help out new homeowners put together a down payment, there are options for everyone.

3. you have money saved in an account

Aside from the large expense of actually buying a home, a lot of other, often unexpected expenses creep up when you’re moving into your new house. Closing costs for one tend to amount to an additional 2-5 percent of your homes sale price, which is then split between the buyer and the seller at closing. Well after the down payment and the closing costs are finalized, you’ll quickly realize the various maintenance and upkeep payments here and there. Having a savings dedicated to home issues can give you ease if something pricey breaks unexpectedly, like your furnace for instance which can cost upwards of $6,000.

4. You’re committed to where you live

There is no need to sign a lifelong contract that you’ll stay in one place forever, but it’s smart to at least be committed to staying put for the next five years or so if you’re planning on purchasing a home. Buying a home is most likely the greatest significant financial commitment you’ll ever make, so you’ll want to make sure you’re ready to settle down and get comfortable in your town. If you’ve kicked the travel bug and you’re confident you want to stick around one place for a while, then taking the stride towards homeownership is a great option for you.

New homeowners

5. You’re prepared for the maintenance that comes with owning a home

Anytime something goes awry in your rental property, you’ll give your landlord or super a call to fix it. Just remember when you own your own property—you’re the person that will need to handle those problems, or you’ll need to hire someone who will. Aside from the time and labor this will involve, it’s also pricey. Having savings will help to relieve financial stress, but don’t forget the labor element as well. Taking care of day-to-day upkeep and issues yourself will save you money, but consider finding experts for the larger issues so you aren’t dedicating too much of your time and energy to your home.

6. You’re tired of only dreaming of home renovation projects

There are endless rules when it comes to modifying your rental home. Some landlords even give you a hard time about hammering a nail into the wall for a family photo. If you’re ready to say goodbye to the stress that comes along with your security deposit, owning a home will do just that. Having control over your home is freeing and offers endless options making it nearly impossible to get sick of your home. Just keep in mind that with renovations often comes repairs, so you not only have to be prepared to have control over your property, but also responsibility. Feel like painting your room bright red? Go for it!

7. Your debt is under control

Contrary to popular belief, it is okay to have debt. About 300 million Americans are in debt. That doesn’t mean you can’t build equity and buy a home. What it does mean, is that you have to have to have a handle on your debt. If you have a clear payment plan with an end date in view, then homeownership may be right up your alley. Loan companies don’t expect borrowers to be debt-free, they mostly just want to ensure you don’t have too much debt in relation to your income. In other words; they want to know if you can afford to take on an additional mortgage payment. Companies determine this by using a debt-to-income ratio, which shows how much of your monthly income contributes to paying off debts. To buy a home, ideally your ratio should be less than or equal to 36 percent. If you’re not sure how in control you are of your debt, find your debt-to-income ratio by adding together your monthly income and then dividing that by the sum total of your recurring monthly debts, minus rent.

8. The timing is right

There is no rush when it comes to buying a home. You want to be sure that it’s exactly what you want, where you want, and the price you want. The housing market is ever changing, so keep a close eye on the market, chat with your realtor and determine when the best time is to start the homebuying process. It’s best to be in a comfortable living situation when you begin exploring your options because it could take upwards of 6 months until you’re settled into your new home.

You’ll always give yourself reasons not to buy a home, whether it’s due to fear of change, insecurities about your finances, or perhaps you’re just not ready. But if the majority of the signs listed above have popped up as of late, it very well may be time to start looking at the reasons why you should buy a home.

Kentucky Cities Lead Growth

The Great Recession of 2008 had a momentous impact on the United States, leaving many cities across the country in an economic and political crisis. While the majority of areas showcased significant economic improvements by 2010, Kentucky struggled to catch up. This stirred hesitation for prospective homebuyers and instilled a concern for current Kentucky residents, as buying sentiment dropped alongside home-prices which fell as much as 13.9 percent nationwide. Over the past couple of years, however, Kentucky is showcasing significant growth, as seen in the graph below, indicating that this state has been steadily improving not far behind the national rate.

Chart
Source: Kentucky Chamber | 2018
In the fall of 2018, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce released a report analyzing the development in Kentucky since the end of the national recession: “Citizen’s Guide to Kentucky’s Economy Since the Recession”. This report clearly indicated how far behind Kentucky had been trailing the nation across important economic indicators such as the growth rate of jobs, population, and salaries, yet the citizen’s guide report shared, “Kentucky has outperformed more than half of its bordering states in those categories.” As of December 2017, the Bluegrass State supported 1.9 million wage and salary jobs, reflecting a growth of about 180,000 jobs statewide since the end of the recession. Granted, the state is adding jobs at a slower rate than the nation, but higher than all surrounding states except Tennessee and Indiana. Ultimately, Kentucky was performing slightly below average on a national scale, but doing well amongst bordering Southern states.

While urban areas have seen notable job growth since the recovery began around 2010, rural regions haven’t been so lucky. Employment in metro and rural areas largely grew beside each other in the ’90s, following similar growth patterns through the 2000s. Although, once the recovery began in 2010, growth patterns greatly deviated. An additional report produced by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, “The State of Working Kentucky 2018”, explains that “Whereas metro Kentucky has seen strong job growth this decade, non-metro Kentucky has experienced essentially no net job growth.”

Louisville remains one of the “more affordable cities in the country for millennials,” thanks to low-interest rates and reasonable home prices, says Dave Parks, president of the Greater Louisville Association of Realtors.

Still, the compelling growth rate of urban centers makes the move to the Commonwealth of Kentucky more attractive than ever before. Amongst the affordable housing, strong workforce, fascinating history, hot browns, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and the one and only Derby season, Kentucky is a great state to put down roots. The Kentucky Derby alone has a 400 million dollar economic impact on the region, based on recent economic impact studies. The Kentucky Housing Corporation even offers a variety of homebuyer crash courses, conferences, and down-payment assistance to encourage families to invest in homes. This has steadily boosted the population since 2009.

If you’re taking the step towards the American dream of homeownership, then Kentucky should be on your radar, specifically these three cities with the highest growth rates:

Louisville

Louisville

As the largest city in Kentucky, it doesn’t come as too much of a surprise that Louisville makes the list. Between hosting the Kentucky Derby, producing the most popular brands of bourbon and housing the Louisville Cardinals, this city stays busy. Since the end of the 2008 recession, Louisville’s wages and salaries have grown 44.9 percent, only slightly lower than the 48.6 percent national average. As of 2017, the number of homes sold between January and the end of November was up 2.2 percent compared to the year prior. The president of the Greater Louisville Association of Realtors, Dave Parks, says Louisville remains one of the “more affordable cities in the country for millennials,” thanks to low-interest rates and reasonable home prices. If you’re a fan of scenic waterfronts, affordable housing, and Louisville style chili (a spicy chili served over spaghetti), then start perusing the housing market in this vibrant city.

Lexington

Lexington

The second largest city in Kentucky isn’t only the “Horse Capital of the World”. Lexington’s vast art scene, rich culture, economic diversification, and high education rate set it apart from other regions, while the flourishing culinary scene may be enough to make you drop everything and move there today. This city may be small, but it’s large in history and personality. With an overall growth rate of 8.6 percent since 2010 and a wage and salary growth increase of 38.1 percent since the end of the last recession, this city shows no sign of slowing down. Have yourself a mint julep and celebrate all that Lexington has to offer, you may just never leave.

Bowling Green

Bowling Green

The Everly Brothers hit song “Bowling Green” may have given you an idea of just how great this bustling city is. If you’re seeking out southern hospitality, affluent history, and classic car shows, look no further than Bowling Green. This lively metropolis is Kentucky’s third-largest city and recent estimates show that the city’s population is up 12.3 percent since the last census was taken in 2010. With a variety of homeownership assistance programs like the Live the Dream Homeownership Program, this city is an attainable option for households with an array of incomes. Since the end of the recession, this region’s employment growth has increased by 12.6 percent. Home to large companies such as Fruit of the Loom, General Motors, and The Bowling Green Assembly Plant which produces all Chevrolet Corvettes built since 1981, the job market is approachable to an assortment of professionals, not to mention the wages and salaries have steadily increased since the end of the great recession of 2008.

Many states like Kentucky have been crossed off soon-to-be homebuyers lists due to past fiscal issues, which is a completely valid concern, but don’t let the stigma around former hard times stop you from considering beautiful reestablished states as your new home.

The progress of these Kentucky cities proves the great strides the commonwealth has made over the past decade. Whether you’re a current resident of Kentucky looking to make a move, or a prospective homebuyer who has a heart for the Bluegrass state but felt uneasy about the economic issues that arose from the recession of 2008, it’s time to breathe easy and reconsider this state as your new and improved home.

Vote In Our Poll

According to a survey conducted earlier this year by the National Association of Realtors®, about 75% of non-homeowners believe homeownership is part of their American Dream, while nine in 10 current homeowners said the same.

How do you feel about homeownership? What does it mean to you? Vote in our poll about homeownership.

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Do’s and Don’ts for First-Time Homebuyers

Homeownership is the bedrock of the American dream. For many people, owning their very own home is a major life ambition and motivator for how they lead their professional and personal lives. It can often seem like this goal is impossible to achieve considering the huge toll it takes on one’s bank account, but thankfully that is not the case.

To support long-term economic growth, the U.S government provides a great deal of support for homeowners. By decreasing the risks mortgage lenders take on, the government keeps interest rates low. As long as you educate yourself with helpful resources, you’ll be as equipped as the professionals when it comes to avoiding costly mistakes and taking the next step towards homeownership.

Now that it’s time to make the leap and buy a home, you’re most likely balancing your excitement with a great deal of jitters. You can breathe easy—we’ve got your concerns covered with our comprehensive Do’s and Don’ts for First-Time Homebuyers.

DON’T ONLY GET ONE RATE QUOTE

As exhilarating as it can be to hear your first mortgage offer, don’t make the all too common mistake of locking down your first offer. Even if your initial rate quote seems like a great option, there are various other factors to take into consideration such as closing costs and mortgage points. Mortgage interest rates vary based on the lender, so do yourself a favor and apply with numerous lenders. Debra Grog, an agent with Movoto Real Estate, has a great rule of thumb when choosing a mortgage, “When considering your price point, start with the amount of rent you are paying now, not necessarily what the bank/mortgage company says they will loan you.”

DO CHECK YOUR CREDIT SCORE TO ENSURE IT IS ACCURATE

Your credit score is quite possibly the most important determinant when it comes to being approved for a loan, as well as the first building block to secure a financial foundation for yourself. The first thing lenders will take a look at is your credit history and the greater your history is, the higher your chances are for acquiring a good interest rate. While achieving the highest credit score you’re capable of before applying for a mortgage is probably a given, often times checking for errors isn’t. Even the smallest glitch on your credit report could result in your interest rate skyrocketing, so this is certainly not a step to skim past. A great resource to use is Annual Credit Report, which is the only credit report website that is authorized by the federal government and good news—it’s free!

“When considering your price point, start with the amount of rent you are paying now, not necessarily what the bank/mortgage company says they will loan you.”
DON’T MAKE A DOWN PAYMENT TOO SMALL

You’ve probably heard people mention that you “have” to make a down payment of at least 20%, but today that is far from the truth. The National Association of REALTORS® conducted a study this past year showing that the median down payment for new home buyers was only 6%. While this percentage may not come as much of a shock when assuming what young homebuyers can afford, it may seem surprising that it is even possible to put down as little as 6%. Making a larger down payment is a completely viable option as long as you don’t entirely empty your savings or neglect factoring in additional expenses. Just because a loan program allows you to purchase a home with 0% down, that doesn’t mean it is the right financial choice for you. As Michael Nicholas, the director of U.S. Mortgage Sales and Service at BMO Harris Bank, says, “You don’t want to be house-rich and cash-poor—feeling comfortable and confident with the decision you make is the most important factor of all.”

DO LOOK INTO FIRST-TIME HOMEBUYER PROGRAMS

As we touched on earlier, there are dozens of programs created solely for first-time homebuyers just like you. There is no need to put your dream of homeownership on the backburner for decades while you save up every penny. Depending on where you’re located, there are an abundance of programs that offer low down payment loans, closing cost assistance, and reduced interest rates. States all over the country are proud to be offering these plans. In addition, these programs hike up home sales which improves the economy in the long run. There are also federal programs to consider, such as an FHA loan, which is a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration that allows borrowers to make a down payment as little as 3.5%.

DON’T GO HOUSE HUNTING PRIOR TO GETTING A MORTGAGE

Although it seems like the most appealing and fun way to begin the homebuying process, shopping for a house before a mortgage is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. If you’re not clear on how much you can borrow, visiting properties will result in just that; a visit. To ensure you’re viewing homes that are in your price range, begin by reaching out to a mortgage professional and consider getting pre-approved for a loan. This will not only set you apart from other bidders, but give you ease when house hunting. Don’t tease yourself by jumping 10 steps ahead with a home that isn’t realistic for you.

DO CHECK THE QUALIFICATIONS OF YOUR HOME INSPECTOR

Once you reach the home inspection step, that means you’re on the cusp of closing on your new home! There are just a couple more measures to take before closing your mortgage. To ensure you save as much money as possible, finding the perfect home inspector is crucial. A home inspection isn’t just a second or third viewing. The inspection is your chance to take a good hard look at the building and note any defects. Double checking your home inspector’s credentials will help avoid surprise repairs later that you’ll have to pay out of pocket as opposed to the former owners.

By taking all of these commonly encountered mishaps and tips into account, you’ll cruise through the homebuying process with comfort and ease. You don’t have to pinch pennies well into the future in order to turn your dreams of homeownership into a reality, you just have to enlighten yourself on the steps of purchasing a home and make financially responsible decisions along the way.

Don’t keep telling yourself tomorrow, when you can change your life today.